Saturday, November 19, 2016

19th November,2016 daily global,regional and local rice e-newsletter by riceplus magazine

Preserving a rare medicinal rice variety


It was only last week Palakkad-based marketing executive-turned farmer P. Narayanan Unni was invited to present a paper on how he conserved Kerala’s nearly extinct medicinal rice variety, Navara, in an organic way at a global conference on best practices in agri-food innovation.
It was followed by his attendance at the first International Agro-Biodiversity Congress held in New Delhi where delegates from across the world listened to the efforts for many years in protecting and promoting the red rice variety.
Chairman of Chittur-based Navara Foundation and the largest cultivator of Navara rice in the State, Mr. Unni feels it would be vital for any modern society to focus more on protecting and promoting traditional rice varieties to face the challenges of growing food insecurity.
His 12-acre Navara Eco farm is located on the banks of the Shokanashini river here.
“The cultivation of this medicinal rice variety was almost extinct when I took it up as a mission. Non-availability of pure seeds, low yield and high production cost were cited as reasons for the lack of popularity of this rice variety among farmers. It was my determination to keep the farm completely organic,” said Mr. Unni, in an interaction with The Hindu . He has been running the farm successfully for the last 20 years.
Unlike other rice varieties, which are white in colour, Navara is deep red and has been cultivated in the Palakkad region for more than 2,000 years. But it was totally wiped out during the last four decades when several new hybrid rice varieties were introduced.
“In the initial years, I had to struggle hard to collect and segregate enough seeds. Sourcing pure seeds was indeed a challenge.Many of my friends warned that it may be a sheer wastage of time and energy,” he recalled.“In most parts of Palakkad, the rice variety was contaminated by hybrid varieties. In addition to the low yield, about 200 kg from an acre made the cultivation commercially unviable,” he said. For pest control, he grew tulsi and marigold on the field bunds.
“Since it is a medicinal rice variety for consumption we decided to adopt only organic methods. We did not want chemical residues in the harvested grains,” explained Mr. Unni.Taking inspiration from Mr. Unni, many farmers in Chittur taluk are now cultivating Navara organically.
It was only two years ago the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority had conferred the second annual Plant Genome Saviour community recognition award on him.
Because of his intervention, Navara has also received Geographical Indication (GI) status.
Navara is used traditionally to treat rheumatic patients. Navara rice is in high demand during the Malayalam month of Karkidakam for Ayurvedic rejuvenation treatments.



11/18/16 Farm Bureau Market Report


Long Grain Cash Bids
Long Grain New Crop

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Rice Comment

Rice futures ended the day higher, but were unable to recover all of the losses posted early in the week. Weekly exports of 77,400 tons weren't enough to inspire buying interest. January is building support at Tuesday's low of $9.30

Sustainable Agriculture Summit Serves Up Challenges and Opportunities 

ATLANTA, GA -- The annual Sustainable Agriculture Summit held here this week, in combination with Field to Market's fall meetings brought together more than 500 attendees from across the U.S. agricultural supply chain.  Participants ranged from farmers, to input manufacturers and suppliers, to processors and retailers.  The livestock, row crop, and specialty crop sectors were all represented among the Summit's various panels and breakout sessions where talk of partnerships, success stories, innovations, and new research studies contributed to the excitement that ran throughout the conference. 

USA Rice members and partners ADM, BASF, Bunge, California Rice Commission, Ducks Unlimited, Dow AgroSciences, John Deere, Kellogg, Mars, PepsiCo, Riceland Foods, RiceTec, Syngenta, Mosaic, and Unilever all participated in the two-day event. 

Arkansas rice farmer and USA Rice Sustainability Committee Chair Jennifer James, who also serves as USA Rice's Field to Market voting member, left the Summit feeling confident about the rice industry's sustainability work.  James said, "Based on the work the Sustainability Committee has lined up for 2017, we could return to this Summit next year and bring rice into the spotlight as a real power player in the ag industry.  We're really ramping up our representation in this arena and folks are starting to notice.  Since this meeting last fall, rice has tripled its representation and we're going to continue to grow as the Sustainability Committee works through our Sustainability Plan."

James added, "One thing I've learned through our work with other agriculture commodities is that we still have a ways to go as we focus on continuous improvement within the industry.  Results from our recent sustainability survey showed that most of us want to learn more about sustainability because we realize that it's not going away anytime soon.  The concept of farmers being stewards of their land is no longer a fad, it's now an expectation when we take our crop to market, and we have to embrace that."

 in Memphis next month will focus on the rice industry's involvement and success in the evolving conservation and sustainability arena with a series of panels, dialogues, and updates on the USA Rice Sustainability Plan

Thai junta fines ex-PM for last rice subsidy, funds another

Todd Pitman and Natnicha Chuwiruch
Associated Press
Bangkok | Fri, November 18, 2016 | 04:48 pm
Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (center) support farmers by selling their rice to her supporters in Samut Prakan province during the rice price slump in Thailand, Nov. 11, 2016. (AP/Sakchai Lalit)
Just weeks after Thailand's military government imposed an unprecedented US$1 billion fine against an ousted prime minister for her handling of an ill-fated rice subsidy program that racked up huge losses, the junta did something else extraordinary: It announced a major assistance plan of its own.
The $1.5 billion effort, which helps struggling rice farmers in part by guaranteeing prices well above market rates, is ironic given its similarities to the larger subsidy program for which the junta has castigated ex-premier Yingluck Shinawatra.
But the current government may have had little choice but to act. Global prices for the grain have plummeted to their lowest in nearly a decade, severely weakening an industry crucial to Thailand's economic well-being.
Some analysts say the about-face is also intended to stave off potential unrest during the sensitive, year-long mourning period following the death last month of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and to win over some of the politically powerful farmers who make up 40 percent of the population. The rice-growing north is a traditional stronghold of Yingluck and her allies.
The junta has begun to realize "they simply cannot ignore the plight of the farmers anymore, especially [if] they wish to be in power for the long term," said Puangthong R. Pawakapan, an associate professor at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the former army chief who spearheaded the coup two years ago, has vowed to restore civilian rule through elections in late 2017. There is speculation he could stay on as premier, and in any case, the nation's new constitution guarantees the military a strong hand in politics for years to come.
The putsch was the culmination of a decade of political turmoil that boiled over after the army ousted Yingluck's brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, in a 2006 coup. The conflict, in broad terms, is part of a societal schism that pits the majority rural poor against an urban-based elite establishment supported by the army and staunch royalists who see Yingluck's family as a corrupt threat to the traditional structures of power.
In 2011, Yingluck's Pheu Thai Party won elections in part by promising to pay farmers nearly double the price that rice then fetched on the world market, a move critics equated to vote-buying.
The hope was that by stockpiling rice, the government could drive up world prices. But producers such as Vietnam took up the slack, bumping Thailand from its spot as the world's leading rice exporter. The government lost billions of dollars and about 8 million tons of the rice it purchased sits unsold in warehouses.
Yingluck told The Associated Press that "in principle, there is no difference" between the junta's effort and that of her government, an assessment some analysts agree with.
The junta's plan is similar to Yingluck's in that it is offering artificially high prices for rice, dispersing large sums to farmers and encouraging them to keep the grain off market in hopes of stimulating prices. But Jitti Mongkolnchaiarunya, dean of Thammasat University's School of Development Studies, said the latest plan is less risky because its scope is smaller, its price ceilings lower, and rice farmers — not the government — will be responsible for storage.
Yingluck's administration, for example, offered 15,000 to 20,000 baht ($421 to $561) per ton of rice, compared to 10,500 to 13,000 ($294 to $365) offered by Prayuth's government.
None of that, though, guarantees the effort will be a success, Jitti said, because global supply and demand cannot be controlled. Prayuth has said he wants to wean farmers off populist policies and has warned government aid is "not limitless."
"The government must have ... the courage to deal with these issues," Jitti said, "because it's all related to politics. Everything is politics."
Indeed, shortly after Prayuth's government announced its plans, Yingluck bought 10 tons of rice from farmers and made a public show of helping to sell it — at cost — outside a Bangkok mall. Last week, she did it again at another mall just southeast of Bangkok in Samut Prakan.
It was a brazen move for Yingluck, who could be sentenced to 10 years in prison if convicted of criminal negligence charges related to her government's rice subsidy. But in a country where free speech is suppressed and bans on large political gatherings have almost completely silenced the opposition, helping farmers sell rice offered a rare means of speaking out.
"I think she intended to challenge the junta," Puangthong said.
Prayuth and his supporters have condemned such moves as publicity stunts, though Yingluck claims she was only doing it to help farmers.
One person who showed up to buy rice in Samut Prakan, Samruey Thappan, said she was doing it not only "to help farmers, but to help Yingluck because she's a good person who is being harassed."
Farmers say they need assistance, no matter who's offering it.
Political fights "have no relevance to us," said Weerachai Wongbut, a 59-year-old who traveled to Bangkok from the northern province of Uttaradit to sell rice at a market stall this month. "We just need help

Govt to help rice farmers tap online channels

November 18, 2016 01:00

THE COMMERCE Ministry will help farmers sell their rice directly to consumers in Thailand and abroad via social media and other online as well as offline channels. This is part of a bid to reduce dependence on middlemen as domestic paddy prices hit a 10-year low.

Banjongjitt Angsusingh, director-general of the Department of Business Development, said the agency will work with the Thai retailers’ association to market milled rice using e-commerce websites and social media such as Facebook and Instagram to tap Thai and foreign buyers. Domestic paddy prices have dropped to the lowest level in about a decade, averaging at Bt5,000 to 6,000 per tonne, which is too low for farmers to make a profit. As for social media and online channels, she said, the agency will use its own website,, as the main platform featuring special banners advertising Thai milled rice and other rice and related products.
Those farmers who have their own website can add their link to this platform so visitors from across the world can reach the farmers’ sites. Farmers who do not have their own website, but use social media such as Facebook and Instagram can have their own social media links on the website.
As for farmers who have neither a website or a social media link, they can leave information on their rice products as well as their contact numbers at the, so visitors can reach the sellers directly if they are interested in the products.
In addition, she said, the department has initiated the setting up of a prototype of a retail outlet as an offline sales and marketing channel for rice farmers. The farmers will be able to use this space to sell packaged rice and other products directly.
Those who have the potential to tap the foreign market, another Commerce Ministry website called will serve as a platform for social organisations and business associations etc to help farmers sell their products online.
Former premier Yingluck Shina-watra has been using her social media fanpage to promote the sale of rice as well as cooking events where rice and related products are used as key ingredients. Her menus include popular dishes from the North and Northeast.
Meanwhile, police are on the hunt for Nopjorn Panni-yom, who has been accused by actress Akumsiri “Juk-Jun” Suwansuk of allegedly luring many people, including the actress’s fans, to buy rice via Instagram. Akumsiri claims the suspect did not deliver the goods once the payment was made

Thanksgiving — an American feast Martha Beltran with her own recipe of pan de jamon, a Venezuelan holiday bread studded with ham, olives and raisins. — Picture courtesy of Leslye Davis/The New York Times
NEW YORK, Nov 18 — The Times asked 15 families from across the country to tell us about the dishes on their Thanksgiving tables that speak most eloquently about their heritage and traditions, about who they are.
‘The food that sustained our ancestors.’
As it has for Native Americans, Thanksgiving has always been a complicated holiday for African-American families. In the era of slavery and Jim Crow, it was often celebrated on another day because African-Americans had to serve other people their Thanksgiving meal. Sometimes it was celebrated in January to mark the day in 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the same year he made Thanksgiving an official national holiday.
But always, it was used as a day to bring together communities and to eat.
Erika Council, a software engineer in Atlanta who is also a professional cook and a food writer, grew up with a special reverence for Thanksgiving. Her parents were divorced. Some years she ate the meal as interpreted by her paternal grandmother, Mildred Council, better known as Mama Dip, who opened a popular restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and went on to write two cookbooks.
But more often, she sat at the table with her mother’s family, where her maternal grandmother, Geraldine Gavin Dortch of Goldsboro, North Carolina, made sure everyone gave proper thanks for the sacrifices of their enslaved ancestors and their elders who had battled for civil rights. Without their struggle, the bountiful meal on the table would not exist.
“We always had to get dressed up and read a little speech at Thanksgiving,” said Council, 35. “My grandmother was very steadfast in making sure not just me, but all the kids knew what we as African-Americans should be thankful for, because she knew they were not teaching that side of the story in school.”
To drive home the point, there would always be one or two simple dishes that reflected the kind of food cooked in the kitchens of enslaved Africans. Neck bones was one of them, served alongside more elegant Thanksgiving dishes as a reminder.
The dish, built from pork neck bones and elbow macaroni, is delicious in its simplicity. The bones and onions are simmered in water well seasoned with red pepper flakes, ground black pepper and salt until the mixture becomes fragrant and the gelatin from the bones has given body to the broth. The macaroni goes in next, absorbing flavor as it cooks.
“That water and neck bones could make this rich broth that would give them enough strength to get through the day is kind of a miracle,” Council said

Multiple rice exporters at risk of closing down
VietNamNet Bridge – A lot of struggling rice exporters could go out of business if a Government decree on rice export conditions is upgraded into law.

Rice is uploaded onto a boat for export in this file photo. A lot of struggling rice exporters could go out of business if a Government decree on rice export conditions is upgraded into a law.The rice export conditions provided by Decree 109/2010/ND-CP dated November 4, 2010 are so strict that many businesses cannot meet. They include at least one storehouse having a minimum capacity of 5,000 tons of paddy and meeting Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development standards, and a rice mill with a minimum capacity of 10 tons an hour.
The decree has effectively driven many local firms out of the rice export sector. Certain enterprises such as Co May Trading & Services Co Ltd in Dong Thap Province and Vien Phu Production and Trading Joint Stock Company in Ca Mau Province have come to Singapore to do rice export business.
This is in stark contrast with the situation in Cambodia and Laos where enterprises can easily export rice to Vietnam and other countries thanks to great support from their governments.
Life would become harder for local rice exporters as the decree has been added to the draft amendments to Appendix 4 of the Investment Law governing conditional business sectors.
Article 7 of the Investment Law states: “Conditional business and investment fields are where business and investment activities must meet certain conditions for reasons related to national defense, national security, social safety, social ethics and community health.”
One might wonder whether or not rice export activity has anything to do with national security, which warrants the addition of rice to the list of conditional business sectors. In wartime, this might be true but now Vietnam is one of the world’s leading rice exporters, so food security is not a concern under the current circumstances.
According to the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), rice exportation and other business activities should be taken out of the list of conditional sectors
http:/ Payment tardy for farmers as paddy yet to be lifted/

Payment tardy for farmers as-paddy yet to be lifted

Farmers wait for their paddy to be procured at a grain market in Bathinda on Thursday. Tribune photo: Pawan sharma

Tribune News Service
Bathinda, November 17
Farmers, who are waiting for the procurement of their paddy at grain markets, have been left in the lurch as they have not received payment for their paddy due to demonetisation of Rs 500 and 1,000 notes. The farmers are getting payment through arhtiyas or commission agents at a snail’s pace due to the same. The payment for the procured paddy has also not reached the District Food and Supply Controller (DFSC) department. Of the total Rs 1846.23 crores, an amount of Rs 1019.44 crore is yet to be disbursed by the DFSC department. The department claims that as soon the payment will be released by the RBI, the same would be further disbursed to the farmers. The delay in the lifting and payment of paddy had further led to the delay in wheat sowing.
The procurement of paddy was promised within 48 hours of its arrival by the district administration, but the farmers have been waiting for their paddy to be procured and lifted for the past many days. They will get their payment only after the procurement of their paddy.

Jugraj Singh, a farmer of Chatthewala village, said, “I have been sitting here in the grain market of Bathinda for the past five days, but my paddy has not been procured yet. The officials concerned say the procurement of paddy is getting delayed due to the high moisture content. But when paddy is lying in the open for the whole night, the moisture content will automatically rise. We brought dry paddy in grain markets, but now it is gaining moisture.”
Kuldip Singh Brar, District Mandi Board Officer, said, “The procurement process is going on at a good pace and we have procured about 11.98 lakh metric tonnes of paddy, of which 11.75 lakh metric tonnes of paddy has been lifted. Today about 5,686 metric tonnes arrived, of which we have procured 3,613 metric tonnes of paddy. At some grain markets, especially at the Talwandi Sabo grain markets, the problem has been witnessed but this is for a short term. The whole paddy will be procured very soon.

Comment: Thailand remembers the 'Rice King'

As Thailand mourns the loss of its longest reigning monarch, delegates at this year’s World Rice Conference honour and commend him for what he contributed to the country’s rice industry.
By Sandra Boga, Chiang Mai
Published: 18 November 2016 09:22 AM

Holding an event within a month of King Bhumibol’s death,the world's longest-serving head of state and reigning monarch in Thai historywould inevitably set the tone for this year’s conference. For those attendingfrom outside of Thailand, it could be
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Payment tardy for farmers as-paddy yet to be lifted

Soil bacteria helps protect rice plants from arsenic and fungus

'Cocktail’ of soil bacteria can protect rice plants from deadly forces
Date:November 18, 2016
Source:University of Delaware
Researchers have found that rice plants can withstand attacks from arsenic in water and soil and a fungal disease called rice blast. They have discovered that a combination of beneficial soil microbes can be applied to the infected plants to boost their natural defenses. Jonathon Cottone, a UD junior majoring in animal and plant sciences, is working with rice plants, studying ways to help them resist arsenic while also increasing their nutritional value.Credit: Wenbo Fan/ University of DelawareUniversity of Delaware student Jonathon Cottone knows the tell-tale signs that rice plants are getting sick: the yellowing leaves, the faint football-shaped lesions.Cottone, a junior from Wilmington, Delaware, is working with Harsh Bais, associate professor of plant and soil sciences at UD, on research to help this globally important grain cope with increasing stress.
Recently, the UD team found that when rice plants are subjected to multiple threats -- including increasing concentrations of poisonous arsenic in water and soil, an urgent concern in Southeast Asia, plus a fungal disease called rice blast -- the plants aren't necessarily goners.
Rather, the UD researchers have shown for the first time that a combination of beneficial soil microbes can be applied to the infected plants to boost their natural defenses, combating both problems.
The findings, published in Frontiers in Plant Science, provide new evidence about the potential benefit of "biostacking" -- putting multiple microbes together to protect plants from stress. The research also lends further support for a natural, chemical-free approach to protecting a crop that over half the world's population depends on for food.
A 'health cocktail' for rice plants
"We wanted to see if we could use a combinatorial approach -- a 'cocktail' of organisms -- that would help rice plants with two simultaneous stresses attacking them," Bais said, from his laboratory at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute.
In addition to Bais and Cottone, the team included Venkatachalam Lakshmanan, a former postdoctoral researcher at UD who is now working at the Oklahoma-based Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation.
Previously, the UD team identified two species of bacteria that come to the rescue of rice plants when the plants are under attack. The two microbes naturally inhabit the rhizosphere, the soil around the plant roots.
Pseudomonas chlororaphis EA105 can trigger a system-wide defense against the rice blast fungus, which destroys enough rice to feed an estimated 60 million people each year.
EA105 inhibits formation of the fungus's attack machinery, the appressoria, which acts like a battering ram, putting pressure on a plant leaf until it is punctured.
A second microbe, EA106, mobilizes an iron plaque, or shield, to begin accumulating on the roots of rice plants when arsenic is present, effectively blocking uptake of the poison.
"What's happening in Southeast Asia from high levels of arsenic in water and soil has been called the largest mass poisoning in history," Bais said. "The EA106 microbe has multiple benefits. The iron shield it deploys blocks the arsenic. This iron, absorbed into the rice grain, could help address another big health problem in many developing countries -- iron deficiency."
In their laboratory studies with hydroponically grown rice plants, the UD team treated plants with arsenic, then treated them with EA105 and EA106. Seven days later, they infected the same plants with blast disease. Along the way, they examined the overall genetic responses when arsenic, beneficial bacteria, and fungal disease were incorporated. The resulting data clearly showed that the microbial cocktail could bolster plant defenses against both arsenic and rice blast disease.
But there were some surprises. For example, the researchers thought if arsenic was taken up by rice plants, that poison might be detrimental to the blast fungus. But that was not the case.The ability of the blast fungus to tolerate arsenic is a direct story of evolution, according to Bais.The fungus has become more and more resistant to arsenic over time.
"To prevent arsenic toxicity, we think the fungus put the arsenic in 'a safehouse' -- storing it in its vacuole -- before the toxin gets loaded to the grain," explained Bais.
Protecting a staple crop
So how could beneficial microbes such as EA105 and EA106 be applied to protect rice plants? A seed treatment, or microbial coating, would be the most practical route in formulating an economical, effective product, Bais said.
Next semester, Bais will travel home to India while on sabbatical leave to give talks at universities, collaborate on research and meet with people who do work in the field.
"A real opportunity for India's next generation of sustainable agriculture will be this area of plant probiotics, using microbes that naturally occur in the soil to help plants," Bais said.Meanwhile, Cottone, who recently was named a DENIN Environmental Scholar at UD, will continue his research in the Bais lab, skyping with Bais while he is away.
Ironically, Cottone didn't know a lot about plants until he took Bais's introductory botany course last year. Then a whole new world opened up to him, and he's now decided to pursue a double major in plant science and animal science.
"This work has a huge humanitarian bent in that the majority of countries affected by arsenic poisoning are developing countries," Cottone said. "So this work could really help a lot of people who really are not in a position to help themselves."
"Jonathon is doing a fantastic job," Bais said. "He puts in long hours. He's mastered how to grow rice and manages the entire greenhouse now. He's already co-authored a scientific paper as an undergrad."
And he's got lots of room to flex his research muscles. The complex relationships between plants and the microorganisms living with them, their "microbiome," provide countless avenues to explore in the quest to improve plant health.
"Plants are exposed to multiple stresses these days, many driven by changing climate. Plants are just confused. They don't know what to do," Bais said. "We're trying to help them cope."

Thailand to export at least 9 mln tonnes of rice in 2017 - commerce ministry


Thailand expects to export at least 9 million tonnes of rice in 2017, the commerce ministry said on Thursday."For 2017, we expect initially that our rice exports will be no less than 9 million tonnes," Duangporn Rodphaya, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department at the Commerce Ministry, told Reuters, adding that the figure was not yet an official target.Duangporn said Thailand would achieve its 2016 rice export target of 9.5 million tonnes

No to rice politicisation


The political bickering over how to help farmers suffering from low rice prices does not serve any purpose except exacerbating their hardship.Without a sincere halt to politicising rice prices, it is the rice farmers -- the very people everyone agrees deserve assistance -- who are destined to suffer the most.The words from Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha may sound harsh, that eventually Thailand will have to reduce its rice-growing areas while increasing productivity and efficiency to stay profitable, but they are true.
The reality is that rice is a commodity traded in the world market. As other rice-growing countries, namely Vietnam and Cambodia, manage to increase their yields per rai each year and sell rice at markedly lower prices, Thai farmers will have no choice but to stay competitive.

There seems to be no shortage of what people think the country's rice farming sector should be like in the next five to 20 years and what will it take for us to get there. Academic think-tanks and rice researchers agree the future lies in improving the quality of Thai rice while using technology and innovation to increase productivity.
State subsidies may be necessary in the short and medium term as rice farmers try to make the necessary transition but the consensus is there that the help is not sustainable. In the long run, rice farmers must be able to stand on their own feet and earn a profit from their grain by themselves.

Unfortunately, the long-term goals and efforts that should be expended to realise them as quickly and painlessly for all involved as possible are lost in the ongoing political squabbling.It is sad to see political conflicts that have dogged the country for decades prevailing over rice policies and development as well. Even now that all sides should have joined hands to help rice farmers suffering from low grain prices, jostling for political gain remains the name of the game.Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra's initiative to buy rice directly from farmers and resell it to urban consumers at cost is not a bad idea. It is based on the same principle as other attempts to help farmers by providing them free space to sell their produce or creating online channels to link them directly to consumers while circumventing middlemen who may try to unfairly suppress prices.

It must be remembered that for rice farmers any help in releasing their stocks now would be better than a long-term dream. It is thus very sad that instead of inspiring others to help farmers go through short-term hardship, the former premier and her party seem to be more bent on using the attempt as a publicity stunt.Her latest campaign, organising an event at her home to promote a variety of rice dishes supposedly to boost domestic consumption and by extension push up rice prices, appears too ineffectual to be taken seriously. The truth remains that it is Ms Yingluck's government that launched the massive rice subsidy scheme that not only caused huge financial losses but set unrealistic expectations among rice farmers that the government could bail them out whenever they run into financial constraints.

The current government can use input from rice farmers and researchers as well about its plan to introduce crop substitutes in areas deemed inappropriate for rice farming. Maize, the government's preferred choice for farmers in 35 central provinces instead of rice, is widely viewed as impracticable because the crop would not grow well in areas that used to be paddy fields.It is clear that solving the immediate problems for rice farmers and ensuring that there is a profitable and sustainable future ahead of them require all sides to cooperate. The politicisation must stop first.

Yingluck starts drive to shore up rice prices

18 Nov 2016

Ms Yingluck shows off a 'cake' dessert made from rice during Thursday's event at her home. (AFP photo)
Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has launched a new campaign to promote the consumption of a variety of rice products as a way to drive up paddy prices.This follows her direct rice sales which have drawn criticism after claims she is undercutting rice prices.
Ms Yingluck launched the latest campaign, entitled "Help farmers, create Thai value-added rice and boost rice consumption", at her Bung Kum home Thursday.More than 50 dishes made from rice products were displayed at the event, including kanom jeen nam ya, kao tang, khao kriap pak maw, rice pizza and pudding.The campaign seeks to promote a wide range of rice dishes which could help reduce the domestic rice supply and push up prices.

Several Pheu Thai politicians joined in the event, including acting party secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai as well as former deputy premiers Kittiratt Na-Ranong and Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan.Ms Yingluck early this month went to the northeastern provinces where she bought 10 tonnes of rice from farmers suffering from falling prices. She later resold the grain at a shopping mall in Bangkok at 20 baht a kilo, the same price at which she purchased it from the growers.Former Democrat Party MP Warong Dejkitwikrom immediately heaped criticism against Ms Yingluck and questioned her ability to have so much rice -- about 10 tonnes -- milled and packed in so little time before the grain went on sale in Bangkok.He added the sale also distorted the market price of the rice which is more than 20 baht/kg.He said a former Democrat MP also helped purchase 12 tonnes of fragrant rice from farmers for resale and it took more than half a month to mill the entire stock before it was delivered to Bangkok.Ms Yingluck said people should be glad that so many are trying to help farmers.Meanwhile, the government has been urged to focus on developing rice quality as part of sustainable measures to shore up prices. Speaking at a seminar in Bangkok on the issue of rice Thursday, National Institute of Thai Traditional Medicine director Kwanchai Wisithanon said two-thirds of domestically grown rice is of poor quality and it cannot be exported at high prices.He said several governments have placed emphasis on rice price intervention, a measure he said cannot address the problem in the long run. The solution lies with producing more quality rice, such as the hom mali, or fragrant (jasmine) variety, which fetches higher prices.

Yoon Kaewhom, a Surin farmer, said rice growers lack the knowledge needed to help themselves amid falling prices.Many farmers are dependent on the government's loan scheme and spend money from rice sales to pay off loans they took to grow the rice. They then have to borrow again for the next crop, and the cycle continues.Thanittha Janthanaruek, a member of a Thai rice consumer network, called on the government to help develop rice quality, which should help boost customer confidence in the product.She said law enforcement must be stringent in curbing the use of chemicals in rice cultivation.Farmers should come together and form a network or cooperative. Help is needed so the farmers can adjust themselves to the market and reduce production costs, she added.Meanwhile, rice farmers in Chai Nat are working fast to harvest paddy to sell to millers after rice prices improved over the past week.

Chinese Astronauts are Growing Rice on the Tiangong Space Station

Nov 18, 2016 06:51 AM EST
Chinese astronauts at the Tiangong-2 space station are growing rice and edible weed in microgravity. The experiments could pave way for development of food sources for astronauts in the future. 
(Photo : Jes Aznar/Getty Images)
The Chinese space station is now a mini garden of rice and edible weed.Astronauts at China's Tiangong-2 space station are growing rice and thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) - a kind of edible weed - in microgravity. According to Chinese new sources, the rice plants have grown 10 centimeters tall and the cress plants have already flowered.
The purpose of the experiment is to find out whether plants in space still grow according to an Earth-based cycle and yield the same seeds."We want to study the growth rhythm and the flowering of plants in micro-gravity conditions," Zheng Huiqiong, chief scientist for plant research on Tiangong-2 and a researcher at the Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology of the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), told Chinese media outfit Xinhua."So far the plants on Tiangong-2 have been growing well. Some Arabidopsis thaliana are blooming, and the rice is about 10 centimeters tall," Zheng added.

Chinese taikonauts Jung Haipeng and Chen Dong launched aboard the Shenzhou 11 spacecraft and successfully docked to the experimental space lab on Oct. 18. Both will complete a 30-day mission - the longest Chinese mission in space. When the two astronauts return to Earth in November, they will be bringing back samples of the thale cress grown in the lab, which is expected to yield seeds in space.The rice experiment will continue on Tiangong-2 for about half a year - the longest Chinese space-based plant-growing experiment. According to Zhang Tao, a researcher at the CAS Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics, a special incubator was designed for Tiangong-2 so scientists on Earth could "remotely control the lighting, temperature, humidity and volume of the nutrient solution during the experiment."

An experiment involving six silkworms is also aboard the space station. According to a report by New Scientist, the silkworm experiment - designed by middle school students in Hong Kong - could be protein sources for long space journeys.While the Tiangong-2 experiment is the first to use a remotely controlled incubator environment, it was not the first time food was grown in microgravity. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) had grown and eaten the first on-orbit lettuce.