Friday, June 28, 2019

28th June,2019 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

India Must Shift Rice Growing East From Punjab, Haryana To Prevent
India Must Shift Rice Growing East From Punjab, Haryana To Prevent Desertification Shifting the major chunk of rice production to India’s central and eastern states like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, while encouraging wheat cultivation through sustainable irrigation in the rice-growing regions of Punjab and Haryana, could help India prevent an impending water crisis by 2030, according to a 2018 study by the National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development and Indian Council for R Read more at: 

Gene helping rice reduce heavy metal pollution
Chinese researchers have discovered a gene which plays an important role in cadmium accumulation in rice, providing a reference for the cultivation of low-cadmium rice varieties & Cadmium, a kind of toxic heavy metal, can be easily absorbed and enriched in rice, and then enters the human body through the food chain, thus posing a serious threat to human health.
By using the genome-wide association study technology and gene annotation system, researchers from the Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences and China Agricultural University successfully identified a rice grain cadmium accumulation related gene called OsCd1. OsCd1 was a plasma membrane protein in root and the disruption of OsCd1 resulted in a decrease of cadmium accumulation in rice, indicating OsCd1 may mediate the cadmium uptake in rice root and, ultimately, contribute to grain cadmium accumulation. The study further analyzed different molecular mechanisms of cadmium accumulation in indica and japonica rice, the two Asian cultivated rice subspecies. Indica rice is mainly cultivated in southern China and is more vulnerable to cadmium heavy metal pollution.

