More effort needed to boost local food production, says group

Local food production might be affected by extreme weather and escalating global prices.

PETALING JAYA: A consumer group has suggested a high-level action committee to boost local food production amid concerns over extreme weather patterns, escalating global prices and bureaucracy in government departments and agencies.

Jacob George, president of the Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam, Selangor, said the committee should comprise representatives from the agriculture and agro-based ministry as well as the science, technology and innovation ministry and the home ministry, among others.

“It should be placed under the Prime Minister’s Office so that the measures are implemented,” he added.

He said the committee was necessary given the prolonged dry spells and heavy rain predicted this year. Such weather would affect the production of food and, subsequently, its prices, he said.

“We can’t expect farmers to sell their yield at a cheaper price so that we can put cheaper food on our tables.

“There are hidden hands and middlemen involved in manipulating food prices. The government has to go after them and deal with them,” he told FMT.

George also voiced concern over farmers whom he said are facing the brunt of state crackdowns on those operating without a licence.

“I do not support illegal activities of any nature, but a balance should be struck between environmental and agricultural issues, and if it is mismatched or mishandled,” he said.

He said many farmers who had been contributing to food security in the country for years had been told to shut down.

“This is happening in Pahang, especially in Cameron Highlands,” he said, adding that alternative measures should be considered to resolve the matter.

“They need to look at the impact on food security as well as marginalised farmers.”

He said there appeared to be efforts by some to push for shortcuts in dealing with the lower national food yield, including by issuing permits to import food from other Asean countries.

Instead, he said, government agencies such as the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority should put in place proper measures to boost local production.

He spoke of a recent two-month trip to visit fishermen and farmers in the east coast, Pangkor and Pahang. He said they were hoping that officials from the agriculture and agro-based ministry would meet with them to hear their grievances and help them out.

“But no one is visiting them. How will the government solve the problem if officers are not in touch with the people on the ground?”

He urged Putrajaya to take action to prevent a situation where the country becomes dependent on others for food security.