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28 March 2013

Food For Malaysians

Millions of Malaysians could go hungry as unpredictable weather in rice -producing countries is likely to affect our supply of rice. Unpredictable weather in rice-producing countries, spurred by Malaysia’s rising population, could mean less food on the table, warned Kota Belud MP Abdul Rahman Dahlan. “If they have major flooding in rice-producing countries, such as Vietnam or Thailand, or assuming they go to war, where are we going to get our rice?” he asked.
Raja Petra Kamarudin
More than ten years ago, before Malaysia Today was launched, I wrote about the low food production in Malaysia -- in particular rice, which is the staple food of most Malaysians -- and said that if war ever breaks out Malaysians would go hungry; just like they did 70 years ago when the Japanese invaded Malaya and Malayans had to eat tapioca.
After 70 years since the Japanese occupation and more than ten years since I wrote that article, nothing much has changed. Today, Indonesia, which has a population about ten times that of Malaysia, has announced it is now self-sufficient in rice production. Maybe Malaysia should do what Cambodia did -- send the people from the urban areas to the rice fields to plant padi.

And that is why I should not be in politics. If I were and if my party were to win the general election, I would impose a one-year national service program and send school-leavers, plus those who are about to enter university, to the rice fields to serve their country by planting padi. And if you have not done this national service you cannot enter university or get a job -- unless you ‘run away’ to a foreign university without doing your national service (which means you will have to stay and work overseas after you graduate).
What is the focus of most Malaysians? Well, our focus is whether Najib Tun Razak or Anwar Ibrahim makes the better Prime Minister. And those who will be voting in the coming general election are going to vote with this in mind -- which person is going to make a better Prime Minister.
Basically, the main factor is going to be whether Najib is guilty of involvement in Altantuya’s murder and whether Anwar is bi-sexual and guilty of homosexual activities. If you think Najib is guilty then you will vote for Anwar (meaning Pakatan Rakyat) and if you think Anwar is guilty then you will vote for Najib (meaning Barisan Nasional).
No doubt some of you are going to say that you will not vote for Barisan Nasional because it is a racist and corrupt party. If Pakatan Rakyat is not also racist and corrupt then I would agree with this argument. However, when it is pointed out that Pakatan Rakyat is also racist and corrupt, many will reply that that may be so but Pakatan Rakyat is not as bad as Barisan Nasional.
In other words, Pakatan Rakyat may be just as bad but Barisan Nasional is worse. So you are prepared to accept the lesser evil over the bigger evil. That, of course, is your prerogative and in a democracy you have a right to your choice, whatever the reason may be for you making that choice.
But there are other factors we also need to consider. And we should be very concerned that the government we choose is in tune with what is happening in the world. All countries are moving towards self-sufficiency in food supply. And many countries have already achieved self-sufficiency. Malaysia, however, has been talking about self-sufficiency since the time of Tun Razak Hussein back in the 1970s and after 40 years is still just talking about it.
Food and water are crucial to life. And these are two things that in time are going to become scarce -- food and water. If, say, one day those countries selling us food decide to stop exporting food to Malaysia for whatever reason -- be it war, natural catastrophe, food shortage in the exporting countries, crop diseases, etc. -- where will Malaysia get its food supply from?
Golf courses, holiday resorts, shopping complexes, more cars on the road, high-rise condos, etc., are fine and allow Malaysia to project an image of success and progress. But at the end of the day we need to import our food to stay alive. And if another country wants to bring Malaysia to its knees it need not send in its army. All it needs is to stop sending food to Malaysia. In just a few weeks we will have to surrender without a single shot being fired.
So let’s up the election fight one step. Whether Najib is involved in murder or Anwar in homosexual activities are certainly important points to consider. But this is not going to put food on the table. What is would be a government that has a clear program on how to make Malaysia self-sufficient in food, say in the next ten years, and not merely talk about it over 40 years and still be far from achieving self-sufficiency.
Yes, I know many of you are going to say that this is the whole reason why we need to change the government. But then I have not heard what this new government is going to do to guarantee us food on the table. And note that Anwar was once the Agriculture Minister and his policies as Agriculture Minister actually regressed things rather than progressed it. In fact, many people were actually unhappy with Anwar’s policies and thought that he was undoing the good things that the Ministers before him did.
