KOTA KINABALU (Sept 5): Warisan vice president Datuk Junz Wong has proposed several measures to help the people cope with the rising price of rice.
He suggested allowing a 10 percent withdrawal from EPF savings, buying a great deal of stock like what the Philippines did and copying Singapore by locking prices.
He added that these measures can be implemented in Sabah but it would involve buying as much stock as possible, based on the assumption that prices will continue to rise in the future.
“Alternatively, locking the price of rice imported from India at the lowest rate could ensure there is a constant supply based on that agreed price over a period of time.
“If that is the case, then it should have been done earlier when there were already warning signs of a global shortage for rice,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
Junz, who is also Tanjung Aru assemblyman, added that the world supply shortage for rice for the year 2022-23 is estimated to be 8.7 million tonnes.
“Sabah has crude palm oil (CPO) which is in high demand in India. This commodity is ideal as a trade-off with India for rice.
“India is a country that is grappling to produce butter for its 1.4 billion people and the CPO which can be manufactured into margarine is a good alternative,” he reminded.
Junz also said that the trade-off doesn’t have to be for a very long time as four to five months should suffice.
Even Singapore locked the price of rice with India not long after Warisan issued a second warning on a price increase for rice, he said.
“It should be noted that Warisan deputy president Datuk Darell Leiking and Tungku assemblyman Assafal Bin P. Alian had issued two separate statements in July and August to warn the GRS government of this worrying problem.
“However, GRS mistakenly opted for the reactive stance instead of a more practical proactive action,” he said.
Warisan Kota Kinabalu Division information chief Samuel Wong called on the government to present concrete plans to mitigate the price increase and the shortage of local rice.
“Are there any immediate solutions? Will there be deployment of enforcement teams to monitor rice prices in supermarkets and stores across the region?” he asked in a separate statement.
“Climate change, particularly the El Niño phenomenon, is causing prolonged heat and drought in many rice-exporting countries, leading to wildfires and crop failures. Even countries like Pakistan, which previously never experienced such severe floods, are now grappling with these disasters. Malaysia imports rice from countries like Pakistan, India, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia,” he said.
He also said that if the supply of imported rice dwindles due to climate-related issues and increasing annual rice consumption, can the government guarantee that local producers can ramp up their production quickly enough to meet the shortfall, particularly in Sabah?
Samuel asked Deputy Agriculture Minister and Kota Kinabalu member of parliament Chan Foong Hin to rectify this issue as per what he had promised in his statement on Facebook on Monday.
“Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Chan Foong Hin assured the public on Facebook that there would be no such price increase for local rice and that there was an ample supply.
“But it seems the reality on the ground paints a different picture,” he said.
Samuel reminded that the people of Sabah are already burdened by rising inflation in various food products.
“The surging local rice prices and shortages have compounded their woes. Sabahans deserve a better quality of life — affordable food, stable incomes, increased job opportunities, and improved infrastructure. It’s high time for action, not empty promises, from those in power,” he said.
Warisan Wanita chief for P.173 Putatan, Juriah Uda claimed that the GRS government has failed to make any initiatives to address the price hike of imported rice since Padi Nasional Bhd (Bernas) announced the price increase on 1 September 2023.
In the statement, Bernas explained that the price hike is only for imported white rice and not local rice.
“But this price increase has also contributed to the hike of local rice prices. This is because of the increased demand in local rice as buyers shift to purchasing local rice. At the same time, Sabah does not have ample paddy production. In 2022, Sabah paddy production dropped to 22 percent,” she said.
The issue was also raised by Elopura assemblyman Calvin Chong, who said the issue of price hike for imported rice has burdened the people.
He said the price of imported white rice has risen from RM2,350 to RM3,200 per metric tonne as announced by Bernas.
“The new price came into effect on 1 September which saw the increase to RM850 per metric tonne or RM0.85 per kilogramme,” he said.
He reminded that rice is the main source of food for a family.
“With the rising high cost of living in the country, consumers will feel that this hike in price will further burden consumers,” he said.