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Not right fish and expensive greens
Published on: Sunday, February 18, 2018

Kota Kinabalu: Whether due to overfishing or even theft of marine resources by foreign fishermen active in our waters as alleged by industry sources, one thing is clear – seafood is not as abundantly available as before.

Even if available, they are not the ones sought after during Chinese New Year.

On the other hand, some vegetables have to be discarded because their higher prices have resulted in weakened demand.

A Daily Express random check on fish markets in the State found that most Chinese families may be forced to settle for smaller and cheaper fish for their traditional New Year's eve dinner compared to previous years.

The higher cost of certain types of fish favoured for this festive occasion is forcing many to opt for cheaper ones.

Fish monger Alex Soo, in Tawau, said his regular customers are buying snappers and pomfrets which are less expensive than types they usually prefer (pic above).

"I do sell the big ones but not many customers are buying because the price has increased.

They choose the smaller ones including prawns," he said.

The 27-year-old, who took over his mother's business three years ago, confirmed that fish from his suppliers is more expensive this time around.

There was adequate supply of normal seafood in the KK markets, but traditional species such as White (and black) pomfret were again not in sight this year.

According to a fishmonger who wanted to be identified as Zan, there was more supply compared to last week.

"Thus prices for popular staple food fishes including ikan basung and tulai have dropped slightly and there was no shortage of supply.

Another fishmonger, Roza, agreed saying supply had increased this week leading to slightly cheaper prices but not for those sought after.

"We get our supply from the local fishing boats. If the weather is good then they will be able to catch more fish for the markets," she said.

A prawn seller said there was enough supply of paper and white prawns in the market and the prices have varied little. However larger sized tiger prawns popularly served at Chinese New year celebrations in the past were unavailable.

"Tommorow (Wednesday) is when we will receive the last shipment of seafood including prawns prior to Chinese New year celebrations, she said.

Vegetable seller, Mama Ella, 51, who operates at Sin On market, also in Tawau, said customer traffic has been less ever since the prices of some basic items increased.

"When I first started doing business there used to be a lot of customers coming here (including during off peak hours) but it's not the case now. I often have to throw away unsold vegetables at the end of the day," she said.

Even lately she has been having difficulty in selling her vegetables. "By the end of the day, I would find my table still full," said Mama Ella, who has been selling for 14 years.

She blamed the Good and Services Tax (GST) for customers holding back on purchases.

"There's always plenty of supply of vegetables or fruits but less people are buying these days.

So, I don't dare to take a lot (from suppliers)," she added.

She admitted that she, too, had withheld buying for the Chinese New Year as she wants to be careful with her hard-earned money.

"One thing for sure, I'll be celebrating it in a modest scale this year. The economy is not good," she lamented.

Another vegetable seller, Wit Nyuk Oi, said demand for "sang choi" and salads which are favoured during CNY has not been as good as it used to be in previous years.

According to the 51-year-old, the slow economy has changed the spending habit of the people.

A random survey at the Manggatal and Inanam market, in the State Capital, showed vegetables were being bought despite a slight price hike.

"The price depends on the weather condition, good weather means cheaper vegetables, rainy season means costlier vegetables," said vendor, Lonikah Galim.

She said normally a kilo of kale could cost RM5, while the price of lettuce would be RM8 a kilo, but again it depends on the weather.

"Getting our supply is not that difficult provided you order early especially during festive season when vegetables is in high demand," she added.

"If the weather conditions turn bad, then not only consumers, but we as vendors would also have to spend extra," she said.

Another vendor, Julia Junaidi, said the prices may go slightly up during the festive season due to the unpredictable weather condition. She said people still continue to buy because the prices is still reasonable.

She said prices for vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, shallots, and leafy greens for salads would usually go up during Chinese New Year.

"Broccoli is usually sold at RM10 per kilo, but during festive seasons it can go up to RM16 or RM18 a kilo," she said.

She said the prices can go up by RM2 or RM3 depending on the weather conditions.

A survey at a grocery shop in Kolombong showed that the price of Baby Kailan is RM7 a kilo, while Pak Choi Taiwan from Ranau – a type of Chinese cabbage is sold at RM5.80 a kilo.

Meanwhile, the city was bustling with activity as many did their last minute shopping.

This time around, City Hall opened three locations with about 900 stalls offering a variety of food and beverages, including fish, vegetables and goods traditionally bought for the festivities such as sausages, decorative items, titbits and such.

The three locations are the Town Padang, Foh Sang and Segama where the stalls operating hours have been extended till early morning.

Several routes to the designated locations were also temporarily closed to allow for the buying.

Several major supermarkets also extended their normal operating hours to 11pm, including even temporarily occupying parking lots outside.

"This year, we also have stalls in Padang Merdeka, it is more spread out this year," said Mayor Datuk Yeo Boon Hai during his visit to stalls in Segama, here, Wednesday.

He said people have more places to go.

Also present were Kota Kinabalu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KKCCCI) President Datuk Michael Lui, State MCA Wanita Chief Datuk Agnes Shim, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) supreme council member Chin Tek Ming and City Traffic Enforcement and Investigation Department DSP Yusuff Zaki Mat Yaacob, among others.

During the walkabout, Yeo and his entourage greeted the people and welcomed any suggestions or concerns from the people.

"If there is anything they want to know or are not happy with, tell us," he said. - Lagatah Toyos, Neil Chan and Sherell Jeffrey

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