Thursday, May 16, 2019

16th May,2019 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

Eminent rice scientist now leads SEA centre for agriculture
May 15, 2019
A DISTINGUISHED rice scientist now heads the Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).
Dr Glenn B Gregorio assumed the top SEARCA post on May 1, 2019 for a three-year term.
For more than 50 years, SEARCA has been strengthening capacities of institutions working in agriculture and rural development in Southeast Asia, including Brunei Darussalam, through graduate education and institutional development, research and development, and knowledge management.
Dr Gregorio is also an Academician at the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) of the Philippines and a professor at the Institute of Crop Science of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) College of Agriculture and Food Science.
He brings with him to SEARCA not only his expertise in plant genetics and breeding, but also his international experience in research and administration.
While serving the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for almost 30 years, Dr Gregorio has bred more than 15 rice varieties, most of which are salt-tolerant varieties that have greatly helped farmers in Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, and the Philippines.
ABOVE AND BELOW: The new types of rice released in 2013 include nine salt-tolerant varieties in the Philippines, three flood-tolerant varieties in South Asia, and six in sub-Saharan Africa; and Dr Glenn B Gregorio
He also led efforts to develop micronutrient-dense rice varieties to address anaemia and malnutrition in Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
Prior to joining SEARCA, he was also the global lead of the East-West Seed Company’s sweet corn and waxy corn breeding programmes for South and Southeast Asia, the Latin Americas, and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Dr Gregorio has been the recipient of numerous awards, including Outstanding Young Scientist Award (OYS 2004) and Outstanding Publication Award given by NAST; The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM 2004) in the field of Agriculture-Plant Breeding and Genetics; the Ho Chi Minh Medal Award for great contribution to the cause of agriculture and rural development in Vietnam; Ten Outstanding Youth Scientists (TOYS 1981) of the Philippines given by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) of the Philippines; Honorary Scientist, Rural Development Administration (RDA), Korea; and other awards for his outstanding research and research management achievements.
He has authored and co-authored at least 90 articles published in various scientific journals, chapters on rice breeding in 14 books, and five scientific manuals and bulletins.
He mentored and supervised 20 PhD and 27 MS graduate students and more than 40 BS students in plant breeding and genetics at UPLB and other universities in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America; and he continues to hone scientists and future scientists as a mentor and teacher.
Dr Gregorio obtained his PhD in Genetics, MS in Plant Breeding, and BS in Agriculture at UPLB. – Text and Photos by Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA)

Golden Rice, Part 1: The story of a GMO crop that could save 2 billion lives

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Research was initiated in the early 1990s which led in 2000 to the publication of the technology behind what came to be known as Golden Rice. From the outset, the intention was to create a source of vitamin A in the endosperm of rice, as an additional intervention for vitamin A deficiency. Philanthropy and the public sector funded the research. In 2001, the inventors, Professor Ingo Potrykus and Dr. (now Professor) Peter Beyer, assigned their patents to Syngenta for commercial exploitation as part of a transaction which obliged the company to assist the inventors’ humanitarian and altruistic objectives.
At the same time, the nutritional technology was donated by its inventors for use in developing countries. The inventors licensed a network of Asian government-owned rice research institutes to deliver their objectives. Product development was initiated through the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the network. The whole network, including IRRI, worked to a common set of goals defined in licences each institution signed with the inventors. The terms included that there would be no charge for the nutritional technology and it would only be introduced to publicly owned rice varieties.
This article is part one of a four-part series on golden rice based on a book chapter Golden Rice: To Combat Vitamin A Deficiency for Public Health. Part Two: To Combat Vitamin A Deficiency for Public Health; Part Three: Are biofortified crops safe for human consumption?; Part Four: Do biofortified crops make economic sense?
Improvements were made to the technology by Syngenta scientists. In 2005 and 2006, pursuant to Syngenta’s legal obligations entered into with the inventors in 2001, Syngenta provided selected transformation events of the improvements to the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board. The Humanitarian Board, via Syngenta and IRRI, made these new versions available to the Golden Rice licensee network. In 2004 Syngenta ceased its commercial interest in Golden Rice. From 2004 development was again only funded by philanthropy and the public sector; the national budgets of Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam; as well as the US National Institutes of Health together with the Rockefeller and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations and USAID. Golden Rice is a not-for-profit project: no individual, nor organization involved with its development, has any financial interest in the outcome.
Description: greenpeace activity do not approve golden rice x x
To date the Golden Rice project has principally engaged plant scientists. Activist opposition to Golden Rice has been led principally by non-scientists, who have been very successful in developing a narrative about Golden Rice and GMO crops which serves the activist’s purpose but is fundamentally inaccurate. Further background to the development of Golden Rice, including the political dimensions, is detailed elsewhere.
A few years ago, at Tufts University, USA, I gave a presentation about Golden Rice. The symposium was organized by the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy whose strategic aims today include ‘Reduce nutrition-related health inequities’ and ‘Promote food systems that increase agricultural sustainability while improving human health.’ I was dismayed to learn that the anti-GMO and anti-Golden Rice activists’ narrative was widely accepted by the participants—all of whom were studying or working in nutrition and well aware of nutritional inequities in public health.
Without adoption, that is, regular growth and consumption of Golden Rice by populations in countries where rice is the staple and VAD is problematic, Golden Rice cannot deliver any public health and welfare benefits. Adoption requires cooperative working by different specialists, including medical, nutritional and public health specialists. This chapter is designed to answer anticipated questions from such specialists, to facilitate adoption of Golden Rice as an additional intervention for vitamin A deficiency.
Rice, diet and deficiency
Rice is the most important staple crop: more than half of the global population eats it every day. In some countries, 70–80% of an individual’s calorie intake is from consumption of rice.
For storage without becoming rancid, the husk and the aleurone layer of rice have to be removed. What remains after polishing–white rice, the endosperm–contains small amounts of fat and is an excellent source of carbohydrate for energy but contains no micronutrients. Yet humans require both macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats) and micronutrients (minerals and vitamins) for a healthy life. Like all plants, rice obtains its minerals from the soil. Vitamins are synthesized by plants and/or animals, including humans.
