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Address rice issues urgently — MPs

KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 13): Issues of rice shortages and price increases for imported rice garnered the attention of Members of Parliament during the second day of debate for the 12th Malaysia Plan’s Mid-Term Review in the Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday.

They believe that the issues need to be addressed urgently to alleviate concerns among the people, as rice is a staple food in the country.

Datuk Seri Dr Wee Jeck Seng (Barisan Nasional-Tanjung Piai) urged the government to take immediate action to address the 38% shortage of rice supply for local consumption.

He said the country faces fierce competition from Indonesia for rice imports, as the republic currently has a 42% shortage of local rice supply, and the Philippines, the largest rice-importing country in Southeast Asia, with imports valued at US$1.3 billion (RM6.09 billion) in 2021.

“Furthermore, the Indian government has also restricted rice exports from the country, which caused the selling price of imported rice nationwide (in Malaysia) to increase from RM2,350 per tonne to RM3,200 per tonne effective from Sept 1, an increase of 36%.

“This price hike will make it more difficult for the bottom 40% and middle 40% household income groups to obtain their daily carbohydrate needs, thus increasing concerns among Malaysians during this challenging time,” he said.

Wee also suggested that the government immediately import rice from countries other than India, such as Vietnam, Thailand and Pakistan, before the shortage issue worsens.

Meanwhile, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (Perikatan Nasional-Pagoh) said rice is a controlled item, and the government should find a way to control prices, so that it does not become too expensive for the people to afford.

“Let’s not forget that many people have become impoverished after the pandemic. Although eKasih data showed that the number of registered (impoverished) households had been reduced from 124,744 to 118,217 as of May, with the excessive increase in prices of goods, especially food items and daily necessities such as rice, I doubt the government’s target to eradicate hardcore poverty this year will bring any meaning to the people out there.

“Is the poverty line used to determine the poverty status of households still realistic, taking into account the increase in prices of goods and the current inflation rate?” he asked.

In the meantime, Lim Guan Eng (Pakatan Harapan-Bagan) called on the government to increase the stock of rice supply to meet the needs of the people.

He also asked the government to study the price of imported rice to ensure that it is not too high, or else it would be difficult for the people to obtain the supply.

The issue was also raised by Datuk Seri Doris Sophia Brodi (GPS-Sri Aman), who suggested that the government focus on increasing rice cultivation in the country.

“Why is our country, Malaysia, with fertile land, vast forests and a suitable climate, not advancing in agriculture, including livestock farming? We still depend on other countries to obtain food supplies, such as rice. What happened to the national rice bowl project?” she asked.

She pointed out that the Batang Lupar rice bowl project in Sarawak covers an area of 5,100 hectares, but only 196 hectares had been completed, while the rest of the site is still undergoing construction for the necessary facilities.

On the other hand, she said the Kota Belud rice project in Sabah, with a more extensive project area and established at about the same time, had contributed yields.

https://theedgemalaysia.com/node/682401 QR Code

Published Date: September 13, 2023

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