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Countries worldwide are scrambling to secure rice after a partial ban on exports by India cut supplies by roughly a fifth. Image Credit: AP

Mumbai: India, the world’s biggest rice exporter, will permit shipments to Singapore despite putting restrictions on overseas sales of the staple.

The South Asian nation will issue formal orders shortly, a spokesperson for India’s foreign ministry said in a statement late Tuesday. In view of a very close partnership between the two nations, “India has decided to allow export of rice to meet the food security requirements of Singapore,” it said.

The statement highlights the plight of several nations, which have been relying on India for their rice needs. Guinea has sent Trade Minister Louopou Lamah to New Delhi to convince Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to exempt the West African country from the restrictions. Top buyers of Indian rice include Benin, China, Senegal, Cote D’Ivoire and Togo.

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Concerns about a global supply squeeze and higher world food prices have increased after the world’s second-biggest producer and consumer tightened its curbs on rice exports. Asian benchmark prices of the grain, a staple diet for billions of people across the world, rebounded this week to trade near a 15-year high reached earlier this month.

India has restricted exports of all varieties of the grain. It has imposed a 20 per cent tax on shipments of the parboiled variety of rice and a minimum export price on aromatic basmati, besides banning shipments of non-basmati white rice. The country accounts for almost 40 per cent of the global rice trade.

The announcement to sell rice to Singapore is in line with India’s earlier pledge to allow some shipments, if requested by consuming nations to meet their food security needs. However, the administration’s focus will continue to be on cooling domestic food prices ahead of some major festivals in November, key state elections by the end of this year and a general election in early 2024, when Modi will seek a third term.

India sold 12,453 tons of basmati rice and 155,240 tons of the non-basmati variety in 2022-23, according to data compiled by India’s commerce ministry.