September 19, 2023
KUALA LUMPUR – RICE supply issues are expected to be resolved in a month’s time, says Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu, while dismissing calls to ban foreigners from buying local varieties of the daily staple.
The Agriculture and Food Security Minister added that the country has enough rice for up to five months and that the government has launched a programme to increase stockpiles of locally-produced white rice (BPT) by 20%.
“Foreigners must eat too. Don’t forget that they are also working to help build our country. There are no plans for this as of now,” he told the Dewan Rakyat in his winding up speech during debates on the 12th Malaysia Plan mid-term review (12MP MTR) yesterday.
Mohamad was responding to a question by Wan Ahmad Fayshal Wan Ahmad Kamal (PN-Machang) on whether the government intended to restrict the sale of BPT to foreigners.
This followed a similar suggestion from Melaka rural development, agriculture and food security committee chairman Dr Akmal Saleh who said the needs of the locals must be prioritised.
These calls were made after complaints emerged nationwide of shortages of BPT due to increased demand after prices for imported rice had gone up. BPT prices are controlled by the government, while imported varieties are not.
Mohamad said the current rice stockpile stood at 900,000 million metric tonnes.
“This comprises 250,000 million metric tonnes of government stockpiles and 650,000 metric tonnes of commercial stock. This is enough for the next four to five months.”
The ministry believes there is no pressing need to use the government’s rice stockpile yet, he added, saying that supplies were expected to recover in a month’s time.
Among the measures taken to increase supplies is a programme with millers and suppliers to increase stockpiles by 20% to 23,000 metric tonnes a month for a period of one year.
He added that the Muda Agricultural Development Authority (Mada) has also started harvesting more padi, he said.
“They have harvested 20% more padi so there will be more local rice in one or two months,” he said.
Mohamad said the ministry would meet with the Indian government to find a solution for imported rice supplies, after India stopped exports.
“Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) will also be having discussions with other source countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia,” he said.
Mohamad also told Sim Tze Tzin (PH-Bayan Baru) that Bernas would continue to be the country’s sole importer of rice after its concession was extended for another 10 years by former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
“We can discuss this suggestion with the Prime Minister and Economy Minister,” Mohamad said of Sim’s suggestion to review the arrangement with Bernas.
“We will discuss this among the leadership on what actions we can take,” he said.
Separately, Deputy Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Minister Fuziah Salleh brushed aside allegations by Datuk Seri Ikmal Hisham Abdul Aziz (PN-Tanah Merah) that subsidised sugar was being repackaged and sold at commercial prices.
“It’s not the same type of sugar. They can’t just repackage it as we monitor the supply,” she said.