Monday, December 10, 2018

10th December,2018 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

Rice plants may help clean wastewater from farms

Rice plants can be used to clean water draining from farms — which contain pesticides — before it gets into rivers, lakes, and streams, scientists suggest.
Researchers wanted to stop pesticides from getting into water outside the farm in a way that was easy and cost-efficient for farmers.
“We wanted something that was common, that could be applied in a lot of different places, but something that’s non-invasive,” said Matt Moore, a scientist at the US Department of Agriculture.
Researchers planted four fields, two with and two without rice. They then flooded those fields with a mix of three kinds of pesticides plus water that together is a lot like runoff during a storm. They did this for two years in a row.
They found that the levels of all three pesticides were lower in fields where they’d planted rice. How much it dropped ranged from 85 per cent to 97 per cent, depending on which pesticide they measured.
Rice can do this through phytoremediation — using plants and their roots to clean up water.
In real life, this pesticide-cleaning ability of rice could be used in a few ways.
Farmers could plant rice in drainage ditches already on their farms, which would “let rice clean off water that runs off into your field before it runs into a river, lake, or stream,” Moore said.
Additional research is required to find whether the chemicals end up in the edible part of the rice plant — the rice grain — itself.
If it doesn’t, the rice could be that natural water cleaner while also being a food source.
“It’s potentially huge for developing countries to be able to use this as a crop and water cleaning technology,” he said. (AGENCIES)

With No Mandis, Farmers Go For Distress Sale In Odisha

Edited By Vikash Sharma |   On Dec 9, 2018 - 12:01:19
Bhubaneswar: After battling with natural calamities and pest attack, paddy and cotton farmers of Bolangir, Kalahandi and Sambalpur districts are now opting for distress sale due to undue delay in setting up of mandis by the State government.
Farmers of Deogan in Bolangir district are forced to stock paddy in their houses and nobody knows when the mandis are going to open even though the concerned officials conducted meetings after meetings to ensure smooth procurement.
“We can only sell our produce if mandi opens. Though the concerned officials assured that the centre will open by December 14, they are not ready to answer anything,” said Karuna Rohidas, a farmer from Burda in Bolangir.
Similarly, the situation has assumed serious proportions in Kalahandi district due to non-cooperation of rice millers. Although the first mandi in Junagarh was opened on November 28 and tokens were issued to farmers, some issues over fair average quality (FAQ) have now emerged as a bone of contention.
On the other hand, cotton farmers at Anandpur village in Sonepur district are forced to stock their produce with no mandi being procurement in the district. Farmers cultivated cotton in more than 3000 hectare of land in Tarabha, Gulunda and Birmaharajpur blocks of the district this year.
Although the government has fixed the price of Rs 5,400 per quintal but due to delay in opening of mandis, the farmers have started selling their produce at much cheaper rates.
“As the government agencies are not buying our products, we are forced to sell to the local traders,” said a cotton farmer, Jatin Panigrahi.
Meanwhile, the opposition parties targeted the ruling BJD and accused State Government of ignoring the interest of the farmers.
“The millers are not buying the paddy. I doubt the government and the concerned minister are with the farmers or the millers,” alleged Opposition chief whip and Congress leader, Taraprasad Bahinipati.
“Last year, the mandis were opened lately and the same situation has cropped up this year also. The Odisha Government has no proper concept regarding paddy procurement,” said BJP State vice-president Bhrigu Baxipatra.
“The Collectors are negotiating with the millers and the procurement will soon start. Till date, more than 3.8 lakh tonnes of paddy have been procured and the paddy procurement process has already started in eight districts of the State,” informed Food Supplies and Cooperation Minister Surya Narayan Patro.

