Monday, April 08, 2019

8th April,2019 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

Govt plans to offload excess rice, wheat in open market

The government normally initiates an open market sale for bulk buyers after procurement.

By Rituraj Tiwari, ET Bureau|
Apr 08, 2019, 08.07 AM IST
Description: rice-gettyIndia may produce 115.60 million tonnes of rice and 99.12 million tonnes of wheat in 2018-19.New Delhi: The government plans to offload excess stocks of rice and wheat in the open market during the fresh procurement season to flour millers and other bulk consumers. The Committee of Secretaries (CoS) met a couple of days ago to decide on the course of action for the open market sale. Once the proposal gets through the CoS and the finance ministry, it will be vetted by the Election Commission of India.

The government normally initiates an open market sale for bulk buyers after procurement. This time, an e-auction is likely to be held during the procurement season ending in June as the Food Corporation of India, the agency that buys foodgrain for the government, is grappling with a paucity of storage space.

“Our godowns are inundated with rice and wheat and we are procuring more in the current season. To make way for the new crop, we need to liquidate wheat stocks in the open market at above the reserve price, which is the sum of the minimum support price of the foodgrain and its procurement cost,” a senior food ministry official said.

The FCI currently holds 26.3 million tonnes of rice and 20.1 million tonnes of wheat, according to data on its website. The government expects to procure 45 million tonnes of rice (kharif and rabi) and 35.7 million tonnes of wheat in the current season.

The government had targeted the sale of 10 million tonnes of wheat and 2 million tonnes of rice in the open market in the previous season. “We were able to sell 7 million tonnes of wheat and 800,000 tonnes of rice. This year also, the target is likely to be the same,” the official said, adding that there is little demand for wheat in the open market.

“But rice is not the favourite among millers and bulk consumers. We are unlikely to get very good response,” the official said. “But evacuating space from the new harvest is equally important.”

India may produce 115.60 million tonnes of rice and 99.12 million tonnes of wheat in 2018-19, according to the government’s second advance estimates of food grain production in February.

Ambassador Asad Alam Siam

APRIL 07, 2019
His beloved Bangladesh and his nation’s longtime Philippine friendship
Description: in the south of Himalayas amid a majestic interplay of three of the world’s major river basins, the People’s Republic of Bangladesh is a land of natural beauty blessed with lush greenery and many waterways. In possession of the most active deltaic plains, this South Asian country carries billions of tons of alluvial soil a year via a most dynamic, intricate river system in the world.
Moreover, Bangladesh is home to Cox’s Bazar — the longest sea beach in the world — and as an old land dotted with archeological heritage, it represents a diversity of major faiths, with a very hospitable and open people who pride themselves in their artistic heritage in arts, crafts, cuisine and creativity.
Despite the natural and societal riches of Bangladesh, however, there are many around the world who continue to have a negative perception of the country, mainly because only its negative side is often presented in mainstream media.
The most common news that comes from the country for example are how floods are very common there particularly during yearly monsoons and how cyclones and storm surges have caused widespread devastation in recent years.
Some also still remember how Bangladesh was once shattered by poverty for many years since it gained independence in 1971, as well as being the eighth most populous country in the world with a total of 164 million people living within 56,990 square miles.
Ambassador Siam admits Filipinos know little about Bangladesh today, and is wholeheartedly committed to raise awareness about his beloved country through his tenure and beyond. COVER PHOTO BY DJ DIOSINA
But the reality is, Bangladesh has become one of Asia’s most remarkable and unexpected success stories in recent years. Its economy is on a upsurge what with the country’s annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth far better compared to its neighboring countries.
This in mind, Bangladesh Ambassador to the Philippines Asad Alam Siam knows he has a lot of work to do to change the world’s impression of his beloved Bangladesh in his country of assignment and the rest of the world.
Description: Siam presents his credentials to President Rodrigo Duterte at Malacañang Palace in 2017.
Key player for unity
Since the beginning of his posting on February 28, 2017 when he presented his credentials to President Rodrigo Duterte, Ambassador Siam has been upbeat in nurturing a deeper friendship and stronger ties between the Philippines and Bangladesh as best he can.
Ambassador Siam came to the Philippines with a 23-year experience of representing his country in the international community after joining the Bangladesh Civil Service (Foreign Affairs Cadre) in 1995.
Description: Ambassador receives the ceremonial key of Manila from Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada.
Before his posting in Manila, Siam was former Chief of Protocol of the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Bangladesh; Director General in charge of the Europe Wing in the ministry; Consul General of Bangladesh in Milan, Italy; Assistant High Commissioner of Bangladesh in Manchester, United Kingdom; as well as serving in missions in Jakarta and Bangkok in different capacities.
Armed with a degree in Architecture from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) and a Master in Business Administration from the Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands, his choice of profession may seem surprising to most, but he is definitely thriving on the world’s diplomatic stage.
Description: the National Day celebration of Bangladesh in 2018.
The Sunday Times Magazine had the distinct opportunity to sit down with the seasoned envoy where he talked about the challenge and honor of uniting Bangladesh with many parts of the world.
Asean expert
One can venture to believe that as diplomats go, Ambassador Siam is already an Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] expert. The Philippines is his third Asean posting to date, following Indonesia and Thailand, which he credits for helping him adjust to the weather and culture of Manila.
“Like I said this is my third country [of posting] in the Asean. Besides that, I have been following the Asean region since I was a young diplomat so the knowledge I gathered definitely helped me when I was assigned to this part of the world,” he happily related.
Description: Bangladesh Cultural troupe participated in Philippine International Indigenous People’s Festival in Capiz.
“One advantage of being here in the Philippines is that I didn’t have to learn the language — everybody speaks in English!” Siam chuckled.
“But I understand many of the psychological, cultural and social traits that is prevalent in this region. Of course every society and country is different but there is also an underlining similarity among the Asean nations.
“So in many cases, since coming to the Philippines, the kind of understanding of what I had of Bangkok and Jakarta helped me get settled quicker here and understand the society very well.”
Description: Bangladeshi researchers at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, Laguna.
Filipinos’ friend
Ambassador Siam credits Filipinos for being “foreigner-friendly.”
“That’s what I like most in the Philippines — there are no question marks or frowning on foreigners. You are very foreigner-friendly country and I felt welcome and accepted from the very beginning. In fact in my first encounter with people here, they treated me like a friend so I’m very lucky to be here — with my wife and our six-year-old daughter.”
Working with Filipino members of his staff at the Bangladesh Embassy has also been a breeze for the ambassador for over two years now.
“Filipino people in general are very friendly and it’s never a problem to approach someone. My staff therefore are very accessible and receptive and if they see any cultural differences, they respect them. We have a very friendly environment at work.”
Description: chief executive officer Ben Chan and Ambassador Siam at the homegrown fashion giant’s headquarters. Bench outsources a few of its items from Bangladesh.
All the same, Siam is delighted to note more similarities between Bangladeshis and Filipinos which he continues to discover as the years go by.
“To begin with, Bangladesh and the Philippines are both tropical countries. We both have lots of friends, we both are fish- and rice-eating people. From the societal part, we are both friendly, and we are both religious though a majority have different religions in my country,” he enumerated.
“Both countries are also centered on families and social values and social cohesion is very strong. In terms of foreign policy, I think both follow the same principle, which for us was outlined by our Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman — that is, ‘friends to all, malice towards none.’
Description: Siam meets Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol at a courtesy call.
“We also face similar challenges — from climate change, disaster management and disaster recovery — but we are both very resilient.”
Clearly knowledgeable about his country of posting, the ambassador continued, “We both also have a big younger population in our demographic composition; many citizens working outside our countries, and our state visions are more or less the same.
Description: Bangladesh Dance troupe Shristi’s Manila performance.
“Like you, we have a vision by 2041 to become a developed country, wherein the journey will entail lots of investment and improvement of infrastructure projects.”
Strengthening ties
Despite the long list of similarities between the Philippines and his country that he knows off the top of his head, Ambassador Siam admitted that Filipinos hardly have any idea what Bangladesh is like today. To make that known remains to be a challenge he wholeheartedly takes on and vows to fulfill through his tenure and beyond.
“Sometimes Bangladesh appears very negatively as a country of flood, as a country of natural disaster due to international media. But I would say, Bangladesh is one of the fastest rising countries in the world, like the Philippines,” he emphasized to The Sunday Times Magazine.
Description: Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. (second from right) visits the Bangladesh stall at the International Bazaar organized by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“I’m happy to inform your readers that we have been achieving over six percent growth in our economy for a long time, making us the 41st economy in terms of size. By 2030, we will be the 23rd and Philippines will be 20th or 19th in the list, so we’re both growing country in terms of economy.”
“The more we can project ourselves to you through our rich culture, through people to people engagement, only then will Filipinos come to know that ours is a country that has potential they can engage with. Bangladesh is bordering the Asean region and it’s also between two big economies which are India and China. We are basically the land that bridges Southeast Asia with the rest of Asia.
“Aside from that, it’s a country that is also doing very well on its own despite being between these two economic powerhouses. We are more than 160 million people, so if you go there and do business or invest, you get a big market.”
Bridging the psychological distance
Besides the kind of news that is aired internationally about Bangladesh, the ambassador also relates the lack of information about his country in the Philippines to what he calls “psychological distance.”
“When I arrived here, I found that despite being so similar, there’s a sort of psychological distance between our two countries. And one way to bring awareness to the minds about our similarities is to address them culturally,” Siam shared.
Currently, his embassy is running numerous projects to engage with Filipinos through cultural and people-to-people exchange, which they will further develop throughout his tenure.
“We have sent Filipino journalists to Bangladesh and brought cultural teams over here. So there’s people to people exchanges already. Among these, I would say that the most important [activity] was the visit of our SME [small and medium-sized enterprises] delegation.
“There is a platform in my country, which actually helps poor Bangladeshi rural women to establish their own enterprises and they came here to see the work of Go Lokal by the Department of Trade and Industry and they were able to learn from you and implement their learnings back in Bangladesh.
“Aside from that, we had 400 teachers trained in the Philippines in installing automation and digital technology in the schools. Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has given us a dream to transform Bangladesh into a digital Bangladesh and this training was a part of that journey.”
Further strengthening ties with the Philippines, Bangladesh has also opened an honorary consulate in Davao City with the aim of fostering cooperation between Mindanao’s agriculture and business processing sectors.
According to Ambassador Siam, overall, Bangladesh is particularly interested in learning from the Filipino’s advance farming and deep sea fishing technique, the BPO sector, as well as the export of its medicine and garments.
Moreover, an exchange of different officials at different levels, especially in defense, has taken place between the two countries with Bangladesh receiving Filipino military officials for training in Bangladesh and vice versa.
Executives from Oishi, a leading food company in the Philippines, also went to Bangladesh to establish their factory there which became operational this year.
Foundation of history
In establishing just how far Philippine-Bangladesh relations go, Ambassador Siam went back in history and acknowledged the Philippines as one of the first Asean countries to recognize Bangladesh as republic on February 24, 1972, barely a couple of months after the country gained independence in 1971. Ten years later in 1981, Bangladesh already opened an embassy in the Philippines.
“We are a younger country than the Philippines. We gained independence in a struggle led by our Father of the Nation. We were a part of Pakistan after the British left India and we came to be an independent country through a liberation war where three million people died, many men and women suffered and women were violated. We were completely ruined but despite that, we achieved victory in December 1971,” Ambassador Siam noted.
“From the diplomatic side, our Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had a stopover in Manila when he was flying back from Japan to Bangladesh, and that marked the first presence of leadership from Bangladesh in the Philippines.
“And our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also visited the Philippines twice, first was on an official visit, and the second upon an invitation of late President Corazon Aquino.
“President Fidel Ramos visited Bangladesh too,” he continued.
“We have almost 20-plus documents signed covering cooperation in different areas between our countries — in culture, trade, export, immigration and others.
“We have regular foreign office consultations whose goal is coordinating bilateral cooperation.
“This is basically the historical part of engagements between the two nations,” the envoy related.
There is no better time than now indeed for his embassy and their Philippine counterparts plan to establish more projects over the next few months and years to further strengthen bilateral relations.
“The Philippines is very good in agriculture and aquaculture and food processing, and subsequent value addition in agricultural products. So we are trying to take that skill and technology to Bangladesh because we are not on that level yet. We are going to encourage people to come here and learn,” he said.
“As one of the countries that produces world-class pharmaceuticals, we would like for Filipinos to import our pharmaceuticals because it’s cheaper in Bangladesh.
“Also, we would like to learn and gain investment from you in terms of BPO since Bangladesh has a young population who are good at digital technology. And as a former English colony, we know English, but we are not getting enough business yet. We are just beginning.”
Ambassador Siam is further looking into skills and training in the Philippines particularly when it comes to nursing, medicine and seafaring to name a few.
“Other objective is to go beyond Manila. So far, our engagements have been very Manila-centric when you have a big country. So we are sending our cultural teams to other places for more exposure and for Filipinos to know more about Bangladesh,” he rounded up.
Big celebrations are also in the works across all the countries where they have embassies as Bangladesh will be observing the 100th birth anniversary of their Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 2020.
“Aside from that, in 2021, the age of Bangladesh will be 50. We will celebrate it also in a very big way involving local dignitaries and the Filipino people. We will have year-round celebrations for two years and we hope your people will join us on these occasions.”
Hopes for the future
Finally asked what he hopes from the continued cooperation between the Philippines and Bangladesh, Ambassador Siam replied, “What I would like to see is for Bangladesh and the Philippines to become an ideal role model of South-South Cooperation between two of the fastest growing economies, helping each other in whatever expertise they have.
“We have a huge expertise in development and poverty alleviation. You have experience in the service industry, so we can have an exchange on those factors and enrich each other in terms of experience and economic growth. That’s the dream I would like to see, that Philippines and Bangladesh become an example of cooperation between two growing economies,” Ambassador Siam ended.
The Ambassador’s take on the Rohingya refugees
Rohingyas are a Muslim minority in Myanmar regarded by many Myanmar Buddhists as illegal migrants. The Rohingyas are from Arakan, Myanmar and have been so for generations but they were denied citizenship and therefore described as the world’s most persecuted minority.
In 2015, a crisis began when a mass migration of Rohingyas occurred. Nearly all who fled to neighboring Asian countries including Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand did so aboard rickety boats via the waters of the Strait of Malacca and the Andaman Sea. From this migration came the collective term “boat people” used by international media.
As of December 2017, an estimated 655,000 to 700,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh to avoid ethnic and religious persecution by Myanmar’s security forces.
In this interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, Ambassador Siam shares his thoughts on the issue to call the attention of the world to heed the call of help by the Rohingyas.
“Since the ‘70s, we have been hosting the Rohingya people, and following the latest influx, we are now hosting around a million Rohingyas,” the top diplomat began.
“We are already a crowded country and then we have these additional people, but we are sharing whatever we have with them because their stories are very tragic. If you go and listen to them you would cry: numerous young girls and women were raped, people were killed, you will find children became orphans and they have seen their family members died in front of them. They had no other option but to flee. Their houses were burned, their crops were destroyed, and they were literally not treated as human beings.
“So any sensible responsible country, which Bangladesh is, would have received them. Unfortunately, that is not happening for all. It is only Bangladesh in all the world receiving these people. My take is that Asean and the rest of the world need to be involved with the situation on the ground with Myanmar so that the people in Rakhine can create an amicable environment for the Rohingyas, and let them feel that they can go back.
“Myanmar’s society has not accepted them as equal. Rohingyas do not feel safe to return as they have not been promised Myanmar’s citizenship, or that of a normal life—like [being allowed to] go to hospital, going to school, earning a living. So the world has to engage, and it cannot continue eternally that only Bangladesh will host one million displaced people.
“The nations of the world have a responsibility to address the situation and improve the situation, and ensure that rights that are to be given to Rohingyas like other citizens of Myanmar so they can return to their motherland.”

