MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Saturday, May 21, 2022

Malaysians feeling the pinch as food prices spike


PETALING JAYA: Malaysians are staring at more expensive grocery bills with some basic foodstuff in short supply and subject to rapidly soaring prices.

The country, which imports nearly 60% of its food needs, is also being affected by high import prices aggravated by the weak ringgit, which stood at RM4.40 against the US dollar on Thursday.

To stretch the grocery budget a little further, consumer groups are advising Malaysians to reduce their consumption of non-essential items, switch to store brands, pay close attention to prices or even grow food at home.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations chief executive officer T. Saravanan said food prices are increasing due to challenges such as supply chain issues, inflationary pressures and rising import prices.

“What consumers can do to brace themselves is to do some rationing by reducing consumption,” he said.

“When buying things, compare the prices and consider house brands which are usually cheaper and of similar quality so you can get better value for your money.”

While there has not been an increase in fuel prices yet, Saravanan said Malaysians need to change their consumption behaviour by carpooling or using public transport when possible.

Employers can also do their part to help staff reduce travelling costs by allowing them to work from home or in hybrid mode.

On the shortage of wheat flour in certain areas in the country, Saravanan said it is an isolated problem for now but a shortage is to be expected in the coming months due to conflicts in source countries such as Russia and Ukraine.

“Usually when there is a shortage in the market, people will start panic buying. When they do this, things will get worse.

“Those who need flour such as the B40 (lower-income group) will be affected as they can’t buy in bulk,” he added.

Saravanan also said businesses using a lot of wheat products need to reduce their production when the shortage hits so that demand will fall.

He said with the supply shortage, businesses will try to take advantage of the market situation to increase the price of food products.

He advised consumers to alert the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry if they spot any shortages or price hikes in the market.

Saravanan said the government is doing its best to manage the supply in the market by providing subsidies and removing the Approved Permit (AP) requirement for food imports, but added that these were short term measures.

“As we are aware, we depend a lot on imports and it totals over RM50bil yearly. For a long-term solution, we need a proper food security policy in Malaysia.

“By having a very good food security policy, eventually in 10 to 15 years, we will be able to increase our local supply and the prices will be more stable,” he said.

Consumers Association of Penang education officer NV Subbarow has been advising consumers for years to grow their own vegetables to reduce the burden of price increases.

He said fruiting plants like okra, brinjal, chillies and leafy vegetables like sawi, kangkong and bayam could be easily grown, even on a balcony, adding that the same goes for plants like mint, pegaga, kesum and selom.

Malaysian Indian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association president Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan said restaurants were affected by the poultry shortage and are having a hard time preparing their menus.

“In my over 30 years of business, we have never faced a shortage on such a scale,” he said.

However, Jawahar said association members are trying their best to avoid increasing prices despite facing supply challenges.

Malaysian Bakery, Biscuit, Confectionery, Mee and Kuay Teow Merchants Association president Lai Yee Kein said for the moment, Malaysia has not been affected by the wheat flour shortage, but this problem may soon arise.

“In a short period, we may experience a flour shortage too and since our currency is very poor, of course it will affect our import prices,” he said.

“It’s difficult to predict the increase in prices – it would vary among manufacturers and producers due to their own costing.”

To cope with the price increase of goods, he advised consumers to avoid or decrease luxury food and beverages in their daily life.

He also said that while the government discontinuing the AP was a good move, the agricultural sector must also be promoted.

“Help and encourage more domestic farmers and give them more opportunities.

“This will reduce manufacturers’ and producers’ reliance on imported goods,” he added. - Star

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