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Malaysia forced to import fruit, veg

Due to a lack of available land, the Goods and Services Tax (GST), as well as expensive labour and pesticides, Malaysia is forced to import fruit and vegetables it can easily grow itself. According to Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama) fresh produce division senior director Mohd Anis Yasin, such factors minimised the production of local vegetables and fruits, and drove up costs.

"We have no choice but to import food from around the globe because local food, especially fruits and vegetables, are not only not enough to meet the local market's demand but are becoming more expensive by the day," Mohd Anis said.

He said the GST also hampered the food industry. "A kg of imported cabbage used to cost 90 sen but with GST and the low ringgit, it is now RM3," he said.

While Malaysia could produce most vegetables it imports, Mohd Anis said it made no difference in the local market because of its high production costs. He said home grown greens were expensive at the production level and by the time it reached the wholesale and retail markets, the price had increased by several fold.

"For instance, we plant broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower in Cameron Highlands, but these vegetables are limited to the agro-tourism industry there and supplied to niche hypermarkets only," he said.

"Besides, vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower are much cheaper if imported from China."

Mohd Anis said consumers preferred imported fruits and greens as they were supposedly tastier.

He pointed out, however, local vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumber, pumpkin, long beans and French beans were a hit overseas, especially in the Middle East and Singapore.

"Our tomatoes are second best in the world and they are preferred by the Middle Eastern countries," he said.

In 2014, Malaysia's per capita consumption (PCC) for vegetables was 58.5 per cent, a 1.2 per cent increase from 2013.

According to Fama data, PCC for vegetables recorded a steady increase of about one per cent each year between 2009 and 2014. PCC for fruits showed a similar rise. Fama statistics also showed the total vegetables and fruits imported in 2014 was 2.2 million metric tonnes or RM 5.5 billion. As for the country's exports in vegetables and fruits, a total of 617,519.26 metric tonnes or RM1.6 billion were recorded in 2014.

Compared to the preceding year, vegetable exports dropped by 91 per cent, while fruit exports saw an increase of 94.4 per cent.

(1 Malaysian Ringgit=0.24 USD)


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