Food prices surge on MCO extension concerns

The price of raw materials, including vegetables, fish and spices had more than doubled since the start of MCO 2.0

by AFIQ AZIZ / pic credit:

WIDESPREAD confusion over whether the Movement Control Order (MCO) 2.0 will be further extended had triggered a round of panic buying causing some food prices to double, consumer associations and retailers said.

Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) president Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan (picture) said the price of raw materials, including vegetables, fish and spices had more than doubled since the start of MCO 2.0, drawing examples from goods sold at the Selayang Wholesale Market in Kuala Lumpur.

“Yes, the price of raw materials has increased by more than 100%. For instance, the price of a 20kg pack of cabbages used to be RM35, now it is RM75. Red chillies were RM3toRM4 per kg and now it is RM10 per kg.

“Dried chillies are even more expensive, costing RM16 from RM3. The price of tenggiri (mackerel) fish, which was previously RM18 to RM23 per kg, is now sold between RM25 and RM35 per kg,” Jawahar Ali told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

He added that the price of squid have also gone up, from RM15 to RM18 per kg to more than RM30 per kg now. Some spices which have recorded a price increase are cardamom (from RM60 to RM190 per kg), cinnamon (RM25 to RM38 per kg) and lentils (RM28 to RM36 per 10kg).

“The only item which is stable now is Pakistan onions. The price of the imported vegetable rose to RM9, but now back to its original price of RM3.50,” Jawahar Ali said.

“We thought prices would go down during the MCO, but nearly everything has doubled,” he said, adding that Presma members have been asked to absorb the additional costs, while the association seeks clarification from local authorities.

Presma has more than 4,000 registered members and accounts for 10,000 “mamak” restaurants nationwide.

A restaurant operator in Taman Medan, Petaling Jaya, Bustanul Bistari Bey, said prices at sundry shops and markets in the area were still stable.

“I have not yet noticed any panic buying in this area. These markets are often visited by regular households and restaurant operators,” he told TMR.

Malaysian Islamic Consumers Association chief activist Datuk Nadzim Johan said the price hike varied in different areas and on various items.

“There are hikes but from our observation, it is not much. This, among others, was attributed to the uncertainties of the MCO, which caused panic buying and hoarding in supplies to gain extra profits. The trend is worrying,” he said.

Health DG Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on Monday said the MCO 2.0 will not be extended further as the government considers easing restrictions instead, assuming daily Covid-19 cases can be kept steady at 3,000 cases.

However, a day later, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the matter has yet to be finalised as the National Security Council is looking into the relevant data.

Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam, Selangor president Datuk Prof Dr Jacob George expects the price uncertainty to persist in the absence of a formal clarification from the government pertaining to a stricter MCO after Feb 4.

“It has happened too often where different ministers say contradictory things when there should only be one senior minister to address the matter.

“He should clarify on the leaked information from the meeting between the Ministry of International Trade and Industry and Eurocham instead of leaving things as is. This void will only allow suppliers to take advantage by profiteering during the pandemic,” he said.