Senate OKs proposed P122-B budget for DA

Published December 8, 2018, 7:48 PM
By Mario Casayuran
Before going on recess for the weekend, the Senate approved Friday the proposed P122 billion budget for the Department of Agriculture (DA).
Senator Cynthia A, Villar, chairwoman of the Senate agriculture and food committee, said the DA’s budget for the coming fiscal year is 3.34 percent of the proposed national budget amounting to P3.757 trillion.
Senator Cynthia Villar
(Senate of the Philippines via Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)
But with a scheduled briefing Monday morning for senators on a request by the military for an extension of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao and a probable joint Senate and House of Representatives session on the martial law issue Wednesday, it is held likely that the proposed 2019 P3.757 trillion national budget might not be approved before both the two legislative chambers go on a month-long Christmas recess starting December 15.
The approval of the DA budget followed a sponsorship speech by Villar and a subsequent floor debate.
“We are hopeful, Mr. President (Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III) that the proposed 2019 budget of DA will realize our goal of lifting Filipino farmers and fisherfolks out of poverty. Particularly, rice and coconut farmers, who make up for seven million of the 12 million farmers in the country since under next year’s proposed budget, we have realigned P20 billion to provide for standby appropriations for the rice and coconut farmers,” Villar said in her sponsorship speech.
Of the total budget, P15.70 billion was earmarked for programs and P14.97 billion for projects.
The programs are as follows:
• National Rice Program, P7.41 billion
• National Livestock, P1.05 billion
• National Corn, P1.53 billion
• National High Value Crops, P1.48 billion
• National Organic Agriculture, P545.86 million
• Halal Food Industry Development, P44.63 million
• Other Regular Programs, P3.63 billion
Villar also highlighted the P10-billion Rice Fund, the most significant component of the rice tariffication bill which would be spent to improve competitiveness and productivity of farmers.
The Rice Fund will be allocated as follows:
• Fifty percent will go to the Philippine Center for Post Harvest Development and Modernization to provide farmers with rice farm machineries and equipment;
• Thirty percent will be released to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PRRI) to be used for the development, propagation and promotion of inbred rice seeds to rice farmers and the organization of rice farmers into seed growers associations engaged in seed production and trade;
• Ten percent will be made available in the form of credit facility with minimal interest rates and with minimum collateral requirements to rice farmers and cooperatives to be managed by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP); and
• Ten percent will be set aside to fund extension services by PhilMech, Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for teaching skills on rice crop production, modern rice farming techniques, seed production, farm mechanization, and knowledge/ technology transfer through farm schools nationwide.
Likewise, P10 billion has also been earmarked for the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Fund to increase the income of coconut farmers and to support the developmental activities of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA). The P10 billion is divided as follows:
• P2 billion or 20 percent for infrastructure program,
• P2 billion or 20 percent for planting, replanting and establishment of hybrid coconut nurseries,
• P1.5 billion for 15 percent for shared facilities,
• P1 billion or 10 percent for intercropping,
• P1 billion or 10 percent for Research & Development (R&D), coconut disease prevention, control and eradication,
• P1 billion or 10 percent for credit through LBP and DBP.
• P500 million or 5 percent for fertilization,
• P500 million or 5 percent for new products and all derivatives of coconut oil and marketing.
• P500 million or 5 percent for training of farmers through TESDA.
“We are confident, Mr. President, that with the efficient utilization of the 2019 budget and implementation of programs and projects of the department, we are on track in removing the barriers that keep Filipino farmers and fisherfolks from being more competitive and profitable,” Villar said

‘Rice tariffication won’t solve Philippines’ inflation problem’

