Malaysians feel the squeeze as food prices soar


Never mind the rise in electricity tariffs, toll rates, and satellite television subscriptions, many Malaysians are grumbling every time they go to the market and stores because of the soaring prices of fruit and vegetables.

(Thanks to blog visitor Radhi for the video link.)

To make matters worse, Malaysia relies heavily on imported food, as our own fertile agriculture land is gobbled up for speculative property development and cash crop plantations. Penang, for instance, has lost many of its farms and orchards, in places such as Tanjung Tokong and Balik Pulau.

The UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, noted recently:

Palm oil dominates the agricultural landscape in Malaysia, occupying 5 million hectares – more than 70 per cent of the country’s arable land. Malaysia produces 39 per cent of global palm oil and accounts for 44 per cent of global exports. However, the growing sector has generated environmental concern due to deforestation, biodiversity loss and soil nutrient depletion.

The Special Rapporteur warned that the focus on export-led commodity production makes the country highly vulnerable to price shocks on international markets, as the country depends on imports for basic foodstuffs, including 30 per cent of rice, Malaysia’s main staple crop, 66 per cent of fruits, and 41 per cent of vegetables.

Higher food prices are being manifested in various subtle ways. Someone told me that a particular brand of sardines used to contain four sardines in a can, but now the same can contains just three.

Or a packet of salt may contain less than before.

Noodles including char koay teow at many places are now served on plates barely larger than saucers, as serving sizes have grown shrivelled. If we are observant, we may even notice our roti canai being ‘downsized’ before our very eyes. And honey, they’ve shrunk the thosai!

At the market, many customers are often heard grumbling over the price hikes.

Given the rising cost of living, growing indebtedness, depressed wages and low pensions, the vulnerable, the sick, and the working poor are finding it difficult to cope. Unfortunately, our social welfare and support services are in many cases inadequate, our general hospitals underfunded and overstretched while public funds are frittered away.

In Singapore, the working poor are also feeling the strain.

(Thanks to blog visitor Don Anamalai for the link.)

These are difficult times indeed. And all this happening befor GST piles more misery on the people.

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  1. Najib’s 11 steps for Putrajaya to cut cost missed out the key element of cutting the excesses/deadwood in the bloated civil service as this is the Fixed Cost!!!

    • To show his sincerity in cutting cost, Najib should instruct all official BN functions to be served with Menu Rakyat 1Malaysia.

  2. Why so much complaints on LGE & DAP governance? The real issues lie on the federal policies of the day. Nothing to loath about since this is as expected. Would any logical explanation be made on the BR1M and what goodness it had brought along after the extensive spending up to election day. It’s high time to pay back.

  3. Buyers want action against developer in Bukit Gambir

    More than 70 medium low cost house owners at Centrio Avenue in Bukit Gambir in George Town today once again urged the DAP-led state government to take firm action against the developer of the project for raising prices.

    These people just too naive not to realize that the price increase have the blessing of the LGE DAP state govt and did I not say all along there is no REAL 72k for you Penangite. 180k houses disguised as 72k

    • The buyers are crying foul at having to pay between RM160,000 and RM180,000 for a unit compared with the original price of RM72,500.

      So who is increasing the price of LMC 72k houses or are there any 72k houses being built. NIL AT ALL. Jardip & LGE is trying to justify their action in controlling all affordable houses built during Gerakan time and trying to hookwink the people as though these houses are being implemented by them.

      This is proof and evidence that the DAP is making prices of affordable homes and essential good to go up.

      • I doubt it is realistic to have a house below RM100K on Penang island.
        Our Ringgit is no longer as strong as before.
        Prices of building materials have also gone up.
        Even if it is done at RM100K, chances are the buyer have to fork out more money for tiling and other improvement works.

    • What CAT-action against this recalcitrant developer?
      MLC house owners can only pray-pray with 3 joss sticks + one black chicken until the cows come home no different from the condo-cow saga so lambasted by the venerable [email protected] Tower of Cosmopolitan Shame. Political strings attached to such deceiving housing development?

      Of course, see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil is the daily mantra of this slippery-clean Tokong’s minions of blind pray-pray faith.

      • Do write to Buletin Mutiara to update Penangites on Botak Hill progress.

        I rode my bike along Gelugor; and outside USM main road you look up you can see the Botak Hill.

  4. While Malaysia has made a pretty big name for itself at the global level in regards to palm oil, it has done so at the expense of the environment and its people. This indiscriminate clearing of land for agri-biz is most worrying. We need people at the top who will look at the bigger picture and not only the short-term gains to be had. I read tin mining is being revived in Perak. With logging already destroying our beautiful rainforests, Malaysia is going to become a wasteland in more ways than one.

  5. Another thing. Why only a select few are allowed to supply rice,flour,sugar? If there are no restrictions people can compete and bring cheaper staple food stuff.

    • BN should practice free market enterprise, allowing anyone to bring in food stuff as more competition I’ll drive down price. Monopoly does not help the people.

  6. Moot, What you are talking is about the once in while guy who took his family for an outing or youngster without having to support the familiy. It cannot apply to the daily neccesities of most of the many wage owner and worse still the poor & very poor. While you see those middle income that are driving nice car, yes these are some who can afford once a weekend but not the many wage earner. They will have to survive on bit by bits of their income that have been chipped off and all because we are becoming what you call affuent when in fact we are poor. Like more than 20 years ago, one Japanese manager of Yaohan Penang told, Our country is rich but the people are poor.

    And we will soon become that with more affluent people coming to snap up our land and properties and how our natural resources will soon become unnatural just like the synthetic rubber. And how we will be driven from the shores and beaches to enrich DAP cronies.

    Look at this, you will soon be driven off from the beach for the exclusive exploitation by (such) cronies. Another theme park that surround the beach where the local (may) not be allowed to use.

    • Not another theme park!
      Brace for more, Penangites.
      You ask for it?
      At RM40 per per person, children RM30 who can really afford @ SinKarPoh standard?
      Can only see, cannot enjoy mah!

      • 2nd theme park WWW opposite Moonlight Bay using German technology.

        Water fun attracts tourists local and foreign.

        Not haram because just look look at girls in bikini 🙂

  7. Unfortunately, the so called food price increase doesn’t mean people will spend wisely, some even seek for poor alternative, even good alternative is around the corner.

    This has nothing to do with “let them eat cakes”. In most country, poor people (including relatively poor middle class) make bad decision when under stressed. Most of the time, poor information make poor people make poor choices.

    Let me share an example.
    When walk around the mall with my friend, we talk about thrifty spending, about how he going to clear off his credit card debt by spending smartly in food.
    Then we saw the RM12 1kg roasted chicken. In fact, the retailer willing to chop the chicken to smaller pieces in quarter size for purchase. However, my friend when to food court to seek out more convenience options. At the end, he pay RM7 for a plate of noodle with no more than 5 slices of chicken meat.

    If a “relatively poor” person take some work out for their health, will save a bomb if they purchase low sodium salt and pour into their own water than buying the “energy drinks”. A self made oat bar store inside freezer is only cost a fraction of expensive “energy bar”.

    So call “no more than 2 eggs” per day “health facts”, actually cannot be apply on poor people that cannot afford to buy more expensive source of protein.

    If you think “maggi mee” is poor man convenient food? Think twice. A cheap brand of Italian thin pasta noodle Capellini that cost no more than RM5/500g , will cooked in boil water around 2~3 minute.

    On the other hand, it make me wonder how our Northern neighbor, Thailand cope with the food price increase issues. They have relatively less sea shores compare to Bolehland(TM), but with surprisingly low price sea food.

