Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rice Output Growth in Indonesia to Slow on El Nino, Bulog Says

Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Rice-production growth in Indonesia, the world’s third-largest grower, may slow this year as an El Nino weather phenomenon parches crops, according to Bulog, the state-owned food company that manages the nation’s supplies.
Output of milled rice may expand 3 percent in 2010 after rising 5 percent to 40 million tons in 2009, according to Mohammad Ismet, an expert who helps set Bulog’s policies. That forecast assumes the government has some success in neutralizing El Nino’s impact, he said in an interview today.
El Ninos curb or delay rains across Asia and can parch crops, potentially crimping harvests of rice, sugar and palm oil while boosting prices. Thailand and the Philippines, the world’s top rice shipper and importer respectively, warned earlier this month that the weather pattern may cut their harvests.
Without government intervention, including use of drought- resistant seeds, production growth “may not be as much as 3 percent,” Ismet said in Singapore, where he’s attending a conference. Still, the Southeast Asian nation will have enough supply of the staple to meet domestic needs, he said.
Thai rice-export prices, used as an Asian benchmark, were set at $609 a metric ton on Jan. 13 compared with $607 the week before and last year’s low of $525, according to data from the Thai Rice Exporters Association. Futures in Chicago traded at $13.98 per 100 pounds today, down by 6.1 percent this year.

‘Significant Influence’

An El Nino -- caused by a warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean -- was forecast to cause drier-than-average conditions in Indonesia in the January-to-March period, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center said on Jan. 7. The pattern, forecast to last till June, “is expected to exert significant influence on the global weather and climate in the coming months,” it said.
The last time that Indonesia had a moderate El Nino similar to conditions the country is now experiencing was in 2006, when rice output grew 0.5 percent, Ismet said. That compares with growth of about 5 percent a year from 2007 to 2009, he said.
The price of rice in the domestic market has risen 6 percent this month compared with October as supply tightened after the El Nino delayed planting from November to December, he said. “Price is the best indicator for the market, whether the supply is enough or not for the consumption,” he said.
Bulog is forecast to buy 3.5 million tons of rice from farmers to sell to the poor at subsidized rates, helping to cool prices, Ismet said. The nation of about 232 million people has per capita consumption of 139.42 kilograms, he said.
Thailand may see a drop in rice output of as much as 15 percent to 27 million tons, Apichart Jongskul, secretary general of the nation’s Office of Agricultural Economics, said on Jan. 13. The Philippines may lose 400,000 tons from this year’s first rice harvest on El Nino, Joel Rudinas, acting agriculture undersecretary for operations, said on Jan. 18.

Rice output up, so is the price

Farmers carry paddy from a field in Rangunia. The government recorded a rise in aman output but the price of the staple is still high.Photo: Zobaer Hossain Sikder

The Ministry of Agriculture has estimated record aman output at 1.31 crore tonnes this season, while millers claim a paddy supply shortfall pulls the staple price up.
The rice price has seen an uptick since early September 2009. Coarse rice was Tk 26-28 and medium quality rice was Tk 30-34 on Saturday.
In September last year, coarse rice was Tk 20-22 and medium quality rice was Tk 24-26, recording a 28 percent rise, according to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB).
“It appears that the rise in the price of rice is not linked to production. Our estimation is conservative and till date we have not received any indication of a fall in output,” Agriculture Secretary CQK Mustaq Ahmed told The Daily Star yesterday.
Economists say such a rise in aman output is welcome, but if DAE (Department of Agricultural Extension) estimates are correct, rice prices should not go up.
Traders may take advantage of the fact that global rice prices are on the rise and that it will be expensive for the government to procure rice from the international market, said economist Mahabub Hossain.
"Big millers may also hold back supply to create an artificial shortage in the market to encourage the price hike,” he said.
The DAE aman production estimates showed that aman output exceeded the target of 1.27 crore tonnes in fiscal year 2009-10.
The latest estimate stood at 1.28 crore tonnes in FY 2008-09, which is 2.34 percent higher than the previous aman production figure prepared by DAE.
“Aman output went up because of a rise in acreage, proper distribution of the monsoon and fewer pest attacks,” said Sayeed Ali, director general of DAE.
He said low rainfall levels encouraged farmers to plant aman paddy on low lands in some districts, such as Brahmanbaria and Habiganj, leading to an overall rise in acreage to about 55 lakh hectares, up from a target of 54 lakh hectares.
Free irrigation facilities extended by the government in the wake of low rainfall during the farming season also helped attain good output, he said.
Barisal, Khulna, Sylhet, Chittagong and Rangpur recorded better output in the imminent aman season, he added.
Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, which recorded aman production at 1.16 crore tonnes in FY 2008-09, is yet to publish its estimate for the current fiscal year.
Millers said paddy should be available for sale in the market, provided a bumper aman production, prices of which rose since the beginning of December last, riding on speculations of a shortfall in production.
Factors such as late rains, delayed farming and thereby low yield fuelled the speculation.
“I think there is a missing link in the calculation, as the supply of paddy remains low in comparison to demand,” said KM Layek Ali, convener of Bangladesh Rice Mills Association, a body of about 17,000 mills.
He said farmers usually sell large quantities of paddy in January to get money to buy inputs for boro crop.
“The government should undertake a survey to examine how much paddy is coming to the market to be sold,” Ali said, denying any rice hoarding to create artificial shortfalls.
“The government should check whether we hoarded rice,” he said, linking inadequate supply to the hike in rice prices.

Thailand to support local rice production

Navrongo (UE), Jan. 19, GNA - Thailand, the World's largest exporter of rice, is to support the Irrigation Company of Upper Region (ICOUR), to expand local rice production under the Tono and Vea Irrigation Schemes in the Region.

Consequently, a four-man investment delegation from Thailand, led by Vichai Sriprasert, has visited the Region to have first hand information about the operations of the Tono and Vea Irrigation schemes.

Managing Director of ICOUR, Alhaji Issah Bukari told the delegation that visited the Tono Irrigation facility in the Kassena-Nankana East District that there existed large tracts of land for the cultivation of rice.

He also said there was another vast land at Naga in the District and Fumbisi in the Builsa District, suitable for rice framing.

Alhaji Bukari said that it was government's intention to make the country become self-sufficient in rice production within two to three years and would partner organizations that could help the authorities to achieve this objective.

He said rice farmers lacked inputs such as tractors, combined harvesters and fertilizers among others.

Mr. Sriprasert said a team of experts in rice production from Thailand would soon arrive in Ghana to support the farmers to undertake large scale production of the crop.

He further assured the rice farmers that not only would rice increase in production but rice farming technology would be transferred to them to facilitate their farming activities.

Mr. Sriprasert said that Ghana had vast tracts of land and water sources that could be exploited for rice production.

He asked the rice farmers to collaborate with the team of experts to enable Ghana to achieve its dream of becoming self-sufficient in rice production.

The Upper Regional Director of Food and Agriculture, Alhaji Abdul-Razaque Zebrim Salifu thanked the delegation for the visit.

He said that increase in rice production in the region create employment for the youth and reduce poverty in the area.

The delegation also visited the Tono Reservoir, rice fields, silos, rice mills and farm inputs stores.

The farmers expressed joy over the partnership and said they would co-operate with the delegation to increase rice cultivation.   

The delegation was accompanied by Mr. Peter Mahama of the Office of the President and Mr. Emmanuel C. Akuna, National Coordinator of Youth in Agriculture Block Framing Programme. 

Govt to rehabilitate irrigation scheme

OLWENY Swamp Irrigation Scheme is to be rehabilitated in order to improve farm incomes, food security and rural livelihoods in the northern region.

Henry Bagiire, the state minister of agriculture, said the project will target over 10,000 farmer groups and would be done through sustainable natural resources management and agricultural enterprise.

“We are carrying out environmental impact assessment of the project because it involves carrying out relevant technical investigations and studies, and preparing engineering designs to facilitate rehabilitation and construction structure and supervision of the rehabilitation works,” he said.

The minister, who was speaking to farmers from Lira, Kitgum, Pader and Lamwo, said the Government has obtained money from the African Development Bank under the Uganda farm income enhancement and forest conservation project.
Rice is a priority enterprise in the northern region.
Key players include the small scale farmers of the Rice Growers Multi-purpose Co-operative Society, a remnant of Olweny Swamp Rice Irrigation Project.

However, the rice value chain in the Lango and Acholi subregions faces a poor soil fertility management due to lack of skills in soil and water conservation, lack of improved varieties and modern inputs (ox ploughs and tractors), pest and disease control, the silted canals and a defunct rice scheme system.
There are also poor agronomic practices and ineffective extension services, poor post - harvest handling and storage facilities at farm level. However, the formation of farmer groups has made it conducive for block farming to promote large scale production.

Farmers interviewed said the revival of the Olweny Irrigation Rice Scheme provision of credit to farmers’ would enable them get inputs which would improve household incomes.

When supported, the millers will introduce various packing units that enhance product development to penetrate the topmost market segment within the country.

For increased rice production, a credit scheme to increase access to credit by chain actors to take care of procuring ox-ploughs, harvesting equipment, packaging units, silos and driers should also be put in place.

According to the rural development strategy developed in 2005, the country’s surface area of about 242,000 square Kilometres has 15% open water, 3% permanent wetlands and 9.4% seasonal wetlands.

Out of an estimated six million hectares of cultivated land in Uganda, only 54,000 hectares are being irrigated. Of these, only 2,500 hectares have proper irrigation schemes. 

