September 4, 2023
PETALING JAYA – Restaurant owners are looking at raising the price of their rice dishes as the cost of imported rice goes up by 36%, driven by factors including climate change and conflicts.
“We will be left with no choice but to pass the extra cost to our customers. We can expect to see the price of a plate of rice to go up by about 20sen,” said Wong Choy Sim, who owns a popular Chinese restaurant in Tapah, Perak.
He said that since eatery operators would want to sustain their business, this means diners would have to face price increases.
Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) said on Friday that the price of white rice had been increased with immediate effect to RM3,200 from RM2,350 per metric tonne due to unpredictable factors such as climate change, the weakening of the foreign currency exchange rate, high operating costs and conflicts in the region.
The price hike will cost consumers 85sen more for a kilogramme of imported white rice.
Mohd Arsyad Azarin, the owner of Nasi Kandar Arsyad restaurant here, estimated that the price of a meal might go up by between 50sen and 80sen at least, with the rise of not just imported rice but all other ingredients.
“It is not just the price of rice that is rising but everything else such as chicken, red meat, vegetables and ingredients required for making curries. We are currently absorbing the costs, but how long can we sustain this?” he said.
Habib Shahul Hameed, who owns a nasi kandar restaurant in Kelana Jaya here, said he would absorb the price increase for now to avoid putting off his customers.
But he was of the view that the situation could get serious.
“The prices of all other food items are already rising. And now, with the price of rice going up, it will make things worse for both restaurant owners and their customers,” he said.
He added that the government should offer more subsidies or increase the production of rice.
Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) president Datuk N. Marimuthu proposed that the government have programmes to cultivate padi for Malaysia to be self-sufficient in its rice supply instead of relying on imports.
The country should cease to depend on other countries for the supply of rice, he added.
Instead, he said the country should take advantage of its fertile land to grow padi.
“In the 1960s and 1970s, we were self-sufficient, but today, we rely on imports from various countries. This shows the decline is getting bad and that our food policy is not sustainable.
“The food import bill has gone up to by between RM55bil and RM60bil. If the government of the day is not addressing food security issues, then price controls and monitoring will not work,” he added.
Malaysia is not the only country facing a price hike in rice. Other key exporting countries, including Thailand and Vietnam, have seen prices going up by around 20%.
This came in the wake of India, the world’s biggest shipper of the grain, banning the export of a variety of rice in July, tightening global supplies.
Traders are now expecting similar supply curbs by other exporters needing to ensure domestic food security, which has left importers scrambling to secure shipments.
Last year, India already banned exports of broken rice and imposed a duty on shipments of various grades of rice.
Indonesia’s National Food Agency said the El Nino was expected to lead to a decline in domestic rice production, with an estimated drop of around 5%.