Saudi Arabia talks with India to procure rice

May 20th, 2008 - 5:23 pm ICT by admin  

Dubai, May 20 (IANS) Saudi Arabia is in touch with Indian authorities seeking lifting of the ban on rice exports to the Gulf nation following shortage of the commodity. “The Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry is currently in touch with Indian officials on the issue of rice imports,” Rajeev Shahare, deputy chief of the Indian mission in Riyadh, told the Arab News newspaper.

“Moreover, the whole issue of Indian rice exports to the Kingdom was discussed at length when Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of India’s Planning Commission, visited the kingdom (earlier this month),” he was quoted as saying.

India had banned exports of all non-basmati rice in March this year to meet domestic demand.

Even as they negotiate with India to secure rice imports, importers from both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have approached Thailand to secure rice imports.

“Saudi rice imports from Thailand rose by nearly 90 percent during the first quarter of 2008, indicating a massive surge in imports,” Charn Jullamon, charge d’affaires at the Thailand embassy in Riyadh, told the newspaper.

Though no official Saudi agency has got in touch with Thai authorities, there have been reports that the country was likely to start investing in rice farms in Thailand by the end of this year.

One of the top rice buyers in the world, Saudi Arabia imports about 625,000 tonnes of basmati annually, of which 575,000 tonnes come from India.

The country is home to around 1.56 million expatriate Indians.

Last month, during a visit to Dubai, India’s Commerce Minister Kamal Nath said the rice situation was still difficult in India and further action would be taken only when it became normal.

When it was pointed out that the large expatriate Indian community in the Gulf was suffering because of the rice export ban, he told reporters: “We are awaiting the next crop and then we will discuss the matter (of exporting rice) internally.”

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