We Believe in Quality Food and Service’ in Fairfax

Tandoori Nights offers South Indian and Nepalese cuisine.

Description: From left, are Raj Tamang and Shyam Lama with a sampling of the colorful and tasty dishes at Tandoori Nights.
From left, are Raj Tamang and Shyam Lama with a sampling of the colorful and tasty dishes at Tandoori Nights. Photo by Bonnie Hobbs.
Description: photo
Photo by Bonnie Hobbs
Sapana Lama is about to serve vegetable soup and Chicken Momo dumplings at Tandoori Nights.#A tandoori is a clay oven where naan bread is made. But in the City of Fairfax, it also stands for Tandoori Nights, a restaurant serving South Indian and Nepalese cuisine.
#Owners Raj Tamang and Shyam Lama are both from Nepal, bordering India, so they offer food from both countries. They also own restaurants elsewhere, but this one is in Courthouse Plaza shopping center at 10312 Willard Way. And in May, it’ll celebrate its one-year anniversary here.
#“We truly believe in quality food and service,” said Tamang. “Instead of being a business franchise looking at numbers of diners, we make sure that we take good care of our customers and our community.”
#The restaurant is open daily, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., and it also offers a popular buffet lunch from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. The price is $9.99, weekdays, and $10.99, Saturday and Sunday. Customers may dine in or call 703-865-8800 or order online at for pick-up. Or delivery services Grub Hub and Uber Eats will deliver.
#“We don’t make the buffet food too spicy, so anyone can enjoy it,” said Tamang. “But we can make entrees to any spice level the customer likes.”
#THE MOST POPULAR dishes include Butter Chicken, chicken-breast chunks in butter sauce; Chicken Tikka Masala, chicken chunks in tomato-onion sauce with bell peppers; Honey Butter Chicken, baked with honey, mustard and Indian spices; and both Vegetable and Chicken Momo, marinated and spiced fillings in a steamed dumpling. “But Momo are completely different from Chinese dumplings because of the type of filling and spices,” said Tamang. “And ours are served with a tomato sauce.”
#Other customer favorites, he said, are Lamb Choila, lamb chunks marinated with fresh ginger, garlic and Nepalese spices; Tandoori Chicken, marinated in yogurt, lemon juice and spices; Chicken Tikka Kabob, marinated in ginger, garlic paste, lemon juice and yogurt; and Grilled Salmon, marinated with garam masala, garlic and ginger and served with raita and cucumber-yogurt sauce.
#Biryani dishes are also a hit; they’re made with either chicken, lamb, shrimp or vegetables and cooked with basmati rice, herbs and spices. A popular vegetarian meal is Palak Paneer, combining spinach, spices and herbs with homemade cheese. Additional menu highlights include a variety of Indian breads and desserts such as Gulab Jamun, which is cooked milk balls in rose-flavored syrup with a hint of cardamom.
#“I’ve been in the restaurant business for 25 years in the Washington Metropolitan area,” said Tamang. “I have a real-estate business, an engineering company and a construction company – Green Valley Custom Builders – and my office is in Fairfax City. So Tandoori Nights is convenient for me when I’m hungry.”
#But most of all, said business partner John Sargent, “The City of Fairfax is one of the best places in the country to do business. We recognize the friendly business climate and feel like the business professionals here match what we’re about. We live, work, eat and play with the City decision-makers, so that’s what’s attractive about starting, retaining and growing a business here.”
#And, added Tamang, “Since we’re a local, family-owned business, we want to focus on building our community relations here. We also do corporate and private events and parties, as well as catering. And we can set up for dancing and karaoke with our stage, lighting, sound system, professional deejay table and speakers.”
#“Besides the amazing food, what I like about Tandoori Nights are the people, Raj and Shyam,” said Sargent. “I like being with people who do business the right way. We’re like family here, and we work hard to provide the best-quality product and service possible. Any venture I’m involved with, I have to believe in the product – and this is something I believe in.”
#THE CUSTOMERS agree. During a recent lunchtime, Fairfax City resident Rikesh Rajak had a hearty meal of lamb chops with vegetables and a side of chickpeas. “I’m from Nepal and I like their Nepalese cuisine, so I come here once a week,” he said. “Today, I had lamb and I liked the spices and marinade they used; it was delicious. They have very good Nepalese food here; people should come and try it.”
#Meanwhile, Erin Brown of Burke was enjoying the buffet. When she first tasted the Chicken Momo, she said, “Ooh, this is delicious. I love dumplings, and this filling is flavored and seasoned really well. And the vegetable soup is light and fresh. It tastes like lemongrass, and you can taste the herbs.”
#“I’m a member of Northern Virginia Foodies, and I’m sure they’d like to come here,” she continued. “I’d recommend this restaurant to others. If you like Indian food, you should definitely check out Tandoori Nights.”

