Govt should prioritise long-term food security policy

KUALA LUMPUR: The way forward for the government to solve the issue of padi and rice price fluctuation is to have a long-term food security policy towards self-sufficiency, says a consumer group.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) secretary-general Datuk Dr Paul Selva Raj said the government should stop dealing with agricultural issues in relation to food security on a piecemeal basis.

Advocating for self-sufficiency, he highlighted that if Malaysia were more self-reliant, its food supply would not be as vulnerable to economic challenges such as the depreciation of the ringgit.

"We require a comprehensive food security policy to ensure that essential food items are consistently available and affordable for ordinary consumers. Especially on essential food, we need to be more self-sufficient.

"We are so much dependent on imported food, even for rice. Why are we still at 60 per cent (local rice production)?" he said.

He added that Malaysia urgently needed the policy as the country had been plagued with multiple food security issues in recent years.

"We need to address this fundamentally, especially concerning rice, which we regard as a sensitive subject due to the need to support both farmers and consumers

"But there are so many positive policies that can go ahead. So what's taking so long?" he said.

He warned that excessive dependence on food imports could lead to significant price hikes, especially exacerbated by the weakening value of the ringgit.

"The bigger issue is achieving greater self-sufficiency in food production so that we can control prices. When we heavily rely on food imports, every price increase poses a significant challenge, especially considering our low ringgit value.

"As a result, imported food becomes exorbitantly expensive. Therefore, we urgently require the implementation of a comprehensive, long-term policy," he said.


Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said he had given the National Action Council on Cost of Living (Naccol) and the Agriculture and Food Security Ministry until March 20 to resolve issues related to padi and rice prices.

This is because the people are affected by the increase in prices of imported white rice in the global market due to export bans imposed by rice-producing countries.

As a result, there have been complaints of limited supply of local white rice due to increased demand following the price fluctuation of imported white rice.

Anwar warned that if padi farmers switched to other crops to enhance their revenue, the country's food security would suffer.

Meanwhile, Consumers' Association of Penang education officer N.V. Subbarow said Naccol should have comprehensive discussions with farmer groups before deciding on any policies.

"The farmers are facing an extreme burden on growing padi. Not only water but padi seeds prices have also increased.

"They feel they are cheated. The price of rice must be very fair to the farmers. They are the growers. Give them a fair price. There is no point in getting comments from rice millers," he said.

He also suggested for the government to subsidise rice prices for B40 groups and subsidising padi seeds to the farmers.

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