    • Moot

      Thai fishermen bought cheap diesel (allegedly) from Malaysian fishermen who got sudsidised diesel.
      Malaysian fishermen got money without having to go out to fish(?)

  8. Last nite brought my family (wife + 3 children) out for dinner & movie.

    Each McDonald’s Prosperity Burger = RM14
    Each ‘The Hobbit’ movie ticket = RM14
    Pop-corn = RM12
    Parking fee = RM8

    Total cost = RM14x5 + RM14x5 + RM12 + RM8 = RM160!

    I will buy a Blu-ray player for my family to watch ‘blockbuster blu ray movie’ at home to save cost next year….

    • Anil off topic but related to previous topic.

      This morning I hiked up to Penang Hill from Desa Bendera. What I see is a real disappointment, not like the Penang Hill of yesteryear. Wow so many visitors, it has become so saturated. What would happen if there is a cable car. Worse still you have a concrete cement square right in the middle/opposite the police station. Simply no serenity and natural surrounding at all. The blaring from the dinosaur show, owl museum and the ten of buggy moving around make the place like a market place. Frankly speaking I would hike up Penang Hill again. Now I know why so many are reluctant to hike to Penang Hill compared to yesteryear.

      • People who don’t personally experience (first hand) hiking up Penang Hill trails won’t understand you, Yang.

        People who want a Speedy Gonzales fast ride up & fast ride down.
        People who want to be there just b’cos its popular, “I must be there too”.
        People who want all things noisy, busy & plastic, not the least of all, commercialized to the max like pasar pagi, petang hingga malam.
        People who think money, money, money (to be made) even in the serenity of a hill resort (contradictory, isn’t it).
        People who believe in ‘CHANGE is inevitable’ not b’cos its preventable for eco goodness sake.
        People who have itchy fingers to ‘remake’ what is originally a gem by itself.
        And people who have no brains or decencies for what is uniquely a tranquil hill resort fit for the tired souls & minds of the serenity seekers. A no brainer.

        Cheers Kopi-O kau kau, I loved today’s Christmas holiday to refresh my soul & mind for more creative endeavours in the tranquility of my studio, far from the maddeningly crowded streets of Kelawei Road, Gurney Drive or Ayer Itam Road to Pg Hill Station so loved a view from Komtar Tower of Cosmopolitan Madness Syndrome.

      • Harun, you got nothing better to scream? A gate keeper of
        Why not hike up Pg Hill to see the real situation?

  9. Are you sure about that ??? Or the opposition syndrome still prevailing inside you ??? Anyway, the ADUN and MP of that area also playing important roles. The noisy gates will get the lubrication first. Do you understand that meaning ??? Also, please watch daily Parliament proceeding @TV1, and you can see the good and good for nothing MPs do the talkings. Pinch your local ADUN and MP that sleeping on the jobs. Flood your unlimited complaints to them !!!

    • Oh, that is my reply to Hooi Guan comment: “But BN gomen did not help the vegetable farmers of Cameron Highlands. Why?”

      Without Javascript turn on, my previous comment went to bottom of the page

  10. Most of you were warned before and during the GE of what is taking place now, subsidies will be cut. new taxes will be introduced and above all that GST will be introduced. There you are every prediction has materialized and now Najib for once is confirming that without all these the country will go bankrupt. He has been warned of all these for sometimes even by his member of his cabinet that will happen soon yet Najib continued to spend money as though money has run out of fashion. Worse of all … the warlords continue to enrich themselves at the expense of the country.
    No measures were taken to trim down the expenditures plus handling out money before the GE times after times to the tune of millions, if not billions, especially with money they don’t have and with borrowed money. With all these actions the Umno morons know all along they stood to benefit from whatever the people of this country will have to come up with the money to cover the short fall.

    You now have to live with the changes in the country pertaining to the rising cost of living in the country. Well, at least till their rule in the country is over but make sure this time round don’t be the fools that these Umno morons have made you to be. No doubt these Umno morons must think that the voters like you have very short memories when the next GE comes round. They will then again make use of money collected from the new taxes to buy your votes once again, but this time round don’t be fools anymore just have them kicked out of Putrajaya and even better have these morons indicted !

