KL farmers forced to dump goods as they can't get them to customers

A vendor wearing a protective mask waits for customers at a market  in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 27, 2020.
A vendor wearing a protective mask waits for customers at a market in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 27, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

At a time when shoppers in Malaysia are complaining of bare shelves amid the coronavirus pandemic, fishermen and vegetable farmers have had to dump their produce because they have not been able get it to their customers, which include restaurants and supermarkets.

Last week, Kuala Lumpur's main wholesale market in Selayang, Selangor, was ordered to cut the number of people working there, as well as its operation hours.

The market has 440 stalls and employs more than 2,000 workers. Previously open all day, seven days a week, it now operates from 10am to 7pm and from midnight to 7am.

Since March 19, the police have set up road blocks near the market, as part of Malaysia's movement control order.

Farmers have been dumping their stock, blaming roadblocks, shorter operating hours and a lack of manpower to offload the trucks.

About half the vegetable stalls at the market have also closed, said the Kuala Lumpur Vegetable Wholesalers' Association.

Several companies have started working directly with the farmers.

Since Monday, shopping website Lazada has had a new online sales and delivery service to help Cameron Highlands farmers sell their vegetables to customers.

The Lazada platform is also being used by some fishermen to sell their stock, as many restaurants are closed.

Ms Audrey Goo, founder of online seafood delivery service MyFishman, told The Straits Times: "We take whatever we can accept from the fishermen and partner with Lazada to push it out to (customers)... Our orders have spiked by four or five times the usual amount."

Meanwhile, business is thriving in the grocery industry, including for those that offer home delivery services. Supermarket chain Tesco urgently requires more manpower to quickly restock empty shelves and handle online orders, and is hiring over 100 workers nationwide.

Previously open all day, the KL wholesale market now operates from 10am to 7pm and from midnight to 7am.

Grab Malaysia said it has shifted tens of thousands of its drivers to become riders as restaurants can offer only takeaway orders.

On March 23, it launched a new service called Pasar, which delivers produce from local markets to households.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2020, with the headline 'KL farmers forced to dump goods as they can't get them to customers'. Print Edition | Subscribe