Thursday, April 21, 2016

20th April,2016 daily global,regional and local rice e-newsletter by riceplus magazine

Missing foodgrain row: Millers owe Rs1300 crore: CA

Wed,20 Apr 2016
Summary: Of this millers short delivered/misappropriated 0.48 lakh MT of rice valued at Rs 120.82 crore during the crop years. "We observed that 1.36 lakh MT of paddy of crop years 2010-11 to 2013-14 was stored with 20 millers in eight districts. Chandigarh: At a time when RBI has warned banks against lending to the Punjab government in the wake of the missing foodgrains, the Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) report has revealed that the government is yet to recover Rs 1,300 crore from rice millers. "Also, the Government of India did not fix any separate rates of transportation charges within 8 kilometres and these were already included in the milling charges. Audit of 7 selected district offices of Punjab revealed that for transportation of paddy from purchase centres to rice mills within 8 kms, expenditure of Rs 20.71 crore was incurred for crop years 2010-14 and not recovered from millers."Chandigarh: At a time when RBI has warned banks against lending to the Punjab government in the wake of the missing foodgrains, the Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) report has revealed that the government is yet to recover Rs 1,300 crore from rice millers.
 The millers belong to Jalandhar, Sangrur, Ludhiana, Mohali and Fatehgarh Sahib among others.CAG has listed a number of reasons for the gap between the stock of foodgrains and the cash credit limit (CCL) given by banks. These include undue favour given to rice millers, payment made against non-delivery, not delivering the requisite quantity and abnormal variation in transportation rates, among others.TOI had on Tuesday reported that a part of the CCL was also being diverted to "finance non-operational expenditure and losses" of the state's four procurement agencies - Pungrain, PAFC, PSWC and Punsup. According to the report, huge quantities of rice were misappropriated by these agencies, violating the custom milling procedures (CMP) amid other irregularities.
The report said that state agencies like PAFC and the millers were joint custodians of the paddy and both were responsible for quality and quantity. However, it added that the agencies "failed to conduct timely physical verification of paddy stocks in accordance with the CMP during the years when paddy was stored"."We observed that 1.36 lakh MT of paddy of crop years 2010-11 to 2013-14 was stored with 20 millers in eight districts. Of this millers short delivered/misappropriated 0.48 lakh MT of rice valued at Rs 120.82 crore during the crop years.


Reviving exports

Reliance on improving competitiveness and quality, rather than a cheaper rupee, will stand India in good stead

A combination of a slump in petroleum prices and the continuing slowdown in global growth has wreaked havoc with India’s merchandise exports. Merchandise export earnings slumped 16 per cent in fiscal year 2015-16 to $261.14 billion. Exports have shrunk for 16 successive months, while earnings from petroleum product exports collapsed 47 per cent in the last fiscal year to $30.2 billion. Also, the share of petroleum products in India’s export basket contracted to just about 12 per cent, from over 18 per cent a year ago. Such devastation was not seen even in the midst of an economic slowdown in 2009-10 triggered by the financial crisis of 2008, when petroleum prices slumped from the peak of over $140 a barrel to about $32. India’s exports had contracted a mere 3.5 per cent in 2009-10.

But this time it’s different. The world is drowning in surplus oil with the US becoming a major oil producer thanks to shale oil, and Iran returning to the global oil market following the lifting of sanctions. The slowdown in China has also led to a softening of demand for other commodities, including iron and steel.Oil production is expected to remain in surplus for some time more, at least till many nations find production unviable at prevailing prices. The low oil prices are widely expected to force many producing nations to cut output, which is then expected to trigger some increase in prices. But that recovery in oil prices is unlikely to lead to anything like the 40 per cent jump in export earnings witnessed in 2011-12. Also, it is not petroleum products alone that are dragging down India’s exports.

Gems and jewellery, iron and steel, apparels and yarns, all are earning India fewer dollars than a year ago. Even basmati rice has not managed to escape the slowdown.There are no ready solutions to ensure a turnaround in India’s exports. Diversifying to new markets is unlikely to yield increased earnings, given the structure of India’s export basket. Exporters lament that the Centre and the Reserve Bank of India have not done enough to make India’s exports more competitive. They want the RBI to depreciate the rupee, like China has done with its currency, to gain more markets. But RBI governor Raghuram Rajan is unwilling to go down that path, and has turned down the commerce ministry’s plea to do so. He is right in his stance that devaluing the rupee is not a good strategy to help exporters. While a cheaper rupee will provide temporary respite to exporters, it will create another problem that neither the Centre nor the RBI would want to deal with — costlier imports putting upward pressure on prices. A sounder and more long-term strategy would be to focus on becoming more competitive and quality conscious, and strategically rework India’s trade agreements, particularly in view of the mega trade pacts due to come into play shortly.
(This article was published on April 19, 2016)


El Niño damage in Cebu placed at P186 million

April 21, 2016
By Christopher M. Mahilum Jr. and Rey Vincent Alison

ARGAO, CEBU – Initial estimate of the damage brought about by the dry spell phenomenon El Niño to Cebu’s agriculture sector has reached P186 million, according to the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO).In its report to the Provincial Board Monday, the PDRRMO said damage to mango production in the province tops the list with P151 million, followed by corn at P21.4 million.Damage to livestock reached P6 million, followed by P5.6 million for vegetables; P769,100 for aqua products; P547,000 for rice; P526,800 for bananas; P174,000 for root crops and P22,500 for cut flowers.Cebu’s fifth district posted the highest damage with P172.5 million.

