Vietnam will stockpile 190,000 tons of rice for food safety amid coronavirus outbreak

In a photo taken on July 6, 2017, men load rice bags to a ship for export at a rice processing factory in Vietnam's southern Mekong delta. PHOTO: REUTERS

HANOI (BLOOMBERG) - Vietnam's General Department of State Reserves plans to have 190,000 tons of rice in storage by June 15 to ensure the country has enough food amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, the finance ministry said on its website.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc this week ordered the suspension of new rice export contracts through at least March 28.

The country is the world's third-largest exporter, behind India and Thailand.

The department of state reserves will also stockpile 80,000 tons of paddy rice this year. In 2019, the department put in storage 200,000 tons of rice and 80,000 tons of paddy rice for the entire year.

Mr Phuc also ordered the transport ministry to cut the number of flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to other Vietnamese cities between March 28 and April 15 as the government moves to slow the coronavirus outbreak across the country, according to a post on government's website.

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City airports have stopped international arrivals of Vietnamese from abroad and the government suspended entry into the country for most foreigners.

Mr Phuc has ordered the limiting of international flights, the website said without elaborating.

Cities across the country are ordering the closing of most establishments other than food markets and medical services through April 15, the government said.

The prime minister is banning gatherings of more than 10 people outside work, schools and hospitals.

Religious ceremonies involving more than 20 people and all entertainment activities will be stopped while travel between cities and provinces hit by the virus and other parts of the country will be limited.

Vietnam has confirmed 153 virus cases, including 20 patients who have recovered, according to the health ministry.

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