FILE PHOTO: Indian women workers walk in a rice paddy field for harvesting at Miryalaguda Mandal of Nalgonda District, which is some 150 kilometers from Hyderabad on April 3, 2008. (NOAH SEELAM/AFP via Getty Images)

INDIA’s rice exports may jump to record highs in 2020 as other rival exporters such as Thailand and Vietnam face various setbacks.

Industry officials said that India’s rice exports this year will rise by nearly 42 per cent from a year ago because of reduced shipments from rival exporters and a depreciating rupee. Currently, India is the world’s biggest rice exporter.

According to an estimate, rice exports could jump to 14 million tonnes in 2020, up from last year’s 9.9 million tonnes, the lowest in eight years, said B.V. Krishna Rao, president of the Rice Exporters Association.

Higher shipments from India,  could cap global prices, reduce the country’s bulging inventories and limit Indian state stockpiler purchases from farmers.

“Thailand’s shipments are falling due to the drought. Vietnam is struggling because of lower crop. That share is naturally coming to India,” Rao said.

Thailand, the world’s second-largest rice exporter, suffered through a drought earlier this year that has affected the rice crop. Shipments in 2020 could fall to 6.5 million tonnes, the lowest in 20 years.

Vietnam, the third-biggest global exporter, has contended with low water levels in the Mekong River Delta, the country’s main rice growing region, that has limited supply.

India mainly exports non-basmati rice to Bangladesh, Nepal, Benin and Senegal, and premium basmati rice to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

This year, rice shipments will rise because of robust demand for non-basmati rice from African countries, said Nitin Gupta, vice president for Olam India’s rice business.

“Basmati rice demand is more-or-less stable, but in non-basmati we have seen a huge surge in demand due to attractive prices,” Gupta said.

India’s non-basmati rice exports may double from a year ago to 9.5 million tonnes, while basmati rice exports would remain stable around 4.5 million tonnes, he said.

India was offering 5 per cent broken parboiled rice at $380 per tonne on a free-on-board basis, while Thailand was offering the same grade at $490 per tonne, dealers said.

Indian exporters have offered rice at lower prices at a time when global prices have jumped on limited supplies because of the rupee’s depreciation, Rao said.

The rupee has declined 3 per cent against the US dollar so far this year.

In addition to lower Southeast Asian sales, China has also cut exports to Africa after floods hit local crops, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm.

“Unlike other countries, India has massive surplus. Exports won’t create shortage in the local market,” the dealer said.