IPOH: Favoured by the Chinese worldwide, especially during the Lunar New Year, abalone and sea cucumber can make a hefty dent in household budgets.
This year, they are expected to be even more costly for the annual family reunion dinners, as prices have steadily increased over the years due to the rising demand in China.
Supply has also been low due to controlled harvesting in some countries.
Dried abalone imported from Japan, for instance, costs around RM3,300 per 600gm now compared to about RM3,000 last year, said Soon Thye Hang Marine Products Sdn Bhd director Sam Chuah.
Canned abalone is cheaper.
The price of canned abalone from New Zealand and Mexico, which costs well over RM90 for a 425gm tin, has remained about the same.
This is because it is manufactured and importers can absorb the production cost slightly, unlike the dried ones which are commodities, said Chuah, 31.
He said the price of sea cucumber had shot up by at least 10% this year, bringing the price from RM420 per kilo last year to about RM500 for those from the Pacific Ocean.
Despite the price, abalone and sea cucumber are highly sought after by the Chinese to make a dish much richer.
It is Chinese tradition to have abalone and sea cucumber as well as mushrooms and dried oysters during Chinese New Year reunion dinners, when everyone in the family gather from near and far to have a meal together.
Because it is a rare opportunity for such a gathering, Chinese families believe in eating better and more expensive food to celebrate, said Chuah.
He added that importers like him were practising a more conservative approach when stocking up for this Chinese New Year, fearing a slower market.
People are just coming out to do their shopping now, he said.
Chuah said he had stocked up fewer varieties of foodstuff but had increased the volume of more popular items like mushroom, pistachio nuts and almonds.
We have learned from the past that certain items such as sweets, biscuits, and dried fruits from China cannot be sold after the season, plus, local ones come much cheaper, he said.
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