Malaysians do their bit to ensure food stays accessible and wastage is curbed

The movement control order (MCO) may have led to an unintended side effect of food wastage or supply-chain disruption, but some Malaysians are doing what they can to ensure food continues to be accessible and to limit wastage.

One of them is entrepreneur and Durian King owner Erik Ong, who is assisting farmers by connecting them directly to consumers via the newly launched E-Petani Malaysia website, which he co-founded with his business partner May Teh.

“The Kuala Lumpur-Selangor Fruit Farmers Association asked if I can help the other farmers sell their produce because the wholesale markets and their other networks and supply chains were affected by the MCO,” says Mr Ong.

He says there was confusion in the first few days of the MCO over what was to be shut down.

The government has since clarified that food supply sectors and their chain of essential services can operate as usual.

“Now things are slightly better and the trucks can come through, but there are still a lot of people who are not willing to come out to buy food supplies or open their shops,” Mr Ong says.

With restaurants closed, there is an excess of some supplies like tomatoes, limes and coconuts.

Mr Ong’s durian business grew online and he is utilising his expertise in digital marketing to help farmers deliver their produce.

“The response has been very, very good. People are afraid to come out so we now deliver it to them directly from the farmers,” he says.

His produce service charges a flat delivery fee of RM15 (S$5) or RM25, depending on where customers are in the Klang Valley area.

Every day, he hears from farmers about the produce they have for sale and posts it online.

“People will then order through Facebook or the website epetanimalaysia.com,” says Mr Ong, who is working with fruit and vegetable farmers from Cameron Highlands, Selangor and Perak.

Towards the end of March, an entire lorry full of vegetables arrived at Kuala Lumpur community urban farm Kebun-Kebun Bangsar (KKB).

“We guess they couldn’t sell or distribute the vegetables,” says KKB volunteer Ng Seksan.

KKB invited people in the area to come and take the vegetables for free. “We also helped distribute them to nearby shelters and children’s homes,” Mr Ng adds.

Some vegetables grown at KKB and eggs from chickens at the farm are also occasionally given out to the needy, soup kitchens and refugee communities.

What A Waste co-founder Alvin Chen predicts the amount of food wasted over the MCO will be in the thousands of tonnes.

• This story was contributed by The Star (Malaysia) for World News Day 2020.

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