Intervention measures can restabilise rice supply in Malaysia, say experts


KUALA LUMPUR: The four additional intervention measures implemented by the government to address the issue of rice supply in the country are believed to be able to re-stabilise the supply of the staple food.

Emir Research president and chief executive officer Datuk Dr Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff described it as a strategic move that is much needed to ensure sufficient rice supply to meet domestic demand.

"At the same time, this is to ensure that there is a surplus that can be distributed to suppliers when the time comes regardless of whether it is local white rice (BPT) or imported white rice (BPI).

"This is because of the current situation, where market preference is not the determining factor, but supply and at the stipulated control price," he told Bernama.

Earlier, Agriculture and Food Security Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu, in a special press conference, said four additional intervention measures were implemented to deal with the issue of rice supply in the country, including instructing the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama) to increase the distribution of local white rice to rural areas including at retail outlets.

For Sabah and Sarawak, Mohamad said the government had agreed to provide a subsidy of RM950 per metric tonne for imported white rice (BPI) from Oct 5 to enable BPI to be obtained at a retail price of RM31 per 10kg.

Commenting further, Rais Hussin urged local rice manufacturers and wholesalers from the private sector who monopolise the food chain to cooperate with Fama to speed up the rice supply solution.

"This means that Fama will be ready to help ease the burden of costs and responsibilities of the private sector in terms of warehousing and transport when needed, for example when there is a surplus of supply... This can be implemented in contracts and agreements between Fama and the private sector," he said.

At the same time, he said, the government can also play a role as a stockpiler of last resort that does not depend on Fama.

"Warehouses that are not under the regulation and jurisdiction of Fama need to be set up under a new agency, which is the Food Security Agency.

"This new agency can also establish strategic collaboration with the private sector to store excess stock as short-term, medium-term and long-term storage,” he said.

Rais Husin also welcomed the efforts by the Agriculture and Food Security Ministry to hold a meeting with India’s Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare to ensure the import of BPI supplies from that country.

He suggested that such a move should also be made with major rice-producing countries such as Vietnam.

Meanwhile, the director of the Institute of Tropical Agriculture and Food Security (ITAFoS), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM, Prof Dr Mohd Rafii Yusop said imported white rice subsidies should also be given to the people in the Peninsula because there are also many B40 groups who are facing the problem of local rice shortage.

"However, all these interventions are for the short term only. For the country's long-term food security, there is a need to increase the size of padi farming areas.

"The productivity of existing padi fields also needs to be increased with training and agricultural development activities so that padi farmers can adopt the best agricultural practices," he added.

Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca) secretary-general Datuk Paul Selva Raj said that giving wholesale prices or subsidies to suppliers is the right move, but there must be monitoring to ensure no increase in the selling price to consumers.

"In terms of price, we also have to make sure that, if the wholesale price or subsidies have been given to suppliers, the government needs to monitor this matter...if the price sold to consumers is expensive and unreasonable, it will only burden the consumer, so the price must be sold at an affordable rate,” he said.

However, he said, providing rice subsidies is not a good move for the long term and the government still needs to think of the best measures to solve the problem holistically.

"Our rice production at this time is still around 60% to 70%, we cannot continue to depend on imported rice, so to ensure that this rice supply problem can be overcome as best as possible, rice production needs to be increased and efforts in this direction must be made," he said. - Bernama

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