New Delhi: Indonesia has sought 5,00,000 tonnes of non-basmati rice from India at cheaper rates to meet its domestic demand and keep prices under check.

"Indonesia, that especially buys rice from Vietnam and Thailand, has requested 5,00,000 tonnes of non-basmati rice from India," a senior Food Ministry official said.

Indonesia has expressed interest in importing non-basmati rice from India through diplomatic channels and has also requested for a special dispensation for supply of the staple at lower rates, the official added.

An official delegation from Indonesia had met Food Minister K V Thomas last week and discussed the issue in detail, he said.

According to Food Ministry officials: "The government may consider offering rice from the government godowns at the economic cost, which could be around Rs 20.45 per kg.”

Trade experts said meanwhile that the flood damage to rice crop in Thailand has prompted Indonesia to look at alternative origins. It wants to import rice to keep sufficient stockpiles to cover short-term scarcity and also to fight persistently high inflation.

In September, India had permitted shipments of up to 2 million tonnes of non-basmati rice through private trade, lifting the ban imposed in April, 2008.

However, it has been supplying foodgrains to many countries on government account during last three years.

Traders said that Indian exporters are currently offering non-basmati rice at over USD 470 a tonne, which is lower than rates quoted by Thailand and Vietnam.

India, the world's second-largest rice grower, produced about 95 million tonnes in the 2010-11 crop year (July-June) and is expected to harvest a record 102 million tonnes in the current year.

The government godowns are overflowing with rice stock on the back of bumper output and procurement during last four years. The rice stock stood at 20.35 million tonnes at the beginning of this month, which is more than three times of the buffer requirement.

(Agencies)