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In Putrajaya, Ramadan bazaar traders carry on offering Menu Rahmah despite rise in imported ingredient costs

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

PUTRAJAYA, March 15 — In a Ramadan bazaar in the Presint 14 neighbourhood here which borders Kajang, a queue could be seen forming in front of a humble murtabak stall.

Its draw? The stall was selling its chicken murtabak for merely RM5 compared to the average price of RM6 or 7 — as part of Putrajaya’s Menu Rahmah initiative aimed at being kinder to consumers’ wallets.

“The cost of ingredients is high. Of course. But I think that if I sell it at a cheaper price, the profit is less, but lots of people will buy from me, what’s wrong with that?

“It’s also a form of charity in the fasting month of Ramadan. It’s my way of sharing my ‘rezeki’,” said its owner, Kamarul Hisham, 40, using the Malay word meaning “livelihood”.

Kamarul said he has not cut any corners when making the dish of fried flour pancake filled with eggs and spiced minced meat, despite the increase in the price of some raw goods.

“Selling Murtabak becomes fun when you see people are lining up in front of your stall. I feel happy!” he related.

Kamarul Hisham said he has not cut any corners when making the dish of fried flour pancake filled with eggs and spiced minced meat, despite the increase in the price of some raw goods. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Kamarul Hisham said he has not cut any corners when making the dish of fried flour pancake filled with eggs and spiced minced meat, despite the increase in the price of some raw goods. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Kamarul Hisham said he has not cut any corners when making the dish of fried flour pancake filled with eggs and spiced minced meat, despite the increase in the price of some raw goods. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Introduced by the Anwar administration under the late minister Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub, Menu Rahmah is an initiative offering lunch or dinner sets at a recommended price of RM5.

Each meal should consist of rice, a choice of protein (such as chicken or fish), a serving of vegetables and a bottle of mineral water. Despite initial criticism, the programme was later met with encouraging responses from consumers, even those from the middle-income category.

Meanwhile, Faiz Zainuddin, 32, said he has been selling bakso at the site — which usually hosts the weekly night market — for almost a year.

However, he said his dish of Indonesian noodles in soup with meatballs did not attract much sales, leading him to lower the price by RM1 and sell it as a Menu Rahmah item.

A stall selling bakso. However, Faiz Zainuddin said his dish of Indonesian noodles in soup with meatballs did not attract much sales, leading him to lower the price by RM1 and sell it as a Menu Rahmah item. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
A stall selling bakso. However, Faiz Zainuddin said his dish of Indonesian noodles in soup with meatballs did not attract much sales, leading him to lower the price by RM1 and sell it as a Menu Rahmah item. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

A stall selling bakso. However, Faiz Zainuddin said his dish of Indonesian noodles in soup with meatballs did not attract much sales, leading him to lower the price by RM1 and sell it as a Menu Rahmah item. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

“But my bakso didn’t get that much attention from the customers. We added several menus to sell at this bazaar and to my surprise, they are all a hit!

“Compared to my bakso, the nasi ayam penyet and nasi ikan keli sell much more. So far, we sold less than 10 bakso per day,” he said, referring to rice sold together with fried chicken or catfish and spicy sambal.

Despite the low demand, Faiz said he would not stop offering the Menu Rahmah.

“I’m taking it as those who buy it, will come here after Ramadan as a returning customer,” he said.

The same marketing strategy was followed Nor Azian Aziz, 37, who sells laksa utara — rice noodles in soupy fish broth from the country’s northern region.

Nor Azian Aziz ladles out her laksa Utara at the Bazar Ramadan Rahmah at Bazar Ramadan Presint 14 in Putrajaya, March 14, 2024. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Nor Azian Aziz ladles out her laksa Utara at the Bazar Ramadan Rahmah at Bazar Ramadan Presint 14 in Putrajaya, March 14, 2024. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Nor Azian Aziz ladles out her laksa Utara at the Bazar Ramadan Rahmah at Bazar Ramadan Presint 14 in Putrajaya, March 14, 2024. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

According to Nor Azian, her Menu Rahmah offer is a way for customers to try her traditional dish.

“I normally sell two sizes. Small one is priced at RM7 and the big one is RM10. For those who are not sure whether my cooking is good or not, they can buy the Menu Rahmah, a smaller portion for them to test.

“It’s going well for me. Customers have returned, buying the bigger portions for their breaking of the fast. It’s a small profit margin for me now, but in the long run, they know what my laksa Utara tastes like,” she said.

Two stalls away from Nor Azian’s, a man was shouting “Watermelon juice! If you’re late, it’ll be finished” in front of his stall, trying to catch the attention of the crowd.

The man, Muhamad Zahin Zafran, 27, sells only three types of drinks — watermelon, yam and grape juices — but all for the same price of RM5 a bag.

Affordable buka puasa meals can be found at the Bazar Ramadan Rahmah at Bazar Ramadan Presint 14 in Putrajaya. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Affordable buka puasa meals can be found at the Bazar Ramadan Rahmah at Bazar Ramadan Presint 14 in Putrajaya. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Affordable buka puasa meals can be found at the Bazar Ramadan Rahmah at Bazar Ramadan Presint 14 in Putrajaya. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Muhamad Zahin said he believes that by selling the drinks cheaply, he can help those with low budgets to break their fast.

“My aim is to help those M40s and B40s. They don’t have that much money to buy what they want, so by selling it cheap here, maybe they can buy something at a different stall with the money that they saved.

“Watermelons are not cheap nowadays, a kg can be up to RM4. I only earn a profit of about RM2 for each plastic bag, but that’s not the main focus, I aim to help those in need. Those who really want to drink watermelon juice to break their fast but with a low budget. I’m helping them,” he said.

Speaking to the Malay Mail after launching the Menu Rahmah initiative for Ramadan bazaars, Deputy Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Minister Fuziah Salleh said sellers that carry out the initiatives gain a smaller margin than others but for a good cause.

“If we were to look at our data, imported red onions and meats saw an increase in their prices. But just a bit. Not too much. But that’s beyond our control.

“However, ingredients such as small onions from India decreased. But sellers normally used the first as an excuse to hike the price on their menu,” she explained.

Hawkers enjoy brisk sales at the Bazar Ramadan Rahmah at Bazar Ramadan Presint 14 in Putrajaya. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Hawkers enjoy brisk sales at the Bazar Ramadan Rahmah at Bazar Ramadan Presint 14 in Putrajaya. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Hawkers enjoy brisk sales at the Bazar Ramadan Rahmah at Bazar Ramadan Presint 14 in Putrajaya. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

According to the ministry’s data for the past two weeks, the current national average price of Indian red onions is RM7.40 per kg, and RM8.25/kg in Peninsular Malaysia. The national average price is almost double the baseline price of Indian red onion for the year 2022, which was RM3.90/kg.

The situation has led to some traders increasing their prices for Ramadan bazaars this year, leading to backlash and mockery from some in the public as costs of raw ingredients have largely unchanged otherwise.

“So in this condition and situation, some sellers are offering Menu Rahmah to consumers. Some sellers have said they earned a lesser profit margin but it is still manageable. Rahmah is Barakah,” Fuziah told Malay Mail.

Earlier this month, Fuziah told Malay Mail in an interview that the government will be mandating Ramadan bazaars to offer Menu Rahmah during the fasting month to provide financial relief to individuals and families alike.

She said her ministry will be pursuing “aggressive” moves to promote the said initiative, first implemented by former domestic trade and cost of living minister Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub, who died in July last year.