Human health is best served by a ‘balanced diet’ that is varied, containing both macronutrients and micronutrients, including animal products and, as sources of provitamin A, coloured fruits and vegetables. Micronutrient sources are insufficiently represented in the diets of many people in countries where rice is the staple. The reasons often include poverty: such dietary components are expensive compared to the cost of rice. In countries where rice is the staple, the average consumption is 75.20 kg/capita/year. Of those countries where micronutrient deficiencies are common, consumption increases to 150 kg/capita/year. In such populations micronutrient deficiencies, like poverty itself, often occur as part of an intergenerational cycle.

For the past 15 years, 800 million people—more than 10% of the global population—are hungry every day. These chronically hungry individuals lack sufficient calories in their daily diet; indeed over the past 3 years, the trend is upward. Even more alarming is that 2 billion people—almost 25% of global population—are micronutrient deficient; they suffer from ‘hidden hunger,’ with important associated morbidity and mortality and related economic impact. Figure 1 shows that over the 20-year period 1990–2010, the rate of reduction of chronic hunger (that is, macronutrient—carbohydrate, proteins and fats—dietary insufficiency) has been faster than the rate of reduction for hidden hunger (that is, dietary insufficiency of minerals and vitamins).
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Dr. Matin Qaim, member of the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board and one of the authors of the paper from which Figure 1 is extracted, has commented: ‘In the future the hidden hunger [e.g. micronutrient deficiency] burden will be larger, [than chronic hunger – principally carbohydrate deficiency] unless targeted efforts to reduce micronutrient malnutrition are implemented at larger scale.’
Interventions for micronutrient deficiencies include supplementation (with pills, syrups or capsules containing micronutrients) and fortification (adding micronutrients to processed food). Both interventions require some level of manufacturing and/or distribution infrastructure.
With the creation of Golden Rice in 1999—the first purposefully created biofortified crop—a new term was required: ‘biofortification.’ The word was first used in 2002 and first definedin 2004: “biofortification” is a word coined to refer to increasing the bioavailable micronutrient content of food crops through genetic selection via plant breeding.’ In 2003 ‘Harvest Plus’ a not-for-profit public-sector programme started to biofortify staple crops by conventional plant breeding, to benefit the poor, and progress with biofortification through conventional plant breeding was rewarded by the World Food Prize in 2016.
Description: malnutrition
The intention of biofortification is to deliver public health benefits to populations which are micronutrient deficient, through consumption of the staple crop including the extra nutrition within the edible part of the crop. In this way minimal cultural change is required to food—production, processing or consumption—systems. For the most marginal members of the population, this biofortification approach overcomes the inherent access, cost and non-sustainability difficulties of supplementation and fortification. In 2017 the World Bank recommended that biofortified staple crops should be the norm rather than the exception: ‘conventionally’ bred biofortified crops and also genetically engineered crops—gmo crops—were both recommended with Golden Rice specifically mentioned.
For Golden Rice to deliver benefits, it has to be grown and consumed within target countries where VAD remains problematic despite significant progress with other interventions, notably vitamin A capsules, which have undoubtedly saved millions of lives and will save more, since they were introduced (accompanied by controversy) in the 1990s. And success or failure with Golden Rice will directly affect future adoption also of high zinc, high iron and high folate rice and their impact on public health for hundreds of millions of people. All these traits, introduced to the endosperm of rice, necessitated using GMO techniques, and all cost no more than white rice to the grower or consumer. Eventually, as the end point of product development, it is planned to include all these nutritional traits together in multi-micronutrient-Golden Rice.
Adoption of Golden Rice requires public health professionals as well as agricultural and other professionals, to work together in each country. Any skepticism created by the past 18 years of negative activist influence will prevent success, if not positively addressed by all involved. For billions of people, the stakes could not be higher.
Adrian Dubock holds a PhD from Reading University in reproductive physiology and ecology. He is the executive secretary of the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board
The GLP featured this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. The viewpoint is the author’s own. The GLP’s goal is to stimulate constructive discourse on challenging science issues.
As per WaterAid’s report , seven percent of the rural po"/>

