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Asia Rice-Supply dip perks up India prices; lack of deals hurt Thai rates

BENGALURU, March 2 (Reuters) - Rice prices in top exporter India snapped a three-week losing streak on lower supplies and a slight improvement in demand, while rates for the staple grain eased in Thailand and Vietnam due to lack of deals and the beginning of a new harvest.

India's 5 percent broken parboiled rice prices RI-INBKN5-P1 rose by $5 per tonne to $419-$423 per tonne.

A drop in the Indian rupee capped the upside in rice export prices in dollar terms, said an exporter based in Kakinada in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

“Local rice prices have risen due to falling supplies in central and eastern states. Demand has also slightly improved from Bangladesh,” said another exporter based in Kakinada.

Bangladesh, which has emerged as a major rice importer since 2017 after floods damaged its crops, imported more than 3 million tonnes from July to February, its biggest ever haul, exceeding its previous annual rice import record in just eight months, the food ministry data showed.

The country could buy more rice in the next few months, given the high prices of the staple in domestic markets, a food ministry official said.

“From today, we are resuming subsidized rice sales to help the poor and bring down local prices,” the official added.

Meanwhile, Thailand's benchmark 5 percent broken rice rates RI-THBKN5-PI slipped to $395-$400 per tonne, free on board (FOB) Bangkok, compared with $404-$410 last week.

The drop in prices was due to flat demand and a lack of major deals on the horizon, traders said.

“On top of the lack of demand, there was also some new rice entering the market,” a Bangkok-based rice trader said.

Thailand, the world’s second-biggest rice exporter, is expecting new rice harvest in April but due to heavy rain and flood in some areas last year, some crops were grown much later and are being harvest off-season.

Prices are expected to drop further if there is no new demand while new crops enter the market, traders said.

Vietnam's 5-percent broken rice RI-VNBKN5-P1 edged lower to $410-$415 a tonne from $415-$420 a week earlier, as farmers have started harvesting for the winter-spring paddy, traders said on Friday.

“Demand was not too strong, especially when Thai rice is still cheaper... Vietnam’s prices were kept afloat, thanks to some government-to-government deals,” said a Ho Chi Minh City-based trader.

Prices might change vastly after the next two weeks when harvest come into full swing, traders said, adding the market is still eyeing the Philippines’s plan to import 250,000 tonnes of rice.

Vietnam’s rice exports in the first two months of 2018 rose an estimated 14.6 percent from the same period last year to 842,000 tonnes, official data showed. (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Panu Wongcha-um in Bangkok, Ruma Paul in Dhaka and Mai Nguyen in Hanoi; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri)