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May 3, 2008

Govt to spend $778mn on food security

Malaysia will spend 2.49 billion ringgit ($778 million) this year to increase food production amid soaring costs globally for staple items like rice, AFP reported.

Agriculture Minister Mustapa Mohamed said Friday the money would be spent on increasing rice farming and raising buffer stocks of the grain to match growing local demand, the state Bernama news agency reported.

"Malaysia has a sufficient stockpile of food," Mustapa was quoted as saying by Bernama. "However, with the continuous rises in prices of food in the global market, the government has implemented the National Policy on Food Security."

Incentives to boost food production would be "rolled out from June 2008," he said, after a meeting with cabinet leaders.

The money is part of a 4.0-billion-ringgit pledge to increase food production and tackle price hikes.

Mustapa said more than 1.0 billion ringgit had been allocated to increase the rice buffer stock to ensure a three-month supply of the grain.

Prices of popular grades of rice in Malaysia are up substantially. One local brand spiked by 26 percent last week. Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Shahrir Samad has said the government will subsidise the price of rice.

Malaysia produces some 1.6 million tonnes of rice, which roughly meets 70 percent of domestic consumption. The balance is usually imported from neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam.

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