Monday, August 05, 2019

5th August,2019 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

What comes first, the chicken or the corn?
posted August 05, 2019 at 12:20 am by Orlando Oxales

Government should listen to industry experts in crafting policy reforms.

Description: from rice farmers and millers, the local chicken industry also bore the brunt of a series of government interventions last year geared to arrest runaway inflation. The Department of Trade and Industry asked industry players to lower farm gate prices of poultry products then, only to be surprised when the Department of Agriculture lifted the special safeguard duty on the importation of mechanically deboned meat.
The result was thus doubly disastrous for local producers as farm gate prices of chicken in some areas reached a low of P38 and P90 per kilo in some public markets. These numbers, as they fall way below the local cost-to-produce, understandably dealt local farmers with huge losses, unable to compete with the deluge of imports.
Months into something so unsustainable, it is little wonder then the local chicken industry is practically pushed to the brink of collapse. According to data from the National Meat Inspection Service, dressed chicken inventory is at 33,655 metric tons, up almost 50 percent. More than half, or almost 20,000 MT were imported while the remaining 13,748 MT were locally produced.
In the same way then that the implementation of the rice tariffication law led to the closure of many local rice millers, the unabated deluge of imports in the local market is threatening to strangle the local poultry industry due to tough competition.
United Broiler Raisers Association  president Elias Inciong warned that small and medium scale producers might be pushed to just import to align with what seems to be the government priority. “We’ve tried for decades to convince the government that imports do not benefit the consumers, but they do not believe us,” he said.
The irony is that while farm gate price is now at P80 per kilogram from as high as P114 per kilo in June, retail prices have not followed suit, reaching between P150 and P170 per kilo even amid fluctuations. If the virtual deregulation of the industry had not brought the kind of relief it was envisioned to, something is clearly amiss.
Inciong explained: “There is a notion that importation benefits the consumers, but it doesn’t. It is our position from the beginning that importation of poultry products and most agricultural products have not benefitted the consumers, especially the ordinary ones.”
Whatever additional profit traders amass, they don’t pass it on the consumers, which was the entire point of the government intervention. Worse, it forces local producers out of business as they continue to bleed from massive losses. The status quo has no regulations in place for traders, the only sector that stands to benefit from the lowered tariff for chicken.
“The priority will be the importers and that’s the reality of things,” Inciong said. “Whether or not the consumers benefit, whether or not the producers are harmed, we are irrelevant. It is just a matter of revenue generation for the government.”
Far from an industry-specific crisis, the predicament of the local poultry industry has some dire overarching consequences. For starters, some 8.3-million jobs depend on the industry, and so its collapse will impact millions of Filipino households.
It can also spiral into a serious national security concern that affects a major food resource of the country. The price competition between domestic and imported chicken might lead to the lowering of the price of domestic chicken just to compete. Unable to do so, the next to be compromised might be domestic production.
Declining market share of domestic production and therefore declining profits for the industry can set off a domino effect—reaching even local farmers of corn and rice and small to medium scale feed millers.
For instance, the adjacent feed milling industry will necessarily have to adjust to whatever state the local poultry industry finds itself in. While it can be expected to continue to support local farmers, they should be aided properly to ensure quality harvests that can pass the quality requirements for feed ingredients.
An added complication is that the local feed millers also have to compete with other industries buying locally sourced corn, whereas traders mostly but the local harvest and sell it to feed millers at a higher price. As corn constitutes about half of the total cost of feed, lowering its cost will redound to the cost of chicken production.
Just how low should the cost of corn be in order to help make locally produced chicken competitive with imported chicken? For perspective, to produce a dressed chicken at P100 per kilo, the cost of corn should level at P11.25 per kilo. Currently, this is pegged at around P17 per kilo while imported buying is around P16.50.
This means that to ensure a fairly competitive price of chicken, the price of corn should range between P11.25 to P15.35 per kilo in Luzon and between P13.40 and P17.75 per kilo in Mindanao.
Clearly, helping keep the local poultry industry afloat is a complex but also necessary undertaking. Government should listen to industry experts in crafting policy reforms that will guarantee food production that is at par with demand. Steps may include lowering the cost of inputs, such as corn and other feed ingredients, in addition to the possibility of subsidies on corn farming to meet this goal.
More broadly, the government can also take steps to curb the appeal of importing by regulating traders and their so far untethered margins. That the sector benefits from something that is demonstrably unsustainable for most should be discouraged. Finally, it is high time to review the tariff implementation for chicken, still to guard against the collapse of an already beleaguered industry.

