Trade statistics showed that India has overtaken Thailand as the biggest rice supplier to Singapore, a local newspaper reported on Saturday.
Statistics from trade promotion agency International Enterprise Singapore showed that Singapore imported 92,865 tons, or 32.9 percent, of its total demand for rice from India between January and August this year, making India the top supplier, the Straits Times said.
Thailand was second at 85,816 tons over the same period, or 30. 4 percent of the total.
Thailand had been the top source of the staple in the island country since at least 1998, accounting for over half of overall supply between 1998 and 2011. Last year, this fell to 35.3 percent. The premium grade of Hom Mali rice, with brands such as Royal Umbrella and SongHe has been the long-time favourites in Singapore.
There are several factors driving the shift in the supply patterns among major rice suppliers, industry players said.
"Importers (are) taking advantage of the lower prices of Indian rice compared to Thai rice," a spokesperson for the Ministry of Trade and Industry was quoted as saying.
Since 2011, the Thai government has been buying rice from farmers at above-market rates, building a stockpile at home. This has reduced the amount of Thai rice available for export and resulted in higher prices of the staple, she said.
Supplies from India and other countries such as Vietnam and Myanmar have grown as much as ninefold since 2004.
According to the Singapore General Rice Importers Association, the shift began when global rice prices began surging in 2008.
Back then, massive floods in Thailand led to a supply shortage. Other rice-producing nations also curbed exports to ensure adequate domestic supply and importers here hastened to look for alternative sources.
Importers say the changing palates of Singaporeans are also a factor. The influx of foreigners with different preferences may also be fuelling demand for non-Thai rice.
Topseller, a major supplier here of rice to thousands of hawker stalls and restaurants, started buying rice from India last year while its supply from Vietnam has surged over the last few years.
"Singaporeans are eating less rice and more dishes these days so they are less fussy about their rice," said Chia Bee Luan, assistant vice-president at Topseller.