Malaysia’s PM Anwar Ibrahim gets cracking on nationwide egg shortage as he addresses cost of living
- Consumers and retailers complained of an erratic supply of price-controlled eggs, which officials said was due to higher demand after Covid curbs eased
- Some social media users claimed scarcity was due to egg ‘cartels’ allegedly holding back supply to affect the chances of certain politicians in the recent election
“With the economy now fully reopened and people confident enough to travel and spend, there is an increase in food consumption beyond what was expected,” Department of Statistics Malaysia chief statistician Mohd Uzir Mahidin was quoted as saying by English newspaper The Star on Tuesday.
Anwar, who clinched the top job last Thursday after 24 years of trying, has since pledged to make bread-and-butter issues a key focus of his administration. But his earlier criticism of previous governments may leave him with egg on his face.
Social media was flooded with posts of pallets of eggs stacked up in supermarkets in the aftermath of Anwar’s appointment to office, sparking some claims of egg “cartels” allegedly holding back supply to artificially create scarcity to scuttle the chances for Ismail Sabri’s Barisan Nasional alliance in the recent polls.
The real reason, however, is far less insidious, according to trader Ameer Ali Mydin, who owns popular chain wholesale retailer Mydin.
Ameer, who said he raised concerns with the federal government about the shortage since June, said the main issue was that production costs had soared beyond the government ceiling price of between 41 cents and 45 cents an egg – a rate which is determined by the grade of the egg.
“The public cannot hope for a miracle to happen,” Ameer said.
The government has warned there is no immediate solution to the situation, especially with the Malaysian ringgit weakening against the US dollar affecting producers’ profits, who typically import hen feed.
Yani Hardinata Hairuddin, who runs a medium-scale poultry business outside Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, said the pandemic-induced downturn had forced many small players to close shop.
“All that’s left now are the big farms, the rest are empty,” Yani told This Week in Asia.
Credit rating agency Fitch expects that cost of living issues will continue to be an obstacle to Anwar’s administration amid weakening external demand and public pressure for the continued use of subsidies to mitigate the price hikes.