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Oman has sufficient reserves of rice: official

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Muscat: The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Water Resources (MAFWR) has confirmed that the rice reserves of the Sultanate of Oman are not affected by the export bans imposed by India and Russia.

"The non-basmati white rice has been banned from exporting by India and Russia but this won't be a major problem as Oman also imports non-basmati rice from Pakistan and Thailand," an official spokesman said.

He said the Sultanate of Oman has sufficient reserves of white rice, which is consumed by some residents, and there is close cooperation between the government and the private sector.

He said rice is not cultivated in the Sultanate as it requires large amounts of water.

It may be noted that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) banned exporting rice a week after India issued its major prohibition on non-basmati rice exports.

The ban covers “various types of rice and their products that do not originate from India,” the ministry said in a statement.

Those who wish to export, or reexport non-Indian rice must submit an application to the ministry to obtain special permission, it continued. It was not specified why only Indian products aren't part of the temporary ban.

India ordered a halt to its largest rice export category in a move that will roughly halve shipments by the world's largest exporter of the grain, triggering fears of further inflation on global food markets.

The government said it was imposing a ban on non-basmati white rice after retail rice prices climbed 3% in a month after late but heavy heavy monsoon rains caused significant damage to crops.

India accounts for more than 40% of world rice exports, and low inventories with other exporters mean any cut in shipments could inflate food prices already driven up by Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year and erratic weather.

"In order to ensure adequate availability of non-basmati white rice in the Indian market and to allay the rise in prices in the domestic market, the government of India has amended the export policy," the food ministry said in a statement that cited an 11.5 percent increase in retail prices over 12 months.

The category impacted non-basmati white and broken rice, which accounted for around 10 million tons of a total of 22 million tons of Indian rice exports last year.

The government clarified late on Thursday that parboiled rice, which represented 7.4 million tons of exports in 2022, was not included in the ban.

"India would disrupt the global rice market with far greater velocity than Ukraine did in the wheat market with Russia's invasion," B.V. Krishna Rao, president of the Rice Exporters Association told Reuters.

Rice is a staple for more than 3 billion people, and nearly 90% of the water-intensive crop is produced in Asia, where the El Nino weather pattern usually brings lower rainfall. Global prices are already hovering at their highest level in 11 years.

"The sudden ban on exports would be very painful for the buyers, who can't replace the shipments from any other country," Rao said.

While Thailand and Vietnam don't have enough inventories to plug the shortfall, African buyers would be most affected by India's decision, Rao said, adding that many countries will urge New Delhi to resume shipments. Other top buyers of Indian rice include Benin, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Togo, Guinea, Bangladesh, and Nepal.

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