JOHOR BARU: The extended spell of hot weather due to El Nino has taken a toll on the crops, causing the prices of vegetables to rise by between 30% and 50%.
A local supply shortage, brought on by heat and lack of water, has resulted in the price increase.
Federation of Malaysian Vegetable Farmers’ Association president Tan So Tiok estimated a 20% drop in the local vegetable supply since last month.
“This has affected both leafy vegetables like mustard leaves, watercress and cabbage and non-leafy vegetables such as long beans, chilli, cucumber, pumpkin and bitter gourd,” he said.
Tan said the shortage had also affected supply to Singapore by about 20%. The worst-hit state, he said, was Johor which produces some 60% of the nation’s vegetables.
“Countries like China, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, from where Malaysia imports vegetables, are also cautious about their vegetable supply as they are also facing shortages due to climate effects,” he said.
Looking at the bright side, Tan said the situation was improving with more rain these days.
However, it would be difficult for the supply to return to normal as a dip was anticipated in the upcoming Ramadan month, he said.
“Indonesian farm workers will usually head back to their hometowns for the fasting month, which leaves us shorthanded.
“The situation is made worse by the freeze on foreign workers because we can’t take in labourers from other countries to replace those heading home,” he said.
In Ipoh, round cabbage, Chinese cabbage, spinach and capsicum were among the vegetables found to have almost doubled in price.
Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association secretary Chay Ee Mong said the rest of the greens were also affected, though not as much.
He said production for the vegetables had declined since mid-March, and prices were up by 50%.
“The output at the highlands has been down by between 30% and 40%,” he said.
Chay noted the difference between the current and old prices of four types of vegetable – the round cabbage costs close to RM3 per kg in the market compared to about RM1.50 previously.
Chinese cabbage is now at RM2.50 per kg. It was RM1.50 before.
Spinach is priced between RM3.50 and RM4 while previously, it was RM2.
Capsicum now costs between RM7 and RM8 per kg. It was about RM5 two months ago.
Chay said about 80% of the vegetables were for the local market and the rest were exported to Singapore.
“Vegetable production is getting slightly better with the recent rain, but if it rains excessively, it could also affect the harvest,” he said.
“The weather can’t be too hot, and there should not be too much rain. Both could spoil the crops.”