60 per cent drop in local fruit production sees prices go up

PETALING JAYA - It is literally a less fruitful year for Malaysians with a 60 per cent drop in local fruit production brought about by the recent dry spell.

Fruits have also become costlier with price rises of between 50 sen and 60 sen a kilo for many varieties.

The situation is not likely to get any better as the year progresses.

With the Meteorological Department forecasting another dry spell later, fruit growers are bracing for another round of poor harvests.

Malaysian Fruit Farmers Association president Hong Jok Hon said the drop in supply of fruits, including limes, guava, mangoes, papayas, watermelons and starfruit was expected to last until July before the situation returned to normal.

However, he said the drought expected between June and October might cause the harvests to be poor during the next season.

Hong said the prices of these fruits had risen by about 15 per cent or an average of 50 cents to 60 cents per kilo, depending on the type of fruit.

Fruits usually take a longer time - between four and six months - to be harvested as compared with vegetables.

He said the production of fruits was expected to drop in May.

"In my own farm, I used to get about 7,000 to 8,000 mangoes and jackfruits a week but the number has dropped to 1,000 fruit," he said.

As for guavas, what used to be about 1,000 baskets a week had dropped to just 200 baskets.

The harvest of about six tonnes of lime had dropped to one tonne, while starfruit could not even be harvested as the fruits dropped off before they could ripen.

On prices, Hong said guava had gone up from about RM3 (S$1.2) per kilo to RM3.50, mangoes from RM2.50 to about RM3, bananas from about RM4 to RM4.50.

Malaysia Fruit Exporters Association president Ricky Yong said the export of local fruits had dropped by up to 40 per cent because of the dry spell. All the associations have recorded a decline in all its main exports - starfruit, durian, pineapples, papaya and jackfruit.

"Even seasonal fruit like durians are affected as the flowers dry up during the dry spell."

Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority's (Fama) Market Information Services Division senior director Dr Bisant Kaur said the supply of papayas was expected to drop even further as a disease had affected the fruit.

"We are expecting more mangoes and durians in June, but whether the fruits will stick to the tree or drop before harvest is yet to be seen," she said.

According to data from Fama, the price of starfruit had increased by 16.5 per cent while the price of guava had gone up by nearly 15 per cent.

Several variations of mangoes and the new dragon seedless watermelon, however, showed a drop in prices last month.