Friday, May 05, 2017

5th May,2017 daily global regional local national regional local rice e-newsletter by ricpelus magazi

Pakistan World’s Top Groundwater Exporter, India Ranks Third

The use of standing water to grow rice in India and Pakistan leads to large-scale water loss. Credit: sandeepachethan/
Pakistan is the world’s largest exporter of groundwater through its grains export. India is the third largest. Going by per capita availability, Pakistan is almost a water-starved country. The parts of India from which most grains are exported are seriously water-scarce.
In 2010, Pakistan exported grains that had cost 7.3 cubic km of groundwater to grow. India exported grains that cost it three cubic km to grow. India is also the world’s largest extractor of groundwater. In 2010, 75 cubic km of groundwater were extracted in India.
The trifecta of groundwater depletion for water-intensive crops, grain exports and the use of electricity for mining groundwater add up to a perfect recipe for disaster. Climate change impacts are worsening the situation.
The recent report that the new government in (Indian) Punjab has sought New Delhi’s permission to sell excess electricity to Islamabad has been welcomed in power-starved Pakistan. But this electricity will do much more than keep Pakistanis cool during the torrid summer. It will accelerate groundwater pumping in India. Not just precious groundwater, India and Pakistan are also effectively exporting energy when they export grains.
Surface water and soil moisture also play big roles in agriculture. Many countries save this water by importing grains. For those who do not, such thoughtless export of groundwater should be the biggest worry, because the timescales for recharging groundwater are significantly longer than those for surface water and soil moisture.
The sobering numbers on groundwater depletion and international food trade have been reported in the journal Nature by Carole Dalin and colleagues. About 11% of all groundwater depletion over the planet is involved in international food trade. Over two-thirds of that depletion is by Pakistan, the US and India.
Food-water-energy nexus
This food-water-energy nexus becomes critical in South Asia. On the one hand, water availability is already more uncertain due to climate change. On the other, there seems to be no accounting for the energy export through agricultural export, though both India and Pakistan are energy deficient countries. Though India has a huge renewable energy development plan, both countries also have major plans to generate energy from coal. That can only worsen the climate change situation.
Other unintended consequences of groundwater depletion include land subsidence and saltwater intrusion in addition to potential loss of soil health.
Global food supply chains are becoming more susceptible to the effects of climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, one effect is a rise in intensity and frequency of storms. The Philippines has faced an increasing number of typhoons in recent years. Whenever one takes place, it affects food packaging around the world, because the Philippines is a supplier of coconut based food packaging material to almost all other countries.
Groundwater depletion in India
In India, wheat accounts for 35% of the total groundwater depletion and rice for about 25%, while fodder, cotton and sugarcane make up the rest. Average groundwater consumption to grow one kilogram of wheat is 812 litres, rice 200 litres (because it is far more dependent on surface water) and maize 72 litres, respectively. In the 2016-17 financial year, India is estimated to have exported 3,00,000 tonnes of wheat, 10.7 million tonnes of rice and 700,000 tonnes of maize.
When considering grain exports, it should be noted that the actual water exported is what is embedded in the grains themselves. This is much smaller than the total water used to grow crops, of which a small fraction of the water used in growing crops is recoverable – as it seeps back down to the water table. A much larger amount of water expended is simply lost to evaporation. This loss drives down groundwater tables, and is key to understanding how water intensive crops affect groundwater in a region. Thus the water footprint is critical to monitor as far as food exports are concerned, especially for countries like India and Pakistan that face persistent domestic and international water conflicts.
Even the embedded water approach employed by Goswami and Nishad points out that India exports a total water of around 25 cubic kilometres in food exports (not separated into surface and groundwater). The bad news is still that the near self-sufficiency in food production comes with a penchant to export some of it with hard-to-estimate externalities like groundwater depletion and salinisation as well as degradation of soil health and the environment.
Exports of meat, sorghum and fruits are significant additional factors. India is also among the largest beef exporters and beef is easily the most water – and grain-intensive food group per calorie. International food trade is a reality of a global economy and India has no choice but to partake in it. But the unintended consequences in the food-water-energy nexus can be ignored only at grave risk to national security.
State-level disparities
Additional related factors for India are state-level disparities in groundwater depletion. Dry regions of Gujarat and Karnataka are exporting waters to wet regions of the country to satiate the thirst of those who can afford bottled water and soft drinks. India’s middle class continues to grow and its taste for meat and fish continues to place greater demand on water and fodder.
India has taken bold steps to be part of the global community in combating climate change by committing to impressive Nationally Determined Contributions to control carbon emissions. Equally bold steps are being taken in terms of investing in renewable energy like solar and wind. India must track the energy intensity of its GDP and the carbon-intensity of its energy production.
But it is clear that India must also be vigilant about the groundwater-intensity of its food production as well as the groundwater and energy exports incurred by its grain and meat exports. For its economic growth and development to be sustainable, unintended cascades in the food-water-energy nexus must be diligently avoided.
Raghu Murtugudde is a professor of atmospheric and oceanic science and Earth system science at the University of Maryland and is interested in the human actions and reactions in the context of climate variability and change.
This article was originally published on The Third Pole. Read original here.

Flooding in upper Mid-South intensifies with more rain in forecast

Northeast Arkansas once faces surging river levels and rising floodwaters.
David Bennett | May 03, 2017
Following torrential late-April rains, northeast Arkansas once again faces surging river levels and rising floodwaters. As the Black and White rivers spread far outside their banks, some area residents are being evacuated as helpless growers watch their land going under.And with more rain in the forecast for Wednesday (May 3) and Thursday, the situation is expected to worsen.   
Jerry Morgan, who farms around Cord and Lynn in Lawrence County, Ark., is all too familiar with the current scenario. Last year, Morgan and neighbors faced two floods ( that many never recovered from.  
On Tuesday afternoon, Morgan recounted the last few days:
 “This flood will be bigger than what happened in 2011,” says Morgan. “They’re predicting a crest of 31.5 feet for the Black River and it’s at 28.8 now. Flood level here is around 16 or 17 feet. For comparison, last year, the water level got up around 24 feet in the spring and 23 feet in August. That was enough to have to replant in the spring and then badly damage the rice later.
“This time, the flood came very early. I got in bed at 3:00 this morning. We took all four of our grain trucks up just south of Pocahontas last night and were loading up around 10 p.m. We got a call from a grower with bins up there. He said the water was about to get his bins. Just trying to be neighborly, we went up there to help, loaded up and hauled his grain to Newark to keep it from being ruined.
“I asked him how high the water got in 2011 and he said ‘chest-deep.’ Well, this flood is going to be way above that.
“That’s what we’ve been forced into. This is a big flood and will get worse. Water from the Black River is all around Portia and they’ve evacuated the East Pocahontas. They only let us through the barricade because we were hauling grain out. When we were hauling grain we had to go a crazy route because so many roads are closed. You have to pick your way through.”
Note: the levee at Pocahontas has since been breached in six places.
Lost acres 
“They’re already estimating 25,000 acres will be lost in Randolph County alone. Something like 100,000 acres of rice could be lost. For the last few years, Lawrence County has been the largest rice county in the state.
“Coming off Crowley’s Ridge at Bono, the Cache River is out big-time. By the time you get to Hoxie, the Black River runs parallel and there’s no telling how many acres are underwater.   
“From Saturday through Sunday morning, I got 6 inches of rain at my house. West Plains, Missouri, got right at 16 inches. All that water still has to come through.
“They’ve opened the gates at Clearwater and are letting it flow and it’s coming down the Black River. And water is coming over the levee at Pocahontas.
Is there flooding in your area? Send us your photos of the flood to
“We had about 1,400 acres of rice planted. My son put a boat into the fields yesterday and it’s supposed to start raining again (Wednesday and Thursday). The forecast is for another 2 to 4 inches.”
They’ve been working on the railroad all night going along Highway 63 — from Black Rock to Portia to Hoxie. They’re hauling and dumping rip to put on the north side of the railroad track to try and hold it down. They know the river is coming.”
Note: After the original interview on Tuesday, Morgan provided the following update late Wednesday morning. “The water is coming over the railroad tracks at Portia now. The tracks are higher than the city and they’re evacuating Portia, Coffman and Clover Bend. Since the levee was breached, the water is coming through much faster. It’s headed towards Walnut Ridge. Right now, it’s thundering from the west and it looks like the rains are about to start back up.”    
“It’s the same story all over the area. We’re all running hard, trying to get as much done as possible before the waters rise too high. This flood will be worse than anything we saw last year. That’s because it isn’t just the Black River but also White River. They have the dam open at Norfolk Lake – it was at 32 feet at Calico Rock two nights ago. This is going to hit Batesville. There’s a lot more farmland that’s going under.
“Right now, I’m on 63 and just left Portia. To the south of the road, the White River is coming through the tiles and covering acres upon acres of farmland. Those weren’t covered last year in either May or August.  
“The White River is so swollen it’ll hold the Black River back. We won’t be in the field in May – it’ll be June before we can think about getting back in. Who knows? There’s still a lot of water up in Missouri that has to come through here. We know it’ll take the rice out and we’ll have to go with soybeans as much as we can. Last year, after the May flood, it was June 19 when we got back in. June 15 is the normal cut-off when yield loss begins.
“After all the flooding, people were forced out of farming this year, people I know. They couldn’t get a loan. Last year, we told our (congressional delegation) that would happen. Well, it’s happening again and it’ll take more people down. Folks are dejected because the writing is on the wall.
“We have a high pad situated for when the river comes up. We can pull equipment onto it right up to the levee, at the foothill. We can leave equipment there and be confident 97 times out of 100. After it rained so much last Saturday night, we went and moved the equipment up the hill and out of the bottoms.  
“While I was at the pad, a neighbor — a well-respected farmer — drove up. He said ‘Hey, last year, we planted rice and got paid a bit. We went back in with beans but couldn’t insure them. Then, the river came in and took them anyway. Now, we have the rice planted and the levees pulled and this happens?’ He was shaking his head and worrying like all of us.”

Arkansas’ rice crop could see worst hit in 30 years if flood projections hold

by Talk Business & Politics
Levee breaches along the Black River near Pocahontas. (KATV Photo)
 (TALK BUSINESS & POLITICS) -- At least 10% of Arkansas’ rice crop could be lost as historic floodwaters wash through Northeast Arkansas and head south in the coming days. The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture estimates 100,000 rice acres have probably been destroyed or significantly impacted, and that number could rise dramatically by this weekend, U of A rice extension agronomist Dr. Jarrod Hardke told Talk Business & Politics.
During the last five years, an acre produces on average 160 bushels, meaning at least 16 million bushels are in peril, and it could be much more as new rains could trigger extended floods throughout the Delta Region, he said.
“This is far beyond the losses we experienced in 2011 … and that is an incredible statement to make,” Hardke said. “The 100,000 acres estimate could be a gross underestimate.”
Arkansas farmers planted an estimated 1.2 million rice acres this spring. One of the key differences between the last epic flood to hit the state in 2011 and now is the timing, Hardke said. About 45% of the rice crop was in the ground when the levee system in Pocahontas ruptured six years ago, and widespread flooding occurred throughout the Mississippi Delta Region. This year, 89% of the rice crop has already been planted, he said.
“A significant amount of input costs are already in the ground,” he said.
If the number of acres impacted only grows slightly, Arkansas could have its worst rice crop since it harvested 1.02 million acres in 1984. The last time farmers failed to harvest at least 1 million acres was 1983.
Rice can survive in flooded fields, but it’s a delicate balance, Hardke said. If the water is somewhat clear, and the plant receives enough oxygen and sunlight, it can live for an expanded time under the water. Research indicates most rice plants can survive for about 10 days under these conditions. Some can live as long as 21 days, but that’s rare, he said.
Arkansas is the leading rice producer in the country. The recent weather events haven’t moved rice prices in the futures market. Rice traded at $4.58 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade on Wednesday (May 3). At those prices, farmers were already in “razor thin” profitability, Hardke said.
Rice crops were already expected to be much lower this year in the Natural State. Low prices and high inventories compelled farmers to plant 3.5 million soybean acres this spring, the most in the state since 1998. Hardke said replanting rice or switching to soybeans could be tricky, and it might not be cost effective.
Finding replant seeds for either will be difficult, he added. Moreover, the window to plant a viable rice crop is closing. Rice has to be in the ground no later than the first week in June, and even then, the yields will be much lower, Hardke said. Rice planted in early April will produce an optimal yield for the majority of farmers. If it’s planted in early May, research has shown the yield can drop up to 15%. Rice planted in early June can produce yields 30% less than optimal.
Torrential rains hit Arkansas and southern Missouri on Wednesday. At least 50 homes were destroyed in Pocahontas as of Wednesday night, and another 150 had been damaged, according to official estimates. Randolph County emergency responders, conducted at least 36 rescues and two have been done in Lawrence County.
U.S. 63, just south of Hoxie was closed around noon due to rising waters and the towns of Portia, Clover Bend, and Coffman have been ordered to evacuate. There are at least nine reported breaches along the earthen levee that protects Pocahontas from the Black River. Once the levee was breached, water rushed south into neighboring Lawrence County. The river is expected to crest Thursday (May 4) at 31.5-feet – more than three feet higher than the all-time record.
The accumulation of water and where it will go remains a mystery, Hardke said. All rivers in the region flow into the White River and then onto the Mississippi River. If those rivers flood or the flow is stalled, it will leave sitting water on fields for an extended time. Lawrence and Randolph counties have been the hardest hit to this point, but there has been significant damage done to crop fields in Craighead, Jackson, Mississippi, Poinsett, and other counties in the Delta. When the water moves there’s no telling what could happen.
“We are in a wait and see mode … we don’t know what is going to happen,” he said.
On Wednesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson deployed extra National Guard personnel for possible evacuations in the region after touring the area on Tuesday. In an update with reporters at the capitol, Hutchinson said he has strengthened rescue and evacuation efforts in Randolph, Sharp and Lawrence counties with the deployment of 108 National Guard personnel, along with 25 National Guard vehicles and four high-water rescue teams.
In addition, Hutchinson said the Arkansas State Police Department has sent 23 police response personnel to the area to help with search and recovery efforts. State Police officials have also deployed a mobile communications command center as part of its response efforts.
The governor also noted that there have been nine levee breaches in Randolph County, with three major levee failures in the past 24 hours. “Right now, there are 27 counties that have declared emergency situations,” he said. “We also have seven fatalities and one child that is still being looked for.”
Hutchinson warned sight-seers, motorists and the general public to stay away from the area. “My definition to the public is to listen to the local authorities and if they order an evacuation, do so quickly,” he said, adding that there are six shelters in the three-county area.
Meanwhile, state emergency officials are predicting floodwaters along the Black River near Pocahontas in Randolph County to crest at 31-5 feet, more than three feet higher than the all-time record set in 2011 when the town was decimated by floodwaters.
The governor said he will likely seek federal disaster relief funding from the Trump administration once state officials have had a chance to evaluate the loss of life and property in the flooded areas

China Focus: High-quality rice yields hope for Chinese farmers

Source: Xinhua| 2017-05-04 20:18:27|

NANCHANG, May 4 (Xinhua) -- As spring plowing comes to an end in China, Wei Shilian is expecting a good harvest.A resident of Xingan County, a big rice production area in east China's Jiangxi Province, Wei planted more than 140 hectares of paddy rice this year, 90 percent of which is high-quality rice. Jiangxi is one of China's 13 major grain production bases."Market demand is changing, and it's hard to make money by growing regular rice these days," Wei said.
Chinese farmers traditionally pursue quantity over quality when it comes to grain. But as incomes improve, consumers have become more demanding about quality. Meanwhile, prices of imported rice remain low, challenging China's cheap mid- and low-quality rice.
The central government announced in February that high-quality paddy rice should be a priority in agricultural production this year. Compared to regular paddy rice, high-quality rice is brighter in color and better in texture, and some types have a distinctive aroma.
Under these circumstances, government authorities with several big rice production bases have recently announced plans to cultivate a high volume of high-quality rice.
Hunan province, for example, plans to produce about 666,667 hectares of high-quality rice this year, while Chongqing hopes to produce 300,000 hectares of such rice. Sichuan plans to extend its high-quality rice area to more than 1 million hectares this year.
Ling Jihe is a renowned rice grower in Jiangxi Province. He opened a "High-quality Rice Experience Store" at the end of last year.
"Rice demand is changing in the market," Ling said. "In the past, people cared more about eating sufficient food, but now they care more about eating great food."
In his store, high-quality rice sells for 3 yuan (43.5 cents) per kilo, much higher than regular rice in the market, but the product is still "very popular." According to Ling, revenue from high-quality rice in the store reached a staggering 180,000 yuan in less than 20 days.
Xiong Xijian, who owns a rice processing factory in Jiangxi, said that the amount of regular rice sold to the southern Guangdong Province decreased by 60 percent compared to three years ago, while that of high-quality rice is increasing at an annual rate of 15 percent.
"There is basically no profit in growing regular rice, so you have to adjust the structure of your crops," said Yi Zhanghai, a farmer in Jiangxi's Jishui County.
Li Changsheng, an official in charge of agriculture in Jishui, said that agricultural reform is about placing more emphasis on quality over quantity.
"We will churn out about 10,000 hectares of high-quality rice this year, or about a quarter of all rice cultivation in the county," Li said.
In Jiangxi's Nanchang County, one of China's top 100 "Super Food Production Bases," farmer Luo Fuyu has switched from regular rice to a high-quality rice breed called "926," which has a lower yield but can fetch much higher prices in the market. One mu (one hectare equals 15 mu) of the rice breed can guarantee at least 300 yuan more than one mu of regular rice, he said.
"We will definitely pay more attention to rice quality than quantity in the future," Luo said

Minister of Agriculture Urges Bulog to Stop Selling Commercial Rice

JAKARTA, NETRALNEWS.COM - Minister of Agriculture Amran Sulaiman has made sure that there are no price increase on basic commodities, including rice. He said that the available rice supply reaches 2.2 million tons.
The minister has also asked Bulog to stop selling 200 thousand tons of commercial rice, as the sale of commercial rice will reduce the price of rice.
"I want Bulog to stop selling 200,000 tons of commercial rice, as it creates deflation," Amran said in Jakarta on Wednesday (5/3).
He added that the decline in rice prices harms farmers. Amran said one of the areas that are affected by the sale of commercial rice was West Nusa Tenggara (NTB).
"Farmers there are already under pressure, and they are now also hit by the effect of commercial sales rise. Our job here is to become price stabilizers," said Amran
Reuters: "Asia Rice-Prices up on thin supply in India, Thailand"

Rice basmati remains weak on tepid demand

PTI | May 5, 2017, 12.29 PM IST
New Delhi, May 4 () Rice basmati prices continued to slide for the fourth day by losing up to Rs 300 per quintal owing to slackened demand at the wholesale grains market today.However, wheat recovered on scattered demand from flour mills.
Traders said easing demand from retailers and stockists kept rice basmati prices lower.
In the national capital, rice basmati common and Pusa- 1121 variety drifted further lower to Rs 7,400-7,500 and Rs 6,000-6,800 from previous levels of Rs 7,700-7,800 and Rs 6,000-7,100 per quintal, respectively.
Non basmati rice permal raw, wand, sela and IR-8 also finished down at Rs 2,250-2,275, Rs 2,300-2,350, Rs 2,700- 2,800 and Rs 1,875-2,000 from previous levels of Rs 2,275- 2,325, Rs 2,400-2,450, Rs 3,000-3,100 and Rs 2000-2025 per quintal respectively in line with rice basmati trend.
On the other hand, wheat dara (for mills) edged up by Rs 15 to Rs 1,705-1,710 per quintal. Atta chakki delivery followed suit and traded higher by Rs 20 to Rs 1,720-1,725 per 90 kg.
Following are today's quotations (in Rs per quintal):
Wheat MP (desi) Rs 2,100-2,400, Wheat dara (for mills) Rs 1,705-1,720, Chakki atta (delivery) Rs 1,720-1,725, Atta Rajdhani (10 kg) Rs 240, Shakti Bhog (10 kg) Rs 240, Roller flour mill Rs 940-950 (50 kg), Maida Rs 955-965 (50 kg) and Sooji Rs1,030-1,040 (50 kg).
Basmati rice (Lal Quila) Rs 10,700, Shri Lal Mahal Rs 11,300, Super Basmati Rice Rs 9,700, Basmati common new Rs 7,400-7,500, Rice Pusa (1121) Rs 6,000-6,800, Permal raw Rs 2,250-2,275, Permal wand Rs 2,300-2,350, Sela Rs 2,700-2,800 and Rice IR-8 Rs 1,875-2,000, Bajra Rs 1,350-1,360, Jowar yellow Rs 1,600-1650, white Rs 3,300-3,500, Maize Rs 1,450-1,460, Barley Rs 1,550-1,570. SUN KPS SRK

Government plans to waive tax on rice import

The government plans to waive tax on imports of rice before Ramadan considering the damage caused by recent flash-floods.Food Minister Qamrul Islam said the move would tame corrupt traders who may try to raise the price.The minister held a meeting with rice millers on Thursday.He said no country imposes tax on daily essentials.“We imposed the tax after some corrupt traders started importing rice for earning extra profit.”
“We have advised the government to scrap the tax for the time being,” Islam said.By one estimate, 2.2 million tonnes of paddy have been damaged in the flash floods.The food ministry however claims that amount is 600,000 tonnes.Bangladesh has a surplus of about 2 million tonnes of rice, while the annual demand is about 30 million tonnes, according to the minister.“Boro paddy farming is dependent on nature. It suffers some damage every year. However, the damage in haor areas will not affect the entire country,” he said. Description:

Minister Qamrul vowed to take stern action against anyone found trying to create a “pseudo crisis” in the rice market.

KM Layek Ali, general secretary of Bangladesh Auto, Major and Husking Mill Owners’ Association, said: “Millers do not have stocks. Only corrupt traders do.”Millers have been demanding tax on imports of rice. “Earlier we had asked the government to impose the tax. If the tax is cancelled now to keep the price in control, we can import to create a balance in the market,” said Ali.

Bangladesh imposes 25 percent customs duty on rice imports.The tax was imposed to mitigate farmers’ sufferings, Islam said. “They suffered a lot when 1.5 million tonnes of rice were imported from India without tax.

Asia Rice-Prices up on thin supply in India, Thailand

* Indian rice up on stronger rupee, higher local paddy prices
* Prices edge up in Thailand on thin supply
* Vietnam's market quiet amid low post-holiday demand

By My Pham

HANOI, May 4 Rice prices rose on thin supply in India and as exporters in Thailand rushed to fill orders amid a slow off-season harvest, while Vietnam markets were quiet after a three-day holiday.India's 5 percent broken parboiled rice RI-INBKN5-P1 rose by $7 per tonne to $394 to $399 a tonne this week as local paddy prices rose due to thin supply."The government agencies are actively buying paddy ... Supply is very limited for private players. This has pushed up paddy prices. Accordingly we have to raise rice export prices," said M. Adishankar, executive director at Sri Lalitha, an exporter based in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

The Indian government buys rice from local farmers at a fixed price for subsidised food inventories and to meet any emergency needs such as a sudden spike in prices."The strengthening rupee is also making us uncompetitive," said another rice exporter based in Kakinada.The rupee has gained around 6 percent so far in 2017 and is trading near its highest in 21 months. A strong rupee means exporters need to charge more for their overseas shipments.India, the world's top rice exporter, mainly exports non-basmati rice to African countries and premier basmati rice to the Middle East.Thai benchmark 5-percent broken rice RI-THBKN5-P1 rose to $380-$390 a tonne, free-on-board (FOB) Bangkok, this week from $360-$3775 last week, on exporters' rush to fill shipments amid a slow off-season harvest.

"It looks like exporters are scrambling to fulfil large orders previously received, and now market supply is also running low," a Bangkok-based trader said.As long as exporters are still taking care of their orders, prices could be rising steadily, another trader in Bangkok said.Thailand has exported 3.87 million tonnes of rice this year through April 26, a 12 percent jump from the same period last year, according to the latest figures by the commerce ministry.Vietnam's 5-percent broken rice RI-VNBKN5-P1 edged up to $350-$352 a tonne, FOB Saigon, from $350 last week, with traders citing a quiet market after national public holidays on Monday and Tuesday.

Vietnam has shipped an estimated 1.84 million tonnes of the grain between January and April, down 8.8 percent from the same period last year, the government said on Friday.Thailand and Vietnam are the world's second and third-biggest rice exporters. (Reporting by My Pham in HANOI; Additional reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in MUMBAI and Patpicha Tanakasempipat in BANGKOK; Editing by Tom Hogue)
Chairman IPO urged to make Sindh Tribunal Operational
Unisame greets IPO chief


KARACHI: The Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (UNISAME) greeted Shahid Rashid the chairman of Intellectual Property Organization (IPO) on' World IPO Day' and complimented him on his dedicated work on the geographical indications (GI) draft law, says a Press release.
UNISAME invited the attention of the chairman IPO to the other issues faced by the sector due to lack of prompt action on the part of the policy makers. The basmati rice issue calls for the immediate attention of the IPO as it is in jeopardy due to poor advocacy in the international forum

President UNISAME Zulfikar Thaver appreciated the efforts of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), IPO and the Association of IPO for celebrating World IPO Day on 2nd May 2017. However the participants were expecting an update on the GI approved draft which is on the threshold of becoming a law and discussion on other issues.
Thaver said the speech of the chief guest the governor of. Sindh Muhammad Zubair was really encouraging and inspiring. The governor assured his full support and expressed his availability for the business community. He recognized the importance of IP rights as a tool for promotion of entrepreneurship and foreign direct investment.

Thaver said there is no IPO tribunal operating in Sindh although there are two operating in Punjab. The aggrieved have to go to the high court which takes many years to conclude due to heavy burden of cases.
Secondly he said the basmati rice case is in the high court under appeal as although the learned registrar gave an exhaustive 92 page order on the subject of basmati trade mark ownership, the stakeholders were compelled to move the high court and the matter is now in the high court. The basmati issue demands an urgent decision as the HC will take time to decide. In the meantime it is urged that all the cases need to be transferred to the tribunal, which could decide faster.
Thirdly he said the IPO needs to work closely with the trade associations and the different chambers of commerce and industry to enlighten them on the subject of IP rights, trademarks, copyrights, designs and patents. The associations must also make efforts for the protection of the rights of their members and educate them on the subject.


Telangana Govt sets Aug 31 deadline for millers to return processed rice Description: (Picture used for representational purpose only)
By Md Nizamuddin | THE HANS INDIA |    May 05,2017 , 05:06 AM IST
In the past, the Civil Supplies Department (CSD) was incurring heavy losses due to delay by the millers in supply of processed rice to the department. Now, deadline is given to millers for supply of rice

(Picture used for representational purpose only)
Hyderabad: To ensure that the State government does not face losses due to delay in Custom Milling of Rice (CMR), the Civil Supplies Department has set a deadline of August 31 to millers, for processing of paddy procured during Rabi season. If the millers fail to adhere to the deadline, then the Civil Supplies Department would be cutting fees by Rs 15 for raw rice and R 25 for boiled rice per each quintal. During the first two and half years, the delay in processing of paddy had cost the government Rs 1,200 crores in terms of interest to banks.
The department has directed the 'Enforcement Wing', to take necessary measures to conduct inspections on millers. The officials have already conducted inspections on rice mills and formulated a strategy to reach the target. The teams of the Enforcement Wing have been instructed to take pictures of the paddy arriving at a mill and also processed rice ready to be transported to warehouses.
The Enforcement Wing officials will send reports to all the senior officials of CSD including Joint Collectors and District Supplying Officer. In addition, all the details, including paddy allocation, rice returned and processing fee are made online.
 With an expectation of four times high yield during this Rabi, the department has targeted procuring 37 lakh metric tonnes of paddy from farmers. It has been decided to open more than 3000 paddy purchase centres across Telangana. In contrast, during the previous year, it had procured only 8.42 lakh tonnes through 1288 purchase centres.
 “We shall be acting tough against the millers, who would cross the deadline of August 31, by cutting their processing fees,” said a senior official.
 With an estimated turnover of Rs 10,000 crores, the Civil Supplies Department is engaged in cash credit from banks. Previously, the delay by millers has huge financial implications on the functioning of the department and Government’s exchequer.  “Since we were not able to repay the interest of the credit, it has jumped to Rs 1200 crores. In the new State, we have decided to act tough” added the official.

Illegal levels of arsenic in rice-based baby food discovered by Belfast scientists

Description: Professor Andy Meharg -one of the world'S leading experts in his field.
May 5 2017

11Professor Andy Meharg -one of the world'S leading experts in his field.Parents should avoid giving rice to young children, scientists in Belfast have said, after a study found almost three quarters of rice-based products sold as baby food contained illegal levels of arsenic.
A maximum level of arsenic allowed in rice used for baby food was introduced by the EU in January 2016 to reduce children’s exposure to the harmful toxin. But when researchers at Queen’s University, Belfast tested 73 different rice-based products often given to babies, they found almost 80% of rice crackers, 61% of baby rice and 32% of rice cereals flouted the regulations.
Read More: Common method of cooking rice can leave traces of arsenic in food
The researchers tested 13 types of baby rice, 29 packets of rice cakes and 31 types of rice cereal from nine different brands or manufacturers, from 17 different shops in Belfast.
They also compared the level of arsenic in urine samples from babies who were breast- or formula-fed before and after weaning.Inorganic arsenic contaminates rice while it is growing as a result of industrial toxins, and pesticides and can impact the development of young children, professor Andy Meharg, who led the study, said. “We’re talking about immune development, growth, IQ. They’re all impacted at the levels of consumption you’d get from rice consumption,” he added.
“I’m not scaremongering. EU laws have been passed and what we’re doing is saying these laws aren’t being met.”
Among the products specifically marketed for children, 73% contained more than the EU limit 0.1 milligrams of arsenic per kilogram of rice, while 56% exceeded this.
Earlier this year, professor Meharg raised concerns about harmful levels of the chemical left in rice cooked through a common method — simply boiling it in a pan until the water has steamed out.
By testing three different ways of cooking rice, the biology
ist found the best way to remove arsenic was to soak the rice overnight, which reduces toxin levels by 80%.While Arsenic is carcinogenic, the professor said “you’d have to eat rice over your lifetime for the excess cancer risk” and young children are more likely to be impacted by the chemicals contained in their food.
“Babies have five times higher exposure to inorganic arsenic through their weaned foods, which are primarily rice-based, than before they are weaned,” he said. “There are warnings on most cartons of rice milk specifically,” he added. “They say ‘not suitable for children under the age of five years’.“If rice milk has a warning, why shouldn’t it be done for other rice products?”
Concern among parents about children’s gluten intake means rice-based baby foods are more popular than ever, but families should consider alternatives such as oat porridge instead of rice porridge, the professor added.Mary Fewtrell, a professor of paediatric nutrition at UCL, told The Independent: “Because of infants’ small size, they can be exposed to high levels of inorganic arsenic on a per body weight basis compared to an older child or adult”.“So it’s wise that the products they consume should contain as little inorganic arsenic as can be achieved.
Rice importation need not be controversial

My position on rice importation is very simple: at this point in time it is an absolute necessity as we are not yet able to produce 100 percent of our rice requirement.But the news reports of The Manila Times on rice imports paints a picture that it has become a very controversial issue. The Times report “NFA chief seeking costly rice imports” published on April 20 also revealed the National Food Authority (NFA) is prioritizing the purchase of expensive rice imports on a government-to-government (G2G) deal instead of buying from local farmers. A report also by The Times “Piñol blocks NFA move to import rice” published on April 19 also revealed that the Agriculture Secretary does not want rice imported during the peak harvest season. This is just logical.
But if there is one reality that the Duterte administration should face, it is the need to import rice with certain transparent procedures to be followed. Also, the Agriculture Secretary should have a major say on the issue, because it is the Department of Agriculture that monitors domestic rice production or whether there would be a
shortfall or not, and undertakes various programs and projects to improve production of the staple.
Whether there would be a shortfall and the need to import, however, should be determined only once, or based on the production deficit of the previous year or two.
So the standard operating procedure is by the end of January at the latest, the government should already have the final figure on how much rice needs to be imported by the Philippines. Usually, this is based on the previous year’s production deficit, and should not be projected near or prior to the harvest season. The 2016 production figure indicates an 88-percent rice sufficiency level.
If the country ends up importing an excess of rice, which can happen if farmers produce more than projected, that would allow the government to shore up the country’s buffer stocks that I believe should be at least 120 days. Notably, India maintains a 365-day or one-year buffer stock and I see no reason why the Philippines should do the same.
For this year, the NFA has programmed 1.3 million metric tons of rice importations and plans to do this G2G but this still could go higher. Once the volume of rice to be imported has been determined, the government should transact only once and not by tranches. The delivery of the rice stocks, however, can be made in tranches based on necessities.
Determining the volume to be imported, or within January, before the year’s first planting season, would not result to the imports competing directly during the harvest seasons as you can schedule deliveries. I mean, just imagine if the rice importation volume was determined during the harvest season or a few weeks prior to the harvest season; that would drive down the farm-gate prices of palay (unmilled rice) to the detriment of small holder farmers.
And if possible, the government, through the NFA and the Department of Agriculture, should explain to farmers the need to import because of production shortfalls. I am not saying that the country cannot attain 100-percent self-sufficiency in rice; it’s simply impossible to mechanize most farms, get more farmers to start using high-yielding hybrids, and get more lands under national or small irrigation systems in one planting season or even over fiscal year or two.
I see also nothing wrong if the NFA allows the private sector to import rice based on pre-determined volumes and transparent processes. G2G has its merits but the NFA already has a debt of P167 billion as of 2016. To prevent unbridled importation by the private sector, a tariff of up to 35 percent or higher can be levied on imported rice, which will also force importers to seek the best deals from abroad. But since businessmen are concerned about profits, they would surely seek the best deals and would not import large quantities that they cannot dispose immediately.
The NFA can also set strict procedures for the private sector to import rice to make sure there would be no smuggling and that import levels will be followed.
All in all, transparency should be the key to making rice imports an issue that is free of controversy. But the current set-up can brew potential conflicts between the DA and NFA because Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol is not part of the decision-making process when it comes to importing rice. I find this ironic because it is the DA that projects production volume and directly assists farmers in local rice production.
The NFA along with the National Irrigation Authority (NIA), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority (FPA) used to be under the DA until they were transferred to the Office of the President on May 5, 2014 under the Office of Presidential Adviser for Food Security Modernization by virtue of Executive Order No. 165.
If Piñol was part of the NFA’s decision-making process on rice imports, he would not have to ask President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to stop additional rice importations.
If the country ends up importing excess rice volumes, that can be a boon because what the country needs is buffer stocks to cover at least one full production cycle of 120 days or four months as I recommended earlier.
And over the long term, it is worth studying having a 365-day buffer stock like India. I believe that would be beneficial for Filipino consumers, because that would prevent private traders from creating artificial shortages and price spikes even if the country needs to import rice.
Based on latest figures or at the end of March this year, the country’s rice stocks would be sufficient for 64 days; Household stocks would be enough for 34 days, commercial warehouses 18 days and NFA depositories 12 days. This translates to households holding 52.95 percent of the country’s total rice stocks for the period, 28.81 percent in commercial warehouses and 8.61 percent in NFA depositories.
Piñol recently reported that for the first quarter of this year, there would be an additional one million MT of unmilled rice which translates to 650,000 MT of milled rice, and that the average yield per hectare is now 4.15 MT per hectare compared to the previous average of 3.9 MT/ha.
So that means that the planned importation by the NFA for 250,000 MT of rice may not be needed. If rice were imported with a bumper or good harvest, that could drive down farm-gate prices of palay to the detriment of smallholder farmers.
Good thing President Duterte stopped the importation of the 250,000 MT of rice.
All in all, rice importation need not be controversial if done transparently with the Agriculture Secretary having a say in the matter. But the reality still remains: the country needs to import rice until it can attain 100-percent self-sufficiency on the staple. For sure, the sight of people lining up at the stalls of rice retailers and stocks running out of depositories are not good news at all.

Unscrupulous traders behind rice price hike’

UNB . Dhaka | Update: 23:23, May 04, 2017
Description: QamrulBlaming a syndicate of unscrupulous traders for the hike in rice prices, food minister Qamrul Islam on Thursday said it is creating an artificial crisis in the country taking advantage of the flashflood that hit the haor areas.
While talking to reporters after a meeting with the leaders of Bangladesh Auto, Major and Husking Owners’ Association at the Food Bhaban in the city at noon, he also blamed the commerce ministry for not taking any action against the syndicate.
The price of coarse rice was raised twice in the last 15 days while that of fine rice also saw a hike.
Qamrul claimed that there will be no crisis of rice in the country for the flashflood as his ministry has already decided to import some 15 lakh tonnes of rice and withdraw the import duty on rice.
He said some 12 lakh tonnes of rice are likely to be damaged across the country due to the flood and heavy rainfall. “So, it’s not like that the procurement target won’t be achieved.”
The minister said the government had imposed duty on importing rice as some dishonest traders unnecessarily import rice from the neighbouring countries to destabilise the local market.
Asked whether his ministry has taken any action against the unscrupulous rice traders, he shifted the responsibility on the commerce ministry.

Rice mill industry on revival path in Nizamabad

NIZAMABAD MAY 04, 2017 19:25 IST
UPDATED: MAY 05, 2017 08:04 IST

Government comes to their rescue by allocating 1,000 tonnes each for custom milling

The rice mill industry in Telangana is slowly on recovery path following distribution of paddy to all mills by the Government for custom milling. The industry was in the doldrums till recently for lack crop, financial losses, increase in power bills and heavy competition.
Unusual amount of paddy yield following the good rainfall has infused life into all small and medium sized units. Barring 50 mills which are chronically sick over a period of six years, out of 330 in the undivided district, all are now functional.
“Government has extended a lifeline to small mills by distributing paddy at the rate of 1,000 tonnes after kharif for custom milling. Earlier, millers were in dire straits with increasing costs,” says, Kaparthy Shravankumar, a leading rice miller.
Severe drought for two consecutive years hit the industry hard. It also had a negative impact on the job market. Influx of over 30,000 workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar came to a halt following the closure of mills as only 10 of them used to run.
This season about 5 lakh tones of paddy is expected to be harvested. Parboiled mills will have full work as they are generally run during the summer season. After last rainy season all mills worked as usual. Workers’ migration from the two northern States also began, says Mr. Shravan, putting up a beaming face hoping for better future of the industry.
“Current situation is good, but we are facing the problem of hamalis (labour) in the mills. Hamalis are going to villages to work at weighing points as they are getting more wages there. By the time they come back season will end,” says K. Ramesh, another miller.
Besides, millers are of the opinion that paddy harvested this season lacks the quality as the grain did not form fully. Severe winter during the seedling time and late transplantation could be some of the reasons for the low quality, opines V. Janardhan Reddy, a miller-cum-progressive farmer.

Missouri Weather Update 

PORTAGEVILLE, MO -- Missouri rice country has not been spared by the storm system ravaging the mid-south.  In the past week, this area of the state has received between 6 and 10 inches of rainfall on top of already saturated soil conditions.  Floodways and ditches are at capacity or over, and a fair amount of water coming south from the Ozarks has also helped overwhelm the lake and tributary capacities.  

"All corn in the area was planted, some beans, a little cotton and a large amount of rice is in the ground," said Trent Haggard, with the University of Missouri's Fisher Delta Research Center.  "Currently, lots of area fields appear as if they are rice fields that have already been brought up to a flood.  All recently planted rice has now been flooded for several days.  We need the water to recede quickly to attempt to salvage the costs already invested in the acres that have been planted." 

Reporting on conditions in southeast Missouri, rice consultant Amy Beth Dowdy, said, "In Pemiscot and Dunklin counties there are probably around 1,500 to 2,000 acres flooded with only inches of water.  However, Butler, Stoddard, and New Madrid counties have it worse - they are flooded by feet of water.  My best guesstimate would be 10,000 acres underwater.

Changes to School Lunch Program Present Opportunity for Rice 

WASHINGTON, DC - This week, new Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue signed a proclamation to give America's schools more flexibility to make food choices that are both healthful and appealing to students.  The rice industry, already a major player in school lunch nutrition programs, can benefit thanks to high nutritional and taste standards.

At the center of the policy shift for rice are new USDA exemptions, likely in the form of waivers to relax whole grain standards for schools struggling to serve 100 percent whole grains.  This opens the door for more white rice sales - still nutritious and cost effective but not a whole grain.  

"I believe some districts will go back to using more white rice, but we plan to continue using 100 percent brown rice," said Emily Hartman, the child nutrition purchasing coordinator at East Baton Rouge Public Schools in Louisiana.  

"Whole grain brown rice has been a nutritional success and enjoys great acceptability in the K through 12 market," said Gary Reifeiss of Producers Rice Mill, a supplier of parboiled brown rice to school foodservice programs around the country.  "Schools looking to maintain high nutritional standards that are having trouble with whole grain breads or pastas need look no further than U.S.-grown brown rice!"

Hartman shared her local brown rice success story - in an area where white rice has been king for generations.  "We have been serving only brown rice in our district for approximately five years, and our students have accepted it and seem to like it.  Just last week we conducted a student survey on jambalaya made with 100 percent brown rice and jambalaya made with half brown rice and half white rice.  Most of our students preferred the jambalaya made with 100 percent brown rice so we plan to continue to offer all brown rice."

Food refusal, that leads to food waste, is a major problem for schools.  But as the rice industry continues to work with the school foodservice industry to perfect recipes and cooking techniques, the staple is seen as part of the solution, not the problem.

"The waivers most requested in Kansas from the past two school years have been for macaroni in Mac & Cheese," explained Cheryl Johnson, director of child nutrition & wellness with the Kansas State Department of Education.  "Students in Kansas are accepting and eating brown rice from my observation and we have not had any requests for a waiver from any school district in Kansas to use white rice to date - they are serving brown rice with good acceptance by students."  

Reifeiss believes continuing to work with the schools as they wade through shifting regulations and policies will be key.

"USA Rice has a great relationship with the School Nutrition Association to help these dedicated men and women, who are feeding our children every day, develop exciting, delicious, and healthy meals," he said.  "Brown rice is surely not the only answer, but it is a great one because it satisfies kids and nutrition requirements."

The School Nutrition Association welcomed the flexibility offered in the USDA announcement, saying in a press release, "while SNA supports preserving robust federal rules, the Association has continued to advocate for practical flexibility under federal nutrition standards to help ease menu planning challenges and appeal to diverse student tastes."

Baby rice food products contain illegal levels of inorganic arsenic, research finds

In January 2016, the EU imposed a maximum limit of inorganic arsenic on manufacturers in a bid to mitigate associated health risks. Researchers at the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's have found that little has changed since this law was passed and that 50 percent of baby rice food products still contain an illegal level of inorganic arsenic.
Professor Meharg, lead author of the study and Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences at Queen's, said: "This research has shown direct evidence that babies are exposed to illegal levels of arsenic despite the EU regulation to specifically address this health challenge. Babies are particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of arsenic that can prevent the healthy development of a baby's growth, IQ and immune system to name but a few."
Rice has, typically, ten times more inorganic arsenic than other foods and chronic exposure can cause a range of health problems including developmental problems, heart disease, diabetes and nervous system damage.
As babies are rapidly growing they are at a sensitive stage of development and are known to be more susceptible to the damaging effects of arsenic, which can inhibit their development and cause long-term health problems. Babies and young children under the age of five also eat around three times more food on a body weight basis than adults, which means that, relatively, they have three times greater exposures to inorganic arsenic from the same food item.
The research findings, published in the PLOS ONE journal today, compared the level of arsenic in urine samples among infants who were breast-fed or formula-fed before and after weaning. A higher concentration of arsenic was found in formula-fed infants, particularly among those who were fed non-dairy formulas which includes rice-fortified formulas favored for infants with dietary requirements such as wheat or dairy intolerance. The weaning process further increased infants' exposure to arsenic, with babies five times more exposed to arsenic after the weaning process, highlighting the clear link between rice-based baby products and exposure to arsenic.
In this new study, researchers at Queen's also compared baby food products containing rice before and after the law was passed and discovered that higher levels of arsenic were in fact found in the products since the new regulations were implemented. Nearly 75 percent of the rice-based products specifically marketed for infants and young children contained more than the standard level of arsenic stipulated by the EU law.
Rice and rice-based products are a popular choice for parents, widely used during weaning, and to feed young children, due to its availability, nutritional value and relatively low allergic potential.
Professor Meharg explained: "Products such as rice cakes and rice cereals are common in babies' diets. This study found that almost three-quarters of baby crackers, specifically marketed for children exceeded the maximum amount of arsenic."
Previous research led by Professor Meharg highlighted how a simple process of percolating rice could remove up to 85 percent of arsenic. Professor Meharg adds: "Simple measures can be taken to dramatically reduce the arsenic in these products so there is no excuse for manufacturers to be selling baby food products with such harmful levels of this carcinogenic substance.
"Manufacturers should be held accountable for selling products that are not meeting the required EU standard. Companies should publish the levels of arsenic in their products to prevent those with illegal amounts from being sold. This will enable consumers to make an informed decision, aware of any risks associated before consuming products containing arsenic."

CBI arrests REI Agro chief Sanjay Jhunjhunwala, promoter in loan fraud case

Sanjay Jhunjhunwala, chairman of REI Agro, and Sandip Jhunjhunwala, a promoter of the company, were arrested by CBI for an alleged bank loan fraud of Rs3,871 crore

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Description: It was alleged that REI Agro had defrauded the banks to the extent of Rs3,871 crore since 2013 through conspiracy, cheating and forgery. Photo: iStock
It was alleged that REI Agro had defrauded the banks to the extent of Rs3,871 crore since 2013 through conspiracy, cheating and forgery. Photo: iStock
New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday arrested the chairman of REI Agro Ltd along with a promoter of the company in connection with an alleged bank loan fraud of Rs3,871 crore.
Chairman Sanjay Jhunjhunwala, who was facing a red corner notice issued by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was arrested after he returned from abroad. The CBI had also issued a look out circular against him. Promoter Sandip Jhunjhunwala was also arrested by the agency in New Delhi on Thursday.
The agency had registered a case against them and the Kolkata-based REI Agro, which deals with Basmati rice exports, in October 2015. The action was taken on the complaint from a consortium of 14 banks led by UCO Bank. It was alleged that the company had defrauded the banks to the extent of Rs3,871 crore since 2013 through conspiracy, cheating and forgery, the spokesperson said.
It is alleged that the company cheated the banks using 150 shell companies, on the basis of fixed commission, through a group of brokers by creating false invoice, documents of money transfers for non-existent transactions, CBI officials said. They said Jhunjhunwala was also facing a case of misappropriation of AED 160 million for which the UAE authorities had issued a red corner notice against him.

Cooking with Spinach 

Cooking spinach by the handful.

Description: food1-mag.jpg
Spinach, the meatiest of vegetables, is finally in season. The fleshy leaves of spring spinach are juicy with a potent green serum that's high in iron and exceptionally rich in chlorophyll, which is a close chemical relative to hemoglobin, the red stuff in blood.This time of year, spinach is so abundant one can cook with it by the handful. Spring spinach comes in waves, the first of which was planted last summer as a fall crop and coaxed through the winter under a blanket of snow. In spring, the overwintered spinach rages to life, with leaves that are as sweet as they are lusty.
These leaves grew from roots that were well-established last fall, as opposed to the second wave of spinach, planted months ago in greenhouses. It's about the same size as the overwintered spinach, but lacks the experience and terroir of the elder plants, which have had more time to accumulate nutrients.
Young spinach, including the so-called baby spinach that's all the rage, is very convenient. It barely needs washing or any form of prep and is as tender as veal. It may not have the sweetness of an overwintered spinach, but neither does it have the bitterness.
The final wave of springtime spinach hits right before solstice, when the field spinach gets big and leafy. It won't be as sweet as overwintered spinach, but it will be just as meaty.
Assuming you have the good stuff, then, what to do?
If you can get the good stuff, the overwintered green crème, then I'd recommend a very simple pesto with nothing more than spinach, olive oil, and salt. This is a spectacular way to enjoy the subtle complexity of an overwintered spinach. Like a vegetal blood transfusion in your mouth.
The leaves of springtime spinach clean easily. A blemish on a leaf can be tolerated in pesto, the sausage of plant foods.
If your spinach is good but not quite top level, a more typical pesto with nuts, cheese, garlic, and zest will be a very satisfying way to enjoy the season. I've also had great results by simply combining fresh spinach pesto au natural with year-old basil pesto from the freezer.
The next recipe comes by way of Bhutan, a little Buddhist country in the Himalayas, where chile is king and cheese is queen and all other foods are cooked in a combination thereof.
Bhutanese spinach with chile and cheese
1-3 ounce dried red chile
four handfuls of spinach
½ to 1 cup Mexican cheese blend (or ¼ - ½ cup feta)
salt (unless using feta)
water or stock
cooking oil
First, get the chile soaking. Rip out the stem ends of the pods, tearing off the good bits of flesh and discarding the stems, inner seed heads, and as many seeds as you wish for the desired heat level. Tear up the leathery walls of the chile pods or leave them intact, depending on how avoidable you want the pepper pieces to be. Cover with water and soak.
Meanwhile, mince a medium-sized onion, and sauté it in olive oil and maybe a little butter. Add the half-soaked chile, and allow to cook, covered, with the onions. After about five minutes on medium heat, add two or three handfuls of spinach — as many as you can fit in the pan — in whole leaf form. If things are on the dry side, add water or stock, a half-cup at a time, until the pan bubbles with deliciousness. Cover.
After about five minutes, the spinach will have cooked down. Add more spinach if you can push it in, ideally another handful or two, and then add the cheese — ½ to 1 cup of Mexican blend, depending on how big your cheese tooth is. Some Bhutanese expats will occasionally use feta — if so, mind the salt. Cover again for about five minutes, then stir until all the cheese has melted into the sauce.
Add more water or stock as necessary so it doesn't dry out. If the cheese burns it will be a chewy, lumpy mess; but if the pan is properly hydrated, the cheese will dissolve into a luxurious gravy. Add salt to taste, and serve with jasmine or basmati rice — or better yet, Bhutanese red rice.

First … rice and sugar … then what?

May 4, 2017 
There were, at least, two bits of news that broke during the past week that really disappointed us.  In several ways, they actually saddened us.  We cannot deal with both in the space allotted so we will deal with the first which was the fact that Cabinet is considering establishing a monopoly on rice and sugar with a private company through the Central Marketing Corporation (CMC).  Note that we used the present tense “is” because when the news broke, the response from officialdom was not that there was a misunderstanding or that there was second thought; no, we were told the decision was “on hold”. 
“On hold?”  That sounds like code for “we will just let this one die down and pass it later when no one is looking”.
There is so much we do not like about this (or any) monopoly.  It is a long list but we will try to summarise in a few brief questions and comments.  The first is obvious.  Why a monopoly?  How are the people served by establishing a private monopoly on rice and sugar?  Even if, for some bizarre reason you want CMC to become the exclusive distributor for those products then why insert a private company in the middle?  That leads us to the next question.  Who are the principals behind BOAD Aggregates Limited?  We attempted to find out but our trip to the Intellectual Property Office produced nothing – the documents were not available for our review.  Odd, but it has happened before when we attempted to investigate other companies that may have had political ties.
The company’s attorney is Damien Benjamin, the son of Attorney General, Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin.  We are making no link other than the obvious father-son relationship.  The AG has sought to distance himself from the entire issue, saying that he was neither part of the Cabinet discussion nor the negotiations between BOAD and CMC.  The younger Benjamin has refused to comment, citing confidentiality between client and attorney.  So the entire nation is on the brink of being plunged into archaic monopolies and no one has anything to say to the people other than the decision is “on hold”.  We are overwhelmed by the level of transparency.
And speaking of transparency, we must point out that this information and the related documents were not generously handed to us by the administration; they were leaked.  Considering all the grand promises of transparency and accountability, the Cabinet has a lot to answer for.
Let’s start with: Why was this issue never mentioned in any of the post-cabinet briefings?  The secrecy naturally raises suspicions.  Why was there a need to keep it quiet?  Then there is the matter of the cabinet decisions that are referred to in the draft agreement between BOAD and CMC. The first reference is to one dated October 8, 2014 and which apparently grants CMC the authority to become “the sole importer and distributor” of rice and sugar.  Is this even legal?  Can someone in the legal community please comment?
Then, there is reference to a second Cabinet decision, dated May 11, 2016.  That one apparently gave CMC the authority to enter into an “exclusive agreement with BOAD and or its subsidiaries for the production and supply of basmati rice and sugar and any other product that they can produce to be packaged for CMC”.
The third reference is to a Cabinet decision dated July 7, 2016.  That decision apparently “authorized the CMC to enter into negotiations with BOAD and or its subsidiaries to supply exclusively to CMC, or their authorised agents, rice, sugar in the raw or unrefined state, and other products and produce as may be identified from time to time, to be packaged for and on behalf of the CMC”.
To be fair, we have seen some correspondence where there are objections from CMC, including the exclusivity of BOAD as it relates to it becoming the sole importer of rice and sugar. The corporation cites the fact that there is no history of performance by the company.  CMC also sought to maintain the right to purchase from others and objected to the company “taking over its distribution network”.  That said, we do not have any complete picture of what the final agreement looks like.  And while we have been told that everything is “on hold” we really do not know what that means.  It could be that the agreement is signed, sealed and delivered but “on hold” until the spotlight shines in a different direction.  We just do not know because that information is not forthcoming. 
We are also fairly uneasy with the though that one of CMC’s primary concerns was for the negative political implications for the administration in granting a monopoly.  That indicates to us that everyone knows this is not a good deal and it is not in the best interest of the people. 
You can now see why we are sad and disappointed.  We are time-travelling back to the days of unnecessary monopolies where the monopolists get rich off the backs of the people for doing nothing more than signing a document that guarantees them a piece of the pie. If we go down this road, what will be the other monopolies foisted upon the people?
We invite you to visit and give us your feedback on our opinions.

Prices up on thin supply in India, Thailand

By My Pham | HANOI

Rice prices rose on thin supply in India and as exporters in Thailand rushed to fill orders amid a slow off-season harvest, while Vietnam markets were quiet after a three-day holiday.India's 5 percent broken parboiled rice rose by $7 per ton to $394 to $399 a ton this week as local paddy prices rose due to thin supply."The government agencies are actively buying paddy ... Supply is very limited for private players. This has pushed up paddy prices. Accordingly we have to raise rice export prices," said M. Adishankar, executive director at Sri Lalitha, an exporter based in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

The Indian government buys rice from local farmers at a fixed price for subsidized food inventories and to meet any emergency needs such as a sudden spike in prices."The strengthening rupee is also making us uncompetitive," said another rice exporter based in Kakinada.The rupee has gained around 6 percent so far in 2017 and is trading near its highest in 21 months. A strong rupee means exporters need to charge more for their overseas shipments.

India, the world's top rice exporter, mainly exports non-basmati rice to African countries and premier basmati rice to the Middle East.Thai benchmark 5-percent broken rice rose to $380-$390 a ton, free-on-board (FOB) Bangkok, this week from $360-$3775 last week, on exporters' rush to fill shipments amid a slow off-season harvest."It looks like exporters are scrambling to fulfil large orders previously received, and now market supply is also running low," a Bangkok-based trader said.As long as exporters are still taking care of their orders, prices could be rising steadily, another trader in Bangkok said.
Thailand has exported 3.87 million tonnes of rice this year through April 26, a 12 percent jump from the same period last year, according to the latest figures by the commerce ministry.Vietnam's 5-percent broken rice edged up to $350-$352 a ton, FOB Saigon, from $350 last week, with traders citing a quiet market after national public holidays on Monday and Tuesday.
Vietnam has shipped an estimated 1.84 million tonnes of the grain between January and April, down 8.8 percent from the same period last year, the government said on Friday.Thailand and Vietnam are the world's second and third-biggest rice exporters.(Reporting by My Pham in HANOI; Additional reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in MUMBAI and Patpicha Tanakasempipat in BANGKOK; Editing by Tom Hogue)