Global Markets: Rice – India Expands Exports to Price-Sensitive Sub-Saharan Africa

    Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s largest rice importing region, accounting for one-third of global imports. While the region’s production has increased, it remains heavily dependent on rice imports. Sub-Saharan Africa consumption has risen nearly 10 percent in the last 5 years so that now imports account for more than two-fifths of its consumption.

    Within the region, West African countries as well as South Africa, Mozambique, and Kenya are major import destinations. Sub-Saharan countries generally import from the most price-competitive supplier. This tendency led to a sharp expansion of Indian rice to the region in 2020.

    Between 2015 and 2020, Sub-Saharan Africa imports have grown by more than one-fourth. Thailand and India have historically been the two major suppliers to this region. Since 2019, India has gained substantial market share at Thailand’s expense. In the last 2 years, India has had consecutive record crops while Thailand’s crops have been limited by drought.

    The impacts of those differing crop sizes on their export prices have had a major effect on the market share each country has in Sub-Saharan Africa. India has gone from one-third market share in Sub-Saharan Africa’s rice import market in 2015 to more than twofifths percent in 2020.

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    In 2020, India expanded trade to the region while other exporters declined. China began exporting to the region in 2017 at very competitive prices that were likely sourced from older rice auctioned from state reserves. However, as China began diverting rice from stocks to domestic feed use in 2020, China’s exports to Africa declined, a trend that may continue into 2021.

    Vietnam saw a slight decrease in exports in 2020 as a result of export restrictions due to COVID-19 last spring and a spike in its prices. Despite relatively low prices, Pakistan exports were edged out by India which had the lowest prices of major exporters.

    Burma has made steady gains since beginning to supply the region in late 2016, but its exports to Africa declined in 2020 amid export quotas and stiff competition from India. The recent coup and subsequent instability are likely to slow its pace of exports to Sub-Saharan Africa.

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