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KUALA LUMPUR, April 18 -- The past one year has been a struggle for traders at Rest and Service Areas (R&R) along highways across the country, and many are now faced with the tough choice of whether to continue operating or call it quits.
Recent checks by Bernama at the Ayer Keroh R&R in Melaka showed a bleak picture, with the place devoid of travellers and some stalls shuttered, perhaps for good.
But those who remain are holding on to hope that customers will return and business will pick up again.
Stall worker Norafzan Suliman, 46, said daily sales at the stall she tends to could reach RM1,000 a day previously, but the daily collection had dropped to between RM100 and RM200 since the start of the interstate travel ban.
The single mother of four said her employer had cut her daily wage from RM50 to RM30 because business was bad. She said the number of workers at the stall had also been reduced to two from three previously.
Stall operator Roslina Abd Rahman, 49, who sells mixed rice, said her business was badly affected and she could no longer afford to hire any worker.
"It’s already so hard to earn RM30 daily, what more to get enough for rolling capital. I can’t afford to close the stall because the monthly rental continues as usual,” she said, adding that traders have appealed to the landlord to reduce rental.
Business at R&R has been hit after the implementation of the Movement Control Order in March last year, which, except for a short period last year, banned interstate travel because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The situation is no better at Bukit Gantang R&R, located some 380 kilometres north, according to nasi lemak seller Nur Liyana Atikah Mohamad Zainuddin, 28.
“I used to sell around 100 packs of nasi lemak daily but I’ve been forced to reduce it to around 30 packs, which sometimes can’t be sold off entirely,” she said.
One place that is doing slightly better is Batu 2½ R&R, Simpang in Taiping, which has had more visitors, largely due to the Ramadan bazaar there.
Things are better, however, in Pahang, where R&R traders have received rent exemptions from East Coast Expressway Phase 1 (LPT1) concession holder ANIH Berhad.
R&R Gambang Barat Traders’ Association chairman Azwariah Abdul Wahab, 46, said ANIH provided rent waivers several times last year and for the first three months of this year.
He said this gave them some breathing space during these challenging times.
But such assistance could not help chicken rice seller Nazri Mohammad, 36, to retain two of his workers, who quit due to uncertain daily wages.
Some traders such as Gambang Timur R&R fruit seller Adnan Mamat, 43, are exploring other avenues to survive.
Adnan took the opportunity to set up shop at a Ramadan bazaar recently to earn some extra income so that he does not need to depend solely on sales at his stall at the R&R.