'Fixed price' needed for domestic rice consumption

I REFER to a recent news article published on "Bernas: Opening up imports would not mean cheaper rice".

In early June, the government decided to end Bernas' monopoly of rice imports and established a committee to explore alternative options to tackle our staple food.

I am unable to fathom nor understand this move that was said to be undertaken as a means to provide cheaper pricing for rice.

A removal of the sole importer status and subsidy to Bernas, one would expect that the revenue of the government will be increased further. Will the government then utilise this savings to subsidise the price of rice for the end consumer? If so, in what manner?

If Bernas' role is to be removed, how will this also help protect an estimated 150,000 farmers in the nation from problems on stockpile issues, subsidy disbursements and miller's funding in which the company is obligated to serve?

How would the removal of Bernas from the role of a sole importer be able to address the rising supply and control the price of rice? Wouldn't appointing more companies to oversee rice imports result in more foreign rice being imported into the country?

What would stop these companies then from forming a cartel?

In any country, government policies are mainly focused on poverty elimination and sectoral growth. As the poverty among padi farmers is high in Malaysia, the government should regard this as an important and sensitive issue to protect the domestic industry and for food security purposes.

The government has to be commended for introducing a set petrol price, eliminating the weekly stress and anticipation of the different price back then. I call for the government to consider the same on the move to remove the single rice importer role as to control any uncertainty and unrest among the rice farmers and the everyday Malaysian people.

As someone who consumes rice daily, I for one believe that a monopoly rice importer is needed to maintain and manage the national stockpile of rice to ensure sufficient supply and to stabilise the price. We should have a "fixed price" for domestic rice consumption.

E. K. Ong
Shah Alam