Porous borders, unending smuggling threaten local rice production
By Sulaimon Salau
28 June 2019   |   4:00 am
Okada rider running away with smuggled rice at the Same border. PHOTO: SULAIMONE SALAU
Notwithstanding Federal Government’s efforts to promote the production of rice in Nigeria, the continuous smuggling of the commodity to the extent of dominating the local market, is making nonsense of an existing ban with attendant capital flight.
Rice is the most preferred staple food for Nigerians, and available in different sizes and varieties in major markets across the country. But the more worrisome is that about 70 per cent of the products in the local market are foreign parboiled rice, thereby overwhelming the locally produced ones.
Being the most profitable commodity for businessmen and smugglers in the market, the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), adjudged rice as the most smuggled item through land borders.
On March 21, 2016, the government had announced the re-introduction of ban on importation of rice through land borders across the country, following an upsurge in rice smuggling, amid dwindling revenue from rice imports through the borders, which fell short of the volume of rice arriving from neighbouring ports.
The Guardian investigations showed that most consumers also prefer the foreign products, claiming they are cheaper and more available than the locally-produced rice.
On a visit to the Seme border in Republic of Benin, where most of these rice products find their way into Nigeria, it was discovered that the popular market in Seme was dominated by Nigerian traders and buyers, who smuggle them in through unapproved routes.
It was the same scenario at the Idiroko border, and Ilaro, both in Ogun State. In fact, Nigerian currency (Naira) was freely traded and used as a medium of exchange in the Seme market.
Further investigation revealed that the rice products are conveyed through various means, depending on the capacity of the smugger. The petty ones use motorcycles popularly known as Okada, which carry up to four to six bags at once. They move the product across the border under a ‘settlement’ fee of N100 per bag daily. Also, these Okada smugglers sometimes move in convoy with an escort who interfaces with security agencies.
The bigger smugglers use trucks, but some of the commodity are confiscated by the Customs at checkpoints. Despite the numerous seizures, the smugglers appear unperturbed, and up their game, against all odds and continue to bring in the products.
Ahead of the ban on rice, Government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), introduced the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), on November 17, 2015, targeted at boosting food security and production of agricultural commodities including rice, maize, wheat and a host of others with comparative advantage across all states of the federation.
It also slammed 70 per cent duty on rice importation from the seaports, to stem the high rate of dependence on foreign products while conserve the nation’s foreign reserves and encouraging local production.
Despite the government’s high tariff, the supply gap is still being plugged by imports. Even worse, importers bypass the charges by smuggling rice through porous land borders, not minding the inherent risks.
However, the quality of the smuggled rice cannot be guaranteed, thereby posing health challenges to unsuspecting consumers.
In 2016, an alarm was raised on the shipping of fake rice also known as ‘plastic rice’ into Nigeria from China, until the Customs the arrested situation. A year later, Government also raised an alarm of some brands of poisonous foreign rice in circulation.
Having critically examined the items, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, described rice imported into Nigeria as poisonous, and advised Nigerians to stop consuming it.
He said: “A chemical must have been added to sustain its freshness and that chemical is harmful. Also, it has been re-bagged with a new date given as the production and expiry date, and that is what we consume here which causes diseases.
“So, I appeal to Nigerians to please patronise our own rice; it is available, more nutritious, and if you do that you will assist Customs by making sure these people are put out of business,” Ali had said at a news conference in Abuja.
Declaring that Government had not granted any licence for rice importation, and that any rice not produced in Nigeria, is smuggled, he said Illegal rice importation remains one of the biggest challenges facing the Customs Service.
Former Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, had also noted that: “For imported rice, we don’t know how long it had been in their (exporters) silos. Recently, one country decided to bring in a shipload of rice into Nigeria so that we can use it to support the IDPs (Internationally Displaced Persons) in the North-East, but when we subjected the rice to a test, we discovered that the rice was actually poisonous.
“This means that most imported rice have been in silos for 10 to 15 years and have no nutritional value. So what we have told them is that anybody who wants to support the IDPs or any other person in Nigeria should please use our local rice.
“The argument is that local rice is more expensive, but we say even if it means buying half bag, do it. It is better for us to eat a smaller quantity of nutritious rice than for us to take poisonous shiploads of rice,” he said.
Nonetheless, foreign rice has continued to litter and dominate Nigerian markets. From Sango market in Ota, Ogun State, to Daleko market in Mushin; Mile 2 in Lagos; Utako Market, Abuja; Terminus Market Jos; Mile 3 Market Port-Harcourt; Main Market, Onitsha; Singer Market in Kano; Ogbete Market in Enugu, and Jimeta Main Market in Yola, and a host of others the story is the same.
The Guardian investigation showed that at Sango market, smugglers arrive as early as 4am to offload the products to dealers, who usually paid as low as between N12,500 and N13,000 per 50kg bag, and resell for between N14,000 and N15,000 per bag.
In a chart with The Guardian, a smuggler at Sango market said: “rice trading” is one of the best businesses one can engage in, though risky, but has good returns.
The young man, who identified himself as Taiwo Abe, said: “I don’t know why government will ask us not to import rice. We are into business, after all, we don’t kill and we are not stealing. We make meaningful income from this business and that is what I use to sustain my family. I have wife and children that I also need to feed and I cannot do rituals, I can’t do Internet fraud (yahoo yahoo). But, the business of smuggling pays. I am a carpenter, but no patronage, no sales, so I need to look for alternative means of survival, and rice smuggling has helped me a lot,”
On the risk involved, he said: “There is no business that is not risky. I was nurtured on the street, and I was trained to hustle. I use unapproved routes where no Customs officer will disturb you. Besides, we have some contacts that guide our movement, so, to me it’s not a big deal.”
A saleswoman, who simply identified herself as Risikat, said it is cheaper to patronise smugglers than the local rice millers, adding that even the customers prefer foreign rice.
“The only Nigerian rice that customers demand for is Ofada rice, and I don’t sell it. It is cheaper to buy from smugglers and I make more profit,”
She decried a situation whereby the Customs raid their shops and seized their stocks last year, and called on the Federal Government to also create a conducive environment for businesses to thrive, adding that the bad economy is forcing people to look for alternative means of survival.
For the Nigerian Customs, it is an unending struggle; the officers are still overwhelmed by rice smugglers, as they face reprisal attacks and brutal retaliation on daily basis. For example, a Customs Assistant 1, Hamisu Sani, was killed in one of such encounters at Asero area of Abeokuta, Ogun State, while Tunde Wasiu Abdul’Azez was killed on Palace Road, Gumel Local Government Area of Jigawa State.
However, the battle continues and the seizures are increasing, as the Customs warehouses are filled to the brim. The Service said it seized 497,279 bags of imported rice between 2015 and August, 2017, with a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of about N3.8 billion. The Customs’ effort notwithstanding, the figure only represents a fraction of the value of rice smuggled into the country within the review period.
In 2018, the Customs seized about 238,094 (50kg) bags of rice across the country from January to November, which its Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah, said was worth N4.05 billion.
In the Ogun State Area Command, about 44,615 bags of foreign rice were seized between the period, while the Area II Command, Onne, Rivers State confiscated 118 containers loaded with foreign rice. Seme Command seized 37,568 bags of 50kg foreign rice, which is equivalent to over 63 trailers, with DPV of N876 million in 2018.
In the first quarter 2019, the FOU Zone A intercepted 16,117 bags of 50kg parboiled rice; The Nigerian Navy, Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Akwa Ibom, also seized 2,044 bags of rice in April. The Commanding Officer at, Ibaka, Captain Toritseju Vincent, said: “These anti-smuggling activities are inimical to the growth of our own rice industry. So we will continue to do our duty to make sure we nip it in bud, and bring it to a complete halt.”
He said the commodity was brought in with a boat, while the suspects abandoned the boat, the products, and their pumping machine and fled.
Controller, Seme Command of Customs, Mohammed Uba Garba, who also condemned the spate of rice smuggling into Nigeria, said: “Government allowed the importation of fertiliser duty free with the aim to boost agricultural production. You are also aware that government has engaged some individuals with a view to stimulating local production of rice. This comes with benefits such as employment generation, preservation of foreign exchange, and food security among others.
“No nation can develop under hunger. People can se0ek advice on proposed ideas when they are properly fed. It is along this line that we are so much committed against the smuggling of foreign rice. Part of the danger of foreign rice is that it would deplete our foreign exchange. Besides, nobody knows the duration of when the rice was produced, but people will buy and consume it. It is hazardous to health,” he stated.
Controller Federal Operation Unit (FOU) Zone A, Aliyu Mohammed, said: “Nobody will grow our economy for us, we must work together to make Nigeria great. If you go to Cotonou now, over N1 trillion bags of rice are waiting there and they must enter Nigeria. How many officers are in Customs? With all our efforts, some of them will find their way. We can’t eradicate it completely because of the nation’s porous borders. Besides, we don’t have friends; people are always working against us. If you go out now and see them beating a Customs officer, you will join them to beat him. It is unfortunate. The smugglers are seeing it as their birth right to smuggle. They claimed they couldn’t go to school and start looking for job after graduation, so they are looking for quick means of making money.”
He equally alleged that rice smuggling is also being perpetrated by the rich, who see it as a booming business, saying: “A poor man cannot use the small money he has to buy rice, but a rich man will buy it and use the poor man to smuggle it. They are using innocent people to enrich themselves. We should all work to support government policies. Go to Benin Republic, visit the roundabout area, you will discover that prices of houses have soar, because they have turned most of their residential buildings to warehouses where they keep rice and earn higher income. So, they get more money for keeping rice than rent it as residential.”
He also warned against the poor quality of the imported rice compared to the local rice and its health benefits, saying: “Go and get the foreign rice and cook it. If you are a Hausa man, I will tell you to make Tuwo shinkafa. Then, get Kebbi or Abakaliki rice and make the same Tuwo shinkafa. Cover it throughout the day and open it in the morning. You will discover that the foreign rice will scatter because it is chemical rice, but our local rice will be intact and the aroma will be enticing. Then, you will never eat foreign rice again.
“Those who are saying that the local rice is not enough are the real smugglers because they don’t want you to know the secret. Go to Bida, Abakaliki, Adija, you will see the large expanse of land used in harvesting rice. We need to help our leaders. We need to help this country,” he said.
Despite the Nigerian government’s policy on domestication of the rice industry, and the war against its illegal importation, seaports of West African countries are still receiving large quantities of the commodity, apparently for onward shipment to Nigeria through the land borders. Consequently, the commodity still tops the smuggling chart of seized items by the Nigeria Customs, while poultry products and vehicles occupy the second and third highest smuggled items.
Economic Confidential, in a three-week survey on the rice market across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria, observed that foreign rice such as Mama Gold, Royal Stallion, Rice Master, Caprice, Falcon Rice and Basmati are sold alongside Nigerian brands like: Umza and Fursa Crown from Kano. Others are Mama Happy from Niger, Labana Rice from Kebbi, Olam Rice from Nasarawa, Abakaliki Rice from Ebonyi, Ofada Rice from Ogun State, Swomen Dama from Plateau, Lake Rice of Lagos/Kebbi States among others.
National Deputy President, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Segun Atho, told The Guardian that smuggling is a major threat to rice production, but all hands are on deck to ensure that the nation feeds itself through sustainable local production.
“Rice smuggling is another virus in the content of Nigeria, because if you look at the rate at which people smuggle rice, it is alarming. There are some cartels behind it that are not ready to sheath their swords. Rice is being produced by almost every nation, and it has become a staple food, which is important to every nation that wants to survive.
“When we complain about smugglers, what about the Customs that are support instead of prevent them? They are there when the women carry small bags containing rice into the country. They are there when some people use bad vehicles to convey smuggled goods; what are they looking at? Although, some the Customs officers are good, while they still have some bad elements among them. They will collect money from the smugglers and allow them to go.
“Also, the border communities see smuggling as their national cake, and this is unfortunate. It is a serious situation. We have to fight together, if Nigeria wants to attain self-sufficiency and sustainability in rice production.
“Farmers are doing their best, and I can see that smuggling is reducing. I am talking from the farm, and all over the country, farmers are producing, and we are trying to mop up the production for processing and for marketing, and all hands are on deck.
Furthermore, he said the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers Programme has helped farmers a lot.
Denying the claims that foreign rice is more readily available in the market than local rice, Atho said: “That is not true. What we have is that some rice sellers re-bag local products into foreign sacks and sell as imported rice. This is because of the consumption pattern of Nigerians, and we really need to change that. We need to patronise locally made goods. You have been eating Nigerian rice but you don’t know. Go to the integrated rice mills in Kano, Kebbi, Wakot, Benue, Abakaliki. Coscharis, Dangote, and Sam Egwu are all bagging rice now.”
Similarly, Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN), had earlier raised an alarm that over one million metric tonnes of rice had been smuggled into Nigeria in the last three months.
The Chairman of RIPAN, Mohammed Abubakar Maifata, who made this revelation in Abuja, 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 equivalent to about 20,000,000 bags of 50kg rice, have been smuggled into Nigeria in the last three months.
“Nigeria currently loses huge revenues, foreign exchange, and jobs to this menace, as Nigeria rice processing companies are shutting down because of their inability to gain market access.
“More painfully, millions of smallholder farmers are stuck with their paddy because the millers can no longer afford to buy from them.”
He said investigations conducted by the Association in the last few months indicated that, “all our international borders have been converted to smugglers route, and our markets are filled with smuggled foreign rice.”
But he cautioned that, “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.”