The fifth district is composed of the towns of Borbon, Carmen, Catmon, Compostela, Liloan, Pilar, Poro, San Francisco, Sogod, Tudela and the city of Danao.During Monday’s session, PDRRMO head, Baltazar Tribunalo said the province now has P135.862 in terms of calamity fund. He said that the allocation of DRRM funds are divided into two groups – 30 percent for Quick Response Fund (QRF) and 70 percent for Preparedness Mitigation Fund.“We have to be critically analytic because after El Niño, La Niña might strike,” said Tribunalo, stressing that they are only allocating P25 million for El Niño and the rest would be in preparation for La Niña.
The entire province of Cebu is under a state of calamity due to the prolonged El Niño phenomenon.

Rice industry issue a reminder to growers that inflicting smoke on residents 'isn't ok'

April 20, 2016, 11 a.m.
MOST afternoons in Leeton shire the sky is covered with a smoky haze of late. The shire’s rice growers are in the process of burning off their paddocks, but the annual ritual is causing some angst among the community. Health concerns have been raised, with the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA) calling on growers to burn responsibly. Other industries have also been undertaking the practice.Rice extension officer Gae Plunkett said it was important growers took all possible steps to minimise the effects of smoke on neighbouring townships to their property.“Rice growers are preparing for the planting of winter crops and many will be burning stubble,” Mrs Plunkett said. “We ask them to reduce the effects on those living nearby. Inflicting smoke on nearby residents isn’t okay.

”Mrs Plunkett said improved understanding of how wind and air conditions disperse smoke would lead to responsible decisions when burning. “Growers should plan their burning strategy to avoid inappropriate conditions for burning,” she said.“This means avoiding burning wet stubble or burning when winds will blow smoke across roads or towards towns.“Understanding how to avoid inversion layers is also critical to prevent smoke settling over residential areas.  “Growers should use the mixing height tool on the Bureau of Meteorology website to avoid this situation when planning stubble burns.” Mrs Plunkett said growers who were uncertain about burning off should refer to the responsible stubble management fact sheet on the RGA website.Murrumbidgee Local Health District advised people with chronic respiratory conditions living in areas to stay indoors if levels of smoke pollution increase.Director of public health Tracey Oakman warned the health affects from breathing fire smoke varied between people.
“Asthma sufferers and people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease should follow their action plans,” she said.

Rice prices fall on China’s weak demand
Source: Saigon Times - 4/20/2016 8:32:51 AM
     Since they rose to record highs two weeks ago, rice prices in the Mekong Delta have fallen strongly due partly to weak import demand of China.

Speaking to the Daily, Pham Thanh Tho, a rice trader at Ba Dac wholesale market in Cai Be District in Tien Giang Province, said fresh paddy IR 50404 in the early summer-autumn crop in Long An Province is sold at VND4,500-4,600 (20 U.S. cents) per kilo, down VND500-600 per kilo against a fortnight ago.The price of unprocessed IR 50404 rice has dropped to VND6,700-6,800 per kilo compared to VND7,200-7,300 per kilo, according to wholesalers that supply rice for exporters in Tien Giang and Dong Thap provinces.Nguyen Thanh Phong, director of Van Loi Company in Tien Giang Province, said the previous price hike on the local market has caused Chinese firms to reduce their purchases, thus pushing domestic rice prices down.

In addition, as rice exporters have virtually completed their government-to-government contracts with Indonesia and the Philippines, the demand for rice processing has decreased. Therefore, domestic rice prices have ebbed again, said exporters.Despite the decline, local prices of rice and paddy are still VND200-300 per kilo higher than in the same period last year.A report by the Vietnam Food Association (VFA) showed its member enterprises had shipped abroad 1.43 million tons of rice at a free-on-board (FOB) value of more than US$577 million as of end-March, representing a year-on-year rise of 57% in volume and 51% in value.VFA forecast its member enterprises will export more than three million tons of rice in the first half of this year, up 12% year-on-year, excluding the volume of rice shipped abroad via border trade.


BANGKOK, April 20 (Reuters) - Following is a table of Thai
and Vietnamese 5 percent broken grade supplied by traders.
(Bulk quotations in U.S. dollars per tonne FoB assessed by
Thomson Reuters)
Shipment Bid Ask Previous
Thai $382-$390 $380-$390 FoB Bangkok
Vietnam $365-$385 n/a FoB Saigon
(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat in BANGKOK and Ho Binh
Minh in HANOI; Editing by Anupama Dwivedi)
© Copyright Thomson Reuters 2016. Click For Restrictions -

Push for value-added products from rice

THE NATION April 21, 2016 1:00 am
THE COMMERCE Ministry will ask for a budget allocation of Bt600 million for setting up a rice institute for commercial activities in a bid to promote the development of rice into more value-added products.Permanent secretary Chutima Boonyapraphasara said the ministry was planning to ask the Rice Policy and Management Committee to approve the setting up of the country's first rice institute for commercial operations."Thai rice can be developed as a value-added 'super food' in the form of various products. The commercial rice institute would contribute to adding value to Thai rice so that farmers would receive more income," she said.
If approved, it will take about five to six months to establish the institute. Chutima said the institute could contribute to a doubling of income from rice products. This would result in extra government revenue from rice-product duties of about Bt700 million each year.
Normally, the government cannot collect value-added tax from rice trading, but if it has been processed, VAT can be added.The ministry will discuss with the Office of the Public Sector Development Commis-sion the formation of the institute, as it will not be managed by the government but should be a non-government organisation so it will be more efficient and flexible.Chutima said the institute would also employ highly qualified people for administration of research and development.She added that if this institute could be set up, more than 60 per cent of Thais involved in rice farming should have more income and better living conditions, since the rice price would be increased.
High-nutrition food
According to the Commerce Ministry, rice is a high-nutrition food and has low sugar. It could serve health-conscious people and be developed into various kinds of food for babies, children, senior persons, and those watching their weight. Rice could also be produced as cosmetics and other products.Meanwhile, the ministry is considering a plan to continue releasing the remaining 11.6 million tonnes of rice in the government stockpiles. Chutima said the ministry would consider releasing rice every month through various channels such as open bidding and government-to-government contracts.


Dal prices up 10-20% in a month; rice and sugar also costlier

Rajesh Chandramouli & Rachel Chitra | TNN | Apr 20, 2016, 07.08 AM IST
Within a span of one month, the wholesale price of urad dal went up by as much as 17% to `161/kg from `138/kg on March 19.Chennai: The combination of hot idli, vada with sambar and spicy chutney form the basic staple in many households, but Chennaiites may have to fork out more for favourites like masala dosai, pongal and keerai vadas as the prices of pulses have soared.Within a span of one month, the wholesale price of urad dal went up by as much as 17% to `161/kg from `138/kg on March 19. The price of channa dal rose by 12.5% to `72 and tur dhal by 6.1% to `138 for the same period. Online grocer Bigbasket quoted urad at `200/kg on Tuesday, while the price of tur dal was `160/kg. And it's not just dal, but staples like rice and sugar have also been seeing a sizeable increase in the last three months. Between January 19 and now, the price of raw rice has risen by 8% to `53.8/kg. Sugar prices too have gone up 14.5% for the same period."We are waiting and watching prices. We are not raising prices for now," said P Suresh, founder & MD, Sangeetha Group of Hotels.

Rice Prices

Arrivals in tonnes;prices in Rs/quintal in domestic market.
Diamond Harbour(South 24-pgs)(WB)
Tamluk (Medinipur E)(WB)
North Lakhimpur(ASM)

04/20/2016 Farm Bureau Market Report


Long Grain Cash Bids
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Long Grain New Crop
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May '16
Jul '16
Sep '16
Nov '16
Jan '17
Mar '17
May '17

Rice Comment

Rice futures were sharply higher on carryover strength from other commodities and from weakness in the dollar. The market will be watching crop progress closely. If farmers plant what they reported to USDA in the survey, the large crop will limit the upside potential. Currently, USDA says 48% of the crop in the ground and 19% emerged. In Arkansas, the totals are 55% planted and 11% emerged. Demand is also a key factor. Last week’s sale to Iraq gave the market a much needed boost, but won’t sustain a rally long-term without better demand across the board. May completed a 38% retracement today and now has an upside objective of $10.83.

Field Report:  Texas
By Colleen Klemczewski
 KATY, TEXAS -- Early Monday morning rice farmers here and in other areas of southeast Texas awoke to find their crops underwater after a historic rainfall devastated the area.  Rice farmer and cattle rancher Raymond Dollins reported the flooding is so severe that he and his wife can't use their vehicles and are relying on their tractor just to get around their property."Katy has been blessed in the past - we've missed the bullet several times, but we didn't miss it this time," said Dollins.  "We got 18 inches of rain here at the farm overnight.  Our rice was 6 inches high and now it's completely covered by the rainwater along with the levees.  The water is starting to go down. Depending on how fast the water goes down, I think we should be okay with the crop."
Although the forecast in the area predicts more rainfall over the next few days, rice growers in southeast Texas remain hopeful for the sake of their crops that the worst of the storm has passed.  Growers will most likely have to wait at least a week for the flooding to subside and will then determine if it's necessary to replant the crop.

Dollins stated that those in the Katy area who have to replant their rice will miss out on optimal planting time that typically falls between mid-March and mid-April and will most likely be unable to harvest a second crop in November which will have negative economic implications for the entire area.
 "We are really hoping for better weather and a better market to turn things around," said Dollins.  "It's out of our control.  The only thing we can do right now is wait it out, pray, and hope for the best.  As a farmer, you have to be an optimist."
 Katy street view
At least the Farm Bill is safe...for now        
Agriculture Funding Bill Advances in House 
By Peter Bachmann
 WASHINGTON, DC -- On Tuesday, the House Committee on Appropriations spent the majority of the day debating amendments and eventually approving the Fiscal Year 2017 funding bill for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and related agencies.The $21.3 billion legislation contains a number of contentious amendments on issues such as vaping/e-cigarettes and legal protection for contract poultry growers that were introduced and narrowly passed during the markup process, but there were no overt attempts to reopen the Farm Bill.  The bill would reduce funding for FY 2017 by $451 million when compared to the current fiscal year's level and total spending would be $281 million below what was recommended in the President's Budget.