Water Scarcity: A Glimpse into the Realities of Rural India- Pakistan
Traveling across the barren lands of rural Rajasthan, India, and Sindh, Pakistan

 As per WaterAid’s report , seven percent of the rural population living in India have no access to clean water. A report by Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) reveals that 44 percent of the total population in Pakistan is living without access to clean drinking water. In rural areas, 90 percent of the total population lacks such access.

Traveling across the barren lands of rural Rajasthan, India, and Sindh, Pakistan further, reveals the grim crisis at hand.

(Left: Fish-Nurseries are dry; no water is available in the coastal areas of Badin District, Pakistan for the fish farms, Right: The semi-arid climate of places such as Omri village, Rajasthan with poor rainfall makes it necessary for the villagers to conserve water.)

Badin district of Sindh province, Pakistan has a population of over 1.8 million and the Karauli district of Rajasthan has a population of 82,960. People in both these areas depend mostly on groundwater for the cultivation of crops - mainly rice.

The rural population of both India and Pakistan is highly vulnerable to the extreme effects of weather and climate change.

(Sanjha Gir in Omri village, Rajasthan is a community-owned traditional harvested rainwater storage wetland used for effectively harnessing water resources. The water collected in the Johad is a result of only one day of rain. This water is used for irrigating the field, drinking water by animals, and other domestic purposes. During the dry season, when the water in these Johad starts decreasing, the Johad itself becomes a place for cultivating crops.)

(The few man-made ponds of Talib Khaskeli in Badin, Pakistan are used to store water. Similar to the case of Rajasthan, India even this water is used for cattle husbandry and other household activities.)

(Left: Young children with their mothers wash their clothes near water storage. The very fact that the villagers are satisfied with the unclean water to carry out household activities shows how limited they are in terms of water availability in Badin, Pakistan. Right: A young kid carries water from a nearby hand pump to carry out household chores in Masalpur, Rajasthan).

(Women belonging to Masalpur, Rajasthan have to travel long distances to fetch water from nearby hand pump. Due to the initiative of organizations like Tarun Bharat Sangh, the water available in this area has finally become fit for drinking. The villagers are still waiting for the government to take initiative towards the problem of water).

( Villagers across Indo-Pak are still dependent on matkas to get their water from far away ponds and wells. Location-Hallipura,Rajasthan and Badin,Sindh)

(Chaman Singh in a Jal-Sanrakshan meet in Masalpur,Rajasthan)

(Chaman Singh from Tarun Bharat Sangh stands beside the newly built pokhar(man-made pond) Location-Omri,Rajasthan)

(Naseema Bibi, 64, resident of Imamwah, Badin, fills her gallon of water from government supplied water in Shahnawaz Chowk, Badin, Pakistan).

(Left: A young kid quenches his thirst from the government supplied water in Kachi Mola, Badin, Pakistan Right: Tarun Bharat Sangh’s initiative of building cemented water tanks has proved to be of great use for the villagers in Halli Pura, Rajasthan, India).

(Jagan Baai, 67, belonging to Masalpur, Rajasthan has to wait for hours to fill her pots as the flow of the water is very less. “We have no other option but to travel long distances to fetch water,” she says)

The problem of water scarcity looms large in rural areas of both India and Pakistan. Owing to the lack of government initiatives to address the problem, locals from various villages have had to take matters into their own hands and come up with innovative ways of conserving water.

