Friday, February 22, 2019

22nd February,2019 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

Effects of GM foods on Pakistan’s food security

FEBRUARY 21, 2019
Description: Haider RifaatGMOs undergo gene modification through a complex, scientific process known as genetic engineering responsible for altering the nutritional content of organic foods through technology. A number of selected traits are either added or removed from one organism to another. Although GMOs are beneficial to humans today, a controversial debate surrounding the subject matter has been ongoing for decades. They promote a healthy lifestyle, increase crop yields, generate employment, provide better opportunities for rising scientists and produce vaccines and drugs for effective use.
In contrast, religious groups, researchers, nutritionists, political parties and media personalities have opposed GMOs. The rise of engineered foods in the twenty first century has raised questions regarding the exploitation of nature using technology. They likely cause allergies, carcinogenicity and new viruses. In the context of Pakistan, GM foods are widely grown by farmers through questionable technology. Since our economy profoundly relies on agriculture, native farmers employ alternative means of producing organic foods using biotechnology, a field not so prominent in Pakistan. Considering the evidence, we are not a technologically advanced state.
GM foods have become an integral part of Pakistan’s food industry. Take for instance the milk cartons sold in supermarkets. They comprise of ‘alien’ components that improve shelf life. Similarly, many processed foods are products of GMOs. One such example is chicken meat. Chickens are treated with vaccines to increase their body mass and feed large communities. According to a research study by Waris Ali Gobal, Aleem Ahmad and Hadi Bux, the most common GM crop in Pakistan is BT cotton manufactured in Southern Punjab.
The National Nutrition Survey conducted in 2011 reported that 62 percent of Pakistan’s population is food insecure while the Global Health Index concluded that Pakistan is one of the most food insecure countries in Asia
In a research paper published in April 2016, Jazib Ali proposed ethical concerns pertaining to GMOs in Pakistan. BT rice is grown nationwide and consumers have no idea what their food contains. Similarly, a Dawn report highlighted the senate committees’ decision to import commercialised GM crops. Federal Secretary Food Security and Research, Seerat Asghar reinstated that the bill “ensures checks and balances and lays down a strict procedure to check these kinds of crops.” While plants undergo gene modification, an increased level of toxins leak out during the process that may cause harm to humans and crops. Perhaps the most important factor is the alteration in nutritional quality of foods. Scientists can purposely increase or decrease nutritional value in different food items. This may harm the crops and pose a threat to food security. The National Nutrition Survey conducted in 2011 reported that 62 percent of Pakistan’s population is food insecure while the Global Health Index (GHI) concluded that Pakistan is one of the most food insecure countries in Asia.
GMOs can also lead to certain allergic reactions in humans, as some components of microorganisms are untested for use. Food Security expert and environmentalist Dr. Azra Sayeed stated that GM foods are “fresh onslaught of imperialist corporations” and the government’s “unquenchable thirst for profits.” Dr. Abid Mahmood of the Ayub Agriculture Research Institute held that almost 99 percent of cotton grown in Pakistan is genetically engineered. Pakistan’s Agriculture Research Council (ARC) added that long trial periods are necessary to rule out health and environmental risks associated with genetically engineered crops.
In light of the evidence, technology and nature are immiscible. Although genetic engineering is an integral part of technology and science, GM foods can impair humans in the long run unless we opt for effective checks and balances to sustain the problem. Scientists rely heavily on their systematic procedures and often overlook animal and human rights. They avoid retesting vaccines, foods and drugs. It is mandatory to monitor the harmful effects of GMOs and come up with alternatives to produce better and healthier foods that are not mere products of technology.
The writer is a model and an actor
Published in Daily Times, February 21st 2019.

Government to settle for 93% rice self-sufficiency rate

The unimpeded rice importation will mean that the locally produced rice should not fill up the Philippines' rice demand
Anna Gabriela A. Mogato
Published 4:55 PM, February 21, 2019
Updated 4:55 PM, February 21, 2019
Description: RICE INDUSTRY. A farmer plants rice in Jaen, Nueva Ecija. File photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler
RICE INDUSTRY. A farmer plants rice in Jaen, Nueva Ecija. File photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – The government will have to settle for its current rice self-sufficiency rate to accommodate the incoming unimpeded entry of rice imports into the country.
In a press conference on Thursday, February 21, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said they will have to settle for a 93% self-sufficiency rate for rice. (READ: Rice self-sufficiency: the dangerous dream)
"We will maintain 93% production right now. We cannot reduce our production targets," he added.
This goes against the earlier promise of the Duterte administration to achieve 100% rice self-sufficiency to wean off the country's dependence on importing rice to fill up the remaining demand.
For 2019, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has set a target production of 20 million metric tons. (Piñol said the DA is expecting good harvest for the 1st and 2nd quarters of the year given the absence of heavy rains.
Unexpectedly, Piñol said they are not too concerned about the looming El Niño.
"[We are] thankful that El Niño will hit us just as the harvest season is over. The National Irrigation Administration can use this time to repair their systems [so] we are not too worried," he added.
Should there be an excess in production, Piñol said it could also be easily dealt with by exporting the rice to avoid plummeting prices of the staple in the market.
"[Y]ou have not taken into account the other provision of the liberalization law. Farmers can also export rice. It sounds ridiculous, but we're already doing it," he added, referring to homegrown hybrid rice producer and grower SL Agritech Corporation.

Government to settle for 93% rice self-sufficiency rate

To ensure that locally produced rice is of export quality, the DA is moving to have farmers shift to planting high-value rice seeds.
"By making our farmers plant better-quality rice, we can open a new market: organic rice market, Class A rice market, which could be our outlet for excess rice," Piñol said.
NFA woes
As the National Food Authority (NFA) Council chairman, Piñol also tackled other concerns over the rice tariffication law, which limited the powers of the state grains agency.
He said they cannot assure the job security of about 1,000 NFA employees.
"I am appealing to the members of the NFA union to accept this. There's nothing we can do about it. You cannot reverse the decision anymore. It's already a law," Piñol said.
"Working for the government is not a right, it’s a privilege. Let's perform the new role given to the NFA by this law."
In the meantime, Piñol said they will be strengthening the NFA's remaining function to serve as the "shock absorber" if palay prices drop.
This would mean that the NFA will still continue to sell lower-priced rice in the market despite the removal of the suggested retail prices.
"The NFA will not be allowed to import rice, [but] the fact remains that the NFA will still be procuring locally produced rice," Piñol said.
"If you're buying palay, you have to mill it. The NFA will really still have to release it to the market. What if there's no calamity?"
Despite the rice tariffication law removing the NFA's power to conduct government-to-government importation, as well as regulate the importation of other traders, Piñol said private traders cannot import rice until the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) are finalized.
The DA will be holding information and consultation activities nationwide to include the inputs of private stakeholders in the IRR. These will be presented at the NFA Council meeting on March 5.
To avoid too much rice in the market, Piñol explained that President Rodrigo Duterte can impose bans by adjusting tariffs up to 180%. However, this can only work if Congress is on break. –

