Asia Rice-Ample supply, competing exporters push prices lower
* Supply rises in India, Vietnam
* Major exporters cut prices to attract buyers
* India becomes world's biggest exporter
BANGKOK, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Asian rice prices fell this week as supplies far exceeded demand, with top producers India, Pakistan and Vietnam competing with each other to attract business, traders said on Wednesday.
The 5 percent broken grade Vietnamese white rice was offered at $410 to $415 per tonne, down from last week's $420.
Common Indian and Pakistani grades were offered at $425 and $410 a tonne respectively, slightly lower than the $420 to $430 range of the previous week, the traders added.
"Export demand is sluggish, as rice supplies from Pakistan are available at least $10 per tonne cheaper than Indian supplies," said a Delhi-based trader.
Thai rice prices remained at a lofty $560 per tonne due to the government intervention scheme, further reducing exporters' chances of securing deals, especially as supplies from other countries were plentiful, traders said.
Vietnamese farmers are due to start harvesting next month the winter-spring rice crop in the Mekong Delta, the biggest of three crops grown in the area.
India, which maintains an unrestricted export policy, is expected to produce 99.5 million tonnes of rice in 2012/13, slightly lower than 104.3 million in the previous crop. It also has plentiful stocks of 34.4 million tonnes at government warehouses, against a target of 8.2 million.
India has taken the rank of the world's biggest rice exporter from Thailand for the first time since 1983, traders said. India's rice exports are expected to be around 8.5 million tonnes in the year to March 2013, an official of the All India Rice Exporters' Association.
The Thai government's policy of paying farmers higher-than-market prices of 15,000 baht ($490) per tonne of paddy has pushed prices to uncompetitively high levels and sharply reduced exports, leading to a huge inventories.
Traders forecast Thailand to have exported, at best, 6.8 million tonnes in 2012, below Vietnam's estimated 7.72 million.
No official export statistics are available from the Thai commerce ministry are available, as the data was removed from the ministry's website in October 2012 and officials refused to provide information.
Traders say the government was concealing the figures to stem questions about contracts it said it had signed to sell 7.3 million tonnes of rice to foreign governments, although all the supposed buyers denied having struck any deals. ($1=30.44 Thai baht)
(Additional reporting by Ratnajyoti Dutta in NEW DELHI and HANOI newsroom; Editing by Miral Fahmy)