Thursday, October 28, 2010

Japan To Transfer Rice Technology

HANOI, Oct 28 (Bernama) -- Japan will transfer its most advanced technology to help develop new rice varieties in the midland and mountainous areas of northern Vietnam, reports Vietnam News Agency An agreement for the technical cooperation project was signed on Oct 27 by Chief Representative of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Vietnam, Tsuno Motonori, and Rector of Hanoi University of Agriculture, Tran Duc Vien. The five-year, US$4.6 million project aims to help Vietnam achieve long-term and nationwide food security. The new technology and equipment will allow scientists to produce new and improved rice varieties for all regions in the country. "In this project, we will transfer our rice breeding selection method with DNA Marker Assisted Selection, our most advanced technology, to the Hanoi University of Agriculture," said Motonori. "With such technology, we aim to produce rice varieties with short growing time, high yields and high disease resistance that can adapt to the natural conditions of the midlands and mountainous areas in the north," added Motonori. Rice production in the midlands and mountainous areas can meet the needs of only 70 percent of the population. Productivity is still low, with 40 percent of the land area used to grow only one crop per year. Although it is a rice export country, Vietnam is still facing food security challenges. More rice is needed to meet the growing population which is growing at a rate of one percent per year in Vietnam

Rice Imports May Surge 11 Times If Tariffs Removed, Farm Ministry Says

Japan’s rice imports may surge 11 times from the 770,000 metric tons a year bought now should it remove tariffs on overseas supplies under a free-trade agreement with exporters proposed by Prime Minister Naoto Kan. Japan, self-sufficient in rice, may buy an additional 7.6 million tons a year from overseas should it completely eliminate tariffs of 341 yen ($4.2) per kilogram, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said in a report today. Kan may announce Japan’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement with countries including the U.S., Australia and Vietnam next month when he chairs the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Cabinet members including Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said participation in the pact, under which tariffs are to be eliminated in principle, is needed to bolster growth amid competition from industrial exporters such as South Korea. “Considering the huge impact on domestic farm production, it looks very difficult for Japan to join the agreement” unless major farm products including rice are exempted from the removal of tariffs, said Ruan Wei, chief economist at the Norinchukin Research Institute Co. in Tokyo. Agriculture Minister Michihiko Kano told reporters on Oct. 22 the government should consider the importance of agriculture properly in carrying out its policy. Central Union of Agricultural Co-Operatives, Japan’s largest farm lobby, urged ruling party lawmakers including Vice Agriculture Minister Nobutaka Tsutsui on Oct. 19 they should not support participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement as the pact would deal “a fatal blow” to farming. Wheat, Sugar The agriculture ministry estimates 679,000 tons of domestic wheat production, or 90 percent of output, would be replaced by imports if Japan removes import tariffs of 55 yen per kilogram. The government also estimates that 869,000 tons of sugar output and 272,000 tons of beef production would be replaced by imports should tariffs be eliminated. Japan agreed to give minimum market access to rice- exporting countries at the Uruguay Round of world trade talks in 1993, buying 770,000 tons a year. The country started rice imports under the agreement in the fiscal year that began in April 1995, and purchased a total of 10.12 million tons in the past 15 years, according to the ministry. Stockpiles of foreign rice stood at 970,000 tons as of March 31, down from 1.11 million tons a year earlier.

Vietnam records highest rice yields in Southeast Asia

With a yield of 5.3 tonnes per ha per harvest, Vietnam now ranks top in rice productivity in Southeast Asia, confirmed Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Bui Ba Bong.
Some major rice producing areas such as the Mekong Delta provinces of An Giang, Can Tho and Dong Thap reaped up to 7.3 tonnes per ha in the freshly-harvested winter-spring crop, equivalent to world leading producers like Japan and the Republic of Korea.
The nation’s rice production output is estimated at 39.9 million tonnes in 2010, with southern provinces producing over 23.5 million tonnes, reported the Cultivation Department.
The Mekong Delta alone makes up almost 91.5 percent of the southern production output, gathering 21.5 million tonnes with an average per-ha yield of 5.47 tonnes.
The figures show Vietnam’s improved rice farming, explaining why Vietnam has entered into the list of world giants in rice exports.
In the past 10 months, the country has already exported 5.66 million tonnes of rice, earning US$2.63 billion. The yearly rice export volume is expected to reach 6.5 million tonnes due to the supply of wheat falling short.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) forecast a “possible skyrocketing” in world rice demand with Indonesia, which failed to reach a deal with Thailand, likely to import an additional 200,000 tonnes of rice from Vietnam. Typhoon Megi wreaked havoc in the northern Philippines and is expected to push the country to import between 500,000 and 600,000 tonnes of rice.
“The situation may drive the world rice market into a chaos,” said economists, adding that a surge in demand would make prices escalate.
In October, major rice exporters, including Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan and India, increased their export prices by at least 30 percent over the previous month.
Despite increased prices, Vietnam does not have much rice in storage for export, said MARD.
The world’s second largest rice exporter has expanded its line-up to parboiled rice, which is expected to increase by 300,000-400,000 tonnes in 2011 to meet rising demand, said the President of the Vietnam Food Association, Truong Thanh Phong.
Parboiled rice preferred by Muslims as it is dry when fully cooked, making it easy to eat by hand. The world demand for the product is estimated at between 3.5 and 4 million tonnes a year. Its price per tonne is often US$70-80 higher than five percent broken rice product, which now plays a key role in Vietnam’s rice exportation.
Vietnam’s parboiled rice quality is higher than that from Pakistan and India, the two biggest parboiled rice exporters of the world, sparking confidence on the “high competitive edge” among domestic rice exporters, Phong said.
VFA members are building three parboiled rice factories in the Mekong Delta, one of which - with a daily capacity of 500 tonnes - is scheduled to start operation later this year, bringing the total number to five.
The VFA has a plan to join hands with the Cultivation Department in marking off a special zone to provide raw material for these factories.

Three Questions: ASEAN and Rice Production

A farmer works in a rice field near the center of Pacitan Food issues are critical throughout Asia and involve a myriad of topics from agriculture and trade to health, hunger and infrastructure.On the eve of the ASEAN summit in Vietnam, discussions of rice are not prominent on the official agenda, if at all.Katsuji Matsunami of the Asian Development Bank explains how ASEAN can address rice production and distribution on a larger, regional scale. Rice has long been a staple of Asian diets, but its trade has become a very political issue since rice prices soared in 2008.What can ASEAN nations do collectively to ensure enough rice remains available at affordable prices? In many Asian countries, they call rice a political commodity rather than economic commodity. But to make this happen, rice productivity has to increase, so that we’ll have enough rice within the length of the area so that not large numbers of farmers would have to continue producing rice.For rice to become less political, we’ll have to work on other areas outside agriculture like trade where, when the price hike like 2008 happens, then the rice exporting countries put the export ban, and importing countries will, in desperation, buy rice at whatever the price is available.Then it would feed into further market volatility and price hikes, so on so forth. So I think there has to be a lot more work needed to be done on trade and also some regional activities like setting up the regional rice reserve, which ADB (Asian Development Bank) is working on within ASEAN+3 countries at the moment. So there is multi-sector aspects as needed.Also Asia is a major producer of rice and other grains, but increasingly, they are becoming importers.Rice has to become just one of other commodities in the longer run. Will this topic be discussed heavily at the upcoming meetings? We welcome ASEAN on rice issues, primarily on three things. Number one is trade. Can ASEAN+3 countries come to sit around the table and openly talk about the prospects of rice? Who might need rice? How much? And who might have marketable surpluses of rice? This kind of talk is not going on. These are all bilateral, government to government, and we are asking could it be possible to make it into the regional framework.And they say, “well, this is interesting, we could study this.” Similarly, there is a regional emergency rice reserve, and we are trying to set up implementation guidelines.At the moment, this regional rice reserve is purely for disasters. Could Asian regional rice reserves be used for situations other than disasters? These things require a lot more in-depth discussions among ASEAN+3 countries.Before we go out and say this could be this way we are going to do that, at the moment, we are trying to help them understand each other and see if we can come to some consensus about what we can do collectively.So at this moment, we are still working internally with ASEAN+3 countries, and us being able to go outside ASEAN+3 countries, and this is what we are going to do, takes a little more time.

