IPOH: The jihad (struggle) against middlemen should focus on ensuring market transparency and preventing exploitation, not replacing them in the food supply chain, a lawmaker suggests.
On Saturday (July 2), Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob (pic) had called on the cooperative movement, through Angkatan Koperasi Kebangsaan Malaysia Berhad (Angkasa), to revive the jihad against middlemen to empower the national food security agenda.
Gopeng MP Dr Lee Boon Chye pointed out, however, that middlemen had an important role in the supply chain and services such as transportation and distribution played an increasingly important role in economic growth.
He said without a middleman, a banana grower would not only need to plant and harvest the fruit but also pack, transport and sell it himself.
“After he sells the bananas, which hopefully have not become rotten by then, he has to repeat the cycle, and the only guarantee for him is poverty in perpetuity," the PKR lawmaker said in a statement on Monday (July 4).
“To avoid exploitation, the government must ensure transparency in the market and a readily accessible middleman for the farmers."
Dr Lee said cases of exploitation of food producers resulted from market inefficiencies stemming from infrastructure, regulatory problems or a lack of transparency.
He said the government’s role should be to establish policies and implement measures to improve market efficiency.
“Upgrading rural roads, Internet access, encouraging automation and improving crop yields are what the government should focus on.
“This will allow (food producers), middlemen and everyone in the supply chain to make more money even at a lower retail price," he added.
Ismail Sabri had said that he saw cooperatives with many members taking on the middleman role apart from being involved in wholesale and retail.
The Prime Minister said there was a need to revive the struggle as the price and supply of goods were being determined by middlemen.