India considers lifting rice export curbs as supply improves

India, the world’s biggest rice exporter, is likely to lift restrictions on grain shipments in a move that would mark a further easing of a global wave of food protectionism after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Authorities are actively considering removing curbs on some rice exports as domestic prices are stable, according to a person familiar with the matter. Government stockpiles are adequate to meet the needs of welfare programs, said the person, who asked not to be identified as the information is private.

India accounts for about 40% of global rice trade. Any relaxation of the export curbs will likely cool benchmark prices in Asia, which are trading near the highest since mid-2021. The move is being discussed as concerns over food inflation have eased. Global food costs ended 2022 roughly where they started despite a year of disruptions from the war in Ukraine and extreme weather.

India imposed a 20% duty on shipments of white and brown rice in September, and banned broken rice sales abroad. The curbs, which apply to about 60% of Indian rice exports, came on top of restrictions on wheat and sugar sales.

The Rice Exporters Association will call on the government to scrap some limits on exports as domestic supplies have increased following the harvest of monsoon-fed crops. The industry group will seek approval to ship at least 1 million tons of broken rice and request that the 20% tax on white rice exports be removed, according to B.V. Krishna Rao, president of the group.

Officials are also considering selling about 2 million tons of wheat from state reserves in the local market to control prices, according to the person. This may be sold at a fixed price to users including flour mills, the person said.

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