More shops may up prices of Malaysian fruits, veggies

SINGAPORE - The price of certain fruits and vegetables coming in from Malaysia could go up at more stores here if the dry spell continues.

Supermarkets and most wholesalers here said that their prices are stable for now, even though some shops have already admitted to hiking prices by up to 25 per cent for fruits such as watermelon and papaya.

The dry spell, which started in January, has caused water supplies at dams in states such as Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Johor to be at critical levels. Water rationing has also come into force in parts of the country, where rain is not expected until at least the middle of this month.

Madam Wang Quee Chiang, who owns two fruit stalls in Toa Payoh, has increased the price of a kilogram of watermelon from $2 to $2.50 due to the shortage in supply from Malaysia. A kilogram of papaya at her shop costs $2 now, an increase of 20 cents.

"Fruits such as these are high in water content and they need water to grow," she said. "With no rain, the supply will definitely be affected."

Mr Tay Khiam Back, chairman of Singapore Fruits and Vegetables Importers and Exporters Association, said that the dry spell will continue to affect supplies to Singapore if it persists.

However, retailers and wholesalers here can always look for other sources, such as Vietnam and Thailand, to make up for any shortfall, he added.

While major supermarkets have not raised prices, some have seen a decrease in the supply of some Malaysian vegetables and fruits.

Papayas, watermelons and leafy vegetables such as kangkung from across the Causeway have gone down by about 10 to 15 per cent at Giant, said a spokesman for Dairy Farm, which runs the chain.

While Sheng Siong declined to reveal figures on how much its supplies of Malaysian produce have fallen, a spokesman said that it will "top up" from other countries like Thailand and Vietnam to keep prices stable. She added that should price increases become "inevitable" if the dry spell continues, they will be "gradual".

Malaysia was the biggest source of fresh and chilled vegetables and fruit last year, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, adding that it is closely monitoring the situation in Malaysia and will work with traders on alternative sources if necessary.

Part-time saleswoman Soon Kam Mee, 56, says she will continue to buy Malaysian fruit regardless of price increases, "especially now that the weather is hot".

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