KUALA LUMPUR: Increasing the local white rice supply to rural areas and subsidising the cost of the imported grain in Sabah and Sarawak will be among the four measures to be undertaken to tackle the country’s shortage, says Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu.
The Agriculture and Food Security Minister said these measures would start on Thursday.
Mohamad said the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama) had been instructed to increase local white rice distribution to rural areas, including sundry stores.
“Since the profit margin for local white rice is only 50sen per 10kg pack, the government will allocate transportation costs to Fama for distribution purposes,” he told reporters here yesterday.
The imported white rice subsidies for Sabah and Sarawak would result in a 10kg pack of imported white rice costing only RM31, he added.
“The government has agreed to give a subsidy of RM950 per metric tonne of imported white rice beginning Thursday, which will see the price of a 10kg pack of imported white rice in both states costing RM31.
“This is due to the limited production of local white rice in Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.
Other measures include permitting white rice suppliers contracted by the government to get imported white rice at wholesale prices.
This allows the suppliers to obtain imported white rice at RM3,200 per 50kg.
“It is subject to the terms and conditions set in place,” said Mohamad.
A cross-ministerial task force was also launched yesterday, focusing on monitoring and enforcement efforts along the local white rice supply chain.
The special task force, Mohamad said, would be led by Deputy Agriculture and Food Security Minister Chan Foong Hin.
It will involve the ministry’s Padi and Rice Regulatory Division, the Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Ministry’s enforcement division, the police, the Customs Department and the Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services.
“We will be doing all-round surveillance on the industry’s supply chain, including production factories and millers,” he said, adding that the task force would start work today.
Rice samples, said Mohamad, would also be taken from rice mills, factories and hypermarkets for chemical analysis.
“We will take strict action against anyone found guilty of mixing imported white rice with local white rice or even hiding their local white rice stocks,” he said.
He also reminded members of the public to remain calm and only purchase rice according to their needs.
Mohamad said the outcome of talks between the Malaysian and Indian governments to find a solution to India’s white rice export restrictions would also be known this week.
He said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had previously contacted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the matter.
“Seeing how India is currently having elections in six states as well as other issues, the Indian government said it was better to hold discussions with the country’s ambassador to Malaysia for now.
“Their ambassador came to the Agriculture and Food Security Ministry and discussed the matter with me.
“Our requests will be answered later this week.
“Our government-to-government (G2G) relations with India are good. God willing, we will get a favourable result,” he said.
In response to a question on whether the scarcity of local white rice was due to mills not wanting to produce rice due to the low ceiling price as well as the small profit margins, Mohamad said this was due instead to consumer behaviour.
“There is no shortage. Consumers shifted from imported white rice to local options due to the cheaper prices offered,” he said.
The government, said Mohamad, would also study the needs of those involved in the rice supply chain from time to time, including increasing the ceiling price of local white rice.
The current price of local white rice is RM2.60 per kg, which was implemented in 2018.