WE are feeling the pinch as our food prices have been rising in recent weeks.
It has been reported that Malaysia’s consumer price index (CPI) increased by 2.2% in March, which is comparatively low to those in many other countries like the UK (7.0%) and US (8.5%). However, this is no consolation to many ordinary Malaysians who are seeing their grocery bills spiking, with some basic foodstuff in short supply and subject to rapidly soaring prices.
Malaysia imports nearly 60% of its food needs. Its dependence on imports totals over RM50bil yearly.
This means we are affected by high import prices, aggravated by the weak ringgit against the US dollar.
The ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia – who are both significant producers of wheat, and other food items – and supply chain constraints that pre-existed before the war have wreaked further havoc with food prices globally.
We have been advised to reduce our consumption of non-essential items, switch to store brands, pay close attention to prices or even grow food at home to stretch our grocery budget.
On their part, the government is trying to manage the supply in the market by providing subsidies and removing the Approved Permit (AP) requirement for food imports.
It has also banned exports of chicken until its production and prices stabilise.
While these measures can help in minimising the impact of inflation, these are short-term measures.
For a long-term solution, the country needs better food security.
There is a need for a holistic approach to ensure our food supply is adequate, at an affordable price.
Malaysia is ranked 39th out of 113 countries in the Global Food Security Index (GFSI) by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) for 2021.
It is listed in the top eight among Asia-Pacific countries and placed second after Singapore in South-East Asia.
However, Malaysia must continue to strengthen its food security.
Ultimately, we need to diversify our food sources and become more self-sufficient by increasing our food production and reducing imports.
In 2020, the then government announced the National Food Security Policy Action Plan 2021-2025, to ensure the sustainability of the country’s food supply at all times, especially in the face of unexpected situations.
As reported, it focuses on all four dimensions of food security in line with the Food and Agriculture Organisation: availability, access, consumption, stability and sustainability.
With the current global crises, the need to ensure our food production is secured and sustainable has never been more urgent.
It’s time to review our food security and make it our priority.