Monday, April 24, 2017

24th april,2017 daily global regional local rice e-newsletter by riceplus magazine

Ayaz-led NA delegation meets Larijani in Tehran

Description: speakerna_jointpressconf

National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq has stressed on enhancing trade and commercial ties between Pakistan and Iran to bring the two states closer in all other spheres of mutual concern.
He made these remarks during his formal talks with Iranian parliament Speaker Ali Larijani in Majlis on Saturday at the start of the three-day official bilateral visit of Pakistan’s parliamentary delegation to Iran.
Speaker Ayaz, who arrived in the Iranian capital, held a busy round of meetings with the top parliamentary and political leadership, discussing critical issues of border security, Afghanistan, Middle East situation, Yemen and Syrian crisis, trade and commerce and other issues of mutual concern.
During his meeting with Speaker Larijani, Speaker Ayaz stressed on the two sides to work closely for the progress of the two nations and for the entire Muslim world. “We must not fall prey to the sectarian divide and think for Muslim unity and prosperity,” he said.
He lamented the fact that though the two countries shared a common border of over 920 kms and yet the trade volume between the two neighbors was disappointingly low. He noted that the recent Joint Economic Commission had set the target of taking the bilateral trade volume to the figure of five billion dollars.
However, given the existing potential, this could easily be raised to three times. He stressed on the Iranian side to lift the tariff barriers on Pakistani exports of rice, citrus, fruits, cotton and other items. He also invited Iran to join the CPEC to boost Iranian exports.
Citing the long-standing religious, cultural and emotional ties between the two nations, Ayaz reaffirmed Pakistan’s support to Iran for regional peace and Iran’s sovereignty. “There are powers who do not want peace in the Muslim world and we must understand this greater international conspiracy,” he said.
On Afghanistan issue, he said that the regional issues should be resolved by the countries of the region without interference of any foreign involvement. He also highlighted the condition of Muslims in Jammu Kashmir and said Pakistan considers solution of Kashmir issue through UN resolutions and political dialogue.
Speaker Larijani also welcomed the parliamentary delegation and extended Iran’s cooperation and support in his remarks. He praised the speaker’s frank approach and said that he fully trusted the sincerer of his Pakistani counterpart. “You speak from your heart so I believe in every word of yours,” he said.
The two speakers have agreed to provide the parliamentary imputes to the ongoing peace initiatives and in this regard, Iran declared its support to Pakistan’s parliamentary initiative of a quadrilateral Parliamentary Peace Conference of China, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan


SP does not expect rice imports to depress prices

Posted on April 24, 2017

RICE PRICES are expected to remain stable with over two months’ worth of buffer stocks available, a senior central bank official said, while noting that imports brought in by the private sector are unlikely to cause a sharp drop in the price of the staple.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Deputy Governor Diwa C. Guinigundo said the country’s rice inventory is enough to cover 69 days as of end-March, and is expected to remain ample as the harvest season kicks in even if inventory is lower than the 71-day stock during the same period last year.

Mr. Guinigundo, who sits as part of the National Food Authority (NFA) Council, said that while the buffer stock will last until end-June, private firms can still pursue rice imports under the minimum access volume (MAV) scheme. He also allayed fears that this would lead to sharp price fluctuations.

“The fear that during the summer harvest, importation will depress the price of rice -- to me, that’s not true... It’s possible that the importation will be lower, still because of the bumper harvest the supply of rice is still ample. So we don’t believe rice prices will move up in a very significant way,” Mr. Guinigundo told reporters on Friday.

The NFA must under the law maintain a rice buffer stock sufficient for 15 days at any given time and 30 days at the onset of the lean season starting July to keep both supply and prices stable.

The Philippines is one of the biggest rice buyers in the world, with importation often done during the lean months and following the wrath of strong typhoons that damage crops.

The Philippines can import 250,000 metric tons (MT) of palay, or unmilled rice, on a government-to-government basis, but this must be approved by the interagency NFA Council. Mr. Guinigundo said the NFA Council has not yet activated this deal given the supply available.

On the other hand, businesses can bring in more rice through the MAV despite the available supply, although Mr. Guinigundo said it was unlikely for this to cause a sudden drop in prices.

“The likelihood of a private importer making a mistake in terms of supply and demand is quite remote because it’s their money that’s at stake. So we allow the private sector to do importation under the MAV,” the central bank official added, noting that these firms will likely wait for the lean months before releasing their stock onto the market.

Quantitative restrictions (QR) on rice imports -- a preferential trade deal secured by the Philippines since 1995 -- allow the Philippines to limit the volume of rice imports every year and impose higher tariffs on amounts that go beyond the MAV set by officials, in order to prevent the influx of cheap rice and protect local farmers.

The BSP has been backing the lifting of the QR regime as it would have “beneficial” effects on inflation, but said that the government must provide a comprehensive support package for local farmers who will likely bear the brunt of increased competition due to the influx of cheaper imported rice. The QR system will expire by end-June, unless the Philippines asks for another extension.

Politics of rice

BREAKTHROUGH By Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 23, 2017 - 12:00am
Description: ongoing debate about rice importation and the monopoly of rice imports by the National Food Authority highlights the conflicting and contradictory mandate of the NFA. The issue of price stabilization sounds ideal; but, it raises the problem of determining whose interests comes first – the rice consumer or the rice farmer?

In a discussion paper Rice and Philippine Politics

, DLSU economists Ponciano Intal and Marissa Garcia said that the rice policy debate can take two different directions. One direction is to ask how farmers can achieve satisfactory incomes when the prices are “too low.” On the other hand rice consumers will ask how to purchase their staple food when prices are “too high.”

The wide range of income distribution in the Philippines is the reason why many consumers are too poor to afford adequate rice for their families even when the prices are “low.” At the same time, the cost structures and range of land holdings is the reason many rice farmers are unable to earn adequate income even when the prices are “high.”According to Intal and Garcia: “Consequently, no single price of rice can satisfy all consumers and producers.” This debate as to whose interests will have priority – consumers or farmers – has made rice a highly volatile political commodity in Philippine politics.

Rice is the staple food of more than half of the world’s population. In the Philippines, it remains the staple food of 80% to 85% of the population and accounts for about 35% of the calorie intake per Filipino. However, rice is an essential food to the lower income households; and, it is estimated that rice accounts for approximately 60% of calorie intake of the lowest socio income households. The availability of rice at low and stable prices has become an overriding objective for every government since the Philippine Commonwealth period. A rise in rice prices coupled with inadequacy of supply were contributing factors to defeats in past presidential elections like President Garcia in 1961 and President Macapagal in 1965.

Even in the more advanced countries of East Asia – China, Japan, South Korea – governments have tended to intervene in the rice markets through taxes, subsidies and market protection in order to protect the domestic rice market from fluctuations in the international rice market.
The five largest rice importers in the world are China, Nigeria, Philippines, Iran and Indonesia. It is expected that African countries will begin to import more rice as their economies begin to improve. Both the Department of Agriculture and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) have studies explaining why the Philippines continue to import rice.

 The basic cause is really geography. The countries that export rice have major river deltas and lots of land suitable for rice – Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myannmar, Thailand has four times the arable land per person than the Philippines. In Asia, the countries that import rice are island nations – Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka. Malaysia is a rice importer because it is a narrow peninsula with similar geographic characteristics as an island nation. Another problem for the Philippines is that it is located on the eastern edge of Asia, directly facing the Pacific Ocean. This  means it is subject to numerous typhoon and  makes rice and other crop production risky ventures.

The National Food Authority ( NFA) was established in 1972 with the tasks of ensuring the food security of the nation, and, at the same time guaranteeing the supply and price stability of the country’s staple food – rice. Several respected Philippine economists have proposed the abolition of the NFA and end the government monopoly on rice importation. According to DLSU economists Intal and Garcia, under the Estrada administration, the government had committed itself to implement a $100 Million ADB funded loan that included a policy reform component including the privatization of the NFA and the liberalization of rice trading.  At that time, the issue was whether to privatize the NFA right away or to delay because of political considerations. However, it seemed that political pressures led to the setting aside of the privatization issue.

While deregulation of the rice business may seem logical, there are consequences that have to be accepted. In the short term, there is no prospect of the Philippines achieving rice self sufficiency. Even if this is achieved, imported rice will be cheaper than domestically produced rice. There is a diminishing land base for agricultural purposes as more rice land is converted into commercial, industrial, residential and recreational areas or shifted to higher value crops.

Deregulation will mean that the country will most probably become a net importer of rice. This move will be very unpopular with farmer groups. This will also cause additional pressures on our balance of payments situation; and, increase our economic dependence on the four or five major rice exporting countries. Perhaps, the government should follow a twin pronged policy of allowing rice importation to be done by private firms; but, at the same time seriously focus on increasing domestic rice production by providing much needed  infrastructure in irrigation, post harvest facilities, new rice varieties, research and development. A serious land reform program that provides credit and technology transfers to land reform beneficiaries would also be vital.
Any proposal on rice policy must take into account not just economic logic; but also the acceptance that in Philippines, as in other Asian countries, rice is a powerful and volatile political commodity.

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Consumer groups urge gov’t to protect rice farmers

by Madelaine Miraflor
The National Movement for Food Sovereignty (NMFS) and the Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF) are urging government to deal and view the rice importation issue with a certain focus on farmers’ protection.
This developed as the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) argued last week that stopping rice imports will put upward pressure on rice prices, saying this will lead to price hike and widespread hunger.
The FEF position contradicted Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, who thinks otherwise. Piñol debunked claims of a possible rice shortage. President Rodrigo Duterte favored Piñol’s position and deferred the importation of rice and buy from the local farmers instead, emphasizing that it is harvest time.
IRDF, convenor of the NMFS composed of local farmer groups, said rice importation should not be carried out unless the government is able to solve deeper issues affecting the local farmers.
“There is a need to revitalize first the agricultural sector,” said Arze Glipo, executive director of IRDF.
For more than 25 years now, IRDF has been in the forefront of campaigning for food sovereignty.
IRDF believes that increased subsidies in seeds, fertilizer, crop insurance, investments in irrigation and agriculture machineries, and post-harvest and marketing support for small-scale farmers will make the country more self-sufficient in rice.

Rice imports deferred

 (The Philippine Star) | 
 The government has decided to formally defer the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice despite the continued insistence of the National Food Authority (NFA) to buy from international sources. File
MANILA, Philippines -  The government has decided to formally defer the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice despite the continued insistence of the National Food Authority (NFA) to buy from international sources.

NFA administrator Jason Aquino had been pushing for an immediate government-to-government importation of 250,000 MT of rice despite a projected bumper harvest from local farmers.
But during the NFA Council meeting last week, members decided not to approve the NFA’s proposal to import the volume via government-to-government scheme anytime soon.
“We did not receive any approval. If we did, we would have received the letter saying we can proceed with the importation,” NFA spokesperson Marietta Ablaza said.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) deputy governor Diwa Guinigundo warned that a government-to-government importation may expose the NFA to further indebtedness.
“I think all of us what to make sure on one hand, the price of rice will be maintained and be stable, while at the same time avoid exposing the NFA to further indebtedness. We are also cognizant of the need to avoid getting more rice when you have the so-called summer harvest coming in,” he said. Guinigundo serves as the BSP governor’s representative to the NFA Council, which also include the Cabinet Secretary, the NFA administrator, chairman of the Development Bank of the Philippines, president of the Land Bank of the Philippines, finance secretary, trade secretary, the National Economic and Development Authority and a representative of a farmer’s group.
The 250,000 MT of rice is supposed to serve as the country’s buffer stock in preparation for the onset of the lean months.
Under the law, the NFA is tasked to buy the palay produce of local farmers as buffer stock for calamities and other contingencies.
President Duterte already ordered the NFA to prioritize rice purchase from local farmers, but the agency maintained that it can no longer buy more and hit its target following higher prices offered by private traders.
NFA’s field monitoring shows traders are buying palay (unhusked rice) from the summer harvest at an average of P18-P20 per kilogram while the government support price remains at P17 per kg.
The NFA targets to procure 4.6 million bags or about 230,000 MT of palay from local farmers nationwide until yearend to boost buffer stock and rice distribution requirements.
As of the end first quarter, the NFA has bought approximately 21 percent of its 2017 procurement target.
The palay-buying for the first three months of the year is significantly lower by almost 80 percent as it only bought 134,355 bags compared to the 603,915 bags in 2016 due to higher than average farm-gate price of palay.
This year, the agency has a P5-billion budget for the procurement of palay.
The NFA is mandated to maintain a food security reserve good for at least 15 days at any given time.
By July 1, which marks the onset of the lean season for rice, the NFA must have at least a 30-day buffer stock to meet the requirements of victims of calamities and emergencies.
Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the country’s rice inventory in March declined by 19 percent to 2.18 million MT, from 2.67 million MT recorded a year ago.
The agency reported that total rice inventory as of March was also five percent lower than the 2.3 million MT posted in February.
‘Rice stock still sufficient’
But Guinigundo allayed fears of a possible uptick in rice prices amid the issues that hound the country’s rice importation, asserting that the country has ample supply until the end of harvest season.
He said based on data from the PSA, the country’s rice inventory is still sufficient for 69 days. This rice buffer would be further augmented by the summer harvest, which will last until June.
“We don’t believe rice prices will move up in a very significant way,” Guinigundo said during a briefing on the country’s first quarter 2017 inflation.
Concerns of a possible rice inflation surfaced as Duterte decided to stop all rice importations in the country. Officials have also argued over rice import policies, whether to import through the private sector or through a government-to-government scheme.
Guinigundo said the government also allows private sector importation through the minimum access volume (MAV) scheme, which is the country’s commitment to the World Trade Organization while its quantitative restriction on rice has not been lifted yet.
In terms of the MAV, some of the rice imported by traders from abroad has not yet entered the country.
“The decision of the council is to extend (MAV) to end-March 2017. But there were issues because some of the rice from abroad has not entered yet. Hopefully, this will be resolved soon so additional supply will be available and that will provide additional support to stability of rice prices,” he added.

Pakistan embassy clarifies rice-import deadline extension


Regarding the editorial, “The NFA mess,” that appeared in the Manila Times on April 20, 2017:
In the editorial it was mentioned, “It also turns out Aquino had extended the deadline for rice imports from Pakistan and India, apparently at the instance of the Pakistani Ambassador.” At another place, it is mentioned, “It’s puzzling why Aquino can be so pliant to a request from a foreign envoy yet recalcitrant to his own Council.”
The above puts the Ambassador of Pakistan in a negative perspective and gives the impression that he has some personal connection with the Administrator of NFA.
We wish to clarify that the request for extension of the deadline was made on the insistence of exporters of rice from Pakistan as well as importers in the Philippines. Since it takes a longer duration for a container to reach the Philippines from Pakistan, our exporters were unable to meet the deadline of February 28, 2017.Hence, the extension up to March 31, 2017 was requested. We also wish to clarify that the Ambassador of Pakistan never requested for the extension of the deadline in respect of India. It may also be noted that the NFA Council had itself allowed the extension to all countries, including Pakistan.
You must be aware that the NFA quota, or minimum excess volume (MAV) scheme, is actually governed by a memorandum of agreement signed between the government of Pakistan and the government of the Philippines in January 2014. Under the MOA, the Philippines had agreed to provide Pakistan with a country-specific quota in return for Pakistan’s support for the Philippines’ request for a waiver on special treatment on rice. Similar agreements were signed with other rice-exporting countries, such as China, India, etc.
Hence, in importing rice from Pakistan, the Philippines is, in fact, fulfilling its international obligations and no special favor is being done to Pakistan. The correspondence made with the NFA in this regard was to ensure the implementation of the above MOA. It may also be mentioned that the agreement was signed in January 2014, actual implementation took place in July 2015. As a result; out of the total quota of 190,000 metric tons Pakistan could utilize only 50,000 metric tons.
We hope that the above clarifies the matter and would help remove the misconception, if any, caused by the editorial. We further hope that the above will be given due consideration in your future editorials.
Sadia Altaf Qazi
Embassy of Pakistan
6th Floor Alexander House
132 Amorsolo St.
Legaspi Village, Makati

NYC food vendor starts day early

For 8 hours, he prepares fare in cart on sidewalk

Posted: April 23, 2017 at 2:10 a.m.

NEW YORK -- It's 6 a.m. on a Wednesday, and Kabir Ahmed has hit snooze on his alarm one too many times. He steps softly, barefoot, around his small, second-story apartment in Jamaica, Queens, creaking along the green-and-pink hallway.He is late but careful not to wake his wife and their three children, or his mother, who will be up in an hour to say prayers and cook breakfast. He puts on his baseball hat, slides his feet into rubber clogs and hurries out without coffee.
Ahmed, 46, is in the business of chicken and rice. He emigrated from Bangladesh 23 years ago and is now one of two partners in a halal food cart that sets up on Greenwich Street close to the World Trade Center, all year long, rain or shine. He is also one of more than 10,000 people, most of them immigrants, who make their livings selling food on the city's sidewalks: pork tamales, hot dogs, rolled rice noodles, jerk chicken.
These vendors are a fixture of New York's streets and New Yorkers' routines, vital to the culture of the city. But day to day, they struggle to do business against a host of challenges: byzantine city codes and regulations on street vending, exorbitant fines for small violations and the occasional rage of brick-and-mortar businesses or residents. Not to mention the weather, the whims of transit and foot traffic, and the trials of standing for hours, often alone, with no real shelter or private space.
"What's hard about this job?" Ahmed says. "Everything is hard. If I get old, I can't do it anymore."
The work is demanding and routine. Ahmed commutes five or six days a week, clocking eight-hour shifts. His ride into lower Manhattan is just over an hour, so if he can find a seat on the E train, he sleeps, squashed between the bodies of strangers, or watches part of a movie on his phone. Recently it was Asoka, based on the life of an Iron Age Indian ruler, played by one of his all-time favorite actors, Shah Rukh Khan.
But today, Ahmed checks his email first, hoping for news from one of the preschools processing the application of his youngest child, Karen. Nothing yet.
By 7:15 a.m., he has reached his usual spot, which he found three years ago by word of mouth. It's a wide stretch of sidewalk in front of the BNY Mellon building that gets hectic around noon when those in the financial district crowd -- a mix of Wall Street bankers and construction workers, students and tourists -- are looking to spend $5 or $6 on a fast, hot lunch.
Though there are occasional turf wars among vendors, Ahmed has never had to fight for space. He buys breakfast -- a coffee and doughnut -- from a nearby vendor who gives him what Ahmed calls a "neighbor discount."
"Good morning, neighbor!" is his standard, sunny greeting for the half-dozen other carts on his block.
Like many cart owners, Ahmed hires someone to deliver the cart to him every morning and return it to a garage each night. (Other owners hitch the carts to their cars and drive them in to set up, then face the ordeal of finding a parking spot.)
The driver pulls up with Ahmed's cart at 7:52 a.m., and the two men work quickly to wheel it into place. Inside, the cart is cold, clean and packed with boxes of ingredients.
The food comes from a commissary kitchen attached to the garage in Long Island City, Queens; the city requires that food carts be serviced and supplied by a commissary, and there are many of them, of varying sizes, with different owners, all around New York.
At an extra cost, this one has provided everything Ahmed needs for the day: heads of lettuce, a few dozen tomatoes and potatoes, ready-sliced halal lamb, several bags of boneless chicken thighs, two 12-pound bags of basmati rice, four large plastic containers of potable water for cooking and washing, clamshell containers and napkins.
Although Ahmed had little cooking experience when he started, his wife, Sheren Akter, says his food is better than that at most other carts -- less greasy, more flavorful, well seasoned.
His menu consists of about 20 dishes, most of them cooked to order, but regulars know to ask for the chicken biryani, flecked with fried onion and cilantro, garnished with half a hard-boiled egg, all for $6, with a drink. He'd like to raise the price, but worries that he would lose customers.
Once the lunch rush starts around 11:30, Ahmed can't budge from the cart. These hours blur together. He is no longer alone; by noon, he is joined by two more men in the 10-foot-long space -- his partner and an assistant -- working efficiently around the grill, fryer and steam table, finding their rhythm in the surges of orders as clusters of people appear.
On a good day, after paying the driver and the garage, and splitting the cash proceeds with his colleagues, Ahmed earns about $125. For a cart owner, that sum is not unusual.
He could make more, working longer hours alone, but he won't. Ahmed likes to tell the cautionary tale of a pushcart vendor who made the best food -- so good he once netted $3,000 in one day. That vendor worked alone, and worked himself so hard, Ahmed says, that he got sick. Now he can't take care of anyone and has no one to take care of him.
Ahmed's son, Kowshik, who dreams of working for NASA, will be a high school senior in the fall, and Ahmed wants all of his children to go to college. "But now I cannot get sick," Ahmed says, "and I cannot stop working."
At 3:30 p.m., Ahmed's shift ends and he walks back to the subway; his partner will stay until the cart closes at 8 p.m.
On the train, he learns that a preschool has accepted his daughter.
By 5 p.m., he is home, where he makes a few phone calls and takes a shower. After work on Fridays, Ahmed goes to mosque, but not today. In just a few hours, it will be time to watch the news, turn in and start it all again.
SundayMonday Business on 04/23/2017