Despite Indian rice export fears, UAE traders confirm stocks for 3 months

Supply chain disruptions in exporting countries due to lockdowns will not hit Ramadan

A farmer winnows rice in a field on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, November 4, 2016.

A farmer winnows rice in a field on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, November 4, 2016.


Traders told Zawya that importers and distributors of rice in the UAE are well supplied with stocks for over three months, allaying fears that the staple food of many resident communities in the country could be in short supply on account of the coronavirus-related lockdowns in many exporting countries.

UAE imports rice from Thailand, Vietnam, India and Pakistan to cater to the tastes of the different communities. From India, the main imports are the prized fragrant rice, basmati, and white rice.

A news report last week said Indian rice traders have stopped signing new export contracts amid the lockdown in the country to curb the spread of coronavirus. Labour shortages and logistics disruptions have hampered the delivery of even existing contracts, it added.

Priyanka Mittal, director at KRBL Ltd, one of the world's largest rice millers and basmati rice exporters, said her company had begun planning for the crisis in January, asking all distributors to hold excess stock as the UAE is a big market for them.

“As far as the supply chain is concerned our distributors are sufficiently stocked up with products and I am quite confident that there will not come a point when there will be a deficit or a shortage,” she said in an emailed response to Zawya.

“Moreover, work at our plants is still on and therefore we will continue to produce and export,” she added. India-based KRBL also has a subsidiary in Dubai’s DMCC.

UAE imports 90 percent of its food and is amongst the highest spenders on food in the world. According to Alpen Capital, the per capita food spend in 2016  was $2,950, which is 23 percent higher than in the US and same as the average person’s spend in Bahrain and Kuwait combined.

The country, which recently set up a Food Security Council, last month, approved a law organizing strategic stocks of food commodities in emergencies, amidst rising global fears for food supplies due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sufficient stocks for Ramadan

When the holy month of Ramadan starts later in April, consumer spending on food and beverages is expected to rise. While observant consumers refrain from eating during the daylight hours, after sundown it is customary for families and friends to gather for Iftar banquets.

“Ramadan is a crucial time for us, as the demand for rice increases prior to the holy month. We, therefore, start preparing much in advance to ensure there is sufficient stock before and during the time,” Mittal said.

According to a Reuters report citing exporters, about 400,000 tonnes of non-basmati rice and 100,000 tonnes of basmati rice, meant for March-April delivery, are either stuck at ports or in the pipeline due to the lockdown.

However, local traders told Zawya that stocks had already been containerized in Indian ports before the disruption to the supply chain began and labour shortages led to a slowdown in handling.

Kamal Vachani, group director, Al Maya Group, a Dubai-based supermarket operator told Zawya: “There’s ample stock of all varieties of rice in the country and there’s no cause for any concern.”

Other traders in Dubai echoed his confidence. “There is enough physical stock of Indian rice with UAE traders to last three-four months,” Harish Tahiliani, Managing Director at Arab India Spices, a Dubai-based trading company, told Zawya.

“Initially, prices rose as people resorted to some panic buying in the first week. But after the intervention of the economic department, prices have been stabilized,” he added.

(Reporting by Brinda Darasha, editing by Seban Scaria)



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© ZAWYA 2020

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