Pakistan’s rice exports appear to be slowing down. Per PBS, volume exported declined by 9 percent during Q1-FY23 compared to the same period last year. Historically, exports usually do slowdown during the first quarter – as inventories start to run out – but the decline in the quarter ended Sep’22 appears to be stronger than usual. (For more, read “Rice exports: are good times over?”, published on November 08, 2022). Are rice exports facing strong headwinds, or will exports pick up with the arrival of the fresh crop?
Earlier this week, USDA made a strong cut to Pakistan’s rice outlook for marketing year 2022-23. The monthly update by the agency lowered rice production forecast to 6.6 million metric tons (MMT), down from 9.1MMT reported last year; and exports to 4MMT, down from record volume of 4.8MMT last year. USDA’s forecast follows the release of GoP’s own estimates during mid-October, which forecast national rice production at 5.5 MMT against the target of 8.5 MMT set in April 2022.
Although there appears to be consensus over significant damage to rice crop following the devastating floods, last month the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) had reportedly claimed that the “damage to the crop is minimal,” and that national production would comfortably reach 8MMT during the ongoing fiscal. It remains to be seen whether REAP’s forecast is on the money, or was an effort to calm the grain market and restrain local prices from rising out of control.
While REAP’s claim may not be without merit, it stands to reason why did rice exports slow down during Q1FY23 (Jul – Sep), if the crop has not performed so poorly? Interestingly, if commercial bank lending data is used as a proxy, rice stocks appear to have been running low long before the floods hit the country.
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