Meetings Convene Against Backdrop of Grower Concern  
By Deborah Willenborg

KAPLAN & CROWLEY, LA -- You'd need quite a chisel plow to cut the tension in the air in rice country these days, but despite the mood and uncertainty, for the past two days, growers flocked to field days here.  First at the HorizonAg Field Day on the farm of Christian Richard in Kaplan, and then for the 110th Annual Rice Field Day at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station in Crowley.

On display at Richard's was Clearfield and the Provisia Rice System that looks promising, particularly the improved yield potential for PVL02, the second Provisia variety released.

"Over multiple years of testing, PVL02 has shown a 10 percent yield advantage to PVL01, and is seven days earlier in maturity which is important in South Louisiana," said Dr. Tim Walker, HorizonAg general manager.  "PVL02 results in higher head rice yields as well."

Walker thanked the growers and consultants for attending the event and spoke passionately about the need for the U.S. rice industry to regain the trust of international customers.

Latest research findings keep everyone up to date

"We as an industry gave them a reason to look elsewhere, and that's on all of us," he said.  "Now we need to get them back, and it's never easy, but I know we have the quality to do it."

A nice cloud cover settled over Crowley on Wednesday for the LSU Field Day, keeping temperatures in check as several hundred people cycled through the five stations positioned around the Rice Research Station.

Attendees heard first from LSU AgCenter Rice Breeder Dr. Adam Famoso about the Provisia varieties as well as Clearfield varieties 2097 and 2195 that he says hold promise in terms of yield and grain quality, one of which could see commercial release next year.  Dr. Brijesh Angira explained the DNA marker work he is pursuing in support of the varietal development program at the LSU AgCenter.

Dr. Eric Webster and Dr. Don Groth provided updates on rice weed control and disease research, including varietal resistance, cultural management, and chemical means of dealing with challenges.

LSU AgCenter entomologist Dr. Blake Wilson shared signs of rice water weevil infestations and a newer threat to Louisiana rice fields - apple snails - so named because they can get as large as apples.


