(Source Reuters) 

By Mei Mei Chu

KUALA LUMPUR, March 27 (Reuters) - Malaysia's has enough rice to last two and a half months, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry told Reuters on Friday, after Vietnam suspended exports to feed its own people amid the coronavirus epidemic.

Vietnam, the third largest rice exporter, on Wednesday said it would not sign any new rice export contracts until March 28 to ensure sufficient domestic supplies, raising concerns about global food security.

Malaysia, a net rice importer, said its food supply was sufficient as it entered the second week of a one-month restricted movement order, including closing borders and requiring non-essential businesses to shut, in a bid to stop the virus.

The country has 500,000 tonnes of rice stocks and consumes 200,000 tonnes a month, according to data from the Agriculture and Food Industries Ministry provided to Reuters.

"Bernas acted early to secure rice export contracts until May 2020 from Vietnam even though it was at a high price," the ministry said, referring to the national rice agency.

"Our next step is to also purchase rice from other countries including Pakistan, India, Myanmar and Thailand,” it said.

Malaysia, the 22nd largest rice consumer in the world, farms its own rice but also imports 30-40% of its requirement to feed its population of 32.6 million.

The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Malaysia has doubled this week to more than 2,000, the highest in Southeast Asia, with 23 deaths.

Below are food stocks in Malaysia as of March 25, according to the ministry:

Stockpile /Consumption

Rice / 500,000 tonnes / 200,000 tonnes month

Chicken / 59,000,000 chicken / 43,000,000 chicken a month

Eggs / 800,000,000 eggs / 620,000,000 eggs a month

Meat / 25,000 tonnes / Enough to meet current needs

Fish / 150,000 tonnes / Enough to meet current needs

Vegetables / 235,681.2 tonnes a month

Fruits / 128,282.8 tonnes a month

Fresh milk / 5,100,000 litre a month