Asia Rice-Weak demand hits top export hubs; Bangladesh struggles to stock up

* Prices for Thai, Vietnamese rice ease

* India prices unchanged amid softer demand

* New supplies weigh on prices in Vietnam - traders

Sept 17 (Reuters) - Demand for rice from Asian export hubs waned this week, with Bangladesh holding off with imports even as its drive to shore up supplies fell short of targets after floods destroyed crops.

Prices for top exporter India's 5% broken parboiled variety RI-INBKN5-P1 were unchanged at $387-$394 per tonne.

Demand has been softening as key buyers already stocked up significant volumes in the past few weeks, said an exporter based at Kakinada in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

Indian farmers planted rice on 40.2 million hectares (99.3 million acres) until last week, up 7.6% from a year ago.

In neighboring Bangladesh, which has been grappling with dwindling supplies and a spike in domestic prices in the wake of the floods and amid the coronavirus pandemic, a local rice procurement drive fell nearly 1 million tonnes short of the 1.95 million tonne target.

The world’s third biggest rice producer often relies on imports to cope with shortages caused by floods and droughts, and such procurement drives are crucial for the scope of those imports.

But Food Secretary Mosammat Nazmanara Khanum said a decision on imports was still pending.

“It would be good if we could achieve the (procurement) target. But we have enough stock in the reserves at present. We have 1.2 million tonnes in warehouses.”

Prices for benchmark 5% broken rice RI-THBKN5-P1 from Thailand fell for a third straight week, to $480-$504 per tonne from $487-510 last week.

Prices could slide to as low as $450 since demand has not picked up for weeks, traders in Bangkok said.

In Vietnam, rates for 5% broken rice RI-VNBKN5-P1 eased to $485-$490 a tonne from $490-$495.

“Demand is weak, while the autumn-winter harvest has started in some areas in the Mekong Delta, putting more downward pressure,” a Ho Chi Minh City-based trader said.

However, rice exports in August rose 26.3% to 605,566 tonnes from July. (Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru, Ruma Paul in Dhaka, Khanh Vu in Hanoi, Patpicha Tanakasempipat in Bangkok and Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; editing by Arpan Varghese and Tomasz Janowski)