Malaysia to stop exporting four species of fish and shrimp from Jan 1 to Feb 28

Today Online 17 Dec 18;

KUALA LUMPUR — A week after declaring that it may limit or stop the export of eggs, Malaysia has announced that it will prohibit the export of four species of fish and shrimp.

This is to meet the shortage in the market during the monsoon and festive seasons, Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Salahuddin Ayub said on Monday (Dec 17).

The Bernama news agency said that four species — mackerel, trevally, Indian mackerel and pomfret — will be prohibited from export from Jan 1 to Feb 28, 2019.

Chinese New Year falls during this period and the price of the pomfret would typically surge due to high demand and the monsoon season dampening supply.

Last Monday, Malaysian Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said that the country may limit or stop the export of eggs to ensure sufficient supply for its domestic market.

He said that egg prices in Malaysia have been going up every week for the past months, and his ministry has received numerous complaints.

Malaysia is Singapore's largest supplier of eggs. Last year, Singapore imported 73 per cent of its eggs from Malaysia, and less than 1 per cent from accredited farms in Thailand, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

However, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said that the country has a "wide range of alternative sources", including local farms. AGENCIES

Expect 30 to 40 per cent increase in fish prices; supply shortage 'common' over festive period, say fishmongers
CYNTHIA CHOO Today Online 18 Dec 18;

SINGAPORE — Customers can expect a 30 to 40 per cent increase in fish prices over the Chinese New Year period, fishmongers have cautioned, with the perennial supply shortage potentially made worse by Malaysia’s impending move to stop the export of certain fish and shrimp in the first two months of next year.

Ghim Moh market fishmonger James Lee told TODAY: “It’s not new. Every year during the Chinese New Year period there will be less fish from Malaysia. It’s been happening over the last five years, at least. The suppliers will tell us it is because of high demand in their country.”

Last year, for example, the price of seafood at wet markets surged between 20 and 100 per cent during the festive season, as demand from China, Indonesia and Malaysia spiked, while bad weather disrupted supplies from neighbouring countries.

With the Chinese New Year falling on Feb 5, seafood supplies to Singapore’s fishing ports during the festive period will take a hit as the Malaysian government plans to ban the export of shrimp and four species of fish — mackerel, trevally, Indian mackerel and pomfret — from Jan 1 to Feb 28.

This is to meet the shortage in the market during the monsoon and festive seasons, said Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Salahuddin Ayub.

The pomfret, in particular, is a popular dish during the Chinese New Year period. Stallholders who spoke to TODAY said they will look to other sources of fish when the export ban comes into effect.

While Mr Lee estimates 60 per cent of his current supply of fish to be from Malaysia, he said he was not worried, and is ready to get his supply from other sources, such as Indonesia.

Fellow Ghim Moh market fishmonger Ng Poh Khiang, 60, said in Mandarin: “If we don’t get fish from Malaysia, we will just buy from Indonesia and Thailand. There are many sources of fish, never mind if there is no supply (from Malaysia).”

But they warned that this means the bidding prices for fish from Indonesia and Thailand will likely increase.

“So I still expect the prices of fish to go up, maybe 30 to 40 per cent,” Mr Lee said.

At his stall, pomfret is usually sold at around S$32 per kg during off-peak periods. During the festive season, Mr Lee said it can go up to between S$40 and S$45 per kg, at times even rising to over S$70 per kg.

Mr Ng, meanwhile, usually sells pomfrets from Malaysia at S$18 to S$20 per kg, while pomfrets from Indonesia are priced at S$13 to S$15 per kg.

“Fish from Malaysia are usually fresher since it is closer to Singapore, so it is slightly more expensive,” said Mr Ng.

He also expects prices to increase by 30 to 40 per cent during the festive period.

Stallholders said such price hikes are largely in line with the increases they have seen during the monsoon and festive seasons.

Mr Mike Neo, a fishmonger at Tanglin Halt market, said bad weather typically crimps supply, and it has been no different this year.

“This whole month of December, there was very little supply due to the heavy rain and monsoon. I am not even selling mackerel today because there was no stock,” said Mr Neo, who is in his 50s.

About half of his fish supplies come from Malaysia, he said.

Mackerel is usually sold for S$8 per kg at his stall, but he expects it to increase to around $S10 to S$12 per kg during the festive period, if supply remains low.

Another seller, Ms Linda Xu, 61, said that the export restriction will not necessarily affect all sellers.

Referring to the four types of fish to be prohibited from January, Ms Xu said: “They are the smaller fishes, which are not always popular, except for pomfret.”

Ms Xu, who has been running her stall at Tanglin Halt market for over two decades, said grouper and rabbit fish are also popular choices during Chinese New Year. “I don’t expect business to be greatly affected,” she said.

Sellers also said that prices for shrimp generally do not usually fluctuate, even during the Chinese New Year period.

