Selangor Journal: Govt conducts joint ops, warns stern action against rice hoarders, fraudsters

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 2 — The government has launched a nationwide integrated operation effective immediately to crackdown on hoarders, fraudsters, and profiteers amid a shortage of local white rice in the market.

Agriculture and Food Security Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu said the operation, which will be led by his deputy Chan Foong Hin, will conduct comprehensive inspections across the entire rice supply chain to identify any offences committed by industry players.

“Rice samples will also be taken from all rice factories, wholesale warehouses and supermarkets for chemical analysis

“I would like to stress the government will take stern action against any parties that are found to repackage their rice, mix local and imported rice, or hoard local white rice,” he said during a special press conference earlier today.

The joint operation will involve the participations of the ministry’s Padi and Rice Regulatory Division, Domestic Trade and Costs of Living Ministry enforcers, the police, the Customs Department, and the Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services Department.

Mohamad said this is one of four interventions taken by the government to address the shortage of local white rice in the country, following his meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim this morning.

The government has also ordered the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama) to increase the distribution of local rice, particularly to rural areas.

“Aware of the fact that 10kg local white rice only has a profit margin of 50 sen, the government will subsidise Fama’s transportation costs,” he said.

Separately, the government has also agreed to provide a subsidy of RM950 for every metric tonne of imported white rice to Sabah and Sarawak, starting October 5. The move will see its retail price capped at RM31 for 10kg.

This takes into consideration that the availability of local white rice in East Malaysia is extremely limited.

Finally, Mohamad said today’s meeting agreed that the government will switch from procuring local white rice to imported rice for all its premises.

“Our suppliers can get imported white rice at wholesale price of RM3,200 per metric tonne, although this will be subject to certain terms and conditions.”

Agriculture and Food Security Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu (centre) speaks during the special press conference on the national rice supply, in Kuala Lumpur on October 2, 2023. — Picture by BERNAMA

Shortage due to imported rice price hike

Meanwhile, the minister dismissed suggestions the current shortage of local white rice in the market is due to insufficient production to meet demands.

Instead, he reiterated that this is a result of more consumers purchasing the locally produced goods following a recent hike in price of imported rice as a result of export bans from 19 countries, including India.

“In general, there is a sufficient supply of rice. It is just that more people are opting for local white rice now because they are cheaper.

“Again, I would like to remind the public to remain calm and buy based on your needs. Do not panic buy,” Mohamad said.

He added this phenomenon is not exclusive to Malaysia and other countries worldwide are also affected by the increase in imported rice price.

Despite the situation, Malaysia’s local white rice remains the cheapest in the region at RM2.60 per kg.

For comparison, Mohamad said the retail price in Thailand is RM3.40, the Philippines (RM3.70), Vietnam (RM3.50), Indonesia (RM3.90), Laos (RM5.50), Cambodia (RM4.50), Brunei (RM6), and Singapore (RM4.50).

MAFS has recently held discussions with representatives from the High Commission of India to look for solutions on the latter’s export ban, and a resolution is expected to be achieved soon.

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