Apple snails:  Don't touch, "escargot away"
"The snails can survive months in totally dry conditions and can actually clog up crawfish traps, rendering a pond unusable," Wilson warned.  "Egg masses contain neurotoxins that can irritate the skin and eyes, so don't touch them with your bare skin, and if you do come across them, you should knock them into the water carefully."

And despite how big they get and Cajun ingenuity, Wilson advised against eating them.

"The females can contain parasites that can get into your brain and actually be fatal," he said.

Dr. James Oard asked attendees to think about the pros and cons of growing hybrid rice, explaining that growers need to consider several factors before deciding one way or another on them.

"Hybrids typically have a higher yield and require less inputs, but the seed can cost three or four times more than conventional seed," he said.  "Hybrids can have higher chalk, but work much better in row rice systems that are becoming very popular.  Every farmer is going to need to conduct the analysis and make their own decision on hybrids."

LSU AgCenter Extension Specialist Dr. Dustin Harrell rounded out the tours by discussing some key takeaways from his agronomic research, including efficient use of fertilizer and, where appropriate, urease inhibitors to prevent ammonia volatilization that can cost growers 30 percent of their nitrogen budget.

"If you use best management practices, rice can be one of the most efficient users of nitrogen fertilizer, bar none," he said.  "But without those practices, rice can easily be one of the least efficient users."

Former AgCenter Director Dr. Steve Linscombe, now director of The Rice Foundation, shared the great results found in the U.S. Rice Industry Sustainability Report.  The comprehensive report, funded in part by a grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, looked at 36 years of data to demonstrate the outstanding commitment to long-term sustainability of the U.S. rice industry. 

USDA's Richard Fordyce and USA Rice's Betsy Ward

Following the field tours, station visitors heard ag and policy updates from Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Dr. Mike Strain and USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward.  The AgCenter's Vice President for Agriculture Dr. William Richardson and Associate Vice President Dr. Rogers Leonard also addressed the crowd, thanking attendees and sponsors.

Two special guests brought words of encouragement from Washington, DC.  Congressman Ralph Abraham spoke about his commitment to helping Louisiana's farmers and rice industry specifically, including the invaluable work he's done to encourage Iraq to purchase U.S. rice and his efforts to push Congressional adoption of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that is intended to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce talked about the commitment of U.S. farmers and the hard work they do feeding America and the world.

Louisiana farmers Richard Fontenot, chair of the Louisiana Rice Research Board, and John Owen, chair of the Louisiana Rice Promotion Board, also spoke, thanking members who were rotating off the boards after many years of dedicated service and welcoming new members.

Later that day, the Louisiana Rice Promotion Board heard presentations from USA Rice's Ward and Vice President International Sarah Moran and Vice President of Domestic Promotion Michael Klein, and approved the funding request for the USA Rice Council for the 2019-20 year.

GMO crop not a prudent plan

Jun 28,2019 
THE agriculture minister on January 31 said that golden rice was to be commercially released soon. But the authorities should have considered the studies that have showed that vitamin A, converted from beta carotene, is very low in genetically modified golden rice and that the rice is also unable to hold the biochemical element for long after harvest. Unless preserved in a refrigerated condition in vacuum packaging as paddy, golden rice loses up to 84 per cent of its beta carotene in six months, as research shows.
 The degradation of beta carotene level, as New Age reported on Thursday, gets faster with processing and the degradation is the highest in polished golden rice, a research published in the British journal Food Chemistry says. The research notes that rice is always eaten after processing and it is in this state that rice is stored in Asian countries. High temperature and humidity also accelerate the rate of degradation of beta carotene. Besides, cooking can destroy up to 25 per cent of beta carotene.
The national committee on biosafety approved five genetically modified agricultural crops, including rice, potato and cotton, for confined trial farming after the commercial farming of Bt brinjal. But the authorities need to note that besides the recent findings, a biotechnology professor in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University also said that beta carotene was generally considered a highly stable biochemical element but now it was clear that beta carotene gets degraded rapidly. Such findings show that golden rice campaign to help to fight vitamin A deficiency would not work. Green activists also campaign that Asian countries are abundant in natural sources containing beta carotene. They are particularly against golden rice and other genetically modified crops and say that scientists are unaware of the harmful impact of such crops on public health. Even the food and health regulators the developed countries have found beta carotene concentration in golden rice to be very low, refusing to accept it as a nutritious grain. All these genetically modified crops were originally developed by the US-based seed giant Monsanto and BARI received the technology from India’s Mahyco that is affiliated to Monsanto.
It is unacceptable that when GM crops and foods based on them are barred from entering the US and EU markets and the farming of these crops are banned in India and the Philippines, the government is serving the interest of Monsanto and Mahyco at the expense of Bangladesh’s poor population. Conscious sections of society need to mount pressure on the government to rethink its harmful move to cultivate these crops, including golden rice.

Dr. Lourdes J. Cruz: The Pinay Biochemist Who Studied A Deadly Snail

Description: national scientist, dr. lourdes j. cruz

Born on May 19, 1942, Dr. Lourdes J. Cruz is lauded for her research on Conus geographus, a marine snail found in the Philippines.
•Working alongside fellow experts, she studied the properties of the snail’s venom, which were largely unknown at the time.
•Their research paved the way toward finding practical uses for conotoxins, leading to breakthroughs in neuroscience and medicine.

Your central nervous system–your brain, spinal cord, and complex network of nerves–is your body’s highway for passing information and control. Your every movement, feeling, and involuntary action is made possible by information that is processed and passed along tissues in your brain and nerves.
The study of the nervous system is of high importance in the field of medicine and surrounding sciences. Such research has led to many practical treatments for neurological diseases.
Interestingly, such medical breakthroughs may come from the strangest of places. Sometimes, even venomous marine snails.

