India’s rice heads to Beijing now

New Delhi: China is set to import Indian basmati and non-basmati rice for the first time, said millers and traders who have started getting inquiries from buyers from the neighbouring nation.

Beijing has already cleared 19 Indian rice companies to buy rice from. India exports 4 million tonnes of aromatic basmati rice a year and expects that to grow 5% this year with the opening of the new market, traders said. The country ships another 8.5 million tonnes of non-basmati rice to international markets.

“Trading companies like Louis Dreyfus, Cofco Agri and regional players like Beijing Guchuan Rice Mills and Nice Foods are keen to import basmati, nonbasmati and even broken rice from India. It is a good development for Indian rice companies and farmers,” said Vijay Setia, president of the All India Rice Exporters Association.

Kohinoor Foods, LT Foods, KRBL, Lalitha Enterprises Industries, Sriram Foods and Gajanan Rice Mills are among companies which have the permission to export to China and are already in talks with buyers.

The trade expects four more Indian companies to get clearance to export post China’s General Administration of Customs and state-owned food processing company Cofco making an inspection of Indian mills, said BV Krishna Rao, managing director of Pattabhi Agro Foods. “It’s a great opportunity and a huge market to tap into. With large disposable incomes, the consumer is looking for quality product.” China wants freshly milled rice which is soft and sticky, said Setia. “Initially, we will export 300 tonnes for trial with demand largely to be from Indian diaspora and restaurants.”

The trade sees major demand in the east coast of China: Shanghai and Guangzhou, from Arabs, Iranians and Indians.

India has been pitching agriculture products, from rice to sugar, for export to China to bridge a widening trade deficit. In April this year, PM Modi visited China. In May, officials from China inspected rice mills that are keen to export basmati and non-basmati rice to their country.