No abundance of groupers for Chinese New Year

Farmers said the Covid-19 movement control orders had broken the supply chain, and it would take some time for farmers to recover.


The price of fish: A kilo of grouper (left) is selling for RM46 at Cecil Street Market, Penang. — CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

January 5, 2023

GEORGE TOWN – Groupers such as the Dragon Tiger may not make it to dining tables this Chinese New Year as fish farmers are racing against time to raise and harvest them.

But with less than a month to go for the festive occasion, farmers said the chances are slim and therefore, supply would be limited.

HLY Ocean Aquaculture general manager Richard Teo, who raises mostly hybrid groupers in Batu Maung, said the Covid-19 movement control orders had broken the supply chain and therefore, it would take some time for farmers to recover.

“From the hatchery, it takes about a year for the fries to grow to table size and sold to restaurants.

“However, many farmers stopped raising them due to the drop in demand during the MCO.

“The remaining fish in the cages are otherwise too big.

“We can only harvest the new batch of fish by the middle of this year,” he said yesterday.

Rising operating costs, Teo said, also caused the wholesale price of groupers to increase from about RM40 to about RM50 per kg.

Besides a fish farm, Teo also operates a restaurant at the farm which caters to about 150 diners.

He said bookings started from December last year and is now about 50% booked.

Another fish farmer, Teoh Tiong Hai, 42, who operates his farm in Sungai Udang, concurred that many farmers stopped rearing groupers after struggling to sell them during the MCO.

“Now that restrictions have been relaxed and economic activities including restaurants have resumed, the new batch of fish cannot grow in time for Chinese New Year.

“For dinners, the ideal table-sized fish would be about 1kg while those sold for meat are reared up to between 3kg and 5kg each,” he said.

Tiong Hai said due to the shortage of groupers, he hoped that restaurants and diners would use other species of fish that are available.

At the Cecil Street market, a fishmonger who only wished to be known as Aun, 40, said while groupers are slightly more expensive, the price of red snappers has gone down.

“Although the price change is insignificant, we hope market-goers will buy according to their budget, as many families are facing financial constraints.

“We have worked out with farmers to ensure we receive sufficient supply without much price change despite it being the Chinese New Year period,” he said.

At Maple Palace Restaurant in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, its manager Alex Teoh said the price of raw seafood and meat products have gone up about 20% this Chinese New Year.

“However, we are banking on other fish such as snappers and cod to make up for the shortage of groupers in the market,” he said.

The Chinese community will usher in the Year of the Rabbit on Jan 22 and they believe the fish symbolises “abundance” during Chinese New Year celebrations.

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