Amira Foods closed rice deal worth US$30mn in Bangladesh

Recently Bangladesh had shown interest in purchasing rice from world market as they are short of grains this year Amira Foods India Ltd, the largest Indian held Rice Company, has bagged a rice deal in Bangladesh. According to the deal, Amira Foods will supply 60,000 MT of rice to Bangladesh worth USD 30 Million. The Tender is awarded by The Government of Peoples Republic of Bangladesh. Amira Foods won the tender by offering the lowest bid. Commenting on the deal, Mr. Karan A Chanana, Group MD, Amira Group, said “This is one of the important deals for Amira Foods in recent time. We participated in the bid process and won with quoting the lowest price. Recently Bangladesh had shown interest in purchasing rice from world market as they are short of grains this year. Looking at not so good rice production in India, we will have to source rice from other countries as well. As we believe that the world should connect through the language of food, we are here to export rice to the countries who need it” Although rice production in India is estimated to rise by 6 per cent, it will not be good enough to export. So, for the execution of contract, Amira Foods will source rice from countries like Vietnam, Thailand and Pakistan. Amira Foods Ltd is a leader in Agro commodities in India and is the leading exporter of basmati rice. The Amira Group was founded by late Shri. Karam Chand Chanana as a modest venture in the agro-commodities trade in 1915. Taking the business legacy forward under the stewardship of Shri Karan A Chanana, the Group Managing Director, Amira Foods India limited received the prestigious status of ‘Global Growth Company’ from the World Economic Forum. The Amira brand has established a reputation for fair trade practices. Quality products, honest pricing and the assurance of customer satisfaction have been the guiding philosophy to grow the brand.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Government to buy surplus rice

Joo Dong-hwa, 68, a farmer, transplants rice at his rice paddy in Yanggu, Gangwon, yesterday. Due to the unusually low temperature rice transplanting in the country started 10 days later than in recent years. [NEWSIS] The government said yesterday that it would buy up to 200,000 tons of rice from local farmers after overproduction caused a recent fall in its price. The Agriculture Ministry will purchase next month 100,000 tons of last year's rice harvest and another 100,000 tons later this year. The surplus rice will be held in state reserves and will be sold on the market once the price stabilizes. Once the purchases are completed, the government rice reserves will amount to more than 900,000 tons, higher than the level recommended for Korea by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The government has periodically bought rice to stabilize market prices, with the last such action occurring last October. The government intervention is seen as necessary to prevent the fall in rice prices adversely affecting rural communities. The problem is seen as a long-term one since the per-capita annual rice consumption by Koreans has fallen for 25 consecutive years from 130.1 kilograms (286.8 pounds) in 1984 to 74 kilograms in 2009. The pace of decline has accelerated in the last decade, with per-capita rice consumption dropping by more than 20 kilograms in that period. We have to weigh the cost of buying the rice against the bigger social cost if we left it to the market to decide, said an Agriculture Ministry official who asked for customary anonymity. With the rice supply constantly outstripping demand, the government said it would offer subsidies of 3 million won ($2,704) for each hectare of farmland that is converted from rice to other crops, such as beans and corn. The average price of 80-kilogram rice sack sold to rice-processing facilities has steadily fallen from 144,653 won last October to 139,091 won in March. Rice prices normally rise in February as supplies from the autumn harvest fall.

Rice procurement down at 26.4 mt on lower kharif output

NEW DELHI: Rice procurement by the Government in the current marketing year, ending September 2010, has so far fallen by about three per cent to 26.42 million tonnes compared with the same period previous year, on account of lower production. Food Corporation of India, the nodal agency for procurement and distribution of foodgrains, and state agencies had procured 27.25 mt in the corresponding period previous season, which runs from October to September. The Centre had procured a record 33.68 mt in the entire 2008-09 season. For the 2009-10 marketing year, it kept the procurement target lower than that of the last season at 26 mt in view of less production in the 2009 kharif season on account of drought that hit over 300 districts of the country. With procurement surpassing the initial target of 26 million tonnes, FCI now expects procurement in the 2009-10 marketing year to reach 30 mt. The largest rice contributor to the central pool this season so far has been Punjab, where procurement has increased by about 10 per cent to 9.27 mt compared with 8.46 mt a year ago. Procurement from Chhattisgarh has also increased by 20 per cent to 3.06 mt so far this season from 2.54 mt in the same period last year. FCI has procured 27 per cent more rice from Haryana so far this season, lifting 1.81 mt as against 1.42 mt in the corresponding period last year. On the other hand, procurement from Andhra Pradesh — a major contributor — has declined by 20 per cent to 4.22 mt so far this season from 5.26 mt in the same period last year. Similarly, purchases from Uttar Pradesh so far this season stand at 2.59 mt down 27 per cent from 3.54 mt a year ago. Procurement from Orissa so far this season has also decreased by five per cent to 1.88 mt against 1.92 mt in the same period last year. The Government procures foodgrains at a fixed minimum support price (MSP) to protect farmers from market fluctuations. The MSP for common grade of paddy has been decided at Rs 1,000 per quintal and at Rs 1,030 per quintal for grade A variety, both includ ing a bonus, for the 2009-10 marketing season. India’s rice production is estimated to decline to 87.56 mt in the 2009-10 season from the record level of 99.18 mt in the previous season.

Rice benchmark to rise with market

The government has pledged to increase benchmark prices for rice under its insurance programme so that they are closer to prevailing market rates in order to raise farmers' incomes and shore up local paddy prices. The new benchmark prices would be based on the average market prices of rice sold in different provinces, said Yanyong Phuangrach, the permanent secretary for the Commerce Ministry. Rice prices, particularly for paddy, vary in each province depending largely on moisture content, transport costs and the prices of milled rice. Farmers currently earn 6,500 to 7,200 baht per tonne for paddy with 15% moisture content. Authorities have to pay compensation of 2,800 baht a tonne to farmers, as the benchmark is below the insured price of 10,000 baht. As another option, Mr Yanyong said the ministry would propose to set new benchmark prices using a calculation based on average prices of rice in the past three years, current market prices and futures prices in the three months ahead from the Agricultural Futures Exchange of Thailand (Afet). Under this method, the current benchmark would be 8,918 baht per tonne. The National Rice Policy Committee is scheduled to consider the proposals on Monday. Rice farmers are now pressing their calls for immediate help from the government, as domestic prices have fallen significantly on higher output, while foreign importers are delaying purchases on expectations prices will fall further. Local paddy with 20% moisture is now quoted in the market at only 5,000 to 5,500 baht per tonne, with 15% moisture paddy at 7,000 baht. Before the Songkran festival, 20% moisture paddy was quoted at 5,800 to 6,300 baht, and 15% moisture at 8,000. The price of local milled rice has also fallen from 19,000 baht a tonne in December to 11,800 baht now. Chookiat Ophaswongse, honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, agreed that the benchmark prices needed to be raised, especially those based on the market prices, saying the new calculation would better reflect real market prices. Thai rice prices, the benchmark for Asia, have slumped by 5.5% from two weeks ago on lower demand, according to the Thai Rice Exporters Association. The association on Wednesday set the price of 100% grade-B white rice at $482 a tonne, down from $510 on April 7. The price of 25% broken rice was set at $394 a tonne, compared with $421 a tonne two weeks earlier.

Venezuela orders second rice shipment under revised pact

Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) General Manager Jagnarine Singh is currently in Caracas signing the purchase order for the second shipment of rice and paddy under the recently revised US$21.7M deal. This was announced by Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud during a press conference Thursday, during which he addressed the recovery plan for El Niño. Persaud said that despite the losses suffered during the dry season Guyana will still be able satisfy its markets. On October 21 last year, the multi–million dollar rice purchase contract for the supply of 50,000 tonnes of rice and paddy to the neighbouring state – at a price higher than current export prices – was signed in the presence of Persaud, Head of the Corporation of Supplies and Services (CASA) of Venezuela Colonel Rudolpho Marco Torres, Singh and other officials of the GRDB. Several weeks after the signing, Singh stated that it would have been difficult to meet the demands of the deal but he remained optimistic. The contract, when it was first inked, had been worth US18.8M. Issues encountered during the first shipment last December resulted in the decision to amend the current contract. Price, delays in off-loading, conditions for shipping white rice and a number of other factors were discussed and decided before exports were resumed under the deal. It was after negotiations between the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) and Venezuelan officials last month that the deal was revised to US$21.7 million. Stabroek News had learnt that the second shipment of rice should have arrived in Venezuela during the first week of April. The remaining paddy and rice is expected to be shipped within a three-month period (ending in June or early July).  The shipments leaving these shores will be subject to the availability of vessels, among other aspects agreed to between the two parties. April is almost over and it is only now the second shipment has been finalized. Before the contract’s revision was announced the ability to supply Venezuela had been questioned and the effects the El Nino condition were noted. Losses in the rice industry as a result of the dry weather, Persaud said Thursday, amount to approximately 8 thousand acres. The losses have not yet been given a “monetary value”, the minister explained, since it is still too early for some regions as all the losses have not yet been recorded. Despite this the production of the first crop this year exceeds the amount harvested during last year’s first crop, the agriculture minister pointed out, and farmers have been able to reap as much as 58 bags from an acre. A release from the Agriculture Ministry about the points raised at the press conference said that farmers were advised by GRDB Extension staff since the sowing season of 2009 “to be careful as the prediction that we will not have enough water to take the crop to the finality, this was mainly in the areas that mainly dependant on rainfall, e.g. Leguan, Wakenaam and the front lands of the Mahaica and Mahaicony.” The minister also said that $110M has been allotted to the recovery of the rice sector. About 900 small acreage rice farmers will receive seeds and fertilizers. Distribution will commence shortly and Persaud stressed that no cash will be distributed under this recovery plan. There was also a recent outbreak of paddy bugs as a result of the recent weather conditions. However, the GRDB Entomology and Extension staff is currently distributing Pronto (insecticide) to farmers whose crop is in the flowering to milk stage. This exercise will cost approximately $5M; this sum is not included in the $110M allotted for the sector’s recovery.

