Iraq keen on sourcing basmati from India

Written by Sandip Das | Huma Siddiqui | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 3 2013, 07:53am hrs
After Iran emerging as India's biggest export destination for basmati, Iraq has also shown interest in increasing the quantum of aromatic long-grain rice import from the country.

This could result in a jump in aromatic rice exports in the next two years.

Official sources told FE when external affairs minister Salman Khurshid met Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari in Baghdad recently, both leaders discussed ways to strengthen economic engagement, which included trade in basmati.

According to officials in the ministry of external affairs, Iraq is keen on procuring more rice from India and this is expected to be discussed at length at the 17th Joint Commission Meeting scheduled to be held on July 8-9 in Baghdad.

According to All India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA) data, India's Basmati rice exports to Iran was in excess of 1 million tonne during 2012-13, while shipment to Iraq was only about two lakh tonne. There is a huge scope of increasing rice exports to Iraq as consumers their have preferred rice imported from India, Vijay Setia, former president, AIREA told FE.

Setia said exports to Iran constitute more than 40% of the total country's basmati rice exports. If Iraq starts sourcing more basmati from India, it could push the country's rice exports further.

An industry source said with more than 10% rise in exports to Iran anticipated in the current fiscal, the cumulative basmati rice exports from the country is likely to touch 3.4 million tonne (mt) during current fiscal from close to 3 mt of shipment during 2012-13.

From an exports of about 2 lakh tonne in 2008-9, the shipment to Iran crossed the million-tonne mark last fiscal and exporters are banking on repeating the same for Iraq as well. Iranian consumers have been favouring Indian basmati over any other rice. Iran annually imports about 3 mt of rice from India and this includes non-basmati rice shipment also, a commerce ministry official noted. Besides Iran, other key destinations for basmati rice during last last few years are Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq.

We are expected to get around Rs 17,000 crore from basmati rice exports in the last fiscal, a commerce ministry official said. In 2011-12, the country shipped aromatic and long-grained rice worth Rs 15,450 crore. India emerged as the worlds largest exporter of rice (both basmati and non-basmati) during 2011-12 and 2012-13, with close to 10 mt of rice exports. Thailand exported 6.9 mt of rice, falling behind India and Vietnam, which sold 7.8 mt in 2011-12.