Friday, September 23, 2016

23rd September,2016 daily global,regional and local rice e-newsletter by riceplus magazine

Greenpeace founder pushes hard for Golden Rice

Patrick Moore frustrated by the anti-science rhetoric used to hinder development of crops that offer human health benefits.
Sep 20, 2016 Willie Vogt
Patrick Moore, an original founding member of Greenpeace, is in a public fight with the group over it's anti-Golden Rice stance. Golden Rice would provide enough beta carotene in a single serving to end Vitamin A deficiency in children's diets, which he says kills 2 million children a year.
It's not news that Patrick Moore is frustrated with the folks at Greenpeace. While he was an original founder of the group, and in speeches touts the work he did to help save the whales, and protect baby seals, he parted ways when the organization focused more on the "green" in its name rather than the "peace." And all of his focus now is on Golden Rice.
During the Agricultural Bioscience International Conference being held in Fargo this week, Moore took on the notion of anti-GMO activists; but his core cause is Golden Rice.
Farmers will remember Golden Rice. News of the idea of engineering rice so that it produced beta carotene, which the human body turns to valuable Vitamin A was greeted with optimism and excitement more than a decade ago. But like one of those documentaries that asks "whatever happened to golden rice" the product sort of fell off the radar.
Not in rice-centric countries where the crop – if cultivated – could save as many as 2 million children a year, Moore says. However, Greenpeace and other like groups have taking on the Golden Rice fight as a standard bearer in their war on GMO crops and Moore is none too happy. In fact, he's created a movement – Allow Golden Rice Now - in opposition to the efforts to stop the crop.
"They're linking Golden Rice with death, which scares parents into not wanting the technology developed, and they're still doing this today," Moore says. It was those efforts, and the fact that no one was actively campaigning in favor of the technology that led Moore to create the group supporting development of the crop.
Background on plant breeding
From a technology standpoint, Moore talks about the fear-mongering against GMOs that goes against the actual science of what's happening in the world – and has happened for more than 10,000 years. He points to directed genetic modification, which farmers have been doing for centuries. Then points to the mutation breeding that has been going on for the past 100 years. "We've used chemicals and radiation to scramble the genetics of an organism, then we plant them and see if anything interesting comes up," he says.
That shotgun approach led to the development of a range of crops – including durum wheat, developed from radiation mutation. "But that idea doesn’t even register in this argument," Moore says.
We've evolved the science of plant breeding to much more targeted approaches including marker-assisted breeding and recombinant DNA, which Moore prefers to call horizontal gene transfer. "Opponents to GMOs will tell you that horizontal gene transfer doesn’t happen in nature. It's been happening for billions of years with bacteria, which is the same way we do it," he says.
Genetic tools in plant breeding include bacteria that can transfer targeted DNA into host plants and modify them with new traits. It's an effective tool for initial gene insertion, and has gotten much more precise since the early days of genetic engineering. But Moore notes that the anti-GMO groups have managed politically to compartmentalize this technology "as some special, horrible thing that scientists and multinational corporations do," he says.
Golden Rice facts and frustrations
As for Golden Rice, which by the way has been refined to have such a high level of beta carotene that just 40 grams of the rice in a child's diet daily – that's about 1.4 ounces  – will provide enough Vitamin A to end the deficiency. Moore notes that Greenpeace has turned its tactics from the breeding to the idea that the crop doesn't work, which he says is also inaccurate, but unchallenged.
This is a root cause for Moore who adds that 250 million preschool children in developing countries are deficient in Vitamin A, which leads to more than 2 million deaths per year. He charges that Greenpeace is specifically responsible for the deaths of 20 million children through their decade-long anti-Golden Rice campaign.
"The only difference between Golden Rice and conventional rice is beta carotene. If this rice would cure dengue, malaria [or some other disease] it would have been approved in six months or a year," he says. "Medicine kills what's in you without killing you – here we're giving children an essential nutrient."
A range of charitable organizations is in favor of moving ahead with Golden Rice, but field trials have been attacked by well-meaning urbanites motivated by the Greenpeace "death notices," which has frankly stifled future development of the crop.
Moore may be frustrated by all this, but he's also optimistic that eventually scientists will develop GMO crops with a human benefit that can't be ignored. Soybean oil with Omega-3 content higher than fish oil was one idea – and that product is in the development pipeline at Monsanto.
He notes that the folks at Greenpeace call Golden Rice a "Trojan horse for GMOs" and that if it is show helpful to people it will make people more supportive of the technology. "Didn't the Trojans win that war?" he asks. "Me and the scientists are getting in the horse, come in there with us."

A passion for pulses

Around the world they call them pulses, here in the U.S. we call them beans. Either way Irvin Widders is enthused about the potential for this nutrition-rich crop.
A benefit of this job is the ability to connect with a wide range of people on any number of topics. This week I'm attending the global Agricultural Bioscience International Conference in Fargo, N.D., where I'm catching up on a range of topics from Golden Rice to anti-GMO sentiment. Earlier this week I had the chance to listen to a speaker who spoke passionately about a topic we talk little about – pulses.
Irvin Widders is professor and director of the Feed the Future Legume Innovation Lab at Michigan State University, and he was on hand to discuss the International Year of the Pulse. For Widders, the pulse – or grain legume crop – includes about 60 species of crops for personal consumption. This list does not, however, include soybeans or peanuts, which while valuable crops are considered oil legumes.
Irvin Widders, director, Feed the Future Legume Innovation Lab, has a passion for pulses. His enthusiasm for the crop is driven by its potential for both human nutrition and the environment.
When you talk grain legumes or pulses – we would call them beans. "In Canada and the rest of the world, I can say pulse and people know what I mean," Widders explained to me before his speech. "In the United States, we call them beans."
During his ABIC 2016 talk, Widders outlined five areas where he notes the value of grain legumes.
• Pulses are nutrient rich
• This class of food also promotes digestive health.
• The crop can fix nitrogen, which is important for sustainability.
• There are options with pulses that can help deal with climate change.
• They offer food and nutritional security around the world.
In essence, Widders points to pulses as almost a miracle crop given what these plants offer both the environment and the consumer. These products are high in protein, and as incomes increase globally more protein is what consumers gravitate to.
"We're concerned about our diets and the quality of our diets including rising fat levels," he points out. "Grain legumes are more than a protein-based food, they offer complex carbohydrates that are slowly digested, they're high in fiber and have micronutrients that are essential for human growth."
He adds that a growing body of research shows pulses can reduce the risks of several adult chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. "Regular consumption of grain legumes reduces cholesterol and other bio markers," he notes. "And they have a low glycemic index." This is a key diet factor for those with type 2 diabetes since the legumes are not digested rapidly, so their starches are slower to release sugar.
And there's growing evidence that grain legumes are good for your own personal microbiome – a more direct term is gut health – and that consuming more beans can offer benefits there too.
Widders went on to list a number of key benefits. Environmentally, grain legumes fix about 21 million tons of nitrogen from the atmosphere, which is fixed in the plant and harvested and consumed. But about 5 to 7 million tons of that N is returned to the soil.
Perhaps what got to me most in my conversation with Widders and hearing him talk was his enthusiasm for the topic. He makes a strong case that this crop – which is cultivated in every corner of the world, and provides an efficient protein source for all income levels globally. He notes, for example that the Lima bean, which comes from Peru, has gone a lot of places. In fact, you can find wild types of lima beans from Maine to the tip of Chile in the Americas. "They succeed in almost every micro-environment in the region," he notes.
It was Widders' enthusiasm and excitement for what many may think of as the lowly bean that got my attention. The more he talked about the benefits of the crop the more I wondered why they're not more widely researched and cultivated. I realize part of his job is to promote the potential of grain legumes for the future. And he makes a great ambassador.
Next time you're picking a protein source for dinner, you might want to consider adding in some beans. It's just a thought.

What Do an Astronaut, a Kellogg Executive, and a U.S. Ambassador Have in Common?  

ARLINGTON, VA -- All three will be speaking at the 2016 USA Rice Outlook Conference in Memphis, Tennessee, December 7-9 and you won't want to miss any of them! 

The keynote address on Thursday, December 8 will be given by Dr. Michael Massimino, Ph.D, a former NASA Astronaut and current Columbia University professor who has the distinction of being the first person to Tweet from space!  Massimino had a distinguished career as an astronaut; he and his shuttle crews traveled faster and higher than any other astronauts in the 21st century, and he performed the most dangerous and complex repair job in history when he and his crew repaired the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009.  He is an author and serves as a science consultant for the popular TV sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, where he sometimes plays himself.

Shelly Van Treeck, Global Chief Procurement Officer for the Kellogg Company, the world's leading cereal company and second largest user of rice in the United States with sales last year of $13.5 billion, will address conference attendees on her company's vision, sustainability, and the great partnership between the rice industry and Kellogg.

Followers of the rice industry know that the U.S. has had a tough time in Iraq for the last several years.  USA Rice has led the way on this side of the Atlantic with help from Members of Congress and the Obama Administration.  On the other side of the Atlantic U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones has been a tireless advocate for U.S. rice.  Ambassador Jones will address the crowd at Outlook this year to share his thoughts on the region - what came to pass in Iraq, and what lies ahead.

And that's just the first two hours!

Additional program details are available online, and will be announced here in the USA Rice Daily in the coming weeks.  So register now and book your stay at the Sheraton Memphis Downtown Hotel.

We'll let you know when you can hear crowd favorites Jim Weisemeyer and Nathan Childs; what is being planned for the Conservation & Sustainability Outlook Session; and just what is a USA Rice Innovation Stage?  (Hint: it's in the middle of the 37,000+ square foot Exhibit Hall.)

Companies interested in Outlook sponsorships, exhibiting, or learning right now about the Innovation Stage should contact Jeanette Davis at USA Rice at (703) 236-1447.

Feyi Fawehinmi: Governance by nastiness
September 22, 2016

A few days ago, it was the minister of state for agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri:

The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, has said that Nigeria spends about $22bn a year on importation of food.    Lokpobiri made this known on Saturday at a town hall meeting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.    He said the development had led to the astronomical rise in price of rice and other commodities, stressing that if Nigerians failed to produce some of the items being imported, before December the price of rice would skyrocket to N40,000 a bag.    He said there was a projection that by 2050, Nigeria’s population would be 450 million, wondering what would happen then if the people could not feed themselves now Lokpobiri said, “For your information, we spend about $22bn a year importing food into Nigeria. We know how many more dollars … and that is why you see the price of rice going up.

    “Price of rice was N12,000 some months ago, but it is now about N26,000 and if we don’t start producing, by December it could be N40,000″.Then it was Audu Ogbeh, the agriculture minister himself:

    He said that the consumption of rice in the country was rising and that a lot of people were not aware that the rice had some degree of arsenic.    The minister said that consuming rice in large quantity on a regular basis was a bit of health risk, adding that substituting it with potato would be welcomed development.

    “The volume of importation of virtually everything into this country is too much”.    “The demand for dollars in this country as at today is 2.5 billion a week; this is the quantum of dollars Nigerians are asking for to import things”.    “Since 1986, we began this habit of importing everything and doing virtually nothing at home to sustain ourselves; now, we do not have the dollars and people are very hungry”.    “This day was coming anyway, no matter who was in power; we have the most ridiculous method of devaluing our currency; every week, we auction the dollar and naira goes up”.    “We sat and were hoping that by devaluation, we are going to arrive at Eldorado; if we continue like this, it will be a thousand naira to a dollar,’’ he said.Let’s think through the basics here.    Nigeria is going through a forex crisis, that much is clear. Anything imported, like rice, is bound to get more expensive as a result. And indeed, the rice that was N9k in December 2015 is now approaching N30k today.    We can all agree that in a poor country such as Nigeria, there is absolutely no way on earth people are eating the same amount of rice they were eating at N9k last year at almost N30k today. The price of so many other things like fuel has gone up so there is real pressure on people’s incomes.    But there’s more. Last year when CBN released its infamous list of 41 ‘banned’ items, rice was number one on the list. Surely, this could have achieved nothing other than to increase the price of rice as it pushed rice importers to the black market for forex.    On top of all that, importation of rice into Nigeria is heavily tariffed. Bringing in brown rice, for example, attracts up to 70% tariffs. Again, this only serves to raise the price of rice imported into Nigeria.    A 50kg bag of rice is 100 Yuan in China (N5,000). In Thailand, 1 metric tonne of parboiled rice is currently $403. If we use an exchange rate of N400 to $1, this works out at around N8,000 per 50kg bag. Even if you fly it by business class to Nigeria, the price should not be the current N26,000 or more that it is.    We also know that Nigerian Customs have been cracking down on rice smugglers who try to bring rice into the country through Benin Republic. A few weeks ago, they boasted that they had 25,000 bags of rice they had seized in their warehouses.


We can be generous and say that half of the cause of rice prices skyrocketing was caused by the devaluation of the naira and the other half by government policies. The reason for this, allegedly, is that Nigeria should be growing its own rice and save forex in the process. Fine, you can say that’s a reasonable goal for any country, at least on paper.

But at this point, there is only one thing the government can do — help Nigerians by finding any means it can to bring down the cost of rice to ease some suffering. Clearly, local rice production can’t meet up to demand and is nowhere near competitive in price yet.

As I said earlier, you don’t need a PhD in economics to know that Nigerians must surely have reduced consumption of an item that has nearly trebled in price in less than a year. You complain that Nigerians consume too much imported rice? Fine, you have managed to raise the price to the point where the thing is now unaffordable for millions of poor people. Well done, you have won.

But the goal of this was not to make rice too expensive to eat. It was to switch from imported to local rice. Where is the local rice? Ok, it’s on the way. Maybe when it finally arrives, prices will reduce so that people can eat.

How then did we get to this point where a week cannot go by without the agric ministers talking down to Nigerians and blaming them for their own hunger? You’ve already used different policies to make the item more expensive than it should be. You have not delivered on your side of the bargain by making local rice cheaper or more available. So what’s the story here? Except the argument is that eating rice at all is now a crime, what’s up with blaming the victim?


The government is not powerless to ease the pain caused by high prices of a popular staple. It has chosen not to do so. In fact, the same Audu Ogbeh was recently telling Nigerians that the hunger will last longer than expected.A recession is never a pleasant thing. In a country like Nigeria, it is painful. Just by standing still, people’s standard of living is being cut in half. Is this really the right time to increase the amount of nastiness in the polity?

From ‘Change Begins With You’ to constantly blaming Nigerians for their ‘taste’ for foreign goods and importing ‘too much’ — is it really necessary to conduct governance by nastiness in this way?

I hope the APC government knows that it will face Nigerians again for another mandate in 2019? Yes, there are other ways you can win elections in Nigeria other than through votes. But still, it won’t be easy to switch from blaming Nigerians to asking them for votes when that time comes.

If suffering for greater glory is part of APC’s plan for Nigerians, that’s fine. But there’s really no need to rub it in

UNLI RICE IMPORTS | Recto seeks probe into policy's effect on farmers

Harvesting palay in the rice field. InterAksyon file photograph.

The online news portal of TV5
MANILA - Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto on Friday filed a resolution seeking to investigate the impact of the liberation of rice importation that could affect ordinary farmers.

In Senate Resolution No. 146, Recto said "the ramifications of the rice trade liberalization" should be studied to ensure that "purported benefits are realized and the welfare of our farmers and agricultural workers are protected."

The head of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and other economic managers have been calling for the lifting of the quantitative import restrictions on rice, saying that it would bring rice prices down and improve farmers' incomes by prompting them to shift to the cultivation of more profitable crops.

Agriculture officials, however, have initially expressed reservations on the plan, especially if such a policy is to be implemented without providing safety nets that will handhold the farm sector during the transition period.

Recto said that liberalization "without ample and appropriate financial and technical support from the government" would not improve the lot and competitiveness of Filipino farmers.

He said "the sheer number of farmers and people involved and dependent on domestic rice production calls for a plan that will cushion the disruptive effects of such major policy shift."

"If we have seen how many towns have economically collapsed because of the closure of the only factory in those places, then we should consider that many towns in the country are basically rice factories," he said.

Because no public hearings on the proposal have been called, Recto said the Senate should provide the venue where its far-reaching repercussions can be discussed with all stakeholders present.

Rice, Recto disclosed, is grown in one out of every three hectares of farmland, by at least 1.23 million farmers, whose average age is 58, who in turn employ millions of seasonal farmhands and provide livelihood to those who bring the staple from the farm to the table.

Furthermore, he disclosed, palay production hit 18.15 million metric tons last year, and has been growing at an average rate of 3.12 percent yearly since 1998. The value of the 2015 paddy output was almost P311.1 billion.

Despite accounting for just 2.2 percent of the economy, rice eats up a large chunk of the poor's household budget, with per capita consumption at 114 kilos a year.

"Rice plays a crucial role in Philippine society and accounts for a significant portion of the Philippine economy, given its impact on rice consumers as well as those engaged in its cultivation, production, processing, distribution and retail," Recto said in the resolution.

Recto said a balancing of interests is needed due to projections that, while the lifting of import restriction will reduce rice prices by as much as 27 percent, it will erode the income of rice farmers by 29 percent.

"We have to listen to the conflicting concerns of the rice-producing poor on the one hand and the rice-consuming poor on the other," he said.

          Basmati exports on credit banned

An Apeda official forecast India's basmati exports would rise 5 per cent by volume in 2016-17

Dilip K Jha  |  Mumbai 

Basmati exports are likely to be affected temporarily by a ban on their shipment on credit. The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda) under the commerce ministry has restricted exporters from shipping basmati on credit, known as document against acceptance in trade parlance.However, exports covered either by bank guarantee or Export Credit Guarantee Corporation can be executed.

"Indian exporters used to export basmati in good faith after negotiating a final price. But importers have sometimes refused to accept the consignments, leading to re-negotiated prices. Apart from that, payment was sometimes inordinately delayed," said Gurnam Arora, joint managing director, Kohinoor Foods. Apeda estimates India's basmati rice exports jumped 10 per cent to 1.55 million tonnes during April-July from the same quarter a year ago. In value terms, however, exports fell to $1.21 billion (Rs 8,140.06 crore) from $1.32 billion (Rs 8,399.39 crore).

Earlier importers demanded shipment of basmati on credit, a facility they enjoyed with Pakistan, the other major exporter of the aromatic rice. An Apeda official forecast India's basmati exports would rise 5 per cent by volume in 2016-17. Apeda has ordered registration of exporters for shipment of basmati.

Cash Influx a Band-Aid for Failing Rice Sector

BY  |  | អានជាភាសាខ្មែរ
As the government scrambles to buoy a rice sector suffering from crashing paddy prices and fierce international competition, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday lauded the government officials and “generous businesspeople” who heeded calls for emergency funds.
Falling from about $250 per ton in mid-August to $193 last week, the prices that millers were offering farmers for paddy briefly plunged the sector into disarray. But a potential financial calamity has been prevented, the premier announced on Thursday.
Farmers transplant rice next to a sugar cane field in July (John Vink)
With a $27 million grant approved by Mr. Hun Sen to subsidize millers, allowing them to stabilize the price they pay for paddy, additional rice purchases this week by government officials and wealthy friends helped the sector stay operational, he said.
“I’m truly thankful to the ministers, secretaries of state, civil servants and armed forces, as well as the generous business people who have helped purchase paddy,” Mr. Hun Sen said at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh on Thursday.
“Some have bought 10 tons, 20 tons or five tons,” he added. “Now it’s not a matter of having no money to buy paddy, but a matter of having a place to dry it.”
Mr. Hun Sen made his point by turning to Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana, who admitted that he had purchased 10 tons of paddy, but left it at the mill. The prime minister lamented the situation, saying the minister’s financial contribution was not enough.
“We have only resolved the issue of money, but we have not yet settled the basic issue,” he said. “Every rice buyer, please transport the rice to be dried at your residence” and then have it milled in Phnom Penh.
This would give mills in the provinces more space to buy and process rice, he added.   
But even these efforts will not be enough to fix the festering and fundamental issues plaguing the rice sector, according to agricultural experts and economists.
Annual financial intervention—although particularly severe this year—has been required to keep the sector going for years, said Chan Sophal, director of the Center for Policy Studies for Cambodian Development. 
Rice mills lack the capital to pay farmers for their paddy, while farmers feel the constant threat of mounting debt and land insecurity, Mr. Sophal said.
“The government has done this in the past too—sometimes $15 million, $18 million,” he said of the capital influx. “Rice millers are usually short of cash.”
Every year, “the government has provided some credit, which is not much compared to the need of the sector. The sector needs hundreds of millions of dollars,” Mr. Sophal said. “More needs to be done.”
Due to the relatively high cost of fertilizer, transportation and electricity in Cambodia—well above that in Vietnam and Thailand—the country’s standard varieties of rice have no chance of competing internationally. Instead, the government should assist farmers in cultivating premium rice and “ensure that we have pure aromatic rice seeds,” he said.
A farmer ploughs after the first heavy downpour from the rainy season flooded his rice field in May (John Vink)
Additionally, farmers need quality fertilizer, planting materials and training to produce high-yield harvests, all of which the government should be doing by deploying experts into the field, he said. 
Cambodia has unrealized potential to rise above competitors due to its vast arable land, according to Theng Savoeun, secretary-general of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community. However, “farmers are using fertilizers and pesticides in an inappropriate way, for example below the recommended rate, or overusing them, or at the wrong time,” he said.
“The result is high production costs, environment pollution and eventually it affects the sustainability of the industry,” Mr. Savoeun said. And although the majority of Cambodians rely on rice farming, the country seriously lacks “irrigation systems, research and development.”
While the government’s emergency financial intervention is appreciated by farmers facing imminent bankruptcy, it also seems to be an attempt to gain or maintain political support, said Yaing Sang Koma, program director for the Grassroots Democracy Party and former director of the agricultural NGO Cedac.
“We’re living in a democratic society with an upcoming election, so if the farmers are not happy…I’m not sure if they are going to support the party or the government that is leading the country,” he said.
With complaints from farmers quickly piling up—hundreds in Battambang province blocked a highway with their paddy on Sunday in protest of plummeting prices—the government had to act, he said.
“Agriculture is still the motor of our economy, so if a lot of farmers have problems or do not make money, it will affect the whole sector, the whole of society,” he said. 
Hean Vanhan, deputy director of the Agriculture Ministry’s general directorate of agriculture, admitted that the government had fallen short in supporting the rice industry.
Fortunate farmers may choose to pump water into their fields in order to have more than one harvest per year, but many must rely on the rain and keep operating costs to a minimum, Mr. Vanhan said.
“The cost of electricity affects every part of the value chain,” he said. 
More effectively marketing Cambodia’s rice for the international market and developing irrigation systems to address the needs of the majority of farmers who “still rely on nature” must be a priority, he said.
And not only for the private sector, which Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon blamed this week for failing to properly assess and cultivate domestic rice production and exports. 
“It is also the role of the government,” Mr. Vanhan said. 
(Additional reporting by Kang Sothear)

Agriculture Minister Blames Businesspeople for Rice Crisis

BY  |  | អានជាភាសាខ្មែរ
With the government scrambling to protect farmers from rapidly falling rice prices, Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon on Wednesday poured blame on the private sector for boosting competing countries at the expense of Cambodia by importing products that could be sourced locally.
As rice farmers across the country have seen drastic dips in the value of their paddy—from about $250 per ton in mid-August to $193 last week—the government stepped in with $27 million in grants for rice millers in order to temporarily stabilize the market.
Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon points to statistics on rice during a news conference in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
During a news conference at the Agriculture Ministry’s headquarters in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, Mr. Sakhon said Cambodia’s general failure to compete with its neighbors in rice sales was due to a lack of innovation and research by local businesspeople.
“Regarding the private sector, they are careless and not smart about competing in business,” he said. “They are not smart enough to compete regionally.”
Both Vietnam and Thailand have gradually lowered the price of their exported rice since 2012 in order to compete internationally, Mr. Sakhon said.
Cambodian businesspeople “should study the market prices and what our friends around us are doing—what they are able to do and what we are not able to do. Because it is very unfortunate that although we have customers, we make a loss,” he said.
“In Cambodia, there are factories established that produce food for fishes and food for other animals, which require rice grains for production,” he added. But businesses overlook the possibility of using domestic rice—or corn, or bran—to create these foods, and millers do not advertise them properly. 
Businesses in Vietnam, on the other hand, take advantage of local production, eliminating the cost of importing materials and keeping costs competitive on the international market, Mr. Sakhon said.
The agriculture minister said the private sector should also step in to help farmers be more business savvy, boosting everyone’s profits.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, flanked by ministers, bodyguards and government officials, steers a motorized plow in a rice paddy in Kandal province in 2013. (Sok Chamroeun)
“If we keep allowing farmers to select seeds without technical knowledge and then we buy their products, I think our businesses will lose,” he said, adding that better use of fertilizers and pesticides could also propel their yields. “If we don’t have clear measures like that, we could lose customers,” he said. “The Royal Government needs to sit and think about the loopholes that we can help Cambodia’s private sector resolve.”Lay Chhun Hour, CEO of City Rice Mill in Battambang province, said basic utility costs were already stretching the private sector, and that the government needed to come up with a plan to support long-term efforts to strengthen the country’s rice sector.“How can we be smart if the cost of electricity—an important factor of production—is high?” he asked, citing significantly lower costs in neighboring countries.
The government should also provide high-yield paddy seeds, improve irrigation systems across the country to allow for multiple harvests each year and raise taxes on rice imports, Mr. Chhun Hour said.
“All of these measures would help us increase the competitiveness of the Cambodian rice sector.”
© 2016, The Cambodia Daily

Genetic mapping helps boost yield of rice hybrids

By Ben Kritz on Agribusiness
A major study of the genetic profile of more than 10,000 rice variants has revealed clues why hybrid rice has higher performance in certain traits than its parent varieties, scientists from China reported.
The study was carried out under the direction of Professors Han Bin and Huang Xuehui of the Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology at the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, and published in the journal Nature.
The researchers were investigating the phenomenon of heterosis, which is the increase in characteristics such as size, growth rate, fertility, and yield of a hybrid variety over those of its parents

Proposal - The Rice Crisis: What needs to be done?

The Challenge

The recent surge in food prices is causing acute hardship and social unrest around the world. The poor, who spend large shares of their income on food, are most adversely affected. Since rising food ...

Robert Stewart Zeigler; 2008
Robert S. Zeigler, Director General, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
In early 2008, skyrocketing rice prices put the grain on the front pages of major newspapers across the world. This background paper explains the reasons behind the rapid increase in rice prices and what must be done to achieve reliable, plentiful supplies of affordable rice.
What happened?
The poorest of the world’s poor are the 1.1 billion people with income of less than a dollar a day. Around 700 million—almost two-thirds—of these people live in rice-growing countries of Asia. Poor people spend up to half of their income on rice alone and, in many cases, receive more than half of all their calories from rice.
The world price of Thai rice, 5% broken—a popular export grade—in December 2007 was $362 per ton. By May 2008, the price had tripled, breaking through the $1,000 mark. As the Asian harvest brought new rice into the market in June, prices began to come down but, by July, remained around double the December 2007 price.
In early 2008, in response to supply problems, major exporting countries such as Vietnam and India imposed export bans or restrictions to protect their domestic consumers. By thus reducing the supply of rice in the world market, these restrictions accelerated the price rise. Consequently, importers rushed into the market to buy more rice to meet their consumption needs and build their own stock. Hoarding and speculation by traders added fuel to the fire.
What are the underlying reasons?
We are consuming more than we are producing
Many factors, both long- and short-term, have contributed to the rice crisis. At a fundamental level, the sustained rise in the price over the past 7–8 years indicates that we have been consuming more than we have been producing. Rice stocks are being depleted, with current stocks at their lowest since the 1970s.
Annual growth in yield is slowing
A major reason for the imbalance between the long-term demand and supply is the slowing growth in yield, which has decreased substantially over the past 10–15 years in most countries. Globally, yields have risen by less than 1% per year in recent years—slower than population growth and down from well over 2% during the Green Revolution period of 1970−90 (also see Running out of steam on page 41).
Reduced public investment in agricultural research, development, and infrastructure
The slowdown in yield growth has been exacerbated by reduced public investment in agricultural research and development—the very engine that drove productivity growth to begin with. Investments in irrigation, which peaked during the Green Revolution period, have decreased substantially. Existing irrigation infrastructure has deteriorated considerably.
Little room for expansion of rice area
The possibility of increasing the rice area is almost exhausted in most Asian countries. In many areas, highly productive rice land has been lost to housing and industrial development.
Demand growth
Three key factors have contributed to steady growth in demand for rice, which is increasing globally by around 5 million tons each year—more if rebuilding of stocks is taken into account. First, population growth is outstripping production growth. Second, rapid economic growth in large countries such as India and China has increased demand for cereals, both for consumption and for livestock production. Third, rice is an increasingly popular food in Africa, with imports into Africa accounting for almost one-third of the total world trade.
Oil prices
The price of oil has increased rapidly during the past year. This has pushed up freight costs for countries that import rice. The world price of oil-dependent fertilizers—essential for rice production—has increased sharply, with the price of urea exploding. The rapid growth of the biofuel industry has also increased pressure on international trade of grains and livestock feed, as well as on agricultural land in some countries.
Extreme weather
Natural disasters, such as flooding, drought, and typhoons, have contributed to recent production shortfalls. Climate change is expected to increase the severity and frequency of such extreme weather events. Global warming is also projected to hurt rice production.
Reoccurring pest outbreaks
Many pests that caused major problems for rice intensification programs in the 1970s and 1980s have returned as major threats to production, primarily due to breakdowns in crop resistance and the excessive use of broad-spectrum, long-residual insecticides that disrupt natural pest control mechanisms.
How do price rises affect poor rice consumers?
Although more expensive rice may help farmers who produce more than they consume, a rise in the price of rice is equivalent to a drop in real income for the majority of the poor who are net consumers of rice. Higher prices increase the number of poor people and push people deeper into poverty and hunger, forcing them to sacrifice essentials such as more nutritious food, health care, and children’s education—thus condemning future generations to a vicious poverty cycle. Higher food prices also affect the poor indirectly as international relief agencies are forced to reduce or cut programs.
How do we prevent shortages and price rises?
Given the structural reasons that contributed to the price rise in 2008, rice prices are not expected to fall to anywhere near their historic lows. And, without the buffer of high stock levels, there is an increased risk of additional sharp price rises.
The best strategy for keeping the price of rice low is to ensure that production increases faster than demand. Rice production can be increased by expanding the area planted to rice, by increasing the yield per unit area, or by a combination of the two. With limited opportunity for increasing Asia’s rice area, the main source of additional production will need to be yield growth.
Productivity growth through the development and dissemination of improved technologies is the only key long-term viable solution for bringing prices down, preventing future increases in price, and ensuring that affordable rice is available to poor rice consumers.
To achieve this, a second Green Revolution is needed now as much as the first was needed to avoid famine and mass starvation. Increased research investment together with policy reforms that make rice markets more efficient will help bring rice prices down to a level affordable to the poor and, ultimately, reduce poverty.
What needs to be done?
Recent advances in science and technology offer unprecedented opportunities to not only solve current problems but also develop agricultural systems that can help millions of rural poor lift themselves out of poverty. In the near term, urgent actions from national governments and international agencies are needed on two fronts: rapidly exploiting existing technological opportunities for increasing rice yields and policy reforms to improve poor people’s food entitlements. Rice production can be revitalized, but there are no silver bullets. Investment by the world community is essential.
IRRI’s action plan
Some of the following actions deal with the immediate crisis while others provide long-term solutions to prevent future crises.
1.      Bring about an agronomic revolution in Asian rice production to reduce existing gaps between achieved and potential yield. 
Yield improvements of 1–2 tons per hectare can be achieved through the use of better crop management practices, particularly in irrigated environments.
2.      Accelerate the delivery of new postharvest technologies to reduce losses. 
Postharvest includes the storing, drying, and processing of rice. New and existing technologies can substantially reduce the considerable postharvest losses—in terms of both quantity and quality—suffered by most Asian farmers.
3.      Accelerate the introduction and adoption of higher yielding rice varieties.
4.      Strengthen and upgrade the rice breeding and research pipelines. 
The steady decline in funding for the development of new rice varieties must be reversed in order to develop the new varieties and crop and resource management systems required for sustained productivity growth.
5.      Accelerate research on the world’s thousands of rice varieties so scientists can tap the vast reservoir of untapped knowledge they contain.
6.      Develop a new generation of rice scientists and researchers for the public and private sectors. 
Asia urgently needs to train a new generation of rice scientists and researchers—before the present generation retires—if the region’s rice industry is to successfully capitalize on advances in modern science.