KUALA LUMPUR, June 12 — Padiberas Nasional Berhad (Bernas) chief executive officer Ismail Mohamed Yusof said today the current system of rice import should be maintained as it has never failed consumers.
“There has been no issue with rice since you were born, until now, has there? You face shortages in other (kinds of) food, but never rice.
“We always had supplies of rice in the market, our paddy is among the highest in the region and our rice is among the cheapest in the region.
“This proves that the current system works so it should be maintained,” he told reporters after a meet with the Council of Eminent Persons at Ilham Tower today.
Ismail said the public has only scrutinised the monopoly aspect of the rice import system but failed to take into account the social obligations of Bernas over the years.
“We have always supported farmers. Paddy is the only commodity that has a buy-back guarantee from the government. When the produce is infected, we will still buy from them.
“We also take the profit from the sole rice import and subsidise local rice. These are our social obligations that no one talks about,” he said.
On June 6, Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry announced the termination of Bernas’ monopoly “to protect the interests of local paddy farmers.”
The rice importer currently owns about 28 out of 180 mills in the country.
When asked if it is possible for the prices of rice to drop further in the near future, Ismail brushed it off, saying: “The price of rice here is already cheap.”
“60 per cent of rice is local rice so when you talk cheaper prices, that means lower income for farmers.
“As it is now, a bowl of rice costs 26 sen so how much cheaper do you want it to be?
“Rice is already cheap. It is affordable to everyone,” he said.