India bans rice exports, Nepali consumers feel the impact

Price of rice of non-basmati variety has increased by up to Rs 250 per sack in Nepali market after the government of India imposed export ban on July 20.

Kalpana Ghimire

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: On Tuesday a customer went to a grain store in Kuleshwor to purchase a sack of rice and asked for its rice. He was shocked when the retailer of the store charged him more than Rs 250 for it. The shopkeeper said the price had gone up.

He asked for another variety of rice and the seller said the price of that variety had also gone up. “ Whichever variety of rice you may buy, the price has gone up by at least Rs 25 per kilo,” the shopkeeper said. 

Nearly all the groceries in the Kathmandu Valley have raised the price of rice, following the decision of the Indian government to ban export of rice of non-basmati variety.

Nepali consumers have found themselves on the receiving end. The impact caused by the ban on non-basmati rice export imposed by the Indian government has been felt in Nepali market.

On July 20, the Indian government imposed a ban on exports of non-basmati rice in  order to decrease its market value in India.  Following this, the Nepali traders have increased the price of rice by as much margin as they wish.

Pabitra Man Bajracharya, the president of Nepal Retail Trade Association, says the price of Sona mansuli and Jira masina variety of rice has increased by 200 to 250 rupees per sack.

“Right after India banned the export of non-basmati rice, importers all over Nepal increased the price of rice,” he said.

After the shop owners started to increase the price even on old stocks, the Department of Commerce, Supplies and Consumer Protection instructed them not to do so, says the department’s spokesperson Homnath Bhattarai. 

“After India banned the export of non-basmati rice, we instructed the shop owners to not increase the price of rice they had in store. However, some store owners have started to increase the price even despite our warnings,” said Bhattarai. “We are investigating such cases and will punish those who do not follow our directives.”

Though the consumers have already been subjected to purchase rice at inflated rates following the Indian ban on rice exports, authorities in Nepal claim that there won’t be a major food crisis in Nepal. 

According to an officer of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, even last year when there was an increase on the tax by 20 percent which affected the market, we were able to overcome it easily. So there won’t be any large crisis on the matter.

Govinda Prasad Sharma, Secretary and spokesperson of the Ministry, claims even though the price of rice might increase in the market there won’t be any shortage of rice. “We have estimated there won’t be any shortage of rice in the market even if the traders create any sort of trouble,” Sharma said. “We have counter measures in place.” 

The spokesperson of the Department of Commerce, Supply and Consumer Protection Homnath Bhattarai said Nepal has enough rice in stock to last for another three months, so there won’t be any food crisis. 

Meanwhile, Kumud Kumar Dugar, President of Nepal Rice, Oil and Pulses Industries, has said that India’s ban on rice exports will not affect the ability of the Nepali government to purchase paddy rice from the Indian government. For this, however, the government needs to immediately request for one million tons of paddy rice from the Indian government. “Otherwise, Nepalis will be affected by the export ban. So we ask the government to import paddy rice from India,” he said.

Since the annual quota of up to 600,000 metric tons of paddy rice import on tax-free provision is closing in, additional problems may arise, according to him. Dugar also pointed out that Nepal’s new paddy rice production will start in November, but Nepal may face challenges much before that during the Dashain and Tihar festivals.

According to him, after India imposed a 20 percent tax on rice and paddy exports starting from September 2022, rice imports decreased by 300,000 tons, leading to the rising demand of rice in Nepali market.