‘Price hikes being monitored’

Pricey produce: Due to the recent erratic weather patterns, the prices of certain vegetables have soared to more than double. — ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Recent vegetable price hikes and the possibilities of inconsistent supply are being monitored to ensure there is no profiteering, say authorities.

Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Minister Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub said he has issued an order for all his officers to monitor prices of vegetables that are not listed as controlled items.

“I have issued an order for my enforcement officers on the ground to do a nationwide check to see which market and which traders are hiking up the prices unnecessarily.

“We want to collect all the information first before we can act, as these may be isolated cases of profiteering,” said Salahuddin yesterday.

Due to the recent erratic weather patterns, the prices of certain vegetables have soared to more than double.

Agriculture and Food Security Ministry Secretary-General Datuk Lokman Hakim Ali said many factors in the current period have pushed up the prices of certain vegetables.

He said some factors affecting supply include the scaling down of produce from major producing countries like Africa, the erratic weather, and the back-to-back festivals.

However, Lokman said that the government has put in place short-term measures to ensure consumers do not suffer.

“We have always been a nett importer of food products and vegetables. The short-term solution now is to increase our imports,” said Lokman.

He said that the ministry has put in place certain proposals to ensure effective imports of vegetables which have seen a massive hike in prices, such as tomatoes.

Lokman also said that for vegetable farmers who are trying to recoup their losses due to higher costs, the ministry is working together with Agrobank to provide soft financing.

Domestic Trade and Cost of Living enforcement director Azman Adam said although weather is a big factor in the price increase of vegetables, the high demand during certain festivities is also a factor.

“The northeast monsoon might indirectly affect the supply of certain goods, especially a few types of vegetables.

“Prices will also move in accordance with market demand,” said Azman.

He further said that besides weather, prices are also dependent on the cost of basic input used in food production.

“We will take action against profiteers or rationing through the enforcement of the Price Control and Anti-Profiting Regulations (Mechanism for Determining Unreasonably High Profits) 2018 under the Price Control and Anti-Profiting Act 2011.

“Any traders found to increase the price without reasonable reason can have action taken against them under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011,” said Azman.

Individuals can be fined up to RM100,000 or imprisoned for a period not exceeding three years or both, or compounded up to RM50,000.

For corporate bodies, they can be fined up to RM500,000, or compounded up to RM250,000.

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