Kuala Lumpur – 26th July 2022: The road to the Parliament Building resounded with chants of “Long Live Farmers!”, “Long Live Rice Farmers!”, “Long Live Livestock Breeders!” and “Long Live Fisherman!” on this day when a coalition of food producers from various places marched and gathered outside Parliament to voice their grievances and demands to the government not to destroy our country’s capacity in food production.
Over 200 people protested outside Parliament today, and handed over a memorandum to The Prime Minister calling for immediate action to save local food producers (including vegetable farmers, rice farmers, cattle rearers and coastal fishermen) from “development” projects that destroy not only their livelihood but also food security for all Malaysians.
These farmers, rice farmers, vegetable gardeners, fish farmers, cattle breeders and fishermen joined forces in the Food Producers Network, an informal network recently initiated by Gabungan Marhaen, Consumer Association of Penang, PeSawah and Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM).
The message of the protest action and in the memorandum handed to the PM today is very clear – do not obstruct/harass/short-change/evict food producers (vegetable farmers, rice farmers, cattle breeders and fishermen) especially at a time when our country is facing a food crisis and food prices are soaring. The main issue here is: if there are no food producers then everyone has no food!
Also present in solidarity with the food producers in today’s protest action were activists from organizations such as Gabungan Marhaen, PSM, SUARAM, Parti MUDA, Third World Network and Pemuda Sosialis PSM. An officer from the Prime Minister’s Office received the memorandum. Several Members of Parliament including Hassan Abdul Karim (Pasir Gudang), Mahfuz Omar (Pokok Sena), Chang Ming Kai (Alor Setar), Dr Azman Ismail (Kuala Kedah), Wong Hon Wai (Bukit Bendera) and Sim Tze Tzin (Bayan Baru) came to meet the protestors and were each given a copy of the memorandum. A few of them addressed those gathered offering support and encouragement. A total of 48 organizations had endorsed this memorandum.
Dr. Jeyakumar Devaraj, National Chairman of PSM, said during the handing over of the Food Producers Network memorandum outside Parliament, “We came here today with the aim of urging this Parliament session to make a resolution requesting all State Governments and government agencies not to oppress and put pressure on food producers!”
“We are facing a food crisis at the moment. Don’t block and disturb the food producers. Allow them to continue producing food for the people,” stressed Dr Jeyakumar. “If the authorities persist in evicting these food producers, such as the vegetable farmers in Perak who are being threatened with mass eviction, and the fishermen in Penang who are threatened by sea reclamation which will damage the fish catchment areas, our capacity to produce food for the people will be destroyed. The issue of rising food prices is indeed important, but the capacity of our country to produce food is even more important. Don’t allow any project or policy that destroys our capacity to produce food!”
Among the demands put forward by the Food Producers Network in its memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister who also chairs the Cabinet Committee on National Food Security are:
- Maintain existing vegetable farms as permanent food production areas and stop the eviction of these small vegetable farmers.
- Investigate the mismanagement of agricultural land by the Perak State government.
- Establish a check-and-balance mechanism to ensure that the alienation of government land is done for the good of the people.
- Give all input subsidies for rice production (fertilisers, pesticides and seed) through vouchers and permit the rice farmers to purchase the products that they need. (Currently the government agencies gives contracts to private firms to buy and supply all these items to the farmers.)
- Increase the rice price incentive to 80 cents per kilogram (from its current 35 cents) and recommence the living allowance of RM 200 a month for the inter-harvest period.
- Solve the problem of excessive weight deductions by the padi mills. (In some cases, up to 28% of the weight of padi sold by the farmer is deducted supposedly for moisture and straw content)
- Recognize rice farmers as Food Security Officers and offer them Senior Citizen Pension once they reach 60 years of age.
- Cancel sea reclamation projects that will destroy the habitat and livelihood of coastal fishermen such as the sea reclamation project in the South of Penang Island.
- Stop the eviction of cattle rearers in Sime Darby plantations.
- Act fairly in regulating the sale price of milk and beef. If their margins are compressed too much, cattle farmers will not be able to continue their business.
- Do not ratify the CPTPP as that will put pressure on Malaysia to abolish import tariffs for food products. The flooding of the Malaysian market with cheap imported foodstuffs will drive local food producers out of business, seriously undermining our food sovereignty. Then when there is a war, or climate change causes crop failures elsewhere, we might not be able to get food cheaply from other countries and we will face a painful food crisis.
The Food Producers Network urged the Prime Minister to table an urgent motion in Parliament to mandate that State Governments and government agencies should take serious and consistent measures to preserve and enhance the nation’s food production capacity. Any policies, projects or actions that undermine national food sovereignty should be identified and stopped.
Choo Chon Kai
Parti Sosialis Malaysia
Translated by Raveen Veerasenan