PETALING JAYA: An economist has urged Putrajaya and consumers to do more to tackle the rising prices of essential goods, amid complaints that basic food items like eggs have increased in cost since the general election last year.Barjoyai Bardai from Universiti Tun Abdul Razak said the rising prices were largely tied to issues of supply and demand, with FMT’s checks of data from a leading hypermarket showing that some essentials have gone up in cost.Between the May 9 polls and Feb 18, the price of grade C eggs went up by 36.6% per tray from RM9 to RM12.30.During the same period, the price of whole chickens went up 10.7% from RM7 per kg to RM7.75. Long beans increased by 26.3% from RM5.46 to RM6.90 per bundle, dipping to RM3.05 in late August before going up again. The price of Indian mackerel and sotong putih, meanwhile, increased by just over 2%.

Some goods, like round spinach, remain unchanged in price, while others went down, like frozen buffalo slice which slid 7.1% from RM12.51 to RM11.61.Barjoyai said when it comes to essential goods, especially eggs and chicken, the problem is that a few producers control the market.“In the case of long beans, it is a vegetable with a lower yield than spinach, so it is more prone to supply and demand factors,” he added.Such shifts in price could see an adult spending at least RM300 a month on food, he said.He suggested that the government intervene by issuing more import permits for food items when prices of certain goods go up. This, he said, would boost supply and help bring prices down.He gave the example of tapioca in Thailand, which he said was easily five times cheaper than it is in Malaysia.

“Even at the pasar tani, tapioca sells for around RM1 per kg while in Thailand, it can be as low as 20 sen per kg.”Acknowledging that the government might want to protect local producers by limiting imports, he cautioned however that this was only a short-term measure to help industry players when starting out.“We cannot keep protecting them. They have to learn to compete with the global market,” he said.He also suggested that the government publish the prices of essential goods through the media and social media to allow a comparison between different hypermarkets.He said this would help consumers become more aware of where they could get better prices for items. In the longer term, he added, producers would also become more inclined to set fairer prices.

On what consumers could do on their end, Barjoyai said the people should work together to put pressure on prices.“There are substitutes for almost every product, even eggs. If egg prices go up by 30%, consumers should boycott buying eggs and opt for substitutes.“When prices come down due to lesser demand, they can start buying again.”It was previously reported that the weaker ringgit and bird flu had contributed to a shortage of supply, which resulted in higher prices.There were also calls for the government to halt the export of eggs and poultry to combat the rising prices.