With food prices escalating, the government wants the people to learn to be more self-sufficient while the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations said the government must adopt a more dynamic agricultural policy as a long term plan to address the issue. PUTRAJAYA: With world food prices increasing steadily, the government is fast mobilising players in the business to help cushion the imminent economic impact on the people. Food operators, importers, exporters and hypermarkets, among others, will be sitting with the government soon to plan methods that both the government and industry players can adopt in addressing the global food crisis.
Deputy Domestic Trade, Consumerism and Cooperatives Minister Datuk Tan Lian Hoe said with the escalation in world food prices, it was also important for the people to learn to be self-sufficient.
"Those who own small pieces of land or even a garden plot can start to learn how to plant vegetables for their own consumption," she said. However, the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) said the government must adopt a more dynamic agricultural policy as a long-term plan to address the issue of rising food prices.
Its chief executive officer, Datuk Paul Selva Raj, told the New Straits Times that it was pivotal for the government to nurture and promote food production locally and depend less on imports.
"Food security is very important and at present we depend quite heavily on imported food," he said.
He added that that for the short-term, the government must continue with subsidies.
He also called for the setting up of a solid social safety net to ensure the poor had at least a minimum standard of living.
This, he said, was because findings showed the poor spent more money on food -- between 40 and 60 per cent of their money compared with between 15 and 20 per cent for those in the upper and middle-income brackets -- and so would be more affected.
Tan, meanwhile, also called on consumers to consume local food products and produce, and not resort to buying imported ones.
"Consumers should purchase local products as these produces are reasonably priced. Instead of frequenting hypermarkets all the time, consumers could also purchase their goods from the local farmers' markets or farms because the produce are very reasonably priced.
Tan reminded the people that soaring global food prices was a phenomenon that the government could not control.
"The world population rises four per cent yearly, and this can affect the food prices, even more so when demand is more than the current supply," she said.
Tan added that the people must also strive to cut down on food wastage.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) had reported that world food prices, which surged 30 per cent in the first two months of the year, has threatened to push millions of Asians into extreme poverty and cut economic growth.
ADB, in its report, had stated the surging prices translated into domestic food inflation of 10 per cent on average in many Asian economies. This could drive 64 million people into poverty while eroding the living standards of poor families.
Food prices have been driven higher by surging oil prices, production shortfalls due to bad weather and export restrictions by food-producing countries.
Paul said it was critical for the government to educate consumers on how food prices were determined.
"For a majority of consumers, there is often a misconception that the government has a big influence on food prices and essential items."
Food: Smart eats
A GROWING child needs a balanced diet for mental and physical development. Because of their high metabolism, they burn calories faster than adults. So, short intervals of healthy snacks between meals is recommended. Protein, minerals and calcium are vital and should be added as supplements to their diet.
The New Straits Times...