The subject of food security in Malaysia is once again at the forefront, and the government has been urged to look into the matter seriously.
National Recovery Council chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the Ukraine-Russia war and the long lockdown in China have disrupted the supply and transportation of raw materials and food, resulting in soaring prices of goods.
“This is a global problem. Malaysia is not exempted from disruptions in the supply of raw materials. After the (Covid-19) pandemic, supply in the food sector was affected,” said Muhyiddin.
“Since then, we have seen an increase in the prices of raw materials, fertiliser and livestock feed. This has resulted in costs going up. As a result, consumers are forced to pay higher than usual prices.
“This is an issue which is not only at the National Recovery Council’s level, but should also be addressed by the government. In the past, we had a council that looked into food security. This is important, and it can be reactivated.”
The Cabinet Committee on National Food Security Policy was formed in 2020, during Muhyiddin’s brief tenure as prime minister.
The committee had, during its meetings, discussed strategies to strengthen the nation’s agro-food sector by increasing domestic production, expanding the application of modern technologies, and reducing dependence on imports.
“We need to increase domestic production. We are capable of doing so, but it hasn’t been fully explored. The use of technology and ensuring enough workforce … these are important factors (that need to be looked into). Given the pandemic, we need to look at them quickly,” added Muhyiddin.
He also said efforts should be made to encourage locals to venture into agriculture to help ensure food security in the country.
Prominent economist Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram, in 2020, said that policy-makers had never thought of food security in a more integrated, strategic manner.
Muhyiddin said the council also spoke about efforts to help tourism players, especially with the nation’s borders being fully opened since April 1.
He admitted that more could be done to further strengthen the sector in light of the new strain of the coronavirus, China’s closed borders, and the volatility of world politics, all of which had impacted the tourism industry to some degree.
“China’s borders are still closed. Before the pandemic, we had some three million visitors from China visiting Malaysia annually. Today, they’re still not here, and this will have a big impact on our economy.
“It’s their policy, but we have been proactive by opening our borders and welcoming tourists,” he added.