Malaysia's drought woes open door for Vietnamese vegetable growers

By    May 19, 2016 | 08:56 pm PT
Fruit and vegetable growers in Malaysia are reeling from the hot weather caused by the El Nino phenomenon. The public are bracing for a steep increase in the price of vegetables, and the Malaysian government is highly likely to go ahead with local trader’s proposals to import more vegetables from neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, including Vietnam.

El Nino’s impact on Malaysia peaked between November 2015 and January 2016, said the World Meteorological Organization, reducing vegetable production by 15 – 20 percent and driving prices up by 50 percent.

According to local media, the southern province of Johor, which contributes 60 percent of the nation's vegetable output, has experienced a 50 percent decrease in output. The Cameron Highlands, which are known for their cool temperature, have not seen rain for almost a month due to the effects of El Nino.

The current hot weather is expected to persist until June.


A father with his children walk over the cracked soil of a 1.5 hectare dried up fish farm south of Manila. The drought-inducing El Nino weather phenomenon is continuing to affect farmland resulting in more damaged crops. Photo by Reuters

The Malaysian government needs to quickly allow local trader to import vegetable to help ease mounting pressure from the price spike, said R. Ramalingam Pillai, chairman of the association of Indian restaurant owners in Malaysia.

He added if the government did not take immediate action in response to pricey vegetables, many restaurants would have to shut down because they cannot afford rapidly increasing operating costs.

Until the harsh weather phenomenon dies down, imported vegetables can help make up for the serious shortage in the domestic market, said Tan So Tiok, president of the federation of Malaysian vegetable farmers.

Malaysia imports agricultural products from Viet Nam, including rice, vegetables, fruit and meat.

Malaysia is not alone in its struggle with climate change. Vietnam has also been hit by a prolonged drought and saltwater intrusion, which cost the country $287 million in the first four months of this year, according to Vietnam's General Statistics Office. The historic natural disaster has shown no signs of abating. 

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