Collective action needed to boost food security


BUDGET 2024 lays out a vision that resonates profoundly in a world marked by unpredictable disruptions in the global food supply chain. These disruptions pose significant challenges in ensuring the availability and affordability of basic goods in local markets.

For example, there was concern about the supply of rice in Malaysia when India, one of the world's major rice exporters, recently halted its exports globally. Consumers have also been grappling with shortages of chicken and eggs in recent months.

These episodes underscore the pressing need for a robust food security strategy in the country.

When delivering the 2024 Budget, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who is also Finance Minister, announced that the temporary price controls for chicken and eggs would be lifted. Lifting these price controls is a significant move as it would allow market forces to govern prices according to the forces of demand and supply.

But the move has raised concerns about its immediate impact on consumers. While it aims to improve supply chain flexibility, it may lead to hikes in food prices, particularly for chicken and eggs, that may disproportionately affect low and middle-income families.

Striking the right balance between promoting a resilient supply chain and ensuring affordable access to essential goods is currently a subject of debate.

The government is also allocating RM2.6bil in subsidies and incentives for padi farmers and fishermen to empower these communities and strengthen self-sufficiency in the face of global disruptions.

But while this financial aid provides vital support, it may not be the most effective solution for ensuring a consistent supply of essential food commodities in local markets, especially considering the rapidly changing global landscape.

The government's allocation of RM400mil to implement the Food Security Strengthening programme is a critical initiative. This programme was designed to strengthen the resilience of the local food supply chain and shield consumers from price shocks. However, it may not comprehensively tackle the broader aspects of food security.

A more forward-thinking strategy should involve encouraging farmers and fishermen to embrace modern agricultural practices and cutting-edge technology, thereby boosting productivity and resilience, and ultimately reducing dependency on subsidies.

Achieving a balance between providing support and promoting innovation within the agricultural sector is crucial for long-term sustainability and efficiency in addressing food security in Malaysia.

In fact, the Malaysian government should be developing a comprehensive, long-term food security strategy that balances the need for immediate relief with sustainability and resilience.

These measures would help Malaysia address its food security challenges by providing a more robust and sustainable framework, ensuring the availability and affordability of essential food items in the face of global disruptions.

As we reflect on the challenges and opportunities presented by Malaysia's pursuit of food security in Budget 2024, it's crucial to remember that this isn't a task solely entrusted to policymakers and experts.

In fact, each one of us plays a part in this narrative, and our collective actions can make a significant difference in ensuring a stable and prosperous food future for our nation.

So, what can you do? It starts with awareness. Understanding the complexities of the food system, from farm to table, empowers you to make informed choices as a consumer.

Consider the impact of your food preferences and consumption habits. By making sustainable and responsible food choices, you can directly contribute to price stability and the resilience of our food supply.

Moreover, consider the significance of supporting local farmers and fishermen in their adoption of modern practices and technology. This will not only empower these communities but also strengthen our food supply chain.

Together, we can shape Malaysia's food future – a future where the availability and affordability of essential goods is assured regardless of global disruptions.

Our commitment to responsible food choices and an understanding of the food system's intricacies will not only secure our own well-being but also strengthen the resilience of our entire nation.

It's a future that we can create together, and it begins with each of us taking a step towards a more food-secure Malaysia.

DR SALINI DEVI RAJENDRAN

Senior lecturer

Faculty of Social Sciences and Leisure Management

Taylor’s University

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Budget 2024; food security

   

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