NegOcc prepares farmers for rice tariffication

Description: those relying on rain-fed farming in Sipalay, Negros Occidental, the rainy season means one thing –planting has begun. Rice farmers can be seen in the fields with other members of the family helping out. PHOTO BY ICRC/VON GUSTILO
BACOLOD City – The Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) of Negros Occidental underscored the need to prepare rice farmers for coping with challenges brought by the tariffication measure.
“Our farmers really need the help of the government mainly in terms of lowering down production cost and increasing productivity,” Provincial agriculturist Japhet Masculino said on Sunday, two days after President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the measure lifting restrictions on rice importation.
Masculino noted that one major effect would be cheaper price of imported than locally-produced rice.
Necessary interventions should be done immediately given the little time to prepare as the implementing rules and regulations may be out soon, he added.
Negros Occidental is known as the country’s top sugar-producing province, but it has also become one of the top 10 rice producers in the past years in its bid to become 100 percent rice-sufficient.
Masculino said one measure to reduce production cost of Negrense rice farmers is mechanization, which the provincial government has already been implementing since last year.
He added that if the government can seriously implement mechanization by providing funds for the purchase of machineries, it would be a big help because labor comprises more than 50 percent of the total production cost.
“Our mechanization accomplishment, especially in the planting and harvesting stages, is still minimal. If we can just fully mechanize at least our irrigated areas of 40 hectares, it would already be a big thing,” Masculino said.
Duterte certified the rice tariffication bill as urgent in October 2018 “to address the urgent need to improve availability of rice in the country, to prevent artificial rice shortage, reduce the prices of rice in the market, and curtail the prevalence of corruption and cartel domination in the rice industry.”
A month after the President certified the measure as urgent, a report on the bill was ratified by the bicameral conference committee.
Under the rice tariffication bill, quantitative restrictions on rice importation are lifted and private traders are allowed to import the commodity from countries of their choice.
The bill imposes a 25-percent duty on rice imports from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations member-states and a 50-percent rate on imports from non-members of the regional bloc. (PNA) AM, February 22, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, February 22, 2019

Wheat imports drop for higher rice harvests

Wheat imports slumped 17.8 percent year-on-year to 34.20 lakh tonnes in the first seven months of the fiscal year owing to its escalating price in the international market and the relatively lower prices of its substitute rice locally.
The import of the grain soared last fiscal year following losses for recurrent floods, according to two private importers.
Since then farmers have bagged good harvests of rice, reducing the appetite for wheat among a section of consumers.
“Rice prices are competitive this year while the prices of wheat have increased in the international market this year,” said Abul Bashar Chowdhury, chairman of BSM Group, a major commodity importer from Chattogram.
The low-protein wheat's price soared to $240-$270 a tonne in recent months from $190-$230 a year ago, he said. 
In addition, higher domestic production of rice has also dampened the prices of the staple in the domestic market.
Retail prices of coarse rice, consumed mostly by the low-income people, fell 10 percent year-on-year to Tk 38-42 a kilogram yesterday in Dhaka city, according to market data by the state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh.
Wheat flour prices remained unchanged.
“There is a section of people who switch to wheat if the prices of rice are higher. They return to rice if the prices of the staple remain relatively low,” Chowdhury said.
This is the first time since fiscal 2011-12 that wheat imports dropped. Over the last seven years, spiralling domestic demand trebled wheat import as local production fell short.
Total import by the public and private sector rose to 4.8 percent year-on-year to 58.80 lakh tonnes in fiscal 2017-18, according to food ministry data.
As of January 31, public sector imported 1.97 lakh tonnes and private sector imported 32.22 lakh tonnes, according to Fortnightly Foodgrain Outlook by the food planning and monitoring unit under the food ministry.
“We see a kind of negative growth this time. Total wheat import is likely to fall if the international prices continue to remain up and farmers harvest bumper rice in the next season,” Chowdhury added.
Abdus Shukur, head of supply chain (food and energy) of Bashundhara Group, one of the leading importers and processors of wheat, however, expects wheat imports to not fall come the end of the fiscal year.
“Imports picked up in January,” he said, adding that the total imports this fiscal year would be 60 lakh tonnes.
Domestically, wheat area has contracted further to 3.29 lakh hectares during the current season as many growers have switched to maize and other crops to cash in on higher gains, according to the Department of Agricultural Extension.
Farmers grew the grain on 3.50 lakh hectares and harvested 10.98 lakh tonnes in fiscal 2017-18, according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.

Finally moving?
DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - February 22, 2019 - 12:00am
Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo delivered on President Duterte’s priorities as far as the House is concerned. No one could have expected the former Speaker, even if he is also from Davao, to deliver what Speaker Arroyo did.
On top of the list is the landmark reform of our rice industry. President Duterte deserves congratulations for showing real political will to embrace long needed change that will benefit rice farmers as well as rice consumers.
Despite resistance from his own agriculture secretary, the President signed the rice tariffication bill into law. He could have just allowed it to lapse and then pin responsibility on his economic managers and Congress. But he signed it to deliver a strong point that he wants a new system.
Starting March, NFA will no longer control rice importations. Instead, rice imports will be covered by new tariffs: 35 percent for rice imports sourced from ASEAN members; 40 percent for imports within the 350,000 metric ton minimum access volume (MAV) regardless of source country; and 180 percent for above-MAV imports from non-ASEAN country.
The tariffs are expected to raise between P7 billion to P11 billion in additional government revenues in its first year of implementation. Economic managers are also expecting a P7 per kilo drop in rice prices with the influx of imported rice and with it, result in a lower inflation rate.
Government will pass on the 35 percent tariff on imported rice to farmers to help them become more competitive. Under NFA trading restrictions, only 23 percent of the potential protection was passed on to farmers in 2017.
UP economist Ramon Clarete estimates that rice consumers in Metro Manila in 2017 paid on average 41 percent more than the landed price of rice imported freely from Vietnam or Thailand. But our rice farmers sold their rice at only nine percent above this free trade price. The difference, or 32 percent went to rice traders, millers, or were simply lost to market inefficiencies in the rice value chain.
By signing the rice tariffication bill into law, President Duterte kicks off the process of substantially reducing the inefficiencies and collusion in the rice market system. Clarete explained this old system made rice farmers poor over the last half century. Farmers will be better off as they capture more of the intended trade protection of the law from rice traders in collusion with corrupt NFA agents.
Indeed, Clarete pointed out, most of the rice farmers are also rice consumers during most part of the year. The new law benefits them, along with non-rice farmers in rural areas, fisherfolk, workers, and residents in urban areas.
The new law also opens the market to conglomerates like San Miguel whose experience and resources can provide the efficiencies that can bring down further the retail price of rice. It will also be easier to track import volumes and tax liabilities with San Miguel than it would be with Divisoria rice traders.
President Duterte also signed into law the Mobile Number Portability Act that allows cell phone users to switch networks without changing their numbers. This is in line with the President’s desire to have more competitiveness in the telco industry.
As the law itself pointed out in Section 3 (a), it wants “to promote consumer welfare as it fosters the freedom to choose and to respond to quality, price and other relevant considerations without the consumers having to change their mobile numbers whenever they change mobile service providers or subscription plans.”
Mobile number portability is the ability of a mobile postpaid or prepaid subscriber to retain an existing mobile number despite having moved from one mobile service provider to another, or to change subscription mode from postpaid to prepaid or vice versa. Under this law, telcos must act within 24 hours from the time a subscriber submits application.
I like this new law. NTC could have ordered this, but it had always been too scared or too much of a captive regulator of the telco industry to do so.
But then, we still have just two telcos to choose from. Many of us already have accounts in both, just to make sure. We still need the third, fourth, and possibly fifth telco to fully benefit from the law.
Still, it is a good start and the intentions of the Duterte administration in having this law is laudable.
But there could have been more laws delivered to promote our welfare as telecoms consumers… the Open Access bill for instance.
It is amazing how a single senator stood in the way of passing legislation that will speed up internet speed by introducing more competition through open access. That could have had more immediate effect on our lives than the third telco.
Then there is the law creating the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development. It consolidates the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB). Hopefully, this will give us a more comprehensive way of addressing the housing needs of people.
Good intentions, but with the same bureaucracy, we cannot expect much unless Duterte appoints a really good secretary. Will this mean we will have better planning and land use policies? I have my doubts, but hopeful.
Given the high rate of growth of our urban areas, we need better regulation and better regulators. The areas around Clark are booming and it will be a pity if the nearby towns end up like Metro Manila did.
Problems like congestion due to lack of planning and appropriate regulations can be observed in Angeles, Mabalacat, and San Fernando. Ayala is starting to develop virgin fields in Porac of 1,800 hectares and only 22 percent open space instead of the minimum 30 percent required by PD957. So much work to do for this new department.
There are many other new laws signed by the President in recent days. On the whole it is good to see some progress with these new laws. Interesting to see how the implementation side works out.

