Rice Sales From India to Reach Record as Iran Boosts Reserve

Rice shipments from India, the world’s largest producer after China, will probably expand to a record as buyers from Iran to Saudi Arabia boost purchases of aromatic basmati grain used in biryani and pilaf dishes.

Exports are set to increase 7.8 percent to 11 million metric tons in the 12 months through March from a year earlier, said M.P. Jindal, president of the All India Rice Exporters Association. Sales of basmati may jump 14 percent to 4 million tons as cargoes of non-basmati varieties advance 4 percent to 7 million tons, he said in a phone interview.

Shipments are increasing from India as Thailand, once the world’s biggest supplier, is also set to boost exports. The Southeast Asian country has built record stockpiles big enough to meet about a third of global import demand under a buying program that started in 2011. Farmers are demanding the government sell the reserves to pay for their crop.

“India has an edge over other countries because of quality and price competitiveness,” said Faiyaz Hudani, an associate vice president at Kotak Commodity Services Ltd., a Mumbai-based broker. “When the output is high and the pace of growth is stable, there is no cause of concern.”

India dethroned Thailand as the world’s largest shipper in 2011-2012 as the rice purchase program in the Southeast Asian nation cut exports. Rising sales may benefit Indian shippers such as KRBL Ltd., LT Foods Ltd. and Kohinoor Foods Ltd.

Thai Stockpiles

The country is targeting output of 106.3 million tons in the year through June, compared with a record 105.3 million tons in 2011-2012, according to the Agriculture Ministry. The harvest would add to global inventories estimated at 109 million tons in 2013-2014 by the London-based International Grains Council.

The price of Thai 5-percent broken white rice, a benchmark grade, fell 23 percent in 2013, the most in at least five years, and was at $460 a ton yesterday. A slump to $370 by March is possible as grain is offloaded from state granaries, according to Chareon Laothamatas, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association. Rough-rice futures on the Chicago Board of Trade rose 0.1 percent to $15.645 per 100 pounds today.

Thailand may not be able to find enough buyers for its stockpiles because major importers in Africa and the Philippines increasingly prefer grain from Vietnam and India, according to Darren Cooper, a senior economist at the council.

“Thailand will try to dispose of the stockpiles at whatever price it gets,” said B.V. Krishna Rao, managing director of Pattabhi Agro Foods Pvt., an Indian exporter. Shipments may not be affected by rising Thai sales as the two countries catered to different markets, he said.

Basmati Demand

The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects Thai inventories to reach a record 14.7 million tons this year, compared with 6.1 million in 2010. Shipments will probably be 8.5 million tons, the USDA forecasts.

Basmati rice exports from India are climbing as Iran is building reserves, said Jindal at the exporters association. Sales to Iran jumped to 1.28 million tons in the nine months through December, exceeding the 1.07 million tons for whole of 2012-2013, according to the association. The country is India’s biggest buyer of basmati and imports 1.5 million tons annually.

“The price of basmati was good this year and overseas demand was more throughout the year from all countries including Iran and Saudi Arabia,” Jindal said on Feb. 4. “Exports to Iran are higher as it buys for keeping certain reserves.”

Shares of KRBL fell 5 percent to 44.85 rupees in Mumbai today, Kohinoor Foods fell 2.2 percent to 40.40 rupees and LT Foods retreated 3.9 percent to 86.90 rupees.

India supplies 65 percent of the overseas basmati rice market, while Pakistan accounts for the rest, according to the state-run Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority. Saudi Arabia and Iran are the two major buyers of Indian basmati, while Africa is a major destination for non-basmati varieties.