In reference to food aid, report language accompanying the bill shared the Committee's concerns over underspending funds allocated for the Food for Peace program.  In FY 2014 it was revealed that the U.S. Agency for International Development spent nearly $90 million less than what was allocated for Food for Peace.  The Committee fears that not using the full amount allocated will result in reductions to program funding and ultimately hurt America's farmers who contribute in-kind commodities."It is unclear if and when the Ag appropriations bill will be considered by the full House of Representatives where it could potentially face attempts to reduce crop insurance, conservation, research, or other important rice industry funding priorities," said USA Rice Vice President of Government Affairs Ben Mosely.  "Senate appropriators will likely be marking-up their version of the FY 2017 spending bill in coming weeks.  We'd love to see some positive provisions for the rice industry, including funding for USDA staff in the recently reopened embassy in Cuba.


FESTIVAL AT WCS’s BRONX ZOO - April 23rd and 24th, 2016
NEW YORK, NEW YORK , UNITED STATES, April 19, 2016 / -- The Real Co, the first certifiable 100% Single Origin product company to pioneer Single Origin food products in the United States, has teamed up with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) for an Earth Day celebration to honor the efforts that create an Earth where both people and wildlife can thrive. As part of the WCS’s “Healthy Planet, Healthy People” theme, the weekend-long Earth Day event activities take place at WCS’s Bronx Zoo, Saturday, April 23 and Sunday, 24th from 11 a.m to 4 p.m. The Bronx Zoo is located at 2300 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY.

On Earth Day Weekend, April 23-24, the WCS Bronx Zoo will offer activities, events, and educational opportunities for the general public relating to a celebration of the Planet in the NY area. Activities include:

Earth Fair on Astor Court -- Sustainable Companies Tabling Exhibition-11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Organizations and companies that produce recycled, sustainable and energy efficient products will table and demonstrate their products/services. Exhibitors include: The Real Co ( 100 % Single Origin food products at affordable prices with full transparency of where the food comes from and how it was grown. Current products include Himalayan Pink Rock Salt, Organic Raw Cane Sugar, and organically grown White Basmati Rice. The Real Co will give out free samples of the Sugar and Salt in stylish reusable bags. Other companies include Cloud Farms; Green Mustache; Emerald Brand; Dolphin Organics; Mama Chia; Grandy Oats; The Bronx Greenmarket Hot Sauce and the NY State of Health Exchange – Providing information on how to get health care coverage in NY State.

“Love Your Earth” Station on Astor Court - 11 a.m. to 3p.m.
Visitors will discover fun and interactive ways to better preserve our natural resources for current and future generations. Guests can use a special Carbon Footprint app to figure out their own carbon footprint, based on the daily actions they take.

Nature Walks at Northern Ponds – 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Visitors can explore this area frequented by birds and local wildlife and discover the wonders and healing power of nature. Each session is approximately 30 minutes long.

“We are delighted to team up and support the efforts of the WCS for Earth Day and every day,” says Belal Elbanna, CEO of The Real Co. “We hope this is the start of a long, ongoing relationship.”

About the Real Co
The Real co has developed an exciting and transparent new food category and method of sourcing products globally and delivering it at a local level.  The Real Co enters partnerships with farmers and growers around the world that don't have an established route to distribute their products and creates a way to share their commodity with the world. The company brings full transparency and sustainability to the U.S. food industry. The Real Co products are carefully inspected and sourced by company representatives, and go straight from farm to shelf, eliminating the need for any middlemen.   This unique 100% Single Origin method allows everyone in the world to enjoy what is usually impossible to experience: unique, tasty, freshly farmed/mined products at affordable The Real Co offers transparency to the consumer, and is developing the first Certification of 100% Single Origin Foods in the U.S.  The Real Co pays fair wages and reinvests in both the land and the community that grows our products. The Real Co is available nationwide in numerous stores in every state; The Market in California, Natural Grocers ShopRite, Fairway Market, Westerly Natural Market, Kings, Balducci, and Healthy Goodness. You can also find it online at For more information and for a full list state by state is available at 

The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. weekdays, 5:30 p.m. weekends from April to October; 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m November to March. Adult admission is $19.95, children (3-12 years old) $12.95, children under 3 are free, seniors (65+) are $17.95. Parking is $15 for cars and $18 for buses. The Bronx Zoo is conveniently located off the Bronx River Parkway at Exit 6; by train via the #2 or #5 or by bus via the #9, #12, #19, #22, MetroNorth, or BxM11 Express Bus service (from Manhattan that stops just outside the gate.) To plan your trip, visit or call 718-367-1010.

WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)
MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.
Diane Lilli
Bender Group
973 744 0707
email us here

The pride of Persia

Wednesday April 20, 2016

01:09 PM GMT+8
LOS ANGELES, April 20 — The scents of Nowruz hit me from the moment I walked in the door of Naz Deravian’s house in Inglewood, California. Wafts of floral hyacinth, pungent vinegar, earthy wheatgrass and perfumey rose water: It’s a particular mingling that comes together every spring during the Persian New Year.As I stopped to take it all in, Deravian, an Iranian-Canadian actress and food blogger who has lived in the Los Angeles area for the last 20 years, ushered me into the kitchen where new aromas were waiting: browning butter, musky saffron, sharp herbs and smoked fish, all in various stages of preparation for the feast she was cooking.“Food is at the center of Persian culture,” she said as she lifted the lid on a pot of rice fragrant with herbs. “It’s integral to everything.”

At the bottom of the rice pot were thin pieces of lavash that would, Deravian hoped, crisp into tahdig — the golden, crunchy and buttery crust prized at Persian meals.Getting a perfect tahdig, which can also be made from yogurt, thinly sliced onions or potatoes (or the rice itself), is one of the most challenging techniques in all of Persian cooking. Deravian was fretting over hers, worried that the flatbread would burn or the rice turn mushy.Persian cuisine is one of the world’s great gastronomies, flourishing for centuries across an area that, at the height of the ancient Persian Empire (circa 550 to 330 B.C.), included modern-day Iran, along with parts of Iraq, Macedonia, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.

The repertoire of dishes is fragrant, diverse and highly refined, based on complex culinary techniques. They are imbued with fresh flowers and herbs like rose petals, fenugreek and mint; spices like saffron, sumac and cardamom; fruits like pomegranate and barberry; all kinds of citrus; and nuts, including pistachios and almonds.If this roster of ingredients sounds familiar, it’s because Persian cooking influenced Middle Eastern, Moroccan, Northern Indian and Turkish cuisines, yet itself remains somewhat below the radar.

Part of the recognition problem in the United States, Deravian said, is that even with a robust Iranian-American population (estimated to be 1 million to 2 million), there’s a stunning lack of Persian restaurants. Southern California — home to the vast majority of Iranian-Americans and the groceries, bakeries and ice cream shops that cater to them — has a handful. But for the most part, they’re not making the exalted, intricate dishes for which the culture is famous.

“Even in Los Angeles, most people’s Persian food experience starts and ends with kebabs,” she said. “The real Persian cooking happens in people’s houses.”Luckily, hospitality is another hallmark of Persian culture.  In late March, Deravian invited me into her home for Nowruz, which signifies the beginning of the 13-day Persian New Year celebration. The holiday, with its menu of classic and symbolic Persian dishes, is an excellent lens through which to explore the rarefied cuisine.Nowruz, an ancient Zoroastrian festival of the spring equinox, has been celebrated continuously for at least 3,000 years, more than a thousand years before the region’s Muslim conquest. It predates most of the holidays Americans celebrate today yet shares many of the same traditions.This is particularly the case with Easter and Passover, which fall around the same time in early spring.  During Nowruz, a celebration of rebirth and renewal, people color eggs, scrub their houses from top to bottom and eat copious amounts of fresh herbs.

Unlike Easter and Passover, though, Nowruz is not a religious holiday. Persian Muslims, Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians — in the global diaspora and in Iran — all celebrate it.Pouria Abbassi, a board member of Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, which has sponsored Nowruz celebrations on Capitol Hill, said that the ancient customs of Nowruz are an important link to Persian heritage.“Since it is a nonreligious, nonpolitical celebration; it is the single most important event that brings all Iranians together with great pride,” he said. “In our culture, Nowruz is the only powerful common denominator.”

Nilou Motamed, the editor of Food & Wine magazine, who is Iranian, described it as a time when families gather to feast and bond over an overabundant meal.“Nowruz is like Thanksgiving in that everyone celebrates it, and everyone cooks the same foods, though with their own family spin on it,” she said.The traditions and meaning of Nowruz run deep in the Iranian psyche, Motamed added.“Iran has had a complicated political relationship with the West for the last 40 years,” she said. “For us émigrés, Nowruz is a great way for us to share some of the richness of our culture through food.”Like Thanksgiving, having too much food at a Nowruz meal is part of the deal.“We are a culture that likes to overfeed,” she said. “We would never have just one main course. Excess is essential to our DNA. It provides a sense of welcoming bounty and joy.”
Evidence of such excess was certainly found in Deravian’s kitchen. There were the symbolic dishes crucial for any Nowruz dinner. There was the sabzi polo mahi, an herbed rice with smoked fish that represents life (fish), renewal and rebirth (fresh green herbs) and prosperity (rice). There was the kuku sabzi, a brilliant green herb-stuffed frittata meant to represent fertility (eggs).Fresh spring herbs, which can also represent the earth, made another appearance with feta and a homemade paneer cheese, along with juicy radishes from the farmers’ market and tart, fuzzy-skinned fresh green almonds that Deravian picked up at a Persian shop on Westwood Avenue the day before.And for dessert, there was toot, rose-water-flavoured almond paste representing a life full of sweetness and a heart full of love. Deravian’s daughters, Luna, 9, and Soleil, 6, formed the almond paste into both the traditional white mulberry shapes and into cute little bunnies.“Persians are always looking for meaning in everything we eat,” Deravian said. 

“It’s never just food. There’s mythology and tradition that goes back thousands of years behind every bite.”She turned her attention back to the herbed rice, which was ready to serve. First, she scooped the green-flecked grains onto a platter. Next, she mixed saffron butter into a portion of the rice to stain it bright orange.Then, the moment of truth. It was time to lift the tahdig — that crispy bottom crust — out of the pan. (If it were a rice tahdig, they may have turned it out, but with a lavash tahdig, lifting is easier.) If it burned or stuck, not only would all the guests be disappointed, but it could also cast a symbolic pall over the year to come, whereas a perfect tahdig indicates good things ahead.Deravian nudged it nervously with her spoon to loosen it, then let out a whoop. The guests cheered as the burnished crust of tahdig slipped out of the pan and onto the rice; it was a perfect golden disk.“There’s an art to making tahdig,” Deravian said as she and her father hooked arms to do a little dance of joy. 
“But there’s also a little bit of magic.”

Fresh Herb Kuku
Fresh herb kuku, adapted from a recipe by Najmieh Batmanglij, in New York, April 5, 2016. — NYT pixYield: 6 servings
Total time: 50 minutes
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
6 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground rose petal (optional)
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 cup finely chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
½ cup finely chopped romaine lettuce
½ cup finely chopped spring onions, white and green parts
2 garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane or minced
1 tablespoon rice flour
1/3 cup dried barberries or cranberries, soaked in cold water for 15 minutes, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon grape molasses, or substitute sugar
Lavash, for serving (optional)
Yogurt, for serving (optional)
1.  Heat ¼ cup of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until lightly golden all over, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer onions to a medium bowl and cool to room temperature; reserve skillet.
2.  Heat oven to 400 degrees and line a 9x12-inch baking dish with parchment paper.
3.  In a large bowl, lightly whisk to combine eggs, salt, pepper, baking powder, all of the spices and the rose petal, if using. Add caramelized onions, all of the herbs, walnuts, lettuce, spring onion, garlic and rice flour. Fold just to combine; do not overmix.
4.  Brush prepared baking dish with ¼ cup oil. (It may look like a lot, but it gets absorbed into the batter.) Add batter, smoothing out the top and pushing it to the sides. Bake until center is set, about 20 minutes, and transfer to a cooling rack.
5.  Meanwhile, place the skillet used to cook the onion over medium heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the barberries, grape molasses or sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Simmer, stirring, until liquid is reduced and fragrant, about 4 minutes.
6.  Top cooked kuku with caramelized barberries and cut into six equal pieces. Serve hot or room temperature, with lavash and yogurt, if desired

Rice farming for profit in 2016

Apr 19, 2016Jarrod Hardke, Arkansas Extension rice agronomist
After a 2015 season that left many Arkansas rice producers feeling kicked in the gut, 2016 doesn’t look to offer much relief. Rice looks to be the best smelling pig in the pen in terms of penciling out profitability, but margins are tight there as well.  This year we’ll need to make every penny count. That means managing risk. We’re not looking for a homerun this year; we’re looking to cover all the bases and keep the game going.

To manage risk we need to get back to basics. Try to spread out planting dates -- planting earlier does produce higher yields but often carries increased input costs along with it. Last season many didn’t get a chance to spread anything out, you either planted in that 10-14 day window or you didn’t plant. Yes those situations happen, but that window happened at the end of April when it was clear we needed to plant and not wait. Right now, while it’s early, you still have to stick with Plan A; don’t jump to Plan B before we even get to A.  Reflective of the truly odd year that 2015 was, those who were delayed until almost May in planting frequently had higher yields than those who planted weeks earlier; however, this should be considered a great exception and not the rule. Let’s start by trying to spread out our planting dates a little – especially if you’re going to try and plant some really early. Determine the maximum acres that you would consider planting early and then stick with that number. Remember that the optimum recommended planting window has two boundaries for a reason.
Speaking of seed – just treat it.  The use of insecticide and fungicide seed treatments may provide one of the greatest returns on investment in rice production.  Based on 200-plus observations since 2008, insecticide seed treatments provide a positive return 80 percent of the time with an average yield increase of over 8 bushels per acre.  The average cost of the insecticide is equivalent to a little over 2 bushels – that’s an average return on investment of 6 bushels.


Make a scarecrow at Kedah Padi Heritage festival

Kedah Padi Heritage Festival (Warisan Padi Kedah Festival) 2016, which will be held from April 22 to May 1 at Ong Chuan Hin Rice Mill in Tanjung Pauh, Jitra is a cross-cultural event spanning visual arts, dance, music and performances.Organised by Kedah And Perlis Rice Millers Association, the festival aims to tell the story of the heritage of Kedah’s padi farmers through storytelling sessions, music, traditional rice planting sessions, photographs and documents.As part of the programme, the Kedah padi farmers will lead festival visitors into the padi field to plant rice the traditional way. A pair of buffaloes will also be used to plough the field.
The festival will kick off with The Art of Padi Heritage Workshop from April 22-25. Some 150 students from Keat Hwa High School in Alor Setar will take part in this art, music and drama workshop. They will learn how to make a scarecrow and create artworks inspired by padi planting.
On April 29, the Tradition of Padi Seedling, a public talk (and padi seedling rehearsal) will be held from 9am to 7pm. Three padi farmers of Thai, Chinese and Malay origin will share their knowledge on old farming traditions. Kedah And Perlis Rice Millers Association’s chairman Ong Soon Thye and padi researcher Ong Ching Zhong will talk about the rice mill, types of rice as well as tradition and modern farming techniques.
A wayang kulit master and his puppet.Festival director Chong Keat Aun says the festival is the first of its kind in Malaysia.“There are plans to rotate the event venue to other rice mills in Kedah and Perlis,” says Chong, an Alor Setar-born arts practitioner.The festival’s slogan is Sesuap Nasi, Warisan Padi (A Mouthful Of Rice, Padi Heritage). From April 30 to May 1, 8am to 10pm, there will be a free concert involving 150 performers. Shows include manora dance, padi field drum performance (a combination of gendang silat drums and Chinese drums), Chinese opera, and wayang kulit. There will also be lion and dragon dance performances.
A highlight of the festival is Rumah Padi (Padi House) which is erected at edge of a padi field at the festival site.“Two modified steel containers, timber and bamboo structures are used to set up this temporary structure which will remain until Sept 17,” says Alan Teh, curator of the art exhibition.
Alan Teh, curator of the art exhibition at Kedah Padi Heritage Festival with a miniature model of Rumah Padi (Padi House), a temporary structure erected near a padi field. Exhibits including artworks on the theme of padi will be shown to visitors. Photo: The Star/Majorie ChiewVisitors will be taken on a tour of the artworks by 15 local artists. Teh says the goal of the festival is to raise awareness to the hardships of padi farmers, especially to the younger generation.“At the same time, it is also to bring attention to the rapid urbanisation of Alor Setar, where many tracts of agriculture lands are being converted for housing and commercial purposes. This is quite alarming as Kedah is the rice bowl of Malaysia,” says Teh.The closing ceremony will be the Harvest Festival from Sept 15-17 at the same venue.

