Once the year 2020-21 has seen exports totaling 17.71 million tonnes, an increase of 86% over the previous year’s 9.5 million tonnes, India will once again have a good season of exports in 2021-22 even though the increased freight costs will be a drag on overall sales.
Non-basmati rice demand increased to a record high of 13 million tonnes (worth $4.796 billion) last year as more countries purchased the cereal to ensure food supplies in the face of supply constraints in the Asean region and the Covid pandemic. Similarly, exports of basmati rice exceeded 4.63 million tonnes, valued at $4 billion. While exporters have expressed concern that purchases may slow as a result of high freight costs from African buyers, India continues to be the most competitive in terms of pricing when compared to other countries. Rice exports for the current season of 2021-22 have begun in a small way, according to B V Krishna Rao, president of the Rice Exporters Association (REA).
“Because freight costs are high, shorter routes and commodities such as steel or pulses are preferred. Few people want to take the lengthy route to Africa and risk being stuck for extended periods,” he noted. Globally, freight costs have more than doubled in the last year. African nations are among the largest buyers of non-basmati rice from India. Africa as a market accounted for 54% of India’s non-basmati rice shipments of $4.79 billion in 2020-21. African countries imported rice worth $2.59 billion between 2020 and 2021, with Benin being the largest importer at $443 million.
According to Rao, rice prices have weakened in Vietnam and Pakistan, both of which have been losing market share. “However, India continues to be the world’s cheapest supplier today. Rice prices in Vietnam and Pakistan range between $420 and $430 per tonne, while India continues to offer rice at a price of $360 to $400 per tonne, which means buyers will continue to gravitate toward India,” he said.
China has also emerged as a significant buyer, Rao noted. For the first time, China’s rice imports from India, primarily non-basmati rice, exceeded $100 million. India’s total rice exports to China, including basmati, reached 3,31,989 tonne in 2020-21, up from 747 tonne the previous year. Rice exports were valued at $104.07 million, up from $0.45 million.
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