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After vaccine diplomacy, India rises to supply rice to the world

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By Mahua Venkatesh

New Delhi, Jan 20 (IANS) India is rapidly turning out to be the most crucial supplier of rice in the world. Supply of the staple cereal from other major rice exporting economies including Thailand and Vietnam fell sharply in 2020, due to reduced production after floods and droughts ravaged those countries. Besides, compared to the Indian rice, the price of the grain supplied by Thailand and Vietnam is almost $100 to $150 higher per tonne.

A stronger Thai Baht has also become a cause for concern for many rice exporters in the southeast Asian country.

Not just Thailand, according to Worldstopexports, a data collation portal, Vietnam’s rice exports declined by 48.6 per cent, Pakistan’s 36.9 per cent.

India has started supplying broken rice to several new markets including China, Vietnam, Malaysia besides Bangladesh besides increasing the quantum to its existing markets. The price sensitive African countries have also increased their rice orders from India, as its role in maintaining global food security becomes more pronounced.

India has already exported about 7 million tonnes of non-basmati rice in the April-November period, a jump of 123 per cent. According to the All India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA) the total exports of broken rice could touch 10 million tonne in 2020-21. The export of basmati rice, which is primarily directed towards Europe, US and the middle-eastern countries, witnessed a jump of 71 per cent.

“We expect the year 2021 to be very good for the rice exporters of the country with higher production and competitive pricing,” Vinod Kaul, executive director, All India Rice Exporters’ Association told IndiaNarrative.com.

Kaul added that with increased rice production, India has sufficient stocks to meet domestic demands including the quantum required for the public distribution system (PDS) and expand its shipment to all other importing countries.

According to Bangkok Post, rice exports in 2021 “are expected to slightly recover from an expected 5.8 million tonnes in 2020, which was the lowest in 20 years.” Typically rice from Thailand is priced at about $400-$450 per tonne while India exports the grain at about $300 per tonne.

“Rice exports remain gloomy this year, as consumers worldwide are likely to opt to save their money and buy rice at cheaper prices,” the newspaper quoted Chookiat Ophaswongse, honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, as saying.

Sources said that Indian rice exporters are ready to meet additional demand which may arise as many countries have resorted to increased imports of the grain as uncertainty related to the Coronavirus pandemic remains despite the ongoing vaccination drive.

India’s rice reaches China

Despite political tensions between India and China, Beijing, which imports about 4 million tonnes of rice every year, has placed an import order for 100,000 tonnes at around $300 per tonne. The dragon has traditionally imported rice from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Pakistan among other countries but avoided shipment from India.

A CNBC report said that for two-thirds of people living in China, rice is the staple food. “The country is running out of rice, and they are looking at India to meet this demand,” it said.

Notably, last year Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the ‘Clean Plate Campaign’ to reduce wastage of food. While foreign policy analysts said that the campaign is a preventive measure aimed at food security amid extensive floods all across the dragon nation last year, it sparked off a debate on whether the dragon was facing a food crisis.

“The campaign is meant to ensure food security especially as the country has been wrecked by severe floods but China has managed to register an economic growth, so the fear and panic are uncalled for,” BR Deepak, expert on China and Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) earlier said.

(This content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

–IANS

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