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Lockdown stalls Indian rice exports

Rice exporters from India, the world’s biggest exporter, have ceased signing fresh exports contracts amid the nationwide lockdown intended to curb the spread of coronavirus. The industry has pointed out that labour shortages and logistics disruptions have hampered the delivery of even existing contracts.

“Shipments have stalled as transport has become very difficult because of the lockdown. Drivers are not coming and labour is not available at mills and ports,” explained B.V. Krishna Rao, president of the Rice Exporters Association (REA). Prem Garg, chairman of the Lal Mahal Group, which exports rice to more than 44 countries, pointed out that India’s export volumes have fallen by four to five times. Further, as per industry insiders, around 400,000 tonnes of non-basmati rice and 100,000 tonnes of basmati rice, meant for March-April delivery, are either stuck at ports or in the pipeline due to the lockdown.

Meanwhile, rival countries such as Thailand are capitalising on this situation and raising shipments in the short term and lifting global prices, forcing millions of poor consumers in Africa to pay higher prices.