A sharp mind

Dr. Lourdes J. Cruz was born on May 19, 1942. She took up Chemistry at the University of the Philippines Diliman, earning her bachelor’s degree in 1962. Her undergraduate thesis explored trypsin inhibitors, a protein that controls enzymes involved in digestion.
Right after she graduated and got her license as a registered chemist, Dr. Cruz worked for a year as a research aide at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Her career in research was off to a promising start, with her co-authorship of three publications on the physicochemical properties of rice proteins.
Dr. Cruz pursued postgraduate studies in Biochemistry at the University of Iowa, while working as a graduate assistant. She completed her master’s degree in 1966 and her Ph.D. in 1968.
Upon returning home to the Philippines, IRRI authorized Dr. Cruz as an Assistant Biochemist. In her new role, she conducted pioneering studies on the biochemical factors affecting the increasing levels of protein in rice.
After her work at IRRI, she pursued a 5-month postdoctoral study at the Kansas State University.

Snail’s pace

Armed with her decorated educational background, Dr. Cruz accepted the position of Assistant Professor at the UP College of Medicine in 1970. It was there that she began working with other biochemists in exploring the biochemical properties of a marine predator.
Found in the waters of Marinduque and Mindoro, Conus geographus is a venomous fish-hunting species. At the time, it was well-known for its sting, which could cause illnesses and even death among fishermen. Dr. Cruz and her colleagues worked on isolating peptides (short chains of amino acids, the building blocks of protein) from the conotoxins in the snail’s venom. At the time, the properties of these conotoxins were largely unknown. Moreover, they affected the central nervous system in rather surprising ways. They caused muscular paralysis, sleepiness or drowsiness, involuntary motion, and more.
Over the course of two decades, Dr. Cruz and her co-researchers worked on these findings.

Description: conus geographus
The marine snail known as Conus geographus(Image: Michigan Science Art)

(S)nailing it

Today, the conotoxin peptides are important, extensively used biochemical probes. For example, ω-Conotoxin is used for testing calcium channels in neurons. Another one, µ-Conotoxin, is used as a prohibitor of muscular movement when inspecting actions at synapses.
A total of seven Conus venom-based therapeutic products for pain, epilepsy and myocardial infarction reached Phase 1 and preclinical trials on non-human subjects in 2006. Additionally, Dr. Cruz and fellow biochemist Dr. Baldomero “Toto” Olivera received 13 patents for numerous conotoxins or conotoxin peptides and their applications.
Dr. Cruz’s research brought her much acclaim and recognition. Among the awards she received were the Outstanding Young Scientist Award by the National Academy of Science and Technology (1981), the Achievement Award in Chemistry by the National Research Council of the Philippines (1982), the Ten Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) in 1986, a Medal of Distinction from the Philippine Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (1994), and the Outstanding ASEAN Scientist and Technologist Award (2001).
In 2006, she officially joined the roster of the Philippines’ National Scientists.
Description: national scientist, dr. lourdes j. cruz
Dr. Lourdes J. Cruz. (Image: National Academy of Science and Technology Philippines)

Can do, can teach

Dr. Cruz has had a prolific career in research, having published over 130 academic papers. As a student, she had remarkable teachers to train her, including National Scientist Dr. Clara Y. Lim-Sylianco (for her undergraduate thesis), National Scientist Dr. Bienvenido O. Juliano, and internationally acclaimed biochemist Dr. Clarence P. Berg at the University of Iowa.
Unsurprisingly, Dr. Cruz is an educator herself. She served as an assistant professor in the UP College of Medicine’s Department of Biochemistry, becoming the department chairperson from 1970 to 1986. She also joined the University of Utah Department of Biology’s faculty as a research professor from 1987 to 2004. At present, she teaches at the UP Marine Science Institute.
Dr. Cruz also reaches beyond the walls of the classroom by extending her knowledge to under-served sectors of society. She founded the Rural Livelihood Incubator in Bataan, an initiative that supports the education of poor rural communities in science and technology.
Additionally, Dr. Cruz has been the president of the Center for BioMolecular Science Foundation since 1994, a DOST-approved foundation that applies bioscience to protect forests, seas, and their surrounding communities.–MF

Cover photo:, Presidential Museum and Library PH (2010-2016)


  • Tecson-Mendoza, E. (2017) Biosketches: Filipino Trailblazers in Science and Technology. Taguig, Philippines. National Academy of Science and Technology Philippines.

Amir's $3bn support lauded by Pakistan PM

  26 Jun 2019 - 9:58


Doha: Amir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani  yesterday received a telephone call from Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Imran Khan. 
During the call,  Imran Khan expressed gratitude to H H the Amir for his directives to support Pakistan’s economy with $3bn in deposits and investments, adding that this directive and H H the Amir’s recent visit to Pakistan reflect the deep relations and ties between both countries and peoples. 
For his part, H H the Amir expressed thanks and appreciation for the warm hospitality accorded to him during his visit to Pakistan.
In a related development, Pakistani media reacted positively with the announcement that H H the Amir issued directives to support the Asian country’s economy with $3bn worth of deposits and direct investments. 
News media outlets in Pakistan reported that the move will support the growing bilateral ties, following the historic visit carried out by H H the Amir. Special Assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Information and Broadcasting, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, thanked the Amir and the cabinet for the support, Radio Pakistan reported.
She said that this amount will help Pakistan overcome its economic challenges, adding that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s announcement to grant visa on arrival for Qatari citizens will develop tourism sector in Pakistan. She also hailed Qatar’s lifting of the ban on Pakistani rice, saying it was good news for rice exporters and the economy of the country.
Express Tribune said that the Qatari announcement came three days before Pakistan was scheduled to make about $700m in repayments to its international creditors, which was going to hit its already low reserves. The paper noted that the visit of H H the Amir to Pakistan concluded with no mention of the $3bn aid package in the official handout. The paper also highlighted that Qatar and Pakistan had also signed three memoranda of understanding (MoU). They touched a wide range of fields that included trade, investment, and tourism.
Dunya News TV channel meanwhile quoted Awan as saying that the investments will create new business opportunities in Pakistan, and will also strengthen the investment initiative of the government. She added that the announcement was proof of international leaders confidence in the current government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan. She also said this was a first step to further boost bilateral ties between Qatar and Pakistan

