What is driving the facemask price — economy or politics?

Kabilan K: Look around and you will see retailers selling facemasks at RM19 for a box of 50. At certain places, the second box is sold for RM18. Whatsapp sellers give it anywhere between RM20 and RM27 per box.

This means right now a piece of facemask can be bought from between 36 to 54 sen.

The price has become so affordable because we have an overload of supply in the market.

Going by the Malaysian government’s new ceiling price, a box of 50 facemasks will be RM50. This means RM1 per mask. This is much higher than what is already available in the market.

According to a retailer friend, the wholesale price of the facemask has gone down to RM7 per box — that is 14 sen per piece — after this news. Last week the wholesale price was RM13.50.

So who is the government trying to protect with the ceiling price?

A recap: during the start of the movement control order (MCO) due to Covid-19 pandemic, a pack of 50 facemasks shot up to RM75. In some places, it was sold at RM99 per box. The reason was given then was that there were a shortage and lack of raw materials.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, a box of facemasks was going at RM5!

Look again at the companies that are making a killing in the share market during the pandemic era.

If the government’s idea with the ceiling price is to help the poor, it might as well give out facemasks for free in schools and for the B40 group on a weekly basis. It can afford this subsidy.

But by having a ceiling price of RM1, it may just be pushing up the already affordable price.

So who is the ceiling price for? The consumers, retailers or makers? Or, as my retailer friend says, is the government simply clueless on this?

Kabilan K is a writer with more than 27 years of experience.

This is the writer’s personal opinion and does not reflect the portal’s views.

Photo: Kabilan K

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