Sun, 15 Jun 2003

Food vendors jack up prices at Jakarta Fair

Arya Abhiseka, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Beads of perspiration ran down Muchlis' chin as he and Mamat, his partner in selling bakso (meatballs soup), prepared to set up their food stall in the parking lot at the Jakarta Fairground for the month-long 2003 Jakarta Fair.

"This place is a good spot as it's very close to the entrance," Muchlis told Mamat as they busied themselves setting up tables, chairs, bottles of condiments and cutlery at the Jakarta Fairground in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta.

"We hope we can earn as much as we have earned in previous years," said Muchlis, adding that he has sold bakso at the Jakarta Fair since 1992. "It's been 11 years and it's a mutual relationship between us and them (the organizing committee)."

Food vendors are inseparable from a major event like the Jakarta Fair and they have contributed a great amount of money to the organizers.

But this year, aside from the high expectations of profit, both vendors and buyers are complaining about the price of food at the annual event, which kicked off on June 12.

"I had to pay Rp 18,000 (US$2.2) for a bowl of soto ayam (chicken soup)! It's normally only Rp 4,000," said Jorgi, a staff member of the organizing committee.

Fried rice vendors also jacked up their price from Rp 5,000 per plate to Rp 13,000 while pecel lele (fried catfish served with chilli sauce) vendors sold their food at Rp 21,000 from the usual price of Rp 6,000.

The food vendors put the blame on the high rental fee set by the Jakarta Fair organizing committee this year. Each of them has to pay Rp 450,000 for the event.

"But certain officials still demand an additional Rp 50,000 on top of that," said Siti, a kerak telor (traditional pie made from glutinous rice, eggs and coconut) vendor.

It is not surprising that some vendors have raised their prices.

"The rental fee of Rp 500,000 is definitely the highest we've ever had to pay. There's a slim chance we will make a profit. Therefore many vendors are making ends meet by raising their prices," Siti said.

More than 1,000 food vendors are expected to crowd the Fairground area. But they are restricted to selling food outside the Fairground unlike previous years.

They have to set their stalls in the parking lot and the roads surrounding the Fairground.

The Jakarta Fair, which is scheduled to end on July 13, opens daily from 3 p.m. until 10 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. on weekends.