Impending Food Shortage Ahead of CNY And Hari Raya. Recent #DaruratBanjir Wiped Out Farms

In November 2021, the Consumer Association Penang shared that the prices of vegetables such as broccoli have increased from RM8 to RM20 per kg and the price tag for red chillies have went from RM13 to RM19 per kg[1]. The national price of chicken increased from RM8.39 per kg to RM8.46 per kg (a 0.94% increase)[2].

The hike in raw food such as vegetables and poultry, set a snowball effect on nationwide increase in food prices on the menus. The 200% increase in vegetable prices was attributable to several factors: such as the limited manpower due to COVID-19[1].

Source: The Star

Within these two years, we have been facing a shortage of labour, which has not allowed us to go full swing with our production.Chay Ee Mong, Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association secretary [1]

Our reliance on imported vegetables, expensive fertiliser and chicken feed further increased the cost to farmers and producers. The additional costs was soon felt by consumers.

At the same time, expensive inputs of fertilisers, pesticides and grains have also contributed to the increase in vegetable prices. Imported ones of course will be expensive, due to the freight charges and shipping costs that have also increased. Hence, consumers have to bear the cost too. – Chay Ee Mong, Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association secretary[1]

Lastly, poor weather and the yearly monsoon season with heavier rainfalls damage crops.

Poor weather conditions have affected the growth of vegetables in Cameron Highlands, causing lower production volumes and recently, we even had landslides. – Chay Ee Mong, Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association secretary [1]

The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry (KPDNHEP) and the government assured that the matter was handled accordingly. The price of vegetables and poultry is said to be under control via the Malaysian Maximum Price Control Scheme. However, the previously extended scheme is set to end on February 4th. The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi said prices of controlled items might increase following this[3].

Source: Yahoo! News

Adding to this, the unprecedented flash-flooding in mid-December 2021 that affected seven states in Malaysia may have provided another obstacle. This, coupled with the ongoing pandemic have surely exacerbated both food shortages and price hikes of several products. Reports have speculated that food shortages will be experienced by Malaysians until Hari Raya.

Lamenting Over Lost Crops And Income

Based on the Malaysian Agricultural Research And Development Institute (MARDI) data, 91.1% of agri-food entrepreneurs were affected by the pandemic [4].

Due to the lack of farmworkers and the dissipating demand from consumers, many crops were left unharvested.

Covid-19 pandemic affected farmers to reduce the size of farms and turn to other varieties of crops. However, the decline of livestock production was due to the decrease of demand impacted by the prolonged Movement Control Order period. – As stated in the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM)’s report: Supply and Utilization Accounts Selected Agricultural Commodities, Malaysia 2016-2020 [5]

So, when the flood hit the agriculture sector, the loss was devastating.

It is hard to count the losses. Farmers start off with two to three acres and expand slowly to 30 to 50 acres, and then suddenly the floods come and you lose everything overnight. It will take at least one to two months to rebuild, and some farmers are not strong anymore. Prices of raw materials have also gone up. – Lim Ser Kwee, Malaysia Federation of Vegetable Farmers Association president[6]

The economic damage left behind by the flood piled up over the weeks and, the areas that were severely affected include areas in Johor, Selangor and Pahang.

The national agro-food sector reportedly incurred a loss of around RM67.72 million due to the flood that hit farms nationwide[7].

Farmers who returned to their homes faced the imminent task of counting their losses and rebuilding their livelihood once more. The chilli farm of Ahmad Irham Mohd Noor, 40 years old from Dengkil, Selangor was destroyed in the floods, accumulating a loss of RM 100,000 (S$32,300)[6]. His chillies were due to be harvested at the end of January, just in time for Chinese New Year when chillies are in high demand.

The demand for chillies during Chinese New Year is quite high. My crops were due to be harvested at the end of January but now they are all gone. – Ahmad Irham Mohd Noor, chilli farmer [6]

flood, farm
Source: AHMAD IRHAM/ retrieved from Straits Times

Farmers have estimated that hardy crops such as cucumber, brinjal, bitter gourd would require a longer time to be back in the market and festivities this year would have to make do without them.

We will be facing a shortage of vegetables until Chinese New Year and Hari Raya because of the floods. Farmers can’t replant in time for Hari Raya. Most farms have been totally destroyed. And there aren’t enough foreign workers right now. – Lim Ser Kwee, Malaysia Federation of Vegetable Farmers Association president[6]

How Does This Affect Malaysians?

It is anticipated that most of our vegetables; both home-grown and imported, would be noticeably absent from the supermarket aisles. The snowball effect of higher demand, lesser supply would also lead to higher prices on the F&B front.

Source: Unsplash

Price hikes may lead to restaurants serving smaller portions to customers. This is due to the 20 per cent increase in poultry prices and food operators have been struggling to cope. Essentially, reducing food portions is an increase in food price because even with smaller portions, consumers still have to pay the same (price). – Ringo Kaw, Pan Malaysia Koo Soo Restaurants and Chefs Association vice-president[6]

However, the issue of food insecurity has been plaguing 1 million people in Malaysia between 2018 and 2020[8]. The disruption in the food supply chain and the exorbitant price tag on provision could affect households nationwide, and the financially struggling households (i.e. the rural B40 and urban poor community) may struggle to cook a proper meal for their families.

Source: Unsplash

Growing Back Stronger

Farmers like Ahmad Irham rely on the aid and allocations promised by the government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry Ministry (MAFI). RM 100 million aid is part of the Keluarga Agro Bangkit Semula Fund allocated to agro-food sector operators affected by the flood.

We [referring to MAFI] have also prepared allocation for agro-food project redevelopment totalling RM80 million in addition to the Rice Crop Disaster Fund million of RM 12 million for those affected. Besides that, the Agriculture Department, the Veterinary Services Department and the LPP have presented aid including food provisions, blankets and livestock food input under the MAFI Prihatin initiative. – Datuk Seri Ahmad Hamzah, Deputy Agriculture and Food Industry Minister[7]

Businesses are having a tough start to the year, bouncing back from the impact of #daruratbanjir. 

The agriculture sector is not the only industry rising recovering from the impacts of the floods – other industries such as tourism and manufacturing are starting the year with recovering from setbacks by the flood.

Explore our sources:

  1. N.A.Mohamed Radhi. (2021).Bad weather, expensive fertilisers cause vegetable price hike. New Straits Times. Link
  2. Malay Mail. (2021).Hike in livestock food component prices affects chicken prices, says minister. Link
  3. The Malaysian Reserve. (2022). Prices of fresh chicken, eggs may increase after price control scheme ends. Link
  4. R. Abu Dardak. (2021). Managing food security during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Link
  5. Department Of Statistics Malaysia. (2021).Supply and Utilization Accounts Selected Agricultural Commodities, Malaysia 2016-2020. Link
  6. H.Hassan. (2022). Food supply hit ahead of CNY, Ramadan after floods wiped out Malaysian farms. Straits Times. Link
  7. Malay Mail. (2022). Floods: National agrofood sector suffered over RM67 miln losses. Link
  8. FAO. (2021). Malaysia.Link.

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