Could This Year Be The Most Expensive Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year (CNY) or Lunar New Year has a rich history behind it. Usually celebrated in January or February each year, there are many customs and traditions to be followed. This year, it will be the year of the Goat.
However, celebratory mood has been weighed down by two economic factors that make Malaysians anticipate a tougher year. These refer to the depreciation of the Malaysian Ringgit and implementation of the 6% GST in April.
The currency depreciation has affected the spending for the festival due to imported festive goodies from China costing more. The currency depreciation, would not only make imported goods costlier but prices of locally manufactured goods would also rise as a result of using imported raw materials.
Some of the CNY essentials that we see an hike in prices are:
1. Mandarin oranges
As oranges looks like the sun and is aligned with the “yang” (positive) principle, it is seen as an auspicious symbol of abundance and happiness during this festive season. Many buy oranges as gifts for family members, friends or business partners.
Furthermore, less rainfall in China has also cut the fruit’s harvest by 10% to 20%, contributing to the price hike. It has caused the cost price for “lokam” (mandarin oranges) and “pokam” (honey mandarin oranges) from Taiwan go up by around 10% to 20%, and this is reflected on the selling price.
2. Reunion dinner
The home-cooked reunion dinner will also cost more this year, as CNY favourites such as fish maw, dried scallops and white pomfret fish have become more expensive. Prices of these items have gone up by 10% to 30% compared to last year, due to drop in supply caused by overfishing, less rainfall, higher demand from restaurants and a stronger US dollar.
Some of the common ingredients served at reunion dinner that saw a spike in prices are:
Abalone-lovers will cheer this year – as the delicacy is 5% to 15% cheaper compared to last year. This is due to the ongoing corruption crackdown in China as expensive banquets, which feature abalone, fall out of favour.
Due to the prices of these commonly used ingredients, it is not surprising to see prices for reunion dinner packages at hotels are also going upwards.
Yet another common scenario during CNY is giving out hampers to friends and business associates. As all the common things included in the hampers have gone up, so has the price of hampers.
CNY can never be complete without some essential decorations, mainly flowers that signify better times for the coming year.
A common tradition is having a kumquat tree at home, which symbolises both wealth and good luck. Other common flowers you commonly see during this season are orchids, silk flowers, lucky bamboo, chrysanthemum, water fairy flowers, and pussywillows.
Price of fresh flowers have increased recently with the need to import flowers from overseas such as China, India and Kenya due to decreased local supply of flowers from Cameron Highlands after the recent floods. With the weakening Ringgit, the imported flowers cost even more.
With everything increasing in price by at least 10%, it is no wonder we are spending way more this year. To make matters worse, the weakening Ringgit and weather limitations of main importer, China, has made the prices steeper than the usual inflation hike. If we included other items such as ang pow, clothes, and cookies, the amount would rack up even higher.
While keeping traditions and customs alive during the festive season is important, it is advisable to spend wisely according to one’s financial capacity. Anything done extravagant will only lead to unnecessary debt that will lead to further financial complications in near future.