Minister: New rice supply model proposal by mid July

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Salahuddin Ayub speaks at a breaking of fast event at the Malaysian Agro-Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS) in Serdang May 22, 2018. — Bernama pic
Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Salahuddin Ayub speaks at a breaking of fast event at the Malaysian Agro-Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS) in Serdang May 22, 2018. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 — Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry is expected to finalise a proposal for a new rice supply model by mid July, its minister Salahuddin Ayub said today.

The proposal will look into the possible termination of Bernas' concession as the sole rice supplier before its contract ends in 2021, the minister said.

Three separate committees within the ministry have been instructed to prepare a paper for a newly formed ad hoc Special Cabinet Committee that will review the proposal.

The committee will chaired by five ministers and headed by Minister of Economic Affairs Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, Salahuddin said.

“Because the issue of rice supply is a matter of national interest and involve not just my ministry but others like taxation and transport, a special cabinet committee will be formed,” he told reporters here.

The formation of the committee has been agreed upon at yesterday's Cabinet weekly meeting.

The Pakatan Harapan government said earlier this month it would terminate the National Rice Company's concession to end its monopoly on rice supply.

The four-party coalition vowed to end all forms of monopoly in government contracts as part of its election pledge before taking federal power on May 9.

Bernas held the sole concession to import and manage supply of the staple up until then.

Salahuddin said he expects rice prices to drop once  they open up the supply market, although there is no concrete evidence to support this as yet.

“This is why we want the committee to come up with the proposals so whatever it is we will wait until the proposals are tabled, then we will share and explain,” he said.

Critics previously claimed the decision by the previous Barisan Nasional administration to make Bernas the sole supplier of rice had distorted prices and enriched Umno cronies.

Umno leaders and Bernas officials have denied the allegation.

For now, Salahuddin said the new government has no plan to shut the company down, which will resume its regulatory functions until an alternative supply model is in place.

Bernas is also free to provide input and suggest proposals, the minister said.

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