Thursday, December 13, 2018

13th December,2018 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

Rice plants that grow as clones from seed
December 12, 2018, UC Davis
Description: Rice plants that grow as clones from seed
Postdoc Imtiyaz Khanday and Professor Venkatesan Sundaresan with cloned rice plants in a UC Davis green house, December 2018. Khanday, Sundaresan and colleagues have solved the problem of propagating cloned, hybrid plants from seed -- a …more
Plant biologists at the University of California, Davis have discovered a way to make crop plants replicate through seeds as clones. The discovery, long sought by plant breeders and geneticists, could make it easier to propagate high-yielding, disease-resistant or climate-tolerant crops and make them available to the world's farmers.
The work is published Dec. 12 in the journal Nature.
Since the 1920s, many crops have been grown from hybrid seeds created by crossing two varieties. These hybrids can have superior qualities in areas such as yield or pest resistance. But the seeds of hybrid crops do not produce plants with the same qualities.
The ability to produce a clone, an exact replica, of a plant from its seeds would be a major breakthrough for world agriculture. Instead of purchasing expensive hybrid seeds each year, which is often beyond the means of farmers in developing countries, farmers could replant seeds from their own hybrid plants and derive the benefits of high yields year after year.
About 400 species of wild plants can produce viable seeds without fertilization. Called apomixis, this process seems to have evolved many times in plants—but not in commercial crop species.
The discovery by postdoctoral researcher Imtiyaz Khanday and Venkatesan Sundaresan, professor of plant biology at UC Davis and colleagues at UC Davis, the Iowa State University and INRA, France is a major step forward.
"It's a very desirable goal that could change agriculture," Sundaresan said.
"Baby boom" gene is key
Khanday and Sundaresan discovered that the rice gene BBM1, belonging to a family of plant genes called "Baby Boom" or BBM, is expressed in sperm cells but not in eggs. After fertilization, BBM1 is expressed in the fertilized cell but—at least initially—this expression comes from the male contribution to the genome.
BBM1, they reasoned, switches on the ability of a fertilized egg to form an embryo.
The researchers first used gene editing to remove the ability of the plants to go through meiosis, so that the egg cells formed instead by mitosis, inheriting a full set of chromosomes from the mother.
Then they caused these egg cells to express BBM1, which they would not normally do without fertilization.
"So we have a diploid egg cell with the ability to make an embryo, and that grows into a clonal seed," Sundaresan said.
So far the process has an efficiency of about 30 percent, but the researchers hope that can be increased with more research. The approach should work in other cereal crops, which have equivalent BBM1 genes, and in other crop plants as well, Sundaresan said.
Description: Explore further: Plants cloned as seeds
More information: Imtiyaz Khanday et al, A male-expressed rice embryogenic trigger redirected for asexual propagation through seeds, Nature (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0785-8

Rice inventory jumps 88.7% in November

DECEMBER 13, 2018
The country’s total rice stock inventory grew by 88.7 percent to 3,000.45 thousand metric tons (TMT) as of Nov. 1, 2018 from 1, 589.89 TMT a month earlier, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said.
In its monthly “Rice and Corn Stocks Inventory” report, the PSA said the November figure was likewise up by 1.4 percent from last year’s 2, 958.73 TMT.
On a monthly basis, household rice stocks and commercial holdings increased by 81.2 percent and 122.3 percent, respectively. NFA inventories were down by 18.7 percent.
Year-on-year, rice inventories fell 12.7 percent and 45.6 percent in those held by households and in NFA depositories, respectively. However, commercial inventories grew by 36.2 percent.
Of the total rice inventories, 51.9 percent were from households, while 44.6 percent and 3.5 percent were from commercial warehouses and NFA depositories respectively.
Meanwhile, the country’s corn stock expanded by 12.8 percent to 639,520 MT in November from 566,830 MT a month ago, and was up by 6 percent from 603,290 MT in the same period in 2017.
Corn stocks inventory from households rose by 35.3 percent while commercial warehouses stocks declined by 0.7 percent. There were no corn stocks in NFA depositories during the period.
Of the total, 75.9 percent was in commercial warehouses while 24.1 percent in households.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol earlier said the country is expected to lose about 800,000 MT of palay (unmilled rice) this year because of the typhoons that hit the country and slashed farmlands in the second half of the year.
To ensure stable supply and price of rice in the market, government had authorized the NFA for the importation of rice via government-to-government (G2G) and government-to-private (G2P) procurement.
For this year alone, a total of 1.25 million MT of rice were booked by the NFA as approved by inter-agency policy-making body NFA Council to boost its buffer stocks.
Apart from this, the NFA Council also approved the procurement of an additional 350,000 MT of rice under the importation program of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) which aims to offer P38 per kilo of commercial rice exclusively in supermarkets.

