Bernas CEO: Rice price can go no lower

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KUALA LUMPUR — Padiberas Nasional Berhad (Bernas) chief executive officer Ismail Mohamed Yusof said yesterday the current system of rice import should be maintained as it has never failed consumers.

“There has been no issue with rice since you were born, until now, is there? You face shortages in other (kinds of) food, but never rice.

“We always had supplies of rice in the market and it is among the cheapest in the region.

“This proves that the current system works so it should be maintained,” he told reporters after a meet with the Council of Eminent Persons at Ilham Tower.

Ismail said the public has only scrutinised the monopoly aspect of the rice import system but failed to take into account the social obligations of Bernas over the years.

“We have always supported farmers. Rice is the only commodity that has a buy-back guarantee from the government. When the produce is infected, we will still buy from them.

“We also take the profit from the sole rice import and subsidise local rice. These are our social obligations that no one talks about,” he said.

On June 6, the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry announced the termination of Bernas’ monopoly “to protect the interests of local paddy farmers”.

The rice importer currently owns about 28 out of 180 mills in the country.

When asked if it is possible for the prices of rice to drop further in the near future, Ismail brushed it off, saying: “The price of rice here is already cheap.”

“Sixty per cent of rice is local so when you talk about cheaper prices, that means lower income for farmers.

“As it is now, a bowl of rice costs 26 sen, so how much cheaper do you want it to be?

“Rice is already cheap. It is affordable to everyone,” he said.