Bill Gates praises Indian rice that can withstand flooding

A new variety of rice that can withstand flood and developed by India has received praise from Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who said it is helping farmers to have higher productivity. Gates, a frequent visitor to India, had a firsthand experience of this variety of rice when he visited the country last year. "Last year, I got a chance to visit a site in India where they are using new varieties of rice that withstand flooding," he said during the launch of a $800-million international fund to fight global hunger and poverty. "Already, it is allowing those farmers to have much higher productivity. This project has exceeded production targets by five-fold due to the farmer demand and the strong government support," Gates said, while giving example as to how countries were using innovative tools and research to over come poverty. "We have already seen improvements in many regions, smart investments in cassava, sweet potatoes, legumes, rice and maize were helping farmers grow more in harsh conditions. Training and market access are also ensuring that farmers earn more for their hard work," Gates said. He said that his foundation's approach to agricultural development puts small holder farmers, most of whom were women. "That's the approach of countries like Rwanda and Ghana, their priorities in agriculture and seeing the impact and that's the approach of this fund and that's why we're so excited about that," he said. The fund was created in response to a call by G-20 leaders in Pittsburgh last year for the World Bank Group to work with interested donors to set up a multi-donor trust fund to help implement some of the USD22 billion in pledges made by G-8 leaders at their meeting in L'Aquila.

N.Korea Distributes Rice from Military Storage

Food prices in North Korea have stabilized because the regime took the emergency measure of distributing rice stored for the military, a high-ranking South Korean government official said Thursday. The Unification Ministry told the National Assembly on April 13 that the price of rice in North Korea was around 20 won per kilogram right after the botched currency reform late last year but soared to 1,000 won in mid-March. In early April, the price dropped to 500-600 won. At the time, experts predicted that the lean season in April and May coupled with the failed currency reform would cause increasing starvation. North Korea is over 1 million tons of food short this year. "It seems Kim Jong-il is starting to show some consideration for his people considering that the regime distributed rice buried deep in storage for the military," the senior official said Thursday. Prof. Cho Young-gi, a professor at Korea University, said the North Korean regime "wants to hold out as long as it can without having to rely on external aid." Although over 1 million people died of starvation between 1995 and 1998, the regime did not open up the emergency food and rice storage caves of the military. But times have changed, as recent unrest over the currency reform showed. "No North Korean would just sit and starve to death like in the 1990s," one defector said. According to a source, North Korea distributed some of the rice earmarked for military when the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations in the South were generous with aid, and even then it stored newly arrived rice from South Korea and sold the old rice in the market. The reason why South Korea this year tried to replace rice aid with corn was that corn is more perishable and is therefore less likely to be appropriated by the military. The regime distributed 5 kg of rice, 2-3 kg of meat, and 1 liter of cooking oil in celebration of the birthday of nation founder Kim Il-sung on April 15. An inside source said North Koreans "are keeping up their morale."

Sarawak Faces Lack Of Interest In Rice Growing

KUCHING, April 24 (Bernama) -- Several factors have been identified as reasons why the younger generation in Sarawak are not interested in becoming paddy farmers, among them outdated labour-intensive methods, Bernas Chief Operations Officer Mohd Kamaluddin Mohd Effendie said. He said the state's geographical factor, with many rivers and scattered paddy fields, also made it difficult to utilise machines and deploy planting and harvesting technology like those in the peninsula. "Most farmers in Sarawak use traditional methods to plant padi which is why we want to try clustered paddy planting using modern technology," he told reporters here on Saturday. Mohd Kamaluddin said Sarawak was lagging when compared to Peninsular Malaysia in terms of paddy production and could only cater to 30 per cent of the demand while the remaining supply had to be imported from Vietnam and Thailand. He said Bernas welcomed the government's effort to turn Sarawak and Sabah as the country's new rice bowls and hoped that the move would result in an increase in production from 30 per cent to 60 per cent. He added that Bernas was ready to set up a Bernas Rice Mill complex in Sarawak should the state reach the required level of production.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Finally, the Rice Revolution is Here

Rice is one of Nigeria’s most popular staple foods. Unfortunately however, the production of this popular food falls far short of demand, leading to large imports and the attendant food insecurity. But, as the Federal Ministry of Agriculture prepares to launch a major national strategy to combat the rice challenges, TAIWO OLAWALE writes that the revolution that would save rice production may have finally arrived here is no gainsaying the fact that rice has become a major staple in Nigeria. Over the years, it has taken over as the favourite food of many, beating other staples such as maize, yam and cassava to the number one position. In fact, it has become so popular that most Nigerian families eat it at least once every day. So, if anybody is talking about food security in Nigeria, rice must definitely take a front row position. And, it is not just in the area of food security that rice is important. It is also very important to the country’s economy in two major ways. In the first place, paddy rice farming is a major source of livelihood for farmers. Secondly, its production or lack of it has direct effects on the country’s importation bills. So, if there is adequate rice production, scarce foreign exchange is saved. On the other hand, scarce foreign exchange goes into rice importation when there is a shortfall in local production. Unfortunately, there is always a shortfall in local production. According to available statistics, the country’s estimated annual rice demand is put at five million metric tonnes. Placed against an estimated annual production average of about 2.21 million tonnes milled product, there is an annual deficit of 2.79 million tonnes (about 57 percent of demand), which is bridged by importation.More often than not, there is an increase in annual rice production, but consumption is also increasing annually. The National Bureau of Statistics estimates that yearly per capita consumption of rice, which stood at 15.8 kg from 1981 to1990 reached an estimated 27 kg in 2007. Unfortunately, during this period, self-reliance decreased from 87.4 percent to 71 percent in 2007. So, the continued rise in consumption dwarfs any marginal increase in production. With a scenario like this, one does not need to be an expert to know that the country would need to import millions of tonnes of rice to bridge the yawning gap between demand and supply. The importation of rice, a major staple is not just a big economic challenge; it is also a major challenge to the overall food security of the country. The problem becomes even more challenging when one realises that in this country of 150 million people, agriculture remains a key component of the Nigerian economy. One way or the other, agriculture provides employment for about 70 percent of the active population and currently contributes about 40 percent of the Nigerian GDP. But consistently over the years, the sector has continued to perform below its potential. With a land area of 923,768 square kilometers, the country has a total of over 79 million hectares of cultivable land out of which about 4.6 million hectares are suitable for rice production. Unfortunately however, only about 1.8 million hectares or 39 percent is currently utilised for rice cultivation in spite of the fact that rice is the fourth major cereal crop after sorghum, millet and maize in terms of output and cultivated land areas. This means that Nigeria has, over the years, failed to realise its natural potentials in the areas of local rice farming, production and marketing. But, how can the country tap into the seemingly limitless potentials available in the areas of rice farming and production? Can the country meet the rice per capita requirements of its citizens and even go on to turn the commodity into a major foreign exchange earner? A lot has been said and done by different governments at different levels with little or no change. This has led to a conclusion in many quarters that only a revolution can bring about the kind of changes that would lead to self-sufficiency in rice production. This is where a major gathering which is scheduled to hold in Minna, the Niger state capital next week becomes significant. According to a press release from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, a major plan for tripling domestic rice production, improving indigenous processing capacity and enhancing the marketability of rice grown and processed in Nigeria will be launched in Minna on Monday. The initiative, the release explained, is the major thrust of the country’s National Rice Development Strategy (NRDS), which was developed in 2009. The NRDS is part of a global initiative known as the Coalition for Africa Rice Development (CARD). The CARD initiative was launched at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) in May 2008 with the sole aim of doubling rice production in sub-Saharan Africa within the next ten years. CARD was jointly developed by the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). According to the conference documents, the CARD initiative is expected to be implemented “in full respect of African ownership and leadership embodied in the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), and with strong links to existing structures, programmes, networks and initiatives such as Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), and the African Rice Initiative (ARI).” Nigeria is one of the twelve pilot countries selected for the first phase of the CARD programme implementation. And, each of the 12 countries was required to develop a National Rice Development Strategy as the first step towards achieving the CARD objective of doubling rice production by 2020. The country has been working diligently on the strategy since then. Monday’s presentation is expected to be the beginning of a revolution that would triple rice production in the country by 2020. The NRDS, which will be presented to the public by Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, outlines the plan for transforming the production, processing and packaging of rice, which is a food item of choice for most households in rural and urban Nigeria. The main thrust of the strategy is to increase rice production in Nigeria from 3.4 million tonnes to 12.85 million tonnes within a decade. This expected increase is nearly 300 percent. One of the immediate effects of the strategy, if faithfully executed, would be that the country would save more than $500 million expended on rice importation annually. It would also impact positively on food security, job creation, balance of trade, poverty reduction and national productivity. Engineer Moses Adewuyi, the Director of Agro-processing and Marketing in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources described the strategy most succinctly when he declared that, “Now we have a holistic strategy for harnessing the potentials of a multi-billion Naira sector for the benefit of our people and our country. This strategy focuses on all points of the rice value-chain and provides the missing link for the development of this vital sector.” According to the NRDS, Nigeria is the highest importer of rice in Africa, and the second highest in the world. The strategy document however notes that the country has a huge but untapped potential for rice production and processing. According to the NRDS, only 39% of the 4.6 million hectares of land suitable for rice production is under cultivation; less than 50, 000 hectares of the estimated 3.14 million hectares of irrigable land is used for rice; and, on the average, less than half of the total amount of rice paddies grown in the country is processed. To address these gaps and improve rice production and processing in Nigeria in a sustainable manner, the NRDS is prioritizing three areas of intervention. The first area is post-harvest handling and processing. There would also be massive intervention in the area of land and irrigation development and paddy production while the third area of intervention would be in seed development and other production inputs. In the area of post-harvest handling and processing, the strategy would be to support the establishment of modern rice processing mills “that will deliver high quality parboiled milled rice that can compete favourably in both domestic and export markets.” Under this strategy, there are also plans for surveys to generate data for effective planning; conduct training for scientists, extension workers and farmers on latest techniques and best practices; focus on development of standards and grades for quality assurance as well as the undertaking of advocacy and branding of domestic rice “to convince Nigerian consumers that the domestic rice industry can deliver commodity that is comparable to imported rice.” Under the second priority area, the strategy is to expand land under cultivation for rice through clearing of more land, increase of farm power through mechanisation, and the introduction of public-private partnerships for better management of under-utilised irrigation schemes in the 26 states which constitute the 11 river basin authorities in the country. For seed production and input development, the strategy will be to subsidise and increase access to quality inputs, provide support to research institutes to produce breeder, foundation and certified seeds, introduce hybrid and high-yield rice varieties, and make chemicals and fertilizers available and affordable to boost rice production. In addition to all these, the NRDS advocates for the creation of a better policy environment for rice sector development. The plan is expected to be funded by the Nigerian government and its development partners. Now, most people would wonder why the NRDS should work where other policies have failed. But quite a number of stakeholders have expressed confidence in the workability of the document, saying that it is indeed the beginning of the rice revolution Nigeria needs to realise its rice production potentials. First, they point to the painstaking processes that went into its production. According to a release signed by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Alhaji Salisu Aliyu Gusau, the strategy was developed from a workshop organised last year by the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA), “to harness the contributions of all stakeholders on how to transform the rice sub-sector. The workshop was sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), with representation from other development partners, including the World Bank, USAID, World Food Programme, AfDB, UNDP, and NEPAD.” Secondly, the country’s development partners have hailed the document as a pragmatic document that can solve the rice problems of the country in ten years. They are so impressed with its intervention programmes that they have recommended it as a model for other participating countries. So, as the document is launched in Niger State, which is the highest rice producing state in the country, a major revolution that would signal rice production sufficiency may be about to start. With this revolution, the country may move quickly from being the biggest importer of rice in Africa to the biggest exporter in ten years. With the NRDS, the rice revolution is finally here. And since rice is a major staple, the country may truly be on the way to achieving food security.

Monday, March 15, 2010

NAMIBIA: Rice research blossoms into national venture

What began as a small-scale experiment by a University of Namibia associate professor to grow rice in areas where it had not previously been possible, has metamorphosed into a thriving rice-growing venture that has been declared a national project by the government. Namibia is a drought-prone country with two deserts, the Namib and the Kalahari, that are expanding annually. The former is the oldest desert on earth. Water is a severely limiting factor for crop production in a country of just over two million people, 65% of whom live in rural areas where drought and marginal agricultural land are common features. Namibia imports about 80% of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Attempts to grow rice in the north-central region of Namibia nearly 20 years ago failed. A few years later, inquisitive agronomist Professor Luke Kanyomeka began small-scale trials to ascertain which varieties of rice could potentially be grown in Namibia's seasonal wetlands. He came across New Rice for Africa (Nerica), a rice cultivar created by the West African Rice Development Association to improve rice yields. "Generally rice requires a lot of water. Paddy rice, which is commonly grown all over the world, is unsuitable for Namibia because the country is semi-arid," Kanyomeka, a Zambian with a PhD in weed science, told University World News. He obtained rice from the West African Rice Development Association and the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. "We then did partial cultivars in Caprivi which showed promise." Caprivi is a region in far north-eastern Namibia. In October 2007, the government asked the University of Namibia to help grow rice in Kalimbeza in Caprivi and the job fell to Kanyomeka to spearhead the project. This has earned him the nickname 'Prof Rice'. "We started off with only three hectares. We have identified four varieties of rice that can be grown in the north-central regions of Namibia, whose land could not be used for even growing pearl millet. These varieties have yields of between five and eight tonnes per hectare." The project grew rapidly, prompting President Hefikepunye Pohamba to declare it a national venture last October. So far this year, the project has harvested 80 tonnes of rice, double that produced last season. Kanyomeka said the project aimed to satisfy Namibia's domestic demand for rice: "The land at Kalimbeza will not be enough to produce rice for the whole country. Accordingly, we want to extend rice production to small-scale farmers in the Caprivi, Kavango, Oshana, Omusati, Ohangwena and Oshikoto. We have already trained three researchers and three technicians to support small-scale farmers." The project team also plan to train seven agricultural extension technicians in rice farming. "We are preparing for this with Kink University of Japan, with whom we have done research in seasonal wetlands in Oshana," Kanyomeka explained. The project has created seasonal jobs for 200 villagers who are hired for transplanting, weeding and harvesting. The Namibian government plans to buy equipment for the project and to help set up a research station to conduct more research on rice farming.

LT Foods has good potential in India: Chugh

Ashish Chugh, Investment Analyst & Author of Hidden Gems feels that food product companies has got good potential in India and LT Foods is a company which is available at PE multiple of 5, which is very reasonable valuations. Chugh told CNBC-TV18, “LT Foods has its rice mill factory at three locations which is Sonipat, Amritsar and Bhopal. The brands of the company are Davat and Heritage. This company has a strong distribution network not only in India but also overseas. About two years back this company acquired a US company called Kusha Inc, which has got a 42% market share of the US rice market. This has been a big positive for LT Foods.” He added, “If we see financials of the company, the first nine months sales of the company is at about Rs 760 crore and PAT is about Rs 24 crore which gives it an annualized EPS of about Rs 12-13. So the stock is currently trading close to Rs 60, which is available at a PE multiple of less than 5.” “Recently the India Agri-Business fund advised by Rabo Equity advisors has taken a stake not just in LT foods but also in one of the subsidiaries of LT Foods which is Davat Foods Ltd. Given all these factors the food product companies have got good potential in India and LT foods is a company which is available at PE multiple of 5 and this is available at very reasonable valuations,” he said.

Litle sign of rice price coming down

The coarse rice has been selling at taka 22 to 28 based on quality, middle quality BR-29 for taka 32 and the fine quality of rice at taka 40 to 41 in Amtally Upazilla of Barguna district The retailers said, there was litle sign of the price coming down soon.

In contrast, the price of some of the vegetables is cheap and of some is precious. Both potato and brinjal, the two most consumed products, sell at taka 10 to 12 per kilo, but biter gourd is selling for taka 30 and ladies finger for taka 40 only.

Pulse is still dear as lentil is selling at taka 120 only while green gram at a litle bit lower rate. Mash and gram are not found in the markets. Edible oil in pot of five litres is selling for taka 480, sugar at taka 60 to 65 and salt for taka 20 only. But as for the salt producers, the sad story is that the local producers have been incurring huge losses as their production cost is much higher than their sale price. The benefit is going to the middlemen's dens; also the importers.

Fish is really dear. The small species of fish as well as the river and the sea shad have almost disappeared from the markets. The reason behind the Hilsha fish disappearing is the imposition of ban on fishing for certain number of months.

Fishermen who are used to catching Hilsha fish are passing hard days. However, carp and ruhit of smallsize ate selling for taka 160 to 180 per kilo. The small pieces o fish though found in small quantity sell through bargaining between the sellers and the buyers.

Bengal gets paddy drying floor

Rice production in Region Six got a boost on Friday with the commissioning of a new paddy drying facility at Number 43 Village (Bengal).

According to a release from the Government Infor-mation Agency (GINA), the facility was officially declared open by Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud who stated that rice farmers will benefit tremendously since it will provide an opportunity for easier storage and increased value. This, he noted would result in better prices on the regional and international markets. Internally, he noted the facility will allow local farmers to better prepare seeds for the next crop. According to GINA, the project is an aspect of President Bharrat Jagdeo’s desire to ensure that interventions by the administration in assisting rice farmers bring immediate relief and more importantly, eliminate the practice of paddy being dried along the roadways in production locations.

According to GINA, since a significant amount of land has been turned over to rice cultivation, more infrastructure is to be prepared for drying purposes, due to an increase in acreage under cultivation requiring the need to create more facilities. Some 50,000 acres of new lands or reclaimed lands have been introduced into the rice belt, GINA noted.

