Home Technology Top Stories Business Most Featured Sports Social Issues Animals News Fashion Crypto Featured Music & Pop Culture Travel & Tourism

How Onions Could Salvage Malaysia's Food Insecurity Situation

Author Avatar
By Abi Gibson - - 5 Mins Read
Onions, cucumber; vegetable section in a market
Photo | Paul Magdas/Unsplash

Malaysia currently battles food security, especially for more staple commodities like rice, cooking oil, and eggs.


Despite these problems, a ray of light comes from an unlikely place: onions.


In a recent news development, Datuk Seri Johari Ghani, a member of Parliament from Titiwangsa, talked about how worrying it is that the country needs to import rice.


“Previously, our rice paddy farmers could produce 71% of the total demand, but now it is 62.6%. The government depends on rice imports to supply the rest (37.4% of demand),” Johari quipped.


He said that the rise in commodity prices was caused by things like geopolitical wars and the cost of shipping.


Malaysia's economy is in danger because of this dependence. The sharp rise in the prices of commodities like rice in several ways puts the Malaysian government at a disadvantage as they'd have to cough out more to meet the incessant demands.


According to the Malaysian parliamentarian, there were fears that other countries would hike rice prices, which would even be strenuous for the fragile economy.


In 2022, Malaysia imported nearly 1.23 million tonnes of rice, with an import value of RM2.67 billion.


Johari also raised concerns about the decline in local food production, stating that it'd be disastrous if other countries withhold rice imports from Malaysia.


Similarly, Malaysia must stop relying so much on imported onions, just like Johari wants to reduce reliance on rice imports.


Intending to reduce onion imports by 30% by 2030, the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi) has planned to grow onions in Malaysia.


Not only does this project fit with Johari's goal, but it also offers a good way to improve Malaysia's economy and agricultural sector.


Zabawi Abdul Ghani, the director-general of Mardi, stressed the importance of growing onions in Morocco so that the country would not rely so much on imports.


“Insya-Allah, we will expand the area of red onion cultivation by 2026 for our short-term strategy (to help the government reduce red onion imports),” the Director said during a local Radio appearance.


Malaysia wants to become more self-sufficient and less dependent on changes in the global market by planting onions on 1,447 hectares of land across the country.


Onion varieties and garlic displayed
Onion varieties | Robert Owen-Wahl


Red onions are already being grown on a small scale by the research institute, and production is expected to occur over the next few years.


Growing onions locally not only cuts down on the cost of imports but also boosts agricultural output and gives local farmers more power.


It also fits Malaysia's larger goals of diversifying its economy, making it less reliant on a few key goods, and building a stronger, longer-lasting economy.


The similarities between Malaysia's possible onion farming and Vietnam's rise to become a major rice producer show that such plans are possible and could have a significant impact.