Rice output may reach record as rain boosts planting

India, the world’s second-biggest rice grower, may have a record harvest this year as increased planting offset drought in the east of the country.

Production may total 100 million tonnes in the year ending June 2011, compared with 89.3 million tonnes a year ago, said Vijay Setia, president of All India Rice Exporters’ Association. Output was a record 99.2 million tonnes in the year ended June 30, 2009, according to the farm ministry.

A record harvest may prompt the government to lift a two-year-old restriction on exports at a time when global demand is expected to increase as surging wheat prices encourage buyers to switch to rice. Rice exports from Pakistan, the world’s third- largest shipper, are expected to slump after a flooding damaged crops in areas accounting for 90 per cent of agricultural output.

Indian farmers had planted 27.4 million hectares of rice (67.7 million acres) as of August 13, compared with 25.1 million hectares a year earlier, the farm ministry said last week.

The condition of the crop in 16 out of the 19 major rice-growing states is “normal,” the ministry said. Crop conditions are “poor” in Bihar and “satisfactory” in Kerala and West Bengal, the biggest grower, it said.

The harvest may not be affected by drought in Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh, Farm Minister Sharad Pawar said in New Delhi yesterday.

Almost 700,000 hectares of standing crops in Pakistan are either underwater or destroyed by floods, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization said on August 11. Pakistan was expected to export 3.8 million tonnes of rice this year, more than 10 per cent of the estimated global shipments of 30.4 million tons, according to the FAO, which made the forecast in July, before the flooding.

India won’t lift a ban on exports as it needs grains for supply to the poor at subsidized rates, Pawar said on August 10. There are “prospects” to export wheat after a recent surge in global prices, Trade Secretary Rahul Khullar told reporters in New Delhi today.

The country’s rice reserves on July 1 were 24.26 million tonnes, more than double the normal buffer of 9.8 million tonnes, according to data compiled by the state-run Food Corporation of India.

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