Ruga, fura and blind interventions

 August 5, 2019
Henry Boyo
The news of the Federal Government’s plans to establish Ruga, or cattle colonies throughout the federation started filtering out after President Muhammadu Buhari was re-elected as President, and his party, the All Progressives Congress also won a majority of seats in the National Assembly after the conclusion of the February 2019 elections.
Further confirmation of government’s Ruga plans was made on May 21, 2019, by former Minister for Agriculture, Audu Ogbe, who revealed that land had been selected for Ruga programme in all the states of the federation. The project, according to the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Umar, would be provided with necessary facilities to ensure that cattle breeders have access to grazing land, potable water, regular power supply, with provision also for living quarters and schools for the cattle rearers’ children.
Unexpectedly, however, the cost of establishing Ruga settlements has neither been revealed nor appropriated in the 2019 budget! Consequently, critics wonder why the haste to create herdsmen’s settlements when Nigeria’s major roads are presently besieged, according to several reports of victims, by alleged Fulani herdsmen, who kidnap, terrorise and kill travellers on our highways.
Curiously, government has not shown any serious commitment to reduce the intensity of brigandage, kidnapping and farmland destruction by these herdsmen who were, incidentally, earlier identified by Mr. President, himself, as “fleeing” fighters from Muammar Gadaffi’s Libya!
Equally troubling is the latest government directive for all migrants, amongst whom are thousands of herdsmen and those from Niger, Chad and other Sahelian countries to register their immigration status, to presumably, regularise their stay, when in contrast, Nigerians are regularly deported or promptly repatriated from several countries, within and outside Africa, for not having requisite qualification to be residents!
Furthermore, it does not add up that President Buhari would defend “fleeing” terrorists from Libya and elsewhere, against bona fide, peace-loving Nigerians. Nevertheless, Meyitti Allah, the cattle breeders association, has remained an unrepentant supporter of their life patron’s Ruga plan, as they continue to threaten national security, with provocative statements, which have, unexpectedly, attracted no reprimand.
Ironically, the President’s team has not also shown much enthusiasm, for the creative offer from Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, to provide adequate land and facilities to accommodate all herdsmen for the development of integrated cattle ranches, which would support an economic value change for slaughtering, packaging and effective distribution of beef and dairy products nationwide. Ganduje also wisely observed that “Ruga is supposed to be for states where the Fulani reside; you cannot implement Ruga where the indigenes are not Fulani.”
Predictably also, the proposed railway line from Niger Republic to Katsina, together with Nigeria’s notoriously porous borders, will invariably complicate the issue of migration and domestic insecurity, while adherence to ECOWAS and AfCFTA protocols may protect the influx of such jobless migrants, who may be recruited by fundamentalists like the dreaded Boko Haram sect, to wreck more havoc on Nigerians.
The above notwithstanding, the leaders of Nigeria’s ruling party and other Northern oligarchs continue to sway, unabashedly, in a locked step with Mr. President’s body language on the nationwide establishment of Ruga, even when traditional leaders and opinion leaders throughout Southern Nigerian and the Middle Belt have bluntly rejected the proposal.
Incidentally, the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele, was recently rewarded with another five-year term, by President Buhari, even when the governor failed in 2016 to prevent massive devaluation of naira, and also, failed to achieve the CBN’s prime objective of stable and low price levels that would drive inclusive growth. Emefiele has, not surprisingly also, enthusiastically aligned with his benefactor to deny official forex to milk importers so that milk producers will be compelled to develop the local dairy industry.
Arguably, the CBN’s forex ban is clearly precipitate and probably not well-thought-through.  Although Emefiele has indicated that the forex ban will save Nigeria about $1.2bn annually, the drawbacks of this ban are also quite formidable. Invariably, the welfare of the current corporate players in the milk market may not have been fairly considered.
Incidentally, FrieslandCampina, who are probably the major local players in this market, are reportedly already strategically supporting local farmers to boost volume and best quality standards in milk production, with $23m additional investment announced in September 2018.
However, it would certainly be more proactive if the CBN engages local milk producers and supports them with reasonably priced loans below five per cent so as to steadily develop and expand a comprehensive dairy business sector. Instructively, the local species of long-horned cows, reportedly, have a daily milk output that is less than 10 per cent of the output from the special cows breeds, used successfully for milk production elsewhere.
In this event, stakeholders would be encouraged to adopt high lactation and tropical disease-resistant foreign breeds, to set up a dairy value chain, complete with standard equipment and facilities for training more farm workers and technicians, while a tested collection and distribution network would be established, before any talk of forex denial to milk importers. Invariably, this process may require a four to five-year gestation period, during which time, access to forex for milk imports can be subject to a stepwise, annual reduction. Ultimately, however, if the rules of ECOWAS and AfCFTA membership are applied, such currency restriction to free trade may not also be applicable to milk imports from any country in Africa.
However, the CBN’s forex denial for milk (fura) imports, will, predictably, have a counter-productive outcome. For example, relative forex scarcity induced by the ban would drive smugglers’ demand for dollars in the parallel market, and inadvertently, spike the naira above N370=$1. Expectedly, higher dollar rates will, similarly, trigger price increases for a wide range of other grey imports, to further compound the existing challenges of high inflation rate, low consumer demand, and rising cost of borrowing, to the horrid discomfort of every Nigerian businessman or income earner!
Instructively, rice importation is a case in point. For example, even though rice importers have also been denied official forex, the reality however, is that, our neighbour, Benin Republic, with barely 12 million people, has now become one of the largest rice importers in the world. Nigeria is undeniably the ultimate destination for the several shiploads of rice annually imported into Benin Republic with dollars sourced from Bureau De Change. Ultimately, Nigeria’s government would, regrettably, receive no duties on the huge rice and now also milk imports, which are indirectly funded from billions of dollars that the CBN sells to the BDCs.
Predictably, the latest forex restriction to local milk companies will also impact negatively on the turnover and profitability of these companies. Similarly, corporate tax income as well as employee tax payments to federal and state governments, respectively, would also decline. Ultimately, the real product of the CBN’s blind forex denial to milk producing companies would be reduced income on all fronts, i.e. government, distributors, transporters, packaging manufacturers, advertisers, etc, while milk companies will become forced to optimise and retrench more staff!
Comparatively, however, the $1.2bn forex spent by milk producers on imports is actually a small fraction of what the NNPC spends annually to import fuel. Any drive for forex conservation, to stimulate import substitution, should probably start with the market for PMS (petrol). Regrettably, however, despite Nigeria’s huge oil resource endowment, over 90 per cent of Nigeria’s PMS is presently still imported and paid for in dollars! So, the question is, why does the CBN not also deny forex access to the NNPC and fuel importers, so that more local fuel refineries and a robust value chain will be fast-tracked, as expected from the forex denial to milk producers?
Despite the unfettered forex access for petrol imports by the NNPC, possibly over 20 million litres are reportedly smuggled through porous borders to subsidise the economy of neigbouring ECOWAS nations with possibly well over $5bn annually.
Nevertheless, according to media reports, members of the Meyetti Allah have readily aligned themselves, also, with the sustenance of the CBN’s denial of forex for milk importation!

Rice Tariffication Law —  Duterte’s legacy? 

 August 5, 2019, 12:17 AM
Description: Ambassador José Abeto Zaide
Ambassador José Abeto Zaide
Because Filipinos are rice eaters, the staple is central to government agricultural policy.  It is central even to the national economy.  The government policy in a nutshell:
·       Promote food self-sufficiency,
·       Provide high income to rice farmers.
·       Make prices affordable to consumers.
Every Philippine administration seeks to provide the population with sufficient rice at affordable price.  But that is easier said than done.  Because the bill grows larger and the policy is unable to keep pace with exponential increase in our rate of population growth.
A well-intentioned and simpatico reader, who asks to remain unnamed, is sensible like many others to our government’s challenge to provide the basic staple at the Filipino tables at affordable price. My Deep Throat source is long in the tooth in the rice business.  He offers an answer to our annual shortage and our need to augment it with imported rice.  I reproduce the long and short of it below:
Every year in recorded memory, the old Rice and Corn Administration (RCA) and its successor, the National Food Administration (NFA), are mandated to provide Filipinos with the basic staple from local as well as imported sources. But if rice is available at the socialized price, there may not always be enough of it. Or if there is enough, it may not be available at socialized price.
Several Philippine administrations have come short trying to find the happy mean between a good market price for our farmers and a stable price for the staple commodity for the populace.  There are several reasons for this slippery slope. Government does not budget enough to purchase the national harvest…  Or it lacks the manpower to source and purchase the harvest throughout the country…  Or it does not have sufficient warehouses for storage…  Or it is all of the foregoing…
So, why does the government embark on this messy, tedious,  and unworkable system of buying rice from our farmers all these years?
THE GOOD NEWS.  Government does not anymore need to expend national treasure to subsidize the purchase of rice from the farmers during harvest season. Reason: President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the Rice Tariffication Law on February 14, 2019, which amended the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996 established for agricultural imports except for rice.  The law allows accredited private enterprise, using their own funds instead of the government, to import rice from local or foreign farmers.
This law came into effect in the aftermath of the runaway surge of rice prices at the last quarter of 2018 when NFA rice stocks were emptied. As Filipinos struggle with inflation, the government must find ways to provide affordable rice staple to the everyman. With the rice tariffication law, NFA now has the instrument to address the peaks and valleys. (As of now, “medyo desintunado, kaya kailangan lang ang right timing or proper tuning.” We still need to orchestrate and to calibrate when to allow and/or when to restrain the supply of rice in the market.)
·       DURING THE LEAN MONTHS  –  Time the release of rice into the market so that stocks are available at affordable price for consumers.
·       BEFORE THE HARVEST SEASON  –  Allow the price of rice to bump up to ensure that our farmers derive a good return on their investment.
·       OBJECTIVE: Ultimately, to give to our farmers (rather than to the foreign suppliers) the incentive and just rewards to raise their quality of life, enabling them to buy food, clothing, shelter, education for their family, etc. This multiplier effect creates jobs, engenders peace and order, prosperity and wellbeing to everybody and not only to the farmers. This is the best way to pull our people out of poverty. (It may even encourage urban informal settlers to return to the farms where there is employment and livelihood opportunity.)
Our Rice Tariffication Law is an idea whose time has come.  But it also needs the right timing to hit the right pitch.  To put teeth to good intentions and high hopes, our Deep Source suggests an enforcer to ensure that it succeeds – something that only a Dirty Harry president can do:
1.     Authorize NFA, NBI, and the police authorities to arrest rice smugglers and people releasing imported rice during the harvest season. Offenders can be penalized with perpetual cancellation of permits and licenses to import rice, confiscation of warehouses termination of operations.Transgressors are charged with economic sabotage and incarcerated (for undercutting the livelihood of millions of farmers and for hindering and destroying the opportunity for the President to bring the country to self-sufficient golden era.)
2.     The rice retailers should be made accountable, like the rice smugglers.
3.     Reward those on the side of angels, who help the authorities arrest rice smugglers and importers and retailers selling imported rice during the harvest season.
My Deep Throat source has seen wasted opportunities all these years. He believes that —  (without repealing or amending the Law of Supply & Demand) the Duterte administration can find the formula which has bedeviled previous administrations: Fair returns and incentive to our farmers and affordable prices and assured supply for our populace. The solution is nigh.
 Now Showing:“ENCOMPASSING,” Gus Albor’s exhibit runs at Finale Art File until 29 August. Only two pieces fill the vast exhibit hall  -A walk-thru a counter-clockwise door for inter-action with the artist; and a separate visual reflection. My critique &fearless forecast: Sure to start the sincerest form of compliment.