India gets 24% below-average rainfall this week: weather office

JUNE 27, 2019 / 11:11
Children play in a puddle of water as it rains at a sea front in Kochi, India June 9, 2019. REUTERS/Sivaram V
MUMBAI (Reuters) - India’s monsoon rains were 24% below average in the week ended June 26, the weather office said on Thursday, as the seasonal rainfall was scanty over central and western parts of the country.
The rains are crucial for farm output and economic growth as about 55% of the south Asian nation’s arable land is rain-fed, and the farm sector makes up about 15% of a nearly $2.5-trillion economy that is Asia’s third-biggest.
The below-average rainfall has delayed sowing of summer-sown crop such rice, soybean and corn and threatens to curtail crop yields.
Monsoon has delivered 36% lower-than-normal rainfall since the start of the season on June 1, due to a delay in the onset of monsoon rains, according to data compiled by India Meteorological Department.
Monsoon rains arrived in the southern state of Kerala on June 8. However, Cyclone Vayu developed in the Arabian Sea drew moisture from the monsoon and weakened its progress.

Govt may lower rice offer price in open mkt sale plan to clear stock

Wednesday, Jun 26

By Sampad Nandy

NEW DELHI – The government may reduce the offer price of rice under the open market sale scheme to attract private players as its bids to clear out stocks from its burgeoning inventory, sources close to the development said.

The offer price may be lowered to 2,100-2,200 rupees per 100 kg to make the commodity attractive for private players, the sources said. A call on the final offer price, however, would be taken after the government decides the minimum support price of paddy for 2019-20 (Oct-Sep).
The government is offering 5 mln tn rice from its stock under the open market sale scheme at a flat price of 2,785 rupees per 100 kg this year. Offtake from the scheme has been slow so far as states are the only buyers. Private players are keeping away from the sale as wholesale prices in most markets are lower than the government's offer price. In Karnataka's Davangere, a key market, rice was today sold at 2,300-2,400 rupees per 100 kg.

"Although the sale looks robust so far, only states have picked up stocks till now. Private purchases are in fact nil. In this situation we will not be able to liquidate enough stocks before the new marketing season starts in October," one of the sources said.

The government had earlier reduced the required minimum bid for rice to 50 tn from 100 tn this year to encourage private participation. It is also thinking of making it simpler for consortiums of traders to make single bids instead of one buyer bidding for the entire quantity of 50 tn, the official said. 

The government, staring at record rice procurement of around 45 mln tn this year, is keen to lower its stocks to a more manageable level before the next kharif marketing season starts in October as it is running out of storage space. 

If rice sales under the open market sale scheme fail to take off, the government will have nearly 28.6 mln tn rice in stocks at the start of the new procurement season, nearly three times the combined buffer and strategic stock requirement of 10.8 mln tn.

The food ministry has also proposed allocating extra food grain to beneficiaries of public distribution schemes for some time to liquidate stocks from the central pool.  End

Edited by Subham Mitra

Cogencis Tel +91 (11) 4220-1000
Send comments to

India's monsoon rains below average levels for a fourth week

JUNE 27, 2019 / 6:12 PM
(Reuters) - India’s monsoon rains were below average for a fourth straight week due to scant seasonal rainfall over central and western parts of the country, raising concerns about production of summer-sown crops such as rice, soybeans and cotton.
FILE PHOTO: Women plant rice saplings at a paddy field in a village in Nagaon district, in the northeastern state of Assam, India, July 3, 2018. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika
The monsoon - which accounts for 70% of India’s annual rainfall and is the lifeblood of its $2.5 trillion economy - has delivered 36% lower-than-normal rainfall since the start of the season on June 1, according to data compiled by the India Meteorological Department.
(GRAPHIC: India's rainfall deficit -
However, the deficit has narrowed to 36% from last week’s 43%, the data showed.
(GRAPHIC: India's rainfall distribution by subdivisions -
Sowing of summer crops such as cotton, rice, soybeans, corn and pulses has been lower than last year due to the late arrival of monsoon rains this year.
(GRAPHIC: India's sowing levels -
A decent improvement in rainfall in the coming weeks remains critical for the sowing of summer crops, analysts said.
If there isn’t a turnaround in conditions, agricultural output could be hit badly and hurt an already slowing economy as rural demand sags.
(GRAPHIC: Weighting of agri-commodities in India's CPI -

White rice varieties of Padang Pariaman Anai tested

Description: White rice varieties of Padang Pariaman Anai tested
The atmosphere of the session of the evaluation of the varieties of Padi Putiah food crops in Padang Pariaman Anai in Bogor on Thursday. (Antara of West Sumatra / Aadiaat MS)
The tests on the white rice were conducted in Bogor from Wednesday, June 26 to Friday, June 28, and if found suitable, it would be approved for planting in all regions of Indonesia.
Parit Malintang, (ANTARA) - The Directorate General of Food Crops, Ministry of Agriculture, assessed the white rice variety of Padang Pariaman Anai (Papanai) which had been tested, to decide whether it should be distributed and planted nationally. "This variety is the result of the development of the Padang Pariaman Agriculture Office and is a superior food crop," said Padang Pariaman Head of Agriculture and Food Security Yurisman Jacob at Parit Malintang, Thursday.