This shows how even at the most local level, the residents are overcoming the problem of climate change and its impact on water resources.

N.K.'s Food Situation Remains Serious Despite Reports On Rice Prices

Description: N.K.'s food situation remains serious despite reports on rice prices

SEOUL, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - APP - 15th May, 2019 ) :South Korea believes that food shortages in North Korea remain serious and the country needs outside assistance, despite media reports that rice prices are dropping there, the unification ministry said Wednesday.
Some media reports have claimed that rice prices in North Korean markets have been on the decline recently, suggesting that the country might not face as serious food shortages as worried by U.N. food agencies.
"We recognize the assessment compiled by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as official and objective indicators," Unification ministry spokesperson Lee Sang-min told reporters during a regular press briefing.
"Given the nature of the North Korean regime, it is thought that there are many limits to estimating the food situation there with (market) indicators other than official prices or those provided by official organizations," he added.
"Our stance remains unchanged that it is necessary to provide food from a humanitarian and compatriots' perspective." Earlier this month, the WFP and the FAO reported, based on a visit to North Korea, that the country's crop output last year hit the lowest level since 2008, adding that an estimated 10 million people, or about 40 percent of its population, are in urgent need of food.
WFP Executive Director David Beasley expressed grave concerns over North Korea's food situation and urged more donations to help it during his trip to Seoul earlier this week.
South Korea is drawing up plans to provide food possibly including rice to North Korea in the hope of helping alleviate the situation there and to help keep the stalled negotiating process alive, despite the North's recent projectile launches.

No US visa sanctions on Pakistan: FM

Qureshi says curbs due to immigrants row put on only three officials Pakistan to watch its own interest in US-Iran conflict

Description: No US visa sanctions on Pakistan: FM


May 15, 2019

ISLAMABAD - Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi Tuesday said the United States had imposed no visa sanctions on Pakistanis.
He, however, added the US had banned visas for three high-level Pakistani officials, including the joint secretary of the foreign ministry.
“The ban was imposed for not taking back Pakistani immigrants who are illegally residing in US,” he told the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs committee.
The meeting was held in Parliament House with Malik Mohammed Ehsan Ullah Tiwana in the chair. The meeting was attended by Muhammad Ameer Sultan, Syed Fakhar Imam, Makhdoom Zain Hussain Qureshi, Munaza Hassan, Fazal Muhammad Khan, Maleeka Ali Bukhari, Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, Ali Zahid, Mehnaz Akbar Aziz, Zahra Wadood Fatemi, and officials of the Foreign Affairs ministry.
On the US deporting Pakistanis, the foreign minister said that 70 illegal immigrants will be returning to Pakistan. “The United States has arranged a special chartered plane to send these immigrants back to Islamabad from Texas. The individuals were detained and prosecuted for immigration violations, criminal conduct and other serious charges,” he added.
Earlier, Foreign Office had termed misleading the reports about a US Federal Registry notification on introduction of new rules on consular matters.
The Foreign Office said there were ongoing discussions between Pakistan and the United States on consular matters including repatriation issues.
The statement said: “We understand that the US government would continue the normal consular operations at their Embassy in Islamabad and the ongoing discussions would not affect issuance of visas to routine Pakistani applicants.”
Last month, the US had imposed sanctions on Pakistan as Islamabad has refused to take back its citizen deportees and visa over-stayers.
“Consular operations in Pakistan remain unchanged. This is a bilateral issue of ongoing discussion between the US and Pakistani governments and we are not going to get into the specifics at the time,” a State Department spokesperson said.
According to the State Department's federal register notification, dated April 22, “for some countries sanctions begin by targeting officials who work in the ministries responsible for accepting the return of that country's nationals with escalation scenarios that target family members of those officials and potentially officials of other ministries and then other categories of applicants if initial sanctions do not prove effective at encouraging greater cooperation on removals by the targeted government.”
Section 243 of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides for discontinuance of visa issuance as a penalty for those countries that refuse or ‘unreasonably delay’ accepting the return of their deported nationals. The US has already introduced visa restrictions on Ghana, Guyana, the Gambia, Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Myanmar and Laos.
During the NA foreign affairs committee meeting, Qureshi briefed the committee members on multiple issues. Speaking about peace talks between Afghanistan and the US, he said that Pakistan played an important role in the peace talks.
He added that whenever there was no breakthrough in the peace talks between US and Afghanistan, Pakistan is made the scapegoat.
The FM said that he had called an all embassies meeting on June 27. The meeting will discuss the promotion of economic diplomacy.
Qureshi claimed India had been selling Pakistani basmati rice in the international market. To control this illegal activity, he suggested imposing a ban on sending Pakistani basmati rice to Qatar.
The FM told the Committee that he will pay two-day visit to Kuwait on May 18 and will have meetings with the Kuwaiti leadership. The minister said he will also take a letter from Prime Minister Imran Khan to the Emir of Kuwait on visa issue.
He said enhancement of bilateral trade will be discussed in the meetings. He said the Emir of Qatar was also expected to visit Pakistan in near future. 
Later, speaking to journalists, the Foreign Minister expressed concern over tension between Iran and the United States, saying it would impact the region. He said Pakistan is closely observing the situation and will formulate a strategy keeping in view the national interest.
The FM said Pakistan wanted to make progress on multi-billion dollar Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline project but there was third party hurdle in the form of sanctions against Iran. “We are discussing this issue with Iran,” he added.
The Foreign Minister said Pakistan and China were reviewing the matter of human smuggling and an effective policy will be framed in this regard. He said some forces wanted to affect Pakistan-China relations.
The Committee directed that Foreign Affairs ministry may timely clear the misconceptions to avoid embarrassment among the public so that people could know about the ground realities of international issues.
The Committee directed that Foreign Affairs ministry may develop proper liaison with ministry of Commerce to enhance Pakistani exports as it had been observed that Pakistani Basmati Rice was being sold on Indian tag in international markets.
The Committee further directed that Pakistani Ambassadors may also evaluate the performance of commercial attachés in collaboration with ministry of Commerce to achieve the targets set by the government.
The Committee directed that Foreign Affairs ministry may take stringent measures for early release of 2107 Pakistani prisoners detained in Saudi Jails as promised by Saudi Crown Prince and provide them full assistance to remove procedural complications.

