Kuala Lumpur: Rice prices extended losses as buyers continued to juggle the fallout from India’s export restrictions, with Malaysia seeking to reduce its reliance on overall imports which make up more than a third of its needs.
Thai white rice 5 per cent broken, an Asian benchmark, dropped $19 on Wednesday to $621 a ton, according to the Thai Rice Exporters Association. Prices rallied to the highest level in almost 15 years early last month.
India is the world’s biggest shipper of the grain and its curbs have prompted a raft of deals and diplomacy over recent weeks as countries seek to secure supplies to contain food costs. Malaysia’s Agriculture Minister Mohamad Sabu said the nation had been importing 35 per cent of its rice needs “for a long time” and that there was an opportunity to produce much more.
With the amount of land and resources we have, Malaysia can be self-sufficient, but we have not done that. I’m surprised that this has not been addressed until India decided to cut its supply.
Rice is important to the diets of billions and can contribute as much as 60 per cent of the total calorie intake for people in regions including Southeast Asia. Some of the biggest buyers of India’s non-basmati varieties are African nations such as Benin, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo and Guinea.
Senegal and Guinea have made diplomatic overtures to India.
“India’s rice export restrictions are expected to impact African countries very negatively,” Baboucarr Manneh, the director general of Abidjan-based research institute Africa Rice Center, said in an interview. The continent is “heavily reliant on India for this nutrition,” he added.