Alexander Nanta Linggi

KUCHING: The government will lower the retail prices of three-ply face masks to RM1 per piece.

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi said the price for surgical or medical three-ply face masks will be reduced to RM1 per unit at the retail level and RM0.95 per unit for wholesale.

“Lowering of the maximum price of face masks is a soft-landing approach to ensure stocks which were brought in earlier at a higher cost, by using air transport, to be sold and thereby reduces the losses of importers as a result of this price reduction.

“The ministry is ready to further lower the ceiling price to a lower level in the near future,” he said in reply to Chong Chieng Jen (Stampin) who had asked on the rationale for the ministry to increase the ceiling price of three-ply masks from RM0.80 to RM1.50 per piece.

He said as the government has taken precautionary measure by requiring public to wear face mask starting Aug 1 in public transport and crowded places and following the directive, there has been an increase in demand for face masks in the market.

“Therefore, as a government that is always concerned about the consumers’ needs, I would like to inform that, for now the supply of face masks is sufficient and production is increasing and even the ceiling price of face masks sold by manufacturers is also reduced below the maximum controlled price by the government,” he said.

He said following these developments, the government has decided to reduce the price of face masks.

“On April 1, the ministry gazetted the maximum retail price of three-ply mask to RM1.50 per piece, and RM1.45 per piece for wholesale.

“At that time, the decision was made after taking into account the feedback from the manufacturers,” he explained.

He said among them included the lack of supply of face masks to meet the demand of the community during the pandemic, comparative analysis of price and profit margins by industry during the pandemic, high air transportation costs due to Covid-19 faced globally, and the cost of importing raw materials and face masks from abroad, especially from China, is increasing due to the currency exchange in US dollars and ringgit depreciation against the US dollars.

“The ministry appreciates the efforts of the local manufacturers who continue to support the government and helped to make sure the face masks are available for the local market,” he said.

Nanta said among the support provided was not exporting the face masks to make sure adequate domestic supply.

“The ministry has also worked together with the Finance Ministry to increase the supply of face masks in the local market by exemptions on import duty and sales tax to the manufacturers and face masks importers,” he said.

He then said the decision to reduce the maximum retail price of three-ply face mask was first tabled in Cabinet meeting on July 17, and the government has decided to reduce the face mask from RM1.45 per unit to RM1.15 for wholesale and RM1.50 to RM1.20 per unit for retail, which will come into force on Aug 15.

Chong in an additional question said the prices of face mask are still high as some of them were sold at RM0.40 each.

In reply to him, Nanta said the ministry had to be very careful when reducing the price of face mask, as some will also question if it is sold at RM0.40 each but what is the quality of such masks.

“The price of face mask is set after discussing with all quarters from the manufacturers to the consumers.

“We must ensure that the product of face mask is also safe for the people. It is not because of politics that we want to be popular by reducing the price. It may be good for politics, but then it will not be effective for the consumers’ safety,” he said.