Feeling rotten when food goes to waste

An Alam Flora employee in Kuala Lumpur clearing fresh vegetables that were thrown away. — Filepic

LIVERPOOL should have been crowned English Premier League champions today.

It would have been a double celebration for hardcore Kop fan and my son Jesa, who turns 23 on this day, for he has never witnessed this better of two Merseyside clubs win the English league despite having seen the Reds lift the Champions League trophy twice.

But with the Covid-19 pandemic grabbing all the media headlines, discussions at the dinner table no longer revolve around football and VAR (video assistant referee). Conversations now are tilted towards previously unheard of jargon such as MCO (movement control order), enhanced MCO and lockdown.

Covid-19 has taken over the world with such ferocity that hardly anyone has read or heard about the killing of 25 Sikhs by a lone gunman in Afghanistan on March 25. The victims had been praying for world peace in a Kabul gurdwara.

Life in more than 200 countries has ground to a near halt, with WhatsApp messages showing pictures of aircraft parked on the runway and eerily empty places of attraction that previously spilled over with people.

There is so much fear now.

It would have made no sense before this, but now people worry whenever they have to fill up their cars for fear of contracting the virus from handling the petrol pump, or when they have to use shopping trolleys at the supermarket, something they would have nonchalantly grabbed not so long ago.

All said and done, the country’s health authorities deserve a pat on the back for the prompt implementation of the MCO on March 18 to check the spread of Covid-19, although some feel the move should have come earlier as there were already red flags.

Their good work has even compelled some to forgive them for several oversights, such as allowing the tabligh gathering in Seri Petaling where thousands were infected with the virus, or the ensuing mayhem when tens of thousands of Malaysians hit the road to balik kampung due to the lack of measures in place following the Prime Minister’s announcement of the MCO.

The bold step to impose the restriction order deserves praise.

And while the debate continues as to whether everyone should don masks, the authorities have been enforcing the MCO with teams regularly patrolling every nook and corner to ensure only essential services are open, nabbing offenders who are promptly charged in court with most given the maximum fine of RM1,000.

With the Covid-19 curve of infections starting to show some signs of flattening since the middle of the week, there are now calls for the authorities to relook at what constitutes essential services.

Many suggest that businesses such as motorcycle repair shops, plumbing services and even pet food shops be allowed to open on certain days of the week.

It would be good if this could be done but with limits, as we are far from being out of the woods.

Apart from news reports on Covid-19 worldwide, what has been most difficult to read for many, including myself, over the past fortnight is the dumping of lorry-loads of vegetables and fruits by farmers in some parts of the country.

At a time when many daily wage earners are going to bed hungry, tonnes of fresh produce have been left to rot instead of being distributed to the needy.

Vegetables such as brinjal, chilli, lime, spinach, bitter gourd and cabbage as well as fruits have been either dumped or left to Alam Flora workers to clear.

For a country which imports the bulk of its food, such reports are both distressing and depressing.

To address this, the Government may want to consider allowing the weekly pasar tani, pasar minggu and night markets to reopen.

Apart from allowing the traders to earn some income, such a move will considerably shorten queues at wet markets and hypermarkets.

It will inspire confidence among the people that there is more than enough food to go around and hoarding is unnecessary.

Leaving fresh produce to rot is a cardinal sin in my book, and much-needed food cannot be made collateral damage in the enforcement of the MCO.

Weekly markets should be allowed to operate with restrictions that only vegetables, meat and fruits can be sold. Rela officers should be deployed there to ensure social distancing is practised and masks worn.

This is surely a sensible thing to do during this trying time.

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