BUTTERWORTH: The move to abolish Approved Permits (APs) for food imports will need to be studied further to ensure it not only benefits the country but also does not jeopardise the local food production industry in the face of a looming global food shortage, says Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
The National Recovery Council chairman and former premier said this policy change should not be done at the expense of local entrepreneurs.
“There is a need to have balance. Don’t let them get the perception that the government is not helping them,” he said after attending Penang Gerakan’s Hari Raya Aidilfitri open house at Autocity here yesterday.
He said that while the abolition of APs for food imports (excluding rice) is in line with the World Trade Organisation’s stand of not allowing restrictions on food trade, it must not bring any negative effects to the local agriculture and food industries, as there may be an ensuing overflow of imported agriculture and food products into the country.
“If this happens, local entrepreneurs will not be able to sell their products, as there could be too much stock in the country,” he said, urging the Federal Government to discuss the matter with all stakeholders.
Currently, 60% of Malaysia’s food is imported, with 2020 imports hitting the RM55.4bil mark.
As at May 6, the price of fertiliser from the United Kingdom rose in two months from £650 (RM3,600) to £1,000 (RM5,500) per tonne.
Other countries are also seeing a drastic rise in fertiliser prices, and Malaysia is a net importer of various ingredients for making fertilisers, such as nitrate, phosphate and potassium, directly impacting the cost of local crop production.
This is the second time Muhyiddin has voiced his concern about the abolition of APs for food imports.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the government had immediately lifted the need for such APs, allowing anyone to import food.
This was done as a measure against the risk of food shortages brought about by the war in Ukraine and other curtailments, such as India’s decision to ban most of its wheat exports.
Some stakeholders said the removal of the AP requirement for food imports would create healthy competition, which would be good for consumers in the long run, although prices are not about to fall immediately.
Malaysian Retailers Association vice-president Datuk Ameer Ali Mydin said it will take time before the prices of certain goods stabilise.
“Don’t expect prices to go down anytime tomorrow,” he said.
Although APs have been removed, he noted that importers would still have to get the nod from the Agriculture and Food Industries Ministry for their Import Permits (IPs).
“It is good as now anybody can apply for an IP, but the government will still control things by prioritising approval for essential food items,” he added.
Ameer, who is also the Bumiputera Retailers Organisation president, said his company would immediately apply for IPs to import chicken, cabbage and pasteurised milk.
“Prior to this, we needed to get an AP for these items. Now, we just apply for the IP only.
“The Prime Minister, with just one stroke of the pen, had taken immediate steps to address the issue, which is affecting other nations as well.
“This gives both local and foreign investors confidence.
“It will do away with profiteering as I now can deal directly with the sellers instead of going through a third party,” he added.
Ameer suggested that the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) also approve more halal abattoirs to allow beef to be imported.