Bernas to remain ‘sole gatekeeper’ for country’s rice supply, says minister

Bernas will ensure that there is food security in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government says.

KUALA LUMPUR: The government has decided to allow Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) to remain as the sole gatekeeper in managing the country’s rice supply, Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Ronald Kiandee said.

He told the Dewan Rakyat today that discussions were ongoing on the terms and the number of years the contract to be extended.

“At this point, it is to ensure food security in Malaysia. As we all know, the Covid-19 pandemic will affect the global food chain,” he said.

Kiandee said the government was reviewing the terms and conditions with Bernas, which include the social obligation to look after the farmers and other rice production matters.

Earlier, Saifuddin Nasution (PH-Kulim Bandar Baharu) had asked about the Bernas contract which expires in December, adding that a new tender process would have to be held within five months.

He said the contract should be opened to other companies so that the price of padi would remain competitive.

In 2011, the federal government extended Bernas’ mandate to manage rice supply in the country for 10 years.

Four years earlier, the agreement had been extended until Jan 11, 2016. However, in 2008, rising rice prices on the international market drove Bernas into the red.

It is believed that the terms of the new agreement will take into account fluctuations in international rice prices.

Earlier, Kiandee said the agriculture sector employed about 140,000 foreign workers or 7.3% of the total number of workers with work permits in Malaysia.

He said the number of foreign workers in this sector was small compared with those in other sectors.

He added that efforts were being made to attract youths to take up jobs in the agriculture sector.