LAST_UPDATEFri, 22 Jun 2018 11pm

What Can You Get For Seven Ringgit At A Ramadhan Bazaar?

Actually, the initial plan was to find out what can be purchased for five ringgit but this writer soon found out that amount was clearly insufficient when it came to Ramadhan bazaars.

These yearly bazaars are one of the things all Malaysians look forward to during the month of Ramadhan. For those living in the Klang Valley, we are literally spoilt for choice over the range and variety of delicious mouth-watering delicacies available.

However, with the increase in prices of goods in recent years, the prices of the meals in the bazaars have also steadily risen to cope with the rise in prices and what is considered an affordably-priced meal today might be regarded as costly in the standards of previous years.

Seeing how this will directly affect cash-strapped consumers coping with rising living costs, this Malaysian Digest writer set out to discover what Malaysians can purchase at Ramadhan bazaars with a small budget.

You Will Need At Least RM7 For A Basic Wholesome Meal

For the first stop, this writer decided to shop at a bazaar in downtown Kuala Lumpur and see what he can buy with a budget as small as RM5, simulating students and low-income earners who don’t have the liberty to splurge on food purchases when it comes time for buka puasa.

Unfortunately, that small budget can’t even buy this writer a wholesome meal which would ideally consists of rice, a meat-based dish and vegetables. All the stalls were selling complete meals with prices of at least RM6, while most meals were priced from from RM8 to RM10.

Even the kuih and other tidbits were sold at RM3 per package, with each pack containing just five of those kuihs. The sweetened drinks were sold at RM2 per cup, which meant that RM5 can only get the writer a cup of drink and some snacks.

Of course, that is definitely not enough to satisfy an empty stomach after a full day of fasting at work, so this writer decided to increase the budget to RM7 to enable purchasing a complete meal.

After spending around 20 minutes strolling around the Taman Melawati bazaar, I decided to buy a set consisting of steamed rice with spiced fried chicken which was priced at RM6, and two curry puffs at RM1 to add a little variety to the whole meal. Drinks were definitely out of the question if I wanted to stick to the budget, so the writer resorted to just drinking filtered water at home.

It was undoubtedly a good meal, but the thought did occur that maybe a more varied meal is possible for RM7 at other bazaars.

Next stop was the Setiawangsa bazaar. This time RM7 got this writer a packet of char kuey teow (RM3), some finger foods (RM2) and a cup of soy milk (RM2). However, the catch is that the kuey teow, which was cooked on a huge flat pan called kawah, lacked any meat-based ingredients.

Similar purchases were also made at other bazaars in Gombak and Wangsa Maju, with meals bought from kawah-cooked meals so that the writer can buy other types of foods with that budget.

Asking around other patrons at the bazaars, this writer found varying opinions regarding the prices of the meals sold.

For Ahmad Ikhwan, a 23-year-old university student who lives in Gombak, he thought it was getting harder for cash-strapped students to look for affordable meals in Ramadhan bazaars.

“As an undergraduate student, I have to be more careful with my spending at the bazaars. In previous years, it was easier for me to buy a filling meal for just RM5.

“Unfortunately, that is not the case for this year, as that same amount of money can’t even buy a complete rice meal,” he said, adding that he would sometimes break fast at his local mosque where they provide free meals during Ramadhan.

In upscale neighbourhoods such as Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI), the prices of the foods could get much expensive compared to other areas in Klang Valley.

“A pack of soy milk can be sold up to RM5 whereas it is just RM3 elsewhere. For the kuih, there are stalls which require the customers to buy a certain amount, such as RM6, which makes it harder for consumers to stick to a certain budget,” said Sakinah, a TTDI resident who is disgruntled over the pricing of a local bazaar.

On the other hand, there are those who regard the prices at the bazaar as affordable, and any increase in price compared to last year is understandable due to rising prices of ingredients.

“Yes, I do think the price is a bit higher when compared to the past two years, but it is definitely not expensive. Besides, the vendors have to adjust their pricing with the current economic situation in order to make profit,” said Nurul Ain, 30, to Malaysian Digest.

As a regular patron of the Taman Melawati bazaar, she noticed the increase in price over the years but has no complaints regarding the issue while also praising the local municipal council for opening up more permits for vendors this year.

Sometimes, Vendors Are Forced To Increase The Price In Order To Make A Profit

While price increases are undesirable for consumers, vendors have to increase the price in order adapt to the current economic situation, especially with rising operating costs and living expenses.

Malaysian Digest reached out to Tengku Mohd Sharifudin bin Tengku Alias, deputy president of the Putrajaya Small Vendors and Hawkers Association to understand the situation faced by vendors in Ramadhan bazaars.

