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Asia Rice: India prices scale one-year peak, cyclone hits Bangladesh crop

(Reuters) - Rice prices in top exporter India hit a more than one-year peak this week bolstered by robust demand from African and Asian countries, while a cyclone damaged some crops in Bangladesh.

QUALITY REPEAT A worker spreads rice for drying at a rice mill on the outskirts of Kolkata, India, January 31, 2019. Picture taken January 31, 2019. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files

Cyclone Amphan, which pounded eastern India and Bangladesh on Wednesday, damaged crops on 176,000 hectares in Bangladesh, Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzaque said.

But as harvesting of the summer crop is almost complete in the coastal districts, he said the impact would be limited.

India’s 5 percent broken parboiled variety rose to $385-$389 per tonne, the highest since April 2019, from last week’s $380-$385.

“Buyers prefer Indian rice due to lower prices,” a Mumbai-based exporter with a global trading firm said.

Malaysia has contracted to import a record 100,000 tonnes of rice from India for shipment this month and next.

A weak Indian rupee that raised margins from overseas sales further boosted prices, exporters said.

Meanwhile, a stronger baht, which touched a more than two-month high on Thursday, pushed up Thailand’s benchmark 5-percent broken rice to $480-$505 from last week’s $480-$485.

“The exchange rate has led to some price fluctuations but the overall trend is that prices will likely continue to go down because rain has eased market concerns over supply,” a Bangkok-based rice trader said.

As Thai rice prices have retreated from last month’s highs, which were the most in nearly seven years because a drought squeezed supplies, demand has recovered slightly, traders said.

“There have been some sales recently to countries like Japan but these are not large deals,” another Bangkok-based trader said adding, no major deals were in sight.

Rates for Vietnam’s 5% broken rice held near a one-year high at $450-$460 a tonne.

“High demand along with low supplies have pegged prices at that (one-year) high,” a Ho Chi Minh City-based trader said. “New supplies are expected to be at the same level as the previous winter-spring crop season.”

Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Ruma Paul in Dhaka, Phuong Nguyen in Hanoi and Panu Wongcha-um in Bangkok; editing by Arpan Varghese and Barbara Lewis