Malaysia lacks domestically produced rice

Imported rice prices skyrocketed following international fluctuations, causing Malaysians to rush to buy domestic rice, which was capped at a low level.

Many supermarkets and small grocery stores in Malaysia have empty shelves because 5kg and 10kg bags of domestic white rice are purchased by customers as soon as they are available. Ameer Ali Mydin, CEO of Mydin supermarket chain, said the shortage is due to the increasing price difference between domestically produced and imported rice.

“The shortage occurs because people are worried when they see the price difference. They rush to buy and hoard. Because everyone buys one or two extra bags, if a few hundred thousand people buy an extra bag of rice, it’s a lot.” tons will run out,” he said.

In Malaysia, domestic white rice is a controlled commodity with a price ceiling of 26 ringgit ($5.54) per 10 kg. However, the rice production industry can only meet 70% of demand. Therefore, this country imports white rice mainly from India, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Imported rice has generally been more expensive than domestic rice since before the recent increase in global prices. The gap widened significantly after Padiberas Nasional (Bernas), the group that controls distribution, decided to increase the retail price of imported rice by 36% from September 1 to match the increase in global prices. Currently, the price of imported white rice is ranging from 30 to 70 ringgit (6.37 to 14.87 USD) for 10 kg.

Khách hàng mua gạo tại một siêu thị của Mydin, ngày 2/2. Ảnh: Miera Zulyana

The price increase caused domestic demand for cheap rice to skyrocket. Kumaran, 57, a construction worker in Subang Jaya city in late September, struggled to buy white rice in the country. “You can’t find any local rice. If this situation continues, everyone will be affected,” he said.

Vani, a 54-year-old housewife, lamented: “It’s hard to find cheaper bags of domestic rice in the supermarket.” According to her, the family’s monthly food bill has increased from 20% to 30%, not to mention the increase in cookie and cooking oil costs.

Dry weather due to El Nino also affected Malaysia’s rice production this year. Some restaurants and eateries are having to bear the cost of rising rice prices. However, they warned they may have to increase prices if the crisis continues.

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s rice price index reached 142.4 in August, up 31% over the same period in 2022 amid a global white rice shortage and a grain export ban imposed by India since 2020. from July.

Earlier this week, Chan Foong Hin, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, predicted that the domestic white rice shortage would be resolved as the harvest in Kedah state has begun.

Malaysia is also trying to increase domestic production with the “Local White Rice Special Program” (BPT). Accordingly, manufacturers are recommended to increase production by 20% in a year. They implemented projects to increase productivity to an average of 7 tons per hectare (from 5 tons) in some large fields and increase the number of farming seasons.

“The government has launched a new initiative to increase rice production and income for rice farmers, with the planting of 5 rice crops in 2 years, to increase productivity and bring the national rice self-sufficiency rate to 80%. % by 2030,” he said. Currently, farmers usually grow rice twice a year.

Officials in this country also plan to research and develop new rice varieties that can be harvested in 75 days, better resistant to harsh weather and disease. Fakhrurrazi Rashid, senior analyst at Merdeka Consulting Center, said that the current crisis is a good opportunity for the Malaysian government to review the entire food security policy framework.

“This situation is a shock to many people, especially low-income groups, because we have always depended on rice imports to meet domestic needs. The government should not wait for conflict or crisis new action, and should give a clearer message as a commitment to the people,” he added.

 

according to Nikkei, MalayMail

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