“In Putrajaya, the rent price for the bazaar permits have increased if compared to the previous year. In fact, if we compare with the rent from other bazaars in Selangor, it is much higher in Putrajaya,” he said, adding that the rent for a Ramadhan bazaar permit in Putrajaya can go for as high as RM900, while other areas in Selangor offer bazaar permits at around RM500.

Since there are 300 permits that are issued for bazaars in Putrajaya, business competition between vendors can get fierce, especially for those who are selling at the bazaar for the first time.

“Furthermore, the population of Putrajaya is relatively small compared to other urban areas, so the market for these vendors is very limited.

“Combined with the competition posed by the 25 food trucks, selling food during the Ramadhan bazaars can be challenging,” he said adding that residents of Putrajaya are already accustomed to the slightly higher food prices here compared to bazaars in other areas.

Ramadhan bazaar in  Presint 3, Putrajaya. Filepic: Utusan MalaysiaRamadhan bazaar in Presint 3, Putrajaya. Filepic: Utusan Malaysia

These challenging factors can contribute to the high prices of food at the Putrajaya bazaar.

In terms of ingredients, Putrajaya vendors are lucky because they can buy ingredients at wholesale prices at the Selangor wholesale market in Sri Kembangan.

This helps the vendors to offset the high operating costs of setting up a stall at Putrajaya and not having to sell the foods they make at very expensive prices to make a profit.

As an association that is closely tied to the Putrajaya Corporation, they regularly monitor the prices of the foods in bazaars and forward any consumer complaints to the corporation.

Another group, the Federal Territories’ Malay Vendors and Hawkers Association (PPPKM), echoed Sharifudin’s opinion on rising costs of bazaar permits which contribute to the increase in food prices.

“Some of our members who operate at a bazaar near the Medan MARA in Kuala Lumpur have to pay more for the permits this year. Combining that with the rising ingredient costs, the rise in food price is inevitable.

“Even with the reduction of the Goods & Services Tax (GST) to zero percent in June, we can’t guarantee if that will reduce the price of food in the bazaars, at least for this year,” a PPPKM representative told Malaysian Digest.

What You Need To Lookout For When Shopping In Ramadhan Bazaars

Patrons of Ramadhan bazaars should always be aware of their consumer rights and to be vigilant if there’s any opportunistic vendor who prices the foods inappropriately.

FOMCA's  Mohd YusufFOMCA's Mohd YusufAccording to representative of the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (FOMCA) Mohd Yusuf, the NGO is satisfied with the general pricing of this year’s bazaars, despite the slight increase in food prices.

“Most products will never have a drop in prices, they either maintain the prices or it is increased slightly. Other than that, the prices are also more expensive in urban areas than rural areas,” he said.

FOMCA has received multiple complaints on Ramadhan bazaars, with issues ranging from overpriced foods to unhygienic stalls. When the association receives a complaint, they will forward it to either local municipal councils, the Health Ministry or the Domestic Trade Ministry (KPDNKK).

Yusuf advises consumers to practice good consumer practices, such as not being wasteful and always make comparisons between bazaars to get the best prices.

“Consumers must also be wary of the stalls’ hygiene and the food preparation methods to ensure that the foods they purchase are safe to eat,” advised Yusuf.

If needed, consumers can lodge a complaint to FOMCA’s hotline at 03-78036000.

Another consumer association, the Malaysian Islamic Consumer Association (PPIM), is questioning the steady increase of foods in Ramadhan bazaars over the years.PPIM President Datuk Nadzim JohanPPIM President Datuk Nadzim Johan

“It is almost a custom for food prices of the bazaars to increase annually. Unfortunately, the consumers have also accepted this trend, so the vendors can easily increase their food prices without much dispute,” said PPIM president Datuk Nadzim Johan.

While he did note that increase in price could be caused by the rising prices of ingredients and cost of living, Nadzim said these factors are not enough to justify the price hike.

“Since there are no regulations to dictate the food prices by the vendors, they can easily increase the prices at their own will.

“This should be looked into by the authorities because we can’t let this practice of price increments be left unregulated,” he said to Malaysian Digest, adding that vendors must also be monitored on their hygiene and business etiquette.

However, consumers must also play their part in demanding lower prices. Nadzim argued that this is mainly a consumerism issue, because Malaysian consumers lack awareness and generally would still pay for the foods even though if it is sold at expensive prices.

“Even with the announced abolishment of the Goods & Service Tax on 1 June, I don’t think the prices of the foods will drop as well because vendors do not feel pressured to reduce prices.”

In advising consumers, Nadzim said they must change their attitude by practicing their purchasing power and not to buy from vendors who are selling foods at high prices, so that the vendors will be forced to reduce the prices.

As an advocate for the consumer, PPIM tries their best to educate consumers about their rights, but Nadzim says the task of educating consumers should be taken more seriously by the authorities such as KPDNKK.

- Malaysian Digest