KUALA LUMPUR, July 20 — Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said the government should not extend Bernas’ concession for another 10 years, alleging that the company had made billions of ringgit in profits since 2018 on the back of Malaysian farmers left languishing in the “poor households” category.
He said some import rights should be given to farmers’ associations to supplement the incomes of paddy farmers.
“Their accumulated profits were RM1.2 billion in 2018, RM1.3 billion in 2019 and RM798 million in 2020. After that, nett dividends of RM670 million were given to shareholders.
“This is a monopoly that gives too much profit to one company, a rich company. When, at the same time, all 150,000 farmers in this country are still considered the poorest of the poor.
“This is against the principles of food security and food jihad because we allow a monopoly. Import rights should be distributed.
“I have no problem with Bernas managing them but distribute them among farmers’ associations that can directly benefit farmers,” the Port Dickson MP told a press conference in Parliament today.
Anwar added that the government should ensure fair distribution to paddy farmers across the country who had low incomes because they had to sell their harvest at a low rate to keep overall prices low.
“We demand that Bernas ensures the distribution to farmers is done fairly. We want the government to elicit a direct answer from Bernas on how it distributes its profits to farmers,” the Pakatan Harapan chairman said.
Earlier, in the Lower House, Anwar said the government should allow farmers’ associations to intervene in solving the problems faced by farmers.
“Let the farmers’ associations help. Why should they want to ask a big tauke to take care of the problem of paddy farmers? The question has been around for decades. It should be checked,” said Anwar in the Dewan Rakyat today.
Anwar’s statement followed the answer of the Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry Datuk Seri Ronald Kiandee, who addressed the first oral question from Ahmad Nazlan Idris (Jerantut-BN), who wanted to know about the challenges faced by the agro-food sector in ensuring the country’s food chain remains stable and uninterrupted.
In his reply, Kiandee said the government had set up various committees, such as the Cabinet Committee on Food Security (FACC), the Technical Committee to Address National Security Issues, and the Special Jihad Task Force to address inflation.
“For the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry, several short-term measures have been taken that are oriented towards three interventions, namely trade, production and consumer.
“Among the short-term measures are to cancel the import quota of food items from abroad such as chicken and sugar and implement chicken buffer stocks and fish product stocks.
“In fact, we have also simplified the payment of subsidies to ensure stable chicken production,” Kiandee said.