Market Operation in Kalibaru Sells Low Quality of Rice

To help people meet their basic needs, North Jakarta government together with Logistic Agency (Bulog) Jakarta Capital City Regional Division hold a rice market operation. However, few people came to the program taking place in community unit 14/neighborhood unit 03 (RT 14/RW 03), Kalibaru urban village, Cilincing. It was caused by the poor quality of rice. 

In this program, Logistic Agency provided 9 tons of rice with Rp 5,500 per kg. People thought the price was more expensive than the market price of Rp 5000 per liter. Because of that, few people attend the program. 

Momon (54), a resident of RT 14/RW 03, Kalibaru, Cilincing, said the price of rice in the market operation was still expensive. It should be cheaper than market price. Such as, Rp 2,500 or Rp 3000 per kilogram. “It is useless if the price is still expensive. It does not include transport fee,” he said. 

Likewise, Supinah (45), a rice vendor in RW 03, admitted that she was reluctant to buy there because the difference of price is very little. “It is nonsense if OP price is just a bit lower than the market price. If we include the transport fee, it may be more expensive,” she said.

Head of Kalibaru urban village, Seran Hambali stated this OP has spread 2,500 coupons to people. "I just monitor and inform the people. While the offering price is the authority of Bulog,” he said.

PDS rice about to be exported to Maldives seized

Chennai, Jan 25 (PTI) About 2,212 tonnes of PDS rice, valued at Rs 3.89 crore, were seized by Customs officials at Tuticorin port today while the consignment was about to be exported to Maldives.

A Customs press release said its officers suspected that rice being loaded at the port, meant for export to Maldives was PDS rice and informed state civil supplies department.

Customs officials seized the entire load after tests of samples of rice taken from the ship, lorries and rice stocked at the exporter's godown, revealed that the rice was meant for distribution in PDS, it said.

A case has been registered under the provisions of the Customs Act, 1962, the release said.

Rice export touched $1bn in Jul-Dec 2009

KARACHI: Rice export industry has grown historically during the last six months (July-December 2009), as 20 million tonnes of rice worth $1 billion were exported during the said period.

Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan Vice Chairman Rafique Suleman said this in a meeting of REAP delegation with Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan at the Governor’s House. REAP ex-chairman Abdul Aziz Maniya, REAP MC Member Jawed Ali Ghori, REAP ex-MC Member M Arshad Khaliq, REAP Member Safder H Mehkri were also present on the occasion. Suleman informed him that all this has been made possible due to the untiring efforts of our members as well as with the business friendly policies of the government. He further highlighted the importance of power/electricity in this very important trade and appreciated KESC for its support to this trade, which is one of the greatest sources of generating much-needed foreign exchange. staff report

REAP asks govt to keep out of rice export

KARACHI: The Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan has warned if government bodies get involved in rice export, the private trade would come to a halt.

Foreign buyers are waiting for the Pakistani government to issue tender and they expect import at low prices, Rafique Suleman, Vice Chairman REAP told The News on Thursday.

He said the government bodies’ intervention in rice export would be a great loss to the private sector that has invested billions of rupees in the trade.

The government after allowing export of rice to the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) in November last year, now has also allowed Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Supplies Corporation (PASSCO) to export rice to any country of the world. It was decided in a meeting of the Economic Co-ordination Committee (ECC) held on January 12.

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MinFA) had forwarded a summary for the approval of the ECC on Jan 6 to allow PASSCO the export of rice to the Middle East, Iran, Europe or any other market on government-to-government basis. MinFA got approval to export Super Basmati rice (five per cent broken) at $900 per tonne through qualified local and foreign agents.

The Ministry of Industries & Production, Planning & Development Division of Planning Commission, Finance Division and Ministry of Commerce supported the summary.

According to sources, the TCP holds 25,000 tonnes of basmati rice while PASSCO holds 90,000 tonnes of the same quality.

PASSCO and TCP on government directives had procured one million tonnes of paddy (0.5 million tonnes from Punjab and aggregate 0.5 million tonnes from Sindh and Balochistan) to support paddy growers. PASSCO procured 435,832 tonnes milled rice from rice millers on set intervention prices of Super Basmati paddy at Rs1,500 per 40kg which was converted into Rs3,000 per 40kg (Rs75 per kg) after being milled to Super Basmati rice. IRRI-6 was bought at Rs700 per 40kg which was converted into Rs1,400 per 40kg (Rs35 per kg) for milled IRRI-6 rice.

TCP bought 25,000 tonnes Super Basmati rice through tenders at Rs87 and Rs75.90 per kg and 1,500 tonnes IRRI-6 rice at Rs32.90 per kg.

TCP is trying to export its held stocks since last year and had issued its first tender on October 09, 2009 but failed to receive any bid till its tender closed on November 24, 2009. Tender was re-issued on December 18, 2009 to export 25,000 tonnes of Super Basmati rice which would be opened on Jan 21 for acceptance of bids.

