Transparent, open food reserve index report can address food security concerns, says Fomca

Malaysia should adopt a more open and transparent system to address food security concerns by introducing a public food reserve index report.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) treasurer-general Nur Asyikin Aminuddin said the report would give stakeholders, especially those in the food supply chain, a better insight into the state of our food reserves.

“It can be a quarterly report and it can be used by stakeholders, especially those in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors, to plan and make informed decisions. By knowing what our reserves are, we can plan better, and prevent food disruptions across the supply chain,” said Nur Asyikin.

“We are now facing a rice shortage. Just a few months ago, there was a shortage of cooking oil and eggs. This alone paints a picture of the current state of our food security,” she said.

She added that transparency in the proposed food reserve index report was key, now that food security is at the forefront of national news.

Having adequate food stocks can help absorb supply disruptions from losses in production or trade. It can also help stabilise prices.

Malaysia imports 30 per cent of its rice needs to meet the demand of its 33 million population.

In July, India, the world’s largest rice exporter, prohibited the export of non-basmati white rice, following the late season monsoon, which affected production. The move was also to maintain the domestic prices of rice at comfortable levels.

Earlier this month, Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) announced a price adjustment for imported white rice to RM3,200 per metric tonne, from RM2,350 per metric tonne. The price adjustment for imported white rice across its warehouse, according to Bernas, was in line with the global pricing of the commodity.

The price hike subsequently led to a surge in demand for locally-produced rice, which is much cheaper.

In February, Agriculture and Food Security Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu said Malaysia was ranked 41st among 113 countries in the Global Food Security Index (GFSI) 2022, released by the Economist Impact. In July, Mohamad said the level of food security in Malaysia was stable and the domestic food supply was sufficient to cover domestic needs.

“The minister keeps saying we have enough. If that is so, why are we facing a shortage?,” Nur Asyikin asked.

On the rising cost of living due to the increasing food prices, Nur Asyikin said while Malaysia has a National Action Council on Cost of Living (Naccol) and a National Food Security Policy, bureaucracy is often the stumbling block.

“We (Fomca) have attended meetings with Naccol, but as food security and improving the cost of living involves cross-agency, federal, and state government cooperation, we notice that there is just too much red tape involved.

“While we do have short-term measures, including constantly having stakeholder discussions with those in the food supply chain, essentially, we need to reduce the politics and red tape if we want to get serious about the nation’s food security.

“Otherwise, all that we will be doing is talk about the same thing again, when the next food shortage occurs,” she said.