Cambodian rice sees decline in exports to the international market

 | Publication date 12 December 2018 | 08:19 ICT
Description: Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cambodia’s rice exports to the international market fell more than 13 per cent for the first 11 months this year. Hong Menea
Cambodia's rice exports to the international market fell more than 13 per cent for the first 11 months of the year, compared to the same period last year, a report by the Secretariat of One Window Service for Rice Export Formality said.
It showed a drop in exports to the international market in the first 11 months of the year, accounting for 497,240 tonnes – down from 562,237 tonnes in the same period last year.
Industry insiders have repeatedly said the decline is due to the lack of stockpiles and competition with neighbouring countries.
Reason for decline
The vice-president of the Cambodian Rice Federation, Hun Lak, told The Post on Tuesday that the Kingdom’s rice exports have dropped almost every month this year. He said the fall is due to a lack of stockpiles during harvest season and price competition with neighbouring countries.
“In the second and third quarters, the price of Cambodia’s jasmine rice was higher than neighbouring countries by $30 to $40 a tonne and this is the reason for the decline in exports,” he said.
Cambodia pledged to send one million tonnes of rice per year to the international market by 2015, but only exported 538,396 tonnes in 2015, 542,144 tonnes in 2016, and 635,679 tonnes last year.
‘Many challenges’
In November this year, Cambodia’s rice exports only equalled 62,433 tonnes, down from 70,112 tonnes in the same month last year.
“With the current situation in Cambodia, it is difficult to reach the target of one million tonnes of rice exports because there are still many challenges to be addressed,” Lak said.
The key ways to improve exports, said Lak, is through increasing and expanding rice stockpiles, increased loans to grow the industry, and lowering production costs.
AMRU Rice (Cambodia) Co Ltd CEO Song Saran said the decline in exports is due to Cambodia’s move towards high-quality and thus more expensive rice market.
He said Cambodia previously exported mostly white rice, but these numbers have steadily declined as the volume of fragrant rice exports increased.
“In terms of the quantity of exports we’ve seen a drop, but when we talk value it is higher than last year,” he said.
In 2018, Cambodian white rice sold at $470 per tonne, fragrant rice ranged between $785 and $790 per tonne, while jasmine rice sold for $890. These prices represented an increase of 8 to 10 per cent from last year.
China was the leading buyer of Cambodian rice in the first 11 months of the year with nearly 140,000 tonnes, while exports to France totalled over 70,000 tonnes, Malaysia (40,000 tonnes), and Gabon (2,500 tonnes).
Cambodia is also facing impending rice tariffs from the EU that could further impact exports.
China vows new measures to step up farm mechanisation
·        DECEMBER 13, 2018 / 4:56 AM
SHANGHAI, Dec 13 (Reuters) - China will introduce new measures to speed up mechanisation in its huge farming sector, looking to revive the countryside, boost domestic demand and raise rural incomes, the government said late on Wednesday following a cabinet meeting.China’s rural population has been steadily declining as a result of rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, and it needs to encourage farmers to raise mechanisation rates to cover the labour shortfall and improve yields.
The cabinet said in a statement China would grant subsidies to encourage the use of deeper ploughing machines and also make it easier for farmers to borrow money to buy machinery.Under the new rules, domestic and foreign agricultural machinery would be treated equally.It said the first task was to raise mechanised harvesting rates for crops like rice, wheat, corn, potato, rapeseed, cotton and sugar cane.The cabinet said it will also encourage technological advances in order to support the precision application of pesticides and boost the efficiency of fertilisers and irrigation.
Though China has been trying to encourage consolidation by making it easier for farmers to sell their land leases to agribusinesses, the country’s farming sector still consists of large numbers of small household farms, which has held back mechanisation.To try to resolve the problem, China will support research into machinery that can be used in small-scale or remote mountain farms, and will also encourage the creation of professional service centres allowing small household farms to share agricultural equipment. (Reporting by David Stanway Editing by Sonali Paul)

Good news for farmers! Govt hikes MSP of 22 crops to a minimum of 50% over cost

This decision of the Government was a historic one as it fulfills the commitment to the farmers to provide 50 per cent return over cost of production for the first time for all mandated crops," as said by Minister of State for Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.

  Last Updated: December 12, 2018  | 13:48 IST
Description: Good news for farmers! Govt hikes MSP of 22 crops to a minimum of 50% over cost

Government has increased the Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) of 22 kharif and rabi crops to a minimum of 50 percent returns over cost, the Ministry of Agriculture has said.  The government has taken the decision after considering the views of the state governments.
The MSPs fixed by the government for most of these crops provide at least a return of 50 per cent over cost of production for the year 2018-19.
"Government has increased MSPs substantially for all mandated crops for the season 2018-19. This decision of the Government was a historic one as it fulfills the commitment to the farmers to provide 50 per cent return over cost of production for the first time for all mandated crops," as said by Minister of State for Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
The MSP for Kharif crops such as paddy has been increased from Rs 1550 to Rs 1750. For Jowar, the MSP has been increased from Rs 1700 to Rs 2430, which is the highest. The MSP of Bajra has been increased from Rs 1425 to Rs 1950.
For Rabi crops the increase is only marginal as all of the mandated rabi crops already has an MSP which provided returns of more than 50 per cent over cost except Safflower which provided only a 31.2 per cent returs over cost to farmers. Now after the revision in MSP, the returns of Safflower has been increased to Rs 4,945, providing a 50.1 per cent returns to farmers.   
MSPs of these crops have been hiked after considering the increase in production costs such as labour, land rent, seeds, fertilizers, irrigation charges, electricity, etc.
To view the revised MSP please refer to the table below:

2018 Farm Bill on Track to Pass in 2018 

WASHINGTON, DC -- The 2018 Farm Bill, known formally as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, H.R. 2, and its accompanying conference report of resolved differences between the House and Senate versions is in the final stretch to becoming law.

The Farm Bill conference report was officially filed late Monday evening.  Yesterday afternoon, the Senate voted 87 to 13 to adopt the Farm Bill conference report.  This afternoon, the House overwhelmingly, adopted the conference report by a vote of 369 to 47.

The rice industry had broad support from our many friends in Congress representing both agriculture and urban states and districts.  Unfortunately, two Members of Congress representing rice states voted against this legislation that supports the U.S. rice industry in a time of great need, including Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and John Kennedy (R-LA). 

"USA Rice applauds the work and perseverance of the Farm Bill Conference Committee, especially the House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders and their staff, for passing a Farm Bill that is good for the U.S. rice industry," said Joe Mencer, Arkansas rice farmer and chairman of USA Rice Farmers.  "The Farm Bill provides a sense of confidence for rice farmers and the industry during a time of depressed prices and an uncertain trade and market outlook going into next season."

The 12-title, 807-page omnibus farm law contains several positive provisions for the U.S. rice industry, many of which were developed by and advocated for by the dedicated grassroots members of USA Rice.  Some highlights include the maintenance and enhancement of the Price Loss Coverage Program, an increase to the rice marketing loan rates, improvements to critical conservation programs, and the preservation of trade promotion and food aid programs.

"On behalf of the U.S. rice industry, I want to thank all of our members who played a role in developing our Farm Bill priorities and for the countless hours advocating to ensure they were included in the bill," said Charley Mathews, Jr., California rice farmer and USA Rice Chairman. 
  "Whether it was phone calls or meetings to discuss USA Rice positions and Farm Bill developments, interacting with Members of Congress or their staff, testifying before Congress or at field hearings, or any other role you may have played in this process, our success would not have been possible without your dedication and support."

Now that the bill and compromise package have cleared both chambers of Congress, it goes to President Trump's desk for his signature.  USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has stated he will urge the President to sign the bill.

USA Rice fully supports the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, and strongly urges President Trump expeditiously sign the 2018 Farm Bill into law.

Low paddy purchase in Odisha's Kendrapara target puts peasants in spot of bother

After the authorities decided to procure only five lakh quintals of paddy at the start of the harvesting season, farmers worry on the fate of remaining 12 quintals harvested.
Published: 13th December 2018 09:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th December 2018 09:24 AM  |  
Description: Paddy stack

Paddy stacked near a threshing floor at Rajnagar in Kendrapara district | Express
By Express News Service

KENDRAPARA: The fate of a large numbers of farmers in the district hangs in balance after the authorities decided to procure only five lakh quintals of paddy at the start of the harvesting season. In the district, farmers are all set to harvest about 17 lakh quintals of paddy this year. However, after the administration’s announcement, a large number of farmers will not get chance to sell their paddy to Odisha State Civil Supply Corporation (OSCSC), said president of the district Krusak Sabha Umesh Chandra Singh.
Sources said farmers of Rajnagar, Rajkanika, Mahakalapada and Aul have already started harvesting paddy. Similarly, farmers of  Pattamundai, Derabishi, Garadapur and Marsaghai will harvest their crops within two weeks.
Singh said some mill owners and traders have started purchasing paddy from farmers at `1,400 per quintal, which is `350 less than the minimum support price fixed by the Government.“Millers and traders are camping in villages to purchase paddy from the hapless farmers by paying them less money fixed by the authorities,” alleged Biswajit Behera, a farmer of Pattamundai.
Secretary of the district unit of Krusak Sabha Gayadhar Dhal said after harvesting paddy, farmers are being forced to sell their stock at throwaway price to meet their daily expenses. The administration, however, is not taking any steps to check the distress sale, he alleged.
Contacted, Civil Supply Officer (CSO) Rajanikanta Das said OSCSC has recently decided to procure five lakh quintals of paddy in the first phase from farmers. A decision on purchasing more paddy from farmers will be taken later, he said.
As many as 116 Primary Agriculture Cooperative Societies (PACS) will procure paddy from farmers from December 17. After purchase, the PACS will hand over the paddy to 14 rice millers of the district, the CSO said.The MSP for a quintal of Fair Average Quality (FAQ) paddy has been fixed at `1,750, he added.

A male-expressed rice embryogenic trigger redirected for asexual propagation through seeds


Nature (2018Download Citation


The molecular pathways that trigger the initiation of embryogenesis after fertilization in flowering plants, and prevent its occurrence without fertilization, are not well understood1. Here we show in rice (Oryza sativa) that BABY BOOM1 (BBM1), a member of the AP2 family2 of transcription factors that is expressed in sperm cells, has a key role in this process. Ectopic expression of BBM1 in the egg cell is sufficient for parthenogenesis, which indicates that a single wild-type gene can bypass the fertilization checkpoint in the female gamete. Zygotic expression of BBM1 is initially specific to the male allele but is subsequently biparental, and this is consistent with its observed auto-activation. Triple knockout of the genes BBM1BBM2 and BBM3 causes embryo arrest and abortion, which are fully rescued by male-transmitted BBM1. These findings suggest that the requirement for fertilization in embryogenesis is mediated by male-genome transmission of pluripotency factors. When genome editing to substitute mitosis for meiosis (MiMe)3,4 is combined with the expression of BBM1 in the egg cell, clonal progeny can be obtained that retain genome-wide parental heterozygosity. The synthetic asexual-propagation trait is heritable through multiple generations of clones. Hybrid crops provide increased yields that cannot be maintained by their progeny owing to genetic segregation. This work establishes the feasibility of asexual reproduction in crops, and could enable the maintenance of hybrids clonally through seed propagation5,6.

The staggering scale of France's battle against terror, by the numbers

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

Jonathon Gatehouse · CBC News · 

Soldiers in France's anti-terror 'Vigipirate' plan, dubbed 'Operation Sentinelle,' patrols next to Notre-Dame cathedral in Strasbourg following Tuesday night's shooting near the city's famous Christmas market. (Jean Francois Badias/Associated Press)
Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.


  • France's battle against terror attacks, by the numbers.
  • Proponents of an alternative method of growing rice say it boosts yields dramatically and reduces the impact on the environment, but not everyone is buying in.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.

