Tuesday, July 12, 2016

11th July,2016 daily global regional and local rice e-newsletter

Eid recipe: Easy ouzi with curried rice

Image Credit: Stockfood
Wow your guests with slow-baked lamb and curried rice this Eid
Published: 03:00 July 6, 2016
Serves 4-6 | Preparation/cooking time: 2 hours 15 mins | Difficulty: medium | Cannot be frozen 

For the lamb
1 leg of lamb, about 2.25kg
2 tsp mild curry powder
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp caster sugar
4 tbsp olive oil

Celebrate Eid with this traditional Emirati lamb dish served with spiced rice

For the rice
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
250g basmati rice, rinsed in several changes of water
750ml hot water
150g frozen peas, thawed
11/2 tsp ground turmeric
11/2 tsp mild curry powder
120ml boiling water
To serve
4 tbsp blanched almonds, sliced
1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
1 white cabbage, roughly shredded
Dried red chillies
2 limes, cut into wedges
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
2. To prepare the lamb, place it in a trivet set on a roasting tray. Combine the ground spices, sugar, seasoning and olive oil in a small bowl. Whisk briefly and pour over the lamb, rubbing it into the meat with your hands.
3. Cover the tray with aluminium foil and roast for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for a further 70-80 minutes until at least 63°C on a meat thermometer.
4. Meanwhile, as the lamb roasts, prepare the rice. Heat the oil in a large casserole dish set over a moderate heat until hot. Add the coriander seeds and fry for 20 seconds before stirring in the rice. Continue to fry the rice in the oil for 2 minutes. Add 750ml hot water and bring to the boil.
5. Once boiling, cover and turn down the heat. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the rice is tender and has absorbed the liquid. Remove from the heat, add the peas and leave covered for 10 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, stir the ground turmeric and curry powder into 120ml boiling water, mixing thoroughly.
7. After the rice has sat covered for 10 minutes, fluff with a fork. Set aside a couple of large tablespoons of the rice. Pour the spiced water over the rest of the rice and stir well. Cover and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Then give the rice another stir and return the white rice to the pot, tossing well.
8. To serve, remove the lamb from the oven when ready and leave to rest, covered loosely with aluminium foil, for at least 10 minutes.
9. Reheat the rice if needed in a microwave before spreading it on a platter. Sit the lamb on top and garnish with a sprinkle of almonds and coriander seeds. Serve with the cabbage, dried chillies and lime wedgeshttp://gulfnews.com/gn-focus/special-reports/ramadan/eid-recipe-easy-ouzi-with-curried-rice-1.1852595

Basmati rice exports: Why trade has shrunk, DCP India’s Gaurav Jain explains

Gaurav Jain, director, DCP, spoke to Sandip Das on the challenges faced by basmati rice exporters in the global market

By: Sandip Das | Published: July 7, 2016 6:05 AM

One of the newest entries into the fiercely-competitive basmati rice exports business is Delhi-based agricultural commodities trading firm DCP India. The company last year launched its ‘Asbah’ brand of basmati rice at the Gulfood exhibition in Dubai. Gaurav Jain, director, DCP, spoke to Sandip Das on the challenges faced by basmati rice exporters in the global market. Excerpts:
The basmati rice exports have shrunk substantially in 2015-16 because of lower realisation. As an exporter, how are you dealing with the situation?
In the past, Iran was importing about a million tonne (mt) of rice from India due to sanctions imposed by the US. Recently, the sanctions have been lifted and Iran will now have more options to import rice from other countries, which has increased the chances of export of basmati rice from India shrinking. We still hope to buck the downward trend of basmati exports by leveraging our strength. Our efforts have been to spread the unique aroma of Indian basmati rice globally.
What are the key challenges your company faces in the export of basmati rice?
Better price realisation is a big challenge for increasing exports. To enter the trade and offer competitive prices, blending of rice (with non-basmati) is a common malpractice done by many small players. Unlike this, we would like to enter the market by maintaining the quality and consistency of our products. Another major challenge is sourcing pesticide or chemical residue-free rice. Since importing countries have very stringent to maximum residue limit for all chemicals, it is sometime very difficult to meet their standards.
How many countries do you export basmati rice to and what is the volume?
In a short span of one year, we have established our brand in countries like the US, the UAE, Italy, Cyprus, Turkey, Bahrain, Maldives, Ghana, Jordan and many more. Our export volumes are increasing considerably. In FY16, we were able to export approximately 2,100 tonne of basmati rice.
How do you see the prospects of basmati shipments in the current financial year? Will Iran import more basmati from India this financial year?
According to an ICRA report, the basmati rice industry may see a revival from the second half of 2016-17 due to the improvement in demand. However, if Iran goes ahead with the curb on rice shipments from India from July 2016, as reported, targets of basmati rice exports may take a hit. On the other hand, as a new entrant in the global market, we see an enormous growth in exports for us.
How long have you been in the business of rice exports? What is your USP of selling basmati rice in the global as well as domestic markets?
We launched our brand ‘ASBAH’ at Gulfood Exhibition 2015 in Dubai. ASBAH’s idea of business is very unique. It contributes a part of its profits to the empowerment of talented, underprivileged women across the world. The money is used for education, sports training and skill development of these girls
First Anniversary of Reestablished Relations with Cuba
By Deborah Willenborg
 WASHINGTON, DC -- Yesterday, USA Rice staff attended a reception at the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba here to commemorate the first anniversary of reestablishing diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States. 

