Monday, September 25, 2017

25th September,2017 daily global regional and local rice e-newsletter by riceplus magazne

Rice Story: Growing rice to cut down on imports

At a rice conference in Lae some time ago, Neko Babul, a retired Air Niugini worker, stood up and spoke very strongly and passionately about growing rice and the need to reduce imports.
It was a long statement from the outspoken Morobean from Mumum village along the Lae-Nadzab highway.
While Mr. Babul expressed his thoughts to a very receptive audience, little did he know that he would have to put his words into action when he got home.
“I said to him, you don’t even have rice. Because you opened your mouth at the NARI meeting, Mr. Babul, you have to plant rice. You will not sleep,” Mrs. Babul laughs at the recollection of events that led to the rice project.
Haiveta Babul, originally from Kerema, says the plots are kept small for easy management but they have plans to expand on to the family land.
“When you plant bananas, people steal. When you plant tapioka or kaukau, rats and pigs dig it up. When you plant rice, it is difficult to steal.”
For Neko Babul, he meant every word he said. Imports should be reduced and Papua New Guinea should start exporting rice.
“We eat rice as a staple food in our diets. We sell our best produce in the markets then we go and buy rice,” he says as he stands in rain.
Mrs. Babul continues to plant the seedlings on their latest plot in the rain, as Mr. Babul continues.
She turned 60 on August 21st. She and her husband have embraced this new chapter in her lives with the vigor of youth.
“My God! 40 years of independence as we still import rice,” he adds raising both hands to the air in exasperation. “Papua New Guinea spends up to one billion kina on rice imports! ONE BILLION!
“We should be growing our own rice, increasing our level of self reliance and we should also start exporting rice.”
Rice was introduced in in Morobe over 100 years ago by early German missionaries. But it didn’t take hold as a desirable crop to plant. Probably because of the labor intensive nature of processing the crop.
Now, nearly two centuries later, there is new interest in rice growing.
Trukai industries, in partnership with Unitech and NARI has been trialing varieties which they hope will produce the yield required for sustainable commercial production.
This year, rice farmers in Markam harvested several tons of rice which were sold to Trukai industries.
The small rice farm is also being used to teach people living near the village.
“I tell you, this is a classroom. School kids stop by and ask questions and we tell them about rice. Because many know how to eat rice but don’t know what the crop looks like.
The husband and wife team plan to expand their rice farm and eventually produce between 20 and 30 bags a year which will drastically cut down their reliance on imported rice

Remove barriers in supply chain to stabilise rice market

12:00 AM, September 24, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 24, 2017

Says a leading importer and miller

Citta Majumder
Price of staple food rice has been rising since the first week of April this year, triggered by crop damage for flood in haor areas. And retail prices of the coarse grain, consumed mainly by low and fixed income people, shot up to Tk 54 per kilogramme, the highest ever in the history of Bangladesh.
The soaring prices have hit the poor and low income people. To contain the spiral, the government took several measures including import duty withdrawal and importing through the Directorate General of Food. Recently, the government also started anti-hoarding drives.
The Daily Star (TDS) recently talked to Citta Majumder, managing director of Majumder Group of Industries, on the rice market. The group runs two automatic rice mills with 44 tonnes of combined milling capacity per hour. It is also active in importing rice from India.

Sohel Parvez, a senior reporter of The Daily Star, took the interview.
TDS: Rice market has suddenly become unstable recently. In your opinion, what are the reasons behind it?
Majumder: The demand supply mismatch is the main reason behind the price spiral. Prices rise when supply falls. And the market only declines when supply increases.
Rice production in the boro season fell owing to flood in haors, excessive rainfall and blast attack on boro, the biggest rice crop. The problem began to deepen after prices of newly harvested boro paddy began to rise.
Because of high prices of paddy, expenditure at mills went up to Tk 38-40 per kilogramme, which was higher than the government's procurement prices.
We, from our association, urged the government for slashing import duty on rice to increase supply and achieve procurement target. Otherwise, procurement target cannot be achieved. But the government did not pay heed to our appeal.
As a result, the government failed to reach its procurement target and the effect can be seen in the market now: a rush of people to buy rice.
The demand was so high that people did not bother about the quality of rice. We have seen new customers, whom we did not see in the past. From the demand, we realised that there was a huge deficit of rice this year.
After the government slashed duty substantially, prices of rice were supposed to fall. Local importers usually buy from India's Bardhaman and Arambagh as the quality of rice there is similar to rice grown in our north.
After duty cuts, local importers rushed to Bardhaman and Arambagh in India to buy rice at any cost. As a result, prices shot up to Rs 3,050 per quintal, which was Rs 2,300-2,400 before Eid-ul-Azha. Rs 1 is equivalent to Tk 1.26.
Initially, we sold rice at Tk 36.5 per kilogramme and then had to sell at Tk 40-41 per kilogramme because of increased costs. Then prices went up further.
The biggest damage was done after panic spread fast because of fake news on rice export ban by India. The extent of panic was such that people feared there might not be any rice in the future.
We saw the spread of such panic during the tenure of a caretaker government when rice prices rose to Tk 32 per kilogramme from Tk 22-24.
What I feel is that the shortage originated from various factors -- slump in import due to the imposition of 28 percent import duty, dwindling carry-over stock and crop losses for flood and excessive rainfall. Now it has become a very big problem.
TDS: There are allegations that a section of traders made hefty profits cashing in on the fake news on rice export ban by India.
Majumder: This may happen, nothing is impossible. This cannot be denied that there are both fair traders and profiteers in the market. But not all are the same. Some bought in much higher quantities than their requirements and stocked warehouses on expectation of further spike in prices.
TDS: Rice prices have come down after the government's meeting with millers. Is it going to be sustainable?
Majumder: Prices surged Tk 3-5 per kilogramme at importers' level, although there was no logical ground. Prices shot up because of panic. 
The recent drive by the government also had an impact on prices. But the decline may not sustain if we cannot ensure adequate supply in the market.
The government has to increase supply of the staple through imports to bring stability in the market.
TDS: Although you millers say there is a shortage, the government said there is one crore tonnes of rice in stock. What do you say about that?
Majumder: I have no idea. But the maximum amount of stock would be of fine varieties of paddy -- BR-28, BR-29 -- and large millers release these fine varieties slowly until summer when these varieties are harvested again. They do this to keep their business running. But there is a shortage of coarse grains which were mainly harvested nine months ago.
Cultivation of coarse grain, such as swarna and hybrid, has also declined. Import is the main source of coarse rice.
TDS: It is said that large rice millers and importers have stocked rice and they control the market. How many big rice millers operate in the market?
Majumder: It is estimated that there are about 400 semi-automatic and fully automatic rice mills in the country. Of that, there might be 50-60 large mills.
These mills have brands and they have to keep supply chain of these brands intact by ensuring regular supply to the market.
TDS: There are allegations that millers and traders are hiking prices artificially by hoarding paddy and rice.
Majumder: From my past experience, there was a shortage of rice during the tenure of the BNP-led government after 1991 election. The then commerce minister sat with us on several occasions. There were allegations of syndication and profiteering by importers. Such allegations also came in successive periods.
The truth is crop production falls when there is a natural disaster. As a result, supply declines leading to a price spiral.
TDS: Do you mean that there is no effect of hoarding on rice price?  
Majumder: Hoarding had occurred in the past. This is also present now and will be in the future. There are some people who stock to profit from sales later. But I personally think this does not influence the market too much.
On this point, let me tell you that we had to sell swarna rice at Tk 22 per kilogramme whereas it cost us Tk 32 each kilogramme. We hoarded the grains for eight months to raise its price, but we failed. Our capital just halved. The year 2014-15 was a 'black year' for us and our existence was at stake. All suffered because of the fall in prices. At that time, supply was higher than demand. Now, supply is low but demand is high.
TDS: What can the government do to bring down the prices of rice?
Majumder: The media should not report anything that prompts people to panic and rush to buy rice. I do not see anything to panic given the current stock in the country and imports in the pipeline.
To stabilise the market we have to increase supply. And bottlenecks in the supply chain should be eliminated. Railway should be given priority to import rice from India and foodgrains should be given priority among other import items.
Overall, supply has to be increased and problems in the supply chain should be removed. Creating panic or fear would not bring any good. This rather does the opposite

Samar hosts 5th National Rice Technology Forum; Hybrid rice eyed in more farms

Published September 23, 2017, 10:00 PM
By Restituto Cayubit
Basey, Samar — The Department of Agriculture Eastern Visayas regional office 8 (DA RFO-8) in collaboration with partners staged and hosted the 5th National Rice Technology Forum here recently, where hybrid rice was presented as a key to increasing the yield and productivity of rice farmers.
DA RFO-8’s OIC Regional Executive Director, U-Nichols A. Manalo said that DA RFO 8, the Rice Productivity Advocacy Board, the local government unit of Samar, the hybrid rice producers in the country, farmers, stakeholders and other partner agencies, jointly sponsored the 3-day forum from September 20 to 22.
Hybrid Rice in Samar — Department of Agriculture senior science research specialist Maria Rufelie Gula checks out high-yield hybrid rice stalks at a demonstration farm in Basey, Samar featured during the recent 5th National Rice Technology Forum. (Restituto A. Cayubit|Manila Bulletin)
Going hybrid
The event adopted the theme “Increased Production Through Hybrid Rice Technology” and “Sinirangan Bisayas Mag-hybrid na Kita.” (Eastern Visayas let us go hybrid now.)
Manalo said the over 3,000 farmers from across thye country joined the event.
It was also attended by the rice scientists and researchers including rice technicians from the Department of Agriculture and from the different local government units in the country, government employees, private organizations and representatives from the business sector, the media and various rice industry stakeholders.
The country’s leading hybrid seed producers showcased their products in a 12.6-hectares rice farm located in Sitio Manilaay, Barangay Old San Agustin, this town.
Low Samar yield
Last year, Manalo said Samar produced 149,307 metric tons of rice from 54,216 hectares of ricefields, accounting for 15.6 percent of the region’s total output of 954,844 metric tons.
“Its yield level was seen as the lowest level among the provinces in region at 2.75 metric tons per hectare,” he said.
Manalo explained that farmers need to be more competitive to cater to the ever-increasing demand for rice.
“As we all knew, increasing rice output is central to being competitive. And this is precisely where hybrid rice technology could help. Thus we are excited and optimistic about the future of hybrid rice in the region,” Manalo said.
Reaching out to farmers
The 12 participating seed producers provided the farmer cooperators with the seeds and input requirements, labor cost and rental fees for certain machineries and equipment used as well as technical assistance following the package of technology recommended for a particular hybrid rice variety, while the National Irrigation Administration supplied the needed irrigation water.
The forum effectively introduced to farmers the benefits and advantages of growing hybrid rice, including increased yield

Rice Revolution!

By V Naveen Kumar | THE HANS INDIA |    Sep 24,2017 , 02:15 AM IST
Hyderabad: In a breakthrough, the Indian Institute of Rice Research (IIRR) has come up with instant rice that can be cooked under four minutes and has iron and zinc minerals that is not the case with normal rice.

The research comes at a time when people have no time to spend in the kitchen for long and with both husband and wife working; the instant rice could well be lapped up by all. Scientists at IIRR say they could do this by chemical treatment using chemicals from generally recognized as safe (GRAS).“We did not add other chemicals,” informed a scientist. The instant rice not only saves cooking time but also offers supplementary iron and zinc.

Additionally, the scientist said milled rice can’t be made edible by soaking in water at room temperature. Moisture content would increase only up to 30 per cent even after 2:30 hours soaking, while instant rice would contain 65 per cent moisture after 40 minutes of soaking at room temperature.The ratio of instant rice to water around 1:4.
Normal rice requires at least 15 minutes if cooked in boiling water. Normal milled rice contains very low amount of iron and zinc which were in the range of five to 10 parts per million (ppm) and 10 to 20 ppm, respectively. Moreover, their contents further decrease when washed with water and cooked in excess of water. “We developed normal and Basmati instant rice which has considerably high amount of iron and zinc,” said Dr MM Azam, principal scientist at IIRR.
Explaining fortification of the rice, Azam said usually wheat flour and cereals are fortified with iron and zinc. “If the nutrients are mixed in conventional way, they would get washed away. So, we have invented a new method to fortify rice with iron and zinc,” he said. On the evaluation, the scientist said they had served instant rice and normal rice to some people but they did not find any difference in taste.
Further, he said instant rice did not require aseptic packing as the moisture content was in the normal range. The rice available in the market contains very high amount of water (more than 50 per cent), he said and added that therefore it was sold in aseptically packed package which increases the cost of the rice.

“We were in touch with the industry for transfer of technology, so people would get instant rice in the market. It would cost additional Rs 5 per Kg for instant rice," he said.

Disclosing about the forthcoming research on food products, Azam said: “Our idea is to develop instant pulses, oils and vegetables and the day is not far away when one could just ‘Heat and Eat’.”

Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lafayette area People in Business for Sept. 24, 2017

SEP 24, 2017 - 12:15 AM


Jill Roshto has been named chief executive officer and president of the Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising organization affiliated with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.The biomedical center conducts research into nutrition and obesity and related diseases such as diabetes.For the past two years, Roshto has served as the chief executive officer of Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge. Roshto, an LSU graduate, previously worked for LSU’s Stephenson Entrepreneurship Institute and LSU Foundation in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.The Water Institute of the Gulf has named Alyssa Dausman as vice president for science and as chief scientist of the RESTORE Act Center of Excellence for Louisiana, effective Oct. 2.Dausman is the science director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, or RESTORE Council, formed after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. She previously was science adviser and Gulf Coast science coordinator for the southeastern region of the U.S. Geological Survey, where she was a senior representative to the U.S. Department of the Interior to support the RESTORE Council and restoration monitoring for the natural resource damage assessment process.
The Mississippi native received her bachelor’s degree at Tulane University, master’s degree from the University of New Orleans and doctorate from Florida International University in Miami.
Investar Bank has named Chad Cornett as a commercial lender and senior vice president in the greater Baton Rouge market.
Cornett was vice president of commercial banking at Regions Bank. He received a bachelor's degree in business with a specialty in finance and a master’s in economic development from the University of Southern Mississippi and graduated from LSU’s Graduate School of Banking.
Mike Polito, chief executive officer at MAPP Construction, has been named chairman of the American Heart Association’s 2018 Capital Area Heart Walk, with support by an executive leadership team.
The Heart Walk raises funds to support the American Heart Association and promote cardiovascular health.
Louisiana Future Farmers of America has named Eric Smith as executive director and Cade LeJeuneas executive secretary.
Smith’s main roles will be in curriculum and governmental relations. Smith will serve on the state’s Agricultural Education Commission and work with Louisiana’s Workforce Investment Council and the Louisiana Department of Education. LeJeune will work on the student side of FFA, growing membership, preparing members for leadership roles and organizing events.
Smith recently received a doctorate in human resource education and was an agriculture teacher at Lakeview High School in Natchitoches Parish for 14 years. LeJeune taught agriculture education in Springfield.


Diane Broussard has been named vice president of human resources at Women’s & Children’s Hospital, effective Oct. 2.
Broussard was senior vice president of human resources for Schumacher Clinical Partners. Her experience includes six years as a system planning associate with Lafayette General Medical Center, where she later served as human resources director for six years.
Broussard earned a bachelor's degree in social work from the former Northeast Louisiana University, now the University of Louisiana at Monroe. She received a Master of Social Work from LSU and professional training in mediation from Loyola Law School.


Timothy W. Thomas, co-owner of Thomas Financial Group, has been elected chairman of the Boys Town Louisiana board.
Jacquelyn C. Harris, founder of Castain Consulting LLC, was elected secretary.
Other newly elected board members include Magdalen Bickford, of McGlinchey Stafford LLC, and David Winkler-Schmit, of DWS Communications.
The remainder of the board includes Cliff Buller, Anne Doussan, Ken Gootee, Lex Kelso, Alvin Johnson, Terry McCall, Brandi Nye and Barbara Waiters.


The LSU AgCenter has named Kurt Guidry as its southwest region director and Chiquita Briley as southeast region director.
Guidry, a professor in the LSU AgCenter Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, succeeds Steve Linscombe, who is retiring after 35 years with the AgCenter. The southwest region includes 14 parishes and three research stations. Guidry’s office will be at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station in Crowley. Guidry has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, a master’s degree in agricultural economics from LSU and a doctorate in agricultural economics from Oklahoma State University.
Briley was head of the Department of Human Sciences at Tennessee State University. She replaces Regina Bracy, who retired. The region includes programs in 16 parishes and three research stations. Briley received a bachelor’s degree in home economics from Southern University, a master’s degree in nutritional sciences and dietetics and a doctorate in human sciences from the University of Nebraska.

Cross River talks possibility in green economy

By Anietie Akpan, Calabar, Deputy Bureau Chief, South South
24 September 2017   |   2:45 am
Cross River State governor, Senator Ben Ayade

Cross River State is one of the three states, with least allocation from the federation account, following the loss of Bakassi to Cameroon and 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom State.
However, determined to survive, government is engaging in serious agriculture drive. If the words of the chairman of the state’s farmers’ council, Mr. Owen Oyama, were to be taken seriously, in the next two years, the state would reap bountifully from agriculture.
Speaking with The Guardian at the World Honeybee Day celebration in Ikom, on the agriculture policy programme of the state, vis-à-vis farming, Oyama said Governor Ben Ayade specifically established the farmers council to pilot the activities of farmers in all value chains, generate a robust data base to make policies that affect such value chains, by ensuring that farmers do not only have enough, but to also see that the state does not go hungry.

“We have robust farm policies. You can see most of our major projects are farm oriented. We have rice research institute in Calabar; we have the one in Obudu, the Bansara rice, cocoa processing in Ikom and other ones that span across the state. It is not only about industrialisation, agriculture programmes are spread across the state. As I talk to you now, we have cocoa revolution and for now our policy trust is on green economy.”

To achieve this green economy with less dependence on oil, Oyama said; “the approach we have adopted, speaking from the bee farming part of it, is already giving me an overview of the endless possibilities. They have told us already that bee itself has bee wax, pollen and other by-products of bee. I know too well that by the time we invest as little as N500, 000 for beehives of say 20 farmers and we pollinate them, we are going to be having in a year over N100m from bee farming as total value to this farmers.
“I am sure with our bee processing factory already in Obanliku, we do not even have any issue because we are going to process them there and send them for export. What we are talking about now is to collate and make them into cooperatives that will recognise and train them in packaging. We have to partner with Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), the Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and other related agencies to make sure that our products are not only accepted in Cross River State alone, but also for export. It may interest you to know that we have one of the best honeys in the world and given our pollen tree, which is rare. So we have virtually all the advantages to grow this and make sure we get enough from agriculture more than we think. Taking our partnership with tourism bureau, we are expanding more than we think.”

According to him, currently there are 250 beehives that were built by the Federal Government as an intervention for bee farming in Obanliku Local Council Area, which would be publicised to farmers. “We will exploit that to make sure we exploit honey for export from Obanliku. Before now, we have the Obudu honey, which I have not seen for sometime, but we will revive that value chain and make sure Cross River State is back on the world map.”

Besides bee farming, he said robust activities are going on in every other farming chain. “We have meetings with Catfish Farmers Association of Nigeria, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, and Cassava Growers of Nigeria, in an effort to boost agriculture. In October, we would be having the World Food Day and all the relevant value chains will come and showcase what they have.

Pakistan exported food commodities worth $500m in last two months

ISLAMABAD: The country earned US$ 512.3 million by exporting different food commodities during the first two months of the current financial year as compared the earnings of the corresponding period of last year.
During the period from July to August 2017, food group exports from the country increased by 30.6 percent as compared the exports of the same period of last year.
According to the data of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics,  since the last two months exports of rice grew by 40 percent as around 428,993 metric tons of rice worth US$ 223.97 million were exported.
The rice exports, during first two months of last financial year, were recorded at 3810,861 metric tons, which were worth US$ 159.54 million, it added.
Meanwhile, the exports of basmati rice grew by 10.35 percent and about 59,433 metric tons of basmati rice, worth US$ 62.741 million, were exported as compared the exports of 59,192 metric tons, valuing US$ 56.857 million, in the same period,  last year.
The exports of rice other than basmati also witnessed an increase of 58.98 percent, around 369.580 metric tons of rice costing US$ 161.198 million exported as compared to the exports of 251,669 metric tons worth US$ 102.888 million last year.
From July-August, 2017-18, fruit and vegetable exports increased by 8.74 percent and reached at 56,280 metric tons worth of US$ 20.58 million against the exports of 73,751 metric tons of US$ 18.88 million of the same period last year, it added.
The other commodities which witnessed an increase in their exports during the period under review include fish and fish production, which increased by 19.63 percent, wheat and sugar increased by 100 percent respectively. 
It may be recalled here that imports of the food commodities into the country also witnessed an increase of 27.18 percent and about US$ 1.123 billion was spent on the import of different food items to fulfil the domestic requirements.



Pakistan-China FTA farce

One must wonder what dictionaries policymakers are using since clearly their understanding of basic terms is so different from those widely accepted. In the Pakistan China FTA negotiations, what is being hailed as a “major development” and a “breakthrough” appears to be little more than a nod towards diplomacy.

The second phase of the FTA was supposed to be implemented in 2014, for which negotiations started in 2011. Since then, the negotiations have been stalled with Pakistan repeatedly requesting for better access. Finally, China has agreed to address concerns. So after more than 6 years of pleading, what Pakistan is hailing with enthusiasm is China willing to consider improved access to its $1.6 trillion market of which Pakistan’s share is less than $2 billion.

China is the biggest importer of cotton and it derivatives in the world. So much so that nearly half of the total global export of cotton yarn is imported by China. The bulk of Pakistan’s exports to China consist of cotton and its derivatives, the biggest export being cotton yarn. Currently less than a quarter of China’s imports of cotton yarn originate from Pakistan which is hardly surprising since Vietnam enjoys of 0.4 percent under the ASEAN FTA, whereas tariff imposed on Pakistan is 3.7 percent.

After cotton, rice is an important export to China for which Pakistan receives no preferential treatment whatsoever.

The average tariff imposed on Pakistan’s rice exports into China is 65 percent whereas ASEAN countries Thailand’s and Vietnam’s rice imports have an average tariff of 33.7 percent levied on them.

Pakistan has shared a list of 70 items that constitute of more than 80 percent of its exports to China. Allegedly, China has agreed to consider these items favourably. Consider this example: China offers 50 percent tariff reduction on Pakistan’s current exports and as result, tariff on cotton yarn imports from Pakistan get decreased to 1.4 percent.

This reduction will do little to increase Pakistan’s market access because cotton yarn from Vietnam will still be facing lower tariffs. Pakistan needs to analyze the tariff preferences offered to its competitors and receive a firm quantitative commitment from China. Otherwise, the jubilations at tariff reductions would be a farce

Economic Policy Analysis Expert Dlamini Global Food Opportunities Seminar Speaker

Sep. 25, 2017
Thula Sizwe Dlamini is executive director of the Swaziland Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre in Mbabane, Swaziland.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Thula Sizwe Dlamini, executive director of the Swaziland Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre, is the guest speaker for this fall's Global Food Opportunities seminar series hosted by the U of A's Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences.
Dlamini is speaking to students, faculty and staff on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. in the Human Environmental Sciences Building (HOEC Room 102). The Global Food Opportunities series, which is open to the public, exposes students to international experiences and opportunities to expand career and academic options. Dlamini's visit is co-sponsored by the Bumpers College International Programs Office and the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness. His presentation is "Nurturing Evidence Based Policy and Practice in the Kingdom of Swaziland: The Role of SEPARC."
Before going to SEPARC in Mbabane, Swaziland, Dlamini worked as an agricultural economist at the Agricultural Research Council in Pretoria, South Africa, and conducted research on agricultural science and technology policy.
He has received the Cochrane Fellowship at Michigan State University, the South African Agricultural Economics Professional Fellowship from Cornell University and in 2015 was named Young Researcher of the Year at the Agricultural Research Council.
Dlamini earned his bachelor's degree in agricultural economics from the University of Swaziland and an honors degree in agricultural economics from the University of Fort Hare in South Africa, conducting research on foreign direct investment in the agriculture sector. He earned his Ph.D. in economics from Rhodes University, serving as assistant lecturer and focusing research on the economic implications of monotonous sheep farming in Graaff-Reinert, Eastern Cape Providence, South Africa.
The Swaziland Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre was established in 2008 through a joint collaboration between the African Capacity Building Foundation and the Government of the Kingdom Swaziland. The organization aims to build sustainable national capacity to improve the quality and timeliness of public policies in Swaziland.
Previous speakers in the Global Food Opportunities seminar series include Jose Carreia de Simas, product development leader in research and development at Elanco Animal Health; Glenn Shinn, senior partner at Global Consulting Solutions and Borlaug Senior Scientist in international agricultural development; Robert Zeigler, plant pathologist and director general of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines; Zehava Uni, professor of poultry nutrition, physiology and embryology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel; Fred Davies, plant physiologist at Texas A&M University who has worked on space station plant production; Paolo Sambo, professor of vegetable and ornamental production at the University of Padova in Italy; Martin Gummert, senior scientist 2 in postharvest development and mechanization at the International Rice Research Institute; and Eizabeth Mitcham, director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab at the University of California at Davis.
More information on Bumpers College's Global Food Opportunity seminars can be found here.

Agri researchers back regional rice initiatives

Asian agriculture research officials have expressed support for the Asean+3 Rice Breeding and Genetics Initiative — a long-term program that aims to address regional food security and national rice sector strategy concerns.
This week’s meeting of the Council for Partnerships on Rice Research in Asia (CORRA) saw officials pledging to endorse the program to their respective agriculture ministries.
They noted that despite progress in some Asian countries, food crises remain a looming threat. Failure to achieve viable solutions by 2030 will adversely affect food supplies for 560 million people, they added.
The Asean+3 Rice Breeding and Genetics Initiative aims to increase the rice varieties available to member countries, raise yields and boost national breeding programs. Member countries, for example, can choose rice varieties adapted to drought, flooding, and salinity brought on by climate change.
“The Asean+3 Rice Breeding and Genetics Initiative was recently endorsed at the Senior Officials Meeting of the Asean Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry held in Singapore in August,” said Matthew Morell, director general of the Los Banos-based International Rice Research Institute.
“[CORRA’s] declaration of support is another positive step in the achievement of South-South cooperation for the regional rice sector,” he added.
This year’s meeting, which was hosted by China, began on Tuesday and ended yesterday, September 22.
CORRA is composed of representatives of national agricultural research and/or extension systems from Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.
The council acts as an advisory board and provides a platform for partnership and collaboration among its members.

Drought-resistant rice variety struggles to find any takers

Sandeep Moudgal| TNN | Sep 24, 2017, 10:20 IST
BENGALURU: Even as the government remains firm on not allowing paddy to be grown in Karnataka's rice bowl Mandya fearing over-utilization of water from the Cauvery basin, a lesser-known variety of rice which doesn't consume much water seems to be struggling to create a market.

Aerobic rice needs only half the water used for conventional rice cultivation. In the trial phase for the past 10 years, it has seen little exposure. So much so, a mela was held in Mandya on Saturday to attract farmers towards the variety.

Dr H E Shashidhar, retired professor of genetics and plant breeding from the University of Agricultural Sciences, was the lead scientist who helped in the trial runs.Funded by the famed Rockefellar Foundation in the late 90s, the trials continued through the 2000s and are still on, but farmers have shown minimal interest in using aerobic rice as an alternative to traditional varieties.

"The aerobic variety can yield nearly 20-22 quintals of rice per acre at not more than Rs 15,000 as input cost. Conventional paddy cultivation approximately costs Rs 25,000 per acre for the same yield.Unfortunately , the mindset of the farmers has not changed," said the scientist.

"With people still believ ing that paddy cannot give a good yield if not flood irrigated, farmers are not giving themselves a chance to grow this drought-resistant variety," added Shashidhar. As part of the trial runs, UAS assisted farmers in Bidadi (five acre), Dodballapura (10 acre) and Vishweshwaraiah Canal farm (70 acre) in Mandya to cultivate the rice.
Industry sources claim successive state governments have ignored the variety due to increased weeding during cultivation, besides being sceptical of experimenting the most staple produce of the state. The agriculture department said it is yet to ascertain whether the variety has come to their notice or not.

The scientist has now tied up with a private company, KisanKraft, which supplies agricultural equipment, to publicize aerobic rice.
                    Vouching for the rice variety, firm director Ravindra Kumar Agarwal said, "We had supported a field trial in 2013 involving farmers near Bengaluru and the yield was better than puddled cultivation by the same farmers on adjoining fields."


Embroiled in the decades-old Cauvery row with Tamil Nadu and having endured successive droughts, Karnataka understands that water is a very precious resource. In this scenario, the state's nonpromotion of aerobic rice is bewildering. Though scientists say trial runs have yielded positive results, the government can do its own due diligence. As it consumes less water, aerobic rice should be considered as an alternative to conventional paddy cultivation. For too long have our farmers been at the mercy of erratic rainfall, and any practice which holds the slightest promise of benefiting them should be explored and aggressively promoted

Crop colonies in Telangana to make agri sector profitable: Pocharam

Once the land purification drive was completed in the State the crop colonies will be developed based on the soil texture, availability of water and local requirements, Agriculture Minister Pocharam Srinivas Reddy said.

By AuthorTelanganaToday  |   Published: 23rd Sep 2017  8:13 pm Updated: 23rd Sep 2017  8:14 pm
File photo: Agriculture Minister Pocharam Srinivas Reddy.
Hyderabad:  Crop colonies will be developed in the State to make agriculture a profitable sector said Minister for Agriculture Pocharam Srinivas Reddy here on Saturday.
After inaugurating a two-day conference on “Rejuvenate Indian Agriculture for Sustainability” at Indian Institute of Rice Research at Rajendranagar he declared that the crop colonies idea was initiated by Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao and he was committed for it.
Once the land purification drive was completed in the State the crop colonies will be developed based on the soil texture, availability of water and local requirements, Reddy said. Adding this he said crop colonies will give major relief to the sector as farmers can better known what they should cultivate to get good revenues for their yield.
Minister wanted the days to come where the farmers should fix the price for their produce similar to other sectors. “To reduce farm expenditure the central government should come forward to interlink Employment Guarentee Scheme (EGS) to agriculture,” Reddy said.
Mentioning about State government’s schemes to give major boost to agriculture he said Chief Minister has committed to complete all the irrigation projects on war footing. “With the budgetary allocation of Rs 1.50lakh crore the government is constructing irrigation projects with an aim to supply irrigated water to 1 crore acres,” Reddy said. He also explained about financial assistance scheme and its positive impact on agriculture sector in the near future.
Minister wanted changes in the existing Pradana mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) scheme. “Under the scheme village is considered as a unit to settle the claims during the natural calamities, but the State government has been demanding to take farmer as a unit instead of village,” Minister said

Indonesia's Retail Rice Market Slows Down Due to Risk of Obesity: Mintel
Jakarta. The retail rice market in Indonesia has experienced a slow growth rate over the past five years as urban Indonesians increasingly avoid high carbohydrate intakes due to an increased risk of obesity, research from global market intelligence firm Mintel showed.
According to Mintel's "Food and Drink report" published on Thursday (22/09), compound annual growth (CAGR) of the country's rice market grew 3.5 percent in retail volume between 2012 and 2016 and is projected to only grow by around 1.5 percent from 2017 to 2021.
The retail volume of the local rice market also only grew by 3 percent last year, compared to 5 percent in 2015.
Mintel polled 1,192 online respondents aged 18 and above in June, with the majority of respondents living in Semarang (Central Java), Jakarta, Bandung (West Java), Surabaya (East Java) and Yogyakarta.
"In a country where rice is regarded as a main dietary staple, Indonesia is known to be one of the biggest consumers of rice globally. However, our research indicates that the Indonesian retail rice market is currently seeing a slowdown in growth, perhaps due to the current attention being given to the high prevalence of diabetes within the country," Jodie Minotto, a research manager at Mintel, said on Thursday.
Despite the slowing growth, Indonesia was one of the highest rice consumers in total market size around the world during the first eight months this year, with Vietnam projected to top that list with 232.5 kilograms per capita, followed by Thailand (163.2 kg), China (119.11 kg), Indonesia (103.02 kg) and Malaysia (100.2 kg).
Mintel's data shows that around 27 percent of urban Indonesians have been actively avoiding carbohydrates, while 64 percent of the same demographic said it is healthier to avoid rice.
"The glycemic index [GI]  the one that causes glucose levels in the body to increase  of many popular rice varieties will continue to be an issue as cases of diabetes grow. Rice companies in Indonesia are looking for solutions, and unless lower glycemic index strains of rice are developed and made widely available, rice consumption will likely continue to experience slowing growth," Minotto said.
Urban Indonesians, mostly middle-, upper-middle class residents with a heightened awareness of food safety, are beginning to more frequently purchase certified organic products over unhealthier, but more affordable, options.
Between January to August this year, around 28 percent of urban Indonesians said they seek out organic food and drink products when they go shopping. Around 75 percent of them have purchased organic rice and noodles in the first six months this year.
Despite the growing demand, there are limited health-conscious products in the local market, with only 3 percent of certified organic products being launched in Indonesia in the first eight months this year.
"In Indonesia, rice is seen traditionally as an affordable and filling staple. While organic rice varieties tend to attract a premium price, recent food safety scandals involving rice have fueled consumer distrust in food and drink brands, prompting them to seek reassurance in organic certifications. Urban Indonesian consumers are going for organic options because they believe them to be not only healthier, but safer as well." Jodie said.
The Mintel study also showed that between January to August, around 42 percent of urban Indonesian consumers believed organic products free of harmful ingredients, such as chemical residue, while 45 percent of urban Indonesians purchase organic products because they do not contain harmful ingredients

‘Rotten’ rice imported from Thailand: BNP

UNB . Dhaka | Update: 18:58, Sep 22, 2017
Bangladesh Nationalist Party on Friday alleged that the government is mocking with people's 'hunger' by importing 'rotten' rice from Thailand.
"After importing rotten wheat from Africa, the government has now procured rotten rice from Thailand," BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi told a press conference at the party's Nayapaltan central office.
Alleging that the imported rice is low in quality and unsuitable to eat, the party leader said, "We think importing rotten rice is an anti-constitutional act. So, we think, by importing such rice, the government has not only committed an anti-constitutional act but also anti-humanity one. In fact, the government is mocking with people's hunger."
He voiced deep concern as two ships carrying rotten rice are waiting in the port to get unloaded though the food department has declined to accept the rice.
"Some 12,000 tonnes of rice have been brought by a ship, MV Thai Bin Day, on 31 August while some 19850 tonnes brought by another ship, MV Diamond, from Thailand this month," he added.
He also alleged that the ship owners are trying to sell the 'rotten' rice to local rice traders. "We heard they've already contacted some rice traders to sell the rotten rice."
Rizvi questioned why efforts are there to sell the publicly procured rice to private traders. "We think the government high-ups are involved in importing the rotten rice from Thailand."
He also said low-income people are declining to buy atap (white) rice which is being sold under open market sale (OMS). The dealers are forcing people to buy the atap rice.
The BNP leader demanded the government carry out an investigation into it.

Rotten rice imported from Thailand
12:00 AM, September 23, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 23, 2017


Alleges BNP

Unb, Dhaka
The BNP yesterday accused the government of importing “rotten” rice from Thailand.
Two ships carrying rotten rice from Thailand are waiting to be unloaded at Chittagong port, although the food department has refused to accept the rice, claimed BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi at a press conference at the party's Nayapaltan central office.
"After importing rotten wheat from Africa, the government has now procured rotten rice from Thailand... the government is mocking with people's hunger," he said.
"Some 12,000 tonnes of rice have been brought by a ship, MV Thai Bin Day, on August 31, while some 19,850 tonnes brought by another ship, MV Diamond, from Thailand this month."
"We think the government high-ups are involved in importing the rotten rice from Thailand," he also said, alleging that the ship owners were trying to sell the “rotten” rice to local rice traders. "We heard that they've already contacted some rice traders to sell the rotten rice." Rizvi demanded investigation into the allegations.

After mouldy wheat, government imported rotten rice: BNP

The government is making a 'mockery of the people's hunger' by importing 'rotten' rice, after feeding them 'inedible' wheat, the BNP has alleged.
The party's Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi made the allegation while speaking to journalists at its Naya Paltan headquarters in Dhaka on Friday."This time rotten rice has been imported from Thailand, after rotten wheat from Africa. A hullabaloo is on in Chittagong after the news of the rotten rice came to light two days ago," he said.
The food ministry imported over 200,000 tonnes of wheat from Brazil earlier this year. The wheat was reportedly 'rotten and not suitable for human consumption'.
Police objected to taking the wheat when the government distributed the consignment among the law enforcers, prisons, dealers and programmes for the poor like Test Relief or TR and Food for Work or Kabikha.
The High Court ordered the government not to force anyone to take the wheat, though the food ministry found the wheat 'consumable'. Food Minister Qamrul Islam said he was satisfied with the quality of the wheat. 
On Aug 31, vessel Thai Bin Bay docked at Chittagong Port with 12,000 tonnes of imported rice and another ship, Diamond, came later this month with 19,850 tonnes of rice, Rizvi said, referring to media reports.
"These rice are totally inedible and of poor quality. We think supplying inedible rice or wheat is against the constitution, humanity."
He also expressed concern that the Thai ships were trying to sell the consignments through private channels after the government had asked to take those back.
He claimed the people fear whether the other consignments were also of poor quality rice.
According to him, 16 ships carrying rice imported by the government have docked at the port since July 13 after two spells of floods created food shortage and caused the prices to skyrocket.
The BNP leader alleged the distributors of the government's Open Market Sale or OMS programme were pushing the low-income people to buy white rice.He demanded an investigation to 'solve the mystery' surrounding rice

Telangana Civil Supplies department to procure paddy

By AuthorTelanganaToday  |  
 23rd Sep 2017  10:25 pm
Hyderabad: The Civil Supplies department is getting ready for paddy procurement of Kharif season which starts from next month. The department decided to increase the number of purchasing centres to procure paddy from farmers. Commissioner for Civil Supplies C V Anand directed officials to make necessary arrangements so that farmers would not face any difficulty in selling their paddy as per minimum support price.
Anand, who held a meeting with rice millers here said the department has decided to purchase 27 lakh metric tonnes initially. For this, 2,800 purchase centers would be established across the State. The purchase centers would be established from October 1 onwards as per the requirement of districts. 16.57 LMT paddy was purchased through 2,100 purchase centers in the 2016-17 Kharif season.
This year, the minimum support price has been increased from Rs.1470 to Rs.1550 for common type and Rs.1510 to Rs.1590 for ‘A’ grade, he said.
With the help of Online Procurement Management System (OPMS) online purchasing, payment will be expanded to 31 districts. From this Kharif season, paddy allocation and extradition, payments and all the transactions will come under online system, Anand said in a statement here

Rice bread rising: Japanese researchers claim baking breakthrough

|     Lars Nicolaysen     |
TOKYO (dpa) – The global dominance of wheat bread could be over: Japanese researchers say they have cracked the elusive secret to making additive-free rice dough rise in the same way as traditional bread during baking.
While not yet fully substantiated, the claim by scientists from Hiroshima University and Japan’s National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) could mark a revolution in staple diets around the world. It could also bring relief for gluten allergy sufferers, and a much needed boost for Japan’s heavily slumped rice production.
In 1962, the average Japanese consumer ate 118.3 kilos of rice, but by 2015 this had fallen to 54.6 kilos, according to Agrarian Ministry data.
This is partly due to the country’s shrinking population, but is also down to changes in eating habits, with more people eating bread for breakfast instead of rice as western culinary habits catch on. And the drop in demand has been hitting farmers hard.
So why has no one made rice-based bread before? Most bread derived from rice flour contains wheat gluten, which many allergy sufferers must avoid. And if you skip the gluten, the bread needs various additives such as thickeners or starch.
But the Japanese scientists say they can produce bread that is gluten-free, uses only 100 per cent natural rice flour, and has the same consistency as wheat bread.
“The most important point is to use rice flour where the (natural) starch is as undisturbed as possible,” says Professor Masumi Villeneuve of Hiroshima University.
Not all rice flour rises during baking and becomes doughy like bread made from grain. “Obviously there is a link between the damage to the starch and the specific volume of the baked bread,” adds Villeneuve

Food commodities worth $512.32m exported in two months

ISLAMABAD: The country earned $ 512.321 million by exporting different food commodities during the first two months of current financial year as compared to the earnings of the corresponding period of last year.
During the period from July-August 2017, food group exports from the country increased by 30.6 percent as compared to the exports during the same period in previous year.
According the data of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, exports of rice grew by 40 percent as around 428,993 metric tonnes of rice worth $ 223.937 million exported.
The rice export during first two months of last financial year was recorded at 3810,861 metric tonnes valuing $ 159.543 million, it added.
Meanwhile, the exports of basmati rice grew by 10.35 percent and about 59,433 metric tonnes of basmati rice worth $ 62.741 million exported as compared to the exports of 59,192 metric tonnes valuing $ 56.857 million of same period last year. The exports of rice other then basmati also witnessed an increase of 58.98 percent, as around 369.580 metric tonnes of rice costing $ 161.198 million exported as compared to the exports of 251,669 metric tonnes worth $ 102.888 million last year. From July-August, fruit and vegetable exports also increased by 8.74 percent and reached 56,280 metric tonnes worth $20.583 million as against the exports of 73,751 metric tonnes worth $18.888 million during the same period last year, it added
The other commodities which witnessed increase in their exports during the period under review included fish wheat, sugar, oil seeds, nuts, tobacco and spices

Kharif rice output may dip by 1.9mn ton; pulses down 70000 ton
NEW DELHI India's rice output is likely to fall by 1.9 million tonnes (MT) to 94.48 MT in kharif season this year on account of poor rain as well as floods, official sources said. The production of pulses and coarse cereals is estimated to have fallen, dragging the overall foodgrains output in kharif (summer-sown) season to 134.67 MT from record 138.52 MT in last kharif, as per the sources. Kharif foodgrain basket comprises rice, pulses and coarse cereals. Harvesting will star ..
Read more at:
Guardians of the grain
Date: 24-Sep-2017

Over the years we have lost over a lakh varieties of native rice. One district in Odisha is rediscovering some of them

It is a balmy winter morning when I meet Kamli Bataraa, an ebullient Adivasi farmer, at her home in Belugan, in southern Odisha’s Koraput district. There is a hum across the village from the threshing of just-harvested paddy. When I ask Kamli about the rice varieties she grows, she reels off 13 names: “Baunsunimundi, Haldi-dhaan, Gadaakutta, Sapuri-dhaan, Betra-dhaan, Kolarikuji, Laakdikuji, Umriachuri, Limchuri, Asamchuri, Bagurichuri, Mayer-dhaan, Patraa-dhaan.” As sweet as these names sound, their aromas are sweeter. Cooking and eating scented varieties like Kolaajeera and Kolakrushna, for instance, make for a more pleasurable experience than the ubiquitous hybrids of our daily diets. “With sarkaari dhaan, even if you have three vegetables on the plate, it does not taste that good,” laughs Gomati Raut, another Belugan farmer. “Our desi dhaan, you can eat it plain...” India is rice country: the cereal provides daily sustenance for over 60% of Indians, and occupies the greatest cultivated area. But its primacy belies a darker story of genetic and cultural erosion.
Half a century ago, we had over a lakh rice varieties — a stunning diversity in taste, nutrition, pest-resistance and, crucially, in this age of climate change and natural disasters, adaptability to agro-climatic conditions. From 60 to 200 days As eminent rice scientist R.H. Richharia wrote in his 1966 classic Rices of India, Indian farmers knew how to cultivate rice with growing durations ranging from 60 to 200 days. There were varieties they grew at sea level, on farms 7,000 feet higher, and on a range of lands in between. Some varieties could grow in 20-50 feet of water. Others could make do with annual rainfall of hardly 25-30 inches. Yet others were saline-tolerant. Today, much of this biodiversity is irretrievably lost, forced out by decades of Green Revolution agriculture, where ‘high-yield’ hybrids and varieties were pushed, with petrochemical inputs (pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers) and associated technologies. Such ‘superior’ varieties are estimated to constitute over 80% of India’s rice acreage. Koraput is often depicted as a ‘backward’ region. But its vast, undulating landscape has historically been among the world’s leading areas for rice diversification. And even as hybrid varieties have colonised much of India’s paddy fields, Koraput’s loyalty to the local endures. In the 1950s an official survey found that farmers here grew over 1,700 kinds of rice. And farmers like Kamli are the reason that a sliver of India’s rice diversity still survives. A grassroots movement in Koraput, with over 1,400 farmer-conservators at its heart, is one of other such groups now trying to safeguard what remains of this genetic-cultural wealth. The effort is anchored by ecologist Dr. Debal Deb, aided by staff from a local organisation, Living Farms. I first met Deb in 2014, when I travelled to a two-acre common-property farm in southern Odisha’s Kerandiguda village, where he is engaged in a remarkable in-situ conservation of over a thousand heirloom rice varieties, several of them endangered.
Close to 200 of the 1,200 varieties in Deb’s collection are from farmers in the Koraput region, proof that the villagers have not abandoned their native seeds. Back from the brink Noticing how important heirloom rice varieties were for local villagers, and anxious that his collection does not become the last repository of 25 regionally endangered varieties, Deb reached out to some farmers in 2014. He asked them to grow native varieties and circulate the seeds to other farmers to save them from extinction. He trained farmers in simple techniques to ensure genetic purity. Today, the number of farmer-conservator households has grown to 1,469 from only 13 in 2014. By reviving seeds, they are also reviving taste, ritual, nutrition and sustainability, attributes waylaid by the obsession with yield. Attributes that make rice more than just about calories and starch. Dansingh and Kaushalya Gheuria, marginal farmers from the Adivasi community of Bhumias, were among those who began to distribute endangered rice varieties — eight upland varieties — that Deb gave them. Our seeds give stamina “Where have our own seeds disappeared, especially those that can grow on dongar (upland) land like mine?” asks Dansingh rhetorically, when I meet the couple at their home in Gunduliguda village near the Koraput-Bastar border. “This is why I joined the effort to keep our rice alive, so that we do not lose the little that remains of it.” Today, they grow 12 endangered varieties, cultivating some in small quantities of just two rows each.
The farmers call these varieties aamara biyana, our seeds, or desi dhaan, referring to modern varieties as sarkaari dhaan or government rice. Several farmers outlined economic reasons for not abandoning heirlooms. Since hybrids don’t breed true, “we have to keep spending money to buy seeds,” says Kamli. “With desi, we store our seeds carefully and use them in the next season.” Then, of course, there’s the question of nutrition and taste. In Jhareikiri village, Krushnachandra Gadaba, who is conserving 12 endangered varieties from Deb’s collection, tells me, “Eating hybrids doesn’t give us the strength and stamina to work in the fields that desigives us.” Surviving cyclones There are other reasons why villagers are wary of hybrids. One, they want to stave off the dependence on pesticide to reduce their costs and to prevent the impact of chemicals on soil quality. “Hybrids demand ever-increasing pesticide use,” says Duryodhan Gheuria of Gunduliguda village. “Our costs shoot up.” Gheuria had flirted with hybrids, and subsequently decided to steer clear of them. He grows four desi varieties — Kolamali, Sunaseri, Tikkichuri, Kosikamon — “just like previous generations of my family.” After meeting Deb, Gheuria adopted three more endangered heirlooms: Samudrabaali, Raji and Government-churi. Also, the taller paddy stalks of heirlooms yield valuable by-products: fodder for cattle, mulch for soil, and hay for thatching roofs, unlike the shorter, modern varieties. Several farmers also say heirloom crops are better suited to unpredictable weather, having adapted over centuries to local ecologies. This also makes them hardier in the face of biotic (e.g. pests) and abiotic (e.g. drought) stresses. Lab-grown varieties in contrast are designed for the routines of mechanised farming, large doses of chemical inputs, and a predictable water supply. Laxminath and Sadan Gouda, a nephew-uncle pair in Belugan, said that on flood-prone land along a riverbank, such as theirs, modern varieties like MT-1010 and Sanam fared poorly. “They barely grow, pests attack them... we face a world of trouble. But desi dhaan like Bahaanimundi, Umriachudi, Haldiganthi, Sapuri grow well, which is why we will never abandon them.” Many farmers report that native varieties such as Kolamali and Kaberigandha withstood Phailin and Hudhud, the cyclones that hit Odisha in 2013 and in 2014, better than the modern varieties. And Tikkichuri and Sunaseri, for instance, cope better during droughts or spells of poor rainfall. An intimate affair What struck me as I interacted with the Koraput farmers was their intimate knowledge of agriculture and ecology — something rarely acknowledged by modern science or government policy.
For example, an announcement made days ago by the Odisha government to promote organic agriculture and “develop traditional agriculture” entrusts the project to a panel of bureaucrats and agriculture ‘experts’, relegating the farmer as always to the role of recipient. But, as Deb points out, involving farmers and their knowledge systems is key to successful conservation. “Hundreds of rice varieties can’t just be preserved in gene banks. Farmers have to know how to work with them,” he says. Deb adds that if farmers don’t possess such knowledge, there’s the risk that a lowland variety will be adopted unwittingly in an upland farm, or a drought-resistant variety in a flood-prone area, leading to crop failures. The gradual erasure of indigenous rice varieties, and the knowledge associated with them, is visible in Badakadamguda village, off the state highway running through Koraput. Here I meet Arjun Gadaba, who is hard at work under a noon sun, preparing his land for sowing, with a pair of bullocks and a ploughshare. Going back to basics Gadaba is clear about what dealt a decisive blow to indigenous rice in his area. “It happened when this came,” he says, pointing to one of the canals of the Kolab Dam, a large irrigation project that brought water two decades ago to the area. “Packets and packets of hybrid seeds followed. People could grow a four-month-duration crop twice a year, with assured irrigation. Slowly our own seeds, the ones my parents knew about, were abandoned.” Gadaba is now relearning lost practices. Last year, for the first time in his farming career, he cultivated a desi lowland variety called Haldiganthi, with seeds from Deb’s collection. He also grew the MT-1010 variety alongside. “But it required buying seeds, potash, urea, pesticide, none of which I needed for the desi dhaan,” he says. Sometimes, he needed a bank loan to buy such inputs. “So the profit from any higher yield gets cancelled out,” he says. Encouraged by his experience with Haldiganthi, Gadaba tells me he plans to now grow Asabali and Lalu this season. Phulmati Sira, a young Adivasi colleague of Deb, promises to bring him these two grains within a week, while the sowing season is still on. Since 2015, Sira has been touring villages in the block, gathering endangered seeds from farmers — varieties that do not yet feature in Deb’s collection — and expanding the conservator network. “This area had totally abandoned desivarieties,” Sira tells me, as we leave Gadaba’s farm. “But now many farmers are asking for them again. Eventually, it is this that will ensure such varieties survive.” Having many rice varieties is not an end in itself. As Deb says, “Rice conservation is just a handle to ask ourselves, how do we build sustainability in society?”