India may relax restrictions on rice exports

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India, the world’s top rice shipper, may relax restrictions on exports of some varieties to avoid a glut in the country before the new crop arrives in the market in October, according to people familiar with the matter.

The government is considering allowing white rice shipments with a fixed duty, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the talks are confidential. The authorities may also scrap a 20 percent tax on parboiled rice exports and impose a fixed levy instead to discourage under-invoicing of cargoes, they said.

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India has been limiting sales on key rice varieties since last year in an effort to curb food inflation. However, that’s left it saddled with record large stockpiles, US Department of Agriculture data shows.

Any such move to ease the curbs could help cool benchmark Asian rice prices, which reached the highest in more than 15 years in January and have since held at historically high levels. That would be good news for some countries in West Africa and the Middle East that rely on the South Asian nation for most of their requirements of the food staple.

A spokesperson representing both the food and commerce ministries didn’t immediately comment.

Shares of Indian rice millers surged. KRBL Ltd., one of the nation’s top exporters of the grain, climbed as much as 13 percent, while Kohinoor Foods Ltd. increased as much as 11 percent. Both LT Foods Ltd. and Chaman Lal Setia Exports Ltd. jumped 15 percent, before trimming some gains.

India’s total rice exports slumped 21 percent from a year earlier to 2.9 million tons in the first two months of the fiscal year that started on April 1, according to government data. Shipments of non-basmati rice fell 32 percent to 1.93 million tons during the same period, it said.

Indian farmers are in the midst of sowing their main rice crop for the next harvest as the monsoon kicks off. Planting will peak in July and the grain will be collected from late September.

Acreage stood at 6 million hectares (14.8 million acres) as of July 8, a jump of 19 percent from a year earlier, according to the farm ministry, following a recovery in the monsoon after deficient rains last month.

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