General Secretary of the Rice Producers Association, Dharamkumar Seeraj stressed the importance of the drying floor and the construction of such facilities by the government.

According to GINA, Minister Persaud stated that large sums have been allocated in the 2010 budget to finance more agricultural facilities and as such he encouraged all stakeholders to continue to work together in the best interest of all concerned. On this note, Persaud used as an example farmers working to clear canals manually and in the Black Bush Polder area repairs were affected to a pump by the community which resulted in more water being made available.

Minister Persaud also referred to the impact the El Nino weather phenomenon has had on the country, noting that the dry weather has caused distress with the loss of some 2000 acres of rice land. As a result, the release stated, the Agriculture Ministry is conducting an ‘all-out effort’ to minimize losses and to maintain an adequate supply of the commodity to satisfy the market, with some 112,000 tonnes being ready for export.

According to the release, the Ministry of Agriculture is overseeing the process which will see more mechanisms being put in place to ensure that front lands are irrigated. This involves the creation of a separate and independent system to have drainage and irrigation applied to farms in front and backlands. Engineers from the Guyana Sugar Corporation are assisting in addressing conflicts with farmers over water distribution. The release stated that works will begin on the rehabilitation of pump stations at Mibicuri and Annerbisi, while a mobile pump is on the cards as well as support for drainage and irrigation infrastructure in the area.

Farmers call on govt to lift ban on food export

At least 312 tons of rice in Kilombero may rot or sold at throw-away prices following the government decision to ban their export to avert food shortage in the country.
The stocks belong to Kilombero High Quality Rice Growers Federation – better known in its Kiswahili acronym as Akirigo.

The Akirigo chairman, Mr Athuman Ngongowele said during the weekends that the stocks are piled in their silos - located at Kikwawila, Mang'ula A, Katulukila, Sonjo and Mkula areas – due to the ban.

At the same time, local buyers offer very low prices that will help farmers nothing.

“Locally, we are required to sell at Sh460/kilogram. Any price below Sh600/kilogram will means that we will be unable to pay the loans to the National Microfinance Bank….the government has to decide on this promptly because we are required to start repaying the loans on March 31, this year,” he said.

Last year, the federation got a loan of Sh253 million from NMB that was invested in rice farming.

The goal was to harvest 720 tons of rice but they managed to yield only 312 tons due to what he said to be delays in issuance of the loan.

“If the government cannot allow us export then it has to subsidize for the price so that we can repay the loans and in the end, farmers can get some token benefits from their produce,” he said.

The federation comprise of over 5,200 members who are all farmers in the district.

Two weeks ago, farmers in Rukwa complained that over one million tonnes of food crops harvested in the region may rot due to the ban on food exports.

The region harvested about 1.6 million tons of food crops last year but it (the region) requires only 250,000 for the farmers’ own consumption.
The Rukwa Regional Commissioner Daniel Ole Njoolay told a Network of Smallholder Farmers (Mviwata) in Mbeya recently that the National Food Reserve Agency in Rukwa was capable of buying only 40,000 tonnes per year, but the government had increased the amount to 60,000 tonnes.

However, that still left over 1.3 million tonnes without an assured local market, now when the government has banned export of food crops.

The Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Dr David Mathayo maintained that the government will not change its decision, noting however that it (the government) will look closely into the Rukwa case.

Area farmers switching to rice

Crop replacing corn, soybeans and cotton
More northern Louisiana farmers are switching to rice instead of corn, soybeans and cotton.
Garrett Marsh of Tallulah grew his first rice crop last year. "I was here to get a refresher," he said of a recent rice growing clinic sponsored by the LSU AgCenter.

He also farms corn and soybeans, but he has eliminated cotton, replacing it with rice.

Marsh said he was satisfied with his first rice crop that yielded 181 bushels to 200 bushels an acre.

He said the soil on his farm is heavy clay, more suited for rice than cotton.

Because rice doesn't suffer through droughts, it is a more dependable crop because water is pumped onto the crop.

Marsh's father, Jim, also of Tallulah, said hot summers often create quality problems for soybeans.

"You can't sell rotten soybeans," he said.

Garrett said he is eager to plant his rice crop this spring, although drill seeding will be a problem if some of the ground moisture doesn't evaporate.

"If it will just give us a week of dry weather, it will dry up."

Don Taves of Tallulah has planted rice previously but said he always learns something from the clinics.

"It was a good refresher course," he said.

Johnny Saichuk, LSU AgCenter rice specialist, said he expects more acreage will be water-planted this year because wet weather is keeping the ground saturated.

"I expect we're going to see some water-seeded rice that wasn't intended to be because of the weather," Saichuk said.

Water-seeded rice is planted on flooded prepared fields after the seeds are presoaked.

Water management is the key to a successful rice crop, Saichuk said.

"If there is any single factor, it's water management — when to get the water on and when to get it off."

Herbicides function better in wet conditions, he said.

Bill Williams, LSU AgCenter weed specialist, reviewed options for controlling weeds. "There's not a herbicide out there that you can use against every weed," he said.

Farmers should aim to keep weeds under control two weeks after planting and to keep fields clean of weeds for eight weeks to retain 90 percent of their yield.

He said the most common problem farmers face is allowing weeds to get too large before trying to control them.

Williams urged farmers to evaluate potential varieties in deciding which herbicides to use.

R.L. Frazier, LSU AgCenter county agent in Madison Parish, said the idea for a clinic for new rice farmers originated after talking with Donna Lee, LSU AgCenter county agent in East Carroll Parish, and Dennis Burns, LSU AgCenter county agent in Tensas Parish.

Most of the rice produced in Louisiana is grown in the southwestern part of the state, Saichuk said. Traditionally, about 20 percent of the rice crop is grown in the northeast part of the state.

"But that percentage is going up this year," Saichuk.

Debate: Is it proper for China to grow GM rice now?

Permission to allow field trials of genetically modified (GM) rice seed has raised food safety concerns. A scientist and a journalist take an opposing stand to a US political science professor.
Wang Chaohua: Dangers are there for all to see
Debate: Is it proper for China to grow GM rice now?
China's food safety laws and regulations are largely based on the guidelines of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But are the FDA prescriptions reliable enough?
In 1992, the FDA turned a blind eye to strong protests and even the opposition of its own scientists to state that genetically modified (GM) foods are as safe as any for human consumption and, hence, there was no need to give an explanation about GM foods. This move was widely criticized as arbitrary, given the role one Michael Taylor played in the case.
Taylor was then assistant FDA commissioner but soon left to serve as chief legal adviser to Monsanto, the world's largest seed company. Moreover, a new law drafted by Taylor did not consider facts found in a research from 1958 that illegal pesticides and food additives could cause cancer.
Food safety laws in China have become a subject of public debate again after the Ministry of Agriculture granted permission to carry out trials with GM rice seed.
GM seed companies claim their products could raise crop output by 15 to 40 percent, which many experts believe to be an exaggeration. What has been proved, instead, is that GM seed are unable to adapt to abrupt climate changes and may thus cause sharp drop in output. Last year, South African farmers who had planted Monsanto's GM corn seeds 820,000 hectares reported crop failure.
This is a scary fact. And China, which has a huge population to feed, cannot take the risk to try out GM grain seeds. Scarier is the fact that GM seeds lead farmers into a vicious cycle - the more crop failure they suffer, the deeper they get into the cycle.
GM seed companies also claim their products require much less use of pesticides. But statistics show no considerable reduction in the use of pesticides on farms where GM seeds had been planted. Instead, GM seeds raise a big health concern: The sharp increase in the use weedkiller genes, introduced genetically in the seeds. These genes can enter the human body. As early as 2000, German scientists working on GM colza pollen found the use of weedkiller genes had altered honeybees' enteric genetic structure.
Cannot this kind of gene transformation occur in humans who consume GM food? Experiments on animals have proved that GM foods have the potential to cause serious health damage even in a very short period. These tests show GM foods can harm animals' reproductive systems and raise infant mortality rates.
Debate: Is it proper for China to grow GM rice now?GM foods' gene modification could take generations to suit the human body. GM foods not only have the potential of harming the human body, but also of causing irrecoverable damage to the soil, that is, biological pollution, which is more dangerous than chemical pollution. Research has shown genes of micro-organisms and weeds have undergone changes in farms where GM seeds had been planted.
But what can the poor end consumer do under the pressure of the multi-billion-dollar GM seed industry? Take the case of Fox TV for example. The TV channel, under alleged pressure from Monsanto, fired two of its reporters who tried to expose GM foods' for the harm they could cause to humans. In 2008, French independent filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin's documentary, The World According to Monsanto, was banned from being screened in the US. Perhaps, only the EU takes a serious and prudent view of GM crops. The EU has strict rules that make it mandatory for GM foods to carry labels with detailed information on the materials they contain.
China should have taken all the above into consideration before allowing trials of GM rice seeds.

