Govt mulling importing more food

As published in Malay Mail today

 By Haresh Deol
haresh@mmail.com.my

PETALING JAYA — The prolonged heatwave is taking a toll on farmers as they face low yields compounded by water shortage.
 
The situation may force the government to import agricultural produce as demand is expected to surge ahead of Ramadan, which will be observed in June, and the Hari Raya celebrations the following month.
 
“Right now, most of the produce are from the earlier stock, so the prices are still ok. My worry is the new stock, especially in the next month or two,” said Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek.
 
“Farmers are not producing as much as they want and this is disrupting supply. Naturally, when demand is high and the supply is low, prices will increase.”
 
He said his ministry is in the midst of compiling information regarding the output of local farmers to see if they are able to meet the demand of traders and consumers, especially during Ramadan and Hari Raya.
 
“We have to juggle between the interests of the masses and local farmers. We plan to intervene by liberalising imports. This will ensure enough food to meet demand.
 
“But I’m not very keen on importing agricultural produce as this will effect the livelihood of local farmers. We are monitoring the situation closely and hope to strike the right balance.
 
“My other biggest worry is water supply. This will also disrupt production. As such, we are looking at various ways to channel water to farms and orchards.”
 
He said the ministry will ensure prices of produce will not rise sharply, especially during Ramadan and Hari Raya.
The ministry’s agricultural department deputy director-general (operations), Zanil Abdin Yusof, said vegetables production is expected to drop by 15 to 20 per cent if the hot weather continues until next month.
 
“The El Nino effect will have an impact on the production of vegetables which require a larger quantities of water,” he was reported by Bernama as saying.
 
The harvest of fruits like durians, mangoes, rambutan, bananas and jackfruit will also be effected, he said.
Zanil suggested vegetables and fruit farmers increase the capacity of their retention ponds and use more organic materials when preparing soil for planting.

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