KOTA KINABALU: Democratic Action Party (DAP) Member of Parliament for Kota Kinabalu Chan Foong Hin disagreed with a total ban of rice transhipment as part of the government’s effort to curb rice smuggling.
He said legitimate rice transhipment activities are crucial for the local economy.
Chan had during the Ministerial Question Time (MQT) in Parliament this morning asked the Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Dato’ Salahuddin Ayub on the ministry’s plan to solve the rice smuggling issue through other less disruptive means to the local economy.
“The ministry should not just impose a total ban on rice transhipment when the intention is merely to curb rice smuggling.
“Not all rice transhipment activities would involve smuggling. The genuine rice transhipment industry, and certain port-towns like Labuan which depends heavily on transhipment activities, are heavily affected by this move.”
Chan said he had received a written reply on Mar 12 for an oral question submitted earlier to the same ministry asking whether the government intends to lift the rice transhipment ban anytime soon.
The ministry had replied stating that a Task Force comprising of the Ministry of Finance, the Home Ministry, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Foreign Ministry has been established to study the rice transhipment issue and to submit proposals relating to transhipment of rice in all the ports of the country.
The ministry also said that a research is being done on all issues arising and the ministry is expecting a new decision in relation to the implementation of rice trading transhipment in the near future.
“It seems that the rice transhipment issue is a sticky issue. The main issue is that Bernas has monopoly over rice supply in Malaysia, and no other suppliers are allowed to supply rice to consumers in Malaysia, including in Sabah and Labuan.
“The current ban is caused by some irresponsible people who attempted to smuggle foreign rice into Malaysia without going through Bernas and/or not paying the necessary tax for importation,” Chan said.
“I agree that enforcement is needed as smuggling would lead to loss of revenue to the government. However, we must balance enforcement with genuine businesses concerns, otherwise they will also be badly affected,” he said.
Sabah is located in the heart of BIMP-Eaga (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines-East Asean Growth Area) region and the state has always have cross-border trading in the region since many centuries ago.
Transhipment, which is also locally known in Sabah as “barter trade” is an important issue to Sabahans.
“Many businesses are involved (in transhipment) and rice is a major part of it. Therefore the Ministry of Agriculture should consult the Sabah state government and come up with a clear policy on rice transhipment upon completion of the rice transhipment task force study,” said Chan .
“If Bernas monopoly is found to be one of the main role in causing this issue, I urge the government to expedite the process of dismantling Bernas’ monopoly on rice,” he said.-SabahNewsToday