By Arpan Varghese
BENGALURU (Reuters) - Rice farmers in Bangladesh grappled with a double whammy of floods and low demand for their produce this week, while export prices for the grain's Vietnamese variety rose on fresh interest from Philippines and Africa.
Meanwhile, rice export prices from India and Thailand were little changed, amid concerns scant rainfall could hurt crops.
Bangladesh, which has historically relied on imports to meet shortages, could be faced with a huge loss of paddy as vast swathes of land have been submerged by floods, agriculture ministry officials said, who did not want to be named as they are not authorised to speak to the media.
Flooding has killed at least 153 people in India, Nepal and Bangladesh and affected millions this year.
Bangladesh has also been unable to clinch deals since a ban on rice exports was lifted in May.
The country's food ministry ordered district administrators to ensure procurement of paddy directly from farmers to meet a government target of 400,000 tonnes.
Market insiders, however, said the move would not benefit most growers in dire need of cash, since they were compelled to sell their crop to millers or middlemen at much cheaper rates.
In 2017, the country was forced to massively increase imports to shore up reserves after floods destroyed crops and pushed local prices to records, but domestic stocks have since greatly improved.
In Vietnam, rates for 5% broken rice rose to $350 a tonne on Thursday from $335-$340 last week.
"Exporters are increasing purchases from local farmers for deals signed earlier, mostly with customers in the Philippines and Africa," a Ho Chi Minh City-based trader said.
Also, with the summer-autumn harvest in the Mekong Delta ending soon, there are concerns of lower supply, another trader said.
Vietnam's rice exports in the first half of 2019 fell 3.6% from a year earlier to 3.36 million tonnes, as per customs data.
Meanwhile, prices for the 5% broken parboiled variety from top exporter India were unchanged around $374-$377 per tonne, amid modest demand from buyers in Africa.
Many rice-growing states have received lower-than normal rainfall and it could hurt the summer-sown crop yield, said an exporter based at Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh.
India's monsoon rains were 20% below average in the week ending Wednesday, raising concerns over output.
Second biggest exporter Thailand saw its benchmark 5% broken white rice quoted around $401-$402 a tonne on Thursday, free-on-board Bangkok (FOB), narrowing from $390-$404 last week.
Demand was slow, amid worries that scant rainfall will hamper crops going into the upcoming off-season harvest, traders said.
Thai rice exports have also been hit by a strong baht this year, falling 12% in the first half of 2019.
(Reporting by Ruma Paul in Dhaka, Khanh Vu in Hanoi, Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Patpicha Tanakasempipat in Bangkok; additional reporting by Anjishnu Mondal in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)