PETALING JAYA: Prices of many essential foodstuff have gone up gradually over the last few months, causing concern among consumers that the cost of living may shoot up if the authorities do not act to stop the trend.
Among the affected items are flour, chilli, ginger, condensed milk, pork, mee hoon, sardine, spices and vegetables.
According to some housewives met at two markets here yesterday, even the price of flour, which is a controlled item, has gone up by about 30 sen per kilo.
Other items like red ginger, sawi and pork cost about RM2 per kilo more compared to about two months ago. Chilli, priced between RM5 and RM7 a kilo last month, was priced at about RM10 in many markets yesterday.
Imported vegetable like cauliflower and broccoli also registered an increase of about RM2 per kilo.
While consumer groups have blamed retailers for arbitrarily raising the prices by creating an artificial shortage, retailers cited cost of services and the weakening ringgit.
Butchers attributed the higher pork prices to an increase in cost of imported animal feed brought about by unfavourable exchange rates and supply shortages.
Consumer Association of Penang president S.M. Mohd Idris said they had been receiving many complaints on the matter recently.
“Based on our on-going checks, wholesalers and retailers are also hoarding to create artificial shortages.
“The Government must be proactive in these matters as consumers end up being at the mercy of profiteers.
“Consumers must boycott retailers who arbitrarily increase prices. They also have a role to play and not blame the Government for everything.
“The Government must reject any request for price increases if the request by suppliers or manufacturers is not justified,” he added.
Idris said if the Government did not step in immediately, coffee shops and other food outlets would start charging higher prices.
The increase in the prices of foodstuff is of great concern because it makes up 33.8% of the consumer price index, according the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry website.
The last time the CPI was updated on the website was in March 2003.
Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association president Datuk R. Ramalingam said members had complained of an increase in the prices of flour and condensed milk – two key items in their daily operations.
“The Government must take the complaints seriously because higher prices of certain foodstuff will have a spiralling effect.
“Most of us are absorbing the increases so as to not to upset consumers. However, we cannot go on doing this for too long,'' he said.
When contacted, Deputy Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry Deputy Minister Datuk S. Veerasingam said the price increases could be because of profiteering by unscrupulous traders.
“There is no reason for prices to go up arbitrarily now. We will send our enforcement teams to monitor the situation.
“As for those increasing the price of controlled items, we will take serious action against them,” he said.