Millennials, Gen Z and rice tariffs

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:08 AM February 22, 2019
ICYMI: While we were busy with our dates and Instagram posts on Feb. 14, the Rice Tariffication Act became law. The government’s economic managers say it can bring down rice prices and ease inflation, but farmers and other agricultural bodies are mourning the “death of the rice industry.” In the middle of all this—though we may not immediately realize it—we, millennials and Gen Z-ers, have a role to play.
In brief, Republic Act No. 11203 lifts the restriction on rice imports, allowing private traders in the country to import rice more freely. In turn, rice imports will be slapped with a tariff. The law also removes the commercial and regulatory powers of the National Food Authority (NFA) , which was previously tasked with the regulation, licensing and monitoring of rice traders.
After the law takes effect on March 5, we are expected to get an influx of imported rice, especially from our neighbors like Thailand and Vietnam whose rice prices are much lower. Even with the tariff, the prevailing prediction is that the entry of cheap rice can drive down prices by as much as P7 per kilo.
While the law sounds like a godsend for consumers, farmers’ groups fear that our local farms will not stand a chance against massive and cheap rice imports. It’s no secret that our rice industry is far from competitive in relation to our neighbors; production costs alone push our farmers to debt, compounded by low yields and environmental vulnerability. Some expect that with the flood of low-priced competition, many Filipino rice farms will not survive.
The law does provide that revenue from the tariffs will go to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, which is intended to boost our local farmers. However, this has been met with skepticism, given the government’s record of failed promises in agriculture and officials’ past misuse of people’s funds.
On top of all these are concerns that import liberalization will greatly hurt our food security, and that deregulation will cost the jobs of about 1,000 NFA workers.
It’s a policy change with wide-reaching ripples. As a 20-something looking at it through the lens of youth and zero political experience, it’s easy to get lost and feel helpless in the sidelines. But the reality must hit us: Our farmers will experience the brunt in their livelihood. And with this, young people have a greater opportunity—and a higher calling—to contribute their skills to agriculture.
The Department of Agriculture reported that the average age of Filipino farmers is 57 years old, indicating the youth’s declining involvement in farming. This is despite the many scholarships and free tuition programs for Aggie students. Members of the academe have expressed dismay over the low number of enrollees in agriculture courses, as well as the inclination of agriculture graduates to pursue jobs abroad.
We can’t deny that the state of agriculture in the Philippines isn’t attractive to young workers and professionals. But that’s exactly why we are needed here.
If we’re not keen on farming itself, there are various areas of agriculture where young talent is valuable: agricultural research (especially as the Philippines is home to the International Rice Research Institute), agricultural engineering, development communication, agricultural economics.
Now is a time when our rice farmers may need to either upgrade their farming practices or move to a more viable crop than rice. It is then vital to get more professionals with fresh ideas involved in developing better farm input and methods, as well as in communicating and transferring these new technologies to farmers. Likewise, our farmers could benefit from the service of passionate new economists who could influence government policies with real-world data and bottom-up solutions.
Or, we can contribute proficiency in what we are already good at: technology and the internet. An award-winning study from the Philippine Rice Research Institute suggested that in the immediate term, the youth can be mobilized as “infomediaries,” to aid farmers access the wealth of information available through information and communications technology that would be useful in improving yield and reducing operational costs.
For us millennials and Gen Z-ers, “rice tariffication” may not be a sexy concept to talk about in our daily lives or post excitedly about on social media. But it signals a greater concern that we should be part of—a dire need for bright new thinkers and movers in Philippine agriculture. And that’s us, if we dare to be.
 Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) - February 22, 2019 - 12:00am
Buying rice from my suki wholesale supplier recently, I noticed two things. One is that all the types of rice are now classified as either regular or well milled, but the product tags still bear the names of the varieties or brands, with corresponding price differences.
The second noteworthy development is that the wholesaler now sells imported well-milled rice from Thailand, at a significantly lower price than a comparable local variety.
Out of loyalty to our very own, I bought the local one. But I’m sure the price difference will be a decisive factor for other consumers, especially commercial establishments.
Local producers are projecting a harvest of 19 million metric tons of rice this year – enough, they say, to meet about 95 percent of national demand. But they will have to bring down prices if they want to compete with a flood of cheaper imports. With profit margins shrinking as a result, we could see more people leaving rice farming.
As it is, younger generations of Filipinos no longer want to go into rice farming because of the poor returns. The Ifugao Rice Terraces are suffering more from neglect than from the giant worms eroding the paddies.
What will happen to our rice farmers with the enactment of the law that opens the doors to “unli” rice importation?
Local rice producers are warning that the new law spells the death of their industry. Some groups have warned that the New People’s Army is stepping up its recruitment among farmers who will be adversely affected by Republic Act 11203. It would be dangerous to dismiss this story as hype.
*      *      *
We want cheap rice, but we’re an agricultural country and we also don’t want to kill our local rice producers, especially the marginalized farmers.
So the debates continue over “unli” rice importation. Tariffs are being slapped on the imports, of which about P10 billion a year will go to a fund meant to enhance the competitiveness of local rice farmers.
Farmer Cathy Estavillo, Bantay Bigas spokesperson, says that in reality, only about P5 billion of that amount will go directly to farmers, mostly for agricultural machinery, with only P1 billion for financial support. With 2.7 million farmers nationwide, that amounts to only P370 each. Really, says Estavillo, how much farming competitiveness can that enhance? She says farmers need P50,000 per hectare for planting rice, and the enhancement fund is rather “too late the hero.”
Estavillo faced The Chiefs last Wednesday on Cignal TV’s One News together with Rosendo So, president of Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura or SINAG and Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
The SINAG head is upbeat about the new law, pointing out that about half of the actual total rice imports last year escaped the payment of tariffs. The rice enhancement fund is also earmarked for specific purposes, he and Edillon said, to prevent diversion or misuse.
Under the new law, rice pricing and supply will be left largely to market forces. Edillon reassures the public that there are still laws on fair trade and competitiveness to prevent overpricing and cartels.
She says NEDA studies have shown that 46 provinces, including Nueva Ecija and Kalinga, are ready for tariffication and can compete with any flood of imported rice.
Edillon explained that the bulk of the enhancement is going to machinery support because studies indicate that mechanized farming helped top rice producers Thailand and Vietnam keep their rice prices low.
While Estavillo says 10 million families depend on subsidized National Food Authority rice, which will no longer be available under the new law, Edillon says the NEDA found that 69 percent of regular NFA rice consumers are not classified as poor. We didn’t get to ask how this was determined.
Only time will tell if the rice fund will go the way of the corruption-tainted fertilizer fund. For now, the short-term impact of the new law is to bring down rice prices, even as local farmers bemoan the threat to their livelihood and the damage to local production. About 1,000 NFA employees also stand to lose their jobs.
*      *      *
Ramon Sanchez, secretary-general of the NFA employees’ association, told The Chiefs that tariffication is “a band-aid solution” and the country is 94 percent self-sufficient in its staple so there is no reason for “unli” importation. The NFA employees are banding together with local farmers and other stakeholders to challenge the constitutionality of the new law before the Supreme Court.
Estavillo shares those views and is calling for long-term solutions, such as easier access to micro credit. Farmers apparently are still seen as high-risk debtors and credit access is still difficult in banks.
Edillon and Estavillo agree on one issue: the need for a Land Use Act, to identify specific zones for food production and stop the continuing conversion of agricultural lands into mixed-use developments.
Estavillo, however, lamented that the first executive order signed this year by President Duterte was the fast-tracking of such land conversions, from the average of two years to just one month. Edillon clarified that the EO merely aims to cut red tape in the process, and the one month refers only to the period after all the requirements have been submitted.
Edillon also stressed the need for more investments in R&D, especially in adaptive research, to boost rice yields, quality and competitiveness of local varieties even for the export market.
*      *      *
This is one area that is being overlooked in the debate: the new law also reverses a ban and allows the export of local rice.
Now that exportation is allowed, Edillon says the country can boost production of special rice varieties that fetch top prices in the global market.
The deteriorating rice terraces in Banaue and Bontoc might actually enjoy a revival if their tasty highland rice can be exported as heirloom varieties. We also have brown, black and red rice as well as the genuinely blue-violet pirurutong, the variety that is used for authentic puto bumbong, although many cheat these days and simply use food color to make the popular rice cake. Have the rice certified as organic and the price goes even higher.
Flavors are now being genetically engineered into rice, so we should also be able to produce the more expensive varieties of pandan and jasmine rice, like Thailand.
Perhaps one day the new law will be struck down. For now, however, a new rice regime is being put in place. Ready or not, the local rice industry will have to adapt or perish.
Vietnam to export 6-7 mln tons of rice in 2019
Vietnam plans to export 6-7 million tons of rice this year, compared with roughly 6.1 million tons worth nearly 3.1 billion US dollars last year, according to its Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on Wednesday.  The country will intensify application of advanced technologies in growing paddy rice so that it can churn out 43.5 million tons of rice from 7.5 million hectares of paddy rice-growing area in 2019, said the ministry's Department of Crop Production.  Vietnam exported 400,000 tons of rice worth 180 million US dollars in January, seeing respective year-on-year declines of 18.5 percent and 24.8 percent.  Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Tuesday asked the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Industry and Trade to seek bigger and longer-term export markets for Vietnamese rice, the agriculture ministry said, noting that Vietnam's rice export turnovers surged in such markets as Indonesia, Iraq, China's Hong Kong and the Philippines last year.

Rice shortage looms as rivers dry up in Mwea

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2019 22:00 Description: A rice farmer at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme.A rice farmer at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme. FILE PHOTO | NMG 
An acute shortage of rice is looming in the country as low water levels hit the giant Mwea Irrigation Scheme in Kirinyaga County.
Rivers which supply water to the scheme which is Kenya's rice granary are drying up, raising fears that rice production may be low this season.
Water levels in Nyamindi and Thiba rivers which are the main sources of irrigation water have gone down drastically following a prolonged dry spell.
According to the chairman of the scheme's Water Users Association, Mr Maurice Mutugi, the water level is 1.4 cubic metres, down from 11.3 cubic metres.
"Water flowing currently cannot support farming in the 26,000 acre scheme and the situation is dire," said Mr Mutugi.
Efforts to ration water is even becoming difficult because the commodity is little and cannot be enough for all the farmers.
Mr Mutugi said the crisis had been aggravated by the licencing of 35 illegal intakes in the upper zone.
"The government authorised the intakes to allow horticultural farmers irrigate their crops, worsening water scarcity at the scheme," said Mr Mutugi.

He noted that farmers might incur heavy losses adding that the entire country could be hit by rice shortage if the rains do not start in March.
He called on the national government to hasten the construction of the Sh20 billion Thiba dam at Rukenya village in Gichugu to mitigate water shortage in the scheme which is the largest in East and Central Africa.
"If this dam is completed water problem will be history while rice production will double," said Mr Mutugi.
When the weather is favourable, the 7,000 farmers produce one million bags of rice, each weighing 90 kilogrammes. Farmers complained that their crop had started wilting due to water shortage.
"This season we shall harvest little rice or nothing if the dry weather persists," said Ms Mary Wanjiku.
The hardest-hit areas are Wamumu, Karaba, Kiandegwa, Mutithi and Nguka where rice is grown in large scale.