"We always enjoy the Cuban hospitality and the opportunity to talk with our friends and colleagues at the Embassy," said USA Rice Director of International Promotion Sarah Moran. 
 "As our two countries develop closer ties, USA Rice continues to advocate to end the embargo and push for finance credit so that Cuba can be a viable trading partner.  A lot of progress has been made over the past year but there is still a long way to go," Moran added. "We know some naysayers in the ag community don't support these efforts, however, USA Rice believes that when this huge market finally does open, those with good, long-standing relationships with Cuba will benefit."
A fancy feast indeed
Japan Steps Up Utilization of Rice in Animal Feeds
By Bill Farmer

ARLINGTON, VA -- Japan, faced with an oversupply of rice, is moving to encourage use of rice, both domestically produced and imported, as livestock feed.  According to a report from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, last year Japan set a record for rice utilization in animal feeds, exceeding 1 million metric tons (1,173,000 MT), and surpassing the utilization rate of sorghum for the first time.  In the period October 1, 2015 - March 31, 2016 rice utilization in compound feeds has averaged 5.3 percent, already 0.3 percent higher than total compound feed formulation for all of last year. In the previous 10 years the inclusion rate of rice in feed rations in Japan averaged a little less than 2 percent, so this is a dramatic increase in rice use in animal feeds. Other reports indicate that of the total utilization in 2014-15, 55 percent (650,000 MT) appears to have come from rice imported under minimum market access ordinary tenders.
This policy affects Japan's rice imports, which are controlled by the Ministry of Agriculture.
 "It is disappointing to see a high value food product like rice being utilized for animal feed but it's obviously better than letting it deteriorate in government storage," said USA Rice Vice President of International Promotion Jim Guinn.  "Most of the rice Japan imports under minimum access never reaches the market as whole grain rice; it is only released in broken form, re-exported as food aid, and utilized for non-food purposes such as, in this case, animal feed."  Guinn continued, "USA Rice will continue to advocate that Japan allow market demand to determine the end uses for rice imported from the United States.

            USA Rice Daily

Bradma Group launches premium basmati rice brand from India
July 09 2016 11:06 PM
Bradma Group officials at the launch of the Zeeba rice brand in Qatar.
Bradma Group has announced the launch of Zeeba, a premium basmati rice brand from India, in Qatar.Zeeba, produced by Supple Tek Industries Private Limited, is described as an “aromatic, long-grained and delicately flavoured rice that suits the tastes of people all over the world”.
Bradma Group is a leading importer of rice in Qatar.Addressing a press conference in connection with the launch of the new product in Doha, Bradma Group executive director Mohamed Hafis said Zeeba comes from the renowned rice-growing area in the foothills of the Himalayas in India. Nurtured in lush green paddy fields, it is known for its “delicate aroma, grain length and delicious taste, and is processed using state-of-art technology and by maintaining strict hygiene and quality control standards”, it was observed.

The rice is available at all leading hypermarkets and supermarkets in 5kg, 10kg and 20kg packs, with 1kg and 2kg options to be introduced soon, according to K L Hashim Mohamed, chairman of the group. The new product comes with promotions at hypermarkets and supermarkets, he added

Newport man inducted into hall of fame
This article was published July 10, 2016 at 12:00 a.m.

Bobby A. Huey was the first rice specialist with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. Huey, 81, retired in 1990 and was inducted into the Arkansas Farm Bureau Agriculture Hall of Fame this year.
“This is what an old rice specialist does to keep out of trouble,” said Bobby A. Huey, 81, as he pointed to a cluster of pecan trees while navigating his SUV through Newport farmland. “I don’t sit in a chair all the time.”
Huey retired from his 30-plus years with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture in 1990, but he was inducted into the Arkansas Farm Bureau’s Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame this year. He will also accept a hall-of-fame induction from Newport High School, his alma mater, in August.
The land where Huey now grafts pecans isn’t far from the site he called home as a child. Huey was born in Remmel in Jackson County, where he spent the first 17 years of his life, in a home that no longer exists and is now a rice farm. His family members were cotton farmers, and Huey grew up familiar with cotton and liking cotton, but he didn’t enjoy chopping it.
“I remember my daddy telling me one time, when I was standing on a hoe handle when I shouldn’t have been, he said, ‘Son, you need to go get you an education because if you have to work for a living, you’re going to starve to death,’” Huey said.
At the time, Huey didn’t know where Fayetteville was, but he received a scholarship to the U of A to study agronomy-soils and left the Newport area for 40 years.
“I had no idea that when I started school, I’d end up a rice specialist,” he said.
His first job was as the Cross County assistant county agent through the UA Cooperative Extension Service in 1956, and he was based in Wynne.
“It had its perks. I could hunt ducks over at Fair Oaks,” he said. “I had two bird dogs. I could hunt quail, and I could play baseball in the Delta league, semipro. But I didn’t like the job.”
He transferred out of the job, but to keep his role, he had to return to the U of A for an advanced degree in agronomy-soils, which took him 10 years to finish. He was staff-chairman county agent in Lonoke County from 1965-70.
“The county agent works locally within his territory to help farmers and others,” he said. “He was the generalist. He worked with farmers and the people in that county to do a lot of different things.”
In 1970, the extension service’s first rice-specialist position was created, and Huey took the job “without even asking what the money was,” he said. He spent 20 years in that role at the Rice Branch Experiment Station, now called Rice Research & Extension Services, in Stuttgart. Huey said rice farmers were very receptive to receiving information on new rice varieties, the use of pesticides and new programs being developed.
“The researchers at the experiment station were getting a lot of direct requests from farmers, and that was interfering with their primary job, which was to do research,” he said. “So I took that on. I was the contact.”
Huey said he was never much of a people person, but his career brought out his inner extrovert.
“You wouldn’t believe that I never said a word in high school or college unless called upon, because I had the idea that if I kept my mouth shut, I wouldn’t show my ignorance,” he said. “Then I found out, somewhere down the line, you have to talk to make a living. And I’ve been talking ever since.”
Through a partnership with the National Weather Service, the UA Extension Service created the DD50 program, which was developed in the late 1970s and is still in use today. The DD50 program used a formula to measure temperature and predict rice growth.
“We could predict growth stages in the rice without having to go out in the field,” he said. “This took a lot of the field work out of walking the field and slicing the plant and figuring [it] out. It helped both millers as well as farmers to plan what’s their next step.”
Varieties were also developed at the experiment station and were quickly grown, Huey said.
“We were trouble shooters. If someone had rice dying and they didn’t know why, I was supposed to find out. If I didn’t know, then I went to researchers, and they were supposed to find out.”
Huey had a rice variety named after him — called “Alan,” which is his middle name — in the early 1980s. He said the variety lasted three or four years and was temperamental.
In the early 1950s, he said, the amount of rice produced was limited because of acreage controls, and when the controls ceased in 1974, rice production peaked.
“It was the whole industry’s help that converted the one-time rice industry, which was a Grand Prairie industry primarily, to an Arkansas industry,” he said. “It was kind of what I like to think as the footprint of where we are today, which is the No. 1 rice-producing state in the Union.”
As rice specialist, Huey traveled to Egypt to review a rice project, and to Puerto Rico to establish a rice-production program. He said Arkansas’ conditions make it a unique locale for rice-growing.
“One of the things that’s unique about rice is you can control the water. It’s an aquatic,” he said. “In Arkansas, we have either too much rain or not enough, and it’s never at the right time. But in case of rice, if you can get it up, then you control the water, and you can make a good yield.”
Huey said Americans don’t consume as much rice as the rest of the world. His nephew farms acres and acres of rice but doesn’t eat it, Huey noted. He said what we’re raised to eat affects our relationship with rice.
“Guess what we’re programmed to eat? Potatoes. You can’t french-fry rice,” he said. “In our schools, our introduction to rice was rice pudding only, or rice cooked up in a glob that you could serve it with an ice cream dipper. People don’t like it. Whereas in Asian countries, that is their diet.”
When he retired in 1990, Huey and his first wife, Jo Ann — who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and died in 1998 — traveled to 38 states in an RV, and he’s spent every winter, except one, in Florida.
“I had a plan: We would go north in the summer and south in the winter, just like the ducks,” he said.
In the early 1990s, he spent two years building the home in which he and his wife, Julia, live. The home is located on property that used to house a school and is a short drive from his pecan trees and his nephew’s rice farmland.
These days, Huey offers consulting to his nephew.
“I tell him what I know, what I think. I do not make decisions for him, and we get along real well,” Huey said.
Huey also writes and has researched genealogy. He wrote a 40-page history of his hometown community and the history of the Hueys for his grandchildren.
Over his career, Huey has received awards, including the Extension Specialist of the Year Award, the Riceland Friend of Farmer Award, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Superior Service Award and others. Huey said he thought his agricultural recognition was all over with and was surprised when the Farm Bureau inducted him into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame.
“I told them when they approached me, ‘I don’t need these awards. It’s all over with. I’m out of it,’” he said.
There were about 650 people at the induction, and many people he didn’t remember by name recognized him at the event. After 26 years of retirement, Huey didn’t expect people to remember who he was.
“It was the friends that after so long, people that I couldn’t remember their names or didn’t know their names, but we had a history of working together — that was probably the highlight of it,” he said.
Staff writer Syd Hayman can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or shayman@arkansasonline.com.

Raising farmers’ income not necessarily rice sufficiency

by Dr. Emil Javier
July 10, 2016 (updated)
Easily the most contentious issue in Philippine agriculture today for which we have yet to see closure is the long-standing policy of rice self-sufficiency. This had been the banner agriculture program of all post-war administrations. To critics, the resources monopolized by the national rice program are better spent on other commodities with higher returns and where we enjoy comparative advantage.The debate has resurfaced with the recent announcement of Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol that the department has submitted a plan to achieve self-sufficiency in rice in two years’ time in, 2018, with a price tag of P62 billion.
The scenario brings us back to 2011 when then Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala resolved to erase the huge rice imports incurred by the Arroyo administration and promised to lead us to rice self-sufficiency by 2013.
The promise failed to materialize and poor Secretary Alcala was made to eat his words. But actually the rice sector posted significant increase in total production during the period. His mistake was setting the target at 100 percent sufficiency. Had Secretary Alcala moderated the goal at, say, 97 percent adequacy he would have graduated with honors.
As an agronomist I perfectly understand the can-do message that Secretary Piñol is trying to bring across. We can do it! The elusive goal of rice self-sufficiency is attainable with the technology at hand, if we set our mind to it.
Our national average yield is 3.4 tons palay per hectare. It is a matter of raising the national average to 3.7 tons per hectare. In fact, even now the top ten rice producing provinces average 4.0 tons per hectare with the better farmers averaging 6.9. tons per hectare.
Progressive rice farmers in Nueva Ecija adopting hybrid rice technology routinely obtain 7-10 tons palay per hectare. To date, about 300,000 hectares are planted to rice hybrids. If we expand hybrid rice hectarage to 1.0 million hectares out of the annual 4.5 million harvested area, we will have more than enough and we can profitably divert the less productive upland and rainfed lowland rice farms, into higher value crops like vegetables, fruits, ornamentals and industrial crops.
Moreover, rice self-sufficiency can be attained by reducing demand by substitution. Brown rice (unpolished rice) which is rice with only the husk removed is getting popular with health-conscious consumers. Brown rice is not only richer in proteins, vitamins and minerals compared with regular white rice but also has a lower glycemic index, ideal for diabetics. It should also be cheaper because energy cost for grain processing is half and the grain milling recovery is higher by ten percent compared with white rice (72% vs 62%).
If only Filipino consumers can be persuaded to consume 50:50 mixtures of brown and white rice for their own health and wellness, there will be no need for rice imports.
In addition, a good number of Filipinos in the Visayas and Mindanao prefer white corn grits over rice. The problem is supply. During the last ten years, production of white corn has stagnated at 2.25 million tons. With our annual population increase of 2 million a year, per capita consumption of white corn has been steadily going down.
If we produce more white corn, we will need less rice. White corn grits are not only cheaper but also more healthful than polished rice. Like brown rice, white corn grits are more nutritious but also have lower glycemic index, good for diabetics.
The problem is white corn farmers are switching to yellow corn because of the higher productivity and incomes from yellow corn. Our white corn which are open-pollinated varieties average only 1.75 tons per hectares. Yellow corn on the other hand, which are genetically modified (GM) hybrids, average 4.17 tons per hectare.
The DA should therefore support public breeding research to develop white corn hybrids to match the productivity of the yellow corn hybrids in the market.
In the meantime, a new white corn open pollinated variety with elevated levels of the essential amino acid, lysine, has been developed by the Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB) in UP Los Baños (UPLB). Also called QPM (or quality protein maize) it is now being marketed in pilot scale by the University as a white corn grit:rice blend. Supply of white corn is coming from corn growers in Mindoro who have been contracted by the University to plant 200 hectares.
This has been brought to the attention of Secretary Piñol when he visited Los Baños early this week.
The third substitute for rice is cassava which is considered a staple among certain communities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Average yields are only 7-8 tons per hectare although the local improved varieties developed by Visayas State University (VSU) and UPLB have yield potentials of 25-30 tons per hectare. A dedicated cassava program for human consumption in those communities make sense.
New battle cry of raising farmers’ incomes
The details of the new DA rice program are not yet available but most likely the program elements described above are part of the menu. These are essentially low hanging fruits waiting to be fully and energetically exploited. They have been there along but have been ignored in favor of the narrow single-minded target of producing more rice.
Raising the political standard of rice self-sufficiency always worked in the past and all former agriculture secretaries as far as I know capitalized on the sentiment to justify increase in the DA budget.
A number of academics like myself went along, not persuaded that rice self-sufficiency as an absolute physical target was automatically good for us, but because that was how political support can be readily mobilized for the perennially underfunded DA.
The challenge is not really producing more rice but at what cost! The farm gate cost of domestic palay is P12–P13 per kilogram compared with P10 per kilogram in Thailand and P7 per kilogram in Vietnam from whom we import most of our rice.
With the lifting of quantitative restrictions on rice imports by end of 2017, we will be flooded with cheap imports from these countries. Palay farm gate prices will nose dive and the less efficient among our rice farmers will lose their shirts.
Therefore, the more realistic political standard to rally around is Raising Rice Farmers’ Incomes to Lift Them From Poverty.
Increasing rice production and raising farmers’ incomes are closely linked but they are not the same. The major infrastructure costs such as farm-to-market roads, irrigation and drainage will be the same although they may be in different locations. But there will be shifts in program priorities from mono-cropping to diversification and multiple cropping. There will be further production intensification and mechanization in favorable irrigated rice growing areas to drive down costs. But the less productive upland and rainfed lowland rice farms will be diverted to the growing of higher value vegetables, fruits, ornamentals and industrial tree crops like coffee, oil palm, rubber, cacao and hybrid coconuts.
We may not produce more rice but the rice farmers will be better off.
Dr. Emil Q. Javier is a Member of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) and also Chair of the Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP).
For any feedback, email eqjavier@yahoo.com.

7 interesting facts you should know about rice

·          Nigerians love eating rice; it is very hard for you to find a family in Nigeria who would not eat rice twice or thrice within a week. The interesting part of it is that rice can be cooked in different ways and served with different sauces. 

In Nigeria, rice could be cooked plainly as white rice or with oil and pepper to make jollof rice. Also, Nigerians make fried rice and change the nature of the plain rice we know by adding fried ingredients. There is no doubt it is one of the most loved delicacies in this part of the world.
This is an important staple food to us as it has formed one of our major foods. Wedding ceremonies are thought to be incomplete when Jollof rice is not served there. As a matter of fact, who would host a party in Nigeria and not serve serve Jollof rice? If we do not find this food at your party, then there is no party.
As much as Nigerians are creative when it comes to cooking and transforming foods, rice would always be rice. The fact that it is being cooked as white, jollof or fried has not changed its name and origin. It still belongs to the same class of food.
There are some interesting facts about rice that you ought to know. Find some of them below:

1.  Half of the world’s population depend on it

Rice is an important food crop, the International Rice Research Institute says half of the world’s population depend on rice. This means there are several countries who rely on this food. These countries also practice rice farming in order to meet the needs of their people. China is the leading producer of rice in the world.
There are more than forty thousand varieties of rice. Despite this huge number, only a few is being grown and marketed worldwide. These varieties include the brown rice and white rice.
Brown rice is the whole grain rice that has its outer hull removed; removing the outermost layer, and hull of the rice kernel is least damaging to its nutritional value.
It is considered to be more nutritional than the white rice which goes through further processing in order to get rid of the bran and germ layer. When it becomes polished, we have the white rice that we are familiar with.

3. Ranging shelf life

The white rice that has not been cooked has a shelf life of about seven to ten years. This means that it can be stored for long under appropriate conditions.
The Uncooked brown rice has a shorter shelf life; it can last for three to six months as a result of the presence of bran. However, storing conditions would also improve the shelf life and make the rice lasts longer.

4. Rice is symbolic

Apart from the fact that rice is eaten worldwide, it also has some cultural uses. Rice is thrown at traditional weddings because it is a symbol of fertility and life.

5. Rice can be grown in most places

Rice is being grown in every continent of the world except in Antarctica.  This food crop is usually grown on flooded lands or wet paddy. It is grown in the tropical rain forests of Africa and in arid deserts of the middle east.
In Thailand, people invite or call their families to a meal by saying ‘eat rice’. In Japan, the same word for cooked rice is for meal.

6. There are different shapes of rice

Some grains of rice appear longer or shorter than the ones we are familiar with. That is because they are actually different.
Basmati rice has long grains with a unique flavor profile. the Long grain white rice is the refined white rice with a neutral flavor. Abrorio is the short grain white rice that ends up being sticky when cooked.
Jasmine is another type of rice; it is a long grained variety of rice which has a beautiful smell. The cooking time of these types of rice vary.

7. There are various products that could be obtained from rice

In Nigeria, rice could be transformed to Tuwo, an entirely different meal that is enjoyed in the northern parts of Nigeria. There are other products that could be gotten from rice and its by-products. Some of them include paper, cracker beer, straw, packing materials and so on.


Ducklings Play Important Role On Addison County Rice Farm
By Ric Cengeri Jul 7, 2016 Ducklings swim in a rice paddy at Erik Andrus' farm in Ferrisburgh. The ducks are used to eat bugs and weeds, a technique that Andrus learned from farmers in Japan.
Ric Cengeri / VPR
Several hundred ducks are paddling in a rice paddy on Erik Andrus' farm in Ferrisburg. If you're thinking that rice isn't typically grown in Addison County, you're right. But Andrus has found a way to make rice work here on Boundbrook Farm, and those ducklings play a part.
"Rice is a tropical plant and even though the varieties we grow are cold-tolerant, they don't grow as fast as they do in a tropical environment," Andrus explains to Vermont Edition. Not only do the plants grow slowly, but Andrus notes there is also large amounts of space between them.
"It's very wet and fertile and this condition where weeds can really flourish," Andrus continues. "And also, because it's flooded, it's very difficult to get in there with any type of equipment and pull the weeds or cultivate them in any way."
That's where ducks come in.
"The duck is a perfect fit for this problem because they can walk or swim between the plants and they eat the weeds and bugs that bother the rice crop, but they do not harm the rice plants," Andrus explains, adding that the ducks avoid the rice leaves because the silica in them bothers the ducks' bills. Once the rice plants have grain, the ducks will look to eat that and will need to be removed, but up until that point they can chip in on the work.
Andrus learned this method of using ducks to tend to his rice paddies by visiting farmers in Japan who've perfected the technique. He now has 400 ducks that he bought as hatchlings. The breed of duck is Khaki Campbell, which Andrus describes as a breed of skillful foragers.
The ducklings are 10 days old and it marks the first time they will paddle in water in the rice paddy – however this occasion doesn't come with the most elaborate celebration.
"We're going to take the ducklings from the brooder to the rice field in the tractor," Andrus says. "And this method puts the ducks in a great big jumble in a bin just for a few minutes for their ride to the field, and then they get unceremoniously dumped into the rice paddy."
"That's how the Japanese do it, so I know it works," Andrus continues with a laugh. "They'll sort themselves out in a matter of minutes and they'll be off and foraging for weeds and bugs and tadpoles and whatever else they can find out there."
Andrus lifts two dark blue plastic bins from the tractor, each carrying 60 ducklings. The ducklings hop and tumble out of the bins at the edge of the rice paddy. The ducks are swimming for the first time and one older mallard is with them, showing them how. But mostly they're just trying to get out of each other's way.

Erik Andrus releases ducklings from a blue bin into a rice paddy on his Ferrisburgh farm to get to work. He uses the ducks to help eat weeds and bugs among the plants.
Credit Ric Cengeri / VPR
As the ducks move around, the water clouds which "helps keep weeds from germinating on the soil bed and makes more nutrients available for the growing rice plants," Andrus explains.
While rice is his crop, it's clear that Andrus cares about the ducks that help him grow the rice. He says it's his responsibility to keep the ducks healthy and feels a bond with them.
"I talk with my ducklings all the time," Andrus says. "I call to them and, even though they can get their own food, make a practice of calling them and feeding them a little bit of duck food every day so that they always come when I call." He demonstrates a call, a bellowing refrain of "Duck Duck Duck."
Andrus works to balance the health of the ducks with the productivity of the rice paddies.
"The duck is a creature that lives on the edge of water and land, so in order for it to really work, the water level in the field has to be quite low, lower than most rice farmers are comfortable with," Andrus says. "But if they're in deep water all the time, they are not big enough to temperature-regulate and they'll succumb to various diseases."
"[The ducks] can walk or swim between the plants and they eat the weeds and bugs that bother the rice crop, but they do not harm the rice plants." - Erik Andrus, owner of Boundbrook Farm
His farm now produces three to four tons of rice: three Japanese varieties and one Russian variety. Growing rice wasn’t his initial intention though, Andrus says. He envisioned his farm would grow dry-land crops, but some rainfall patterns had made things difficult for a couple of years.
"I lived in Japan, 16 or so years ago, and I saw commercial-scale rice being grown there, and when we saw water pooling in the fields like a foot deep, my wife and I would joke like, 'Oh, we ought to be growing rice,'" Andrus says. "And then in 2010, we heard about this couple in southern Vermont that had been doing experiments with Japanese cold-tolerant rice varieties and it started not to be a joke."
Andrus says looked at the research done by Takeshi and Linda Akaogi and he ultimately decided to give operating a rice farm a try. Books, trial-and-error and a trip to Japan to speak with other rice growers have all been helpful in his pursuit of running his farm, he says.
"The Champlain Valley was naturally a combination of wetlands and wet forest, so rice is a much better fit for what the valley wants to be in terms of natural history than corn or wheat," Andrus says. He likes to say that if the Champlain Valley had been colonized by people from Asia instead of Europeans, we'd already have several hundred years of rice growing tradition here.
Korean technology boosts rice production in Sri Lanka
Fri, Jul 8, 2016, 08:26 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.
July 08, Colombo: Sri Lanka has observed a remarkable increase in rice productivity at a model farm village established under the Korea Project on International Agriculture (KOPIA) for rice production. The KOPIA Sri Lanka Centre has established a model farm village for rice production at Rajanganaya in partnership with the Rice Research and Development Institute (RRDI) Bathlagoda of the Department of Agriculture to improve productivity and quality of rice in the region by utilizing Korean agricultural technology. The partnership is based on a MOU signed between the Ministry of Agriculture of Sri Lanka and the Rural Development Administration of Korea.
Under this KOPIA project, farmers were requested to cultivate in large plots with deep plowing and to employ organic manure and transplanting mechanization. At the end of the first season, a remarkable increase in rice productivity has been observed.
As part of this project, a Korean mechanic expert visited Sri Lanka from 9 to 13 May this year. He demonstrated how to use the transplanting machine at the Rajanganaya farm village, and held a workshop at the RRDI Battalagoda, titled "How to Use Machine Transplanting Methods for Rice", to educate farmers and agricultural officials how to lower labor force and improve rice quality through mechanization in the agricultural sector. The workshop also helped a Sri Lankan agricultural company, which showed a keen interest in purchasing the transplanting machines, to get information about agricultural machinery companies in Korea.
The project will also send two Korean rice experts to Sri Lanka for one month in mid-July. They are planning to share their expertise in crop and post-harvest management of rice.
Meanwhile, two Sri Lankan officials in the agricultural sector will be invited to visit the National Institute of Crop Science, RDA, South Korea from 30 July to 5 August, to participate in a training program on high-quality rice production technology.

All you need to know about the GM food controversy

Picture shows activists of Greenpeace holding a protest against GM corn and the Monsanto Law on the National Day of Corn , in front of the Judicial Power in Mexico City on September 29, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

A letter to Greenpeace endorsed by over 100 Nobel Laureates has yet again ignited a debate on whether genetically modified crops are safe or not.

Last week, over a hundred Nobel laureates shot off a letter to NGO Greenpeace calling its campaign against genetically modified (GM) crops “misleading” and “unscientific.” The letter has re-ignited the debate over how safe it is to consume GM food.
What does the letter say?

Addressing Greenpeace, the United Nations, and governments across the world, the letter points to how global production of food will have to double by 2050 to meet the demands of a growing global population. “Organisations opposed to modern plant breeding, with Greenpeace at their lead, have repeatedly denied these facts and opposed biotechnological innovations in agriculture. They have misrepresented their risks, benefits, and impacts, and supported the criminal destruction of approved field trials and research projects,” the letter says. It also urges Greenpeace and its supporters to re-examine the issue in the light of experiences of farmers and consumers worldwide as also new scientific findings. The letter wants Greenpeace to abandon its campaign against GM crop in general and Golden Rice in particular. It says Golden Rice, a genetically modified variety of rice infused with Vitamin A, is a must for curing Vitamin A deficiency in children in Africa who are affected by partial blindness because of the deficiency.
How have opponents of GM crops responded?
Indian environmental activist and anti-globalization author Vandana Shiva. Photo: V. Raju
Environmentalist Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya, an organisation promoting organic farming, is clear that GM crops contaminate the environment and the letter by the Nobel winners is merely an opinion, and not an authoritative study to go by. In a written response to The Hindu, Ms. Shiva referred to the backlash the letter had received from several agriculture researchers and experts internationally. She cited Devon G. Peña, an anthropologist at the University of Washington, Seattle, and an expert in indigenous agriculture, who noted how the signatories were “mostly white men of privilege with little background in risk science, few with a background in toxicology studies, and certainly none with knowledge of the indigenous agro-ecological alternatives.” Ms. Shiva further said that the laureates’ letter relied for its impact entirely on the supposed authority of the signatories. Referring to a tweet from Philip Stark, Professor of Statistics at the University of California, Berkeley, she said the signatories comprised: “One peace prize, 8 economists, 24 physicists, 33 chemists, 41 doctors”. She also shared details as to how Greenpeace activists were stalled from attending the Washington press conference where the letter in question was released, as one of the security managers for the event John Bryne was a former head of corporate communications for Monsanto, the GM seeds giant. Thus tracing the entire episode to a GM lobby-driven public relations exercise, Ms. Shiva said the letter should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Further Greenpeace has denied accusations that it is blocking genetically engineered ‘Golden’ rice. Its spokesperson from South East Asia, Wilhelmina Pelegrina, told The Hindu that golden rice has failed as a solution and isn’t currently available for sale, even after more than 20 years of research. “As admitted by the International Rice Research Institute, it has not been proven to actually address Vitamin A Deficiency,” she said, further adding: “Corporations are overhyping ‘golden’ rice to pave the way for global approval of other more profitable genetically engineered crops. Rather than invest in this overpriced public relations exercise, we need to address malnutrition through a more diverse diet, equitable access to food and eco-agriculture.”
What is the science behind GM crops?
A DNA double helix is seen in an undated artist's illustration released by the National Human Genome Research Institute on May 15, 2012. Photo: Reuters
Ever since the discovery of the DNA double-helix model by Watson and Crick, scientists realised it was possible to manipulate the DNA features of an organism to create new traits in them by borrowing genes from other organisms and mixing it with theirs. In the case of GM food, scientists insert into a plant’s genome one or several gene from another species of plant or even from a bacterium, virus or animal. This is to inject desired traits such as pest-resistance or Vitamin A (as in the case of golden rice).
Is GM food unsafe?

