Local rice shortage stemmed from fake news, says Mat Sabu

Minister says panic buying following rumours that supplies were running out led to the current situation.

(FMT) – The agriculture and food security ministry has found that the shortage of local rice supplies stemmed from panic buying, sparked by a video falsely claiming that supplies were about to run out.

The ministry has also detected a trend of consumers shifting from purchases of imported rice to local rice, after the spike in prices due to India halting its rice exports, Berita Harian reported.

The minister, Mohamad Sabu, said the situation had led to consumers “raiding” supermarkets and sundry shops to buy more local rice than usual, “changing their tastes” after the price of imported rice rose to between RM37 and RM40 per kg from the previous range of RM32 to RM34.

“People in Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam all used to eat imported rice because local rice cost RM26 and imported rice cost RM32 to RM34. They said it was not that much more expensive and the imported rice was good,” Mohamad, who is fondly known as Mat Sabu, said at a ceramah at the Barisan Nasional operations room in Kampung Hayat here last night.

“But when the price of imported rice spiked to RM37-RM40, they switched to local rice. Then people started spreading rumours in videos and so on that there would be no more rice next month.

“So people then went on ‘raids’, buying three packs of rice when previously, they only bought one. When someone buys three packs, they take two from other people. Those that always bought two packs then bought four.”

He cited the example of a woman in Pokok Sena, Kedah, who bought two packs of rice sold by the Farmers’ Organisation Authority and put them in her car’s boot.

“Then she came back and bought two more. I asked her how many children she had, and she said two. How many packs did they consume a month? She said not even one.

“Why then did she buy four? She said that ‘they’ (people) were saying there would be no rice next month.”

Mohamad advised the public to only buy rice they need, and gave an assurance the government will look for solutions to the present situation.

Admitting that things were “chaotic” at the moment, he said the situation was recovering following the implementation of several short-term measures.

“Tomorrow, we will discuss matters with the prime minister. If everything is agreed upon, we will ask government institutions such as hospitals, military camps and so on to buy local rice.

“After that, supplies will rise to normal. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll look for another way, because that is a short-term measure,” he said.

He said the government was also working on five seasons of padi harvests in two years, through cooperation with the Muda Agricultural Development Authority in Kedah.

In addition, padi-planting projects will be expanded in Terengganu, Pahang, Sabah and Sarawak.