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India rice prices rise as exporters grapple with floods, coronavirus

BENGALURU (Reuters) - Rice export prices in top-hub India edged higher this week as floods and surging coronavirus cases hammered supply and export logistics.

A worker carries boiled rice in a wheelbarrow to spread it for drying at a rice mill on the outskirts of Kolkata, India, January 31, 2019. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files

India’s 5% broken parboiled variety rose to $383-$389 per tonne from last week’s $382-$387, with exporters struggling to fulfil orders due to limited availability of containers and workers at the country’s biggest rice handling port, Kakinada, in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

“Demand is huge for Indian rice due to lower prices, but exports are getting affected by floods and the coronavirus outbreak in Andhra Pradesh,” said Nitin Gupta, vice president for Olam India’s rice business.

With 2.84 million total COVID-19 cases, India is the worst-hit country in Asia and third only behind the U.S. and Brazil in terms of the number of cases.

Floods in neighbouring Bangladesh damaged rice crops worth 363.34 billion taka ($4.29 billion) on around 100,000 hectares, Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzaque said.

Bangladesh, the world’s third biggest rice producer, often relies on imports to cope with shortages caused by floods and droughts.

Meanwhile, Vietnam’s 5% broken rice rates were unchanged at $480-$490 a tonne on Thursday, its highest since late 2011.

“Supplies are thin as local traders have increased their purchases recently and the summer-autumn harvest has ended,” a trader based in Ho Chi Minh city said.

The return of the novel coronavirus to Vietnam late last month has also prompted the hoarding of rice domestically, the trader noted.

Traders expect prices to stay elevated for the next few months until a new harvest in October.

Supply concerns also pushed Thailand’s benchmark 5% broken rice prices up to $480-500, its highest since July 2, from $465-$500 last week,

“It seems like the rice harvest in the provinces will not be so great,” a Bangkok-based trader said.

Demand for Thai rice has remained flat this week as prices were high, traders said.

(Refile to fix the spelling of Ho Chi Minh city in eighth paragraph)

Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Ruma Paul in Dhaka, Khanh Vu in Hanoi and Patpicha Tanakasempipat in Bangkok; editing by Arpan Varghese and Amy Caren Daniel