Wholesalers operating out of the Selayang market are scrambling to arrange for alternative ways to distribute their pre-ordered fresh produce to avoid wastage.
The market is shut until tomorrow for sanitisation, as the surrounding areas have been placed under the enhanced movement control order until May 3.
Vegetable traders told The Malaysian Insight they pre-ordered produce from Cameron Highlands farmers and imports from Thailand last week before receiving the shutdown notice on Monday.
Initially, they were told the market would be closed for disinfection on Monday but were later informed it would be until Friday.
They warned that the impact from this shutdown would be huge, with losses estimated at between RM10 million and RM15 million.
Yesterday, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaacob said the market will be closed until tomorrow for sanitation works, while a day before he said it would remain open under EMCO.
The senior minister, however, insists that the market is not under EMCO.
The Selayang market is a logistics and distribution hub for fresh vegetables in Kuala Lumpur and parts of Selangor.
Kuala Lumpur Vegetable Wholesalers’ Association president Wong Keng Fatt said there was not enough time to reduce orders from local farms and Thai exporters.
“The vegetables from Thailand have to be booked days in advance and we can no longer reduce our orders in a short time,” Wong said, referring to scheduled deliveries.
Some members are arranging for vegetables from Cameron Highlands farms to be delivered directly to smaller markets, mini-markets and sundry shops in the Klang Valley.
Others are working to have the extra produce stored in cold rooms, Wong said.
Traders who have settled their orders are suspending operations until Friday, when the market re-opens.
“Many of the traders have already started to suspend operations till Thursday. Even if we return to business on Friday, we will only be able to operate at half capacity because of our limited number of workers.”
Only Malaysians are allowed back into the market on Friday as foreigners living in Selayang have been ordered to quarantine themselves till May 3.
“When the MCO started (in March), we were already reduced to three workers per stall. Now if we only have Malaysians, there will not be enough people to pack and load vegetables, so we will be operating at half capacity.”
Traders have already warned that the four-day closure of the market will result in a lack of supply for fresh produce in the Klang Valley this week.
Other wholesale and wet markets in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor receive 80% of their supply from the Selayang market.
The disruption in supply will likely also raise the prices of fresh vegetables and local fish.
Besides retailers in the Klang Valley, Wong said Selayang market also provide produce as far as Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor.
The EMCO was imposed on Monday in eight areas surrounding the wholesale market after 28 positive cases were detected among residents and workers.
The full lockdown is to enable screening for about 15,000 residents for the coronavirus, which has so far infected 5,482 and killed 92 nationwide.
Malaysian Vegetable Wholesalers’ Association Chong Tek Keong earlier said the association is already on edge after seven traders and a number of foreign workers in the market caught Covid-19.
“Many of our association members are afraid to start business again as they fear for their safety. But they go back to work because we are part of the nation’s food supply chain and farmers depend on us to ensure their harvests are sold.”
Hypermarket chains, such as Tesco, Giant and NSK, are likely be able to maintain their supplies as they buy directly from contract farmers. – tmi