by AFIQ AZIZ / pic by ARIF KARTONO
THE government needs more time to decide on the lower ceiling price for face masks, currently capped at RM1 per piece, said the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP).
Minister Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi (third from left) said the ministry will engage with face mask producers in the country this month, before announcing the new price.
He said this will also depend on the current availability and stability of the controlled items in the market.
Nanta Linggi previously said the ministry was planning to bring down the price further to 70 sen or 80 sen a piece.
“We cannot rush into a decision because that will affect supply.
“It is important that face masks are always available in the market and at affordable prices,” he told the media when visiting Medidata Sdn Bhd’s face mask production facility in Kuala Selangor, Selangor, yesterday.
“There are few other engagements that we would have to make before deciding on the new price,” he added.
According to Nanta Linggi, the major concern among the manufacturers is the high cost of meltblown filters, the core material used to produce personal protective equipment.
Previously, Malaysian manufacturers had to fully import the raw material, which was why face masks were in shortage, forcing a surge in prices during the initial stage of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“It was supposed to cost only about US$4 (RM16.60) per kg, but as soon as the pandemic emerged, the price shot to about US$100. However, the price has been reduced now.
“We hope to see more local firms producing the meltblown filter to cater to demand,” Nanta Linggi said.
Medidata senior ED Rizal Nordin said as a maker of surgical masks, the company has decided to build its own meltblown filter factory with a capacity to produce about 30 tonnes of the fabric every month.
He said half of the production is for local consumption, while the remaining will be sold to other face mask manufacturers.
“Without Covid-19, this amount of meltblown filter should be enough to cater to the demands from the market,” he said, adding that the facility will be ready by next year.
According to KPDNHEP, Malaysia produces around 15.8 million to 33.4 million face masks a month from 13 separate factories.
Last month, more than 17 million units of face masks were produced. The ministry has frozen the export of face masks since March but continues to import.
In total, 115.3 million masks were produced with 73.2 million distributed from April to August 2020.
The government recently has set the ceiling price for three-ply face masks at RM1 per piece, or RM50 per box, from RM1.50 per piece, while the wholesale price is now at 95 sen per unit, or RM47.50 per box, from RM1.45, effective Aug 15.
The new price cap was imposed following a move which made the wearing of face masks mandatory in crowded public areas and public transportation.