Malaysia: Veggie prices up due to heat and dry spell brought on by El Nino

YEE XIANG YUN The Star 18 May 16;

JOHOR BARU: The extended spell of hot weather due to El Nino has taken a toll on the crops, causing the prices of vegetables to rise by between 30% and 50%.

A local supply shortage, brought on by heat and lack of water, has resulted in the price increase.

Federation of Malaysian Vegeta­ble Farmers’ Association president Tan So Tiok estimated a 20% drop in the local vegetable supply since last month.

“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.

Tan said the shortage had also affected supply to Singapore by about 20%. The worst-hit state, he said, was Johor which produces some 60% of the nation’s vegetables.

“Countries like China, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, from where Malaysia imports vegetables, are also cautious about their vegetable supply as they are also facing shortages due to climate effects,” he said.

Looking at the bright side, Tan said the situation was improving with more rain these days.

However, it would be difficult for the supply to return to normal as a dip was anticipated in the up­­coming Ramadan month, he said.

“Indonesian farm workers will usually head back to their hometowns for the fasting month, which leaves us shorthanded.

“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.

In Ipoh, round cabbage, Chinese cabbage, spinach and capsicum were among the vegetables found to have almost doubled in price.

Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association secretary Chay Ee Mong said the rest of the greens were also affected, though not as much.

He said production for the vegetables had declined since mid-March, and prices were up by 50%.

“The output at the highlands has been down by between 30% and 40%,” he said.

Chay noted the difference between the current and old prices of four types of vegetable – the round cabbage costs close to RM3 per kg in the market compared to about RM1.50 previously.

Chinese cabbage is now at RM2.50 per kg. It was RM1.50 before.

Spinach is priced between RM3.50 and RM4 while previously, it was RM2.

Capsicum now costs between RM7 and RM8 per kg. It was about RM5 two months ago.

Chay said about 80% of the vegetables were for the local market and the rest were exported to Singapore.

“Vegetable production is getting slightly better with the recent rain, but if it rains excessively, it could also affect the harvest,” he said.

“The weather can’t be too hot, and there should not be too much rain. Both could spoil the crops.”

Seeing red in Malacca over rising cost of greens
The Star 18 May 16;

MALACCA: Consumers in the state are seeing red over the increase in vegetable prices by between 50% and 100%.

A check at the Malacca Central wet market and Batu Berendam wholesale market has shown that, with traders blaming the hike on the hot spell and intermittent rain.

The increase is apparent in red chilli (from RM12 to RM23 per kg), cili padi (RM8 to RM16), green mustard (RM3 to RM6.50), spinach (RM1.50 to RM3) and kangkung sawi bunga (RM4 to RM8).

Vegetable trader S. Karuppiah said the price could return to normal by mid-June “once the weather conditions stabilise”.

“Vegetable prices have been unstable since March due to short supply.

“The middlemen were left with no choice as the farmers couldn’t meet demand because of the dry spell,” he said.

A trader at Central Market, Lye Ming Zhu, said the middlemen were now charging them extra due to the shortage.

He said even the prices of chicken had gone up due to insufficient supply from farms.

“Customers are venting their frustration on us but we are in a bind too due to supply shortage,” he added.

Malacca Coffeeshop and Restau­rant Owners Association chairman Wong Teu Hoon said its members were advised to absorb the cost for now.

“We can’t burden the customers and we will maintain our pricing until the prices of vegetables are back to normal,” he said.

Restaurant owners: Import vegetables to stabilise prices
RAHIMY RAHIM The Star 18 May 16;

PETALING JAYA: As restaurant owners and food operators feel the after effects of El Nino, some of them are calling on the Government to import more vegetables from neighbouring countries to temporarily stabilise prices.

Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association president Datuk R. Ramalingam Pillai said the authorities should consider importing greens from Indonesia, Vietnam or Thailand so that the local industry would be spared the adverse effects of the price chan­ges.

“We have received complaints that the prices are too high,” he said yesterday.

According to Ramalingam, the wholesale price of spinach had shot up to RM3.80 per kilo, red chillies to RM18 per kilo, and RM8 per kilo for long beans.

He said the restaurants had no choice but to absorb the cost as there would not be any increase to the food prices.

“If the authorities do not act on this, many may close shop when the operational cost gets too high,” he said.

Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors’ General Association president Ho Su Mong said they were already hit by a vegetable shortage and other factors such as the Goods and Services Tax and the high cost of living.

“We will wait and see if we need to increase the prices of our food,” he said.

Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association president Noorul Hassan Saul Hameed said although they were feeling the impact of the vegetable price hike, he felt that it was just temporary due to the weather.

Restaurants operators, he added, would not want to raise their prices and put off their customers.

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