Sunday, October 9, 2011

Indonesia Must Do More to Boost Rice Yields: IRRI

In this file photo Indonesian workers unload sacks of imported white broken rice from a ship. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said Indonesia must take more aggressive action to boost yields on its rice paddy fields rather than expand planting areas.

In this file photo Indonesian workers unload sacks of imported white broken rice from a ship. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said Indonesia must take more aggressive action to boost yields on its rice paddy fields rather than expand planting areas. (EPA Photo/Adi Weda)
Indonesia must take more aggressive action to boost yields on its rice paddy fields rather than expand planting areas, if it is serious about being self-sufficient in the staple diet, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said.

The world’s most populous Muslim nation was self-sufficient in rice in the early 1980s but then farmland was turned into housing for a booming population, while rampant smuggling put pressure on local growers.

Southeast Asia’s largest economy, which is forecast to produce 68 million metric tons of unmilled rice in 2011, has set itself an ambitious goal to be self-sufficient in rice in the next few years.

“Yes, definitely Indonesia could reach rice self sufficiency by increasing its rice yield,” Robert Zeigler, director general at IRRI told Reuters late on Wednesday.

“[But] They need to be able to increase the yield on the existing paddy field. They do not need to expand paddy fields and they do not need to cut down forest to produce rice in paddy fields,” he added. “It is much better to increase the productivity on existing field using existing irrigation infrastructure, roads and farmers.”

Last week, the Indonesian agriculture minister said the self-sufficient rice target of 2014 was achievable, and that the aim was for the country to again become a net exporter.

Improving yields would help with this aim, said Zeigler, who was in Jakarta to attend an ASEAN Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry meeting. Rice is currently a hot topic after Indonesian trade minister said the country would seek alternative shipments after the reported cancellation of a proposed sale of 300,000 metric tons of rice from Thailand. 

Indonesia, which mainly buys rice from Vietnam and Thailand, sent an official proposal to both governments to extend rice import pacts, an official said in early September.

About two months earlier, Indonesia said it was considering importing rice from India and Pakistan. 

“They should be aggressive, they should put targets out there that are difficult but not impossible,” said Zeigler on Indonesia. “We will work very closely with them to assist them achieving their target.”

Zeigler said Indonesia’s average rice yields are now at an all-time high of around 5.1 metric tons a hectare, beating the world average of around 4.3 metric tons a hectare.

Japan Seeks New Rice Source

Consumers Worry That Domestic Harvest Could Be Contaminated With Radiation

TOKYO—Japanese consumers typically prefer fresh, home-grown rice, but that isn't true this year.
Demand has surged for remaining supplies of last year's harvest of the country's staple crop, as well as for foreign-grown grains. Shoppers worry that the latest domestic harvest may be contaminated with radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.
Farmers last month harvested rice in Sayo city, Hyogo prefecture. Demand has surged for supplies of last year's harvest of Japan's staple crop.
In Hyogo prefecture in western Japan, rice-store owner Toshikazu Nishira said online orders for U.S.-grown organic rice have jumped, despite steep tariffs on rice imports designed to protect the domestic market. In August, the orders, mostly from eastern Japan, were nearly 20 times more than normal, as people who couldn't find domestic rice from last year ordered imported rice, Mr. Nishira said.
"For the first time, Japanese people seem to be worried about domestic rice," said Mr. Nishira, who has been running the business for almost 30 years. "I have no idea how long this will last, and how it might turn out."
Fukushima prefecture, showered with radiation in March, is the fourth-largest rice-producing region in Japan. It is also a big supplier for Tokyo, where government tests for rice contamination are expected to be largely finished next week.
So far, one tested batch has turned up contamination near levels triggering a sales ban. But consumer advocates and others criticize the government's testing method.
Mariko Sano, secretary-general of Tokyo-based consumer group Shufuren, said the amount of contamination allowed is too high, because it is the same level for rice—which Japanese consume in quantities seven times greater than Americans—as it is for beef and other types of food eaten in smaller quantities. "The government seems to only tighten its rules after problems have occurred, and that is creating mistrust among consumers," she said.
Japan has gone through other food-safety scares since the nuclear accident, particularly the discovery this summer that contaminated beef had escaped testing and had been consumed throughout the country.
But the safety of rice is particularly important in Japan, a country where people pay as much as $1,000 for rice cookers flecked with silver, gold or diamond dust that promise to steam up the perfect bowl.
"Rice is more than just food," said Kazuhiko Kanno, who oversees Fukushima's testing as head of the prefectural government's rice-farming section. "It occupies a special place in Japan's culture and history."
Mr. Kanno said he has been deluged by calls from worried consumers, including a woman from Tokyo who asked whether it was safe to feed her children rice that her father-in-law sends from Fukushima. Mr. Kanno explained that the prefecture will forbid shipments—even as gifts—from areas found to have high levels of contamination.
Japanese officials conducted the first round of tests on rice fields in April, starting with one field per municipality in the areas surrounding the reactors, then increasing the number of test spots wherever they found elevated levels of radioactive cesium, the most common pollutant. The agriculture ministry set the limit for harvested rice at 500 bequerels per kilogram, and—estimating that up to 10% of the cesium in the soil would be transferred to the rice plant—banned cultivation in fields found to have more than 5,000 becquerels of cesium per kilogram of soil.
Now, Mr. Kanno's section is screening harvested grains. It has found high cesium levels from one area—the city of Nihonmatsu, about 34 miles from the plant—where the rice registered the maximum allowable 500 becquerels per kilogram.
That single discovery is troubling some experts, who say it raises questions about the government's testing model. Nihonmatsu's fields logged only 3,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium, meaning something else—perhaps contaminated water or direct contact between the rice plants and polluted mud—had boosted levels more than expected, said Keiko Tagami, a researcher at Japan's National Institute of Radiological Sciences who specializes in studying how radiation spreads through the environment.
The government ought to look for other such occurrences, she said. "They need to test more even if it means cutting into time for sleep," said Ms. Tagami.
Mr. Kanno said Fukushima prefecture is conducting additional tests in areas where conditions and surroundings are similar to those in Nihonmatsu.
But consumers appear wary. Big rice buyers, such as processing plants and wholesalers, haven't put in orders for Fukushima rice, according to a manager in the Fukushima branch of Japan's biggest agricultural cooperative. Fukushima's farmers likely won't be able to sell their rice unless they can assure buyers, through more testing, that it is safe, he said, though the co-op doesn't have the funds.
Demand for rice harvested last year—before the accident—soared in August as people stockpiled the pre-March 11 grain, said a manager at a big rice wholesaler. Now, some restaurants in eastern Japan are taking the unusual step of looking into purchases from western Japan, he said. A manager at a big national sushi chain that normally buys rice from Fukushima said it may not this year, especially after customers started calling its shops asking from where they buy their rice.
The price of rice futures contracts traded on the Tokyo Grain Exchange has plunged since September, when the goods to be delivered switched to this year's harvest from last year's, said Takuo Nanahara, a trader at commodities broker Yutaka Shoji Co. "Investors are waiting to see what happens" with the rice tests, he said.
A farmer fishes in a flooded paddy field in Ban Sai district of Ayutthaya. PORNPROM SATARBHAYA

