Will India’s rice export ban hit markets?

Oman Saturday 29/July/2023 21:00 PM
By: Times News Service

MUSCAT: There has not been any reports of panic buying nor a mad rush at leading supermarkets for the purchase of Indian rice in the Sultanate of Oman unlike news reports of such incidents happening in the USA.

This follows the Indian government’s decision on July 20 to ban the export of non-basmati white rice to “ensure adequate availability in the Indian market and to allay the rise in prices in the domestic market.” It did not restrict the export of the other types of semi/wholly milled rice - basmati and parboiled rice.

Major rice traders in Oman said that the ban will have an impact but it would not be a major one unlike in 2007-2008 when the ban led to shortage of rice stocks in the Sultanate.

One of the oldest and leading rice traders admitted that the ban may result in a slight rise in the prices but the issue will be resolved soon with rice varieties from other countries likely to fill the gap.

In his remarks to Times of Oman, the rice trader, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “India has banned non-basmati white rice but has not banned parboiled non-basmati rice. So price oriented consumers will switch to parboiled non-basmati rice. There will be slightly upward movements in prices but not as bad as in 2008, considering that the new crops of basmati and non-basmati are just around the corner. Harvesting of the new crop should start by September 2023.”

He added: “I do not see much to worry about in Oman as we have plentiful stocks and the highest consumption of rice by the local population is of basmati rice.”

Another major importer of rice from India, said: “The ban is certainly going to impact the market in Oman as we supply that quality of steam, white rice.”

The traders are of the view that it is a temporary issue as new suppliers would enter the market. “Non-basmati rice could be procured from Pakistan, Vietnam, and Thailand to fill the gap,” said another trader.

A top representative of one of the biggest corporate houses in Oman that deals with imports of rice varieties admitted that “it has already created a worrying situation with the importers and the trade. The announcement of the UAE to ban exports of rice on Saturday is another cause of worry.”

He said: “Since the past few months, prices of long grain non-basmati rice from Pakistan have gone up over USD 100 per metric tonne due to the flood situation out there.

In Oman, we import good quality non-basmati rice from India. There could be a shortage if Oman’s Consumer Protection Authority (CPA) does not permit price increase of local non-basmati brands existing in the market.”

The top official added: “Parboiled rice from India will be allowed at 20 percent surcharge to be paid by exporters. The new crop will start only from November, so importers are in a quandary whether to import at a high price or wait and watch. This could cause certain brands to be stocked out.”

India is one of the largest rice exporters, accounting for more than 40 per cent of rice exports, amounting to 55.4 million metric tons last year. India is also one of the major sources of rice imports for Oman importers.

India’s rice shipments

India’s rice shipments reached a record 22.2 million tonnes in 2022, more than the combined shipments of the world’s next four biggest exporters of the grain —Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan and the USA.

“India is a major supplier of non-basmati rice and the ban on exports will lead to a reduction in the availability of rice in the market. This could lead to higher prices for rice, as well as supply constraints for businesses that rely on rice as a key ingredient,” said another supplier to major hypermarkets.

He added: “Non-basmati rice is a popular staple diet of people from South India but in this situation, the expatriates may switch to basmati rice.”

Meanwhile, Oman’s neighbour, UAE, has banned rice exports and re-exports for four months, including rice of Indian origin, the state news agency WAM reported on Friday.

The UAE, which imports 90 percent of its food, said the ban would cover rice of all varieties including brown rice, fully or partially milled rice and broken rice.

Companies wishing to export or re-export rice must submit a request to the ministry of economy to obtain an export permit outside the country, WAM reported.

The ban follows a decision by India’s government last week to halt exports of non-basmati white and broken rice amid an increase in prices and after late but heavy monsoon rains caused significant damage to the crops.