Days to rescheduled polls, Katsina rice farmers pledge, drum support for Buhari
by  Onyirioha Nnamdi - Ahead of the rescheduled elections, the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) in Katsina has pledged its support for President Muhammadu Buhari - The RIFAN said that it is throwing its weight behind President Buhari because he has transformed the lives of indigenes in the state through agricultural development - The association said that it needs Buhari in power so that he can consolidate on the gains of his administration The Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Katsina state chapter, has directed its members to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Aminu Masari in the rescheduled elections. Alhaji Shuaibu Wakili, the chairman of the chapter, said this in a statement in Daura on Thursday, February 21. He said the chapter issued the directive at the end of its general meeting in Katsina on Wednesday, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports. READ ALSO: upgrades to a letter from our Editor-in-Chief Bayo Olupohunda Wakili said that the directive became imperative for the association to throw its weight behind Buhari and Masari considering their individual efforts at transforming the agricultural sector since 2015. “We must vote for APC wisely and massively, according to our conscience,” the chairman said. He said that the Buhari led-administration had through its anchor borrower’s programme and other agricultural schemes, created millions of jobs, enhanced self-reliance and boosted food security. The chairman noted that Nigeria had substituted rice importation with export of the commodity. RIFAN also lauded the federal government on the provision of agricultural inputs to farmers through the anchor borrower’s programme. According to the association,over 250,000 farmers have benefitted from the programme across the 34 local government areas of the state .
 He said the anchor borrower’s programme had also created “thousands of millionaires“ stressing that farmers were provided with fertiliser, seedlings, water pumping machines, insecticides, sprayers and herbicides through revolving loan. He emphasised that the association found it expedient to galvanise support toward Buhari’s re-election, to enable him consolidate on the gains of his administration so far recorded. PAY ATTENTION: Get the Latest Nigerian News Anywhere 24/7. Spend less on the Internet! Wakili said: “The rice farmers and their families in Katsina state will ensure block votes for Buhari and Masari.
” Earlier, reported that RIFAN had drummed support for President Buhari’s re-election bid, ahead of the presidential election. This was the resolution of the national executives and state chairmen of the association in the 36 states and FCT on Tuesday, February 19, in Abuja. RIFAN's president, Aminu Goroyo, said that each of the 12.2 million members of the association had pledged their support for President Buhari. ( -> Same great journalism, upgraded for better service!

Paddy prices start to go up in Mekong Delta provinces

SGGPFriday, February 22, 2019 10:44
Rice prices have started going up in the Mekong Delta for the past two days after Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc ordered firms to buy rice for temporary storage.
Description: Paddy prices start to go up in Mekong Delta provinces
On February 21, the price of paddy bought at the field was at VND4,400-5,500 per kilogram, depending on varieties, up VND100-150 per kilogram compared to previous days.
Mr. Tran Chi Hung, director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Hau Giang Province, said that at a meeting with the provincial government recently, six local firms agreed to sign contracts to buy paddy for 22,000 hectares out of 78,000 hectares of winter-spring rice crop. These firms also pledged to buy paddy that does not include in the contract upon the market price.
Firms have been focusing on buying commodity paddy of the winter-spring rice crop. They feel encouraged when the ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development and Industry and Trade and banks had a meeting to discuss thoroughly consumption solutions for winter-spring rice crop in Mekong Delta provinces, said Mr. Nguyen Trung Kien, chairman of Gentraco.
According to some firms, farmers should not rush into selling winter-spring paddy so as to prevent firms from buying paddy at low prices, dragging down export prices, causing losses to both farmers and firms.
VietNam Southern Food Corporation (VINAFOOD 2) is sending its twelve subsidiaries to purchase winter-spring paddy at 34 places in the Mekong Delta. Rice exporters in the Vietnam Food Association have also proposed financial aid for purchase of paddy.
It is forecast that the demand for rice of the Philippines and Indonesia will increase in the first quarter of this year. Therefore, it is essential for Vietnamese rice exporters and farmers to temporarily stockpile paddy at this moment and wait for rice prices to increase.

Government seeks to boost rice exports

Cheng Sokhorng | Publication date 21 February 2019 | 10:25 ICT
Description: Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A farmer loads sacks of rice onto a truck in Moung Russey district’s Russey Kraing commune in Battambang province on January 17, 2016. Hong Menea
Prime Minister Hun Sen said the government will take more action to raise the Kingdom’s rice exports, including reducing production costs and boosting market competitiveness.
Speaking at a meeting with garment workers in Kandal province on Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Cambodia’s rice exports could not reach one million tonnes per annum due to strong international market competition.
However, he said the Kingdom has already reached one of the government’s policies as it is now a country of surplus rice production, as it is set to reach six million tonnes this year.
“We have transformed from a country of milled rice shortages to a Kingdom of rice production, but we cannot reach our goal yet [exporting one million tonnes of rice annually] because competition among our partners – such as Thailand and Vietnam – is very strong,” he said.
Fierce competition
Hun Sen said Thailand and Vietnam are able to export six and five million tonnes of milled rice respectively each year, due to their capacity to buy storage and drying facilities, as well as meet phytosanitary and sanitary measures. Production costs are also cheaper than in Cambodia.
“We will set up a new policy to reduce production cost such as connecting electricity supply to regions with water access, by replacing diesel machines with electric ones,” he said.
Hun Sen also encouraged studying domestic fertiliser production to produce cheaper options for the rice industry and reduce production costs.
Relevant ministers, including those leading the Commerce and Agriculture, and Forestry and Fisheries departments, need to expand and seek new markets as Cambodia has world-famous, high-quality rice, he said.
Cambodia Rice Federation vice-president Vong Bun Heng welcomed the move and believed that the Kingdom will reach the one-million-tonne target if the new policy on production costs is well implemented.
“Our issue is production costs. If the government takes more action to remedy production costs, I believe our rice exports will reach the government’s objective."
“We already have quality rice. If the [issue] is truly resolved, we will be able to compete with Vietnam and reach new markets,” he said.

Elementary Schools Host Think Rice Day
By Deborah Willenborg
ARLINGTON, VA -- Last month, more than 15,000 elementary students in the New York Tri-state area took part in Think Rice Day.  Over multiple lunch periods, students learned about U.S.-grown rice, consumed new rice dishes, and received Think Rice giveaways. Each participating school received large cafeteria posters on the different varieties of U.S.-grown rice, multiple classroom posters covering where rice is grown and health benefits, and a combination of Think Rice promotional items that included branded pencils, pens, stickers, and coloring books.
"These school promotions are a great opportunity for USA Rice to teach students and faculty the importance of U.S. rice in a fun and casual environment, while initiating important relationships with school foodservice decision-makers," said Cameron Jacobs, USA Rice domestic promotion manager.  "To reach 15,000 students with one event on one day is phenomenal!  We plan to host similar events in four schools in Pennsylvania in early March that will reach 2,000 more elementary students."
School Operation Services Group's Food Service Supervisor Kendall Stokes reached out to USA Rice and helped coordinate the event in conjunction with the Institutional Commodity Service (ICS) organization which supplies schools and institutions in the New York Tri-state area. 

