India’s maize exports have already touched a six-year high this fiscal, with shipments in the April-September period nearly treble of those for the whole of the last fiscal.
Bangladesh, which has imported a record two-thirds of the commodity shipped out of India, is the big reason for the spike in exports.
“Bangladesh has bought over seven lakh tonnes since April this year. At least two lakh tonnes could have been exported to that country since October,” said exporting house Bengani Food Products Pvt Ltd managing director Bimal Bengani.
The rise in exports comes after domestic end-users such as poultry and starch sectors complained of supply shortage and high prices last year.
The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) data shows that maize exports in the first half of the fiscal were 9.22 lakh tonnes at a value of $184.52 million compared with 3.70 lakh tonnes worth $142.78 million the whole of the last fiscal.
Of this, Bangladesh imported a record 6.18 lakh tonnes valued at $122.25 million till September. Before this, the neighbouring nation had imported a maximum of 5.16 lakh tonnes worth $139.93 million during 2012-13.
As per APEDA April-November data, exports of other cereals, which includes maize, were 15.04 lakh tonnes valued at $327 million.
Maize exports from India dropped since record shipments of 47.88 lakh tonnes worth $1.03 billion in 2012-13. Since then, they have been on a downswing before this fiscal’s turnaround.
The coarse cereal’s exports slipped to below 10 lakh tonnes since 2014-15, when 28.25 lakh tonnes valued at $666.75 million were shipped.
Maize was shipped to Bangladesh at rates between $200 (Rs 14,700) and $240 (Rs 17,650) a tonne, Bengani said. This is lower than the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 18,500 a tonne fixed for the crop this season (July 2020-June 2021).
Maize is ruling at different rates depending on the quality and moisture levels, though below MSP across the country. While prices in Tamil Nadu are at Rs 12,500-13,500 a tonne, they are quoting around Rs 13,750 in Andhra Pradesh. Prices are hovering around Rs 13,500 in Karnataka, below Rs 13,000 in Madhya Pradesh and between Rs 12,000 and Rs 14,000 in Maharashtra.
According to the International Grains Council, maize export prices are ranging from $220 a tonne from the US to $236 from Argentina, free-on-board. Prices are up over 30 percent year-on-year.
“We are getting maize at Namakkal in Tamil Nadu at Rs 15,000 a tonne,” said Tamil Nadu Egg Poultry Farmers Marketing Society (PFMS) president Vangili Subramanian.
Prices are Rs 1,000 a tonne lower than in November as kharif crop arrivals have increased.
“We exporters are getting maize for shipments at Rs 15,000-15,500 a tonne, depending on moisture. The maize offered at Namakkal could be of higher moisture,” said Chennai-based exporting firm Rajathi Group director Madan Prakash.
“Besides Bangladesh, Vietnam has bought around one lakh tonnes,” Bengani said.
Prakash said exports could have been higher but for container shortage. “We have been shipping 500 to 1,200 tonnes every week to destinations such as Vietnam and Malaysia,” he said. Most of these shipments are being done in 20-foot containers which can carry up to 24 tonnes.
Exporters are discounting fears of any maize shortage for domestic users like last year.
“Sufficient quantity is available for the domestic market until the rabi (winter) crop arrives (in April),” said Bengani.
Subramanian said maize availability was unlikely to be affected this year as kharif (summer) crop production was good.
According to the agriculture ministry’s first advance estimate of production of foodgrains for this season, kharif maize production is likely to be 19.88 million tonnes against 19.68 million tonnes during last year's kharif season.
“Our expectations are that maize production will be higher this year. Barring Tamil Nadu, where production is a tad lower than our estimates, it is higher in other parts of the country,” PFMS’ Subramanian said.
According to jute industry sources, many farmers in Bengal have opted to shift from jute to corn this year as the fibre crop fetched lower prices last year and corn is cheaper to cultivate.
Bengani expects demand for Indian maize to continue at current rates.
India enjoys a freight advantage and exporters are willing to ship in small quantities compared with bulk quantities demand that Brazilian or American ships seek.
Domestic users would have to pay higher prices, close to the MSP, to growers or they could face shortage during March-April, Bengani said.
Maize price surged to Rs 26,000 a tonne last year, forcing domestic users to import. India imported 3.18 lakh tonnes last season, which was 10 times the imports during 2018.
Such shipments are facilitated by the Union government allowing import of five lakh tonnes annually under the tariff rate quota (TRQ) regime. This allows shipments of maize at a lower customs duty of 15 percent into the country.
In normal circumstances, maize import attracts 50 percent duty besides five percent Integrated Goods and Services Tax and 10 percent social welfare surcharge.