GEORGE TOWN: Middle-income families are keeping their fingers crossed that the prices of chicken will not go up too much from next month when the government subsidy to chicken breeders is withdrawn.

The government announced that the subsidy for breeders will be removed from July 1 and the aid to be channelled directly to those in need, especially the B40 group.

Though there are worries that the subsidy removal may lead to higher prices of chicken, the aid will come in handy for needy groups.

However, the ceiling price for chicken and eggs, which was supposed to end today, has been extended until the end of the month.

“With the subsidy for chicken breeders removed, I really hope that we won’t have to bear the brunt of the move,” said a secretary who only wanted to be known as Miriam.

“My family loves to eat chicken. But if it gets too expensive, then we will have to stop buying it,” said the 42-year-old.

The lower-income group, however, are thankful that efforts are being made to channel the subsidy to them.

Civil servant Azmir Nordin, 41, said the subsidy would help ease his burden as chicken products such as eggs were quite costly now.

“I hope the subsidy mechanism will be widened to other products which are seeing an increase in prices by the day,” he said.

Hotel employee M. Raju, 30, too feels the government should extend the move to other items such as flour and vegetables.

“This measure will surely help people cope with the high cost of living,” he said.

In February, the government set a ceiling price of RM8.90 per kg for standard chickens and RM9.90 per kg for whole super chickens.

The ceiling price for grade A eggs was set at 43 sen each, grade B eggs at 41 sen and grade C at 39 sen.

Tracy Tan, 55, said she would have to find other sources of meat if chicken prices rose steeply.

“We’ll have to either eat fish or pork,” said Tan, who cooks for a family of three.

Tan was also concerned that global uncertainties such as the Ukraine-Russia war could cause further price increases in chicken feed which would lead to costlier chickens.

“But if chicken breeders have been sustaining losses due to rising costs, the price increase is inevitable,” she added.

A 40-year-old mother of two, Stephanie Lim, expressed concerns over the potential price hike on free-range chickens due to the removal of the subsidy.

Lim said her family only ate free-range or kampung chickens which cost RM25 per kg at present.

“If it goes to up RM30, then a 3kg free-range chicken could cost RM90.

“Chicken would soon be considered luxury food!” she said.

Asked if she would consider switching from free-range to regular chicken, Lim said “no”.

“I will feed my family free-range chicken for as long as I can afford it.”

Meanwhile, chicken breeders are urging the government to introduce a floating price mechanism for chicken and allow the prices to be determined by market forces.

Bismi Empire Sdn Bhd (Ayam Bismi) managing director Mazlina Kamarudin, 54, said factors contributing to costly chickens were the higher price of chicken feed, chicken supplements, vitamins, and maintenance and equipment.

The implementation of the RM1,500 minimum wage was also a reason.

She also said the announcement on the subsidy removal for chicken breeders beginning July 1 was something they had accepted.

“But when the government stops the subsidy and ends the price control for chickens and eggs from July, we hope it will introduce a floating mechanism and let chicken prices be determined by the market.

“The subsidy scheme currently received by chicken breeders cannot cover the losses due to the increased price of chicken feed,” she said.

Chicken breeder Muhammad Sufi Jamil, 32, urged the government to set up a body or government-linked company to run a national chicken feed corporation so that the country no longer needed to import chicken feed.

“The existing agencies under the Agriculture and Food Industries Ministry must be strengthened to help with the effort,” he said.