By D KANKYAKUMARI / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS
Malaysia will continue to depend on rice imports as the country’s production of the grain is nearly 30% short from the three million metric tonnes (MT) self sufficiency level (SSL).
Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said the industry is expected to narrow the SSL gap from 72% presently to 80%, but the country will remain dependent on other countries for its rice supplies.
He said the industry has to cope with the rising population and demands, ageing farmers, pest attacks and harvesting process inefficiencies.
“We do have enough facilities, but very often a lot of the crop is lost after the harvesting process. Sometimes due to pests, sometimes due to carelessness, and sometimes due to complications during the processes after harvesting the crop.
“It cannot be avoided entirely and that is why we are doing what we can to ensure the farmers are informed on how they can reduce crop wastage,” he said at the National Paddy Conference in Petaling Jaya yesterday.
Based on the three million MT SSL, a household on average consume about 100kg of rice annually. There are about 674,548ha of area planted with the world’s second most important crop. Malaysia was the world’s 14 biggest rice importer based on value at US$377.4 million (RM1.59 billion) or 2% of global imports in 2016 according to www. worldstopexports.com.
China was the world’s largest rice importer valued at US$1.6 billion. The world’s most populous nation’s rice imports had risen 40.9%. India was the largest exporter of the grain valued at US$5.3 billion or 26.7% of total rice exports, followed by Thailand at US$4.4 billion (21.9%) and the US at US$1.9 billion (9.6%).
Ahmad Shabery said that 80% of rice production is sufficient for the country’s population.
“This is because 15% to 20% of the 31.19 million population does not consume rice or only prefer certain kinds of rice, which are not available in locally,” he said, adding that no one country produced all the different rice types.
He also launched a standard operating procedure by The Malaysian Agriculture Research and Development Institute to aid farmers to reduce loss after harvesting rice.
He said Malaysia does not intend to become a net rice exporter.
“First, it is the price. Are we able to offer competitive prices that meet the retail markets worldwide?
“Secondly, we must look at the subsidy. Once we begin to export with the subsidy, the more we export, the more we lose. Exporting will do more harm than good,” he said.