Covid-19 brings bleak year for Ramadan bazaar traders

Jalan Masjid India, where Ramadan bazaar traders can pay up to RM40,000 per lot, stands empty as the government’s movement control order continues.

PETALING JAYA: Thousands of food and clothing vendors are bracing for heavy losses now that there’s a likelihood of Ramadan bazaars being banned nationwide.

The Malaysian Association of Malay Hawkers and Small Businessmen, which represents about 35,000 Ramadan bazaar traders across the country, reports that many have already forked out tens of thousands of ringgit in preparation for business during the fasting month.

The group’s secretary-general, Mohamed Zamri Mohammed, noted that Terengganu, Melaka and Negeri Sembilan had already cancelled Ramadan bazaars.

There are basically two types of traders at the bazaars, those who sell food for the breaking of the fast and those who sell clothes for the Hari Raya celebration.

Zamri told FMT about 80% of his association’s members were food vendors and about 20% were clothiers.

He said those selling clothes and other non-perishables would be especially affected.

“Most of these people have already spent thousands on the goods they were going to sell. Now they’re left with piles of goods.”

As for those selling food, he said, the loss of potential income would be huge.

He said even the smallest food vendor could earn a profit of RM5,000 during Ramadan. For the bigger vendors, the profits earned during the month would be enough to sustain them for a year, he added.

“When the Ramadan bazaar was held at Jalan Masjid India, some traders were willing to pay up to RM40,000 for one lot,” he said.

Zamri said his association itself would be adversely affected since it had collected between RM300 and RM600 from traders and spent the money for local council licences, management costs, aprons and deposits for tents and the like.

The Ramadan bazaar is a daily scene in Malaysia throughout the fasting month.

“We hope we can get refunds for the local council licences, but how about the money we’ve already spent on the other things?

“This is a difficult year. Even if the movement control order (MCO) is lifted on April 14, I don’t think the bazaars will materialise as there is a need to really make sure that there is no Covid-19 threat.”

Azkhalim Suradi, the chairman of a similar association for traders in Lorong Tuanku Abdul Rahman, said he would not know how to handle the situation if Ramadan bazaars in Kuala Lumpur were banned.

Lorong Tuanku Abdul Rahman is home to one of the most popular Ramadan bazaars in the country, and Azkhalim said all 436 members of his association had already prepared for business.

“We’ll be out of ideas if the bazaar doesn’t happen,” he said.

“We can only hope that the virus is eliminated quickly. If we are allowed to open, even for the last two weeks of Ramadan, it won’t be so bad.”

Ramadan bazaars attract huge crowds nationwide, with traders paying exorbitant sums to secure spots.

Azkhalim said he himself had already spent RM40,000 to purchase goods to be sold at the bazaar.

“There are some who have already spent more than RM100,000,” he said.

He acknowledged that online sales were an option, but said the traders would not be able to sell as much as they would at the bazaar.

He said the food vendors stood to lose thousands of ringgit in income, money they would normally keep as savings.

“Those selling clothes can keep them for next year, but they will be worth much less because they might no longer be fashionable.”