PETALING JAYA - Operators of restaurants and food outlets should reduce their prices, now that fuel costs have dropped considerably, says Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Hasan Malek.
He said the retail price of RON95, for example, had gone down by almost 56 sen (S$0.20) from the end of last year, to RM1.70 per litre.
Since yesterday, the price of diesel had also dropped to RM1.70 while RON97 is now being sold at RM2.00.
Hasan said it was about time that food outlet operators, traders involved in the food supply business and other players in the industry provide the best deals for the people.
"This is the time do so as the prices of oil and petrol are quite low.
"If they can increase the prices of food items when there are hikes, why can't they reduce them now?"
Hasan said those in the industry were aware that action and enforcement could be taken against them through the various Acts such as the Control of Supplies Act, Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act and the Competition Act.
He said the ministry had continue to engage with the various stakeholders in the industry including manufacturers, suppliers and wholesalers to ensure that prices remained reasonable and in compliance with the law, in the case of price-controlled items.
He said the ministry could only act as a monitoring body to ensure that prices of essential items were controlled and protected from manipulation, speculation or hoarding.
"We are always engaging with them to get a win-win situation for both sides," he added.
Hasan said the Government, on its part, had deferred a hike in electricity tariffs scheduled for this year to help consumers cope with the rising cost of living.
"Businesses must also play their part for the country. In the spirit of togetherness, they must take the initiative to cut down prices," he said.
Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Datuk Seri Saw Choo Boon said its members were committed to reducing prices of goods.
However, they said any reduction would be slow because production costs covered the entire year.
"As prices tend to be sticky, suppliers and vendors are also slow in adjusting to the lower fuel costs.
"Consumers should also bear in mind that there are other factors affecting prices of goods such as currency exchange, cost of raw materials and the cost of labour," said Saw.
He said fuel prices did not constitute a significant percentage of production cost as fuel was mainly used in the transportation of goods.
"The bulk of the production cost comes from electricity and gas," he said, adding that FMM hoped that there would be a reduction in tariffs for electricity and gas this year.
Saw, who lauded the Government's move to adjust fuel prices in accordance with market fluctuations, said the lower cost of fuel was always welcomed as it would relieve the burden of the people and businesses.
He said businesses, which used fuel price hikes as an excuse to raise prices, should reduce prices now.