PETALING JAYA: Muhammad Nor Deraman was among the eatery owners who took part in the Menu Rahmah initiative, offering RM5 set meals to help reduce the cost of living for the public.
However, since the start of this month, his eatery no longer offers the cheap set meals as the shortage of local white rice has forced him to resort to purchasing imported white rice.
“Now I cannot offer Menu Rahmah anymore,” Muhammad, 63, told FMT, referring to the initiative launched earlier this year.
“The price of (imported white rice) has surged from RM20 for a 10kg bag to up to RM40. So, how can we sell food for cheap?
“I have gone to many supermarkets, but I don’t see local white rice. Where else can I go to look for it?”
On Sept 1, Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) announced a price hike for imported white rice from RM2,350 per metric tonne to RM3,200.
It said factors like climate change, the weakening foreign exchange rates, and regional conflicts were to blame, compounded by India’s ban on exporting white rice.
In a bid to counter this, agriculture and food security minister Mohamad Sabu said local white rice production will increase by 20% within a month to ensure sufficient supply in the market.
Putrajaya will also sell 5kg of imported rice at RM14 to low-income households under another Rahmah initiative, while giving discounts to traders who import white rice to help consumers deal with rising prices.
Meanwhile, two consumers claimed that it has been difficult for them to find local white rice in the market, questioning if other factors are at play behind the shortage.
A housewife, who wanted to only be known as Suhaila, called on the authorities to monitor supermarkets and rice traders to determine the cause of the lack of local white rice.
“We fear that some are hoarding (it) because it’s been really hard to find local rice (in the market), but all the expensive (imported white) rice is available,” said the 47-year-old.
Factory worker Shahrin Bahrin said the government must tackle the issue quickly to ensure no one is taking advantage of the demand for local white rice.
The 51-year-old said the lack of supply is “really” bad, though inflation is not the issue, with local white rice still affordable.