KUALA LUMPUR (April 25): The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said Malaysia rice imports are forecasted to drop 10% to 900,000 tonnes in 2018 from one million tonnes in 2017 as the government reduces ending stocks to 400,000 tonnes in 2018 from 480,000 tonnes in the previous year.
In its Grain and Feed Annual 2018 report, the USDA said Malaysia rice imports are seen improving to 950,000 tonnes in 2019 as the government needs to replenish ending stocks to 380,000 tonnes.
"There will be no increase in planted areas, and the increase in imports is in line with projected population growth of 3% annually from 2018 to 2020. Increasing urbanites that switch from traditional local rice breakfast (nasi lemak) to a healthier breakfast such as cereal and bread lead to less consumption of rice.
"Although western food such as tortillas, pizza, pasta and bread are gaining popularity, especially in urban areas, rice remains a staple food among Malaysian. Such western foods are consumed as snacks or as comfort foods and rarely make it as staple food for the dining table," the USDA said.
For 2017, the USDA said Thailand and Vietnam supplied more than 80% of rice imported into Malaysia with total volume of 630,000 tonnes. Other major exporters of rice to Malaysia were Cambodia, Pakistan and India.