Small traders hard hit by Rahmah Menu

KUALA LUMPUR: The Rahmah Menu initiative could be a double-edged sword for small time food operators, said the Bumiputera Petty Traders Association.

Its president Datuk Seri Rosli Sulaiman said some even lost profits operating in the same food court as stalls supplying the menu.

Some small-scale food operators reported considerable losses in the first week of the launch of the menu.

He said the prices of food are going through the roof, and prices of some vegetables have gone up 100 per cent.

Rosli wanted the government to provide subsidies for food operators.

He also urged the government to maintain the RM 1,000 one-off grant to registered Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise companies mentioned in the 2023 Budget.

He hoped that local government agencies could reduce rentals for small businesses so they could weather the rising cost of foodstuff.

"The price of chicken now is RM9.30 per kg. If you want to implement the Rahmah Menu and your side dish is chicken, you'd have to cut it into 12 parts and that would cost you RM4 per part.

"If you add rice, that is RM2 and a beverage is RM1. That is already RM7. They would lose RM2," Rosli told the New Straits Times.

He said it was impractical for small food operators to join in the initiative and did not recommend it to small restaurants with a profit margin of less than RM150 per day.

A mixed rice stall operator in Bangsar, Kasira Mohd Zain, 52, said she has been operating at a loss now that she is 'competing' with the Rahmah Menu.

As the cost of food has increased, she said she had to charge RM8 for the same menu.

Kasira said she even had to charge her patrons for the sambal belacan as the cost of one kilogramme (kg) of chilli could go up to RM15.

Her predicament is shared by other small restaurant operators.

"If we were to implement the menu, it would be rice with kembong fish, vegetables and gravy, which would cost RM8.

"If their (Rahmah Menu operators) supplier can charge a low price, it's up to them because we really can't do it," Kasira said, adding that pricing the same menu at RM5 would result in no returns on her capital.

Kasira said the price of one kembong fish could go up to RM14.

"We cannot compete with large companies. I understand that due to inflation, people can't spend much so families would opt for the Rahmah Menu as it is cheaper. If you have five children, the menu would cost you only RM25."

Last week, the Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Ministry launched the Rahmah Menu, which consists of a plate of rice, chicken or fish and vegetables priced at no more than RM5.

Though some 15,000 food operators have took up in the initiative, it is not compulsory for other restaurant operators to also provide the Rahmah Menu.

On Feb 1, the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) said prices of several vegetables had gone up by more than 160 per cent last month.

CAP said the price of lady's fingers had gone up by 166 per cent from RM6 per kg to RM16 per kg.

Long beans had doubled in price from RM6 per kg to RM12 per kg, tomatoes from RM4.50 per kg to RM10 per kg, and eggplants from RM7 per kg to RM12 per kg

The New Straits Times previously reported that poor weather and reduced production had led to an increase in vegetable prices, and should these factors persist, prices are expected to soar even higher during the Chinese New Year period.

Vegetables which are expected to see a price hike of between 20 per cent and 30 per cent are tomatoes, cucumbers, chilies, beans and capsicum.

Last month, it was reported that rough seas and weather due to the northeast monsoon had affected the number of fish landings and led to price increases.

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