Photo via The STAR/Michael Varcas
By Ian Nicolas Cigaral/ – Lifting the more than two-decade-old caps on rice imports would not solve the Philippines’ inflation problem, Deutsche Bank said, adding that the country’s “overheating” economy must lose steam to “stably” tame stubbornly high prices.
Households reeling from soaring prices since the beginning of the year finally got their much-awaited reprieve in November, which saw a four-month low inflation rate of 6 percent on the back of slower price increments for food and tumbling oil prices.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the country’s economic managers have repeatedly stressed the importance of replacing rice import limits with a system of tariffs to bring inflation back inside the government’s 2-4 percent target band.
In a report sent to reporters on Friday, Deutsche Bank, however, said liberalizing rice imports “will help, but will not solve the Philippines’ inflation problem.”
Rice is a Filipino main staple and pivotal political commodity in the Philippines. It is a heavy item in the basket of goods and services used to compute inflation and accounts for 20 percent of the consumption of low-income households.
“At nearly 10 percent of the [consumer price index], such a decline in retail prices could put the inflation rate back inside the central bank’s target,” Deutsche Bank said.
“The problem with this simple logic, though, is that it might take an infeasibly large volume of imports to drive rice prices down, especially since the prospect of cheaper imports will drive out local producers,” it added.
Congress last month passed the Rice Tariffication bill, which seeks to amend the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996.
Under the measure, individuals and businesses can import additional volumes of the crop from Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam but will have to pay a 35-percent tariff. The collected tariffs will be used to fund mass irrigation, warehousing and rice research.
Based on the central bank’s estimate, scrapping import caps on rice could reduce annual inflation by 0.7 percentage points next year. In the first 11 months of 2018, inflation averaged 5.2 percent, still above the BSP’s target range.
Food prices moderated in November, showing signs that the Duterte administration’s efforts to ease food supply bottlenecks are starting to work. 

 ‘Slow down’

In the same report, Deutsche Bank said headline inflation is unlikely to fall below the upper end of the government’s target range until 2020, adding that the central bank should further raise key rates to douse the “overheating” Philippine economy.
Overheating occurs when production in a fast-growing economy is not able to keep up with rising demand, leading to sharp rise in prices.
“The central bank is pinning a lot of its hopes for declining inflation on the rice tariffication scheme, another piece of delayed legislation that might pass before year-end,” Deutsche Bank said.
“Ultimately, though, to get inflation stably back inside the target band, the economy needs to slow down to below potential and stay there for a few quarters. With a few more rate hikes, we think that will happen although we don't see headline inflation below 4 percent until 2020,” it added. “Slower external demand, the weaker currency and higher interest rates will slow the economy down enough to put inflation on a downward trend.”
In a bid to fight inflation, the BSP has delivered back-to-back interest rate hikes of 1.75 percentage points since May, among the most forceful actions in Asia.
The central bank will meet to review rates on December 13

Imported rice not fit for consumption -Prof. Iwu

Charles Okonji On: December 9, 2018 In: BusinessNews Update
A health expert and professor of pharmacognosy, Professor Maurice Iwu has warned Nigerians to desist from the consumption of imported rice, saying they contain heavy metals and toxins that are harmful to the body.
Professor Iwu gave the advice at the ceremony of the international conference on alternative sweeteners tagged: “Harnessing of the economic potentials of Thaumatin (Thaumatococcus danielli) in Africa,” held at Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO) last weekend in Lagos.
Iwu who is also a former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) disclosed that most of the countries that Nigeria imports rice from are known to have heavily contaminated soils that have been over planted over the years with a lot of chemical fertilizers.
Such soil, he stated, contain heavy metals and toxins that are not healthy to the human kidney and general wellbeing, which are transferred into the rice grains that the country imports.
“This is not anything about promoting Nigeria’s commodity, but I am talking from the scientific side of view that it is in our interest to eat made-in-Nigeria food, not just only rice, but particularly rice because of its nature. The rice grain absorbs minerals from the soil, including these harmful metals and chemicals.
“Secondly, the imported rice is polished and preserved with additional chemicals before they get here. That is why most of the imported rice look very clean and white, which is also a very bad sign,” Iwu disclosed.
Meanwhile, the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO) announced it has developed simple process technologies for commercial extraction and optimisation of high grade Thaumatin and Miraculin, a low calorie sweetener and flavour modifier.
Director General, FIIRO, Prof. Gloria Elemo, stated that this breakthrough was apt considering the fact that global worth of high intensity sweetener both natural and synthetic market was on the rise estimated at close to $1.3 billion in 2008 and is expected to quadruple by 2021.
Elemo who disclosed this at the opening ceremony of the International conference on alternative sweeteners, said that attention is now shifting to sourcing of alternative sweeteners mainly non-nutritive phyto chemicals from plants in order to close the gap between the production and consumption of sweeteners, sweetening and flavour enhancers.
According to her, there is increasing large segment of the population with special dietary requirements containing non-nutritive sugar, such as the diabetic patients, pointing out that over the past few decades, non-nutritive sweeteners have been gaining significance and are expected to develop into a major source of high potency sweetener for the growing natural food and pharmaceutical markets.
She added that in Nigeria, there is a huge gap between sugar production and consumption, saying this represents a serious problem since an estimated amount and quantity of 2.5 million tonnes will be imported to meet local demand.

