Stakeholders still in the dark over white rice package

PETALING JAYA: Retailers and consumer groups say they are in the dark over the Malaysia Madani white rice initiative and called on the government to explain if it is feasible to proceed.

Some said that with Ramadan and Hari Raya around the corner, the issue needs to be resolved urgently as white rice consumption would be at its peak then.

Mydin Mohamed Holdings Bhd managing director Datuk Ameer Ali Mydin (pic) said that while he welcomed the initiative to ensure the availability of white rice in the market, there should be more clarification to wholesalers and retailers.

Saying he was not engaged and does not know what the Malaysia Madani white rice package is all about, he urged the National Action Council for Cost of Living (Naccol) and the government to explain its implementation.

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He also questioned the rather short notice of less than two weeks for the implementation of the initiative to sell a 10kg sack of white rice at RM30 from March 1.

“Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) sells imported white rice at RM32 per 10kg. Repacking costs RM2.50 to RM3 and transport is RM1. So, only if Bernas can reduce the price can we sell white rice at RM30 per 10kg sack,” he added.

He also said he wants to know if the Naccol task force (food cluster) chairman Datuk Syed Abu Hussin Hafiz Syed Abdul Faisal made the announcement on the initiative for the government or spoke in his personal capacity.

“Protocol dictates that such an important announcement be made by the Prime Minister or the ministers in charge,” said Ameer Ali, who claimed that retailers and wholesalers were not consulted on the matter.

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He also said if the price of white rice is indeed increased from RM26 to RM30 per 10kg sack, consumers would feel the pinch even with increased availability.

“Where is this RM30 per 10kg white rice going to come from? If they mix imported and local rice, it is illegal. This initiative raises more questions than answers to wholesalers, retailers and consumers.

“If done at such short notice, there may be massive shortages when implemented. With Ramadan approaching, it is worrying,” he added.

Consumer group Sustainable Development Network Malaysia chairman Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah said while it is good to do away with two categories of white rice, the shortage of 60% of local white rice in the market has not been addressed.

“Firstly, tell us what price mechanism is used to determine that a 10kg sack of white rice is priced at RM30?

“Physically, no one can distinguish if the white rice is local or imported. It makes no sense to have two labels. If the government can indeed enforce the pricing for all white rice as one, it will be good for consumers.

“However, the more pertinent question is how come we are told that 60% of local white rice is in the market but we cannot find local white rice at RM26 per 10kg sack? For now, we only find the RM40 per 10kg sack of white rice in the market,” he added.

Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia chief activist Datuk Nadzim Johan said his group is completely in the dark as to what the Malaysia Madani white rice initiative is about.

“There have been many complaints on the shortage of white rice but if we are to fend for ourselves, then we have to be prepared so as to be able to go into survival mode, especially with the fasting month approaching,” he said.

Bernas, when contacted, said that it will reserve comment for the time being.

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