Festival director Chong Keat Aun posing in a padi field at the foothill of Gunung Jerai, Kedah. Photos: Warisan Padi Kedah Festival


China Looks to Rice Cookers to Pep Up Economy

BEIJING — The Chinese government's latest plan to perk up its slowing economy is based on the humble rice cooker and luxury toilet seats.The development plan issued this week strikes a blow for China's consumers, calling for better products to help create an economy driven by domestic consumption instead of trade and investment.
The Cabinet document lays out an unusually detailed wish list: better electric rice cookers, kitchen appliances, "smart toilet seats" and smartphones.China makes most of the world's consumer electronics, furniture and toys but domestic brands available at the prices its poor majority can afford are of uneven quality. The country has been plagued by repeated scandals over shoddy or fake food, medicine and other goods.The latest plan says its goals are part the ruling Communist Party's campaign to make the state-dominated economy more productive by shrinking bloated companies in steel and other industries.

Until now, official development plans have ignored deficiencies in products for the local market, treating the Chinese public as a source of labor rather than the rightful beneficiaries of economic growth.The party is trying to shore up growth that decelerated to a seven-year low of 6.7 percent in the latest quarter. Forecasters see signs economic activity is improving but say overall growth could fall further this year.The week's announcement is a departure from the Chinese leadership's usual development exhortations about farming, heavy industry and technology.
The prominent mention of "smart toilet seats" reflects the rising importance of Chinese consumers and a house-proud public that is spending heavily to make drab homes more pleasant and comfortable.Until now, state media have ridiculed toilet seats equipped with heaters, water jets and other features as a frivolous fad imported from Japan.But Chinese tourists have taken advantage of a weaker Japanese yen to embark on shopping sprees in Tokyo, where stores have refashioned their displays to attract them, hiring Chinese-speaking staff and expanding duty free services for tourists.The latest plan calls for better goods ranging from air purifiers and toys to paint and children's clothing.


Wes Ward to Delve Into Cuban Relations at Agriculture Law Conference

by Alexis Hosticka  on Tuesday, Apr. 19, 2016 11:05 am  

Wes Ward
Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward will speak at the Third Annual Mid-South Agricultural & Environmental Law Conference in Memphis, which takes place Thursday and Friday.The conference, which will take place at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, is led by the National Agricultural Law Center and designed to provide agricultural and environmental legal research and information to attorneys, lenders, accountants, tax consultants, students and other agricultural professionals.Ward will give the keynote address, a look at agricultural trade with Cuba, at the event lunch on Friday. Ward accompanied Gov. Asa Hutchinson on his trip to Cuba last year.Arkansas Business talked with Ward this week for a preview of his remarks and his insight into the hot topic of trade with Cuba. His responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Arkansas Business: How will you approach the topic of Cuba in your Friday address?
Wes Ward: 

We’re going to be talking about Cuba, so my approach is going to be talking a little bit about the history and how agricultural exports have changed over the history of our relationship with Cuba. Starting with 1959 — when the revolution started — and kind of looking at what U.S. and Arkansas exports were to Cuba prior to the Cuban revolution. Then, how that changed with the embargo and the different legal aspects of the embargo.

Moving forward from there, in October 2000, when the trade sanctions were formed, and how that started to shift things and the history with that.Some of [the speech] may be a legal-nuanced and sort of a legal background of some of the issues with Cuba to a degree. We’ll also talk about Cuba in general – an overview of some of the most recent efforts. I’ll talk about the governor’s trip to Cuba last year that I got to participate in with the World Trade Center of Arkansas, the work that Sen. [John] Boozman has done, and a couple of different groups: the Cuba Consortium, Engage Cuba Coalition. I’m going to kind of give a history of our relationship with Cuba and what’s changed and some of the recent efforts.

