Food stall business hit hard by COVID-19

Syazwani Hj Rosli

The recent outbreak of coronavirus in the Sultanate has severely affected a majority of stalls vendors in Ramadhan bazaar, Tamu Selera, and Pasar Pelbagai Barangan Gadong as the nation implemented restrictions as part of its effort in curbing the spread of the virus.

In an interview with the Bulletin, some Pasar Pelbagai Barangan Gadong vendors expressed disappointment of not being able to proceed with their business due to the restriction for stalls activities despite being assured that the market will remain operational during Ramadhan.

A vendor said, “We were informed a few days before Ramadhan began that stall activities during the fasting month are allowed and many of us had spent money on preparations. The last minute restrictions have caused losses. Some of us have spent thousands for groceries stock such as oil, fresh ingredients and onions.”

“We should have been notified in advance to avoid purchasing our groceries in bulks,” she said, adding that many vendors prefer to purchase a week worth of raw materials.

She said sales during Ramadhan can reach double than any other month. “In the situation where the nation is facing a pandemic that would affect various parties especially small entrepreneurs, we have to find other alternatives and diversify our business to keep afloat and minimise losses,” she added.

File photo shows customers at the Pasar Pelbagai Barangan Gadong. PHOTO: RAHWANI ZAHARI

She added that in trying to survive the hardship, many have opted to continue their business from home by offering pick-up and delivery services and have also been active on social media such as Instagram and WhatsApp to promote their products following the closure of Gadong market.

She also stated that business has been slow since the outbreak in the country and some opted to spend their savings to keep operating.

“I hope the crisis will be over soon so that everything will get back to normal and we can serve our customers like we used to,” she said.

Owner of The Grill Journal Raghadah Agus, a vendor with 20 years experience said that this is the first time that they miss selling during Ramadhan.

“Like everyone else, we too have to utilise social media as a platform to sell our products and make deliveries. But sales are slower as we must limit delivery orders to avoid more losses,” she said.

She added that social media won’t help vendors who are IT illiterate and they are forced to halt their business.

Another vendor said, “Previously, there were suggestions to help businesses for Pasar Malam vendors to conduct drive-thru but since the place is closed for business activities, the intention to do so was discontinued,” he said.

“However, despite these challenges we are still pleased to comply with the orders and will support the Ministry of Health’s initiative to control the spread of COVID-19 in any way possible. May Allah the Almighty end this difficult phase for us very soon,” he added.