Netizens do not believe NEA statistics about hawker food costs

The National Environment Agency (NEA) revealed the statistics of hawker operating costs on 12 January, denying the notion that rental is the main cause to the increase of hawker food prices.

Speaking on this, the founder of Makansutra, KF Seetoh voiced his opinion in Facebook and condemned the government.

It was reported that NEA replied to the forum letter that was published by TODAY on 3 January, titled “Keep hawker food affordable”, concerning high-priced hawker food.

Mr Seetoh first pointed out that the statistic numbers on the operating costs that NEA released do not capture the actual costs faced by hawkers.

He said, “So all these percentage figures by the statistics team don’t mean much, it’s the actual numbers and dollars on the ground that matters.”

He further explained that most of the hawkers only live with less than 17% of their salary after all the operations costs – such as rentals, suppliers, utility, cleaning, and “marketing” – plus profit percentage or GTO commissions have been deducted from what they have earned.

Mr Seetoh then condemned NEA for denying about the rental increase after the renovations.

He said that the income of hawkers has been affected due to the closure of hawker centres for renovations, while the ‘rental remissions’ given by the government are not helpful.

“So, when you renovate, and expect food prices to remain low, you should rethink what the bigger objective or having hawker centres is,” he added.

TOC‘s Facebook post featuring the article on this story sparked various reactions from netizens. Some of them even shared their own experience and plight as a hawker.

Sandrian Tan, as a food stall owner, expressed that rental is their major consideration. She wrote, “Raw food price can be paid by your daily turnaround but at the end of the day u need to have enough to pay rental, utilities and manpower…A lot of coffee shops and hawkers are truly base on not location per say but must have enough paying traffic…”

Many others noted their discontent over NEA’s statistics of hawker food costs, which denied rental as the main cause to the increase in food price. Michelle Bali commented, “Singapore F&B market is highly ‘corrupted’ by the rental fee, probably the highest in the world.”

Pradeepto Kumar Biswas expressed his agreement with KF Seetoh, saying, “The founder of Makansutra is correct. The statistics are incorrect and presented in a way to show costs are low when they are not.”

A few others also revealed the real-life situation of hawkers centre, hinting that the high rental – due to renovation of hawker centre – is a major contributing factor when it comes to cost.

Meanwhile, some netizens were aware of a number of stalls in hawker centres that have been closed down due to such circumstances. Danny Boey wrote, “Wanton Mee shi-fu closed his stall (Sunflower Wanton Noodle) in Marsiling Mall recently, citing “not worth it”.

Besides that, a handful comments even suggested NEA to walk the ground and have a taste in running hawker stalls first-hand in order to understand the real situation.

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