In order to record their protest, REAP delegation led by Vice Chairman Rafique Suleman met with Dr Ishratul Ibad, Governor of Sindh at Governor House on Wednesday.

Rafique Suleman informed the governor that during July to December 2009, around 20 million tonnes of rice was exported to various countries valuing around US$1 billion.

Rice growers laud ECC decision

KARACHI: Welcoming the decision of the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet to allow PASSCO to export rice, farmers have urged the government not to succumb to any pressure of rice exporters.

“It is a breakthrough for rice farmers and they will be encouraged to increase rice production,” said Hamid Malhi, President Basmati Growers Association. Rice production reached a record 6.9 million tons during 2008-09 from 5.5 million tons in 2007-08 while rice exports fell from 3.3 million tons to 2.9 million tons during the same period. “The surplus rice caused a glut in the domestic market in Nov and Dec 2009,” Malhi told The News on Friday. The role played by PASSCO to the extent that it purchased 435,832 tons of rice from the market in 2008-09 was a great relief for the domestic rice sector.

“Although farmers could not fully benefit from PASSCO’s delayed intervention but the intervention did decrease pressures on the trade which caters for purchasing of the total rice produce,” he said, the 6 per cent purchases by PASSCO during 2008-09 were a relief to that extent only.

PASSCO’s performance during 2009-10 has been nominal and its rice purchases of Basmati have not exceeded 50,000 tons which is not even 1 per cent of the total rice production. In the event of exports by PASSCO which are to be on a government to government basis, it would not affect the existing export trade especially when a $900 per ton minimum export price (MEP) has been enforced for PASSCO, below which it would not be able to sell its stocks.

Malhi said rice exporters feared that the $900 per ton rate would uncover the under invoicing which is rampant in the rice export sector. “The fake clamour and lobbying by rice exporters last year was successful in stopping TCP from making further purchases from the domestic market and it only procured 25,000 tons of Basmati rice and a small quantity of Irri 6 rice,” Malhi said.

He said the country could not afford decrease in rice production which was the major foreign exchange earning commodity.

“Such decisions would enable the government to decrease trade deficit while generating economic activity in the rural areas,” he said. He suggested that monopolistic behaviors and policies should be strongly done away with. Malhi said they chose to remain on the sidelines and in comparison to the Rs1,250 announced by the government for Basmati paddy the rates in the market hovered around Rs800 per 40 kg. “This is what forced the government to intervene through PASSCO and TCP to bail out the farmers.”

Bengkulu to intervene rice markets

Bengkulu (ANTARA News) - Bengkulu`s provincial trade authorities will soon conduct market operations to stabilize fluctuating rice prices at local markets.

Local trade and industry office chief Karatul Aini said here on Tuesday people in Bangkulu, especially those in the low- and middle-income brackets , had started to complain about rice price hikes at several markets.

"Our plan to intervene in the rice market is still being discussed with other related institutions but we will do it soon," Karatul Aini said. Retailers were now raising their rice prices almost every day, he noted.

To help low-income people cope with the rice problem, the local administration would soon conduct market operations to keep prices at a level affordable to them.

Meanwhile, an assistant to the Bengkulu governor, Fauzan Rahim, said on a separate occasion, the local government was now preparing the funds needed to conduct the rice market operations in the near future.

"We also continue to monitor the price situation at local markets and if prices go up steeply in the next two weeks, the market operations will be speeded up," Fauzan Rahim said.

Fauzan said the market operations were intended to stabilize rice prices and reduce people`s anxiety about the fluctuating prices.

He said rice price hikes were occurring not only in Bengkulu but also in other parts of Indonesia because the prices were influenced by the season change.

Lia, a Benkulu resident, said rice from the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) was sold earlier by retailers at the price of Rp5,460 per kilogram, but as of Monday, January 25, 2009, it gradually edged up to Rp8,000 per kilogram.

"In such a difficult situation , we want the government to immediately do something about the price rises to alleviate our misery," Lia said here on Tuesday. (*)

