Asia Rice-India prices gain on Africa demand; holiday thins trade elsewhere

By Rajendra Jadhav and Karthika Suresh Namboothiri

* Vietnamese markets shut, rates flat in Thailand

* Bangladesh imports decrease due to tax

* Thai rates less competitive vs India, Vietnam- trader

By Rajendra Jadhav and Karthika Suresh Namboothiri

Feb 7 (Reuters) - Rice export prices in India edged higher this week on buying from Africa, while a strengthening baht trimmed demand for the Thai variety as activity was muted across most Asian hubs due to the Lunar New Year holiday.

Prices for top exporter India's benchmark 5-percent broken parboiled variety <RI-INBKN5-P1> rose to $383-$388 per tonne from last week's $381-$386 range.

While there is demand from buyers in Africa, many customers held back on purchases, hoping for lower prices, said an exporter based at Kakinada in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

Export prices in India had shot up after the central state of Chhattisgarh, a leading rice producer, raised minimum paddy buying prices to 2,500 rupees ($34.99) per 100 kg from 1,750 rupees.

India's rice exports between April and December dropped 10.2 percent from a year earlier to 8.46 million tonnes, a government body said earlier this week.

In Thailand, the second biggest rice exporter, benchmark 5-percent broken rice <RI-THBKN5-P1> price were quoted at $390-$402, free on board Bangkok, unchanged from last week.

"Thai rice prices are too high because of the exchange rate, which makes it less competitive to other exporters like India and Vietnam," a Bangkok-based rice trader said.

Traders said they hoped an influx of supply this month will help lower the price.

The Thai baht has been the best performing currency in Asia this year, translating into higher export prices in U.S. dollars.

"Indonesia demand has been quiet so far, but the Philippines could be the market for Thai rice," another Bangkok-based trader said. "But so far there has been no order."

Trade in Thailand was quiet because of the Lunar new year, while Vietnamese markets were shut for the holiday.

Prices for Vietnam's 5-percent broken rice <RI-VNBKN5-P1> stood around $350 in the week ending Feb. 1.

Elsewhere in Asia, Bangladesh saw imports slowing in the July-January period owing to the imposition of a tax on rice imports in June, the country's food ministry data showed.

The south Asian country, which emerged as a major importer in 2017 after floods damaged crops, imposed the 28 percent duty to support its farmers after local production revived.

Bangladesh imported a record 3.9 million tonnes of rice in the 2017-2018 financial year that ended in June 2018. ($1 = 71.4460 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Panu Wongcha-um in Bangkok and Ruma Paul in Dhaka; editing by Arpan Varghese and Emelia sithole-Matarise)