  11. Tomorrow the National Christmas celebration is on at the Esplanade from 2 pm onwards. Come join in with our PM Najib whom many are excited to see. The BN govt has also graciously invited the Pg CM to the event. This shows that the BN govt is a govt for all.

  12. Many blame high prices on the govt but I said otherwise. Blame it on us for being pampered for the past 50 years with continued subsidies years after years. All of s sudden subsidies withdrawn and prices shoot up. Yes in the short term prices shot up but in the long term when everything go back to normal without subsidies we shall all feel more comfortable with stable prices & income in the long run. Whether I am right or wrong, this is an honest comment.

  13. To be fair, BM gomen always encourage people to involve in agriculture. Remember recent advertisement such as “pertanian adalah perniagaan”, new agriculture university proposal, etc. The younger generation just not interested in less “cool” industry like agriculture. Most of them going after high tech studies like engineering, IT, etc.

  14. Eng Hock, are you talking of the Starbuck Kopi O at RM10 or Tunglang Kopi O kau kau O at 80c. You see the big difference. You can get Salute Kopi O for 8.00 per 30 packets, that is about 26c per cup. This is what DAP & LGE is trying to do, Drive Penangite out of Penang island with high end & high price products.

    • Why make your life so miserable? By the Law of Attraction, you are actually attracting negative vibes with your frustration.

      There are many unfortunate and poor people in Malaysia. I suggest your develop more empathy by watching the NTV7’s Helping Hands every Sunday at 6pm:

      • Hooi Guan, Who say my life is miserable. What I am going to tell is the truth and how the lies and deceits are perpetuated by DAP. Do I need to bodek them just like many of you.

      • I think sour is a more appropriate description judging by the tone of Yang’s messages.

  15. Eng Hock, You can still save a lot. Exercise and slim down and at the same time cut down on makan. It will be good for you health and wealth.

  16. Tungland, you can still grow food & poultry in Belum but we cannot do it in our cage size apartment of which almost all land in Penang are being marked for development by LGE DAP gomen. Even living in squatters is much better nowadays if you know how to take care of the surrounding. There you can grow vegetable and rear chicken w/o paying any service charge whatsoever. I cannot go far to Belum but Pokok Cheri in Air Itam would be a good choice.

    • Learn the art of homesteading (countryside agro-farming) and share valuable kampung salt with Orang Asli. No need to apply for state land or pay quit rent or assessment rate. No electricity or water bills.
      The pristine earth of Orang Asli is endowed with natural resources that are all there is to support basic human needs.
      Soon when food crisis hits us, the Orang Asli will give lectures in 8-Star hotel ballroom on the art of survival in the wild.

      • Preventing people from becoming more independent for essentials is important to capitalism. China has already pushed 50% or so of it population into towns. I wonder where it will end.

  17. Yes, Penang, for instance, has lost many of its farms & orchards. WORSE STILL IT HAS LOST ITS CHARM

    How else can that not be when land are being sold by LGE DAP state govt to rich developers cronies and overseas investors with marked up property prices. And its all for some PRESTIGIOUS and HIGH END HOUSING projects. Yes go to Balik Pulau and you will see that agricuture land are being developed at a rapid space. The ICON fruit of Penang the NUTMET will soon become oblivion just like the Pinang fruits. The identity of Balik Pulau & Hakka, Malays and Indian living peacefully side by side will be wiped out by this LGE DAP govt just like KB Pala and Tg Tokong. The serenity and identity of Pulau Betong & Sg Pinang in Balik Pulau would have been wiped off by LGE DAP and his rich developers if not for the protest that were against the BIG project that was to be undertaken. But this creepy Cheap Minister is lying low trying to destroy it bit by bit without us noticing. AND WORSE STILL ALL THESE DEVELOPMENT WILL NOT ONLY DRIVE UP HOUSES, IT WILL DRIVE UP FOOD PRICES.

