* Thai 5 pct broken rice up at $380-$385/T
* Prices may rise due to drought, African demand
* Vietnamese prices steady
* Quality of Vietnam’s early-harvested grain seen low
HANOI, July 8 (Reuters) - Purchases by African countries and concern over the effects of drought on Thailand’s agricultural production have boosted rice export prices there this week, but Vietnamese prices were little changed with demand lacking, traders said on Wednesday.
Thailand has cut its output forecast for the main crop by 9.2 percent to 24.13 million tonnes, according to the office of agricultural economics, as the world’s second-biggest exporter of the grain after India battles severe drought.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Interior said 13 out of Thailand’s 76 provinces were suffering from drought.
That has driven up demand on domestic markets, enabling the government to sell 1.15 million tonnes at its latest tender, a bigger volume than in other recent offerings.
Thailand’s benchmark 5 percent broken rice RI-THBKN5-P1 edged up to $380-$385 a tonne, free on board (FOB), from $370 a tonne in the past two weeks.
“Buying has slightly picked up as demand for parboiled rice increases, which also pushes up prices for unmilled rice and white rice,” a Bangkok-based trader said.
“African countries have been buying as they might be thinking that prices will go up soon as we have drought and lower output,” the trader said.
In Vietnam, the world’s third-biggest rice exporter, demand for rice was thin, with China buying in small volumes and some vessels loading in southern ports, traders said.
Heavy rain in June caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon damaged rice and cotton crops in major growing areas in China’s south, China’s weather bureau said last Friday.
Vietnamese 5 percent broken rice was little changed at $350-$356 a tonne, FOB Saigon Port, versus $350-$355 last week, while the 25 percent broken rice was steady at $330-$335.
“Demand is weak, and there are only a few vessels arriving for rice loading,” a trader in Ho Chi Minh City said, adding that demand had yet to rise despite low prices as the quality of early-harvested summer-autumn rice was not good.
Harvesting of the crop will peak late this month in the Mekong Delta food basket.
Vietnam exported 2.71 million tonnes of rice in the first half of 2015, down 9.7 percent from a year before, the Vietnam Food Association said in its weekly report. (Additional reporting by Kaweewit Kaewjinda in Bangkok; Editing by Alan Raybould)