Asia rice: Thailand rates gain; weak demand hurts Indian prices

BENGALURU (Reuters) - Rice export prices in Thailand rose this week as demand ticked up, while weaker overseas buying weighed on rates in leading exporter India.

A tractor drives past at a rice drying yard at an export rice plant in the central Chainat province in Thailand, December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/Files

Thailand’s benchmark 5-percent broken rice prices rose to $385-$402 a tonne on Thursday, free on board Bangkok, from $385-$388 last week.

Demand inched up following a drop in price last week, Bangkok-based traders said. Demand in May was expected to remain flat, as Muslims will be fasting during Ramadan, before picking up in the second half of the year, they added.

Middle Eastern countries are among the top buyers from Thailand, the world’s second-largest exporter.

Meanwhile, India’s 5 percent broken parboiled variety was down for the fourth consecutive week, at around $373-$376 per tonne from last week’s $375-$378.

“There is no improvement in demand. Buyers are delaying purchases,” said an exporter based at Kakinada in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

India’s rice exports in 2018/2019 dropped 7.2 percent from a year earlier to 11.95 million tonnes due to poor demand for non-basmati rice from Bangladesh and African countries, an Indian government body said on Thursday.

The aggressive selling of old inventory by China to African buyers was also weighing on prices, exporters said.

In Vietnam, rates for 5 percent broken rice were relatively flat at $365 due to the Reunification Day and Labour Day holidays which closed markets and government agencies from Monday to Wednesday.

That compares with a range of $360-$370 last week, the first rise after five weeks of flat trading, with a trader in Ho Chi Minh City saying relatively higher Vietnamese prices were hurting demand.

“Prices won’t likely decline in the near term as domestic supplies are falling and because partial water shortage is threatening the upcoming summer-autumn crop,” the trader said.

Rice exports from Vietnam in April are forecast to have fallen 10.6 percent from March to 620,000 tonnes, the government’s General Statistics Office said earlier this week.

It said rice shipments from the country in the first four months of this year fell 7.9 percent from a year earlier to 2.03 million tonnes.

Bangladesh, the fourth biggest producer, will review its long-standing ban on rice exports within a few weeks after the harvesting of summer rice ends, a food ministry official said on Thursday.

Farmers in coastal areas in Bangladesh have been instructed to harvest their paddy fields ahead of a severe cyclone due to make landfall on Friday.

The summer-sown crop, also known as Boro, usually contributes more than half of Bangladesh’s typical annual rice production of around 35 million tonnes.

Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat in Bangkok, Khanh Vu in Hanoi, Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Ruma Paul in Dhaka; Additional reporting by Nallur Sethuraman; editing by Kirsten Donovan