Malaysia faces a major issue as rising rice prices cause panic buying. Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim warned against hoarding, realizing the gravity of the situation.
“Should anyone dare to take advantage of the public’s difficulties in finding rice, hoarding it, then we will find you, prosecute you, and bring you to court,” Prime Minister Anwar said Monday night (2/10), according to Malay Mail.
Enhancing Enforcement and Monitoring
Rising rice prices and the prospect of hoarding have prompted the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to increase law enforcement and surveillance. Since yesterday (3/10), authorities have enhanced supervision of wholesale dealers and rice retailers to prevent local rice hoarding. Rice samples are also being carefully checked to ensure merchants are not repackaging local rice as imported or deceiving customers to increase earnings.
Malaysia’s Rice Import Dependence and Export Restrictions
Malaysia, which imports a lot of rice, is suffering from export limitations by big rice producers like India. Although the country imports 38% of its rice, these restrictions have caused panic buying and raised rice prices.
Malaysia’s Agriculture and Food Security Minister Mohamad Sabu assured the people that rice is not scarce. Rice stock is enough. However, rising prices of imported white rice have prompted residents to buy cheaper local varieties.
Rice Prices Regulation and Consumer Change
The Malaysian government controls rice prices for stability. Local rice prices are capped at MYR 2.60 (IDR 8,585) per kilogram. The single importer, Padiberas Nasional Berhad, raised the price of imported white rice by 36% on September 1. Many Malaysians switched from imported to inexpensive local rice after this unexpected spike.
Market shortages of local rice are due to rampant hoarding. Social media photographs and videos show grocery rice shelves empty owing to bulk buying.
Government Subsidies for Rice Prices and Crisis Relief
The Malaysian government began subsidizing imported white rice in Sabah and Sarawak at MYR 950 (IDR 3.1 million) per ton on Monday (2/10). This plan will begin on October 5 to reduce rice price increases in certain locations.
Prime Minister Anwar announced that military barracks, police stations, and school dorms will get almost MYR 400 million (IDR 1.3 trillion) in subsidies to buy imported rice.
Mohamad Sabu stated that the government is increasing rural distribution to solve supply concerns caused by rising the prices. He also advised the public to stay calm and buy rice as needed.
Regional Rice Crisis and Food Security Meeting
Imported rice prices rose because 19 rice-producing countries restricted exports to meet domestic demand. Southeast Asian agricultural and forestry ministers meet today (4/10). Discussion of the rice issue and regional food security policies is a priority.