In its August 2022 food security update, the World Bank noted how there are growing concerns throughout the world about the possibility of an Indian ban on rice exports. It stated that “exporters are rushing swiftly to open letters of credit and have signed contracts to export 1 million tonnes of rice from June through September 2022, fearing that export limitations may be introduced (as has been done for wheat).” But are these worries valid? Is there any need to be concerned about Indian rice? Our calculations indicate that, despite the fact that India’s food security is not immediately under danger, the potential for Indian rice exports this year may be limited.
About 130.29 million metric tonnes (MMTs) of rice were produced in India in 2021–2022. This was produced in the Kharif season (sown in June/July and harvested in November/December), accounting for around 86 percent of the total (or about 112 MMTs). During the Rabi season, the remaining 14% was generated in the winter.
The demand and supply forecasts made by NITI Aayog predict that India will consume 108 to 109 MMTs of rice in 2022–2023. In addition to the government’s central pool of rice stocks, the private sector also keeps certain stocks of the grain that are moved between harvest years. However, if we assume for the purpose of understanding that there were no opening or shutting rice stocks, it seems that the nation produced a surplus of roughly 22 MMTs last year (130.29 – 108.28). This was roughly the quantity of rice shipped from the nation the previous year. This won’t always be the case, though, as stocks at the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and in the private sector are crucial to India’s rice production.
India’s rice harvest is having issues this year.
Lower paddy production and acreage are being reported in the news this year. However, more than simply the geographical coverage has decreased from the previous year. There are instances of transplanted paddy crops drying out in fields, mostly as a result of inadequate irrigation. There appear to be three causes for this, among others. First, in the three states that cultivate the majority of India’s paddy—West Bengal, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh—deficit rains have been seen. Second, the Southern Rice Black Streaked Dwarf Virus (SRBSDV) assault that causes dwarfism in rice plants, and third, more lucrative price incentives for related commodities like soybean and cotton.
India’s primary harvesting season, Kharif, depends on monsoon rainfall. According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, assured irrigation covers over 52% of the gross cultivated area in India. This suggests that 48% of the land is directly dependent on monsoon rains for irrigation. Rains are required, even in irrigated areas, to lessen reliance on diesel and energy. So, if there is a significant rainfall deficit, crop productivity and cultivation costs will undoubtedly suffer.
India’s monsoon rains are currently 7% over their long-term average figure as of August 29, 2022. (LPA). It’s interesting to note that the LPA value has been lowered this year as a result of declining Indian monsoon rain volumes over time. Despite an excellent monsoon statistic for all of India, there have been insufficient precipitation in six states and union territories. These states include Uttar Pradesh, which has a 44% rain deficit, Bihar, which has a 39% deficit, Jharkhand, which has a 26% deficit, Manipur, which has a 44% deficit, Tripura, which has a 28% deficit, and Delhi (deficit of 31 per cent). West Bengal also fit into this category up till recently. Though a recent uptick of rain has increased its rain measure, though it still shows a deficit of about 18 per cent.
In addition to shortfalls, this monsoon season has also witnessed instances of floods, such as in Madhya Pradesh, and rains that have been more intense and fallen over a shorter period of time, such as in Maharashtra.
Many farmers in regions like Bihar and UP have switched to shorter-duration paddy types to make up for the lost time, and many have even switched to growing pulses like moong that require less water for irrigation. All of this has caused acreage to decline and estimates for paddy yields to be lower this year.
About 10% of India’s paddy is grown in Punjab, and scientists have not yet decided how the virus may affect rice production.
Overall, it seems likely that this year’s paddy harvest in India would be less than previous year’s. According to media sources and current market assessments, the loss might range from 10% to 15%.