UPDATE 1-India corn exports up to Sept set to treble-trade

NEW DELHI, July 21 (Reuters) - India is likely to export at least 1.56 million tonnes of corn in the crop year to September 2008, sharply up from around 500,000 tonnes a year ago despite a recent ban on overseas sales, traders said on Monday.

“Total exports would have been more than 1.5 million tonnes before the government banned exports,” said Mohan Lal Vedant, a trader from Nizamabad in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

On July 3, the government stopped exports of corn until Oct. 15, to ensure smooth local supplies but last week exempted shipments where letters of credit had been opened before the ban.

“According to an estimate based on quantities at ports, we can say about 65,000 tonnes of corn will be allowed for exports after the clarification last week,” Vedant said.

Traders said India’s exports would have risen to 2.5 million tonnes if the government had not clamped down on exports -- a move which traders said may help Thailand double exports to 1 million tonnes this year.

The Indian ban pushed Thai export corn prices to $350 per tonne from $280 in late June, traders said.

Corn exports from India to countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines had gone up sharply as high freight costs made purchases from the U.S. expensive. Also, China has curbed overseas sales of the commodity, they said.

“About two million bags (1 bag= 100kg) are at the Kakinada port,” said Satyanarayan Sahu, another Nizamabad corn trader. “Shipments from the stocks at the Kakinada port will begin in a day or two.”

According to government estimates, India’s corn output in the year to June rose 28 percent to a record 19.31 million tonnes.

Corn consuming industries such as food, starch and poultry, urged the government to curb exports to check prices and meet domestic demand, which is rising 7-10 percent annually.

Trade estimates say India’s annual domestic consumption is around 15 million tonnes.

Despite forecasts of record output, trade officials say prices rose to 9,600 rupees ($224.5) a tonne in early July, from 8,300 rupees per tonne last year, due to rising exports.

India has banned exports of wheat, non-basmati rice, vegetable oils, and cotton among others to help check inflation that rose to 11.91 percent in the 12 months to July 5, the highest since 1995. (Editing by Mark Williams)