Allocation for paddy insufficient, says minister


THE allocation for subsidies and incentives announced in Budget 2021 is insufficient to support the volume of paddy production that the country aims to produce next year.

Agriculture and Food Industries Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ronald Kiandee (picture) said for 2021, Malaysia targets to produce 1.9 million tonnes of paddy to reduce the country’s dependency on imported rice.

However, the RM1.53 billion allocation for paddy will only support 1.64 million tonnes, a 30% shortfall from the targeted production, he said in his winding-up speech of Budget 2021 yesterday.

“The Finance Ministry is aware of this shortfall, and we will ask for an extension in the funding for paddy production,” he said.

During the budget tabling earlier this month, the government announced an allocation of RM960 million for the paddy production incentive and RM570 for price subsidy.

“In total, the allocation for the ministry is 2% lower compared to the amount approved in the previous budget. The allocation for operating expenditure was 7% lower due to the reduced emolument and asset expenditure. However, our development spending has increased by 11%.

“Despite the reduced allocation, the ministry will ensure the agrofood sector will continue to operate and safeguard Malaysia’s food security,” he said.

Kiandee also said the National Farmers Organisation will be appointed as the custodian of paddy seed wholesale procurement under the Paddy Seed Incentive Programme and responsible for supplying quality paddy seeds to farmers.

Recently, Kiandee said in a written reply to Dewan Rakyat that Padiberas Nasional Bhd’s (Bernas) concession as the single gatekeeper for rice imports will be extended for another 10 years with improved and new terms.

He stated that the changes include an increase in the number of social obligations that Bernas has to meet, including increasing the volume of Malaysia’s rice stockpiles.

“The extension is important in protecting the strategic commodity especially rice which is a staple food for Malaysians.

“Besides, the uncertainties in global economy due to the Covid-19 pandemic also becomes a foundation in ensuring food security in the country is continued to be given priority,” he said in the reply.

Bernas — through the single gatekeeping mechanism (SGM) — was appointed as the guardian for the country’s rice management to prevent a food crisis and be the buffer in the event of it.

The local rice industry has been solely managed through the SGM for the past four decades to prevent excessive profiteering and ensure constant supplies.

The government extended Bernas’ concession in 2011 to manage the country’s rice supply for 10 years. The current concession will end in January next year.