SEREMBAN: The Negri Sembilan government has identified a 20ha area in Kg Londah in Gemas near here to grow padi, says Datuk Seri Jalaluddin Alias.
The state rural development, plantation and commodities and agriculture, food security and cost of living committees chairman said this was part of measures to increase production following the shortage of local white rice supplies.
"We are also looking at cultivating on idle land to address the slight shortage that we have been facing due to an increase in demand.
"I will be tabling a paper to the state exco on other initiatives such as improving the infrastructure and irrigation and using technology such as drones for fertilisation and pesticide spraying, to (ensure) sufficient supply for the next five years at least," he said.
He was replying to Mohamad Hanifah Abu Baker (PN-Labu) during the state assembly sitting here on Thursday (Oct 12).
He said the state government, through the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama), has also taken steps to replenish local white rice supply in areas currently experiencing a shortage.
For example, he said 20 tonnes of rice were distributed on Sept 20, followed by 25 tonnes on Sept 22, and 60 tonnes on Sept 26; the rice was sold in 10kg packs at RM26 each.
Jalaluddin said more local white rice will be sent to seven districts in the state as a short-term measure.
"The rice will be available at Fama's 16 Usahawan Agrobazaar soon," he added.
He said there was also a plan to build a mini rice mill in the state to ensure sufficient supply for locals.
He said the mill will be built once the padi growing area reaches 1,500ha.
"We now have 1,200ha but a mini-mill will only be viable with (a larger) area.
"As such, we will quickly identify idle land for cultivation," he said.
Jalaluddin stressed that the shortage of rice was because certain countries such as India, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand reduced their exports.
He said India alone had cut its exports to Malaysia by some 40%.
"This has caused the price of imported rice to increase drastically. Consumers have since resorted to buying local white rice and this is what caused a shortage," he said.
To a supplementary question, he said the state government has no plans to bar foreigners from buying local white rice for now.
"We still have supply although there can be a shortage at times. So, we have no plans to do that (restricting rice sales to foreigners) for now," he added.
He also hoped the people would not resort to panic buying as this would only cause unnecessary shortage.