KNCCI boss calls for rice import ban
 Munene Kamau And George Orido  05th Aug 2019 00:00:00 GMT +0300
Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Richard Ngatia (centre) Chamber Vice President Eric Ruto (right) and the Kirinyaga Chamber Chapter Chairman Waweru Njogu (left) take part in a dance in Kirinyaga East Sub-county. [Munene Kamau, Standard]
A traders' lobby has called for tight control of rice imports into the country from destinations such as Pakistan.
The Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI), through its president Richard Ngatia said on Saturday that the imported rice is a threat to Kenyan farmers.
Speaking in Mwea town during the Kirinyaga Cultural Festival, Mr Ngatia reckoned that such a move would boost rice production in the country.
Mr Ngatia decried a poor road network in Kirinyaga, especially in  Mwea, Gichugu and Kirinyaga Central Sub-counties as a reason why agricultural output was low.
“Farmers are unable to transport their products to the market therefore limiting the potential of the agriculture sub-sector,” Ngatia said.
He called for improved agricultural value chains for less dominant cash crops such as bananas, tomatoes, French beans, beans, mangoes and maize.
Commenting about the festival, Ngatia said it is a good way for local traders to network.
The festival organised by KNCCI, Kirinyaga Chapter in conjunction with the Njukiine Ward MCA Fredrick Bundi attracted a record 7000 attendants.
Mr Bundi said next year the event will run for a whole week going by the large turn out and assured the residents more attractions will be added to make it more meaningful and relevant to people.
Plan early
This year's festival was a two-day affair.
Kirinyaga Chapter Chamber Chairman Waweru Njogu said his members will from start planning for next year’s event early given the success they have witnessed this year.
Meawhile, KNCCI has told timber merchants who import timber from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to start planting trees in order to sustain their businesses.
Ngatia said importation of timber from the foreign country was just a short term solution and observed that only tree planning will save the local timber industry.
He said that at one point the largest tropical forest in Africa, the Congo forest, would be depleted just the way Kenyan forests have been depleted
“Since we have many forest areas which have been left bare in this country due to uncontrolled and unregulated tree felling, I'm urging our brothers in the timber industry to start planting trees, ”Ngatia said.
“Importation of timber is just a short term solution. I would want the traders who are our members to embark on massive tree planting which would ensure a sustainable business since timber harvesting will be guaranteed."

Chinese salt-tolerant rice bears fruit in Dubai

2019-08-05 08:23:06China DailyEditor : Li Yan
Farmers harvest crops as part of a test of saltwater-tolerant rice in Dubai. (Photo/China Daily)
Agricultural scientists from China who set a rice production record in a Dubai desert are expanding their test plantings to look for even more productive strains that suit local palates.
The average annual yield9.4 metric tons per hectarehas already more than doubled that of previous rice cultivation efforts in Dubai led by India and Pakistan, according to Cheng Yunfeng, manager of Wuhan Haidao International, which is based in Hubei province and oversees the trial planting program.
Cheng said production was similar to high-yield varieties intended for conventional arable land.
The program, which ran from November to June, turned 3.6 hectares of barren desert near the outskirts of the city of Dubai into green paddy fields.
The rice with such abundant yields is known as saltwater-tolerant rice and is a variety developed in China that can cope with heavy salt concentrations and being submerged.
The original, wild crop, discovered on the coast of Guangdong province in the 1980s, has been developed into a family of saltwater-tolerant strains. Trial cultivations across China maximized desirable traits before the project expanded overseas.
"The success of our first trial in Dubai is a crucial step in promoting saltwater-tolerant rice across the Middle East and even around the globe," Cheng said.
A decadelong cooperation plan was signed in mid-July to further expand trial plantings and encourage commercial adoption across the United Arab Emirates, he said.
Trying to grow rice in rocky desert soil is a huge undertaking in itself. In Dubai, a shortage of fresh water compounded the challenge and thwarted decades of attempts to grow crops on a large scale there.
"Ground water used for irrigation in Dubai has an average salt content of 1.6 percent, almost equivalent to the water in the South China Sea," Cheng said. "That would kill tender seedlings for sure.
"To address the issue, we first used the traditional approach of diluting the water's salt content to about 0.6 percent. More importantly, we adopted a dry, direct-seeding method that reduces demand for irrigation water.
"There is no need to apply the dry-seeding approach in our planting center in Wuhan, since the city has sufficient fresh water. But in foreign lands, it's crucial to upgrade techniques to adapt to local conditions."
The bold move to switch seeding approaches meant intense manual labor was needed to complete the planting quickly.
"We transported two rice-sowing machines from China to speed up the process," Cheng said.
But Dubai also has advantages, such as warm temperatures and abundant sunlight that foster the growth of rice.
"In the past year, we have collected a certain amount of data and information that will help us determine optimal sowing seasons in the future and assess how different agricultural practices, including irrigation and use of fertilizers and pesticides, affect eventual output," Cheng said.
In future trial plantings, the company aims to isolate productive rice strains while further enhancing their resilience and fine-tuning the texture to the palates of local residents, who prefer fluffy rice to sticky rice.
"Efficient use of scarce water sources is also on top of our agenda," he said.

USDA Estimates Marginal Decline In Bangladesh Rice Production In MY 2019/20
USDA Estimates Marginal Decline In Bangladesh Rice Production In MY 2019/20
August 5, 2019 8:45 IST | capital market 
As per the latest release by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), for MY 2019/20 (May/April), Bangladesh rice production forecast is revised marginally lower to 35.2 MMT from 11.7 million hectares on reduced planting of Aus (summer) rice. Aus rice (planted in March/April and harvested in July/August) production is estimated lower at 2.2 MMT due to decreased acreage (1 million hectare) against the initial expectation (1.17 million hectares); the acreage was reduced due to shifts to other competing crops and also due to flooding, which affected 28 districts out of 64. Field sources report that farmers switched from Aus rice to jute, maize, and vegetable cultivation due to higher returns to recover the lower return from Boro (winter) rice production.
The MY 2019/20 rice import forecast is lowered to 0.1 MMT on expectation of strong import protection policy. The added 55 percent tariff on rice imports (see Policy section below) further affected import prospects. MY 2018/19 rice imports are revised marginally lower to 0.55 MMT based on the latest customs data.
According to the Ministry of Food (MOF), government rice stocks on July 29, 2019 were 1.5 MMT, compared to 1.3 MMT at the same time last year. In July 29, 2019, wheat stocks at public granaries were 0.306 MMT, up from 0.265 MMT one year earlier.

