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Friday, July 18, 2008

Don’t hoard rice, millers warned

Ministry to take stern actions against rice millers, wholesalers found to hoard, refuse to sell rice

The Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry will take stern action against rice millers and wholesalers found to hoard and refuse to sell rice, which include prosecuting them under Section 18(1)(a)(b), Paddy and Rice Control Act 1994.

The ministry issued this warning through a letter dated July 14, and addressed to all registered rice millers and wholesalers in the country.

Deputy secretary of the ministry’s Rice Control and Monitoring Division in Putra Jaya, Khamis Mohd Derus, read the contents of the letter when he chaired a dialogue session with more than 50 industry players from Sibu, Kapit, Bintangor, Bintulu and Miri here yesterday.

“For Sarawak, we have agreed to give seven working days from the date of issuance of the respective rice quota entitlement by the local office of Rice Control and Monitoring Division to each wholesaler, for each to get his supply of rice from the respective Bernas godown, and immediately put them on sale.

“We will penalise them for any delay to prevent shortage of rice in the market, particularly the subsidised rice of SS15% and SS5% grades.

“Only certain remote rural areas where transportation is difficult such as Kapit, Belaga, Marudi and Lawas would be given some degree of relaxation, strictly at the discretion of the head of local rice control and monitoring division,” Khamis said.

He thus reminded wholesalers that with immediate effect, under the new system, their quota would be determined by monitoring division while Bernas would only be storing rice at their godown, responsible only for stocks.

Leading the rice millers and wholesalers yesterday was chairman of Sibu Rice Wholesaler Association (SRWA) Yeo Keng Teck.

Also present were monitoring division (Sibu branch) head Hasbi Ali, Bernas Corporation Sarawak chief operation officer Mohd Kamaluddin Mohd Effendie, senior general manager Wan Razif and Pemanca Datuk Lau Hieng Ing.

Khamis also disclosed that the government has decided to increase the supply of subsidised rice of SS15% and SS5% grades to 80 per cent of the total market demand of rice in Sarawak, based on the current consumption and (local) production trend and capacity.

The bulk of that amount would be the SS15% grade, which was more popular, sold at the recommended price of RM18 per 10-kg packet.

“In terms of quantity (SS15% and SS5% rice), we have decided to allocate 4,303 metric tonnes for the Sibu, Sarikei and Mukah divisions, 1,729 metric tonnes for Miri, 1,248 metric tonnes for Bintulu, 269 metric tonnes for Limbang, and 221 metric tonnes for Lawas.”

These figures are supplied monthly through the local Bernas office.

Currently, monitoring division has three offices - one each in Kuching, Sibu and Miri.

On the new packing for SS15% and SS5% rice, Khamis told the wholesalers and millers to start preparing to use the latest recommended packing instructions for Beras Nasional from his ministry, which was very much different from the current packing, complete with stickers for identification.

“We have decided to give rice millers and wholesalers in Sarawak a grace period until October 1 to comply with the new packing instructions. After that, we will confiscate all subsidised rice still packed in the old manner,” said Khamis, who reminded them that they could start using the new packet as soon as they had finished using their stickers, and not wait for the deadline.

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