By Azman Zakaria
Photo by Marina Ismail
SERDANG, June 21 - The stock of staple food supply can last the country only for 45 days and this can directly affect food supply stability, thus bringing it to a worrying level - all because of high dependence on imported sources.
In this regard, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and International) Prof Datuk Dr Mad Nasir Shamsudin said food stockpiles, therefore, should be increased so that the country could survive for a longer period while concentration of investment should not be focused solely on the commodity sector but also agri-food.
“We are stable but fragile in terms of stability because we are too dependent on imports…that is what we are worried about,” he told a Press Conference after presenting his views as a panel member for an advocacy programme, entitled “Malaysia Food Security: Until When? ‘ (Sekuriti Makanan Malaysia: Sampai Bila?), here.
The program was organized by the National Professors Council (MPN) with the cooperation of Utusan Malaysia, Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) and UPM. Two other panel members were UPM Vice-Chancellor, Datin Paduka Dr. Aini Ideris, and MPN Head of Agriculture and Food Cluster, Prof. Dr. Ghizan Saleh.
Prof Datuk Dr Mad Nasir said net import for food last year had increased to RM18.1 billion, a far cry from RM1.1 billion in 1990.
According to him, food crisis could occur if the situation of high dependence on imports is not curbed and food produce in exporter-country is affected or the country concerned stopped its exports like what happened when Vietnam stopped its rice export in 2008.
He added that studies showed that there could be instability and chaos if there is not enough food for four days.
Key players in the agriculture sector, therefore should take heed of social returns, that is, stability and peace of the country, and not just solely economic returns while making their investments to ensure continued stability, he added.
While investors were focused on the commodity sector or plantation, they should not neglect the agri-food sector by allowing it to be run by smallholders only.
“The returns from food security is stability and peace for the country... it is the responsibility of all,” he said.
Prof Datin Paduka Dr Aini, meanwhile, said, food security involved adequacy factors such as availability and accessibility or affordability for groceries.
At UPM, she said, 60 per cent of its programmes were agriculture-based to enable the university to assist in terms of food security, including through the creation of new agriculture technologies and innovations.
She also said agro-based industries must continue to be strengthened to produce more agro-entrepreneurs.
Prof Dr Ghizan, meanwhile, said the government should increase land acreage for the cultivation of food to enhance supply stability as the present 1 million-hectare allotted for agriculture was too small as compared to 5.5 million-hectare set for commodity activities, especially palm oil plantation. – UPM.
Sekolah Pengajian Siswazah
Universiti Putra Malaysia
43400 UPM Serdang
Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia