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News Reports

A public tutorial

I started school this week and was going through some news articles with my students. And I got really mad with this piece that should interest anyone who does grocery shopping. Good reporting is important and should concern people who want to know what’s happening around them. This is one substandard piece which should never have seen daylight, much less published on the cover of the ST Home pages. Even as we concern ourselves with fake news, we must also be concerned about doing real news right. If I sound like I’m lecturing, that’s because I am. 

HEADLINE: Fruit, vegetable prices stable – for now

Strap: Wholesalers absorbing extra costs, seeking new supply as bad weather creates shortage

Imported fruit and vegetable prices have gone up (reader will assume that it means consumers are paying more), but many wholesalers say they are not passing on the costs to consumers – not yet anyway. (Oh! So it’s wholesalers paying more but they aren’t raising price. But that’s what wholesalers will say. The evidence lies with consumers. )

TRY THIS: Fruit and vegetable sellers are paying more to bring  fruit and vegetables into Singapore but say that they aren’t passing down the cost – yet.

The wet weather and flooding in recent weeks (here? Or in Malaysia) are to blame.

Mr Vincent Lee, vice-president of the Singapore Fruits and Vegetables Importers and Exporters Association, said too much water and too little sun have led to a 40 per cent drop in local green vegetables such as chye sim, spinach and xiao bai cai. (Are we talking local veg also? Is this a big proportion of total veg?) There is also a shortage of cucumbers, long beans, green beans and bitter gourd from Malaysia because of floods there. (so are we talking about local or imported stuff?)

Prices have gone up by 50 to 60 per cent for this week, said Mr Lee.

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(Note that in the TODAY story, a different person in the same organization gave different figures: Mr Jerry Tan, assistant secretary of the Singapore Fruits and Vegetables Importers and Exporters Association, said: “The cold weather is definitely affecting the supply. Prices are already going up. Compared to last week, the prices of certain vegetables have increased by 80 to 100 per cent. That’s quite a lot.”

So are they plucking figures from the air? Can we have some specifics on what is the price of XXkg of chye sim then and now? ST story has this one source with figures; TODAY had more sources)

“After that, things should go back to normal,” he added. (Why is he saying this? He can predict rainfall? So he’s only affected this week? What is normal? What about the CNY seasonal impact?)

Fruit wholesalers are in a similar situation.

Mr Jimmy Quek, chairman of the Singapore Tropical Fruits Importers and Exporters Association, said the cold weather caused faster decay in harvested crops and a much shorter shelf life.

“As a result, we have seen a 20 per cent drop in fruit sales overall.” (Fruit sales? So he’s buying less? Or selling less? And what is he saying – demand or supply?)

Mr Quek said mandarin orange prices are expected to go up by 10 to 30 per cent during the Chinese New Year period because flood waters have affected harvests. (But they always do during CNY – so what was the price rise like last time and how is the flood contributing to this seasonal spike?)

“At this point, prices are stable, but by next month, consumers will feel the shortage,” he said. (So, are we saying that consumers will feel shortage because nothing to buy or feel impact in terms of higher prices?)

To ensure they have enough supplies, retailers such as Sheng Siong, FairPrice, Giant and Cold Storage have sourced for crops from China, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and even as far away as Ecuador and Mexico. (Surely, this “sourcing’’ is NOT a recent thing?)

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Both Mr Quek and Mr Lee said wholesalers will absorb the extra costs and ride out the price increase of imports, while obtaining their crops from other sources to keep prices stable for retailers and consumers. (For how long? CNY is not that far away?)

A check with (how many?) fruit stalls across the island showed that merchants were largely (what is largely?) not raising prices.

Mr Zhao Win Son, 51, a durian stall owner at Block 260 Serangoon Central Drive, said he kept prices at $15 to $21 per kilo even though his supply from Malaysia fell by 20 to 30 per cent over the weekend because of flooded roads.

In Bukit Ho Swee, fruit stall owner Christine Goh said strong winds caused durians to drop before they are ripe, which means the fruit is smaller and less sweet.

She has raised prices slightly to $13 to $14 per kilo from $11 to $12.

(So two stall holders quoted – one keeping price stable and the other raising it. Doesn’t quite reflect “largely’’.)

Most people (how many?) The Straits Times spoke to yesterday said there was no noticeable increase in vegetable prices either at wet markets or supermarkets.

However, a housewife, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Lee, said chye sim and xiao bai cai cost about 20 cents more at the wet market she frequents. (Spoke to “most people’’ but can’t find a housewife willing to be named?)

But she was not sure if they are from Malaysia. (Is this important? Only Malaysian veg price is up? But locally-grown not?)

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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