South-East Asian countries, particularly Vietnam and Malaysia, continue to buy Indian corn (maize) in a big way as the commodity’s prices have declined from the highs seen in July 2021.
“Vietnam and Malaysia are buying Indian corn in good volume but we are not getting any good margin as prices have declined,” said M Madan Prakash, President of Agri Commodities Exporters Association (ACEA).
Recently, his firm, Rajathi Group, shipped out 500 tonnes of corn to Vietnam at $303 (₹22,500) a tonne cost and freight Ho Chi Minh after sourcing it from Maharashtra at ₹17,500.
Rupee gains over dollar
“Vietnam has turned a huge buyer of Indian corn to feed chickens. The firming of the rupee has also affected the margins for exporters,” said S Chandrasekaran, a New Delhi-based trade analyst.
Over the past month, the Indian rupee has gained 1.7 per cent over the US dollar. On Thursday, the Indian rupee was 74.4 to the dollar.
On Wednesday, corn futures on the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) bounced back over $6 per bushel-mark as Brazil reported its crop lower than the estimates made in December. March corn futures ended at $6.11 a bushel (₹17,850 a tonne).
In July 2021, corn futures had topped $6.6 a bushel before declining to below $6 after China lower its estimate for consumption this season.
Price hurdles in Bangladesh
“Exports of corn at higher prices are not possible. Right now, we are fulfilling the old deals we signed,” said Bimal Bengani, Managing Director of Kolkata-based trading house Bengani Food Products Pvt Ltd.
Corn exporters are facing price hurdles particularly in Bangladesh, which had bought a good volume from India. “With Bangladesh, we are now facing problem of costs,” said Mukesh Singh, Director of Mumbai-based MuBala Agro.
“Rates have dropped in Bangladesh, though it is continuing to buy from India,” said Bimal Bengani. Exports to Bangladesh were earlier struck at $300-320 a tonne free-on-board. Shipments to Dhaka are mainly done by road.
According to Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) data, India exported 22.46 lakh tonnes (lt) of other cereals, mainly maize, during the April-November period of the current fiscal compared with 30.26 lt during the entire 2020-21 fiscal.
A comparison of corn shipments in the first half shows that they are up nearly seven lt.
Domestic prices gain
Country-wise, Bangladesh is the No. 1 importer of Indian corn at 8.79 lt during April-November this fiscal, followed by Vietnam, which purchased 6.63 lakh tonnes and Nepal, which imported 4.03 lt.
“Since there is not much parity, we export only to keep our buyers in good humour,” said ACEA’s Prakash.
MuBala’s Singh said exporters are nowing having to pay a higher price for corn in the domestic market. “Earlier, we used to get at ₹14,000-15,000 a tonne, but now prices have increased to ₹17,000-18,000,” he said.
The quality of maize from southern States and Maharashtra is, however, good, say exporters.
Last month, the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University said in a price advisory that going by an analysis of past 16 “historical prices”, corn prices could rule at ₹17,000-18,000 in January 2022.
“Bangladesh is getting wheat at a more competitive rate, affecting corn,” said Singh, adding that Indian exporters have now begun testing the market in the Gulf.
“Our corn is now going to Dubai too. I sent two containers and the quality required in that market is at par with what Vietnam wants or slightly lower,” he said.
Chandrasekaran said countries such as Vietnam had the option to look at broken rice if corn prices were to gain. Over the past two years, Vietnam and China have been buying Indian rice to fulfill their feed demand.
Broken rice is available around $300 a tonne from India and it has made up over 90 per cent of total non-Basmati rice exports to China in 2021.
With rabi corn production expected to be good, domestic prices could ease a bit.
India’s corn exports hit a six-year high last fiscal after over 35 lt were shipped out during 2014-15.