Today Online 18 May 16;
KUALA LUMPUR — The extended spell of hot weather due to the El Nino weather phenomenon has taken a toll on crop supply, causing the prices of some fruits and vegetables in the region to soar.
Federation of Malaysian Vegetable Farmers’ Association president Tan So Tiok told The Star newspaper that local vegetable output had dropped 20 per cent since last month. The shortage has also affected supply to Singapore by about the same percentage, he said.
“This has affected both leafy vegetables like mustard leaves, watercress and cabbage, and non-leafy vegetables such as long beans, chilli, cucumber, pumpkin and bitter gourd,” he said.
Mr Tan said the situation had improved because of the recent rains but the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan would create new problems. “Indonesian farm workers will usually head back to their home towns for the fasting month, which leaves us shorthanded,” he said.
“The situation is made worse by the freeze on foreign workers because we can’t take in labourers from other countries to replace those heading home.”
He said countries such as China, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, from where Malaysia imports vegetables, are also cautious about their vegetable supply as they are also facing shortages from the ongoing hot weather.
Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association secretary Chay Ee Mong said output from the highlands has dropped between 30 per cent and 40 per cent since the middle of March, causing vegetables prices to soar by 50 per cent. About 80 per cent of the output is consumed locally while the rest is exported to Singapore.
Over in Thailand, the hot weather has affected Thai coconut production and prices have gone up almost 100 per cent in Singapore as a result.
Coconut importer Kelvin Ngian of Siam Coconut said that the prices are the highest he has seen in 15 years.
“Normally, the price would go up about 1.5 times during this period of shortage. Since January, we have been seeing an increase in coconut prices about one fold,” he said. “That’s the highest we have seen in 15 years.”
Apart from the hot weather, prices have gone up because there has been an increase in demand for coconuts as drinking coconut water has become a health fad.
Malaysia has been enveloped in a sweltering heatwave that saw the temporary closure of schools in March and April and slowed vegetable production, leading to price hikes. Paddy fields, durian and rubber plantations have also been affected by the severe temperatures, and water levels at dams and water treatment plants have been decreasing.
The drought has forced some states, such as Perlis and Johor, to impose water rationing measures.
The Malaysian government has warned that the dry and hot spell could stretch to September, resulting in depleting water reserves, more forest fires and worsening haze.
Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Wilfred Madius Tangau had told TODAY last month that the hot weather would continue for the next five months due to the changing south-west monsoon winds.
The monsoon season is between May and September.
Various industries have expressed concern over the situation while farmers and fish breeders said they have suffered losses due to the heat. AGENCIES
Import prices of Thai coconuts hit record highs amid dry weather
Local importers say Thai coconut prices have doubled due to the ongoing hot spell in the region and rising global demand for coconut products.
Lim Jia Qi Channel NewsAsia 18 May 16;
SINGAPORE: Siam Coconut has been importing coconuts from Thailand for the past 15 years. Every year during this period, the local company would expect prices to increase as hot and dry weather hits supplies. But this year, the company has been taken by surprise because prices have gone up by more than usual.
"Normally, the price would go up about 1.5 times during this period of shortage. Since January, we have been seeing an increase in coconut prices about one fold," said the company's general manager, Mr Kelvin Ngian. "That's the highest we have seen in 15 years."
He said the extremely hot weather in Thailand is partially to blame, with crops taking a hit. Making the situation even worse, though, is the growing global popularity of coconut products, which means Singapore importers are having to compete harder to source sufficient supplies.
"We are basically fighting with the rest of the world to get the coconuts. There is a lot of education on the benefits of coconut water. So countries like America and China, they are setting up factories in Thailand, collecting the coconuts to produce coconut products," Mr Ngian added.
Coconut water is believed to be a 'heat clearing' food and is seen to have other benefits, such as hydrating the human body more effectively than energy drinks.
Siam Coconut imports about 120,000 coconuts every month. To ensure sufficient supply, Mr Ngian said he now has to visit Thailand once a month to find new sources of supply instead of every three months.
As the supply of coconuts continues to dwindle, Mr Vincent Li, the owner of importer Choong Guan Heng, has also had to visit Thailand twice in the last month to look for new suppliers.
"I managed to find new sources of supply but they didn't have much also. They just gave us a bit, it's still not enough," said Mr Li in Mandarin, adding that he is also restricting sales of coconuts in some cases. "If a customer is buying 10 boxes of coconuts and there is not enough, maybe I'll just sell them 5 boxes."
Mr Yeo Cheng Hong, Chairman of Lai Hong Fruits, said the import price of 30 coconuts would have cost about S$30 in March. But the price has since risen to about S$50. "It's the highest I've ever seen," Mr Yeo added.
With higher import costs, consumers may have to bear the brunt of it. Ms Jessie Leong, 57, used to buy coconuts from supermarkets every week, but she stopped when the price started creeping up.
"They started increasing gradually so I stopped buying when it hit $1.90," said Ms Leong.
When Channel NewsAsia visited a FairPrice outlet in Choa Chu Kang on Tuesday (May 17), the price of one Thai coconut was $2.70.
A spokesperson from FairPrice said the price of Thai coconuts has increased by about five per cent compared to a week ago.
"There has been a gradual increase in the cost of coconuts from Thailand in the past few months due to the extreme weather conditions that have affected supply."
The spokesperson added that the supermarket diversifies its sources to help moderate the cost of products.
"We have brought in coconuts from Vietnam, which are presently about 20 per cent cheaper than Thai coconuts. We continue to monitor this situation closely," said the spokesperson.
The price increase may be short-lived. Importers said the prices should return to normal by end June as weather conditions in Thailand improve.
Today Online 18 May 16;