ALOR SETAR — October 12, 2018: The pressure group that has been campaigning for the dismantling of rice import monopoly in the country is now unhappy with the government’s plan to do so.
Padi Rescue members’ unhappiness stemmed from the government’s plan to break the monopoly by way of allowing more companies to import rice, which they claimed would be bad for the livelihood of paddy farmers.
“Having more rice importers will make the price of imported rice cheaper than the locally produced ones. This would also discourage millers to buy paddy from local farmers,” read Padi Rescue statement, issued today.
Malaysia imports rice through a company called Padi Beras Nasional Berhad (Bernas) which prior to its corporatisation in 1996 was a government outfit called the National Paddy Rice Agency (LPN).
Bernas is set to lose its monopoly in 2021, which according to Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Salahuddin Ayub, is the government’s first step towards bolstering the country’s food security.
Padi Rescue however, argued that the government is making a mistake because food security is measured by the country’s ability to produce its own food instead of relying on imports.
In terms of food security, Malaysia has to import at least 30 per cent of rice to sate national consumption.
“We want the government to be the sole rice importer, not private entities Do it like how it is done in other rice producing countries such as China and Indonesia,” said Padi Rescue coordinator Nurfitri Amir Muhammad.
Padi Rescue is also against the ministry’s plan to appoint rice importers, millers and wholesalers to head a rice-price regulatory body as it could make the outfit susceptible into making dollar-and-cents decisions.
“The problem with our rice farming industry is that a lot roles which should have been done by the government is taken over by private entities. The ministry is still trapped in a consumer nation mindset when it should be thinking like a producing country,” read the Padi Rescue statement.