Customs Seizes N458m Fake Drug, Foreign Rice In Ogun, Lagos

The federal operations unit (FOU), Zone A of the Nigeria Customs Service, yesterday paraded 1200 pieces of compressed Indian hemp worth N12million intercepted from suspected smugglers.
The unit also said it intercepted 1,239 cartons of fake viagra, sexual enhancements drugs with N409million and smuggled foreign parboiled rice worth N36.4million along the border.
FOU, is an anti-smuggling unit of the service in the South-Western part of the country and is saddled with the responsibility of serving as the last layer for smuggled or under-declared cargoes at the seaports or land borders.
However, taking journalists round the seizures yesterday, the Customs Area Controller of the unit, Compt. Mohammed Aliyu said the cargoes were intercepted on the highway. Speaking further, he said 2751 bags of rice worth N36.4million and 147 pieces of used tyres worth N1.02million were also intercepted by the unit.
He said, “the duty paid value of interceptions were N458million and we will not relent our effort until smuggling is suppressed to the barest minimum in the south west”.
“You can see, I told you the last time we came for the conference that smuggling will be suppressed because my officers are on their trail, anywhere they hide we shall get to them.”
It would be recalled that last week, the unit intercepted contrabands such as vehicles, pharmaceuticals and foreign parboiled rice worth N1.2billion from smugglers. The seizures include six vehicles namely, Toyota Tacoma, 2 Lexus ES350, 2 Toyota Highlander and Toyota Hilux with Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N242million were intercepted.
Others are 541 cartons of Original chest and lung tablets; 211 cartons of Analgin Injection; 238 cartons of Really Extra Diclofenac; 158 cartons of Double actions Labimol Diclogenac potassium capsules.
Also intercepted are 1698 cartons of Powermantlets, 671 kg of pangolin scales and 5, 226 bags of smuggled foreign parboiled rice all with Duty Paid Value of N1.01billion. He said, “Within a week, because of the motivations we just got which made some impact, we have intercepted six cars worth over N242million at various border points and various car mart.”
“The vehicles are Toyota Tacoma worth N47.8million, Lexus ES 350 at N16.5million, Toyota Highlander worth N47.5million and another Lexus ES RX 350L at N34million. Other vehicles are Toyota Hilux with Duty Paid value of N41.6million and Toyota Highlander at N54.5million.”

Six rice millers duped of Rs 9 cr

Aug 5, 2019, 6:59 AM; last updated: Aug 5, 2019, 10:29 AM (IST)
Description: Six rice millers duped of Rs 9 cr
File photo
Parveen Arora
Tribune News Service
Karnal, August 4
Six rice millers of Karnal district have allegedly been cheated to the tune of Rs9 crore after supplying around 1,000 tonnes of rice to a firm in Dubai. They have not got payment from the firm, which has left them on the brink of bankruptcy.
The millers alleged that a fraudster of Dubai projected himself as a multi-millionaire with the help of two Indians. They said he disappeared with their rice in Dubai. They said they visited Dubai several times, but got no relief.
They approached CM Manohar Lal Khattar, requesting him to intervene. They approached Superintendent of Police Surinder Singh Bhoria, who assigned the case to detective staff.
The millers had now mailed their issue to PM Narendra Modi, the High Commissioner of UAE in India and the Director General, Foreign Trade and Commerce Ministry. They had sent a letter to the King of Dubai, but did not get any response.
Vipin Goel, managing director of Kamla Rice and General Mills in Karnal, said they had sold rice to Dubai’s Al Rawnaq Al Thahbhi General Trading through a person of Karnal and another of Kaithal, who had lured them into selling the rice.
The six millers — two each of Taraori and Nissing and one each of Karnal and Assandh — had shipped 37 containers in March and April. They had been sent nine telegraphic transfer receipts for shipments as proof that their payments were being electronically remitted.
The payments were subsequently cancelled and the security cheques bounced, said Goel, who had dispatched 17 containers. “I had flown to Dubai five times in the past three months, but to no avail. It will take us years to recover our losses,” he said.
Pawan Gupta of Heera Rice Mill in Assandh said he lost 120 tonnes of rice worth Rs1 crore. “I went to Dubai and found that the company was based in a rented building. We now hope for help from the CM and Centre,” he said

A covert war that helped India crush Pakistan in 1971 (Book Review)


A covert war that helped India crush Pakistan in 1971 (Book Review)
Title: Operation - The Untold Story of India''s Covert Naval War in East Pakistan; Author: Captain M.N.R. Sawant and Sandeep Unnithan; Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers India; Pages: 272; Price: Rs 499
This is an explosive book that uncovers, for the first time publicly, a major covert war the Indian Navy waged in 1971 to help give birth to Bangladesh as an independent nation.
The Navy''s known success story thus far has been limited to what it achieved by pounding Karachi and virtually crippling the Pakistan Navy on the western front. But the Navy, the authors say, was far more deeply involved in the conflict, that too long before war broke out in December 1971, leading to Pakistan''s capitulation in its eastern wing.
What gave impetus to the massive covert operation was a virtual rebellion in the Pakistan Navy just after the Bangladesh uprising commenced in March that year, driving millions to take refuge in India. Eight Bengali naval personnel deployed in a French built submarine deserted the Pakistan Navy while abroad. They contacted the Indian embassy in Madrid and became the base on which the Indian Navy built its covert operation.
Captain Samant was a key figure in the covert naval war, which was personally approved and regularly monitored by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, says journalist and co-author Unnithan.
India''s military assistance to the Bangladesh Mukti Bahini began without fanfare soon after the Pakistani military cracked down on defenseless civilians in Dhaka, killing thousands. Knowing how important waterways were in Bangladesh, the Indian Navy decided to train deserters and young volunteers from the refugee camps in India in clandestine warfare - to use diving sets, limpet mines and plastic explosives.
When the training of the first batch of 100 recruits began in early May, the eight deserters proved invaluable as interpreters. "The Navy aimed to transform their recruits into underwater weapon delivery units - assault swimmers who could swim up to 6 hours at a stretch, carrying a 3-4 kg limpet mine under all operational conditions - blinding rain, at night, and in zero visibility conditions."
But the first crop of trainees tired easily and faltered during long-distance swimming, thanks to their dal rice rations. Eggs, lemon and fruit were then added to the menu. It did the trick! Once the Mukti Bahini made land travel near difficult for the Pakistan Army, the India-trained Bengali commandos stepped in.
By early August, an all-Bangladeshi unit of 178 naval commandos and leaders was ready. The Indian assessment was that 10 per cent were likely to be killed or captured. The fireworks began in August and didn''t stop till the formal war broke out between India and Pakistan in December.
A total of 457 commandos were trained and they carried out deep penetration naval raids inside enemy territory to sink and cripple over 100,000 tonnes of shipping - the largest operation of its kind since World War II. By the time formal war erupted, the Pakistan Navy was in shambles in East Pakistan and, by extension, so was the Army.
Once the stealthy naval sabotage began, the Pakistani military began herding ships carrying essential supplies into river convoys in order to move fuel, war material and troops by day. Pakistani vessels stopped moving at night. In the meantime, the number of deserters from the Pakistan Navy swelled. The Indians converted two Calcutta Port Trust vessels into gunboats to hit at merchant shipping and Pakistani Navy.
By November, the Mukti Bahini was attacking the Pakistani Army at will across the countryside. On November 4, a team of assault swimmers sank a 700 tonne oil tanker in Chittagong. If ships were hard to hit, the commandos targeted maritime infrastructure - jetties, barges and pylons. By the end of November, at least a dozen India trained commandos were killed, some after being brutally tortured by the Pakistan Army and their collaborators. By mid-November, East Pakistan had become a no-go zone for global shipping.--

Only eight cattle markets in Karachi are legal

KARACHI: The Sindh government on Saturday approved the setting up of cattle markets in eight locations in Karachi as illegal cattle markets have been causing traffic congestion, unhygienic conditions, and security issues in the city.
These eight locations include Super Highway, Malir 15-Asoo Goth, Cattle Market Landhi, Rice Godown near Babar Market, Hamdard University near Manghopir, Moach Goth, Baldia Town.
It is pertinent to mention here that Sindh Home Secretary Abdul Kabir Kazi has imposed a ban under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure on setting up of cattle markets at any other locations in the port city except those approved.
Further, he has also told the Karachi commissioner to take strict action against people who fail to follow these orders

Karnataka’s rice bowl stares at crisis as water level in TB dam sinks
Description: , AUGUST 03, 2019 22:35 IST

Description: A field in Anegondi, Koppal district. Paddy transplantation should have been completed by the end of July or first week of August.
A field in Anegondi, Koppal district. Paddy transplantation should have been completed by the end of July or first week of August.   | Photo Credit: SPECIALARRANGEMENT

Thousands of farmers desperately wait for water to take up paddy transplantation

At a time when the Krishna is in spate in north Karnataka, flooding large tracts of land, the situation in the Tungabhadra basin is a complete contrast. Farmers here are struggling to grow even one crop.
While Krishna’s catchment area on the Maharashtra side of Western Ghats is receiving heavy monsoon rain, Tungabhadra’s catchment area in Karnataka’s side of the same mountain range is receiving deficient rainfall.
As a result, farmers in the Tungabhadra command area in Koppal, Ballari and Raichur districts face a deep crisis. Tungabhadra Reservoir held just 32.07 tmcft of water on Saturday against its live storage capacity of around 100.8 tmcft, excluding around 33 tmcft of silt that has accumulated in the dam bed over the last 50 years. The deficient monsoon in the Tungabhadra catchment area in the Western Ghats is the main reason for the diminished inflow that stood at the rate of 20,091 cusecs on Saturday.
“We need minimum of 50 tmcft water in the dam to release for irrigation. If the storage improves, we will convene the ICC [Irrigation Consultative Committee] meeting to decide the dates and amount of water to be released from the dam to various canals for irrigation,” S.H. Manjappa, chief engineer of Tungabhadra Project, told The Hindu on Thursday.
Thousands of farmers across the command area, after preparing their paddy fields and growing paddy saplings in the nursery beds, are desperately waiting for water to take up transplantation. Many farmers, especially in Gangavati and Karatagi area, have completed the transplantation using locally-available water sources in the hope that they will receive dam water shortly. However, poor storage in the reservoir and the unsatisfactory inflow is cause for concern. Paddy transplantation should have been completed by the end of July or first week of August. Delayed transplantation essentially means increase in the cost of cultivation and decrease in quality and productivity. For, it stretches the harvest season into deep winter when the premature paddy produces hollow and chaffy panicles and attracts more diseases. “Many people have already left for cities in search of jobs. If the monsoon picks up and inflow into the Tungabhadra dam improves, they will return,” said Chamarasa Malipatil, farmers’ leader from Raichur and honorary president of KRRS.
The Tungabhadra command area, consisting of around 10 lakh acres of land in Koppal, Ballari and Raichur districts, is popularly known as the “rice bowl of Karnataka”. It produces high-quality Sona Masuri rice that is in great demand across the country. The premium variety is also popular in Dubai, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and other rice-consuming countries.
Mills have little work
Over 400 rice mills operating in the region that produced around 20 million quintals of paddy in the first crop season and around 10 million quintals in the second season are in crisis. The situation might get worse now with even one crop seeming unlikely.
Besides, many farmers, especially those in the tail-end parts of the canals that receive insufficient water, have already changed their crop pattern by shifting from paddy cultivation to crops such as chilli that require relatively less water.
“Tungabhadra is the lifeline of Koppal, Ballari and Raichur. The deficient monsoon and resultantly diminished paddy production in the command area has pushed the rice industry into crisis forcing many mills to shut down or switch to seasonal operation. The trouble is likely to deepen this year,” Suribabu Nekkanti, a prominent rice miller from Gangavathi and president of Gangavathi Rice Millers’ Association, told The Hindu.

Farmers decry low farmgate prices of rice

Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - August 4, 2019 - 12:00am
Farmers and rice sufficiency advocates have warned of further industry setbacks if farmgate prices continue to decline amid surging rice importation.
MANILA, Philippines — Rice farmers are reeling from declining farmgate prices as cheap imported rice continues to flood the market five months after the implementation of Republic Act (RA) 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law.
Farmers and rice sufficiency advocates have warned of further industry setbacks if farmgate prices continue to decline amid surging rice importation.
“It is obvious why we have been opposing the law – the farmers’ situation did not improve even after five months of implementing RA 11203. Instead it is worsening, primarily due to depressed farmgate prices of palay that did not even reach P20 per kilo,” Cathy Estavillo, Bantay Bigas spokesperson and Amihan secretary-general, said.
“This is bankruptcy and inevitable displacement of farmers from rice lands. More small peasants will be transformed into helpless farm workers,” Estavillo said.
“Consequently, the productive rice lands will be converted into other uses, such as what is being carried out in Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog, all benefiting landlords and real estate developers,” she said.
“This will be the legacy of the Duterte regime, a Philippines without rice lands or total displacement of rice farmers,” she warned.
“If the ‘rule of thumb’ shall be applied, farmgate prices should be at P23 to P29 per kilo, or P20 to P25,” Estavillo added.
She also said the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) is not enough to reverse the farmers’ plight. “To show that there is government support to affected rice farmers, they are using RCEF. RCEF is only allocated P10 billion, and only a measly 10 percent is alloted to credit,” she said.
The current industry situation, she said, is threatening the country’s food security.
“Destroying our national food security is a serious crime against the people, as it is synonymous to throwing millions of poor Filipinos into hunger or starvation and declining household income,” she said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Pangilinan has filed a resolution seeking a Senate inquiry into the impact of the Rice Tariffication Law on farmers and the local rice industry.
“Farmers tell us that their earnings dropped further with the implementation of the law. The impact on our farmers is swift and brutal but the implementation of the provisions aimed at easing this severe effect is slow if non-existent,” Pangilinan said.
Pangilinan said rice farmers are discouraged from toiling in the farms because their produce are purchased at lower prices, and despite the rice imports and the lower palay prices, consumers still buy at high prices. – Louise Maureen Simeon

Drones to help Iloilo farmers cut costs

August 4, 2019, 3:23 PM
By Tara Yap
ILOILO CITY—Rice farmers in the city and the province will soon be using agricultural drones to reduce costs.
Description: Agricultural drone such as this was used in a demo farm of the Department of Agriculture in Iloilo City. (DA Photo / MANILA BULLETIN)
Agricultural drone such as this was used in a demo farm of the Department of Agriculture in Iloilo City. (DA Photo / MANILA BULLETIN)
“We cannot lower the cost of production unless we mechanize,” explained Jasper Tallada of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).
Partnering with the Western Visayas Integrated Agricultural Research Center (WESVIARC) of the Department of Agriculture (DA), PhilRice started demonstrating the use of agricultural drones at WESVIARC’s 2,500 square-meter demo field in this city.
The drones of New Hope Corp. can be used as seed spreaders and liquid sprayers for fertilizer and pesticides.
“This is the latest precision and smart farming technologies in rice production in the country,” said Roger Barroga, head of PhilRice’s Future Rice program.
PhilRice found the seeds were evenly dispersed by the drone, resulting in a higher tiling rate. The drone sprayer, on the other hand, was more efficient than a power-knapsack sprayer in disseminating herbicides.
Barroga underscored that farmers need drone technology to stay competitive by lowering production cost.

