Export ban may see farmers go bust

KUALA LUMPUR: The ban on the export of chicken may backfire if farmers reliant on selling their birds abroad go bust, an economist said.

This will lead to further supply reduction and price hikes, said Professor Dr Mohd Nazari Ismail from Universiti Malaya's Business and Economics Faculty.

"If the chicken farmers need the export income because they are under financial strain, then this will backfire because the farmers will go out of business. If many farmers go out of business, supply will be reduced, and this will cause prices to go up."

He said farmers could survive the restriction if they were not saddled with large debts.

On Monday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced several short-term measures to deal with the rising prices and shortage of chicken in the country.

He said the export of 3.6 million chickens a month would be halted from June 1, until local prices and supplies had stabilised.

He also said the government would look into creating a buffer stock of chicken and optimising cold storage facilities owned by the Agriculture and Food Industries Ministry.

Ismail Sabri said approved permits for poultry would be abolished to ease imports, more slaughterhouses abroad would be accredited to supply chicken to the country and subsidy claims for chicken farmers would be simplified.

The Malaysian Competition Commission has also been tasked with investigating the supply shortages and is expected to submit a report in June.

Ismail Sabri said action would be taken if a cartel was behind the chicken and egg supply woes since the beginning of the year.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations president Datuk Dr Marimuthu Nadason called for a month-long boycott of chicken, adding that "the cartels will take us for a ride" if this did not happen.

"Chicken and eggs are the cheapest and most widely available sources of protein, hence their prices are sensitive to manipulation. If Malaysian consumers are unwilling to change their consumption pattern and look for other sources of protein, we are going to have a serious food shortage."

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