India shares list of 380 products with China for exports to bridge trade deficit

Increasing exports of these products would help India narrow the widening trade deficit with China, which stood at USD 50.12 billion during April-February 2018-19.

Description: twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: April 6, 2019  | 08:06 IST

India shares list of 380 products for exports with China
Description: India shares list of 380 products with China for exports to bridge trade deficitIndia has identified and shared a list of 380 products including horticulture, textiles, chemicals and pharmaceuticals with China as their shipments hold huge export potential in the neighbouring country, an official said.
Increasing exports of these products would help India narrow the widening trade deficit with China, which stood at USD 50.12 billion during April-February 2018-19.
During the period, India's exports to China grew by 28.61 per cent to about USD 15 billion, while imports contracted by 6.29 per cent to about USD 65 billion.
The official said that in the recent months, India's exports of marine products, cotton, organic chemicals, grapes and plastics have increased significantly.
Indian exporters face certain non-tariff measures in Chinese markets, which restrict exports to that country.
The commerce ministry on April 4 had called a meeting of stakeholders including export promotion councils and other government departments to discuss ways to increase exports to China.
India is taking several steps to promote shipments to China. Recently, it has managed to export agricultural goods such as non-basmati rice to China.
India is seeking greater market access for various agricultural products, animal feeds, oil seeds, milk and milk products, pharmaceuticals in light of the potential of these products/services in the Chinese market
The official also said that next month Chinese Vice-Minister for General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) is expected to visit India to discuss trade related issues.
In that meeting, some more protocols for India's exports are expected to be finalised, the official added.

Pests love a warmer world

As climate change gathers pace, insects are proliferating across the world, which scientists say will threaten food production, particularly in bio-diverse countries like India

Blister Beetle (Mylabris phalerata) pest on green gram (Photo by Entomological Society of India)
It is now becoming increasingly clear that climate change is affecting virtually all aspects of life, and one alarming dimension is the growth in the number of insect pests that are a threat to food security, particularly in developing economies such as India.
Vital to ecosystems and humans, insects pollinate crops and flowers, provide food for higher-level organisms, break down the detritus, maintain a balance in ecosystems by eating the leaves of plants and help recycle nutrients in the soil. However, they also consume somewhere between 18% and 26% of crops produced around the world, a loss valued at USD 470 billion.
The greater proportion of losses occurs in the field, before harvest, and this is heaviest in developing countries. As the world warms up, these losses are likely to grow. India is likely to be badly affected. Although the country has only 2% of the world’s land area, it has around 8% of the world’s species, including insects.
Climate change will affect agriculture, but predicting exactly how is complicated. However, researchers worldwide are of the opinion that agriculture and horticulture yields will decrease as growing-season temperatures increase. Insect pests are likely to exacerbate this effect.
Crop losses
Crop losses will be most acute in areas where warming increases both population growth and metabolic rates of insects. These conditions are centred primarily in temperate regions, where most grain is produced. While climate change directly affects insect growth, development, reproduction and survival, it also indirectly influences breakdown in temperature-sensitive host-plant resistance.
The insect world is vast, diverse and millions are yet to be discovered and identified. Until now, less than one million species of insects are known out of an estimated 30 million.  Of these, anthropods (ants, cockroaches, grasshoppers, beetles, crabs, spiders, scorpions, mites, millipedes, centipedes etc.) are the most dominant and constitute more than 90%.
“As insects are cold-blooded organisms, the temperature of their bodies is approximately same as that of the environment,” said V.V. Ramamurthy, Division of Entomology, Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi. “Due to global warming, when the temperature changes and also the relative humidity with more rainless humid days, the sucking pests, in particular, will increase. Also, due to changes in climate in hilly terrains, there will be an upward movement of insect populations. In this process, at least temporarily there will be extensions in range.”
Insects burn calories at a faster clip when their surroundings heat up, forcing them to eat more. Elevated levels of carbon dioxide can increase levels of simple sugars in leaves and lower their nitrogen content. These can increase the damage caused by many insects, which will consume more leaves to meet their metabolic requirements of nitrogen.
In India, there are cases available to show how several minor pests have become major due to change in agriculture practices and climatic variability. The brown plant hopper is a case in point. It was a minor pest in rice of no economic significance till its outbreaks in Kerala in 1973-74. The spotted bollworm completes its life cycle in 88 days when the temperature is 16 degrees Celsius, but at 25 degrees, the lifecycle reduces to 31 days, which means more pests.
Caterpillar’s hunger
Infestation of brown plant hopper in Basmati (aromatic) and non-Basmati rice in western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi are recent examples. Incidents of thrips (a sucking pest) attack on crops like groundnut, cotton, chilli, roses, grapes, citrus and pomegranates are being reported. There are also more frequent attacks of diamondback moth in cabbage, and hoppers on mango. In layman’s terms, the appetite of the caterpillar is likely to rise as the earth gets warmer.
A team of researchers from various US universities — using a computer model focused on crop yield in relation to pest destruction — showed that the number of crops lost globally each year due to insects is likely to increase by 10% to 25% per degree of global surface warming.
Closer home, a study on the effect of elevated temperature on the development time of rice Yellow Stem Borer (YSB) by researchers of Coimbatore’s Tamil Nadu Agricultural University revealed that the number of eggs laid increased at higher temperatures, while egg hatching was reduced. Insects develop faster, which may be why they lay eggs early, and hence, the population is likely to grow earlier than expected.

The mealy bug (Phenacoccus solenopsis) feeding on tomato (Photo by Entomological Society of India)
Pest attacks
Increased temperature results in extension of the geographical range of pests and pathogens and sudden outbreak of some notorious pests, said R.R. Patil, Professor of Entomology at the Department of Agriculture Entomology of Dharwad-based University of Agriculture Sciences. “Pink bollworm and maize armyworm in recent times are live examples. Both have devastated large areas of cotton and maize in Karnataka and the neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.”
Studies undertaken by Indian scientists on the trends of temperature rise, heat waves, droughts and floods, and sea level rise are in consonance with the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), though the magnitude of changes could differ. The mean temperature in India is projected to increase up to 1.7 degrees Celsius in the Kharif season (July to October) and up to 3.2 degrees during the Rabi season (November to March). Mean rainfall is expected to increase by 10% by 2070, a scenario leading to a situation affecting many familiar insects restricted to smaller habitats while new pests spread over wider areas.
According to India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change, crops such as rice, wheat, maize, sorghum, mustard, potato, cotton and coconut are likely to be adversely affected. Wheat production is likely to decrease by 6-23% by 2050. Maize production could fall by 18%; paddy may witness a fall by 4-6% by 2020; and potatoes would show a decline by 2.5% by 2020, 6% by 2050 and 11% by 2080. Soybean is, however, predicted to fare better in the future, with its production likely to increase by 8-13% from 2030 to 2080.
Chances of invasion
There is an increased risk of invasion by migrant pests due to global warming. The most recent case is that of the dreaded fall armyworm crop pest (Spodoptera frugiperda), which mainly devours maize in its caterpillar phase, but can feed on more than 80 plant species, including other key crops like rice, sorghum, cotton and vegetables.
First spotted in Africa in 2016, it has spread rapidly through the sub-Saharan belt and was spotted in Karnataka. According to Nigel Andrew, Professor of Entomology, the University of New England and Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, as quarantine regulations are diluted due to free-trade agreements, more pests are likely to get into areas previously free of them.
As pests are part of natural ecosystems and compete with humans for their existence, crop protection technologies are likely to be less effective and need to be customised to suit the changes. “Alternatives are being developed in some crops like wheat, rice, cotton and some selected horticultural crops and in hotspots of rain-dependent agriculture under the NICRA (National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture) of the ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) during the last few years,” said Ramamurthy, who also is chief editor of the Entomological Society of India journal. “As the modified technologies have started emerging recently it will take more time and investments to become the established alternatives.”
Protection put to test
As temperatures rise, we are looking at a future when the effectiveness of traditional crop protection technologies will be put to test. In such a situation, pest forewarnings are likely to provide lead time for impending attacks and thus minimise crop loss and optimise pest control leading to reduced cost of cultivation.
Agreeing that new farming strategies to adapt to a rapidly changing climate will be difficult to implement, Andrew said that integrated pest management methods will have to become the norm.
“Cultural methods of insect control will need to be re-introduced and used more extensively. Areas of alternative habitat will need to be replanted on to farms to enable predators and parasitoids to be active,” he said. “Methods such as sterile insect techniques will also need to be used as alternatives to chemical controls.  Chemical controls will need to be more specialised and used more intelligently.”

