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Non-basmati rice exporters see huge demand as prices increase in Vietnam and Thailand

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KOLKATA: Indian exporters of non-basmati rice have seen a surge in orders after the price of the grain increased in Vietnam and Thailand. Indian rice is now cheaper than the Southeast Asian varieties by almost $100 per tonne.

“Export demand for non-basmati rice remains robust due to price rise in Vietnam and Thailand. Their rice is commanding a price of $490-500 per tonne, whereas our price is around $400 per tonne. Indian prices have gone up by 3-5% as the rupee has depreciated against the dollar,” BV Krishna Rao, president of Rice Exporters Association, told ET.

In the first four months of FY21, non-basmati rice exports from India were up by 35% compared with the same period of FY20, said Rao. Total exports in the first month were around 3.5 million tonnes. India supplies rice to 170 countries in the world.

Supplies to global markets from Vietnam have ebbed after local traders increased their purchases recently and the summer-autumn harvest ended. The rising count of Covid-19 in Vietnam has led to some hoarding of rice. Vietnamese rice prices are expected to stay elevated for the next few months until a new harvest in October.

Supply concerns have also pushed Thailand’s benchmark 5% broken rice prices up to $480-$500 per tonne.

Every year, 40-45 million tonnes of rice are traded globally. Of this, India accounts for 11 million tonnes. Out of 11 million tonnes, 4.4 million tonnes is basmati rice.

Pakistan, Myanmar, India, Thailand and Vietnam are the major suppliers of rice to the world markets.

“September and October will be two major months for Indian exporters as crops in Vietnam and Thailand will only start arriving from the end of October,” Rao said.

Non-basmati rice traders are optimistic that exports will touch FY18 levels, when the country had exported 8.64 million tones of grains. Exports of non-basmati rice subsequently went down in the next two years and in FY20 India exported 5.04 million tones of the commodity.

This drop in non-basmati rice exports was because the government increased the minimum support price of paddy and farmers were not interested in exports. Also, the government had procured huge quantities of rice, which also impacted its exports.

However, despite the rise in export demand, exporters are facing problems as there is shortage of containers to ship the rice. Kakinada is the biggest non-basmati port in the country. Rao said that since import from China has come down, arrival of containers have also slowed down. “Therefore, getting containers for exports is a major challenge to the trade,” he said.

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