As MCO’s extended, shopkeepers and vendors see fewer shoppers than they normally do

R. Loheswar
Customers observe social distancing guidelines as they queue outside Pasar Besar Jalan Othman in Petaling Jaya March 26, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Mar 26 — If you’re worried you won’t have enough food to eat with the movement order control (MCO) extended to April 14th, fear not. There’s plenty of food available around.

Compared to two weeks ago’s frenzied rush and panic buying for fear of a lockdown, a visit to several markets and supermarkets today revealed an ample amount of food left but not enough people buying.

For vegetable vendor and businessman Baghan Yelumallai, he is seeing a big dip in customers at his stall at the Petaling Jaya Old Town wet market since the announcement of the MCO.

In fact, he says there is too little traffic at the stalls due to the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) authorities being strict with the number of people entering the market as well as the closure of all entrances to just one.

The closure of entrance was done so that authorities can carry out temperature checks and control traffic coming into the market.

“As you can see most of the stalls still have a lot of produce and that’s also because they taped off the whole market and only allow people to enter from the front.

“That means the people that would usually walk to my stall at this corner may not pop by. They prefer to get in and out quickly so the stalls near the front may get more business,” Baghan told Malay Mail when met at his stall at the corner of the wet market facing the main road.

“Not to mention that some of us here supply to grocery shops and restaurants around the area and beyond.

“Since the MCO, I’ve personally seen a 50 per cent drop in requests for supplies. I guess not many people are visiting them as they’re supposed to shut down and not all of them do deliveries,” added Baghan, who has been selling vegetables for almost 40 years.

MBPJ officials took extra steps today by enforcing the social distancing rule vehemently. They played messages in Tamil, Chinese as well apart from Bahasa Malaysia outside the market, telling people to keep a distance and wear a mask at all times.

Members of the public are screened as they queue outside Pasar Besar Jalan Othman in Petaling Jaya March 26, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Inside the market, authorities were walking around with their loudspeakers ordering vendors to serve one customer at a time and warning customers not to stand to close to each other.

It was the same for egg seller Hor Sok Chan despite the MCO she has plenty of eggs to spare and that she also sees a low volume of people at the markets.

“I think people are scared to pop by the market for fear of infection while some may prefer to come in the afternoon when fewer people are around.

“Today, I like the fact they (MBPJ) are telling people to be careful and limiting the number of customers entering. However, upstairs traffic is very slow lately. People who know I’m up here will come or guys like you, first-timers walk around will find me here,” said the 45-year-old.

As for stock, Hor said that’s not an issue. There will be plenty of eggs to be replenished.

For R. Sinniah, who also sells vegetables, he said most customers who are afraid of contracting Covid-19 will tend to buy their produce at their local suburbs mini-mart or grocery stores.

A woman is seen selling fresh eggs at a wet market in Petaling Jaya March 25,2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

He said in small wet markets people are in close proximity and hence old people will prefer to go nearby sundry shops instead of spending the usual time of more than an hour in the market to properly pick and choose the best produce for themselves.

“Restaurant orders for fresh produce have also dipped, but the orders for the mini-marts and grocery stores have increased,” Sinniah told Malay Mail.

“My concern is what happens when these local producers have to send their foreign workers back home due to Covid-19? Then who’s going to tend to the farms?”

Sinniah said the main suppliers for produce are Selayang Wholesale market and Cameron Highlands vegetable growers.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak farms are still operating but Sinniah said when these foreign workers are forced to go home, and the farm is shut down we may see a shortage of items.

“There are many local producers, but the workers are foreigners. So if something happens it will affect production.

When asked why there were fewer people at the market today, Sinniah said it’s most likely due to mass hoarding two weeks ago when there was an inkling the government was going to announce a curfew of lockdown.

Meanwhile MBPJ authorities said they have to continue close monitoring of people coming in and out of the market as there are many elderly folks and they want to make sure customers are adhering to their social distancing rules.

“We can’t let them all in at the same time so what we are doing is controlling the number of people going in.

“If we let 20 people in and wait for 20 to come out, sometimes the 20 you let in may all go to the one particular stall and congregate there,” said an MBPJ official who wished to remain anonymous.

“So even after they enter our guys are inside walking around checking and advising patrons not to be too close or spend too much time inside.”

So while there’s still a lot of vegetables, eggs and meat for sale the one thing Malaysian’s don’t seem to be buying much of was fruits.

Madam Tan, who sells fruits like oranges, apples, dragon fruit, mangos and bananas. has a shop upstairs in the corner and she has hardly seen anyone buy fruits.

“They all want to get the main stuff right? The essential good fruits no one wants ah?” Madam Tan said with a smile when met by Malay Mail.

“I think maybe fruits aren’t on their radar since they are worried the main items will finish. But I don’t think that will happen. The vendors here seem to be well prepared.

“I’ve noticed most people are getting their fruits from the grocery or mini-marts near their place hence there are only a handful of customers coming here,” she added.

The government has extended the MCO till April 14 as Malaysia continues to record fatalities from Covid-19.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said there will be enough food for everyone despite the extension of the MCO and he urged Malaysian’s not to panic.

Customers purchase groceries at Pasar Besar Jalan Othman in Petaling Jaya March 26, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

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