Finding right balance for rice prices

KUALA SELANGOR: Government policies on rice and padi prices must be balanced so that the interest of both consumers and padi farmers is protected, says Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

As such, he said the government required more time to set a fair price for this staple food.

“When it comes to drawing up policies for padi prices, we need some patience to follow the process before deciding,” he told reporters after the closing ceremony for the central zone Madani Rakyat programme here yesterday.

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The Prime Minister said he had spoken to Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) and asked it to find ways to reduce rice imports and increase domestic production.

“A (price) hike will burden consumers, but not raising the price will burden farmers, so there is a need to strike a balance because padi farmers are among the poor groups in our country.

“The people want the price to be lowered while the farmers want their efforts to be valued.

“If they choose not to plant padi and move on to cultivate something else that is more profitable, the country will risk facing issues with food security,” he added.

Anwar said the National Action Council on Cost of Living and the Agriculture and Food Security Ministry had been given until March 20 to resolve issues related to the price of padi and rice.

To overcome the rising cost of living and increase the output of agricultural products, he said the government would introduce a targeted urban farming programme similar to those implemented in Singapore.

He said the programme was meant to assist the urban poor, adding that special allocations would be in place for this purpose.Agriculture and Food Security Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu, who was also at the event yesterday, said there must be long-term plans to ensure the country had a sufficient supply of padi.He said several locations in Selangor, Pahang and Sarawak had been identified for padi farming to boost supply.

“We only produce enough padi and rice for 63% of the population. What will we do if there is no country that is willing to export rice to Malaysia in 10 years?

“Hence, serious efforts need to be taken to increase the production of padi in the country,” Mohamad said.

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