Climate Change Impact On Rice Production in Pakistan: An ARDL-Bounds Testing Approach to Cointegration

Version 1 : Received: 5 December 2018 / Approved: 7 December 2018 / Online: 7 December 2018 (17:26:03 CET) 
How to cite: Chandio, A.A.; Jiang, Y.; Magsi, H. Climate Change Impact On Rice Production in Pakistan: An ARDL-Bounds Testing Approach to Cointegration. Preprints 2018, 2018120095 Chandio, A.A.; Jiang, Y.; Magsi, H. Climate Change Impact On Rice Production in Pakistan: An ARDL-Bounds Testing Approach to Cointegration. Preprints 2018, 2018120095Copy


This research paper aims to examine the relationship between CO2, temperature, area, fertilizers and rice production in Pakistan. This study used Augmented Dickey Fuller (ADF) and Phillips Perron (PP) unit root tests to check the order of integration of each variable. The cointegration analysis with ARDL bounds testing approach is used to examine the impact of climate change on rice production in Pakistan over time series data from the period 1968 to 2014. The parameter stability test of the model is also checked at the end. The results of estimation show that the important variables of the study are cointegrated demonstrating the presence of long-run association among them. Furthermore, climate change factors, e.g. CO2 and temperature have a long-run and short-run positive effect on the production of rice in Pakistan. This present work is original and it is first time empirically tested the impact of climate change on rice production in Pakistan. The annual time series data of 47 years enhances the validity of the empirical findings. The most fruitful finding of this research is that rice production in Pakistan is positively influenced by emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) at 5 percent significance level in both long-run and short-run.

Scientists have explained why the rice is harmful to health

By  paradox
This grass is able to absorb contamination from the soil.
Rice found toxic chemicals and recommended to restrict its use.Scientists from New Orleans told about the dangerous impact of rice on the health that enters international markets from China, India and Thailand. The plant actively accumulates harmful substances. During the study experts found that imported from the listed countries rice contains high amounts of arsenic, lead and other hazardous elements.
Scientists attribute this to pollution of groundwater in Asian countries. According to American experts, regular consumption of this rice contributes to the development of incurable diseases and, therefore, they recommend to strictly limit its quantity in the diet.
After the publication by the Western publications materials research experts from the US, users began to actively discuss this topic. Some of them said that in China and India, people often eat rice and the number of people in these countries are not reduced.
According to users, the results of the study about the dangers of this product are greatly exaggerated in order to expose the bad products of the Eastern countries.
Neil Strong | December 7, 2018 | Health | No Comments
In the grass found toxic chemicals and recommended to restrict its use.
Scientists from New Orleans told about the dangerous impact of rice on the health that enters international markets from China, India and Thailand. The plant actively accumulates harmful substances. During the study experts found that imported from the listed countries rice contains high amounts of arsenic, lead and other hazardous elements. Scientists attribute this to pollution of groundwater in Asian countries. According to American experts, regular consumption of this rice contributes to the development of incurable diseases and, therefore, they recommend to strictly limit its quantity in the diet.
After the publication by the Western publications materials research experts from the US, users began to actively discuss this topic. Some of them said that in China and India, people often eat rice and the number of people in these countries are not reduced. According to users, the results of the study about the dangers of this product are greatly exaggerated in order to expose the bad products of the Eastern countries

