I was at Brickfields the other day and bought a plate of char keow teow (fried rice noodles) which cost RM9 – expensive by any measure.
The same quantity costs only RM8 at my favourite stall in Lucky Gardens, Bangsar, only 2km away from Brickfields. Many people from outside Bangsar have told me it is one of the best char keow teows in Kuala Lumpur.
Price, taste and preference aside, I engaged with this hawker about his business.
While he was preparing my dish, I noticed a few cardboard trays of eggs beside him. Curious, I asked him how he secured his constant supply of eggs, given the reported nationwide shortage of eggs.
“Ada banyak telur, orang sorok, mau naik harga sahaja.” (There are lots of eggs, but suppliers are hoarding, they only want to hike their prices.) He sounded annoyed.
He lamented he was still able to get his regular supply of eggs but at an inflated price. Unfortunately, he had no choice but to give in to his unscrupulous supplier, as he needed the eggs for his business.
He seemed infuriated with the culprits, as he felt they were deliberately hiking the prices of goods and services across the board at the expense of ordinary people. Ordinary people had to bear the brunt of the rising cost of living because of these dishonest people, he said in disgust.
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Who can blame him for his fury. Most people would empathise with this hawker’s predicament.
Upon reaching home, I pondered over my conversation with this hawker. He had made some valid points. Sometimes I wonder how ordinary people cope with the rising cost of living. It must be extremely difficult for many to eke out a daily living.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s priority should be to set up a committee to devise strategies to counter the rising cost of living.
The committee must take follow-up action immediately. Consider these measures:
- State governments should identify suitable land available for vegetable and fruit cultivation, poultry farms and aquaculture
- Each state must come up with comprehensive proposals to develop the food sector, taking into consideration local and national needs
- Reintroduce the Green Book Plan implemented in 1974, which aimed to make Malaysia self-sufficient in food production through subsidies and encourage farmers to increase their output. The plan emphasised using land to the fullest capacity, with short-term crops, clustered agriculture plots, livestock farming and freshwater fish conservation plans
- Encourage a community-based approach towards planting vegetables and fruit in residential areas, just like the mini-farms we have in Bangsar and Medan Damansara. Identify the areas, especially under high-tension grid lines, and request Tenaga Nasional to give approval for residential farming
- Encourage residents with landed property to grow vegetables and fruit in any small space inside and outside their respective dwellings. After all, besides catering to our food needs, we will also contribute towards reducing carbon emissions
- Encourage residents’ associations to initiate projects for residents to plant vegetables and fruit in vacant spaces. Once harvested, they can distribute the produce to all residents
- Provide expert advice to people engaged in food cultivation and in developing poultry farms
- Offer attractive financial incentives to farmers and all who are commercially engaged in the cultivation of food and in the production of poultry products
- Facilitate synergy between all stakeholders engaged in the food sector
- Learn from the Danish experience in the food sector
For far too long, we have neglected the food sector in our quest for industrialisation and the development of the services sector. We must now give equal prominence to the food sector.
I have always been passionate about food security. I guess it stems from the days when I used to visit Denmark and observe how the people there developed their food ecosystem completely along the value chain.
The Danish food ecosystem incorporates R&D, integrated farming, manufacturing and the development of food cooperatives. Observe too the pivotal role played by food-based associations, logistics, and marketing and distribution.
Imagine, Denmark, with almost six million people, produces enough food for five times its population!
The Malaysian government should send officials from relevant ministries and agencies – like the Ministry of Agriculture, the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority, the Federal Land Development Authority, the Malaysian Investment Development Authority and the Malaysian External Trade Development Authority – to learn about the food sector in Denmark.
We can learn valuable lessons from Denmark’s universities and research institutes involved in innovation in food production and technology.
Malaysia should slash its food import bill of RM55bn (in 2020) and take immediate action to boost the local food sector.
If there is a concerted effort and will by the government and the people, we can surely reduce the cost of living.
Malaysia should aim to become a major exporter and global player in food products. Why? Because food production is a recession-proof sector assured of consistent demand. As the global population increases, the demand for food products will rise and the nation will earn much-needed foreign exchange.
Striving to be a dominant producer and exporter of food products is not beyond our reach, nor is it a herculean task. It is definitely within our abilities.