According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FOA), food security exists when all people in a country have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and preferences to leads active and healthy lives. Based on this definition, Malaysia can be classified as a food-insecure country due to limited or uncertain availability of nutritious food, limited production and food not being accessible or affordable to all population segments.
Malaysia ranked 39th in the Global Food Security Index 2021 (GFSI 2021) with a score of 70.1, involving 113 countries worldwide. The GFSI aims to assess food security vulnerability through 58 indicators with four (4) categories – affordability, availability, quality and safety, and natural resources and resilience. Although Malaysia’s performance improved by 5.1 points compared to last year, it is still not good enough to classify the country as food secure.
Malaysia’s self-sufficiency level (SSL) of main food commodities of production to meet the domestic market is mostly below 100 percent, indicating that Malaysia does not produce sufficient quantities of domestic staples such as rice (62.9%), fruits (77.8%), vegetables (44.7%), and beef (20.7%). In addition, the import dependency ratio (IDR) shows that Malaysia is dependent on food imports. Malaysia imported agricultural products from other countries, including onions, coconuts, cow meat, other vegetables and fruits, animal feed, and fertilizers. The country spent approximately RM55.5 billion, or 60% of its food needs.
Besides, climate change and pandemics will lead to food insecurity in Malaysia. Climate change affects not only farmers but also consumers who live far away and are hardly accessible to get food when Mother Nature suddenly attacks. Recently, the unfortunate flash flood in many states of Malaysia has affected most farms and crops. The sudden floods destroyed their property and affected their savings, where some could not afford to buy nutritious food after the incidents happened. In addition, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, most Malaysians have become unemployed, and their income levels have changed dramatically.
This situation has resulted in citizens being unable to afford healthy food and being forced to buy essential food. Household food security was found to be significantly correlated with household income levels. Thus, people with low incomes or incomes at the poverty line could not afford to eat nutritious food and consume the right amount of daily food – they went hungry or starved. This situation can also lead to psychological problems as they are extremely stressed and fearful of hunger.
Malaysia’s food insecurity affects the nutritional needs of Malaysian children. About 20 per cent of Malaysian children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition, and 12.7 per cent of children over the age of five suffer from obesity. Malnutrition is caused by children not receiving quality and healthy food or not having enough to eat especially fruits and vegetables. The situation worsened when the Covid-19 pandemic came. For certain people, it was a challenge to survive during the lockdown. Some of them have lost their jobs, and the restricted working hours of essential services can affect food production.
Another prominent issue is food price inflation, leading to food insecurity in Malaysia. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the supply chain in the last two years, causing the cost of food production has increased tremendously and affecting the food price in the market. In addition, the price of poultry has increased significantly due to imported bran. This situation is leading to an increase in food prices and is affecting low household incomes, who are struggling not only to find healthy food but also to have enough food on the table.
Ultimately, Malaysia’s food security is threatened by population growth, unprecedented natural disasters, inflated food prices, unemployment, and low wages.
Therefore, coping strategies and risk management are critical to sustaining the food chain and producing more food in the country. In addition, Malaysia should not rely on importing food as this is too risky for the government and leads to national security issues. The country should be able to produce and be self-sufficient in food, fertiliser for agriculture and bran for animal feed.
Penafian: Kenyataan berita atau artikel ini adalah pandangan peribadi penulis dan tidak mewakili pendirian rasmi Gelombang BERJASA dan parti BERJASA.