Xiong Lei: Decision should be left to end users
The government's approval to grow genetically modified (GM) rice, though on a trial basis, has again triggered a controversy over whether China should take the lead in subjecting a staple food crop to this technology.
It's not surprising to see GM-seed advocates condemn opponents for their "ignorance" of biotechnology and "phobia" for anything obtained through genetic modification. Champions of biotechnology will present all sorts of data and evidence to assure people that GM rice is safe.
Debate: Is it proper for China to grow GM rice now?
Yet the core question concerning the GM rice issue is not whether it is safe but whether people's rights will be honored, especially their foremost right to choose what they eat. Do people have the right not to consume GM rice and other GM crops? Will the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) guarantee people their right to choose non-GM food?
Even if a person is convinced that GM rice is safe, he or she should not be forced to consume it. And GM seed companies should not be allowed to change the situation in the farming sector to such an extent that people would be left with no option but to consume GM rice.
Such a worry is not groundless. Years ago, GM cotton seeds were introduced to China without telling farmers what they were. They were marketed as "super cotton" seeds. As a result, a large number of farmers across the country had begun growing "super cotton" seeds even before it received official approval.
We thanked heaven that (GM) cotton was not a food crop. But food crops were not spared the GM dose for long. GM soybean and corn began dominating our edible oil market even before we became aware of it. The MOA actually still owes us an explanation for this.
We cannot surrender our rights again to choose what we want to grow and eat now that the MOA has agreed to conduct trials with GM rice seeds. We have the right, and that right is sacred, to refuse GM rice on our dinner tables.
So if the ministry's decision to conduct trials with GM rice seeds is irreversible, effective measures should be taken to ensure the fields it is planted on are segregated and do not pollute non-GM rice fields. The MOA has to take steps to punish any violation, too.
Next comes people's right to know. Apart from the possible GM ingredients contained in food packets on supermarket shelves, we should be convinced that GM rice is not the only solution to the food problem we are facing or are likely to face before we are forced to eat it.
People need to know, too, why no other country is growing GM grain for direct human consumption. Have other biological means been exhausted to solve the food problem? Before asserting the use of GM rice seed did the authorities and "official" scientists try other ways to meet the challenge?
Data provided by GM-grain advocates shows that by 2005 - decades after GM seeds were introduced - only about 8.5 million farmers in 21 countries were growing GM crops. This is a small figure compared to the total number of farmers in the world. Then why should China be so eager to lead the world in commercialization of GM rice? This leads us to a vital question: Does the country spend enough on research in and development of grains. Sources say researchers in GM organisms have dominated the grants allocation, many of who have personal commercial interests in promoting GM food. If that is true, the authorities should never grant permission for GM rice cultivation.
Finally, as end users people should have the final say on GM rice. Since it concerns our staple, the decision to grow GM rice should not be left to the whim and fancy of a few fanciful researchers.
Robert Paarlberg: Evidence versus raw emotion
Debate: Is it proper for China to grow GM rice now?
China's Biosafety Committee in the Ministry of Agriculture has granted safety certificates for the domestic production of two kinds of rice genetically engineered to resist pests. China already allows the production of pest-resistant genetically engineered cotton, but the latest move toward approving a major genetically engineered food crop is stirring controversy.
Political misgivings about genetically engineered foods first emerged in Europe when the first shipments of genetically engineered soybeans reached there from the United States in 1996. At that exact moment, Europe was in the grips of a major food safety scare over an unrelated problem known as "mad cow disease", undercutting consumer confidence in the European regulators who had said the soybeans were safe to eat.
Fifteen years have now passed and there is still no documented evidence of any new harm from genetically engineered food, but European activist groups (led by Greenpeace International, from Amsterdam) continue to campaign against the technology, including now in China.
What these activists do not admit is that Europe's top scientists have long since found today's genetically engineered foods to be just as safe as conventional foods. This is also the official position of the International Council for Science (ICSU), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, World Health Organization and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization.
It is revealing that while Europeans generally do not like the use of genetic engineering in agriculture, they have no objection to its use in medicine. They don't like genetic engineering in food because they are already well fed (indeed, overfed) without the technology. It is Europe's lack of a need for this technology, not the presence of any new risk, which has been behind the protests.
China should make a decision on this technology based on the needs of its farmers and consumers. Critics wrongly assert that genetically engineered crops are more likely than conventional crops to result in pesticide-resistant insects or invasive super-weeds, an assertion rejected authoritatively by the ICSU.
A second favorite charge is that pollen from genetically engineered crops will kill butterfly larvae, even though studies conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency found this risk to be "negligible" under actual field conditions. Another bogus yet widely circulated charge is that genetically modified organism (GMO) crops contain "terminator genes", which render the seeds sterile, a ridiculous assertion given that the technology was originally spread to Brazil and India by individual farmers who freely replicated and replanted the seeds.
It has been asserted that GMO crops are so prone to failure that they have driven small cotton farmers deep into debt. This is a laughable charge in China, where small farmers have been planting these new varieties with nothing but commercial success since 1997 .
Activists have also raised a number of bogus food safety concerns about genetically engineered crops. Without any supporting experimental evidence activists try to argue that eating GMO foods will transfer antibiotic resistance genes into the human body. They now point to a study done in Austria in 2008 purporting to find lower reproduction rates among mice that had been fed with genetically engineered corn, even though the Scientific Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms of the European Union reviewed the study and found multiple errors which nullified the conclusions.

Industrial Bleach in Chinese Flour, Oil in Rice, Expert Says

A Chinese food expert writes a letter exposing malpractice in the industry

A food processing industry veteran in China’s Hubei Province had a letter published last week exposing what he regards as severe food safety problems in China.

Published in the Wuhan Daily News on March 7, Li Deshou’s letter has since been widely quoted by many Chinese bloggers. He pointed out that food safety issues are terrible and widespread, and that authorities have to take immediate action.

Mr. Li, Chairman of the Grain Association in Guangshui City and Vice Chairman of the Grain Association in Suizhou City, has been in the food processing industry for 17 years and has been directly involved in selling rice.

He stated that almost all of the rice sold in Wuhan from Suizhou has been polished with soybean oil. “Polishing rice with soybean oil has become a common under-the-table practice for some unethical plants.”

Oil added to rice becomes rancid easily and can therefore cause harm to the human body if eaten. Some unethical processing plants even use industrial oil; the potential consequences of this practice can range from damage to the digestive and neural systems to death, according to Mr. Li’s letter.

Mr. Li later told a reporter from Sound of Hope

Industrial bleach is commonly used in flour, too, he said. The corrosive properties of the bleach, if used at a high dose, can damage the digestive system, and harm the liver, kidneys, and circulatory system, Mr. Li wrote.

Pig farms routinely add chemicals, hormones, and drugs that have not been tested to their pig feed too, he wrote. Spoiled vegetable oil and peanut oil are also common additives.

He concluded his letter by saying that after witnessing so many shocking aspects of the food processing industry, he was compelled to step forward and tell the truth. He cited two core objectives: to alert consumers, and to urge the Chinese authorities to establish food processing standards and enforce these standards via public monitoring organizations.

The letter was sent during the sensitive period around the “Two Sessions,” the name given to the congregations of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference--mostly ineffectual government organs meant to approve and recommend policy for the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
(SOH) radio that rice that has been polished with soybean oil looks more attractive. “It is easy to spot rice that has been polished with soybean oil as there is often an oily residue left on the packaging. After polishing, rice loses some of its nutrients and vitamins, and may be harmful to the digestive system,” Mr. Li said.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Restore ecology to prevent rice pest outbreaks in Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand – Devastating outbreaks of brown planthoppers (BPH) in Thailand’s rice crop can be prevented if an eco-friendly approach to pest management is adopted, according to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
Khun Manit Luecha (right) talks to a Thai farmer (left) about BPH 
The brown planthopper (BPH) is one of the most destructive pests of rice and, this season, they are in plague proportions in Thailand – the world’s biggest exporter of rice.
Khun Manit Luecha, director of Chainat Rice Seed Center, says, “This is the worst outbreak of BPH I have seen in my career since 1977. Most of the paddy fields – probably more than 1 million hectares – will suffer rice yield losses of more than 30%.”
Damage has spread from the north, especially in Khampaeng Phet and Phichit, to Suphan Buri, Chainat and Ang Thong in the Central Plains – the rice bowl of Thailand. Damages are serious already and new outbreaks are being reported every day. BPH also transmits two viral diseases that can severely stunt and discolor the plant and prevent grain formation.
“BPH becomes a pest when natural control mechanisms fail,” says Dr. K.L. Heong, an insect ecologist at IRRI.
Close up of a brown planthopper
“To prevent outbreaks we must restore the natural environment and biodiversity to keep BPH numbers below economically damaging levels," he added. "To achieve this, farmers will have to use pesticides more strategically and adopt ecological engineering principles."