France's terror problem

Last night's attack on a busy Christmas market in the French city of Strasbourg killed two people and wounded 12 others, including one victim who doctors say is clinically brain dead.
Although the suspect is still at large, French prosecutors have characterized the shooting and stabbing spree, which lasted for minutes on end, as an act of terrorism, citing witnesses who heard the man shout "Allahu Akbar."
The alleged attacker, identified by authorities as 29-year-old Chèrif Chekatt, was born and raised in Strasbourg, and has been on police radar since the age of 10.
Christophe Castane, France's interior minister, told a news conference today that Chekatt's first criminal conviction came when he was 13. At least 26 more, mostly for robbery and assault, have since followed in France, Germany and Switzerland.
Authorities work at a makeshift emergency services base after Tuesday night's deadly shooting in Strasbourg, France. The gunman is still at large and the motive for the attack is still unclear. (Patrick Seeger/EPA-EFE)
Chekatt has been on France's security watch list, known as Fiche-S, since 2015.
He shares that distinction with at least 20,500 other citizens and residents, and despite devoting $30 billion to security and a further $64 billion to defence in its 2018 budget, the country doesn't have the resources to watch them all.
Police say it takes 20 officers a day to keep just one terror suspect under constant, 24-hour surveillance, suggesting they would need more than 400,000 dedicated cops to fully blunt the threat.
Here are some other figures that illustrate the scale of France's terror problem:
22 — the number of terror incidents on French soil since the beginning of 2015.
249 — the number of dead in those attacks.
928 — the number of wounded.
To date, the weapons used have included guns, bombs, hammers, trucks, cars and knives.
7,000 — the number of troops that have been guarding French tourist sites and patrolling city streets since 2015 under the anti-terror Opération Sentinelle, in addition to 2,000 specialized Vigipirate anti-terror police. Another 3,000 soldiers are held on standby for emergencies.
350 — how many police, soldiers and helicopter pilots are currently involved in the manhunt for Chekatt.
16 — the number of categorization levels under the Fiche-S system, counting up to one for the most severe threats.
2,050— the estimated number of Strasbourg residents on the S-List, meaning that a city with 2 per cent of the country's population accounts for 10 per cent of its terror suspects.
17 — the number of Strasbourg residents who have been arrested or killed in prior terror incidents or plots, including a failed attempt to attack the Christmas market on New Year's Eve in 2000.
2.5 million — the estimated annual attendance at the festive market, Europe's largest.
A placard near the scene of the Strasbourg shooting reads, 'Tribute to the victims. I am Strasbourg.'(Christophe Ena/Associated Press)
While France faces a considerable and constant threat, its terror challenges pale in comparison to the world's real hot spots.
To put it all in context, the Global Terrorism Index, an annual report prepared by the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace, ranks France 30th in the world for severity.
The U.K., at No. 28, and the United States at No. 20, are both judged to have bigger issues, although nothing on the scale of Afghanistan where there were 4,653 terror fatalities in 2017, or Iraq where 4,271 people died that same year. (Canada now ranks 57th on the list, up nine places from the year before.)
In fact, the 20 deadliest terrorist attacks in 2017 all occurred in Africa, the Middle East or South Asia, killing a total of 2,926 people.
All of Western Europe, in comparison, saw 81 terror deaths in 2017.
And in the first 10 months of 2018, the report tallies 10 such killings in Europe.
Worldwide, there were 18,814 terror fatalities in 2017, down 44 per cent from their 2014 peak.

