Vietnam Q1 rice exports may fall by a third: newspaper

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Vietnam rice exports could fall by as much as 41 percent in the first quarter this year, or 1.2 million tons, local media reported on Friday, on thin demand and stockpile plans to support prices.

The forecast underlines a sluggish market as both foreign buyers and Vietnamese exporters, who have been allocated shipments for the Philippines at high prices, are waiting for further price falls at the peak of a major harvest, traders said.

On Thursday the world's top two rice exporters, Thailand and Vietnam respectively, moved aggressively to stop local and export sales for a few months and build stockpiles to support prices during their harvests.

Thailand's rice stocks could grow to 8 million tons from 6 million tons on a plan announced Thursday while Vietnam may store a fifth of the forecast 10 million tons of the winter-spring harvest.

Exports this month of the grain, Vietnam's top cash earner among its agro-products for export, are estimated to drop 45 percent from last February to 350,000 tons, the Vietnam Food Association said.

"Foreign customers, especially in Africa, now have demand to buy but they want to wait for Vietnam to reduce prices," Pham Van Bay, deputy chairman of the food association told a briefing in Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday.

Bay said Vietnam maintained its policy not to lower prices.

The association forecast March's rice loading to rise to between 450,000 tons and 500,000 tons. Vietnam shipped 1.78 million tons of rice in the first quarter of 2009, government statistics show.

The association said on Thursday it kept unchanged the floor for 5 percent broken rice price at $440 a ton and has assigned 30 rice companies to handle the stockpiling plan and buy 600,000 tons of rice in March and 400,000 tons in April, the Nhan Dan newspaper reported.

Source: Reuters

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