Report: Malaysia faces food shortages for CNY and Ramadan after floods wipe out farms

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 13 — With the Lunar New Year just around the corner and the month of Ramadan not far behind, food shortage worries have snowballed after Malaysian farmers were badly affected by some of the worst floods in the country’s history recently, a report said.

The report by Singapore’s The Straits Times (ST) described how duck farmer Azim Omar had lost almost all of his 8,000-strong flock on January 1 when the floods hit Segamat, Johor, that left his farm submerged in chest-high waters — incurring at least RM15,000 in losses along the way.

“I had to throw away some 1,200 eggs as they could be contaminated with bacteria from the flood waters,” he was quoted as saying.

Azim, who will have no income this month, said that only 90 ducks had survived the flood.

He said that this Ramadan, he would be unable to meet the demand for salted eggs, which are particularly popular during this period.

In the same report, Malaysia Federation of Vegetable Farmers Association president Lim Ser Kwee said many farmers were badly hit by floods in states such as Johor, Selangor and Pahang.

“We will be facing a shortage of vegetables until Chinese New Year and Hari Raya because of the floods. Farmers can’t replant in time for Hari Raya. Most farms have been totally destroyed. And there aren’t enough foreign workers right now,” Lim told ST.

For chilli grower Ahmad Irham Mohd Noor, 40, flood waters that rose as high as 3.4m in Dengkil, Selangor completely devastated his farm, leaving him with losses of around RM100,000.

“The demand for chillies during Chinese New Year is quite high. My crops were due to be harvested at the end of January but now they are all gone,” he told ST, adding that he had yet to receive any government aid.

Bernard Teh, manager of Yong Kah vegetable farm in Simpang Renggam, Johor — who exports some 70 per cent of its produce to neighbouring Singapore — said that leafy vegetables may be able to return to 80 per cent of normal supply by Chinese New Year, but hardy vegetables would take longer to recover.

“Both hardy and leafy vegetables are limited. The continuous rain and flood seriously affects the crop. Even if there are no floods, too much rain causes the crops to die,” he told ST.

Lim said vegetable prices have risen by up to 30 per cent due to the supply crunch, as farmers are left counting their losses, which is estimated to be in the millions.

“It is hard to count the losses. Farmers start off with two to three acres and expand slowly to 30 to 50 acres, and then suddenly the floods come and you lose everything overnight.

“It will take at least one to two months to rebuild, and some farmers are not strong anymore. Prices of raw materials have also gone up,” he said.

ST also quoted the Pan Malaysia Koo Soo Restaurants and Chefs Association as claiming recently that some food vendors and operators may either decrease the amount of ingredients or serve smaller portions.

“Essentially, reducing food portions is an increase of food price because even with smaller portions, consumers still have to pay the same (price),” said Datuk Ringo Kaw, vice-president of the association, adding that some restaurateurs had no other choice to keep their clients.

Kaw said food operators were struggling to cope as prices of poultry had increased by 20 per cent, as well as a 35 per cent additional cost for non-food materials such as plastic bags, sanitising equipment and other overhead costs.

Amid these concerns, Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority chairman Mohd Fasiah Fakeh offered his assurance that vegetable prices should stabilise soon, now that the weather has improved.

“We believe we can stabilise vegetable prices within the next few months… possibly in a month or two,” he was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.

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