Exports of steamed rice from India have come to a halt even as the trade tries to find its footing after the Centre imposed curbs on the cereal’s shipments. “Exports of steamed rice are treated as non-basmati white rice since it does not come under parboiled rice. Therefore, the shipments have to bear the 20 per cent export duty,” said BV Krishna Rao, President, The Rice Exporters Association of India.

India imposed curbs on rice exports from September 9 with non-basmati white rice attracting a 20 per cent export duty along with brown rice and paddy, while shipments of broken rice have been totally banned. Exports of parboiled and basmati rice have been exempted from any curb. 

What is steamed rice?

Steamed rice is different from parboiled rice but similar to white rice. Steam is passed through white rice to ensure a coating forms on the grain and starch from inside the kernel doesn’t come out. This process prevents the rice from turning sticky.

This is done as a substitute for white rice which is usually stored for a year and consumed. “Millers and traders are finding it difficult to store and pay interest charges for the loan they avail of. So, the concept of steamed rice picked up,” Rao said.  

Steamed rice sells at a premium of $600 a tonne. “The 20 per cent export tax is a welcome move since the Centre will get additional income for this premium rice variety,” said an exporter, who did not wish to be identified. 

Nepal main buyer

Nepal is the main buyer of steamed rice from India. “It buys around one million tonnes (mt),” said Rao. 

Traders could have exported paddy instead of steamed rice to Nepal but it also attracts the 20 per cent import duty. “So, the trade got stuck there on the point,” said the exporter.

Besides Nepal, non-resident Indians in West Asia also consumed steamed rice. “Overall, there is a potential to export 2 mt of steamed rice,” said Rao. 

Though trade in steamed rice has come to a halt, exporters expect it to resume soon. “Once the buyers get used to the new development, trade should resume,” said the exporter. 

Exporters said buyers are willing to pay the export duty to get the premium steam rice which are Ponni and Sona Masuri varieties. A section of the trade hopes that the Centre may review its decision once the picture on kharif rice production becomes clear. 

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