Government needs decisive action to raise local white rice prices

ALOR STAR: The federal government must act boldly in taking a decisive step to raise the price of locally produced white rice, which has remained unchanged at RM2.60 per kilogramme (kg) since 2008, in order to support the padi industry.

Malaysian Padi Farmers Brotherhood Organisation (Pesawah) executive council member Abdul Rashid Yob said the decision, despite an expected strong public reaction due to the ongoing rise in the cost of living, is crucial for the sustainability of the padi industry and food security.

"While acknowledging the sensitivity of this matter, it is important to reassess the prices based on the current circumstances.

"The public needs to understand that the economic landscape is constantly changing. The last time local white rice prices were increased was in 2008, while other rice-producing nations have raised their prices due to current demands.

"The ideal price should be around RM3.50 per kg. We need to consider the long-term implication... the government isn't going to raise prices every year," he said when contacted.

Abdul Rashid said this in response to the federal government's recent hesitation to implement the Madani white rice initiative.

The initiative, announced by National Action Council for Cost of Living (Naccol) food cluster task force chairman Datuk Syed Abu Hussin Hafiz Syed Abdul Faisal, aimed to standardise the price of white rice at RM30 for a 10 kg sack.

Under the initiative, there will no longer be separate categories for local white rice (SST) and imported white rice (SSI); instead, Malaysia Madani white rice will be the only category available.

However, Agriculture and Food Security Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu has denied that the government has made a final decision on the initiative on Saturday.

Mohamad instead said his ministry agreed with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's statement that the proposal should be discussed collectively at the coming Naccol meeting next week.

Expressing his concerns about the government's handling of the initiative, Abdul Rashid said it as a sign that there is poor communication between the government and it's agencies.

"This indicates a lack of effective coordination between relevant ministries and agencies. There should have been inclusive discussions involving all stakeholders," he added.

Meanwhile, Abdul Rashid stressed the importance of the government providing clear explanations to the public regarding the necessity of increasing the price of local white rice.

"Why is this necessary? If the government is always afraid of public backlash, then subsidies should be provided again...

"This issue has been lingering for a long time, and everyone wants to push their own ideas in handling this issue, which ultimately affects the farmers," he added.

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