KUALA LUMPUR: The food security level in Malaysia ranks second among South-East Asian nations, says Deputy Agriculture and Argo-based Industry Minister Sim Tze Tzin.
"Based on studies done by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Malaysia ranks 41 out of 113 countries on the Global Food Security Index.
"We are second behind Singapore in terms of food security and ahead of Thailand and Vietnam which are more advanced in agriculture," he said when replying a question raised by Hasanuddin Mohd Yunus (PH-Hulu Langat) in Parliament on Thursday (July 26).
Sim noted that the nation's has a good food self-sufficiency level (SSL) despite reliance on food import.
For example, he said that the level of SSL for eggs was 119%, poultry (103%), fish (94.7%), fruits (79%), vegetables (48.3%) and 23.4% for beef and buffalo meat.
"Although we have to import rice, our SSL for rice is at 71.4%," he added.
To a supplementary question by Khairy Jamaluddin (BN-Rembau), Sim acknowledged that annual dependency on food imports was still very high.
"Our balance of trade on food imports totals RM19.49bil," he added.
Khairy asked if it was more viable to import certain food stuff compared with the high investment needed to develop a proposed padi growing zone in Kota Belud, Sabah.
Sim said the Government has to strike a balance as there may be instances where the investment cost to develop a food production zone would be higher that importing a particular item.
Sim urged the state governments to set aside land for agriculture and food production purposes.