Stall owner on floods-affected vegetable prices: It's the worst hike ever

Stall owner on floods-affected vegetable prices: It's the worst hike ever

He has been selling vegetables for more than 30 years, but the recent Malaysian floods have resulted in the worst price hike he has ever experienced.

Mr Oh Ah Seng, 55, who owns a vegetable stall in the market at Block 628, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4, is so worried that he monitors the news daily to see if the flood situation has improved.

He said in Mandarin: "It's common for prices to increase during the monsoon season. But this is the first time it has increased by more than a dollar for one kilogram of vegetables."

Mr Oh used to sell brinjals for $3 per kg. But after the floods, it has gone up to $5 per kg, which translates to slightly lower sales for him.

Last month, Malaysia experienced its worst floods in decades.

The flooding in the north-east of the country killed 21 people, and almost a quarter of a million people had to be evacuated from their homes.

RUINED CROPS

The floods also ruined crops, affecting their supply to Singapore and causing vegetable prices to rise.

The Star newspaper quoted Mr Chong Tek Keong, treasurer of the Federation of Malaysian Vegetables Wholesalers Association, who said the prolonged rainy season has caused a supply drop in Malaysia of between 30 per cent and 40 per cent.

Despite the limited supply, vegetable prices at supermarket chains in Singapore have not gone up.

But the same cannot be said for market stalls.

Besides Mr Oh, Madam Sim Bee Hiang, 57, who co-owns a vegetable stall at the same market, has also increased her prices.

She is selling old cucumbers imported from Malaysia at $3 per kg, up from $2 per kg before the floods.

She said: "We have no choice, if not we will make a loss."

Fruit and vegetable wholesalers have not been spared.

Mr Edmund Lim, general manager of Lim Thiam Chwee Food Supplier, said: "About 50 to 60 per cent of our supplies are imported from Malaysia, so this is a very serious issue for us."

One of the Malaysian farmers he gets his supplies from even sent him a picture of the devastation.

Mr Lim added that the company is doing its best to get supplies from other countries such as Thailand and Vietnam.

He said: "Many items ranging from local fruits to leafy and dry vegetables are affected by floods and landslides on our grower's farms."

Prices of Malaysian vegetables such as spring onions have increased by as much as four times, and common vegetables such as local spinach have doubled in price.

He used to be quoted $1.50 per kg for local spinach, but it has now doubled to $3 per kg.

Mr Lim said: "We can only hope that prices will stabilise after three to four weeks, as new crops need time to grow after the weather improves."

Mr Desmond Bernavey Lee, director of FRESHdirect, said 60 per cent of his imports come from Malaysia.

Due to the floods, there has been a shortage of certain fruits and vegetables.

He said: "There is going to be a very low supply of watermelons and honeydew (melon) next week. We can source for alternatives like rock melon from Australia, but it will cost four times more."

But some customers are not too worried about the price increase.

Madam Anna Kudus, 44, a housewife, frequents the wet market at Toa Payoh Lorong 4 about twice a week.

She said: "No point complaining about the prices, since we cannot do anything about it."

Technician Kang Kum Ying, 48, said: "We will just eat whatever is available in the market."

choomf@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 7, 2015.
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