Monday, October 23, 2017

23rd October,2017 daily global regional local rice e-newsletter

Bangladesh approves purchase of 100,000t rice from India

Reuters . Dhaka | Update: 19:18, Oct 22, 2017

Bangladesh has approved the purchase of 100,000 tonnes of parboiled rice from India in a state-to-state deal at $455 a tonne, officials said on Sunday, as the government races to shore up depleted stocks and combat high prices.Traditionally the world’s fourth-biggest rice producer, Bangladesh’s rice imports are set to hit their highest levels in a decade after floods hit its crops.
The price includes shipping, insurance and discharge costs.The rice is to be shipped within 60 days after signing the deal, which will take place soon, a food ministry official said.The approval followed the government’s approval of the purchase of 100,000 tonnes of white rice at $442 a tonne from Myanmar, putting aside worsening relations over the Rohingya refugee crisis.
Bangladesh is also set to import 150,000 tonnes of rice from Thailand at $465 per tonne. It has already secured deals with Vietnam and Cambodia as it looks to import a total of 1.5 million tonnes of rice in the year to June.High prices of rice, a staple food for Bangladesh’s 160 million people, helped send the annual inflation rate in September to its highest level since October 2015, posing a problem for the government which faces an election next year.
Strong demand from Bangladesh could further lift Asian rice prices, which hit multi-year highs in recent months after Bangladesh and other countries in South Asia saw their worst monsoon floods in years.Bangladesh imported more than 1 million tonnes of rice in the July-October period, food ministry data showed.
Despite bulk imports, domestic prices have not budged, with officials and traders expecting more imports of the staple grain in the coming months.In August, the government cut a duty on rice imports for the second time in two months. The lower import duty has prompted purchases by private dealers, with most of the deals being struck with neighbouring India.
Bangladesh produces around 34 million tonnes of rice annually but uses almost all its production to feed its people. It often requires imports to cope with shortages caused by floods or droughts.

Group opposes tariffs on rice imports


BANTAY Bigas, an alliance for safe, sufficient and affordable rice expressed its opposition to the government’s plan to impose tariff on rice imports, saying that it would endanger the local rice production and food security. “The proposed tariffication is very alarming as it is leading to the full liberalization of the rice industry. The flooding of cheap imported rice will be catastrophic to the rice farmers especially that government support to agriculture and farmers is limited by the agreement with WTO-AoA (World Trade Organization – Agreement on Agriculture) which pushes for total state non-intervention,” Zen Soriano, Bantay Bigas spokesperson, said.
The Philippines intends to impose a bound tariff rate of 35 percent for rice coming from members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) without volume cap and a 40 percent tariff MFN (most favored nation) rate for in-quota rice imports from countries outside Asean as well as a 400 percent MFN rate tariff outside the MAV (minimum access volume) of 350, 000 metric tons (MT) from non-Asean countries.
“Essentially, there will be an almost unlimited entry of imported rice in the country which will hinder the development of the local rice industry and the people’s aspiration for safe, sufficient, and affordable food,” Soriano said.
“Duterte’s economic managers and supporters of neoliberal policies argue that increasing the competition between traders will lower the rice prices. But this has not been the case since the country entered the WTO,” she added.
Soriano explained that the retail prices of rice have tripled since 1994. The retail price of regular-milled rice has increased from P12.21 per kilo in 1994 to P38 per kilo in October this year while the retail price of well-milled rice increased from P13.29 per kilo to P42.24 per kilo during the same time frame.
“Instead of strengthening the local production and agricultural development, the government resorted to dependence on importation as a method to attain ‘food security’,” Soriano said.
She added that improving irrigation service and boosting other support services to agriculture will hike the country’s rice production.
“Genuine development of the domestic rice industry is necessary. To achieve this, the government must veer away from liberalization of agriculture. We are supporting the enactment of the Rice Industry Development Act to be filed by Anakpawis Party-list in Congress,” Soriano said.

MIA irrigators refute Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists claims on Basin Plan destruction

OCTOBER 23 2017 - 2:49PM


Oliver Jacques

prominent group of scientists who claim the NSW Government are “actively destroying” the Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBP) are just headline seeking, say MIA irrigators. The front page story in the Sun Herald on the weekend reported the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists claiming the the NSW and Victorian governments are failing to properly protect a river system on which millions of Australians depend.
The Wentworth Group claimed the two state governments are not doing enough to fund projects, implement strategies and negotiate with landowners to allow for the delivery of water downstream. 
Do you agree with the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists concerns on the Murray Darling Basin Plan
National Irrigators Council CEO Steve Whan, however, accused the scientists of  “headline seeking”. 
“The Wentworth Group has a legitimate role in advocating the environmental health of the Murray Darling Basin, but they are diminishing their ‘independence’ by being sensationalist, instead of constructive.
“It’s all very well for someone looking in from the outside to say it should be instantly fixed, but we should recognise that the people who are actually affected are entitled to full consultation and careful planning”.
Murrami rice grower Debbie Buller was less diplomatic in her condemnation of the scientists.
“The Wentworth Group won't be happy until all inland production and irrigation is shut down,” she said
The Murray Darling Basin Plan stipulates the amount of water that can be drawn from the Murray-Darling system, aiming to take at least 2750 gigalitres a year from irrigated agriculture and return it to rivers, wetlands and flood plains. 
Ms Buller says the Wentworth group are fixated with the 2750 figure, which is not grounded in any scientific basis.  
“They are playing politics over the numbers… there is absolutely no evidence to suggest what they’re advocating is good for the environment”. 
The Wentworth Group say five years after the basin plan came into effect, physical obstacles and river operating rules still impeded the delivery of water downstream.
They pointed to a $200 million constraints management strategy, of which just $5 million has so far been spent.
Mr Whan said while dealing with constraints is frustratingly slow,  “barrelling in” with headline seeking comments is not helpful.

Toxic lead found in raw food items such as polished rice and fish in Kolkata

The scientists have highlighted the linkages of the presence of the toxic substance with diesel combustion.

