Consumers can expect rice to get cheaper following the termination of Padiberas Nasional Bhd's (BERNAS) monopoly on rice imports
The days of BERNAS being the country's sole rice importer are over as Minister of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Salahuddin Ayub announced last week, on 6 June, that the monopoly to import rice by BERNAS had been terminated after the issue was brought up in a Cabinet meeting.
Today, 13 June, Salahuddin said breaking up BERNAS' monopoly will not lead to an increase in rice prices and lower prices is be expected instead.
"I'm sure the termination of this monopoly could lower or control the price of rice as it relates to demand and supply. When we break this monopoly, then there will be competition," he said, as reported by Sinar Harian.
He stressed that Bernas will still import rice, but opportunity will also be given to other companies to do the same.
The minister's comments come just a day after BERNAS chief executive officer Ismail Mohamed Yusof said that the price of rice cannot go any more lower than the current market rates
According to Malay Mail, Ismail told reporters after a meeting with the Council of Eminent Persons yesterday that he is of the opinion that the existing system should be maintained. He defended the monopoly policy, saying that the "system works", while also welcoming the government's review for the best interests of all parties.
He argued that the country has never faced any rice shortage, adding that Malaysia's paddy is among the highest in the region and that the price of rice in the country is among the cheapest in the region.
When asked if he thinks prices of rice could be lowered with the end of the rice monopoly, Ismail responded by saying that lower prices would affect the livelihoods of farmers.
"60% of rice is local rice so when you talk cheaper prices, that means lower income for farmers.
"As it is now, a bowl of rice costs 26 sen so how much cheaper do you want it to be? Rice is already cheap. It is affordable to everyone," Ismail was quoted as saying by Malay Mail.
Recently, Pakatan Harapan (PH) Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen said BERNAS were making profits at the expense of consumers
The Stampin MP said on Sunday, 10 June, that the monopoly policy allowed BERNAS to be the sole rice importer and the company managed to gain profits due to this practice. He cited several figures about the prices of imported fragrant rice and the prices of the rice when resold to wholesalers.
New Straits Times (NST) reported Chong as saying that the prices of imported fragrant and white rice are influenced by the profit gained by BERNAS.
"Bernas gains an annual gross profit of RM104 million from the import of rice in Sarawak alone, while consumers have to spend a lot on the daily essential goods.
"With the abolishment of the monopoly system on rice imports, consumers will be able to buy rice at a cheaper price," Chong was quoted as saying.
In other recent news, the proposal for Internet access to be made a constitutional right would be brought to the Cabinet soon, according to Gobind Singh Deo: