JOHOR BARU: Consumers in Johor have to contend with higher seafood prices, even as the country moves into the recovery phase of the movement control order (MCO) and supply chains are back to normal.
The prices of seafood in the state had been steadily rising during the MCO, and fishmongers are blaming it on fishermen and their vendors.
A number of sellers at four different markets in Johor have complained that fishermen are charging more for their catch, eating into their slim margins and forcing them to raise prices for consumers.
They said it was crucial for them to make some profit to be able to buy produce for the next day and cover operating costs such as rental and transportation.
P. Magendran, 40, who had been selling fish for 20 years at the Johor Jaya market, said his suppliers got their fish mainly from Sedili or Pontian.
“Depending on the season, fishermen go out to either Sedili or Pontian, with the seafood from the latter usually being more expensive.
“This directly affects the prices that I can sell at, as currently I am getting stock from Pontian, ” he said, adding that making profit was also difficult now as there were fewer buyers.
Richard Lowin, 39, who works at a fish stall in Tampoi, said the increase in prices started during the MCO.
“Many fishermen could not go out to fish then, and there was limited supply. Similarly, vendors were also not allowed to operate.
“This caused other vendors to raise their prices as there was a shortage of supply, ” he said, adding that the prices were still the same despite supply lines operating normally.
Lee Chee Wei, 34, who sells fish and seafood at the Larkin market, noted that prices usually fluctuate but were rather high at the moment.
“My suppliers are charging slightly higher for certain fish, especially wild ocean fish like ikan merah, which is now about RM38 a kg, ” he said, adding that it used to sell between RM30 and RM35 per kg.
Fadlie Mustapha, 38, who runs a fish stall at Pasar Borong Pandan, said that he did not notice any shortage in stock from his suppliers.
“I buy from several different suppliers and none of them are having a hard time providing me with the fish I need.
“So it would be safe to say that there is no shortage of fish and seafood right now but prices are still higher than before, ” he said.
Buyers are also unhappy with the state of affairs.
Security officer S. Sathia, 45, said that the market in Kulai previously did not have many types of fish for sale with only tenggiri (mackerel) available during the MCO, but the situation has improved.
“Everything is back to normal at the market near my area, except for the price.
“Prawns are much more expensive, with the regular medium sized prawns currently priced close to RM40 per kg, ” he said.
When contacted, Pengerang Fishermen Association chairman Abu Bakar Mohamad said prices of seafood in the area had gone up due to the high demand during the recovery MCO period.
“The price for ‘ikan kerapu’ (grouper) for example, was previously RM35 per kg but now the price is RM38 per kg.
“This includes other seafood as well such as prawns and crabs, ” he added.
Meanwhile, Muar Fishermen Association chairman Kamaruddin Arshad attributed the higher prices to the fishing industry in the state reverting to normal.
“Fishermen had nowhere to go during the MCO because wet markets were closed and restaurants were working with limited capacity and supply.
“However, things have slowly picked up and now business has gone back to the way it was before the MCO, ” he said, adding that this could be seen in the increase in prices of seafood, with ikan bawal selling for RM60 per kg from RM40 per kg previously, while prawn prices had gone up to RM40 per kg from RM32 per kg.
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