KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 — Malaysians have once again been forced to fork out more for chicken this Ramadan, with market traders left to placate aggrieved customers.
Malay Mail spoke to chicken traders at a few wet markets across the Klang Valley to get their thoughts on the price hike, with the majority saying that the increase is something that they deal with on an annual basis — especially when a major festival is around the corner.
For 53-year-old Raja Ratnam, who has been selling chicken at the PJ Old Town Wet Market on Jalan Othman for the past 25 years, he said that he did not find Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi’s reason for the price hike convincing.
“He (Nanta Linggi) said that the price of chicken went up because the cost of feed also went up. It’s all excuses. This happens every year before Raya, Chinese New Year or Deepavali.
“The chicken industry is controlled by big businesses. They decide the price, not the government. I’ve been here for 25 years and it’s nothing new to me. They know they can squeeze us as they eye bigger profits before the holidays,” said Raja.
Raja, who also owns a chicken farm in Ipoh, said he understands how the business works, yet is all too aware of those who only see profit.
“I have a farm of my own in Ipoh. Yes, there is a small hike in the price of feed, and I can understand it with Covid-19 and all, but the price difference of the chicken doesn’t make sense to me. It is far too high,” he said.
Set the price ceiling earlier
Several others shared the same sentiment, including 46-year-old Alex Chong, who operates his chicken shop at the Chow Kit Wet Market.
Chong said the government’s price ceiling always comes too late for traders to cover their losses during the period of higher prices.
“The government’s price ceiling always comes too late. The damage has been done. Over the past two weeks, I could only sell 10 chickens a day on average.
“My regulars get angry with me, asking me why the price is so high. I tell them there is nothing much that I can do. The suppliers sell at a higher price so I have to raise my price also,” he said.
He added that not only has the price increase affected his customer numbers, but also his income, which has been hit hard.
“Before the price hike, I was selling at RM7.50 per kilogram. I could make a profit of 80 sen per kilo. But now, I sell at RM9.50 per kilo, and I buy from the suppliers at RM8.90 per kilo. I do this in hopes that customers will still come and buy from me.
“Small income is better than no income at all,” he said.
Fish over chicken
Trader Eddy Irwan, 40, who plies his trade at the Selayang Wet Market, said the government should know that the price of chicken always goes up during festive seasons and implement the price ceiling earlier.
“It’s the same story every year. Before Raya, just as we enter Ramadan, chicken prices go up. Every year, we chicken traders get together and discuss how to go about the price increase.
Eddy, a 15-year-veteran of the Selayang Wet Market, said that this year, they decided among themselves to just take a hit on their profits until the government introduces a price ceiling.
“Praise be to God, this year, they implemented the price ceiling a little earlier,” he said to Malay Mail on the same day that the fixed price for chicken came into effect (April 21).
“Usually, the price ceiling only comes two weeks before Raya, and that’s when you see the sales start to pick up again. It’s funny, because usually people say fish is more expensive than chicken, but now they are buying more fish!” he said.
‘I can only say that I am sorry’
For 23-year-old Muhamad Anuar, a chicken trader at the PJ Old Town Wet Market, he said that a lot of his customers are upset with him over the price of chicken as many run mom-and-pop restaurants or small eateries.
He added that the demand for chicken also goes up during the Muslim fasting month because of Ramadan bazaars.
“My customers are angry with me. They keep asking me why chicken is so expensive. These are the people who buy twice, sometimes three times a week from me to run their restaurants.
“They ask me how they are going to sell food at Ramadan bazaars and all I can do is tell them I’m sorry,” Anuar lamented.
Blessing in disguise
On the flip side, there are those who welcome the late implementation of the price ceiling like 44-year-old Mohamed Al-Adrus Yunus, who plies his chicken trade at the Selayang Wet Market.
“Covid-19 has taken a lot from me and my family. Usually, I make a lot of fuss about the increase in the price of chicken.
“But this year I’m staying mum, because as chicken prices go up, I can bump up my prices a little too, so I earn more for my family,” he admitted.
On April 19, Nanta Linggi said the hike in the cost of imported chicken feed is among the major causes of the recent increase in the price of chicken in the country.
He said that the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry (KPDNHEP) held engagement sessions with major chicken farm owners in the country and discussed implementing a fixed price for standard chicken, which went into effect on April 21, with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industries (MAFI).
He said the price of standard chicken had been fixed at RM7.90 for the 2021 Aidilfitri Festive Season Maximum Price Control Scheme (SHMMP), compared to RM7.50 last year.
However, the prices of cut chicken parts, such as the breast, leg and thigh, are not controlled, he added.
Before that, Nanta was reported as saying that KPDNHEP, through the two-day Anti-Profiteering Operation 8.0 (Ops Catut 8.0) on April 15 and 16, had issued 24 notices to wholesalers suspected of excessive profiteering.
Ops Catut 8.0, which was launched following a drastic hike in the price of chicken recently, also issued 16 notices to livestock farmers for the same offence.