Most studies on the safety of GM food are heavily debated; with the result that it is hard to conclude they are unsafe. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate, a herbicide that goes with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready product, as “probably carcinogenic” in 2015. However, this has been challenged by food scientists. The herbicide ensures that only the weed dies and not the crop itself, as the GM food is modified to resist glyphosate. In a review paper of GMO safety assessment studies, environmental scientist Marek Cuhra has shown that glyphosate-tolerant GM food plants accumulate glyphosate residues at unexpected high levels. Minimum residue levels of glyphosate allowed on GM food has been notched up due to increased use of this herbicide on the glyphosate tolerant GM food crops, said Kavitha Kuruganti, an activist associated with ASHA – Kisan Swaraj Alliance. “The way the plant resists the herbicide has allowed more residues to remain on the plant, so this has increased exposure to glyphosate among GM food consumers,” she said.
Till date the most controversial study around safety of GM food has been on GM corn by French molecular biologist Gilles-Éric Séralini. In a 2012 journal paper, he had shown that rats fed GM corn and the herbicide Roundup developed tumours. But his journal paper was withdrawn after its data was shown to be flawed. A study released by the Japanese Department of Environmental Health and Toxicology, based on a 52-week feeding of GM soybeans to rats, found “no apparent adverse effect in rats” in 2007. In 2012, scientists from the University of Nottingham’s School of Biosciences released a review of 12 long-term studies and 12 multi-generational studies of GM foods, concluding there is no evidence of health hazards from GM food. The European Commission too funded 130 research projects on the safety of GM crops and could not find anything that could prove the risks from GM crops.
Is there more to the GM controversy?
Activists protesting against Bt Brinjal, the first GM food item to be introduced for trial in India. Picture was taken in Hyderabad in 2010. Photo: P.V.Sivakumar
It isn’t just about safety. There are arguments against GM food that are economic and social in nature. Advocates of organic farming like Vandana Shiva have voiced serious concern about multinational agribusiness companies such as Monsanto and Bayer taking over farming from the hands of small farmers, which includes several poor women in developing countries like India. This would mean loss of autonomy over the manner in which agriculture itself is practiced, with increased dependence on GM seed companies and herbicides manufactured by them, putting financial strain on farmer households.
There are also concerns regarding loss of food biodiversity if corporate food varieties begin to flood the markets. In a note published on the Navdanya site, Ms. Shiva wrote that Golden Rice is less efficient in providing Vitamin A than the biodiversity alternatives that those grown by indigenous farmers. She also wrote that GMO ‘iron-rich’ bananas have less iron than turmeric and amchur (mango powder). “Apart from being nutritionally empty, GMOs are part of an industrial system of agriculture that are destroying biodiversity, and we are losing access to the food systems that have sustained us throughout time,” she wrote.
However, scientists in the U.S. and elsewhere are firm that GM food can resolve the hunger challenge in the developing world, as the Nobel Laureates’ letter states. They also speak of the benefits of insect-resistant food crops that can increase farm productivity for farmers.
The GM scene in India

Though India has resisted GM food production till now, Ms. Kuruganti said there have been instances of GM food being imported into the country (including corn, baby food and breakfast cereal, which have been introduced without adherence to relevant labelling laws). While a Directorate General of Foreign Trade notification in 2013 addressed the issue of labelling by requiring those importing GM food to explicitly mention it in their labels, in the case of home-manufactured products like edible oil, there are chances of GM cottonseed oil being mixed with other edible oil without any labelling, she said.
Though no State government in India has permitted commercial cultivation of GM food till now, field trials for 21 GM food crops, including GM vegetables and cereals, have been approved by the government

Big push for infra, welfare in Kerala budget

Funds will be raised through bonds and term loans, says Finance Minister Thomas Isaac.

In what is clearly an aspiration-driven budget, Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac has sought to give a big push to infrastructure development using extra-budgetary resources even while attempting to raise tax revenue with better tax administration and fresh imposts.
Land transactions would cost more with the Finance Minister hiking the registration levies. He has slapped a ‘green tax’ on vehicles aged more than 15 years and increased the levies on stage carriages. The various additional imposts are expected to net Rs.805 crore. The fresh levies notwithstanding, Dr. Isaac anticipates a year-end deficit of Rs.746.69 crore.The Finance Minister has announced a Rs.12,000-crore package to fight economic slowdown by taking up major infrastructure projects. The necessary funds would be raised through the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) issuing bonds, term loans from banks, and funds that have the approval of the RBI and SEBI.
Change in laws
The government would stand guarantee for the funds thus raised. Appropriate legislative changes would be brought about and governance mechanisms created to facilitate this. On the welfare side, the Finance Minister has announced an across-the-board hike in social welfare pensions to Rs.1,000 and promised a comprehensive insurance scheme covering treatment of all major non-communicable diseases. The State government will also bring forward a comprehensive law to offer protection to migrant workers, pay pension to transgenders aged above 60, and create a separate department for women.
While a ‘fat tax’ has been imposed on food articles of conspicuous consumption such as pizzas and burgers sold through branded restaurants, the new imposts will push up the prices of a few commodities such as basmati rice. In the productive sector, there will be massive deployment of resources to ensure value addition to agriculture through the establishment of a string of agro-parks at an estimated outlay of Rs.500 crore, acquisition of 5,100 acres of land at an estimated Rs.5,100 crore over five years to set up multipurpose industrial zones, adoption of soil conservation as a key activity under MGNREGS, greater mechanisation of the coir industry, creation of Kochi-Palakkad industrial corridor, and a Rs.1,325-crore initiative to promote the IT industry.
Solar energy
In the energy sector, the government’s strategy will be to lean more on solar energy. A beginning in this direction will be made this year by launching a scheme to install solar panels atop homes to generate 1,000 MW power