‘Focus too on fragrant rice price as it’s a staple for most Sabahans’

Raising food concerns: Juriah (left) and Fauziah want the issue to be addressed urgently.

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government should focus on the affordability of fragrant rice and not just control the price of locally-produced rice, says state Warisan women’s leader Juriah Uda.

She said that other types of rice like fragrant rice were commonly consumed by the elderly and also children.

“But with soaring prices and possible intermittent shortage caused by unpredictable weather, many families will find it difficult to sustain themselves financially,” the Putatan Warisan Wanita chief said in a statement.

Juriah said the problem could be felt in families of six to eight people which include children below the age of six and the elderly over the age of 70 living under one roof in urban areas.

“The main type of rice purchased and consumed is fragrant rice,” she said.

For many, she said, fragrant rice is not a luxury but a necessity and mixed families from the B40 or lower-income group will not be purchasing a packet of 10kg fragrant rice a month but usually between 20kg and 30kg.

Families now eat a larger portion of rice with gravy or soup to make up for the reduced portions of meat or fish that have also increased in prices, she added.

“Mixing fragrant rice with local white rice will quickly become a trend, thus we urge the state government to not only prioritise our local white rice but also the supply and affordability of fragrant rice,” Juriah said.

Kudat Warisan acting deputy chairman Fauziah Stephens raised another food concern that must be addressed over China’s new sea map 2023 that includes Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone. She said it poses a possible threat to the state’s fishing industry.

“We know that the Federal Government does not recognise China’s new map but is our government prepared for any encroachment on our waters by marine militia-accompanied Chinese fishermen with their massive fishing boats?” she asked.

She said that in January 2020, Chinese fishing vessels accompanied by the Chinese coast guard encroached on the Natuna Island in Indonesia, causing the biggest standoff in South-East Asia’s history when the Indonesian government sent its warships to protect the area.

“We want to know if Sabah is ready to face encroachment by Chinese fishermen because such an act will ultimately cause the prices of fish and seafood products in the state to soar,” said Fauziah.

Warisan deputy president Datuk Darell Leiking had recently urged for Malaysia to assert itself as an Asean leader over the food shortage threatening the region and to formulate a joint solution to reduce its impact.

He said in view of the rice export ban by Vietnam and India, Malaysia could suggest an agricultural trade-off between Asean member countries and producers for a certain period to enable non-rice-exporting countries such as the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia to adjust.

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