The tests on the white rice were conducted in Bogor from Wednesday, June 26 to Friday, June 28, and if found suitable, it would be approved for planting in all regions of Indonesia, he said.

This variety is suitable to be distributed throughout Indonesia because it has a number of advantages, he believed.

The advantages it has is that it is resistant to brown planthopper pests, blast disease, high production with an average of 7.28 tons per hectare, whiter, and tastes good.

Currently, rice is only being developed and cultivated in three sub-districts in Padang Pariaman, namely Lubuk Alung, Kampung Dalam, and Sungai Limau, he said.

"About 40 percent of our production is made into seeds so that it can be developed into other regions, while the rest is consumed by the public," he said.

The Papanai variety of rice gets its name from the area in Padang Pariaman and Anai is the name of the Anai dam which supplies 25 percent of water for agriculture in the area.

The variety is purified from white rice and has received a certificate from the Ministry of Agriculture in February 2019.

The presence of the Papanai white had really benefited the farmer because a number of other types of rice, namely IR 42 and Batang Piaman had fallen prey to the brown planthopper, he revealed.

Previously, five local varieties from Kabupaten Padang Pariaman that farmers could use to improve the economy, had been recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture.

"The acknowledgment is to state that the variety only exists in Padang Pariaman," he said.

The five local varieties from Padang Pariaman district are Papanai white rice, Talantam durian fruits of Kayu Tanam, durian of Kunyik Patamuan, Ampaweh guava, and fragrant areca nut.

LSU AgCenter rice, soybean tour set for July 9 in St. Joseph

A row rice and soybean tour will be held July 9 at the LSU AgCenter Northeast Research Station at 4589 Hwy. 605 in St. Joseph.
“This event offers a focused programming effort targeting row rice production methods, which have gained interest in the northern part of the state, while providing crop management updates that producers need at this time,” said AgCenter regional director Melissa Cater.
Registration opens at 4:30 p.m. at the main office building, where guests are invited to participate in a self-guided tour of station projects.
“This is a great opportunity for producers to get a closer look at the latest research being conducted by AgCenter experts in the northeast region,” said resident coordinator Donnie Miller.
A field tour will begin at 5:30 p.m. followed by a sponsored dinner.
Featured topics include row rice nitrogen management, soybean rotation for row rice weed control, new soybean technologies and variety selection, and disease, insect and weed control. Cover crops for post-harvest in corn will also be discussed.
The tour will include presentations from a panel of local growers about their experiences with holding versus not holding of tailwater in row rice production.
For more information on the event, contact Donnie Miller at or 318-766-3769.

Rice prices in North Korea have risen by more than a quarter in two months. Why?

·       JUNE 27, 2019

Asia Rice-Indian demand perks up, Thai prices rise on stronger baht
Eileen Soreng
·       JUNE 27, 2019 / 4:49

Bangladesh unable to strike deal since lifting export ban in May
* Indian prices rise to $369-$372/T vs $367-$370/T last week
* New batch of rice to enter Thai market around August - trader
* Vietnam starts shipping rice to Iraq - trader
By Eileen Soreng
BENGALURU, June 27 (Reuters) - Rice export prices in India edged higher this week, helped by an uptick in demand, while a strong Thai baht propped up prices in the world’s second largest rice exporter amid subdued consumption.
In India, the top exporter of the staple grain, 5 percent broken parboiled variety RI-INBKN5-P1 was quoted around $369-$372 per tonne this week, up from last week’s $367-$370.
“We are seeing interest building up from west African markets,” said Nitin Gupta, vice president for Olam India’s rice business.
Farmers have planted summer-sown rice on 630,000 hectares as of June 21, down 32% compared with the same period a year ago, according to provisional data from the Ministry of Agriculture, as the monsoon delivered less-than-average rainfall.
Meanwhile, neighbouring Bangladesh had been unable to strike a deal since its ban on rice exports was lifted a month ago, officials said.
“So far there is no progress in making any deal. We are exploring markets. Let’s see,” a senior food ministry official said.
Bangladesh lifted its longstanding ban on rice exports in May, aiming to sell as much as 1.5 million tonnes to support farmers following a drastic drop in domestic prices.
Thailand’s benchmark 5 percent broken rice RI-THBKN5-P1 prices rose to $395-$415 a tonne, free on board Bangkok (FOB), compared with $390-$407 last week.
Traders attributed the price increase to a firm Thai baht, which has strengthened more than 5% against the greenback so far this year.
Traders say supply of Thai rice is also gradually decreasing during the rainy season, while demand remained flat.
“There were concerns about drought earlier this year which has caused a delay to the new crop,” a Bangkok-based rice trader said.
“We are now expecting a new batch of rice to enter the market around August or slightly later.”
In Vietnam, the third biggest rice exporter after Thailand, rates for 5 percent broken rice RI-VNBKN5-P1 were unchanged from last week at $340-$345 a tonne.
“We have begun delivering rice to Iraq under a contract signed earlier for 150,000 tonnes for delivery this month and next,” a trader based in Ho Chi Minh City said.
However, Vietnam’s rice exporters will continue to face difficulty clinching new deals during the rest of this year on weaker demand from China, its largest rice export market, the ministry of industry and trade said in a statement this week.
Vietnam’s rice shipments to China in the first five months of this year fell 74% from a year earlier to 223,078 tonnes due to China’s rising inventories and its move to impose stricter non-tariff barriers, according to the statement. (Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um in Bangkok, Khanh Vu in Hanoi, Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Ruma Paul in Dhaka; Editing by Jan Harvey)