The controversy around rice

Proponents of an alternative method of growing rice say it boosts yields dramatically and reduces the impact on the environment, but not everyone is buying in, writes producer Anand Ram.
While agricultural improvement strategies aren't exactly a conversation-starter for many people, there's one crop the world might want to start talking about.
It is a staple for billions, culturally and calorically — making up as much as two-thirds of the calories in Asian diets.
But it's a thirsty, gassy plant.
One cup of rice takes about 500 litres of water to grow and is responsible for as much as 20 per cent of human-caused methane emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Surprising, then, that for nearly four decades there has existed a method that supporters say checks all the right boxes for a better way to grow rice.
A rice paddy in Mali planted with the technique referred to as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). (Erika Stryger)
It's called the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), and by flipping the traditional idea of jam-packed flooded rice paddies on its head, it claims to get more out of less.
The broad strokes of SRI involve planting seedlings early, spacing them farther apart and, counter-intuitively, letting them go through dry periods.
"You use less seeds, less water, less chemicals, and you can increase yields," says Erika Styger of Cornell University, one of the world's leading SRI researchers.
Erika Styger of Cornell University is one of the world's leading researchers on the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). She calls SRI 'a no-brainer' for farmers in terms of its benefits over more common rice-growing approaches. (Erika Styger)
By the numbers, research done by Styger and her colleagues in West Africa indicates that:
  • Yields can go up by 50 per cent or more.
  • Farmers use 90 per cent fewer seeds.
  • Plants require 30 to 50 per cent less water.
The method also drastically cuts methane emissions and creates hardier roots that can withstand extreme weather.
"It's a no-brainer for farmers and it's beneficial to the environment," Styger says.
Her work in Africa, supported by groups such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank, has helped expand SRI's adoption by farmers in more than 55 countries.
Despite Styger's findings, SRI is not even close to a global standard for growing rice. Styger says it's responsible for between just 2 and 5 per cent of the world's rice production.
One reason, she says, is that because SRI uses fewer seeds and/or chemicals than the more popular growing methods, it doesn't fit the agri-giant business model that's based on selling those inputs to farmers.
"That's the common belief, that this [agri-business model] is how we improve agriculture," Styger says. "But SRI is basically the opposite. Farmers don't need to buy anything. They can produce with their own resources. They can improve their yields with their own knowledge."
Harouna Touré told The National from Mali that he worked in rice farming for a decade before switching to SRI. He said after using SRI himself and seeing it practiced in West Africa, he's convinced that it's the way pe Description:!/fileImage/httpImage/image.JPG_gen/derivatives/original_780/system-of-rice-intensification.JPG ople should grow rice everywhere.
Harouna Touré stands in a wet rice paddy in Mali, where farmers are learning SRI planting techniques.(Harouna Touré)
There's skepticism, however, from some members of the scientific community.
Critics maintain that SRI has higher initial labour costs, and some researchers say they've found SRI's promised yields difficult to reproduce.
Others struggle with the definition of what precisely SRI is, partly because methods can differ from country to country due to factors such as the local soil, climate and even insects.
"The original hardcore definition [of SRI] in agronomy terms got adapted and changed," says Bas Bouman, a top scientist at the International Rice Research Institute.
"And if I can't say exactly 'this is SRI' … I can't go into country 'X' and say this is the set of practices that defines SRI that you should adopt."
Bouman calls SRI a "social movement" which sees itself as stoking a grassroots, of-the-people narrative that the greater scientific community is trying to keep down. He adds that SRI critics are often shouted down as not being farmer-friendly. Description:!/fileImage/httpImage/image.JPG_gen/derivatives/original_780/erika-styger.JPG

Erika Styger surveys a rice field in Timbuktu, Mali. (Erika Stryger)
However, Styger says that way of looking at SRI takes away from the real science being done around it.
"Unfortunately, the international research community experiences [SRI] as a threat. They didn't develop it. And also they may not then get more funding to breed new varieties."
Arguments of legitimacy go back and forth, but climate change may soon render such minutiae and politics moot. Droughts, floods and other extreme weather events are on the rise and threaten food security – and farmers' livelihoods.
And as a couple of SRI champions in Mali told The National, once farmers see with their own eyes how SRI crops are better at withstanding droughts, it's the method they will want to use in the future.
- Anand Ram

A few words on ... 

An act of solidarity and defiance in Strasbourg, France.

Quote of the moment

"A leadership election would not change the fundamentals of the negotiation or the Parliamentary arithmetic. Weeks spent tearing ourselves apart will only create more division just as we should be standing together to serve our country. None of that would be in the national interest."
British Prime Minister Theresa May makes her case against a no-confidence vote, scheduled for this evening, and triggered by her own disgruntled pro-Brexit MPs.
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London, on Wednesday. (Reuters)

Rice self-sufficiency can boost the region’s efforts in attaining development goals