  18. Not all inflation are the same. What we have experienced before is largely because of a commodity supercycle. The current inflation is due to something else – mostly rising wages and taxes, direct and indirect.

    Isa Samad COULD NOT BE MORE WRONG. UMNO is responsible. The reason why the pain is particularly widespread and harder is because of low productivity for too long due to corruption and NEP. An input based economy that is unproductive suffers MORE when inflation of commodities shows up. And when they artificially inflate the economy via transfer payment and artificial increase in wages and higher taxes, it exacerbate the problem which we are feeling. WORST OF ALL, when commodity price falls, we WILL NOT BENEFIT FROM PRICE FALL BECAUSE OF CORRUPTION & THE NEP..

  19. Anil
    I have gone to China many times. Last month in Kunming (not the 1st tier city in China yet very advanced)I checked the prices of the groceries like typical vegetables we imported from them. To my surprise, after currency conversion (RM1 = 1.93 yuan and we r getting less and less these days) there is little difference compared to what we have been paying all these days.
    With growing affluence in China and weather havoc affecting growth of vegetables, its a matter of time China needs to feed own people and less export; and that it may becomes less cost effective to sell to Malaysians.
    So, brace yourself for costly vegetables ahead unless a tropical country like Malaysia starts to grow more vegetables and less palm oil as mentioned in anil’s article above.

    • Yes, Eng Hock, that is the worry. There will comes time when countries might decide they have to feed their own population first rather that export to us.

      • ever notice when overseas demand for pail oil becomess less and less, our palm oil folks start to encourage locals to consume “majerin” made from palm oil.
        Mind you some even call it butter !
        Watch out for the trans fat content.
        No wonder you can notice our population is truly an obese nation !

      • Oh dear, and we are selling our land to high-end developers, both local and foreign!

      • On palm oil being destructive or unhealthy and margerine.

        Palm oil is far less destructive in taking up land compared to soybean and rapeseed, the main Western alternatives. Soybean is expanding across the Amazon basin, not only for oil but to feed cattle. Most of the oils the West promotes as healthy are refined and bleached using industrial solvents and bleaches. Being light, they are also easily oxidised (go rancid).

        Palm oil, coconut oil and butter in limited quantities are OK and even required. That excludes (a) heating or frying (b) hydrogenation to create cheap subsitiute for butter, e.g. most of the margarine here. No level of transfat is safe, despite claims that 0.5% is OK.

        In Australia, margarine is free of transfat by law. One small Australian town made the news when it boycotted chocolate containing this fake stuff instead of their plentiful butter. Some places like New York state have forced fast-food chains to drop transfat for frying – used as it was the cheapest.

        Besides margarine, commercial fried meat and commercial potato fries, trans-fat is also present in coffee creamer, condensed milk, roti chanai, cakes, mayonnaise, pizzas, “cream” biscuits. It may be falsely declared as “shortening” or even “vegetable oil”.

  20. Guess Who was Agriculture Minister When All these were Created?

    Muhyideen Yassin!

    Now he is Education Minister Rampantly (messing) up Our Children’s Future!

    If he Stays around long enough he will be Prime Minister.

    Then He will Graduate into the Big league (of those messing up)

    • I switched my kids to Chinese schools the moment Muhyidin became Education Minister. I am indebted to Dong Zong. Those who did not do so is jeopadizing their children’s future.

    • BN has to absorb those unemployed local malay graduates into civil service else they (might) mengamuk! Meantime local universities are still producing high number low quality graduates that the local industries do not need.

  21. Er, I disagree. Palm oil is our second stable income beside petroleum. Sometimes, we have to disagree with foreign voices. Our macro economy is sound. Just need a proper “fence” as in the popular Malay saying: Harap pagar, pagar makan padi

    • Food products derived from palm oil has trans fat?
      Our Health Ministry will never come clean on this.
      Better consume with caution.

