Vietnam's Jan-April rice exports fall to 9-year low - govt

By VnExpress   May 3, 2017 | 02:56 pm GMT+7

Despite falling shipments and a smaller crop, Vietnamese rice prices remained stable over the past month and were cheaper than Thai rice.

Vietnam exported an estimated 1.84 million tons of the grain in the first four months of this year, down nearly 9 percent from a year ago and the lowest volume for the same period in nine years, the government said.

April shipments were estimated at 550,000 tons from the world's third largest rice exporter, up 21 percent from a year ago and similar to March when volume hit its highest monthly level in a year, the General Statistics Office said in its monthly report released at the weekend. 

January-April's shipment volume was the lowest since 2008, based on government data. 

Low export volume in the first two months of 2017 pulled down the four-month average. Vietnam exported 337,000 tons in January and 402,700 tons in February, below the monthly average of 409,000 tons last year, based on government statistics.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture report late last month said preferential import taxes in Eastern European countries and Russia and an extended supply agreement with the Philippines may help boost Vietnam's rice exports this year by around 9 percent to 6 million tons.

Smaller harvest

The Mekong Delta food basket has finished harvesting its key winter-spring rice crop, with paddy output easing 2 percent from last year to 9.8 million tons, the statistics office said.

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Rice being dried in the Mekong Delta. Photo by VnExpress/Cuu Long

The agriculture ministry blamed higher rainfall for the lower output.

The winter-spring crop is the delta's largest among the three crops it grows each year, and most of the grain is exported.

Despite a slightly smaller crop, Vietnam's rice export prices stood stable at the end of last month and were cheaper than Thai grain. The Vietnamese benchmark 5-percent broken grade stood at $350 a ton, free-on-board (FOB) Saigon Port, little changed from $347-$350 at the end of March.

Thai rice of similar grade stood at $360-$375 a ton, FOB Bangkok, at the end of April, Reuters cited Thai traders as saying, while the Thai Rice Exporters Association priced the 5-percent broken grade at $387 a ton on April 26, FOB basis, up 3.5 percent from a month ago.