Ministry of Agriculture: Malaysia’s rice supply stable

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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s rice supply is still stable and sufficient to meet people’s needs, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industries.

He said the fact that Malaysia has not experienced rice supply disruption during the Covid-19 pandemic is a sign of this, and added that the country’s rice prices are among the lowest in the world. region.

The ministry then said that in Malaysia the price of regular white rice is RM2.60 per kilogram, compared to RM8.52 for similar quality rice in Singapore, Brunei (RM5.60), Indonesia (4 .10RM), Laos (RM4), Vietnam (RM3.34), Philippines (RM3.33), Cambodia (RM3.20) and Thailand (RM2.70).

He added that Malaysia’s padi and rice production meets 70% of the country’s needs.

According to the Managing Director of the MAFI Padi Industry Development Division, Azman Mahmood, the government has created rice stocks across the country to guarantee supply in case of an unforeseen event causing a food crisis.

MAFI and Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) intend to increase the country’s total rice stock from 150,000 metric tons to 290,000 metric tons by 2023.

“The increase in stock does not involve any financial allocation from the ministry. Currently, our buffer stock stands at 88.52% or 221,311 metric tons. We hope to increase it to a total of 250,000 metric tons of by the end of 2022.

“Efforts to increase the stock will be implemented until we reach the target we have set ourselves, regardless of external factors such as the pandemic, climate change, etc.,” he said. he declared to Bernama.

The management of the national rice stock is fully overseen by Bernas as it is among the key social obligation clauses outlined in the company’s concession agreement with the government. Last year, the concession contract was renewed for 10 years until 2031.

Under the rice stock clause, Bernas must preserve, manage, maintain and keep the rice stock at the current rate set by the government.

Azman said the country’s stockpile of rice was between 600,000 and 700,000 metric tons at any one time.

“This amount includes rice stocks held by wholesalers and retailers; padi crops that have not been processed into rice; imported rice that has not yet been unloaded from ships; and others.

“If the total stock is taken into account, the nation has enough stock to meet the needs of people without imported rice for four to five months,” he explained.

He added that various initiatives have been implemented to ensure sufficient supply of rice, including encouraging young people to venture into farming and replacing aging padi farmers, encouraging stakeholders to use produce from the Internet of things and industrial revolution 4.0, and doubling research and development. efforts to discover new disease-resistant seeds.

The ministry has also introduced several programs to reduce the impact of various global factors currently affecting the industry. According to Azman, this year alone, pesticide subsidies have been increased to RM62 million to absorb the higher costs of agricultural inputs, the prices of which have risen dramatically globally.

“We have also introduced an agricultural insurance scheme to cope with rice crops often affected by natural disasters and have also introduced organic fertilizers to treat soils and reduce the use of chemical fertilizers,” he said. he declares.

He said all these programs aim to help the country achieve a rice self-sufficiency level (SSL) of 75% by the end of the 11th Malaysian Plan (2021-2025) and 80% by the end of the national agri-food policy 2021. -2030.

As Malaysia’s rice production covers only 70% of its needs, Bernas – which is the country’s only rice importer – imports up to 800,000 metric tons of rice per year from rice exporting countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan and India.

The bulk of imports comprises white rice, with the remainder being specialty rice varieties such as basmati rice and brown rice.

In this context, even though Malaysia faces no threat to its rice supply, it still needs to work on increasing domestic production to secure the supply of the country’s staple food.

Acknowledging this, Azman said the government must come up with a drastic measure to increase the country’s rice productivity rate.

“Although the government has implemented various programs and distributed grants and incentives worth billions of ringgits each year, an analysis by our ministry has revealed that the productivity of granary and non-granary areas has not not been satisfactory,” he said.

Emphasizing that the time has come for the private sector to be given the opportunity to play a leading role in the country’s padi and rice industry, he said that the approach of using as much as possible the capital of private funding will help revive the industry.

“The ministry intends to attract private investors to make the national padi and rice industry more vibrant and competitive,” he said.

Addressing the SMART Large-Scale Field Program (SMART SBB), Azman said his goal was to increase the national average padi yield to 7.0 metric tons per hectare during the Malaysian 12th Plan period (2026 -2030), compared to the current average yield. 3.5 to 4.3 metric tons per hectare.

“In the long term, the program aims to develop a total of 150,000 hectares of rice fields per season or 300,000 hectares per year. With the encouraging response from industry players and the incomes of the farmers involved increasing by up to 180 percent , the ministry is confident to achieve its SSL target of 75% by the end of 2025,” he said.

To date, the SMART SBB pilot project has successfully attracted 24 companies, including government-related and private companies, which have signed MoUs with MAFI to cultivate padi.

In the near future, the ministry through Agrobank will also introduce the first of its kind agribusiness insurance scheme for the padi sector. Under this scheme, padi farmers would receive compensation in case their crops are destroyed by natural disasters such as floods, droughts or storms.

Meanwhile, Professor Datuk Dr Mad Nasir Shamsudin from the Faculty of Agriculture, Universiti Putra Malaysia said that compared to the industrial sector, the food production sector is more exposed to risks and uncertainties.

In view of this, he said, there is a need to develop market risk management involving situation monitoring and price forecasting, emergency preparedness through early warnings and introduction of natural disaster prevention measures such as irrigation and flood mitigation programs as well as food production insurance programs. .

The authorities should also continuously monitor food prices and ensure the efficient delivery of agricultural inputs to farmers and the proper functioning of food supply chain logistics, as this will ultimately benefit the whole sector. market.

“The model of industrial crop production is something that can be emulated…especially that of the oil palm plantations that co-exist with big corporations and smallholders. Their success needs to be emulated by the padi production sector “, he said, adding that it should be exploited. by entrepreneurs who can make it a more modern and competitive sector.

In 2020, the largest rice producers in the world were China (148.3 million metric tons), India (122.27 million metric tons), Indonesia (35.3 million metric tons), Bangladesh (34.6 million metric tons), Vietnam (27.4 million metric tons) and Thailand (18.9 million metric tons).

Commenting on this, Mad Nasir said that considering Malaysia’s economic structure is similar to that of Vietnam and Thailand, it should consider adopting the rice production model of these two countries.

“Thailand had a strategy and policy for padi and rice (2017-2021). Its strategies included establishing a restructuring plan to reduce overproduction to meet demand.

“There, the land to be cultivated is classified as suitable or not for growing padi. ​​For land classified as suitable, the focus is on improving production and product quality. on land deemed unsuitable for padi, polyculture or other activities will be encouraged by giving incentives to farmers.

“To reduce production costs and improve product quality, appropriate technology is widely transferred to farmers through good agricultural practices. Value-added products are also promoted, for example, by organizing courses and training sessions on transformation, packaging and brand development.” he said.

He said the use of good agricultural practices includes innovation and investment in agricultural systems and technologies such as soil and water sensors, weather monitoring, satellite imagery, automation, minichromosomal technology, vertical farming, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, GPS applications, robotics and precision agriculture. .

“By using these technologies, farmers, for example, no longer need to apply water, fertilizers and pesticides evenly across the field. Instead, they can use the minimum amount required and target specific areas that need to be treated differently,” he added. – Bernama

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