No wholesale markets, no vegetable supply

No entry: The Raja Bot market in Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur, is the latest one ordered to close for disinfection exercise following a directive from the Health Ministry. DBKL issued a notice informing the public that the closure will take effect until May 13. — RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Supply of vegetables in the Klang Valley and several states nearby have been affected following the temporary closure of several wholesale markets here and in the capital.

Although Pasar Borong Kuala Lumpur in Selayang was reopened last week after it was closed for several days for sanitisation and decontamination procedures, fewer wholesalers were able to operate due to various reasons.

The situation was compounded when other wet markets, including the one in Petaling Jaya’s Taman Megah and Jalan Othman, and the Chow Kit market in the capital were also shut down for the same procedures.

Kuala Lumpur Vegetable Wholesalers Association president Wong Keng Fatt said some wholesalers and their workers are still waiting for their Covid-19 test results while observing self-quarantine for 14 days.

“In order to enter the market, both wholesalers and their customers (market traders) will need to produce proof that they tested negative for the virus.

“We cannot operate until we are given the all-clear by the authorities. This has affected supplies to wet market traders, ” he said, adding that wet market traders make up 60% of the wholesalers’ customer base.

For now, Wong, who had his second Covid-19 test done yesterday, said there are 80 vegetable wholesalers who can still operate as usual at the market while the rest have been ordered to close temporarily.

All 216 wholesalers are expected to be fully operational beginning May 2 when the quarantine period is over and their second test results come out, he said.

Starting earlier this month, all wholesalers and their workers at the market were instructed to go for Covid-19 screening and observe self-quarantine as a precaution even if they were negative.

The largest wholesalers’ market in the city supplies fresh vegetables to retailers, who are mainly wet market traders, sundry shops, convenience stores and some hypermarkets in the Klang Valley, Negri Sembilan and Kuantan.

Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced on April 20 that the enhanced MCO would be enforced in the surrounding areas of the wholesale market until May 3.

On Monday, two wet markets – in Taman Megah here and in Bahau, Negri Sembilan, were reportedly closed after vegetable traders were infected after they went to the wholesale market.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said on Tuesday that another Covid-19 infection was detected, starting from the KL wholesale market to other localities in the country.

He added the infection was believed to have begun in the wholesale market, stemming from the tabligh cluster in the Seri Petaling Mosque.

“We believe there was a worker there who attended the Seri Petaling gathering and he infected others in the market.

“The total positive cases there are 74, and 13 were not infected at the wholesale market.

“So, this would mean there were traders from other markets who went to the wholesale market to purchase goods before heading to other public wet markets, like in Bahau for example, ” said Dr Noor Hisham.

With fewer wholesalers operating, Wong said vegetables supply in the consumer market will drop and the wholesale prices will remain higher by between 20% and 30%.

However, he said the situation may improve later following the government’s relaxed rules for approved businesses to be fully operational under the fourth phase of movement control order (MCO).

Wong also noted that vegetables supply at major hypermarkets will not be affected much as they normally deal directly with farmers in Cameron Highlands and other states.

Federation of Malaysian Vegetable Farmers Association president Tan So Tiok said the farmers have to look for other market traders to buy their produce.

“Some farmers have utilised trading platforms on the Internet. But vegetables are perishable. Some of the unsolds will have no choice but to be disposed of, minus those that can be given away, ” he said.

Tan said the authorities, when shutting down any market for enhanced MCO, should give time for wholesalers or traders to sort out their stockpile.

“We have seen cases of vegetables left to rot at the market. It was a heartbreaking sight, ” he said.

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