Asia rice: Indian rates up on firmer rupee; Thai harvest to shore up stocks

BENGALURU (Reuters) - Rice prices in top-exporter India nudged higher this week as the rupee firmed, while Thai exporters eyed fresh demand from the Philippines amid expectations of an increase in seasonal supply.

Labourers unload sacks of rice from a handcart at a wholesale market in Kolkata, December 14, 2015. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files

India’s 5 percent broken parboiled variety was quoted around $363-$371 per tonne this week, versus $362-$369 last week.

“As the rupee has started to appreciate, we have to adjust export prices,” said an exporter based at Kakinada in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

The Indian rupee rose 0.4 percent on Thursday to its highest level in nearly 8 weeks, trimming exporters’ margins from overseas sales.

In southern and eastern states, supplies have started to arrive from the new season crop but they are expensive due to higher fixed government buying prices, said a Mumbai-based exporter.

India’s rice exports dropped 9.6 percent to 5.8 million tonnes between April and September from a year earlier, as leading buyer Bangladesh trimmed purchases due to a bumper local harvest, a government body said earlier this week.

Meanwhile in Thailand, benchmark 5 percent broken rice prices were quoted at $380 - $398 per tonne, free on board (FOB) Bangkok, unchanged from last week.

“There have been some minor deals with markets like Japan but they have had no impact on prices,” a Bangkok-based trader said.

“Thai rice exporters are now watching the Philippines closely because their government will open the bidding process next week.”

The Philippines’ National Food Authority has issued an international tender to import up to 500,000 tonnes of rice with offers to be opened on Nov. 20.

“We see this as a major deal ahead of December,” another trader in Bangkok said, pointing out that during the mid-November to early-December period, the market expects an increase in supply due to the seasonal harvest.

In Vietnam, rates for 5 percent broken rice remained in the $415-$420 a tonne range seen last week.

“We haven’t signed any new export deals over the past month as domestic supplies are scarce,” a trader in Ho Chi Minh City said. “We wouldn’t be able to secure sufficient rice if we got any new contracts now.”

Egypt received offers for more than 500,000 tonnes earlier this week, including 50,000 tonnes from Vietnam, the trader said, adding that they were not sure if they will bid in the Philippines’ state grains agency tender.

Vietnam is the world’s third largest rice exporter.

“I think supplies in Vietnam won’t pick up until the end of January when the winter-spring harvest peaks,” another trader in the city said.

Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um in Bangkok, Khanh Vu in Hanoi and Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; Editing by Kirsten Donovan