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India rice rates up on steady demand; stronger baht props up Thai rates

BENGALURU (Reuters) - Rice prices rose in top exporter India this week on healthy demand amid lower supplies, while gains in the local currency and prospects of a deal with the Philippines pushed up rates for the staple grain in Thailand.

A woman spreads paddy crop for drying at a rice mill on the occasion of International Women's Day, on the outskirts of Agartala, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jayanta Dey/Files

India’s 5 percent broken parboiled rice prices rose by $3 per tonne to $422-$426, the second straight week of gains.

“Inquiries are rising from African countries. Asian buyers are also showing interest,” said an exporter based in Kakinada in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

Supplies are falling, forcing exporters to quote higher prices, said another exporter also based in Kakinada.

India’s non basmati rice exports during April-December jumped 39.5 percent from a year ago as Bangladesh and Benin raised purchases.

Meanwhile, demand for the grain from Bangladesh, which has emerged as a major rice importer since 2017 after floods damaged its crops, would stay strong for the next few months, given the high domestic rates, an official with the food ministry in Bangladesh said on Thursday.

In Thailand, benchmark 5 percent broken rice rates climbed to $408-$410 per tonne, free on board (FOB) Bangkok, from $395-$400 last week, amid a stronger baht and hopes of a prospective deal with the Philippines.

Speculation is rife that the Philippines will hold an auction later this month to import 250,000 tonnes and many Thai exporters are interested in this deal, a trader said.

“The fluctuation in prices at the moment depends on the currency exchange rate only because there’s no actual demand,” a Bangkok-based rice trader said.

The baht was on track for its second straight week of gains. [EMRG/FRX] A stronger baht translates to higher export prices in U.S. dollars.

“Many exporters have (also) been buying rice now because of low prices recently,” the trader added.

Prices rose in Vietnam as well, with rates for its 5 percent broken variety gaining to $418-$425 a tonne from $410-$415 a week earlier as farmers pinned their hopes on new government-to-government deals, even though shipments out of the country were falling.

“We are having difficulty clinching new deals with buyers, as Vietnamese prices are relatively higher now,” said a Ho Chi Minh City-based trader, adding buyers were seeking $405-$408.

Vietnam exported 339,706 tonnes of rice in February, down 31 percent from January, but exports in the first two months 2018 rose 13.2 percent from a year earlier to 831,504 tonnes, customs data showed.

The country could export 6.5 million tonnes of rice in 2018, the Vietnam News Agency reported on Sunday.

Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Panu Wongcha-um in Bangkok, Ruma Paul in Dhaka and Khanh Vu in Hanoi; Editing by David Evans