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Asia Rice-India rates slip; no new deals for top exporters

Kitco News

By Arpan Varghese

BENGALURU, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Rice prices in top exporter India fell for the third consecutive week on sluggish demand, while the lack of fresh deals weighed on rates for the staple grain in other major Asian markets.

India's 5 percent broken parboiled rice prices fell by $6 to $414-$418 per tonne, after rising earlier this month to the highest since September 2011. The rates were also pressured by declines in the local currency, traders said.

"Prices are falling across Asia. Buyers are waiting to see where they stabilise," said an exporter based in Kakinada in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

The rupee has fallen about 2.3 percent so far this month, increasing exporters' margins from overseas sales.

In Thailand, the world's second-biggest rice exporter, benchmark 5 percent broken rice prices dropped to $404-$410 a tonne, free on board (FOB) Bangkok, versus $400-$419 last week.

"It's going quiet after the Indonesia shipments. Buyers won't need more supply for a while," said a trader in Bangkok.

Indonesia's state food procurement agency Bulog said in early February that it had signed contracts with six companies for 281,000 tonnes of rice imports, of which 141,000 tonnes was to be imported from Vietnam, 120,000 tonnes from Thailand and 20,000 tonnes from India. The overall Thai rates, especially for the parboiled variety, also took a beating because Bangladesh scrapped a deal to import Thai rice last week.

Thailand's commerce ministry said last week the country would compete to sell rice to the Philippines, which plans to import 250,000 tonnes. Thailand's new rice harvest is expected in the market by April.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh, which has emerged as a major rice importer since 2017 after floods damaged its crops, imported a record of more than three million tonnes in the July-February period, data from the country's food ministry showed.

Of the total, 2.25 million tonnes were imported by private traders, mostly from India.

Imports will come down as there was no fresh demand, Badrul Hasan, head of Bangladesh's state grains buyer, told Reuters.

Prices were on the downward trend in Vietnam as well, with rates of the 5 percent broken variety down to $415-$420 a tonne, from $420-$425 two weeks earlier, following the Lunar New Year holiday.

"Everyone is still in holiday mood. Market just reopened yesterday," said a Ho Chi Minh city-based trader, adding that farmers have started harvesting for the winter-spring paddy, expected to last until March.

"There's no buyer for the moment, as the Indonesian deal is done, while the Philippines' plan to buy 250,000 tonnes is still unclear."

(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Patpicha Tanakasempipat in Bangkok, Ruma Paul in Dhaka and Mai Nguyen in Hanoi; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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