Rice market: Patterns of Thailand, Vietnam exports

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:59 AM April 08, 2019
2018 was an exacting time in the Philippines. There was a rice “crisis.” The government buffer stock agency—the National Food Authority (NFA)—failed in its mandate to import and buy palay. Its rice inventory as early as July 2017 was already nil. Inflation ensued in 2018. The government inflation target of 2 to 4 percent was breached. For the poor, where rice is a large part of household budget, it was a miserable year.
As a result of the crisis, the NFA was transferred to the Department of Agriculture from the Office of the President. The Rice Tariffication Act was passed with rice tariff from Asean set at 35 percent. Hopefully, rice price inflation will be tamed.
Meanwhile, the Asian rice market was relatively stable with prices of various white rice grades hovering around $395 to $400 per ton, f.o.b. Thailand.
There are perennial fears from local quarters that since the world surplus is small, the Philippines must strive for self-sufficiency.
The world rice market has been in the order of 45 million tons a year, or about 9 percent of global rice production. It has been dominated by a few countries. There are about 12 countries exporting 500,000 tons a year or more. The key players are India, Thailand, Vietnam, the United States, Pakistan, Myanmar, Cambodia and China, all selling over 1 million tons.
Asean countries, specifically Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia, supply about half (23 million tons) to the world market (USDA). Interestingly, other Asean nations—the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia—import about four million tons, or a third of the Asean surplus. Asean exported some 6 million tons to Africa. China is a net importer of about 2.8 million tons in 2017.
The Philippines, as part of the Asean rice stock facility, is safe from future supply volatility, allaying fears from the pessimists. This facility is covered by the Asean Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve agreement.
Thai exports are highly diversified. They are mostly white rice (10 percent brokens or less), hom mali and parboiled compared to mostly 25 percent broken rice in the Philippines. The low-priced 25-35 percent broken and other rice accounted for 15 percent, high-grade for 37 percent and parboiled for 25 percent. Note: Parboiled rice has been partially boiled in the husk. Parboiled white rice is 80 percent nutritionally similar to brown rice.
Meanwhile, Vietnam in early 2018 exported more high-grade white rice, jasmine and glutinous (nearly 80 percent). There was very little low-grade rice (25 percent broken).What do the shifts to higher grades and fancy varieties mean?
First, the rice exporters are upgrading their mills to produce high-priced grades.
Second, the diversification to high value rice like Thai hom mali and Vietnam jasmine means higher margins for farmers and better export prices.
Third, the Philippines cannot continue to pursue importing low-grade rice. Supply is getting scarce. Insisting on lower grades means that Thai or Vietnamese suppliers will mix higher grades with broken rice entailing added costs. And the price differentials with higher grades do not appear significant. Filipino consumers are willing to pay a little more (less than P1 per kilo) for better quality rice.
As of early January 2019, Thai export prices (spot) were at $1,194 per ton (100 percent) for hom mali, $777 per ton for jasmine, $410 per ton for white rice (five percent broken) and $402 per ton for white rice (25 percent broken). Vietnam rice has a discount of about two to three percent.
Fourth, the Philippines can be a niche exporter of high-priced heirloom rice like the Cordillera red rice, Mindanao black rice and SL premium rice.
Finally, the fear of massive price surges in the world market due to “thin” surplus is unfounded. The Asean has huge surplus to address Philippine supply shortages.

Rice Tariffication Law must be scrapped – Butil Party-list solon

Published April 8, 2019, 1:48 PM
By Ellson Quismorio 
Filipino farmers are already asking for the abolition of the Rice Tarrification Law, or that vital amendments be made to it, according to Butil Party-list Rep. Cecil Chavez.
According to Chavez, farmers were hoping that the upcoming 18th Congress would either work to scrap or amend the law, and in effect stop unlimited rice importation that is at the heart of the statute.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) announced the full implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law over the weekend after all concerned government agencies approved its implementing rules and regulations, or IRR.
Chavez bared that farm organizations and rural cooperatives in Nueva Ecija held on Monday a peaceful rally and a motorcade from San Jose City to Gapan to express their opposition to the law, “which is already wreaking havoc in the country’s acknowledged rice granary.”
The lady solon said that the farmers in Central Luzon were weary of rice importations, which–coupled with high cost of production and the lack of subsidies and other agricultural support–have been hurting the rice industry and causing economic difficulties to farmers even before the law’s passage.
Republic Act (RA) 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Act lifts the quantitative restrictions (QRs) on rice, which is seen to liberalize the entry of relatively cheaper imports. Tariffs will take the place of the QRs.
A key provision of the law is the creation of the Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF)–a P10-billion annual subsidy that is meant to boost local farmers’ competitiveness through farm mechanization, purchase of superior seedlings and expanded rice credit assistance.
In a series of consultations with farmers’ groups and cooperatives, Chavez learned that farmers were gravely concerned with the immediate and strategic impact of the rice tariffication law. For one, she said the Department of Agriculture (DA) may not be able to provide the needed agricultural support and subsidy given its very low budget of P170 billion, which would most likely be lower for 2019.
She also said that Filipino farmers simply cannot compete with Vietnamese farmers who enjoy a $1-billion subsidy and Thai farmers who have $7-billion subsidy from their respective governments.
Subsidy for local farmers from the Philippine government, Chavez said, was practically nil considering the high cost of production. That the National Food Authority (NFA) can only absorb 10 percent of the farmers produce means that most of the palay (unmilled rice) continue to be controlled by traders.
She also said that farmers were very anxious of the RCEF given their experience with the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF).
“We had a very sad experience with the ACEF fund which was a failure in terms of its benefits to the farmers and the development of the rice industry. This is still in the consciousness of the farmers especially [since] the ACEF has not been properly accounted for to this date,” Chavez said.
The lawmaker further claimed that safety nets designed to insulate farmers from the onslaught of rice importations are not yet in place.
“A viable rice and staple food program toward food security should have been the government’s focus with or without tariffication. This is long overdue,” she said.

$110m wheat, $1.3b rice exported
ISLAMABAD  -  Wheat worth US$ 110.355 million were exported during first eight months of current financial year as against the exports of US$ 12.577 million of the corresponding period  of last year. According the data of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, exports of the wheat during the period under review had witnessed about 777.44 percent growth as compared the same period  of last  year.

During the period from July-February, 2018-19, 513,124 metric tons of wheat were exported as against the exports of 65,822 metric tons of same period of last year, which was up by 777.44 percent, it added. Meanwhile, 16.035 metric tons of spices worth US$ 58.793 million exported during eight months of current financial year as against the exports of 13,666 metric tons valuing of US$ 50.375 million, which was up by 16.71 percent of same period of last year. In last 8 months, country earned US$ 1.257 million by exporting about 2,500, 162 metric tons of rice as compared the exports of 2,665,869 metric tons worth of US$ 1.261 billion of same period of last year.  

IRR of new rice trade law signed

Description: Act 11203 liberalizes the importation, exportation and trading of rice. The law also lifts the quantitative import restriction on rice. FILE
MANILA – Policymakers have finally signed the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 11203, threshing out details in the effective rollout of the new law liberalizing the importation, exportation, and trading of rice. The law also lifts the quantitative import restriction on rice.
With the issuance of Joint Memorandum Circular No. 01-2019 by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Budget and Management, the final draft of the IRR earlier approved by the National Food Authority (NFA) Council has been adopted for implementation.
“We celebrate this milestone for the agriculture sector. All concerned agencies, including NEDA, are duty bound to implement this historic law. In moving forward, we all have the long-term goal of modernizing the rice industry and improving the lives of all Filipinos, especially farmers, in our minds,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said.
Inputs from a series of public consultations organized by the DA with its stakeholders in Northern Luzon, Southern Luzon, Mindanao, and Visayas region, as well as online consultations led by NEDA, have been incorporated into the final version of the IRR.
Among the salient provisions in the IRR are guidelines on the President’s powers and the enforcement of safeguard measures in case of emergency situations like the sudden rise and drop in domestic prices.
The IRR likewise provides guidance on the reorganization of the NFA, following the repeal of its regulatory powers and the change of its functions to maintenance and management of the country’s buffer stocks.
The NFA Council, chaired by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, will likewise commission a study that will determine NFA’s optimal buffer stock for emergency and relief purposes.  Prior to the completion of the study, the NFA will continue to maintain its current buffer stock level ranging from 15 to 30 days, based on a daily national rice consumption of 32,593 metric tons per day.
The unused grain rice stocks will be unloaded and sold in the domestic market at the prevailing market price or even at a slightly lower rate as long as this would cover storage logistics costs.
The IRR also details the establishment of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) and how the PHP 10-billion fund from the General Appropriations Act will be transferred directly to implementing agencies.
Similarly, the document also sets the guidelines on the allocation of the tariff revenues in excess of PHP 10 billion. This will be tapped to provide direct financial assistance to rice farmers adversely affected by the new rice import regime.
While the IRR takes effect 15 days after its publication, self-executing provisions of the law are now being enforced.
Concerned government agencies, such as the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Plant Industry of DA, no longer require an NFA permit, license, or registration for trade and importation of rice. The only requirement to import and trade rice is the phytosanitary import clearance (SPSIC), which can be obtained from the Bureau of Plant Industry. (With PNA/PN)
Pinoy envoy to win over residents with its cuisine
Ashwani Kumar /Abu Dhabi
Filed on April 7, 2019 | Last updated on April 7, 2019 at 08.32 am

When the community celebrates its Independence Day in June, a Filipino food conference will be held to give residents a taste of different dishes.