Agencies  | Updated: October 23, 2017 10:56 am
The presence of a high concentration of lead has been detected in raw food items such as polished rice and fish, sold in city markets, says a team of Indian scientists. The scientists have highlighted the linkages of the presence of the toxic substance with diesel combustion. The observations are based on recent studies carried out by a group of scientists lead by Avijit Das, Chemist of Geological Survey of India (GSI). “The raw food items, sold near the streets of Kolkata, contain a mean lead concentration between 3.78 and 43.35 mg/kg (average 23.56 mg/kg) which is very high compared to the threshold value of 2.5mg/kg specified by Food Safety and Standards Regulation (2011), India,” a statement from the Geological Survey of India said on Sunday.
The study also revealed that about 75 percent of the lead contamination in the food items sold in Kolkata street markets, was contributed by atmospheric lead, mainly produced by combustion of diesel. The current reference range for acceptable blood lead concentrations in healthy persons without excessive exposure to environmental sources of lead is less than 0.05 mg/L for children whereas, it is less than 0.25Amg/L for adults (as per American/European standards). Lead (Pb) is a highly toxic element and its prolonged exposure to humans can cause permanent damage to the kidneys, liver and hematologic systems. Read here Hidden toxins in fast food packaging may up cancer risk
Children are more at risk because lead exposure can reverse their brain growth and cause irreversible damage to their overall health system. Samples of eight items — polished rice, red lentil (masoor dal), red spinach, chicken, fish (without scales), biscuits, spice (cumin seeds) and a common medicinal herb (holy basil or tulsi) — were collected from 12 roadside markets covering the north, south, east and west of Kolkata. Soil and vegetable samples were collected from Dhapa Ground, alongside the EM Bypass, for the study of lead contamination while street dust samples were sourced from major roads north and south of Kolkata.
Coal samples from Jharia and Ranigunj were analysed for the presence of atmospheric lead from the use of coal. The study also included analysis of galena (ore of lead) samples from Alwar (Rajasthan) to calculate the Lead Isotope Ratio (LIR) of Indian lead; rainwater and diesel samples were collected from Kolkata. LIR is a modern method used to ascertain the sources of lead exposure. All these samples were collected to compare their lead isotopic ratios and lead concentration with that of food items sold near the streets of Kolkata. Read here Why artificial food colours are bad for your health
To compare the level of contamination in sediments and vegetables found in Dhapa, soil and vegetable samples were collected from a relatively less polluted place called Ichapur (Control Site), located about 30 km north of Kolkata. As far as the lead concentration in the street dust is concerned the findings are “worrisome”. The mean concentration of Pb found in the 29 sites was 383.2 mg/kg with a range from 23.82 mg/kg to a very high value of 2697.24 mg/kg at Amherst Street in north Kolkata.
“The study reveals that the accumulated atmospheric lead, derived mainly from diesel exhausts of the city’s traffic, had the dominant lead isotopic fingerprints. This lead contamination can be arrested by minimizing the use of diesel and by encouraging the mass traffic movements by greener energy sources like LPG/CNG operated vehicles, battery-operated electric cars, solar cars and increasing Metro rail network,” the statement said. Avijit Das carried out the research in association with K.V.S.S. Krishna, Rajeev Kumar, Anindya Das, Siladitya Sengupta and Joy Gopal Ghosh. Their work has been published in the peer-reviewed international journals of “Environmental Science and Technology” [(2017) (online publication)] and “Environmental Science and Pollution Research” (2016).
Source: IANS
Image source: Shutterstock (Image for representational purpose only)
Chinese Scientists Just Figured Out a Way to Feed More Than 200 Million People
© AFP 2017/ STR
13:34 21.10.2017(updated 14:01 21.10.2017)
Scientists at the Qingdao Saline-Alkali Tolerant Rice Research And Development Center in Qingdao, China have figured out a way to grow high-yield rice in salt water, Sputnik China reports.
The new saltwater-tolerant strain of rice is actually a tried and tested strain; now, however, scientists have been able to increase its yield nearly threefold, to 4.5 metric tons per hectare. Yuan Longping, China's top authority on hybrid rice, told Chinese media that cultivation of the new hybrid rice would be able to feed over 200 million people.
The new rice has already gone on sale, but remains a novelty item, its price remains nearly eight times higher than that of ordinary rice (50 yuan, or $7.55 US, per kg). Nevertheless, over a thousand people have pre-ordered the intriguing 'sea rice', and Yuan Ce Biological Technology, the Qindao-based startup partnering with Yuan's research team, expects sales revenue of 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) by the end of the year.
Scientists say the new rice has health benefits, too, since the strain's tough nature allows it to resist certain diseases, bugs and vermin, hence reducing the need for pesticide use.
Na Zhongyuan, director of the Yunnan Institute of Ecological Agriculture, said that it is not possible to officially name the variety of 'sea rice' just yet, although it has been branded "Yuan Mi," in honor of the project's chief scientist.
"The average salt content of sea water is 4%; the salinity of coastal water is at least 2%," Na explained. "Meanwhile, the new strain of rice was experimentally grown in waters with a salinity content of 6%, in an area where fresh water mixes with sea water. The salinity content in such areas is usually a little more than 1%. To create areas with 6% salinity will require human participation, and I'm afraid there are very few areas like this." 
The scientist says more research will be required on the cultivation of rice in waters with a high salinity content, or in pure sea water. Other pressing issues that China must first deal with are the availability of inland water resources, and the pollution of those resources. Nevertheless, Na stressed that "the emergence of a new type of rice – this so-called 'sea rice', is great news."
According to the South China Morning Post, the research breakthrough is highly significant, since it effectively boosts China's potential rice production capability by nearly 20%. At the moment, the country has about one million square km of 'waste land', where rice plants have a difficult time growing due to high salinity and alkalinity levels in the soil.

China's mass experimentation with salt water-grown rice began in the 1970s, amid concerns about the explosive population growth the country was experiencing at the time. Following decades of experimentation, cross-breeding, genetic screening, and trait selection, agricultural scientists have been able to create salinity-resistant strains of rice, and to increase their yield.
Scientists say they are only at the start of the path; as more and more salt water rice is produced, economies of scale will kick in, and prices will fall

Butterflies are more than a nano attraction in Singur

KOLKATA, OCTOBER 21, 2017 20:13 IST
UPDATED: OCTOBER 22, 2017 09:51 IST

69 species of butterflies belonging to 54 genera and five families were recorded in a study by the Zoological Survey of India

Singur, a rural block in West Bengal’s Hooghly district, which has become synonymous with protests against land acquisition, finally has something else to cheer about.
A recent study by researchers of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) shows for the first time that thehamlet is home to at least 69 species of butterflies. “A total of 69 species of butterflies belonging to 54 genera and five families were recorded from the study area. Family Nymphalidae was the most dominant among the five families with 22 species, followed by Lycaenidae, comprising of 19 species,” the paper titled ‘A study of butterfly diversity in Singur’ says.

Indian Skipper  

Five of the species found in Singur are rare and to be protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. They include species like the Tree Flitter, Striped Albatross, Pea Blue, Common Indian Crow and Danaid Eggfly. The other interesting species found here include the Zebra Blue, the Common Banded Peacock and the Indian Skipper.
The paper, authored by researchers Pritam K. Dey, Arajush Payra and Krishnendu Mondal, was published in June 2017 in the environmental journal e- planet. The study was carried out from March 2015 to November 2016, and most butterflies were observed between 8 a.m. and noon.
“The presence of 69 species of butterflies in Singur points out that the butterfly diversity of the region is high. This is a preliminary study. More detailed studies in future can bring out more species. What is striking about Singur is that the area is not only rich in butterfly diversity but also in the diversity of frogs and birds,” Mr. Dey said.

Peacock Pansy  

Researchers found butterflies in the rice and vegetable fields of the area, as well as in bushes and shrubs along railway lines and National Highways.

No forested land

Singur has no forested land and the area is known for rice, potato and vegetable cultivation.
Mr. Dey said that more intensive studies on different ecological parameters that can help access diversity of Singur’s fauna are being planned.
The presence of so many species of butterflies has provided a great deal of joy to the farmers who had waged a long battle against the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) led West Bengal government against the acquisition of 997 acres of agricultural land for Tata Motors’ Nano car plant in Singur.

Pea Blue.  

“While our struggle was aimed at the return of the land acquired for the proposed car plant, we are happy that it has helped the environment of Singur. There would have not so many butterflies had the car plant been operational,” said Mahabdeb Das, a farmer who was at the forefront of the land acquisition struggle. He was pleasantly surprised to learn about the butterfly diversity of the region.
On August 30, 2017, the Supreme Court quashed the Left Front government’s acquisition of 997 acres of agricultural land for the car plant in Singur. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee returned the acquired land to farmers on September 14, 2016.

Africa: As Africa's Need for Food Grows, Mali's Rice Turnaround Shows a Way Forward

By Isaiah Esipisu
Abidjan — "Africa has the resources, skills, and human and land capacity to move from importer to exporter by eating food made in Africa"
In 2008, as food prices rose around the world, riots broke out in West Africa, and Mali's government stepped in.
It quickly launched an initiative to subsidise purchases of good-quality certified rice seed, as well as fertilisers, for farmers, in an effort to cut reliance on rice imports and grow more food of its own.
In just two years, the country was producing enough grain for domestic consumption, and today is a rice exporter, said Bourema Dembele, who until July was director of research at Mali's Institut d'Economie Rurale, a government institution.
"We had no choice other than to develop a policy that would later see our country out of the crisis," said Dembele, now a Mali programme officer for the Alliance for a Green Revolution Africa (AGRA), a nongovernmental organisation.
Such policies need to be replicated around Africa if the continent is to cope with a burgeoning population and climate change while improving food security and economic growth, African experts say.
"Rice is going to be the biggest challenge for Africa because countries highly depend on imports from sources that are totally unsustainable," William Asiko, the executive director of Grow Africa, a non-governmental organisation, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
According to a report released last month at the African Green Revolution Forum, African nations spend $35 billion each year on food imports, a figure expected to rise to $110 billion by 2025 unless the continent can boost harvests.
Changing things "will take commitment of African governments to stimulate and guide the transition," said Agnes Kalibata, AGRA's president,
"If left to the private sector alone, growth in the agrifood system will not be as fast as it could, nor will it benefit as many smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs as it could," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

According to the Africa Agriculture Status Report 2017, if most African governments moved as aggressively as Mali's, the continent could not only feed itself but meet the growing demand from affluent city dwellers for high-value processed foods.
In Mali, production of rice grew from just 900,000 tonnes in 2008 - below the domestic consumption of 1.1 million tonnes - to 2.7 million tonnes in 2016, thanks in part to government subsidies of 35 billion CFA francs ($64 million). Rice production is now double the country's annual consumption.

Overall food production - including cereal crops such as sorghum, millet, groundnuts, cowpeas and maize, as well as rice - also increased over the same period from 3.6 million tonnes to 8.7 million tonnes, making the country largely self-sufficient.

‘Kaipad’ farming in Malabar gets fillip

OCTOBER 21, 2017 23:36 IST
UPDATED: OCTOBER 21, 2017 23:36 IST
Tradition beckons: T.V. Rajesh, MLA, inaugurating the harvest in the Kaipad fields of Ezhome in Kannur district on Saturday.  

Govt agency to encourage paddy farming in brackish waters to be formed soon

KANNUR: The formation of an exclusive governmental agency for paddy cultivation in brackish waters, known as ‘Kaipad’ in Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasaragod districts, is in the pipeline. Efforts to sustain and protect organic rice tracts in the region and to enhance production are under way as part of research activities initiated by Kerala Agriculture University’s Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS) at Pilicode in Kasaragod.
As part of the development programme launched in 2000 under the aegis of RARS, four saline-tolerant high-yielding organic varieties named ‘Ezhome - 1’, ‘Ezhome - 2’, ‘Ezhome - 3’, and ‘Ezhome - 4’ were released. They are now being cultivated along with traditional varieties such as ‘kuthiru’ and ‘orkayama’. A society of farmers, Malabar Kaipad Farmers’ Society (MKFS), was formed in 2010 to promote the cultivation of the traditional and new varieties. Though MKFS’ area of jurisdiction comprises the three districts, its activities are at present confined to Ezhome, Pattuvam, Cherukunnu and Kannapuram panchayats here. Incidentally, they have a large extent of Kaipad fields. “Following a State-level workshop for coastal rice farmers here in 2014, the idea of a new agency for Kaipad farming was conceived,” said T. Vanaja, professor at RARS and principal investigator and breeder of the kaipad rice variety development project.
RARS had already submitted all documents, including draft bylaw, to the government, Dr. Vanaja said, adding that a final discussion on the formation of the agency will be taken by Minister for Agriculture V.S. Sunilkumar.
The agency is planned as an apex society with the Minister for Agriculture as chairman.
The society is expected to co-ordinate efforts to extend and enhance production in ‘kaipad’ fields with the introduction of the new ‘Ezhome’ variety along with the traditional ones.
“The new varieties released by RARS have outperformed the local varieties in the national trial conducted in various other States as party of the All India Co-ordinated Research Programme,” said P.R. Suresh, professor and Associate Director of Research at RARS. He added that seeds of the traditional Kaipad rice varieties were deposited at the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), New Delhi, for preservation under cryogenic storage condition.
A major achievement of the Kaipad development programme is the Geographical Indication tag for Kaipad rice in 2014.
With Kaipad rice securing entry in the GI register, MKFS is the sole intellectual proprietor of the produce. All rice varieties, including ‘Ezhome’, come under the Kaipad rice category.

Southeast Asian media action needed to communicate climate change

THE gloom-and-doom scenario of climate change continues to persist even with the availability of unshared scientific innovations by end users, especially farmers, in mitigating and adapting them. How can institutions mobilize the media as a powerful partner in communication and engagement to respond to this worldwide issue?
“There is an urgent need for media practitioners,” said Dr. Rex Navarro of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CGIAR CCAFS) Program at the recently held Asian Media Information and Communication Inc. (Amic), “to have an accurate, science-based understanding of climate change and enhance their skills on environmental reporting.”
“The media is a powerful partner in bringing about wider public awareness and understanding of climate-change science and in helping change the behavior of next users, so its engagement must be a sustained process,” Dr. Navarro said in his paper, “Mobilizing Science for Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security: Engaging the Southeast Asian Media.”
Already, climate change is threatening the resurgence of Asia, including challenges characterized by “inequalities, conflicts, unsustainable practices, and corruption,” the Amic stressed. Senior consultant Julian Gonsalves of the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction noted that “inequality is an issue that is glossed over by most climate-change folks and rarely a subject of emphasis.”
Gonsalves, like his colleagues at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), is time and again advocating the use of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) to reduce gaps created by past approaches that exacerbated the situation of the poor. It’s a new chance to be pro-poor.”
Understandably, the existing partnerships of CGIAR CCAFS around the world, especially with the national agricultural research systems (NARS) in Southeast Asia, suffer from miniscule media treatment of climate change unless a super typhoon like Yolanda in the Philippines, hurricanes Harvey and Irma in the United States or long-term drought in Africa take their devastating toll on human lives and food security.
Hindering factors
Reporting climate change by the media is rooted on several factors, such as lack of training to make climate change relevant and interesting, complex jargon, lack of access to specialist knowledge in some developing countries, much of the science is Western and written in English, and lack of resources to travel outside city centers to gather first-hand evidence and testimony or to attend international climate conferences.
Also by journalists’ admission, climate-change stories get “pigeon-holed” or dismissed as “environment stories,” when, in fact, such stories have far-reaching implications for energy policy, food security, economic development, poverty alleviation, international relations and technological initiatives, among others. Australian Climate Commissioner Will Steffen noted that “communicating the observed and potential consequences of climate change is a challenging task, one that is often done poorly in the media.”
No scaremongering
“How the media communicates risk and uncertainty to their audiences is a critical issue. It is vitally important that the public are aware of the risks associated with unmanaged climate change…. The media need to convey this information clearly and accurately without resorting to scaremongering,” warned Lord Nicholas Stern, chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment of the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Regional engagement
A distinct Asian communication strategy, which is now addressing the multifaceted challenges of climate change, is being implemented by the CGIAR CCAFS in collaboration with NARS and national media partners through seminars focused on science innovations on climate  change,  agriculture and food security and communicating climate change.
The CGIAR CCAFS have so far completed six media seminar-workshops in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam and the Philippines.  Among country-specific topics discussed during these seminars included farmer-oriented technologies responding to climate impacts (Cambodia), improving the resilience of the agriculture sector to climate change impacts (Laos), forests for people and thinking beyond the canopy (Vietnam), and mainstreaming climate change in agriculture (Philippines).
On the other hand, the regional media seminar-workshops in the Philippines are being done to localize climate-change issues related to agriculture and food security. These are aimed at enhancing the reporting skills of journalists and sustaining the media coverage of contemporary climate-change issues that will influence policy-makers and key stakeholders.
Climate change: ‘Gets mo na ba?’
An excellent example of this collective endeavor is CCAFS’s partnership with the Philippine Agricultural Journalists Inc. (PAJ) in association with the Department of Agriculture through its regional field offices, Philippine Federation of Rural Broadcasters, IRRI and private business establishments, such as San Miguel Cor. Metro Pacific Investments Corp., Philex Mining Corp., Smart and SL Agritech.
Until recently, the themes “Climate change: Gets mo na ba?” and “Climate change; Maawatanyon” in the seminar-workshop series held by the PAJ-CCAFS in Legaspi City, Tacloban City, Siargao Island,  Cagayan, Ilocos Sur and soon in Alaminos, Pangasinan, is a binding review mechanism and point to the fierce urgency in connecting the dots, through the media, in confronting climate change in order to achieve food security, sustainable economic growth, sound environmental stewardship and strengthened governance in the Philippines, Southeast Asian region and the rest of the world.
Column the game might soon be over for a silent killer in our food

DR HOWARD-YANA SHAPIRO | Updated: Oct 22, 2017, 08:15 AM IST, DNA
Aflatoxin is an invisible substance produced by fungus that contaminates staple foods and cash crops, mainly in the developing world.
If I told you there was a cancer-causing poison that 4.5 billion people are chronically exposed to, you’d think I was making it up. But I’m not. Most of you won’t have even heard its name before. It is called aflatoxin and we need to eradicate it. And believe it or not, this may be achieved by computer gamers!
Aflatoxin is an invisible substance produced by fungus that contaminates staple foods and cash crops, mainly in the developing world. Staple foods, such as rice, maize, groundnut, cassava, pistachios and cashews, are affected. As you read this, billions of people around the world are eating foods contaminated with aflatoxin.
Aflatoxin B1 is the most potent naturally occurring liver carcinogen that we know. It is classified as a Class 1 carcinogen by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. As a result, it is believed that aflatoxins are responsible for up to 28 per cent of all liver cancer cases.
India is the world’s largest exporter of rice and the crop is mainly grown in a humid and tropical climate – an effective breeding haven for aflatoxin-causing fungi called Aspergillus. Often, harvested rice is stored in wet conditions, exposing it even more to Aspergillus. In a study conducted in 2006, Aspergillus contamination was detected in all rice samples collected from areas exposed to rain or flood, or stored in warehouses or mills. Climate change only makes the problem of aflatoxin worse.
Worryingly, the impact doesn’t stop at increased cancer rates. Aflatoxin-contaminated food is also associated with stunting in children, and childhood cirrhosis in India. Stunting in early life has huge adverse effects. One in four children under five suffers from this tragic condition.
Scientists have been working hard to conquer aflatoxin but haven’t been successful yet. In developed countries, laws limit the parts-per-billion (ppb) of aflatoxins in food for humans, livestock and pets. These laws are enforced by extensive – and expensive – monitoring processes and technology. As a result, the burden to eradicate aflatoxin falls primarily on the developing world. Developing countries often have low health-care budgets, subsistence agriculture, and small-scale, under-regulated food production businesses. Often, limits are set, but not enforced. Consistently over the past 50 years, most food and feed samples in these countries have been found to be well above legal aflatoxin limits. A recent study in India found that every sample of grain flour collected was contaminated with aflatoxin and contained three times the legal limit set in the United States.
The harm doesn’t stop at human health. It’s also a massive trade and economic issue. India is the second largest producer of groundnuts for human consumption. However, in 2015, over 20 per cent of groundnut produced in India was unfit for human consumption due to aflatoxin contamination. Another study conducted by The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) revealed that the level of aflatoxin in Indian groundnut is 40 times more than permissible limits elsewhere in the world, making key export markets inaccessible to Indian farmers.
Science alone has not been able to provide a solution to aflatoxin yet. Unexpectedly, one solution to this growing public health crisis may come from an unlikely source: An army of global computer gamers! Mars, Incorporated is launching a series of aflatoxin puzzles on its Fold.It platform led by computer scientists from Northeastern University and the University of Washington. Fold.It is a revolutionary crowd-sourcing computer game that allows anyone with a computer and imagination – but not necessarily any scientific training – to help solve scientific puzzles. On October 16, in San Francisco, to mark the World Food Day, we brought together some of the world’s best Fold.It players to help steer ways to defeat aflatoxin.
Fold.It has already had great success by solving a riddle involving a virus similar to HIV that had troubled scientists for decades. The gamers cracked the virus structure within three weeks and helped identifying targets for drugs to neutralise it. With respect to aflatoxin, the aim of the Fold.It puzzle is to figure out how amino acids are folded together to create proteins, the workhorses of our bodies. Gamers don’t need to know science, they just need to create an increasingly perfect folded form that might mimic the one that exists in nature. This game taps on the innate skills in human beings to provide solutions to 3D puzzles, even more than computers.
Upon submission, best designs will be developed using the latest synthetic biology techniques and materials donated by Thermo Fisher Scientific. The souped-up enzymes will be tested in real life by the Siegel lab at the University of California, Davis to see how they can recognise and neutralise aflatoxins. All the discoveries of players will be kept in the public domain, free of patents.
Computer technology has transformed the potential for finding solutions to complex scientific problems. Hand in hand with science, it could one day solve some of the world’s most terrible health issues. This dream may hopefully come true when we soon say “The game is over for aflatoxin”, the silent killer in our food.
The author is Chief Agricultural Officer of Mars, Incorporated

Africa: As Africa's Need for Food Grows, Mali's Rice Turnaround Shows a Way Forward

By Isaiah Esipisu
Abidjan — "Africa has the resources, skills, and human and land capacity to move from importer to exporter by eating food made in Africa"
In 2008, as food prices rose around the world, riots broke out in West Africa, and Mali's government stepped in.
It quickly launched an initiative to subsidise purchases of good-quality certified rice seed, as well as fertilisers, for farmers, in an effort to cut reliance on rice imports and grow more food of its own.
In just two years, the country was producing enough grain for domestic consumption, and today is a rice exporter, said Bourema Dembele, who until July was director of research at Mali's Institut d'Economie Rurale, a government institution.
"We had no choice other than to develop a policy that would later see our country out of the crisis," said Dembele, now a Mali programme officer for the Alliance for a Green Revolution Africa (AGRA), a nongovernmental organisation.
Such policies need to be replicated around Africa if the continent is to cope with a burgeoning population and climate change while improving food security and economic growth, African experts say.
"Rice is going to be the biggest challenge for Africa because countries highly depend on imports from sources that are totally unsustainable," William Asiko, the executive director of Grow Africa, a non-governmental organisation, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
According to a report released last month at the African Green Revolution Forum, African nations spend $35 billion each year on food imports, a figure expected to rise to $110 billion by 2025 unless the continent can boost harvests.
Changing things "will take commitment of African governments to stimulate and guide the transition," said Agnes Kalibata, AGRA's president,
"If left to the private sector alone, growth in the agrifood system will not be as fast as it could, nor will it benefit as many smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs as it could," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
According to the Africa Agriculture Status Report 2017, if most African governments moved as aggressively as Mali's, the continent could not only feed itself but meet the growing demand from affluent city dwellers for high-value processed foods.
In Mali, production of rice grew from just 900,000 tonnes in 2008 - below the domestic consumption of 1.1 million tonnes - to 2.7 million tonnes in 2016, thanks in part to government subsidies of 35 billion CFA francs ($64 million). Rice production is now double the country's annual consumption.
Overall food production - including cereal crops such as sorghum, millet, groundnuts, cowpeas and maize, as well as rice - also increased over the same period from 3.6 million tonnes to 8.7 million tonnes, making the country largely self-sufficient.
Apart from subsidising seed and other farming needs, Mali's government in 2015 began buying 1,000 new tractors every year to sell to farmers at half price. Farmers are required to make a downpayment of just 20 percent and can take out loans from commercial banks for the remaining sum.
Poorer or very small-scale farmers also are eligible to buy tractors if they group together to cultivate at least 50 hectares (124 acres) of land with the equipment.
To support the effort, Mali's government has allocated at least 15 percent of the national budget to agriculture, surpassing a target of 10 percent agreed to at the 2003 African Union Summit as part of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme.
Dembele's organisation works with research institutions in Mali to produce quality-certified seeds for farmers to meet growing demand for them. Previously, many small-scale farmers planted uncertified seeds in part because certified seeds had to be imported and were too expensive.
Asiko, of Grow Africa, said more African countries need to create initiatives to increase rice production, especially in West Africa, where it is the main staple.
"When we invest in production, we create a market for seed and fertiliser companies which are investment and business opportunities. When we produce in plenty, we create further opportunities for processors, and when we process enough, we further create opportunities for transporters and sellers," he said.
The Africa Agriculture Status Report suggests that more productive farming could be Africa's "quiet revolution", creating jobs and sustainable economic growth that has largely failed to materialise from mineral extraction and increased urbanisation.
"Africa has the latent natural resources, skills, human and land capacity to tip the balance of payments and move from importer to exporter by eating food made in Africa," Kalibata said.
Apart from Mali, African countries that have had significant success moving towards food self-sufficiency include Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burkina Faso, she said.
(Reporting by Isaiah Esipisu; editing by James Baer and Laurie Goering :; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit
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Sellers can't decide at what price to sell imported rice: Sathosa

2017-10-21 16:57:44
The 200,000 metric tonnes of rice, which was scheduled to be imported from Burma, Thailand, India and Pakistan would not be allowed to be sold at prices higher than was stipulated by the government, Lanka Sathosa Chairman T.M.K.B Tennakoon said.Addressing the media he said the rice stocks would be imported by the end of the year. He said that the rice would be distributed using a Government distribution mechanism as well as through private importers.
“The stock of rice would be distributed via Sathosa, Cooperatives (MPCSs) and major super markets while it will also be sold to retailers by Sathosa,” he said.“The selling price of rice will be monitored by the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA). Those selling rice cannot do so after keeping a large profit margin and they cannot decide at which price it should be sold,” he said.
“There is an Maximum Sales Retail Price (MSRP) set by Sathosa. Sellers from rural areas should sign an agreement with us, adhering to the controlled price at which they are allowed to sell. That price can include their transport cost and profit,” the Sathosa Chairman said.
Accordingly the details of the sellers and their agreed selling price would be given to the CAA for monitoring. However, he said that local millers could decide on their own prices and the MSRP set by Sathosa would not affect them. (Chaturanga Pradeep)

Millers asked to finish storage facilities by January

Chea Vannak / Khmer Times Share:    

Rice millers recently chosen to become recipients of short-term emergency loans to build storage facilities were asked to have the new depots and silos in operation by January next year.
Kao Thach, director-general of the state-run Rural Development Bank (RBD) – the institution in charge of disbursing the loans – said all warehouses and silos should be completed by January next year at the latest, to be ready for the second harvest and help keep the supply and price of the commodity stable.
“I hope by January the warehouses and silos will start operation,” Mr Thach said. “We have been informed some of them will be ready by January 28.”
The RDB will select auditors to independently asses the quality of each storage facility supported under the scheme, Mr Thach added.
The loans will be disbursed next week.
Amru Rice Cambodia was awarded one of the loans and will be building silos in Kampong Thom province.
Another recipient for a loan, Khmer Food Group, was chosen to build silos in the provinces of Prey Veng and Takeo.
Song Saran, the CEO of Amru Rice Cambodia, said the time given to complete the project was shorter than he expected, but he added that his company would finish the facilities on time.
“I think we can do it, but we have to work quickly,” Mr Saran said. “We are looking for partners in the area who can help us to complete the storage facilities by January,” he said.
Amru Rice’s new storage facilities in Kampong Thom could potentially be used by companies in the sector operating in Preah Vihear and Siem Reap provinces, said Mr Saran, adding that he expected the facilities to eventually service companies operating as far as Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri provinces.
Kim Savuth, the CEO of Khmer Food Group, said the new facilities will have a significant effect in the local rice sector.
“We often don’t have enough milled rice for export because we just don’t have the infrastructure to store it. The new depots and silos will solve this problem,” Mr Savuth said.
The government has disbursed more than $30 million in loans that have enabled rice millers to build silos and storage depots throughout the country. Loans are repaid at a five percent interest rate over a period of 10 years.
The first $15 million loan was awarded in April to the Cambodia Rice Bank and will be employed to build storage facilities in Battambang province

KCR favors giving money instead of PDS rice to poor

October 21, 2017, 11:43 PM IST

Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao today opined that a fool-proof distribution policy should be implemented to remove irregularities and pass on the total benefits to the beneficiaries in the Public Distribution System (PDS).
The Chief Minister held a review meeting here on Saturday at Pragati Bhavan against the backdrop of ration dealers serving a strike notice and what should be the strategy of the government. Ministers  C Laxma Reddy, Government Chief Advisor  Rajiv Sharma, Chief Secretary  SP Singh, MP  Balka Suman, MLC  Karne Prabhakar, Civil Supplies Commissioner  C V Ananad, senior officials  S Narsing Rao,  Ramakrishna Rao, Vakati Karuna, Shanta Kumari, Smita Sabharwal, Bhoopal Reddy and others participated.
            “Every year the government was spending Rs 6,500 crore and distributing essential commodities to the poor through the Ration shops. Several All India Services Officers and a host of the State government officers and other staff members were working on the program. The government was being bogged down with the system and while spending thousands of crores of rupees, the program was not yielding the desired results. The essential commodities meant for the poor were being diverted to black market and there was a mafia operating in supplying of the PDS rice. The illegal operators have come to such a pass that they are able to influence and manage the higher officials.

 “Everyday, newspapers are publishing reports about the rice being hoarded and caught. The reports on the illegal hoarding and supply of the PDS rice were causing grave concern. One will often feel bad and sad that though several thousands of crores of rupees are being spent and with a lot of hardships but yet the government was getting a bad name. This situation should go. The money being spent on the poor should reach them cent percent. For this we have to come up with a new and effective method,” the Chief Minister said.
Officials brief the CM on DBT
The officials have responded based on the suggestion given by the CM. They have explained about the changes that took place in the PDS at several places in the country. They informed that there is a system in place called direct benefit transfer (DBT). They said in the Union Territories like Chandigarh, Pondicherry, Dadra Haveli, the beneficiaries are deposited the money directly into their accounts instead of the essential commodities under the DBT system through the PDS.  The officials have reminded that Prime Minister  Narendra Modi has requested all the State governments to  implement the DBT system. In 2013, the then UPA government had brought in Food Security Act 20/2013 also suggested the money transfer as subsidy to the beneficiaries. It also explained how it would be beneficial to transfer the money instead of distributing the essential commodities. The officers said as on date rice is being supplied and that too in a fixed time. Instead, if the money is transferred the beneficiaries can buy whatever commodity they require. Hence the officials have suggested to the CM that the money should be directly deposited to the beneficiaries’ accounts. Responding to this, the CM has asked the officials to find out whether supply of rice is good or transferring the money?
Alternative arrangements to meet strike
The officials said that they were making alternative arrangements against the strike notice given by the dealers. If the dealers do not withdraw their strike, it is better to transfer the money to the accounts of the beneficiaries. (NSS) EXPRESS TRIBUNE > BUSINESS

Despite FTA, Pakistan struggles in trade with Malaysia

Published: October 22, 2017
Mobile cranes prepare to stack containers port. PHOTO: REUTERS
LAHORE: Pakistan has failed to bring any improvement in exports to Malaysia in the past three years despite signing a free trade agreement (FTA) and has a negligible share in imports of over $140 billion by the Southeast Asian country, said Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) President Malik Tahir Javed.
“Pakistan and Malaysia have close and cordial relations but trade ties are not as good as these should be,” Javed said while talking to Pakistan High Commissioner-designate to Malaysia M Nafees Zakaria at the chamber premises.
In 2014, Pakistan’s exports to Malaysia were worth $234 million, which fell to $186 million and $152 million in the next two years. In contrast, Pakistan’s imports from Malaysia increased from $911 million to $945 million in 2016.
The LCCI president noted that balance of trade had always been in favour of Malaysia and said though the trade gap had been narrowing consistently over the past five years, imports from Malaysia were still six times higher than exports.
“We have failed to take some advantage of the FTA. It provided us a good platform for a win-win situation but Pakistan achieved a far lesser advantage than its potential,” he remarked.
The FTA between Pakistan and Malaysia had come into effect in January 2008.
Talking about a huge dip in bilateral trade which stood at $2.97 billion in 2011 and remained stuck at $1.1 billion in 2015 and 2016, the LCCI president underlined the need for taking immediate steps.
He sought support from the Ministry of Commerce and particularly from the commercial section of Pakistan’s High Commission in Malaysia. “We want to acquire some justifiable share in trade with Malaysia. There is a huge potential of exporting Pakistani rice, fresh fruits like citrus and mango,” he said.
While acknowledging that the FTA provided Pakistan’s exporters certain edge in the shape of duty relief on fruits, vegetables and other goods, Javed decried that they could not fully utilise the opportunities as they knew little about packaging and food certification requirements.
He suggested joint ventures in the fields of livestock and dairy, food processing, energy, chemicals, Halal products and particularly light engineering, which could strengthen trade ties between the two sides.
Earlier, Pakistan’s high commissioner gave assurances to businessmen that he would make efforts to turn Pakistan mission in Malaysia into a match-making point for the business community.
He said he would also utilise Malaysian media to highlight the soft image of Pakistan as in today’s world media was a strong tool for disseminating information.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2017.
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Groundnut, mustard oils rise on pick up in demand

New 21 OCTOBER 2017  Last Updated at 12:48 PM
Delhi, Oct 21 In a holiday-shortened week, prices of groundnut and mustard expeller oils ended higher at the wholesale oil and oilseeds market due to pick up in demand from retailers in view of festive season against restricted supplies from producing regions.
Castor oil in the non-edible section also finished higher on increased offtake by industries.
Markets remained closed on Thursday, Friday and Saturday on account of 'Diwali', 'Vishwakarma Puja' and 'Bhai Dooj', respectively.
Traders said besides rising demand from retailers, driven by ongoing festive season, tight stocks on fall in arrivals from producing belts mainly led to firmness in groundnut and mustard oil prices.
In the national capital, groundnut mill delivery (Gujarat) oil remained in demand and spurted by Rs 300 to Rs 9,100 per quintal, while groundnut solvent refined held steady at Rs 1,650-1,750 per tin on some support.
Mustard expeller (Dadri) oil also edged up by Rs 50 to Rs 8,050 per quintal.
On the other hand, palmolein (rbd) and palmolein (Kandla) oils moved in a narrow range in scattered deals and pegged at last levels of Rs 6,000 and Rs 6,050 per quintal respectively.
Soyabean refined mill delivery (Indore) and soyabean degum (Kandla) oils followed suit and ended flat at previous levels of Rs 7,000 and Rs 6,600 per quintal respectively.
In the non-edible section, castor oil in the non-edible section, went up by Rs 100 to Rs 9,100-9,200 per quintal. (MORE)
However, other grains moved in a narrow range in limited deals and settled at previous levels.
Trading activity was restricted as markets remained closed on Thursday, Friday and Saturday on account of 'Diwali' 'Vishwakarma Puja' and 'Bhai Dooj' respectively.
Marketmen said uptick in demand from retailers and rice mills against paucity of stocks on slowdown in arrivals from producing belts mainly pushed up rice prices.
Increased offtake by flour mills helped wheat prices to end marginally higher, they said.
In the national capital, rice basmati common and Pusa- 1121 variety advanced by Rs 300 each to Rs 7,300-7,400 and Rs 6,000-6,100 per quintal respectively.
Wheat dara (for mills) also edged up by Rs 5 to Rs 1,785 -1,790 per quintal. Atta chakki delivery followed suit and rose by a similar margin to Rs 1,795-1,800 per 90 kg.(MORE)
emand from retailers supported by ongoing festive season.
Marketmen said increased buying by stockists, driven by surge in demand from retailers and dal mills in view of festive season against paucity of stocks on fall in supplies from growing regions mainly pushed up urad and other pulses prices.
In the national capital, urad edged up to Rs 4,500-6,000 from previous level of Rs 4,300-5,600 per quintal. Its dal chilka local, best quality and dhoya shot up by Rs 400 each to Rs 5,600-5,700, Rs 5,700-6,200 and Rs 6,100-6,300 per quintal respectively.
Gram, gram dal local and best quality were also seen in demand and finished higher at Rs 5,500-5,800, Rs 6,100-6,500 and Rs 6,500-6,600 from previous week's levels of Rs 5,250- 5,550, Rs 5,800-6,200 and Rs 6,200-6,300 per quintal respectively.
Arhar and its dal dara variety too rose by Rs 250 and Rs 300 to Rs 4,100 and Rs 6,100-8,000 per quintal respectively. (MORE)
the ongoing festive season.
Marketmen said fresh buying by retailers and bulk consumers, driven by ongoing festive season amid higher enquiries from millers, mainly led to the rise in sweetener prices.
In the national capital, sugar ready M-30 and S-30 edged higher to Rs 4,000-4,150 and Rs 3,990-4,140 from previous levels of Ra 3,950-4,100 and Rs 3,940-4,090 per quintal respectively.
Mill delivery M-30 and S-30 rose to Rs 3,645-3,870 and Rs 3,635-3,860 against last close of Rs 3,615-3,825 and Rs 3,605 -3,805 per quintal, respectively.
In the millgate section, all prices finished in positive zone on higher mills enquiries. Kinnoni, Asmoli, Dorala and Budhana quoted higher at Rs 3,870, Rs 3,830, Rs 3,815 and Rs 3,795 instead of Rs 3,825, Rs 3,810, Rs 3,770 and Rs 3,760 per quintal respectively.
Thanabhavan, Khatauli, Dhampur and Ramala traded higher at Rs 3,790, Rs 3,835, Rs 3,740 and Rs 3,640 as compared to previous levels of Rs 3,750, Rs 3,805, Rs 3,700 and Rs 3,620 per quintal respectively.
Anupshaher, Baghpat, Morna, Sakoti, Chandpur, Nazibabad and Nanota too went up to Rs 3,640, Rs 3,675, Rs 3,670, Rs 3,760, Rs 3,710, Rs 3,660 and Rs 3,655 as against last close of Rs 3,615, Rs 3,645, Rs 3,640, Rs 3,730, Rs 3,665, Rs 3,620 and Rs 3,620 per quintal respectively.(MORE)
dry fruits market during the week with almond and walnut prices rising, supported by uptick in demand from retailers and stockists, driven by the ongoing festive season.
Furthermore, tight stocks following restricted arrivals from producing regions also influenced the sentiment.
Marketmen said apart from festive season demand, holding back of stocks by speculators on hopes of further rise in prices also supported the upside.
Prices of almond (California-new) rose by Rs 100 to conclude at Rs 18,800-18,900 per 40 kg, while its kernel strengthened to Rs 700-710 from previous closing of Rs 700-710 per kg.
Almond gurbandi and girdhi also traded higher at Rs 12,600-13,200 and Rs 5,300-5,400 against previous closing of Rs 12,500-13,100 and Rs 5,200-5,300 per 40 kg, respectively.
Cashew kernel No 180, No 210, No 240 and No 320 gained Rs 5 each to conclude at Rs 1,090-1,100, Rs 965-995 Rs 935-950 and Rs 840-850 while its broken (2, 4 and 8 pieces) also increased Rs 5 to settle at Rs 685-785, Rs 675-780 and Rs 575-685 per kg, respectively.
Chilgoza-new roasted went up by Rs 100 to finish at Rs 3,300--3,500 per kg.
Coconut powder advanced by Rs 100 to conclude at Rs 4,500-5,000 per 25 kg.
Kishmish Indian yellow and green prices increased by Rs 100 each to finish at Rs 3,700-4,700 and Rs 6,300-12,300 per 40 kg.
Pistachio hairati and peshawari higher up to Rs 10 to conclude at Rs 1,410-1,480 and Rs 1,580-1,655 per kg.
Walnut and its kernel prices also edged higher by Rs 10 each to ended at Rs 260-360 and Rs 830-980 per kg, respectively. (MORE)
fall in supplies from producing belts.
Market analysts said apart from fall in supplies from producing regions, pick-up in demand from retailers and exporters also influenced trading sentiment.
Black pepper prices traded higher at Rs 450-660 against previous close of Rs 440-650 per kg on higher export demand.
Cardamom brown-jhundiwali and kanchicut rose Rs 10 each to settle at Rs 540-550 and Rs 590-910 per kg.
Cardamom small varieties such as chitridar, colour robin, bold and extra bold prices edged higher Rs 10 each to close at Rs 1,050-1,150, Rs 910-930, Rs 960-990 and Rs 1,075-1,100 per kg, respectively.
Coriander increased by Rs 100 to conclude at Rs 5,300- 11,700 per quintal.
Dry ginger and kalaunji prices were higher by Rs 100 each to conclude at Rs 12,300-16,900 and Rs 8,200-8,500 per quintal, respectively.
Nutmeg prices increased by Rs 10 to conclude at Rs 420- 450per kg.
Poppyseed (China, U.P and MP-RAJ) rose Rs 10 each to settle at Rs 430-450, Rs 430-450 and Rs 470-480 per kg, respectively.
Mace-red and yellow traded higher at Rs 610-800 and Rs 910-920 instead of Rs 600-790 and Rs 900-910 per kg.
Red chilli and turmeric prices traded up to Rs 200 higher at Rs 5,000-11,500 and Rs 8,500-11,700 per quintal.
Jeera common and jeera best quality also increased Rs 100 each to end at Rs 19,300-19,500 and Rs 21,500-21,800 per quintal respectively, following restricted arrivals against rising domestic as well as fresh export enquiries. (MORE)

China exports drought-resistant rice farming technique
Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/10/21 2:00:11

A China-developed drought-resistant rice breed and its farming method have been introduced to nine countries, mainly in southeast Asia and Africa, according to an agricultural academy in east China's Anhui Province.

Dr. Wang Shimei, of the Rice Research Institute of the Anhui Agricultural Academy, said the plantation area of the Lyuhan No. 1 (Green Drought) rice breed had reached 2.3 million hectares in China.

Wang said the breed was first exported in 2009 to Angola. Plantation has reached 10,000 hectares in the country since then. The rice has also been planted in countries such as the Philippines, Cambodia, Pakistan and Cameroon.

In Cameroon, the rice yield reached just over 29 kg per hectare this year, as compared with about an average 4.5 kg per hectare of other rice breeds in the country.

Wang said agricultural experts from 10 countries, including Egypt and Uganda, came to China in June to study the rice growing technique, hoping it could help improve the yield in their countries, which face severe drought.

She said the rice breed has also proved to have a steady yield in saline-alkali soil in the Philippines, where fields suffer from monsoon flooding.

Inspired by manga to cook a pot of mixed rice

Uncovering a whole world of food manga, including one on The Joy Of Rice, gets me thinking about my adventures in cooking Japanese rice

OCT 22, 2017, 5:00 AM SGT
Life Editor

For someone a little obsessed with Japanese culture, it has taken me too long to discover manga.
Until this year, I had never read a Japanese comic and now, it seems, I cannot stop. How do I nip the addiction in the bud when I have discovered a whole world of food manga, translated into English? How do I stop trawling the Internet for videos made by manga fans who cook the dishes they read about in the books?
It started when I decided to unplug for a short spell earlier this year. I switched off my mobile phone. I read books. I wrote. On paper. With a pen.

That was one of the best weeks of my life and it was made better by Oishinbo.
I stumbled on the series before unplugging, while ordering shoyu online. The manga series, which made its debut in 1983, is written by Tetsu Kariya, with art by Akira Hanasaki. Its title is a mash-up of the words oishi (Japanese for delicious) and kuishinbo (someone who loves to eat). There have been more than 100 volumes of the comic, which has also been made into an anime series and movie.
Oishinbo is about the eating adventures of Shiro Yamaoka, an angsty journalist for Tozai News who does not seem to have to work with deadlines the way people like me do. He does, however, have a very finely honed palate and the way he geeks out on food thrills me.


3 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 cups rice, measured using the cup that comes with the rice cooker, about 300g
20cm by 10cm piece of konbu
500ml water
20g bonito flakes
1 skinless, boneless chicken thigh
1 Tbs shoyu
1 Tbs mirin
1 Tbs sake
1 aburaage (photo 1)
50g konnyaku (photo 2)
50g carrot
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried hijiki seaweed (photo 3)
Mitsuba (photo 4) or chopped scallions for garnish
·         METHOD
1. The night before cooking, rinse the mushrooms under running water and soak in tap water overnight at room temperature.
2. On the day of cooking, rinse the rice four to five times under running water, until the water becomes clear. Soak in fresh tap water for 45 minutes. After that, pour the rice into a fine mesh strainer, set it over a bowl and let drain for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. While the rice is soaking, make the dashi. Wipe the konbu with a damp paper towel. Place in a medium pot and pour the water over it. Soak for 30 minutes. Place the pot over medium low heat until small bubbles appear on the circumference of the pot. Remove the konbu or the dashi will be bitter. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Turn off the heat and add the bonito flakes. Let the flakes sink to the bottom. Drain the dashi into a pouring jug and set aside.
4. Rinse the chicken under running water and pat very dry with paper towels. Cut into bite-sized pieces and place in a small bowl. Add the shoyu, mirin and sake, stir and let marinate.
5. Bring a medium pot of water to boil and add the aburaage. Let it sit in the boiling water for two minutes, turning it over with a pair of chopsticks after one minute. Remove from the pot. Add in the konnyaku and let it boil in the water for two to three minutes. Remove from the pot.
6. Dry the aburaage with paper towels, squeezing out the water. Slice in half lengthwise, and then into thin strips crosswise. Cut the konnyaku into matchstick-size pieces. Peel the carrot and cut into matchstick-size pieces. Slice off the stems of the shiitake mushrooms and slice the caps thinly.
7. When the rice has had its soaking and draining time, scrape it into the rice cooker pot. Add the salt. Drain the marinade from the chicken and add the marinade to the rice. Add the dashi to the two-cup mark in the pot. You will need about 400ml. Give the rice a good stir.
8. Spoon the chicken evenly over the rice. Add the carrot, then mushroom, konnyaku, aburaage and hijiki in layers. Do not stir. Cook the rice using the White or Mixed function on the cooker. When the rice is done cooking, let it rest 10 minutes before opening the pot.
9. Use a rice paddle to mix the ingredients up in the pot, using a cutting motion.
10. Spoon the rice into bowls, top with mitsuba or scallions, and serve with pickles, miso soup and a salad.
Serves four as a main dish
He and Yuko Kurita, his girlfriend and later, wife, are joined on their food adventures by colleagues in the newspaper.
Underlying the series is Yamaoka's very testy relationship with his father Yuzan Kaibara, a celebrated artist and founder of The Gourmet Club. He has, arguably, an even more refined palate than his son.
Both are competing against each other by trying to create a menu to beat all menus, for rival newspaper companies.
The English translations are grouped into seven books: Japanese cuisine; Sake; Ramen & Gyoza; Fish, Sushi & Sashimi; Vegetables; The Joy Of Rice and Izakaya. They are available from for between US$10 (S$13.60) and US$13.
Unlike the Japanese volumes, the books are disjointed because they are grouped according to themes, so the timelines jump from chapter to chapter.
It can be disconcerting, but not to me. I lapped up the books in doublequick time, marvelling at all I was learning about Japanese food through comics.
Although the series started in the 1980s, the issues it brings up are relevant today. Pollution, changing lifestyles, the quest for cheaper food, international trade and their effects on how people eat apply all over the world.
One of the chapters in The Joy Of Rice is about foreign rice imports to Japan, a sensitive subject even today. Another hilarious chapter debunks the myth that organically grown brown rice is better than white, when starving members of a women's judo team, tired of the tasteless brown rice they are forced to eat, ask the intrepid newspaper gang for properly cooked white rice.
All of this gets me hungry and I get to thinking about my own adventures cooking Japanese rice. Before I bought myself a Japanese rice cooker, I swore by the proportions of rice to water set out in Elizabeth Andoh's Washoku. Things have become a lot easier.
S, a good friend, told me how soaking Japanese rice before cooking makes all the difference, and indeed it does. It tastes better. Draining the rice after soaking is just as important.
Another friend, K, waxed lyrical about a homestyle rice dish she had while on holiday in Japan.
Turns out it was takikomi gohan or mixed rice, which I love.
If there is one thing I have learnt reading Oishinbo, it is to respect ingredients. Yes, it is possible to cook rice without soaking and draining, but why not take the trouble for better tasting rice? After all, the koshihikari rice from Niigata prefecture I use is not cheap.
I suppose I could have cooked it with dashi from a packet, but again, why? It takes no time at all to make it from scratch, and if the Japanese supermarket runs out of konbu (sounds crazy but it happens), well, I just go to another one, gnashing my teeth the whole way.
The recipe calls for pretty classic ingredients: chicken, carrot, konnyaku, hijiki and dried mushrooms. However, there are many other possibilities: ginkgo nuts, lotus root, fresh mushrooms, chestnuts, sweet potato, bamboo shoots, salmon, octopus or pork.
Remember, however, that this is a rice dish and the grain should shine. The temptation is to load the rice with ingredients, but there are plenty in the recipe.
People sometimes think of rice as an accompaniment to other "more important" offerings on the dinner table. Others even shun it and focus on the protein.
That is unfortunate. A properly cooked pot of rice is something to savour.
Oishinbo reminded me of that and I raise a glass of sake to Kariya-san.


Rice shipment: REAP rejects TDAP proposal

Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) has rejected Trade Development Authority of Pakistan's proposal of making pre-shipment inspection of all rice shipments mandatory. A delegation of REAP led by its chairman Chaudhry Samee Ullah Naeem Thursday held a meeting with Dr Syed Javaid Akhter, Director General TDAP at TDAP Office and discussed issues related to rice exports. Rafique Suleman, Senior Vice Chairman REAP, Pir Syed Nazim Hussain Shah and Abdul Karim Memon, Director TDAP were also present.

Chairman REAP said rice exporters are putting their untiring efforts towards the growth of the country's economy. He urged TDAP to look into the issues and problems of rice exporters and support REAP in resolving the same.

He rejected the TDAP proposal of mandatory pre-shipment inspection of all rice shipments. He was of the view that due to this step, cost of rice exporters will not only increase, but the trade relations between exporters and buyers will also be affected.

He said that such condition has not been implemented internationally and even Pakistan's competitors such as India, Thailand and Vietnam have also not made this condition mandatory. This condition is also not implemented at other export sectors of Pakistan, he added.

Chairman REAP urged TDAP to leave the matter on the disposal of exporters and importers to let them tackle it with mutual understanding. Chaudhry Samee Ullah said that REAP will oppose all such steps which lead to government intervention in this free trade. He asked TDAP to improve Pakistani stalls at international food exhibitions, as REAP members have reservations over the location of stalls, their making and quality.

He said REAP has planned distribution of Biryani during Gulf Food, besides awards to major rice importers. In order to implement this proposal, REAP has also arranged a meeting with federal commerce minister next week, he added.

Rafique Suleman, Senior Vice Chairman REAP voiced concern over non-participation of Pakistan in the tender of Qatar's grain procurement body - Central Tender Committee (CTC).

He said this was a golden opportunity for Pakistan to enhance its rice exports. "Hopefully after the inclusion of Pakistani rice in the next CTC tender, rice exports to Qatar will enhance by approximately 25,000 metric tons generating a foreign exchange of some $12.5 million for the country at a time, when the country's forex reserves are depleting due to external debt payment.

Rafique urged TDAP to take urgent steps to ensure Pakistan's participation in the next CTC tender. He also requested TDAP to issue notification to grant authority to REAP for issuance of Certificate of Origin for rice shipments.

The senior vice chairman said REAP is planning to send trade delegations to various countries for marketing and promotion of Pakistani rice. He requested TDAP to extend all-out support to REAP trade delegations.

Dr Syed Javaid Akhter DG TDAP assured REAP delegation of full support. He announced making a joint committee of TDAP and REAP which will have meetings on a monthly basis. This committee will also propose indicative floor prices of rice varieties, so that Pakistani rice exporters could get better price for their products.

Basmati farmers in Punjab & Haryana rake it in

K.K.MUSTAFAHSpreading aroma Even though the area under basmati rice was nearly 10 per cent less as compared to the last kharif season, the yield was better
Switch over to fast-growing variety with higher yield; lower stocks, dip in acreage boost prices
Low inventory and a fall in taxes on account of GST, coupled with rising exports, have helped basmati farmers in Punjab and Haryana to command a better price for their produce this season.
“Even though the area under basmati rice was nearly 10 per cent less as compared to the last kharif season, the yield was better as more farmers decided to sow high-yielding varieties such as 1509 this time around,” said All India Rice Exporters Association President Vijay Setia.
Basmati acreage down

“As a result, arrivals in the mandis are good. Farmers are getting a good price this time around. This was because there were low carry-forward stocks and also because buyers were more aggressive as there was a misplaced perception the yield would be less as the total acreage under basmati rice cultivation was relatively low,” he said.
According to a survey by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda), basmati rice area in Haryana has come down 9.39 per cent to 6,52,000 hectares in the 2017 kharif season from 7,19,600 hectares in 2016.
Similarly, there was an 8.84 per cent reduction in the basmati area in Punjab, with the area coming down to 5,61,200 hectares.
The total basmati growing areas in seven States of north India came down by 7.92 per cent to 1.56 million hectares (mh) in the 2017 kharif season as compared to 1.69 mh, according to a recent report by Apeda.
Among the different basmati varieties, PB 1121 continued to be the most preferred one even though its area came down by 10.5 per cent to 1.1 mh. Pusa 1509, on the other hand, went up by 8.07 per cent to 1.29 lakh hectares.
According to Harpreet Singh Sidhu, General Manager Enforcement at the Punjab Mandi Board, total arrivals of basmati in mandis in the State stood at 1.86 lakh tonnes so far.
The total quantity of basmati rice traded in Haryana’s mandis till Monday was 86,741 tonnes, said a Haryana government official. Farmers, too, said they were happy with this year’s kharif yield.
“I have received 24 quintals of basmati rice from my one-acre plot,” said Rajinder Singh, a farmer in Rania, a small Haryana town 23 km away from Sirsa city. Singh chose to grow the short-duration, high-yielding 1509 variety, which accounts for most of the mandi arrivals.
High-yield varieties

Farmers who have opted for other varieties such as PB-1 and PB-1401 also seem to be content with the yield.
“The harvest is planned after Diwali. The crop looks good and I expect the yield to be good,” said Surdeep Singh of Ellenabad, a small town in Sirsa district that lies close to Haryana’s border with Rajasthan.
Most basmati varieties are commanding a good price, both traders as well as farmers agree. Surdeep Singh said he expects to get up to 2,800/quintal for his produce.
Crop burning

Punjab Mandi Board’s Sidhu, however, said the prices in Punjab are in the range of
3,000-3,300, which is very good.
However, rice farmers in both the States are worried about issues around burning crop residue.
“We expect more and more farmers in Sirsa to go for the 1509 variety during the next season as it would give them some extra time to prepare the field for the rabi crop as the 1509 variety takes only around 100 days as compared to 120 days required by most other popular varieties,” said Rajinder Singh of Rania.
Currently, less than 15 per cent of the acreage in the district is under 1509, he said.
Sukh Singh Sekhon of Punjab Kisan Sabha, however, said the farmers should be adequately compensated if they do not burn crop residue.
“Farmers get less than 10 days to prepare the field for the rabi crop, any means other than crop burning would not be economical for farmers,” he said.

Pakistan-Iran trade ties, volume far below potential

ISLAMABAD : Bilateral relations between Iran and Pakistan are very cordial and the two capitals enjoy very close affiliations, but at the same time the volume of trade between the two countries is well below potential.The leadership of the two countries have agreed to take the bilateral trade volume upto $5 billion in coming years but still many steps need to be taken to achieve the objective.
 After the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1, experts believe that the trade between Iran and Pakistan would get a boost and both countries can benefit from each other in all sectors especially in trade and economic sector.

Though trade between Iran and Pakistan crossed $1 billion mark after the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the figure is below the full potential of the trade between the two neighboring states.
 Business between the private sectors of Pakistan and Iran is not very active and a lot of time and lots of opportunities have been lost, IRNA reported Sunday.The 20th Iran-Pakistan Joint Economic Commission meeting was held in Teheran in April this year with an objective to implement the decisions that have been taken between the two countries to enhance the trade.
 This year central banks of the two countries have also signed an agreement to open a proper banking channel but this agreement is yet to materialize.Iran is a big market and Pakistani goods have a good reputation and value in Iranian market. There is a big demand of Pakistani basmati rice, he said.
 Iranian products which are very good in quality are not very easily available in Pakistani markets.In big cities one can find Chinese and other countries’ products easily but not Iranian products. The only major Iranian export which is available in Pakistani stores is ‘date’.
 Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline is another key project that could completely change the face of Pakistan’s economy and boost economic ties between the two neighbors.
 The cost production would come down if Iranian gas comes here, more jobs will be created. Iran has already completed its portion of the project but Pakistan has yet to start construction of the pipeline on its territory.Meanwhile Pakistan’s Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCE) has approved purchase of additional 100 MW electricity from Iran. Pakistan is right now importing 100 MW electricity from while Iran has already announced its readiness to increase electricity exports to Pakistan respectively to 1000 and 3000 MW.

Developments after the JCPOA suggest that the Iranian economy will grow at a rapid pace in coming years and its neighbors could easily reap fruits of this expansion. 
Pakistani businessman and member of Sialkot Chamber Of Commerce and Industry Khawar Anwar Khawaja believes the lack of banking channel is one of the major obstacles in boosting the bilateral trade.
 Speaking to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), he stressed the need for removal of trade barriers between Iran and Pakistan asking both sides to fully implement Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) and also sign Free Trade Agreement (FTA) for stronger trade ties.
 However, he said that future of trade ties between Iran and Pakistan is very bright as both are neighboring countries which can benefit from each other in trade sector.
 He said that Sialkot Chamber Of Commerce and Industry is one of the major trade bodies of the country and is willing to enhance trade with Iran. “We are ready for all kinds of cooperation with Iran,” he said. NNI
 Originally published by NNI Basmati Rice Market Research Report 2017 | Qualitative Analysis
By  Jesse Woodson
 October 23, 2017
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This report studies the Basmati Rice market status and outlook of global and major regions, from angles of manufacturers, regions, product types and end industries; this report analyzes the top manufacturers in global and major regions, and splits the Basmati Rice market by product type and applications/end industries.
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KRBL Limited
Amira Nature Foods
LT Foods
Best Foods
Kohinoor Rice
Aeroplane Rice
Tilda Basmati Rice
Matco Foods
Amar Singh Chawal Wala
Hanuman Rice Mills
Adani Wilmar
HAS Rice Pakistan
Galaxy Rice Mill
Dunar Foods
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Middle East
Other Region
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Indian Basmati Rice
Pakistani Basmati Rice
Kenya Basmati Rice
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Direct Edible
Deep Processing
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12:00 AM, October 23, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:12 AM, October 23, 2017

Appetite for rice on wane

BBS survey finds consumption drops 11pc in 5yrs as rising income helps people diversify diets

Per capita rice consumption in Bangladesh declined fast between 2010 and 2016 thanks to increased income that has enabled people to diversify diets with a higher intake of non-cereal foods.
Now, each person consumes 367 grammes of the staple daily, down by 11 percent from 416gm in 2010, according to a preliminary report of the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) 2016 released at the end of last week.
The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) also found that people reduced their consumption of wheat since 2010. Daily per capita consumption of the grain dropped 24 percent to 19.83gm in 2016 from 26gm in 2010.
Overall, daily intake of rice and wheat by an individual fell by 21 percent and 41 percent from 464.3gm and 33.7gm respectively in 1995-96, according to the HIES 2016.
On the other hand, consumption of some foods other than rice and wheat increased over time. For example, each person consumed 49.5gm of fish in 2010, which rose by 26 percent to 62.58gm in 2016.
Since 2010, per capita consumption of chicken shot up 54 percent while the figure almost doubled in case of eggs, according to HIES.
Akhter Ahmed, country representative of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Bangladesh, attributed the rise in per capita income to the country's annual economic growth of 6.5 percent.
“When income grows, consumption of staple food declines and that of other foods increases. This is a good thing that the consumption of chicken and egg is rising. The dietary diversification will be good from the nutritional point of view.”
In Bangladesh, rice still accounts for 70-75 percent of calorie intake and 50 percent of protein, although the grain is not a good source of protein, Ahmed said.
“The rate of fall in rice consumption should be faster than the current trend,” he said.
Based on the HIES 2016 estimate of daily per capita rice intake, overall annual requirement for rice should be 2.21 crore tonnes for the country's 16.5 crore people. The amount is far below the annual production of 3.47 crore tonnes, as estimated by BBS.
HIES data shows that consumption of cereals declined both in rural and urban areas between 2010 and 2016. People in rural areas eat a higher amount of rice than people in urban areas.
However, daily per capita intake of vegetables increased marginally while fruits, milk and milk products declined during the same period. BBS finds that per capita daily consumption of vegetables, a good source of vitamins and minerals, rose to 167gm in 2016 from 166gm in 2010. 
In urban areas, daily consumption increased by 13 percent to 174gm per capita in 2016 from six years ago.
However, daily intake of vegetables by a person in rural areas declined by 3 percent to 164gm during the same period, according to HIES.
Ahmed said increasing urbanisation and incomes propels demand for all sorts of food in urban areas.
“And because of high demand in urban areas, it appears that people in rural areas are sending their produce to towns and cities by consuming less for income. Higher productivity of vegetables would generate surplus and they could consume more of the nutrient-rich food,” he said.
He suggested conducting research on high value crops and development of value chain to increase productivity and curb losses of perishables in the supply chain.
“We have to pay attention to packaging, processing, storage and development of cold chain facilities for better marketing of perishable products. This is vital,” he said, adding that development of a value chain would create jobs for rural youths.
Marketing efficiency will increase and thus losses in the chain will reduce, he said.
He also suggested development of contract farming, which will ensure that the growers are getting reasonable prices for their produce.
Dipankar Roy, project director of HIES at BBS, said increased consumption of non-cereal food was a good sign for the health of the people as well as for the economy.
He said share of peoples' expenses for non-food items such as education and health rose to 53.3 percent in 2016 from 45.19 percent in 2010. The share of expenditure for food dropped during the same period. 
It indicates that the quality of life of people is improving, according to BBS.