KUALA LUMPUR: The Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry is planning a campaign to encourage Malaysians to buy and support local produce and products to reduce the country’s high food import bill amounting to RM52 billion last year.
Its Deputy Minister Sim Tze Tzin said Malaysians’ support towards local produce would create a stable market for local producers and, in the long run, would encourage more people to produce local products for local and export markets.
“Most people in Malaysia glorify or praise products from the overseas. We should be proud and have the confidence that the Malaysian produce are equal or are even better than from overseas.
“If more Malaysians eat local products we will have more markets, then people will start planting,” he said when met at a luncheon hosted by the Embassy of France in Malaysia here yesterday.
Citing the French people as an example, Sim said he was informed by French Ambassador Frederic Laplanche that they would even be willing to pay between 15 to 20 per cent more than imported products to support French local produce.
“I urge for Malaysians to change their perception and outlook, and choose local produce. This will enhance the local economy,” he said.
Sim said in terms of food security, Malaysia is currently in second place in Southeast Asia behind Singapore.
He said Malaysia produces enough poultry products like chicken and egg, but need to increase production of other products such as rice and vegetables.
“I don’t get why we can’t produce (vegetables like) cucumber ourselves. We import RM100 million a year. Same like chilli, we import RM240 million a year but Malaysia can produce chilli so why do we need to import chilli?” he questioned.
Meanwhile, Sim also encouraged Malaysian farmers to explore new produce that could bring new source of wealth to them, like vanilla, which is in demand worldwide.
According to reports, The price for first-grade extraction of vanilla beans from Madagascar, the world’s biggest producer of vanilla, hit US$600 per kg last year.
He said the ministry will study programmes that could encourage young farmers to explore the potential of new crops.
So far, he said the ministry had, among others, conducted courses to educate farmers on planting techniques. — Bernama