Culinary diplomacy is on the Philippines embassy's menu as food is set to play a crucial role in promoting Filipino identity in the UAE and boosting bilateral relations. The embassy has major events planned throughout the year to promote its culture in the country, a top envoy said.
As a start, the embassy is trying to win people's hearts and minds through good food.
When the community celebrates its Independence Day in June, a Filipino food conference will be held to give residents a taste of different dishes. 
"We will now be active in promoting our culture. This will be our first attempt to do it in a big way. The food conference in June will be a 'things-of-the-Philippines' kind of festival where, for a month, we will work with restaurants and establishments dealing with food," Ambassador of the Philippines to the UAE Hjayceelyn Quintana said.
She noted that the 'Year of Tolerance' is the perfect opportunity for the Filipino community to get involved. "I have encouraged our groups to come up with cultural events and promote our identity, inclusiveness and acceptance of our culture. We are filling up the entire calendar with events. We are also gearing up for Dubai Expo 2020 and I am reaching out to Filipinos and preparing them for works."
Rice to shape relations
As the UAE plans its diversification of food security options, in the last week of March, Minister of State for Food Security Mariam bint Al Mehairi visited the Philippines and toured its International Rice Research Institute in Laguna.
"Rice is one of the main food items in the UAE's food basket and we continue our search of finding different rice sources, as well as technologies to grow rice for food security," Mariam had tweeted, noting that the Philippines is one of the top 10 largest producers of rice in the world.
During her visit to the research institute, she tweeted: "Lots of tests are being done on thousands of rice seed varieties and all are being exposed to vigorous field and lab tests to be able to find the most climate-resilient, high-yielding varieties for the rice farmers."
And Quintana said both the countries are exploring ways of cooperation in food security. "I was there assisting the minister in the Philippines. The minister is trying to study our rice production technology. She was able to conduct an in-depth study of our agricultural technology."
Agribuddy aids entire production chain
Cheng Sokhorng | Publication date 08 April 2019 | 10:38 ICT
Description: Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Agribuddy managing director Yourng Pakk discusses how the company provides agricultural services. CHENG SOKHORNG
Agribuddy, a Japanese-owned start-up, is the first agricultural facilitator working with the entire production chain in the Kingdom’s agricultural sector.
Launched in 2015 with $730,000 in venture capital funding, the Siem-Reap-based “agritech” company currently provides services to 20 districts comprising some 300 villages and reaches more than 50,000 farmers as Agribuddy members.
Agribuddy managing director Yourng Pakk sat down with The Post’s Cheng Sokhorng to discuss how the company provides agricultural services to deal with challenges in the sector.
Why did Agribuddy enter the Kingdom’s agricultural sector?
Cambodia has great potential in its agricultural sector as it has vast prospective cultivation areas in its fertile lands, which are suitable for cultivating a wide range of crops such as rice, corn, rubber and cassava. But one of the problems we see is farmers’ misuse of loans. This poses a challenge to the financial institutions that provide them loans, as they lack the strategies to properly track whether farmers use them resourcefully.
It produces high risks, and farmers themselves can give up farming when their yields are not up to their expectations.
Agribuddy wants to provide a solution to the problem through comprehensive services for agricultural production, helping farmers properly allocate their loans within their resources and technological limitations, and access the market.
We also support financial institutions as a facilitator. We help suppliers of agricultural input and agricultural service providers to assist processing companies such as rice millers.
As a facilitator, what have you done to build trust in the sector?
Agribuddy operates as a facilitator for the entire agricultural production chain to increase productivity, quality and efficiency in processing.
We select a farmer leader in each village where we base operations and dub them a ‘buddy’. We then provide them with training on managing farmers and facilitating farming processes. We also work with financial institutions which provide loans to farmers by ensuring the farmers use the loans effectively.
We cooperate with the purveyors of agricultural inputs and services – such as fertiliser, seed and agricultural service providers, as well as land ploughing, harvesting and transport services – to ensure the quality of said products and supplies.
We also work with agricultural product buyers, such as rice millers, by ensuring the quantity and quality of our farmers’ produce, so that they are likely to buy more from them to process and supply the domestic market and export.
Furthermore, we provide legal services to assist all stakeholders in ensuring that everyone respects their contracts and responsibilities within our agricultural insurance services, and ensure that even if farmers see limited yields due to droughts or floods, they will receive payment which can be used to cover cultivation costs. Doing this, they can avoid being indebted to financial institutions.
Which provinces do you currently operate in?
We are operating in six provinces – Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey, Pailin, Battambang and Pursat – where we provide agricultural services and focus on three main crops – paddy rice, cassava and corn.
There are more than 50,000 farmers who have registered as members of Agribuddy and more than 8,000 families have subscribed to our services. We have disbursed $2.5 million to more than 3,000 families.
What are the challenges your company and farmers currently face?
The main challenge we are currently experiencing is farmer and partner confidence. This is because we have just begun to be fully operational.
The service we offer is the first ever instance of this new business model, so we still need time to build up the market and trust. We need to work more with farmers, agricultural suppliers and processors to increase their trust as well as their benefits.
Another challenge for farmers is the capital, the technology and the market necessary for their agricultural products, as well as irrigations system that do not supply enough water to farmers for their crops. Then there’s the cost of production and processing – such as agricultural inputs, irrigation costs and electricity costs for processors.
All of this makes our products costly when compared to imports. So it is difficult for us to compete in the market and it impacts agricultural growth.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Contact author: Cheng Sokhorng

Over 20 million bags of rice smuggled into Nigeria in three months —Rice Millers

 April 8, 2019

Seized smuggled rice in a customs warehouse. File copy
Ifeanyi Onuba, Abuja
 The Rice Processors Association of Nigeria has said that between January and March this year, over 20 million bags of rice were smuggled into Nigeria.
The association accused officials of the Nigerian Customs Service posted at the borders of colluding with smugglers to commit what it described as economic sabotage against the policy of the Federal Government to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production.
The Chairman, RIPAN, Mohammed Abubakar, who said this during an interview in Abuja said that the 20 million bags (50 kilogrammes) of smuggled rice translated to about one million metric tonnes of the product.
He said the figure was arrived at following months of painstaking investigations conducted by the association at some of the country’s porous borders.
Abubakar said the development, if left unchecked by the Federal Government, could impact negatively on the integrated rice processor’s capacity, which had increased from 800,000 metric tonnes in 2014 to 1.6 million metric tonnes in 2018.
He said apart from the 1.6 million metric tonnes of rice currently being produced by integrated rice millers, there were  about 3.9 million metric tons of finished rice milled by thousands of cottage millers scattered across the country.
The RIPAN boss called on the Federal Government to save the industry as the activities of rice smugglers were beginning to threaten the Federal Government financing policy through the agricultural value chain single digit interest rate programme of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He said, “Investors in Nigeria have made enormous financial commitment in the rice sub-sector.
“Unfortunately, the only threat to the industry’s total development is smuggling. Over one million metric tonnes of rice, which is about 20 million bags of 50kg rice, were smuggled into Nigeria in the last three months
“Nigeria currently loses huge revenues, foreign exchange and jobs to this menace. Nigeria rice processing companies are shutting down because of their inability to gain market access.
“More painfully, millions of small-holder farmers are stuck with their paddy because the millers can no longer afford to buy from them.
“The Rice Processors Association wants to use this opportunity to tell everyone that if this menace is not tackled with appropriate dispatch, the magnitude of loss to Nigerian rice stakeholders starting with the Federal Government, integrated rice millers, funding banks, CBN, rice farmers, mill workers, rice consumers, would be too devastating to cope with in a fledgling economy.”
He added, “There is the  need for urgent action to avert eventual national food emergency by combating smuggling so that we can continue to grow our local rice industry and the economy.
“Investigations have shown that all our international borders have been converted to smugglers’ routes and our markets are filled with smuggled foreign rice.”
He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to direct an immediate raid of the various rice smugglers’ markets across the country.

NegOcc farmer-millers to monitor P10-B fund use

Description: provisions of the Rice Tarrification Law are perceived to be good for the farmers but the scheme might benefit only a few if “corruption” prevails, according to Negros Occidental Farmer Rice Millers Multipurpose Cooperative chairman Jesus Jimenez. PHILSTAR
BACOLOD City – The Negros Occidental Farmer Rice Millers Multipurpose Cooperative (Nofarimco) vowed to monitor the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Act to ensure proper utilization of the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).
“We really have to monitor the actual implementation of the program, or those stated in the law, to make sure the enhancement fund will really benefit us farmers,” said Nofarimco chairman Jesus Jimenez on Thursday.
He noted that although some of the provisions are perceived to be good for the farmers, they fear possible “corruption” and the tariffication scheme might benefit only a few.
Jimenez said the law will result in provision of funds for mechanization, trainings and other incentives to the farmers if implemented properly.
“But it could also be a threat if corruption prevails,” he stressed.
Nofarimco is comprised of 37 regular small farmer-millers who do not have their own milling facilities.
On April 1, the National Economic and Development Authority and the Department of Budget and Management signed the implementing rules and regulations for the rice tariffication law.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 11203, or the Rice Tariffication Act last Feb. 15.
Rice tariffication will result in a switch from the previous quota system in importing rice to a tariff system, where rice can be imported more freely.
The law allows unlimited rice importation, but investors must first secure a phytosanitary permit from the Bureau of Plant Industry and pay the 35-percent tariff for shipments from Southeast Asia. (With a report from PNA/PN)

Envoy hosts 79th Pakistan Day reception event
·     April 6, 2019 | 9:38 PM
·     by Times News Service
·      The event was organised in partnership with 14 businesses established by Pakistanis in Oman, each with an interactive display to promote trade. –Supplied photo
Description: Ali Javed, Ambassador of Pakistan to the Sultanate, hosted a diplomatic reception to commemorate the 79th Pakistan Day in the picturesque gardens overseeing the sea at Crowne Plaza Hotel recently.

The event was attended by Muhammad Nasir Muhammad Al Rasbi, Secretary General (MoS) Defence as the guest of honour along with Ambassador Sayyid Muhammad Al Said, Majid Al Rawahi, Leader Pak-Oman Friendship Group in State Council (Upper House) and other parliamentarians, federal secretaries and representatives of Sultan Armed Forced were among Omani delegates.

Dr. Noor ul Haq Qadri, Minister Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony graced the occasion at special invitation of the Mission as the chief guest at the event characterised as both historic and unprecedented, drawing 500 guests including Royal Family, Diplomatic Corps, intellectuals, academia, artists, youths, professionals, higher executive staff and the diverse spectrum of Pakistani community.

The event was organised in partnership with 14 businesses established by Pakistanis in Oman, each with an interactive display to promote trade. The proceedings witnessed launch of Urdu translation of 475-pages biography of His Majesty by Ameer Hamza and Citizens Advisory Council whose eight ‘Advisors to Ambassador’ included Mohammad Ashraf (Community Affairs), Dr. Jansen (Heritage Management), Ameer Hamza (Civil Society Dialogue and Media), Reverend Zeresh Daniel and Dr. Shiyam Kumar (Interfaith Harmony and National Integration), Mohammad Shah Sheerani and Naseer Saleh Al Balushi (Pashtun-Baloch and Baloch communities) and Dr. Ikram Burney (Higher Education and Research).

Also launched was e-catalogue of parliamentary, political, defence leaderships exchanges and civil society dialogue and has become a permanent feature for public display at Consular and Diplomatic Halls to project the Pak-Oman relations.

Pakistani companies partnering in the event were Canroyal Oil Lubricants, Khurshid Trading, Syed Fayyaz Group, Stars Light, Mohammed Riaz and Partners, AZ Engineers, Al Amwaj Al Sabha Trading, Guld Neon Signs, Al Haseena Jewellery, Naseem Al Batinah Al Watinah, Al Ghazaal Rice, Al Barkah Steel and Engineering, Stones World International, NESPAK and Habib Bank.

BBQ Tonight’s Live Grills and 500kgs of Pakistani Mandarian freshly squeezed added flavour to the occasion. The guests were pampered with authentic Pakistani cuisine prepared in collaboration between Pakistan House and Crowne Plaza Hotel.

