May 22, 2022 @ 9:30am
THE government has been urged to scrap all Approved Permits (APs) following the decision to revoke licensing requirements for food imports.
Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) president Datuk Dr Marimuthu Nadason hailed the decision to revoke licensing requirements for food imports as food accounted for RM60 billion of the country's annual import bill.
He said it was time Putrajaya abolished the system that had long been decried as a way for the rich and powerful to line their pockets.
"All this while, we have only enriched those with APs. I would like to personally say thank you to the prime minister for finally listening to us on scrapping APs for food.
"There is enough data to show that the world is on the brink of an unprecedented food security crisis.
"This makes it easier for anyone with the network and connections to bring in goods from anywhere and consumers do not have to rely on those who monopolise imports or food cartels."
He said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob had taken a crucial step to protect consumers, but he had to go the extra mile and scrap all APs once and for all.
On the issue of quality and safety, he said, the government had enough safety and health personnel to regulate imports under an open system like it was done under the AP system.
"This cannot be used as a ruse to not liberalise the system as a whole."
Kepong member of parliament Lim Lip Eng urged the government to take a bold step and scrap APs for all imported goods, including motor vehicles.
He said the decision to remove APs for food was timely to bring down soaring food prices, but the government had to level the playing field for all stakeholders by abolishing the system for good.
He said the government should scrap APs for motor vehicles to cut back on red tape, which opened up avenues for corruption and resulted in an increase in the cost of imported goods.
"For far too long, AP holders have been enjoying their special privileges.
"Instead of benefiting the people, the policy only benefits and enriches certain well-connected individuals at the expense of the consumers."
He said competition in the market would help drive down the cost of imported goods.
He said this was a chance for local entrepreneurs to improve their global competitiveness and become key players in the international market.
"Instead of APs, if the government is serious about helping the industry grow and help the country tide over the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, local manufacturers will have to be given special incentives to innovate and upgrade their technology and production facilities so that they are on a par with manufacturers from around the world."
"Without these steps, just removing APs for imported foodstuff will not be sufficient to combat inflation."
Bumiputera Retailers Association president Datuk Ameer Ali Mydin said scrapping APs for food was a bold move, but he warned that food prices were expected to continue rising in the next three to four months.
He said the rise was triggered by many global factors, including the Russia-Ukraine war and export bans by several major food producing nations.
"The effects will be felt in the long term, not the short term.
"So increases in the price of goods will continue for three to four months. Prices are expected to stabilise after that."
Ismail Sabri, in announcing the scrapping of APs for food on Wednesday, said the decision was made at a cabinet meeting to ensure the country's food supply was adequate. Now anyone can import food into the country to address food shortages.
Ameer Ali said the rise in food prices was also linked to hoarding and panic-buying by consumers.
He urged people not to make panic purchases, which would cause low supply and push up the price of goods.
"I hope the government can address the problem of panic buying and hoarding as this is disruptive for businesses."
He said traders in the country were using creative ways to attempt to source for supplies.
He said with the scrapping of APs for food, entrepreneurs faced fewer problems bringing in food supplies, but efforts would be fruitless if government agencies that provided halal recognition and certification and handled food safety did not help ease things.
"We can get cheaper chicken from Brazil, but the issue of halal certificates that are not recognised by the Islamic Development Department hinders this effort. Yet Saudi Arabia recognises halal certificates from the country."
Bukit Mertajam member of parliament Steven Sim said the abolition of APs for food would not lead to lower prices as it only involved five essential items.
He said the scrapping of APs for food only involved round cabbages, mature coconuts, milk, chicken pieces and rice, so the move would not significantly affect the prices of most goods sold in the market.
He said the cause of rising food prices was Malaysia's excessive dependence on food imports.
"When international food prices go up, Malaysian food prices also go up because we import.
"When the ringgit fell to RM4.40 against the greenback, food prices went up because we pay the producer country in US dollars."
He said Malaysia had to boost domestic food production capacity to feed its population of 32 million people.
"Instead, we have to look at food sovereignty and aim to increase the production capacity of farmers, fishermen and small and medium livestock breeders to meet local food needs."