India’s rice farmers to ramp up planting after a delayed start

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Workers clean rice paddy at a wholesale market in the outskirts in New Delhi, India, on Friday, June 3, 2022. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Anindito Mukherjee.

India’s slow monsoon progress has delayed rice sowing but farmers will be ramping up planting in the coming months, which will likely ease concern about a potential ban on exports.

The area planted by the top rice exporter has shrunk 17% this monsoon season through mid-July compared to a year ago. This is due to delayed rains in some eastern growing areas, said Trilochan Mohapatra, secretary of the Department of Agricultural Research and Education.

“There is still enough time, about three weeks, to continue planting and make up for the some of the shortfall,” Mohapatra said. “Even if there is a little reduction in area, that should not make much difference and it should not be a cause for concern.”

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Traders and governments are watching India’s rice production closely after the country curbed wheat and sugar exports to safeguard domestic food security and control inflation. There are worries rice could be next, which would have a much bigger impact as India accounts for 40% of global trade. So far India has stockpiled more than enough rice and prices have been stable.

Much is riding on the monsoon in India. Patchy rains might stunt the crop and cut yields, leading to a drawdown in state inventories. That would risk triggering export curbs to ensure sufficient domestic supplies.

The monsoon, which runs from June through September, is 13% above normal so far. “I expect that by early August, area under rice will be close to last year’s levels,” said B.V. Krishna Rao, president of the Rice Exporters Association.

There’s unlikely to be any rice shortage this year, said Mukesh Jain, a director at Sponge Enterprises, a rice exporter in the state of Chhattisgarh. “Although there’s fear in the market about a possible ban on exports after sudden restrictions on wheat and sugar by the government, at present rice exports are happening smoothly.”

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