Escalating Food Prices
Now that fuel prices have gone down, will food prices follow suit? Food makes everybody happy and being an Ipohite, food is a very important part of our lives. What makes us happier is cheaper food. We like going to that one favourite mamak stall for supper or to that famous curry mee stall for breakfast on a Sunday morning. Pricing has always been one of the major factors that allows us to enjoy these simple but tasty delicacies in Ipoh.
On February 2, a national daily reported that food and restaurant operators were advised by the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister to reduce their prices in accordance with the drop in price of fuel. Since then, stall and restaurant owners have been castigated by the public for not reducing food prices. This is especially difficult for operators in Ipoh as food is considerably cheaper than in other states.
Food vendor, Lisa, who owns a western food stall in one of Ipoh’s famous food courts, Restoran New Hollywood in Taman Canning, says that it is impossible for them to reduce their prices when their suppliers and wholesalers do not intend to reduce their prices as well.
“The wholesalers always give an excuse saying that it is transportation and electricity cost, so that’s why they cannot reduce the prices”, said Lisa to Ipoh Echo.
Bob, also a food stall operator said that although fuel prices have gone down, food prices cannot be reduced as many of the government subsidies for food items are no longer available.
“Fuel prices are not the only factor contributing to food prices and therefore, we cannot simply reduce food prices,” he added.
While food vendors are trying their best to satisfy customers and making a profit for themselves, some customers feel that this issue does not make any difference, as most food vendors seem to ignore the fact that the fuel prices have gone down.
“With Chinese New Year around the corner, prices are bound to go up and most people will not care much because they want to have a good new year. Food vendors will take advantage of this,” said a customer.
Ipoh City Watch
To educate the public on consumer rights and to curb the issue of high-priced food, Ipoh City Watch (ICW), an NGO dedicated to the well-being of Ipohites, is planning a project that will help identify food and restaurant operators that are ‘ICW Friendly’.
According to Dr. Richard Ng President of ICW, there are two main reasons for this project. Firstly, it is to educate the public to eat in, which is to cook food at home, which is also healthier. Secondly, for consumers who wish to eat out, the ICW wishes to identify food operators that cooperate with them to reduce prices for the benefit of the public.
ICW-Friendly operators will be briefed on consumers’ rights and advised to reduce prices. These operators will then be provided stickers by ICW to show the public that they are ICW- friendly. Action such as boycotting will be taken against those operators who do not wish to cooperate with ICW to reduce prices.
When asked how this would benefit the operators, Dr Ng said, “Food operators will benefit in terms of recognition and sales. We’ll encourage consumers to visit shops that are ICW-friendly. This will, inadvertently, bring recognition to the shop owners and help increase sales.”