Keeping an eye on the weather in Thailand and Vietnam

Precious commodity: Will the dry weather in Thailand and Vietnam affect the rice exports to Malaysia? Experts are urging the government to take steps to prepare for a possible rice shortage. — AFP

PETALING JAYA: It is still too early to say if the scorching heat in Thailand and Vietnam will affect their rice exports to Malaysia, say agricultural experts.

However, one said Malaysia should look to other source countries should the need arise.

Universiti Putra Malaysia’s (UPM) Putra Business School agricultural economist Prof Datuk Dr Mad Nasir Shamsudin said Malaysia had to be wary of droughts in countries which exported rice here.

“Although it may be too early to tell (based on weather conditions in Thailand and Vietnam), we have to learn from the severe drought experienced by Thailand in 2008, which affected rice exports to Malaysia,” he said.

Prof Mad Nasir said concerted efforts must be taken to ensure Malaysia’s rice supply reached a self-sufficient level.

“In the short-term, the government needs to implement a land-use policy to enhance food security by setting aside adequate areas of agricultural land for food production,” he said.

In 2021, Vietnam accounted for 23.1% of Malaysia’s total rice import value while Thailand accounted for 11.4%.

Besides Vietnam and Thailand, Malaysia also imports rice from India, Pakistan and Cambodia.

Prof Mad Nasir also noted a Town and Country Planning Department (PLAN Malaysia) study indicating that land used for rice production was only at 378,840ha in 2020.

He suggested the Federal Government give state governments incentives to ensure the sustainability and maintenance of food production areas.

“Incentives should also be given for investments, research and the adoption of agricultural system technologies such as soil and water sensors, weather tracking, and vertical agriculture, among others,” he said.

He added that one reason for the lack of agricultural productivity was the inadequate technology being applied in farming.

Crop insurance should also be introduced urgently, given how the food production sector is exposed to more risks and uncertainties such as natural disasters and price volatility, he said.

Prof Mad Nasir said climate-smart farming could also be introduced to ensure national food security in the long term.

He added that measures such as price monitoring and forecasting should be adopted to reduce the various risks in the food production and distribution system.

“Emergency preparedness planning through effective annual warning systems alongside measures to prevent natural disasters such as irrigation and flood control schemes should also be established,” he said.

Prof Datuk Dr Abdul Shukor Juraimi, who heads the Agriculture and Food Security cluster at the National Professors Council, said any impact on rice imports from Vietnam or Thailand may only be seen in mid-May.

“It depends on the intensity of the weather. We may only be able to see the impact in mid-May but until then, close monitoring by the authorities is required,” he said when contacted.

He added that more intense weather conditions, which could bring about drought, may warrant some concern about the rice production in these two countries.

Prof Abdul Shukor, who is also from UPM’s Agriculture faculty, said there were other possible source countries, including China and India.

He added that more granary areas could also be established nationwide.

“Granary areas allow rice crops to be harvested twice a year due to the optimal infrastructure there.

“This includes sufficient water supply year round, alongside proper pest and disease management, and the use of the latest technologies.

“These areas will also be monitored closely by government authorities, which ensures more consistent and efficient production,” he said.

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