Support local farmers since importing nations are locking down
Published on: Sunday, March 29, 2020
By: Concerned
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ACHIEVING food security is multi-faceted, involving factors such as food availability (supply), economic access (affordability) and use (food safety and nutritional meals).

Due to the Movement Control Order (MCO), some panic buying has occurred, especially for food. Furthermore, with more people staying indoors, home cooking is on the rise again. Because of this, we expect demand for fresh food items to be exceptionally high at the local markets and supermarkets.

It appears that we are still enjoying a steady supply of food items although the same cannot be said of face masks and hand sanitisers. But we should not take this continuous supply of food for granted.

Food in Malaysia are either produced domestically or imported. Red meat and dairy are mostly imported from countries like Australia and New Zealand. While tropical fruits are mostly sourced locally, temperate fruits such as apples and oranges are mainly imported from China and South Africa. Poultry, swine, fish, rice and vegetables are between 60pc and 100pc locally produced.

Given that different foods have different origins, their supply is vulnerable to different factors. For imported food, we are vulnerable to the global vagaries and policies of the origin countries.

For example, the lockdown in Australia to fight Covid-19 may cause logistical challenges, thereby possibly limiting our supply of meat and dairy.

However, meat and dairy are luxury items consumed in smaller amounts in Malaysia. So, even if supplies decline and prices rise, the impact may not be drastic.

On the other hand, our staple food items such as rice, vegetables, fish and poultry, are mainly produced locally. In fact, for rice, Malaysia’s padi farmers produce more than half of the nation’s demand.

Malaysia also has a huge emergency stockpile of rice (enough to feed the population for at least half a year). Suffice to say, our rice supply is reliable as long as the domestic supply chain from farm to retail is not otherwise disrupted.

But what about our local eggs, chicken, vegetables and fruits? Is the movement control order (MCO) restricting farmers from going to their fields or farms? Working alone on a rural farm is not the same as working in a crowded mall or office in urban areas, hence farmers should be allowed to continue farming while maintaining social distancing. 

They ought to take precautions to protect themselves against Covid-19 while minimising disruptions to their agricultural work and subsequently incomes.

Having said this, even if we can produce all the food we need at the farm level, without smooth supply chains from farm to fork, the food may not reach us. 

Therefore, not only should farmers be allowed to continue farming, but others in the food supply chain must also be able to operate effectively while still adopting safety precautions against Covid-19. 

This includes but is not limited to factory workers, transporters and wholesalers. This is so that the food can be safely processed, packaged and transported to consumers.

Indeed, the well-being of the local operators and operations across the whole food supply chain is important to us as we need to safeguard our access to adequate, safe and nutritious food especially during times of crisis.

 





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