Will the government ensure that there is enough food to reach the rakyat? What is Azmin Ali up to? He was put in charge of food supplies but several issues about vegetables and fish, have emerged. Is he just useless or clueless?
Malaysians have been told that the Movement Control Order (MCO) has been extended for a further two weeks, and questions are being asked about the delivery problems in the food supply chain.
Two weeks of surviving on canned food, or home cooked food, is torture for some people but it is not as bad as the farmers and fishermen who are forced to dump their produce, or who risk losing their business altogether.
The MCO may have reduced the demand for vegetables, but the people involved in the food supply chain want urgent action to prevent further disruption to their effort, to feed the nation.
One of the worst affected is the Kuala Lumpur Wholesale Market. Wong Keng Fatt of the KL Vegetable Wholesalers’ Association claimed that under normal circumstances, 448 stalls would be in operation with 5,000 people working daily.
Vegetable growers, chicken farmers, fishermen, and delivery truck drivers, complain that the various restrictions on traffic and market operating hours, are seriously hampering their efforts to provide a smooth flow of fresh food, during the MCO.
The food suppliers claim that the problems they face are caused by bad planning, logistical problems, manpower shortages and most of all, ill-thought out procedures by the authorities.
With the MCO, KL City issued stricter conditions that allowed only two foreign workers to work during the market’s reduced operation hours. This meant that only 1,000 workers can move produce at the market.
Wong said that 40% of wet markets in KL have been forced to close, whilst 80% of the vegetable stalls which rely heavily on foreign labour to unload vegetables from the lorries, are struggling. Previously, 7 or 8 people would run each stall.
The new ruling also stipulates that the market must operate within reduced operating hours, between 10am to 7pm and 12am to 7am. Previously, the Pasar Borong Kuala Lumpur was open all day, seven days a week.
The problems in KL have generated problems upstream, and seriously affected the work of both the farmers and the transport industry in Cameron Highlands.
Did the authorities fail to consult the market operators?
From news reports, it appears that the authorities have failed to consult the Kuala Lumpur Vegetable Wholesalers’ Association or the Cameron Highlands Vegetable Transport Vehicle Owners’ Association.
Perhaps, it would be judicious to include these trade associations to meet Kuala Lumpur City Hall, PDRM, the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama) and the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) to iron out a workable plan to improve the efficiency of food supply.
We don’t need a war to show the precariousness of our food supply chain. The Coronavirus pandemic is threatening our food supply, and the rakyat will soon experience real hardship, if Azmin does not resolve the problems.
Photos of vegetables and fish being dumped have upset many Malaysians. To make matters worse, they are also furious that eight tonnes of food, albeit canned supplies, will be shipped to the United Arab Emirates, in exchange for Coronavirus test kits. One wonders if something other than food, could have been used in the exchange.
Surely charity begins at home.
If we have to buy test kits from UAE, it’s a transaction, not an assistance from Arab countries. There has to be a better coordination to match between the supply of perishable food produce and consumers that need them, in a workable arrangement without compromising on spread of the virus. It only shows incompetency and lack of involvement by the relevant authorities (to engage relevant stakeholders) to have such wastage resulting and deprivation to consumers. In times like these, politics should not be in the way of performing their public role and duty to the people, which include producers and consumers.
Even manufacturers of food that can be cheap, staple, and accessible widely, the jokers are limiting the manufacture.