An oversupply of the auspicious dragonfish - more commonly known as the Asian arowana - has not only pushed prices down, but also lowered the overall takings of many fish farms here.
Fish farms told my paper that the oversupply of the prized ornamental fish from Malaysia since March last year has led to drops in sales of as much as 30 per cent. Some farms have even resorted to slashing prices by 50 per cent.
The fish - which used to be sold for $120 each for cheaper varieties, and could fetch as much as $5,000 - are now priced between $100 and $4,000. Typically, arowanas imported from Malaysia are crossbreeds.
"Prices have declined and our revenue has gone down, too, even though we sell more fish," said Mr Kenny Yap, executive chairman and managing director of Qian Hu Corporation, an ornamental-fish service provider in Chua Chu Kang.
Still, some fish farms have been able to buck the trend and rake in more profits. Their strategy for countering the oversupply from Malaysia: To sell locally bred, higher-quality pure breeds such as the Highback Golden variety of arowana.
"It's the quality that counts nowadays. We need higher standards to compete in this market," said Mr Kent Heng, 48, manager of Majestic Agri-tainment fish farm in Lim Chu Kang.
Mr Patrick Goh, 38, sole agent for Li Chun Dragon Fish Industry in Lim Chu Kang, said: "I keep only local fish, and they are purebred."
Mr Goh said he has sold 150 Highback Golden arowanas so far this year, compared to 100 last year. Each was sold for between $500 and $900.
He has also sold 50 Golden Crossback arowanas so far this year, compared to 20 last year. The prices for some of his fish - for example, the Golden- head Crossback, a more costly variety that can cost $2,500- $6,000 - have gone up by 15 per cent, helping to raise his profits by 15 per cent.
Mr Heng said: "It really depends on the quality of the arowana. Customers want higher- quality fish, and they are willing to pay more, depending on the quality."
Arowanas are seen as symbols of luck and wealth, and many people enjoy collecting them, like Mr Richard Goh.
Despite the general price reduction for arowanas here, Mr Goh, 52, said: "They are still good to buy and invest in."
The butcher currently has a few hundred arowanas in his collection.
"Because of the reduced prices, I can buy 10 instead of three now. Ten arowanas will certainly bring more luck than three arowanas," he added.
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