After UN body, 3 nations ask India to resume rice exports

 (Mint)
(Mint)

Summary

Amid a surge in retail inflation to a 15-month high, India has taken various measures, including export curbs, to control escalating food prices.

NEW DELHI : Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines, key diplomatic partners of India, have appealed to New Delhi to resume rice exports to their nations following India’s decision to suspend non-basmati shipments to check prices.

Singapore has requested around 110,000 tonnes of rice from India. In June, Indonesia announced plans to import 1 million tonnes (mt) of rice from India to protect against disruptions caused by the El Nino weather pattern. The Philippines also relies on India for rice supplies.

Recently, the UN World Food Programme sought 200,000 tonnes of Indian rice for its humanitarian operations amid what it called “catastrophic levels" of global food insecurity, triggered by the covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war, two people aware of the development said. Bangladesh is also in talks with India for supplies of some agricultural commodities, including rice.

Amid a surge in retail inflation to a 15-month high, India has taken various measures, including export curbs, to control escalating food prices. In his Independence Day speech to the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to bring down inflation as he readies to fight general elections, due by May, for a third term in office.

Queries mailed to the Singapore high commission in New Delhi, the embassies of Indonesia and the Philippines, and India’s department of food and public distribution remained unanswered. The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) recently announced that it was in talks with India for the resumption of rice exports. “SFA is working closely with importers to increase the import of different varieties of rice from various sources. Singapore is also in close contact with the Indian authorities to seek exemption from the ban," read a press release from the agency.

“We diversify and import rice from over 30 countries. In 2022, India accounted for approximately 40% of Singapore’s rice imports. Only the import of non-basmati rice is affected by the ban. The import of non-basmati rice from India makes up approximately 17% of Singapore’s rice import," it added.

India is the world’s biggest rice exporter, accounting for about 40% of the global rice trade. The 20 July-move to curb exports of non-basmati white rice has put pressure on rice prices in global markets. Neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh and Nepal, are heavily dependent on Indian rice, while some African countries are purchasers of broken rice.

“To ensure adequate availability of non-basmati white rice in the Indian market and to allay the rise in prices in the domestic market, the government of India has amended the export policy of the above variety from ‘free with export duty of 20%’ to ‘prohibited’ with immediate effect," the government announced in July.

“But there is no change in the export policy of non-basmati rice (parboiled rice) and basmati rice, which form the bulk of rice exports. This will ensure that the farmers continue to get the benefit of remunerative prices in the international market," read a press release by the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution.

Food and beverages inflation, as measured by the Consumer Food Price Index, which accounts for 45.86% of the overall consumer price basket (CPI), rose to 10.57% in July against 4.63% (revised) in the preceding month. In the case of cereals and products, retail inflation quickened to 13.04% in July from 12.65% in June.

Economists predict that the food price surge is likely to persist for the next few weeks, which will likely keep the CPI inflation elevated till the third quarter of the current fiscal and expect the headline CPI inflation to stay above the 6.5% mark in August, before cooling off in September.

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