India exempts some countries from rice curbs for food security

INDIA has permitted some rice shipments to Mauritius, Bhutan and Singapore for food security purposes after the South Asian nation imposed sweeping export restrictions to control domestic prices.

The world’s top exporter agreed to sell 79,000 tons of non-basmati white rice to Bhutan, 50,000 tons to Singapore and 14,000 tons to Mauritius, according to a commerce ministry notification late Wednesday. India said last month it would allow for exports of the variety if asked to meet the security needs of other countries.

The permission highlights the plight of several nations, which have been relying on India for their rice needs. Guinea has sent its trade minister to New Delhi to convince Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to exempt the West African country from the restrictions. Top buyers of Indian rice include Benin, China, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Togo.

Concerns about a global supply squeeze and higher world food prices have increased after the world’s second-biggest producer and consumer tightened its curbs on rice exports. Asian benchmark prices of the grain, a staple diet for billions of people across the world, rebounded this week to trade near a 15-year high reached earlier this month. 

India has restrictions on shipments of all varieties of the grain. It has imposed a 20% tax on parboiled rice exports, set a minimum export price on aromatic basmati and banned shipments of non-basmati white. The country accounts for almost 40% of the global rice trade.

While India’s announcement to sell to Singapore and other countries is in line with its earlier pledge to meet the security needs of other nations, the focus of the government will continue to be on cooling domestic food prices ahead of major festivals in November and an election early next year. — Bloomberg