SHAH ALAM, July 4 2018 : There is no guarantee that rice prices will drop if the government carries out the rice import exercise in an open trading environment with other companies as opposed to the current model of Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) being the sole importer of the staple product.
Bernas chief executive officer Ismail Mohamed Yusoff said under the single gatekeeper mechanism, Bernas had been entrusted by the government to ensure the welfare of farmers was prioritised and rice was supplied and made available to consumers at stable and affordable prices.
“About 60 per cent of the rice consumed in the country at present is produced by local farmers and local rice prices are controlled (by the government). The current policy also states that prices of imported white rice, which accounts for about 30 per cent of consumption, cannot be cheaper than local rice prices.
“When you talk about the white rice prices, unless something changes somewhere along the supply chain, from paddy, to millers and wholesalers, I don’t see how the prices that are now controlled can be lower,” he told a media briefing here, today.
Under the mechanism, Bernas has managed to safeguard the welfare of about 300,000 local paddy farmers nationwide with an average monthly income of between RM835 and RM1,550, while the rice price has been kept among the cheapest in the Southeast Asian countries, at RM2.60 per kg, and has been stagnant for the past 10 years.
Meanwhile, Bernas also reiterated its support for the local paddy and rice industry by ensuring the paddy farming communities, stakeholders and all consumers’ best interests have been guaranteed over the decades.
In addition to safeguarding food security, Ismail said Bernas had also maintained the quality of local paddy harvest through grading processes, as well as that of imported rice through quality surveyors.
“For over two decades, Bernas has been responsible for maintaining food security – primarily by safeguarding farmers income through ensuring the full take-up of local rice production, and consumer accessibility to rice at stable and affordable prices.
“We will be collaborating with the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry and all industry stakeholders to determine the best operating model which suits the local paddy and rice industry. We believe our current system fulfils those requirements and that the system works,” he added.
In the meantime, he said Bernas would continue to deliver and dispense its responsibilities to the industry professionally and diligently.
“We welcome any invitation to discuss how we can better service the industry and deliver our responsibilities. Ultimately, Bernas is committed to upholding the farmers’ welfare and consumers’ interest, and will continue to make that our main priority,” he added. – Bernama