Blame bad weather, rising labor and fuel costs for higher fish prices

SINGAPORE – When Madame Mabel Chia, 40, buys yarn at Bukit Timah market, she was buying one large enough to feed her family of six.

These days she had to look for something more affordable but smaller. Pointing to another fish that was bigger on Saturday, she said: “I used to be able to get something this size, but it’s too expensive so I have to go for the smaller one.

“My dad prefers to eat less meat and wants to eat more fish because it’s healthier and softer to chew, so I don’t really have a choice. I will probably cook another vegetable dish to compensate for the smaller portion.

The early onset of this year’s monsoon season, coupled with rising fuel and labor costs, has pushed up the price of Malaysian fish and seafood by around 20%. .

The Straits Times spoke to fishmongers in Tekka Market, Bukit Timah Market and Toa Payoh, who all said that in the past two months they had experienced price increases from vendors of 10 to 20%.

“When the weather is bad, the supply of fish decreases because the fishermen don’t come out,” said Mr. Alex Lee, 55, owner of seafood stall Lee Yit Huat Trading at Tekka Market. “The price is determined by the supply of fish we have. When the weather is bad, supply decreases and suppliers then charge more.

A 32-year veteran of the trade, he added that the red grouper he sells would cost around $19 per kg, but the price has since risen to $24 per kg. “I held my price down so my customers could still afford to buy it, but that means my profits are down as well.”

Adding to his misfortunes was the labor shortage, which meant he had to look elsewhere for workers.

“There are fewer workers who want to work in this industry, so they can demand a higher salary. It all adds up to the cost of the fish when it gets to us,” Mr Lee said.

Mrs. Lina Wong, 50, who runs Song Yu Ji Seafood at Bukit Timah Market with her husband, said, “I have seen the prices of some fish go up by as much as 50%. In these cases, we will not buy it when we go to the fishing port, because there is no one who will buy it from us.

She added that her stall has kept the price of Emperor red snappers at $25 per kg, even though the cost has increased, in a bid to retain customers.

“It’s normal for the price to fluctuate because the supply of wild fish is never stable,” Ms Wong said. “Prices normally increase towards the end of the year and before Chinese New Year and drop right after, but I think it will be much more than normal this time due to the proximity of Chinese New Year.”

Chinese New Year will be celebrated on January 22, 2023.

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