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May 2024

When Malaysia’s rice crisis gets ignored

When a nation suffers from a staple food supply crisis, it is in serious trouble

Where has all the rice gone? A visitor to Balik Pulau, Penang soaks in the glorious vista of a paddy field – EVELYN TANG/ALIRAN

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Johari Abdul, suggested that people should think of switching to “ubi kayu” (cassava) while the rice crisis in Malaysia is being tackled. 

Any responsible government should ensure that the people do not face hardship due to a shortage in supply of the nation’s staple food. 

The country is facing a rice supply crisis. Let’s not fool ourselves or pull wool over people’s eyes. 

The Speaker’s advice has sparked mixed feelings. Many others are not even aware of the problem, as they are fixated on the ongoing race and religious dramas. 

Cynical remarks aside, we need to hold every parliamentarian – past and current – accountable for the rice crisis. 

How did a once self-sufficient, rice-growing nation end up having to consider cassava as an alternative? 

How did the past decades’ policy of creating bumiputra rice monopoly controls lead to this current failure? 

Why is there a lack of focus on food security?

Politicians must stop blaming the world. It is time to look in the mirror. 

Leaders have failed the entire nation. They must ensure that everyone, regardless of social status, has equal and fair access to rice, the country’s staple food. Crucially, the retail price of rice must be affordable.

The proposal to consider cassava has triggered memories of the hard times under Japanese occupation, when the people had to turn to tapioca because rice was hard to come by. 

The leaders have proclaimed, year after year, since gaining independence, that Malaysia is a progressive nation. 

They have trumpeted the nation’s multi-billion-ringgit mega-structures to show how ‘developed’ the country is.

Yet, now, they tell the people to consider switching to cassava due to a rice supply crisis.  

Where has the nation gone wrong? How did it go wrong?

When a nation suffers from a staple food supply crisis, it is in serious trouble.

Unfortunately, this national crisis had not made headlines, let alone received much traction on social media. 

The views expressed in Aliran’s media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran’s official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran’s official position. QR Code

Published Date: April 13, 2024

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