REPORTS BY ZUHRIN AZAM AHMAD, DALILAH IBRAHIM, SYLIVIA LOOI, MEERA VIJAYAN, NGU IK YING and RENITA CHE WAN
PETALING JAYA: Prices of vegetables nationwide have shot up in the past week, increasing by as much as 175% due to the wet season.
Topping the list are red chillies, which are being sold at a whopping RM20 a kg in at least one market in the Klang Valley. The current ceiling price for red chillies is RM9 a kg.
To make matters worse, if the rains continue, prices are expected to rise further as well as lead to a vegetable shortage for the coming Chinese New Year.
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Federation of Vegetable Farmers Associations of Malaysia secretary-general Chay Ee Mong said the rainy spell had resulted in a 40% drop in local production.
Imports are also lower as producers in China and Thailand have been badly hit by floods.
Supply of popular vegetables during the lunar New Year such as Chinese cabbage, sang choy (Chinese salad) and yin sai (Chinese coriander) had been affected, he said.
“The long monsoon season since September is not helping the situation. Normally, we see good weather in January,” he added.
The federation’s vice-president Tan Pak Looi described the price increase as inevitable.
“When the weather is cold, vegetables like long beans do not grow properly,” he said in Johor Baru.
“A few days ago, red chillies cost about RM4 a kg, but are now selling for RM11 a kg.”
According to him, ex-farm prices of kangkung and bayam had also risen, by about 157%.
Tan, who owns a 12ha farm in Kota Tinggi, Johor, said that on a normal day he would harvest about 300kg of red chillies, but on Sunday he managed only 30kg.
“I can only get to my farm in a big lorry as the roads are flooded, and the crops are not growing well. My business has dropped by as much as 30% in the last few days,” he said.
In Petaling Jaya, red chillies are being sold at RM20 kg at the Section 17 market compared with RM12 last week, while at the PJ Old Town market, it costs RM12, compared with just RM8 last month.
At the Chow Kit market in Kuala Lumpur, the price is RM10 a kg – RM4 more than two weeks ago.
In Penang, chilli prices have increased by between 50% and 70%. Checks at the Batu Lanchang and Chowrasta wet markets showed that chillies are being sold at between RM12 and RM15 a kg compared with RM5 before.
Federation of Vegetable Sellers Associations adviser Datuk Yeoh Chip Tong said heavy rain had affected the harvest. Higher transportation costs had also pushed up prices.
“The supply is low now but hopefully it’s only for the short term. Traders will have to source chilli from other countries like Vietnam and Indonesia to meet demand,” he said.