I was appalled when I read the announcement by Padiberas Nasional Berhad (Bernas) earlier in the week that they had increased the price of wholesale rice by 5 and 10 sen per kg for white rice, fragrant rice and basmati and 20 sen increase for glutinous rice.
Bernas cited the rising handling cost and fuel price that had resulted in an increase of between 20 and 50 per cent in shipping cost in the first six months of the year.
The price increase was effective July 1.
Bernas is the country's sole rice importer.
I am sure many Malaysians were angered by this. It seems like everyone is conveniently justifying price increases with fuel hike.
But, surely not the people at Bernas. Not rice. Not the rakyat's staple food.
It seemed unfair and unjustifiable for Bernas to be raising the price of rice.
I'm not an economist but I thought surely they could do better than that. Surely they could work something out without having to pass the price increases to consumers.
I wanted to immediately blog about it. But then, there was a swift response from Agriculture and Agro-based Minister Muhyiddin Yassin who said that he had summoned Bernas officials to his office to give an explanation early next week.
He said he wanted to know why the prices were increased now, as they had long been stable.
Obviously he was in the dark about the whole thing because he said he was concerned that the ministry was not consulted.
"This will affect everyone as it is our staple food," he was quoted to have said.
And today Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said the government has no intention of raising the prices of rice.
Bully for the government.
Najib was quoted by Bernama as having said that such an action would have far-reaching implications as rice is an essential commodity and higher prices would impose a burden on the people.
Now, didn't this cross the minds of the Bernas guys?
Also, read Rocky's Bru on this. Click here.