One seller who only wanted to be known as Mr Tan said in Mandarin: “We get shrimp farmed in kelongs (fishing village) and those caught out at sea. We don’t have much problem with the supply.”

Mr Tan, who is in his 40s, said farmed shrimp costs between S$12 and S$16 per kg, while fresh shrimp are sold at S$18 per kg. “Even if shrimp prices increase, it will be one or two dollars (increase) at most.”

Consumers TODAY spoke to also took the news of the export restrictions in their stride.

“If fish prices become ridiculously expensive, then maybe for Chinese New Year I will cook more chicken dishes,” said retiree Jennifer Cheok, 69.

Another housewife, Ms Nancy Khan, said: “It’s not a big deal if prices are expensive once a year. When preparing food during festive period, you cannot put a price on cooking for your family.”

“Otherwise, there are so many alternatives for protein,” said the 53-year-old mother of two.

TODAY has reached out to Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) for comment.

Malaysia’s decision to prohibit the export of fish and shrimp on Monday comes a week after it announced it was looking into limiting or stopping the export of eggs.

Approximately 73 per cent of Singapore’s eggs are from Malaysia, according to the AVA, with around a quarter produced in Singapore.

The AVA said that Singapore has a "wide range of alternative sources", including local farms.

Malaysia and Brazil are Singapore's top sources of food imports, with substantial supply from several other regional countries. TODAY reported last year that about 17 per cent of Singapore’s supply of fish come from across the Causeway.

Expect usual price hike for fish during Chinese New Year, not due to Malaysia's export ban: Fish merchants
Matthew Mohan Channel NewsAsia 18 Dec 18;

SINGAPORE: While the price of fish and shrimp will go up as Chinese New Year comes around, the price hike will not be drastically different from previous years despite a fish export ban just announced by Malaysia, industry players said on Tuesday (Dec 18).

The Malaysian government said on Monday that it will prohibit the export of four species of wild-caught fish and shrimp to meet shortages in Malaysia during the monsoon and festive season.

Kembung (mackerel), selar (trevally), bawal (pomfret), pelaling (Indian mackerel) and shrimp will not be exported from Jan 1 to Feb 28 next year, according to Malaysia's Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Salahuddin Ayub.

Punggol Fish Merchants Association chairman Daniel Pe said such bans have been imposed for the past few years and industry players have adopted workarounds to deal with the potential shortfall.

"During the normal season, some of the merchants actually keep and freeze (the fish), so it doesn't really affect ... the prices," he said, adding that with proper freezing techniques, the quality of fish can be maintained.


Periodic bans of fish exports from Malaysia have been reported from as early as 2013.

The increase of fish prices during Chinese New Year, which falls on Feb 5-6 next year, is generally because of high demand rather than any bans imposed by the Malaysian government, he said.

"The normal price increase of 20-30 per cent is due to the festive season, not because of restrictions."

Mrs Belinda Lee, vice chairperson of the Seafood Industries Association Singapore, said that fish merchants already have some of these fish on "standby" in anticipation for the increase in demand over the Chinese New Year period.

"There's no need to panic ... It is the usual matter or problem that we've faced for the past five years," she said.

"Now the pomfret and red grouper, we sell for S$25-30 a kilogramme but during Chinese New Year it becomes higher due to demand and supply. If you're willing to pay, then fishmongers will sell."


Mr Ang Jwee Herng, director of Hai Sia Seafood, pointed out that alternative sources are available for the affected seafood.

"The fish can come from Indonesia or Thailand," he said. "Fish like the kembung and selar, generally come from Thailand instead of Malaysia ... Malaysia already doesn't ship in a lot."

In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, supermarket chain Sheng Siong said that it does not see a "significant impact" caused by the ban.

"As these seafood can be sourced from other countries like Indonesia and Thailand, we do not foresee a significant impact," said a Sheng Siong spokesperson.

"Besides, we also carry other fresh fish varieties such as threadfin, batang, white snapper in our stores and there are also frozen fish available in the market."

Cold Storage and Giant also bring in fish from other countries, said a Dairy Farm Singapore spokesperson.

"Both Cold Storage and Giant practise diversified sourcing so we do source for fish and shrimp from other countries," said the spokesperson.

Pomfret and mackerel can be from Indonesia, China or India while the supermarket chain works with Singapore fish farmers for its supply of trevally. Fresh and frozen prawns and shrimp are also sourced from Thailand and Vietnam, it added.

In an email to Channel NewsAsia, RedMart said that it does not directly import fish or shrimp products from Malaysia.

"Some of our suppliers in Singapore source their seafood products from there, but we aren't affected as our biggest supplier has multiple sources of fish and seafood," said Mr Sam Strang Steel, associate director of Fresh at RedMart.

He added that other suppliers get their seafood from local Singapore waters or countries other than Malaysia.

Source: CNA/mt(hm)/ad