RP to export heirloom rice to US

BONTOC, Mountain Province — Hundreds of native rice farmers in this landlocked province will export at least eight tons of heirloom rice to the lucrative United States (US) market this year to augment the volume of native rice being exported by the provinces of Kalinga and Ifugao.
The growing production of heirloom rice in the rice terraces of Mountain Province, Kalinga, and Ifugao is a significant development in the effort of the concerned government agencies to preserve and protect the man-made rice terraces as well as the bid to preserve and protect the deteriorating watersheds and forests in the region being spearheaded by the Regional Development Council (RDC) in the Cordillera.
The heirloom rice to be exported will be sourced from the municipalities of Tadian, one-half ton; Bauko, 1 ton; Natonin, 1 ton; Sadanga, 2 tons; and Barlig, 3.5 tons.
The export of heirloom rice to the US is being administered by the Revitalized Indigenous Cordillera Entrepreneurs (RICE) which has established linkages with prospective markets in order to accommodate the increasing production of native rice.
The RDC-CAR cited the production of native rice boosts the effort to preserve and protect the watersheds and forests considering that farmers will be encouraged to plant herbs and grasses which will be organically decomposed and used as fertilizers in the organic production of the native rice.
Kalinga and Ifugao have been exporting at least 25 tons of “unoy” and “tinawon” rice, respectively, to the US because of its rapidly increasing market, thus, RICE was prompted to expand its production areas to the organic rice farms in Mountain Province which eventually passed the international tests conducted by experts in the numerous rice farms.
The potential international market for heirloom rice encouraged numerous rice terraces farmers in the three provinces to go back to their rice farms and continue indigenous farming practices which are helpful in the preservation and protection of the rapidly denuded watersheds, especially in the various places.
Because of the shift from chemical-based to organic rice farming, the greenery in the denuded mountains is slowly going back since the barren areas are now being planted with herbs, shrubs, and grasses which are used as organic fertilizers of the heirloom rice.
The heirloom rice grown in the Cordillera is known for its aroma and lasting taste that is preferred by health-conscious foreign consumers.

Rice imports due to climate change - Sarath Amunugama

A forum for Sri Lankan marketers convened to elicit answers from proxies of President Mahinda Rajapaksha and Retd. General Sarath Fonseka ultimately descended into an overly politicised difference of opinions on Thursday night as both parties resorted to campaign style propaganda and mud-slinging more characteristic with an election rally than a corporate-shared learning forum.
Particularly noteworthy was a comment made by Public Administration and Home Affairs Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama which suggested that rice imports had ultimately only become necessary due to climate change. Speaking on behalf of the President, Dr. Amunugama noted several issues that he felt questioned Gen. Fonseka's ability to lead. Most relevant to the business community, he also went on to once again present oft publicised promises by the government that it would revise growth to 8 to 9% by 2011 as well as virtually doubling per capita income, to over US$ 5,000, in four years time. Interestingly, this latter per capita goal was called into question by a member of the audience while at least one of Dr. Amunugama's accusations was also disputed by a prominent economist who was in the audience at the time.
Further stating that an International Monetary Fund report of the same day showcased that the country's economy was stronger than expected with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth expected to return to pre crisis levels in 2010, he also noted that national debt had been reduced and further highlighted a number of public infrastructure projects recently inaugurated by the government.
Meanwhile, speaking on behalf of the united opposition candidate Gen. Fonseka, Ravi Karunanayake, a former Minister for Trade, addressed a number of Dr. Amunugama's accusations while also questioning the motives behind the recent relaxation of foreign exchange restrictions. He also noted that, out of the 74 promises that were outlined in Mahinda Chintana 1, only four had been kept, and it was precisely because Gen. Fonseka was not a politician that a number of parties trusted him, joining his campaign despite their differences. However, the crux of his power point style presentation was a number of specific measures targetting ordinary citizens' current woes including a per person grant of Rs. 10,000, a promise that could amount to as much as Rs. 140 billion; an increase in Samurdhi payments; a continuation of existing fertilizer subsidies at the present levels; etc. He also noted that, as opposed to the existing level of 54 separate taxes paid by each citizen, the main opposition candidate intended to reduce this number by at least one third.
Offering its members "A Glimpse of Your Future", this event was just the most current in what is said be a continuing series of pre-election debates held by Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM) with a lineage stretching back to at least the last presidential election.

