* Exports may fall below 3 mln tonnes vs 4.8 mln in 2011/12
* India lowered corn output forecast after poor rains
* Demand likely to rise due to increasing poultry sales
By Deepak Sharma and Mayank Bhardwaj
MUMBAI/NEW DELHI, Nov 8 (Reuters) - India’s corn exports may fall by nearly 40 percent in the current 2012/13 crop year, crimped by an increase in domestic demand and an expected drop in output, traders said on Thursday.
Higher global prices helped India export a record 4.8 million tonnes of corn in 2011/12, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
Traders, however, forecast exports in the year ending Sept. 30 to fall to around 3 million tonnes after the agriculture ministry cut its forecast for the crop due to a delay in the annual monsoon rain.
A growing preference for poultry-based food has also increased domestic consumption, and prices, of corn, which is used in animal feed, making exports unattractive.
Southeast Asian buyers such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam depend on India, Asia’s second-largest corn producer, for speedy, and usually small, corn supplies.
Any decline in Indian exports is likely to benefit Brazil and Argentina, reversing the 2011/12 scenario, when India’s exports soared because the corn crop in both countries, and top supplier the United States, were devastated by drought.
“Rising consumption in local markets, and a fall in output will reduce surplus available for exports. Shipment could be lower this year,” said TSN Raju, owner of Sun Foods India, a grain trading firm based in Kakinada.
The southern port city of Kakinada is an export hub located in Andhra Pradesh state, a leading producer of corn.
Hit by patchy monsoon rains, the farm ministry forecast India’s 2012/13 summer-sown corn output at 14.89 million tonnes, down from 16.22 million tonnes in the previous year. The summer-sown variety accounts for more than 80 percent of India’s total corn output.
India consumes 17-18 million tonnes of corn annually, while harvests hover around 21 million tonnes.
This year, domestic demand for corn is expected to rise 7-8 percent.
The projected increase, and the lower production estimates, have increase local prices to around $240 a tonne compared to around $200 last year.
“Corn exports from India are likely to be lower this year as local prices are higher, making it unattractive to ship. Most exporters are not signing new contracts,” said D. Surya Rao, chairman of the Kakinada Chamber of Commerce.
Traders are waiting for prices to fall by about $20 a tonne before buying for export.
Indian corn is currently being exported to Southeast Asia at about $305-$310 a tonne, including cost and freight, while rival supplies from South America are available at $330-340 a tonne, traders said. (Editing by Miral Fahmy)