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Malaysia Grapples with Rice Shortage as Global Prices Soar

The escalating cost of imported rice in Malaysia has prompted consumers to shift their preferences to locally grown rice due to its more affordable price. This surge in rice prices has placed additional financial strain on households already grappling with the challenge of rising food costs.

In response to this crisis, the Malaysian government has initiated a comprehensive project aimed at bolstering rice production within the country. Currently, domestically grown rice only satisfies 70% of the nation’s demand, resulting in many supermarkets and small grocery stores experiencing shortages as consumers rushed to purchase 5-kilogram and 10-kilogram bags of rice, quickly depleting their stocks.

The Managing Director of Mydin, Malaysia’s largest supermarket chain, recently spoke with the Nikkei Asia news agency, highlighting that the rice scarcity in Malaysia can be attributed to the growing price disparity between domestically produced rice and its imported counterparts.

In Malaysia, local white rice is classified as a controlled commodity, with a price ceiling of 26 ringgit (approximately US$5.54) per 10 kilograms. Even before the recent surge in global rice prices, imported rice was more expensive than its local equivalent. Malaysia predominantly imports white rice from countries such as India, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

However, the price gap between locally produced rice and imported varieties has noticeably widened. This gap widened further after Malaysia’s rice import regulatory agency, Padiberas Nasional Berhad (BERNAS), which oversees rice allocation, increased the retail price of imported rice by 36% on September 1st to account for the recent upswing in global rice prices. Presently, the price of imported rice ranges between RM30 and RM70 per 10 kilograms.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s total rice price index surged to 142.4 in August, marking a 31% increase from the previous year. This spike is compounded by the worldwide shortage of white rice, exacerbated by India’s ban on rice exports since July.

Malaysia’s rice shortage underscores the pressing need for a sustainable solution to stabilize domestic rice production and reduce reliance on imports. The government’s initiatives to boost local production are vital steps towards achieving food security and alleviating the burden on households facing skyrocketing food prices.

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