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.

Philippines Agribusiness Report Q1 2010

The government of the Philippines was presented with an enormous challenge following the havoc wreaked by Typhoons Ketsana and Parma which struck the country in September. The twin typhoons caused hundreds of deaths and widespread destruction. The storms damaged around half a million hectares of rice fields likely destroying more than 800,000 tonnes of palay. The storms have forced the authorities to bring forward import tenders for rice for 2010 delivery to make sure there are no shortages in the first half of 2010.

With the rice market likely to be tighter in 2010 owing to the poor monsoon in major exporters India and Pakistan, the Philippine government will be desperate to avoid any domestic shortages of rice or dramatic rise in prices, especially with a general election looming. The government announced a tender for 250,000 tonnes of rice at the end of October for delivery in the first quarter of 2010. With rice production now forecast to fall, we expect imports to climb back above 2mn tonnes again. Vietnam will once again be the major supplier owing to the low price of Vietnamese rice compared to Thailand.

The Philippine rice import policy has been causing friction with its ASEAN neighbours in the second half of 2009. Under the terms of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), tariffs on all products not on the Highly Sensitive List are to be reduced to between 0% and 5% by January 2010. The Philippines does have rice listed as highly sensitive, but the country's refusal to agree to a gradual reduction of tariffs has threatened to delay implementation of the agreement. Malaysia and Indonesia, which also have rice on their highly sensitive lists, have agreed to make significant cuts in their import tariffs for the grain.

Indonesia has committed to cutting its tariff from 40% to 25% by 2015, while Malaysia has gone further and will cut its tariff from 40% to 20% at the beginning of 2010. The Philippines, however, has offered to cut its tariff by a mere two percentage points to 38% by 2015. The Philippines is also manoeuvring to have sugar moved onto the Highly Sensitive List to avoid having to make a drastic cut in tariffs from 38% to less than 5% at the beginning of 2010.

The last-minute wrangling reflects badly on the country's agricultural policies. Successive governments have had the best part of two decades to improve the productivity of the country's agricultural sector to be able to compete with products from the rest of South East Asia. However, with the 2010 deadline looming, the Philippines is still lagging far behind Thailand in productivity. This has raised fears of a flood of cheap imported agricultural goods, especially rice and sugar, undercutting domestically produced food and putting the goal of self-sufficiency even further out of reach.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

26,000 tonnes of rice for poor households during Tet

Around 351,000 poor households in 11 provinces across the country will be provided with more than 26,000 tonnes of rice before Tet (Lunar New Year Festival) said the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs at a press conference on February 2.
Deputy Minister Nguyen Trong Dam said the Government has asked the Ministry of Finance to provide rice from the country’s reserves to support poor people.
The provinces of Hoa Binh and Da Nang will also help the poor with subsidies of VND200,000-VND300,000 per family.
The Fund for the Poor has financed the construction of 73,800 subsidised houses, of which 56,525 have been completed and the rest will be finished and given to poor families before February 10.
During Tet, every State beneficiary will receive a gift worth VND200,000-VND400,000 from the State President

Fadama III Partners Farmers On Rice Production

In its bid to boost rice farming and production in Nigeria, the third National Fadama Development Project (fadama III) is to partner with the farmers and the national centre for Agricultural mechanization (NCAM).
Speaking at a collaborative meeting in Abuja, National Project Coordinator of Fadama III Bukar Tijani said the project is designed to uplift the living standard of users of land and water resources in the rural areas by increasing their income through good farm yield.

He said rice production can help fight poverty through employment generation which is possible if agricultural activities are improved in the rural areas for income generation.
Tijani said NCAM would work closely with Fadama III to improve the Fadama groups by training them to adopt the technology that would making rice farming simple by bounding, pudding, levelling and smoothening.

Executive Director of NCAM Eng. Ike Azogu said the technology would lead to higher yield.
He said a close linkage with the rural farmers is a platform for the technology to thrive and the project covers 641 local governments in Nigeria.

State reaps over 1.4 mln quintals rice

Bahir Dar, February 3 (WIC) – The Amhara State Agriculture and Rural Development Bureau said more than 1.4 million quintals of rice has been reaped this production season.

Bureau Technology Transfer Expert, Asmare Mengistu, told WIC the rice was obtained from 29, 517 hectares of land developed in 20 woredas of the state.   He said close to 74,000 farmers took part in the development activities.   The bureau is working to expand rice production development in the state as it plays a key role in achieving food security, he indicated.

