* Thai prices fall to over 1-month low, but still most expensive
* Robust demand pushes Indian rates to more than 9-month peak
* Vietnamese rates rise to $450-$460 a tonne on low supplies
By Nakul Iyer
BENGALURU, May 14 (Reuters) - Thai rice export prices fell this week as the drought-hit country saw fresh supplies entering the market while also facing stiff competition from cheaper Indian and Vietnamese offers.
Thailand’s benchmark 5% broken rice RI-THBKN5-P1 prices were quoted at $480-$485 a tonne, their lowest since March 26 and down from $515–$546 last week.
“We’re beginning to see new supply entering the market this month and forecasts for rain have eased concerns over supply generally,” a Bangkok-based rice trader said.
One of the worst droughts in decades put a strain on supplies, causing prices to soar to a seven-year high in April.
“Demand remains flat but there are hopes that buyers in places like the Philippines may be interested in Thai rice as prices dropped, although competition from Vietnam is very strong,” another rice trader in Bangkok said.
Prices for top-exporter India’s 5% broken parboiled variety RI-INBKN5-P1 edged to their highest since early August at $380-$385 per tonne this week.
Demand is better than last year as Indian rice is offered at a discount compared with exports from Thailand and Vietnam, said B.V. Krishna Rao, president of the Rice Exporters Association.
The availability of trucks and workers, which limited exports in April, has improved, Rao added.
Exports are also getting support from a weaker rupee , raising exporters’ margin from overseas sales, exporters said.
Meanwhile, low supplies pushed rates for 5% broken rice RI-VNBKN5-P1 from Vietnam to a near one-year high of $450-$460.
“Traders are rushing to fulfil contracts signed before the export ban (introduced in March), while the government is also buying rice from farmers for its national stockpiling program,” a trader based in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta province of An Giang said.
“Supplies from the upcoming harvest will not increase sharply as the harvest will take place slowly, lasting more than two months.”
Vietnam fully resumed rice exports from May, after a ban in March to ensure adequate supplies during the coronavirus pandemic.
Preliminary shipping data showed nearly 150,000 tonnes of rice is to be loaded at Ho Chi Minh City port between May 2 and May 17, with most of it heading to the Philippines.
Elsewhere, Bangladesh will procure an additional 200,000 tonnes of paddy during the current harvest season to secure supplies for relief operations, a food ministry official said, amid the coronavirus pandemic which has infected 18,863 people and killed 283 in the country as of Thursday. (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Ruma Paul in Dhaka, Khanh Vu in Hanoi and Panu Wongcha-um in Bangkok; Editing by Arpan Varghese and Mark Potter)