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Indian Rice Prices Soar as Asian Nations Prepare to Tackle El Nino

In Asia, the cost of raw white rice has seen a surge due to certain countries stockpiling the grain in anticipation of potential problems caused by the anticipated development of El Nino in the latter half of 2023.

Shivam Dwivedi
Indian Rice Prices Soar as Asian Nations Prepare to Tackle El Nino
Indian Rice Prices Soar as Asian Nations Prepare to Tackle El Nino

The Rice Exporters Association of India (TREA) President, BV Krishna Rao, explained that the likes of Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia are increasing their purchases of rice, thus driving up the price.

VR Vidya Sagar, the Director of Bulk Logix, added that there is heightened demand from islands near the Philippines, as well as an opening in the Malaysian market, and even inquiries from Vietnam. M Madan Prakash, the President of the Agri Commodities Exporters Association (ACEA), stated that the new crop is expected to arrive in Vietnam towards the end of this month, with buyers urging for expedited shipments.

"Countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia are stockpiling to ensure that they are not adversely affected by the upcoming El Nino." They don't want to repeat the 2007-08 experience when agricultural commodities prices surged," said trade analyst S Chandrasekaran.

In 2007-08, India prohibited rice exports, causing the grain to reach $1,000 on global markets. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a UN agency, it caused a crisis that harmed the poor. "If the government continues to support us, we may end up exporting the same volume of rice as last fiscal," said Rajesh Paharia Jain, an exporter based in New Delhi.

The International Grains Council quotes India's 25% broken white rice for $442 a tonne, while Thailand and Vietnam quote $490 and $480, respectively. Rice prices in India have risen by 27% year on year, outpacing Thailand (11%) and Vietnam (16%). According to the FAO, the development of El Nino could have an impact on maize, rice, and soybean production.

El Nino is expected to form in the second half of the monsoon season beginning in August, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), whereas the Australian Bureau of Meteorology anticipates it to develop in late July. The event, which causes drought in Asia and floods in the Americas, is expected to grow in May-June and increase further, according to the US Climate Prediction Centre. "One of the key developments in global rice markets is that buyers have accepted the 20% export duty on white rice," Jain added, referring to a 3% increase in rice exports in fiscal 2022-23.

"These Asian countries are buying to avoid being caught by any ban that India may impose to ensure food security, as it did last year when it banned wheat and fully broken rice exports," Chandrasekaran explained.

"We're getting 25% broken supplies in Chennai for Rs 28,500 per tonne. We shipped to South-East Asia two weeks ago for $430 per tonne with freight. Prices have risen even more," said Prakash of ACEA. "However, parboiled rice prices are under pressure. Prices are falling because there is no (Indian) government procurement," said Bulk Logix's Sagar.

White rice prices are rising as the Food Corporation of India (FCI) purchases stockpiles for the central pool, which will be distributed through ration stores and used to meet any food emergencies. Last week, FCI's rice procurement surpassed 50 million tonnes (mt), putting it on track to fulfill the 62.17 mt objectives for the current marketing year through September. Due to poor demand, Indian parboiled rice prices have fallen below $380 per tonne on the worldwide market. It is more than $100/tonne cheaper than Thailand and Pakistan.

Rice stocks with FCI were at a five-year low as of April 1, and overall foodgrain stocks, including wheat, were also at a five-year low, owing to wheat procurement issues last year.  Last year, lower wheat output hampered procurement, while additional rice was diverted to compensate for distribution through ration stores.

India's rice exports have been boosted by record production of 130.83 million tonnes (129.47 million tonnes) of rice during the current crop year through June. Despite a reduction in kharif rice production to 108 mt from 111 mt the previous year, the output was offset by increased acreage in the rabi season.

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