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Malaysian floods send fish, veggie prices soaring

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Tomatoes now cost double and fish like white pomfret sell for at least 20% more

The prices of vegetables and fish are going up across the board at wet markets in Singapore, with some vegetables costing about twice as much from just weeks ago.

Vendors at five wet markets told The Straits Times yesterday that poor weather conditions in Malaysia had affected supply, with flooded farms resulting in poor crop output.

Transport is also an issue because roads are closed due to the severe flooding.

Mr Alex Zhou, 35, who runs a vegetable stall at a wet market in Pasir Ris Drive 6, said: "The constant rain in Malaysia has made it hard to transport goods, and we've lost a lot of supply due to the poor weather. The green leafy vegetables like spinach are more badly affected because they spoil easily in water."

A stallholder at Geylang Serai Market, who sells vegetables with her husband and wanted to be known as Madam Rashidah, 45, said: "I had to get vegetables from Thailand and Vietnam, which are flown in. This method is more expensive, causing my prices to go up."

Severe flooding in Malaysia over recent weeks has resulted in tens of thousands being evacuated from their homes.

At the Pasir Ris and Ghim Moh Road markets, the price of tomatoes has almost doubled, from about $1 to $2 a kg to about $3 a kg.

A market vendor in Tekka Centre said his cost price for tomatoes has more than doubled from $12 per 10kg to $28, and a vendor in Pasir Ris said his tomato supplies now cost $32 per 10kg, up from about $10.

The vice-secretary of the Singapore Fruits & Vegetables Importers & Exporters Association, Mr Jerry Tan, noted that prices tended to tick upwards towards the end of the year because of the monsoon season, but this year has been exceptional.

He said: "Usually, some areas in Cameron Highlands that still get some sun will be able to supply tomatoes. But this year, the entire area has been raining for the past few weeks. When this happens, the tomatoes cannot ripen and the supply will be affected. There are plenty of tomatoes on the plants, but all of them are green."

He said the price of tomatoes from Malaysia has skyrocketed by about 150 to 200 per cent from the past week.

He said: "We've never seen such a drastic increase in such a short time before. But suppliers are trying to get their stocks from Thailand and Vietnam, so prices should start to drop and will stabilise soon."

Prices for seafood such as fish and prawns have also risen.

Singapore Fish Merchants' General Association chairman Goh Thiam Chwee said the prices of popular items, such as Chinese pomfret and red snapper, have jumped by about 20 per cent and may possibly increase by 30 per cent as Chinese New Year approaches.

He added: "Every year, the prices will increase towards the monsoon season because of the fluctuating sea conditions. But seafood is not so badly affected because we also get our supply from other countries, and if needed, we can replace (it) with frozen fish in the interim."

At the Ghim Moh Road and Tekka Centre markets, Chinese pomfret and white pomfret cost at least 20 per cent more.

"The Chinese pomfret and white pomfret are the two most popular types of fish during Chinese New Year. Due to the monsoon season, their supply is very low and that caused the price to escalate," said Mrs Niam Leng Hwa, a fishmonger at Ghim Moh Road market.

Some consumers took the price rises in their stride.

Office worker Liu Shao Ai, 44, said: "I'm not particularly shocked or surprised (by the higher prices). After all, the monsoon season cannot be helped. I wouldn't buy fewer, but I would try to buy more of other cheaper alternatives."