"Our schools were very excited to take part in the Think Rice promotion," said Christopher Harris, Food Service Operations Manager of NY ICS.  "Our student demographic has strong roots in the Afro-Caribbean culture, and we paired the brown rice with one of our popular meals of oven roasted chicken pieces, steamed carrots, and rice and beans with a Afro-Caribbean twist.  The staff supervisors passed out the pens, pencils, and stickers during the lunch periods as students learned about the U.S. rice industry.  It was a great success and we really appreciate it."
USA Rice Daily

Executive decision
New WOTUS Rule Available for Comment
By Lydia Holmes
WASHINGTON, DC -- A new rule was published last Wednesday, February 13, to revise the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers definition of what is considered a Waters of the United States (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act.  The new rule was announced on December 11, 2018, but due to the government shutdown, was not published in the Federal Register until last week.

The 2015 rule was fraught with legal challenges and this action is part of a two-step process to repeal and replace the 2015 WOTUS rule initiated by President Trump's Executive Order 13777 "Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the 'Waters of the United States' Rule."  The executive order required EPA to review the 2015 rule and rescind or revise it based on consistency with the Scalia opinion in Rapanos v. United States.

USA Rice will provide substantive comments for the industry and encourages our members to provide individual comments of their own.  The 60-day comment period closes April 15 but has the potential to be extended based on calls from environmental groups to allow for a 120-day comment period.
USA Rice Daily

Amira Nature Foods Ltd to Exhibit at June Summer Fancy Food Show in NYC

February 21, 2019 08:00 AM Eastern Standard Time
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Amira Nature Foods Ltd (the "Company") (NYSE:ANFI), a global provider of packaged specialty rice, today announced that they will be exhibiting for the sixth year in a row at the Summer Fancy Food Show, the largest specialty food trade event in North America. The event, taking place at the Jacob Javits Center in NYC from June 23rd through June 25th, will draw both trade manufacturers and buyers alike, as food industry innovators host Thought Leader discussions to examine trade trends and best practices.
2,500 exhibitors will be in attendance and combined will have more than 180,000 specialty food products on display.
Be sure to stop by the Company’s booth to learn more about Amira’s products. Amira will be sampling some of their most popular products in their line-up at the show as well.
The Summer Fancy Food Show is open to the public. For admission pricing and more information on this annual event, please visit their website at:
About Amira Nature Foods
Founded in 1915, Amira has evolved into a global provider of packaged specialty rice, with sales in over 40 countries today. Amira sells Basmati rice, premium long-grain rice grown only in certain regions of the Indian sub-continent, under their flagship Amira brand as well as under other third party brands. Amira sells its products primarily in emerging markets through a broad distribution network. Amira’s headquarters are in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and it also has offices in India, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Cautionary Note on Forward-Looking Statements
This release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the U.S. federal securities laws. These forward-looking statements generally can be identified by phrases that we or our members of management use such as “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “foresee,” “forecast,” “estimate” or other words or phrases of similar import. Specifically, these statements include, among other things, statements that describe our expectations for the global rice market, the financial impact of new sales contracts on our revenue, our expectations regarding the successful efforts of our distribution partners, and other statements of management’s beliefs, intentions or goals. It is uncertain whether any of the events anticipated by the forward-looking statements will transpire or occur, or if any of them do, what impact they will have on our results of operations, financial condition, or the price of our ordinary shares. These forward-looking statements involve certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated in such forward-looking statements, including but not limited to our ability to perform our agreements with customers; our ability to recognize revenue from our contracts as planned; continued competitive pressures in the marketplace; our reliance on a few customers and distribution partners for a substantial part of our revenue; our ability to implement our plans, forecasts and other expectations with respect to our business and realize additional opportunities for growth; and the other risks and important considerations contained and identified in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. All forward-looking statements attributable to us or to persons acting on our behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by these risk factors. Other than as required under the securities laws, we undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking or other statements herein, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.


Wendy Eguez
The Amira Group


Asia Rice: Top export hubs grapple with waning demand as supplies mount

·       FEBRUARY 21, 2019 / 6:41 PM /
(Reuters) - Rice export markets in India and Thailand were pressured this week by slack demand as harvests poured in, continuing a slow trend in top Asian hubs this year, while Vietnam struggled with a growing stockpile exacerbated by Chinese import restrictions.
Labourers remove dried grass from a rice field on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, August 30, 2016. Picture taken August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Amit Dave
In top exporter India, prices for the benchmark 5 percent broken parboiled variety were unchanged from last week at $380-$385 a tonne due to dwindling interest from Africa.
“For the last few weeks, export demand has been weak. African buyers are not active in the market,” said an exporter based at Kakinada in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. India’s rice exports between April and December dropped 10.2 percent from a year earlier to 8.46 million tonnes, a government body said earlier this week.
The second largest exporter Thailand saw prices for its 5 percent broken rice variety rising to $383-$405 a tonne, free on board Bangkok, from $382-$398 last week even as demand was muted.The slight rise in prices was dictated by a stronger baht, while fresh supply entered the market, a trader in Bangkok said.
Thailand continued to look to the Philippines for a possible deal, but the domestic currency’s strength versus the dollar has impeded sales, traders said.
The baht has gained more than four percent this year, translating into higher export prices in U.S. dollars.
Also, Vietnamese rice was more competitively priced, another trader said.Prices of Vietnam’s 5 percent broken rice were flat at $340, with a sizeable harvest and trade curbs from China causing growing stockpiles of fragrant rice in the country, reducing domestic prices.
“Domestic paddy prices have also fallen sharply recently amid a large harvest that will peak at the end of this month,” a Ho Chi Minh City-based trader said.
However, the government’s decision to buy 200,000 tonnes of rice from local farmers has provided a firm base against a further fall in prices.
Elsewhere, the Bangladeshi government is contemplating introducing newer rice varieties and technology in an effort to boost domestic production and ensure food security, agriculture ministry officials said.Bangladesh, the world’s fourth largest producer with annual production of nearly 35 million tonnes, saw imports surge in 2017 after floods wrought havoc on local crops, prompting the country to take measures to shore up domestic reserves

Agriculture dept to host consultations on rice tariffs law

Feb 21 2019 09:20 AM | Updated as of Feb 21 2019 09:30 AM
MANILA -- The Department of Agriculture said Thursday it would host consultations with stakeholders as government prepared to implement a law that puts tariffs on rice in place of import quotas.
The Rice Tariffication Law signed last week is among measures aimed at bringing down prices of the staple grain to tame inflation. Its implementing rules and regulations or IRR are still pending
Agriculture Sec. Manny Pinol told DZMM he initially feared that rice prices could not be controlled under the new liberalized regime.
He said he received assurances from the law's author, Sen. Cynthia Villar, that P10 billion would be allocated to the farm sector.
While the waiting for the government to fund the P10 billion allocation, Pinol said the DA was using for the meantime a P5 billion release from the Department of Budget and Management last December.

