Defying Covid blues, India exported a record 19.8 million tonne (MT) of rice and wheat in FY21 on the back of attractive overseas prices of the commodities and massive surplus production at home. Brimming official inventory (mainly for welfare programmes) also ensured that no export curb was imposed by the government in a pandemic year.
Rice exports almost doubled to an all-time high of 17.7 MT last fiscal, against 9.5 MT a year ago. Similarly, wheat exports surged to 2.1 MT in FY21, the highest since FY15 and compared with just 0.2 MT in the previous year, showed the official data.
There was an almost 4% increase in basmati exports to 4.45 MT and a 160% surge in non-basmati to 13.09 MT in FY21, according to data with Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda). In value terms, while the non-basmati rice segment more than doubled to $4.8 billion ( Rs 35,448 crore), even higher than basmati, there is a drop of 7% to $4 billion (Rs 29,849 crore) in shipments of aromatic varieties.
Demand for wheat, non-basmati rice and other cereals is likely to rise further, M Angamuthu, chairman of Apeda, told FE on Monday.
On the back of rising international prices, Indian cereal export became more viable, particularly that of wheat. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s global cereal price index is currently ruling at 125.1, highest since May 2014.
Wheat futures at the Chicago Board of Trade jumped 12.3% during FY21 to close at $6.18 a bushel on March 31, 2021. Indian wheat is being contracted at $280-285 a tonne against Australian available at $290-300 and Ukraine’s $270-280 for Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, West Asian countries.
“We ensured supplies were not disrupted due to lockdown as all concerned government agencies provided necessary support to exporters and facilitated physical movement. While regulatory compliances were minimised, there was no compromise on quality,” Angamuthu had said.
Meanwhile, official grain inventory, too, remain elevated. According to Food Corporation of India, the official reserves had 77.23 MT of grains as of April 1, up 4.6% from a year earlier. The stocks were almost four times of the overall buffer and strategic reserve requirements.