Rice farmers should be reaping large profits from the government's rice mortgage scheme, but for many, their harvest has been almost completely submerged by the worst floods in memory.
Life is cruel for many farmers in the central rice-growing regions.

They should be reaping large profits from the government's rice mortgage scheme, but their harvest has been almost completely submerged by the worst floods in memory.

Today, the government is scheduled to begin offering between 13,800 to 20,000 baht for each tonne of rice depending on the type and quality.

That has little meaning for Preecha Rattnakanok, a 56-year-old farmer in Ayutthaya province who owns a 20-rai plot and rents another 20 rai to grow rice. He said it is likely he will have no rice to participate in the scheme this year.

"My hopes are now under water. It's finished," Mr Preecha said.

All of his 40 rai of paddy fields have been washed out along with others in the same area.

Leaders of farmer groups in Ayutthaya said no more than 20% of paddy in the province was expected to survive the flooding.

Even farmers whose rice fields have survived the flooding so far are anxious. Many expressed doubt they would withstand the waters set to inundate them in coming days.

Some rice millers in the province are uncertain whether or not they should start taking in mortgaged rice today.

Under the scheme, they are obliged to mill the rice and send it to a central silo. They said they are afraid that the flooding will affect their compounds and damage the rice.

They said they expected to see only a few farmers coming in today to honour their promise to mortgage their rice.

The Agriculture Ministry earlier estimated that about 3 million tonnes of paddy would be destroyed by the floods out of an estimated total yield of 25 million tonnes.

Adapted from a story by Piyaporn Wongruang in today’s Bangkok Post.

paddy field
– a field planted with rice growing in water
cruel – deliberately causing pain to other people or animals
region – a large area of land, usually without exact limits or borders
reap – to get something as a result of something that you do
profit – money that you make from selling goods and services after all your costs have been paid
rice mortgage scheme – a system in which the government offers a set price to farmers for their rice depending on type on quality
harvest – the activity of collecting a crop, in this case a rice crop
submerge – to cause to be under water
memory – something that you remember from the past; the ability to remember information, experiences and people
scheduled – planned to happen at a particular time or day
plot – a piece of land used for a particular purpose
participate – to take part in or become involved in an activity
survive – to continue to exist
anxious – worried because you think something bad might happen
doubt – thinking that something is probably not true or going to be true
withstand – to be strong enough not to be hurt or damaged by extreme force, extreme conditions, etc.
inundate – to flood; to submerge
miller – a person who owns or works in a mill for making flour
obliged – required to do something
silo – a tall round tower used for storing things such as grain, crops, and food for animals
compound – an area in which a group of buildings stands
honour – to do what you promised to do
estimated – thought to be a particular amount, size, etc. based on a guess or the best information available yield – an amount of something produced

Govt leaves rice procurement to private sector

Lahore—The Federal and provincial governments have left prices of new crop of paddy to the market forces mechanism as only private sector is in the field to purchase the commodity from the farmers without the government intervention. Chairman Basmati Growers Association Hamid Malhi said that the non-Basmati and coarse paddy has been harvested in Punjab. However, after the 18th Constitutional amendment, agriculture sector has been transferred to the provinces and the farmers have been left at the mercy of the market forces.

Malhi said that rice crop is in good condition in Punjab which is likely to produce more than 3.2 million tons of rice, of which 2.8 million tons would be world famous fine basmati rice. Pakistan earns more than $ 2 billion foreign exchange from the rice export every year besides meeting its domestic food requirements.

It may be added that the federal government had been announcing minimum support price for the paddy in the past and procuring one million ton paddy through the Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) to stabilise the prices of the commodity for protecting the farmers from exploitation of the traders and rice mills owners.

President Farmers Associates Pakistan (FAP) Tariq Bucha said that the government must fix minimum procurement price of cotton and rice as it had been doing in the past in view the rising cost of production. He claimed that cotton prices in Pakistan are much below the current international prices.

He said agriculture sector is the backbone of economy, which is earning precious foreign exchange, providing raw material to the agro-based industries and ensuring food security for the nation. If the government does not look after economic interest of the farming community, then it would not be able to control the consequential social and economic upheavalsin the country. Chairman PAF Ibrahim Mughal said that the government should fix the support price of non-basmati at Rs 1200 and basmati at Rs 2000 per maund to ensure fair return to the farmers of their labour and investments. He said cost of agriculture inputs including fertilisers has almost doubled in a year, therefore it was imperative that the government should intervene and announce minimum procurement price of the agriculture commodities.

So, why do we import rice?

The Philippines is currently the largest importer of rice in the world, importing around 1.8 million tons of rice in 2008.
Three main factors explain why the Philippines imports rice.
First, the land area. The Philippines has around 300,000 square kilometers, of which around 43,000 square kilometers of harvested area are used for rice production.
As most of the country is very mountainous and consists of many small islands, suitable land is limited to expand rice production without affecting wetlands, forests or areas producing other crops. Urban areas also continue to expand rapidly.
Second is the population growth. The population of the Philippines is estimated at 97 million.
Its annual population growth rate of around 2 percent – among the world’s highest – means that just to keep pace with growing demand the country would have to increase rice production and yield at rates rarely seen in history.
The third main factor is infrastructure. Irrigation infrastructure is not used and maintained as efficiently as it could be, thus reducing productivity potential. Transport infrastructure, particularly good-quality roads, is lacking, which affects the transport of rice and hinders the rice trade.
And yet, Filipinos are efficient rice farmers.Philippine rice yields are close to the world average and higher than in many other rice-producing countries in Asia, including Thailand and India.
Filipino rice farmers eagerly adopt new technologies and varieties that have resulted in a steady increase in rice yields over the last 50 years since the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) was established.
Between 1966 and 2009, 107 rice varieties attributed to IRRI were released in the Philippines, second only to Vietnam in the uptake of IRRI varieties.
These varieties and other IRRI technologies have on average helped Filipino farmers triple their rice yields over the last 50 years.
There is, however, still room for improvement when compared to the high rice yields of China and Vietnam.
IRRI is doing a whole host of research that is helping the Philippines increase its rice production.
In 2009, for example, three new varieties of IRRI-bred rice arrived in the Philippines – one variety is flood-tolerant, one is drought-tolerant, and one is salt-tolerant.
The salt-tolerant variety alone has the potential to increase rice production in the Philippines by 800,000 tons to 1 million tons per year if widely adopted on the 400,000 hectares of coastal rice-growing land in the Philippines affected by salinity from sea water.
Under high salt stress, high-yielding Philippine rice varieties typically produce less than a ton of rice per hectare. Under the same conditions, the new IRRI salt-tolerant variety can produce 2.5 tons to 3.5 tons of rice per hectare.
IRRI research that is helping Filipino farmers increase their rice yields also includes developing new high-yielding rice varieties with built-in resistance to pests, diseases and other stresses such as heat and drought.
It is also developing rice crop management strategies that improve nutrient-use efficiency to get the most value out of inputs and reduce wastage.
IRRI is developing climate change adaptation strategies and technologies and training the next generation of rice scientists and building the capacity of rice practitioners to ensure the sustainable development of the rice industry.
Worldwide, 457 IRRI rice breeding lines were released as 864 varieties in 78 countries. About 60 percent of the world’s rice is now planted to varieties developed from IRRI breeding material.
Today, the rice research institution based in Los Banos relies on national and local research and extension providers, such as the Philippine Rice Research Institute, to help develop and facilitate the adoption of technologies that suit farmers.
While it discusses with the Philippine government ways to increase rice production, improve the accessibility of affordable rice to poor rice consumers and reduce the national trade deficit in rice, IRRI does not advocate specific policy positions for the government.
This is because policy is developed in light of a wide range of inputs and must consider economic, social, political and environmental issues, some of which are beyond the scope of IRRI’s expertise. IRRI

Manila considers raising 2012 rice import goal post typhoons

* Govt rethinking plan to limit 2012 rice imports at 500,000 T
* Says country has enough corn supply despite crop damage
* Feed millers group says assessing need to import feed wheat, corn

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - The Philippines may consider buying more than its targeted 500,000 tons of rice next year and weigh corn imports after typhoons damaged crops, but it is unlikely to purchase more rice for 2011, government and industry officials said on Thursday.
Proceso Alcala said strong double-digit growth in rice production for most of the January-to-September period should help ensure sufficient supply this year.
He said the country has enough corn supply to meet its needs, although a feed millers group said it was assessing the quality of corn harvests and the need to import both feed wheat and corn after last week's twin typhoons.
The government had also said before the typhoons hit it was unlikely to buy more than half a million tons of rice in 2012, as it looks to trim purchases from 860,000 tons this year and a record of 2.45 million tons in 2010, making it the world's biggest rice buyer.
"We will evaluate that plan," Alcala told Reuters when asked about the 2012 rice import forecast. "For sure, we will not buy more rice this year."
Rice production climbed 14.5% in the first half from a year ago, with annual output in the third quarter expected to grow 22%.
Higher-than-planned demand from the Philippines next year could add to the upward pressure on rice export prices in Asia. Top exporter Thailand's benchmark rice export price could go far higher as a result of the government's rice price-guarantee scheme.
Prices in Thailand and Vietnam were higher this week, with Thai rice back around a three-year high amid speculation ahead of the scheme that will offer farmers sharply higher prices, thus keeping more supplies at home.
Rice from Vietnam, the Philippines' main supplier, rose largely due to loading demand and limited supply caused by flooding.
Rice is estimated to have a 9% share in the Philippines' Consumer Price Index, and imports of the national staple account for 17% of annual rice consumption in a country of more than 95 million people.
Ample rice and corn supply this year has helped moderate food inflation, with the annual rate edging down to 5% in September from 5.1% in August and the peak this year of 6.2% in May.
Before two strong typhoons that hit northern Philippines last week, the country forecast 2011 rice output to hit a record of 17.3 million tons on improved irrigation systems and good rainfall through the year that allowed farmers to plant on non-irrigated areas.
Rice buys
Vietnam, the world's second-largest exporter after Thailand, could have 7.2 million tons of rice available for export next year after deducting domestic consumption, up from 7 million in 2011, a state-run newspaper said on Thursday.
Agriculture Undersecretary Antonio Fleta said on Wednesday 760,000 tons of paddy rice, equal to two weeks worth of national demand, were damaged by the typhoons, but Alcala said he has ordered a review of the data, as a portion of that volume may still be saved.
Rice buffer stocks stood at two months' worth of demand as of early October, Fleta said.
Alcala told a business conference the country has enough corn supply despite damages from the typhoons, with at least 90% of the standing corn crop harvested before the typhoons caused massive flooding in rice-growing areas.
Corn supply
In a crop damage report released on Monday, the Agriculture department said corn losses hit 34,839 tons, or 2.25% of the target output of 1.55 million tons in the December quarter.
Despite Manila's assurance of ample corn supply, the Philippine Association of Feed Millers Inc (PAFMI) said it was assessing the quality of corn harvests and the need to import both feed wheat and corn.
The Southeast Asian country did not import corn this year but bought around 1 million tons of feed wheat mainly from Australia.
"The industry wants to know the quality of corn harvested in the Philippines. If the quality is questionable, we're open to importing both feed wheat and corn," Norman Ramos, PAFMI president told reporters on the sidelines of the conference.

SRI-grown rice resists typhoon

MANILA, Philippines — Rice plants grown under the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) have withstood the fury of typhoon Pedring in several Luzon provinces.
SRI Pilipinas coordinator Roberto Verzola said farmers have reported that their palay were not ruined by the strong winds and heavy rains brought about by Pedring and other typhoons.
“SRI-grown plants suffer from less typhoon damage because they have sturdier stalks and deeper roots,” Verzola explained, adding that “the deeper roots also make the plants more drought-resistant.”
SRI was developed in Madagascar and the growing method was promoted in Asia as well.
Apart from having strong roots and sturdier stalks, SRI rice plants have higher yields and require less inputs.
Retired Manila police officer Renato Carig, who tried SRI in 1.5 hectares of his five-hectare farm in Barangay Catanding, Balanga, Bataan, said “strong winds from typhoon Pedring hit my rice field, fraying the leaf ends and making the plants look pale. But my rice plants recovered quickly. The SRI-grown rice plants which I treated only with compost look fine. My neighbors' plants are different because they don't have too many stalks. They say whatever I did was great because my plants have sturdy stalks and lots of body.“
Barangay chairman Ernesto Encarnado of Barangay Caingin, Meycauayan, Bulacan also made a similar report: “Our SRI-grown rice is doing fine. The plants are sturdy and were not damaged by the typhoon. Some neighboring ricefields were flattened, but ours were not affected by the typhoon.”
Froilan Capule of Malolos made a similar finding, “my SRI trial was pummelled by the typhoon. But my plants had sturdier stalks than my neighbors', and they resist better.”
Maximo de Guzman of Barangay San Antonio, Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija said, “my SRI trial plants were not flattened while the non-SRI plants of my neighbors were flattened easily.”
Benito Manzano of Milaor, Camarines Sur added, “my SRI plants were sturdy and gave good harvests. I'm doing land preparations now.”
“SRI is definitely better than the old methods. We will start harvesting next week,” Councilor Francis Gacosta of Pilar, Sorsogon said.
SRI farmers in Palawan and Negros Occidental also gave good reports about the durability of their palay stands. From Felix Amamio of San Vicente, Palawan, “It's great. That's because SRI rice is sturdy.”

Wild rice poses another obstacle to mine proposal

Conservationists and Rice Farmers Agree: Project is for the Birds

DAVIS, Calif., Oct. 7, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Seventy rice farmers in Glenn and Colusa County have signed contracts to participate in a $2.68 million pilot project with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service to modify their rice fields and production practices to benefit shorebirds and waterfowl.
In the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative (MBHI), rice farmers will engage in a number of practices strategically targeted to benefit the birds' migratory and breeding needs. Under MBHI, for example, rice farmers will flood their fields earlier or maintain the water longer in the season--and at the depth specifically needed at critical points in the season.
"In general shorebirds and many waterfowl require shallowly flooded habitat, 2-6 inches deep," says Alan Forkey, Assistant State Conservationist for NRCS. "Rice fields are often deeper than that. Also, rice farmers often pull the water off their land in January but under MBHI they will keep it on longer and withdraw the water more gradually." Forkey says.
Additionally, rice farmers will be shaping the levees between the fields to better accommodate the birds' nesting and resting needs. Sloped levees will be flattened providing a better nesting surface and shoulders that make it easier for chicks to navigate from nests to water. Some farmers will also provide artificial nesting structures.
In many ways this is the culmination of years of scientific, agronomic and outreach work between conservationists and rice farmers. The California Rice Commission, Audubon California, PRBO Conservation Science and other groups partnered with NRCS for over a decade. "Together we have tested practices that seem to really make a difference to waterbirds that are also acceptable to rice farmers," said Paul Buttner of the California Rice Commission.
Some practices are clear win-wins for farmers and waterbirds. For example, the longer flooding of the fields also degrades the post-harvest rice stubble. Additionally, some farmers will manage small portions of their fields as wetland habitat which will allow intake water to warm a bit--a practice that both the birds and the tender rice plants appreciate.
The Migratory Bird Conservation Partnership will be measuring bird response to the new activities undertaken by the rice farmers.
In August, money became available for MBHI but the opportunity came with a very short timeframe. All outreach, planning and contracting had to occur in two short weeks. Conservationists from all the partner organizations helped with a workshop that swelled with interested farmers. "I believe that providing the 'why' and the context for these practices really increased farmer enthusiasm for adopting the practices," said Rodd Kelsey of Audubon California.
Rice farmers will begin their bird-friendly practices this fall and continue through 2014.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service provides leadership in a partnership effort to help
people conserve, maintain and improve our natural resources and environment.

Sri Lanka to supply rice to the world

Sri Lanka is exploring the possibility of supplying nutritional food including rice to the World Food Programme (WFP) and emerging markets. The aim is to use the country’s excess food production for productive purposes.
Negotiations are now under way with the WFP to enter into a working arrangement for rice exports to the world's largest, hunger-battling humanitarian agency, Finance Ministry Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundara revealed at a meeting of exporters in Colombo this week.
He noted that Sri Lanka is focusing on agriculture to increase exports, promote food security and reduce cost of living within the country. Sri Lanka has not considered large scale rice exports even though it has been self-sufficient in rice. He disclosed that the government was looking for export markets for food products including rice and was even in the process of supplying the WFP.
"For over 30 years the WFP has fed our internally displaced people but now there is no longer any need for that. However, even though Sri Lanka has no internally displaced there are many around the world. We are in the process of identifying two districts that can provide rice exports to the WFP," he said. He disclosed that the country is also planning to export excess rice to African countries and emerging economies on a directive issued by the President.

“Think out of the box”
Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera has urged exporters to think out of the box to penetrate emerging markets without seeking more government concessions as the 2011 budget has given tax and VAT reductions as well as 6% of the budget has been allocated for public investment, reducing the need for extra support.
“An exporter can now keep 90% of profits so what more are you all asking”? , Dr. Jaysundera questioned at a meeting with the National Chamber of Exporters on Monday as part of a consultative process to hear industry views ahead of the Budget 2012 due on November 15. When infrastructure is available from all fronts, the economic potentials and scope are quite different. Now Sri Lanka is set for a diversified high value added economy, Dr. Jayasundera emphasized.
He said that Sri Lankan exporters should enter into technology-driven, value added exports rather than continuing traditional exports for emerging markets. Sri Lanka has a large amount of imports and now local industrialists must look at producing these goods in the country. He requested them to present their suggestions on how best to protect the export industry, taking all other stakeholders into consideration, especially local industries.
There is a fair amount of growth in the tourist sector. The country is eyeing a 2.5 million tourist market in the medium term. The country is anticipating an increase in tourist arrivals from 700,000 this year to 900,000 next year.
Expansion in this industry means demand for food, vegetables, fruits, electricity, domestic industrial products, furniture, recreation and all such domestic activities means greater scope for local production, he revealed.
“In my view protectionism is where you impose import controls or banning imports. The Government has not done that. Even today imports of potatoes, onions and chillies, peanuts, and bees honey are permitted.
There are no restrictions and competition prevails. The Government is creating an incentive structure to enable the domestic economy to grow. In the long term, this economic strategy is extremely viable,” he said.

Yingluck waves aside worries over paddy pledging plan

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra insists that farmers will benefit from the rice mortgage scheme despite reservations they may have about it.
The plan, which came into effect on Friday, has drawn criticisms from those who say it is prone to corruption and will not benefit small-scale farmers.
Little rice had been mortgaged over the first two days of the scheme, suggesting farmers had little enthusiasm for it.
During her weekly broadcast yesterday, the prime minister said the scheme was aimed at boosting rice prices, which would boost domestic buying power.
That in turn would help bolster the domestic economy at a time when Thailand cannot rely on the global economy.
Ms Yingluck said the government would make transparency and accountability a priority.
Provincial governors were now tasked with monitoring the scheme at the local level, from issuing certificates proving farmers' eligibility to take part in the scheme to checking stocks of mortgaged rice, she said.
Ms Yingluck also said the government would strike the right balance between the volume of rice to be exported and that earmarked for domestic consumption.
The implementation of the rice mortgage scheme began on Friday and will continue until Feb 29 everywhere except for the South, where it will begin on Feb 1 and last until July 31.
Under the scheme, eligible farmers can mortgage their rice at 15,000 baht per tonne of unmilled rice with a maximum of 15% moisture, and 20,000 baht per tonne for hom mali rice.
As of yesterday, the second day of the implementation of the scheme, a very low volume of rice had been mortgaged.
In Phichit, for instance, only about 500 tonnes of rice had been mortgaged under the scheme during its first two days.
Sa Kaeo province has announced that it would postpone implementation of the scheme until next month when the next rice harvest is expected.
In Pathum Thani, a province badly affected by flooding, no farmers showed up to mortgage their rice with mills authorised to implement the scheme.

Thai rice export price edges up as govt buying starts

BANGKOK: The export price of Thailand’s benchmark rice rose to $670-$680 a tonne on Friday from $650 in mid-week after the government started an intervention scheme that gives farmers a big increase in the farmgate price, industry officials said on Friday.
“Offer prices have risen to $670-$680 a tonne, but I don’t think we’ll really sell at these levels as demand is very thin. Buyers are staying on the sidelines, waiting for clear direction,” said Wanlop Pichpongsa of Capital Rice.
The government is paying farmers 15,000 baht ($483) a tonne for unmilled rice from October 7 to the end of February, a period covering the harvesting of the country’s main crop.
That compares with a market price of 10,000 baht earlier this week and just 7,000 to 8,000 baht in June, ahead of a general election on July 3 that brought the present government to power. The export price then was just below $500 a tonne. The new intervention price could translate into an export price of around $850 a tonne for the benchmark 100 percent B grade white rice, exporters said, a level that could persuade buyers to switch to cheaper origins such as India and Vietnam.
However, traders and analysts said they did not expect prices to jump above $800 right away as some exporters will have bought rice in advance and would be able to offer it at lower levels.
But buyers were few and far between on Friday.
“Prices might be pushed higher by the government, but they shouldn’t rise sharply and immediately as demand isn’t strong,” said Korbsook Iamsuri, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association.
Chookiat Ophaswongse, a honorary president of the assocation, added: “Buyers are in no hurry as they can choose to buy from India and Vietnam, where prices are well below Thai prices.” India, which suspended exports in late 2007, authorised the export of 2 million tonnes of non-basmati rice in September and its leading trading firm has offered to sell at just $470 a tonne.
In Vietnam, the world’s second-biggest rice exporter after Thailand, the price of its 5 percent broken grade stood at $575-$580 a tonne, exporters said.
Crop damage: Prices could be given another lift by the flooding that has hit huge swathes of Thailand in recent weeks, especially rice-growing areas in the centre and northeast.
Yanyong Puangrach, a permanent secretary at the Commerce Ministry, which oversees the rice-buying programme, said the government had revised down its forecast for the crop to 21 million tonnes from 25 million because of the flooding. He said the government was prepared to buy all of rice from the crop. “We have the ability to buy all of the 20-21 million tonnes. However, we may not have to buy that much if prices rise to a satisfactory level,” he said.
Economists are worried about the cost of the programme, which was put as high as 410 billion baht when the main crop was estimated at 25 million tonnes. That compares with a projected budget deficit for the current fiscal year of 350 billion. reuters

New Southeast Asia to start emergency rice reserve

JAKARTA — The 10 agricultural ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their counterparts from Japan, China and South Korea have signed an agreement to stockpile rice that can be used during disasters and other contingencies. The ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve accord (APTERR), was signed Friday during a one-day meeting between agriculture and forestry ministers in Jakarta. It is the region's first permanent mechanism for establishing an emergency rice reserve. Initially, the 13 countries will stockpile 787,000 tons of rice for use in the event of sudden instabilities in supply and production caused by natural disasters. According to a statement, the ministers also welcomed "the possibility of expanding coverage of the APTERR other than rice in times of emergency and in supporting countries in a vulnerable position as a result of food price volatility and a surge in food demand." But before branching out, the ministers stressed the need "to learn from experience and progress made in the implementation of the agreement by focusing first on rice." According to the agreement, China will prepare 300,000 tons of rice, Japan 250,000 tons and South Korea 150,000 tons. The 10 ASEAN countries will come up with 87,000 tons. Among ASEAN members, Thailand will be the biggest contributor at 15,000 tons, while Vietnam and Myanmar will each contribute 14,000 tons, and Indonesia and the Philippines 12,000 tons each. "When deemed necessary, Indonesia is ready to contribute twice its earmarked rice quantity," Indonesian Minister of Agriculture Suswono, who uses a single name, told reporters. Malaysia will provide 6,000 tons, Singapore 5,000 tons, and Brunei, Laos and Cambodia 3,000 tons each. The rice will be kept in their respective countries for use as emergency reserves for Southeast Asia. The ministers also committed to establish a $4 million endowment to cover the costs of running and maintaining the emergency rice reserve. China, Japan and South Korea will each pay $1 million into the fund. Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam will contribute $107,500 each, while Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar will each contribute $83,000. "The contribution is different for several countries due to their financial capacity," said Achmad Suryana, chairman of the committee that organized the meeting. The ministers agreed that rice used for the emergency reserve can come from outside East Asia. "If not, a country such as Singapore that doesn't produce rice and relies on imports would find it difficult to provide rice," Suryana said. In addition to the endowment, China, Japan and South Korea will each pay $75,000 annually to cover the operational costs of the office running the rice program over the first five years, while ASEAN members will each contribute $8,000 a year. Bangkok is considered the leading candidate to host the program's secretariat. ASEAN launched a food security reserve in 1979, but officials said the plan never really got off the ground and member countries have generally turned to each other for help on a bilateral basis during crises. Southeast Asia as a whole has a surplus in food production, with only Singapore and Brunei relying on imports, but a series of natural catastrophes and food price volatility have made ASEAN members more anxious to unite on the issue of food security.

Bohol rice yield increase by 10%, says DA-APC

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol, Oct 7 (PIA) – Take it from the local experts.National data may rate Bohol’s average rice yield an average per hectare basis but local authorities have seen a 9.5 to 10 percent increase its recorded average yield from January to June this year compared to the previous cropping.
According to the records from the Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Promotion Center (DA-APC) in comparison to January to June in 2010, they have noted the promising increase to 2.58 tons per hectare over-all Bohol average yield.
Even then, this has pegged an over-all rice sufficiency level of 112-115 percent.
This means that the total rice production here is more than enough for Boholanos even if we have groups in the private sector who involve themselves in rice trading outside Bohol, says Liza Quirog.
Citing data from the DA, the provincial agriculturist also added almost 70% of the total production of Central Visayas is in Bohol.
The problem however is that there is still a considerably low average harvest yield on a per hectare computation in Bohol compared to other provinces.
To that, the office of the Provincial Agriculture, through its assistant provincial agriculturist accounts the larger rain-fed areas which are much dependent on the rain and spring sources than those which are irrigated.
Larry Pamugas cited that only around 47% or our total rice area is irrigated while 53% are rainfed.
Data shows that Bohol has 22,098 hectares of irrigated lands under National Irrigation Authority (NIA) control while 25, 280 hectares are rainfed.
Sources also disclosed that while irrigated farms are assured of a year round cropping, rain-fed lots would be dependent on the rains that come so that some of these farms would only get a single cropping on a year.
Over this, NIA has recommended that the general direction on irrigation in Bohol would focus on Small Farm Reservoir systems, small water impounding, pump irrigations and small concrete diversion dams, which are targeted for rain-fed areas.
Accessed through grants, these smaller reservoir projects are more economical and effective, costs much less and has a high impact as it reaches far flung areas, explains Engr. Eugene Cahiles.

The agriculture authorities here however said much could still be done to hit a 2.74 tons per hectare target within the next few croppings.(RAC/PIA 7)

Rice of hope

Scientists breed 3 new high-yielding varieties of rice that can withstand drought, salinity, cold weather up to a certain level

Researchers have developed three early-maturing varieties of rice that can withstand up to a month of rainless days and moderate levels of salinity and cold bite.
Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) has recently released the three high yielding varieties (HYVs) -- BRRI dhan-55, 56 and 57.
Officials of BRRI and the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) that provided technical support for the research disclosed this to The Daily Star yesterday.
BRRI dhan-55 is a moderate salinity and cold-tolerant variety with a per hectare yield of seven tonnes compared to six tonnes of BRRI dhan-28, the most popular rice variety in Bangladesh, said Dr Tamal Lata Aditya, a chief scientific officer at BRRI.
The new variety is equally suitable for cultivation in the salinity-prone southern region and cold-hit northern region of the country, she said.
Tamal, involved in a joint breeding research initiative of IRRI and BRRI, also said BRRI dhan-56 and BRRI dhan-57 are capable of withstanding rainless days up to one month.
With this latest rice breeding developments, BRRI begins its annual research review workshop today at its Gazipur headquarters.
An IRRI release said, "Farmers in drought-prone regions of Bangladesh can now look forward to a more bountiful rice harvest as the wet season ends and water becomes scarce, with two recently released drought-tolerant rice varieties-- BRRI dhan-56 and BRRI dhan-57."
Unlike most rain-dependent rice varieties in the country planted in Aman season (monsoon) from July to November, BRRI dhan - 56 and 57 remain healthy during drought, which can occur toward the end of the season, because they take a shorter time to mature than other popular local varieties, said IRRI.
Drought has been one of the biggest problems of farmers in Bangladesh. In 1999, the country suffered the longest drought in 50 years --more than four months without rain -- and in 2010, it recorded its lowest rainfall since 1995.
IRRI rice breeder for drought tolerance Dr Arvind Kumar, who pioneered the breeding research that eventually enabled BRRI to release the two drought-tolerant rice varieties, said, “Both varieties are also resistant to blast -- a common rice disease in Bangladesh -- and have good grain quality.”
Tamal, who worked with Arvind, told this correspondent yesterday BRRI dhan-56 can withstand rainless days up to one month and the grains mature in 107 to 110 days during Aman season even when the water table depth goes down to 70-80 cm.
BRRI dhan-57 can withstand drought up to three weeks but the grains mature even earlier -- in 100 to 105 days.
"This means jute farmers can go for late Aman production with this variety while potato growers can think of reaping the paddy quickly and free the land for winter vegetable prior to cultivation of the next Boro rice," explained Tamal, who heads the BRRI Regional Station in Comilla.
“Climate change is likely to increase the occurrence of extreme weather events such as drought,” said Dr Mohammed Zainul Abedin, IRRI representative in Bangladesh.
“Equipping Bangladeshi farmers with rice varieties that can tolerate dry conditions will be vital," he added.
IRRI has recently helped some other countries release some drought-proof varieties -- Sahbhagi dhan in India, Sahod Ulan-1 in the Philippines and Sookha dhan in Nepal.

