KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 18 — The increase in imported white rice prices has been attributed to the consumer’s shift toward locally-produced white rice, causing its shortage.
The strengthening of the US dollar against the ringgit has increased imported white rice prices further following the 60 per cent price hike of the staple food commodity at the end of August last year. Malaysia imports 30 per cent of white rice to meet its domestic demand.
Amid criticisms, the government, via the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security initiated several measures such as the Local White Rice Special Programme (PKBPT), Op Jamin, and Local White Rice Operations in addition to increasing rice production rate by 20 per cent to ensure sufficient supply of white rice for the people.
Checks by Bernama at various stores and supermarkets across the country found that there is still a shortage of local white rice and most consumers and traders expressed high hopes that swift action will be taken to resolve the issue.
According to Agriculture and Food Security Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu, the situation will be remedied next month through various intervention measures to be implemented by the ministry.
In Kedah, to lighten the people’s burden, the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Cost of Living (KPDN) has taken the initiative to sell imported rice at the price of local rice through the Rahmah Sales programme, said state KPDN director Affendi Rajini Kanth.
In Negeri Sembilan, Forest Height Econsave Supermarket manager Mohd Shafeq Ismangil said they were informed that the supply of local white rice would be distributed to traders within the next two weeks.
“It is not a big issue. When there is an increase in the imported white rice prices, consumers shift their buying to local rice, resulting in high demand compared to production.
“Even though authorities have taken action to address the shortage, it still cannot be 100 per cent resolved. But I believe that things will be back to normal and the supply will be available in the market without any issues,” he said.
Penang Department of Agriculture director Muhaimin Ibrahim said the state recorded 122,321.025 metric tonnes of padi production last year, catering to the needs of 63 per cent of its population.
He explained that harvesting is underway at the 12,105 hectares of padi fields, but the total harvest has not yet been obtained.
An owner of a rice mill in Sekinchan, Selangor, Allen Lim, 50, said he expected that the local white rice supply would increase again in October.
“There are many factors to be considered…during the off-season, it is normal for local rice to be in short supply. But by mid-October, it is rice season again, and the supply will increase.
“Besides that, the prices of imported white rice are rising, causing those who have been consuming it to switch to local rice because it is cheaper,” he added.
In Melaka, state Rural Development, Agriculture and Food Security Committee chairman Muhamad Akmal Saleh said the local rice supply in the state has increased after it received 500 metric tonnes of local white rice last Saturday, assuring that the supply will be fulfilled gradually.
According to Terengganu Padi and Rice Regulatory Division director Ahmad Suffian Zulkipeli, based on their monitoring, the supply of local and imported white rice is sufficient to fulfil the needs of the people.
“In Terengganu, there are 34 active local white rice and imported white rice wholesalers and 769 licensed retailers. Eight wholesalers and three mills are participating in PKBT to ensure the availability of local rice in the market,” he said.
Gerai Area Farmers’ Organisation general manager Amrul Azri Shamsuddin said the agency produced about 45 metric tonnes of rice for the state market as well as several areas in Selangor, adding that in total 1,402 farmers are cultivating padi in 2,926 hectares of padi fields in the Besut district.
In Kelantan, Pasar Melor trader community chairman Nik Pa Nik Hassan said following the shortage, traders are selling rice imported from Thailand to consumers.
Meanwhile, Pahang state Consumer Affairs and Human Resources Committee chairman Sim Chon Siang noted that the local rice supply shortage will be discussed at the Pahang State Government Council meeting this Wednesday (September 20).