Govt halts exports of chicken to tackle shortage

by S BIRRUNTHA/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

THE government has ordered to halt the exports of up to 3.6 million whole chickens a month starting from June 1, as part of five immediate approaches to address the issue of food shortage in Malaysia.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the move will be implemented until the price and production of chicken stabilises, as to give priority to the people of this country.

He added that the short-term decision was decided in a Cabinet meeting today.

Apart from halting chicken exports, Ismail Sabri said buffer stocks will also be created to optimise cold storage facilities owned by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industries (MAFI) as well as its agencies.

He noted that the government has decided to lift the requirement for Approved Permits (AP) for chicken imports, including for round chickens and parts to increase the involvement of importers to provide more chicken supply.

He said the government will also simplify the process to claim subsidies by breeders, as well as increase and recognise more abattoirs overseas in order to increase chicken supply.

Meanwhile, Ismail Sabri also said the government is aware of claims of cartels controlling the price and supply of chicken among big companies.

“The Malaysia Competition Commission is investigating the claims and is expected to complete its probe by the end of June.

“If it is true that cartels are in cohorts to control the price, we will take action against them,” he added.

At the same time, Ismail Sabri said the government will reduce the role of middlemen that has been manipulating supply and prices by introducing the “Jihad Memerangi Orang Tengah” (War Against Middlemen) programme which was introduced in 2014.

He also pointed out that the Cabinet received some views from members of the meeting regarding the cultivation of maize, to be an alternative to chicken feed.

“The meeting also agreed to seek cooperation with state governments, government agencies and government-linked companies (GLCs) to provide Temporary Occupancy License land for the long term.

“MAFI and the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry (KPDNHEP) have been asked to present such plans in the near future for a corn planting project etc,” he said.

Additionally, Ismail Sabri said the government also encourages GLCs, government agencies, farmers’ organisations and cooperatives to be involved in poultry farming.

“The government will study in terms of assistance to those involved. This is part of the medium- and long-term plans that will be drafted by MAFI and KPDNHEP,” he noted.

According to Ismail Sabri, the Attorney General was also called to the Cabinet meeting today and was advised to adopt the Control of Supplies Act 1961 (Act 122) if there is any activity of concealing, storing or sabotaging elements against chicken supplies.

He said action will be taken under the Act and their license can be revoked immediately.

In line with that, Ismail Sabri also announced that the Cabinet today has agreed to abolish the AP for wheat.

All ministries were also asked to list APs for other items that can be repealed to preserve the interest of Malaysian consumers.

“I would like to stress that the government will not compromise with any party that tries to affect the lives of the people.

“In this regard, I request Malaysians to support actions taken by the government in the interest of safeguarding people that are burdened by rising prices, cost of living, as well lack of supply,” he said.

Malaysia is currently facing a serious food security threat as poultry, especially chicken, appears to be in short supply, and dissatisfied traders are turning to protest tactics.

Utusan Malaysia today reported that a group of chicken cartels had suspended their operations over the weekend as the first attempt to protest and demand that the chicken ceiling price be raised to RM9.90 per kg.

The group known as “Black hand” argued that the current ceiling price of RM8.90 per kg is considered irrelevant following the increase in operating costs, including the price of chicken bran.

A close source has also informed Utusan Malaysia that this signals a “declaration of war” to the government as it urges the authorities to raise the ceiling price in line with the rising cost of farmers.