The cost of dying taking a toll on loved ones

Kam Chiew Coffin Shop owner Liew Keng Cheong said the overall prices of materials and expenses had gone up by 30%.

IPOH: Even funeral homes have not been spared from increasing costs over the past two years.

Many undertakers here say they have opted to raise their fees only at a minimal level or in some cases, have absorbed the rising costs of prayer items and other materials.

Despite the increase in prices of materials like wood, fuel and ceremonial items such as fruits and shrouds, Ipoh Casket and Funeral Undertakers Sdn Bhd owner M. Logammal said she was just charging about RM200 more.

The last price increase was two years ago when she raised the fee between RM50 and RM100, she said.

“For Hindu funeral services especially, fruits like bananas and coconuts are important. A comb of bananas costs between RM11 and RM12 now, while one coconut costs RM2.

“Each funeral ceremony requires three combs of bananas and about six coconuts,” she said.

Also, she said the price of oil and ghee had gone up as well.

“And that doesn’t even include the price of the coffin, dry ice, services to bathe the body, fee for the priest, as well as the cost towards the crematorium operators,” Logammal said, adding that prices for the whole package was between RM3,000 and RM9,000.

Some of the bereaved families had a limited budget, so she said she would sometimes absorb the additional cost.

Kam Chiew Coffin Shop owner Liew Keng Cheong said the overall prices of materials and expenses had gone up by 30%.

However, he claimed that he had not raised the price of funeral services in the past 15 years.

“‘Our funeral service packages are between RM6,800 and RM12,000 per day, and if the family wishes to keep the body at the parlour, we charge an additional RM2,000 for each day,” he said.

Liew spoke about the rising cost of wood and fuel, manpower shortages, and salary hikes for workers.

“But I believe most of the Chinese funeral parlours in Perak have maintained their prices as well,” he said.

At present, he claimed he was only making a 3% profit.

“Chinese funerals are not cheap as there are a lot of rituals involved, so we are unable to increase the prices or those mourning their loved ones will be burdened even more.

“My grandfather and father had always advised me that we need not make maximum profits in providing such services.

“We should always try to help the people, especially the poor.

“In a year, we provide free funeral services to some 100 people who have no families to support them,” he said.

Liew said that some practices had changed in recent times.

For instance, he said previously, the families of the deceased would keep the body for three days in a parlour but this had now been reduced to just a day.

“Of late, artificial flowers are being used in wreaths placed at the front of the hearse as the price of real blooms have shot up.

“Also the coffin used for a burial is more expensive compared to a coffin for cremation,” he said, adding that this was due to the different quality of wood used.

A Chinese newspaper reported recently that the traditional “plum blossom” coffins were now being sold at double the price compared to two years ago.

An owner of a coffin shop in Melaka was quoted as saying that such coffins, which were sold at about RM10,000 in 2020, now cost twice as much.

These coffins have sides which look like the petals of a plum blossom, hence the name.

They typically weigh around 800kg and are traditionally constructed without nails. They can only be crafted by skilled carpenters.

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