Tuesday, December 27, 2016

26-27 December,2016 daily global regional and local rice e-newsletter by riceplus magazine


Pakistan, Malaysia working to reduce duties on tariff lines
Description: fla

Pakistan and Malaysia are negotiating to further reduce duties on existing and additional tariff lines under Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to facilitate businesses of both countries, High Commissioner of Pakistan in Malaysia Syed Hassan Raza said.According to a press statement received here, he was addressing a seminar held in Kuala Lumpur on “Doing Business with Pakistan”, jointly organised by Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) and High Commission of Pakistan, Malaysia.
Over 200 Malaysian companies and Pakistani businessmen attended the seminar. The high commissioner highlighted the investment opportunities and trade potential in Pakistan and informed the participants that there were numerous opportunities for the companies in both countries, having FTA since 2008.
Current trading basket by both countries was limited to Palm oil, fibre board, rubber electrical and electronic equipment from Malaysia while from Pakistan main items being exported were rice, maize, cotton, textile, vegetables. Diversification of products was the key to boost trade between the two countries, he added.
On investments, he mentioned that present investment regime was the most liberal in the region. Foreign equity could be 100pc owned by foreign investor and there were no restriction on repatriation of profits/royalties, almost all sectors were open for investment and one-window facilitation was some of the highlights of new policy, he added.
He said special incentives were available for auto sector investors under new Auto Policy 2016-21. He emphasised that Pakistan was a stable, peaceful and would welcome foreign investors who may visit any part of the country.
He highlighted recent developments of economic cooperation between China-Pakistan which has culminated in China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as part of One Road One Belt initiative. It is as a game changer for the entire South and Central Asia regions in terms of connectivity, access, reduction of distance and time for movement of goods.
Earlier, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), MATRADE, Dato’ Dzulkifli Mahmud highlighted the role of MATRADE in promotion of bilateral investment and trade between Malaysia and Pakistan. Mahmud highlighted the advantages of doing business with Pakistani companies and said that both the countries have Malaysia-Pakistan Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (MDCEPA) since 2007 which became operation in 2008.


Organic Rice Market Consumption Research Report and Design Guidelines Overview 2016

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Innovations ratchet up rice production

PUBLISHED DEC 26, 2016 07:07AM
Global rice production has increased enormously over the past few decades, improving the world’s food security. At the same time, the gains in production and resulting boost to the supply of rice have made the commodity much cheaper and ultimately less profitable, particularly for small farmers.
Thanks to more efficient machines and farming methods, better irrigation systems and new, more resilient and higher yielding varieties of rice, the major players — including China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Japan — now produce more of the primary staple with less cost in time and effort.
Production has increased substantially by almost 100m tonnes in the last decade. This production of raw rice translates into roughly 498m tonnes of milled rice.
Innovative Chinese technology is now boosting rice production in the country’s north-western and eastern regions. The Chinese-developed programme introduced in these regions in 2006 has shown improvement in yields, and the control of dangerous weeds, crop diseases, destructive insects and climate effects.
It was announced in November that one of the world’s most famous rice researchers, 86-year-old Yuan Longping, set a production record when one variety managed to produce 1,538 kilograms of rice per mu. One mu is equal to about 0.07 hectares.
Today, the global supply of rice is growing faster than demand.
Speaking to China Daily Asia Weekly, Thomas Voon, associate professor at Lingnan University’s department of economics in Hong Kong, said that rice production is now ‘open to mechanisation.’
“Besides, many types of high-yielding and disease resistant strains have been produced in recent decades. These are some of the reasons why rice prices have not gone up in tandem with some other commodities.”
Technology for rice plantation that saves water is one example of such a breakthrough. In 2012, the Japanese government, through a programme called the Rice-based and Market-oriented Agri­culture Promotion Project (RiceMAPP), introduced a water-saving technology that made rice fields much more productive.
According to UN Water, a coordination platform for freshwater-related issues, agriculture is the world’s biggest water user, with irrigation accounting for 70pc of global water withdrawals.
The International Rice Research Insti­tute estimates that 35 to 45pc of all water used in irrigation goes to rice farming — around 1,000 cubic kilometres per year.
Water has traditionally been the most expensive input in rice farming, and with increasing diseases and declining soil fertility, paddy farming is proving unsustainable.
New technologies are helping cut down on how much water goes into rice farming.
RiceMAPP’s research suggests that rice fields do not need to be flooded with water every day to give better yields. The program involves intermittent irrigation, where farmers are only required to irrigate their rice paddies for three days before taking a break of seven days.
To ensure an even flow of water into the farm, farmers are also trained to level their farms before planting seedlings. Rice seedlings are transplanted to the fields at three weeks instead of the usual five.
Farmers in various parts of Southeast Asia and Africa are also learning a new rice farming method called the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), introduced by the National Irrigation Board of Kenya in partnership with AgSri, an agricultural innovation organisation from India.
Farmers have been working with SRI on ways to save water, but the system is also providing a new seed variety that ensures good-quality seedlings and increases the chances of higher yields.
Using the SRI methodology, farmers and agricultural engineers have reported using just 5kg of seed per acre, about a quarter of the seed used in traditional rice farming. There are around 2.5 acres in a hectare.
Another key difference is the method of planting. In traditional paddy farming, seeds are planted directly under water. Using the SRI method, seeds are placed on raised seedbeds, which are watered sparingly, thus saving water.
Also, the method is faster, which can lead to more crops. The new method requires between eight and 12 days for seed transplantation compared to the 21 days required under more traditional methods.
Joel Tanui, regional manager of the National Irrigation Board of Kenya, expects the new method will more than double production from 2 tonnes of rice per acre to more than 4 tonnes.
Not only is research into planting methods facilitating more production but rice researchers and farmers are increasingly open to working with more resilient varieties.
Rice-producing countries are looking into climate-smart varieties that adapt to unfavourable environments. Climate-smart rice is much more resilient.
These varieties can withstand the adverse effects and growing number of environmental threats, including drought, flooding and salinity, an increasing problem associated with rising sea levels.
A case in point is the Philippines, a big producer but also one of the country’s most vulnerable to climate change, according to Calixto Protacio, executive director of the Philippine Rice Research Institute