SE Asia's rice bowls under water

The governments of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are stepping up efforts to tackle the region's worst flooding in decades, even as a new tropical storm threatens to worsen the crisis.
About 1.5 million ha of padi fields - about the size of 21 Singapores - have been damaged or are at risk from floods exacerbated by consecutive tropical storms and a typhoon since Sept 26.
Thailand, the world's biggest rice exporter, has seen around 1 million ha of padi fields submerged.
In Vietnam, the No. 2 rice producer in the world, 11 people have been reported killed and more than 20,000 houses and some 5,000ha of rice fields flooded since Monday.
State-controlled media in Laos reported that 23 people have died and some 60,000ha of rice crops destroyed since June.
Cambodia is as badly hit as its neighbors, with 167 deaths reported and more than 215,000 families affected. Some 100,000ha of rice crops have been destroyed.
"Meteorologists have indicated that flooding in some of these countries is the worst in 50 years," a bulletin from the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Unocha) said yesterday.
Thailand's Commerce Minister Kittirat Na Ranong has said that the floods since July could cost the country up to 30 billion baht (US$970 million). The nationwide death toll hit 244 yesterday.
In central Ayutthaya province, floods hit the 500-year-old Chaiwatthanaram temple - a World Heritage site - and about 43 factories, most of them Japanese ventures, in an industrial estate.
Mr Ishii Nobuyuki, secretary-general of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, said four or five of its members had been affected and also several other Japanese firms that were not its members.
The affected factories have suspended operations because of the flooding and disruptions to the supply chain, he said.
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra inspected the flood-ravaged province by helicopter yesterday.
A main highway to the north was cut off by flood waters and all bus services were suspended. The army has deployed helicopters to carry relief supplies to affected communities, including in central and northern Thailand.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakhdi said there had been no appeal for international aid, though any aid from friendly countries was welcome.
The Unocha bulletin said that food, drinking water and basic medication are the most needed.
Cambodia made at least one direct appeal for aid to Singapore-based Mercy Relief.
"The current state of calamity has greatly stretched our resources," wrote Mr Ly Thuch, a senior minister and head of the country's national committee for disaster management, in a letter to the agency.
Mercy Relief said a five-man team will leave for Cambodia this morning with 10 bicycle-powered water filtration systems. It also said it bought 20 tonnes of rice in Cambodia to be distributed to affected communities.
Following a 45-minute video conference with the Cambodian minister, Mercy Relief's chief executive officer Hassan Ahmad said: "The current floods are larger in scale compared with the major ones in 2000. We need to get to the victims as soon as possible to cater to their survival needs and prevent further exposure to the natural elements or loss of lives."
The agency would deliver S$56,000 (US$43,250) worth of relief supplies in its first tranche of aid, he said.
Speaking to The Straits Times in a phone interview, Mr Ly Thuch said: "More than 1,000 schools are closed and the start of the new school year has had to be postponed. Roads and bridges are washed out.
"It has now been two months of floods and we fear a lot of this rice crop has been lost, and it will be difficult for poor people to recover."

Floods put early dampener on rice mortgage scheme

Washed-out crops, shrinking profit margins prompt rethink of farming methods 

`I have to go home now — the floodwater has entered my house,'' said Preecha Rattanakanok, a farmer in Ayutthaya.
The nationwide flooding has affected 59 provinces but hit Ayutthaya especially hard, turning all 16 districts into disaster zones after the torrents burst flood walls and sent water gushing into homes a few days ago.
The floods are an extra headache for rice farmers in the province who have struggled to make a living from their crops.
Farmers like Mr Preecha were looking forward to reaping some benefit from the rice mortgage scheme recently introduced by the Pheu Thai government, but for now that is a moot point as his entire 40 rai of paddy fields are submerged.
Past governments have tended to offer policies supporting farmers, but Mr Preecha finds there are no guarantees.
Certain investment, sale and production problems are inherent, and natural uncertainties like floods only make things worse.
Mr Preecha, 56, owns 20 rai of farmland and rents another 20 rai. The combined 40 rai, sitting on the best irrigation system in the country, has the potential to yield almost 40 tonnes of rice per year.
But Mr Preecha has found it a difficult target to hit, with prices often falling short of expectations.
In the 2008-2009 fiscal year, the then-Democrat government offered rice mortgage prices of up to 12,000 baht per tonne. Mr Preecha harvested 35 tonnes of rice that year, which he expected would bring in 420,000 baht.
However, Mr Preecha's rice carried almost 30% moisture, almost double the acceptable rate of 15%.
As a result, 1,500 baht was deducted from the price of Mr Preecha's rice, reducing it to about 10,500 baht per tonne.
This year, Mr Preecha said, it would be no different. The offered mortgaged rice prices would fall for overly moist rice.
That is assuming the farmers will even have rice to sell — as it is, many rice farmers in Ayutthaya and some other flooded provinces stand to lose most or all of their current crops.
The mortgaged rice prices offered have also put pressure on farmers who rent land. With competition for rice-growing land increasing, some landowners are seeking to take their land back to grow rice themselves.
This has pushed up rental rates, increasing the level of investment in the business. In some areas, the rental rate has risen to 2,000 baht per rai, more than half of the per-rai rice returns, which are generally about 3,500 to 4,000 baht.
This narrowing profit margin means many rice farmers have to work harder than ever to make a decent living. There are now three harvests a year in some Central Plains farms. As a result, the land hardly rests, which is necessary to allow organisms and nutrients to regenerate the land. Without quality land, the harvests tend to offer low yields.
Chalor Thaiprokob, a farm leader in Bang Sa-ai district, said it is time to review the country's rice production methods. This task was urgent, as Thailand will become part of the Asean economic community in the next few years. ``We cannot rest, the way we have been doing things,'' he said.