To manage BPH, IRRI recommends that farmers:

  • Adopt integrated pest management (IPM) practices.
  • Grow beneficial plants in the “bunds” between rice paddies to attract BPH predators such as spiders, crickets, and parasitoids.
  • Synchronize rice plantings so that there are times when no rice is growing to prevent immigrant BPH from establishing new populations.
  • Plant a BPH-resistant rice variety, such as RD29, RD31, RD41, Pisanulok2, Supanburi2, Supanburi3, and Supanburi90.
  • Do not apply fertilizer in excess as overfertilized crops tend to promote BPH growth.
  • Limit pesticide use to control leaf-eating insects as these products kill the BPH’s natural predators as well.
  • If a pesticide must be used to control BPH, use BPH-specific chemicals, such as buprofezin, as it has fewer effects on BPH’s natural enemies.
IRRI has been monitoring the BPH and virus situation across Asia with increasing concern over the past several years.
Dr. K.L. Heong is helping to find ways to manage BPH problems.
“Last year, high rice prices motivated Thai farmers to grow rice continuously, fertilize their rice more in an effort to boost yields, and attempt to protect their investment by spraying more pesticides to keep leaf-eating insects at bay,” said Dr. Heong. “This combination of practices helped cause the current BPH outbreak in Thailand."
Dr. Heong coordinates the Rice Planthopper Project, a collaborative research network with national scientists in Asia co-funded by IRRI and the Asian Development Bank that aims to share knowledge and develop sustainable ways to manage BPH problems.
If farmers or their advisors want to find ways to manage existing BPH problems and to prevent future outbreaks they can go to the Ricehoppers Blog.
IRRI helps farmers manage pests in a sustainable way by developing pest-resistant rice varieties, IPM strategies, and ecological engineering approaches.

China hikes rice price to boost output

BEIJING — China has boosted the price it pays for rice by up to 10 percent this year to encourage farmers to plant more and increase production, state media said Sunday.
China's economic planning agency set the minimum purchase price for short grain rice at 105 yuan (about 15 dollars) for every 50 kilograms, a 10.5 percent rise over last year, the People's Daily said.
The lowest price to be paid by state granaries for long grain rice was increased by 5.4 percent, the paper said, citing the National Development and Reform Agency.
China's rice farmers are required to sell a certain proportion of their harvest to state granaries at set prices, while the rest is sold on open markets where prices for the main staple tend to be higher.
"The price adjustments are aimed at prompting farmers to plant more rice and to increase grain production," the paper said, adding that the price rises would also raise rural incomes.
China's consumer price index, the main gauge of inflation, rose 1.5 percent in January compared with the same month a year earlier, driven mainly by food prices which were 3.7 percent higher.
In January 2009, China's planning agency raised the purchase price for rice by between 15 and 17 percent as the government sought to increase grain production and raise rural incomes

Philippines triples its rice yield in last 50 years

Washington, Feb 20 (ANI): Reports indicate that in the last fifty years, the Philippines has more than tripled its rice yield, while the world average rice yield has increased only about 2.3 times.

Despite being criticized as a poor rice producer because of its status as the world's biggest rice importer, the Philippines has actually done remarkably well in raising its rice yields from 1.16 tons per hectare in 1960 to 3.59 tons per hectare in 2009.

In 2009, Philippine rice yields were actually lower than the previous two years due to the damage done by the tropical storms "Ondoy" and "Pepeng".

In 2007, average rice yields topped 3.8 tons per hectare and in 2008 they were 3.77 tons per hectare.

Rice yields in the Philippines are also higher than those in Thailand, the world's biggest exporter of rice, where yields over the last few years have been around 3 tons per hectare.

"The Philippines has enthusiastically taken up rice science technologies that have helped farmers dramatically increase their yields," said Dr. William Padolina, deputy director general for operations at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

"Filipino farmers have adopted more than 75 IRRI-bred high-yielding rice varieties since 1960, have greatly improved their fertilizer and pest management strategies, and are implementing water-saving technologies," he added.

According to estimates from the United States Department of Agriculture, the average world rice yield in 1960 was 1.84 tons per hectare and in 2009 it was forecast at 4.24 tons per hectare.

Dr. Padolina acknowledges that the Philippines could improve its rice yields even more and said that he was confident that "the Philippines will continue to support rice research as a way of nsuring food security for Filipinos, to help lift local rice farmers and consumers out of poverty, and in turn improve the entire economy of the country

Philippines may buy more rice

The additional imports from Manila would bring its total purchases to just over a record 3.2 million tonnes for the year. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA - THE Philippines, the world's biggest rice buyer, may import around 800,000 tonnes more this year amid a prolonged dry spell, an official with the state grain agency said on Sunday.
The additional imports from Manila would bring its total purchases to just over a record 3.2 million tonnes for the year.
But bulging stocks from Thailand and Vietnam, the top two rice exporters, may cushion any impact on Asian rice prices which have eased considerably since Manila's last rice tender in December.
'What is being harvested now by farmers is what was planted from around September last year when the ricefields were hit by typhoons,' Rex Estoperez, spokesman for the National Food Authority (NFA), told Reuters.
'With the dry spell expected to last until July, there might not be enough water available for the planting season in May and June which will be harvested starting around September.' 'This means we may need to buy about 800,000 tonnes more to offset any production shortfall.'
Water levels at dams across the country have been dropping to near record lows due to the dry spell, caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon, putting at risk irrigation for farms as well as hydropower plants. Wide swathes of farmlands in northern Philippines, including rice-growing areas, have dried up completely

Stand-off between rice millers, govt

CHANDIGARH: Confusion prevails over the milling of PAU 201 variety of rice due to sharp differences between rice millers and the state and Central government regarding shelling of 40 lakh tonne of the variety stacked with millers.

While rice millers insist that due to the Centre's disapproval of the controversial variety, it would be procured by the Food Corporation of India, the government has slammed them for being "unnecessary panicky." A meeting convened by prime minister's principal secretary TK Nair and attended by state government officials, including chief secretary SC Aggarwal, stated that rice prepared from PAU 201 for the Central pool could be accepted. This because results of around 85% samples of the variety drawn for testing were within prescribed limits as far as percentage of the damage and discoloration was concerned.

Talking to TOI, Aggarwal said, "The millers are unnecessarily apprehending higher damage to the paddy variety than what is indicated in the samples. This is not logical. The Centre has clarified that rice should first be milled and one shouldn't jump to conclusions beforehand."

Meanwhile, millers don't seem too willing to buy the government's argument.

Tarsem Saini, president of the Rice Millers Association of Punjab, said, "We can mill 40 lakh tonne paddy stacked with us. But will Food Corporation of India accept it?" Saini said around 2 lakh tonne paddy of 201 variety, already milled across the state, had not been accepted by the Food Corporation of India. "We have been demanding relaxations due to damage to this variety. As of now, 4% is allowed but we want this to be increased by 6 to 8%," said Saini. Sources said the stand-off was significant as the variety had been sown for the first time and a high yield had been reported.

The procurement of PAU 201 began on October 1 and more than 40 lakh tonne has to be milled. Meanwhile, confusion has risen as results of testing by different agencies show a marked difference.

While the health ministry after sampling the variety had termed it unfit for human consumption, the latest samples with the Central government are said to be within the prescribed limits.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pakistan rice export to KSA rises by 50%

JEDDAH – A 20-member delegation of Rice Export Association of Pakistan ( REAP) organized a special “Biriyani festival” at a hotel here Sunday to show the Saudi consumers the quality and taste of different kinds of rice Pakistan is exporting worldwide.
Pakistan rice export to Saudi Arabia in 2008 was worth $160 million. It has reached $200 million this year.
The worldwide export increased to $2 billion. However, the target this year is to export rice worth $2.5 billion.
Since last year’s visit of the delegation and subsequent efforts of the REAP and the Pakistani Consulate initiatives, Pakistan rice exports to the Kingdom increased by 50% compared to last year.
REAP assured the Saudi businessmen of the quality and the fulfillment of the contractual applications, said Malik Muhammad Jahangir, the chairmen of REAP and leader of the delegation.
REAP has set up a quality review committee (QRC) to ensure that quality of rice exported from Pakistan meets buyers specifications.
Pakistan is also exporting Parboil rice and Sella which has a huge demand in the market.
“Our experience at Jeddah Economic Forum was excellent as we met many Saudi businessmen,” said Jahangir.
He said that Pakistan is exporting five major types of rice to Saudi Arabia.
This year Pakistan has had a bumper crop of more than 6 million tons where 2.5 million ton is for domestic consumption.
Last year Pakistan exported three million tons of rice.
The current target is to increase it to 3.5 million tons. Pakistan in the first six months exported 89,000 tons of rice to Saudi Arabia, and in coming six months it will export 200,000 tons.
Pakistan now has five multi-national inspection agencies to control the quality, said Abdul Rahim Janoo, the co-leader of the delegation and former chairman of REAP.
“We want to tell our Saudi partners to come and visit the country and see that Pakistan has the latest machinery and technology at the plants and mills,” said Fuad Hamid Garib, the deputy leader of the delegation.
Pakistani exporters know the need of the Saudi market and they are now focusing on the quality, production and competitive price so they can compete in the market, he said.