Academic shines light on structural problems in padi industry

 Universiti Malaya economics professor Fatimah Kari.
PETALING JAYA: Padi farmers are still one of the most marginalised groups where poverty rate is among the highest in Malaysia, despite large investments in subsidies and training provided by the government.
Fatimah Kari, an economist from Universiti Malaya and a senior fellow at the Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs, partly attributed this to the unfair market structures within the padi industry’s supply chain.
“From the calculations that I made, the rent-seeking index in the industry was very high and came to about 1.8, almost 2,” she told FMT during an exclusive interview after the launch of her report.
She said this meant that for every RM1 a farmer makes, large corporations such as Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas), distributors and retailers will make the same amount, without having to face the same risk factors, bear the same cost, or put in the same amount of labour that farmers would have to endure.
“Whatever the farmer makes is equally created in distribution centres or big corporations in the supply chain who face a different, more favourable risk profile,” she added.
Her paper reflected the burden that farmers continue to face in a time of technological advancements and development, and economic uncertainty.
Her other findings included government subsidies often missing the mark, and farmers remaining as mere producers instead of expanding into major players in the market.
Speaking about Bernas in particular she said, “The rent-seeking index means that Bernas is getting 100% of the farmers’ capital.
“Worse still, with Bernas, you are talking about their rent-seeking behaviour not only in terms of control of imports but also control of inputs.”
Bernas is the major importer of rice in Malaysia. It also produces over 30% of all padi production in the country, equivalent to 800,000 metric tonnes of rice.
It also operates private wholesalers, distributors and rice mills.
It even owns a share of the “input market” to the padi industry, which refers to the market selling fertilisers, seeds and other farming necessities to the farmers, she said.
She argued that calculating Bernas’ rent-seeking index would include all its profits from both importing and producing rice.
“That is their rent-seeking value because you must understand that they do not take similar risks as the farmers,” she said, adding that farmers were the ones who would have to farm the land, pay the labour, and use their own resources.
However, Bernas CEO Ismail Mohamed Yusoff, who believed that there was a need for some monopoly, said during a press conference in July this year that Bernas was not attempting to make “monopolistic profits”.
“Contrary to popular belief, Bernas does not make monopolistic profits,” he said.
Citing data, Ismail said Bernas’ profit margins were minimal – between 0.4% and 1.8% over the past three years.
He added that Bernas’ return on equity (ROE), or its net assets or assets minus liabilities, stood at 4.9% in 2017.
“This in comparison with fast-moving consumer goods companies such as Dutch Lady Milk Industries Bhd or Nestle (M) Bhd, whose ROE were above 100% that year.”

Padi farmers are still one of the most marginalised groups where poverty rate is among the highest in Malaysia. (Bernama pic)
Break up the monopoly
It was announced by the Pakatan Harapan government that there would be a revision of Bernas’ control over its licence to import rice.
But “despite the government’s formal announcement, the corporation’s ownership has continued to be controlled by dominant personalities”, Fatimah’s report stated.
In October, The Edge reported Agriculture Minister Salahuddin Ayub as saying that the government would take over the function of Bernas after its concession terminates in 2021.
Fatimah said efforts were needed to break up the monopoly to ensure open competition with other players – importers, major wholesalers and millers – who are just as good and knowledgeable about the market.
She said these “other players” must also comprise of the farmers themselves.
“The farmers themselves must be part of the market chain, otherwise that monopoly will distort the whole market.”
She said they could be under a cooperative or an umbrella of small traders or small millers, who could control a part of the market.
“Only then will you have a level playing field. Otherwise, now we are seeing a structure that is not working at all.
“The other reason why breaking a monopoly like Bernas may be beneficial to the industry is you cannot have one corporation controlling almost everything in the supply chain.
“It wouldn’t make sense for Bernas to help farmers because if farmers become major producers, it would affect their market share of the padi industry that they get from their rice imports,” she said.
Fatimah acknowledged Bernas’ existing model which aims to help farmers, but said it was ineffective.
“After a few years of having this model, its just not working. The farmers are still struggling.”
She recommended that Bernas be revamped to reflect the reality of farmers on the ground, adding that they remained just as poor as they were 20 or 30 years ago.
Food crisis
In 2008 when Malaysia had a food crisis, she said Bernas automatically made the decision that it would not increase its rice imports.
Back in 2007 to 2008, rice prices surged due to export restrictions by key rice exporting countries such as India and Vietnam, in tandem with panic buying from rice importing countries such as the Philippines.
This resulted in an increase in world rice prices by 117% to 149% in the first quarter of 2008.
Fatimah said Bernas having such autonomy and decision-making power in these matters made for a very vulnerable market structure.
She added that this threatened food security and national self-sufficiency, which refers to a country’s capability to produce its own food.
Fatimah’s report cited a 2018 Khazanah Research Institute paper, which argued that there was growing concern related to food security and Malaysia’s capability to be self-sufficient in its rice production due to high rice production costs, limited production capacity and reliance on imports.

