KUALA LUMPUR: The issue of rice shortage and the increase in the price of imported rice has garnered the attention of Members of Parliament during the second day of debate for the 12th Malaysia Plan Mid-Term Review in the Dewan Rakyat today.
They believe that the issue needs to be addressed urgently to alleviate concerns among the people, as rice is a staple food in this country.
Datuk Seri Dr Wee Jeck Seng (BN-Tanjung Piai) urged the government to take immediate action to address the 38 per cent shortage of rice supplies for local consumption.
He said the country faced fierce competition from Indonesia, which currently has a 42 per cent shortage of local rice supplies, and the Philippines, the largest rice importing country in Southeast Asia, with imports valued at US$1.3 billion in 2021.
“Furthermore, the Indian government has also restricted rice exports from the country, which has caused the selling price of imported rice nationwide to increase from RM2,350 per tonne to RM3,200 per tonne effective Sept 1, 2023, an increase of 36 per cent.
“This price hike will make it more difficult for the B40 and M40 groups to obtain their daily carbohydrate needs, thus increasing concerns among Malaysians during this challenging time,” he said.
Wee also suggested that the government immediately import rice from countries other than India, such as Vietnam, Thailand and Pakistan, before the shortage issue worsens.
Meanwhile, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (PN-Pagoh) said rice is a controlled item, and the government should find a way to control its price so that it does not become too expensive for people to afford.
“Let’s not forget that many people have become impoverished after the pandemic. Although eKasih data showed that the number of registered households has reduced from 124,744 to 118,217 as of May 2023, but with the excessive increase in the price of goods, especially food items and daily necessities such as rice, I doubt the government’s target to eradicate hardcore poverty this year will bring any meaning to the people out there.
“Is the poverty line used to determine the poverty status of households still realistic, taking into account the increase in the price of goods and the current inflation rate?” he said.
In the meantime, Lim Guan Eng (PH-Bagan) called on the government to increase the stock of rice supplies to meet the needs of the people.
He also asked the government to study the price of imported rice to ensure that it is not too high, which makes it difficult for the people to obtain the supply.
The issue was also raised by Datuk Seri Doris Sophia Brodi (GPS-Sri Aman), who suggested that the government focus on increasing rice cultivation in the country.
“Why is our country, Malaysia, with fertile land, vast forests and a suitable climate, not advancing in agriculture, including livestock farming? We still depend on other countries to obtain food supplies such as rice. What happened to the national rice bowl project?” she said.
She pointed out that the Batang Lupar Rice Bowl project in Sarawak covers an area of 5,100 hectares, but only 196 hectares have been completed, while the rest of the site is still undergoing construction of necessary facilities.
On the other hand, she said the Kota Belud Rice Project in Sabah, with a more extensive project area and established at about the same time, has contributed yields. -Bernama