By Nakul Iyer
BENGALURU (Reuters) - Rice export prices from India held near a nine-month high this week on strong demand from buyers in both Asia and Africa, with Thailand losing out to cheaper grain from the top exporter.
India's 5% broken parboiled variety was quoted at $378-$383 per tonne, unchanged from last week.
Demand for Indian rice from Asian and African buyers has been slowly improving as New Delhi is offering more competitive prices than Thailand, said an exporter based at Kakinada in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
A weak rupee also helped, raising exporters' margin from overseas sales, the exporter said.
Thailand's benchmark 5% broken rice prices were quoted at $515–$546, down from $535-$557 the week before, on easing concerns over domestic supply even as overseas demand remained unchanged, traders said.
"Prices have been high because mills were concerned about possible shortages, but after a spell of rainfall, the mills are starting to sell their stock again," a Bangkok-based rice trader said.
One of the worst droughts in decades earlier this year had put a strain on supply and pushed Thai rice prices to their highest in about seven years in early April.
But the supply concerns have now eased due to recent rains and forecasts for more in the country's rice growing regions.
Lower domestic supplies, meanwhile, pushed rates for 5% broken rice from Vietnam to a fresh two-year peak of $450 per tonne on Thursday, but activity on the export market remained quiet.
"Not many new contracts have been signed recently as domestic supplies are running low," a trader based in Ho Chi Minh City said.
"Many local firms are focusing on their rice purchase from farmers for the national stockpiling program."
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc last week agreed to fully resume the country's rice exports from this month, after banning exports in March and limiting shipments for April to 500,000 tonnes to make sure the country had sufficient food during the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh's food ministry said on Thursday the country would buy 1.15 million tonnes of rice and 800,000 tonnes of paddy from local farmers in the current harvesting season to secure supplies.
Panic buying has driven domestic rice prices to a two-year high in Bangladesh as the number of coronavirus cases in the country surpassed 10,000 as of Monday.
(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Ruma Paul in Dhaka, Khanh Vu in Hanoi and Panu Wongcha-um in Bangkok; Editing by Arpan Varghese and Mark Potter)