GEORGE TOWN - The Klang Valley is not the only place seeing rising prices of foodstuff in the run-up to the Chinese New Year, with Johor and Penang similarly affected.
The prices of seafood, especially, have seen a dramatic increase, with silver pomfret (ikan bawal tambak) being sold at RM60 per kilo in Penang and for even between RM100 and RM200 per kilo in Johor.
Despite the prices, fishmongers here are doing a roaring trade with many families buying in bulk and deep freezing for their festive celebration.
Batu Lanchang wet market trader Annie Tan Ah Nee, 56, said the silver pomfret, which was going for RM30 per 500g, had been selling well in the past few weeks.
"Pomfret is the most sought-after fish for the New Year. Customers are looking for larger size pomfret but the supply of such fish is low.
"It's always like this near the New Year," said Tan, who has been selling fish for 30 years.
Supply, she added, had also been hit by the monsoon late last year.
"I don't think I can order any more from my supplier and will just have to sell whatever is left," she said.
Trader Ong Loi Beng, 58, said his supply of prawns from Kuala Kurau, Perak, was regular, and people have been snapping up his prawns.
The prawns - depending on the size - are being sold at between RM36 and RM70 per kilo while squid is priced at RM14 per kilo.
Retiree Tan Cheng Keat, 67, who was out shopping for large prawns, said he had heard from his cousin in Sungai Petani that these were being sold for RM140 a kilo last Sunday.
He paid RM80 a kilo for the same size of prawns a week earlier. "These prawns are not good for steamboat but great for curry but at RM140 a kilo?"
"My cousin paid for the prawns. When he returned to the stall an hour later to buy more prawns for his friends, these were all sold out."
In Johor Baru, a check by The Star showed that the prices of ikan kembung had climbed to RM20 a kilo from RM12 a kilo last week.
Other popular fishes like the black pomfret and the red snapper are now selling for RM40 per kilo and RM35 per kilo.
At the Johor Jaya wet market, fishmonger Alex Lek, 30, said some of the seafood had increased by between 30 per cent and 100 per cent.
"The price of silver pomfret has risen by half since the beginning of the year to between RM100 and RM200 now," he said.
Another fishmonger, known only as Ah Bei, said prawns were going for RM120 per kilo, up from RM90 per kilo last week, and squid was at RM35 per kilo.
"Customers understand the reasons for the price increase but they will still complain," he said.
However, the increase is a boon for chicken trader Muhd Salam Abdullah, whose stall is enjoying good business from customers turned off by expensive seafood.
"I have customers telling me that they choose to eat more chicken because fish and other meat like beef and lamb are getting dearer," said Muhd Salam.
Chicken is currently at RM7.80 per kilo.