Rice exporters see a pick-up in demand for the Indian cereal from Bangladesh as the recent floods in that country have impacted output and sent prices high. Also, a drought in Sri Lanka has resulted in improved demand for the finer varieties such as sona masuri, exporters said.

Bangladesh recently floated three tenders to import about 1.5 lakh tonnes of white rice and par-boiled rice. A fourth tender is expected in July 1st week, trade sources said.

“We expect that both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka may pick up a couple of lakh tonnes this year,” said BV Krishna Rao, Managing Director of Pattabhi Agro Pvt Ltd, a rice exporter in Kakinada.

“Though they are not big buyers when compared to African nations, the demand from the immediate neighbours has helped improve the sentiment, resulting in a firming trend in export prices,” he said.

Export prices have improved by about 15 per cent since the beginning of the year. As against FOB price of $360-370 per tonne in January, prices of white rice have now moved to between $420 and $430 a tonne.

MSP hike, rupee strength Besides, the increase in the minimum support price (MSP), the strengthening of the rupee against the dollar contributed to the firming trend, Rao said.

The Centre has hiked the MSP by ₹80 per quintal to ₹1,550 for the common-grade paddy variety, while the rupee appreciated by 5-7 per cent over the past few months from ₹68 to the dollar to ₹64 now.

However, the increase in export prices is unlikely to reflect in the local prices as the white rice variety that is exported was not widely consumed locally, Rao said. Also, the expectation of a normal monsoon is seen aiding domestic output. Transplantation of paddy, the main kharif cereal crop, has already begun and as on June 23, the paddy acreages stood at 16.7 lakh hectares, about 5 per cent higher than in the corresponding period last year.

Rice output at a high India’s rice output touched a new high of 109.15 mt during 2016-17, against the targeted 108.5 mt . For the current year, the Centre has maintained the production target at 108.5 mt .

For the kharif marketing season 2016-17, the Centre has so far procured 38.49 mt of rice, against 33.99 mt .

Rao, who is also the president of Rice Exporters Association, said India is well-poised to retain the top slot among rice exporters this year as its main competitor Thailand’s old stocks have depleted. India’s annual rice exports have been over 10 million tonnes for the past few years.

Vijay Setia, President of the All India Rice Exporters Association, which largely represents the interests of basmati growers, said depleting stocks in Thailand will be beneficial for India .

‘Plastic rice’ rumours busted Shipments, especially of basmati, have made a good beginning and we expect to improve the performance over last year, Setia said.

The ‘plastic rice’ scare, which did the rounds of the social media in several States, has not had any impact on exports.

“There's nothing like plastic rice, and it is all rumours,” he added.