Global Markets: Rice – Chinese Rice Imports Surge – Especially from India

    Rice harvest. ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

    China is forecast to report its highest rice imports in several years at 4.75 million tons for 2021, primarily on increased demand for broken rice from India. With only 1 month of data remaining, China is unlikely to fill its tariff-rate quota (TRQ) for rice at 5.32 million tons, but nevertheless imports have grown substantially this year.

    Historically, most of the rice imported by China comes from Asian suppliers Vietnam, Burma, Pakistan, and Thailand. Aside from Burma, exports from these countries to China have all risen.

    Surprisingly, the surge in imports was in broken rice. In 2020, broken rice accounted for about one-third of total imports whereas in 2021, broken rice represents 52 percent of imports. Imports from Pakistan jumped from 300,000 tons to 800,000 tons in 2020 for January through November. During the same time, imports from Thailand jumped from 230,000 tons to 500,000 tons. More impressive is the volume of rice from India.

    In past years, China had not imported more than 50,000 tons of rice from India, as market access was restricted to basmati rice. However, after obtaining access for non-basmati rice, India has exported 1 million tons of broken rice to China in 2021. India’s competitive prices for broken rice relative to domestic prices in China and other competitors have encouraged imports by China.

    The broken rice is mainly used for animal feed as well as in rice-based liquor manufacturing and in snack food production. Affordable broken rice can be imported outside of the TRQ, avoiding a bureaucratic process. India has become the largest rice exporter to China, while China has become the fourth-largest market for India.

    Mali Imports More Rice Amid Exceptionally Small Crop

    Mali milled rice production is forecast to drop 15 percent in 2021/22 to 1.7 million tons. The decline in production is due to shrinking area harvested as well as reduced yields. Lower yields are caused by adverse weather events along with political instability which limits access to agricultural inputs in important growing regions.

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    For the 2021/2022 market year (October-September) Mali is forecast to boost imports sharply by over 80 percent to 550,000 tons to supplement tight domestic supplies. Historically, Mali imported between 250,000-300,000 tons annually from several suppliers including India, Thailand, Brazil, and occasionally the United States.

    Mali also imports rice from neighboring countries including Cote d’Ivoire, and more recently, Senegal, which exported a significant amount of rice to Mali (over 60,000 tons in 2021) for the first time in recent years. Despite higher imports, reduced domestic supplies and higher prices are expected to support a continued decline in overall consumption.

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