Ministry probing prices of festive items

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GEORGE TOWN: The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consume­rism Ministry will investigate allegations that some traders in Penang are “profiteering” by selling essential festive items at a higher price in Little India.

Its state deputy director Mohd Nor Musa said they would send enforcement teams to check the prices of items like ulunthu (lentils) flour, turmeric powder and chilli powder.

“It is common for end products to be more expensive than raw products such as grains and chillies.

“There are certain processes and ingredients involved in the grinding and as such, the traders could be selling at a higher price.

A check by The Star showed that 500gm of ulunthu grain is sold for RM3.25 but after going through the grinding process, the flour is priced at RM6.80. One kg of dried chilli whole is sold at RM9 but after grinding, the chilli powder is priced at RM19.

Penang Hindu Association (PHA) deputy president P. Murugiah claimed that instead of having a marginal increase, the manufacturers were raking in a profit of more than 150% for flour sold in packets to consumers.

“The flour mills could justify the high price tags last year due to the increase in the cost of whole grains.

“But this year, the prices of whole grains have dropped. Still, the manufacturers maintained the same charges for the flour packets and did not reduce it accordingly,” he said.

Meanwhile, Penang’s leading halal grocery store Mohamed Meera Sahib (M) Sdn Bhd said the prices of several products had dropped by at least 30%, but the end products which are flour or powder had remained the same since last year.

Its owner Mohamed Meera Sahib Mohamed Noordeen, 47, said the prices were fixed by the curry powder and flour manufacturers who supplied the products.

“There is only a slight increase from the prices supplied by the manufacturers. We are only making a minimal profit,” he said.

Another grocery shop owner in Beach Street, who wished to be known as Raja, said ulunthu was an important ingredient for making papadam.

“The grain is sold at RM6.50 per kg, but the papadam which comes in packets of 100g each is sold at RM2.40.

“We only make several ringgit from the product as it comes at a higher price after reaching our stores,” he said. – The Star

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