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Many traders pull out of programme due to rising cost of items

PETALING JAYA: The rising cost of living compounded by the weakening ringgit has forced many traders to pull out of the Menu Rahmah programme.

Ampang Small Traders Association chairman Ayob Abd Majid said many of his members have pulled out.

“They were previously offering livestock, vegetables and seafood at lower prices under Menu Rahmah, but with the rising cost of such items, they found it more challenging to absorb the increases.

“In the end, they’ve no choice but to withdraw from the programme so as not to incur losses.”

Ayob urged the government to urgently implement measures to regulate the prices of necessities.

“Tea and creamer should also be included in the list of price control items. Otherwise, more traders will withdraw from the Menu Rahmah programme,” he said, adding that small traders are particularly vulnerable to price increases.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association vice-president Tahir Salam said the rising cost of livestock, produce and grains such as lamb, beef, onions, cooking oil and rice has become a problem.

“This and the government’s withdrawal of subsidies have compelled restaurateurs to withdraw from the Menu Rahmah programme.

“But remember also that not everyone took part in it to begin with.

“Even though we still have members who are in it for charity’s sake, we do not keep track of those who have quit the programme.”

Tahir said demand for Menu Rahmah remains in areas where restaurants are close to educational centres.

But demand has dwindled in other areas, which prompted restaurateurs to scale back and prepare meals for fewer people.

Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Prof Azmi Hassan said the Menu Rahmah programme is aimed at providing balanced meals priced at RM5 or less as a respite for those in the lower income brackets.

“However, this initiative, which is supposed to help manage the effects of rising costs on lower-income individuals, has faced setbacks due to the escalating prices of produce and livestock.”

He said it is not surprising that the traders’ and restaurateurs’ ability to cope with rising costs has led some to exit the programme.

“The rise in prices of agricultural produce, livestock and packaging materials, is significantly affecting even the restaurants that offer Manu Rahmah meals at RM5.

“To cope, they may have to cut portion sizes, find cheaper ingredients or change their menu to save money. Such changes are certain to lower the quality and variety of meals, which might disappoint customers.”

Azmi said policymakers, businesses and community groups must collaborate in finding solutions to keep the Menu Rahmah meals affordable amid the rising prices.