India expected to emerge biggest rice exporter in 2015

NEW DELHI: India may become the largest exporter of rice next year amid higher demand anticipated from African and Middle East countries and competitive prices.

"In calendar year 2015, India should emerge as the largest exporter of rice - both basmati and non-basmati. From 4 million tonnes of annual export of non-basmati rice, we should be able to export 7 million tonnes," said BV Krishna Rao, managing director of Pattabhi Agro Foods, the country's biggest exporter of non-basmati rice.

 Rao said basmati and non-basmati rice exports should be 10-11 million tonnes, a level last seen in 2012.

Surplus rice stockpiles in the country and improved methods of production have helped position India competitively in the global rice market. With the paddy harvesting season having started earlier this month, local rice prices are expected to fall further.

Indian parboiled non-basmati rice was quoted at $400 per tonne, which was $10-15 less than the rate in Thailand, giving it an edge in the African market, Rao said. In the white rice export category, the Indian price at $360-370 a tonne was competitive compared with rates in Pakistan and Vietnam, he said.

The All India Rice Exporters Association, a group of basmati rice traders, said it expects outbound shipments to increase this year. "We should see a minimum rise of 5% this year from current 4 million tonnes," said MP Jindal, president of the association. He said orders from Saudi Arabia and Europe would begin by Diwali when harvesting picks up.

South India-based exporters of nonbasmati rice, including Pattabhi Agro, Sri Lalitha, Sarla Foods and Murli Mohan, are waiting for harvesting of paddy to start in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu in the next 15-20 days.

Rice growers in Andhra Pradesh have upgraded the quality and performance of mills and rice, according to grains trade analyst Tejinder Narang.

"Ahead of the 2015 general elections in Nigeria, the government is expected to import huge quantities of rice to distribute to domestic consumer as a populist measures. India traders are set to gain," Narang said.

As of October 1, the central pool had 17.33 million tonnes or rice compared with a requirement of 7.2 million tonnes in buffer and strategic reserves.

"Consumers and exporters will have a lot to cheer about. Prices of rice, including basmati, will fall considerably, which will boost exports," Narang said.

Meanwhile, basmati variety 1509 was being sold at Rs 2,525-2,725 a quintal on Tuesday in Punjab, compared with Rs 3,800-4,100 a quintal a year earlier, said Surinder Kumar of Shri Krishan Trading firm in Khanna mandi of Punjab.

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