Hybrid seeds, fertilizers, and shallow tube wells as quick fixes to our rice dilemma

Published August 3, 2019, 10:00 PM

Dr. Emil Q. Javier

All along our problem with agriculture had been not so much lack of policies and enabling legislation but lack of intelligent program planning and competent, no-nonsense implementation.
Description: Dr. Emil Q. JavierUnfortunately, this applies as well to many aspects of our public life. The closure and rehabilitation of Boracay did not require new policies and legislation. Simply resolute action from the executive branch, with no less than the President demanding appropriate action based on existing environment laws, rules and regulations.
Most if not all the strategic directions we need to modernize agriculture are embodied in the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA), the Fisheries Code, the Forestry Code, the Local Government Code, and various acts creating specialized agencies like Land Bank of the Philippines, Philippine Coconut Authority, National Food Authority, Sugar Regulatory Administration, Philippine Rice Research Institute, Philippine Carabao Center, Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization as well as specialized research and development units in the Department of Science and Technology and in a number of state universities and colleges.
Since the last two years of the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, during the full six-year term of President Benigno Aquino up to the present (2008-2019), funding for the Department of Agriculture had not been a constraint.
We knew the lifting of the quantitative restrictions on rice imports was forthcoming because that was part of our obligations when we signed up with the World Trade Organization. We asked for and received a reprieve twice. We had more than 10 years to prepare our farmers. But we were in denial and did nothing.
Yes, we created the Agriculture Competitive Enhancement Fund (ACEF) no less under the direct supervision of the Joint Congressional Committee on Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM). But we made a mess of it. After spending billions with ACEF, we have nothing to show for it.
We knew that the drop in farm gate price of palay was forthcoming with the entry of cheap imports from Vietnam and Thailand. The necessary adjustments to make our farms more productive and competitive will take time. But the drop of palay price is substantial and immediate.
How to protect
incomes of rice farmers
The immediate challenge is to how to empower our rice farmers to be more productive and competitive with imports. Our rice farms with irrigation and with proper culture produce six tons palay per hectare at a unit cost of P8-10 per kilogram which is competitive with the costs of Vietnam and Thailand from whom we import most (86%) of our rice.
Thus the way to protect the incomes of our farmers is two-fold: First, further sustainable intensification of rice culture in favorable areas (i.e. with irrigation) through good seeds, preferably rice hybrids, fertilization approaching the recommended rate of 150 kilograms nutrients per hectare, integrated pest management and mechanization. And second, shift of low-yielding rainfed lowland and upland rice farms to other crops which often have better margins than rice, if markets can be arranged for them.
Immediate fixes
to tide farmers over
The rice farmers are crying, and rightfully so, demanding immediate relief. The two-fold approach described above will take easily five years. Farming is bound with the seasons and require institutional adjustments involving many stakeholders which take time. In the meantime, what can government do?
Short of direct cash payments to affected farmers which is widely practiced in developed economies as a way to compensate farmers for income shortfalls occasioned by trade policies over which the farmers have little control, the alternative is subsidies in cash or in kind as provided for in the Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF).
RCEF provided subsidy for seeds but limited to INBRED SEEDS. Since more than 90% of our rice farmers have already adopted use of high yielding inbreds, the impact from inbreds will be minimal. Better that the seed subsidy be applicable as well with rice hybrid seeds.
RCEF likewise had provision for free farm machines and equipment. But among the farm equipment, the ones with the most immediate impact and potentially most profitable is the use of shallow tube wells (STW) to guarantee availability of water in the volumes and times they are needed by crops. Not only are STWs very useful for rice, even more importantly the water control which STWs provide the farmers will enable the rice farmers to grow higher-value crops in relay with their rice main crops (diversification). Very often the relay crops generate far more cash income than rice.
With good seed and available water, the next main constraint is soil fertility. Unfortunately, most rice farmers do not apply enough fertilizers. The usual reason is lack of cash with which to purchase fertilizers. But it makes a lot of sense to fertilize. A kilogram of nitrogen fertilizer costing P60.00-P70.00 can raise an additional P20-P40 kilograms of palay, valued at P340.00-P680.00.
Thus providing subsidized hybrid seeds and fertilizers to bonafide individual rice farmers, and STWs to a group of farmers farming contiguous fields are effective good immediate fixes to help farmers protect their incomes.
But by definition, immediate fixes should be temporary and ought to be replaced as soon as possible with permanent, sustainable, less costly and leakage-free solutions. We should learn from the past.

Firm secures deal to commercialize ‘elite’ hybrid rice varieties

 August 3, 2019, 10:00 PM
By Madelaine B. Miraflor
A subsidiary of Tao Corporation, the largest trader of molasses in the country, has secured a deal to commercialize and distribute elite hybrid rice varieties developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the world’s premier research organization dedicated to rice.
To be specific, IRRI and Tao Commodity Trader, Inc. (TCTI) have recently signed a seven-year Limited Exclusivity Commercial License Agreement to promote the commercialization and nationwide distribution of three IRRI-developed elite rice hybrids namely Mestiso 71, Mestiso 77, and Mestiso 89.
The selected hybrid rice varieties are bred for higher yield, superior grain quality, improved pest and disease resistance, resilience to climate change-induced stresses, and higher seed production.
By using these hybrid seed varieties, farmers can increase their yields and income by up to 20 percent.
Under the agreement, TCTI will fully invest in scaled-up development, production, and distribution for the three rice hybrids. The company will also be in charged of meeting seed sales objectives.
TCTI will work with Aski, Inc., a leading microfinance company with over 18,000 farmer-clients in the Philippines, to provide farmers with training, technologies, and financial services to help further spread the use of the selected rice hybrids’ seeds.
In a statement, IRRI Chief of Staff Peter Brothers highlighted the importance of IRRI working with private sector partners to deliver the fruits of the agency’s research to end-users.
The Tao-IRRI deal happened through the the rice research agency’s Hybrid Rice Development Consortium (HRDC), which has a key role in the development of elite hybrids suited to different agro-climatic conditions.

India’s Non-basmati Rice Exporters Seek Parity in Import Duty

03 August, 2019 4:09 PM IST By: KJ Staff
The non-basmati rice exporters, who are facing higher procurement costs because of an increase in minimum support prices (MSP) in the last few years, are now seeking import duty parity for shipments to prospective nations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RECP) proposes free trade agreement between 10 states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its six FTA partners.
Rice exporters had been influencing the commerce ministry to address the discriminatory tariffs even earlier, but they were able to recompense for the higher levy in the past due to the lower MSP rates domestically and the premium for Indian rice exports in global markets. However, the rise in MSP for paddy over the last couple of years has reduced their margins.

Increment in Paddy MSP

Government increased paddy’s MSP to Rs 1,815 per quintal for the year 2019-20, while the A-grade variety’s MSP was hiked to Rs 1,835 i.e increment of rupees 20 and 3.7% over the previous year. The MSP was increased by 13% for the 2018-19 season.
The Exporters are hoping that the commerce ministry will take up this issue at the forthcoming RCEP ministerial meeting to be held in Beijing on August 2-3. Piyush Goyal (Commerce Minister), who was earlier supposed to participate in the discussion, will not attend ministerial meeting in Beijing. Instead of him, India will be represented by commerce secretary Anup Wadhawan.
B V Krishna Rao (president of the association) said that Rice exports from India incur a substantially higher import duty in countries including Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Malaysia, while competitors face a lower rate”.
Description: rice
Non-basmati Exports from India, the largest exporter of the raw material have more than halved to 7.1 lakh tonnes in first two months of the current financial year from 15.2 million tonnes in the same period last year.
Indian rice is sold at a premium in the world markets due to its quality, but the members of the ASEAN impose a higher import duty. Indonesia impose 10% import duty for Indian rice, Pakistan has import free access. In Philippines, delivery from India sustains a 50% duty, while it is 35% for rice from other countries. Pakistani exporters have duty-free access to Malaysia’s rice market of Malaysia’s unlike their Indian counterparts. China extends preferential tariffs to Pakistan and attempts by Indian rice exporters to tap the Chinese market have seen limited success. In case of countries like South Korea and Japan the import impose for Indian rice is in the high triple-digit.
The global rice trade has also turned in favour of nations such as Pakistan, China and Thailand, with  trade agreements between Asian countries also hurting the growth rice exports from India.

