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May 2024

Rice Falls Further as Malaysia Seeks to Cut Reliance on Imports

Ben Sharples and Kok Leong Chan, Bloomberg News

, Source: India’s Commerce Ministry

(Bloomberg) — 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% 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% 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,” Sabu said on Tuesday. “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% 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.

–With assistance from Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala.

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Published Date: September 13, 2023

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