SINGAPORE: The prolonged rainy weather and overcast skies have affected the supply of vegetables on both sides of the Causeway, with one distributor saying that the supply from Malaysia has fallen by more than 20 per cent. This has led to a corresponding increase in prices seen by importers.
The supply of produce such as tomatoes, Japanese cucumber and iceberg lettuce, for instance, has dropped by as much as 30 per cent, according to Mr Tan Chin Hian from the Singapore Fruit and Vegetable Importers and Exporters Association (SFVA).
He said these are key vegetables grown and imported from Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands, and prices for those items have increased by as much as 40 per cent. According to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, Malaysia is Singapore’s top source of vegetables.
Sheng Siong supermarket chain has also seen a drop in the supply of vegetables from Malaysia, resulting in higher prices for produce such as kang kong, chye sim and bayam, said a spokesperson.
While it did not respond to queries on the exact price increase, the spokesperson added that the prices of leafy vegetables from Thailand and Vietnam remain stable.
“Besides doing our best to keep any price increment reasonable, we also diversify our sources, by sourcing from China, Thailand, and Vietnam for leafy and fruited vegetables so as to maintain price stability," said the spokesperson.
However, NTUC FairPrice’s director of fresh products, Peter Teo, told Channel NewsAsia that the supermarket chain has not noticed “significant fluctuations” in the price and supply of fruit and vegetable produce at its stores.
“This is due to our source diversification strategy which ensures stable supply and moderate cost of living of essentials for Singaporeans,” Mr Teo said.
“Apart from Malaysia and Singapore, we also source vegetables from alternate locations including Thailand, China and Indonesia. This also applies to our fruit sources – for example, while supplies of bananas from Malaysia have been affected, we continue to keep a steady supply for the fruit from The Philippines, Ecuador, and Mexico.”
SFVA’s Mr Tan also shared similar sentiments, saying that the association has been looking to alternatives such as China and Taiwan to supply produce affected by the rainy weather.
LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLES DAMAGED BY RAIN
Local farmers too have not been spared by the continuous rain, with those growing leafy green vegetables impacted the most.
Farm 85’s assistant director Tan Liang Zhong said vegetables not sheltered by their greenhouses on the farm have been damaged by the rain. They include vegetables such as bok choy, chai sim as well as spinach. Mr Tan said up to 30 per cent of such crops have started to rot.
“Typically, there is a thin layer of wax around our vegetables to protect them, but under heavy and continuous rainfall as we have had in the past four days, the wax has eventually washed off,” Mr Tan explained.
“This has resulted in the rainwater seeping into the vegetables, resulting in a rot setting in.”
Even those protected under greenhouses have been affected due to a lack of sunlight, and they are growing slower than usual. Mr Tan said its daily produce quota has gone down by almost half.
Up to 90 per cent of the farm’s produce is sold to wholesale centres, while 10 per cent of its supply goes to supermarkets such as Sheng Siong and NTUC FairPrice.
Mr Tan told Channel NewsAsia that unlike the monsoon seasons of previous years, the impact year is quite different.
“Last year, we might have had between one and two hours of heavy rain. This time around, it’s been four days of almost continuous rains,” he said.
SOME HERBS AND VEGETABLES THRIVE IN COOLER WEATHER
Another local farm, Bollywood Veggies, said that while it tends to grow hardier produce, herbs such as its lemongrass crop has taken a hit.
“Almost all the lemongrass we harvest for the farm has been damaged,” Bollywood Veggies’ CEO, Manda Foo said.
“Lemongrass needs drier conditions to survive, but the continuous rain has rotted out its roots.”
But other crops have been thriving thanks to cooler weather, Ms Foo said. They include the blue pea flower, moringa and winged beans.
Comcrop founder Allan Lim also said that herbs such as basil and oakleaf lettuce are thriving in the cooler temperatures. While his urban rooftop farm is at the mercy of the weather, taking steps to ensure the farm’s crops are more resilient to weather changes meant there has not been an adverse impact so far.
“In fact, crops like basil, mint, wasabi lettuce and oakleaf lettuce have increased in volume compared to this time last year, possibly because they do well growing in cooler weather,” Mr Lim said.
The company supplies its produce to online stores like Redmart, and will also extend its supply to supermarkets like NTUC FairPrice.
The rainy weather is expected to ease over the next few days, according to Singapore's National Environment Agency.