Flood crisis and prolonged rainy season wreak havoc on food prices in Malaysia

PETALING JAYA - The East Coast flood crisis has sent vegetable prices soaring, while chicken farmers are scrambling to prevent a glut as delivery to affected states has been cut off.

The prices of fish and seafood are also rising as fishermen are unable to go out to sea due to unfavourable weather and choppy seas.

Federation of Malaysian Vegetables Wholesalers Asso­ciation treasurer Chong Tek Keong said the prices of vegetables have risen by between 40 per cent and 50 per cent.

He said the prolonged rainy season had caused a drop in local supply by between 30 per cent and 40 per cent.

Denying that the profits of wholesalers' had increased because of the higher demand, he said it was farmers who were charging more for their produce.

"Supply was already low because of the recent crackdown on illegal immigrants in Cameron Highlands and mud floods there and the East Coast floods have pushed prices even higher.

"Wholesalers only resumed their delivery to certain areas in Kelantan and Pahang on Monday," he said.

Chong said prices of locally grown vegetable were only expected to drop after the Chinese New Year next month.

Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association secretary Chay Ee Mong said the rainy weather and floods affected the produce of vegetables throughout the country and not only in the highlands.

"The weather is too wet for any harvest progress.

"Hopefully, the weather will return to normal soon so that leafy vegetables can be harvested in time to meet the higher demand during Chinese New Year," he said.

According to the Meteorological Department, the weather was gradually improving in Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang but heavy rains were likely to continue in Johor, Sabah and Sarawak.

Chicken farmers said they were being forced to sell poultry below the controlled price of RM4.60 (S$1.70) per kg due to a drastic drop in demand.

Federation of Livestock Far­mers Association of Malaysia secretary general Jeffrey Ng said about 3,000 poultry farms nationwide were struggling to clear their "excessive stock" of birds.

"Restaurants and eateries are essential markets for our members and since the floods, many kitchens cannot operate and the demand for poultry is very low," he said.

Selangor and Federal Territory Chicken and Duck Traders Association vice-president Yap Chau Hen said some traders were selling birds for as low as RM3.50 per kilo.

National Fisherman's Asso­ciation general manager Nori­zaman Ghazali said fish prices were usually higher in January because there is less fish in the sea.

"This is a seasonal trend," he said.

Fisheries Development Autho­rity of Malaysia (LKIM) director-general Abdul Rahman Ellis said with fishermen landing up to 15 per cent less in catches, prices have risen by between 5 per cent and 10 per cent.

Citing an example, he said ikan cencaru (torpedo scad) now cost between RM1 and RM2 more at the farmer's market.

"Many fishermen in the East Coast are flood victims so they cannot go out to sea," he said.

Abdul Rahman said LKIM was prepared for the drop in supply and had implemented a freeze on the export of common fishes like the cencaru, selar (yellowtail scad), kembong (short mackerel), pelaling (Indian mackerel) and selayang (round scad) since middle of November.