Agri dep’t steering farmers to plant high-end rice
February 21, 2019 | 9:54 pm
Description: rice palay harvestPHILSTAR/MICHAEL VARVCAS
THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it is now encouraging farmers to plant special rice to fill a developing niche for “good eating quality” and “aromatic” varieties whose prices are not controlled, in the face of more liberal imports of rice intended for low-cost markets.
“The strategy now is to encourage farmers to plant special rice RC 160, RC 218, RC 300, of good eating quality and even aromatic.” Mr. Piñol said in a briefing in Quezon City.
“It is a lot higher [in price] than the ordinary palay bought now at P14 to P15 per kilo,” according to Mr. Piñol, noting that RC 160 rice can command P22 to P25 per kilo at farmgate level.
The Rice Tariffication Law will come into force in early March, and will allow private entities to import the staple more freely from more efficient producers outside the Philippines. Southeast Asian rice will be charged tariffs of 35% according to regional trade agreements. The measure is expected to make rice affordable for the poor, control inflation, and generate revenue from the tariffs. However, the industry has also warned that domestic farmers might be forced out of the market by cheap imports.
Its enactment has led the DA to abandon its long-held goal of 100% rice self-sufficiency and set a target of around 93%, which is the current share of domestic rice as against imports.
“We may be contented with just the 93% that we have right now. The influx of imported rice may affect the prices of rice in the market and further dampen the buying price of palay,” Mr. Piñol said.
Mr. Piñol added that the DA is hoping to develop a market for organic rice which can be exported.
“We are going to open a new market and this could be the organic rice market… which could be our outlet for excess production,” Mr. Piñol said.
The new law also calls for the establishment of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) which will be endowed with P10 billion a year for six years to improve mechanization, access to seed and access to financing in the industry.
The industry has raised fears that corrupt politicians might gain control of the fund, while Mr. Piñol suggested that the funding might not suffice for farmes’ seed needs.
“We agreed that greater support will be given to Filipino rice farmers. This will come in the form of rice seeds and fertilizers as ordered by the President. When we computed the amount of money allocated for rice seeds, we discovered that it will not be enough to cover the rice farmers,” Mr. Piñol said.
He also lobbied for RCEP funding to be available before the next planting.
“We need to provide interventions to the farmers in the next planting season but I think we won’t be able to do it because we have no money yet,” Mr. Piñol said.
The rice tariffication law is scheduled to take effect by March 5 and the National Food Authority (NFA), which will lose its importing role under the law, is set to finalize the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) within 30 days.
According to Mr. Piñol, consultations will be held with stakeholders starting Feb 26 for the Northern Luzon cluster covering the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and Regions 1, 2 and 3.
Discussions among stakeholders in Southern Luzon covering Region 4A, Region 4B, Region 5, are scheduled for Feb. 28, while consultations with stakeholders in the Visayas are set for March 1.
“On March 2, the policy planning office of the DA will work to complete a collated report on the results of the consultation and DA will submit and present this during the NFA Council meeting on March 5,” Mr. Piñol said. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio

Rice self-sufficiency not achievable

FEBRUARY 22, 2019
THE Philippines stands to miss its goal of achieving 100-percent rice self-sufficiency given the liberalization of imports, a Cabinet official warned on Thursday.
Breaking from the official line, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol told reporters that the Rice Tarrification Act, which replaces quantitative restrictions on imports of the staple, would discourage farmers from growing rice and thus lead to lower output.
Description: arrange sacks of rice at the NFA warehouse in Quezon City. PHOTO BY ROGER RAÑADA
“You have to understand that huge volumes of imported rice would be coming in. It would be foolish for us to target a 100-percent sufficiency when we know that cheaper imported rice would be coming in,” he said in a press conference.
“[I]t would be foolish for us to still encourage our farmers to target 100-percent. Where do we sell our excess rice when we can’t compete pricing against imported rice?”.
Piñol, who had set a 2018 target to achieve rice self-sufficiency, said “we may have to be contented with just 93-percent where we are right not because the inflow of imported rice may affect the prices of rice in the market and further dampen the buying price of palay.”
At current production levels, the country still needs to import about 600,000 to 800,000 metric tons (MT) of rice to satisfy domestic needs.
The Rice Tariffication Act, which will take effect March 5, will allow private traders to apply for unlimited importations of the grain as long as they secure the necessary permits and pay the proper duties, set at 35 percent for rice sourced from Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) neighbors.
A 40-percent tariff will be levied on shipments sourced from non-Asean countries within the minimum access volume of 350,000 MT, going up to 180 percent for out-quota imports.
The government has said that rice tariffication would bring down prices of the staple and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno has even proposed that the country import all of its rice needs and that rice farmers shift to growing high-value crops.

Rice imports always contentious

·       Editorial Board
The Jakarta Post
Jakarta   /   Thu, February 21, 2019   /   08:44 am
Description: Rice imports always contentiousStevedores unload bags of rice from a truck at Cipinang Market in East Jakarta in this file photo. (The Jakarta Post/Ben Latuihamallo)
The rationale behind the government’s policy on rice stockpiling, partly from imports, which President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo explained during the second round of the presidential debates on Sunday, makes sense. Particularly so in view of the vulnerability of rice crops to bad weather and pest attacks.
There are several other factors that require the government to build up a contingency stock that can be transported to anywhere across the archipelago to meet unexpected needs: the country is prone to natural disasters, most of the national rice production is in Java, subsidized rice is a component of the social assistance program and only a few countries in the world export rice.
The government has since the early 1970s stockpiled rice through the National Logistics Agency (Bulog) with a view to shielding consumers from food price spikes and ensuring stable prices for both consumers and farmers.
Because rice is the main staple for the majority of the people and most rural households are net rice consumers and rice weighs heavily in the consumer price index (inflation), the government does not want to take even the smallest risk of being caught unprepared when demand rises sharply as a result of one of the factors cited above.
Waiting to import rice only after a major shortage arises would be calamitous because what starts as an isolated shortage can quickly escalate into a crisis during the time lag between ordering the imports and the arrival of the shipments.
Certainly, the efficiency and effectiveness of the management of the stocks depends on the accuracy of domestic production and consumption so that the volume of reserves is not excessive but simply adequate to protect the country from volatile world prices or low production.
The present policy of controlling rice prices within an annually reviewed range of minimum and maximum prices to ensure fairness for both consumers and producers and importing rice only as a contingency measure has been implemented over the past 45 years.
The perpetual subject of contention has always been the reliability and accuracy of the data on production and consumption which, the government itself has admitted, vary widely from one ministry to another.
So when Jokowi said during the debates that Indonesia produced 33 million tons last year while consumption was estimated at only 29 million tons, Prabowo Subianto questioned why the government still imported rice last year at the expense of domestic farmers.
We should not get lost in endless debate as to whether Indonesia needs rice imports or not. We should instead focus on empowering the farmers who produce that staple, providing them with extension services, good production inputs and high-yield varieties.
Rice imports are necessary from time to time depending on the need for stockpiling. But the fact is that imports so far have never exceeded 10 percent of the national demand and imported rice has never been released onto the market below the fixed minimum price for local rice.

Laos urges China to increase rice import quota to 50,000 tonnes | #AsiaNewsNetwork
Vientiane (Vientiane Times) - The Lao Ministry of Industry and Commerce this week requested China to consider a rice im-port quota of 50,000 tonnes along with accepting other industrial goods as part of efforts to bol-ster bilateral trade. 
The call was made by Minister of Industry and Commerce, Ms Khemmani Pholsena on Tuesday during a meeting in Vientiane with a Chinese delegation led by Vice Chairman of the People’s Republic of China National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), Mr Ning Jizhe.
The minister took the opportunity to ask for the Chinese side to consider more quotas for Lao products to Chinese markets this year, especially rice, rubber and other industrial and agricultural goods.
The call for the increased rice quota comes after 20,000 tonnes were shipped to the northern neighbour in 2017 by China’s Xuanye (Lao) Co., Ltd following approval from China’s NDRC.
Ms Khemmani also called for the visiting Chinese delegation to convey the request by the Lao side to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce for further consideration specifically more import quotas for Lao rice, rubber, Phongsaly-grown tobacco and other industrial products.
The Chinese delegation’s official working visit to Laos is in response to an invitation from the Lao side as part of efforts to boost bilateral cooperation between the two nations.
Mr Ning also informed Minister Khemmani that the Chinese delegation’s working visit to Laos was to encourage the implementation of various signed project agreements between Laos and China.
“Most importantly, we aim to push forward the ongoing construction of the Laos-China Rail-way project and the Laos-China economic corridor development project,” he said.
He also called for the industry and commerce minister to help in coordinating with other ministers concerned to shorten the process for importing machinery and other construction equipment for the rail project.
Ms Khemmani, who is Chairman of the Laos-China Cooperation Commission, said her ministry would try hard to push the domestic coordination to ensure the implementation framework of the two nations is on the move as planned. “Additionally, the Lao Ministry of Planning and Investment and NDRC will also need to work on the framework of the Laos-China economic corridor development project and improve the list of projects signed by the two sides,” she said. According to Ms Khemmani, Laos also exported over 55,000 tonnes of sugar to the Chinese market last year, while this year it is projected to export another 100,000 tonnes to China. Laos is expected to produce about 5 million tonnes of rice by 2020 to ensure food security in the country.

Government seeks to boost rice exports

Cheng Sokhorng | Publication date 21 February 2019 | 10:25 ICT
Description: Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A farmer loads sacks of rice onto a truck in Moung Russey district’s Russey Kraing commune in Battambang province on January 17, 2016. Hong Menea
Prime Minister Hun Sen said the government will take more action to raise the Kingdom’s rice exports, including reducing production costs and boosting market competitiveness.
Speaking at a meeting with garment workers in Kandal province on Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Cambodia’s rice exports could not reach one million tonnes per annum due to strong international market competition.
However, he said the Kingdom has already reached one of the government’s policies as it is now a country of surplus rice production, as it is set to reach six million tonnes this year.
“We have transformed from a country of milled rice shortages to a Kingdom of rice production, but we cannot reach our goal yet [exporting one million tonnes of rice annually] because competition among our partners – such as Thailand and Vietnam – is very strong,” he said.
Fierce competition
Hun Sen said Thailand and Vietnam are able to export six and five million tonnes of milled rice respectively each year, due to their capacity to buy storage and drying facilities, as well as meet phytosanitary and sanitary measures. Production costs are also cheaper than in Cambodia.
“We will set up a new policy to reduce production cost such as connecting electricity supply to regions with water access, by replacing diesel machines with electric ones,” he said.
Hun Sen also encouraged studying domestic fertiliser production to produce cheaper options for the rice industry and reduce production costs.
Relevant ministers, including those leading the Commerce and Agriculture, and Forestry and Fisheries departments, need to expand and seek new markets as Cambodia has world-famous, high-quality rice, he said.
Cambodia Rice Federation vice-president Vong Bun Heng welcomed the move and believed that the Kingdom will reach the one-million-tonne target if the new policy on production costs is well implemented.
“Our issue is production costs. If the government takes more action to remedy production costs, I believe our rice exports will reach the government’s objective."
“We already have quality rice. If the [issue] is truly resolved, we will be able to compete with Vietnam and reach new markets,” he said.
Rice yields to increase with newly-introduced varieties

February 22, 2019 00:26 am +08
YAN (Feb 21): Rice yields for farmers are expected to increase up to eight tonnes per hectare with the introduction of new varieties — UKMRC-2 and UKMRC-8 — by the research team from the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).
Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub said for the initial stage, the UKMRC-2 and UKMRC-8 seedlings would be available for farmers at the Muda Agricultural Development Authority (MADA)’s Area Farmers’ Organisation (PPK) starting this March.
He said the supply of the seeds of new varieties, produced from joint research between UKM and the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi), would be expanded in stages, nationwide.
“For the initial stage, the seeds offered are just enough for an area of up to 8,000 hectares of padi fields for next harvest season.
“We have planted the new varieties at several padi planting areas across the country and succeeded in increasing the yields of up to eight tonnes per hectare,” he told reporters after launching the UKMRC-2 and UKMRC-8 at PPK MADA in Guar Chempedak here, today.
He said UKMRC-2 and UKMRC-8 were cross bred between high-quality local rice varieties and wild rice varieties that have high resistance levels as well as high yields.
The new varieties were also durable and could survive well even when they are submerged in water for up to 14 days, he said.

Cameroon: Rice production failed to reach expectation in 2018 (600,000t)

(Business in Cameroon) - In 2018, rice production failed to reach the volume projected by the Irrigated and Rainfed Rice Development Project (Proderip) implemented in Cameroon with the support of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica).
Figures provided by Proderip showed that the maximum output is still 300,000 tons per year, while national demand is 600,000 tons. In need to offset this gap, the country spends about XAF120 billion to import rice per annum. However, Proderip keeps reassuring the government is still committed to increasing Cameroon's rice production to 750,000 tons by 2020. Once achieved, this will double the production in a year's time.
Since 2011, when the project was launched, Jica claimed it has contributed to the training of nearly 10,000 farmers and the distribution of nearly 75,000 tons of seeds. Let’s note that the second phase of Proderip, currently underway, aims to train nearly 4,000 new farmers.