INDIA- The Indian government has banned exports of non-basmati white rice, which constitutes about 25% of India’s total rice exports, in an effort to control rising prices and boost availability before the upcoming El Niño weather event.

The ban, announced on 20th July, starts immediately and applies to semi- or wholly milled non-basmati white rice, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution of India said in a statement.

The domestic prices of rice are on an increasing trend,” the Ministry added, noting retail prices have increased by 11.5% over 12 months and 3% in the past month.

However, exports of non-basmati par-boiled rice and basmati rice are not affected. “This will ensure that the farmers continue to get the benefit of remunerative prices in the international market,” it said.

India is the world’s largest rice exporter ahead of Thailand and Vietnam and the current ban on rice exports follows restrictions imposed last September when the country put a 20% export levy on certain varieties.

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution of India recently explained that exports of non-basmati white rice had increased from 34 lakh metric tons (LMT) in the September to March 2022 period to 42 LMT in the corresponding period to March 2023, “even after the imposition of the 20% export duty”.

The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs announced that the export tax would apply to husked white and brown rice, and also semi-milled and wholly-milled white and brown varieties. Basmati and par-boiled rice were excluded.

India’s latest move adds to concerns about a renewed rise in global commodity prices in the face of the impending El Niño and Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal.

This sharp increase in exports can be ascribed to high international prices due to [the] geo-political scenario, El Niño sentiments, and extreme climatic conditions in other rice-producing countries,” the Ministry said yesterday.

The climate crisis is already making its impact felt on the supply of certain crops and the food industry will be watching the latest El Niño closely, as its impact is likely to be felt into 2024.

Earlier this month, India had agreed to export 290,000 tonnes of broken white rice to Mali through government-to-government channels following India’s lifting of the ban on broken rice exports in May this year.

In the same move, India agreed to export this kind of rice to other countries, including Gambia, Senegal, and Indonesia. 

However, the rice-producing country has to put up bans on rice products to protect domestic prices. 

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