Silver pomfret costs a fortune over CNY
A FISH popular at reunion dinners during Chinese New Year is selling for up to $100 a kg at wet markets here, with prices expected to rise even higher as Chinese New Year's Eve approaches.
The Chinese silver pomfret, or dou chang, is in demand during the festive season as it is deemed to be the best-tasting pomfret breed and favoured for its auspicious name.
During the festive period, people usually buy large silver pomfret of 1 and 1½ kg, as these better suit the large number of people at reunion dinners, said fishmongers.
Shin Min Daily News reported on Jan 11 that wholesale prices of the silver pomfret, normally $20 to $30 a kg, have gone up to $60 a kg in January.
Likewise, other types of seafood popular during Chinese New Year have also become more costly.
Wholesale prices of seafood are expected to rise by 30 to 40 per cent throughout the New Year period this year, said Goh Thiam Wee, vice-president of the Singapore Fish Merchant's General Association.
Yesterday, The Straits Times visited three wet markets in Bedok, Chinatown and Toa Payoh and found seafood items like grouper and tiger prawns selling for up to $100 and $38 a kg respectively.
At the markets, the silver pomfret was selling for $70 to $100.
But fishmongers interviewed said it can cost $120 a kg or even up to $200 a kg if the fish are of "very high quality", meaning that they have thick, meaty flesh and "incredible freshness".
But such high-quality silver pomfret are out of stock.
"The freshness is the discerning factor in the price of the fish. People are very, very picky about the quality of the fish over the New Year period," said Mr Goh.
The freshest fish are usually those caught in Malaysia, which requires less time to reach ports here than those from other places, he added.
High demand for these fish in Malaysia's own markets over the festive period is one reason for the high selling price, he added.
Despite the jump in prices, many consider fish, especially popular ones like the silver pomfret, a must-have during Chinese New Year. The Chinese words for fish and abundance (yu) sound similar.
"Dou chang is a must-have during Chinese New Year no matter the price, because of the abundance it will bring to my business and family members," said Christine Lee, 54, owner of a clothing business.
Tan Kin Soon, 58, who bought a red grouper at $100 a kg at a wet market in Jurong last week, said: "Any price increase of less than two or three times is still worth it. It's Chinese New Year."
Many fishmongers said the prices of their seafood items will rise further starting today. But supermarkets like Giant and FairPrice said the prices of their seafood items will largely remain the same.
There are also more affordable options such as rabbit fish, also favoured for its auspicious name, but sold at $10 to $35 per kg.
For some, the high price of the silver pomfret is part of its appeal.
Said housewife Lee Lai Fong, 47: "Because it is quite expensive, being able to eat this fish during the New Year means that we have made a good living this year."