KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 — The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (KPKM) has been asked to lead and coordinate more thorough engagement sessions on the padi and rice issue as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said this was decided after hearing all views and suggestions, including from industry and non-governmental organisation members representing farmers and manufacturers, to ensure the availability of rice at a reasonable price for the people.

He said the engagement sessions should take into account the purchase price of padi, supply factors, world import rice prices, the sustainability of local rice supply, and the impact on consumers.

“I also directed that the outcomes of these engagements be presented and finalised at the Naccol meeting on March 20, 2024, before being submitted for the consideration of the Cabinet,” he said in a statement today after chairing a special meeting of the National Action Council on Cost of Living (Naccol).

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Anwar said in the meantime, low-cost sales programmes including Rahmah Sales, Madani Agro Sales and others should be expanded so that people can purchase daily necessities, including rice, at lower prices compared to the market.

At the same time, Anwar said Padiberas Nasional Berhad (Bernas) also agreed to reconsider the offer price of imported white rice (BPI) in the domestic market so that BPI can be sold at a lower price, thereby providing an alternative for the people to obtain rice at a more reasonable price.

Anwar said the intervention of the Madani government is critical at this time and it needs to be decided promptly to ensure the supply and prices of the people’s staple food remain stable in the market.

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The prime minister said he still received complaints regarding issues with the supply of local white rice (BPT) although the supply and price of BPT in the domestic market were generally under control.

Anwar said the people are also affected by the increase in the price of BPI in the global market due to export bans imposed by rice-producing countries.

“I also mentioned the importance of enhancing enforcement to ensure the availability of rice in the market and that no wholesaler or manufacturer profits excessively or mixes the content of BPT and BPI to be sold at high prices,” he added.

Anwar also emphasised that the government must continue to focus fully on the cost of living issue, which still burdens the people despite the inflation rate easing to 1.5 per cent as of last month.

The special Naccol meeting was attended by ministers, deputy ministers, secretaries-general of relevant ministries, as well as the Central Bank Governor, along with representatives from industries, consumers, non-governmental organisations and academics who are members of Naccol. — Bernama