Thursday, January 12, 2017

12th January,2017 daily global,regional and local rice e-newsletter by riceplus magazine




Iran Lifts Ban on Imports of Indian Rice: Report

News ID: 1293846 Service: Economy
January, 11, 2017 - 14:57

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iran has lifted its ban on imports of basmati rice from India, a report said.

According to the report carried by the Economic Times, Iran has lifted its ban on imports of basmati rice from India that had been in place for five months.“Basmati rice prices have started increasing as Iran has allowed imports from India,” Angshu Mallick, the chief operating officer at India’s Adani Wilmar Company, said.
He added, “A formal notification is awaited, but exporters and companies have started getting queries from Iran and some have even started signing contracts.”
Iran has been one of the largest importers of Indian basmati rice in recent years. But in 2015-16, basmati rice exports from India to Iran almost halved to $571 million from $1.1 billion in the previous financial year.
In the first half of this fiscal year, basmati rice exports from India to Iran amounted to $356 million.
Both India and Pakistan have claimed geographical indication on aromatic long-grained basmati rice, saying the variety is unique to the respective countries. Uruguay is another rice exporter to Iran.

Farmers refuse to pay back government difference in rice payouts and market prices

Jan.11,2017 15:43 KST Modified on : Jan.11,2017 15:43 KST

The Gwangju-South Jeolla Province chapter of the Korean Peasants’ League holds a press conference in front of South Jeolla Provincial Office, declaring a campaign of disobedience with the South Korean government’s attempts to reclaim the difference between public reserve rice priority payouts and the market price determined at the time of the rice’s purchase, Jan. 10. (provided by the Gwangju-South Jeolla Province chapter of the Korean Peasants’ League)

Steady decline in rice prices is a result of the government’s policy failures, farmers say

Farmers have declared a campaign of disobedience with the South Korean government’s attempts to reclaim the difference between public reserve rice priority payouts and the market price determined at the time of the rice’s purchase.The farmers also denounced the move by Seoul as “shameless exploitation.”The Gwangju-South Jeolla Province and North Jeolla Province chapters of the Korean Peasants’ League held press conferences before their respective provincial offices on Jan. 10 to announce that they “cannot cooperate with the reclaiming of the public reserve rice difference now that government neglect has resulted in a decline in the price of rice.”

“That steep decline stems from a lack of grain policy from the government, which indiscriminately imported food rice while failing to dispose of two million tons of rice in storage,” the farmers said. “Since the fault lies with the government’s incompetence, we cannot pay a cent.”The farmers went on to accuse the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFRA) of “threatening to exclude farms that refuse to pay up from this year’s public reserved rice allocations and give prejudicial treatment to cities and countries with large numbers of such farms.”

“The cities and counties and the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation (Nonghyup) need to refuse to perform redemption duties on [the ministry‘s] behalf,” they demanded.In Sep. 2016, MAFRA made priority payments for public reserve rice and market-segregated grain at a rate of 45,000 won (US$37.54) per 40 kg sack of rice (first class). But the purchase price set three months later round December was 44,140 won (US$36.82) per sack. With a resulting difference of 860 won (US$0.72), it began notifying the farmers through Nonghyun in February that they had to return it.

The purchase price is determined as the average of production district rice prices between October and December. While the priority payment is typically set in August at around 90% of production district rice prices, it was set at 93% last year due to prices being low. This proved inadequate to stop the unprecedented situation of a difference between the priority payout amount and sales price. It was the first time the government has demanded refunding from the priority payout since the rice purchasing system was changed in 2004.Last year, MAFRA purchased a total of 659,000 tons from 250,000 farming households, including 360,000 tons of public rice reserves and 299,000 tons of market-segregated grain. The refunds total an estimated 19.72 billion won (US$16.4 million), including 10.77 billion won (US$9 million) for public rice reserves and 8.95 billion won (US$7.5 million) for market-segregated grain - an average of 78,000 won (US$65.07) per farm.Farmers claim the root cause of the problem was a combination of the continued decline in rice prices and a lack of response measures from the government.

“Farm income has dropped by over 20% with rice prices down to their levels from 30 years ago, yet [the government] is pinning responsibility for that on the farmers,” said Lee Seok-ha, secretary-general of the Gwangju-South Jeolla branch of KPL.North Jeolla branch chairperson Jo Sang-gyu said the “attempt to swarm in and snatch away farmers’ backbone with this forced refund is no different from the greed and abuses of Gobun magistrate Jo Byeong-gap, which touched off the Donghak Peasant Revolution 123 years ago.”
The first class sales price for public reserve rice has been in continued decline over recent years, falling from 60,730 won (US$50.66) against a priority payment of 55,000 won (US$45.88) in 2013 to 57,740 won (US$48.16) against 52,000 won (US$43.38) in 2014 and 52,270 won (US$43.60) against 52,000 won in 2015.
MAFRA explained that the priority payment amount and purchase price are “determined by agencies according to set procedures.”

“Despite the policy efforts taken, we have been unable to stop the decline in rice prices, which has led to the current situation,” the ministry said.“Given that the farmers have agreed to a contract stipulating the return of the difference from additional payments, consideration of another plan will not be possible.”
By Ahn Kwan-ok and Park Im-keum, Gwangju and North Jeolla correspondents
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Large scale rice millers operate Mafia -p.harrison

2017-01-11 10:11:38


Minister of Rural Economic Affairs P. Harrison remains optimistic about the government and its stability despite some odds. In an interview with Dailymirror , he also speaks about the rice shortage, plans for imports and development work undertaken. The excerpts of the interview: 

Q How do you look at the future of the government in the context of the Minsters taking on each other? 
Two political parties that engaged in hostile politics for over 60 years have now come together for governance for the first time. It is not an easy task. Be that as it may, President Maithripala Sirisena has been able to do so. For his victory, the UNP, along with the JVP, the TNA and civil society movements, worked hard. However, a group of MPs who worked against him has joined the unity government as members of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). The President has ensured their support to the UNP for the formation of the government. There are conflicts of opinion. Besides, we can proceed. Despite all differences, we all voted for the annual budget. The government will serve its full term. No one should harbour any doubt about it.   

QHow would such differences between the two parties impact the decision- making process of the government? 
It goes on. The Hambantota project was not stalled. When two schools of opinion are compared and contrasted, the better opinion will prevail. That is healthy. When the annual budgetary proposals were formulated, both the UNP and the SLFP put forward their proposals. Finally, the President and the Prime Minister got together and incorporated them to work out a better set of proposals. Despite differences, what is advisable is to accommodate all shades of opinion and reach common ground. This is, however, an arduous task.  

QAs a Minister representing the UNP, how do you analyze the performance of the national unity government over the past couple of years?
Over the years, we had hostile politics. There was no convergence of opinions of both the parties. When a party came into power, it always rejected the proposals of the other. Now, there is a different situation. In the past, the governments were always formed with the backing of minority or minor parties. Now the two main parties are together. It is always better. It should continue in the future. In politics, it is better to put the country before self.   

QActually, how do you look at the achievements of the government and what it delivered to it?
Of course, the UNP supporters expected a lot from the government. They had high expectations. We took steps to address their developmental needs. But, we know the UNPers were in the opposition for 20 years. However, we could not give enough chances to our party people in addressing their requirements for jobs. The Ministers representing the SLFP had that chance for the last 20 years. The UNP was denied it. That problem remains there. It is a matter of concern for our people. We hope to look into such grievances of our supporters within the next couple of years.   

In my Anuradhapura district, we have initiated the Malwatu Oya development project. We constantly faced floods when this river overflowed its banks during rainy months in the past. We will bring 1,500 dairy cows to the farm in Oyamaduwa. Another 1,500 dairy cows will be released to the farm in Parasangaswewa.   

QCould you tell us about the support that you get from the government for your work?
The government is giving the fullest cooperation under President Sirisena’s Rajarata Navodaya programme. It is implemented with financial assistance from China.   

QHow do you engage the SLFP in the execution of these activities?
Agriculture Development Minister Duminda Dissanayake, as the Chairman of the District Development Coordination Committee meeting, participates in our work. The SLFP, under his leadership in the district supports us.   

QHow do you see the Joint Opposition as a force oppositional to the government?
 It is a party depending on the personal popularity of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. We have seen in history such parties have not survived long. For example, late Gamini Dissanayake and late Lalith Athulathmudali formed a party under the ‘eagle’ symbol. It did not survive at the end. The same fate would befall the JO one day in my view. In the past, the SLFP politicians also defected and formed separate parties. None could gain the upper hand in politics. Individual-centric political parties suffer this fate. So, the JO would experience it sooner or later. It would finally join hands with the SLFP at one point.

