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NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: India’s rice stocks were at nearly three times its target at the start of August, two government sources in the world’s second biggest producer country said on Thursday.

Coupled with the new season crop that is due to start trickling into the market by October, the surplus will raise market hopes of New Delhi relaxing a recent export ban.

The world’s biggest rice exporter last month ordered a surprise halt to non-basmati white rice exports, its largest category, driving prices to multi-year highs. Indian rice stocks, including unmilled husk varieties at state warehouses, totalled 37.6 million metric tons on Aug 1, the sources told Reuters. “We are quite comfortable in rice,” said one of the sources, who asked not to be identified.

“We are in the tail end of the 2022-23 rice marketing year, and as you can see, our stocks are more than adequate. And then the next crop the round the corner.” Stocks held as of Aug 1 include 24.6 million metric tons of rice and 13 million metric tons of the unmilled variety, the sources said. State-run warehouses must have 13.5 million metric tons of rice, including strategic reserves of 2 million metric tons for the quarter beginning July 1, according to local government rules. Indian farmers, who typically start planting rice in the rainy months of June and July, will start harvesting the new season crop from October.

New season purchases by India’s state-run Food Corporation of India (FC), the main state-run grain buyer, would bump up rice inventories at state granaries.

FCI bought 84.6 million metric tons of rice paddy from domestic farmers during the 2022-23 marketing year, yielding around 57 million metric tons of rice. Indian farmers harvested a record 135.5 million metric tons of rice in 2022-23, according to the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare. Indian farmers have planted 23.7 million hectares with summer-sown rice so far, according to the farm ministry’s latest data, up 1.71% year-on-year, as crucial monsoon rains revived in July and helped farmers accelerate sowing.

India is likely to receive below-average rainfall in August due to the El Nino weather pattern, after an above-average monsoon in July helped farmers accelerate crop planting. Still, rice-growing states in eastern India could receive surplus rainfall in August, according to the weather office.

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