Off The Wire
Asia Rice-Bangladesh reluctant on Indian deals, set to buy from Thailand
By Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Ruma Paul
BANGKOK/DHAKA, July 20 (Reuters) - Bangladesh could suspend a plan to import rice from India due to high prices, the country's food ministry said on Thursday, while a deal with Thailand edged closer.
Bangladesh, the world's fourth-biggest rice producer, has emerged as a major importer of rice this year due to depleted stocks and record local prices following flash floods.
It could import as much as 1.2 million tonnes this year, and has so far struck deals with Vietnam and expressed interest in Thai and Indian rice.
But it now said deals with the world's biggest rice exporter, India, might not happen.
"Chances are very thin as their offer seems high," Badrul Hasan, the head of Bangladesh's state grain buyer told Reuters.
India's 5 percent broken parboiled rice prices fell by $6 to $405-$408 per tonne this week on sluggish demand.
Hasan said Bangladesh could reconsider if India could assure an immediate delivery, but it is already looking to Cambodia to replenish stocks.
A Bangladeshi delegation, led by Food Minister Kamrul Islam, will visit Cambodia early next month to sign a memorandum to import rice, two food ministry officials said.
Its deal with Thailand is also making progress. A Thai delegation is due to visit Dhaka next week to finalise a government-to-government rice deal of up to 200,000 tonnes, Hasan said.
The Thai Rice Exporters Association told Reuters last week the process could take a month and a half.
Thai private traders also hoped to secure deals with Bangladesh, saying weak demand from abroad has led to a constant decline in rice prices since they reached the highest level in almost four years at a market average of $455 per tonne on June 22.
Thailand's benchmark 5-percent broken rice was quoted at $395-$405, free-on-board (FOB) Bangkok, on Thursday.
Thailand's commerce ministry said there was a significant interest from Sri Lanka, but it has yet to strike anything with the would-be first-time buyer of Thai rice.
Vietnam, the world's third biggest rice exporter, is observing a slow trade. The country's benchmark 5-percent broken rice dipped to $400-$405 a tonne, FOB Saigon, from $405-$410 last week.
Vietnamese traders are currently eyeing deals with the Philippines, one of the world's biggest rice importers.
On July 25, the country will open a tender for 250,000 tonnes of rice to boost its thinning stockpile ahead of the typhoon season later this year. Traders from Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore are expected to submit bids.
Bangladesh will also open its fifth tender since May to buy 50,000 tonnes of rice on July 27.
(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat in BANGKOK and Ruma Paul in DHAKA; Additional reporting by My Pham in HANOI, Rajendra Jadhav in MUMBAI and Panu Wongcha-um in BANGKOK; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle) Keywords: ASIA RICE/