Wet market price surprise

SINGAPORE - Food prices at wet markets are usually lower than at supermarkets.

But a check by The New Paper on Wednesday showed that prices were more expensive recently at wet markets, at least in the run-up to Chinese New Year (CNY).

One savvy housewife living in Jurong West, who gave her name only as Mrs Lew, 61, said she frequents the wet market and supermarket near her flat, and uses her knowledge to save money.

She noticed that the seafood at the Prime Supermarket is cheaper than at the nearby wet market.

Prawns, for example, are about $4 a kg cheaper. Pomfrets go for almost $6 a kg cheaper.

She said: "Because supermarkets are big, the prices are more stable and food prices increase only a little bit. I go to wet markets only when I can't find what I want from the supermarkets."

Yesterday morning, the TNP team went to three locations - Ang Mo Kio, Jurong West and Bishan - and found that she was right.

Bishan resident Laura Ng, 66, prefers to do her grocery shopping at a FairPrice supermarket as it offers special discounts for senior citizens, which then make prices even cheaper than at the wet markets.

"It's also much easier for me as there are trolleys there," she said.

Another housewife, who gave her name only as Madam Tan and who lives in Ang Mo Kio, said she prefers shopping at the nearby Giant supermarket anyway as "everything is packaged and cleaned".

WILLING TO PAY MORE FOR FRESH FOOD

But despite the higher prices at the wet markets, five of the 12 people we spoke to still prefer their produce fresh.

One of them was a 62-year-old housewife living in Jurong who wanted to be known as Madam Chua. She said it is worth the extra money because she likes her fish fresh.

A 68-year-old retiree, who wanted to be known as Madam Lim, prefers to do her shopping at Shunfu wet market, which is just below her block. She said: "I have been going there for over 10 years and the produce is almost always fresh. Even if the price is higher, having fresher ingredients is always worth it."

WE HAVE TO CHARGE MORE

Stall owners gave different explanations for the higher prices.

A fishmonger at Her Sin Mini Market at Jurong West said the monsoon weather makes it harder for fishermen to catch fish.

"Some fish are out of stock," said the 41-year-old, who gave her name as Chris.

Most fish prices go up about 15 to 20 per cent during the CNY period.

But for certain items such as garoupa and pomfret, the increase might be higher because of greater demand.

Mr Zailani Sayuti, 45, a butcher who sells beef, mutton and chicken at Jurong West Street 91 Market, said shop owners are also trying to cover the rental for days when their shops are closed.

HOW SUPERMARKETS KEEP THINGS CHEAP

A FairPrice spokesman said the chain has managed to keep prices stable this year.

"We are closely monitoring the market and work closely with our suppliers to ensure the prices of food remain affordable for consumers, especially daily essentials," he said.

"We also engage in various strategies like diversifying our sources to cushion consumers from price shocks."

FairPrice recently introduced Thailand as a new source for chicken and the chain's poultry prices have been relatively stable leading up to CNY.


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