Wires

Asia Rice-Indian export rates firm in muted holiday trade

Karthika Suresh Namboothiri

* India demand remains weak -exporter

* Vietnam 2019 rice exports likely to be up 2.5% from last year

* Bangladesh crops brace for cold spell

BENGALURU, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Indian rice export prices edged higher this week, buoyed by a stronger rupee and higher local paddy prices, while trade remained thin in rival hubs because of the holiday season.

Top exporter Indias 5% broken parboiled variety <RI-INBKN5-P1> was quoted around $362-$366 a tonne, up from last week's $360-$365.

The slight upturn was because of a strong rupee, which trims exporters' margins from overseas sales, though demand remains weak, said one exporter based at Kakinada in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

Last year New Delhi had raised the paddy rice purchase price by 3.7% to 1,815 rupees per 100 kg for the 2019/20 crop.

In Vietnam, rates for 5% broken rice <RI-VNBKN5-P1> were quoted at $360 a tonne on Thursday, little changed from last week's $355-$360.

"Trade is very thin at the moment as inventory has run low and many exporters are still on holiday," said a trader based in Ho Chi Minh City.

"Farmers in the country's largest rice-growing area, the Mekong Delta, are preparing land for the key winter-spring crop, which is expected to peak by the end of February," he added.

No new deals were clinched in the past two weeks, apart from those to fulfill signed contracts, another trader said.

Preliminary shipping data showed more than 100,000 tonnes of rice is to be loaded at Ho Chi Minh City port between Jan. 1 and Jan. 23, with most of it bound for West Africa, Iraq and South Korea.

Vietnam's rice exports in 2019 are forecast to be up 2.5% from a year earlier at 6.259 million tonnes, official data showed last week.

In Bangladesh, meanwhile, the rice crop could be hit by a prolonged cold spell, said senior agriculture ministry official Mizanur Rahman.

"The rice seedbeds are taking on a yellow tinge as sunlight is failing to reach them on the ground due to thick fog. If it persists for long, crops will be affected," he said.

Two cold spells hit the country over the past two weeks and another is expected in a few days.

Thailands rice-trading market was closed for most of the week because of the New Year holidays. (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Ruma Paul in Dhaka, Phuong Nguyen in Hanoi and Patpicha Tanakasempipat in Bangkok Editing by David Goodman )