Govt mulls removing Bernas rice monopoly

17 Oct 2018 / 16:12 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: The government is considering removing by 30% next year the monopoly of Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) on rice supply in the country to enable other industry players to enter the market, the Dewan Rakyat was told today.
Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub said this was one of the proposals the ministry had received to provide a "soft landing" for Bernas which will see the end of its concession in 2021 when there will be no more monopoly.
The government does not want to be hasty in introducing a new model to replace Bernas because of the question of national food security, he said when replying to a question from Rusnah Aluai (PH-Tangga Batu) who wanted to know whether the government proposed to have a new National Padi and Rice Authority to take over from Bernas.
"Our vision is not just to establish another body to replace Bernas; it is much far-sighted. The issue of food is a national security issue. As such, clearer and broader views have to be taken into account," he said.
Salahuddin said a special committee comprising representatives from eight ministries and led by Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali is studying the introduction of a new model to replace the Bernas monopoly.
"This is a major thing … as such, we are discussing it in the context of sustainable development growth and the megatrends that we have to consider," he said.
He also said that the comprehensive study will also have to consider the aspect of urbanisation with the reducing agricultural land and paddy fields, the population increase by 2050 with the country's population estimated to reach 45 million as well as the changing lifestyle and diet of the people.
Salahuddin said the issue of terminating the Bernas monopoly in rice supply, as promised in the PH election manifesto, is an obligation that the government pledges to realise.
At the same time, he said, the government will continue to defend the five social obligations with regard to farmers when the Bernas monopoly is removed.
These are maintaining and managing the national buffer stock; buying paddy from farmers at the guaranteed and minimum price; acting as the last buyer of the farmers; managing the subsidy payments to the farmers under the Paddy Price Subsidy Scheme and managing the Bumiputera millers scheme, he said.
Salahuddin said the national paddy production had not increased in comparison to other countries because the acreage under paddy cultivation is only 600,000 ha compared to 10 million ha in Thailand and eight million hectares in Vietnam. — Bernama

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