Friday, January 12, 2018

Rice R&D News Global r&d News

Rice Related R&D News

R&D investments seen to boost rice output
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - September 9, 2017 - 4:00pm
MANILA, Philippines — The government should invest more in agricultural research and development if it wants to achieve rice competitiveness in this administration, according to an economist.
University of the Philippines School of Economics professor Emmanuel Esguerra said the government’s goal to attain a competitive rice economy by 2022 should be backed by cutting-edge agriculture innovations guided by science-based and supportive policies.
“Producing rice in the Philippines is more expensive than in our neighboring exporting countries such as Vietnam and Thailand,” he said.
In the Philippines, the cost of producing palay (unmilled rice) is around P10-12 per kilo as against the P6 to P10 per kilo in Vietnam and Thailand.

“Some of the factors that contribute to the higher cost of rice production include labor cost and machinery, low yield per hectare, and high marketing costs,” Esguerra said.
“High prices harm poor Filipino households more than anyone else. These households spend around 20 percent of their incomes on rice alone,” he added.
Furthermore, Esguerra emphasized that the role of rice science and innovation is essential in attaining competitiveness and inclusive growth.
“There is also a need to understand the reasons for rice farmers in choosing a certain technology,” he said.
“Technological adoption is a tricky business that requires the collective wisdom of science and social science communities for the farmers,” Esguerra added.
The Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Agricultural Research continues to intensify its research and development programs for various agribusiness sectors, including rice.
“Many of the bureau’s R&D projects align with our need to develop crops that can withstand the logistical and phytosanitary requirements as we move towards promoting Philippine agricultural products in the wider, global market,” BAR said.
“With the right technology that will help nurture the crops, we can also address the challenges of seasonal supply and climate change,” it added.


Step up R&D on rice farming, DOST tells state scientists

 / 12:14 AM September 15, 2016
The Department of Science and Technology called for state scientists to ramp up research and development activities that were more accessible to farmers to support rice security in the country.
“Whether the cost that we have invested have generated the desired benefits, we still have to see that these are adapted on a wider scale with the goal of reaching more rice and rice farming communities nationwide towards achieving a rice secure Philippines,” Science Secretary Fortunato T. dela Peña said in a statement.
Speaking to staff of the Philippine Rice Research Institute last week, Dela Peña cited the outputs of rice R&D and the industry’s role in helping the country’s rice sector.
“In a country where rice is a staple food, nothing compares for an ordinary citizen than to be assured of having an affordable, accessible, high-quality, and nutritious rice at all times,” he said.
Dela Peña was referring to technologies developed under the Rice Industry Strategic S&T Program, which supports efforts to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production by 2020.
The program is a partnership among government agencies PhilRice, Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCCARD), Metal Industry Research and Development Center and the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).
Among these technologies is the use of certified seeds, bio-stimulants and elicitors, and efficient use of fertilizers and water were targeted to increase productivity by 10 percent while reducing production cost by 5 percen

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PH needs more investments for rice R&D

By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Despite the Philippine government’s intense campaign towards rice self-sufficiency, investments to make the country’s yield more globally competitive are still not enough.
Economist Emmanuel Esguerra said there is still a need for the government to invest more in agricultural research and development (R&D) to achieve rice competitiveness.
To recall, after giving the agriculture sector a significant boost in the first half, the country’s main staples — palay and corn — are now expected to yield unprecedented production results by the end of this year, thanks to ample water supply and availability of planting materials.
The probable production of both palay and corn crops for July to December 2017 is now seen to rise to 6.76 percent and 6.11 percent, respectively.
For the entire calendar year, palay and corn outputs may even accelerate by 9.06 percent and 11.08 percent, respectively, compared with 2016 levels.
These projections came after these staples yielded impressive production in the first half of the year.
Despite higher yields, Esguerra pointed out that farmers across the country still struggle under the weight of high production cost.
He pointed out that producing rice in the Philippines is more expensive than in our neighboring exporting countries such as Vietnam and Thailand. Some of the factors that contribute to the higher cost of rice production include labor cost and machinery, low yield per hectare, and high marketing costs.
“High prices harm poor Filipino households more than anyone else. These households spend around 20 percent of their incomes on rice alone,” said Esguerra, who serves as a professor at the UP School of Economics (UPSE), said.


Plan to boost African rice R&D unveiled

[ACCRA] A research strategy to help boost rice production in Africa has been formally unveiled by the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), a pan-African agricultural research organisation.
The ten-year plan, launched this month (1 February) aims to help the continent become nearly 90 per cent self-sufficient in rice production by 2020, with at least ten countries expected to full meet their own needs.
This will be achieved through setting seven priorities for research.
These include providing farmers with climate-resilient rice varieties; expanding rice-producing areas while addressing environmental concerns; creating market opportunities for smallholders; and linking up with development partners and the private sector to stimulate the uptake of rice knowledge and technologies.
The plan will largely be implemented under the Global Rice Science Partnership, a research programme of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research that launched in November 2010.
Papa Abdoulaye Seck, director-general of AfricaRice, told SciDev.Net: "AfricaRice's new Strategic goal is to realise Africa's tremendous rice potential, as the centre strongly believes the continent has the wherewithal be it human, physical and economic, to produce enough rice to feed itself".
It is hoped that rice production in Sub-Saharan Africa will increase from 18.4 million tons in 2010 to 46.8 million tons by 2020, and that research and development will also be boosted by the training of 30 PhD and MSc students and 100 technicians a year.
Seck said that the project costs are estimated at US$420 million. However a further US$1.2 billion will be needed to fully implement the strategy.
The funding will come from a number of donors including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UK Department for International Development (DFID), and the World Bank. Full funding has not yet been secured as donors are still honouring their pledges, Seck said.
Key players in implementing the strategy will be scientists from national agricultural programmes in the 24 member states in Sub-Saharan Africa that belong to AfricaRice.
"Such a project is usually challenging in the face of adequate funds and staff, lack of adaptable and consumer-preferred varieties and access to rudimentary tools for production," Godfrey Asea, plant breeder at the National Agricultural Research Organization, in Uganda, told SciDev.Net.  
The Ghanaian deputy minister for food and agriculture, Yaw Effah-Baafi, said the scheme would assist countries like Ghana, which spends US$450 million per year on importing rice to meet some 70 per cent of local demand.  
The strategy was approved last September at the meeting of the AfricaRice's Council of Ministers, who also approved the launch of an Africa-wide task forces set up to accelerate delivery of rice technologies.
See below for a video of the GRiSP Africa Rice Task Force Launch: 

12th January,2018 daily global regional local rice e-newsletter by riceplus magazine

Indonesia open for rice imports to contain prices

The Jakarta Post
Jakarta | Thu, January 11, 2018 | 05:30 pm
 A worker carries a sack of rice at Cipinang Rice Wholesale Market in East Jakarta in this undated photograph. (Antara/Makna Zaezar)
The Trade Ministry says it is open to rice imports to bolster stocks, as prices have increased in recent weeks.
"The option for imports is open, but it is only for premium-quality rice, so that it will not harm our farmers and rice production," said Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita in Jakarta on Wednesday.
Previously, Vice President Jusuf Kalla had called on the National Logistics Agency (Bulog) to consider importing rice to bring down prices.
Bulog data show current rice stocks at 950,000 tons, most of which is low-grade rice to be distributed as aid for low-income families. Meanwhile, rice stocks for commercial purposes are down to just 11,000 tons, according to news agency Antara.
"Importing rice is not prohibited, but we have to carry out research to determine whether the import is necessary as the price constantly increases,” Kalla said on Tuesday.
According to the National Strategic Food Prices Information Center (PIHPSN), the price of medium-quality rice reached Rp 14,100 (99 US cents) per kilogram on average, much higher than the price ceiling of Rp 9,450 per kg.
The highest price was found in West Papua at Rp 14,250 per kg, exceeding the province’s price ceiling of Rp 10,250 per kg. The lowest price for rice, meanwhile, was found in West Nusa Tanggara (NTB) at Rp 9,740 per kg, which is still higher than the province’s price ceiling. (bbn
Gov’t Set to Import 500,000 Tons of Rice by end of January
Friday, 12 January 2018 | 00:29 WIB

Commerce Minister Enggartiasto Lukita (centroone)
JAKARTA, NNC - The Indonesia Ministry of Commerce has kept its promise by allowing the import of 500,000 tons of rice to strengthen the domestic rice supply.
“I have conveyed that I do not want to take risks in supply shortage, thus I have sanctioned the import of rice not planted in Indonesia,” said Commerce Minister Enggartiasto Lukita in Jakarta on Thursday (01/11).
The imported rice will be sourced from Vietnam and Thailand.
The imported rice will be delivered to Indonesia by the end of this January to avoid disrupting the domestic rice harvest season on February-March.
The imported rice will be set at a price equivalent with medium quality rice.
In addition, Enggartiasto affirmed that his side’s decision to import rice was to address the issue on food supply shortage. He clarified that he did not want the issue of supply shortage to become a concern.
“We supply imported rice, as the issue on food is a priority,” the Minister affirmed.
Meanwhile, state-owned Perusahaan Perdagangan Indonesia (PPI) has been appointed as the importer of the imported rice from Vietnam and Thailand. (*)

Indigenous rice varieties make a comeback
Saraswathy Nagarajan

Rice fields ready for harvest at Thanal Agro-Ecology Centre (TAEC) in Panavally, in Wayanad district   | Photo Credit: Saraswathy Nagarajan

Harvest festivals celebrate our agrarian roots. In Kerala, Save Our Rice, is spearheading a revolution by reviving indigenous varieties that are ideally adapted to the different environments in which they are grown
Kothambari kazhama, a kind of paddy once grown extensively in Kannur and Kasaragod districts in Kerala, had become a fond memory for many.

 A nostalgic Jayakumar C, trustee of Thanal, an NGO working for the environment, and co-founder of Save Our Rice (SOR) Campaign, promised to gift Leneesh K, state coordinator of SOR, a gold ring if he could locate this variety of paddy among small farmers in Kannur. Many of them had gone against the grain and continued farming indigenous varieties instead of opting for hybrids or high-yielding varieties.
While visiting farmers to collect information about seeds as part of his work for the Seed Savers Network, Leneesh made it a point to ask elderly local residents if they knew someone who was still farming the paddy that is said to have resembled seeds of coriander and, according to Jayakumar, even had the faint fragrance of coriander seeds. Finally, Leneesh managed to get a handful of seeds from an aged farmer, who was still cultivating it in his field.
Rescue mission
“These are those grains that we rescued from the brink of extinction. But it looks like we have lost the red-grained variety of this kind of paddy,” he says, all smiles as he shows me the pretty, tiny grains growing in a small rectangular piece of land in a field in Wayanad.

 Ringed by jungles and the bluish-black hills of the Western Ghats, the Thanal Agro-Ecology Centre (TAEC) in Panavally, in Wayanad district, is a riot of colours. The river Kalindi is a constant murmur in the background, as we go around the fields with a treasure trove of 256 varieties of rice, some rare like the kothambari kazahama and chuvanna kunjinelu, on an area of about 1.5 acres. While 168 are indigenous to Kerala, there are varieties from all the rice-growing areas of India, such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Northeastern India, West Bengal, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, and some from Thailand and Vietnam as well. The volunteers of Thanal are sowing seeds of change among paddy farmers, by encouraging them to revive cultivation of indigenous species that were once widely cultivated in India.
Leneesh introduces me to myriad species of paddy grown on these fields. Part of the 13-year-old Save Our Rice Campaign and Seed Savers Network, the Rice Diversity Block (RDB) hit the headlines last year when a drone shot captured the mosaic of colours of the paddy fields — red, black, purple, green, golden and all shades in between. Since then, the RDB has been replicated in 10 other places in Kerala by farmers, all of whom are keen on saving native species of rice.
Dwindling numbers
“British gazettes document that more than 3,000 varieties of paddy were grown in Kerala itself. Of that, we have less than 200 now. Traditional knowledge and crops that were ideal for our environment were discarded during the heyday of the Green Revolution, and hybrids were introduced. It almost wiped out the indigenous varieties,” says Jayakumar.
The SOR campaign has managed to revive enthusiasm in such local variants, and today many of these varieties are the cream of the crop and command a premium in the food market for their health benefits and medicinal properties, much of which is still being documented, explains Sridhar Radhakrishnan, coordinator (Policy & Campaigns) in the national Save Our Rice Campaign.
Not only are farmers reaping better prices for these indigenous grains, but the harvest is bigger and the crop more sustainable than the fancy seeds introduced later. Leneesh points out how paddy and its cultivation have been integrated into our language, lifestyle and culture, and any attempt to tamper with it affects the entire fabric of our lives.
Species that migrate
Leneesh recalls with a smile how during their travels to document rice varieties, two of the activists of Thanal came across a rice popular among farmers in the Sunderbans. “They call it the Kerala sundari but have no clue why it is called so. Was it a kind of rice that was taken from Kerala?”
Another indication of migration of species comes to light when he shows the famous black rice that is so chic now. Although the sticky rice is an indigenous variety in Northeastern India, it is popularly known as Burma Black.
Sowing methods, harvests and period for maturity varied widely among the native kinds of paddy. Each region had species that were ideal for the geography and climate of that region. “Ramleela and govindobhog are, for instance, from the North. The names of the rice there are more linked to mythology and legends, while the names of those in the South are rooted in the soil. When we lose a variety, an entire body of knowledge associated with the rice dies with it. So it is essential to preserve as much as possible by developing such RDBs,” says Leneesh.
It takes about Rs 5,000 to cultivate each kind of rice in the RDB. Thanal welcomes donors to join the campaign to Save Our Rice.
And so did Leneesh get his gold? Yes and no. He did not get the ring, but it looks like he did find a treasure with this harvest of golden paddy.
Take a pick
With evangelical zeal, Leneesh lists some of the paddy varieties that are much in demand for their medicinal properties. “Karinjan and karimalakaran are rich in fibre, and consuming this is said to reduce the incidence of diabetes. The grains and beaten rice of mundakan are ideal for increasing stamina and so are taken by those doing physical labour,” he explains.
Vella chennellu and chuvanna chennellu

 Some villagers now call this ‘gynaecology rice’. Almost six feet tall, the crop takes about seven months to ripen. Feudal families and tribals in Kannur used to give this to pubescent, pregnant and menopausal women. It is believed to reduce problems associated with hormonal imbalances.
Chuvanna kunjinelu
The aromatic white rice was once used only for cooking the food of the gods, such as payasam and beaten rice. At present, it is used by mortals for making fried rice, biriyani and ghee rice. Apparently, even today, the beaten rice (aval) is boiled in water and given to people suffering from epileptic fits.
Vellanavara and rakthashali
Both are a must for preparing the medicinal karkida kanji that is now sold in ready-made packets all across India. It is believed to have several health benefits and is popularly consumed during the Malayalam month of Karkkidakam (June-July).

India rice rates gain as Bangladesh keeps up purchases; Vietnam ends flat run
Arpan Varghese

BENGALURU (Reuters) - Rice prices gained this week in India as Bangladesh continued to lap up the staple grain from its neighbour, while prospects of deals with the Philippines saw rates climb for the first time in three weeks in a relatively quiet Vietnamese market.A woman winnows rice in a field on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files
Top exporter India’s 5 percent broken parboiled rice prices rose by about $2 per tonne this week to $423-$427.

Traders from Bangladesh are aggressively buying new-season crop since prices in Bangladesh are still elevated, said an exporter based in Kakinada in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
India’s rice exports likely jumped 22 percent in 2017 to a record 12.3 million tonnes as Bangladesh ramped up purchases after flooding damaged its crops.
As of the end of December, farmers in India had cultivated winter-sown rice on 1.88 million hectares, 44 percent higher than a year earlier.
Prices were also higher in another major Asian exporter, Thailand, with the country’s benchmark 5 percent broken rice gaining to $395-$410, free-on-board (FOB) Bangkok, from $393-$396 last week on an appreciating baht and lower supplies.
The baht has gained 1.6 percent versus the U.S. dollar so far this year and been Asia’s best-performing currency.

“Rice prices have increased due to a stronger baht, lower supplies due to the effects of floods, as well as a recent 200,000-tonne export deal with Indonesia,” a Bangkok-based rice trader said.
The Ministry of Commerce forecast Thailand to export 9.5 million tonnes of rice, worth $4.7 billion, in 2018.
 “I think this target is achievable. It’s lower than last year’s record figure of over 11 million tonnes probably due to a stronger Thai baht and bad weather conditions affecting supplies,” said another trader based in Bangkok, adding, “Demand has remained fairly constant.”
Thai prices are likely to be on an upward trend over the next few weeks, traders said.In Vietnam, benchmark 5 percent broken rice rose to $400 a tonne, FOB Saigon, ending a three-week flat trend within the $390-$395 range, and boosted by prospects of deals with the Philippines, traders said.
“Prices edged up on market talk that the Philippines would invite tenders to buy 250,000 tonnes at the end of January,” a trader in Ho Chi Minh City said.However, trading remained thin due to depleted stocks in the world’s third-largest rice exporter, while Vietnam’s major winter-spring crop would be ready only by the end of February, traders said.
Vietnam plans to sell close to a 23 percent stake in the country’s main rice exporter Vinafood II through an initial public offering.Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Mi Nguyen in Hanoi, Suphanida Thakral in Bangkok and Ruma Paul in Dhaka; Editing by Dale Hudson

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Japan, Mexico, UK, China, Jordan Priorities for USA Rice 2018 International Promotion Areas
By Michael Klein
 Video report
Video report with International Promotion Committee Chairman Terry Harris
TORONTO, CANADA -- Leadership from the USA Rice International Promotion Committee and the USA Rice Council met here this week to examine the current export picture for U.S.-grown rice and discuss future marketing and trade policy programs.  While U.S. rice faces tariff and non-tariff barriers in many markets, the group endorsed USA Rice's proposed strategy for the coming year with some adjustments to ensure maximum impact.

Mexico and Japan, two of our most important markets, remained at the top of the priority list.  Programs will be expanded in the UK and Jordan, and the group will continue to dedicate resources to China in preparation for the successful conclusion of the phytosanitary negotiations.

