India agrees to sell rice to Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians can breathe a sigh of relief over rice shortage woes for now as India has agreed to export 170,000 tonnes of non-basmati white rice to Malaysia, says Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir.

He said that he received the good news through a call from his Indian counterpart, External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar, on Wednesday.

“The Malaysian people appreciate India’s gesture very much, as Malaysia and India have always enjoyed very good bilateral ties,” said Zambry from Saudi Arabia.

A highly placed source said the strong bilateral ties between the two countries led to the special allocation after the Malaysian government requested a special quota due to the shortage of white rice in the country.

India has approved the export of 170,000 tonnes of non-basmati white rice to Malaysia on Oct 18 as a friendly gesture, the source said.

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“The decision by the government of India is reflective of the close ties between India and Malaysia and in line with India’s continued policy of supporting the efforts of governments in friendly countries towards safeguarding domestic food security,” said the source.

“We welcome the good news that India has agreed to export non-basmati rice to Malaysia to assist us with the current local shortage. This will definitely let us breathe a little better as we look for better long-term solutions to ensure we have enough white rice supply at all times,” said Agriculture and Food Security Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu.

He said the special quota of imported non-basmati white rice would not have much impact on the price of local white rice.

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“If at all, it would only have a very minimal effect on the price,” said Mohamad, pointing out that the special quota is a minor percentage of the whole import of non-basmati rice.

India is responsible for 40% of the world’s rice exports.

On July 20, the Indian government announced that it would stop exporting non-basmati white rice effective immediately to help lower rice prices and secure availability in India.

However, this led to a rice shortage in countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, which are the biggest importers of rice from India.

ALSO READ: Rice exports expected to be on track as harvest approaches

Other than India, Malaysia also imports rice from Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam, with the average imported supply of rice by Malaysia at approximately 750,000 tonnes a year.

Hence, the worry was that the price would increase exponentially without sufficient supply.

The current price of local white rice is RM2.60 per kg, as stated under the Rice (Price and Grade) Order 2008 as well as the Control of Padi and Rice Act 1994.

On Sept 2, all padi millers and rice wholesalers were asked by the Federal Government to increase the supply of local white rice by 20% through the Local White Rice Special Programme as one of the intervention measures to restore supply in the market.

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