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Mat Sabu shoots down call for Sabah to import rice

He says the current policy allowing Bernas to import the commodity remains the best way to tackle supply-related issues.

Mohamad Sabu said Putrajaya had already taken steps to stabilise the supply and price of rice in East Malaysia and Labuan, including providing an imported rice subsidy of RM950 per tonne.

PETALING JAYA: The federal government has no plan to allow Sabah to import rice on its own for now to help stabilise the supply and price of the commodity.

Agriculture and food security minister Mohamad Sabu said the current policy on importing rice remained the best way to tackle supply-related issues.

Bernas is currently the government’s sole importer, a concession which has been extended to 2031.

“This policy has allowed the country to face global rice price instability, shielding us from the uncertainties of the international market,” he said in a parliamentary reply.

Mohamad was responding to a question by Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis (Warisan-Kota Belud), who had asked if Putrajaya would allow Sabah to import rice on its own.

Last month, Sabah deputy chief minister Jeffrey Kitingan said the state should be given the autonomy to manage its rice imports.

Kitingan, who is also the state’s agriculture, fisheries and food industry minister, proposed the idea after Bernas said the price of imported white rice was expected to rise by up to 36%.

Mohamad, better known as Mat Sabu, said Putrajaya had already taken steps to stabilise the supply and price of rice in East Malaysia and Labuan, including providing an imported rice subsidy of RM950 per tonne and earmarking some 50,000 hectares of land in Sabah and Sarawak for rice planting.

On Sept 26, Mohamad said it was difficult to end Bernas’ monopoly on rice imports, adding that there had to be solid reasons for doing so.

Separately, Mohamad said the government had in July signed a research and development MoU with Iran’s Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization.

The agreement, to develop the agriculture industry, would strengthen trade relations with Iran in the agro-food sector, including the halal industry.

Mohamad said agro-food exports to Iran went up by 88.7%, or RM125.5 million, last year.

Mohamad was replying to Abdul Hadi Awang (PN-Marang) who had asked what form of cooperation would be carried out between Putrajaya and Tehran in food security and the halal industry.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2023/10/31/mat-sabu-shoots-down-call-for-sabah-to-import-rice/ QR Code

Published Date: October 31, 2023

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