Basmati shipments may rise as Iran recommences rice imports
The reopening of rice imports by Iran could give a fillip to India’s basmati shipments, which have risen by about a fourth in rupee terms in the first eight months of the current financial year.
Iran is the largest buyer of India’s basmati and accounts for a fourth of India’s annual aromatic rice shipments of around four million tonnes.
Iran, which ended the seasonal import ban in November, has started registration for rice imports, which will be from January 21 till June 21.
In recent years, Iran has been placing temporary curbs on rice imports during the July-January period, mainly to protect its domestic paddy growers and support local prices during the harvest season.
“Based on the current export trend, we expect basmati shipments to be higher than last year,” said DK Singh, Chairman, Apeda (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority).
Basmati is the second largest product in Apeda’s export portfolio after buffalo meat and accounts for over 22 per cent of the total shipment value.
In the April-November period this fiscal year, basmati exports grew 29 per cent to $2.61 billion from $2.02 billion in the corresponding period last year.
In rupee terms, basmati exports grew 24 per cent to ?16,838 crore during the April-November period from ?13,571 crore in the corresponding year-ago period. In 2016-17, India’s basmati exports stood at 3.98 million tonnes valued at over $3.22 billion.
However, Indian rice exporters are cautiously optimistic over the shipment prospects with Iran, considering the fact that they have been facing issues relating to traces of fungicide in exports to the European Union, another major market.
“We expect basmati shipments this year to be the same as last year or even higher,” said Rajen Sundaresan, Executive Director, All India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA).
“While Iran has reopened its market, it has stopped extending concessional foreign exchange to its rice importers,” said Vijay Setia, President, AIREA. The move is aimed at discouraging more rice imports into the West Asian country.
Further, Iran has also been raising objections to the digital phyto-sanitary certificates issued by Indian authorities. The issues have been taken up with the Agriculture Ministry and are likely to be resolved soon, sources said.