    • It is call idiot economy 101, narrowly see the “benefit” but minus the actual opportunities cost. Planting palm oil need land , water and tons of fertilizer, which is in form of subsidies.

  22. Anil should have come across this book “Rich Malaysia, Poor Malaysians” by Anas Alam Faaizli.

    very appropriate to the topic for coming 2014 and i quote :-
    the author reaffirms the undeniable fact that Malaysia is a rich country with an abundant of resources, but the mismanagement of wealth and exploitative behaviour of rent-seekers have become the main driving forces behind the paradox of the economy.
    This book uncovers the hard realities faced by all Malaysians.
    The rising cost of living is a difficult moment for all, regardless of their race or religious affiliations.

    • This book defies a lot of the conventional thoughts brought on by BN-controlled NST, TV3 and Awani as it paints the true picture of the emerging class (modern day caste system) differences in the Malaysian society. Now with barang naik phenomenon, more middle class are tightening their budget and are more afraid to spend.

  23. For those who travel to developed countries (Najib says we will be one in 2020?); many will feel we are monetarily inferior to most countries in terms of foreign exchanges.
    We cannot enjoy Kopi O because an ordinary cup can easily cost RM15-RM20.
    So time like this less travel out (unless you are rich sugar daddies n mummies) and save up for the MEGA Barang Naik inflation ever seen in Bolehland !

    • Do you know that many housewives q outside Tesco before it opens daily to grab those overdue/less presentable but still edible vegetables at discounted price? I think this is one way for them to stretch their Ringgit.

  24. Land for agriculture – to produce more rice, vege, fruits & fresh water fish for local consumption (not export for maxi-profiteering) is what the Penang state gomen should be looking at, not exclusively for Bin Chui shopping complexes, business centres (D’Piazza Mall is a zombie zone) or high rise super-richie condos. Soon The Light will be obsolete as lighthouse for speculators looking out for night ghost ships filled with wailing, willing buyers from HK, China & SingLand.
    Penang’s population at present doesn’t match the oversupply of such pricey homes, which are obviously manipulated for greedy profiteering & surreal speculation. Soon, these land use will be rendered unproductive zombie homes without real occupants. BTW, where is the Penang Local Plan???

    Any gomen, worth the salt of financial wizardry, with strategic planning in mind should include food + water sufficiency in their agenda. The constant warning signs of impending food + water scarcity in the near future are more than adequate for anyone to act proactively. Forget about the global fevers for hitech industries, auto manufac or knowledge economy (digital) if we as a civilisation cannot feed ourselves in times of food crisis. How to eat digital Hokkien Mee or digital Char Hor Fun or online Tosai?

    Any gomen worth the salt of the abacus (used by accountants) should know what financial prioritisation is for what matters, not just the blue ink of state fund surpluses which don’t feed a population but sit in situ in the vault of banks with misery interest earnings.

    Penang is now famed for street hawker food (not the HK, Korean cuisines or fast food types). This industry will collapse on the heel of impending shortage of food supply (inclusive of ingredients). Haven’t we learn from India’s recent protective measures over its short supply of onions for export?

    Time to grow edible farm food + poultry in the forest fringe of Belum rainforest.

    Side note: the future will also see shortages of edible salt from the sea. Some global environmental disaster / change in sea condition such as the Red Tide or worst nuclear reactor leakages such as Fukushima’s will render sea water as poisonous or untouchable. Don’t sweat over it? Unless one’s daily sweat production is enough to turn into edible salt not only on crisis days. Even the sweaty Belum Orang Asli need salt purchased from the kampung sundry shops.

    Cheers Kopi-O kau kau with less sugar but is still served in the original kopi cup size (unless the kopitiams decide to serve drink in Japanese tea cups).


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