GEORGE TOWN, Feb 14 — Nasi kandar, a favourite for those wanting a filling meal at reasonable prices, is increasingly out of reach of the average wage-earner.
A lunch plate of RM4.60 last year that included rice, chicken, vegetable and half a piece of salted egg now costs RM5.80.
A glass of teh o’ ais, which previously cost RM1, goes between RM1.20 and RM1.50 today.
While the man-on-the-street feels traders are hiking prices for no good reason, those running eateries are complaining that the Goods and Services Tax and rising cost of raw materials had forced them to raise prices.
Civil servant Siti Zubaidah Ahmad Nahar, 33, said she could no longer afford to eat out and packed food from home for lunch at the office.
“The cost of outside food is too high for me to bear. When I was in college, students ate at mamak stalls as we did not have much money, but now you need to have at least RM8 to eat a proper meal at a mamak shop,” said the mother of two.
Student Janice Tan Lee Mei, 20, said food sellers increased prices whenever the price of petrol increased but did not drop prices when oil prices fell.
“This is not fair. I urge the government to implement strict rules so that traders will have to decrease prices when the oil price falls,” she said.
Nasi kandar shop operator Muhammad Khairuddin Zainal Abidin, 45, said he had been forced to increase prices as the cost of raw materials including seafood and vegetables kept going up.
“We have no choice but to increase our prices,” he added.
Khairuddin said the cost of meat, seafood and vegetables skyrocketed during festive seasons as there was a shortage in supply.
“Can you imagine that the price of prawns reached RM60 or more per kilo during Chinese New Year? For us, it is a matter of either selling food at a higher price or not sell at all,” he said.
In IPOH, the price of food and drinks has risen significantly over the past few months with hikes busting the budget of many.
Malay Mail found that staples like fried mihun had increased from RM4 to R4.50 while koay teow soup had increased from RM5 to RM5.50 leading to queries as to whether the hikes were justified.
Chicken rice which used to cost RM3.50 now costs RM4, a 50 sen increase in a matter of months.
Regulars said they had to pay RM5.50 for a late for nasi kandar with rice, a piece of chicken and two vegetables which could have been had for RM4.50 before.
Drinks are also becoming more expensive, ranging from Chinese tea which had gone up by from 50 to 60 sen while iced coffee had increased by 20 sen from RM1.80 to RM2.
One consumer wondered why drinks had to cost so much and if eateries were making excessive profits at the expense of consumers.
They wondered why such hikes were being allowed by the authorities who should have maintained a closer watch on food prices to ensure they did not burden consumers.
A consumer who declined to be identified said the cost of living had increased beyond imagination largely because food costs had increased.
“Food costs make up a large part of monthly expenditure for most. It is not surprising that we are spending more of our salaries and saving less,” he said.