"We will also build on our successes in other key markets such as Colombia, Haiti, South Korea, Taiwan, and Saudi Arabia, and also in the realm of food aid," said Sarah Moran, USA Rice vice president of international.  "U.S. rice is highly accepted and sought after in these markets and we will continue to expand our reach."

USA Rice resources devoted to Cuba, once the top destination for U.S.-grown rice, and a market that the U.S. rice industry continues to urge the U.S. government to reopen, were scaled back for now, at least until the diplomatic situation between the U.S. and Cuba improves. 

But flexibility in programming is also important to the group and resources could be shifted back there at any point."We're always looking for new opportunities and they continue to come at different times and for different reasons.  We are confident we have the ability to react quickly when there are opportunities to get U.S rice into new markets," said Terry Harris, chairman of the USA Rice International Promotion Committee.
Attending this year's planning session were growers from Arkansas, California, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and merchants and millers from Arkansas and California. The group heard presentations and updates from Lita Echiverri, an international trade specialist at USDA/FAS, and Evan Mangino, the Agricultural Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, who also has the advantage of being previously stationed in Japan where he worked on rice issues.
"This meeting was very productive," said Betsy Ward, USA Rice president and CEO.  "It's valuable for us to hear our members' insights into key export markets and we greatly appreciate them devoting their time to an in-depth planning session to hear reports about what we are doing in the market, what we can do more of, and where we can direct resources."

USA Rice Daily
Govt to import rice amid rising prices
Stefani Ribka
The Jakarta Post
Jakarta | Fri, January 12, 2018 | 11:09 am
 Workers unload rice from delivery trucks on Aug. 8, 2017 at the Cipinang Rice Central Market in East Jakarta. Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita said on Jan. 11 that the government had decided to import 500,000 tons of medium-grade rice from Thailand and Vietnam to calm prices. (Antara/Muhammad Adimaja)
Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita has said the government will import 500,000 tons of medium-grade rice from Thailand and Vietnam to calm the commodity's price, which has been increasing since late 2017 as a result of a supply shortage.
The rice will arrive in late January and will be of a different variety from the local IR 64 variety.
“It could be Japonica or jasmine, and we will import it through PPI,” Enggartiasto told a media briefing on Thursday evening, referring to the state-owned Indonesian Trading Company.
“[Private firms] can sell it with partners, but [sales] must be through the PPI, so the government can monitor the rice supply and distribution,” he added.
If necessary, the rice would also be sold at traditional markets and at modern stores.
The government has set a ceiling price for medium-quality rice according to region: Rp 9,450 (70 US cents) per kilogram in Java, Lampung, South Sumatra, Bali, West Nusa Tenggara and Sulawesi; Rp 9,950 per kg in the rest of Sumatra, Kalimantan and East Nusa Tenggara; and Rp 10,250 per kg in Maluku and Papua.
The government said that declining supplies of medium-quality rice had caused the commodity's price to rise since December.
Bank Indonesia’s price tracking website shows a gradual increase in the rice price by 4 percent to Rp 11,900 per kg in the from Nov. 8 to Jan. 11 period.
The price for the Medium I grade of rice, which is consumed by low- and middle-income households, increased even more, by 4.4 percent to Rp 12,050 per kg. (bbn)
INFOGRAPHICS: Thailand’s rice export to Nigeria drops dramatically — but increases in Benin Rep
January 11
 by Oluseyi AwojulugbeAdvertisement
Rice exports from Thailand to Nigeria dropped from 1.23 million metric tonnes in 2014 to 23,192mt as at November 2017. 
According to data on the Thai Rice Exporters Association website, the value of these exports dropped to 324 million Thai baht (฿) from 8.2 billion Thai bhat (฿).
Curiously though, Nigeria’s neighbours, Republic of Benin, recorded an increase in rice imports from Thailand, from 805,765mt in 2015 to 1,647,387mt as at November 2017 — leading to suspicion that the staple might have been smuggled to Nigeria through land borders.
On June 23, 2015, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) announced that it would no longer provide foreign exchange for 41 items including rice, cement and tooth picks.
It argued that the move would encourage patronage of locally made goods.
This move led to immediate increases in the prices of some of the items.

The CBN also stepped up the anchors borrowers programme to create a linkage between companies involved in the processing and small holder farmers (SHFs) of key agricultural commodities.
The programme provides inputs to farmers to improve production and the farmers supplies produce to the processing company at harvest in exchange for the cash equivalent.
“I have directed a zero-tolerance to rice imports through the land borders irrespective of volume with immediate effect. Importers who have already initiated import processes will have a grace period ending Friday March 25, 2016 to clear their consignments,” Hameed Alli, customs comptroller-general said in 2016.
In 2017, Audu Ogbeh, minister of agriculture, said the country’s rice imports from Thailand had dropped to 20,000 metric tonnes.
Judge rejects PCA’s proposed sulfate limit for wild rice waters
By John Myers on Jan 11, 2018 at 6:15 p.m.
 Wild rice harvested on Perch Lake on the Fond du Lac Reservation gleams in the sunlight. (file photo / News Tribune)
A state administrative law judge has flatly rejected a plan by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to abandon the statewide 10 parts-per-million limit for sulfate pollution in wild rice waters in exchange for a lake-by-lake system with varying limits.
Administrative Law Judge LauraSue Schlatter, in an 82-page opinion approved by the state’s chief administrative law judge and released Thursday, considered 1,500 written comments on the proposed changes in state law and held five public hearings that drew a combined 300 people.
Schlatter ruled against repealing the existing, statewide 10 ppm limit due to the PCA’s “failure to establish the reasonableness of the repeal, and because the repeal conflicts” with the federal Clean Water Act.
The judge also ruled against the PCA plan to develop “equation-based” limits for specific lakes and rivers that hold wild rice because it wasn't firm enough, it “fails to meet the definition of a rule” under state law “and is unconstitutionally void for vagueness.”
Schalter even rejected the state’s preliminary list of 1,300 lakes and rivers where the agency believes viable wild rice stands exist, places where the new rules would have applied, because the list itself violated federal law.
“The MPCA has not presented facts adequate to support the reasonableness of the proposed repeal of the 10 (ppm) sulfate standard without a replacement standard that is equally or more protective of wild rice waters,” the judge concluded before warning the PCA against re-submitting a similar plan. “Because some of the defects in the rule are defects in foundational portions of the proposed rules, the Administrative Law Judge advises the Agency against re-submitting the rule for approval ... unless it addresses the defects in the wild rice water sulfate standard and the list of wild rice waters.”
The judge’s ruling appears to leave the statewide 10 ppm limit for sulfate pollution in effect, but it remains unclear if or when that rule will ever be enforced. A current state law prevents the PCA from enforcing the limit in any pollution discharge permit. While the old sulfate law has been on the books since 1973, it has not been widely enforced, and several taconite iron ore operations and some municipal wastewater treatment plants upstream of wild rice stands are believed to be in violation.
PCA officials said they were still reading the decision Thursday and weren't ready to interpret the impact.
“We just received the ALJ report. We will need to read and evaluate what the ruling says before offering any public comment,” said Dave Verhasselt, the agency’s director of communications.
Kelsey Johnson, president of the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota, which opposed the PCA’s plan, said the PCA’s “first brush” at changing the sulfate rule “clearly wasn't adequate.”
“I think the formula really had a lot of flaws and errors in the way they (PCA) approached it. They didn’t look at all the factors that impact wild rice other than sulfate — things like water depth,” Johnson said, adding that she believes the judge’s ruling now puts the issue back in the hands of the Legislature to decide how to regulate sulfate.
But environmental groups also were claiming victory, saying the judge rejected the rule because it abdicated the state’s responsibility to protect wild rice and human health from the impacts of sulfate pollution under the federal Clean Water Act.
“We’ve been moving ahead since 2011 under a threat that there would be a change in the state law that would remove the need for the mining industry to meet any sulfate standard. But the judge has clearly rejected that on its face. … She said a rule is needed to protect wild rice and protect water quality,” said Paula Maccabee, attorney for the group Water Legacy, which has pushed to retain the statewide sulfate limit. “We now have a neutral third party who said that (the PCA's proposal) doesn’t meet state rules and doesn't meet the Clean Water Act. The good news is that the rule of law still matters.”
Scientists have found that sulfate — which can come from sewage effluent, mine discharges and other industrial processes — is converted to sulfides in the sediment of many wild rice lakes and rivers. The rate of that conversion changes depending on the amount of carbon and iron in the water (generally, more sulfides with high carbon, fewer sulfides with high iron). It's those sulfides that prevent wild rice from thriving in some areas; the proposed new rule would have studied the water chemistry of each wild rice lake and river to determine what sulfate level they could handle and still grow wild rice.
Research also appears to show that higher sulfate and sulfide levels increase toxic methyl mercury, a pollutant already targeted because of its potential impact on human health.
Mining supporters have both worked to repeal the old limit and stop the PCA’s proposed changes, saying no limit is needed — that there is no major crisis with wild rice downstream of where mines operate. Business and government groups say the rule would be too costly to meet.
Iron Range leaders warned during comments on the rule change that enforcing sulfate limits could end mining as we know it, closing taconite plants and putting thousands of people out of work. Larry Sutherland, head of U.S. Steel's Minnesota mining operations in Keewatin and Mountain Iron, which employ some 1,700 miners, testified in October that adding reverse osmosis treatment to remove sulfate at Keetac's wastewater system could cost $200 million, a price tag that would be prohibitive for the plant to remain competitive in the global iron ore market. The implication is that the plant would close if sulfate limits are enforced.
The PCA said about 135 facilities are within 25 miles upstream of wild rice waters and would be the most likely ones affected by any sulfate rule enforcement.
Environmental groups and tribal resource officials want to stick with the current, statewide sulfate standard of 10 parts per million, saying it's simple and potentially effective at protecting wild rice if it's enforced.
12 launches a year vs. 360 new rice varieties a year
Why is the agriculture sector taken for granted, especially given that it caters to a more basic and crucial need than space missions?
By : Jayalakshmi K
January 11, 2018 17:31 IST

Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota [Representational Image]TeamIndus
Anyone who reads the newspaper or watches television knows that our space agency, Isro, is poised for yet another major launch in the next few hours. The refurbished PSLV-C40 will put in space 31 satellites, of which three alone are India's. The space research organisation plans to launch its second moon mission which will have an orbiter, lander and rover this time.
Last year it made big news with a record launch of 10 satellites at one go.
Its Mars mission, Mangalyaan, has far exceeded its life expectancy of six months and has completed 1000 days in orbit around the Red Planet since it was launched in 2013. Not only was India the first country to put a satellite in orbit around Mars in the first attempt, it managed to do so at a relatively low cost, almost one-third that of the US Maven mission. A mission to Venus is planned for 2020.
Isro plans to have at least one rocket launch every month this year. Much of this will be known to anyone watching out for news.
But how many know that last year saw a new variety of rice released almost every single day of the year, thanks to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. Very few, perhaps not anyone outside the agricultural circle.
Beyond the magnificence of the launches per se, the precision involved and the advanced technology, the space missions have major applications in terms of radio and television telecasts, mobile connectivity, disaster management, urban infrastructure planning and so on. In fact, as an official lamented at a workshop, the applications are most often not being applied. The real time images have hardly any takers, he said.
And yet, news about our space missions captures most eyeballs in all media. A drought resistant variety of rice that grows well in dry areas and could be the solution in water-scarce times hardly gathers steam in popular media.

Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) carrying Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System-IRNSS-1F parked at Sriharikota rocket port in Andhra Pradesh in 2016. [Representational Image]IANS
Why is the agriculture sector taken for granted, especially given that it caters to a more basic and crucial need than space missions? In a guest article in the Current Science titled 'Of launches and lunches', agriculture scientist R Uma Shaanker notes how accomplishments in the field of agriculture are hardly ever heard of by the public.
Plant and animal breeders silently toil in field stations in remote parts to bring out better yields of crops and milk yielding cattle, he says giving the example of a ragi breeder from Mandya who managed to combine Indian and African breeds of the millet to produce a high yielding variety IndAf. Dwarf genes from Mexican variety of wheat have helped push up wheat yields by five to six times and improved varieties of rice and cotton helped boost production in the country. But these big achievements do not get noticed in science journals or popular media.

[Representational Image]Reuters
Is this due to the fact that the scientists are not suave, media savvy folks and their papers are not published in popular journals, as the author notes? Or, as he adds, that these scientists do not bother about patents and merely pass on the product to the farmers in acts of altruism with no claims to fame or scholarship?
As suggested by the author, a spokesperson like M S Swaminathan who helped bring attention to the field could do a lot to bring visibility and funds into the sector. A visionary leader who inspires and propels his staff to greater work, rewards them accordingly, and also invites media attention could do wonders in placing agriculture sector up there with space.
While there is no arguing with the author on most of the points he raises, perhaps there is a point he misses out. The space department, especially Isro, has a dedicated team handling its publicity and press releases. Media persons will point out to how difficult it is to get any news from agriculture research centres, be it the colleges or institutes. Given the amount of work going on, there is need for an active PR team that informs the public about the groundbreaking work going on and instil similar pride to what the space missions manage. Such a public lens could also help improve the dire condition of our agricultural sector.
The agrarian crisis facing the country where over 75 percent farmers are opting out of farming for its poor remuneration and going into cities as labourers calls for increased spotlight. However media coverage is often restricted to a few pieces during extreme drought. This neglect of the sector is perhaps what is also reflected in the way its achievements fail to be noticed.
Extension centers meant to pass on the new knowledge to the farmers are often lackadaisical in their attitude. It is common to hear farmers complain that hardly anyone comes to redress their problems, besides asking them to shift crops! Research should be based on the needs of the farmers and not what scientists decide in labs, is the refrain. A survey by CSDS (Centre for Study of Developing Societies) showed that 75 percent complained of not getting any information from agricultural departments.
Government schemes and subsidies benefit only the big farmers, leaving helpless a large chunk of more than 75 percent who nurture the nation's food security. With the state no more supporting the farmer and open market the norm, it has left many farmers floundering. Small farmers earned little over Rs.1000 per acre per month while expenses exceed Rs.5000. This pushes them into debt and suicides.

A supporter of Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP) tries to rescue a farmer who hung himself from a tree...[Representational Image]Reuters
Despite being one of the world's fastest growing economy, India has failed its farmers miserably. The farm sector still accounts for almost 50 % of the workforce even while its share of the GDP has dipped to 15 from 54% during Independence times. This shows the value per capita employed has reduced.
There can be no launches without lunches. And yet, we take the agricultural sector for granted, be it governments, media or the public. It is time we rectify this all-around skewed growth unless we plan to munch on microchips or maybe, harness solar energy like plants.

Alibaba to sell high-grade Japanese rice to wealthy Chinese

E-commerce king to team up with Japan's Zen-Noh farm federation

A farmer harvests rice on an autumn day in Japan.
Japan's National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations and the Alibaba Group Holding will tie up to sell Japanese rice in China, sources said on Thursday.
The federation, better known as Zen-Noh, will sell the popular Koshihikari brand of rice via an Alibaba shopping portal, the sources said.
Japanese rice is becoming increasingly popular in China, an effect of the booming number of Chinese tourists visiting Japan.
Koshihikari is a luxury brand in China.
Alibaba will purchase rice harvested in Mie and Ishikawa prefectures through Zen-Noh. Initially, 4 tons of rice will be exported to China. The figure will be adjusted based on how well the rice sells, the sources said.
The price for a 2kg bag will be set at around 3,000 yen ($26). High-income Chinese are the target customers; they are expected to buy the rice for gift-giving and other purposes.
The high-grade Japanese rice is eight times more expensive than varieties commonly consumed in China. But the online price is still less than what it would be at department stores or other kinds of outlets.
China suspended rice imports from 10 prefectures, including Niigata and Miyagi, also famous rice-farming prefectures, after the March 2011 meltdowns of three nuclear reactors in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan.
Zen-Noh is expected to eventually sell Koshihikari from additional prefectures to Alibaba.

Police in Mombasa in search of two suspects over illegal importation of rice

Cyrus Ombati | Published Thu, January 11th 2018 at 15:32, Updated January 11th 2018 at 18:43 

Police are looking for two Kenyans over imported rice. (Photo: Courtesy) IN SUMMARY Police are looking for two Kenyan businessmen wanted over claims of importing illegal rice and sugar. The two are being investigated for allegedly assisting unscrupulous foreign businessmen engaging in transitional crime in the country.   Mombasa, Kenya: Police are looking for two Kenyan businessmen wanted over claims of importing illegal rice and sugar from Pakistan through the port of Mombasa. The two are being investigated for allegedly assisting unscrupulous foreign businessmen engaging in transitional crime in the country, police said.
Joho hints at imposing waste collection levy Police claim that the two businessmen of Somali origin are wanted for assisting 11 Pakistanis arrested on Tuesday during a raid within Kizingo and Nyali estates, Mombasa. The 11 suspects were arrested after an intelligence report of their unlawful presence in the country. They were presented in court and detained for three days as investigations go on. The prosecution said Ali Mustaqim and Air Menzies international are under probe from DCI officers and Kenya Revenue Authority. “The two Kenyans are working in-cahoots with the foreigners to register companies and processing of working permits for the foreigners who are engaging in unlawful business in the country,” police said. Preliminary police finding indicates that the foreigners repackage the imported rice and sell it at subsidized prices thus affecting local dealers.
 Police said the repackaging is done within Shimanzi area, police claim. The prosecution led by assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Yamina Jami, said police were probing if  these businesses are used in funding of terror activities in the country or globally. Jami said if the suspects are released, there was a possibility of them interfering with investigations. ALSO READ: KRA loses Sh2.6 billion sugar import case Mombasa police commandant Johstone Ipara said the detectives are investigating if the foreigners are engaging in money laundering and drug trafficking. "We are still interrogating the suspects, we suspect they are illegally in Kenya and carrying out commercial activities without permits," Ipara said. He added that they are looking for other suspects who are at large to help in investigations
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Rice importation to end this year ―Ogbeh
January 11, 2018
Collins Nnabuife - Abuja Agriculture
Minister of Agriculture. Audu Ogbeh
THE Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh on Wednesday evening said that in six months time, Nigeria will cease from importing rice to satisfy local demand, as rice production in the last two and half years has improved. Ogbeh who disclosed this while receiving the Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong in his office in Abuja, said rice production has increased from 5 million tons of paddy to 17 million tons of paddy in the past two and half years.According to him, “If we can beat our chest a bit since we came in 2015, we have moved riceproduction from 5 millions tons of paddy to 17 million tons in 2 and half years.“And it is because the President led the way and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) joined hands in the Anchor Borrowers Programme and got money to the farmers at 9 per cent interest rate.“A total of N43 billion was loaned out to farmers, and 293,000 farmers borrowed the money and they produced rice which sold for N193 billion. You can imagine an investment of N43 billion, yielding N193 billion.
“If that is done in 2 years we have another 3 or 4 months, maximum 6 months to run, there will be no need to import rice because what we eat in Nigeria is 7 million tons for now, the number is rising because our population is growing at 3.5 per cent, 1 million tons will fill up 33,000 trailers.”Ogbeh, however, said soon, with the structures in place and how rice production is growing in the country, Nigeria would commence exportation of parboiled rice to Liberia, Ghana and Sierra Leone.
“Also, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana will soon be needing parboiled rice from Nigeria, the rest of West Africa eats white rice, it is only the Anglophone that eats parboiled rice, and very soon they will find it easier to buy it from here than Thailand, so we are getting there,” Ogbeh added.―ogbeh/

Food makes up half of all imports in cash-strapped Kurdistan
By Rawa Abdullah 4 hours ago

A fruit market in Kurdistan. File photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Food items make up about half of all goods imported into the Kurdistan Region as people with less money in their wallets focus on essentials. “Due to the economic crisis, peoples’ financial ability has declined. That is why people nowadays buy mostly food. This has led to an increase in food imports. Imports of electronic, electricity, building and furniture items come after food imports,” Nawzad Adham, director general at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, told Rudaw.

The majority of food consumed in the Kurdistan Region is imported, according to Adham, who added that though food items make up the bulk of goods brought into the Region, food imports have declined by 22 percent compared to peak levels in 2014. The majority of imports come through the Ibrahim Khalil gate on the Kurdistan Region-Turkey border. “Due to the economic crisis, sales of food items have dropped a bit too, but are still better compared to sales of other goods. Our monthly sales of food items reach $22 million,” said Haji Qasim Ibrahim, representative of a Turkish import company.

Oil, rice, sugar, tomato sauce and spaghetti, and beans, are the top-demanded items, Ibrahim detailed. Recent years have seen an increase in the number of food import companies registered in the Kurdistan Region, including Turkish and Iranian companies promoting sale of their goods in Kurdistan. Ministry officials claim that most of the food items imported to the Kurdistan Region are later exported to Iraqi cities. However, trader Ibrahim, who has good relations with Arab traders, said: “Only 30 percent of these goods are exported to Iraqi cities because cities in the south mainly use Iranian goods because of their cheap price. But the Sunnis mostly use Turkish goods. This difference exists even in Kurdistan. According to our study, 90 percent of people in Duhok use Turkish goods, 80 percent in Erbil, and 60 percent in Sulaimani.”

The KRG imposes some fees on imported agricultural products in order to protect and assist local farmers, but is far from reaching self-sufficiency.  Dr. Khalis Ahmed Hamadamin, a senior official at the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, told Rudaw that his ministry is committed to boosting domestic production and reducing dependence on imports, “But due to the small budget dedicated to us last year, in terms of quality and quantity we have reached self-sufficiency only in strategic products like wheat, potatoes, and onions.” 

According to the ministry’s figures, the Kurdistan Region produces about 73 percent of the chicken it consumes, less than half of its red meat, just over half of its milk, and 78 percent of its fish. The Region has the infrastructure to be self-sufficient in terms of eggs and chicken if all its projects are brought online, Hamadamin said. In terms of lentils and rice, the Kurdistan Region is far behind reaching demands, producing just 17 percent of lentils consumed and a mere 3 percent of rice consumed. Hamadamin said the Region does not have the water resources needed in order to grow the lentils and rice, but argues that better financial support would help the situation.

He said growing sugar cane and sunflowers would also help to meet sugar and oil demands locally.

Nigeria central bank policy on FX restriction on 41 items cuts down rice imports
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) policy restricting foreign exchange on 41 items including rice has cut down rice import drastically in the last two years, according to data from the Thai Rice Exporters Association, which indicated that rice exports from Thailand to Nigeria fell by over 90 percent from 2014-2016.
The development, therefore, led to mass production of rice locally, which mitigated against an expected huge increase in the local price of rice.
Analysts say the Thai data testifies to CBN’s policy’s effectiveness and that if that could be replicated across many other products flooding Nigeria’s shores the country would be better for it.
Equally, the fallout of the policy is that rice farmers’ incomes grew significantly while many more jobs were created directly in the sector and indirectly across related value chains.

C/River Govt Unveils Ayade Rice, Crashes Price
January 11, 2018 By George Agba Following President Muhammadu Buhari’s directives for Nigerians to go into agriculture as a zero oil road map, Cross River governor, Prof Ben Ayade, Wednesday, unveiled his premium quality rice in Calabar. Unveiling the rice before his deputy, Prof Ivara Esu, CBN representative, Dr Umoren Aniefiok, some members of the National and State Assembly, among others, Ayade said: “The choice to go into farming was deliberate and an act of will,” informing that until 2015, the federal government was bleeding an average of 500 billion per anum importing rice,” a situation he reasoned, was not favourable to a country with about 923,000sq kms and 40 percent fertile land for rice. Urging the citizenry to ensure they own farms, the governor said: “If you don’t own a farm then you are not sensitive to the administration of President Buhari that says agriculture is the alternative to the oil road map,” charging: “Do something, you can’t be in government or be an African and you don’t own a farm.” Aware of the challenges faced by the people as a result of meager salaries, social burden and family pressure, Ayade intimated that his administration created “an economic platform that allows access for funding including the commercial agriculture credit facility, even as the state has set up a microfinance bank to provide financial support for those who wants to go into agriculture.” According to him, “I realise that having a nucleus farm that I do have, cannot sustain the amount of rice that I intend to turn over in a year, Ayade Farms that produces Ayade rice will also be ready from my facility to buy off from everybody who is a rice farmer, mill it and add up to Ayade Farm value chain.”
The governor while announcing the price for the product, explained that he was not targeting money but how to recover the loan so obtained hence, “the market price for a 50kg will be pegged at N12,000 while the 25kg bag will go for N6,000 in Cross River, in appreciation of the trust and votes you gave to us and the nothingness in your salaries in spite of the expanded government.” Ayade who made a case to stamp out a situation where rice produced in
  Cross River is milled in another state and christened as rice belonging to that state, enjoined the federal government to assist the citizenry with infrastructure such as water supply, irrigation including the milling and purchase so as to meet up the demands of agriculture. The governor who also discouraged people from patronising foreign rice as it waa illegal, maintained that it stays longer in the store, it is filled with corrosive chemical, poisonous and carsogenic. He, however, advised the people to instead settle for Ayade rice as, “its cheaper, better, has higher quality and very fresh.” In their separate goodwill messages, Deputy Governor Ivara Esu, the Speaker, Cross River State House of Assembly, John Gaul Lebo, CBN representative, Dr Umoren Aniefiok as well as Hon Muntari Dandutse of the Federal House of Representatives, among others, lauded the governor for setting the pace, creating employment opportunities and saturating the Nigerian market with organic and top quality rice.
Rice Importation Drops By 91 Percent

Official figures on rice exportation from Thailand to Nigeria between 2014 and 2016, has revealed that the volume of rice imported to Nigeria has dropped.
According to the figures, the importation dropped from 1.24 million tonnes in 2014, to 58,260 tonnes in 2016, representing a 91 per cent decline. The drop in importation has been attributed to President Muhammadu Buhari New Year broadcast, to ban the importation of rice import in 2018.
Industry sources believe that the reduction in Nigeria’s importation trend was facilitated by the successful implementation of the Anchor Borrowers’ scheme of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), from which many states had benefited.
He said: “We have got to get used to discipline and direction in economic management. The days of business as usual are numbered. Two years ago, I appealed to people to go back to the land. “I am highly gratified that agriculture has picked up, contributing to the government’s effort to restructure the economy.“Rice imports will stop this year. Local rice, fresher and more nutritious variants would be on our dishes from now on.”
According to Buhari:
“Great nations are built by enterprising people who turn their hands to anything that circumstances dictate.”To intensify local production, Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agriculture (NIRSAL) is deploying an innovative nation-wide field structure to support 225,000 farmers under the CBN Anchor Borrowers Scheme.
However, the report added that Benin Republic’s rising rice export figures is posing a challenge in its border with Nigeria. A USDA review of the agricultural situation in Benin, published in March 2014, stated: “Benin serves as a delivery corridor for West Africa, reaching more than 100 million people in the landlocked countries of Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad and the northern states of Nigeria.”

Clear FAQ mess, pronto
January 11 2018

Farmers are always the silent sufferers no matter which state they come from. In the absence of strong, structured and proactive organisations to protect their interests, their agonies tend to pile up. They invariably find themselves at the receiving end, be it of the elements or the lax administration, or sometimes even of both. The latter was on full display during the current kharif marketing season in Orissa.
A sub-normal monsoon, pest attacks on ripe paddy and unseasonal rains troubled them no end. Hardly had we heard the end of their sufferings when news comes in that the authorities refuse to accept their paddy at mandis, saying they are not of acceptable standards for procurement. The procuring agencies, all government-owned or government-appointed, refuse to accept the produce, saying the stocks do not conform to fair average quality (FAQ) standards set by the Centre.
We all knew that untimely rain had wrought extensive damage to paddy crops in November when farmers were about to harvest their crops. Low pressure-induced rain lashed many parts of the state over days affecting thousands of hectares of standing crop. Farmers were not able to bring ripe crop home and were forced to leave them on fields. Paddy lay submerged in waterlogged fields for days. Some farmers had even tried to harvest immature crop, fearing rain. Prolonged submergence in water inevitably led to damage to and/or discolouring of grain.
Massive pest attack in late September and October had already affected the crop. According to an estimate, a massive 1.70 lakh hectares of cropland in nine districts of the state were damaged by pest attacks. Despite their best efforts to save crops, farmers were not able to maintain the FAQ standards.
The state government has written to the Centre to ease FAQ parameters so that farmers do not face difficulties at mandis. Rejection of non-FAQ paddy at mandis is only the latest to an increasing number of woes that the farmers face in the state today. Delayed opening of procurement centres forcing farmers to sell paddy to traders at prices much below the MSP, delayed payments and arbitrary cuts in the valuation of stocks had already been troubling the farmers here. Farmers are always at the mercy of procurement agents and rice millers who play many tricks on gullible farmers to force them to sell paddy at low prices. The administration, represented by supply department officials and regulated market committee staff, is hand in glove with rogue rice millers.
The FAQ issue has come in handy for these rogue millers to harass farmers at mandis. In the absence of changed guidelines on FAQ norms, farmers are forced to sell their stocks at rates below MSP to traders. A whole lot of confusion exists on this issue today. Although the food supply and consumer welfare department has written to the Centre to ease FAQ norms, the move has come a bit too late. The Centre has sent a fact-finding team to Orissa to assess the extent and reasons for non-FAQ paddy.
However, the procedure adopted by the Centre is rather dilatory. The state government on its part should have taken a preventive move and sent a letter to the Centre as soon as the rain and the pest attacks started here. It failed to do so. The Centre by delaying the easing of FAQ norms for Orissa has further hit farmers’ interests. Paddy procurement is a limited-time exercise. Mandis open for a short time. If the stocks are not sold within this limited window, they find its way to the hands of traders. The government must bring in an emergency measure to clear this FAQ confusion and ensure seamless procurement of paddy in the state.