BERA – The Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry (MOA) will find a new mechanism to help the less fortunate to buy rice following the move to remove the subsidy programme for Super Local 15 (ST15) rice next year.
Its minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said one such mechanism that could be considered was to evaluate the models used in other countries, such as Thailand, where people do not eat local rice from padi high broken content.
“The rice subsidy programme was introduced in 2008 when the government considered how to provide rice at low prices. However, there are drawbacks in terms of its implementation, and we do not want rice issued for Malaysians to finally get into the hands of others.
“We also thought, would the poor people in our country forever eat rice from broken padi?,” he told reporters after opening the first Agro-Supermarket in Malaysia here, today.
Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who is also Bera MP, and Pahang Health, Human Resources and Special Functions Committee chairman Datuk Norol Azali Sulaiman were also present.
Shabery said another mechanism that could be considered was to give money equivalent to the amount of subsidy for a bag of rice, that is RM7.50, to the target groups so that they could use it to buy better rice.
He added that the ministry would also discuss with the Ministry of Finance and Ismail Sabri’s ministry which looked into the interests of rubber tappers and smallholders, who were the target group for the subsidy programme.
He said the government spent RM530 million annually for the ST15 rice subsidy programme, but observations found that a lot of the rice was bought by foreigners and restaurants.
“Every programme implemented must have data with certain integrity and the data on the distribution of rice is not comprehensive and complete. It is only done at the level of manufacturers and wholesalers, but who buys it and where is the location of the shops…this is what we need to look into,” he said.
Yesterday, MOA’s Rice and Padi Industry Division Secretary Samsuddin Ismail in a statement announced the abolition of the ST15 subsidy programme as there were many leakages found in the system.
ST15 rice is local rice that has a 15 per cent content of broken rice whose quality is slightly lower than the ST5 local rice purchased by the majority of users, with only five per cent content of broken rice.
Meanwhile, on the Agro Supermarket, Shabery said the ministry was looking to open branches in all districts of Malaysia, next year.
He said opening more outlets would provide the opportunity to farmers, fishermen and enterpreneurs to market their prodcts and compete with other brands, besides increasing their income.
“Local brands are also equally good. There are (consumers) who have tried the products, and are looking for where they can buy them as the quality is acceptable and the price is good, but they cannot find them in the market.
“Enterpreneurs on the other hand are finding it difficult to market these products as some large supermarkets have their own considerations on the products which they place on their shelves.
“Agro Supermarkets can help these people because it prioritises local products,” he said. – BERNAMA