According to the Malaysia Fruit Exporters Association, the dwindling number of fruit farmers is the main cause.
Papayas are being sold for between RM3.80 and RM4 per kilo. Not long ago, these fruits could go for RM1.20 and RM1.50 per kilo.
Watermelon is now priced at RM3 per kilo, compared to RM2. Bananas range from RM4.60 to RM4.80 per kilo.
Depending on the grade, pineapples could go up to RM4 per fruit from RM3.50 before.
Association vice-president S.H. Lim said most small-scale farmers had given up because they could not earn a decent living.
“Farmers are unable to get extra hands to help them.
“When they can’t manage, they just give up. This is a big problem,” he said.
Lim said production costs had also shot up due to increasing farming expenses such as purchase of pesticides and fertilisers, with wages also having risen.
He said fruits like papaya, dragon fruit and banana were also affected by disease recently.
“The Eksotika papaya has been the worst affected by the dieback disease, so much that only very few farmers are prepared to cultivate the fruit,” he said.
Early symptoms of the disease on the trees include yellowing and necrosis along the leaf edges, causing dark spots to appear on the skin.
Lim said changing weather patterns were yet another hit to farmers’ yield, resulting in more losses.
He said the Government should provide assistance to small and medium-scale farmers in production, technology transfer and new varieties, besides giving financial incentives.
A 68-year-old fruit seller, who wished to be known as Chew, said decreasing labour and diseased trees were the main cause for the price hikes.
He predicted that local fruit prices would not come down for the remainder of the year.
Another fruit seller, Tong Sau Sun, hoped that customers would bear with the price increase.
“I, too, had to adjust my budget to accommodate higher prices from suppliers,” he said.