KUALA LUMPUR: There are enough stockpiles of rice in the country to last for up to five months, says Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu.
"As of now, we have 900,000 million metric tonnes. This comprises 250,000 million metric tonnes of government stockpiles and 650,000 metric tonnes of commercial stock.
"This is enough for the next four to five months," said the Agriculture and Food Security Minister.
He said the rice supply in the domestic market was also expected to recover in a month.
Mohamad Sabu also said the ministry had launched a special local white rice programme with suppliers to increase stockpiles by 20% to 23,000 metric tonnes a month for a period of one year.
He added that the Muda Agricultural Development Authority (Mada) has also started harvesting more padi, he said.
"They have harvested 20% more padi so there will be more local rice in one or two months," he said while winding up the debate on the 12th Malaysia Plan mid-term review in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday (Sept 18).
Mohamad said when there was panic buying due to the increase in the price of imported white rice, importers switched to local rice, leading to a shortage of the commodity.
The ministry, he said, also found there was no pressing need to use the government's rice stockpile yet and added that the current supply issue would be resolved in a month.
Mohamad said the ministry was having discussions with the Indian government to find a solution for rice supplies, adding that he would also be meeting his counterpart from the Indian government soon.
"Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) will also be having discussions with other source countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia," he said.
To a question by Sim Tze Tzin (PH-Bayan Baru) on whether the government intended to include companies other than Bernas to supply imported rice, Mohammad said Bernas' concession was extended by 10 years during Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's tenure as prime minister, which was still binding.
"We can discuss this suggestion with the Prime Minister and Economy Minister.
"We will discuss this among the leadership on what actions we can take," he said.
Mohamad also said there is no plan to ban the sale of local rice to foreigners.
"Foreigners must eat too. Don't forget that they are also working to build our country. There are no plans for this as of now," he said.