QNow, some of your colleagues in the UNP called for press conferences at the party headquarters’ ‘Sirikotha’ and asked the SLFP to quit the government as soon as possible. What is your opinion?
That is why I said at the beginning that is a herculean task for the government to proceed with in this manner. In both parties, there are groups talking like this. Some make very impulsive remarks. I do not think this would cause any uproar eventually leading to a split of the national unity government formed in keeping with a mandate from the people. We all work together in harmony. We believe things would turn to normalcy for smooth sailing of the government under the blessings of both the leaders - the President and the PM.   

QAs for the paddy marketing issue coming under your purview, some parties say there are rice stocks sufficient till August, though you try to import rice right now. Could you elaborate further on this?  
That is an assumption. It is far from the truth. I go by the statistics of the Department of Agriculture. I, as the subject minister, cannot act on assumption. We have paddy stocks at the moment. Yet, all that will be sufficient only till April when the New Year is celebrated. Despite that, there was a shortfall of rain in the latest season. Monsoon rain failed this time. We will not be able to get the expected harvest this time. Only 20% of paddy lands have been cultivated this time. It means the expected harvest fell short by a huge margin. Rice is our staple food. We have to be concerned about both farmers and consumers. The country is bound to face a shortage.  

Some mill owners and warehouse operators try to exploit the situation. They try to fish in troubled waters. We will be compelled to import rice to control the prices. 

We can import rice from India or Pakistan at a low price. If we lift tax restrictions, we would be able to issue rice at Rs.60-70 a kg in the local market. If it happens, those who have hoarded stocks of paddy will be compelled to mill them and release to the market. We will regulate the prices of imported rice varieties.   

QWhen are you planning to do it?
Actually a couple of weeks ago we called for tenders for rice imports. In a week or so, we will be able to import rice to the country. It does not take that long for us to import rice from India. It takes only a week for it. Then, the problem could be sorted out.  
For us, Indian and Pakistani varieties of rice are much suited for consumption. 

We are used to that taste. We find enough stocks available in these two countries to be imported. We have not decided on the volume to be imported as of now. 

It depends on the local requirement. The private sector will import it. SATHOSA also can play a key role in this regard.   

QYou talk about a rice Mafia by local mill owners. How do you see it?
That is what has happened. Paddy was purchased at Rs.38-39 a kg as you are aware. Then, it was possible to sell rice at a retail price of Rs.60-70 a kg. It has not happened because of Mafia. These rice millers purchased paddy at a low price from farmers and sold at higher prices in the market. They make undue profits from this. Some private mill operators do it. As a result, there is a price difference. We have to import rice to control prices in this context.   

QDid you receive Cabinet approval for imports?
Actually, I am not handling that segment. It is done by the Finance Ministry and the Industry and Commerce Ministry. They do it together. Large-scale mill owners manipulate the market and make unconscionable profits.

Dietitians are Valued Voice for Rice with Consumers  

ARLINGTON, VA -- U.S. shoppers consider their primary grocery store an ally in their health goals, and look to in-store retail dietitians to help navigate the grocery aisles to make healthier choices when it comes to food.  

"Nutrition plays a vital role in prevention and management of chronic disease," says Samantha Woulfe, a community dietitian at Jewel-Osco, a supermarket chain with 185 stores across the Midwest.  "We like to show our customers that healthy choices start in the grocery store and promoting rice is important because rice is a versatile and budget-friendly way to incorporate healthy grains into family meals." 

Last fall, USA Rice partnered with Jewel-Osco's "Build a Better Basket" program where U.S.-grown rice was promoted to shoppers through the retailer's quarterly newsletter, weekly ad circular, blog, social media, and through in-store, point-of-sale signage.  

"With an overall 12 percent sales lift in the rice category and customer interaction via social media, we feel it was a successful campaign," says Wolfe.  "In the future, we hope to work with USA Rice for another promotion and show a higher increase."

As the number of retail dietitians is increasing, they are becoming a more integral part in helping grocery chains meet sales goals.  "As retail dietitians, we want to help our customers realize the full array of healthful options available to them inside our stores," said Allison Kuhn, director of retail dietetics at The Little Clinic at Kroger.  "The ability to share relevant, up-to-date information about commodities, such as rice, means more peace of mind, convenience, and better choices for our shoppers." 

USA Rice sponsored tasting and learning stations at The Little Clinic's wellness festivals at Kroger stores in four cities including Denver, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Nashville.  "USA Rice was a great partner for our in-store outreach providing simple recipes and nutritional information that was beneficial for our shoppers," said Kuhn.

"Sharing resources, such as the retail dietitian toolkit, with a greater network of retail dietitians helps USA Rice continue to build relationships with this influential and credible audience," said Paul Galvani, chairman of the USA Rice Retail Subcommittee.  "This spring, we'll be working with retail dietitians at Redner's and Hannaford Supermarkets to conduct in-store rice demos as well as include rice in multiple shopper communication channels.

Rice prices in India up as demand revives; Thailand market quiet

 India, the world's biggest rice exporter, saw its 5-percent broken parboiled rice quoted at USD 346-USD 350 per tonne this week, up from USD 341-USD 345 last Wednesday. Rice prices in India rose on a revival in demand from African and Asian buyers while markets in Thailand and Vietnam remained quiet, traders said on Wednesday. India, the world's biggest rice exporter, saw its 5-percent broken parboiled rice quoted at USD 346-USD 350 per tonne this week, up from USD 341-USD 345 last Wednesday.

The rise in prices came as demand from African buyers improved, said an exporter based at Kakinada in southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. "African buyers were making good purchases after a long time," he said, adding there was also some demand from Asia. India mainly exports non-basmati rice to African countries and premier basmati rice to the Middle East. Domestic buyers also started returning to the market, helping raise prices despite ample supply which cut prices last week, a Mumbai-based exporter said. "Good export and domestic demand is offsetting impact of rising supplies," he added.

 India's summer-sown rice output is seen at a record 93.88 million tonnes in the crop year to June 2017, 2.81 percent higher than last year. In Thailand, prices of 5-percent broken rice rose slightly to USD 360-USD 365 a tonne, free-on-board (FOB) Bangkok, from USD 355-USD 360 last week. "There is some small demand from Iraq and Singapore," a trader in Bangkok said. "The market is otherwise quiet." Thailand, which exported 9.63 million tonnes of rice in 2016, aims to increase exports to 10 million tonnes this year. The country will also curb paddy rice production at 25 million to 26 million tonnes for the 2017-18 crop year in a bid to prevent an oversupply of the grain which could dent prices.

Thailand will begin auctioning about 8 million tonnes of rice from government stockpiles in the first quarter this year and aim to clear the stocks by the end of this year. Vietnam's market remained subdued though its 5-percent broken rice was quoted at USD 345-USD 350 a tonne, FOB Saigon, slightly higher than a week earlier when buyers were bidding at around USD 335 a tonne. "Since the New Year holiday until now, there's no order at all," said a trader based in Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam is expected to export 5.8 million tonnes of rice in 2017, up 7.4 percent from a year earlier, according to a December report by USD A. Thailand and Vietnam are the world's second and third biggest rice exporters after India

Last year's flooding had devastating impact on rice production

Posted: Jan 10, 2017 3:50 PM PSTUpdated: Jan 11, 2017 6:12 AM PST
By Candy Rodriguez, Reporter
The August 2016 flooding left a devastating impact on the area's rice production - the state's southern parishes suffered about $68 million in losses.With the beginning of rice season only a few weeks away, farmers are getting ready in hopes to have better yields.Farmers, business owners and residents attended the Southwest Louisiana Rice and Soybean Clinic in Welsh on Tuesday to learn more about various issues farmers face, including rice varieties available, weed control, and production and fertility for both rice and soybean.
Calcasieu Parish LSU Ag Center Extension Agent, Jimmy Meaux, explained how the flooding impacted our area. 
"Rice is one of the larger cash crops that we have in Louisiana, Calcasieu not so much. But in the southwest area, it's probably one of our staples as far as jobs. A lot of rice gets exported out of our country to other places overseas and part of Lake Charles stays real busy and shipping so it's a big thing in Louisiana," he said. 
"We had some of it that could not be harvested and everything that really was harvested that was salvageable the yield as well as the quality was reduced significantly," said Dr. Steven Linscombe, LSU Ag Center Rice Research Station researcher, at the clinic.
KPLC first introduced Craig Schultz and his family on air at their family farm in August of last year, when they were dealing with the impacts left behind by the flood. 
"We lost the rice that wasn't harvested - we probably lost 30 percent, 100 percent total loss acreage and the rest of it was impacted as the depth of the water was on it," Schultz said.
Now, Schultz and his family, like many others across the state, are looking forward to the upcoming season. They say the clinic has provided new options in hopes of increasing yields.
But Linscombe said the weather isn't the only thing farmers have to worry about.

"The price of rice is bad right now - it's low; it's not historically low, but it's the lowest it's been for the past years, so it's tough for our producers right now," Linscombe said.
It's an obstacle Schultz said he has been facing for the past few years.
 "It's time for it to get better or we are not going to have a lot of farmers left in the rice business," Schultz said.
Schultz said he remains optimistic for the future
Thai Commerce Ministry to Begin Auctioning Rice Stockpiles in First Quarter
Bangkok. Thailand will begin auction
ning about 8 million tonnes of rice from government stockpiles in the first quarter this year, the commerce ministry said on Tuesday (10/01).
Thailand, the world's second-biggest exporter after India, has struggled to offload its stocks following the end of a rice-buying scheme under the previous, civilian government. In a statement, the ministry said it plans to offload the remaining stocks by the end of this year. A meeting on Monday had "approved guidelines for the management of rice left over in stocks," said Duangporn Rodphaya, the chief of the ministry's foreign trade department.
"The foreign trade department will expedite implementation of the resolution and consider the offloading of stocks in order not to affect the market and the rice situation at home and abroad," she said

Brazil Boosts Estimates for Record Bumper Crops

January 10, 2017 03:43 PM

Brazil ‘s government grain agency CONAB raised its estimates Tuesday for record bumper crops of soybeans and grains.Favorable weather and an increase in planted areas have helped yields to recover from last year’s weather-related losses, the agency said. This year, an additional 1.3%, or 59.1 million hectares (145.9 million acres), has been planted.
CONAB projected an an 8.3 million ton rise in soybean production totaling 103.8 million tons, an increase of 8.7%. The area planted with soybeans increased 1.6%. First-crop soybeans will go up 25.7%, or 1.3 million tons, compared to last year’s harvest that was plagued by weather problems.
Grain production will increase 15.3% to 215.3 million tons, up by 28.6 million tons, CONAB said.
The total corn harvest will jump 26% to 84.5 million tons, with the first harvest put at 28.4 million tons and the second harvest at 56.1 million tons.
Rice production will go up 9.7% to 11.6 million tons.
The end-of-winter 2016 wheat harvest grew 21.5% to 6.7 million tons, CONAB said.
Rains have been normal and continuous in the agricultural powerhouse state of Mato Grosso, CONAB said. Weather forecasts for Brazil predict favorable weather for the rest of January and for February, it said.

Research Offers 10-Year Forecast on Organic Rice Protein Market

Rice is an important staple cereal which is consumed throughout the world. Organic rice protein is the protein derived from the organically grown rice which has a high content of methionine and cystine. The rice grown is free from genetically modified organisms (GMO) and thus doesn’t contain any type of toxins and allergens in the organic rice protein powder. Organic rice protein is very rich in amino acids which are essential for body muscles, immune system and building of body tissues. It also supplements the amino acids which are not synthesized in the body and need to be taken by dietary supply. Among various amino acid, the ones high in content are Glutamic acid, Arginine, Aspartic acid, Leucine. The organic rice protein extraction methods include hexane-free extraction and low -temperature extraction.  Organic rice protein is available in flavors which contain stevia as a sugar substitute and are easily digested. The protein content is approximately 80% in the organic rice protein powder and can be consumed in hot or cold recipes. The organic rice protein is an important dietary source and most importantly it is made without the use of preservatives, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) which are organic pollutants and other chemicals. The organic rice protein market is mostly driven by high demand in sport and athletics segment. Also, it is good protein alternative to whey, soy proteins which otherwise cause allergies thus drives the global organic rice protein market. Besides, increase in penetration of health awareness and also consumer’s attraction towards products of health benefits assists in the growth of global organic rice protein market. The global organic rice protein market is anticipated to grow significantly at a higher pace during the forecast period.
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The global organic rice protein market is segmented on the basis of the extraction process, type, and application.
Based on the extraction process, global organic rice protein market is segmented into:
•           Hexane free protein extraction
•           Low-temperature protein extraction
Based on the type, global organic rice protein market is segmented into:
•           Concentrates
•           Isolates
Based on the application, the global organic rice protein market is segmented into:
•           General applications
•           Nutritional Supplements
•           Baking
•           Flavor Enhancements & Savory Flavors
•           General Foods
•           Others
•           Functional applications
•           Dispersibility
•           Emulsification
•           Others
Based on the end user, the global organic rice protein market is segmented into:
•           Sports and Energy
•           Dairy
•           Bakery
•           Beverages
•           Other
The global organic rice protein market is geographically divided in to five key regions including North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Middle East & Africa.Europe, especially Germany holds the signifcant share of organic rice protein market due to the increased importance of healthier lifestyle.  Followed by Europe is North America and Asia Pacific, Latin America and MEA. The global organic rice protein market will show an increasing trend of consumption due to increasing penetration of health awareness during the forecast period.
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Key Players
Some of the key players identified in the global urease market are NewGen Direct Ltd, Axiom Foods, Inc., Hill Pharma, Inc., AIDP Inc, RiceBran Technologies, Golden Grain Group Limited etc.
The research report presents a comprehensive assessment of the market and contains thoughtful insights, facts, historical data, and statistically supported and industry-validated market data. It also contains projections done using a suitable set of assumptions and methodologies. The research report provides analysis and information according to categories such as market segments, geographies, type, machine size and end use

Good aromatic rice yield in N-districts

Aromatic rice kept for sale at a shop in Nilphamari. Photo: Star
Our Correspondent, Nilphamari
Aromatic rice saw record yield in Rangpur region, comprising five northern districts, in the aman season this year as farmers increased cultivation for getting lucrative profit.
Horticulture specialist of Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) in Rangpur Khondokar Md Mesbahul Islam said 13,017 hectares of land were brought under cultivation of aromatic rice this year compared to 12,650 hectares last year.Aromatic rice was cultivated on 5,272 hectares of land in Rangpur, 3,175 hectares in Gaibandha, 3,011 hectares in Nilphamari, 1,477 hectares in Kurigram and 82 hectares in Lalmonirhat.The total production in the region was 30,626 tonnes, while it was 29,727 tonnes last year.The most popular aromatic rice varieties are Kalijira, Chinigura, Kataribhog and new variety BRRI-dhan 34.Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) recently developed BRRI–dhan 34, which has gained popularity among farmers within a short time for its outstanding quality and output, farmers said.
The other traditional varieties, which farmers cultivated, are Rasulbhog, Begunbichi, Badshabhog, Khirshabhog, Chinisagor, Zamaisagori and some others.Mesbahul said medium low lying land with sufficient irrigation facility is suitable for aromatic rice cultivation and the soil of Rangpur agriculture region is ideal for the purpose.Alluring flavour, good taste and high food value have created a demand for aromatic rice at home and abroad, enabling farmers to get lucrative prices.
Golam Mostofa, a big farmer at Angarpara village in Sadar upazila, said he cultivated aromatic rice on 30 bighas of land and earned more profit compared to coarse rice as a maund of aromatic rice is being sold in the markets at Tk 1,350 to Tk 1,400 compared to Tk 650 to Tk 700 for coarse rice.Farmer Saidur Rahman of Kursha village in Rangpur said he had no problems in selling aromatic rice as agents of big companies come to his house to buy the produce.
Deputy Direcror of DAE in Nilphamari GM Idris said the inclination of farmers to aromatic rice cultivation is an outcome of the DAE's effort to popularise crop diversification, leaving behind traditional farming pattern, to bring about a revolutionary change.Additional Director of regional DAE M Shah Alam said, “Special emphasis will be given to cultivating aromatic rice as this region is one of the biggest producers of the variety in the country. Its quality is very good, and it also benefits farmers as it is an export item.

A new age of agriculture beckons

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:12 AM January 11, 2017
The Department of Agriculture has been put on center stage as the Duterte administration’s economic team looks to the farm sector as crucial in keeping favorable macroeconomic scenarios, such as a slow rate of price increases.
According to Finance Undersecretary Gil S. Beltran, key support for food production that will help maintain low inflation include factors that are not necessarily new in
discussions on economic development—development of infrastructure, availability of credit, and insurance coverage for farm produce.
Arguably, providing such support requires that the purse holders (economic managers) and the people on the ground (the Department of Agriculture) are on the same page.
Such level of teamwork is apparently not yet achieved, with the administration already in its seventh month.
“The journey has been tough and hard for us, simply because some of our activities actually were constrained by the fact that the budget for the (second) half of the year [2016 was] designed by the previous administration,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said in his most recent press briefing, held in December.
“We’re not saying these programs [laid out in the 2016 national budget] are not relevant to the vision of the current leadership [but] this situation actually somehow tied our hands in really implementing drastic reforms in the agriculture department,” Piñol said.
This predicament extends to 2017, the budget for which was similarly designed during the Aquino administration.
Piñol had proposed an initiative he dubbed Rice Productivity Enhancement, intended to help rice farmers affected by the El Niño to recover from its effects by giving them rice seeds and fertilizer.
But the Duterte administration’s economic managers did not take to the proposal, which called for an P18-billion additional budget for 2017 alone.
Even then, the DA has been able to carry on with what Piñol himself described as “reactive actions to a specific problems,” especially in the aftermath of destructive typhoons.
These include the aforementioned activity of distributing inputs (seeds and planting material as well as fertilizer); dispersal of animals such as chickens, pigs and goats; endowment of boats and fishing gear as well as tractors, grains dryers and other farm technologies.
“But at the same time, we also started drafting long-term programs which we believe would serve as the foundation of the new agriculture and fisheries [policy] under the Duterte administration and beyond,” Piñol said.
Last Dec. 1, the DA launched a national color-coded agriculture map—depicting production efficiency and land use— which Piñol said would serve as the basis for future agricultural programs and goals.
Also, the DA started the conduct of a new national food consumption quantification survey and Piñol ordered the start of a nationwide validation of all agricultural data and statistics “which have proven to be inaccurate and outdated.”
“It was because of this that I issued an order for a nationwide validation of all agricultural data starting from the ground,” the secretary said. “I believe we cannot do sound planning if the data that we use and the statistics we use and rely on are not accurate.”
These are encouraging words from the secretary who, in numerous engagements with reporters, have declined to give the usual forecast production data, citing his style as that of a farmer who is more concerned about how his farm looks rather than crunching numbers.
Even then, the avowed move to improve farm statistics will hopefully not entail reinventing the wheel by failing to tap international best practices, since the need to advance official statistics—including agricultural data—has been cited internationally as a requisite to achieving the goal of putting an end to hunger.
In fact, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Escap) convened last month its Committee Statistics to discuss regional initiatives on ensuring the appropriateness and reliability of economic statistics, population and social statistics, civil registration and vital statistics, disaster-related statistics, agricultural and rural statistics.
Shamshad Akhtar, UN undersecretary general and executive secretary of Escap, said resolving these gaps in guidelines and standards would require statistical communities to pool ideas, experiences and resources to make innovative breakthroughs.
The value of drawing from a global resource of knowledge and best practices—to help attain goals as quickly as possible —is underscored by the urgent matters that the farm sector is facing. For example, World Trade Organization-approved import curbs meant to protect the domestic rice industry are expiring by June 30.
While Malacañang has not made any move toward yet another possible extension of the quantitative restrictions on milled rice imports, Piñol is adamant in pushing for keeping the limits for at least two years to help Filipino farmers prepare better against low-priced foreign grains.
Still, Piñol said that in case his position does not hold sway in the Cabinet, “we are prepared for that (a new rice market scenario).”
“We are looking at other commodities which would fill in whatever shortage or gap in the staple food production,” he said.
“I have directed the DA Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) to intensify the study on adlai, which is an indigenous plant found in mountainous areas that people have been consuming as their staple food,” he said.
Piñol said he had also directed the BAR and Philippine Rice Research Institute to formulate the ideal combination of rice and white corn “so that we will be able to come up with the perfect mix that would boost our food supply.”
The secretary’s plans hark back to the rice corn grits, developed and available at the University of the Philippines as well as from Philippine Leading Infinite Logistics Inc. under the brand “Rico Corn Rice.”
Further, Piñol is pushing for the start of a program for crossbreeding white corn and a glutinous variety, to make corn more palatable as a staple food.
“All these are part of efforts to ensure that there would be enough food for the Filipino people,” he said. “I believe these things we’ve started will contribute to the realization of the President’s commitment to ensure that food is available.”
Undoubtedly, Piñol has hit the ground running when he assumed office months ago, but the agriculture chief needs a deeper harmony of visions with the rest of the Cabinet. For the DA cannot run by itself just as food producers are not separate from the rest of the economy.

Basmati rice prices firm up as Iran lifts ban

By Madhvi Sally, ET Bureau | Updated: Jan 11, 2017, 09.27 AM IST

NEW DELHI: Basmati rice prices are firming up because of demand from Iran that has lifted its five-month-old ban on imports of the grain from India two days ago. Iran is one of the largest importers of Indian basmati rice in recent years, and the prospect of high sales has raised prices in the Karnal mandi by Rs 200-300 per quintal for the popular 1121 basmati (sela) rice.

India exported 4.05 million tonnes in 2015-16, out of which 1 million tonnes was to Iran. This year, the industry expects exports could fall to 3.8 million tonnes, due to less exports to Iran. “Basmati rice prices have started increasing as Iran has allowed imports from India. A formal notification is awaited, but exporters and companies have started getting queries from Iran and some have even started signing contracts,“ said Angshu Mallick, COO at Adani Wilmar.

Q1 date for first rice auction

The government expects to call the first auction for existing state rice stocks in the first quarter of this year.

Mrs Duangporn says rice sales will be handled cautiously. Somchai Poomlard
According to Duangporn Rodphaya, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, the department is in talks with all responsible units to consider which rice varieties should be auctioned first."The first lot slated for auction is likely to be sometime in the first quarter, which is an appropriate period as the entire main crop has been supplied into the market while the off-season production has yet to start," she said.Mrs Duangporn stresses that any rice sales by the government will be handled cautiously to prevent negative impact on domestic rice prices.Since September last year, the national rice policy committee chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told responsible officials to delay a plan to dispose of state rice stocks between September and December last year to curb any adverse impact on rice prices as the main crop was due to enter the market.Gen Prayut, who chaired the national rice policy committee's meeting on Monday, has ordered officials handling state rice sales to clear the entire 8 million tonnes of rice in the state stockpiles within this year.Most of the existing 8 million tonnes of rice stocks are white rice.The government has been paying 504 million baht monthly for storage.The national rice policy committee also approved the classification of state rice stocks into three categories: 3.01 million tonnes for good quality fit for human consumption, 3.15 million tonnes unfit for human consumption, but suitable for animal feed and the rice processing industry, and the remaining 1.85 million tonnes as unfit both for human and animal consumption, suitable only for industrial use.
Since the May 2014 coup, 8.68 million tonnes of rice has been sold via 23 auctions, fetching 89.2 billion baht.
State-held rice stocks have fallen sharply from the 18.7 million tonnes accumulated during 2011-14.According to Mrs Duangporn, the global rice prices are expected to stay unchanged from last year because of relatively high global stocks and rising rice production.

Last year's flooding had devastating impact on rice production

By Candy Rodriguez, Reporter
(Source: Candy Rodriguez/KPLC)
The August 2016 flooding left a devastating impact on the area's rice production - the state's southern parishes suffered about $68 million in losses.
With the beginning of rice season only a few weeks away, farmers are getting ready in hopes to have better yields.
Farmers, business owners and residents attended the Southwest Louisiana Rice and Soybean Clinic in Welsh on Tuesday to learn more about various issues farmers face, including rice varieties available, weed control, and production and fertility for both rice and soybean.
Calcasieu Parish LSU Ag Center Extension Agent, Jimmy Meaux, explained how the flooding impacted our area. 
"Rice is one of the larger cash crops that we have in Louisiana, Calcasieu not so much. But in the southwest area, it's probably one of our staples as far as jobs. A lot of rice gets exported out of our country to other places overseas and part of Lake Charles stays real busy and shipping so it's a big thing in Louisiana," he said. 
"We had some of it that could not be harvested and everything that really was harvested that was salvageable the yield as well as the quality was reduced significantly," said Dr. Steven Linscombe, LSU Ag Center Rice Research Station researcher, at the clinic.
KPLC first introduced Craig Schultz and his family on air at their family farm in August of last year, when they were dealing with the impacts left behind by the flood. 
"We lost the rice that wasn't harvested - we probably lost 30 percent, 100 percent total loss acreage and the rest of it was impacted as the depth of the water was on it," Schultz said.
Now, Schultz and his family, like many others across the state, are looking forward to the upcoming season. They say the clinic has provided new options in hopes of increasing yields.
But Linscombe said the weather isn't the only thing farmers have to worry about.

"The price of rice is bad right now - it's low; it's not historically low, but it's the lowest it's been for the past years, so it's tough for our producers right now," Linscombe said.
It's an obstacle Schultz said he has been facing for the past few years.
 "It's time for it to get better or we are not going to have a lot of farmers left in the rice business," Schultz said.
Schultz said he remains optimistic for the future.

Ministry scraps conditions on rice export

Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh on January 4 issued a decision revoking Decision 6139/QD-BCT on a master plan for rice exporters which has made life difficult for domestic enterprises.The decision sets out criteria and conditions to become a rice exporter, including requirements for warehousing and milling facilities, and the applicant’s rice export performance in the preceding year.
The abolition of the rule will partly remove difficulties for enterprises, boosting rice exports at a time of rising rice export woes and fiercer competition.

In Official Letter 8768/BCT-XNK, the ministry proposed the Government consider cancelling the plan last September, on the basis of the review of its implementation in the past time.

Vietnam’s rice sector has secured sustainable growth since the late 1980s. The steady increase has helped the country not only ensure food security, but also become one of the three largest rice exporters in the world. However, incomes of farmers have yet to rise correspondingly.

Thailand, India, Pakistan and Vietnam are major rice exporting countries, accounting for 71.8% of global rice exports, while China, Nigeria, Iran and Indonesia are main rice importers.

Each rice exporting nation often has its own key export markets and competes in other markets.

However, by focusing too much on output expansion, the sector has compromised on rice quality, which has in turn affected prices. Falling rice prices have hurt many stakeholders, especially farmers.

Vietnam did not fully achieve its targets for rice exports last year, falling sharply in both volume and value year-on-year.

Early in 2016, the Vietnam Food Association (VFA) predicted that the nation’s total rice exports would amount to 6.5 million tons, equivalent to the export performance of 2015. However, the objective was unattainable.

Figures of the General Statistics Office (GSO) showed as of December 15, rice export shipments reached 4.68 million tons, with turnover of US$2.1 billion. Both volume and value tumbled by with 1.62 million tons and US$600 million respectively over the same period of 2015.

Before 2010, the country shipped around 6.3-7 million tons a year, with revenues of some US$2.7-3.3 billion. In Vietnam’s agriculture, rice export turnover always comes third after seafood and coffee.

Vietnam exported 7 million tons of rice in 2012, earning US$3.6 billion. The following year saw signs of decline, with 6.5 million tons and US$2.9 billion. The figure fell to 6.3 million tons in 2014 before inching up to 6.5 million tons last year.

Many policies have been introduced over the years, having direct and indirect impacts on market players. However, some policies have revealed many inadequacies and have not gained desired results, such as the decision setting rice export as a conditional business field.

The removal of such criteria and conditions is aimed to eliminate inappropriate business conditions following the introduction of the 2014 Investment Law. This would partly improve the transparency of the business environment, and create favorable conditions for firms to invest in the sector with a peace of mind, contributing to an increase in rice exports, and rice consumption for farmers.

PVN oil production cost goes down

Vietnam Oil and Gas Group (PVN) said in a report on its 2016 performance that its oil exploitation costs dropped by US$3.2 per barrel against the estimate to US$23.8 last year.

According to the report released on January 5, the group managed to cut exploitation costs, thus sending them down to US$23.8 a barrel compared to the estimate of US$27 a barrel. Costs of electricity, urea fertilizer and fuel products fell by 15-20% compared to the plan.

PVN exported crude oil at an average price of US$45 a barrel in 2016, much lower than US$60 per barrel projected in the State budget plan approved by the National Assembly.

Last year, the State-owned firm pumped 17.23 million tons of crude oil, 1.19 million tons higher than targeted. It generated revenue of VND452.5 trillion (US$19.9 billion) and paid VND90.2 trillion in taxes.

The company did not announce its 2016 profit or losses. PVN would be profitable if the oil price exceeds US$45 per barrel, the firm said in a report.    

PVN’s exploitation costs and payments to the State budget are estimated at US$43.5 a barrel so its profit, if any, is small. Notably, PVN’s exploitation costs at Song Doc oil field amount to US$58 per barrel.  

The company has to increase output over the past two years to offset the global oil price plunge.

According to PVN’s financial plan for 2017, the oil price is projected to stand at US$50 a barrel.

Central bank to take over one more lender

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) plans to acquire one more ailing bank at zero dong as part of the banking restructuring scheme this year, a leader of the central bank told the Daily on January 5.

The SBV will only acquire the bank if it fails to find strategic investors. The lender, whose name is not yet disclosed, has reported negative equity and been under special control while law enforcement officers have taken legal action against its former leaders.

The acquisition of 100% shares of loss-making banks at zero dong each aims to avoid causing negative impact on the banking system. The move would be made if their existing shareholders fail to inject additional capital and if banks cannot find new investors.

No organizations have offered to buy shares of the troubled bank, prompting the central bank to mull the acquisition. The agency is considering a suitable acquisition scheme to secure its normal operations, the official said.

In 2015, the central bank took over Construction Bank, Ocean Bank and GPBank at zero dong. The three lenders had negative equity and huge bad debts while some of their leaders were arrested.

According to the SBV leader, the lenders have made positive changes in recent times. Their liquidity has improved and they have not made bad impact on the banking system any more. However, it takes a long time for the banks to get back to the good old days.

Besides, the central bank has ordered all banks to consolidate operations and fix shortcomings to obtain sustainable development in the coming years. In 2017, the central bank will gather resources to deploy measures of the bank restructuring plan and handle bad debts for the 2016-2020 period.

The official also rejected rumors that the SBV would acquire Sacombank at zero dong because the bank is not in the troubled group. Currently, Sacombank maintains normal operations with total assets as of November 2016 rising 12.03% against the end of 2015 and the bad debt ratio curbed at 2.22%.

Speaking to the Daily, Sacombank vice chairman Nguyen Mien Tuan said Sacombank is concentrating on systematic restructuring after Southern Bank was merged into it. The merger has impacted on its operation, so it will need time to adjust.

A foreign organization has offered to become Sacombank’s strategic partner but both sides have yet to reach agreement. At present, a domestic business group has offered to buy a 20% stake at Sacombank at VND15,000 a share. However, the bank is still waiting for approval from the central bank to carry out the deal.

Starbucks launches loyalty programme
US beverage chain Starbucks has launched a loyalty programme called Starbucks rewards for its customers.

Customers who register for the programme will earn a star for every VNĐ40,000 they spend in its stores.

There are two tiers of membership offering increasingly greater rewards. Green and gold offer more surprises and personalisation with each tier.

Gold, for instance, offers a buy-one-get-one offer when reaching gold and a free beverage for every 25 stars earned.

Members will also receive many exclusive offers during the year.

The company has launched a new flavour for the winter, golden sesame caramel crunch latte, and brought back chestnut white chocolate truffle.

VIB: 2016 results positive; shares listed on UPCoM
More than 564.4 million shares of Vietnam International Bank (VIB) made their debut on the Unlisted Public Company Market (UPCoM) on Monday.

The reference price on the first trading day was VND17,000 per share. At this rate, VIB’s market capitalisation is nearly VND9.6 trillion (US$423 million).

“VIB’s listing is aimed at creating transparency in our activities, share price, market capitalisation and share liquidity so as to make it easier for investors to make investment decisions,” the bank said in its statement.

Last year, VIB maintained a stable growth momentum, as per the bank’s unaudited business results.

The bank made VND1.3 trillion in profit before provision and VND702 billion profit before tax, which is 4 per cent higher than the target set by the General Council of Shareholders early in 2016, and 7 per cent higher than in 2015.

Its total lending balance was around VND68 trillion, a 25 per cent growth against 2015, while its total assets amounted to approximately VND105 trillion.

According to the latest data, the bank’s non-performing loan (NPL) rate continues to be under control at under 3 per cent while its loan-to-deposit ratio (LDR) was 66 per cent, much lower than the maximum limit of 80 per cent set by the State Bank of Viet Nam (SBV).

At the end of 2016, VIB shareholders’ equity was more than VND8.7 trillion, while the bank’s charter capital increased to around VND5.64 trillion, based on the General Council of Shareholders’ plan, which was approved by SBV.

Among the 10 local banks selected by the central bank for pilot implementation of Basel II, VIB has the highest readiness level and a high CAR of 10 per cent, based on Basel II standards.

In the past two years, VIB continued to have high dividend payment rates – it was 23.5 per cent and 25 per cent in 2014 and 2015, respectively, including payment in cash and by bonus share.

This year, VIB has set a profit target that is 10 per cent higher than the 2016 target.

“VIB will continue to develop its core bank activities, focusing on personal customers, SME customers and foreign-invested enterprises,” it said, adding that that the focus is on developing innovative solutions and using more technology to maximise its productivity, increase revenue and save costs.

Siemens Healthineers brings new ultrasound systems to VN
Siemens Healthineers held a launch ceremony to introduce its new ultrasound system ACUSON NX2 TM to the Vietnamese market late last week.

The ceremony took place during the National Conference on Ultrasound organised for the first time in Hue City’s Hue Central Hospital on January 7.

According to a representative of Siemens Healthineers, ACUSON NX2™ ultrasound system is a smart-inspired solution, providing premium imaging performance across clinical applications.

The system utilises largest-in-class hardware, supporting enhanced operator workflow functionality to improve system uptime and user comfort, bringing efficient and reliable diagnostic information.

ACUSON NX2 TM presents an intuitive control panel design combined with up to four front-facing transducer ports to optimize workflow efficiency and reduce the need for repeat examinations.

The system is engineered to ensure clients get the most out of their investment. Compatible transducers provide access to a wide range of imaging capabilities across clinical segments. The intuitive design promotes ease of use and technical proficiency.

It can also be easily upgraded as clients’ needs evolve towards advanced applications and value-performance platforms available within the ACUSON NX™ Series portfolio.

During the launch ceremony, Siemens Healthineers also celebrated a contract-signing ceremony with the HCM City-based Medical Center Medic Hoa Hao to supply its Vietnamese partner 10 ACUSON NX2 TM ultrasound systems.

Siemens Healthineers, part of global industrial conglomerate Siemens AG, is a medical technology company and is headquartered in Erlangen, Germany. The company began in 1847 as a small family business in Berlin, co-founded by Ernst Werner von Siemens. It has 45,000 employees worldwide who are passionate about empowering healthcare providers to optimally serve their patients.

At Co.opmart, buy gift hamper in Ca Mau, get it delivered free to Ha Noi
Customers can visit any Co.opmart or Co.opXtra store around the country,choose readymade Tet gift hampers and ask them to be delivered to relatives, friends or business partners in any province or city where they have outlets.

This is a unique service that Co.opmart and Co.opXtra supermarkets are offering.

For instance, customers can go to Co.opmart Phu Lam in HCM City's District 6 to choose from 42 varieties of Tet gift hampers and request the supermarket to send it together with a greeting card to Ha Noi, Nha Trang, Can Tho, Ca Mau or any other locality.

The service is completely free if the recipient lives within 5km of the supermarket if the giftis worth more than VND200,000 (US$8.8), 10km if above VND500,000 ($22), and 20km if above VND2 million ($88).

Customers can place orders from now until January 17, and the gifts will be delivered by January 23.

Customers can refer and order Tet gift baskets at , 1900.5555.68 or any Co.opmart and Co.opXtra outlet.

70% of Vinhome Skylake apartments sold on launch day
VinGroup launched its world-class lakeside mansion project, Vinhomes Skylake, on Sunday.

It received tremendous response, with an impressive 700 apartments - 70 per cent of the total flats - being sold on the launch day.

The project, which integrates leisure facilities such as skypool, four-season swimming pool, sky bar, multifunctional sports ground, a plaza and a school, attracted 1,500 visitors on Sunday.

Located at the junction between Pham Hung and Duong Dinh Nghe streets, in front of a beautiful park and lake in Cau Giay District, the project will be built on 2.3 hectares. Especially, it can benefiy from 32 hectares of greenery, including a lake whose water surface measures 19 hectares, which is 1.5 times larger than the famous Hoan Kiem lake.

Inspired by Blue Lifestyle, an emerging trend in architecture, Vinhomes Skylake’s design aims to bring in the harmony of the sky and the water into the living space. The project will have a skypool, and the apartments will have long glass windows and balconies with lake views.

On Sunday, VinGroup launched S1 and S2 towers. While S2 is located at the centre of the project and will have great internal facilities and a view the skypool, S1 will have an ideal density of only 12 apartments per floor, with three sides offering park and lake views.

On the occasion of the New Year, VinGroup introduced an attractive promotional package for first-home buyers, including a three-year free management service (applicable to first 200 buyers), interest rate subsidy for loans of up to 65 per cent of the apartment value – zero interest rate is applied from the time of disbursement to the date of delivery, but not later than July 31, 2019.

People looking to buy a second apartment onwards will be offered a discount rate of 1 per cent of the unit value.

Apartments are between 49m2 to 171m2 and will have furniture and products from famous brands such as Teka, Kohler, Duravit and Hansgrohe.

Vinhomes Skylake is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2019, after the Cau Giay park and lake project are ready, which are scheduled for completion in the third quarter of 2018.

Central Highlands province launches Krông Nô 2 hydro-power plant

The Krông Nô Joint Stock Company of the Trung Nam Group started operations of its Krông Nô 2 hydro-power plant in the Central Highlands province of Lâm Đồng on Saturday, supplying 105.87 million kilowatts per hour to the national grid.

The two-turbine 30 Megawatts (MW) plant was built with a total investment of VNĐ1.4 trillion (US$70 million).

The company said the Krông Nô 2 and Krông Nô 3 plant inaugurated last year on the Krông Nô River will contribute to socio-economic development of Đắk Lắk and Lâm Đồng provinces, and provide power for the national grid system in the Central Highlands.

The two hydro-power plants are expected to supply a total 170 million kwh for the national power network per year.

Last year, the company also started construction of Đắk Kegui hydro-power plant in Lâm Đồng Province, with a total investment of VNĐ119 billion ($5.3 million).

In  2015, Trung Nam Group started operations of the 70MW Đồng Nai 2 Hydropower Plant in the province, supplying 263.8 million kwh to the national grid.

The Group has developed 19 projects of wind power and hydro-power.

Yen Bai looks to diversify crops

The northern mountainous province of Yen Bai is taking steps to diversify crops under its plan on agricultural restructuring, encouraging local farmers to adopt high-yield food crop varieties and high-value industrial plants new to the locality.

Besides hybrid rice and maize, farmers began to cultivate wheat, soya bean, potato or rubber trees for the first time, while expanding the area under local specialties such as tea, cinnamon and hawthorn trees.

Several projects to develop the cultivation of hawthorn, cinnamon, maize and citrus trees have surpassed the targets set for 2016. The area of hawthorn reached 1,080ha, nearly double the target of 550ha, and that of cinnamon was expanded to 4,759ha while the goal was 2,642ha.

Mu Cang Chai District has led the way in restructuring the local crops. Due to a severe climate which is cold and dry in winter, local farmers used to leave more than 4,000 ha of wet rice uncultivated in winter. But in the 2015-2016 winter-spring crop, the district authorities experimented with new cold-and drought-resistant plants, cultivating 12ha of wheat, 700sq.m of potato and 2ha of rapeseed (Brassica napus). The good harvest of the new plants prompted the district to plant 20ha of wheat, 15ha of potato and 500ha of rapeseed in the 2016-2017 winter-spring season.

According to Luong Van Thu, deputy head of the district’s division for agriculture and rural development, the district has coordinated with enterprises in supplying farmers with seeds and fertilizers and in buying all harvested produce.

Thu said wheat, potato and rapeseed produce the same or much higher economic value than wet rice, which is the reason why the district decided to expand the farming of those plants.

In this winter-spring crop, Pung Luong Commune has the largest area cultivated with wheat, with 8ha. Ho Thi Sung in De Cho Chua B hamlet said her family grew wheat in dry fields, and after harvesting wheat, it is the right time to start the spring-summer wet rice crop.

Along with introducing high-value plants, Mu Cang Chai has stepped up the application of scientific and technological advances in farming by building demonstration models for new farming techniques.

As a result, several large-scale farming areas of certain crops including maize, tea, cinnamon and hawthorn have formed in Yen Bai, a step forward in the province’s orientation of developing sustainable agriculture based on local farm produce with competitive edge.

Timber industry starts off New Year with major milestone

A landmark event occurred in the last few weeks of 2016 between the EU and Vietnam government that promises to have far-reaching favourable implications for the development of sustainable timber industry trade.

In November, following nearly six years of negotiations, the two sides agreed in principle on the terms of a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) to improve forest governance, address illegal logging and promote trade in verified legal timber products from Vietnam to the EU.

The two sides are expected to ratify the agreement in early 2017.

"Vietnam and the EU today celebrate a milestone in their cooperation in the global fight to end illegal logging," said EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella, at the signing ceremony for the new VPA last November.

"Now we must focus on implementation to ensure that the VPA delivers on its social, environmental and economic goals.”

To implement the VPA, Vietnam has agreed to put a timber legality assurance system in place among other reforms— including the passage of legislation to ensure the legality of timber Vietnam imports from other countries for processing and re-export.

The European Commission has published a memo describing the VPA and timber legality assurance system. When this system is operating as described, it will ensure that exports from Vietnam of timber and timber products to the EU will be entirely from verified legal sources.

“A key commitment is to establish a credible and robust system, which involves all stakeholders and includes effective mechanisms to detect violations and ensure law enforcement,” said Vella.

The EU would continue to support the efforts of the Vietnam government in this regard and would be monitoring closely how the country works to implement the agreement, he noted.

The VPA is expected to boost confidence in the legality of timber products exported by Vietnam, as well as deliver wider social and environmental benefits.

An EU-Vietnam Joint Implementation Committee would oversee implementation of the VPA once it enters force. Until then, key elements of the interim arrangements have been agreed that would help transition to the implementation phase.

The decision by the parties to sign the agreement, which would eventually lead to a requirement for licensing by the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade facility of the EU of all timber products imported into the EU from Vietnam, was jointly announced by Vella and Vietnam Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong following a meeting on November 17.

The range of timber products included in the scope of the agreement encompasses all major products exported by Vietnam to the EU – particularly logs, sawn timber, railway sleepers, plywood and veneer.

In addition, it includes many ancillary timber products such as wood chips or particles, parquet flooring, particle board and wooden furniture.

Innovation is critical to competitiveness, was the message of Mr Hans- Joachim Danzer, Chief Executive Officer of Danzer Holding AG, at the ECE Committee on Forests and the Forest Industry in Geneva, Switzerland.

There are significant opportunities for Vietnam and other countries to increase yield and reduce material costs in the international hardwood industry, he continued, but these are being squandered due to a widespread lack of capacity and willingness to innovate.

There’s also a need to work with Vietnam and others towards a smarter regulatory environment, driven more by sound scientific data and less by the concerns of narrow lobby groups, to encourage innovation, improve competitiveness and stimulate trade in the industry.

Mr Danzer offered these views from the perspective of a company that is the largest producer of decorative sliced wood worldwide and amongst the largest producers of sawn hardwood in Africa and North America.

Vietnam maintains a stable economic growth in 2016

Although Vietnam’s economy had no major breakthroughs in 2016, it managed to maintain a stable growth thanks to careful government management.

Vietnam’s GDP grew 6.21% for the year, short of the 6.7% target set by the National Assembly, mainly due to natural disasters, drought, and saline intrusion in the Mekong River Delta crippling agricultural production. Another reason was falling exports and falling prices of crude oil in the global market.

In that context, service, industry, processing, manufacturing, and construction posted relatively high growth. The highlight was the processing and manufacturing industry, according to Pham Dinh Thuy, Head of the Industrial Statistics Department of the General Statistics Office.

“The industrial production index of the processing and manufacturing sector has set records in recent years. The industry’s steady production contributed significantly to this year’s economic growth,” Thuy added.

In 2016 Vietnam signed a number of milestone free trade agreements. Last year saw a boom in the amount of registered and expansion capital, and capital disbursement for FDI companies, who contributed 70% of Vietnam’s export growth. Vegetable and fruit processing also saw significant growth last year, thanks to the application of advanced preservation techniques and safe production standards.

Economist Nguyen Minh Phong said “Our success was due to changes in our strategy in the direction of national integration to create appropriate institutions. Vietnam has signed many bilateral agreements on investment protectionism and trade encouragement and 11 FTAs to create a fairer environment in our trade with more than half the countries in the world.”

Coffee export rebounds in 2016

Coffee export last year rebounded back from the previous year reduction, reaching 1.79 million tons with the total turnover of US$3.36 billion, reported the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The numbers were up 33.6 percent in volume and 25.6 percent in value over 2015, when the country saw a year on year fall of 20.63 percent in volume and 24.82 percent in value.

Last year, Germany and the U.S. continued to be the largest markets of Vietnam with the market share of 15.2 percent and 13.1 percent respectively.

Coffee area was up 0.3 percent over 2015 to 645,400 hectares. Output was estimated to increase 1 percent to hit 1.47 million tons but productivity dropped 0.4 percent because of drought in the Central Highlands early 2016.

The contribution of processed products to the total coffee export value of the country was on the rise.

CBRE: Affordable housing to play key role in 2017

Property service provider CB Richard Ellis Vietnam (CBRE Vietnam) has estimated that over 43,800 apartments will be sold this year, with around 40% of them in the medium segment. The figure last year was 37,419 apartments.

In particular, there will be more than 13,000 high-end apartments and 1,627 luxury ones to be offered this year. The remainder will belong to the budget and medium segments, with around 40% of new apartments to be sold at US$800 per square meter.

Domestic investors and joint ventures are making adjustments in order to adapt their projects to the market trend.

Last year saw gradual adjustments making the market more balanced. As a result, the respective proportions of mid- and high-end apartments sold accounted for 48% and 30%, respectively. The mid-end segment achieved positive results, with more 15,000 units sold, 40% of the total.

Earlier, the HCMC Real Estate Association (HoREA), in its final report of 2016, estimated 30,000 homes had been launched in the city. Of which, low-cost and mid-end housing accounted for 79.7% and was the key segment of the real estate market.

HoREA chairman Le Hoang Chau said the property market this year may witness a major shift to the affordable housing segment, meeting the real need of the majority of average-income earners. In addition, there might be a big adjustment to address the supply-demand mismatch that is currently skewed towards the premium segment.

Duong Thuy Dung, head of CBRE’s Research and Consulting Department, predicted the market would see high consumption in the 2017-2019 period, with the medium-cost segment rising from the 40-50% proportion in previous years to 60% this year, followed by the luxury segment with over 50%.

“Limited available land in the central areas for residential projects is a key factor that helps lure potential customers in the luxury segment. The prices of high-class housing projects in HCMC are still lower than those of other cities in the region. Therefore, the segment is still attractive to local wealthy people, and overseas customers,” she added.

Unemployment grows strongly

The number of workers in HCMC who got unemployment benefits last year amounted to 122,204, an increase of 13,822 compared to 2015, Tran Xuan Hai, director of the HCMC Centre for Employment Service (CES), said at a conference here in the city on January 4.

The conference was held by the HCMC Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs to review the employment situation in 2016 and discussed plans for 2017.

Last year, the number of laborers who claimed jobless benefits reached 122,771, the highest since 2012, Hai added. However, a few hundreds were ineligible for unemployment allowances.

He ascribed the sudden increase last year to the increased awareness among workers on jobless benefits.

In addition, the deadline for laborers to register their unemployment was extended, giving the unemployed more time to claim benefits.

However, the number of people coming to the center to look for jobs was 330,425, down 25,812 compared to a year earlier.

Nguyen Van Lam, deputy director of the department, said 311,135 people found jobs and 130,109 new jobs were created in 2016, which helped to cut the jobless rate in the city to 4.4%.

SBV puts bad debt at 2.46%

The bad debt ratio was estimated at 2.46% at the end of November 2016 and kept steady at less than 3% last year, says the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV).

By the end of last November, Vietnam Asset Management Company (VAMC) had acquired 839 non-performing loans worth VND23.28 trillion in principal at the price of some VND22.48 trillion.

In a statement issued on January 4, the SBV attributes this result to coping solutions, inspections, supervision, restructuring and settlement of bad debt.

Inspection and supervision of banking activities were further strengthened last year, actively assisting the implementation of monetary policy as well as bad debt restructuring and settlement. Thanks to this, the operations of credit institutions underwent many positive changes, helping them achieve growth in deposits, assets and credits.

Notably, the safety and stability of the system were maintained, with improved financial capability. Weak banks were strictly controlled, restructured and monitored, while shortcomings were radically tackled.

The SBV believes money supply was reasonably regulated last year, enabling credit institutions to stabilize their deposit rates and cut lending rates, and helping the State successfully issue large amounts of G-bonds at low interest rates. Also, this helped keep the exchange rate stable and ensure effective control of inflation.

Therefore, the monetary indicators went up according to the targets set at the beginning of the year. By December 29, money supply had increased by 17.88% and deposits had risen 18.38% against the end of 2015. The banking system’s liquidity was ample and the interbank market was running smoothly.

Besides, interest rates were stabilized. A number of credit institutions brought down their lending rates to support production and business thanks to the solutions offered by the central bank.

One of the solutions is to flexibly use the tools to keep liquidity in the system ample and interbank interest rates at low levels. In addition, credit institutions are directed to take measures to balance their capital, maintain stable deposit rates, reduce costs, improve business efficiency, and gradually adjust down the ratio of short-term funds used for making middle- and long-term loans.

The SBV said the exchange rate and the foreign exchange market were relatively stable last year despite the pressure from unexpected global market movements.

VAT no longer refundable for boats of over 400 HP

The Government has decided to stop refunding value added tax (VAT) for fishing boats which have capacity of more than 400 HP.

The decision was provided for in Decree 172 issued late last year to amend Decree 67, which was issued in 2014 to provide incentives for the seafood sector.

Decree 172 abolishes a provision of Decree 67 that gives value added tax (VAT) refunds to owners of newly-built and upgraded boats with capacity of 400 HP or above.

According to the new decree, the removal will be effective from February 15.

However, for boats that have been completed and transferred to their owners before January 1, 2015, their owners can still get VAT refunds based on the time of contract signing.

In case the boats were built or upgraded before January 1 last year without contracts, the VAT will be refunded based on invoices for goods and services related to works to build or upgrade the boats.

For boats which were completed and transferred to owners after January 1 or contracts signed after that, owners will not be allowed to get VAT refunds.

Can Tho takes third position in retail sales

Can Tho City’s total retail sales of goods and services last year totaled an estimated VND95.6 trillion (some US$4.2 billion), ranking third in the country behind HCMC and Hanoi, Can Tho’s Department of Industry and Trade said at a conference on January 4.

In the Mekong Delta region, An Giang Province took the second position after Can Tho City, with total retail revenue amounting to nearly VND84.6 trillion. Meanwhile, retail sales in Tra Vinh Province stood at around VND21 trillion, the lowest in the delta.

Among five cities under the central Government, HCMC took the lead with its retail revenue climbing to VND682.7 trillion while Hanoi ranked second with nearly VND505 trillion.

In addition, the northern city of Haiphong and the central coastal city of Danang reported total retail sales of around VND91 trillion and VND77 trillion respectively.

At the 2016 review conference, Huynh Trung Tru, deputy director of Can Tho Department of Industry and Trade, said 2016 was a busy year for the retail sector of the city as many businesses strongly expanded investment, contributing to the city’s rising retail revenue.

Last year, four new supermarkets and commercial centers were put into operation in the city, raising the total to 18.

Nguyen Minh Toai, director of the department, said Saigon Trading Corporation, or Satra, will open Satrafoods convenience food stores and develop Centre Mall centers and Satramart supermarkets citywide, mostly in Ninh Kieu District.

This year’s target of the city is to obtain VND105 trillion in retail revenue, up 9.87% compared to 2016, Tru added.

The city’s export turnover last year exceeded US$1.5 billion, an increase of 3.4% compared to a year earlier. Meanwhile, import expenditures totaled US$293 million, down 26%, and representing just 58.4% of the full-year target.

Railway sector asked to develop sustainably in 2017

Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Ngoc Dong urged the Vietnam Railway Corporation (VNR) to enhance transport quality and use technology in management for sustainable development in 2017.

During a conference on VNR’s production and business plan in 2017 in Hanoi on January 5, the Deputy Minister underlined efforts the railway sector made in 2016 to maintain growth.

According to Doan Duy Hoach, VNR Deputy Director General, the company’s output and revenue hit 7.97 trillion VND (350.9 million USD), and 8.34 trillion VND (366.87 million USD), respectively, equivalent to 87.7 percent and 88.8 percent of the figures in 2015. The company earned post-tax profits of 137 billion VND (6.03 million USD).

Hoach attributed the fall in output and revenue to the reduction of its joint stock companies and networking due to divestment and equitisation.

The collapse of the Ghenh Bridge in Dong Nai, storms and floods in the central region, uncompetitive transport prices, and newly-restructured subsidiaries also explained the corporation’s poor performance, Hoach said.

To improve the sector’s competitiveness and efficiency in 2017, VNR aims to submit a proposal to the ministry to enhance the performance of the railway network nationwide, with focus on the Hanoi – Vinh route.

VNR will also mobilise social resources, investing in means of transport and support facilities.

Additionally, the corporation will accelerate the implementation of key projects, particularly on infrastructure and train building.

Efforts will also be made to better business management and reform administrative procedures.

Rice producers, exporters aim to increase consumption

An Giang Import Export Company (Angimex), one of the large rice export companies in Vietnam, plans to focus on improving its rice quality and better controlling plant-protection residues to promote rice exports, especially to the US and EU markets.

Vo Truong Giang, director of Angimex’s raw material development centre, said that Angimex exported about 120,000 tonnes of rice last year to many markets, including Asia, Australia, Japan and the US.

Exports fell by 20 percent over 2015 due to drastic competition with Thai rice and an increase in rice production in Vietnam’s traditional rice-importing countries, he said.

“It will be hard to compete with Thailand in exporting white rice. Therefore, our orientation for this year is to focus on controlling residues and expand production of specialty fragrant rice to boost export to the US and EU.”

“The US has a huge demand for fragrant rice. But to export to the market, our rice must meet hygiene and food safety standards.”

The company has decided to rent 100ha of land to cultivate rice for export to the US, he said.

Giang said the company has more than 3,000ha of rice material zones in which it has developed close linkages with farmers and cooperatives in An Giang, Kien Giang and Dong Thap to grow Japonica (a Japanese rice variety) and Jasmine fragrant rice, he said.

“Asian countries, especially China, have high demand for Japonica rice,” he said.

With a forecast that rice export would continue to face difficulties this year, not only Angimex but also other rice exporters and producers have mapped out measures to boost consumption of their products this year.

Duong Van Hung, director of Tan Cuong Agricultural Services Cooperative in Dong Thap province, which has more than 1,200ha under rice cultivation, mainly fragrant rice, said the co-operative would focus on improving quality to ensure that its rice meets hygiene and food safety standards set by importing countries.

“Currently, we have 200ha for growing organic rice and 100ha for safe rice,” he said. “We collaborated with a rice export company to market our organic rice in the US market and to be accepted by the market.”

Rice productivity following organic cultivation is in general 20-30 percent lower than traditionally planted rice, but selling prices are 30-40 percent higher than traditionally planted rice, he said.

“We will expand the area to cultivate safe rice in the coming time. I think if our products meet hygiene and food safety standards, there will be nothing to worry about in terms of consumption,” he said.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam exported an estimated 4.88 million tonnes of rice last year, earning 2.2 billion USD, a year-on-year decrease of 25.8 percent in volume and 21.2 percent in value.

Deputy Minister Tran Thanh Nam said free trade agreements would open opportunities for Vietnam to enter markets like the US, the EU and Japan, but it would bring challenges due to lack of competitiveness, especially in terms of quality and branding positioning, compared to competitors.

Nam said that rice exports last year did not meet expectations, especially because of market difficulties.

“But I think it was a lesson for enterprises. Previously, we mainly focused on quantity. This should be changed now. Enterprises must establish their own material zones and focus on improving quality of their rice to international standards,” he said.

Pham Thai Binh, director of Can Tho-based Trung An Hi-Tech Farming JSC, a large rice exporter, said consumers both at home and abroad are becoming more and more aware of what they eat and are willing to pay more for safe products.

To improve the competitiveness of Vietnamese rice, farmers and businesses must join hands to create large-scale rice fields, apply modern farming techniques and mechanise production, he said.

“Businesses must play a main role in the connection chain, providing farmers with input materials and strictly supervise the production process of farmers as well as ensure outlets for their products,” he said.

The company has established a close link with farmers to grow fragrant Jasmine rice, Japonica and other rice following GlobalGap and organic standards, he said.

Its rice products are available in many countries, including the US, the EU and Southeast Asia, with exports accounting for 65 percent of its total production output, he said.

According to experts, the variety of rice is an important factor to improve rice quality.

Huynh The Nang, chairman of the Vietnam Food Association, said there are hundreds of rice varieties but many have similar quality.

Researches to create new high-quality rice varieties that are fragrant, soft and different from other varieties should be encouraged, he said, adding that this would improve Vietnam’s rice quality and competitiveness.

Le Van Banh, head of the ministry’s Department of Processing and Trade for Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Products and Salt Production, said that developing brands for rice products was important to help raise the competitiveness of Vietnamese rice at home and abroad.