Nothing political but we’re feeling the pinch, say Rantau grocers

An array of fresh and dry produce at the night market in Pekan Rantau.

RANTAU: Local grocers and food stall owners in Rantau are struggling to deal with the rising cost of living and higher prices of goods, but say this is part and parcel of a growing economy.

Several grocers and food stall owners at the night market in Pekan Rantau, 30 minutes away from Seremban, told FMT that their sales had dropped.

They also said it has been more difficult than usual to make ends meet, adding however that this is not the government’s fault.

Vegetable seller Khairy, 34, said he used to cater to customers who came to Rantau in droves. Now, though, they have dwindled in number which he attributes to the rise in prices of produce.

Vegetable grocer Khairy.

“We used to be able to sell one or two tomatoes for 50 sen. Now the lowest we can sell them for is RM2.50 because the retail prices of tomatoes are hard to control.

“Things are getting more expensive,” he said. “Many customers pass by, see my prices, complain, and then leave without buying anything.”

Khairy is the sole breadwinner for his family of three, and works six days a week to make ends meet. Nonetheless, he blames middlemen for his situation, not the government.

Housewife Siti, from Linggi.

Siti, a housewife from Linggi, agreed, saying Putrajaya is controlling the prices of goods from increasing too much.

“Of course, things are much pricier. But we can say this is an economic problem,” she said, adding that it is only reasonable for the prices of goods to go up.

Siti, 55, spends about RM500 on fresh goods each month. She said times have changed, and that it is wrong to pin the blame solely on Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“We can’t say it’s because of the government. We saw a similar hike during the previous administration, too.

“The prime minister and his coalition just got sworn in. We have to understand that things don’t change overnight. We have to be considerate and give them a chance,” she added.

Apam balik seller Nazri.

Apam balik seller Nazri, 43, agreed that it is premature to say whether Pakatan Harapan (PH) has failed in this regard. He added that location is key to getting better business, like in Rembau.

Vijayalakshmi, who sells vegetarian curry puffs, vadai, fritters and pakoda, has never increased the price of her deep-fried delicacies, which are all still 50 sen each.

Vijayalakshmi and her husband.

“If we increase our selling price, it will burden customers who will complain even if it’s just a 20 sen increase,” she told FMT.

Many of the 80 stalls in the wet market have also maintained their prices. But Vijayalakshmi, 54, and her husband miss “the good old days” when things were easier.

These days, she said, they barely make RM200 in profit.

“We are old and tired, but this is the reality. We used to make so much more. But now, when it rains we have to close shop. On those days, we barely get RM60 to RM80.”

Grocer Punitha, from Seremban Jaya, and her family.

Grocer Punitha, 37, from Seremban Jaya, sells a mixture of wet and dry goods. She said the prices of wet goods have gone up, but not dry.

Many like Nisa, who works with her family at a stall selling burgers, fried chicken, and drinks, say the sales and services tax is making life difficult.

“Before this, I used to buy a carton of plastic cups for RM168. Now, it costs me RM216. This is a RM48 difference,” she said, adding that with the previous goods and services tax, the difference was only RM16.

Nisa at her family stall.

But she, too, sees no point politicising the matter.

“I don’t care who is ruling or not, so long as businesses like mine are hurting,” she said.

“Whoever it is has to help us out.”

The Rantau by-election on April 13 will see a four-cornered fight between incumbent assemblyman Mohamad Hasan, PH’s Dr Streram Sinnasamy, and independents Malar Rajaram and Mohd Nor Yassin.