– Vishwanath Kulkarni, The Hindu Business Line
Buying by China, Bangladesh, African nations doubles exports to over 5 mt
Exports of non-basmati rice have more than doubled to top 5 million tonnes (mt) in the first half of the current financial year on robust demand. Exporters see shipments touching a new high — even 10 mt — as buyers such as China and Bangladesh have started showing interest in the Indian cereal.
Non-basmati shipments stood at 5.07 mt during April-September this year against 2.5 mt in the same period last year. In value terms, non-basmati rice emerged the No 2 agri product exported in H1 of this year, clocking $1.95 billion ($1.01 billion during the corresponding period last year).
Non-basmati rice pushed buffalo meat to the third slot during H1. Buffalo meat shipments fell 13 per cent to $1.36 billion on lower demand.
However, basmati rice continued to remain the largest agri product exported from the country, with shipments estimated at 2.38 mt (1.87 mt), valued at $2.12 billion ($1.99 billion).
“It will be a watershed year for non-basmati rice in 2020-21,” said BV Krishna Rao, President of the Rice Exporters Association in Kakinada, the hub for non-basmati rice shipments.
“What we exported whole of last financial year has been achieved in six months,” he said, expressing confidence that the shipments will hit a new high this year. “We will definitely export 10 mt this year as buyers such as China, Bangladesh and Malaysia are showing interest in Indian rice,” he added.
In addition to the lower output in Thailand (a major exporter of the cereal), panic buying by some countries due to the spread of Covid during the early part of the year, coupled with lower prices and demand from existing buyers in Africa and Asia have pushed up Indian rice shipments.
China turns buyer
Meanwhile, China, the largest producer and also buyer of rice and which approved some Indian mills for exports about two years ago, has finally started buying. “China has started physical buying of Indian rice over the past one month and they have purchased a few thousand tonnes,” Rao added.
India produced a record 118.43 mt of rice in 2019-20. The production is expected to be higher than last year as farmers have brought more area under rice this kharif and also in the ongoing rabi planting season.