Food price hike cannot be avoided, say eateries

Rozita (right) can no longer maintain her prices as cost for raw ingredients have increased since early this year.

EATERY operators in Johor Baru say they have no choice but to increase their food prices in order to stay in business.

Bonda Rozita Kitchen owner Rozita Ramli, who runs a stall selling Malay-style mixed rice, said she could no longer maintain her previous prices.

“Luckily, the majority of my regular customers understand the situation and hardly complain,” she said at her stall at Jalan Cermat Hawker Centre in Taman Maju Jaya.

She said her customers were mostly those working at nearby banks, offices and a shopping complex besides residents of Taman Abiad, Taman Maju Jaya and Taman Pelangi.

Apart from walk-in customers, she also depends on food delivery services, which account for about 50% of sales since the Covid-19 pandemic hit in early 2020.

Rozita said prices of essential items started to increase early this year and shortage of supply further pushed prices up due to high demand.

Her fried chicken now costs RM4 a piece from RM3.50 last year, while ayam goreng sambal and rendang are up from RM4 to RM4.50.

“Fried and hard-boiled egg and a quarter of egg omelette are now RM1.50 each from RM1 previously,” said Rozita.

Prices of vegetables were also increasing due to bad weather in recent weeks, she said.

Spinach, she added, was now RM5 per kg from the previous RM2.50, and fresh red chillies had spiked from RM21 per kg to RM27.

Apart from pricier essential items, Rozita now has problems getting workers as Malaysians are not interested to work at the stall.

“All my four Indonesian workers returned home in 2021 after working with me for 10 years. I am left with only two new Indonesian workers,” she added.

Restoran Modern Fishing Point proprietor Low Chin Huat said many eatery operators like him faced the double whammy of costly raw ingredients and worker shortage.

He said locals were not keen on working at food outlets that operated beyond midnight and with no days off on Saturdays and Sundays.

“Weekend and public holidays are the busiest days for me,” he added.

Locals are hired only as part-timers as they are not interested in working full-time, while six of Low’s workers are foreigners.

He said hiring foreigners was a long process that could take about 10 months and it was not guaranteed that the authorities would approve his applications.

On food prices, he said medium-sized freshwater prawns were now selling at between RM35 and RM40 from RM28 per kg previously while seawater prawns were between RM60 and RM70 per kg.

“Cuttlefish is now RM44 per kg from RM36 and five kilogrammes of banana leaves have gone from RM18 to RM25,” he added.

The restaurant located at the Stulang Laut waterfront is popular with Singaporeans, especially for its seafood fried rice served on banana leaf.

The area has rows of eateries offering a wide range of food and is popular among patrons of nightclubs and pubs.

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