Malaysia’s rice poser demands frank answers

RICE, a staple for most people in Malaysia, including millions of migrant workers from around Asia, has become a pivotal problem today.

The government has been responsive in allaying fears by assuring the people that the nation has three to six months’ stockpile in granaries.

Prices are being increased – as announced by the government – to prevent the market from raising it to alarming, unaffordable levels that would lead to spiralling inflation, affecting other food items that use rice as an ingredient.

Just one action by India has triggered an acute problem in Malaysia almost overnight. Add to this Thailand’s actions, too.

Social media is rife with a wide range of postings. They range from questioning Malaysia’s politically embroiled rice monopoly to the involvement of middlemen, millers and suspected re-packers who have come under public scrutiny.

Stories shared on social media include news of officers going on their field rounds to check on prices and alleged hoarding. They speculate on rice traders who have allegedly been fleecing consumers for a long time with cheap, less tasteful, imported rice passing off as ‘local’ varieties.

Enforcement lacking

Meanwhile, these traders have allegedly been selling better grade local rice as imported premium rice – at a higher price.

This seems like a case of when the going gets tough, the tough start spilling the beans. The onus is now on the government to get tough and investigate these allegations thoroughly.

Pacifying the people with assurances of ample supplies that can last a good six months will not be effective in purging social media of all things fake about the current rice dilemma.

This is the right time to rid the nation of any practices involving the rice trade that are morally wrong. The government needs to pluck up the courage to bare the truth and expose falsehoods.

If policies have been misguided for political reasons, then we need to address them. If the industry is made up of a maze of corrupt, deceitful processes and systems, then we need to dismantle them quickly.

Carry out appropriate enforcement and implement policies, irrespective of racial sentiments or the influence of any political warlords. Fear not any real or imagined deep state repercussions.

Let’s tackle the rice dilemma now or we will pay a punishing price in the future. Remember, the problem in Malaysia will get worse if rice-exporting countries prioritise the feeding of their own people during times of global shortage.


JD Lovrenciear is a Kuala Lumpur-based writer, trainer and consultant who also offers his time to support initiatives to build a progressive society.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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