Asia Rice-Thai rates bounce to 7-yr high as virus limits exports from other hubs
* Philippines secures Vietnam commitment to continuous rice supply
* Thai rates jump to $560-$570/t this week from $468-$495/t
* Bangladesh domestic rice prices hit 2-year high
By Swati Verma
BENGALURU, April 2 (Reuters) - Thai rice export prices soared to their highest in seven years this week on expectations of a sales boost after top exporter India went into a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus and main rival Vietnam temporarily banned new export contracts.
Thailand's benchmark 5% broken white rice <RI-THBKN5-P1> was quoted around $560-$570 per tonne on Thursday, its highest level since April 2013.
"The situation in Vietnam, India, and Cambodia have us prepared for the unexpected, so Thai rice prices are going up and up," a Bangkok-based trader said.
"Where is anyone going to buy rice now if not from Thailand?"
Cambodia said on Monday it will ban exports of white rice and paddy rice to ensure local food security during the coronavirus pandemic.
But even as anticipation of demand ran high among Thai exporters and traders, they said they were afraid higher prices might discourage regular customers.
Thai prices jumped from $468-$495 per tonne quoted last week on speculation that the Philippines might have to import some rice from Thailand to meet its target of 300,000 tonnes announced on Tuesday, traders said.
But later on Thursday, the world's top rice buyer, the Philippines, said it has secured Vietnam's commitment for continuous supply of the staple food.
The announcement came even as Vietnam banned signing new export contracts under a review to ensure domestic supplies are sufficient during the coronavirus outbreak.
"We are still waiting for the final decision from the prime minister to lift the ban so that we can resume rice shipments as domestic supplies are abundant," a trader based in Ho Chi Minh City said.
Rates for 5% broken rice <RI-VNBKN5-P1> were unavailable for a second straight week.
Bangladesh will begin selling cut-price rice from next week to help the poor as domestic prices of the staple grain hit two-year high amid panic buying due to the virus fears.
Millions of marginalized people are in a tight spot amid the nationwide lockdown that has been extended to April 11 to combat the virus' spread.
Indian rice exporters were not quoting prices this week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a 21-day nationwide lockdown on March 24 to protect India's 1.3 billion people from the fast-spreading coronavirus.
Top exporter India's 5 percent broken parboiled variety <RI-INBKN5-P1> was quoted $361-$365 per tonne last week, its lowest in three months.
Exporters were not operating this week due to the lockdown, said a Mumbai-based exporter. (Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat in Bangkok, Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Ruma Paul in Dhaka and Khanh Vu in Hanoi; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel)
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