KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 23 — The current local white rice shortage has nothing to do with a “cartel” as alleged but is because Malaysia has not reached self-sufficiency levels despite being a producing nation, Datuk Mahfuz Omar said.
The chairman of the Farmers’ Organisation Authority — a statutory agency under the Agriculture and Food Security Ministry — said that the country’s self-sufficiency level is currently at 65 per cent and as such, Malaysia is still heavily reliant on imports to fulfil the local appetite for white rice, Utusan Malaysia reported today.
“When India restricted the export of white rice, this impacted Malaysia and it led to local white rice being snatched up by consumers,” he was quoted as saying, in response to Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor’s assertion of a “cartel” driving up prices nationwide.
Muhammad Sanusi was yesterday reported saying that the reason Malaysian paddy farmers have not seen their income grow in line with technological agricultural advances is because of a long-standing problem with a cartel that controls the industry.
“There is no reason for farmers to sell paddy to cartels because the current minimum price for paddy is high, between RM1,800 and RM1,700 per ton compared to RM1,200 previously,” Mahfuz told the Malay daily.
He said domestic rice mills are still unable to produce rice at quantities that meet the local demand.
He said the government is aware of the issue and is working to increase paddy production for the future.
Agriculture and Food Security Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu has touted the paddy planting methods by farmers in Sekinchan, Selangor as a model that can be adopted by other states to increase their yields.
Utusan Malaysia also reported Malaysian Muslim Wholesalers and Retailers Association president Abdul Ali Fiddik saying that there is no reason for any party to hide supplies of local white rice as the profit from selling it was not high — affirming Mahfuz’s assertion.
Abdul Ali told the Malay daily that the supplies that retailers received were limited and this situation was worsened by panic buying among the public.
He said rice distributors could supply up to 100 sacks of local white rice but this time around, they only received between 20 and 30 sacks.
“When it was reported that there was a rice shortage, consumers started buying rice in large quantities to stock up,” he was quoted as saying.
Abdul Ali said the rice distribution has improved and he is confident that the price and rice supply will resume to normal by next month.