* Thailand’s drought could extend into June- authorities
* Vietnam rice rates dip to $355/oz
* India prices steady, demand from African countries weak
BENGALURU, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Rice export prices in major Asian hubs held steady this week but a multi-month drought drove expectations of a rise in Thai rates, while a cold snap threatened crops in Bangladesh.
Thailand's benchmark 5 percent broken rice RI-THBKN5-P1 prices were quoted at $425-$435 on Thursday, largely unchanged from two weeks earlier, but was still the highest level since June 2018.
Although demand was flat, prices for the Thai grade, which were consistently trading higher than the Vietnamese variety throughout 2019, remained high well into 2020 due to the drought threatening supply and the continuous appreciation of the baht, traders said.
Thailand’s dry season started in November and usually lasts through April, although authorities said it could go on through June this year. A drought has been declared in 14 provinces in the central, northern and northeastern farming regions.
In top producer India, rice export prices remained steady due to weak demand from African countries.
Prices of the 5 percent broken parboiled variety RI-INBKN5-P1 were unchanged from last week, around $362-$366 per tonne.
“Exports demand is subdued. Supplies are rising from the summer-sown crop,” said an exporter based at Kakinada in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
Neighbouring Bangladesh braced for a cold wave, which could have an impact on crops, including rice, said Mizanur Rahman, a senior official at the agricultural ministry.
“The seedbeds of rice have dried out due to extreme cold,” Rahman said, adding a prolonged cold spell would have devastating effects on the crop.
The weather office said the cold snap, accompanied by chilly winds and drizzling, was likely to continue for a few more days.
In Vietnam, rates for 5% broken rice RI-VNBKN5-P1 eased to $355 a tonne on Thursday, from $360 a week earlier.
“Demand remains weak this week and trade has been very slow,” a trader based in Ho Chi Minh City said.
Preliminary shipping data showed 138,650 tonnes of rice is to be loaded at Ho Chi Minh City port between Jan. 1 and Jan. 23, with most of the grain bound for Iraq and West Africa.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade this week added 47 companies to a list of eligible rice exporters, raising the number of licensed Vietnamese exporters to 182, a government statement said.
The move is aimed at “facilitating rice exports, promoting rice production in a sustainable manner and enhancing the competitiveness of Vietnamese rice,” the statement added. (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Ruma Paul in Dhaka, Khanh Vu in Hanoi and Patpicha Tanakasempipat in Bangkok; Editing by Maju Samuel)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.