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SINGAPORE: Asian rice trade paused on Friday to digest the previous day’s ban by India, by far the world’s biggest supplier, of a major share of its exports of the staple, with prices expected to climb substantially in coming days, three traders said.

India, which accounts for 40% of world rice exports, on Thursday ordered a halt to its largest rice export category to reduce domestic prices, which have climbed to multi-year highs in recent weeks as erratic weather threatens production.

“Rice prices are going to go up further in the export market. We expect a minimum gain of around $50 a metric ton and it could be $100 or even more,” said one Singapore-based trader at an international trading company.

“Right now, everybody - sellers as well as buyers - are waiting to see how much the market goes up,” the trader said. Two other traders, one in Singapore and the other in Bangkok, said they expected a similar gain in prices.

The traders declined to be identified as they are not authorised to speak to media.

“We haven’t heard of any trades done today but buyers will have to pay higher prices to get cargoes as India’s decision has taken out large volumes from the market,” the second Singapore trader said.

India’s decision to ban rice exports coincides with strong gains in the global wheat market that have sparked renewed concerns over red-hot food prices.

Global wheat prices jumped more than 10% this week, their biggest weekly gain in more than 16 months as Russian attacks on Ukrainian ports raised worries over global supply.

Rice is a staple for more than 3 billion people, and nearly 90% of the water-intensive crop is produced in Asia, where the dry El Nino weather pattern is likely to curb supplies.

Rice prices in top exporting countries had been rising on expectations of India’s ban.

Vietnam’s 5% broken rice was offered at $515-$525 per metric ton, its highest since 2011, before India’s late-Thursday announcement.

India’s 5% broken parboiled variety hovered this week near a five-year peak at $421-$428 per metric ton and Thailand’s 5% broken rice prices jumped to $545 per metric ton - their highest since February 2021.

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