A rethink on a roadmap to ensure strategic food reserves in Bahrain has been urged by the government.

In a letter from His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, the Cabinet is asking that legislators reconsider introducing the new-look 16-article legislation proposed by the Shura Council.

MPs unanimously voted during their weekly session yesterday to refer the legislation to the public utilities and environment affairs committee for review.

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.

In addition, 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 such a crime be mentioned 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.

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.

“The government is already working on a national food security strategy which has seen all items made available despite the ongoing emergencies in the region and the world,” said the letter.

“The target sought under the legislation is implemented one way or another through a different format or mechanism that is more clear and dynamic and for that we ask for a rethink,” it added.

“Secondly, the legislation doesn’t follow a proper pattern for punishments and doesn’t have clear charts describing the crime and appropriate penalty.”

An older format of the legislation was presented in 2021, but the government asked for a revamp.

Since then, the same Shura Council members have worked on this new version.

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.

The Legalisation and Legal Opinion Commission also shared the same concerns brought up by the government on the proposed law’s set-up to regulate, organise and monitor food security.


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