Rice procurement crosses 200 LT in 2009-10 season

New Delhi, Feb 3 (PTI) Rice procurement has crossed 200 lakh tonnes so far in the ongoing 2009-10 marketing season, even as the total purchase showed a slight dip of over three per cent compared to the corresponding period last year.

According to the latest official data, total rice purchased by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and State agencies stood at 201.38 lakh tonnes so far this season against to 208.49 lakh tonnes.

The Centre hopes to procure 280 lakh tonne rice this season, more than the annual requirement of 272 lakh tonne for the PDS, even as the grain production this year is expected to be lower by 13 million tonnes. The shortfall in production of the food grain is expected after the country suffered the twin calamities of drought and flood.

Last year the FCI and other state-run procurement agencies had purchased a record 336.

Ministry shortsighted over rice problem

The media has reported on the plight of paddy farmers who experienced ar educed yield due to insect attacks on their crops. Last year, they experienced severe flooding which caused damage to their crops. This year the insects/pests further aggravated the impact of last year's loss. The report focused on the utilisation of pesticides. According to the media: 'In March last year (2009), Deputy Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Mohd Johari Baharum was reported as saying that Muda Agricultural Development Authority (Mada) was preparing a working paper for a standardised pest-control system in the padi fields. Under the system, he said the ministry would provide a suitable amount of pesticides to the farmers'.
The agriculture and agro-vased industry ministry seems very shortsighted about the problems which are beginning, if not already plaguing, the agriculture sector due to first of all to the lack of technology and innovation in improving the yields of locally-produced crops for food.
Furthermore, the ministry and its agencies seem to lack a sense of urgency on what changes in climate are doing to agriculture production all over the world.
We depend on Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and India for about 30% to 35% of our rice supply. Guess what? The agriculture sector is one of the most vulnerable to changes in weather and climate. According to some studies, warming may affect pest life cycles and their ability to respond to pesticides.
Available datasets from China's Cropping Management and Agriculture Department show that the average loss of rice grain yield due to plant diseases and insect pests were 3.79 million tons per year during 1987–1996 and 4.77 million tons per year during 1997–2006, accounting for 2.1% and 2.6% of the national total rice yield, respectively.
The above situation has a direct impact on increased pesticide use and that is exactly what was experienced in China's case when pesticide use grew 30%. As a result, the farmers will bear additional cost of inputs for their agriculture activities and indiscriminate or increased use of pesticides further stresses the environment.
According to the International Rice Research Institute (Irri), some of Asia's most important rice- growing areas are located in low lying deltas such as in Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh and India. Southeast Asia collectively produces 150 million tons of rice a year, 95% of which is consumed in the region.
So we urge both the agriculture and agro-based industry ministry and the domestic trade, cooperative and consumerism ministry and other related agencies to have some critical review of our agriculture system, their subsidies and price control mechanism.
In 2008, Vietnam, Brazil and India, enforced the ban on exports of this commodity, causing the price to jump in the international market. During the price hike in 2008 for rice, there was call for the government not to renew Bernas' import permit when it expires in 2010.
Rice of all types are declared as controlled goods under the Control of Supplies Act 1961 – governed by the domestic trade, cooperative and consumerism ministry. We hope with the probability of price hikes, we are not called to consume less rice citing obesity and cardiovascular diseases.
We call on all the relevant agencies to review, implement and continuously improve our National Agricultural Policy based on minimising dependence on imported food, strengthening our food security through adequate adaptation and mitigation measures and enhancing the agriculture sector based on sustainable agriculture principles.
This requires the input and involvement of all stakeholders in the whole supply and value chain; across ministries, researchers, consumers and the industry. The welfare of farmers who are critical to the success of a sustainable agriculture policy must be ensured as this could entice young entrepreneurs into the agro-business which needs a renewed enthusiasm as well as energy from the youth population.

Monday, February 1, 2010


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India may get Chinese nod for basmati rice export soon: APEDA

China is expected, in the next 2-3 months, to allow Indian basmati rice imports as the two countries have recently reached a political consensus, a top official of agri-export promotion body APEDA has said.

"A political consensus on basmati rice trade was arrived at the recently held Eighth Joint Commission Meeting in China," Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) Chairman Asit Tripathy told PTI.
"Considering the progress made in the last 6-7 months, I think in 2-3 months time, we should be able to get a formal approval," he said, adding that China, a rice-eating country, is a potential market for India.

Tripathy, who was in the meeting as part of the delegation led by the Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, said that India would be able to export at least 20,000 tonnes of basmati rice if the market opens.