No, this is not an anti-Anwar article. This is about hearing what Anwar plans to do if he becomes Prime Minister to ensure Malaysians do not one day starve. And please do not give me political talk. Give me concrete and workable plans. And once this is addressed then we can talk about the other issues. But without enough food and water the other issues become meaningless.
Indonesia declares rice sufficiency, no more imports
(Jakarta Post) - Indonesia's State Owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan said Sunday that Indonesia would not import rice in 2013 as local farmers could produce sufficient rice to meet the domestic demand.
He said that as of December 2012, the existing rice stock inventory in state logistics agency PT Bulog’s storehouses across the country reached around 2.5 million tons. Bulog should procure 3.5 million tons of rice during harvest periods this year.
“If Bulog can procure 3.5 million tons of rice during harvest periods this year we will not need to import more rice, as we did last year,” said Dahlan, as quoted by Antara news agency. He spoke on the sidelines of a rice harvest event in Jati village, Jaten district, Karanganyar regency, on Sunday.
He said that from last year’s rice imports, Bulog reaped Rp 800 billion (US$82.1 million) worth of profit. However, the profit was returned to the farmers so that the price of rice did not decline.
“To procure such a large amount of rice, from now on Bulog should use its full capacity to achieve the target. And if Bulog is willing to work hard, I’m optimistic that this can be achieved,” Dahlan said, adding that in 2012, Bulog procured 2.6 million tons of rice from local farmers.
The Minister said that state run agribusiness firm PT Pertani planned to buy 100 units of rice dryer machines to distribute in several regions across the country. The machines would help farmers to dry their unhulled rice properly.
Dahlan said that obtaining fertilizer was no longer a problem for farmers and there was no more accumulation of fertilizer by traders.
“I haven’t heard any more about traders accumulating fertilizer, which means that fertilizer distribution has been continuing under a mechanism requested by the farmers,” said Dahlan.
Rice Consumption in Malaysia
Domestic consumption increased 3.8 percent to 2.7 million tons in 2011. Malaysia is about 62 percent self-sufficient. Consumption is forecast to increase about 4 percent in 2012 as demand is bolstered by an in-flow of foreign workers and tourists. While rice consumption per capita shows an increase from 81.6 kg in 2006 to 95 kg in 2010, the figure does not account for foreign workers and tourists.
In reality, the domestic consumption per capita is about 72 to 75 kg, and it has been on the slide vis-à-vis the consumption of wheat over the last two decades.
Experts: Rice production vital
Malaysia is 72 per cent self sufficient in rice production, Science adviser Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid said yesterday.
"Malaysia is progressing steadily. Ten years ago, we were 60 per cent self sufficient and in the next 10 years, we are aiming for 90 per cent," he said at the launch of a strategy meeting workshop on rice security.
"The global population is expected to swell to 9.3 billion by 2050, hence food security is critical.
"We need to find a way to accelerate our food production because Malaysia is one of the most import-dependant countries in the world," he said.
‘Not enough rice to eat’
A rice shortage and a worsening self-sufficiency on food could force many Malaysians to go hungry.
Millions of Malaysians could go hungry as unpredictable weather in rice -producing countries is likely to affect our supply of rice.
Unpredictable weather in rice-producing countries, spurred by Malaysia’s rising population, could mean less food on the table, warned Kota Belud MP Abdul Rahman Dahlan.
“If they have major flooding in rice-producing countries, such as Vietnam or Thailand, or assuming they go to war, where are we going to get our rice?” he asked.
Citing the 2008 global rice shortage as an example, he added: “If the crisis then lasted for another five or six months, we would all have had to learn to eat tapioca.”
“This is no laughing matter. Our national rice stockpile was being consumed very rapidly, and we couldn’t buy rice quickly.”
Abdul Rahman said this in response to concerns raised by the World Bank over the country’s worsening food self-sufficiency levels.
According to the Malaysia Economic Monitor (Smart Cities) report, the country’s self-sufficiency in rice shrunk to 62% in 2007 from 71% in 1970.
Rice Supply Channel Needs Improvement
Problem and implications of low rice production growth that is not able to match the higher growth rate of the population of the world are the subject of a workshop on ‘Sustainable Rice Production’ here last week.
The workshop organised by the Faculty of Science and Technology (FST) of The National University of Malaysia (UKM) deliberated on solutions to overcome the escalating problem which include the growing of high yielding and quality rice while ensuring safety of the rice farmers.
Tan Sri Dr Mohd Noor Ismail, Corporate Advisor to Tradewinds Malaysia Berhad in his key note address at the workshop said the rice business has to be looked at wholistically from farm to shelf.
He said finding ways to grow rice better and faster is all well and fine but attention must also be given to the issues that goes beyond research so that whatever findings and innovations made will not be undermined.

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