The Lagos-Kebbi rice
By Abu Najakku | Publish Date: Dec 27 2016 8:02AM

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode (right) with Kebbi State Governor,
Kebbi is in the news again but this time it is not the story of mass failure in school certificate examination, neither is it about placing last in the national sports festival. It is positive news. It is about the advent in the Lagos mass market of one of the newest brands of the outgoing year popularly known as the Lake Rice.
Notwithstanding the imported brands they have always craved for, I am sure that Lagosians will enjoy the taste of the Lake Rice. Lagos is a ready market for almost every grain of rice that Kebbi can produce. There is no doubt that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government will be well pleased with the Lake Rice as a brilliant example of how to produce at home what we need and steer clear of imported food. We may import tractors but certainly, we have no reason to continue to buy foreign rice, considering that God has endowed us with such fertile land.  From time immemorial, rice has been cultivated in the Fadama located all the way from Argungu to Yauri. The Fadama is the black muddy soil that occurs mostly at the bank of the tributaries of River Niger and very suitable for the cultivation of rice.
Lake Rice, contained in attractively branded blue and yellow sacks, has come to be, through the productive memorandum of understanding between Kebbi and Lagos states. Lake Rice is essentially rice cultivated in Kebbi, milled and bagged in Imota, Lagos, for the eating pleasure of consumers in the country’s commercial headquarters. Lake Rice, the stunning end result of the Lagos-Kebbi partnership, reinforces the argument that federal government should place or maintain ban on rice imports. Almost every family in Lagos tasted the Lake Rice this Christmas.  It provided good alternative to imported expired rice piled up for several years in foreign warehouses.
Rice has been cultivated in Kebbi for as long as one can remember; actually, until a few years ago, tuwon shinkafa or mashed rice was the commonest dinner among the people. Just about thirty years ago, upon harvest, rice farmers could concede their farmlands to old women (‘yan share) to sweep the residue for their own use. From the dregs alone, the old women were known to have made several bags of rice for themselves. In those days, there was so much rice that fura, a common meal, could be made entirely of the produce. But gradually, the rice farmers abandoned their farms, came to town and began to look for security; gardening and other jobs not only because cropping had become laborious but also because they could no longer afford the inputs. Bakin iri, Bayawure, Dan kyanga, Dan Musa, Jan iri, Mai adda, ‘Yar butuka, ‘Yar kalgawa, etc. were all varieties of the rice farmed in Kebbi.
Nevertheless, indigenes of Kebbi have repeatedly said they are unable to see and purchase Lake Rice in Birnin Kebbi or anywhere around the state. It will appear then that the rice is customised for Lagos citizens only. People need additional information about the Lake rice especially in terms of figures: how many tonnes have been sold in Lagos? What is the worth of the deal and who are the beneficiaries?
People are also demanding to know why the rice cannot be milled in Kebbi and pushed to Lagos ready-made? They also ask: how long will the collaboration last or has the venture come to stay? Is the supply of Lake Rice to Lagos sustainable? What happens to the half a dozen states located between Lagos and Kebbi whose citizens also yearn for the product?
There is no doubt that the people of Kebbi have hearkened to President Muhammadu Buhari’s call on them to return to the farm and produce, rice, wheat, etc. to help the country eliminate the need to import them. Clearly, the country has a huge appetite for these commodities.
But thanks to the anchor borrowers’ programme launched by the President in Birnin Kebbi in November 2015, many people have earnestly returned to the farm. Stories abound in Kebbi now of how former thugs and professional beggars have successfully farmed rice and made money for themselves. The anchor borrowers’ programme targets small and medium sized farmers who are normally given fertiliser, improved seeds, water pumps and farming advice by agricultural extension workers. They are also given small amount of money to service the water pumps and settle some incidentals. With the President’s promise to devote more money to agriculture in the 2017 budget, there is every possibility that production will at least double.
Whatever it is, Lake Rice has raised the profile and reputation of Kebbi as a serious rice producing state. The Lagos-Kebbi food production and supply template could be a model for other states to emulate and improve the economic wellbeing of their citizens. It is a big plus for the agricultural revolution that the All Progressives government at the centre wants to unleash. If the Lake Rice venture succeeds, it will validate the President’s declaration that we shall soon come out of recession and also diversify our economy using agriculture. More so, at the end of every harvest, new lessons will have been learnt about how to correct the observed lapses and maximise production.
The President is so elated with the Lake Rice phenomenon that he was quoted as saying “what the two states (Lagos and Kebbi) have done is evidence of a new base being laid for the Nigerian economy, founded and propelled by agriculture, away from substantial dependence on oil and gas for national revenue.”
The Lake Rice enterprise is an exciting and flamboyant demonstration of how production meets consumption and the credit goes to Governors Atiku Bagudu and Ambode Akinwumi and their people.\\http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/opinion/the-lagos-kebbi-rice/177824.html

2016 in review: Trouble for the rice industry

Writer: Nilar
Shifting rice prices has had a huge impact on the rice industry in 2016.
The monsoon rice was priced at Ks350,000 (US$250) per 100 baskets, lower than last years price of Ks500,000.From April 1 to December 16, the country exported around 590,000 tonnes of rice compared with more than 700,000 tonnes last year, according to the Ministry of Commerce. The falling prices and trade volume are linked to rice surplus and lower demand.The rice market, which is heavily dependent on Chinese buyers, had been hit hard since China banned imports earlier this year, with farmers, rice millers and merchants all suffering losses.

China has yet to permit rice trading with Myanmar.Since China stopped importing,, last year’s rice remained in warehouses. When the new harvest hit the shelves, prices began falling due to the growing supply.The Ministry of Commerce made efforts to obtain rice export contracts with other nations.The Philippines has offered to make a government-to-government treaty to buy rice from Myanmar.

The country had exported around 60,000 tonnes rice to the EU and Africa every month, according to the Myanmar Rice Federation (MRF).Moreover, climate disorder has contributed to the problem. Untimely rain destroyed more than 16,000 acres of rice fields, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation’s figures on August 8.

In a bid to solve declining rice prices, the government planned to buy rice from farmers at an inflated price. The Ministry of Commerce asked for Ks15 billion from the state’s revolving fund in order to purchase rice from farmers at a responsible price.The move aimed to enable farmers to cover their production costs due to a decline in monsoon paddy prices. It could help increase demand, support the revival of rice market and benefit all those engaged in the supply chain system effectively.Myanmar Agribusiness Public Corporation, formed by the MRF, also planned to import dryers in order to provide dryer services at rice mills.

Under this plan, members of the MRF, exporters, and rice millers will buy rice from farmers, and the government will increase its rice export volume.

After a period of continuous fall, the rice price spiked to Ks500,000 per 100 baskets in November due to dollar appreciation. From April 1 to November 25 this financial year, the country earned over US$230 million on rice and broken rice exports, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Quality rice bound for China

Mon, 26 December 2016Description: Hean Vanhan, undersecretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, speaks from his office in Phnom Penh last week.
Hean Vanhan, undersecretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, speaks from his office in Phnom Penh last week. Pha Lina
Cambodian rice millers recently secured access to China’s immense market after two separate Chinese government bodies deemed their products satisfied its sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards. The Post’s Cheng Sokhorng spoke to Hean Vanhan, undersecretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, about approvals by China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) and the China National Cereal, Oil and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO), as well as the challenges of meeting SPS requirements.
China’s COFCO has approved 18 Cambodian rice millers for export, while AQSIQ has approved 28. What is the difference between the two agreements?
The 18 rice millers were part of a memorandum of understanding between the Cambodian Rice Federation (CRF) and COFCO, presided over by Green Trade. The Ministry of Agriculture was not involved in this deal and we have no control or responsibility over these rice millers.
On the other hand, the AQSIQ specifically requested us to evaluate those rice millers who had sufficient capacity for high-quality milling according to the criteria of the Chinese government. The 28 rice millers we selected from 50 applicants had already demonstrated their capacity to satisfy the criteria of the Ministry of Agriculture.
What are the main technical challenges of meeting SPS requirements, and where do most exports fall short?
We have found that most rice millers do not fully understand the SPS requirements. They claim that their machines are modern and equipped with the latest technology, so the milled rice they produce is smooth, unbroken, shiny and uniform. While this might satisfy consumers, who put high value on the appearance of rice, these are only the physical attributes.
But this is not the quality that SPS regulates, and is not what we negotiated with the Chinese government. The quality we look for in SPS is that the rice is free of pests and chemicals, and complies with food safety guidelines. Pests could devastate China’s agricultural industry, so China strictly controls its borders.
The main barrier for exporting rice to China is that millers don’t realise how strict they are on quality. Even if you had just a lone seed of grass mixed into a shipment of rice it would be rejected at the Chinese border. If the shipment is destroyed or returned to Cambodia the rice miller will obviously lose a lot of business, so it is better for them to understand and comply with the SPS requirements.
What should rice millers focus on in order to satisfy China’s SPS requirements?
Millers should focus on both the physical appearance and SPS quality of their rice. They have to identify the source of the paddy rice, check its moisture and chemical levels, properly store it, and use the correct packaging codes.
How many SPS labs and inspection facilities does Cambodia have?
Currently we have only one central laboratory, which is able to inspect about 90 of the 100 types of agricultural products we export. Another lab is being built with Chinese support on the University of Agriculture campus on Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar peninsula.
We are also establishing six SPS bureaus near our borders to inspect products and issue export certificates. So far, 90 percent of the construction is finished.
The physical building is one factor, but more importantly is the capacity of the SPS inspectors who will work there. We are currently seeking Chinese investment in installing an online platform able to inspect products and transfer data to and from our headquarters in Phnom Penh, as well as to issue export certificates.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Paddy Marketing Board releases paddy stocks to mills to avert rice shortage
Sun, Dec 25, 2016, 08:26 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.
Description: http://www.lankapage.com/imgs/rice.jpgDec 25, Colombo: The Paddy Marketing Board says that distribution of the paddy in their stocks to rice mill owners as a means to avert a shortage in rice has begun.Accordingly the PMB will release 10,000 metric tons of paddy at its Polonnaruwa District storage facilities to the rice mill owners in all districts.PMB Chairman M.B. Dissanayake said that all mill owners, including the small and medium scale mill owners, will be given up to 500 metric tons of paddy.
The government recently instructed the Cooperatives Wholesale Establishment (CWE) under Ministry of Industry and Commerce to buy 20,000 metric tons of paddy (both White rice and Nadu) from the Paddy Marketing Board immediately and release the paddy to millers.
The move was initiated to reduce the rising prices of rice in the market and to provide the public with rice needed without a shortage during the festive season.The government also has decided to import 10,000 Metric tons of rice
Tamil Nadu Foodgrains and Marketing Yard is now a research institute

 DECEMBER 25, 2016 22:17 IST
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MADURAI: Tamil Nadu Foodgrains and Marketing Yard (TNFMY) chairman S. Rethinavelu has said that the Department of Science and Industrial Research, Government of India, has recognised the TNFMY as a scientific and industrial research organisation.
Speaking to The Hindu on Sunday, he said the recognition would enable the TNFMY, a special purpose vehicle established under PPP model, to undertake research works for identifying several innovative and nutritious value-added products.
The TNFMY, was set up at Sikkandarchavadi over a 30-acre site at an investment of Rs. 40 crore, with the support of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Mr. Rethinavelu said the recognition would go a long way in helping not only agro producers, but also those engaged in food processing, traders and exporters. The all-under-one-roof facility had a scientifically built warehouse, cold storage unit, individual marketing-cum-storage depots in the southern districts.
The research and development lab, he said, would help in analysing the quality of products manufactured or dealt with by food processors and traders. Recently, a research in causes for variation in milling breakage in Basmati rice grown in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh was undertaken here. The inference arrived at was to carry out standardised parboiling techniques, which would reduce breakage of rice. Today, many rice mills, which processed Basmati rice, had converted the suggestion into action, he added.
Mr. Rethinavelu said the TNFMY had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Indian Institute of Crop Processing Technology, Thanjavur, for carrying out research works. Students and research scholars working in the field of food processing and other allied areas might use the research and development facility.
Currently, they were studying the non-chemical jaggery on a commercial level adoption to position it in the global market. Yet another area of research was paddy analysis – physical quality analysis, cooking analysis and sensory evaluation – to bridge the gap between the farmers and millers. This would enable the farmers to get a remunerative price for their crop, he said

PCC zeroes in on rice-industry cartels 

DECEMBER 24, 2016
Description: http://s3-ap-southeast-1.amazonaws.com/business-mirror/uploads/2016/12/top01-122516-696x392.jpgIn Photo: Farmers perform the traditional backbreaking manual labor of transferring pregerminated rice seedlings to a wet field in Tabuk, Kalinga.THE Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) is looking into the rice cartel, long believed to be in existence, but has been relatively unchecked by the government until now, when there appears to be increasing interest among the public to help stop anticompetitive practices of corporations.PCC Chairman Arsenio M. Balisacan has confirmed that there is an ongoing review of the agriculture industry, with focus on anticompetitive practices in the rice industry.Upon assuming office, Balisacan had already vowed to investigate the rice cartel, and had apparently emboldened whistle-blowers to complain against the cartel’s predatory practices that have led to increased prices of rice and keeping small farmers in a vicious cycle of debt.
Balisacan reaffirmed his commitment to dismantle the rice cartel, and announced in a recent news conference that there are many non-governmental organizations and concerned citizens who have lodged complaints.Although the PCC has the power to investigate anticompetitive practices motu proprio, the PCC has called on the public to provide initial information that will jump-start investigations into anticompetitive practices in the various sectors of the economy, thus making the public a partner in information gathering toward building a strong case against cartels and monopolies.
“These [reviews] are not coming from nowhere. They are requests for us to examine, to review and, of course, we would want to do more, we certainly would want to do more,” Balisacan said. “We have also the motu proprio mandate to investigate anti-competitive practices but given the resources we have, we have to do everything. We have to prioritize our work, and make sure that these are well grounded in terms of analysis,” he added.
Other industries, which the PCC is looking into, are the cement and the power industries.Description: http://ads.devhub.ph/revive/www/delivery/lg.php?bannerid=25&campaignid=4&zoneid=52&loc=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.businessmirror.com.ph%2Fpcc-zeroes-in-on-rice-industry-cartels%2F&referer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F&cb=7626d96cf7Balisacan declined to elaborate on the review of the international shipping industry, but confirmed that the review in the agriculture sector will focus on anticompetitive practices in the rice sector.
Details of the pending investigations into the two industries remain confidential to ensure that possible evidence of anticompetitive practices do not suddenly disappear when the PCC issues subpoenas and subpoenas duces tecum against those accused of violating the Philippine Competition Act.
However, a source from the University of the Philippines’s School of Economics, who is well versed in the rice industry, said these possible anticompetitive practices include the intentional lowering by middlemen of their purchase prices of palay (unmilled rice) to make sure that these products are bought at the lowest possible price from the small farmers.
The small farmers are, thus, forced to sell at a low price because all of the middlemen, who are part of the cartel, or worse, working for just one big retailer, offer the same price for their produce.It is a common misconception that the Philippine Competition Act only safeguards against anticompetitive mergers and acquisitions, but it also guards against abuses of dominant position not only in terms of market share, but also in terms of economic standing.
Under Section 15 of the law, one of the unlawful practices that constitute abuse of dominant position is directly or indirectly imposing unfairly low purchase prices for the goods or services of marginalized farmers, fishermen micro-, small- and medium-scale enterprises, and other marginalized service providers and producers.
Thus, an arrangement among middlemen to keep their purchase prices of palay down will keep small farmers at their mercy, giving them no choice but to sell low and no chance to get out of the debt trap.Balisacan said the PCC has included in its activities for 2017 the partnership with academe throughout the country, so that the schemes to directly or indirectly effect these anticompetitive practices can be disseminated and explained to the public.
Other activities for 2017 include the establishment of systems of market surveillance, expansion of operations and services to areas outside of Metro Manila, and the conduct of regular market studies and research

UG Develops Technology to Improve Ghana’s Rice Production
Dec 24, 2016
Students from the University of Ghana have built an innovative machine capable of boosting rice production in Ghana.
The machine was part of products that was showcased on Friday by the University of Ghana’s Technology Development and Transfer Centre.
The newly developed technology is capable of boosting Ghana’s rice production to an average of about seven tons per hectare as against Japan and South Korea’s average of six tons per hectare.
The one day exhibition was aimed at showcasing to Ghanaians and the world the Universities’ technologies developed by its students.
According to Dr.  Joseph Ofori, a research fellow at the University of Ghana, extending the technology to many farmers in the low lands will enable Ghana produce more than it is current producing capacity.
“We have about 800,000 hectares of low land for rice production and if we are able to produce a third of this area we should be able to get enough rice and even export,” he said.
“One positve aspect of this technology is that we don’t use heavy machinery but rather simple and afffrodqble machinery for production . In many of the low land areas and irrigated systems, usually bulldozers are used to clear and level the land. But this one it is simple machinery called power tiller,” he explained.
Appetite for imported rice
Ghanaians have over the years developed a voracious appetite for imported rice due to its dominance in the market as well as its perfumed nature.
Dr. Joseph Ofori noted that the preference of consumers is being incorporated in the newly developed rice production system.
“We don’t just produce any rice anyhow. We normally produce what they call fragrant or aromatic or perfume rice. We produce what is comparable to what is imported into the country. What we have been asking farmers to produce is very tasty and healthy,” he said.
Gov’t assistance to produce more rice machines
In his view, there is the need for government to assist rice farmers acquire more of the power tillers to expand their work as well as “help in the exploitation of underground water in places not close to water bodies for which this technology was developed.”
“About the processing bit of rice production we need factories. Ghanaians are very sophisticated when it comes to rice consumption . The rice should be good enough for them and shouldn’t have any foreign materials in them. So we need good rice mills to process them. If we so this and the rice is bagged well then we will see that the consumers are alright with it,” he advised.
One district one rice factory
Picking rice as a major commodity , Dr. Joseph Ofori was certain the country could possibly exploit the idea of one rice factory for each district across the country citing the vast array of lands available.
” In Ghana, from the north to the south, we have lands. In the Northern Region for instance we have a vast land which is called the flood plain which could be developed for rice production. And when it comes to the south, we have valleys. So, there shouldn’t be problem at all developing rice industry in each district,” he pointed out.

By: Kumi Obed Afari/citifmonline.com/Ghana

Vietnamese Alumni receive gifts from the Indian Consul General (sixth from left) during the ITEC Day 2016 that was held last Friday in the city. Photo courtesy of the organiser
Plastic rice fears dampen Christmas mood in Lagos, Abuja, other cities
December 25, 2016

Description: http://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/punchng/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/01132807/Bags-of-rice.jpg 
Bags of rice (File photo)
Our correspondents
As millions of Nigerians began an extended Christmas holiday over the weekend, many nursed the fear of consuming fake rice, popularly called ‘plastic rice.’
There have been widespread concerns that unscrupulous rice traders and importers might have flooded homes and markets with plastic rice.
Rice, an extremely popular staple in Nigeria, is mostly commonly eaten during festive periods.
SUNDAY PUNCH correspondents who spoke to rice consumers and traders across the country report that these rumours, which have become pervasive, have also affected the sale and consumption of rice as the Yuletide approaches.
Some who claimed to have bought or eaten plastic rice spoke to our correspondents while other victims have been sharing their experiences on the social media.
A Togolese chef, Louis Jonas, who works for a family in the Jericho area of Ibadan said he purchased the product at Oritamerin market in Ibadan.
Jonas who spoke to one of our correspondents said, “Two of my employers’ children returned to Nigeria for the Christmas so I was told to buy food stuff for the festive period. I did not know anything about plastic rice at the time.
“I just bought a half bag of rice but when I cooked it, it did not soften. I kept pouring water and I had to inform my employer. She was aware of the plastic rice. She went with me to where I bought it and threatened to involve the police if the seller did not accept it back. That was how she got back her money.”
Others, who spoke with our correspondents, expressed concerns that the government had not sensitised the public on the dangers of plastic rice or addressed the issue in a wholesome manner.
Another consumer, Mrs. Rose Ajibade, said she thought the plastic rice news was a rumour until she fell victim. “I was coming back from work two weeks ago when I remembered that rice had finished at home. I bought some in the market and quickly put it on fire. My husband kept asking me why the food was not ready, I kept checking but the rice did not soften. I had to make another meal,” she said.
On Tuesday, the Federal Operations Unit, Ikeja, of the Nigeria Customs Service announced that it had intercepted 102 bags of plastic rice branded “Beat Tomato Rice.”
The Customs Area Controller, Mohammed Haruna, had told the News Agency of Nigeria on Tuesday in Lagos that officers of the unit intercepted the plastic rice in the Ikeja area on Monday, adding that a suspect was arrested in connection with the seizure.
Two days after the Customs’ disclosure, the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, tried to reassure Nigerians by dismissing the claim. Adewole, who spoke via his Twitter handle, said tests conducted by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control on the rice showed that there was no plastic content in them.
However, the minister, in a response to SUNDAY PUNCH enquiry on Friday, warned Nigerians to be very vigilant and report cases of any suspected plastic rice to the nearest police station.
He said, “The rice (seized by the customs) was tested (and) had no plastic component. Let Nigerians be watchful and report any suspiciously looking or funny tasting rice. Kindly report such products to law enforcement agencies.”
Some Lagos and Abuja residents who spoke with SUNDAY PUNCH dismissed the minister’s reassurances as insufficient. Others said government should have launched a public awareness programme to teach Nigerians how to differentiate between natural and plastic rice.
A nurse at a private hospital in the Ogba area of Lagos, Miss Peju Adekola, said, “It is possible for the major rice importers in the country to be speaking through the minister. I am not convinced. There should have been serious campaigns about the rice before it circulated in the market. I have seen plastic rice. I will continue to eat local rice for now.”
Some of the traders at the rice market in Saki, Oyo State, confirmed to SUNDAY PUNCH that there were indeed hundreds of bags of plastic rice that had been brought into the Nigerian markets by dealers through the land borders. Saki is a Nigerian border town that is close to the Republic of Benin.
One of the traders, Mrs. Ariyike Aiku, said an emergency meeting of the market traders was held when news of the presence of plastic rice was reported in the market.
She said that at the meeting, some members who knew how to identify the product, shared their knowledge with others in order to avoid buying the rice.
She said, “We called an emergency meeting where some of us confirmed the authenticity of the rice. They told us how to identify it. In the past two months, several trucks full of the (plastic) rice had been brought to the market but we resisted all attempts by the dealers to lure us into buying them.
“In an attempt to make us buy, the price was ridiculously reduced to less than N10,000 and that was when we realised that indeed, they were trying to sell bad product.”
At the Bodija International Market in Ibadan, a rice trader, Mrs. Oluwanike Abodunrin, also told our correspondent that some importers had tried to flood the market with plastic rice. She added that market leaders had resisted the influx and made it difficult for the importers to sell them.
Abodunrin said, “We are aware that there is plastic rice in circulation. I operate this shop with my husband after he was disengaged from work three years ago. He brings in rice from Lagos and Oke-Ogun area while I sell.
“A month ago, he was in Lagos to buy the product when he called that he was returning home because of the fear of the bad product. He said he was told to beware of plastic rice and because he could not identify it, he returned to Ibadan without any goods.
“We have since been sensitised by our market leaders and now we can identify the product. Some traders already have it in stock but they have called on the suppliers to come and pack them.”
In Ado Ekiti, capital of Ekiti State, residents and rice sellers who spoke with our correspondent expressed fears that the plastic rice might have been mixed with the normal brands.
A housewife, Mrs. Rose Fatoki, said, “My neighbour collected some rice as a gift two weeks ago and we discovered it was plastic rice. She cooked it for hours but it did not soften. She had to throw it away.”
SUNDAY PUNCH gathered that fears over plastic rice had seen residents embracing local rice, which has always been seen as a poor alternative, because of its concentration of stones.
A resident of Bauchi, Bauchi State capital, Elizabeth Cah, told one of our correspondents that she heard of plastic rice about two weeks ago and stopped buying imported rice as a result.
She said, “For me, I have stopped buying and consuming foreign rice. I am now going for the local rice because I know there is nothing like local plastic rice.
“I will prefer to battle with the sand and stones in the local rice than to put my life at risk by eating plastic in form of rice.”
Another resident of Bauchi metropolis, Samuel Itodo, said that he heard about plastic rice about two months ago.
He said, “I heard about plastic rice that is now in the market sometime in October and I am really worried about the development.”
Muzamilu Aminu, a rice dealer at Wunti Market, Bauchi lamented that rumours of plastic rice had affected his business badly.
“Some of my customers have been telling me about it. This has made me to lose many of my customers,” Aminu said.
In Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State, rice sellers and consumers expressed concern that the circulation of plastic rice was causing great tension and anxiety in many homes.
SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that many residents of Ilorin and other major towns in the state have stopped buying imported rice because they were concerned about the likely effects of plastic rice on their health.
A rice seller in the popular Oja Oba market, Alhaji Tanko Suleiman said, “I have been selling rice for over 10 years, I have not heard of such. This plastic rice story has scared our customers from buying rice from us.”
Another trader at Ojo Ago, Alhaja Mulikat Yekin,  said she was about to buy more product for the Christmas celebration when she heard of the plastic rice importation.
“I decided not to buy again when some of my customers, said they would not eat rice this Christmas, and that they would either go for noodles or eba to avoid eating plastic rice,” she said.
Residents of Lagos State who spoke with SUNDAY PUNCH correspondents also expressed concerns that plastic rice might have found its way into the Lagos market while neither the federal nor the state government had done nothing to sensitise them on how to identify plastic rice.
A lawyer, Mrs. Amope Adeoye said, “I have heard about the plastic rice and I think that relevant agencies are not creating enough awareness in the media, which is why some may be buying it. We need illustrations on what it looks like after being cooked.”
Expressing similar fear and anxiety, a creche operator in Ogudu, Mrs. Sharon Gbajumo, said, “It is being talked about everywhere even on TV and radio. That plastic rice is in the country is a fact now. It is real. The fear of buying rice in the market is real too. It is only God that can save us from this situation.”
Expert reacts
The Dean, College of Agricultural Sciences, Landmark University, Omu-Aran in Kwara State, Prof. Charity Aremu, described the importation of plastic rice into the country as a dangerous development because of its negative implications on the health of the people.
She said, “It is even more worrisome this time that the country is going through recession and where many people do not have money to feed themselves, not to talk of procuring medical bill.
“Some of the poor people who may consume the rice may not have money to take care of their medical bills and so many may develop complications. It will not be surprising that some of them may even die.
“There are indications already that the product exists and is in the market. So those who imported the rice obviously do not mean well for the people of this country.”
Why we sent ‘plastic rice’ for analysis — NCS
The Nigeria Customs Service has explained that it sent the ‘plastic rice’ it seized for laboratory analysis because its officials strongly suspected the product to be adulterated.
The NCS spokesperson, Mr. Wale Adeniyi, said the labelling of the product as ‘plastic rice’ was not conclusive.
He said, “The rice was suspicious, so we sent it for analysis. If the professionals who know better now say it is safe to eat the rice, we will not argue with that position.”
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Ambode’s rice revolution

Description: Ambode’s rice revolution
After a string of successes, LAKE Rice is a good way to end the year 
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State must have confounded many Lagosians with the superlative performance he has so far rendered this year. Not many gave him a chance at about this time last year, when he was barely six months in office. I recollect calling Steve Ayorinde, the state commissioner for information in November last year, to uniform him about an article on the online platform of a national newspaper which many people found offensive in that they considered it generous with praise for an administration that was ‘yet to take off’.
Mercifully, the story is different today. The Ambode administration has indeed come a long way and made a lot of difference between this time last year and now. Even the governor’s critics in different political parties have little or no negative comments about his administration.
For Governor Ambode, the arrival in the local market, last week, of LAKE Rice, a product of good thinking that came from the collaboration between the Lagos State government and its Kebbi State counterpart is a good way to end a very productive year. The ingenuity of the deal can be found even in the name of the rice – LAKE – which was formed from the first two letters of the names of the two states (Lagos and Kebbi). Yoruba elders say, if one’s daughter is good; one should say so, even though one is not going to marry her (t’omo eni ba dara, ka wi; ka fi s’aya ko). It takes an administrative maestro to dream such dream.
The decision of the two state governments to partner on the rice deal deserves commendation. Rice, which many old Nigerians would readily admit was eaten, at best on Sundays by the rich, and usually at festive periods by many more Nigerians in those days, has suddenly become a staple in the country. It is the toast of the kids, particularly the female ones. They do not mind eating rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is hardly a problem, except to nutritionists who would tell you it is not balanced diet. Beyond that, the snag is that much as we have developed an insatiable appetite for rice, we did not see the need to cultivate it in sufficient quantities. According to Rice Millers, Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria (RiMIDAN), about 5.5 million tons of rice is required in the country per annum. But we could only produce about 3.4 million tons in 2015, thereby creating a production gap of at least 2.1 million tons. The result is that we have had to be importing from Thailand and other places to make up for the shortfall, losing about $1billion annually in the process.
This is crazy in that rice is what we have comparative advantage to produce. As a matter of fact, it is something we should be exporting and earning foreign exchange from. Recent developments in the country have proved this point. In so short a time, we have been harvesting rice from some parts of the country like never before.
But it is not many administrations that will see the lacuna in rice supply in the country when Ambode and his Kebbi State counterpart, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, saw it and decided to take advantage of it for the benefit of their respective people in particular, and Nigerians in general.
If the present momentum of rice production is sustained, it is only a matter of time for the country to get over its craze for imported rice. One major complaint against our local rice is the stones that usually compete with the grains for attention. So, we need to pay attention to the problems that made imported rice the toast of Nigerians by thoroughly de-stoning the local brands of rice. This should not be a problem these days with the appropriate technological tools to do that.
Then we also have to prepare for the bumper harvests that we would be having if we are able to sustain the present momentum because a time would come when the problem will no longer be about the inadequacy of rice but its glut. Lest we forget, Dangote Rice is also in the offing, it is only a matter of time for Nigerians to get to the Promised Land in rice production. As we know, whatever Dangote intervenes in, it is usually mega-intervention. Yet, one of our musicians said Dangote o lori meji (Dangote does not have two heads)! Says who?
The situation with rice should not be allowed to be like that of fruits, tomatoes and pepper, etc. most of which get spoilt due to lack of storage facilities.  One major way to ensure that the stream does not break is for government to buy up whatever excess is left from the farmers and keep in silos so as to encourage them to remain in the business.
The Lagos-Kebbi deal is particularly refreshing in that the two states recognise each other’s strengths and weaknesses and did not allow these to deter them from their lofty dream. Lagos has the market for rice; in real terms, it has an estimated consumption of over 798,000 metric tonnes of milled rice per year which is equivalent to 15.96 million of 50kg bags, with a value of N135 billion per annum, according to Governor Ambode. Moreover, if there is anything like handshake across the Niger, the Lagos-Kebbi initiative is it. It shows that we can find unity even in our diversity. The point is that hunger does not know tribe or religion. A hungry man, whether in Kebbi or Ebonyi, Lagos or Bayelsa, will almost always react hungrily.
One question that has been agitating my mind is: if rice is this easy to produce, why did it take forex shortage and recession to make us realise that we must return to the rice farms? Anyway, that might be a belated question because, right now, what we should be talking about more is how to get out of the rice trap. Nigeria is held down by many traps; rice trap is only one of them. Given our experience, we should be exiting those traps one after the other, especially now that we are faced with forex crunch.
However, much as efforts are being made towards heeding President Muhammadu Buhari’s call for diversification of the economy, to wean it of its dependency on oil, the Federal Government must, in addition to our roads, pay attention to water and rail transportation to make such efforts succeed. In the same vein, since it takes two to tango, Governor Bagudu too deserves praise for agreeing to the initiative because if he had not, we might not be talking of LAKE Rice today. We should look forward to more of such beneficial collaborations across the divide in the country. Poverty is diminished when hunger is taken out of the way.
…Ebonyi Rice, too
I was on a short vacation early this month when Ebonyi State Commissioner for Information, Senator Emmanuel Onwe, visited our office to market, as it were, Ebonyi Rice. What is baffling is that Ebonyi Rice, unlike LAKE Rice, is not new. I got to know that in the course of my research into today’s topic because I had wanted to group both brands as new. Thus, I would have misled my readers into thinking it is also a new brand of rice. But I got to know it has been around when I was told it is the same ‘Abakaliki rice’ that some of us know but are not sure whether we see it as a better product than the imported parboiled rice. As a matter of fact, as far back as last year, the state government had donated about 1,000 bags of it to the Nigerian Army for onward sending to the troops fighting Boko Haram insurgents. It is against this background of its obscurity that one would appreciate the visit of the commissioner to the media to let more Nigerians know that something like that exists.
Ebonyi Rice as well as other local rice brands need such exposure now more than ever before. I have eaten it and I must confess it tastes nice, far better than the rubbish we gobble from Thailand and those other places, some of which had been preserved with suspect chemicals five-to-six years before arriving our shores. That is when we are not being giving ‘plastic’ to eat in place of rice


When foreign rice becomes endangered

Description: 5
Nigerians love eating rice at Christmas. But the prices of imported brands of rice have skyrocketed. Although some cheaper brands have recently emerged, scary reports about plastic rice being sold in some markets in parts of the country have dampened the people’s spirits, ANNA OKON writes\\ Among the popular videos circulating in the social media is one that features somebody boiling rice. The rice gets dry, starts burning and instead of turning to charcoal-like rice and other starch-based food, it turns to flames rising from the base of the pot to a high level.
This Christmas is unique in the sense that it is ‘recession Christmas.’ For the first time in about two decades, the prices of food items including rice have hit the roof.
From N7,000 for a 50kg bag that rice was sold in December 2015, it has risen to N22,000. Along with the hike also comes the increase in prices of associated condiments such as vegetable oil used in preparing stew. From N550 for 5kg of vegetable oil, it has risen to N3,500.
Unfortunately, while the prices of food items have gone up, the incomes of most Nigerians have remained the same; and in some cases, they have been slashed.
The year 2016 has been marked by job losses and company closures. More than 2,000 firms reportedly shut down between January and November while there have been over 400,000 job losses recorded across all sectors.
Purchasing power has gone down to the lowest level and it is at this critical time that cheap rice has gained a wide appeal among consumers.
A rice dealer in one of the markets in Lagos promotes two types of the popular staple. One sells for N22,000 for 50kg bag while the other has a low price tag of N9,000.
“The one for N9,000 does not have taste; if you cook it, it will swell up and fill the whole pot but it does not have taste. The only taste you can derive from it is from the stew you eat it with,” the eager seller tells the consumer who is already calculating how much gain she stands to make between N9,000 and N22, 000.
A housewife, Ogechi Mathew, takes one look at the N9,000 rice and swears she will never buy but does not forget to add that even as she will not buy, there are countless people who will rush for that rice, for crowd feeding during the Christmas celebrations, to entertain guests.
“As long as the stew is tasty, I am sure mamy Nigerians will not even know the difference,” she says.
Apart from the lack of taste, one shudders to think what could constitute a bag of 50kg foreign rice that sells for as low as N9,000 in an economy where the dollar exchange rate is N470.
Recently, there have been concerns about genetically modified rice. Videos have surfaced of people injecting plants with some sort of chemicals that make them grow faster and mature overnight.
They are also said to be injecting the rice plants with chemicals that make them retain their fresh and shiny look; and the scariest of all, the rumours of plastic pellets inserted into bags of rice by some merchants, to add volume and make profit.
While consumers have expressed fears about the situation, some experts have offered tips on how to detect the plastic rice. In one of the tips, consumers are asked to do a water test by putting the rice in the water and stirring it, if the rice floats on top of the water, then it is definitely plastic rice, but if stays down, it is real rice.
While discussing this theory with a rice dealer, Mr. Udonkwa Akang, he says it is not a proper method of identifying the plastic rice. “If rice stays inside the bag longer than necessary, you put the grains inside water, they are bound to float, especially the ones that have been exposed to moisture; so that is not a very reliable way of testing for plastic rice.
“I believe the regulatory agencies should deploy scientific methods for the verification. There are laboratories that should be used in carrying out such tests,” he said.
The rumours must have informed a recent ban by the government of Ebonyi State of the sale and consumption of foreign rice in the state.
The governor of the state, Mr. David Umahi, while on a visit to the Punch in Lagos, confirmed that the rumours had informed the ban, adding that although the ban was not permanent, it was to enable the state to verify the veracity of the rumours.
Speaking on behalf of the governor, the Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Ebonyi State, Dr. Emma Onwe, said that while on one of his trips to Asia, he discovered that the type of rice consumed there was different from the type being imported into Africa.
He said, “On further inquiry, I was told that the rice that is consumed in Nigeria is preserved for a period of seven to 10 years and the aroma and taste of the rice come from the strong chemicals used in preserving it for such a long period of time.”
According to him, the Basmati rice that the Asians consume tastes and smells different from the one preserved and laced with chemicals to be imported into Nigeria and other African countries.
Also, the Lagos State Government recently partnered with the Kebbi State Government to produce rice which is sold at subsidised rate of N13,000 per 50 kg bag.
These initiatives and the ban on importation of rice through the land borders had led to surplus of rice in Cotonou, according to reports which say about N3bn rice destined for Nigerian markets had been trapped in Benin Republic because of the decision of the Customs to tighten its borders ahead of the ban which takes effect from January 2017.
The Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali, a strong advocate of total ban on importation of foreign rice by the year 2017, disclosed that 99 per cent of rice imported into Nigeria was poisonous.
He said, “First, the smugglers go for expired rice overseas, especially from China. The Chinese won’t eat that in their country so our people go and get them re-bagged and ferry them here.
“Secondly, the bags of rice are preserved with dangerous chemicals and reagents and when the goods arrive in neighbouring ports of Cotonou and Lome, they warehouse them poorly in dirty, dilapidated and disused facilities with leaking roofs and poor ventilation as they await the best time to move into Nigeria with their illegal consignments.”
For the Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Muda Yusuf, the whole situation boils down to weak institutions.
He said, “We need to strengthen our institutions. Whether goods are imported or produced locally, they need to have quality control. We need to find out why our quality control institutions are not functioning and look for ways to make them function.”
The Acting Director-General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Mrs. Yetunde Oni, said for the local rice, the agency had insisted on starting the quality control right from the farm where the rice was being planted.
“We have ensured that right from the outset; NAFDAC is a part of the farming. When you’re part of the farming, you will teach the farmers how to apply the pesticides; what to do at every particular point in time such that at the end of the day, you end up with the right product, not that we are waiting at the end to look at the quality of the products,” she said

DA urged to prepare for unrestricted rice importation
Description: https://sg.news.yahoo.com/sy/ny/api/res/1.2/EBfjfo.tyCyT6cgV7jnDpw--/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjtzbT0xO3c9ODQ7aD04NDtpbD1wbGFuZQ--/http:/l.yimg.com/os/publish-images/news/2014-09-16/f1c4b690-3dc5-11e4-83db-b96af41d1882_STAR-1-.jpg
By Jess Diaz
Philippine StarDecember 25, 2016
DA urged to prepare for unrestricted rice importation

The Department of Agriculture (DA) was urged yesterday to prepare for the unrestricted importation of rice beginning June next year, when volume and tariff restrictions are lifted.The lifting of restrictions is part of the country’s compliance with the World Trade Organization agreement, to which it is a signatory.Mindoro Occidental Rep. Josephine Sato said Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel PiƱol should come up with plans to cushion the impact of the import limits removal on the lives of rice farmers, their families and the farming sector.
“It’s less than six months before our farmers start to feel the impact of imported rice flooding the market. The DA and other government agencies should prepare for the adverse repercussions of unlimited importation,” Sato stressed.
Lifting the restrictions, she pointed out, would mean that importers are free to flood the market with cheap rice from Thailand, Vietnam and other foreign sources.
The scenario could lead to the gradual death of the local rice farming sector, which is considered inefficient compared to Vietnam and Thailand, from where the Philippines has been importing rice, she added.
Sato believes that the big rice-producing provinces – Mindoro, Isabela, Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan – would bear the brunt of the adverse effects of unrestricted and tax-free rice importation.
She wanted to know what help the DA and other concerned agencies could extend to rice farmers and their families.
Among the solutions she sees are providing farmers with free or subsidized inputs, like seeds and fertilizer and free irrigation, and training them on farming in general, to wean them out of rice planting if this would no longer be profitable.
A special fund could also be set up out of the previous and current rice import tariffs to finance the safety nets for the affected farmers, Sato said.
According to farmers’ groups and rice traders, farm inputs in Thailand and Vietnam like seeds, fertilizer and pesticides are cheaper, thus the Thai and Vietnamese rice farmers are able to sell their produce at a much lower price.
They said Thai and Vietnamese farmers also harvest more per hectare because of irrigation and modern technology
Good eats from all over: The BDN’s picks for best Maine food in 2016

By Emily Burnham, BDN Staff
Description: http://s13.postimg.org/7slcfuk6r/rsz_603625_10151380011406017_1233079379_n.jpgWe’re lucky, in that those of us here at the BDN whose job it is to write about food in Maine get to eat at a lot of great restaurants all over the state. So we can say without too much hesitation that we know what we’re talking about — it’s our job.After a year’s worth of fabulous sit-down dinners, quick but delicious lunches, seaside seafood feasts and leisurely brunches, we’ve managed to narrow down the best food we’ve eaten in Maine in 2016. In addition to BDN senior features editor Sarah Walker Caron and feature writers Emily Burnham and Kathleen Pierce, we’ve enlisted the help of Sarah Gelber of the blog 207 Foodie (in the BDN network) and Maine travel and food writer Hilary Nangle, both of whom kindly offered their opinions.
What’s your favorite new restaurant in Maine?
Sarah Walker Caron: There were so many restaurant openings in Greater Bangor this year. Massimo’s Pizza Bar was only open from April until October, but while they were I tried their Rucola Pizza, which was piled high with arugula, parmesan and olive oil — delicious. Novio’s now occupies that space, and their Airline Chicken, served on a butternut squash puree with a maple balsamic glaze, is mouthwateringly good. But my favorite has to be just across the river.Mason’s Brewing Company in Brewer, which seemed to be built and open overnight, has great burgers, amazing fries, tasty beers and so much more. If you go, I highly recommend the Sweet Mess burger and a flight of beers. And don’t forget the Dirty Fries.
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Emily Burnham: Serendib in Ellsworth makes some luscious Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine, while Sammy’s Deluxe in Rockland puts a delicious spin on classic Maine comfort food. I also got a chance to sample the fried goodness that is Big J’s Chicken Shack in Portland, and wow — best fried chicken I’ve ever had in Maine.
Kathleen Pierce: Scales in Portland is a modern update on a seafood shack. The open kitchen, high ceilings and harbor views feel posh, but its maritime setting on a working waterfront keeps it real. The oysters are fresh, the wine selection is top notch, and it’s the one place in Portland you’ll be sure to run into a Bostonian year-round. Is this the new DiMillo’s?
Hilary Nangle: A tossup between Nina June, Sara Jenkins’ Maine-meets-the-Mediterranean trattoria in Rockport — don’t miss the strata or shakshuka on the brunch menu — and Toroso Kitchen & Cocktails, Shannon Bard’s Spanish tapas bar and restaurant in Kennebunk.
Sarah Gelber: The pasta was really great at Rossobianco on Deering Avenue in Portland. I’m hoping the rumors are true that they are reopening in February.