"In a recent meeting, we have briefed the Chinese ministers about opening the market access for our basmati rice. We have also shared with them the pest risk analysis of the grain," he said.

India, which has exported 10.6 lakh tonnes in the first six months of the 2009-10 fiscal, has been attempting for several years to resolve the trade barrier with China, though basmati rice has been exported to the neighbouring country through informal channels, he added.

Ban Rice Import

Government has been asked to ban the importation of rice into the country and encourage the production and consumption of the foodstuff locally.

Mohammed Adam Nashiru, President of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana, a civil society organisation, who made the call, suggested to the authorities to increase tariff on imported rice, to create market for locally produced rice to increase the income of farmers to support the economy.

The leader of the Association was speaking at a meeting of rice farmers from the Tamale area, on Tuesday. Mr Nashiru said the Upper West, Upper East and Northern regions last year produced 500,00 metric tonnes of rice and could meet the local demand for the staple. He expressed worry that lack of interest and political will by successive governments to support rice production had led to low production of the crop in the country.

Mr Nashiru called on government to take positive steps to support farmers to increase yield to reduce the country’s high import bill on rice. Roy Ayariga National Programme Coordinator of the Northern Rural Growth Programme, advised rice and maize farmers in the three northern regions to increase output since local and external demand for rice and maize was high.

He encouraged farmers in the Northern Region to engage in dry season farming to increase production. The Single Mothers, operators of a restaurant in Bolgatanga, served local rice as lunch for the participants to promote the consumption of the food in the country.

IRRI and rice research : 50 years on the road

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) was established in 1960 and is among the largest non-profit agricultural research centers in Asia with headquarters in the Philippines and offices in 14 nations including Nepal. It is supported by donors and partners around the globe and known as the home of the Green Revolution in Asia. IRRI helps to feed almost half the world’s population. Its mission is to reduce poverty and hunger, improve the health of rice farmers and consumers, and ensure that rice production is environmentally sustainable.

Rice is a staple food in most of Asia. The world’s biggest continent has a per capita rice consumption of 85 kilograms and also accounts for about 90 percent of the over 600 million tons of paddy rice produced worldwide. Other parts of Africa and south Americas are also heavy rice consumers and major rice producers. Rice remains a most important and staple food for most people in the world and the crop with the longest history of cultivation. More than 3 billion of our poorest people depend on it for their daily food requirement, but for Asia, rice means even more. Rice is cultivated in 113 countries. Rice is a great source of national pride. Most important of all, rice is the one thing that ties Asia together. However, climate change, which is now causing erratic weather patterns, also threatens rice production, and is a matter of serious concern

IRRI, the largest and oldest international agricultural research institute in Asia, marks its 50th anniversary in 2010. In half a century of service for a cause, IRRI’s high-yielding rice varieties have helped significantly increase world rice production, especially in Asia, saving millions from famine while protecting the environment and training thousands of researchers. IRRI’s Golden Jubilee comes as Asian and world food security face unprecedented challenges, but it also comes at a revolutionary time for rice research. The Green Revolution in Asia, which began in the 1960s with the introduction of modern, high-yielding rice varieties led to a rapid rise in both rice yields and overall production. IRRI will celebrate 2010 as a milestone with its partners on its 50th anniversary. Celebrations started in November 2009 with the launch of the 50th anniversary and the 6th Rice Genetics Symposium and will continue through 2010 with other events in the Philippines, including an IRRI alumni homecoming in Los BaƱos in April 2010 when the Board of Trustees will also meet.

IRRI is doing a whole host of research that is helping the world to increase rice production. Global farmers eagerly adopt new technologies and varieties that have resulted in a steady increase in rice yields over the last 50 years since IRRI was established. Research that IRRI is involved in that is helping farmers increase their rice yields includes: developing new high-yielding rice varieties with built-in resistance to pests, diseases, and other stresses such as heat hit; developing rice crop management strategies that improve nutrient-use efficiency to get the most value out of inputs and reduce wastage; developing climate change mitigation plus adaptation strategies and technologies; training the next generation of rice scientists and building the capacity of rice practitioners to ensure the sustainable development of the rice industry. Among its achievements, IRRI has identified “Sub 1” gene that can survive more than two weeks under water, and can now be planted by farmers to improve rice yields on flood-prone land throughout the world. New, higher-yielding rice plant along with package of practices could ease threat of hunger for the poor.

