Wednesday, April 19, 2017

19th April,2017 daily global.regional and local rice -Enewsletter by riceplus magazine

Image shared by UNISAME on 19 April,2017 through Email

Ricegrowers : Bumper harvest on the horizon for Riverina rice growers
04/18/2017 | 03:06am CEST
The largest Riverina rice harvest in three years is underway, with leading Australian branded food company SunRice expecting more than 800,000 tonnes to be harvested - an uplift of over 200% from last year.
The largest Riverina rice harvest in three years is underway, with leading Australian branded food company SunRice expecting more than 800,000 tonnes to be harvested - an uplift of over 200% from last year.
SunRice General Manager AGS, Grower Services and Agronomic Development, Tom Howard, said this is a great result for growers, SunRice and the industry, as well as for local and international customers who value highly Australian grown rice:
'Rice's flexibility and adaptability, and the skill of growers to successfully establish a crop, despite the late start to planting due to the spring deluge, have certainly shone through this season.
'After last year's smaller than usual crop of 245,000 tonnes, as a result of lower water allocations, it's been exciting to see so many growers return to rice this year, cementing it as the summer crop of choice across the Riverina.'
The factors assisting in this year's impressive harvest included: plentiful winter and spring rains; 100% water allocations across the Murray and Murrumbidgee Valleys; reduced water prices - which at between $20 and $40 per megalitre, depending on the valley, have been at their most accessible in years; and favourable growing conditions of warmer days and warmer nights from mid-December to mid-February, which contributed to the excellent establishment of the crop.
The uptake of precision agriculture technologies is also enabling growers to further improve nitrogen and fertiliser application, which is cultivating increased production and greater grower returns.
SunRice's investment in research and development is also assisting growers to diversify their risk profile and maximise returns. A key R&D highlight has been the new shorter season varieties that are being commercially trialled for the first time this year - YRM70, a medium grain type and YRK5, a short grain type. These new varieties provide flexibility with planting as they can be sown three to four weeks after mainstream varieties, enabling growers to turn their late start or late water allocation into a planting opportunity. The new varieties also increase double cropping options, together with achieving greater water use efficiency, which has the potential for growers to significantly increase returns.
Mr Howard said the new varieties are encouraging growers to see the potential for rice to play a bigger role in their irrigation program.
'Having an ideal planting window up to a month after mainstream varieties opens up the opportunity to plant a rice crop after a winter crop. Growers this year have harvested canola, oats, barley, hay and even wheat, and have planted a rice crop into the same paddock within a few days. If the opportunity arises this cycle can be repeated. Within the first year this could result in a 15% - 20% increase in dollar returns per hectare and per megalitre. If this was repeated for three rice crops, per hectare returns have the potential to be 40% higher per hectare than the existing system over the period of the rotation (based on a drill sown system).'
Riverina rice grower James Salvestro, who, with his son Anthony and long-time employee Glen Bavaresco, is this year growing 50 hectares of the new YRM70, alongside 108ha of Topaz and 32ha of Sherpa, said the new variety was a 'game changer' for his property near Hanwood, in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.
'We've kicked off harvest and after a very cold and late start we're really pleased with the way all our rice is looking. In addition to our usual program we were able to take advantage of late water allocations and increase our rice area by planting short season rice (YRM70) after our canola. It's looking great and we're now confident to grow any winter crop, including wheat, and know we can follow it with rice. This is a real game changer for our operation.'
Harvest is expected to be complete in May.
Media inquiries: Sally Edgar, 0425 247 133,
Ricegrowers Limited published this content on 18 April 2017 and is solely responsible for the information contained herein.
Distributed by Public, unedited and unaltered, on 18 April 2017 01:06:02 UTC.

Cambodia's rice export to China up 82% in first quarter

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-04-18 16:43
PHNOM PENH - Cambodia exported 67,482 tons of milled rice to China in the first quarter of 2017, an increase of 82 percent compared to the same period last year, according to a government report on Tuesday.
China is the top buyer of Cambodian rice, followed by France, Poland, Britain and the Netherlands, said the report compiled by the Secretariat of One Window Service for Rice Export.
The Southeast Asian nation is expected to sell some 200,000 tons of its milled rice to China this year, said Agriculture Ministry undersecretary of state Hean Vanhan.
According to the report, Cambodia exported a total of 166,678 tons of milled rice to 53 countries and regions during the January-March period this year, up 3 percent over the same period last year.
The country produced over 9 million tons of paddy rice a year. With this amount, it has more than 3 million tons of milled rice left over for annual export, according to the Agriculture Ministry.

Government holds off decision to import rice to fill gap

By Cai U. Ordinario & Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas
Despite the warning of the National Food Authority (NFA) that it would not have enough rice stock during the lean season, the interagency NFA Council on Tuesday has put off making a decision to import the staple.This could prove costly, as an importation cycle takes at least two months to complete from bidding to delivery, while a rice-supply lack is already expected by July. The NFA Council (NFAC) has taken into consideration President Duterte’s  recent pronouncement that the Philippines will no longer import rice, according to an official privy to the meeting of the council on Tuesday.
“The agenda of the meeting is confidential. But we did not talk about rice importation. There are so many things to settle before we can decide on it, in light of the policy pronouncement of President Duterte,” the official told the BusinessMirror.

India's 2017 monsoon rains seen at average levels: weather office

Description: K. J. Ramesh, Director General of India Metrological department, speaks to the media after a news conference in New Delhi, India April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan AbidiK. J. Ramesh, Director General of India Metrological department, speaks to the media after a news conference in New Delhi, India April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
By Sudarshan Varadhan and Mayank Bhardwaj | NEW DELHI
India's crucial monsoon rains are expected to be of an average amount in 2017, the weather office said on Tuesday, easing concerns over farm and economic growth in the world's leading producer of an array of agricultural goods.
The monsoon is the lifeblood for India's farm-dependent $2 trillion economy and nearly two thirds of India's 1.3 billion people depend on agriculture for a living.
Monsoon rains this year are expected to be 96 percent of the long-term average, K. J. Ramesh, director general of the state-run India Meteorological Department, told a news conference.
India's weather office defines average, or normal, rainfall as between 96 percent and 104 percent of a 50-year average of 89 cm for the entire four-month season beginning June.
The monsoon delivers about 70 percent of India's annual rainfall, critical for growing crops such as rice, sugar cane, corn, cotton and soybeans because nearly half of the country's farmland lacks irrigation.
"We expect normal climatological distribution of rains and we also expect the trend of higher agricultural production and economic growth to continue," Ramesh said.
Monsoon rains will arrive on the southern tip of Kerala state by around June 1 and retreat from the western state of Rajasthan by September, the department said.
India will have good distribution of rainfall this year, Ramesh said.
Plentiful rains can spur farm and economic growth and boost rural spending on gold, cars, motorcycles and refrigerators.
"The monsoon forecast is reassuring given all southern states in India are seeing a water crisis ... A good, well-distributed monsoon will keep food inflation risk on the lower side and give RBI the elbow room to ignite growth by keeping liquidity accommodative," said Rupa Rrege Nitsure, group chief economist at L&T Finance Holdings.
India could emerge unscathed from the El Nino weather pattern as it is expected to set in only during the latter part of the four-month monsoon season, Ramesh told Reuterslast month.
A U.S. government weather forecaster earlier this month said La Nina conditions had disappeared and projected the possibility of El Niño developing later this year.
Forecasters in Japan and Australia also see a 40-50 percent chance of the El Nino weather pattern developing later this year.
El Niño, a warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific that typically occurs every few years, faded in 2016 and was linked to crop damage, fires and flash floods.
Last year, despite forecasts of La Nina leading to heavy bursts of rains, India only received average monsoon rainfall, not surplus as previously expected.
Typically less damaging than El Niño, La Niña is characterised by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean and tends to occur unpredictably every two to seven years. Severe occurrences have been linked to floods and droughts.
India received average rains in 2016, after suffering two successive years of drought for only the fourth time in over a century, driving farmers to penury and some of them to suicide.
Despite last year's average rains, farmers in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu states in southern India and some parts of the western state of Maharashtra are still struggling with dry conditions due to patchy rains there.
(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj and Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Greg Mahlich

