Price of banana leaves up 50% from last year

Sweet delicacy: Oh talking to a customer at his ‘nian gao’ stall at the SPPK wet market in Pengkalan, Ipoh.

IPOH - The price of banana leaves has gone up by 50 per cent to RM3 (S$1.14) per kilo against RM2 last year.

The leaves which are used in the making of nian gao, a Chinese New Year sweet delicacy, saw a surge in demand since a week ago.

Nian gao maker Oh Cheng Guan, 78, said the recent floods had destroyed banana trees, resulting in a shortage of the leaves and pushing up the price.

"There is always a surge in demand for the leaves in the run-up to Chinese New Year.

"The leaves are used to line the metal moulds for the nian gao mixture (ground glutinous rice and sugar), which is steamed for 18 hours until it achieves a soft texture and is golden brown in colour.

"The banana leaves are the best and safest lining and can withstand long hours of steaming," Oh explained.

He has been making and selling nian gao here for more than 60 years.

Nian gao (which means achieving greater heights in the new year in Mandarin) is a much sought-after delicacy and is believed to bring good tidings, too.

Oh said his nian gao was priced at RM20 per kilo, and came in three sizes to cater to the customers' demand.

He said his customers buy the delicacy for consumption, prayers and to use as gifts.

"Nian gao is a much sought-after traditional delicacy but sales have slowed down a bit this year," he added.

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