Sikh temple could build bridge between India and Pakistan 

Sikh children shout slogans in front of the Kartarpur Gurdwara Sahib after a groundbreaking ceremony for the Kartarpur Corridor on Nov. 28, 2018. (Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)
December 8 at 9:13 PM
 Rising above a placid stretch of rice paddies and wheat fields in southern Punjab province is a graceful white-domed temple. To followers of the Sikh religion, 21 million of whom live in next-door India, it is a sacred site where Guru Nanak Devji, a founder of Sikhism, spent the last decade of his life and passed away, nearly 550 years ago.
For the past 70 years, though, the site has remained either closed or mostly empty — captive to the historic enmity stemming from Partition, the process that violently sundered India in 1947 and created Pakistan as a Muslim homeland. 
The temple sits just three miles from the border with India, but the psychological distance is much greater. This border is one of the tensest, most militarized boundaries in the world, with thousands of troops guarding both sides of razor-wire fences. The countries have fought two wars, and shootings often erupt across the “line of control” that divides the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
Indian Sikh pilgrims who want to visit the temple on special occasions, such as anniversaries of Guru Nanak’s death, must obtain Pakistani visas, walk across the only official border opening, 75 miles away, and travel two hours by bus to reach the isolated temple. Others find it easier to visit a designated spot on their side of the border, where they can view the temple through binoculars. 
But now, the Pakistani government has announced plans toopen a border crossing directly across from the temple and build a connecting road, which it plans to open in November 2019. It is a modest but high-profile gesture that officials say they hope will help improve relations with Pakistan’s Hindu-led, nuclear-armed adversary next door. 
The idea sprang from a conversation between Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, and an Indian Sikh politician and former cricket star, Navjot Singh Sidhu, at the inauguration of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in August. On Nov. 28, both officials joined Khan at a groundbreaking ceremony outside the temple, along with foreign ambassadors and Indian journalists.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the groundbreaking ceremony for the Kartarpur Corridor. (Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)
Making an emotional plea for rapprochement, Khan told the crowd that Pakistan’s government, army and political parties “are all on one page. We want to move forward.” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a strong Hindu nationalist, reciprocated in kind. “Did anyone ever think that the Berlin Wall would fall?” Modi said in a statement. “Maybe with the blessings of Guru Nanak Devji, this corridor . . . will act as a bridge between the peoples of the two countries.”
But years of deep-seated animosity soon intruded on the hopeful moment. India’s foreign minister declined to attend the ceremony, citing “prior commitments” and sent two lower-ranking officials who are Sikhs. The Hindu and Sikh religions have common roots in India, but Sikhs believe in a single deity, while Hindus worship a variety of gods.
Pakistan’s foreign minister accused India of playing politics with the issue. Modi faulted the Indian opposition Congress party for “letting Kartarpur go” in 1947 and cutting off the temple from India. Khan complained that the Indian news media had disparaged his gesture as a stunt.
Despite the high-level wrangling, many Pakistanis expressed strong support for the border opening, saying they hoped it could ease the long-standing tensions that have kept two neighboring armies on alert and the specter of nuclear war hanging over the region. 
Members of Pakistan’s small Sikh community, which numbered several million before Partition but has dwindled to about 30,000, were especially excited. Many said they visit the temple at least once a year, explaining that it holds a strong place in their emotions and beliefs.

