KUALA LUMPUR, May 29 - The Fisheries Department assured consumers that fish supply remains adequate provided they avoid hoarding, The Star reported today amid concerns over growing shortages of crucial food items.

Mohd Suffian Sulaiman, the department’s director-general, said fish supplies from the sea, ponds and rivers were enough to meet demand as he advised the public from panic-buying.

"There are 32 million Malaysians and each person consumes about 40kg a year, so according to our calculations there is enough supply to meet national demand,” he was quoted as saying yesterday.

"If people don’t resort to panic buying and hoard more fish than they usually consume then we shouldn’t be having problems with supply."

Last week National Fishermen’s Association chairman Abdul Hamid Bahari said the number of fish landings had decreased by close to two-thirds from more than a million tonnes a month because of unpredictable weather in the last two months.

Meanwhile, Fisheries Development Authority Chairman Datuk Syed Abu Hussin Hafiz Syed Abdul Fasal told reporters elsewhere there is a fish supply shortage, which he blamed on "bureaucratic problems” and a "weak delivery system”, The Star reported.

Fish prices have soared in the last few weeks amid high demand and a supply shortage. The authorities said prices of mackerel, one of the most consumed fish here, can now go up to RM20 a kilogramme compared to just RM8 previously.

Mohd Suffian said weather and a manpower crunch could be among the factors driving prices up.

Agriculture and Food Industries Deputy Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Hamzah said the government is trying to raise the supply of freshwater fish to fill in the shortage in marine fish supply.