Malaysia Madani rice plan still needs Cabinet approval


PETALING JAYA: The new Malaysia Madani white rice package as announced by the National Action Council for Cost of Living (Naccol) will need prior Cabinet approval, says the ministry involved.

Agriculture and Food Security Ministry secretary-general Datuk Lokman Hakim Ali said the price of local white rice, as a controlled food item, must be approved by the Cabinet before any decision can be announced.

He said that as of now, it remains a private initiative from the chairman of Naccol’s task force (food cluster) Datuk Syed Abu Hussin Hafiz Syed Abdul Faisal, which he said has not gone through “due process”.

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“There has been no discussion or approval from the ministry with regard to this. As far as the ministry is concerned, this is a private initiative by Syed Abu Hussin as the task force chairman, in trying to lower prices.

“However, to implement it nationwide, it will need clearance from Naccol and then the Cabinet,” said Lokman, adding that announcements such as these need prior engagement with stakeholders and the authorities concerned.

Lokman was responding to the announcement by Syed Abu Hussin on Wednesday that the government will introduce Malaysia Madani white rice priced at RM30 for a 10kg sack on Feb 19, which is expected to be available in the market from March 1.

Syed Abu Hussin, who is the Bukit Gantang MP, was reported to have said that there will no longer be categories of local white rice (SST) and imported white rice (SSI), making the Malaysia Madani white rice the sole category.

He said that between Feb 19 and March 1, rice industry players can make adjustments and sell rice in the old packaging until all wholesalers’ stocks are sold out.

The new packaging of all white rice after that must carry the “Beras Putih Malaysia Madani” sticker, he added.

Lokman said there has been no talk of amending the existing Padi and Rice Act 1994, which makes it illegal for retailers to sell mixed local and imported white rice or change the labelling of local white without prior approval from the relevant ministries.

When contacted, Syed Abu Hussin said it is his duty as Naccol task force (food cluster) chairman to ensure the supply of white rice in the market “even if it does not follow due procedure”.

“White rice is being sold at RM50 to RM70 per 10kg sack and after engaging with the three biggest padi producers, they decided that RM30 per 10kg sack is the most appropriate price for white rice.

“Currently, the price of local white rice is RM26 per 10kg sack. People are anxious about the shortage of local white rice in the market.

“There is no need to wait for procedures and as there is a need to introduce this, I made the announcement,” said Syed Abu Hussin, adding that he had informed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim of the matter.

Asked if the Malaysia Madani white rice would be local white rice or mixed with imported white rice, he said this is up to the wholesalers and retailers as long as the price of a 10kg sack is RM30.

Although mixing the two types of rice into one sack is illegal under the law, he said amendments should be made to enable this.

“I am not saying that they should mix imported and local white rice. It is up to them. If that goes against the Act and there is a need to amend the Act, then we should do it,” he added.

Syed Abu Hussin said the setting of the ceiling price for the Malaysia Madani white rice serves as a mechanism to stop manipulation by some rice manufacturers mixing local white rice with imported white rice and selling it as expensive rice brands to reap greater profits.

“It stems from the absence of price controls for imported white rice, causing the prices to remain high, coupled with the rise in global rice prices.

“This has resulted in local white rice labels being changed to imported white rice, making it difficult to find in the market,” he added.

The retail price for local white rice is RM2.50 per kg as stipulated under the Control of Padi and Rice Act 1994 (Act 522).

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Rice , Malaysia Madani , Cabinet Approval

   

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