Malaysiakini Letter

Ruler's call to address rising food costs needs honest reply

JD Lovrenciear  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | Perak ruler Sultan Nazrin Shah has advised the government to immediately 'devise strategic measures to address the rising cost of food' as it has been imposing a burden on people’s lives for quite a while now.

The government will, I am sure, soon announce measures to resolve this basic need of all people.

In the meantime here are some value systems that the government must tackle if we are to see any significant outcomes. 

Otherwise, we may have to contend with the likes of the foolish and infamous 'RM1 chicken' saga once mooted by the previous government.

First, cut out the middleman on the food value chain. 

These are parasites that do not add any economic value except their own self-enrichment at the expense of the producer and the consumer.

This problem has persisted for decades because of the rent-seeking culture that we have silently coveted and endorsed widely in our economic and political landscape.

Second, stop grabbing cultivatable land in the urban environment. Buildings can only bring growth in the economy to a limit. There are other nonmeasurable quantifiers that make living and growing meaningful.

Ensure that green lungs are spared so that local communities can get involved in community cash crop cultivation activities.

Such initiatives can not only put fresh food on the tables of a community's residents but also bring people together in the true 'Malaysian First' spirit that politicians have robbed from us in the past.

Third, bring back agriculture studies into all schools. Stop taking away football fields for buildings. Instead, help schools to make cash crop cultivation a serious and practical subject for all students.

This is a long term knowledge capital investment that should help us build a culture of direct involvement with nature and environment that can one day enable an entire nation to be self-reliant in global moments of deprivation like war or economic meltdowns.

Fourth, stop chasing after foreign currencies through the export market at the expense of the local population's basic needs. Making money is second to saving our own population from economic, financial and food shortage hardships.

It is true that much of our good crops from fruits to vegetables are attracted by the foreign dollar so much so it is hard to find local produce sold cheaper than imported varieties.

Fifth, all those agencies set up in the past to look into crop production must buck up. It is time to do a review on the efficiency and effectiveness of these agencies who seem to be off the radar of public scrutiny for very long.

We need to tap on economies of scale and weed out bureaucracy that has incapacitated the original purpose and capabilities of these agencies.

Sixth, for far too long we have been so preoccupied with megabuck investments and making multi-billion dollar profits as well as chasing down the development corridor of making money through mortar and steel.

This obsession must be rationalised.

There needs to be a balanced approach between wealth creation and food cultivation and production.

Unless and until we owe up to gross failures and get back to the drawing boards quickly, any quick fixes to seemingly address the food plight of the people is a farce.

In fact, these days many in the B40 and lower M40 brackets are seriously struggling to put an affordable and healthy choice of food on the dinner table.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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