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Rice production in India

Rice exports from India have increased substantially over the past decade and in 2012 it became the world’s largest rice exporting nation, a position Thailand had held for three decades. In part, India’s surprise emergence as a rice exporting superpower is due to the widespread production of rice, as shown in this map. Wide distribution allows vast quantities to be produced while minimising risks presented by natural hazards such as floods and drought. In contrast, the 2010 floods in Pakistan devastated much of this country’s highly concentrated major rice producing areas.

Nevertheless, politics in India can significantly affect the amount and types of rice it exports, altering global rice prices. The government has previously implemented minimum export prices on non-basmati varieties to maintain domestic food security while the National Food Security Bill - currently being considered by India’s parliament ahead of elections scheduled for May 2014 and would expand the number of people eligible for food subsidies from 318m to 810m – could further limit the amount of rice available to export, particularly in years of reduced production. Water shortages have also led the government to shift the country’s non-basmati production from the north-western states of Punjab and Haryana to eastern India.

Although the FAO expects India to remain the world’s leading rice exporter for 2013, the country’s long term future as a major rice-exporting nation is uncertain.

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