Cannot treat local food production lightly
Published on: Sunday, February 28, 2021
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WE propose that in the interest of reducing the cost of living of consumers in the long run, efforts to enhance the production of local food whether at the household level, at the scale of gardens, farms or even in residential areas, should be increased.

A variety of the latest technology is easily available for every home to produce vegetables, fruits, medicinal herbs and even fish and small livestock farming.

Learning to prepare compost from kitchen waste is still not yet popular enough, so it needs to be expanded in all residential areas.

The practice of organic farming itself is not only good for health but also saves on household expenses.

We propose it is necessary to revive the concept of the Green Book Plan that was introduced in 1974. The goal of the plan is clear and was correct not only then but for the future which is to reduce dependence on food imports and overcome the issue of rising inflation.

The GBP has emphasised the use of idle agricultural land. Idle agricultural land is very vast in this country and cannot be left unproductive without yielding food for the needs of the local community.

In 2019, the Department of Agriculture identified 103,563 hectares of idle land involving 46,382 lots in Peninsular Malaysia, including in the Federal Territory of Labuan. 

Pahang and Selangor have the highest area of idle agricultural land at 29,000 ha and 20,000 ha respectively.

With the realisation that the world is facing various economic uncertainties due to epidemics, currency depreciation, rising cost of living, natural disasters, conflicts and wars, Malaysian consumers need to step up their readiness to face increasingly critical situations.

The almost one-year experience of the Covid19 pandemic should be enough to alert consumers in the country to prepare for more critical situations. Economic recovery will take time, therefore a change in lifestyle and culture of prudent consumerism need to be practiced.

We would like to remind consumers that the country still bears high food import bills, over RM56 billion a year. Not only does this affect the high outflow of money out of the country but the food security of the country will also be insecure.

Malaysian consumers need to remember that although the country is said to be a 'food paradise', most food ingredients are not from local sources.

Malaysia obtains vegetables, fruits and meats from at least 120 countries, importing more than 50 types of fresh and frozen ingredients to satisfy the tastes of the people, especially food lovers.

The consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic indicate that food imports will be exposed to rising costs due to volatile supply and the country will have to comply with the prices offered from exporting countries.

Although there is already a focus given to the issue of food safety assurance, however the development is still slow and not enough to make a large-scale impact.

The combination of modern and traditional technologies in food farming needs to be implemented so that the strengths of both approaches can be utilised by every small entrepreneur.

Consumers need to realize that for years to come, with the trend of various crises emerging, the country cannot be guaranteed access to food from outside.

All relevant parties need to expedite the process of reducing food imports through R&D, food production incentives as well as local food production schemes.

Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid

Chairman National Consumer Advisory Council

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