Genetically Modified Rice and Corn To Grow in China, then the World

genetically modified rice
Genetically modified rice is likely to see widespread adoption in China in the next two to three years.
China grows a lot of rice – about 60 million tonnes a year. It also consumes most of that, only exporting around 1% of its crop. So, high demand for production with little fear of export restrictions? Sounds like a recipe for genetic modification. According to Reuters, China recently approved the commercial use of genetically modified rice and corn to be phased in probably within the next two to three years. Both strains of GM grains were created locally. Huazhong Agricultural University developed Bt rice, which contains proteins from Bacillius thuringiensis bacteria that allow it to resist the rice stem borer, a major pest in China. The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences likewise developed phytase corn which helps livestock more easily absorb necessary phosphorus from feed. Experts believe that widespread adoption of the GM rice in China may lead to an 80% reduction in pesticide use, and an 8% increase in crop yield. More food, less pollution. With a promise like that, we could see GM rice spread from China to the rest of the world.
Of course, genetically modified food isn’t new, not even in China. They’ve had GM papaya, cotton, and tomatoes for several years. Likewise, the United States has been a major developer of genetically modified crops. Most of the country’s soybeans and cotton are grown from GM strains that started to gain popularity back in the 90s. Bayer has developed a rice, LL rice 62, which has gained approval for cultivation in the US, but has yet to see widespread use. Reactions to GM foods ares still mixed in Latin America. Europe continues to resist adoption of GM crops, and currently only grows one major strain – a type of modified corn. China’s foray into the world of GM rice and corn could be a turning point for the rest of the globe. As the world’s largest consumer of rice, China’s choice may force other countries to consider adopting similar GM food stuffs, especially if they have any interest in selling to the Asian powerhouse.
The short term benefits for China could be enormous. Most of the country’s rice is grown on small farms, and these local farmers are exposed to a variety of pesticides to maintain their crops. Bt rice will drastically reduce the amount of needed pesticides and may relieve the need to flood fields. (Flooding is partially used to reduce the prevalence of parasites.) Phytase corn will not only allow livestock to more easily receive needed nutrients from feed, it will eliminate some of the phosphorus waste present in pig and cow manure. Again, it’s hard to argue with increased food supplies and decreased environmental impact.
Yet there are many who do find the use of GM crops troublesome. Many Europeans question the safety of foodstuffs that have only been around for a few years. Most of the plants that we eat have been “tested” by thousands of years of cultivation and consumption. As these crops are designed to be more successful, they can quickly come to dominate and replace the natural versions in the wild. Once enough countries go GM, they say, the rest of the world will become GM through the natural dispersion of seeds.
Others point out that GM crops are the intellectual property of the developers, which have almost exclusively been large chemical corporations. Farmers are (generally) not allowed to plant their own left over seeds from GM crops, but instead must purchase seed from the developer. This is seen as an enforcement of the patent rights of the company, but there is concern over most of the world’s seed supply being under the control of a few business institutions.
Finally, I worry about any process that narrows the gene pool of an important biological resource. Most commercial crops have already been bred to a very limited number of strains, restricting that down to just a handful of similar genomes seems to be asking for trouble.
It’s hard to get a good idea if the Chinese are actively debating these issues as GM rice and corn are set to gain major ground in the next two to three years. Europe is likely to continue to fight GM adoption, Latin America is going to be a battle ground as each country takes its own measures to advocate or demonize GM foods, and the US…Well, strict veggie libel laws and loose labeling standards make the US a GM free for all. Few people in the states know which foods they eat are genetically modified.
Again though, despite all of its critics GM food does one thing very well: it feeds people. Increased yields are going to be necessary as the world population continues to grow. Many genetically modified plants reduce the need for pesticides, which is an ecological boon. Unfortunately some are specifically designed to resist herbicides, thus increasing the use of those chemicals. It’s probably too soon to really know if GM crops are a good idea at the moment.
[Update: I should state that many people are not convinced that GM crops do in fact raise crop yields or reduce the use of pesticides. Watch dog groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists have challenged the efficacy of GM corn and soy in the US since their introduction in the 90s (see their report, Failure to Yield). There are dozens of similar groups of farmers, scientists, and civilians who advocate organic farming, crop rotation, and non GM-based solutions as the most reliable means of increasing yield. It should be noted that there is a dearth of GM related research published in peer review journals often because of end-user agreements with the companies who hold the patents on the GM crops. To be fair, critical reviews of GM crops (including Failure to Yield) are themselves rarely published in peer reviewed journals either.]
Eventually though, I can’t see how the world will avoid adopting them. Being able to customize life to suit human needs is simply too powerful of a tool to ignore. Yes there will be setbacks, perhaps even tragically large ones, but in the end we will need to grow more food on less resources. And that probably means GM. Not just in plants, but in animals as well. We’re likely to see more GM livestock in the next decade, unless meat starts to be grown outside the farm entirely. In any case, your plate is going to be filled with food that mother nature couldn’t make on her own. Actually, for many of us, this has already happened. Science tastes good, doesn’t it?

Mauritius buys 20,000 tonnes white rice in tender

HAMBURG (Reuters) - Mauritius' state purchasing agency has bought 20,000 tonnes of long grain white rice in a tender for the same volume at a price of $607.45 a tonne c&f, European traders said on Tuesday.
The rice was for shipment between February 1, 2010, and January 31, 2011.
Bidding deadline was December 11 and bids had to remain valid until January 20.
Mauritius traditionally buys its annual rice requirement in a single tender.

Indonesia Seen Producing 66 Millionn Tonnes of Unhusked Rice in 2010

Agriculture Minister Suswono has projected Indonesia`s unhusked rice production in 2010 at 66 million tons, while the country had unhusked rice production surplus in the last two consecutive years. "The target could hopefully be achieved in 2010 considering Indonesian success in 2009, a 3 million ton rice surplus," the minister said in Padang.
According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), the national paddy production reached 63.83 million tons of dried husked rice or up 5.83 per cent in 2008.
If converted, the amount is equivalent to 34-35 million tons of rice, and it means Indonesia`s surplus reached more than 3 million tons.