The 272,000 Pakistanis in Oman constitute the sixth largest expatriate community whose remittances averaged a record of $750 million during past three years.
Description: Siam admits Filipinos know little about Bangladesh today, and is wholeheartedly committed to raise awareness about his beloved country through his tenure and beyond. COVER PHOTO BY DJ DIOSINA
But the reality is, Bangladesh has become one of Asia’s most remarkable and unexpected success stories in recent years. Its economy is on a upsurge what with the country’s annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth far better compared to its neighboring countries.
This in mind, Bangladesh Ambassador to the Philippines Asad Alam Siam knows he has a lot of work to do to change the world’s impression of his beloved Bangladesh in his country of assignment and the rest of the world.
Description: Siam presents his credentials to President Rodrigo Duterte at Malacañang Palace in 2017.
Key player for unity

HEALTH: Why carbs don’t have to be off the menu
PUBLISHED: 00:03 BST, 7 April 2019 | UPDATED: 00:03 BST, 7 April 2019

 ‘Carbs are hard to give up but there is a better way to cook them’
Description: ‘Carbs are hard to give up but there is a better way to cook them’Lots of people decide to cut down on starchy carbs, such as white bread, pasta and rice, when they want to lose weight. The problem with these is they are swiftly broken down in your gut, releasing sugars, which make your blood sugar levels soar – that’s why cutting back on them can help prevent type 2 diabetes or even put it into remission. Lowering blood sugars can also reduce inflammation and the risk of developing other chronic diseases, including some cancers.
Starchy carbs can be difficult to give up, but fortunately some exciting new research suggests a way to cook them that could reduce the amount of sugar you absorb. So you are still able to eat these foods in moderation without getting the blood sugar spikes. 
First, it helps to understand the different forms that carbohydrates come in. Complex carbs such as wholegrains, oats, lentils, beans and seeds are broken down into sugars more slowly than refined white flour, pasta and rice. When you eat them they still release some sugars, but you don’t get the same huge blood sugar spikes.
They also contain fibre, which can’t be absorbed by your body; instead it passes through your small intestine, where it helps bulk up and soften your stools, keeping you regular. Once it gets down to your large intestine, it provides nourishment for your microbiome: the trillions of microbes that live down there. The ‘good’ microbes then turn the fibre you’ve eaten into chemicals that help reduce inflammation and keep you healthy. As well as lowering blood sugars, fibre also reduces appetite and it may even cut the risk of heart disease.
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Other good sources of fibre include apples and pears (with the skin on), celery, avocados and carrots. Eating more of these gut-friendly foods will reduce your risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.
Surprisingly, according to the study, it is possible to convert some starchy carbs into healthier ‘resistant starches’ – ones that act like fibre because they resist digestion – by cooking them using a technique called cook-cool-cook.
First you cook your pasta, rice or potatoes as you would normally. Then you cool them, ideally for a minimum of 12 hours in the fridge. Then you reheat them thoroughly. By doing this you convert much of the simple starch found in these foods into ‘better’ resistant starch. For added fibre choose brown versions of bread, rice or pasta.
You can store cooked rice in the freezer. I make large quantities, which take longer to cook but defrost well. Precooked rice is ideal in a stir-fry – and worth waiting overnight for. You can also keep bread in the freezer, then defrost or toast when needed.
How to get strong... gently   
As you get older, keeping active feels like more effort. If you need persuading that it’s time to take up regular strength-building exercise, a recent study showed that frequency of falls fell by almost a quarter in over-60s who exercise. This has a huge impact, reducing the risk of pain, injury and increased mortality, seen with even minor falls. And don’t forget the consequent loss of confidence and independence that follows.
The study involved balance and functional exercises, in groups or professionally prescribed at home, and included dancing and walking. My 90-year-old mother-in-law will be pleased to learn that there is significant benefit in doing t’ai chi, which involves slow, deliberate and controlled movements. She has taken on a new lease of life since doing it regularly. Being low-impact, these graceful exercises are gentle on the joints and muscles, as they flow smoothly from one position to another.
For more information visit and for at-home exercises
·       If you have a question you would like answered, email Clare will read all your emails but regrets she cannot answer them personally

Smuggling: Drawback To Nigeria’s Rice Revolution

Description: Rice
Nigeria has suffered major economic setbacks due to smuggling of foreign goods into the country. This has impacted negatively on local industries, led to unemployment and killing agro-based industries. In this report, BAMIDELE OGUNWUSI, ANDREW UTULU and IKECHI NZEAKO, take a look at smuggling of foreign parboiled rice into the country, its negative economic impact, reasons smugglers continue thrive in the business and way out.
The massive smuggling of rice, a major staple food to Nigerians, into the country is seen as an economic sabotage, as the act by unscrupulous smugglers is not only shortchanging the country in revenue terms, but also killing local manufacturing industries, and causing high level of unemployment.
Towards the end of 2018, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) said that a total of 238,094 x 50 kilogrammes of rice were seized between January and November last year.
The service Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah, a Deputy Controller (DC), who disclosed this at the end of the year breakfast meeting, noted that the service recorded 4,010 seizures within that period with a Duty Paid Value of N40 billion.
The customs image-maker also pointed out that smuggling remained the most challenging aspect of the service’s functions as different people saw anti-smuggling operations differently.
“Regrettably, many people still see smuggling as business, not crime. In fact, smuggling is not just a crime, but the mother of many crimes and criminality,” he asserted, adding that violent crimes are perpetrated with dangerous items such as arms and drugs smuggled into the country.
At the Federal Operations Unit, Zone ‘A’ of the service with the headquarters in Lagos alone, 88,530 bags x 50kg and 51 bags x 25kg of foreign parboiled rice were seized in 2018. The Duty Paid Value (DPV) of the rice was put at N1,173,532,119. The Unit made 189 arrests in respect of the seizure.
The unit in January 2019 seized 5,949 bags of rice with DPV of N78,837,932:00, while 6,581 bags with DPV of N87,213,385 was recorded as rice seizures in February.
In Seme Command of the service, between February and  March 20, 2019, the service recorded seizure of 4745 x 50kg bags of rice, equivalent to eight trailer-load with Duty Paid Value of N85,504,000:00.
At Idoroko Command in Ogun State, the service between January and March 2019, seized 12,720 bags of foreign rice.
Investigations revealed that rice smuggling into Nigeria is a very persistent occurrence, which defies the present solutions proffered by the Federal Government.
This is because Nigeria has not been able to competitively grow local rice in a way and manner that will reduce the influx of foreign grown rice into the country.
Further investigations have shown that landing cost for rice in a country like Benin Republic is hovering at about N5,000 and N6,000 per bag.
So, even if the rice is smuggled into Nigeria, without payment of duty, and the operatives of NCS seize half of the smuggled rice, the smugglers will still make their profits, because they are selling at almost 100 per cent of the amount they bought in Benin Republic.
This is to say that if they are smuggling in 1,000 bags, for instance and they lose 500 bags to customs, they make profit on the remaining 500 bags, so instead of being demoralised, they are ready to take another risk of going back to smuggle for a second time.
Rice smuggling also persists because local rice production has not been able to meet up with the price competition. Local rice comes at between N20,000 to 22,000 per 50 kg bag and foreign rice sells for about N13,000 to N14,000 per bag.
At the retail price, local rice is sold for N450 to N500 per Derica cup, while foreign rice sells for between N230 to N260 per Derica cup.
“So you can see the challenge we face as a country,” said Mrs. Mary James, a trader.
A source disclosed that customs warehouses in Ogun State are filled with rice.
“The officers’ mess in Idi- Iroko is totally filled with seized rice. They don’t have spaces to do meetings because they have used part of their offices to store rice. Even after that, more rice are still coming, this is a command that last month, gave out 7,000 bags of rice to orphans, through a sub-committee set up by the comptroller of customs, Col. Hammed Ali (Retd), after the evacuation of the 7,000 bag, they still have rice stored.
“In all the warehouses and officers’ mess, no space for storage of rice and more rice are coming in,” an insider who does not want his name in print told SUNDAY INDEPENDENT
So, with this, one can say that Nigeria is being fought economically by countries like Thailand, India and other countries who have seen export of rice to Nigeria as a gold mine.
To worsen the matter, neighboring countries are not helping matters; they have opened up their ports, to receive this rice, even when they know that Nigeria banned rice importation through land borders. These countries desperately encourage businessmen and women that will use their ports to smuggle the rice into Nigeria by any means possible.
“So, smuggling of rice is an endemic challenge that does not look like what will solve so soon,” another source said.
SUNDAY INDEPENDENT investigation also revealed that the major routes used for rice smuggling into the country are very numerous.
Apart from the approved border posts, there are villages, bush parts, and even waterway, which the smugglers of rice use.
Rice is being smuggled into Nigeria from Duala port in Cameroon, through the creeks of Calabar and Akwa Ibom states, There are land border connections between Cross River State and Republic of Cameroon, these places, it was revealed are not properly manned and rice smuggling takes place massively there.
Coming to the Southwest, Nigeria has boundaries with Benin Republic through Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Kwara States. Chikanda border in Kwara, the Seme border, the Idi-Iroko border, the Shaki border in Oyo. 
part from the approved borders, all these borders have adjoining bush parts that link Nigeria with Benin Republic and rice comes in through all these places. That is why we have massive seizures of rice in Oyo, Ogun, Kwara, Lagos states. All these are from Benin Republic.
It was discovered that right from the days that Nigeria did not ban rice importation through land borders, ships bringing rice into Benin Republic for Nigerian consumption are still bringing them.
“As we speak now, rice to be smuggled into Nigeria are arriving Benin Republic,” an importer, who chose anonymity told SUNDAY INDEPENDENT.
The smugglers are always waiting for the right time to strike. Even when they lose 50% of their wares, they are not running at a loss because, like earlier mentioned, the landing cost of the rice is such that if they lose over half of what they wanted to bring in, they will still make profit and go back again.
Some stakeholders argue that the challenger is beyond the Nigeria Customs Service in the sense that the service is only enforcing government policies, but the government should bear the blame.
“There is nothing customs can do other than what they are doing. That is implementing government policies,” a maritime expert said.
“The seizures are evidence. Just last two weeks, the customs recorded over 52,000 bags of seized rice given out to the orphanages and the rice is still everywhere, more is still coming in, one orphan was given as many as five bags, they count the orphans per orphanages, giving each person five bags of rice, saying they will seize more and feed orphans,” he stated.
The Federal Government, according to the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) has saved about $800 million by encouraging local production of rice in the country and this will also help to prevent smuggling of the products into the country.
Niyi Akenzua, the Executive Director, Finance and Risk Management, BoA, while commending the Federal Government’s rice initiative, noted that the government has put in place necessary policies to diversifying the economy with special focus on agriculture, urging Nigerians to key into the programmes because of their all-round benefits.
He said the government restructured the BoA in 2016 to enable it render critical assistance to the agricultural sector in terms of food security and increased export of agro-products to boost the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“The Central Bank of Nigeria facilitated a N250 billion intervention fund for the BoA which is being disbursed through the Anchor Borrower’s Programme.
“In 2017, we disbursed about N100 billion to farmers and we have also disbursed about N50 billion so far in 2018,” Akenzua said.
He said rice production had increased to a level that people could ever imagine, and that the government was targeting early 2019 to fully stop importation of rice.
Akenzua said emphasis was being placed on standardising and packaging of agricultural products from Nigeria to make them acceptable to the export market.
Mrs Bola Oyedele from Crenov8 Consulting, said Dubai imported over 100 billion dollars’ worth of food in 2017 from Africa and it is expected to rise to about $400 billion in the next eight years.
Oyedele urged Nigeria and other African countries to tap into the huge opportunities that exist to export various agricultural products such as cocoa, rice, gum arabic, palm oil, wheat, and maize among others to Dubai particularly and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said government’s efforts to boost rice production in the country is yielding result.
According to him, at the moment Nigeria has reduced rice importation by 90 per cent, meaning that just a little effort needed to achieve 100 per year.
He emphatically said that in two years, Nigeria will exit rice importation.
Ogbeh, insisted that Nigeria is going to be self-sufficient in rice production and prices are also expected to fall. However, a peep into the industry in the past indeed shows a fluctuation of the local commodity production to be from 2,400 to 3,600 in the past five years. The import rates have also increased to 5,850 from 4,800 during the same period of time.
At the same time, the country is experiencing a rise in consumption rate of the same commodity. Last year, the consumption rate has risen to 7 million Metric Tons according to government statistics with only 2.7 million metric tons produced by Nigerian farmers. In 2016, Nigeria projected to reach 2.7 million metric tons in 2017 if government policy of restricting importation was strictly adhered to.
According to the Nigeria rice production statistics, the imports have started to make up 50 per cent of the local consumption rates. However, after a policy turn around towards promoting agriculture, Nigeria has realised an estimated N102.6 billion as revenue from the value of rice produced locally by farmers in 18 states under the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) Anchor Borrower Programme (ABP).
According to Growth and Employment in States (GEMS4) report on Nigeria’s rice production from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, a programme funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DfID), titled “Mapping of rice production clusters in Nigeria,” GEMS4 revealed that Nigeria is reaping from the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers Programme and is on the verge of attaining its rice self-sufficiency target this year.
A breakdown of the report last year, revealed that the total paddy production in Nigeria in 2016 was estimated at 17,487,562 metric tons, leaving a balance of about 11.4 million metric tons after accounting for 12.4 per cent of rice production wasted due to post-harvest losses.
Consequently, this left a total of 5.7 million metric tons of milled rice, bringing Nigeria’s rice production closer to the 7 million projected milled rice requirement for 2016.
According to the report, 18 states were selected based on their contribution to national production as per the 2015 Agricultural Production Survey (APS). In those 18 states, rice farming was described as widely spread across 165 clusters and 2,812 sub-clusters.
“The 2016 total paddy production estimate is put at 17.5 million tons with a marketing surplus (after post-harvest losses and domestic use) of 11.4 million tons (equivalent to 5.7 million tons milled equivalent), just below the total national demand for rice, which was projected to reach 7 million in 2016. This implies that the country is progressing towards its goal of rice self-sufficiency,” the report stated.
Kebbi State led with 3.56 million metric tons for the wet and dry seasons production combined, followed by Kano at 2.82 million metric tons.
Kebbi produced 2.05 million metric tons in the wet season and 1.51 million metric tons in the dry season, while Kano produced 1.86 and 0.96 million metric tons during the wet and dry seasons respectively over the same period under review. However, only 10 of the 18 states were involved in the dry season production.
According to the study, GEMS4 embarked upon a mapping exercise of rice production clusters through researchers and enumerators’ visits to rice production locations in 18 states, namely: Bauchi, Benue, Ebonyi, Ekiti, FCT, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi and Kogi.
Others are Kwara, Nassarawa, Niger, Ogun, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara. The researchers, according to the study, expressed optimism that information of paddy production clusters will support the development of supply chains from nearby rice clusters around existing commercial rice mills or proposed new plants in the country.
cluster is an agglomeration of various rice production communities or sub-clusters, located around specific geographic production continuum, sharing some natural resources, such as water and flood plains. Findings by GEMS4 revealed the responses of states to the federal government’s policy goal of reducing import dependence, particularly of rice, which drains about N1 billion daily on importation.
The report also noted that 10 per cent of total arable land in Nigeria is used for rice cultivation, although Nigeria is the largest producer of rice in West Africa, it is the second largest importer of rice globally.
Analysis of the report indicated a dry season production of 4,646,296.64 metric tons or 26.57 per cent, cultivated on 3,037,324 hectares of farmlands and wet season production of 12,841,265.18 metric tons or 73.43 per cent, cultivated over 859,624 hectares.
It also showed that 1.43 million rice farmers were involved in the wet season, representing 17.7 per cent of farming families in the wet season in Nigeria. In the dry season, however, the estimated total number of farmers was 410,210, representing only 5.1 per cent of the total farming families.
A conspicuous finding on the average yield per hectare was that the yields during the dry season were consistently and comparatively higher than in wet seasons for all states involved in both wet and dry season cultivation, which opens an area of great prospects for policy intervention in rice production in Nigeria.
The average yield per hectare of rice during the wet season was found to be the highest in Ebonyi, at 5.63 metric tons, but lowest in Kwara at 2.68 tons. For the dry season, Niger recorded the highest average yield per hectare of 6.45 metric tons while Kaduna had the least average yield per hectare of 3.5 metric tons.
GEMS4 report, however, listed the potential for increasing productivity, pointing out that 13 per cent of farmers reported using high-yielding planting method (transplanting seedlings), while 32 per cent used irrigation and 56 per cent had access to one hectare of additional land.
The report listed the challenges observed to include finding that farmers generally reported having difficulties acquiring agro inputs, particularly quality seed and fertiliser and accessing credit. Infrastructure such as irrigation facilities, feeder roads and storage facilities constituted an area of challenge with poor quality or a total lack of it.
Others include flooding in wet season, poor access to information on modern methods of farming and post-harvest technologies, poor access to credit, and a loss of labour through migration of young people to cities, resulting in aging farming population.
With the quantum of rice seizure and more being seized, one can see that the people shipping and smuggling rice into Nigeria are bent on frustrating the average rice farmer.
It would be recalled that the government few years back banned importation of rice through land border, and approved import of same through the sea ports. The essence was to encourage local farmers, so that foreign rice will not stop them from making sales and profits in the country.
But what the people observed is that the local rice capacity has not improved. Even when you say, rice can be imported through the port at 100 per cent duty, the one coming in through the borders are suppressing the price of the ones from the ports which are coming with payment of duty. The one from the borders are smuggled in, they do not pay duties. So, people can afford to sell them very cheap.   
“Smugglers are on the onslaught of the economy. It is not only the farmers that are suffering,” a maritime analyst said.
“The rice importers are also suffering. Nigeria has not been able to improve its local rice milling capacity. Nigeria grows rice, but has not been able to do it in such a way that local rice will be completely stone free. So, you can see we are not competing well. Though we have fresher brand, we have healthier brand, but it is not coming in such a way that you can eat a whole bag without eating stones. We have not attained that capacity,” the expert noted, adding that the milling factory set up in Ikorodu by the Lagos State government cannot even mill rice for Lagos alone.
He said that Lake rice that the Lagos state government went into partnership to grow with Kebbi State, is not even meeting the local rice capacity.
Some stakeholders have said that solution to the incessant rice smuggling should be that the government should employ the requisite technology, such as the machines and will mill rice that will be completely stone-free, government needs to invest much on such machines.
Also, the average Nigeria rice farmer should have his produce subsidised for consumption, because nobody will see a locally grown rice for N10,000 and go and buy foreign rice even at N9,000.
“Instead of the government to be subsidising fuel which the common man is not benefiting directly, it should subsidise rice which is far better and will address the issue of hunger nationwide.
If the government subsidises locally grown rice, the neigbouring countries will stop importing rice, because they know that when you bring it to Nigeria, it will not sell. Thailand will stop attacking Nigeria economically with rice shipment.
Reacting to smuggling and efforts of the Customs in tackling it, the Public Relations Officer, Federal Operations Unit, Zone ‘A’ of NCS, Jerry Attah said one of the Service mandate at Federal Operations Unit is anti-smuggling operations, not just about rice alone, but anything that has to do with contraband, or restricted items.
“We make sure we enforce it.”
He said that the with leadership in FOU, Comptroller Mohammed Aliyu’s leadership skills have helped the Unit in achieving results most especially in interception of foreign parboiled rice.
“Since he came on board, he had been able to motivate the officers; this made the officers to put in their best resulting to achievement of better results. He has also tried to fortify the anti-smuggling teams.
He had brainstorming sessions, meetings, with all the patrol teams, and has read his riot act to them that all he wants is results and does not want any officer to compromise. The skill to successful leadership here is that if you don’t want people to compromise, you will be able to achieve a good result.”
He said with the help of patrol teams and surveillance teams, ”you know we have only two approved border checkpoints,  Gbaji and Agbara in  Ogun axis, we have Ajilete and Papalanto, apart from these two approved checkpoints,  you see patrol and surveillance teams around.”
According to the customs image maker, with the support and collaborations of Customs Intelligence Unit, “these are some of the strategies put in place to achieve results.”
He said that the Service work with information. “Intelligence gathering, that is where customs Intelligence unit comes in.”
Others, he said, are also with the collaboration of other security agencies such as the Nigeria Army, Air Force, Police, Navy and Civil Defence.
He noted also, that with their support, the unit was able to achieve better results.
He lauded patriotic Nigerians and the media, saying that there are some patriotic Nigerians who have been able to provide intelligence which we profiled and put into used making it possible for us tom achieve the feat we did within this period.

It’s all about rice

Frederick Noronha
It seems like quite a while back that I first learnt that Vince Costa was working on a documentary film on rice. Even though we’ve had some long telephonic conversations, I’ve not had the chance to interact much with Vince, mainly on grounds of geography. But rice seemed like a fascinating subject, and the interest of this young man in the field is more than apparent.
Last week, Vince screened his film at Alto Porvorim, during the Xavier Centre of Historical Research’s History Hour series. It is always nice when work and plans come to fruition. But it’s even better when the results surpass expectations. It was quite an eye-opener, especially for those like me who have never stepped into the field for a purpose other than playing as a child.
Vince, a musician from Curtorim, says he spent four years to create the film. Elsewhere, he has commented that four years might seem like a long time, till you consider the fact that the farmers, field-workers and other agriculturists have spent their entire lifetime, and generations, in the field.
Goa’s agriculture has been under intense pressure in recent times. In the 1960s and 1970s, we were led to believe that the fields in our small state were seeing harvests of gold. You could blame that on the over-enthusiasm of unrealistic official statistics; but figures alone whose veracity is unclear don’t fill the stomach as Modi’s India is reminding us.
At the same time, a lot of other changes have also taken place in the fields of Goa.
The tourism boom followed by intense real estate speculation, have pushed up land rates. Urban planning laws have, ironically enough, created artificial shortages in the land market, and significantly boosted political corruption in land deals.
Labour is in short supply, as joint families turn nuclear (well pointed to in this film). Government and white-collar jobs pay infinitely more compared to agriculture, so why would anyone give serious attention to professions like farming and agriculture? Rationed rice supplies have artificially kept prices down, which benefit the urban consumers but hit the farmers. Traditional varieties of rice are getting lost, as is again well discussed by the film in question.
Vince Costa’s film has some scenic shots, candid interviews with humble but knowledgeable fieldworkers, articulate urbanites and environmentalist-scientists and academicians. It freezes for generations to come a record of life in Goa in the 2010s, together with memories of the current generation of how they depended on rice in the not so remote past.
As the historian Fatima Gracias points out, Goa has long been inadequate in growing its own food. It has been dependent on the neighbouring areas for food imports, over centuries in history.
Even now, when technology and new solutions make things possible, we are facing new challenges, newer problems.
But the film does not sink into excessive pessimism, as often happens when discussing issues related to Goa. It points to new initiatives in the field, how technology is being used in some small way, and how maybe the Don Bosco-initiated agriculture college at Sulcorna in Quepem could hopefully help create young talent the situation before it is too late.
Above all, films like these also act as a record of what exists and what existed. If we do not forget the situation entirely, then there is some hope that Goa’s rice story does not repeat what happened to salt in Goa. Prior to the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty in the late 19th century, Goa was one of the most impressive producers of traditional salt in these parts of the globe.
Today, it gets produced in a handful of villages.
Vince Costa’s film has touched a chord because many know what he is saying is a reality we have all but forgotten. He also touches the sensitive issues of caste and class, and the unfair burden plus low social status that falls on those who work in the field.
The anthropologist Robert Newman, who has studied Goa since the late 1970s, commented that he had seen Costa’s film last year. He added: “It’s really a great one. I told him I wished that I could have made such a film as it’s a really fantastic anthropological film, but I have no knowledge of film-making and I could not have done the work in any case.” Quite a compliment, indeed.
Vince, who travels with the film to Europe (Paris, Lisbon and Amsterdam) later this month, himself adds: “We are in an urgent need for more anthropologists and documentarians.”
His film, called ‘Saxtticho Koddo, The Granary of Salcete’, was directed and cinematographed by Vince himself, edited by Gasper D’Souza, and credits for drone photography go to Dunstan Dias. The colourist is Prashant Sharma while sound editing and design are by Tilak Goswami.

Don’t forget, if you’d like to arrange a screening, you could talk to Vince at In a state where we only inadequately appreciate something innovative emerging locally, here’s a thank you for this charming story well told.

Why local rice revolution may not survive in Daura

Vincent A. Yusuf, who was in DauraPublished Date Apr 7, 2019 3:24 AM
If you sell local rice in Daura under the current price regime, it will be very difficult for you to recover your investment, not to talk of making a profit.
Located in Katsina State, home to President Muhammadu Buhari, Daura town is a major spot for rice smuggling activities.
Kongola, a border settlement along the Nigeria-Niger Republic border is the hot spot and it will cost you just N100 to access from Daura.
This is where lots of the smuggled rice come to. In fact, a Niger Republic-branded 50kg bag will cost less than N10,000 in the settlement and between N11,500 and N12,000 in Daura town; and it is displayed everywhere for buyers.
No local rice brand in the country sells at that price in any of the Nigerian markets. They are sold for N14,500 to N17,000 which will make it very hard for anyone who takes it to sell in Daura to even recover his money.
Abubakar Mohammed, who goes to Kongola regularly told this reporter that rice is even cheaper there than anywhere else and it seems little is being done to stop the influx, a situation that is making producers in the country uncomfortable.
Millers are also sad that smuggling is a major challenge militating against rice production and business in Nigeria – and that is happening right behind the president’s house despite his avowed stance on rice production and self-sufficiency in the country.
President of the rice millers association Muhammed Abubakar Maifata in an interview with journalists in Abuja, lamented that smuggling was capable of crippling rice business in the country.
He appealed to the Nigeria Customs Service and other security agencies to pursue a more workable approach to deal with the menace
“Smuggling is our major challenge; rice keeps on coming through land borders despite the fact that government has banned importation through the land borders,” he said

Local rice production now 8m tons, not 4m tons – RIFAN

. .Published Date Apr 7, 2019 3:22 AM
The Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) has put the current statistic of rice production at eight million tonnes annually.
President of RIFAN, Aminu Goronyo, said Nigeria has no option than to place total ban on rice importation before the end of this year.
 “We have two cropping seasons in rice production and in each season we produce an average of four million tonnes, which will give you eight million per annum,” he said.
The challenge is to see how the local rice becomes affordable to every Nigerian -something that Goronyo said they are working on in collaboration with the Federal Government.
 “We have enough paddies on the ground the same thing with rice millers – they have more than enough in stock – which means that we don’t need to import paddy or milled rice,” said Goronyo.
But for now, they have one thing to seriously worry about – smuggling – and the Federal Government must worry, but most importantly, tackle the menace too

Planters Products inks deal with Russian firm

APRIL 08, 2019
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Agro-chemical firm Planters Products Inc. (PPI) has sealed a deal with a Russian-owned company, Vigorous Alliance, that will provide local farmers access to low-cost fertilizers, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Sunday.
The department said the P30-billion arrangement would finalize its National Fertilizer Support Program.
A memorandum of agreement was signed by Vigorous Alliance CEO Merdan Gurbanov and PPI President Rodel Mañara last April 4.
In a statement, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the program, to be implemented by the DA-supervised PPI, would provide farmer-beneficiaries at least 9 bags of interest-free fertilizer for every hectare starting October this year.
Fertilizers recommended by the Philippine Rice Research Institute will be distributed to local farmers at a price lower than the prevailing market price, he added.
With proper fertilization in place, farmers could increase their rice output by at least two metric tons per hectare, Piñol said.
“The identification and validation of the rice farmers and their areas will start immediately. This will be undertaken in cooperation with the National Irrigation Administration, the Department of Agrarian Reform and the local government units,” the Agriculture chief said.
“Each validated farmer will be issued the Juan Magsasaka Identification Card which he will use in claiming his fertilizer supply.”
In a separate statement, Piñol said PPI’s fertilizer-on-credit program was in compliance with President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive “to provide farmers with fertilizers.”
“Since there is no available government funds for the program this year, the DA worked on the [private-to-private] arrangement between Vigorous Alliance and PPI,” he said.

DA to roll out fertilizer program in October

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April 7, 2019
THE Department of Agriculture is set to roll out the government's National Fertilizer Support Program (NFSP) starting October this year.

"Rice farmers in irrigated areas of the country, estimated at 1.2 million hectares, will be the first beneficiaries of President Rody Duterte's National Fertilizer Support Program which will provide nine bags of fertiliser for every hectare on No-Interest Credit," DA Secretary Emmanuel Piñol in a Facebook post yesterday. 

Piñol said the farmers will be identified by the DA regional offices. These farmers will be coming from the Irrigators Associations, the Small Water Impounding Projects Associations (SWISA), the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries, and farmer associations or cooperatives.

"The identification and validation of the rice farmers and their areas will start immediately. This will be undertaken in cooperation with the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Local Government Units," Piñol said.

Farmers who have been identified and validated will be issued a Juan Magsasaka Identification Card, which the farmer will use in claiming fertilizer supply.

"The farmer will get nine bags of fertiliser recommended by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) which will consist of four bags of Urea, four bags of Complete and one bag of Muriate of Potash," Piñol said.

The farmers will be able to avail of the fertilizers under a "roll-over loaning scheme."

"Each farmer recipient will be initially given the fertiliser he needs without any payment but he will be asked to return to the program the value of the fertiliser given to him so that he could be given supplies for the next planting season," Piñol said.

To ensure that farmers will still be able to pay if their crops are destroyed, the farmer will get insurance coverage from the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation.

"The farmer will be asked to repay his fertilizer loan after harvest to enable him to avail of another round of fertiliser support for the next planting season," Piñol said.

The NFSP will be implemented by the DA-supervised Planters Producs Inc. (PPI).

PPI signed on April 4 a fertilizer supply agreement with Vigorous Alliance, a Dubai-based Russian company, for the delivery of the needed volume of fertilizer on a six-month credit.

Vigorous Alliance has assured PPI "that the price of fertiliser which will be sourced from Russia and other Eastern European countries will cost less than those being sold in the market and will be of better quality."

"What makes this program unique is that there are no government funds involved and is purely a private-to-private engagement facilitated by the DA and the DFA. With proper fertilisation, rice productivity is expected to increase by at least two metric tons per hectare," Piñol said.