Vegetable prices rockets on early monsoon

Do you realise that the heavy rainfalls have started much earlier this year? Yes, the monsoon is here early and it has impacted your wallet directly. Some vegetables have risen by as much as 70%, according to importers of fruits and vegetables.

The Chinese Shin Min Daily News reported that the harvest was affected by the rainy season in Malaysia. The Penang Island Vegetable Wholesalers Association said prices of chives have doubled, while vegetable sellers in Chinatown Market and wholesaler Thygrace Marketing said prices of Chinese cabbages have risen from $2 to more than $3.

Water spinach went up to $3 or $4 from $2.50, and the prices of Japanese cucumber increased from 40 to 50 cents to $1.30 to $1.50.

Would the solution to be to import from countries further away, such as Thailand, Cambodia and China? The answer is no. To ship in vegetables from long distances would greatly add to transportation costs.

There is a silver lining behind these monsoon clouds though – the price increase is only temporarily. 

It does however remind us of one thing: that Singapore is price taker when it comes to food and produce. The country produces little to zero of the foods that we consume daily and the food that we eat are all subject to external forces – sometimes it is nature, sometimes it is foreign politics. 

The reason why Singapore is able to keep its prices low owes its thanks to several factors: our high Singapore dollar, our strong co-operatives (such as Fairprice) to have the buying power to keep prices low and good foreign relations to ensure that costs do not escalate unnecessarily. 

So the next time you order something at the hawker centre, have a thought about how prices are kept so relatively low even though we are not a food producing nation and are a country of price takers.

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