More rice: Vietnam

HCM CITY, VIETNAM - Southern provinces have this year targeted a rice yield of 23 million tonnes on an area of 4,341 million hectares, an increase of 57,000 tonnes and 94,000ha compared to last year.
The production will follow the standards of the Viet Nam Good Quality Practice (Viet GAP) and Global Good Quality Practice (Global GAP).
GAP standards define the quality of soil preparation, rice plant tendering, pest prevention, harvesting and storing methodology. The standards have helped increase profits for farmers, especially from high-value exports.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Cultivation Department has advised regional farmers to use key rice varieties developed by the Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Bui Ba Bong said irrigation and preparation for the drying process would ensure a quality harvest from this year's crops.
Bong spoke during a conference to review 2009 rice crops and cultivation in the Mekong city of Can Tho last Friday.

"The worst thing is the drought that will come in the middle of February, which will affect a large number of areas," he said. "So the ministry has urged provinces to dredge canals to reserve fresh water."
Bong said the chances of saline intrusion were low since most rice in the coastal areas would be harvested in March. "The provinces should have already been well prepared by then with anti-salination dams."
"Each agricultural cooperative should have one drying plant for the use of all farmers," said Le Van Banh, the institute's director.
"The World Bank's agricultural capacity enhancement project is going to fund two delta provinces, An Giang and Tien Giang, US$1 million each for infrastructure and post-harvesting technology."
Threats, risks
"We have to be highly aware of the spread of leaf-burning disease caused by the Pyricularia oryzae cav. bacterium during this winter-spring crop," said Nguyen Huu Huan, deputy director of the Plant Protection Agency.
The disease has affected 80,000ha of rice in the delta. Huan warned farmers to reduce the cultivation density to avoid the spread of disease. He said farmers, in an aim to control disease, should avoid using too much nitrogenous fertilizer.
"Brownbugs have attacked 75,000ha of rice in the delta. We have measures to prevent the insects' outbreak because the neighbouring countries of China, Cambodia and Thailand are experiencing this," he said.
Viet Nam Food Association (VFA)'s President Truong Thanh Phong said one of the common rice varieties used by the delta farmers requires complicated drying processes. Farmers should reduce the cultivation area of this variety in the summer-autumn crop to avoid losses, he added.
"The country's rice exports will have new competitors with similar types of rice from Myanmar," he said. "Last year, Myanmar exported 900,000 tonnes of rice and it plans to increase the quantity to 1.5 million this year, with $100 lower in price of one tonne than Vietnamese rice."
Network support
Phong said the VFA had ordered rice exporters to organise a network of merchandisers and rice-husking facilities. This will reduce the number of purchasers' direct visits to farmers and help them buy rice at a low rate.
The VFA is establishing an investment fund for rice quality enhancement. The Central Association for Farmers will join hands to run an expected $6 million fund, providing incentive loans to cooperatives and farmers in drying plant and rice-husking plant projects, or warehousing development.
Rice exporters promised to contribute $1 per exported tonne of rice to the fund.
Phong said the VFA would carry out a programme to equip 13,000 communes nationwide with two to three computers in each commune. Farmers would learn agricultural techiques through the internet

Proposed rice-sugar swap deal with Philippines unlikely

Proposed rice-sugar swap deal with Philippines unlikelyISLAMABAD, Pakistan is unlikely to materialise the proposed rice-sugar swap deal with Philippines, as the government of Philippines has also decided to import up to 1,50,000 tons of sugar duty free to ensure sufficient buffer stock, well-informed sources in Ministry of Food and Agriculture (Minfa) told.

The Economic Co-ordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet had directed the Commerce Ministry to approach Manila for striking a rice-sugar swap deal aimed at selling surplus rice and procure sugar at international price to meet the domestic needs of the country.

In wake of the ECC's directives, Commerce Ministry has written a letter to Philippines government suggesting that if Philippine is serious in striking a deal with Pakistan on rice-sugar swap at government level, an immediate response should be given to Islamabad.

Philippines' estimated sugar production in crop year 2009-2010 is 2.16 million metric tons and the country's ending inventory of domestic sugar is short of a seasonably normal level.

Depleted world market supply and drop in world sugar production among the world's biggest sugar producing countries have led to high world prices and similar price spikes in the US market which necessitated the creation of "C-1" strategic reserve classification to take advantage of possible export opportunities of Philippines' sugar if local supply/demand conditions allow for the export of any excess.