Review: Ishtar does it the ‘the Iraqi way’ in Sterling Heights 

clickDescription: Chicken tikka. to enlarge
Chicken tikka.


3625 15 Mile Rd., Sterling Heights
Handicap accessible
11 a.m. to midnight daily
Appetizers and salads $6-16, entrées $12-$27
In Detroit, Middle Eastern food is often equated with Lebanese or "Mediterranean" fare. But the region's cuisine is not a monolithic block. Think of the type of food you might find in Arizona compared with what's in Maine. It's all "American," but there are no lobsters in the desert.
In fact, it's not difficult to find the nuances of Middle Eastern cuisine in Detroit. There's excellent Aleppian food at Dearborn's Al-Chabab, Yemeni restaurants throughout Hamtramck and Southwest Detroit, Egyptian dishes in Hamtramck and and at Troy's LoLo Potluck, Persian food at Rumi, Syrian fare at Exotic Syrian Deli in Ann Arbor, and much more.
There's also Sterling Heights' Ishtar, which is billed as a Mediterranean restaurant, but is really Iraqi. It's one of the few in Detroit representing that nation (the awesome Sullaf on Seven Mile is another), which is a little surprising given the area's relatively large Chaldean population.
One of the first things one notices in Ishtar — aside from the incredible turquoise, bronze, and gold murals and reproductions of ancient artwork on the walls — are the gargantuan shawarma spits twirling in one part of its kitchen. Ishtar claims its shawarma is "famous," and if the volume it's shaving requires spits of this magnitude, then it's doing something right. But chicken and lamb shawarma also makes its way into a lot of the restaurant's dishes.
For example, the shawarma tashreeb is a humongous bowl lined with tanour bread that holds acidic tomato sauce and vegetables under a thick blanket of moist and flavorful lamb shawarma shavings, served aside a bowl of basmati rice. The word "tashreeb" translates into "to soak," and it's not hard to see why the dish is named such as it approaches stew territory. Sham quzi is a nearly bowling ball-sized package of soft, slightly chewy dough encasing shreds of chicken and lamb shawarma, basmati rice, raisins, carrots, onions, and peas. The package also holds heavy whiffs of cardamom and cinnamon, and could be thought of as an Iraqi calzone — it's a fine comfort food for this year's endless cold and damp weather.
One can also take the chicken shawarma straight up on the chicken shawarma plate, which arrives with big, moist, wood chip-sized shavings and a bit of rice. Like most dishes at Ishtar, the portion is big enough for two. Quzi is considered a national dish, and Ishtar's version is a jumble of lamb bones, cooked "the Iraqi way," which I take to mean "slow-cooked," given how the tender meat falls from the bone.
Arguably the most incredible bites of my visits belong to the Iraqi chicken tikka, also done "the Iraqi way." It's a cousin to shish tawook, but there are some variations. Ishtar serves big pieces of moist bird that are slightly charred from a stay on the grill. Each piece is marinated in lemon and garlic and slightly orange from a coating of what I suspect is turmeric and other spices. The generous portion arrives on a platter with slightly charred, sumac-dusted white onion, sprigs of fresh basil, grilled jalapeño, grilled and charred tomatoes, and other veggies. The only slight disappointment was the shawarma pizza. It wasn't particularly bad, but could've used more toppings and better cheese.
Ishtar's tanour bread is a foundation of many of its plates. The flatbread is common in Iraq and Syria, and is prepared in a clay, vertical tanour oven. It's slightly thick for a "flatbread," but still perfect for dipping, wrapping, and grabbing.
Ishtar's sides are standard, though the "cabbage salad" is actually coleslaw like you'll find at Denny's. However, the restaurant prepares a solid Iraqi salad, fattoush, and other familiar plates. Each entree comes with a bowl of soup, and there are few lemon chicken rice recipes in metro Detroit that can stand next to Ishtar's. The sour, yellow soup is thick and super flavorful.
Ishtar doesn't serve alcohol, but the beverage menu offers a large selection of fresh smoothies. If your party is celebrating a birthday, then you'll want to inform the waitstaff, as the Iraqi EDM birthday song that Ishtar cranks and the fireworks coming out of the dessert are a wonderful birthday surprise.
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BASF Launches Fungicide for Rice in Thailand
BASF has launched Seltima, an innovative fungicide that supports the efficient production of high-quality rice, for farmers in Thailand. The special encapsulation technology contained in Seltima ensures a controlled release of its powerful active ingredient directly on the plant leaf surface. This allows farmers to benefit from strong, long-lasting control of rice blast disease and improved plant health, while preserving the health of the aquatic environment.
Petrus Ng (left), Managing Director, BASF Group Thailand, Martin Wolf (center), ASEAN Business Director, BASF Agricultural Solutions, and Jerico Gascon (right), Thailand Country Manager, BASF Agricultural Solutions – celebrate the launch of Seltima fungicide for rice for growers in Thailand.
Seltima is part of BASF’s AgCelence brand, a portfolio of premium products that delivers benefits that go above and beyond crop protection. In the case of Seltima, these benefits include improved crop appearance, increased plant vitality and stress tolerance, and enhanced nitrogen efficiency. This translates into higher marketable yield and grain quality for farmers who use Seltima. More than 200 key business partners and farmers attended today’s launching ceremony. “We know that farmers have the biggest job on earth – to grow more safe, healthy, nutritious food to meet the needs of the world’s growing population,” said Petrus Ng, BASF Managing Director of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. “BASF is committed to helping farmers in Thailand and across Asia Pacific. Solutions like Seltima offer farmers better outcomes for their crop, which ultimately helps to improve their quality of life. Today, farmers in Thailand join growers in China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam, who are benefitting from this innovative technology.” BASF aims to provide innovations that can help boost Thai farmers’ income. Seltima fungicide is the company’s latest addition to its growing portfolio of solutions for Thai rice growers – which already includes Tetris herbicide for weed grasses, Basta herbicide for control of weedy rice, and LeSAK 3G Insecticide – for stemborer, thrips and leaf folder.

Bangladesh import duty hike hits an already tottering Bengal rice market

Last year, Bangladesh imposed a 28 per cent import duty on rice from India, against two per cent earlier

