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India has decided to curb rice exports in a move that is expected to lift world prices of the staple and trigger a rally in rival wheat and corn markets, deepening concerns over food inflation.

Rice prices in key exporters India, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar are set to rise, traders and analysts said, hitting food importers already suffering from higher costs due to drought, heat waves and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

India banned exports of broken rice and imposed a 20% duty on exports of various grades of rice on Thursday as the world’s biggest exporter of the grain tries to augment supplies and calm local prices after below-average monsoon rainfall curtailed planting.

Phin Ziebell

“There is going to be substantial stresses on food security across many countries,” said Phin Ziebell, agribusiness economist at National Australia Bank. “Global fundamentals could see further upside across the grains complex.”

Chicago wheat prices rose on Friday, poised for a third straight weekly gain, as India’s move and talk about Russia’s restrictions on Ukrainian grain shipments underpinned the market.

“This is an inflationary move for food prices,” said Ole Houe, director of advisory services at agriculture brokerage IKON Commodities in Sydney. “This could trigger a rally in wheat and corn prices.”

Ole Houe

India exports rice to more than 150 countries, accounts for more than 40% of global rice shipments and competes with Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan and Myanmar in the world market.

“Myanmar prices should go up by $50 a ton while suppliers in Thailand and Vietnam will be quoting higher prices,” said one Singapore-based trader.

Five percent broken rice in Myanmar was quoted around $390-$395 a ton, free on board, before India’s decision on export restrictions. In India, 5% broken white rice prices were quoted around $348 a ton.

The decision will impact trade flows as India’s white rice prices of the variety are about $60-$70 per ton cheaper than Thailand’s, Chookiat Ophaswongse, honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, told Reuters.

“More orders will flow for Thai and Vietnamese rice,” he said. “We have to wait and see how long this policy from India will go on for, if it is longer, it will increase demand for Thai rice exports…”

Chookiat Ophaswongse

Top buyers to suffer

India’s rice exports touched a record 21.5 million tons in 2021, more than the combined shipments of the world’s next four biggest exporters of the grain: Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan and the United States.

The world’s top rice importers China and the Philippines are likely to take an immediate hit with higher rice prices.

China, one of the biggest importers of Indian broken rice for use in animal feed, is expected to shift to corn, traders said.

China purchased 1.1 million tons of broker rice in 2021, while African countries such as Senegal and Djibouti bought it for human consumption.

“We expect import volumes will decrease with this ban… the new Chinese corn crop is coming to market soon and there are large volumes of other imported grains,” said Rosa Wang, analyst at Shanghai JC Intelligence Co. Ltd.

Mercedita Sombilla

“In fact there is news already about an alliance of Thailand and Vietnam planning to increase export prices. We are analyzing the possible impact of these possible moves,” Mercedita Sombilla, undersecretary for policy, planning and regulations at the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture, told Reuters.

Thailand and Vietnam have agreed to cooperate on raising prices, a move aimed at increasing their leverage in the global market and boosting farmers’ incomes.

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