'Philippines may import more rice if El Nino hits output

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines, the world's biggest rice buyer, may import more of the grain if an expected moderate dry spell hits its harvest, a senior government official said on Tuesday.
Agriculture Undersecretary Bernardo Fondevilla told a media briefing local weather forecasters were expecting a moderate El Nino would hit the dry cropping season, affecting nearly 544,000 hectares planted to rice.
Asked whether Manila would import more rice due to El Nino, he said: "If we have to, we will." He did not give details.
Fondevilla said a mild El Nino episode may cause farm sector losses of nearly P10 billion ($215 million).
"If the effect is severe, and that is unlikely, then the losses will be greater."
Manila's rice purchases so far for 2010 are seen exceeding 2.4 million tons, a record high, after the government bought nearly 2.3 million from 4 tenders last year and said it would allow private firms to bring in 163,000 tons.
The country advanced imports for this year after losing 1.3 million tons of paddy rice from strong typhoons that ravaged crops in September and October.
The Southeast Asian nation's rice harvest shrank by more than 3% to 16.26 million tons in 2009, the first time output of the national staple dropped since a severe El Nino episode hit the entire archipelago.
The government had forecast paddy output to drop 1.7% to 7.25 million tons in the first half of 2010 from a year earlier due to the dry spell, which the agriculture department had estimated might impact around 50 provinces.

No foreign buyer bids for TCP rice _Pakistan

KARACHI: The Trading Corporation of Pakistan has failed to attract foreign buyers in its super basmati tender while local bids remained below the benchmark.

The TCP in its recently called international tender for sale of 25,000 tonnes Super Basmati rice crop 2008-09, has received bids only from domestic traders which too are below the prevailing domestic and international market rates of Super Basmati while foreign rice importers or procurement agencies did not participated in the tender opened on January 21, 2010.

Only two domestic traders offered highest bids of $812 per tonne for each quantity of 1,000 tonnes while the lowest bid for 4,000 tonnes was at $561 per tonne.

Another trader has conditionally offered $805 per tonne for the entire quantity of 25,000 tonnes subject to lifting of stocks in 90 days and without depositing pay order of 5 percent bid money, equivalent to Rs85.531 million, which is a breach of conditions laid down in the tender documents and disqualifies the bidder.

Many bidders offered bids in Pak rupees ranging between Rs45,000 to Rs52,475 per tonne, almost 50 percent below the cost of TCP despite of clear condition of tender price which should be quoted in US dollar. As per ECC decision of its meeting held on 27 October, 2009, TCP was clearly directed “to expedite measures to export rice stocks held with TCP.”

Shamsul Islam Khan, an experienced rice exporter told The News that participation of domestic traders in rice tender was a sign that local market prices were increasing but no interest from foreign buyers proved that export dynamics of Basmati have changed and private sector rice exporters had full advantage of quality assurances over the public sector.

He said tender price evaluation committee of TCP would surely consider the price offered, which was too low and if tender was awarded at that price, TCP would suffer a loss of up to Rs1 billion and traders.

Another rice exporter said on the request of anonymity that the TCP after incessant failure to attract any foreign rice importer or governments buying agencies should realise that export of Basmati rice was not its business and it should be left to the private sector exporters who know importers’ requirements.

Shamsul Islam Khan said Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) stood against intervention of the public sector in rice trade. “Public sector intervention in rice has never proved fruitful rather it has caused losses to the national exchequer as added financial burden,” he said.

The country was passing through a critical economic situation and role of public sector in business should be eliminated to minimize losses incurred by state owned corporations as burning of the taxpayer money could not be praised by any one, he said. “Rice procurement didn’t helped paddy growers, consumers or exporters but opportunists and traders had always minted money through such moves.”

Pakistani rice exports have now established themselves in global markets, they have entered a matured phase and country is reaping benefits of earning more foreign exchange, Khan said.

“Time has come to effectively use marketing tools and promote our rice around the world particularly in non traditional markets.” He suggested that the government should support private sector in launching marketing campaigns, most importantly taste development campaigns in China, Central Asian Countries and other rice eating nations. “This will help us to export more quantities of Pakistani rice which will ultimately help grower to get better price of their produce. It is the private sector who motivated and encouraged paddy growers to grow more paddy and had invested billions in modern milling,” he said.

Farmers call on government to ban importation of rice

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

Mr. Mohammed Adam Nashiru, president of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana, a civil society organization, 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 Region Regions (the three Northern Regions) last year produced 500,000 metric tones 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.

Mr. 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.

Taiwan buys rice to aid Haitian quake refugees

Artibonite, Haiti, Jan. 27 (CNA) A technical mission of the Taipei-based International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF) stationed in Haiti has donated US$50,000 and purchased 50 tons of locally grown rice to aid post-quake refugees, Carlos Hsiang, chief of the technical group, said Wednesday.

According to Hsiang, the rice, with its "Taichung-shien No. 10" strain from Taiwan, was planted by local Haitian farmers on a 3,000-hectare farm in the Artibonite region with the mission's assistance.

Purchasing locally cultivated produce or goods to aid quake survivors is the best form of assistance to Haiti's people, Hsiang said, because farmers will be give an outlet for their harvests and businessmen a market for their products.

Artibonite is a major granary in central Haiti, suited for planting grains. The technical group also assists Haitian farmers in the southern part of the country to raise fish.