Rice suppliers say fears over vietnam ban are overcooked

Local | Jane Cheung 27 Mar 2020

Rice suppliers have reassured the people of Hong Kong that there is enough supply even if Vietnam halts exports.

The Vietnamese government said on Wednesday it is considering stopping rice exports. It is not signing any new rice export contracts until tomorrow as it is checking whether it has sufficient domestic supply amid Covid-19.

By 6am yesterday, Vietnam had recorded 148 confirmed cases of infections, although there have been no deaths from the coronavirus.

In Hong Kong, Rice Merchants' Association leader Kenneth Chan Kin-nin said rice in Vietnam is usually harvested in March and Hanoi suspended the signing of new export contracts only as a "conservative precautionary measure" for a short period of time.

"Their harvest this year is fine. I've actually heard from sources who say [Hanoi] would withdraw the decision to cut rice exports. I think supply of Vietnamese rice will be fine," he said yesterday.

Chan said people need not worry about rice supply as firms here have sufficient stock to support consumption for more than one month.

Even if Vietnam decides to stop rice exports, it would not affect contracts signed before Tuesday.

"Due to panic purchase of daily necessities, including rice, last month, Hong Kong rice merchants have ordered extra stock just in case," he said.

"There is no need to panic over Vietnam's move because most of our rice come from Thailand, and Thai authorities have promised to send over supplies as usual. I believe Thailand can even give us more supply when necessary."

He said the SAR government makes sure there is a 15-day reserve of rice.

Statistics from the trade and industry department showed the SAR has imported 82,000 tonnes of rice since the beginning of this year.

More than half of the supply came from Thailand, while Vietnam is the second largest contributor at 30 percent.

Chan said Thai rice once dominated Hong Kong's market and contributed 90 percent of supply but in recent years merchants introduced more Vietnamese rice as it is 20 percent cheaper.

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