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'Overreliance on imported rice can worsen food security crisis'
Published on: Thursday, September 21, 2023
By: FMT, Nora Mahpar
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'Overreliance on imported rice can worsen food security crisis'
The increase in the price of imported rice has led to a shortage of cheaper local white rice, which is being snapped up by consumers.
PETALING JAYA: A consumer group has warned that the food security crisis could become “more severe” if the market continues to rely on imported rice.

The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) said the government should heed the sudden surge in commodity prices in the international market, which is also affecting Malaysia.

Fomca treasurer, Nur Asyikin Aminuddin, said Malaysia should look at rice-producing countries like India, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, which are aggressively increasing their rice production in preparation for the climate change crisis.

“India, Vietnam and even Indonesia are ready to produce their own rice more aggressively because they know there will be prolonged droughts and floods.

“Even now, we see these rice-producing countries limiting their rice exports because they do not want their people to face problems in the future,” Nur Asyikin told FMT when commenting on the shortage of local white rice in the market. “We are actually in a dangerous situation.”

On Sept 1, Padiberas Nasional Bhd announced that the price of imported white rice nationwide had increased from RM2,350 per tonne to RM3,200 per tonne, in line with the current international market price for imported white rice.

As a result of the increase, demand for local white rice has risen, leading to a shortage in the market.

Nur Asyikin said Fomca’s field survey found that only two out of 10 grocery stores and supermarkets were selling local white rice, while the rest were only selling imported white rice.

“This shows how critical the situation is right now. The government says we produce 60% to 70% of local rice, but our market is flooded with imported rice. Where is that 60% to 70%? Food security has come into question.

“We are also waiting for the agriculture and food security ministry to clarify the reality of the rice/padi issue,” she said.

Nur Asyikin commended the government’s efforts to address the crisis through the National Action Council on Cost of Living’s special meeting, but said that synergy between the federal and state governments was still lacking.

“The strategy is there, but we see that bureaucracy takes too long because it goes across multiple government agencies. There are also land issues, as state land requires various policies, such as converting industrial land to agricultural land, which takes a long time.

“Each state has its own policies, so now the federal and state governments should unite to increase rice production to 100% using the existing strategy. The current strategy is good, but it is not being executed effectively,” she said.

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