A ROADMAP for strategic food reserves in Bahrain has been given the green light.The Shura Council, during its weekly session yesterday, unanimously approved the new-look 16-article legislation, presented by five members led by second vice-chairwoman Dr Jihad Al Fadhel.It will be drafted as proper legislation by the government and returned to the National Assembly for review.Under the new legislation, a clear indication of the minimum percentage of safety stock would be an obligation.

Safety stock is a term used to describe a level of extra stock that is maintained to mitigate risk of a shortfall caused by uncertainties in supply and demand.Adequate safety stock levels permit business operations to proceed according to plans, and, in this case, an ability to feed a nation in troubled times.The Industry and Commerce Ministry, in co-ordination with relevant authorities, will have to draw a framework, suggest plans, prepare a database and ensure the availability of necessary items.All suppliers will be obliged to provide the ministry with details of labelled items within a week.

The ministry would also have the right to launch an electronic link with suppliers to check available stocks directly.There was an argument between Parliament and Shura Council Affairs Minister Ghanim Al Buainain and first vice-chairman Jamal Fakhro on the structure of the legislation.“From what I see, there are no financial obligations on the government; if there are, where are the necessary studies by the Shura’s financial and economic affairs committee,” questioned Mr Al Buainain.“Also, the legislation is unclear on the responsibilities between the government and the providers, unlike in the UAE legislation referred to,” he added.“We have wide ranging issues on the legislative format regarding authorities, definitions, procedures and punishments.”However, Mr Fakhro said the legislation was built in line with proper mechanisms.“It is the concept we are debating and the government should put matters in perspective when drafting the law and referring it back to us without getting into details.

“The minister’s comments are in violation of Shura’s bylaws and should be stopped to allow members to present general, and not precise, feedback.”Meanwhile, Shura Chairman Ali Saleh Al Saleh said the legislation was vital due to future circumstances that may harm food security and food chains.“The legislation follows directives from His Majesty King Hamad on food security, during the opening of the second session of the National Assembly’s sixth legislative term last month,” he said.“The world was plagued by the Covid-19 pandemic and then the Russian-Ukrainian conflict which harmed food security and food chains.

“The government will sit with us until we reach an agreeable format at a later stage, there is entanglement in detail, that is dragging debate, and it should stop.”Under the legislation, offenders could be jailed for no less than a year and fined up to BD10,000 for tampering, cheating and not declaring information.Also, the punishment for improper storage, failure to report stocks, or not following proper procedures would be jail of up to a year and a fine of no more than BD5,000, or both.For hoarding, cheating the system, falsifying information, or stopping production, import or trade – without permission – of strategic food reserves, the jail time would be no less than a year or fines of between BD1,000 and BD10,000, or both.

The punishments could be higher should it be stated in the 1976 Penal Code or any other law.When a verdict is issued, the food items, materials and equipment of contention have to be immediately confiscated and destroyed at the expense of the party at fault.The verdict will have to be issued publicly in two local newspapers.An older format of the legislation was presented in 2021, but the government asked for a revamp.Since then, the same Shura members have worked on this new version, which has now been accepted for review.Executive bylaws will have to be issued within six months of the law being issued in the Official Gazette whenever the final format is agreed upon.mohammed@gdnmedia.bh

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