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India's Decision to Ban Rice Exports Triggers Global Price Concerns

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On 20 July, India made a significant move by imposing a ban on exports of non-basmati white rice in an effort to stabilize domestic prices. However, this decision had far-reaching consequences, leading to panic buying and empty shelves of rice at Indian grocery stores in the US and Canada, causing prices to soar.

The global rice trade primarily revolves around four main groups of rice varieties. The majority is dominated by the slender long grain Indica rice, followed by fragrant basmati, the short-grained Japonica used in sushi and risottos, and the glutinous or sticky rice favored for sweets. As the world's leading rice exporter, accounting for approximately 40% of the global trade, India's decision holds significant weight. Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan, and the US are the other major players in the rice export market.

The recent ban on rice exports has sparked concerns about potential surging global rice prices. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), believes that the ban could lead to a price increase of up to 15% in global grain prices this year.

Unfortunately, the timing of India's export ban is not ideal, as global rice prices have been on the rise since early 2022, experiencing a 14% increase since last June. Moreover, supplies are facing strain due to delayed arrival of the new crop in the markets, which is expected to be around three months away. South Asia has been affected by inclement weather, with uneven monsoon rains in India and floods in Pakistan impacting rice supplies. Additionally, the rising prices of fertilizers have increased the costs of rice cultivation.

Furthermore, the devaluation of currencies in many countries has resulted in higher import costs, and the prevailing high inflation has elevated borrowing costs of the trade. These factors combined have raised concerns among global rice buyers and industry experts about the potential ramifications for the international rice market.

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