CHICKEN being white meat is the preferred source of protein for most Malaysians.
As chicken is widely consumed locally, the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry has taken measures to stabilise the price of poultry meat following feedback from the public regarding the recent price increase.
According to the ministry, several factors had contributed to the rise in chicken meat price – higher cost of imported chicken feed namely soy and corn which are its main composition, on top of locally-sourced palm oil; higher production costs at farm level; and higher demand for poultry meat due to the reopening of economic sectors.
Currently, the price of a standard bird (cleaned) is between RM10 and RM11.50 per kg, while previously it was sold at RM8 to RM9 per kg.
As certain hypermarkets have offered chicken meat at RM6 to RM8 per kg, consumers have highlighted this pricing disparity and questioned the freshness of the meat.
The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry assures that its officers monitor the price of chicken meat nationwide and conduct checks on retailers.
The ministry found that the price hike coincided with more states moving to the second phase of the National Recovery Plan (NRP).
The main reason is the higher price of imported chicken feed, compounded by the fact that almost 80% of chicken feed used in the country is imported and this impacts production costs at farm level.
Also, during the MCO period, chicken breeders reduced meat supply due to lower demand. The reopening of 11 economic sectors under Phase One of the NRP, and more states moving to Phase 2, saw an increase in demand for chicken meat.
Measures taken by the ministry to ensure that consumers will not be burdened with pricier chicken meat include:
> Direct sessions with chicken breeders, suppliers and wholesalers to prevent any pressure pertaining to chicken price.
> Enforcement officers to check on various points in the poultry distribution chain.
> Issuance of notices to chicken breeders and wholesalers detailing factors that contribute to price hike of chicken meat at retail level.
> Issuance of notices to chicken sellers on pricing and costs for a reasonable profit margin.
> Chicken sellers to display their business records throughout their operations.
> A taskforce to curb chicken price increase in the market and monitor complaints.
> Constant dialogue with Agriculture and Food Industries Ministry to ensure costs of imported chicken feed and chicken breeds be minimised.
Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi said that while there is no plan to implement price control on chicken meat for now, the ministry may enforce this measure if prices at every level of the distribution chain continue to go up unreasonably.
Currently, the price of poultry meat is capped along with a list of other essential food items during festive seasons.
Following enforcement action by ministry officers in Perak, Chow Kit (Kuala Lumpur), Kelantan, Alor Star, Sungai Petani (Kedah) and Penang, the price of chicken meat has levelled off at RM8.20 to RM9.50 per kg at wet markets in these areas.
Up to Sept 14, the enforcement officers have checked 164 retail outlets.
Some 163 notices have been issued to chicken vendors detailing operational and purchase costs, while 140 reminders have been forwarded to poultry distributors to not raise prices drastically.
Under Section 14(1) of the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011, chicken sellers and wholesalers who are guilty of unjustified price hikes can be fined up to RM500,000 for a corporation or company and up to RM100,000 for an individual, or jailed up to three years, or both.
The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry is aware that chicken meat is priced at RM10 per kg at certain wet markets due to the vendors incurring higher costs due to lower sales, while chicken meat is sold at RM8 per kg at certain hypermarkets.
The ministry said consumers have a choice of supporting their local chicken vendors and keep them in business.
Alternatively, they can buy the meat cheaper at hypermarkets which are able to offer lower prices due to them buying in bulk from chicken breeders.
The ministry encourages consumers to use the Price Catcher mobile app which helps consumers find the cheapest prices for daily necessities by comparing prices at business premises near their residence.
On the freshness of chicken meat at hypermarkets, the ministry said the operators have to adhere to proper packaging, freezing and storage conditions.
The ministry urged consumers to be patient over the price of chicken meat, as it takes up to two months to restore full supply of poultry meat in the market, because chicken eggs take three weeks to hatch in order for farms to increase the production.