13 days after directive, local white rice still unavailable, says Syed Abu Hussin

SHAH ALAM: Despite the government's directives to process and distribute the currently available stocks of padi and rice totalling 140,000 metric tonnes, local white rice is still unavailable in many hypermarkets.

National Action Council on Cost of Living (Naccol) food cluster task force chairman Datuk Syed Abu Hussin Hafiz Syed Abdul Faisal said after checking 105 hypermarkets nationwide, only five were selling local white rice.

"Out of all 105 supermarkets I visited (nationwide), only five have local white rice. There was no supply of rice in other hypermarkets despite promises for immediate fulfilment to meet consumer needs throughout Ramadan and Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

"This is happening despite the people wondering what happened (to the stocks of local white rice).

"This means that the supply of local white rice in the market remains unresolved even after 13 days of the government's directive to all manufacturers to immediately process 140,000 metric tonnes of padi," he said after checking on white rice prices at three hypermarkets in the Kota Raja constituency here today.

On March 20, a Naccol meeting chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had decided on four measures to resolve issues related to padi and rice prices.

They included the immediate processing and releasing of all current stocks of padi and rice purchased by manufacturers totalling 140,000 metric tonnes into the local market.

Syed Abu Hussin wanted the Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Zuki Ali to take action against government officials who failed to comply with the directives given by the prime minister.

"Even though the director-general of padi and rice regulation (Datuk Azman Mahmood) has given his assurance on the availability of 140,000 metric tonnes, which is equivalent to 14 million sacks of rice ready to be distributed, there is none."

The Bukit Gantang member of parliament also suggested that the government set a fixed single price grade for both local and imported white rice to curb price manipulation.

He said price manipulation of local white rice in the country would continue to occur if a fixed price is not established by the government.

He added that repackaging issues of rice would also occur if there were two different prices for local and imported white rice, consequently leading to a hike in prices.

"Manipulation occurs when there is a price difference between these two grades of white rice. For example, 10 kilogrammes of local white rice is priced at RM26 while imported white rice can go up to RM35.

"As long as there are different grades (of rice) despite the same quality, manipulation (among manufacturers) will occur, (and) this is also where local white rice will be mixed with imported white rice to be sold in the market.

"If they are in the same grade with the same price, there won't be any issues of rice mixing or price manipulation."

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