Rains delay India corn exports, tighten Asia supplies
* Indian corn exports hit by wetter-than-normal weather
* Delays 500,000 T of corn shipments to Southeast Asia
* South America may sell more due to India hold ups
SINGAPORE/MUMBAI, June 14 (Reuters) - Rains across India's eastern crop belt are holding up shipments of corn, tightening feed grain supplies in Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Top South American suppliers Brazil and Argentina, which have produced bumper crops this year, are likely to take advantage of the delay to sell larger volumes to Southeast Asian buyers that typically rely on India.
Widespread rains since the beginning of May in India's main winter crop producing state of Bihar have disrupted around 500,000 tonnes of corn shipments that traders have sold to feed millers in Southeast Asia.
"Normally we get the supplies from Bihar in May and June but that hasn't happened this year," said a Singapore-based trader with an international trading company.
"It is unprecedented as we have sold Indian corn to our customers but we are not able to fulfil our commitments."
India, Asia's top corn exporter, produces two corn crops a year. The winter-planted crop usually enters the market in May and contributes 2.5 to 3 million tonnes to the nation's annual output of around 20 to 22 million tonnes.
Indian exporters said the rains were also reducing the quality of corn, which could have a longer-term impact on exports.
"Rains in Bihar have deteriorated the quality of the crop and supplies have come down sharply," said Kanhaiyalal Agarwal, a grain trader based in the southern city of Bangalore.
"The percentage of damage could increase further if rains continue."
There are eight to 10 ships waiting to carry some 250,000 tonnes of corn at the southeastern port of Visakhapatnam, said another trader in Singapore, adding that trading houses were trying to arrange supplies from alternative origins but that was difficult.
"We are sure supplies from Brazil and Argentina will fill the gap but getting cargoes from South America is not easy because of the huge line (of ships waiting)."
Global importers have already become heavily reliant on South American corn this year as U.S. stocks are the tightest in years. Late planting in the United States and a likely later-than-normal harvest there have increased demand for Argentine and Brazilian crops.
Argentina produced 26.5 million tonnes of corn in 2012/13, up more than a quarter from 21 million tonnes a year ago, while Brazil's output rose to 77 million tonnes from 73 million tonnes a year earlier, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
India has so far shipped just 200,000 tonnes from the winter-planted crop as farms across Bihar face monsoon rains which were 41 percent above normal until June 12.
"Most of the supply from Bihar is going to the starch industry as it is not appropriate for exports because of the high moisture content," said Neelkanth Thakkar, an exporter at Mumbai-based Vijaya Enterprises.
Ample annual monsoon rains have covered half of India two days ahead of the usual date and more hefty downpours are expected next week, weather experts say.
Tightening supplies have pushed up Indian corn prices to around $300 a tonne, including cost and freight, to Southeast Asia, up around $20-$30 from May. Argentine corn is being offered at between $270 and $280 a tonne.
But the rains will ultimately benefit farmers by proving ample soil moisture for the main crop which will be planted in July and harvested in November.
"These rains are good for the summer sowing operations and we expect a better crop than last year," Agarwal said.
(Editing by Joseph Radford)