Penang agriculture and agro-based industries committee chairman Dr Norlela Ariffin said the move was vital to ensure perishable items were quickly distributed to the intended destinations amid tightened police checks during the MCO.
She said there were 280 companies operating in Penang and it could lead to traffic gridlock as the police need to check each motorist at the roadblocks during MCO.
“The transporters ferrying food supplies could slam into traffic snarls caused by police roadblocks.
“Although there is no major disruption in the operation now, ‘special lanes’ or ‘VIP lanes’ can be created so that the drivers would not be held up at the roadblocks.
“All the food and fresh produce need to be delivered within a particular time,” she said.
Norlela was responding to a statement by Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) which said that ‘green lanes’ needed to be created nationwide for such purpose, adding that the Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority (Fama) should also help farmers deliver their produce to the respective destinations.
It said Fama should organise and coordinate logistics matters to help farmers reach out to the consumers.
CAP also said there is still demand for vegetables, but the green producers in Cameron Highlands, touted as the largest in the country, were facing transportation issues in delivering the vegetables to the markets.
“Food shortage can cause prices to skyrocket in times of economic doldrums,” said the association.
CAP said farmers were holding onto their produce and consumers were expecting vegetable prices to increase as early as next week.
Norlela said Fama had been helping the farmers during the MCO.
“Fama has been buying from the farmers at market price before selling them off via drive-through, pre-order and online delivery during the MCO.
“They also buy more than 10 metric tonnes of vegetables and fruits directly from the farmers in Penang daily to be distributed through their network,” she said.
State welfare and caring society committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the hiccup lies in inter-state travel, as truck and lorry operators might not have the necessary travel papers, thus creating hassle at the check points.
On the increase of vegetable prices, Phee said those who increased prices during the MCO are ‘disaster capitalists’ who are out to make a profit during the pandemic.
He, however, said the number was small as many farmers and associations have come forward to help the poor.
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