Namrata Acharya  |  Kolkata 
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Description: Rice
The rice economy of West Bengal, already stifled by lack of demand, is now facing further threat from loss of import market in Bangladesh.
Last year, Bangladesh imposed a 28 per cent import duty on rice from India, against two per cent earlier. This led to massive fall of non-basmati rice exports from India to Bangladesh, by about Rs 3,278 crore in value. Data from APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) shows that non-basmati exports from India to Bangladesh fell from about 1.7 million tonnes worth Rs 4,463 crore, in April-February 2017-18 to 420,000 tonnes (Rs 1,186 crore) in the same period this financial year.
Rice mills in West Bengal are already suffering heavy losses due to the drastic fall in exports to Bangladesh, which was one of the major markets for the state.
West Bengal produces 15 million tonnes of non-basmati rice (parboiled rice) every year.
Of this, the state government procures about 3.5 million tonnes through the levy mechanism. Earlier, West Bengal used to export about three to four million tonnes of rice to Bangladesh every year.
According to Sushil Kumar Choudhury President, Bengal Rice Mills Association, about 90 per cent of rice mills in West Bengal are not economically viable. The association has also made a written plea to the government, seeking reduction of import duty imposed by Bangladesh.
“Rice millers are bearing a loss of about Rs 220 a quintal for milling paddy procured through government levy mechanism, as the cost of milling and transportation exceeds the money paid by the government. Further, the export market has been wiped out due to massive import duty hike by Bangladesh,” Choudhury said.
More than 100 rice mills have shut down in the last few years, he said.
West Bengal mainly produces parboiled rice, but its consumption has declined substantially over the years, as rising incomes have led a demand shift towards better quality rice.
In the rural areas, the key market for parboiled rice, demand from open market has shrunk because of wide availability of rice at Rs 2 per kg under government subsidy schemes.
Data from the NSSO survey on household consumption suggests between 2004-05 and 2011-12, the monthly per capita consumption of rice in urban areas shrank from 6.77 kg to 6.24 kg.
Non Basmati Rice export from India to Bangladesh
-           Amount (MT)   Value (Rs cr)
2018-19 (April-February)           421986.84        1185.19
2017-18 (April-February)           17,01,709.28     4,463.08
Source: APEDA
First Published: Wed, May 15 2019. 17:16 IST

Rice blast fungus study sheds new light on virulence mechanisms of plant pathogenic fungi
May 14, 2019
American Phytopathological Society
Researchers examined the fungal cell biology of rice blast fungus pathogenesis and recently published the first systematic and comprehensive report on the molecular mechanism of the actin-binding protein (MoAbp1) that plays a crucial role in the pathogenicity of the fungus.

Rice blast fungus (Magnaporthe oryzae) is a global food security threat due to its destruction of cultivated rice, the most widely consumed staple food in the world. Disease containment efforts using traditional breeding or chemical approaches have been unsuccessful as the fungus can rapidly adapt and mutate to develop resistance. Because of this, it is necessary to understand fungal infection-related development to formulate new, effective methods of blast control.
A group of scientists at Nanjing Agricultural University and Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center examined the fungal cell biology of rice blast fungus pathogenesis and recently published the first systematic and comprehensive report on the molecular mechanism of the actin-binding protein (MoAbp1) that plays a crucial role in the pathogenicity of the fungus.
Through ongoing research, these scientists found that rice blast fungus forms a specialized infection structure that applies mechanical force to rupture the rice leaf cuticle. Once inside the host, the infection proliferates by living off the plant's nutrients. These two processes are enabled by the actin-binding protein (MoABp1) that links an actin-regulating kinase (MoArk1) and a cyclase-associated protein (MoCap1) to an actin protein (MoAct1). These processes are necessary for the growth and perseverance of the fungus.
On a large scale, these findings shed a new light on the eukaryotic cell biology and virulence mechanisms of plant pathogenic fungi. On a smaller scale, these findings could reveal novel approaches or targets for anti-blast fungus management.

Story Source:
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Journal Reference:
1.     Lianwei Li, Shengpei Zhang, Xinyu Liu, Rui Yu, Xinrui Li, Muxing Liu, Haifeng Zhang, Xiaobo Zheng, Ping Wang, Zhengguang Zhang. Magnaporthe oryzae Abp1, a MoArk1 Kinase-Interacting Actin Binding Protein, Links Actin Cytoskeleton Regulation to Growth, Endocytosis, and PathogenesisMolecular Plant-Microbe Interactions, 2019; 32 (4): 437 DOI: 10.1094/MPMI-10-18-0281-R

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American Phytopathological Society. "Rice blast fungus study sheds new light on virulence mechanisms of plant pathogenic fungi." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 May 2019. <>.
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Seoul in aid of food-starved North

