Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rice: Can Malaysia be self-sufficient?

Rice is the staple food for more than three billion people. I eat rice everyday, and so are the rest of 27 million Malaysians. I don't know how to describe a Malaysian who doesn't eat rice, if there's any (but that's his problem lar!).

We produce our own rice, mainly from our 'rice bowl' State of Kedah. There are padi fields everywhere. During my school days, I enjoyed helping my parents, my grandparents and the other relatives in the padi field - from planting to harvesting.

However, modernisation has lured the youth to the cities, leaving only the old folks to attend to the padi field. And many years later, I can only hide the frustration to see the padi fields became small jungles where monkeys and other creatures dwell. Not only in my kampung in Malacca but also in many parts of the country.

As urbanisation, market capitalism and industrialisation took away much of the padi fields, we began to import it, not in small volume but quite significant. It costs the country billion of ringgit to import rice from some countries like Thailand, Cambodia, India and others.

And as such, more padi fields are turning to jungle.

Personally, I was elated with a news from Manila yesterday that the Philippines will reach its self-sufficiency in rice production in a year or two. President Aquino was all proud in making that announcement, and so were the 94 million Filipinos.

It means the republic will be able to save about USD1.3 billion a year in rice import, and such an amount can instead be utilised for other development projects. I admire what the country is doing in order to stop its dependency on imported rice.

So, how about us? We import more and more rice. Local production is not enough to support the ever-increasing demand while the quality of local rice (admit it!) is still below satisfactory. What is lacking in us as compared to Thai or Cambodian rice? We share the same climate, similar soil and more or less the same fertilizer.

After 'Malinja' and 'Mahsuri', did we produce any other hybrid? And what happens to the research conducted by our genius, scientists and professors at UPM, USM, Mardi, Fama and the rest.

We keep on reading about their achievement of 'winning so many trophies' in innovation competition abroad - golden award in farming, technology, etc. However, we failed to apply it to our own good. Our research is only for competition.

Fifty-four years after Independence, we still cannot improve our rice production by one per cent a year. Had we started back some 20 years ago, our local production could by now exceeds 60 per cent or 70 per cent, and much money can be saved.

It was quite recently that one of our ministers announced that our rice supply is sufficient, and that the major flood in Thailand will not force up the price of the commodity. However, the FAO issued warning late last month that rice price could go up by 10 per cent to 20 per cent due to reduced in production in Thailand and other exporting countries.

The shortage pushed up benchmark rice prices to a three-year high of $650 a tonne last month, triggering fears of a spike in food inflation in Asia.

The rice market saw its last big rally during the 2007-2008 crisis, when the commodity changed hands at more than $1,000 a tonne after key producers such as India, Vietnam, China and Egypt imposed export bans while importers, particularly in the Middle East, hoarded supplies. Before the crisis, rice traded at $200-$400.

And global rice prices may move up further in the next few months as flooding in Thailand continues to affect the crop and damage existing inventories.

Importers are looking for alternative supply, but the perception gaining ground is that despite cheaper rice available from sources such as India and Pakistan, they won't be able to do without any supply from Thailand and Vietnam. The two control more than half of the rice moving in global trade, which amounts to around 32 million tons a year.

Vietnamese prices have moved up in tandem with Thailand's, hitting three-year highs with more expected. The price for a ton of Thai 5 per cent broken grade rice, currently about $600, free-on-board—up 20 per cent since the start of the second quarter—is forecast to hit $700 to $800 by the end of the year.

So, until when will Malaysia stop importing or at least reduce it's import volume?

Some people make a simple conclusion - if we don't import, some senior politicians and government servants will not make that 'extra' income... is it true? I believe there are some truths in it. How about you, readers?


Anonymous said...

Depleting rice fields and low yield will ensure that we will never be self sufficient in rice supply. Couple that with politicians being in the business of importing rice and Agriculture Ministers who never give a care about improving our rice supply, we are doomed. The last minister who really tried was Tan Sri Sanusi Junid, but none the like of him emerged after that.
Pak Tua

Sustainable Living Institute (SAVE) said...


Thursday, November 17, 2011


Padi planting is a culture and tradition. When we see sawah terbiar it means that part of our culture - customs, celeberations, community are lost. It is a sign that the rural youth has migrated to urban areas to find work.

When done manually as in the olden days it is backbreaking work in the padi fields - cangkuling, pulling weeds, harvesting, and carrying padi .

The feet get soaked in mud for hours, plus the rain, hot sun, lintah, cuts by the razor sharp padi leaves do not make work easier. I have done it all.

The Bario rice produced in the Bakalalan highlands in Sarawak is done manually with some help from buffaloes. The area is isolated and not accessible by road so the Kelabit villagers have to produce their own crop of rice. It is a specialty rice which they are proud of.

Even with the aid of machines work is still not easy.

Harvesting machines increase work and production efficiency but still we need to import 30% of rice from Thailand,Vietnam, and Cambodia. There will be rice shortage for export because the flood in Thailand wiped out 1.4 million hectares (14%) of padi land.

In September Noh Omar said that we have rice stockpile to last for 45 days (300,000 metric tonnes) and in October he said enough for 4 months (1 million tonnes)!! Whatever it is that is good for short term only.

