China buys Indian rice for 1st time in decades as supplies tighten -India trade officials

MUMBAI, Dec 2 (Reuters) - China has started importing Indian rice for the first time in at least three decades due to tightening supplies and an offer from India of sharply discounted prices, Indian industry officials told Reuters.

India is the world's biggest exporter of rice and China is the biggest importer. Beijing imports around 4 million tonnes of rice annually but has avoided purchases from India, citing quality issues.

The breakthrough comes at a time when political tensions between the two countries are high because of a border dispute in the Himalayas.

"For the first time China has made rice purchases. They may increase buying next year after seeing the quality of Indian crop," said B.V. Krishna Rao, president of the Rice Exporters Association.

Indian traders have contracted to export 100,000 tonnes of broken rice for Dec-February shipments at around $300 per tonne, industry officials said.

China's traditional suppliers, such as Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Pakistan, have limited surplus supplies for export and were quoting at least $30 per tonne more compared with Indian prices, according to Indian rice trade officials.

(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Kenneth Maxwell)

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