While there is assurance of enough chicken and egg supply in the state, the spiralling price of food, especially pork should get the attention of our Minister of Agriculture and Fishery, Datuk Seri Panglima Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan. Jeffrey has explained before, the pork price increased multiple times in the past few months, largely attributed by African Swine Flu (ASF), besides the increase of pig feed prices globally.
However, the million dollar question is, neighbouring Sarawak too was similarly affected by ASF, as well as increase in pig feed price, so how can pork price in Sabah be much more expensive (more than 40%) when compared to Sarawak? A lot of people felt puzzled with the huge price difference, even among Jeffrey’s allies, such as SAPP’s Yong Yit Jee, and Tan Sri TC Goh, a member of Sabah Economic Advisory Council.
Jeffrey has announced the lifting of restrictions allowing for import of pork from oversea, such as Denmark and France in May. Are the measures taken effective enough to ensure enough pork supply in the local market while keeping the price down? The answer is clearly no as prices continue to go up.
Why are the measures taken seem to be ineffective? Is it because of the overzealous guideline set by Federal Department of Veterinary Services (DVS), such as only goods produced by abattoirs recognised by the federal DVS allowed to be imported into Sabah? Why can’t Sabah demand for devolution of power from Federal DVS to Sabah DVS, the favourite subject of Jeffrey?
Importing pork from oversea is a temporary measure and it should serve as a supplement to the local food production. In long term, food security is about to increase local food production and reducing the dependency of imported foods. Then the next thing Jeffrey should do is assisting the local poultry industry players, especially pig farmers who had been facing huge losses following ASF. Those small players have no choice but to choose to cease operation or reduce production, further worsening the scenario with price being pushed up as supply continues to fall behind demand.
Jeffrey should work hand in hand with Ronald Kiandee, the fellow Federal Minister of Agriculture and Food Industries, to craft out policy to compensate for culling due to ASF. Such a policy would encourage the reporting of ASF, control the spread of the disease and ultimately reduce losses among pig farmers.
I would also like to reiterate my call for the federal government to provide some form of financial assistance to pig farmers which may either be in the form of guarantees, loans, cost-sharing arrangements, wage subsidies, feed subsidies, entrepreneurship grants, etc.
As for state governments, assistance to these farmers can be given in the form of assessment or quit-rent reductions or waivers, reducing red tape while speeding up the issuance of licenses, and with the fulfilment of other legal requirements for setting up pig farms.
Chan Foong Hin
MP for Kota Kinabalu