No panic buying in Sabah

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Traders and supermarkets say they have enough cooking oil but consumers claim there is a shortage

A worker at Milimewa Supermarket arranging bottles of cooking oil.

KOTA KINABALU: There is no panic buying of cooking oil in Sabah but consumers have complained of a shortage of the controlled item in the market.

Hawkers who depend heavily on cooking oil for their business, claimed that they had faced difficulties getting the item from the shops.

“There appears to be a shortage since some supermarkets and shops have claimed they have run out of supply,” said Atan Ahmad, a ‘pisang goreng’ (fried banana) seller near Lintasan Desoka.

“This morning, I had to go to several shops before I could buy my daily supply. I went to a number of shops in Putatan but they all told me there was no more cooking oil,” said the 54-year-old enterpreneur.

After failing to obtain any cooking oil in Putatan, Atan decided to try his luck in the state capital but all the shops that he usually goes to, including those at the market, did not have any stock.

“They all told me they did not have any cooking left because the supply has not arrived. I wasn’t sure if the supply was delayed or because people are buying more cooking oil but I was worried I will not be able to get any, and without the oil I cannot do any business and will have to shut down my operation entirely.”

Atan runs quite a lucrative operation from a corner of a restaurant, requiring at least three boxes or about 50 litres of cooking oil for deep frying his banana fritters daily.

After hopping from one shop to another, he managed to get his supply from a friend at Gaya Street but the amount was just enough for a one-day operation. Atan was worried it was the last cooking oil he would have in days if the situation worsened.

Traders and supermarket owners in the city however maintained there was neither any shortage of cooking oil nor was there any increase in demand for the controlled item.

Milimewa Superstore regional manager Fong Nyuk Fong said that the supply and stock of cooking oil in their outlets were normal.

“We still have a healthy stock and I think it’s the same for other supermarkets. There has been no sign of panic buying in Kota Kinabalu or anywhere in the state. There is no reason for panic buying because we neither expect any shortage in supply of the item nor any increase in its price.”

“Our country is a palm oil producer and have a lot of supply for producing cooking oil. Our suppliers have not indicated to us of a shortage going to happen,” he said.

Fong pointed out that cooking oil is an important controlled food item and the government has imposed a quota system to restrict the volume of the item that sellers can obtain.

This, he explained, is to prevent them from having a significantly large stock that could be withheld from end users in order to create panic and manipulate the market trend.

“With this mechanism in place and the supply continues to be normal, there should be no shortage and I don’t see why customers need to panic. I don’t think the panic buying in the peninsular will happen here too. Some shops may not have any cooking oil but it is not due to any shortage. Their supply just has not arrived yet,” he assured.

A random survey at hypermarkets and shops in the city also showed there was plenty of palm oil-based cooking oil.

Panic buying of cooking oil has been reported in Peninsular Malaysia and this caused a chain reaction of another round of artificial shortage throughout the country.

Small and medium sized operators in the food industry had rushed to buy cooking oil in large quantities following the fear of a possible price increase, rumored to be caused by the proposed subsidy rationalisation scheme announced last year by the chief executive of Pemandu, Datuk Seri Idris Jala.

The cheaper palm oil had been snapped up in shops, leaving other consumers with the more expensive imported edible oils made from corn, canola and others.

The Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism Ministry however assured consumers that there would be no change in the price of cooking oil for now and there was enough cooking oil in the country.