We Can Meet Nigeria’s Annual Rice Demand— Gov
Description: PHOTO: Rice farm in Nigeria.
Gov. Darius Ishaku of Taraba on Monday said that the state had the potential to produce 10million tonnes of rice, the annual demand of the country, with adequate financing and availability of modern equipment.
Ishaku said this in Ardo-kola at a stakeholders’ meeting of the PDP’s delegates representing Jalingo and Ardo-kola.
He said areas like: Karim-lamido, Gassol, Ardo-kola, Lau, Ibi, Wukari, Takum, among others, had fertile lands suitable for growing large quantities of rice.
The governor noted that lack of sufficient funds had undermined the capacity of the state’s rice farmers to produce at an optimum level.
Ishaku, however, said the state government was determined to support farmers in the state with farm inputs and improved seeds to increase their productivity.
He said that Dominion Farms, owned by a Kenyan investor in Gassol, had been given six months to commence buying of paddy rice from out-growers for processing.
The governor announced that the state government had bought hybrid seeds of Bennie seeds, soya beans and cassava and it would soon distribute them to its farmers.
“Recently, there is a high demand of bennie seeds in our markets; though, I do not know what they are doing with it. We have acquired its improved seed.
“We have also acquired hybrid seeds of soya beans and of course, cassava, because I will soon revive our cassava processing plant.
“When that is done, it will bring the total companies I revived to five out of the 25 companies that were in comatose when I took over,’’ Ishaku said.
The governor said he was in Ardo-kola to thank the people for massively voting for him in 2015.
“The best time to appreciate that support is now; since I have won all the post-election suits instituted by my opponents,’’ he said.
Also speaking, the state PDP Chairman, Mr Victor Bala, noted that loyalty to party decisions was critical to the growth of party politics.
Bala urged council area chapters of the party that could not garner adequate support for the party in 2015 election, to “sit up’’ as the 2019 general elections were approaching.
“Politics is like an investment. If you invest a little, do not expect high dividends at the end of the day, ‘’ he said.