Fifty years ago, a turning point in agricultural research that helped launch a revolution in food production occurred - the formation of the IRRI. “Rice science has helped to more than double rice yields in the last fifty years.” The vision of IRRI’s founders to invest in rice research to improve food security is the sort of long-term thinking we need now as we look to find solutions to address the challenges, including climate change, which threaten rice production. Partnership was at the heart of the original agreement to form IRRI and IRRI has forged many important private and public sector partnerships across the world to support efforts to reduce poverty and make sure rice production is sustainable.

Rice is one of the most important cereal crops in Nepal. As per the preliminary estimate of Fiscal Year 2009/2010, the rice crop was grown in 14,81,289 hectares with the production of 40,23,823 metric tons and the productivity was 2.716 t/ha. Because of the present global food crisis plus increased food prices, a high level national food security mission should be formed, involving field-hardened experts with proven track-record. India has banned the export of wheat and coarse rice or non-basmati rice. If Nepal is not self-reliant in food grains, the situation would be so severe that many would have to go hungry as the demand would outstrip the production level. Aware of this, Nepal has signed a MoU with IRRI for enhancing rice productivity.

Agricultural exports rise by 16% in January

HA NOI — Viet Nam earned US$1.16 billion from agro-forestry and seafood exports in January, a rise of 16 per cent compared with the same period last year.
Increased earnings have been attributed to a rise in global prices.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry, the total export value included $636 million from farming product, $235 million from fisheries products and another $235 million from forestry products.
Rice exports brought in $161 million, the ministry said.
The Viet Nam Food Association predicts that the rice-export price will continue to rise due to increased demand on the world market.
In addition, the Philippines’ decision to open up bidding for rice contracts to outside countries would boost Vietnamese exports.
Meanwhile, exports of coffee, cashew nuts and rubber were worth $193 million, $88 million and $75 million, respectively.
This year, the ministry hopes the export value of agro-forestry and seafood products will reach $16 billion, an increase of 15.4 per cent over 2009.
In the first month of the year, the country imported fertiliser worth $43 million; milk products worth $6 million, and vegetables and fruits worth $25 million.
The ministry said the value of agricultural, forestry and aquatic exports exceeded the yearly target last year. The export value in 2009 reached $15.3 billion – $1.3 billion above the yearly target but lower than the $16.52 billion export value in 2008. — VNS

Vietnamese rice needs an int’l brand name

VietNamNet Bridge - Although Vietnam is one of the three largest rice exporters in the world, its rice prices are lower than Thailand’s. Experts say Vietnamese rice has no brand name and its quality is inconsistent.
In the domestic market, branded rice on supermarket shelves is 20 percent more expensive than that offered at street kiosks. To increase rice prices, experts say Vietnam needs to build a brand name for its rice in line with international standards. 
Richard Moore, a well-known brand expert, says producers need to pour more investment into marketing, packaging and trading services if they want to increase their rice prices. He cites Thailand as a role model in building a brand name for its rice. It tops the list of global rice exporters and its prices are higher than Vietnam’s.
Hermawan Kartajaya, president of the World Marketing Association, says Vietnam has not yet found out any distinctive characteristics of its rice to make it identifiable to consumers and help them distinguish between Vietnamese rice and the rice of Thailand or China. Once consumers prefer a branded product, the price is no longer a matter of concern, he says.
The bottom line is to create close links between exporters and farmers, increase product quality, build a brand name and expand export markets.
According to the Vietnam Food Association, rice exports will face many challenges in 2010, requiring close links between producers and traders. To increase the quality and build a brand name, businesses have no choice but to work closely with farmers to develop commercial farming areas.
The Mekong delta province of An Giang, which has the largest rice output, is taking the lead in developing a brand name for its rice. Many of its businesses have teamed up with farmers to build a brand name. The An Giang Import-Export Company (Agimex) established a joint venture with a Japanese company in 1990 to grow and purchase rice. Agimex-Kitoku has increased its cultivated area from an initial 40ha to 1,870ha at present. Over the past five years, the joint venture has made a profit and its brand - Agimex-Kitoku - has become known to consumers.
Bac Lieu - another Mekong delta province - has succeeded in promoting the brand Mot Bui Do Hong Dan for its rice. Currently, it is cultivating this rice variety on 18,722ha in Hong Dan and Phuoc Long districts.
Last year, Mot Bui Do Hong Dan rice was granted an geographical indication (GI) by the Intellectual Property Agency under the Ministry of Science and Technology. The certificate is expected to open up opportunities for Bac Lieu to export this kind of rice. Recently, the province signed a contract worth VND375 billion to ship 25,000 tonnes of its rice to the European market.
Meanwhile, the Mekong delta province of Soc Trang has succeeded in crossbreeding special varieties such as ST3, ST5 and ST10 which are a favourite with domestic and foreign consumers. These varieties are offered at between VND15,000-17,000/kg – a higher price than the normal varieties command.
The province has zoned commercial farming areas for these hybrid varieties in Nga Nam, My Tu, Thanh Tri and Ke Sach districts, intending to increase the existing area of 30,000ha to 50,000ha by the end of this year and 100,000ha in the next 10 years.
Farmers in the Mekong River Delta – the country’s largest rice granary – hope that these zoning and development plans will help increase Vietnamese rice’s competitive edge in the world market.

