No price war brewing up north

Rise and grind: Cheow preparing coffee at her shop in Penang Road, George Town. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Local coffeeshop operators here are willing to absorb the higher cost of ingredients for now, though they may need to raise prices eventually if they get too high.

Coffeeshop operator Cheow Soi Lei, 57, said that since the end of the Covid-19 pandemic’s movement control order, the price of coffee beans had increased twice.

“It was a global price increase for coffee beans. We absorbed it too and did not increase our prices,” she said.

But she is prepared to raise prices if her suppliers cite operational costs for increasing their prices. She said so far, she still continues to sell iced coffee at her old price of RM2.20 and hot black coffee for RM1.50.

Cheow has been operating the 118-year-old Kek Seng coffeeshop at Penang Road for over 20 years.

“Customers will get angry if we increase the prices of our drinks, so we are sticking with the same prices for now,” she said.

Coffeeshop owner Lim Eng Hwa said he has yet to feel the price effects of the diesel subsidy rationalisation, which came into effect on June 10.

“I have been operating this coffee shop for the past three years, and our prices are still the same.”

Lim said if the cost of ingredients goes up, he would take into account his customers’ situation before increasing prices.

“Most of my customers are in the B40 and M40 groups. It won’t be wise for me to increase prices because my customers will surely question it,” he said.

But if there was an overall hike in the price of ingredients due to transport or logistics, he said he would have no choice but to charge higher.

Seberang Perai Hawkers and Coffeeshop Owners Association president Lee Kok Yong said the association does not recommend its 400 members increase the prices of their beverages.

“Even before the diesel price hike, the cost of imported sugar and coffee had already gone up,” he said.

Lee added that some cafes did raise prices slightly, but remained affordable for most customers.

Coffee lover Nur Izzati Mohamad, 35, said she doesn’t mind if there was a price increase so long as it was not too high.

“I think an increase of 10sen or 20sen is okay,” she said.

Nur Izzati also said it is not a problem for those who love to drink coffee here as Penang has a lot of choices when it comes to coffeeshops and cafes.

Another regular coffeeshop customer, Jack Yong from Sarawak, said the problem of prices increasing was a global matter.The 29-year-old technician said beverages in coffee shops are still cheap, and he feels it is not good to increase prices just because of the diesel subsidy rationalisation.

“I think they (coffeeshop operators) should absorb the cost,” he said.

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