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Food Security Webinar: ‘Logistical headaches forcing producers to dump food’

*Article by Hailey Chung Wee Kye, reporter at The Malaysian Insight

Logidtircal disruptions during the movement control order (MCO) have caused food wastage, with about 64% of food producers unable to sell their produce, a representative from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industries (Mafi) said.

“Farmers have difficulty delivering their fresh produce to the market, this has led to dumping and wastage,” said Perumal Ponnusamy, senior principal assistant secretary in Mafi’s policy and strategic planning division.

He cited figures by the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi), which did an online survey on the impact of the MCO on food industry players.

It found that 64% were unable to sell their produce and only 17% were able to operate at normal capacity.

Meanwhile, 48% of those surveyed complained of distribution constraints.

Perumal was speaking at a webinar on food security organised by Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) and Bait Al Amanah (House of Trust).

The webinar discussed Malaysia’s food security and resilience, which was tested during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Businesses were either closed or operating at minimum capacity. From the consumers, there was panic buying at supermarkets and grocers.

“Consumers also experienced some price hikes for vegetables or perishable commodities.”

Perumal said that RM340 billion in economic stimulus packages by the government did help the nation’s food security.

“A special funding of RM1 billion was given for food security. The special funding enabled the intervention of programmes to increase the capacity of food production by farmers, livestock agriculture breeders, fisherman and food entrepreneurs.

Source: Dr Perumal Ponnusamy

“Additionally, to ease the financial burden and cash flow of micro-businesses, and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), microcredit financing schemes were also provided.

“Other programmes implemented were to increase the logistic storage and distribution capacity, as well as to improve employability as our employment figures were up to 5%,” Perumal said.

The National Agrofood Policy 2021-2030 that the ministry will launch by the end of the year has also drafted strategies to overcome nationwide food waste.

One of the strategies is to increase the awareness of the extent of food loss and food waste along the whole value chain, Perumal said.

“The second is through a smart traceability system (of food loss) and strengthening existing regulation.

“The third is (bringing in) a concept of agro-food waste to a concept of waste- to-wealth where we can make the farmers earn both sides in terms of produce and the loss.

“Last, to intensify collaboration between the downstream players with the food banks and charities to minimise food waste and promote zero waste,” he said.

According to the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Corporation in 2019, Malaysians threw out about 16,688 tonnes of food daily. It is said that a quarter of that is edible.

Perumal added that food security is a shared responsibility.

“Not only are we looking into the government action from the food security national framework, but at a more domestic level, there should be an effort from us to inculcate responsible consumption to reduce food loss.

“And at farmers’ level, there should also be responsible production to reduce food wastage,” he said.

*This Article was published in The Malaysian Insight

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