Wednesday 22 October 2014

Hawker food prices up by 10-20%: CASE 2014 poll

By Elgin Chong, TODAY, 21 Oct 2014

Hawker centre staples such as chicken rice and chicken nasi briyani are becoming less of a bargain, a survey of 503 hawker stalls by the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) showed.

Mode prices — prices most commonly charged by most hawkers — have gone up by 10 to 20 per cent from 2012, said CASE, which released the survey findings yesterday. For example, the mode price of chicken nasi briyani is now S$5, up from S$4.50 in 2012; while that of chicken rice is S$3, compared with S$2.50 previously.

Hawkers whom TODAY spoke to cited the increase in rental, ingredient and wage costs as the main reasons for the price hike. More hawkers selling the five most common local dishes — chicken nasi briyani, chicken rice, fishball noodles, plain prata and mixed-vegetable rice comprising white rice, two kinds of vegetables and one type of meat — are now also charging above the mode price.

For example, the percentage of hawkers selling fishball noodles above the mode price of S$3 has risen from 8.64 per cent in 2012 to 13.14 per cent.

At the same time, fewer hawkers are selling the noodles below the mode price, from 53.96 per cent in 2012 to 34.31 per cent now.

However, CASE, noted that prices are still affordable for the average consumer, with many hawker food stalls selling below the mode price — about half the surveyed chicken-rice and mixed-vegetable-rice stalls are doing so, for example.

Mdm Yang Mei Ying, 73, who owns Ming Kee Chicken Rice-Porridge at Kim San Leng Food Centre in Bishan, said a plate of chicken rice now costs S$3.50, a 50-cent increase from two years ago. “In the past, I could hire workers for S$5 an hour but, now, it’s S$8 an hour. Ingredients now cost more and the rental here has increased to about S$8,000 a month, so the price increase is inevitable,” added Mdm Yang, who has been selling chicken rice for 20 years.

Mr Syed Rahman, 31, who runs Thawfeek Cuisine at the same food centre, shared similar sentiments.

“It’s very hard to find workers these days. Singaporeans don’t like to work long hours and I have to pay workers around S$600 to S$800 extra per month. Rental and commodities are also more expensive. As long as costs increase, prices for my food will also increase,” he said.

Others such as Mr Lee Meng Kin, who sells fishball noodles at Ang Mo Kio Central Market and Food Centre, has been maintaining food prices despite the rising cost of ingredients.

“I always sell my fishball noodles at the market price, which is S$3 currently,” said the 70-year-old. “As long as I can make a profit, there’s no point in increasing prices as it will only scare my regular customers away.”

However, some customers are concerned over the rising costs of hawker food. Student Aloysius Wee, 20, who patronises Kim San Leng twice a month, said: “I have seen food prices increasing with portions decreasing. I usually have to get more than one serving, so it’s very hard to save money, given that prices are not going down.”

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