Export from Pakistan

Australia reduces customs duty

KARACHI: The Australian government has reduced the customs duty on the import of a number of products from Pakistan.

According to information communicated to the government of Pakistan on Saturday, the Australian government took the initiative recently, which would help in exporting various products from Pakistan to Australia.

The new customs duty slab has come into affect on the import of goods from Pakistan. “A further duty reduction to 5 percent would be effective from January 1, 2015,” a notification mentioned.

The details of customs duty reduction showed that duty has been reduced to 10 percent on the export of bedwear, towel, readymade garments, textile made-ups, knitwear and leather clothing.

In the case of cotton fabric, soccer ball, art silk, cotton yarn, tanned leather, footwear, the customs duty has been slashed to 5 percent.

Customs duty on rice, carpet, surgical instruments, guar gum and cotton bags or sacks has been brought down to zero.

Customs duty on leather gloves would vary between 5-10 percent and on cutlery, it would be applied between 0-5 percent.

The export of fresh vegetables and seafood from Pakistan to Australia is banned due to certain health and quarantine constraints.

However, this issue has been raised by the Pakistan trade mission in Australia and is also included in the agenda of Joint Trade Commission (JTC) and would be taken up in its meeting scheduled to be held on February 15-16, 2010 in Islamabad.

Officials commenting on the development said that it would definitely help the local export sector to boost their exports to Australia, however there are certain areas to be looked into for having quantum jumps in exports.

Though, the duty has been reduced on Pakistani exports to Australia, however it has never been so high in the past, officials pointed out and added that actual problem lies with the non-tariff barriers (NTBs) that block the export from Pakistan to Australia.

The protective measures enjoyed by the agriculture sector in Australia in the form of subsidies and other hidden incentives make the export from other countries almost redundant to have competition in Australian market.

For instance, customs duty on rice import in Australia has never been high, however Pakistan was not able to export huge quantities to it because of NTBs, officials added.

Pakistan exports to Australia average $150 million worth of goods annually and it ranks among the top 40 countries, which consume major chunk of the export from Pakistan.

The details of customs duty reduction showed that duty has been reduced to 10 percent on the export of bedwear, towel, readymade garments, textile made-ups, knitwear and leather clothing. tanveer ahmed

Oman- Tenders worth RO46.79m awarded

(MENAFN)The Tender Board yesterday held its second meeting of the year and awarded tenders worth of RO46,790,601.

The approved tenders included the following projects: Medications and medical supplies made through unified purchase for the GCC countries in 2009 (RO11,594,744); improving the current track of Berkat Al Mooz Saiq road in Al Jabal Al Akhdhar RO11,461,403); supply of rice (RO3,095,770); providing consultancy services for the technical and economic feasibility study and preparing the designs and supervision for implementation, management and operation studies of Shinas Port development (RO.2,434,750); and catering service for Sultan Qaboos University (RO.2,376,099)

Tenders were also awarded for providing consultancy services for supervision and management of new sanitary drainage plant at Darsait in the Muscat governorate (RO2,310,000); additional works to provide security services for the Justice Ministry buildings (RO1,371,600); development of the water surfaces and construction of car parks (the main building for Oman Waste Water Services Company at Al Ansab in the Muscat governorate (RO1,296,398) and manufacture and supply of scaffoldings for Oman Dry Dock Company (RO1,227,360).

Other tenders include preparing guides for the auditing guide for the State Audit Institutions, auditing guide for the internal audit office at the ministries and service units (RO995,000); provision of consultancy services to expand external telephone networks, design, supervision transfer of knowledge to Oman Telecommunications Company (RO.871,620); additional works for preparing comprehensive layout to construct ports, marinas and facilities for the ferry boats at the Sultanate's coasts (RO731,849); and supply cables (33 kv, 3x300 mm2) (RO.676,500).