Iran – the biggest buyer of Indian basmati – is expected to resume imports of the aromatic rice after July, officials said. Iran had banned rice imports mid-November last year to protect the interests of local growers on higher domestic output and stocks.

“We are getting feelers from various stakeholders that imports from Iran are likely to resume after Ramzan. However, there is no written communication from them so far,” said AK Gupta, Advisor, Agricultural and Processed Foods Export Development Authority (Apeda).’

Indian shipments

Iran imported about 9.35 lakh tonnes of basmati in 2014-15, accounting for about a fourth of the Indian shipments. India had exported a total of 11.65 million tonnes (mt) of rice in 2014-15, of which basmati accounted for about 3.78 mt.

In fact, the shipments to Iran declined by 35 per cent in 2014-15 over previous year’s 14.40 mt, largely due to the curbs imposed by the largest buyer of the Indian basmati.

Gupta said demand from other markets – mainly in West Asia, Europe and the US grew by around 20 per cent, which has helped offset the impact of Iran ban on exports.

Also, the domestic consumption of basmati rice is on the rise.

Irani market

Basmati shipments rose marginally to 3.78 mt in volumes during 2014-15 over previous year’s 37.57 mt. “We expect the shipments to increase by 10-15 per cent this year,” Apeda’s Gupta added.

Rice exporters are hopeful that Iran would open up the market for basmati to meet its consumption. The Iranian rice consumption is estimated at around 3 mt a year, of which their domestic production is pegged at around 2 mt.

“Iran has to purchase around one million tonnes of rice to meet their domestic demand and India has a major share in their imports,” said Rajen Sundaresan, Executive Director, All India Rice Exporters Association.

Acreage may rise

Rice exporters expect the basmati acreage to increase at least by about 5 per cent in the upcoming kharif season over previous year’s 2.1 million hectares, Sundaresan said.

Farmers in the key basmati growing States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are expected to plant more basmati in anticipation of better returns.

Besides, the Punjab Government’s move to encourage farmers to plant more basmati, which consumes less water when compared to the normal rice crop, is also expected to help boost the acreage.