NOT A GOOD TIME, WITH RA­MADAN NEAR­ING

Man­u­fac­turer should look at other ar­eas that can drive prof­itabil­ity, like re­duc­ing costs, in­creas­ing turnover and ef­fi­ciency

New Straits Times - - Opinion -

SUGAR may be a non-nu­tri­tive empty calo­rie and it robs the body of vi­ta­mins and min­er­als but it is one sea­son­ing like salt and tamarind that is used gen­er­ously in Malaysian cook­ing.

Peo­ple in the east coast states, for ex­am­ple, add sugar to ev­ery­thing they cook. The curry for the (pan­cake) is sweet, so is the that comes with the for break­fast. with all the trap­pings, is also sweet­ened to taste.

At the Media Prima-Na­tional Heart In­sti­tute (IJN) cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity event in Tereng­ganu in which I par­tic­i­pated in some time ago, I was asked if we had added sugar to the sar­dine we were cook­ing for the vol­un­teers.

So, it was not too much of a sur­prise to us when the kam­pung folk in Se­berang Takir and Kam­pong Bang­gol Bin­jai told us

(Thank God, we are healthy… only di­a­betic)”, af­ter they went through the free health checks of­fered by IJN. Our guess was that they were happy they were cleared of any heart com­pli­ca­tions; the di­a­betes they can han­dle.

Sci­en­tists say eat­ing too much sugar may not ex­actly cause di­a­betes but eat­ing too much of any food, in­clud­ing sugar, can cause us to gain weight and that the re­sult­ing obe­sity pre­dis­poses us to di­a­betes.

The Stan­ford Univer­sity School of Medicine says, how­ever, that a large epi­demi­o­log­i­cal study has sug­gested that sugar may also have a di­rect link to di­a­betes. Re­searchers, ex­am­in­ing data on sugar avail­abil­ity and di­a­betes rates in 175 coun­tries over the past decade found that in­creased sugar in a pop­u­la­tion’s food sup­ply was linked to higher di­a­betes rates, independent of obe­sity rates.

It has been re­ported that there are an es­ti­mated 3.5 mil­lion di­a­bet­ics in Malaysia, said to be the high­est among Asean coun­tries. The Na­tional Health and Mor­bid­ity Sur­vey (NHMS) found that nearly half the Malaysian pop­u­la­tion are ei­ther over­weight or obese.

On Mon­day, the coun­try’s largest sugar man­u­fac­turer, MSM Malaysia Hold­ings Bhd, asked for an­other 29 sen hike in the sugar price. It had asked for a 40 sen in­crease but was given the nod to in­crease the price of sugar by 11 sen in­stead, ef­fec­tive March 1. Sugar is now priced at RM2.95 per kg. A 29 sen price in­crease would see the price shoot up to RM3.24 per kg.

Now, I would sup­port a price hike for health rea­sons but not for the pur­pose of en­sur­ing the com­pany’s prof­itabil­ity as per the rea­son given by MSM. While price is clearly a key profit driver, the com­pany should look at other ar­eas that can help drive prof­itabil­ity, such as re­duc­ing costs, in­creas­ing turnover, in­creas­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity and in­creas­ing ef­fi­ciency. The com­pany can also ex­pand into new

THURS­DAY, MAY 18, 2017 mar­ket sec­tors or de­velop new prod­ucts or ser­vices.

A price hike could also back­fire and be deemed detri­men­tal to the health of the com­pany. A boy­cott of the prod­uct by con­sumers for a length of time could also af­fect the com­pany’s rev­enue and thus, prof­itabil­ity.

In fact, a mere whis­per of a hike can re­sult in an in­crease in the price of other food and dishes us­ing sugar. With the fast­ing month around the corner, traders at Ra­madan bazaars could in­crease the prices of and dishes.

There was one par­tic­u­lar year when the coun­try was fac­ing a sugar short­age — we had walked the en­tire length of the road where the Ra­madan bazaar was and we couldn’t find any stalls sell­ing My the­ory then was that the traders had turned from mak­ing to

It is a known fact that tra­di­tional Malay use a gen­er­ous help­ing of sugar. Even if they can find enough sugar to make the there is a like­li­hood that they will have to in­crease the price.

Sim­i­larly, if the gov­ern­ment grants MSM’s re­quest, this sce­nario will re­peat it­self. Back then, you could buy three pieces of for RM1. Af­ter a while, it be­came three for RM2. And the size of the has be­come smaller. Some years ago, you could buy a

or two, a main dish, a dessert and a drink with a RM10 bud­get a day, but I won­der what you can buy for the same amount when Ra­madan be­gins next week.

We keep com­plain­ing about ris­ing prices of food, but we have no choice but to still buy it for our break fast as some of us have not the time to leave the of­fice and be home on time to cook a meal.

Granted, we all need to cut down our sugar con­sump­tion, but a price hike would not be ef­fec­tive. Then again, there is no guar­an­tee that con­sumers will cut down, if not elim­i­nate, their con­sump­tion of the sweet crys­talline car­bo­hy­drate, which is typ­i­cally ex­tracted from sugar cane.

We need to con­tin­u­ously pro­mote a healthy life­style and in­grain in peo­ple’s mind the need to take care of them­selves. It is un­for­tu­nate that health cam­paigns are run only for a pe­riod of time and some die a nat­u­ral death soon af­ter they are launched.

More of­ten than not, it is when a fam­ily mem­ber or a close friend is in­flicted with a health prob­lem that we are jolted into tak­ing ac­tion to change our life­style.

In my own house­hold, we have cut down on sugar con­sump­tion for sev­eral years now be­cause my mother was di­ag­nosed with di­a­betes. Even though now she has suc­cess­fully man­aged to con­trol her blood sugar level, we con­tinue to have less sugar in ev­ery­thing we eat or drink.

The writer is a United Na­tion’s Jour­nal­ism fel­low and Wolf­son Col­lege Cam­bridge press fel­low. She has 30 years of ex­pe­ri­ence as a jour­nal­ist, half of which with the Busi­ness Times

Peo­ple flock­ing to a ‘kuih muih’ stall at a Ra­madan bazaar in Kota Baru. Some years ago, you could buy a ‘kuih’ or two, a main dish, dessert and a drink on a RM10 bud­get. Not so these days.

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