Mandarin oranges to cost more this CNY

Be prepared to pay more for mandarin oranges this Chinese New Year.

Fruit wholesalers said prices of the festive fruit are expected to rise by 10 per cent to 20 per cent from that a year earlier due to a supply shortage from China caused by droughts.

Ms Xie Li Fen, who is in charge of sales at wholesaler Bee Seng Fruit Supply, said the price of a 20-piece pack of lukan oranges may go up from $12 to $14 this year. Her firm does not plan to import more oranges from other countries to make up the shortfall. The 39-year-old added: "This year, retailers had to place their orders with us earlier to ensure they can get the stocks."

Supermarket chain Sheng Siong said its supply is not affected though the Chinese harvest of the fruit is down slightly. "Prices for small oranges remain stable... but prices for big-sized oranges will increase this year by 5 per cent to 10 per cent."

The two main varieties imported from China are the swatow and lukan oranges. The former have a thicker skin and are usually exchanged at home visits during the festive season, while the latter have a thinner skin and are sweeter and juicier.

Mr Lee Desmond Bernavey, director of FRESHDirect, said the higher prices were also due to Chinese New Year falling earlier this year. "The peak season for the supply of mandarin oranges is around mid- to end-January.

"Compared to the past new years (when Chinese New Year fell) in mid-February, we have a shorter period to make money, so we have to push up the prices," the 40-year-old said.

His firm also imports Ponkan mandarin oranges from Taiwan and Kinno oranges from Pakistan, but they are costlier than the ones from China. A 12-piece pack of Ponkan oranges can cost about $20, he said.

A wholesaler, who did not want to be named, said he is also importing mandarin oranges from Japan this year to address the shortage, though they cost twice that of those from China.

Malaysian newspaper The Star reported on Tuesday that prices of mandarin oranges from China will rise by 20 per cent to 60 per cent this year.

Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said the current supply of mandarin oranges is stable. "AVA will continue to monitor the situation closely and, if necessary, we will work with importers on alternative sources," said a spokesman.

She added that Singapore imports mandarin oranges from various countries such as China, South Korea and Egypt.

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