AB: What opportunities does Arkansas have as the U.S. tries to jump-start trade with Cuba?
WW: Cuba has the highest per capita consumption of rice in the Western Hemisphere. Arkansas produces 50 percent of the nation’s rice, so when you look at the potential relationship between Arkansas and Cuba specifically, rice tends to benefit more than anybody else. Once some of those restrictions have been lifted, we would see potentially about a $36 million economic impact on the agriculture side in Arkansas, and about $30 million of that would be for the rice industry. The rice industry in Arkansas would be the greatest benefactor of the restrictions being lifted

APEDA AgriExchange Newsletter - Volume 1456

International Benchmark Price
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Turkish No. 2 whole pitted, CIF UK (USD/t)
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Late Rabi crop may be spoiled by heat wave; intense heat may disturb pollination

By Sutanuka Ghosal, ET Bureau | 21 Apr, 2016, 02.01AM IST
Scientists said in a temperature range of 22-31degrees, the growth rate o paddy increases linearly. But higher temperature adversely affects growth and productivity.KOLKATA: Agricultural scientists have raised concern over the continuing heat wave in eastern India, saying the high tempreratures can harm the late rabi or 'boro' paddy crop in West Bengal and Odisha, the country's two major rice producing states. Boro paddy is usually sown in November and harvested in May. "High temperature affects the pollination stage of the paddy crop," said Dr AK Nayak, director at Cuttack, Odisha-based ICARNational Rice Research Institute.
"In early rabi paddy variety, pollination is over. Maybe in some cases in late variety, paddy pollination may get disturbed due to the high temperature. If the temperature is above 37 degree during pollination, then the process gets affected." Nayak said at the ripening stage, if temperature is high 'packing of starch' in the grain gets affected and it develops chalkiness. "In simple words, productivity may not be affected but quality suffers," he said. Scientists said in a temperature range of 22-31degrees, the growth rate of paddy increases linearly. But higher temperature adversely affects growth and productivity.
Odisha, West Bengal and parts of Assam produce 5.5 million tonne of rice from the rabi paddy crop. Besides the high temperature, these rice producing states are also worried over the availability of funds under the Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India (BGREI) initiative. BGREI, a scheme introduced by the previous UPA government, aims at increasing rice and wheat production in eastern India. The scheme covers seven states — Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, eastern UP and West Bengal. "All the seven states are ready with their plan. The central government has to approve our plans and allocate funds. We hope that funds come before the beginning of the kharif season," a senior official with the West Bengal agriculture department said.

El Niño creates untold havoc

posted April 20, 2016 at 11:15 pm by  Ray S. Eñano
Parched lands caused by the long dry spell have altered the lives of many Filipino farmers and those in other parts of Asia as well. The Kidapawan incident in Cotabato province where farmer took to the streets on April 1 to protest government’s inaction against El Niño bears testimony to the damage wreaked by the weather phenomenon.Over in Vietnam, one farmer saw her land turn into a wasteland from what used to double as rice paddy and shrimp pond. Nguyen Thi Tam’s family, according to a Bloomberg report, had no income for two harvests because the rice crop failed and the shrimp died. They piled $8,000 in debt, or more than twice her earnings in a typical year. She now plans to leave her village to work at a factory hundreds of miles away to make ends meet.

Here in the Philippines, the El Niño phenomenon has so far ruined 237,000 hectares of agriculture areas with damage estimated at P5.32 billion as of March, according to the Department of Agriculture. Farmers in the rural areas have turned to the government for help and assistance after key commodities, including rice and corn as well as high value crops and livestock, were affected by the drought that has intensified with the onset of the dry season.What can be done to mitigate the impact of a natural phenomenon like El Niño or La Niña on the country’s food supply? Will imports suffice to fill up the supply gap?

The International Rice Research Institute has already warned of supply crises amid the most damaging drought.Science and technology and regional and global cooperation are the key tasks at hand for countries like the Philippines to temper the changing climate pattern.The Philippines and the rest of the world are now confronted with  a global food crisis similar to the 2007-08 situation as a result of the current El Niño episode. Close cooperation, thus, should be secured among the biggest rice-producing and -consuming nations to stem the crisis should it worsen.IRRI director general Matthew Morell, in a communication sent to the secretaries general of the Asean member-countries last week, called for a joint action to forestall an impending crisis.
Morell notes that for maximum impact, cooperation would have to involve not only Asean member-countries (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) but also China, Japan, and South Korea (Asean+3) and India—collectively the world’s biggest producers and consumers of rice. About 90 percent of the world’s rice production come from Asia.
Rice research key
IRRI is one of the first non-government institutions to issue a warning on the food crisis amid the drought, which Department of Agriculture, unfortunately, does not share.IRRI sparked the Green Revolution in Asia, which saved the continent from famine in the 1960s to the 1970s, through its sturdy high-yielding rice varieties. IRRI recently made available climate-smart rice varieties, or those tolerant of submergence, drought, salinity and other environmental stresses, that have made unproductive areas in India and Bangladesh and parts of Southeast Asia bloom.Working with hundreds of partners across the world, IRRI has developed and offers the improved and resilient rice varieties, crop management technologies and expertise to rice-growing countries.

 Upon request of the governments of some of these countries, IRRI had helped develop national rice sector strategies, providing policy advice and technical assistance.Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnerships at IRRI, says in a recent press conference “the way to handle another crisis is for the Asean+3 and India to come together as a region with shared concerns and interests, and take advantage of IRRI as a regional and neutral resource.”IRRI’s call for action also includes an appeal for serious investment in rice research, which has borne the brunt of decreasing support in agriculture globally. Rice research has historically been supported mainly by Western donor countries, and to a much lesser degree by rice-growing countries. IRRI seeks to push this dynamic to a more appropriate balance, that is, for the biggest rice stakeholders to invest the most in the research.The Philippines, the eighth largest producer of rice in the world in 2015 and one of the most at-risk countries from climate change, has risen to the challenge and is now IRRI’s fourth biggest donor. Other Asian countries, such as Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, India,and Indonesia, are also increasing investment in rice research.