JOHOR BARU: School canteen operators here are hoping the government can provide some relief to help them cope with rising costs.

Fuziah Mohamad, 61, said despite the rent exemption, it was still difficult for her to earn decent profits as she had to pay wages to her seven workers and cover the high cost of raw ingredients.

“I am grateful for the rent exemption, but it is definitely not enough as we have so much more cost to bear these days.

“While restaurants outside are allowed to increase the price of their dishes to cope with the situation, we are not given a similar luxury.

“We have to maintain the price of the food we sell as per our contracts,” she said.

Fuziah said she cannot reduce the size of the meals she provides as it would invite complaints from parents and teachers.

“I tried to reduce the chicken portion for the meals I prepare by cutting the meat into smaller pieces, but it just looks too small and I do not think it is fair to the children.

“So, I decided to do away with that and just absorb the extra cost,” she said.

She said she hopes the government could consider revising the price of the Supplementary Food Programme (RMT) in schools, which still remains at RM2.50 despite soaring food costs.

“It is a huge burden as there are specific requirement for the meals, which we need to adhere to. This includes making sure that each meal comes with fruits, which are very expensive.

“There is definitely an urgent need for the government to revise the price to at least RM3,” she said.

Canteen operator Mohd Noor Halim, 50, also said he had been absorbing the extra cost due to the increase in the price of raw ingredients.

“I had reduced the portion of the dishes slightly before this, but this was met with complaints from parents and I decided to just maintain the original portions.

“It is hard, but we have no choice as we still have to serve until the end of our contract.

“The rent exemption is very helpful as I get to cover a significant portion of the extra cost I have to bear,” he said.

Another canteen operator who only wanted to be known as Rizal said an intervention from the government was necessary for them to survive.

“The hike in the price of goods and the increase of minimum wage to RM1,500 have also affected us as we now have to fork out more money to operate.

“With all of the challenges we face, it is getting increasingly difficult for us to keep our business alive, and I hope that the government can find a way to reduce our burden,” he said.