ANTANANARIVO， Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- Madagascar has decided to raise its monthly rice import to 60，000 tonnes to cope with lean seasons， an official said Friday.
Valonirina Randrianarisoa， director of consumers' protection under Madagascar's ministry of trade， told Xinhua in an interview that the 60，000-tonne importation would last toward the end of April.
The figure includes 20，000 tonnes of rice that Madagascar imports in normal time and another 40，000 tonnes recently decided to cope with the drought that has affected rice cultivation in recent months， Randrianarisoa added.
The price of rice has increased rapidly in local markets， from 1，200 ariary to 1，750 ariary since January 2017 (one U.S. dollar is worth about 3，138 ariary).
The official explained that the price hike was caused by consumers who panicked and stored rice for fear of shortage. "Demand increased while local production lagged， this automatically increased the rice price in the market because that is the law of supply and demand，" he said.
A unit was also set up in each region to monitor and regulate the distribution of food， especially rice， Randrianarisoa disclosed.
Rice is the staple food in Madagascar， which imports about 200，000 tonnes of rice per year from Pakistan and India to feed its 23 million population as local production remains low.