Madani white rice initiative to be fine-tuned at Naccol meet

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysia Madani white rice will be the staple agenda for the National Action Council for Cost of Living (Naccol) meeting today as authorities and stakeholders huddle to make the initiative palatable to the masses.

The Naccol meeting, to be chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, is expected to discuss a proper pricing mechanism for the new category of white rice, how the initiative will be implemented and if there has to be any amendments to the Control of Padi Rice Act 1994 (Act 522) to ensure that its implementation are all above board.

This is because local white rice is a government price-controlled food item.

The Malaysia Madani white rice initiative came under fire from stakeholders and the public last week after Naccol task force (food cluster) chairman Datuk Syed Abu Hussin Hafiz Syed Abdul Faisal said that all white rice will be under one category of Malaysia Madani white rice, doing away with the imported white rice category from March 1 onwards.

Agriculture and Food Security Ministry (KPKM) secretary-general Datuk Lokman Hakim Ali confirmed that he had prepared the paper on the Malaysia Madani white rice before being presented to KPKM Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu for final approval.

“The ministry will then present it at the Naccol meeting today once we have briefed the minister and received ministerial approval.

“As of now, I cannot divulge any details but that we have engaged the necessary stakeholders and relevant parties during the preparation of the paper,” said Lokman when contacted yesterday.

A source from the Naccol secretariat also said the Malaysia Madani white rice matter is the only agenda to be discussed at the meeting.

“With no doubt, this is a big and important issue affecting all levels of society and we have to sort it out before the Naccol decision is taken to the Cabinet as changing rice prices needs Cabinet approval and needs to be presented to the Parliament,” said the source.

Meanwhile, Syed Abu Hussin said that he will attend the meeting but will not be making any presentation at the meeting, despite it being his “baby”.

“Yes, I will be attending as the task force (food cluster) chairman but I will not be presenting anything. I will have more to say after the meeting,” said the Bukit Gantang MP when contacted.

He said that after the backlash from certain quarters on the announcement of Malaysia Madani white rice on Feb 14, he was informed that only the KPKM minister and secretary-general can speak publicly on the issue.

He refused to say if he had a gag order from anyone on the matter.

Wholesaler and retail chain Mydin Mohamed Holdings Berhad managing director Datuk Ameer Ali Mydin, who is also the Special Taskforce to Facilitate Business (Pemudah) co-chair, said that he will be sitting in the meeting to represent stakeholders.

“I do not want to say much but yes, I will be at the Naccol meeting. Yes, I was engaged by the KPKM in getting my input for the Malaysia Madani white rice,” said Ameer Ali.

Prior to this, Ameer Ali was one of the first to voice out concerns of wholesalers and retailers on the white rice initiative, stating that the whole idea had not been thought out properly before its announcement to the masses.

Ameer Ali also questioned the composition of the 10kg sack of white rice to be sold at RM30 as local white rice is scarce in the market.

This then led to authorities stating that the Malaysia Madani white rice initiative has not received Cabinet approval and it would be illegal to mix local and imported white rice and sell at one price.

Malaysia Food Sovereignty Forum head coordinator Nurfitri Amir Muhammad, who represents padi farmers, said that the solution to the lack of local white rice in the market is to increase its price to benefit padi farmers.

“The Malaysia Madani white rice should be local rice with its price raised. It has been 18 years since the last raise for local white rice; it is illogical to retain the price. Consumers need to understand the need for the price rise, as without it, the industry will suffer.

“That being said, this initiative of Malaysia Madani white rice by selling only one category seems to be an attempt to ease the job of enforcers. However, selling the Madani white rice – be it local, imported or a mix of both – is illegal and considered trickery under the laws.

“Instead, the enforcers should be on the ground to check on the local white rice being sold. Do not victimise the consumers by not giving them a choice.

“For the farmers, there should be an increase in padi prices when white rice prices are increased.

“However, the padi prices are still retained at the old price of RM1,700 per tonne despite the initiative to increase the Malaysia Madani white rice price of RM30 per 10 kg from the controlled price of RM26,” said Nurfitri.

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