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BANGKOK/DHAKA/ MUMBAI: Export prices of rice from Thailand were little changed this week due to shipping constraints despite an uptick in demand, while Bangladesh allowed private exports and slashed import duties to tame soaring domestic rates for the staple.

Thailand’s 5percent broken rice was quoted at $390-$400 per tonne, versus the $390-$403 range last week.

While low prices have marginally boosted demand from longtime buyers in the Middle East, a scarcity of ships arriving at Thai ports remain a challenge, traders based in Bangkok said.

“At these prices, buyers are interested, but there are no ships,” a trader said.

Thailand exported 2.59 million tonnes of rice between January and July this year, down 22percent from the same time last year.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh, traditionally a major producer which has emerged as a big importer of the grain after repeated flooding laid waste to crops last year, allowed private traders to bring in 1.7 million tonnes of rice.

“Most of the rice will be imported from India due to proximity, but Indian prices could go up due to demand from Bangladesh,” a Dhaka-based trader said.

“Freight rate is also minimal compared to Thailand or Vietnam. Besides, traders can import rice via road route as well,” the trader said. Imported rice has already started entering Bangladesh through land ports.

The country imported 1.3 million tonnes in the year to June, the highest in three years.

Prices of top exporter India’s 5percent broken parboiled variety extended gains to $358-$363 per tonne, from last week’s $355-$360 on a slight uptick in improvement in demand and on gains in rupee. “Rupee has been consistently appreciating and putting pressure on our margins. We have no choice but to raise prices,” said an exporter based at Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh state.

Vietnam was closed on Thursday for a public holiday.

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