ASIA RICE-Indian prices gain, higher Thai prices dampen demand

* India rates at $385-$391/t vs $383-$390 last week

* Bangladesh could buy more rice from India - official

By Eileen Soreng

Jan 21 (Reuters) - Export prices for rice in India edged higher this week on robust demand from other Asian countries, while strong Thai rates softened demand for its staple.

Top exporter India's 5% broken parboiled variety <RI-INBKN5-P1> was quoted at $385-$391 per tonne this week, up from last week's $383-$390.

Asian buyers have been making purchases of 5% broken for human consumption and 100% broken for feed purpose, said an exporter based in Kakinada, in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Bangladesh is ramping up efforts to replenish its depleted reserves after last year's floods ravaged its crops and sent prices to a record high.

"We could buy more rice from India in state-to-state deals while we continue buying through tenders. At the same time, private traders are being allowed to import rice," said Mosammat Nazmanara Khanum, the top civil servant at the country's food ministry, told Reuters.

Thailand's benchmark 5% broken rice <RI-THBKN5-P1> prices were quoted at $520-$526 per tonne on Thursday, little changed from last week's $520-$525.

Traders say the exchange rate remains the main factor behind high prices for Thai rice against competitors like India and Vietnam and has muted overseas demand, while supply remains steady.

Vietnam's 5% broken rice <RI-VNBKN5-P1> were unchanged at $500-$505 per tonne on Thursday.

"Domestic prices are still high, and we expect prices to ease when the harvest is in full swing," a trader based in Ho Chi Minh City said.

"Exporters are buying moderately from farmers while waiting for the ongoing winter-spring harvest to peak."

Traders said domestic unhusked paddy prices in the Mekong Delta range from 6.8 million dong ($294.88) to 7.2 million dong ($312.23) per tonnes on Thursday, unchanged from a week ago.

The Philippines will continue to be Vietnam's key rice export market this year, they said.

Tightening global supplies of basic foodstuffs and disruptions to shipping caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are driving up the cost of rice. ($1 = 23,060.0000 dong) (Reporting by Khanh Vu in Hanoi, Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Ruma Paul in Dhaka, Panu Wongcha-um in Bangkok; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)

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