The South Korean government takes up UN agencies appeal The Unification Ministry: "Food aid is an obligation, both from a humanitarian perspective and as a compatriot". Last year, North Korean agricultural production reached its lowest level since 2008. 40% of the population is in urgent need of food.
Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - South Korea believes that food shortages in North Korea are serious and that Pyongyang needs external assistance, despite media reports that rice prices are falling, says Lee Sang-min, spokesman for the Unification Ministry in Seoul.
Some media reports say that in recent times the cost of cereal in North Korean markets is dropping, suggesting that the country could avoid the food crisis feared by United Nations (UN) agencies. But Seoul denies the rumors. "We recognize the assessment made by the World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as official indicators and targets," says Lee Sang-min.
""Given the nature of the North Korean regime, it is thought that there are many limits to estimating the food situation there with (market) indicators other than official prices or those provided by official organizations," he added. "Our stance remains unchanged that it is necessary to provide food from a humanitarian and compatriots’ perspective”.
Based on a visit to North Korea earlier this month, the WFP and FAO reported that last year's agricultural production in the country reached its lowest level since 2008, adding that around 10 million people , accounting for around 40% of the population, are in urgent need of food. Earlier this week, WFP executive director David Beasley expressed serious concerns about North Korea's food situation and urged Seoul to make additional donations.
Rice Prices in N.Korea Plummet Despite Food Shortage Claims
·       By Kim Myong-song
May 15, 2019 09:43
Food prices have been on the decline in North Korea for nearly six months, despite claims of an alarming food shortage there.
Rice prices have dropped about 1,000 North Korean won per kg in big cities like Pyongyang over the past six months. There is speculation that either the food shortage is not as severe as the North claims or the regime is controlling prices to quell potential unrest.
In Pyongyang, rice prices have been dropping since last November, when a kilogram cost 5,000 won, ending up at 4,000 won as of April 30, according to the Daily NK. Overall rice prices fell around 1,000 won throughout the North.
On Tuesday Bareun Future Party lawmaker Lee Hye-hoon said the food situation in the North "doesn't seem that serious and is not in an urgent need for humanitarian aid for starving people."
But a source said the regime is releasing military stockpiles into markets, though food supply has also increased thanks to recent arrivals of aid from China and Russia.
Ordinary people can buy food in the market with their own money, but the regime is "short of food for rations for the elite and military," another source said.
Description: Korean farmers plant seeds at a collective farm in South Pyongan Province in this grab from [North] Korean Central Television on Saturday.
Earlier, the World Food Programme forecast a grain shortage of 1.36 million tons in the North this year, while estimating last year's total grain production at 4.9 million tons, a record low since 2009.
But pundits speculate that the actual shortage might not be serious thanks to food reserves and imports from overseas. A researcher at a government-funded think tank here said, "In the past, bad crops resulted directly in a food shortage, but now people better prepared because markets are thriving."
There is also speculation that rice prices have dropped because people have turned to other, less expensive grains.
Yet the South Korean government is adamant that it wants to send food aid to the North as quickly as possible. A Unification Ministry spokesman on Tuesday said Seoul could send food aid to the North between May and September, when the need is greatest. "The WFP's report points out that an opportune time for food aid to the North is the May-September period before the next harvest arrives," he said.
In an apparent bid for support, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul met with representatives from seven religious groups that play a leading role in delivering humanitarian assistance to the North.
Some American experts have called for thorough on-the-spot inspections of food delivery so they are not diverted to military, as happened often in the past. Roberta Cohen, a former U.S. State Department official, on Sunday said that foreign aid should not subsidize the regime's irresponsibility.

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Iraq buys 60,000 T rice from United States and Uruguay- trade

Some 30,000 tonnes of rice from the United States was purchased at around $655 a tonne c&f free out
By Maha El Dahan and Michael Hogan, Reuters News
DUBAI/HAMBURG - Iraq's state grains board said on Thursday it had purchased a total of 60,000 tonnes of rice in an international tender, which closed this week.
The board gave no further details.
Traders said separately some 30,000 tonnes of rice was purchased from the United States at around $655 a tonne c&f free out.
About 30,000 tonnes from Uruguay was purchased at an unknown price. Unconfirmed trade talk was the Uruguay rice was purchased at $568.75 a tonne c&f free out.
Rice from Thailand had been offered at the lowest price in the tender of $499.50 a tonne c&f free out. Iraq does not always accept the lowest offers in its tenders.
Iraq in June banned farmers from planting rice and other water-intensive crops because of drought and shrinking river flows, increasing its import requirement. 
In its last reported rice tender on May 11, Iraq purchased around 60,000 tonnes to be sourced from Argentina and Paraguay. 
Iraq on Thursday also purchased a total 300,000 tonnes of wheat from the United States in directly negotiated deals without international tenders being issued.
(Reporting by Maha El Dahan and Michael Hogan, additional reporting by Moayad Kenany in Baghdad, editing by David Evans) ((; +49 40 419 03 4275; Reuters Messaging: