Friday, May 19, 2017

19th may 2017 daily global regional local rice e-newsletter by riceplus magazine

Basmati lovers drive up rice import bill

- Sangam Prasain, Kathmandu

May 19, 2017-

Nepal’s cereal imports swelled by double digits despite a record food grain harvest this fiscal year, as consumers asserted their preference for aromatic basmati rice from India over the local product.Long grain basmati rice holds a unique charm in global markets including Nepal, and this has resulted in a growth in rice imports although the country produced surplus grain, agro experts said

According to the Trade and Export Promotion Centre, Nepal imported cereals worth Rs29.41 billion in the first nine months of the current fiscal year, up 11.9 percent from the same period last year. In the previous fiscal year 2015-16, cereal imports totalled Rs39.34 billion. 
Meanwhile, Nepal Rastra Bank’s statistics show that of the total cereal imports, the rice import bill came to Rs18.52 billion in the first nine months of the current fiscal year. The figure represents a 15.9 percent rise year-on-year. Paddy production jumped to an all-time high of 21.66 percent to 5.23 million tonnes this fiscal year, after two consecutive years of falling harvests triggered by drought. The country produced an additional 931,248 tonnes of paddy this year. In the last fiscal year, a crippling drought hit paddy production severely, dragging it down by 10.22 percent to 4.29 million tonnes.

Based on the average price of Rs21.45 per kg set by the ministry, this year’s output is valued at Rs113 billion, excluding the value of straw and husk. Although officials of the Ministry of Agricultural Development had estimated that the record harvest would bring down the country’s rice import bill, this did not happen. “It’s not surprising. The record paddy output this year has not dented the import bill because the expanding population of middle income Nepalis prefer to eat basmati rice,” said Bhola Man Singh Basnet, an agro expert and scientist. “We don’t have sufficient production of fine rice like basmati, so demand is met by imports.” India is the sole exporter of basmati rice to Nepal.

According to Basnet, there seems to be a direct link between remittance and food habits in Nepal. “Nepalis have been earning more from the last couple of years, and demand for basmati rice has grown accordingly.”  He said that Indian basmati rice was much cheaper compared to Nepal’s product due to the low cost of production and India’s heavily subsidized farm sector.  
The per capita rice consumption in many Asian countries has decreased as a new wealthy middle class replaced simple rice meals with meat-laden and Western style food, experts said. 
As per the Ministry of Agricultural Development, a Nepali consumes an average of 191 kg of food every year—90 kg of rice, 45 kg of maize, 45 kg of wheat and other foods like meat and dairy products.  

“Food habits in Nepal have not changed much. Eating white rice twice daily makes you weak,” said Yogendra Kumar Karki, spokesperson for the ministry. The contribution of rice to the energy intake in Nepal needs to be decreased and replaced by wheat, beans and other crops. “We have been launching various programmes and projects to educate people and encourage them to change their food habits.” He added that the government would be establishing a corn flake mill in the Eastern Region to promote cereals made by toasting flakes of corn and wean people away from traditional beaten rice.

Basmati boom has India’s LT Foods seeking growth in Europe, Middle East

LT Foods looks at Europe and Middle East for expansion as it seeks to capitalize on surging demand for basmati rice
Basmati rice accounts for about 38% of total rice consumption in the Middle East, 4.4% in Europe, 1.3% in the US and 1.2% in Asia.
News Delhi: LT Foods Ltd is targeting Europe and the Middle East for expansion after conquering the US market as one of India’s biggest basmati rice processors seeks to capitalize on surging demand for the aromatic grain.

Shares of LT Foods have more than doubled this year as the half-century old commodity trader increases focus on branded foods to exploit changing consumer desires in India and abroad.
“We want to concentrate and increase sales of our branded products, especially in the US and Europe, as we see huge potential there” and in the Middle East, Ashwani Arora, joint managing director, said on Monday in an interview in New Delhi.
The Mumbai-listed firm bought the Gold Seal Indus Valley and Rozana rice brands from Hindustan Unilever Ltd last year to strengthen its presence in the Middle East. It purchased the 817 Elephant brand in July to further boost sales in markets like the US and Canada, and is setting up a plant in Rotterdam to cater to Europe, Arora said.
“We want to be recognized as a food company, not a commodity trader,” said Arora, whose family started the business as a grains trader in the 1950s and set up its first rice mill in 1978. “The trend is health plus convenience. We are following that trend and developing our whole product range based on the theme.”
Although it has captured more than 50% of the basmati rice market in the US, it’s share in the Middle East and European markets is nominal, according to the company, which also sells rice brands such as Daawat, Royal, and Hadeel.
LT Foods and Japan’s Kameda Seika Co. set up a joint venture in November to manufacture and market rice-based snacks in India. The Indian firm also joined hands with Future Group in December to process and sell south Indian rice.
Basmati rice
Basmati rice accounts for about 38% of total rice consumption in the Middle East, 4.4% in Europe, 1.3% in the US and 1.2% in Asia, according to a company presentation.
LT expects revenue will almost double to $1 billion by 2020 from an estimated Rs32 billion ($500 million) in the year ended 31 March, Arora said. Improvements in procurement, processing, sales and distribution should help lift operating profit as a percentage of revenue to 15% in the coming years from 12%, he said.
Rising income in India has encouraged consumers to shift to modern convenience stores from mom-and-pop shops, boosting demand for branded rice and pulses. Branded products account for 26% of total basmati sales in the country, according to the company.
LT Foods annually sells about 200,000 tonnes of branded basmati rice in India, capturing a market share of 20%, he said. Branded packaged rice accounts for about two-thirds of its sales, while trading and value added products such as organic cereals and brown rice make up the rest, Arora said.
The company, which competes with firms such as KRBL Ltd and Kohinoor Foods Ltd, is aiming to increase its annual rice processing volumes to 500,000 tonnes in two years from 400,000 tonnes by outsourcing mills owned by others, Arora said.
Ajay Thakur, an analyst with Anand Rathi Securities Pvt, said in a report in February that the company’s stock valuations were inexpensive and the rising share of its branded business, cost efficiency-led margin gains and better inventory management were expected to drive greater free cash flow and return ratios. He has a buy rating on the stock.
“We don’t want to make a fresh capital expenditure and we will outsource because there are a lot of idle capacities that are available,” Arora said. “We are keen on spending money on branding and advertising our products. The focus is to invest in brands and markets.” Bloomberg

Scientists Engineer Disease-Resistant Rice Without Sacrificing Yield

Researchers have developed a way to make rice more resistant to bacterial blight and other diseases without reducing yield. Photo by Max Pixel.Researchers have successfully developed a novel method that allows for increased disease resistance in rice without decreasing yield. A team at Duke University, working in collaboration with scientists at Huazhong Agricultural University in China, describe the findings in a paper published May 17, 2017 in the journal Nature.Rice is one of the most important staple crops, responsible for providing over one-fifth of the calories consumed by humans worldwide. Diseases caused by bacterial or fungal pathogens present a significant problem, and can result in the loss of 80 percent or more of a rice crop.

Decades of research into the plant immune response have identified components that can be used to engineer disease-resistant plants. However, their practical application to crops is limited due to the decreased yield associated with a constantly active defense response.
“Immunity is a double-edged sword, ” said study co-author Xinnian Dong, professor of biology at Duke and lead investigator of the study. “There is often a tradeoff between growth and defense because defense proteins are not only toxic to pathogens but also harmful to self when overexpressed,” Dong said. “This is a major challenge in engineering disease resistance for agricultural use because the ultimate goal is to protect the yield.”

Previous studies have focused on altering the coding sequence or upstream DNA sequence elements of a gene. These upstream DNA elements are known as promoters, and they act as switches that turn on or off a gene’s expression. This is the first step of a gene’s synthesis into its protein product, known as transcription.By attaching a promoter that gives an “on” signal to a defense gene, a plant can be engineered to be highly resistant to pathogens, though at a cost to growth and yield. These costs can be partially alleviated by attaching the defense gene to a “pathogen specific” promoter that turns on in the presence of pathogen attack.

To further alleviate the negative effects of active defense, the Dong group sought to add an additional layer of control. They turned newly discovered sequence elements, called upstream open reading frames (uORFs), to help address this problem. These sequence elements act on the intermediate of a gene, or messenger (RNA, a molecule similar to DNA) to govern its “translation” into the final protein product. A recent study by the Dong lab in an accompanying paper in Nature has identified many of these elements that respond in a pathogen-inducible manner.
The Dong group hypothesized that adding this pathogen-inducible translational regulation would result in a tighter control of defense protein expression and minimize the lost yield associated with enhanced disease resistance.To test this hypothesis, the researchers started with Arabidopsis, a flowering plant commonly used in laboratory research. They created a DNA sequence that contains both the transcriptional and translational elements (uORFs) and fused them upstream of the potent “immune activator” gene called snc1.
 This hybrid sequence was called a “transcriptional/translational cassette” and was inserted into Arabidopsis plants.
When plants have snc1 constitutively active, they are highly resistant to pathogens, but have severely stunted growth. Strikingly, plants with the transcriptional/translational cassette not only have increased resistance, but they also lacked growth defects and resembled healthy wild-type plants. These results show the benefits of adding translational control in engineering plants that have increased resistance without significant costs.The Dong group then sought to apply these findings to engineer disease-resistant rice, as it is one of the world’s most important crops. They created transgenic rice lines containing the transcriptional/translational cassette driving expression of another potent “immune activator” gene called AtNPR1. This gene was chosen as it has been found to confer broad spectrum pathogen resistance in a wide variety of crop species, including rice, citrus, apple and wheat.
The dry yellowish leaves on these rice plants are a classic symptom of bacterial blight, a devastating disease that affects rice fields worldwide. Photo by Meng Yuan.
The transgenic rice lines containing the transcriptional/translational cassette were infected with bacterial/fungal pathogens that cause three major rice diseases — rice  blight, leaf streak, and fungal blast. These showed high resistance to all three pathogens, indicating broad spectrum resistance could be achieved. Importantly, when grown in the field, their yield — both in terms of grain quantity and quality per plant — was almost unaffected. These results indicate a great potential for agricultural applications.
This strategy is the first known use of adding translational control for the engineering of disease-resistant crops with minimal yield costs. It has many advantages, as it is broadly applicable to a variety of crop species against many pathogens. Since this strategy involves activating the plants’ endogenous defenses, it may also reduce the use of pesticides on crops and hence protect the environment.
Additionally, these findings may be broadly applicable to other systems as well. These upstream elements (uORFs) are widely present in organisms from yeast to humans, with nearly half of all human transcripts containing them. “The great potential in using these elements in controlling protein translation during specific biological processes has yet to be realized,” Dong said.
Corresponding author Xinnian Dong can be reached at or (919) 613-8176.
CITATION:  “uORF-Mediated Translation Allows Engineered Plant Disease Resistance Without Fitness Costs,” Guoyong Xu, Meng Yuan,   Chaoren Ai, Lijing Liu, Edward Zhuang, Sargis Karapetyan, Shiping Wang and Xinnian Dong. Nature, May 17, 2017. DOI: 10.1038/nature22372

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