The price of non-basmati rice, which is consumed by more than 80% of the Indian population, has shot up by 10-15% since January, as Bangladesh has started buying large volumes of rice from India.
On the contrary, the price of potato, the staple vegetable, has fallen by more than 65% at the retail markets since the beginning of the year, due to over production in the two major producing states of Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Bangladesh had reduced import duty on rice to 25% from 62.5% in December, paving the way for Indian rice exporters to ship non-basmati rice to the neighbouring country and fetch better prices for the grain. Bangladesh is expected to import about 500,000 tonnes of non-basmati rice in this financial year. It has also already tied up with a few Indian rice exporters to import rice.
“The wholesale price of commonly consumed non-basmati rice which was at Rs 27 per kg in December has gone up to Rs 31 per kg, a rise of 15% in January. At the retail level, consumers are buying it at Rs 36 per kg. The same trend is continuing in February as well,” said Suraj Agarwal, chief executive of Tirupati Agri Trade.
Exports of non-basmati rice have remained strong in fiscal 2021. Shipments more than doubled in value to Rs 22,856 crore during April-December from Rs 10,268 crore a year earlier, according to commerce ministry data.
India exports non-basmati rice to markets like Nepal, Benin, the UAE, Somalia, Guinea, the US and many other countries in Asia and Europe.
Though the price of rice is moving northwards, that of potato is moving southwards. A kilo of potato is now selling at Rs 15, as compared to Rs 36–40 in November–December.
Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are staring at a huge production of the tuber as the weather has been favourable for the crop. West Bengal’s production is expected to be around 115 lakh tonnes compared to 90 lakh tonnes last year.
Arvind Agarwal, president of the Uttar Pradesh Cold Storage Association, said: “Production will be higher this year and prices will remain soft. Already prices have fallen. In the Farukhabad potato market, prices are down by Rs 40 per kg. The farmgate price is now Rs 5.50 to Rs 6 per kg. last year prices went up as people stocked the tuber in fear of the pandemic-induced lockdown.”
Guessing a bumper harvest, the West Bengal government has decided to allow cold storage owners to purchase at least 10 lakh tonnes of the tuber from farmers at a fixed price, so that they do not have to suffer losses.