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Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail listen to brief for food preparation process during the Food Bank Malaysia programme. - NSTP/DANIAL SAAD

GEORGE TOWN: The government’s introduction of the Food Bank Malaysia programme is aimed at reducing the cost of living for local consumers, especially those in the B40 group.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today that the initiative could also reduce food wastage among Malaysians – a problem which has reached alarming levels.

He said the food wastage issue is a global phenomenon and not new to the country, with Malaysians producing 15,000 tonnes of excess food daily, which is then discarded, despite 3,000 tonnes of the goods still being in good condition and safe for consumption.

“If the 3,000 tonnes of food can be distributed at its optimum, it can benefit two million people.

“The food surplus, although it seems a trivial matter, (would have) a major impact on those in need.

“As such, the Food Bank Malaysia programme can address both the food wastage issue and the rising cost of living,” he said at the launch of the Food Bank Malaysia programme here, today.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng launches the Food Bank Malaysia programme at Kompleks Masyarakat Penyayang Pulau Pinang. - NSTP/DANIAL SAAD

Dr Mahathir’s speech was read out by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.

Present was Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail and his deputy Chong Chieng Jen.

Also in attendance was Selangor Princess Tengku Datin Paduka Setia Zatashah Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah.

The prime minister said that on access to food, the B40 group should be given priority to enable them to save on their daily expenditure, which would indirectly increase their disposable income to be used for other important matters such as education and health.

Dr Mahathir added that the government sets aside a huge annual allocation for Malaysia’s food production costs.

“As such, efforts to address food wastage should be given due consideration to ensure that all Malaysians have access to good and nutritious food.

“And if we can overcome food wastage, this will directly overcome the high cost of living the people are facing today.

“In line with this, the government is always looking at the best methods to address the two issues, through smart-partnership with various quarters, including the private sector and non-governmental organisations.

“Realising this, the ministry started the Food Bank Malaysia initiative, which is done on a voluntary basis, without any major financial (commitment by) the government,” he added.

Dr Mahathir said he was told that through the Food Bank Malaysia programme, the food surplus received would be channelled to members of target groups and registered welfare homes.

“I am told this initiative will target 186,354 heads of households living below the poverty line nationwide,” he said.

Meanwhile, the prime minister added that the government has set up the Food Bank Malaysia Foundation to ensure the systematic and efficient implementation of the programme.

He said the foundation would be helped by highly committed and experienced trustees in ensuring the success of the government’s agenda.

“As such, I urge corporate bodies, non-governmental organisations and individuals to jointly ensure the success of the Food Bank Malaysia initiative.

“And to ensure a more systematic implementation, the government will introduce special regulations to protect both the recipients and donors – a move adopted by countries such as France and the US.

“The ministry has also been tasked with conducting an in-depth study on the matter.

“Once (all is up and smoothly running), I hope the Food Bank Malaysia programme will benefit not only those in Peninsular Malaysia but also people in the outskirts of Sabah and Sarawak,” he added.

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