Double national food stockpile, NGOs urge govt

A coalition of NGOs representing rice farmers and wholesalers says the National Security Council must ensure food security during the Covid-19 crisis. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A coalition of NGOs representing rice farmers and wholesalers has urged the National Security Council (NSC) to ensure the nation’s food security during the Covid-19 crisis.

Padi Rescue coordinator Nur Fitri Amir Muhammad said the national stockpile should last three months during a time of crisis but urged Putrajaya to increase it to six months.

Nur Fitri said several countries like Vietnam, Kazakhstan and Serbia have moved to protect their stockpile by temporarily halting exports of rice, wheat flour and cooking oil.

“If the crisis goes on longer, the government must immediately execute a mission to bring in rice from government-to-government channels or implement an export ban or bring in supplies from other countries.

“The NSC cannot be too reliant on the private sector because our experience with the rice supply crisis in 2008 proves the weakness of the private sector (Bernas) to represent the government in bringing in rice,” he said in a statement today.

Nur Fitri stressed that the distribution of rice must be fair and according to every district’s needs instead of according to market demand, should a food crisis occur.

Failure to do so would lead to panic buying which would lead to an oversupply in the city, he said, adding that this has already happened in the Klang Valley.

“During this crisis, the prices should also be controlled, especially for imported rice which does not have a ceiling price currently.

“The price of local rice must be kept at RM2.60 per kg, which is sufficient unless the family economy is found to be really badly affected,” he said.

He called on Putrajaya to think of incentives and new projects to add to the country’s rice production, adding that it should also consider the reestablishment of the National Padi and Rice Board (LPN) as a gatekeeper for imported rice.

“This is because the conflict of interest of the private sector to ensure that the company always profits stands in the way of reaching the objective,” he said.