India rice export prices hit 9-month peak as demand recoversIndia rice export prices hit 9-month peak as demand recovers
Farmers plant saplings in a rice field on the outskirts of Ahmedabad

By Eileen Soreng

BENGALURU, April 30 (Reuters) – Rice prices in top exporter India hit a nine-month high this week, boosted by a pick-up in demand from African countries even as supplies remain constrained due to corovirus-led lockdowns, while droughts in Thailand supported rates in the absence of new deals.

India’s 5% broken parboiled variety RI-INBKN5-P1 was quoted at $378-$383 per tonne this week, the highest since the first week of August, and up from $374-$379 per tonne quoted last week.

“Many exporters couldn’t sign new deals due to the lockdown. They are facing logistical problems and it is keeping prices firm,” said an exporter based in Kakinada in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

Rice traders earlier this month resumed signing new export contracts, after a gap of nearly three weeks as the government adopted stiff restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

India extended the nationwide lockdown on its 1.3 billion people until at least May 3 to curb the outbreak, as the number of coronavirus cases exceeded 33,000.

In Thailand, traders said there are no new deals but the ongoing drought has limited rice supplies and kept rates elevated.

Thailand’s benchmark 5% broken rice RI-THBKN5-P1 prices were quoted a tad higher this week at $535-$557 from last week’s $530-$556.

The ongoing drought in Thailand, which started last November, is likely to drag on until July. However, some rainy days in rice-growing provinces this month have lifted hopes the drought might end soon.

“The rain has eased worries, and it’s possible that we’ll have ample water for crops later in the year,” said a Bangkok-based trader.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s summer rice crop this year is likely to edge up 0.51% to 19.5 million tonnes from a year earlier, despite concerns about a shortage of labour to harvest the crop amid a nationwide lockdown, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said.

“Farmers, although concerned about a labour shortage during harvest, believe this year’s crop has benefited from favourable weather and no major pest or disease infestations,” the federal agency said in a report on the country, released earlier this week.

Labour, transportation, storage and processing costs are expected to rise due to the novel coronavirus outbreak in the country, USDA said. Domestic rice prices are also at a two-year high as people resorted to panic buying.

Summer-sown rice crop, locally known as Boro, contributes more than half of Bangladesh’s typical annual rice output of around 35 million tonnes.

Rates for Vietnam’s 5% broken rice variety RI-VNBKN5-P1 were unavailable due to a public holiday.

(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Ruma Paul in Dhaka and Patpicha Tanakasempipat in Bangkok; additional reporting by Swati Verma; Editing by Rashmi Aich)