Malaysia: Close watch on the weather for veggies’ sake

YEE XIANG YUN, HEMANANTHANI SIVANANDAM, RAHIMY RAHIM, and ROYCE TAN
The Star 17 Nov 16;

JOHOR BARU: Farmers are watching the skies closely, worrying that the monsoon season may put a dent in the supply of vegetables.

Federation of Malaysian Vegetable Farmers Association president Tan So Tiok said the prices of a variety of vegetables had increased by 20% to 30% since a week ago as crops were yielding smaller quantities due to the rainfall and lack of sunlight.

He said this had affected both leafy vegetables such as spinach, bak choi, watercress, kangkong and non-leafy vegetables like long beans, tomatoes and chillies, among others.

“Prices will continue to stay that way for the next three weeks or so and it is hard to say when they will return to normal as our weather is quite unpredictable,” he said in an interview.

The situation is adding to problems faced by farmers, who are already feeling the heat due to the shortage of foreign farm workers.

Tan said the foreign workers issue had created a negative impact as farmers were now competing against each other to win over the workers by offering higher pay.

Operational costs, Tan said, had also gone up by 20% in the past two years given factors such as the drop in ringgit value and the impact from the Goods and Services Tax as the farmers mostly imported machinery, fertiliser and pesticides from China and Japan.

A dialogue would be held in Yong Peng, Johor, tomorrow among various agriculture-related associations to discuss such problems and solutions for the future of the industry.

Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association secretary Chay Ee Mong said that year-end production tended to be lower.

“Based on past experience, production may drop by 20% due to the monsoon season. Right now, the weather is okay,” he said.

Chay said low production of vegetables could be countered by importing them from other countries. However, the weakening ringgit may take a toll on the farmers.

“If it gets too expensive to import the vegetables, then we might import fewer,” he added.

As for chicken, Federation of Livestock Farmers Association Malaysia president Jeffrey Ng said generally, the country has no problem with the supply of poultry despite the weakening ringgit and the unfavourable weather.

“Each company has its own strategy and plan to deal with this,” he said.

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