New Straits Times - - Letters -

WHY is it that ev­ery time there is a fes­ti­val, be it Hari Raya, Chi­nese New Year or Deep­avali, there is a sud­den surge in de­mand for food? Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties will start mon­i­tor­ing the prices of food. They have to en­sure that there are no un­war­ranted price hikes as a re­sult of hoard­ing or other forms of ex­ploita­tion by re­tail­ers.

The re­tail­ing of chicken, of­ten closely mon­i­tored, is al­ways a sub­ject of con­tention among con­sumers dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son, es­pe­cially on the sup­ply side. Re­ports of short­age in the mar­ket are not un­com­mon.

Food is a ma­jor con­cern for ev­ery­one. There have been re­ports of ri­ots in coun­tries ex­pe­ri­enc­ing food short­ages.

At one time, there was an acute short­age of cook­ing oil in In­dia be­cause the mon­soon that year wreaked havoc on the do­mes­tic oilseed crops.

The con­se­quence was a na­tion­wide riot, with peo­ple blam­ing the gov­ern­ment for the short­age. That was when In­dia de­cided to im­port palm oil from Malaysia. In a way, that bout of cook­ing oil short­age was a bless­ing.

Now, the world deals with an­other blow over food short­age. East African coun­tries, es­pe­cially So­ma­lia and South Su­dan, are badly af­fected by drought-in­duced famine, which has taken many lives, es­pe­cially chil­dren.

This ex­plains why food se­cu­rity is the top agenda for all coun­tries. In Malaysia, the dis­course on food se­cu­rity has been on the plate for decades. Take our sta­ple food rice as an ex­am­ple. We have yet to sur­pass the 70 to 75 per cent self-suf­fi­ciency mark. And, this is despite ad­vances made in rice-breed­ing re­search and devel­op­ment, where new high-yield­ing va­ri­eties have been in­tro­duced to farm­ers.

The Malaysian Agri­cul­tural Re­search and Devel­op­ment In­sti­tute has made sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions over the years. Re­cently, it was re­ported that re­searchers from Univer­siti Pu­tra Malaysia (UPM) have suc­ceeded in pro­duc­ing new higher-yield­ing rice va­ri­eties. But, the self-suf­fi­ciency level has not changed much. Why?

Stud­ies dif­fer on the rea­sons. But, most are unan­i­mous on the facts re­lated to poor agro­nomic man­age­ment and un­con­trolled post-har­vest losses.

Re­cent de­vel­op­ments in rice­breed­ing re­search prom­ise to change the equa­tion on the na­tion’s rice self-suf­fi­ciency.

Ac­cord­ing to the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry, which funds univer­sity re­search in the coun­try, hope is on the way. UPM re­searchers are ready to rec­om­mend a new rice va­ri­ety. Once im­ple­mented with the right agro­nomic sup­port, we will be closer than ever to the self-suf­fi­ciency level that the na­tion has long dreamed of. A self-suf­fi­ciency level of at least 90 per cent is pos­si­ble.

The na­tion has also been overly de­pen­dent on im­ports to meet our de­mand for beef, lamb and dairy prod­ucts. There have been many at­tempts to grow our sup­ply of beef to re­duce the im­port bur­den. Ini­tia­tives to ex­pand the coun­try’s live­stock in­dus­try have only achieved lim­ited suc­cess.

But, we must not lose hope. A re­cent an­nounce­ment by the gov­ern­ment to ven­ture into the dairy sec­tor should be ap­plauded. Over the years, our con­sump­tion of dairy has seen a big in­crease. As con­sumers im­prove their pur­chas­ing power, the pref­er­ence for beef and dairy prod­ucts will in­crease But, we need to have the right busi­ness model to make the ven­ture into the dairy in­dus­try a suc­cess.


My favourite is still the same out­let that I have pa­tro­n­ised for more than three decades. It started out as a stall in a Chi­nese cof­fee shop in Jalan Tuanku Ab­dul Rah­man, Kuala Lumpur.

Later, it moved to its own shop a few doors away and sub­se­quently took up two shoplots. It is com­mon to find a long queue around lunch time.

Not far away, a cor­ner shop had also be­come pop­u­lar with even longer queues at times. These nasi kan­dar restau­rants in Kuala Lumpur can eas­ily give those in Pe­nang a run for their money.

We should not con­tinue to hype up restau­rants just be­cause they used to be pop­u­lar.

A restau­rant that has been de­clared dirty and un­hy­gienic should not be al­lowed to con­tinue op­er­at­ing, even if it has been in busi­ness for a long time.

Restau­rant op­er­a­tors owe it to the pub­lic to pro­vide hy­gienic food and premises af­ter rak­ing in huge prof­its for so long.

Rou­tine in­spec­tions must be car­ried out at restau­rants in the cities, and this is not lim­ited to Pe­nang.


Fel­low, Academy of Sciences Malaysia C.Y. MING Am­pang, Se­lan­gor


A restau­rant that has been de­clared dirty and un­hy­gienic should not be al­lowed to con­tinue op­er­at­ing.

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