BENGALURU: Rice export prices in India edged higher this week, helped by an uptick in demand, while a strong Thai baht propped up prices in the world's second largest rice exporter amid subdued consumption.

In India, the top exporter of the staple grain, 5 percent broken parboiled variety was quoted around $369-$372 per tonne this week, up from last week's $367-$370.

“We are seeing interest building up from west African markets," said Nitin Gupta, vice president for Olam India's rice business.

Farmers have planted summer-sown rice on 630,000 hectares as of June 21, down 32% compared with the same period a year ago, according to provisional data from the Ministry of Agriculture, as the monsoon delivered less-than-average rainfall.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Bangladesh had been unable to strike a deal since its ban on rice exports was lifted a month ago, officials said.

“So far there is no progress in making any deal. We are exploring markets. Let's see," a senior food ministry official said.

Bangladesh lifted its longstanding ban on rice exports in May, aiming to sell as much as 1.5 million tonnes to support farmers following a drastic drop in domestic prices.

Thailand's benchmark 5 percent broken rice prices rose to $395-$415 a tonne, free on board Bangkok (FOB), compared with $390-$407 last week.

Traders attributed the price increase to a firm Thai baht, which has strengthened more than 5% against the greenback so far this year.

Traders say supply of Thai rice is also gradually decreasing during the rainy season, while demand remained flat.

“There were concerns about drought earlier this year which has caused a delay to the new crop," a Bangkok-based rice trader said.

“We are now expecting a new batch of rice to enter the market around August or slightly later."

In Vietnam, the third biggest rice exporter after Thailand, rates for 5 percent broken rice were unchanged from last week at $340-$345 a tonne.

“We have begun delivering rice to Iraq under a contract signed earlier for 150,000 tonnes for delivery this month and next," a trader based in Ho Chi Minh City said.

However, Vietnam's rice exporters will continue to face difficulty clinching new deals during the rest of this year on weaker demand from China, its largest rice export market, the ministry of industry and trade said in a statement this week.

Vietnam's rice shipments to China in the first five months of this year fell 74% from a year earlier to 223,078 tonnes due to China's rising inventories and its move to impose stricter non-tariff barriers, according to the statement.

Copyright Reuters, 2019