World Rice Congress to be held in Pakistan

KARACHI: Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan has announced the next World Rice Congress would be held in Lahore in November 2010. Shahzad Ali Malik, Chairman REAP said while addressing a gathering of two hundred rice exporters of REAP from all over Sindh and Punjab. He also said REAP North and South Zones have come together in a landmark development to breathe new life into the organization. He said this is indeed a great honor for Pakistan to host the World Rice Congress. Malik also urged his colleagues to put efforts into establishing a training institute for the rice industry. He said, two five acre plots – one at the Rice Research Institutes, Kala Shah Kaku and Dhokry, Sindh had already been approved by the government and it was only a question of pursuing the matter with a view to acquiring the land. He said establishment of such a training institute would help train agronomists, lab technicians and millers for the entire industry. staff report

Geographical Indications for the Skeptical Europe

In the past twenty years, the world wine market has been characterised by New World producers rapidly taking market share from EU producers who were constrained by several agreements that prevented them from mounting challenges, but there is a contradiction in the way the European Union has been seeking protection of Geographic Indications and traditional expressions for labeling purpose, argues Rajiv Seth
While these New World producers could excel because of their developing innovative grape and wine production techniques, resulting in consistent quality wine at competitive prices, the ability of EU producers to ward off this heightened competition was constrained by the various Uruguay Round agreements that seek to lower tariff and nontariff barriers to world wine trade as well as the strict industry regulations.
Traditionally, tariffs have been the most important barriers to world wine trade. However, the outcome of the Uruguay Round has been for WTO member countries to reduce tariff rates on commodities including wine. This in turn has placed greater pressure on the major wine producing countries, particularly in the EU, to rely on various nontariff trade barriers in order to maintain a similar level of protection for their wine industry as that established before the Uruguay Round.
Non-tariff Barriers
It is these non-tariff barriers that have become the focus of future WTO rounds for the worlds wine industry in the recent past. On the other hand the EU benefits from a large amount of intra-EU wine trade and a number of wine-specific agreements with countries which export to its member countries.
The reduction in tariff protection has pressurized EU to increasingly turn to non-tariff barriers as means of protecting their domestic industries. Of particular concern was the way the European Commission has been imposing its ownership of various wine related terms, particularly generic wine terms, through various wine agreements. While the TRIPS agreement recognises the concept of geographical indications, the European Union has been attempting to extend this protection to what it terms traditional expression.
However, there is a contradiction in the way that the European Union has been seeking protection of traditional expressions for labeling purpose. On the one hand, it said that consumers need information about where and how wine is produced so that they can make informed decisions. On the other hand, it has been seeking to restrict the use of everyday terms - traditional expressions - that consumers can understand and, hence, useful for making informed decisions.
Controversies surrounding GI
The new world producers and a number of third world countries have been surrendering their claims on traditional knowledge in the wake of intense political tactics by EU and some other powerful nations.
The claim on traditional expression is posing a very significant trade barrier to trade. For example, to describe ‘vintage tawny port’ using non-traditional expressions would leave consumers confused. That is, efficient operation of the market would not be facilitated by exclusive rights to these traditional expressions. Some countries are challenging this approach on the grounds that these generic terms do not imply any particular Geographical Indication GI.
The EU has also been promulgating new labeling regulations for wine. Among the new concepts espoused is the attempt to restrict certain bottle shapes to wine from a given GI. Certain bottle shapes were reserved for certain types of wine, such as French ‘Flute d’ Alsace’. While the bottle shapes that were proposed in the regulation were innocuous, the principle is unacceptable.
Semi Generics and the US
Most of us are familiar with the concept of a name – be it a trademark or geographical indication becoming generic – losing all connotation of a specific producer or place. US Wine law has a category of wine – called “semi-generics” where the name has a geographic significance and has also become a description of a class or type of wine.
There are a number of such names, including Champagne, Port, Sherry, Chablis and Burgundy. In U.S. these terms may be used so long as the true place of origin is disclosed to the consumer. Thus, we have California or New York Champagne. Many, but not all, believe that the users of those names have a legitimate right to keep using those names or be compensated for giving them up. The rule permitting such use is clearly articulated in TRIPs Article 24.
The overriding purpose of a wine label is to prevent misleading the consumer. The regulations concerning semi-generics require that the true place of origin be stated on the label in direct conjunction with the semi-generic term being used. Lengthy studies are unnecessary to establish the obvious.
No one could think that California Chablis comes from any place other than California. Consumers, who buy Chablis because it has a geographical connotation and want Chablis from Chablis, can simply read the wine label. Thus it is ridiculous to suggest that a consumer looking at a bottle labeled “American Champagne” or “California Champagne” would assume it to be from France.
If a geographical term is used as the common designation of a kind of product, rather than an indication of the place of origin of that product, then the term no longer functions as a geographical indication. Where this has occurred in a certain country, then that country may refuse to recognize or protect that term as a geographical indication.  For example, the term “cologne” now denotes a certain kind of perfumed toilet water, regardless of whether or not it was produced in the region of Cologne.
Because Gls are a relatively new species of intellectual property, most producers in developing countries are yet to realize their critical importance and potential value. Many of the traditional agricultural products of these countries which have gained world wide reputation for their taste and quality run the risk of becoming generic names.
Basmati Rice- GI or Generic?
Basmati rice is a case in point. Basmati is long-grain aromatic rice originating in the sub-Himalayan region of the Indian sub-continent. Due to its popularity in the west, scientists have attempted to develop several different varieties of aromatic rice naming them as Basmati, although many of these aromatic rice varieties do not contain any parental line of the traditional Basmati. In September 1997, a US company, M/s Ricetec, managed to get a patent for a new plant variety that is a cross between American long-grain rice and Basmati rice.
The likely impact of this will be that if the American version is able to establish itself in the international market through advertising etc and the Indian and Pakistani exports of Basmati rice will take a serious hit. To prevent this, India disputed the patent claim, while at the same time, alleging that Basmati is a GI.  On the other hand Ricetec Inc argued that it is a generic name and therefore, it can not be protected as a GI.
India contended that according to the definition given in the Article 22.1 Basmati is a non-generic GI because though Basmati was not the name of geographical region, its character and reputation was inextricably linked to its region of origin. The dispute was largely settled when the USPTO eventually granted narrower patent to Ricetec only a few variants of Basmati.
Despite this settlement there is no guarantee that the Basmati can be saved from becoming generic. There are several hurdles in the way before India can manage to get protection for Basmati rice. Basmati rice is now grown in many parts of the world and is no longer confined to the northern regions of India and Pakistan. It has become virtually impossible to demarcate the geographical regions/areas in which rice of this variety can be given the exclusive name of ‘Basmati’. Hence, without proper demarcation, GI protection cannot be awarded. Most significantly, Ricetec has taken the argument that the term ‘Basmati’ has been used for decades in a generic way describing this variety from other sources such as American Basmati, Uruguayan Basmati and Thai Basmati.
In other words, even if the term did fit the TRIPS definition at one point of time it has fallen into the public domain and has become generic through lack of efforts to protect the name internationally. Even if India takes this matter to court; the likelihood is that Ricetec will escape liability. This is because Ricetec labels its product as ‘American style Basmati rice’, a practice restricted under Article 23 (1) of TRIPS only for GIs relating to wines and spirits and thus we see California Champagne.
The above illustrations clearly shows how countries like USA can, arbitrarily extend the use of Article 23 (1) of TRIPS granted to wines and spirits to suit their own goals. Apart from economic consequences, the Basmati patent evoked an extremely sentimental response as the patent granted to the US Company was considered a theft of collective intellectual and biodiversity heritage on Indian farmers. Indian people felt the patent was like snatching away our history and culture.
The outcome of Basmati case led to some other US companies to exploit India’s Traditional Knowledge and heritage in order to gain economic benefits.  Neem tree case, Turmeric case are same other examples of US Biopiracy of exploiting our traditional knowledge. Ultimately, even if a system of multilateral registration is created, GI protection can be opposed by saying that the terms used to describe the product have become generic by virtue of their usage in different parts of the world for a long period of time.
The stalemate to extend the same level of protection to other agricultural commodities granted to wines and spirits in article 22 and 23 of TRIPS and by stalling the negotiation process envisaged under article 23.4, the US and EU has created a multilateral risk for a number of products from developing countries being misused as Generic by virtue of their usage in different parts of the world for a long period of time and this biopiracy has serious economic consequences for the developing world.  
Gis for non wine and spirits
Some of the famous Indian GIs are Benarasi Silks, Kashmir Carpets, Darjeeling Tea, Assam Tea, Pashmina Shawls, Alphanso Mangoes, Nagpur Oranges, Maysore Silks, Bangal Cotton and Kohlapuri Slippers etc.
The countries which favor the extension of GI to products other then wines and spirits argue that GI are an intellectual property right equal to tradements, designs or patents. To this end, the TRIPS provision granting wines and spirits higher protection can not be justified in law. Further there are no commercial, economic or legal reasons to limit effective GI protection to only wines and spirits or not to provide such protection also to GIs for all other products.