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A $10-billion bounty: Why rice is set to give India rich dividends

Rice is a staple food for over half the world’s population. It is also one the most cultivated grains on the planet and among the most popular crops in many Asian countries. All this is a blessing for India.

The country is endowed with the climatic conditions for the kharif crop, which has made it the biggest rice producer after China. When India emerged as a reliable agri exporter in meeting the world’s needs after Covid disrupted production and supply, it set the stage for its excellent performance in rice also.

According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), India’s share in global rice exports in 2020 stood at 30.7%, followed by Thailand at 14.5% and Vietnam at 10.2%. The value of global rice exports was $26.8 billion in that year. According to data analytics provider Statista, India was the highest rice exporter, at 18.75 million tonnes, in 2021-22. In the same period, Thailand and Vietnam came second at 6.5 million tonnes.

Thailand is in a tight race with Vietnam to be the second-largest global rice exporter, according to S&P Global. “No country will challenge India’s pre-eminent status as the world’s largest rice exporter … and the country is on course to represent around two-fifths of global rice exports in 2021,” the New York-based data and analytics company had noted.

The government's Second Advance Estimates for 2021-22 pegs the total production of rice at a record 127.93 million tonnes, which is higher by 11.49 million tonnes than the last five years' average production of 116.44 million tonnes.

In the first seven months of 2021-22, rice exports rose by more than 33% to 11.79 million tonnes (MT) from 8.91 MT in April-October 2020-21, says the Commerce Ministry. Given this segment’s promising growth, the government expects 2021-22 rice exports to surpass the record of 17.72 MT achieved in 2020-21.

According to the government data for non-basmati rice in 2021-22 — basmati’s numbers aren't available yet — exports rose by 27%. Non-basmati rice was the top forex earner among all agri-commodities.




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