Chhattisgarh: PDS scam accused gets bail

TNN | Updated: Aug 4, 2019, 12:02 IST


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RAIPUR: The Chhattisgarh high court has granted bail to the erstwhile civil supplies corporation manager Shivshankar Bhatt, who is one of the main accused in the multi-crore public distribution scheme (PDS) scam that surfaced during the previous BJP regime in the state.
The bench of Justice Goutam Bhaduri granted bail to Bhatt on Friday, an accused in the scam involving distribution of subsidized rice at Rs1 per kilogram, the petitioner's counsel Peeyush Bhatia told TOI.
Earlier, in April this year, the high court had granted anticipatory bail to IAS officer Anil Tuteja, whose name also figured as an accused in the scam.
The EOW/ACB, which is investigating the PDS scam, had named 27 people as accused, including IAS officers Alok Shukla and Anil Tuteja.
Shukla, who is a 1986 batch IAS officer, served as a deputy election commissioner from 2009 to May 2014, and was the principal secretary in the food department when the scam took place, while Tuteja was the managing director of the civil supplies corporation.
In July 2015, the Raman Singh-led BJP government had referred the cases to the Centre against the two IAS officials for prosecution on the charges of cheating, criminal conspiracy and provision of prevention of corruption act.
Subsequently, the Centre granted sanction for their prosecution nearly two years ago. EOW/ACB had also filed a supplementary chargesheet against both the IAS officers on December 5, 2018, just six days before assembly polls.
As per the EOW/ACB, the corporation allowed rice millers to supply poor quality PDS rice to the BJP led state government and received commission from them and distributed it by colluding with government functionaries.
The bureau had later recovered cash of Rs4 crore from the drawers of bureaucrats who were exposed in the scam.
Earlier on January this year, the Congress government decided to reopen the probe and set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the scam.


'It feels like something out of a bad sci-fi movie'

Description: Lewis Ziska Lewis Ziska has researched plants at USDA across five administrations, contributing significantly to the country’s understanding of how climate change affects agriculture. | M. Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO
A top climate scientist quit USDA, following others who say Trump has politicized science.

08/05/2019 05:14 AM EDT

One of the nation’s leading climate change scientists is quitting the Agriculture Department in protest over the Trump administration’s efforts to bury his groundbreaking study about how rice loses nutrients due to rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Lewis Ziska, a 62-year-old plant physiologist who’s worked at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service for more than two decades, told POLITICO he was alarmed when department officials not only questioned the findings of the study — which raised potentially serious concerns for the 600 million people who depend on rice for most of their calories — but also tried to minimize press coverage of the paper, which was published in the journal Science Advances last year.
“You get the sense that things have changed, that this is not a place for you to be exploring things that don't agree with someone's political views,” Ziska said in a wide-ranging interview. “That's so sad. I can't even begin to tell you how sad that is.”
The departure follows several other government officials recently resigning from their posts over accusations that the administration is censoring climate science — reports that have raised alarm about scientific integrity in the federal government.
Last week, an intelligence analyst at the State Department said he left his post after administration officials blocked his testimony to Congress about the wide-ranging national security implications of climate change. A National Park Service employee also stepped forward, alleging she lost her job after refusing to scrub mentions of human-caused climate change from a peer-reviewed paper that was set to publish.
A POLITICO investigation revealed last month that USDA has routinely buried its own climate-related science and other work on climate change that continues. POLITICO also recently reported USDA suppressed the release of its own plan for studying and responding to climate change.
The USDA has repeatedly denied having any policy to discourage dissemination of science or the use of any climate-change related terms.
In response to Ziska’s resignation, the department said in a statement that objections to promoting his rice study were based on scientific disagreement involving career officials, not political appointees.
“This was a joint decision by ARS national program leaders — all career scientists — not to send out a press release on this paper,” the statement said.
Ziska, in describing his decision to leave, painted a picture of a department in constant fear of the president and Secretary Sonny Perdue’s open skepticism about broadly accepted climate science, leading officials to go to extremes to obscure their work to avoid political blowback. The result, he said, is a vastly diminished ability for taxpayer-funded scientists to provide farmers and policymakers with important information about complex threats to the global food supply.
Ziska, or “Lew” as he’s known to his colleagues, has researched plants at USDA across five administrations, Republican and Democrat, contributing significantly to the country’s understanding of how rising carbon dioxide and changing temperatures affect everything from crops to noxious weeds and even plants grown to make illicit drugs.
Over the years, Ziska has published studies finding that climate change could exacerbate allergy seasons, render herbicides important for fighting weeds less effective, and fuel a decline in the nutritional quality of pollen important for bees. He and his colleagues are also investigating which strains of wheat and rice will be best suited for future climate conditions.

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Each administration has had their own priorities, which sometimes did nudge agricultural research in certain directions, but the changes were seldom dramatic, he said. For much of his career at USDA, for example, Ziska’s work fell under what’s known as the U.S. Global Change Research Program, an interagency initiative that was launched during the George H.W. Bush administration that continues to research the changing climate.
When President Donald Trump was elected in November 2016, however, scientists began to worry that the incoming administration would be fundamentally different. The USDA lab Ziska worked under decided preemptively to drop the term “global change” from their name to avoid attracting unwanted political scrutiny.
“That was not something that had ever happened before,” he recalled. (USDA, in its statement, emphasized that the change was not in response to political pressure.)
The overriding fear among scientists within USDA, Ziska said, was that the administration would take an axe to the department’s science budget, and research priorities that perhaps didn’t align with the administration’s agenda would be the first to go. (The Trump administration has repeatedly proposed significant cuts to ARS’ budget, but Congress has so far largely kept funding flat.)
Anything related to climate change was seen as extremely vulnerable, he said.
“We were careful,” he explained. “And then it got to the point where language started to change. No one wanted to say climate change, you would say climate uncertainty or you would say extreme events. Or you would use whatever euphemism was available to not draw attention.”
Ziska said there was never a department memo that directed legions of USDA scientists to be more careful with their language, it was simply well understood.
The signals to scientists have been subtle but frequent. For example, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which funnels hundreds of millions in taxpayer funding to colleges and universities for food and agriculture research has dropped the term “climate change” from its requests for applications from scientists. Instead, the agency uses "climate variability and change."
Other signals came from Perdue or Trump himself, as both have publicly questioned the scientific consensus on the causes of climate change.
“There was a sense that if the science agreed with the politics, then the policymakers would consider it to be ‘good science,’ and if it didn’t agree with the politics, then it was something that was flawed and needed to be done again,” Ziska said, noting that other scientists are feeling the same pressures. “That was a sea change in how we viewed our role.”
“We’re not a political agency,” he added. “Our goal is to deal, in a very pragmatic and very cost-effective way, with some of these issues.”
Ziska told POLITICO he’s concerned that the politicization of climate science poses a threat to the future of agriculture in the U.S. and abroad.
"You have farmers who are looking at climate and weather that they've not seen in their lifetimes,” he said. “It's not your father's climate. It's changing. What does that mean? Does it mean that I'm screwed, or does it mean I have an opportunity? ... What does it mean in terms of soil health? What does it mean in terms of diseases or weeds that might be new to the area.
“This is a fundamental change across all different aspects,” he added. “To ignore it. To just dismiss it and say ‘oh that's political' ... I don't have the words to describe that. It's surreal. It feels like something out of a bad sci-fi movie.”
Ziska’s concerns about the Agriculture Department’s lack of prioritization of climate research began before Trump took office. There’s been a slow and steady erosion of the number of scientists dedicated to studying all the ways that climate change is affecting — and will continue to affect — agriculture, and even fewer scientists researching what all of this could mean for human health.

Lewis Ziska told POLITICO he’s concerned that the politicization of climate science poses a threat to the future of agriculture in the U.S. and abroad. | M. Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO
When Ziska first joined the USDA’s climate stress lab in 1991, there were about 11 scientists dedicated to studying climate stressors, including air quality and climate change, in the sprawling Agricultural Research Service campus in Beltsville, Md. Today, he reckons there are maybe 4 or 5.
Ziska told POLITICO he had been frustrated for several years about the USDA’s lack of focus and funding for climate-related research, particularly as scientific authorities have warned the problem is an increasingly urgent one for humanity, but the rice paper saga was the final straw for him.
Ziska and another leading researcher at USDA, Naomi Fukagawa, who is the director of USDA’s Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, had collaborated for more than two years with scientists at the University of Washington, University of Tokyo, the Chinese Academy of Science, the University of Southern Queensland, in Australia, and Bryan College of Health Sciences, in Lincoln, Neb., on what they considered a groundbreaking achievement. The paper looked at how an atmosphere increasingly rich in carbon dioxide could affect rice, which some 600 million people rely on for the majority of their calories, particularly in developing Asian countries.
The study found that rice not only loses protein and minerals, which confirmed earlier research, but they also for the first time found that key vitamins can drop.
The journal editors anticipated that the paper would attract international press interest, so they asked the researchers to have their institutions help prepare a press packet. USDA officials initially wrote their own press release to tout the findings, but ended up spiking the release at the last minute because they said senior officials within ARS had concerns about the paper, according to emails obtained by POLITICO from one of the study’s other co-authors.
A communications official went as far as to call the University of Washington and suggest the university reconsider its plans to promote the paper.
A USDA spokesperson said department leaders simply disagreed with the paper’s conclusions.
“The concern was about nutritional claims, not anything relating to climate change or C02 levels,” the spokesperson said in response to an earlier POLITICO story outlining the department’s failure to promote climate research. “The nutrition program leaders at ARS disagreed with the implication in the paper that 600 million people are at risk of vitamin deficiency. They felt that the data do not support this.”
Description: Lewis ZiskaThe episode was extremely unusual. The paper had already gone through the typical internal clearance processes within USDA, a lengthy peer review process, and was set to be published within a matter of days.
Ziska, in speaking about the episode for the first time, said he suspected something was seriously wrong after he had rebutted the points raised by national program leaders and then asked to schedule a meeting to discuss their concerns, point by point. There was no response, he said.
“That's when it occurred to me,” he said. “This isn't about the science. It's about something else, but it's not about the science.”
“When that happened, I realized it's not just a question of language,” he said. “It's not just a question of philosophy. They're saying we're not going to support this work. And the reason that they're not going to support the work is because the science doesn't suit their, I don't know, what, ideology?”

PhilMech readies other agri machineries

 August 4, 2019, 10:00 PM
By Madelaine B.Miraflor
Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech) may seem too preoccupied with the utilization of Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), but a set of machinery it developed to boost other high-value commodities like cacao and coffee are now on its way towards commercialization.
Philmech Chief Science Research Specialist Rod Estigoy said his agency needed to restructure its office in order to pave the way for RCEF utilization and at the same time be able to still fulfill its original mandate, which is to develop machinery to improve the production not just of the country’s main staple but of all agriculture products.
PHilMech is one of the government agencies tasked to utilize bulk of the RCEF, which is the tariff collected from imported rice, to make Filipino rice farmers competitive amid the entry of more imported rice into the country.
As part of Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law, RCEF will be first injected with P10 billion annually from 2019 to 2024 or a period of six years. Of the P10 billion, P5 billion will be allocated for mechanization of the local rice sector.
So far, DBM has already released P5 billion to support the program’s mechanization and seed distribution efforts. Of this, P2.1 billion will go to PhilMech.
Estigoy said the DBM promised to release the remaining P2.9 billion within the rest of the year.
“That’s what we heard, but I’m not sure. We should receive P5 billion from RCEF this year,” Estigoy said, adding that this will be used for extension services and the procurement of equipment to be distributed to farmers.
At present, Philmech is still trying to make room for additional manpower and equipment. For an agency used to handling only P200 million to P300 million budget every year, utilizing a budget of P5 billion is not going to be an easy task, Philmech Deputy Director Raul Paz earlier said.
“We restructured our office so we can focus here [in RCEF],” Estigoy said. “But we’re not letting go of our R&D [research and development] activities”.
Estigoy said that PhilMech was recently allowed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to hire additional 59 people and is now processing applications to fill these out.
“We will have a new set of people so they can help us continue [PhilMech’s R&D activities for other products],” Estigoy said.
The other machinery and equipment that PhilMech is trying to develop and hoping to commercialize within the year are meant to boost the country’s production of cacao, coffee, soybean, mango, and other agriculture products.
Some of the machinery, according to Estigoy, will be for pilot-testing, commercialization, or for deployment.
For his part, Philippine Chamber of Agriculture & Food, Inc. (PCAFI) President Danilo V. Fausto said it may take at least two years for PhilMech to fulfill its new obligation under RCEF given the agency’s current size.
PhilMech’s mechanization efforts under RCEF have been facing bureaucratic bottlenecks since March. Aside from the delayed release of the fund promised to it, procurement process for any machinery and equipment normally take months. The same goes for the evaluation of the first batch of beneficiaries.
Based on his rough estimate, Estigoy said that out of the 2.4 million farmers in the country, only 60,000 to 120,000 farmers will directly benefit from the RCEF next year, but this should increase further as funds continue to flow through RCEF.
These farmers, according to him, should be either members of farmers’ cooperatives and irrigators association or are registered with the DA’s Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA). All of them should come from 1,200 municipalities within the 57 major rice producing areas in the country.
“There are a lot of things that are still being addressed,” Fausto said. “In the meantime, the farmers are suffering”.
With a farm mechanization level of only 2.1 horsepower per hectare, the Philippines currently lag behind in productivity. More than 16 percent of the farmers’ total production goes to waste due to post-harvest losses.
The cost of producing rice in the Philippines currently stands at P12.72 per kilo, while it is only P6.22 per kilo in Vietnam and P8.86 per kilo in Thailand. This is why the rice that are produced here are more expensive than the rice imported abroad.
If mechanization will not happen any time soon, local rice farmers will have to keep on bearing the brunt of falling palay prices amid the surge of cheaper, imported rice into the local market.
As of the second week of July, the farmgate price of palay already went down by 17.3 percent from the price of P21.61/kg last year to P17.86/kg. In some areas in the country, farmers have sold their yield for as low as P12/kg.
Based on the study of Philmech, the cost of producing palay in the country can be reduced by P2 to P3 per kilo through increased mechanization. This can be further reduced if farmers will adopt higher-yielding rice varieties.
Under RCEF, P3 billion would be allocated each year up to 2024 for the propagation and distribution of high-yielding seeds, training, and capacity building of rice farmers. The agency in charge of this is the Philippine Rice Research Institute.

BSY orders Anna Bhagya review, says scheme misused

  • Aug 02 2019, 22:12pm ist
  • updated: Aug 02 2019, 22:49pm ist
Anna Bhagya
Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa on Friday ordered a comprehensive review of the Anna Bhagya scheme, a flagship welfare measure launched by the previous Congress government to provide 7 kg of rice free to every member of a BPL household. 
“There are an estimated one lakh illegal beneficiaries under the Anna Bhagya scheme in every district,” Yediyurappa told a news conference.
“The scheme should benefit only those who are eligible. But those who are rich, government employees, those with cars and tractors have received benefits illegally,” he said. People with illegal BPL cards have an understanding with local fair price shops. This misuse must be stopped. Not a single eligible beneficiary should be deprived, he said.
Accordingly, all Anna Bhagya beneficiaries will be surveyed to identify the ineligible. 
The populist Anna Bhagya was former chief minister Siddaramaiah’s pet scheme aimed at achieving a “hunger-free” Karnataka.
The government has earmarked Rs 3,770 crore for the scheme in 2019-20 fiscal. The scheme requires an estimated 80,000 metric tonnes of rice every month. 
Plugging leakage under the scheme will reduce the burden on the government, Yediyurappa said. “We buy the rice from the open market for Rs 32-33 per kg,” he said. 
Yediyurappa also said that Anna Bhagya rice stocks lay unused in warehouses for the past 2-3 years. “I have no hesitation to say that rice stocks are rotting. Officials responsible for this situation should face action. I have sought details on the total quantity of rice lying in warehouses, for how long they are stockpiled, why and so on,” he said. 
The Anna Bhagya review comes just days after Yediyurappa ordered the cancellation of the Tipu Jayanti, which was another Siddaramaiah initiative.