KUALA LUMPUR, May 25 — So why does Malaysia import vegetables and fruits it can easily grow? Land scarcity, the Goods and Services Tax (GST), as well as expensive labour and pesticides, Putrajaya said.
According to senior director Mohd Anis Yasin from the fresh produce division of the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama), such factors minimised the production of local vegetables and fruits and drove up costs.
“We have no choice but to import food from around the globe because local food, especially fruits and vegetables, are not only not enough to meet the local market’s demand but are becoming more expensive by the day,” Mohd Anis told Malay Mail Online recently.
“This is simply because we don’t have enough land in Malaysia and not to mention, the price for labour and pesticides have all shot up,” he added.
Mohd Anis said the introduction of the GST has also hampered the food industry.
“Previously, a kilo of imported cabbage used to cost 90 sen but with the introduction of GST and the low ringgit, it is now RM3,” he said. “This is about a 30 per cent increase in price.”
While Malaysia is capable of producing most of the vegetables it imports, Mohd Anis said it made no difference in the local market because of its high production costs.
He said homegrown vegetables are already expensive at the production level and by the time it reaches the wholesale and retail markets, the price has increased by several folds.
“For instance, we do plant broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower in Cameron Highlands, but these vegetables are limited to the agro-tourism industry there and supplied to niche hypermarkets only.
“We cannot sell these vegetables to our local wholesalers and retailers as local produce cannot meet the demand of the local market. Besides, vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower are much cheaper if imported from China,” he said.
Mohd Anis added that consumers preferred imported fruits and vegetables as they are supposedly tastier.
He pointed out, however, that local vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumber, pumpkin, long beans and French beans were a hit overseas, especially in the Middle East and Singapore.
“Our tomatoes [are] the second best in the world and they are much preferred by the Middle Eastern countries,” he said.
In 2014, Malaysia’s per capita consumption (PCC) for vegetables was 58.5 per cent, a 1.2 per cent increase from 2013.
According to the data by Fama, PCC for vegetables recorded a steady increase of about one per cent each year between 2009 and 2014. PCC for fruits showed a similar increase.
Statistics by Fama also showed that the total vegetables and fruits imported in 2014 was 2.2 million metric tonne or RM 5.5 billion.
As for the country’s exports in vegetables and fruits, a total of 617,519.26 metric tonnes or RM1.6 billion was recorded in 2014.
Compared to the preceding year, vegetable exports dropped by 91 per cent, while fruit exports saw an increase of 94.4 per cent.