For the long term food security measure there are 2 things he must do if he is brave and smart enough:

1. Open up another mega padi area the like of MADA in East Malaysia;
2. Beef up rice research by setting up a National Rice Research and Development Institute/Board (like MPOB).

A budget of RM5 billion is needed initially to kickstart the two-prong approach.

nasi dan kicap said...


kita sebenarnya boleh mengeluarkan beras yang cukup untuk keperluan dalam negeri jika kerajaan dan agensi2 terbabit benar2 ikhlas dan bertekad menjayakannya.

kita boleh mencontohi vietnam, misalnya. kerajaannya cepat mengenal pasti mana2 sawah terbiar dan kawasan yang boleh ditanam padi. ia dijadikan aset sementara kerajaan dengan ekuitinya sama2 dipegang oleh pemilik tanah. ia ditanam padi, pemilik diberikan imbuhan setimpal dengan keluasan tanah sawahnya. dengan cara ini, tidak ada sawah yang terbiar.

rasanya kita boleh berbuat demikian melalui pendekatan lebih tersusun oleh agensi terbabit. jika rakyat tempatan kurang untuk mengerjakannya, mesin dan teknologi moden boleh digunakan.

jika dihitung keluasan tanah sawah di malaysia serta anggaran pengeluarannya, kita sepatutnya boleh menjadi negara pengeksport beras dan bukannya pengimport.

seperti yang sdr sebut, tidak ada kurangnya kita dengan thailand dan negara lain yang mengeluarkan beras bermutu tinggi.

karupiah, miri said...

bro, the minister who made the statement does not eat local rice.

he didnt do any homework before opening up his mouth.

yes, we keep on importing rice and other things because we are not yet self-sufficient but until when?

Anonymous said...

they do research to show to the world that malaysia is capable of everything.

once they get the trophy, they sell the research to foreign country!.

penangan said...


saya setuju dengan tuan, jika kita tingkatkan keupayaan sebanyak 1 peratus setahun, kita akan boleh mencapai kemampuan bekalan mencukupi.

tapi apa kan daya... takda import, pemegang AP dan pihak terbabit tak boleh himpun kekayaan!

jadi, sampai bila pun kita akan terpaksa import untuk penuhi nafsu pihak sedemikian

the wrestler said...

give la more AP to politicians and their friends to import anything - from rice to toothpick!

import mentality will forever be in the minds of our leaders!

why not we import more amoi from china and elsewhere?

Anonymous said...

import adalah keutamaan mereka yang pegang kuasa.

mereka kaut untung berjuta ringgit setiap bulan daripada hasil import beras.

rakyat masih dibelenggu kemiskinan. apa nak jadi ni?

bekas ketua bahagian said...

there are 94 million filipinos compared to 27 million malaysians. and yet we cant be self-sufficient. we dont have severe weather as compared to the philippines. what's wrong with us?

- imports are to feed some greedy politicians and their cronies!

lim gone eng said...

what does the minister know about rice! he only knows how to eat the best quality one.

me and family will forever eat 'beras hancur'.

does he care? does the govt care?

kulumullah said...

know what?

siamese rice is so delicious that u can eat it just with kicap or budu!

dont talk about our rice!

Anonymous said...

semua hasil kajian tu untuk cari nama dan kemegahan je. semua kajian tu baik tapi jarang digunakan untuk meningkatkan mutu produk tempatan. paras penyelidik ni dibayar gaji puluhan ribu sebulan untuk naikkan nama negara di bidang inovasi dunia. tapi hampeh!

lampam jawa said...


to noh omar - ada idea?

ayatollah budin said...

apa bangangnya menteri ni bila kata harga beras takkan naik di pasaran dunia!

kalau stok dan pengeluaran makin kurang, harga apa komoditi pun akan naik.

lagi satu, cukup ke stok kita?

Anonymous said...

our scientists are only told to do research. they were not instructed to apply it for domestic use.

what the FU...!

pro-PKR said...

kerajaan kita terlalu gilakan nama, biar satu dunia puji kebolehan kita di bidang inovasi....

bagaimanapun, makin kurang rakyat memuji kerajaan....

Anonymous said...

noh omar spoke thru his nose!

he knows nothing about how to improve our local padi production!

clarke gable said...

what is BERNAS?

not bernas at all!!!!


solomon tak selamat said...

so many AP, so many interest by so many parties... and so much money flows out for rice.

who gets the benefit? the AP holders and some politicians.

the price of rice keeps spiraling... and the AP holders get richer by day!


kais pagi makan pagi said...

memang kerajaan bagi subsidi harga beras tapi harganya makin naik, beras hancur pun dah mahal.

jadi, eloklah kita cukupkan pengeluaran tempatan.

noh omar ni asyik heboh nak import je...

Anonymous said...

Bro Jai,

I think i know of one malaysian, well at least one melayu who dont eat rice....dat melayu hybrid Barking Macpie or wateva he calls himself....once i overheard him confessing being a non-belacan eating melayu...

Perhaps a confused soul dat fella...nk jadi mat salleh cakap pokat nogori ...nak jadi melayu tapi x mkn belacan...

Tapi x palah...

red apple said...

the price of tapioca also goes up.

not so many people plant it anymore... everybody wants to try grapes, apple and berries.


Anonymous said...

tanah sawah kat kampung aku dah jadi padang bola.

tali airnya pun dah takda air, ada ular sawa dan tedung je!