Wednesday 12th December, 2018

Description: 181 abebe-haile-gabriel
FAO and partners assure African countries of continuous support 
Ada, Dec.12, GNA — The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), AfricaRice and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) re-affirmed their commitment to support African countries in their efforts to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production.   
Speaking at the opening of a workshop on rice production in Africa, Abebe Haile-Gabriel, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, emphasized the need for partners to work on measures to mainstream good practices into national rice investments to achieve rice sustainability. 
“Together with the Coalition for Africa Rice Development (CARD), AfricaRice and IRRI, we are actively consolidating best practices or lessons learned from project implementation. Our goal is to eventually disseminate this knowledge to countries to promote sustainable rice production,” Haile-Gabriel added. 
He further noted the partnership was already yielding some significant results, stressing: “It already has contributed to improvements in seed, post-harvest activities, irrigation and technology adoption in a number of African countries. FAO is optimistic that upscaling and adopting best practices in the rice sector would help sustain the momentum towards the attainment of rice self-sufficiency and the creation of gainful employment for the youth and women along the entire rice value chain.” 
The two-day workshop held in Ada, Ghana, on the theme, Upscaling the Partnership for Sustainable Rice Systems Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: Lessons for National Projects and Programmes on Rice Value Chain, provided a platform for brainstorming and technical contributions on how to mainstream the best practices into national rice investment projects. 
Effective leadership and political will essential for achieving rice self-sufficiency in Africa 
Achieving rice self-sufficiency for Africa is strategic and consequential, not just in terms of meeting consumption requirements locally. It has multiplier effects, which means reallocating the much needed foreign exchange for investments in rice value chain development initiatives. Such diversification will eventually create and expand employment opportunities for youth and women. A number of countries are already exhibiting a significant increase in rice production over the last few years. 
According to Peter Anaadumba, South-South Cooperation Officer in the FAO Regional Office for Africa, Tanzania is one of the few countries that have become self-sufficient in rice production and no longer import the commodity, saying, “This is a significant progress which is definitely a milestone achievement.’’ 
“Additionally, through South-South Cooperation, the project has promoted new technologies and innovation along the rice value chain in sub-Saharan Africa, and such innovations ought to be mainstreamed into future interventions in the rice sector,” he added. 
“The encouraging success achieved in increased rice production is also proof and demonstration that, with effective leadership and political will as well as concerted efforts from all stakeholders, nothing can stop us from achieving not only rice self-sufficiency, but also the goal of ending hunger,” Anaadumba further said. “Despite the success, the fact remains that there are still significant challenges in the quest for attaining sustainable rice production,” he furthers conceded. 
Rising import bills a burden for the region 
Rice is the world’s most important staple food, with the demand expected to double, putting stress on the production to meet the needs of the growing global population. This requires increase in rice production by 25 percent in the next 25 years. 
More than half of the 43 rice-producing countries in Africa are also net rice importers, with varying degrees ranging between 10 and 93 percent. Available evidence indicates that in 2015 alone, African countries imported about 36 percent of their rice requirements, claiming over USD 4 billion. 
The projections for 2020 show that the trend will continue, but the worrying issue lies on the increasing drain on foreign exchange to pay for the rice import bill. Forecasts peg the rise to USD 7 billion annually. 
The workshop provided further guidance on upscaling best practices related to technology adoption, best farming practices, water control management and post-harvest activities into national projects, as well as private sector investment in the rice sector. All these will contribute toward realizing the rice transformation agenda in Africa. 
About the project 
The Partnership for Sustainable Rice Systems Development in Sub-Saharan Africa is an ongoing FAO project. Approved in May 2014, the project initially ran for a period of 23 months, from February 2016 to December 2017. 
An additional one-year extension brings the project to the current expected completion date of December 2018. The project target countries are Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda. 
Since the launch of the project, 10 beneficiary countries carried out a needs identification exercise. This ensured alignment of priorities during the project formulation and implementation phases. Additionally, the exercise led to some modification to the project implementation.  
The project has been under implementation since September 2016 in all the 10 selected countries in order to support the scaling-up of the innovative practices such as System of Rice Intensification, processing of rice, and post-harvest management.

Central American rice millers want changes to US trade pact

By Bill Tomson
Description: Rice hopper
Rice millers and farmers from Central America and the Dominican Republic are making an urgent plea to their U.S. counterparts: Help stop the reduction in tariffs on U.S. rice.

The Latin millers want to continue to keep buying U.S. rice in large quantities, a delegation told members of the USA Rice Federation last week at a conference in San Diego, but warned that if they buy too much as tariffs continue to fall under the Dominican Republic-Central America (CAFTA-DR) free trade pact, local farmers will be devastated.
The U.S. signed it’s first-ever free trade agreement with small, developing countries -- Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic -- more than a decade ago, and by most measures, the pact has been beneficial for all seven nations.
“It’s been just over 10 years since we started cutting agricultural tariffs on both sides, and the deal has delivered exactly as trade agreements are supposed to,” said USDA Trade Counsel Jason Hafemeister earlier this year as Undersecretary Ted McKinney prepared to lead a delegation to several of the CAFTA-DR countries. “Going forward, a deal that has been a solid positive for U.S. agriculture has the potential to get even better as further market openings create more opportunities for U.S. exports.”
Description: Jason Hafemeister
Jason Hafemeister, USDA
In 2003, before the pact was ratified, the U.S. was exporting about $1.6 billion worth of farm commodities to the CAFTA-DR countries, according to USDA data. By 2017 those exports had more than doubled to $4.3 billion worth of corn, rice, wheat, dairy, beef, pork and poultry.
And exports going north also doubled over the past decade as trade barriers gradually fell. Last year the U.S. imported about $5.8 billion worth of bananas, coffee, pineapples and other products from its CAFTA-DR partners. That’s up from $2.4 billion in 2003.
“While all the countries in the CAFTA-DR region face significant challenges, the GDP of the region has effectively doubled even as barriers to U.S. exports have fallen,” said Hafemeister. “The good news is there is plenty of room to grow … And the prospects for further economic growth in the region are good, particularly if all countries continue to pull together to facilitate trade.”
But there’s going to be just too much trade, said Eduardo Rojas, the newly elected president of the board of directors for Costa Rica’s National Rice Corporation and a leader on the Central American Rice Federation (FECARROZ).
In a delayed start, the CAFTA-DR’s tariffs on U.S. rice began dropping steadily and are expected to reach zero in all of the countries in five years. At the same time, each of the Latin countries continues to increase the size of their tariff rate quotas for U.S. rice that allows hundreds of thousands of tons to enter with no tariffs.
All of that, together with weather and banking problems, is putting a major strain on the mostly small domestic farmers, said Enrique Lacs, a FECARROZ adviser and former deputy economics minister in Guatemala.
Lacs, Rojas and several others have presented the leadership at USA Rice with a proposal to stop the reduction in tariffs on U.S. rice and freeze in place TRQs that guarantee access to rice from the U.S.
"Central America is the second-largest importer of paddy rice for the United States and we hope that this meeting will facilitate a future alliance with the American rice industry so that we can be converted into the largest importer of paddy rice," FECARROZ President Mario Solorzano said during the San Diego meeting. "The FECARROZ proposal is a win-win strategy that is necessary in order to guarantee the long term sustainability of the commercial relationships between the United States, Central America, and the Dominican Republic."
If tariffs are allowed to go to zero, Lacs told Agri-Pulse, the 62,000 rice farmers and processors in the CAFTA-DR countries will go out of business. Instead of farmers and millers, the Latin countries will only have importers, buying the cheapest supplies they can find.
“The risk for Central America is that producers will disappear because they are small and can’t compete,” Lacs said.
Unlike most trade pacts, the CAFTA-DR allows for additional negotiation on agricultural issues, said Rojas and Lucs. The pact specifically allows the countries to assemble an agricultural committee to address unforeseen problems, and that’s expected to happen next year. The FECARROZ proposal is meant to both inform that committee and persuade USA Rice to join with their Latin counterparts to provide a united front.
USA Rice leaders have promised to consider the proposal.
“Central America is a top destination for U.S. rice and helps keep our export market thriving,” said USA Rice Chairman Charley Mathews Jr.  “We are pleased that FECARROZ has given thought to how this trade can be sustained and reached out to us to start this dialogue.”
But USA Rice Chief Operating Officer Bob Cummings tells Agri-Pulse that he’s not convinced.
“I’m not sure I abide by the whole argument,” Cummings said. “They came to us with the proposal. They’re big customers, so we’re going to listen to them and we’re now going to start the process internally, examining what they came to us with.”
The interaction between FECARROZ and USA Rice has been cordial, with the Latin officials getting a warm welcome in San Diego at the U.S. group’s annual outlook conference, but the visitors came with deep convictions.
“We’re going to die standing and fighting this,” Rojas told the U.S. farmers and millers attending the meeting.
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