Gov’t rice policy exposes PH to price spikes, shortages, says economist

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 01:06 AM April 18, 2017
Description: Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol (left) and his predecessor, Proceso Alcala. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol (left) and his predecessor, Proceso Alcala. The Philippine approach to rice production and supply management continues to expose the country to shortages and price spikes, as its agricultural
 policy remains unchanged over several administrations despite disastrous results, an economist said on Monday.
University of the Philippines professor Ramon L. Clarete said Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol was doing the same things that his predecessor had done.
Clarete was referring to Proceso Alcala, who championed the Aquino administration’s push for rice self-sufficiency and took the blame for its failure.
Piñol on Sunday lashed out at economists and think tanks after the Inquirer reported on a commentary from New York-based Global Source Partners, which warned that the Duterte administration’s rice policy exposed the country to the risk of falling stocks and spiking prices.
As Piñol himself announced last week, “President Rody Duterte has ordered the National Food Authority (NFA) to buy the paddy rice produce of Filipino farmers and import only if there is a shortfall.”
Clarete described this policy as “local procurement first, we are not by the way against rice imports, and there is no need to import rice because we are sufficient in supply.”
Piñol took issue with economists and think tanks for suggesting that the ban on imports be reconsidered and that the NFA be allowed to import quickly as its buffer stock was running low and the lean months were approaching.
He said he never said that there should be no importation. “All that I asked the President was not to allow importation at peak harvest season.”
Wrong equation
But Clarete said Piñol, like his predecessor, mistakenly equated sufficiency with no importation. “If local supply is equal to local consumption, that is 100-percent sufficiency all right but at a higher price,” Clarete told the Inquirer. “There is rice availability (supply may not drop) but access to that supply may not be inclusive because of the higher price.”
“So if the price goes up in the coming months, because of the ‘no need to import rice because we are sufficient in supply’ policy, the supply is not enough for the poor consumers,” Clarete said.
In his post on social media, Piñol said Mr. Duterte’s order to defer imports until after the harvest resulted in farmers’ income rising by P24.38 billion in the first quarter.
Clarete said the beneficiaries of the P24.38 billion included “greedy big farmers who informally ‘bought’ the rice lands of agrarian reform beneficiaries” as well as the few farmers (big or small) who are active members of farmers’ associations.
Farmers’ divide
“We had heard this before, and politicians do not appreciate the divide between the small and big farmers, the small farmers and traders/creditors, and the unorganized and organized rice farmers,” Clarete said.
Citing data from a satellite-data processing technology developed by the International Rice Research Institute, Piñol said farm yield in the first quarter increased to 4.14 million metric tons of palay even as the harvest area decreased to 997,687 hectares.
The economist noted that Agriculture Secretary Roberto S. Sebastian of the Ramos administration expected good production in the 1994-1995 cropping season and no rice importation, based on a survey of farmers’ planting intentions.
“The year following he was out of office when the poor queued at the NFA warehouses for rice in an election year,” Clarete said.
Ways to fix leaks
Clarete suggested three ways to “fix the leaks in the bucket” by throwing away the old bucket and getting a new one.
First is giving cash transfer directly to the bottom 60 percent of rice farmers, coupled with enabling the farmers the right to opt for paying their creditors/traders with cash from the loan proceeds using the warehouse receipts; or giving up their rice to traders in payment for their debt obligation as now practiced.
Second, in the next five years, enact a good warehouse receipts law in which farmers can deposit their paddy rice and use the warehouse receipts to borrow money from rural banks or Landbank coupled with enabling the farmers the right to two options similar to the cash transfer proposal.
For the long haul, “(let us) free agriculture from agriculture secretaries who equate good performance with zero rice imports,” Clarete said.
Piñol said he never called for zero importation. “Tell (Clarete) the Philippines must be free from armchair economic experts who could not even read properly. I have an extra pair of eyeglasses. I could give it to him.”
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Duterte tells NFA to buy local rice before importing

Enrico Dela Cruz, Reuters
Posted at Apr 10 2017 08:03 PM
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MANILA - President Duterte ordered the National Food Authority (NFA) to purchase rice from local farmers to boost stockpiles, saying that importing at the moment was not a good move.
Duterte issued the directive just hours after the NFA said it needed to buy 490,800 tonnes of rice to boost its stockpiles that have fallen below the required level ahead of the July-September lean harvest season.
The NFA sought approval from the NFA Council for the immediate importation of 250,000 tonnes of rice under a government-to-government arrangement. 
"Buy first from the local producers... then if there is a shortfall, (the NFA) might decide to import," Duterte said in a media briefing in Davao City, before leaving for a week-long trip to the Middle East.
Major suppliers of rice - Vietnam and Thailand - are on the lookout for fresh demand from the Philippines, one of the world's biggest buyers. However, the NFA Council, which is composed of the country's economic managers, is yet to approve any purchase.
"At present, the NFA needs an additional 490,800 metric tonnes, or 9.8 million bags, of rice to meet the mandated volumes for food security," NFA Administrator Jason Aquino said in a statement.
The NFA, the government's food security watchdog, is required to maintain a rice stockpile good to last for 15 days at any given time and for 30 days at the onset of the lean months. As of February, the stockpiles were sufficient for only 14 days.
Duterte agrees with his Agriculture Sec. Manny Piñol, who insisted there is no urgent need to import rice because of an anticipated bumper harvest locally. 
"It is harvest time now. The harvest is good. (The yield) per hectare is three times the original output," Duterte said.
Piñol added that he expects the local rice harvest in the first quarter to be 210,000 tonnes more compared with a year-old period.
"Any imports at this time will result in the collapse of the buying price of (local) paddy rice to the disadvantage of the farmers," Piñol said.
However, Aquino wants the rice imports to arrive as early as this month to allow the agency enough time to prepare for any calamities, and also assured Piñol that no imports would be released into the market to compete with commercial stocks

2017 Rice Awards Application Open 

ARLINGTON, VA -- USA Rice, in conjunction with Horizon Ag and Rice Farming magazine, is seeking nominations for the 2017 Rice Awards to recognize rice leaders who exemplify dedication, determination, and innovation to the industry. 

The Rice Awards honor outstanding industry leaders from three distinct categories:  Rice Farmer of the Year, Rice Industry Award, and the Rice Lifetime Achievement Award.  To nominate a candidate for one of these prestigious awards, complete the application 
form by June 15 and follow the submission instructions listed there. 

The award recipients will be recognized at the USA Rice Outlook Conference in San Antonio, December 10-12, 2017, where an official presentation will be made at the annual awards luncheon.  They also will be featured in a special insert of the December issue of Rice Farming. 

The recipients of last year's Rice Awards were Rice Farmer of the Year, Richard Fontenot, Ville Platte, Louisiana; Rice Industry Award, Steve Linscombe, director of the LSU AgCenter, Crowley, Louisiana; and Rice Lifetime Achievement Award, Gary Sebree, Stuttgart, Arkansas.  

here for a complete list of past winners

As global groundwater disappears, rice, wheat and other international crops may start to vanish
BY DAVE BERNDTSON  April 17, 2017 at 1:56 PM EDT  | Updated: Apr 17, 2017 at 4:45 PM
Description: Groundwater pumping and storage system for agriculture, in California's Central Valley (San Joaquin Valley), Fresno County. Photo by
Humans are depleting vital groundwater resources across the globe, creating a significant threat to the international trade of food. Photo by Jenny E. Ross/via Getty Images
We already know that humans are depleting vital groundwater resources across the globe. But a new study shows one of the biggest causes of disappearing groundwater is the international food trade.
About 70 percent of freshwater around the globe goes toward irrigation. Researchers from the University College London and NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies now say that a third of that freshwater is drawn from the world’s aquifers — nonrenewable underground pockets of groundwater — and 11 percent of that nonrenewable groundwater is used to irrigate internationally-traded crops.
That means in time, “the current type of food that’s grown will not be able to be produced,” said Carole Dalin, an environmental engineer at the University College London who led the study published in Nature. “Or we’ll not have the same productivity, so it means prices will increase.”
When water is used to grow crops, it’s no longer visible to the consumer. This study keeps track of where this ‘hidden’ water is embedded and where it ends up.
To measure how irrigation drains global aquifers, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis hydrologist and study co-author Yoshihide Wada used an in-house model that essentially places a computerized grid over the Earth and then measures soil moisture, along with water exchange between the atmosphere, soil layers and the underlying groundwater reservoirs, to see where water was going and why. He validated his calculations by comparing them with satellite measurements that track water flow and underground water storage.
Meanwhile, Dalin gathered information on global trade and irrigation rates. By combining the information, they could determine how much groundwater was sapped by the agriculture required for the international food supply.
Rice used 29 percent of the groundwater intended for international food crops, topping the study’s list, followed by wheat (12 percent), cotton (11 percent), maize (4 percent) and soybeans (3 percent). Citrus and sugar crops used about 5 percent each.
Description: Man in rice paddies in Pakistan. Photo by Mike Powles/via Getty Images
Man in rice paddies in Pakistan. The majority of Pakistan’s groundwater depletion for irrigation involves rice cultivation. Pakistan and India use the largest volumes of groundwater depletion for irrigation. Every 17 years, Pakistan farmers drain a volume equivalent to that of Lake Erie from the nation’s aquifers. Photo by Mike Powles/via Getty Images
Who will be hit the hardest? Countries that export the largest number of these crops, those that import a substantial amount of their food and those that both export and import these crops, the study says.
Pakistan, the United States and India, for example, account for two-thirds of all exported crops irrigated with nonrenewable groundwater. Depletion of this water resource would impede efforts to export crops at their current levels.
Countries in arid and semi-arid regions that rely heavily on imported goods — like Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait — would have the most difficulty getting access to food should groundwater run out and potentially create a global food shortage. In other scenarios, countries such as the U.S., China, Mexico and Iran, all major food producers and importers, would take a hit both in the amount of food they can produce as well as in a drop in the global food supply. U.S. exports to China, Mexico and Japan — largely cotton, wheat, maize and soybeans — are depleting most of the country’s groundwater supply for crops.
“If you are producing this crop and it disappears, then you can compensate with imports,” Dalin said. But it’s harder if “both your local production and imports … are exposed to the risk.”
Dalin and Wada, along with colleagues from NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York City and the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Germany, found nonrenewable groundwater was also being extracted at a much higher rate in 2010 than it was just 10 years earlier. Dalin predicts farmers could lose their jobs, nations could face food shortages and economies could suffer if these trends continue.
Jay Famiglietti, the Senior Water Scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a professor at the University of California-Irvine, was not involved in the study. But his research indicates two billion people rely on nonrenewable sources of water, and more than half of the world’s aquifers are being depleted passed the “sustainability tipping point.”
“I think we’re headed to major threats to food security,” Famiglietti told the NewsHour.
Description: Farmer checks soybean crop in midsummer. Photo by Ryan/Beyer/via Getty Images
U.S. exports to China, Mexico and Japan account for the majority of its groundwater depletion related to crop trade; the primary commodities are cotton, wheat, maize and soybeans (pictured). Photo by Ryan/Beyer/via Getty Images
Keeping track of water resources used for tradable goods can improve water sustainability and food production, as populations continue to grow and drought frequency rises.
“These virtual flows of water are going to become more and more important as population grows and certain regions don’t have enough water to grow food,” Famiglietti said.
Some regions have attempted to tackle the groundwater problem, but nothing is being done on a global scale, Famiglietti said. There are a number of barriers to doing so.
“It’s not just how much water we have and how much we’re using, but it’s, ‘Who’s got the rights? What are the policies?’ And we don’t manage the surface water and the groundwater together – we treat them like they’re completely separate, which they’re not,” Famiglietti said.
California, which recently came out of a years-long drought, is addressing the problem locally, albeit slowly, Famiglietti said. The state passed a Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that divides the state into different groundwater management agencies. Each agency now has five years to create and implement 20-year sustainability plans.
“The whole process is about 27 years, so [it will take until] about 2042 to really understand where we’re at with groundwater,” Famiglietti, who is also an appointed member of the California State Water Boards, said. That’s a little slow, “but at least it’s there,” he added.
Description: A groundwater well in California's Central Valley (San Joaquin Valley) next to an agricultural field, Fresno County. Photo by
A groundwater well in California’s Central Valley (San Joaquin Valley) next to an agricultural field, Fresno County. Photo by Jenny E. Ross/via Getty Images
Kansas is also addressing concerns about its High Plains aquifer, which provides about 70 percent of the water Kansans use each day. Water management officials in Kansas have placed flow meters on 99 percent of the irrigation wells that pull water from the aquifer as a way to measure the amount of liquid that passes through. This data helps scientists who study the groundwater levels.
“The key to the Kansas situation is the data, because you can’t really manage what you don’t know,” Jim Butler, a senior scientist at the Kansas Geological Survey, said.
In addition to the data collection, a group of farmers in a small 99-square mile area of northwestern Kansas agreed to reduce the their groundwater crop rate by 20 percent through a grassroots generated program called Local Enhanced Management Areas (LEMA). By changing their irrigation and farming strategies, they have used less water while maintaining their bottom lines. Now in its fifth irrigation season with these new protocols, the group has hit the 20 percent reduction mark each year.
Dalin said there’s an urgent need for more data on nonrenewable groundwater because “we don’t know exactly how much water is in these aquifers and so we don’t know exactly when they’ll be empty.”
“The one wish we all have is that we would have moved forward on this 10 to 15 years sooner,” Butler said. “Each year that passes that we don’t do something it just makes it more difficult because you have less and less of an aquifer to work with.

The price of rice, domestic production and imports

 (The Philippine Star) | 
Description: policy has once again come to the public consciousness. The President has unfortunately spoken against the importation of rice as an element of economic policy.
Need for a liberal rice import policy. It would be a mistake to close the door against imports and to focus only on self-sufficiency in production.
Self-sufficiency is not a feasible economic objective anymore given our land resources (limited for rice agriculture, but not for other high-valued commercial crops) and our very large population (100 million plus Filipinos which is still growing).
In the face of these realities, we need a rational policy toward rice imports. Even then, the domestic production of rice remains as an important national objective.
The importation of rice needs to be integrated as an element of a sound policy of promoting food security. We are in a propitious position to rely on ASEAN neighbors that are better endowed in rice production even as we focus our agricultural potentials on other export crops.
As a strategy, this will further help in our economic integration within the ASEAN. In this sense, the rice-exporting ASEAN countries of Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia become part of our extended hinterland.
Even as this would happen, the main supply of rice would still come from our traditional rice producing regions. The government could and should continue to encourage domestic rice production.
Local farmers still have some edge in competition: though higher in farm cost, their output is nearer to our ultimate consumer market.
The government must recognize there is an upper limit to our efforts for domestic production of the crop. National policy requires that the supply of rice for domestic consumption is sustained by domestic production and a realistic assessment of import needs.
Food security compels a proper balancing of domestic production and import needs. Import needs must be planned for every crop year as an assessment exercise for fulfilling the country’s food security requirements.
Even as such recognition of imports is part of the planning, the support of policies to rice agriculture cannot be taken for granted. Infrastructure and institutions related to rice agriculture need to be strengthened.
Government support of infrastructure development for agriculture is critical for rice production, as well as for other crops. The expansion and maintenance of irrigation networks and of flood control projects are part of this support.
The strengthening of economic institutions includes improvements in rural credit, in support of farm cooperatives, the continuation of farm technical assistance and support of research and development.
On the matter of rice importation, a desirable development would be the removal of the import monopoly of NFA (National Food Authority). In its place should be a vigorous participation of the private sector. Broad-based participation of private importers would guarantee against monopoly power being exerted by dominant importers.
An old controversy.  I have written on rice policy issues in my Philippine Star column on several occasions. For example, on Aug. 6, 2014, I addressed the relationship between domestic price of rice, food security policy, and world rice prices.
Studies of many economists suggest that the countries that have made a successful balancing of the interests of farmers and urban populations have also done well in enhancing their food security.
A piece on Aug. 13, 2014 argued that the price of rice could be reduced substantially, if the government were to clip NFA’s vast powers and make its role focus more on introducing competitive regulation in the trading of rice.
Rice policy has always been very political. Its success requires a proper balancing of the interests of both producers and consumers.
When the interests of both rice farmers and consumers are taken into account reasonably well and market forces are allowed to function, we arrive at the golden solution. Stable price for the staple is achieved, making most farmers happy and the general population of consumers (most of us) satisfied.
A brief review of rice policies. A brief review of how rice policy has messed us up sometimes is worth looking into, if only to understand how we have fared in this context. In general, we have learned from bad mistakes.
During the 1950s-1960s, public policy on rice favored consumers more than producers. Prices were controlled to protect the consumer from high prices. To implement the policy, a government marketing agency often imported the rice supplies and sold this at low prices.
Such solutions, however, were not sustainable financially, for they depended on spending large and costly subsidies to support retail prices. In the end, consumers suffered when the policy failed.
In the late 1960s, this policy was revised which led to a new rice marketing agency – a National Grains Authority (now the NFA). It intervened in the market by buying high at wholesale from farmers and selling low at retail. This helped to improve rice prices for farmers while maintaining still a reasonably low price for consumers.
During the 1970s, rice policy moved more toward helping the producer. The marketing agency was sensitized toward both producers while trying to stabilize the price of grain for consumers.
Farmers received better incomes during harvest when the marketing agency bought part of their output for storage and milling. The same agency contributed to price stability when it sold at retail at reasonable prices.
Nevertheless, huge losses for the grain agency eventually resulted from such operations over time, leading to the impairment of its capital and the loss of its effectiveness. Corruption and bad management also weakened the agency. Moreover, the operational losses worsened the government’s fiscal capacity.
The country reached production self-sufficiency during a short period. But this was not due to those policies directly related to the marketing operations.
What contributed heavily to success when the nation achieved self-sufficiency in rice production momentarily in the early 1980s was government support of agricultural development.
The government of the time invested heavily in the building of agricultural infrastructure (irrigation investments coupled with improvement of farm to market roads) and in supporting economic institutions favorable to farmer productivity (rural credit, farmer’s cooperatives, farm extension work of government, and rice research on varieties).
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Lesser rice imports to positively impact Negrense farmers – DA

Wednesday, April 19, 2017
THE directive of President Rodrigo Duterte that rice importation should only be done after the harvest season, or if there is shortfall is seen to positively impact Negrense farmers, the top official of the Department of Agriculture in Negros Island Region (DA-NIR) said.
DA-NIR Regional Director Joyce Wendam, who spoke at the third Regional Management Committee (RMC) Meeting held at the Community Center in Bago City Monday, said lower rice imports would strengthen the local market.
“The strong market will also boost rice farmers in the region as it will relatively lessen the competition,” Wendam said, adding that “lesser imports means more assured market for local harvests.”
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, in his Facebook post, had earlier said that in the past, when rice importation was made at peak harvest season, traders would use this as an excuse to drop the buying price of paddy rice ranging from P14 to P20 per kilogram, or even P12 per kilogram.
With the President’s announcement to defer rice importation, Piñol said the buying price of paddy rice has gone to as high as P21 per kilogram or an increase of between P7 and P9 per kilogram of the previous seasons.
“The President has also ordered the National Food Authority to buy the paddy rice produce of Filipino farmers and import only if there is a shortfall,” the DA chief said, adding that at current buying price of P21 per kilogram, local farmers’ income for first quarter was pegged at almost P74 billion.
Citing the data from the Philippine Rice Information System, Piñol said a total of 4.14 million metric tons were harvested from an area of 997,687 hectares nationwide during the first quarter of the year.
The figure is higher compared to only 3.93 million metric tons from a bigger area of 1.081 million hectares during the same period last year.
For NIR, Wendam said they have yet to check with the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) the region's first quarter rice production.
With no major calamities during the period, the agency is optimistic that there is an increase in production for first three months this year, she added.
Moreover, the DA-NIR urged anew farmers in the region to continue improving their respective productions to help the country achieve 100 percent rice sufficiency target that will result to zero importation.
Wendam said the agency has been urging Negrense farmers to practice corporate rice farming, use of high-yielding varieties, and employment of cost-saving technologies.
Agriculture Assistant Secretary for the Visayas and Regulations Hansel Didulo, who was present during the RMC meeting, said that sustainably increasing productivity is one of the agency's thrust and priorities.
Didulo said included in DA's programs and plans are accelerating construction of climate-resilient small-scale irrigation systems and retrofit existing ones, intensive technology updating and sharing, modernization and mechanization.
“There is also a need to raise investments on research and development, technology development and strengthening of extension system,” he added.
Published in the SunStar Bacolod newspaper on April 19, 2017.
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