By A. Jeyaraj and James Gough
A RM110 million National Food Terminal or Terminal Makanan Negara (TEMAN), which is claimed to be “a state-of-art” fresh food centre similar to those in developed countries, has begun operations at Gopeng. This is the first complex of its kind to be opened in the country and would be fully operational on 1 January 2011.
First in the Country
The centre which was set up by Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (FAMA) was planned to be a modern food supply centre linking production, distribution and consumption under a single complex.
Food Safety Assurance
TEMAN’s role is to co-ordinate and supply all agri-cultural products and livestock to suppliers and retailers in the country and abroad. Aside from conducting all wholesale activities, the centre is also equipped with a laboratory to test the level of pesticides in vegetables and notify the farmers should the residual be above the permissible level.
The aim is to continually monitor the processed and dried food items being sold at the centre to ensure that they are safe.
Other facilities include a sophisticated electronic system for auctioning of livestock. This would be the first of its kind in the country. The market price of cattle and goats can be determined through the auctioning.
Linkage for Farmers and Markets
TEMAN consists of a central trade area for collecting and redistributing of agricultural products to satisfy national food demand. It would manage wholesale activities, associated pre-packaging, assembly and distribution in an integrated and systematic environment.
Through use of technology and relevant infrastructure in place, it would be closely linked to farmers and markets throughout the country as well as international markets.
Located on a 20 ha site, it comprises an administrative block, central wholesale market, retail market, chicken and meat market, fish market, vegetable market, flower centre, ornamental fish centre, cold-room and cafeteria.
Attracting Right Calibre Traders
FAMA’s Division Director Mohamad Mustapha Awang, said that the complex has 287 stalls and about 95% of them have been taken up, but only 30% have moved in.
He wonders, however if people of the right calibre are renting the place. He said FAMA is interested in getting professional traders and those who can be trained to run a wholesale business.
The centre provides facilities to carry out trade on a business-to-business basis. FAMA provides the infrastructure but does not get involved in the business.
Since the complex is on trial, currently most of the stalls are doing retail business. The place is new and people are not aware of its existence.
Mohamed Nasir bin Muda, Manager of the Terminal said that currently two lorry loads of dokong (local fruit) and labu (pumpkins) are imported from Kelantan and in return guava from Tapah and vegetables are exported. The complex also receives fresh-water fish from Sungkai. The fish market operates from 4.00 a.m. to 8.00 a.m. and the vegetable market operates in the afternoon. He added that he has received enquiries from Mustafa Centre in Singapore and Middle East countries to supply agricultural products.
He said that those customers require large volumes and he had to ensure that adequate supplies are available before committing to any deal. He is also discussing with hypermarkets and supermarkets on their requirements.
Mohamad said that TEMAN has signed an agreement with SAMACO (Seoul Agricultural and Maritime Products Corporation), an agri-business organisation in Korea to provide training.
First Year Rental Discounts
During the first year of operation, rental at the centre is given at 50% discount. They are RM500 per month for vegetable stalls, and RM800 per month for fish and meat stalls, excluding water and electricity. A cold-room is available for a fee. From the second year of operation the rental will be double.
TEMAN would also be the main distributor of controlled items to ensure that adequate supply is available at the set price.
Wholesalers Find Flaws
Mohamad said that the traders at the wholesale market at Kuala Pari were invited to participate, but only a few were interested despite assurances that their wholesale business would not be affected as TEMAN is a national food supply centre, while the wholesale market only caters to local customers.
Secretary of the Persatuan Pemborong Sayur-Sayuran (Vegetable Wholesalers’ Association), Tan Peng Kiang, said that the members are unanimous in not moving to the new complex. It is impressive but not practical to handle wholesale business. The stall areas are too restrictive and their current location is better suited to serve the needs of the local community.
Members of the Wholesale Fish Traders Association said they too were not willing to move to the new complex because of its design flaws which make it more suitable for retail business rather than wholesale. One of them said that he receives 60 to 70 containers of different varieties of fish at a time and these must be unloaded immediately. Further, the storage must be such that any particular variety can be retrieved quickly, neither of which criteria is met at the new complex.
The traders are happy with the current services provided by Ipoh City Council and only pay RM1,440 annually for the licence fee inclusive of water and electricity.
At the new complex the rental is much higher exclusive of cost of water and electricity. Plus the licence fee must be obtained from Kampar Town Council at an additional cost. The place is too far from Ipoh and with transport costs being higher it will be difficult for them to do business profitably without passing on the additional cost to the customer, resulting in higher prices all around.
Most of the traders are of the opinion that a market that caters for Ipohites must be in Ipoh. They also stressed that the population of Ipoh cannot support two separate wholesale markets. Business is poor and they are struggling to be in business.
The traders have not really taken a stand on what to do if they are forced to move out. They will deal with it when the time comes.
Is this not another potential white elephant planned and built without consultation of the end users?