India may export basmati rice, now 'infestation-free', to China from this year

India may be able to export basmati rice to China from this year, with rice-shelling and exporting units registered with the National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) being declared infestation-free.

Exporters in India, the world's second-largest rice producer, are targeting the Indian diasporas and Middle Eastern communities, apart from the Chinese that are trying out different cuisines even as they like their rice to be stickier and short grained.

"By June 30, the Indian government will send a list of credited Indian rice mills with the NPPO certification of being free from `khapra beetle' infestation. After this, we expect Chinese companies to start placing orders," said Ashok Sethi, president, Punjab Rice Exporters' Association.

Trade enquiries have already started coming in, according to millers and company executives.

The Chinese government has invited Indian rice exporters to visit the country to see the mar ket and make pre sentations, said Mohinder Pal Jindal, presi dent, All India Rice Exporters' Association.

Besides China, South Africa and Mexico are the other new mar kets that Indian companies have been exploring to augment basmati rice exports. At present, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates are the major export destinations for Indian basmati rice.

Till January 31, India exported 2.9 million tonne of basmati rice and the figure for the entire financial year to March is expected to touch 3.2 million tonne. This is considerably lower than exports of 3.75 million tonne reported in 2013-14. "It might take us a few years to penetrate China, but the country has potential to become a big market for Indian basmati rice due to its huge population, increasing income levels and openness to try new cuisines," said Anil Kumar Mittal, chairman and MD of KRBL, which sells un der the India Gate brand.

Vietnam and Thai land are the leading suppliers of rice to China, followed by Lao, Australia and Pakistan. Vijay Se tia of Chamanlal Setia Exports said Indian traders may be able to take a slice of the share of neighbour Pakis tan, which exports 0.35-0.4 million tonne of rice a year to China.

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