PASIR GUDANG: Squeezed by the soaring costs of raw materials and the need to keep prices low for their equally cash-strapped customers, petty traders here fear they cannot sustain their business.
They want the government to intervene to stabilise prices and supplies, and to ensure there is no hoarding of food by either consumers or retailers.
Burger seller Mohd Riziad Mohd Hassan embodies the problems faced by micro-businesses in this port town as he shared how the ingredients needed have gone up by at least RM10 each.
This includes the buns, meat patties, chilli sauce, mayonnaise and plastic bags used to wrap the burgers, the 39-year-old said.
“We cannot increase the price because we will lose customers. The price for one burger is now about the same as a plate of fried rice.
“So people would opt to eat rice rather than a burger. Most of our customers are from B40, so if we increase the price, we risk losing customers. But if we don’t, our business will suffer,” he said.
Riziad’s predicament is shared by Taman Scientex Petty Traders Association chairman Mohd Redzuan Arif, who runs a kuih penyaram stall.
Mohd Redzuan said his cost is a minimum RM250 per day but his returns are RM300 on average.
“On a good day, I can get RM350, but that is still not enough to feed my family. There are days where I have to limit what I spend,” he said, adding that his family’s daily necessities are around RM60.
The father of four urged the government to organise more Jualan Rahmah initiatives in Pasir Gudang as the majority of the people here are B40 families.
“Our main concern is the high price and the limited quantity that we are allowed to buy. We have to travel around town to get enough items to run our business,” said the 48-year-old.
“This is an additional cost for us. Pasir Gudang has a cooking oil and sugar factory, so there should not be an issue purchasing such items.
“What the government needs to do right now is to act against retailers who are hoarding items.”
Problems with Pasir Gudang’s supply of basic goods came to light last weekend via a statement by Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Karim, who claimed that certain parts of the constituency had run out of certain food items.
Permas assemblyman Baharudin Mohamed Taib said one of the main factors behind the supply crunch is the town’s high population density, which drives up demand.
“The high demand is for the subsidised items, which is why some items are sold in limited quantities. The supply is there but the government should come up with a long-term solution to meet future demand,” he said.
Johor agriculture, agro-based industries and rural committee chairman Datuk Zahari Sarip said one measure is for the state government to include rice as one of its items at the Bazar Rakyat Agro Johor (BRAJ) programme.
“There will be a meeting between the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority and the Mentri Besar on the current situation of daily necessities in the state,” said Zahari.
“One of the solutions we will propose is the expansion of the BRAJ initiative to include rice which we will sell at a discount.”
Currently, BRAJ discounts are only offered for chicken, eggs, cooking oil and fish.
Johor Paddy and Rice Regulation director Mohd Alieff Sabeh said the supply of local white rice is expected to stabilise within a month.
“The Agriculture and Food Security Ministry has started the Local White Rice Special Programme nationwide, so we hope the situation will stabilise.
“We received around 10 complaints per day from the public who want to know where they can get local white rice and this has been dealt with immediately.
“Checks are also being carried out on claims involving supermarkets said to be keeping local rice from the public but so far, we have not found any violations,” he said.