KOTA KINABALU: Padiberas Nasional Bhd (BERNAS) recorded a nearly 10 per cent rise in sales of rice to Sabah for the first three months of this year compared with the same period last year.

In a statement today, BERNAS said rice sales for April saw a 40 per cent jump over the average for the state.

"There was also a 27 per cent increase in the number of rice wholesalers with no record of purchase buying from BERNAS, while around 61 per cent of wholesalers in Sabah had bought more than the normal amount of rice.

'Of this percentage, 37 wholesalers bought more than 100 per cent of the normal amount," it said.

The statement was issued in response to a local news report on Wednesday entitled "BERNAS Urged Not To Ration Rice Supply in Sabah".

The report quoted Malaysian Youth Council vice president Azuwan Marjan as saying he had been informed by wholesalers in Sabah that BERNAS had started rationing its rice supply to them since April 13.

BERNAS clarified that unusually high purchases had prompted the agency to take precautionary steps by restricting sales to certain wholesalers in order to prevent hoarding.

It was aimed at preventing the rice supplied to Sabah being sold to other countries like Indonesia and the Philippines in view of the rice price in Malaysia being the lowest in the Southeast Asia region.

The statement added that joint monitoring with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry will continue to ensure the supply of rice is controlled, especially for Sabah.