Sarbir Singh, 41, who owns a bridal shop, said a visit to the Sikh temple at Kartarpur “takes me to another world.” (Pamela Constable/The Washington Post)
“It takes me to another world. I feel a calmness there like nowhere else,” said Sarbir Singh, 41, who owns a bridal shop at a crowded bazaar in Rawalpindi city. “All of us want both countries to be at peace and their people to mingle,” he said. “This is a first step, and, God willing, it will lead to more.”
The lane to the temple in Kartarpur, off a bumpy farm road, is marked with a sign in English, Urdu and Hindi Sanskrit. The grounds are surrounded by sugar cane fields, and the border is just over the horizon, with bulldozers at work to build the new road.  
On Wednesday, a small stream of visitors arrived to tour the site, a walled compound that was built in 1921. Inside are neatly tended gardens, pristine tiled pavilions, and a carved white building containing vividly decorated chambers for praying and reading from Sikhism’s holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib. 
Most of the visitors were Pakistani Muslims, some of whom said they had come partly out of curiosity and partly to pay their respects. Saima Afzal, 34, drove from Lahore in a minivan with her children and other relatives.
“We have heard since childhood about this guru, that he was a great thinker who cared about humanity,” Afzal said. “We are Muslims, but we respect him. We want to see more trade with India, and more understanding. When people meet, they start to know each other.”
The temple is managed by a Pakistani Sikh, Govind Singh. A fountain of information on Sikh history, he has lived in the temple compound since 2000, when the site was reopened after being closed since 1947.
Singh said that all previous Pakistani governments had respected the Sikh religion and that Pakistanis had never shown to Sikhs the ill-will that historically marred their relations with Hindus. But even since the temple reopened, he said, only about 15,000 Sikhs a year have managed to come from abroad, including about 4,000 from India, because reaching the site was so difficult.
Now, Singh said, “Sikhs all over the world are full of happiness. We pray that the bridge to Kartarpur will bring them all here.”
Uninterrupted power supply to rice mills
·        December 8, 2018
This Press Release is issued by Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP). REAP strongly urges provincial and federal authorities to take up the issue of non availability of electricity in rice growing belt of Sindh and Balochistan, where upto 15 hours without electricity means hurting rice export supply chain badly. The concerned Heads of QESCO in Balochistan and HESCO & SEPCO in Sindh be requested to attend this matter on priority basis. REAP fully endorses the request made by the General Secretary, Sindh Balochistan Rice Millers and Traders Association (SBRMTA) in this regard. REAP requests Janab Syed Murad Ali Shah, Hon. Chief Minister of Sindh and Janab Jam Kamal, Hon.
 Chief Minister of Balochistan to personally attend this matter of National interest on priority basis. In this regard, REAP requests urgently to all concerned quarters to take notice to supply uninterrupted supply of electricity to Dera Murad Jamali, Osta Muhammad and other surrounding rice growing areas of Balochistan & Sindh province. Further, our country is facing huge trade deficit and rice export trade is one of the important FOREX earner and this is the peak season of rice export and therefore concerned authorities should take necessary measure to resolve the power supply issue on Top priority basis.

