Malaysia needs food security law


FOOD security issues following the Covid-19 (pandemic) are high on the priority list of many countries around the world. The crisis in Russia and Ukraine (has) exacerbated the situation. 

Iraq recently enacted a food security law to ensure that Iraqis have an adequate supply of basic food. India passed a food security law in 2015 to ensure that its citizens have a sufficient supply of food at reasonable prices.

Recently, many related issues of food security in Malaysia emerged such as food price hikes; shortage of essential food such as oil, chicken, etc; the white flag campaign; rush purchase; rumours on the reintroduction of GST (Goods and Services Tax); (and) the Armageddon rush, which led some groups to self-grow their food. This is a serious problem.

The question is to what extent —apart from spiritual and religious sentiment issues, infrastructure — but more on the plans, strategies, rules and regulations to address the pertinent issues at hand (are) on the government and its enforcement agencies.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), food security is a fundamental tenet of human rights.This is also consistent with the second goal of sustainability development, which is to reduce hunger by the year 2030. However, recent issues have hampered the achievement of its goals.

Although Malaysia appears to be in no urgent need of enacting such food security law as in those countries, it is in desperate need of planning its food security issue at a larger scale, taking into account its rich biodiversity and improving its infrastructure to eliminate hunger.

Malaysia has its own food security plan and policy, despite the fact that it appears to be a bit late by now (as) this issue has been ongoing for quite some time. As a result, it is proposed that Malaysia develops its own Malaysian food safety law, based on its own needs and locality rather than on any (existing) models. One example is the use of the subsidy card, which should be applauded but requires some further and future improvements in its implementation.

It is suggested that in order to resolve the food security issue in Malaysia, one of the primary focuses should be on maintaining, monitoring, or stabilising the food prices in Malaysia.  This is to ensure food access and availability, particularly for the most vulnerable people.

This is to ensure food access and availability, particularly for the most vulnerable members of society such as children, single mothers, the elderly and people living in rural and remote areas. 

The price increases of food such as chicken, oil and flour, while unavoidable, should be controlled by the government through laws and regulations, rather than being manipulated by food producers so that they do not put pressure on consumers. This is to ensure that people have access to adequate and healthy food. 

Another issue is underway to reintroduce the unusual type of taxation that should not be enacted by the government, regardless of the ruling party in power. 

As of now, due to international and local conditions, the price of food appears to be out of control, what more if additional taxes are imposed on these food supplies and its end products, the consumers. The tax system, particularly on food, services and so on, should pressurise society and be more comprehensive, not solely on income but later deviated on the basic rights and enjoyment of people, ie food.

It is believed that the current laws governing food and prices are insufficient in many ways. If these issues are not addressed through legal means, the situation will deteriorate.

With rising living costs, it is critical for food procedures, employers and the government to recognise that the salaries in Malaysia are not as high as in other countries. If the trend continues, it may be inevitable that the low salaries, combined with the price increases that cause inflation, will exacerbate the problem of poor people in urban areas, making it difficult for even working-class people to obtain nutritious and basic food. 

If we care about Malaysians as a Malaysian family, we must prioritise food security to ensure people’s subsistence.

Dr Noor Dzuhaidah Osman and Dr Ahmad Syukran Baharuddin are senior lecturers at the Faculty of Shariah and Law, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia.