PETALING JAYA: The El Nino phenomenon has drawn attention to Malaysia’s food security situation, as noted by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.
In his report, Oliver De Schutter pointed out that Malaysia’s food trade deficit had grown from RM1bil in 1990 to RM13bil in 2013.
He said Malaysia was not self-sufficient in the production of rice, fruits, vegetables, beef, mutton and milk.
De Schutter warned that the focus on export-led commodity production made Malaysia vulnerable to price shocks in the international markets as the country depended on imports for basic food staples.
Padi growing expert and rice consultant Ho Nai Kin said Malaysia should work towards self-sufficiency.
“Good land is being used for non-agricultural purposes,” he pointed out. “No amount of money spent can make a difference unless we use our natural resources constructively.”
Consumer groups blamed the Government for not being concerned about ensuring food security, especially the supply of rice.
Consumers Association of Penang president SM Mohamed Idris said Malaysia should not depend on imports.
“Rather than blame environmental problems, we should encourage padi farming,” he said.
Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) deputy president Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah said due attention had not been given to food security in Malaysia’s development plans.
“It could be cheaper to import, but what if the countries we buy from face shortages? They may sell less and we will be in trouble,” he said.
After the rice crisis of 2008, the Government increased its national stockpile from 92,000 metric tonnes to 292,000 metric tonnes.
In 2012, Malaysian produced 1.68mil tonnes of rice and imported 1.01mil tonnes, placing the country at the self-sufficiency level of 62.4%.