An ‘agricultural’ Pakistan — a necessity

Published: December 7, 2018
The writer is the chair for UNCTAD — Commonwealth Entrepreneurship Project in Pakistan & CIO of Superior Group
Since its inception, Pakistan has always primarily been an agriculture-reliant economy. With the Green Revolution of the 60s being a growth impetus, the sector contributes around 18% to the GDP, employs 42% of the total labour force, and constitutes 75% of total exports revenue.
To picture its significance in a better way, let’s see how it affects people at a micro-level. Income of over 12 million households is directly linked to how well a seasonal crop does. Another 4 million households are involved in livestock farming. Any fluctuation means their livelihood and access to basic needs get compromised. And this does not account for informal labour, the work performed by women during harvest season. In simple terms, Pakistan’s rural population, which is 64% of the total, is affiliated with the agriculture sector. This is what makes the industry so important.
The agriculture sector experienced a growth of 3.8% in the last financial year. The yield per hectare of major crops, however, has been on a decline over the years. For example, Pakistan’s wheat yield is only 38% of what France produces, rice crop is merely 29% of yield per hectare of the US and cotton produce is just 52% of what China grows per hectare. There are multiple reasons for this — soil fertility, seed quality and limited financing being just some of them.
Countries such as China, Israel and Brazil have experienced exponential growth in the agriculture sector. Pakistan can learn from their policy experiences and interventions to strengthen its own agriculture sector.
Brazil’s agricultural production grew by more than 400% over the past two decades. This growth has been despite challenges of infrastructure and transportation logistics the country still faces. What it did right was to invest in research. Thereby, introducing new methods of operation such as ‘no till’ agriculture, genetic modification of seeds, and increasing arable land through chemicals. To complement this, the private sector jumped in with investments in infrastructure and logistics, even if with a motive of market profitability.
Israel, despite its land area as small as the state of New Jersey, has increased agricultural output substantially. Smart irrigation methods, including micro-irrigation that utilises drip technology, have been instrumental in this growth. In addition, Israel treats almost 80% of domestic wastewater, recycling it for agricultural use. This constitutes nearly 50% of the total water used for agriculture; hence, overcoming the challenge of water shortage.
If Pakistan is to reposition the agriculture sector as globally competitive and as a tool to impact millions of lives, it is important that a dynamic long-term strategy be devised — a multi-dimensional policy that works to improve the total sector output like Brazil did, increase per unit productivity as China did and enhance efficiency by introducing technology as Israel has. In doing so, the potential role of different stakeholders, including entrepreneurs and investors, must be explored and acknowledged. This will encourage them to take policy ownership and work to make it a success.
Entrepreneurs are natural problem-solvers. They can develop products and propose local solutions to a set of common agricultural problems. In turn, they have a scalable market ready to be accessed. Use of drone technology to monitor crop growth is one such solution. However, any such entrepreneurial solution needs to be backed on a large scale for ground-level implementation.
Agriculture and ancillary sectors can be utilised for poverty alleviation as was practised in China. Programmes facilitating small landholders by providing access to micro credit, subsidised graded seeds and shared advanced technology can improve their livelihood, thereby pulling them out of poverty.
In Bangladesh, for example, and other developing countries of Latin America and Africa, small-scale poultry and livestock businesses have been supported as a means of poverty alleviation. It promoted women entrepreneurship, financial inclusion and strengthened the local livestock industry as well. Subsequently, livelihood of those directly involved improved and so did food supply.
Structured support of the sector will help in striking a better balance in the labour market, thereby releasing the ‘push’ factor of urban migration. Government-assisted vocational trainings and academic degrees, for example, will create an incentive to pursue sector-based knowledge. It will add some prestige to agriculture as a career field and encourage youth from rural backgrounds to adopt it as an option.
Pakistan’s economy is facing enormous challenges. It is exactly in such testing times that bold decisions are taken — decisions that have the power to convert challenges into opportunities. It is the right time to create a supportive policy environment for the agriculture sector and improve the livelihood of over 12 million households. Rather than mocking the Prime Minister’s simplistic rhetoric on kattasmurghis & desi andas, it’ll be more valuable for us, as a nation, to realise the importance we need to give to promoting the agriculture sector of Pakistan. Yes, his priorities seem spot-on. Let’s stay positive and support our government in making agricultural reforms a prime agenda item.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2018.