From RM0.20 to RM1.00!

Eateries in Johor Bahru have increased their prices to cash in on Singaporean visitors but what about locals who equally patron these outlets as well? We earn local wages and are subject to the rising cost of goods and services. Is the government going to intervene?

Business owners said the rising cost of living had prompted them to increase the price of food and drinks (Photo credit: The Star/Asia News Network via The Straits Times)

Food prices in the state of Johor have recently increased due to growing living costs and an inflow of Singaporean visitors with a stronger currency.

A visit to numerous eateries and coffee shops in Johor Bahru revealed that the pricing of food and beverages has risen by at least a few sen to more than RM1 since the border reopened, with sharper price increases witnessed in the city area.

Business owners claimed the growing cost of living had pushed them to raise food and beverage prices despite the risk of losing customers, particularly the locals.

Charmaine Tan, 36, owner of a restaurant, claimed she raised the rates of food and drinks offered in her establishment in January of this year.

“I raised the price of beverages by roughly 20sen to 30sen, while I raised the price of meals by between 50sen to RM1.

“For the time being, despite reduced profit and ongoing increases in raw material prices, I have opted not to raise the price (again) since it may not sit well with customers,” she told The Star at her restaurant near Danga Bay. She is still able to cover her costs at the moment.

Lim Toh Huei, 34, the third-generation proprietor of a popular banana cake business in town, has raised the price of his cakes by RM2.

“A single pack of our banana cake now costs RM12, up from RM10 earlier this year,” he shared,

“This is because the price of bananas, the key ingredient used to make the cake, has also risen.” So have other ingredients such as flour,” he explained.

However, he remarked that the price increase had had little effect on sales, as Singaporeans continued to flock to the shop, particularly on weekends.

Tiong Kiu Wong, head of the Johor Bahru Coffee, Restaurant, and Bar Operators Association, advised businesses not to raise their prices too much.

“We can’t stop them from raising their pricing since they’re burdened by greater raw material and, in certain cases, renting costs.”

“However, we advise them not to hike up too much. A few sen or even RM1 is fair, but anything more will be a hardship to consumers,” he added.

Johor Indian Muslim Entrepreneur Association secretary Hussein Ibrahim said the prices of dishes at Indian Muslim eateries or mamak shops had also increased slightly.

Meanwhile, Md Salleh Sadijo, president of the Johor Consumer Movement Association, stated that certain businesses, particularly in the city, were exploiting the rise in the cost of living as an excuse to hike the prices of their food.

“Some restaurants are profiting from the situation by exorbitantly raising the prices since they know they would still have customers from Singapore.

“The sharp increase in the price of food will not cause much impact to Singaporeans as they have a stronger currency but locals, on the other hand, are suffering since they must now spend twice as much for a basic meal.

“This is unjust to the locals, and the government must intervene. They need to monitor the situation and ensure that the rights of local consumers are also protected,” he said.

A local consumer Encik M (anonymous), has shared that kuih like cempedak goreng which he used to buy for RM0.50 sen each has risen to RM1.00 per piece within weeks. He has no other choice but to stop buying as it is not going to be economical anymore to have little indulgences as such.

Whether the government is going to intervene or set a cap on price hikes at eateries is yet to be seen as local salaries still remain uncompetitive and low.