Cheaper rice, fuel to cap June inflation, says BSP

By: Daxim L. Lucas - Reporter / @daxinq
Inquirer Business / 05:01 PM June 28, 2019
MANILA, Philippines — Prices of consumer goods and services are expected to have risen between 2.2-3 percent in June – lower than the previous month’s faster pace – due to the combined effects of lower rice and petroleum prices, central bank economists said Friday.
The Department of Economic Research of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said in a statement that the June inflation rate, which follows the 3.2-percent pace of price increases in May, could also be restrained by a downward adjustment in electricity rates.
At the same time, domestic prices of basic goods and services are also expected to feel the benefits of a strong peso, which makes imported raw materials denominated in foreign currencies cheaper to buy, the central bank’s economists said.
The expected June inflation range is lower than BSP’s forecast of 2.8-3.6 for May, which preceded the government’s official announcement of a slightly faster inflation rate a few days later.
If confirmed, the benign price regime being expected for this month will allow BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno to resume the monetary easing that was put on hold last week after the surprise uptick in the inflation rate.
This latest forecast jibes with an earlier statement made by outgoing Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo who said the monetary regulator was expecting inflation rate for 2019 to come in at an average of 2.7 percent, revising the 2.9 percent forecast set just last month.
The forecast for the range of increase of prices of basic goods and services for 2020 was also cut slightly to 3 percent, from the previous expectation of a 3.1-percent average.
Meanwhile, banks’ reserve requirement ratio – currently the highest level in the region – is in the middle of a staggered process of being lowered from May to July to 16 percent from 18 percent.
BSP’s overnight borrowing rate, which influences the prices that banks charge on their retail and wholesale loans, was cut in early May by 25 basis points to 4.5 percent. The country’s monetary policy direction was reversed that month after being tightened by 175 basis points last year to fight off inflation.
“Going forward, the BSP will remain watchful of the evolving inflation environment to ensure that the monetary policy stance remains consistent with the [central bank’s] price stability mandate,” the economists said.
The Philippine Statistics Authority is scheduled to release the inflation data for June on July 5, Friday.

Precious drops
 Editorial27 Jun 2019 9:22 PM
Water scarcity has rocked the nation and sprung the government machinery into action. Vivid discussions across political and administrative domains are echoing as statistics paint a dismal picture. In a discussion on water crisis in Rajya Sabha, CPM's T K Description: Precious dropsRangarajan pronounced that "gold is cheaper than water" in Chennai. While Chennai strives to recharge its water reservoirs anticipating the already delayed monsoon, other metropolises are not too far from meeting a similar fate. NITI Aayogy's report last year titled Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) cites how as many as 21 major Indian cities are edging towards zero groundwater levels by 2020.
 This will have a direct impact on water accessibility for more than 100 million people. As Chennai reels under the unprecedented water crisis, the onus of systematic changes rests on the Central dispensation. Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Shekhawat asserted the provision of piped drinking water to every household by 2024. As ambitious as this objective remains, especially these times of impending crisis, drinking water is not sole issue, it comprises hardly five per cent of the total availability with 15 per cent used for industrial purposes and the remaining 80 per cent for agricultural use.
Groundwater has been stressed to alarming levels more for satisfying agricultural demand rather than drinking purposes. That definitely gives the dispensation a headway as to where exactly innovation is required—agricultural sector. But while the government is comprehensively discussing water crisis to derive measures, it must pay heed to recharge the ecology—aquifers. Switching to water conservation policies is definitely a step in the right direction but that alone will not suffice.
Water reuse, efficient irrigation as well as a shift from water-intensive crops such as sugarcane and rice will help in maintaining desired groundwater levels while ameliorating the overexploited ones. Many sources indicate that water requirement will be double the current supply by 2030 and at the current pace, India will not be able to sustain the leap. In 2014-15, Indian farms consumed 10 trillion litres of water to produce 3.7 million tonnes of basmati rice for export which brings attention to how India utilises a tremendous amount of groundwater to produce water-intensive crops such as wheat and rice in Punjab and Haryana which boast of drought-resilient farmlands largely due to extensive investments in irrigation and electricity infrastructure as well as government subsidies on water and power consumption. How can we afford to export groundwater when the water crisis is more real than Climate Change, considering how the latter is widely underacknowledged despite being real.

A likely suggestion based on the joint study conducted by the National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD) and Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) urges a shift in crop pattern for maximising crop productivity per unit of irrigation in addition to land productivity. For instance, shifting rice cultivation towards central and eastern states where economical use of groundwater in the absence of government subsidies is favourable for crop productivity. So the north-western state of Punjab and Haryana could go for water-efficient crops such as maize and pulses. Farmers in the north-western region are aware of depleting groundwater levels but a shift to water-efficient crops would require state-assured procurement policy similar to that for rice and wheat in order to cover the market risk.
Incentivising water-efficient crop production is another state-initiated method to promote crop shift pattern. Amidst policy-level changes and revising commitments in agricultural use of water comes the traditional water-conservation method of rainwater harvesting. Chennai had initiated a drive to generalise rainwater harvesting during Jayalalithaa's era in the early 2000s but that did not work out well with implementation and today we have a haphazardly put together rainwater harvesting network. Learning from the rainwater harvesting failure that Chennai faced, the pan-India initiative to implement rainwater harvesting network must ensure sustainability otherwise it would become a debacle. As the Jan Shakti Abhiyan kicks in from July 1 for areas receiving rainfall due to the south-west monsoon, paying attention to peculiarities regarding water conservation and rainwater harvesting would ensure minimal gaps in the ministry's bid to ameliorate the situation of the 255 identified water-starved districts.
The pan-Indian team of concerned officials will have to combat excessive groundwater pumping, inefficient as well as wasteful water management and rain-deficit situation. There are hefty policy changes which need to be implemented alongside increased awareness in order to reach to people with the crisis update and ensure compliance in government initiated remedial measures. Water is the most essential resource and with the crisis, it is best to make a concerted effort in stabilising groundwater levels besides adopting sustainable practices.