New Delhi: India’s monsoon rains have revived after a lull, improving prospects for good rice and oilseeds crops, but it is too early to say if rice export curbs will be eased this year, said agriculture and food minister Sharad Pawar.
India, the world’s second biggest rice producer, has banned exports of popular rice varieties and slapped an export tax of Rs8,000 ($190) per tonne on premium, aromatic basmati as part of efforts to check double-digit inflation.
Clouds open up: An 18 June photo of a farmer ploughing his rice field after heavy rainfall in Mathura. (Photograph by KK Arora / Reuters)
“By and large, rainfall has been satisfactory, barring four states. But recent reports suggest this week’s rains have brightened prospects of crops,” Pawar told reporters on the sidelines of a conference on Wednesday.
The weather office, which had forecast normal rains this year, said last week total rainfall since June was 2% below normal although it had been uneven, being 26% above normal in the first three weeks of the monsoon, and deficient in the 17-23 July period.
The June-September rains are vital for farm output and the overall economy as they help to determine rural spending. Only 40% of India’s cultivated land is irrigated. The rest is rain-fed.
Rice exporters hope higher output would allow the government to lift restrictions on the overseas sales of the grain. Such a move could lower benchmark Thai prices.
Vietnam, the world’s second biggest rice exporter, has lowered the floor price for its 5% broken rice exports by nearly 85 to $600 per tonne, traders said. The decision led to a 2.7% drop in Thai prices to $730 per tonne from last week’s $750 per tonne. Prices had touched a record $1,080 per tonne in April.
“We know the rice area is higher this time but (it is too) early to say the government will allow rice exports by September. I have to protect consumers’ interest also,” agriculture minister said.
Indian farmers planted rice on 17.01 million ha between 1 June and 25 July, up 19% from 14.31 million ha a year ago. Pawar said his government might consider further imports of vegetable oils to supply to the poor at lower rates.
India, the world’s second biggest vegetable oil buyer, is importing 1 million tonnes of oils to soften rising prices. Pawar said the oilseed growing states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Maharashtra had received low rainfall.
Separately, the minister said the government has no “immediate” plans to restrict cotton exports. Textile mills have been requesting the government to curb cotton exports.