The supply crunch of non-Basmati rice could ease if the Government of India (GoI) considers the government's request to lift the ban on its export.
The government formally wrote to the GoI last week conveying the request.
Officials said that the government has asked for approval to import 77,000 metric tonnes (MT) of non-basmati rice a year.
The officials said that GoI assured them that they would get back within a week or two which means a response is expected soon.
India banned the export of non-basmati white rice on July 20 this year to ensure adequate availability and address the rising prices in the domestic market.
India exports rice to around 125 countries and is the world's largest rice exporter.
Last week, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that though the government has not received any official written letter from GoI on approval, GoI assured that they would consider the request.
Bhutanese mostly consume SK Gold, Raj Bhog Kumar, Dubar and Kuam Bhog Rice. However, the notification does provide some exceptions to the ban. The GoI will grant permission for export on a case-by-case basis to countries facing food security concerns, upon their specific request.
The Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) also imports non-basmati rice which is fortified rice to supply to around 490 schools and to some of the agencies in the country.
FCBL CEO Dorji Tashi said that as of now they have around 1,600MT in general reserves and around 30 percent of that is non-basmati rice. "The non-basmati rice stock would be enough for another month for supply."
He said that since FCBL supplies quarterly to schools, they have already supplied rice to some of the schools which would last till September. Some schools' stocks are still with FCBL, since schools don't have storage facilities.
The CEO said that if the export restriction prolongs, they may resort to supplying basmati rice to schools and other agencies which would be more by Nu 20 a kilogram and would have huge financial implications.
As of today, 25 kilograms of SK Gold, cost more than Nu 1,100 up from Nu 970 before the export ban.
Similarly, the prices for non-basmati rice that FCBL imports have also increased by Nu 10 one month before the notification.
The CEO said that the price has increased from sources due to less production in the market.
Import ban lifted on broken rice
Similarly, the GoI has also lifted the ban on broken rice export recently.
According to a notification issued by India's Directorate General of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry on July 28, the export of broken rice will be allowed on the basis of permission granted by the GoI to other countries to meet their food security needs and based on the request of their government.
The notification states that the request received from the Government of Bhutan for the import of 48,804 MTof broken rice from India during the FY 2023-24 have been approved by the competent authority.
Last year in September, India banned exports of broken rice and levied a tax on exports of various grades of rice after rice-producing states such as West Bengal, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh received less rainfall, affecting rice production and due to inflation.
In Bhutan, Industries import broken rice for liquor production.
Army Welfare Project imports around 70 tons of broken rice in a year to make alcohol products.