Monday, September 02, 2019

2 September,2019 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

Japan looks to boost investments on African continent
Issued on 31-08-2019 Modified 31-08-2019 to 10:22
Description: mediaProfessor Oussouby Sacko, President of Kyoto Seika University, JapanKyoto Seika University
As the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) wrapped up in Yokohama on Friday, Japan demonstrated a willingness to pick up the pace of investments on the continent, especially in agriculture.
Officials from  nearly all Africa's 55 countries attended the conference which ended Friday. During the three-day event themed “sharing passion for the future”, Japan showed it was willing to invest in trade and agriculture, and especially in developping rice culture.
In a joint closing statement, participants said they “believe that quality infrastructure that guarantees affordability with respect to life-cycle costs, is fundamental for sustainable economic transformation" in Africa.
Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Prime Minister told the gathering that those who invest in Africa must beware of burdening countries with "excessive" debt, an apparent swipe at China whose Belt and Road policy some critics consider is saddling poor nations with crippling debt.
Abe announced on Wednesday that his country would help double Africa’s rice output by 2030, raising it to 50 million tons a year.
Ryuichi Kato, president of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), explains that this will be done by increasing productivity.
“We would like to increase the productivity of rice production by developing the irrigation system, and developing rice varieties, some that are suitable for the African soil,” he told RFI on Friday.
“The participation of the private sector is also very important and we would like to encourage it,” he said.

Concluding #TICAD7: Working toward realizing the Yokohama Declaration

JICA looks forward to continuing to maintain dialogue and providing support for inclusive and dynamic development in
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The notable expansion of rice culture is very appealing for African countries, especially South Africa, says RFI’s correspondant Jean-Jacques Cornish.
“Shinzo Abe is convinced young African people can transform agriculture. This is music to the ears of President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is facing a faltering economy and a massive problem of youth unemployment.”
This renewed investment in rice culture marks a changing trend in Japan’s attitude towards African countries, which was mostly restricted to financial aid, technology and education programs.
Japan lagging behind China
Japan is revising its tactic in Africa, especially because of China’s recent investments on the continent for its new "Silk Road" project.
At the last TICAD in 2016, Japan pledged around 30 billion dollars in development funding for Africa while China allocates 60 billion a year.
The Japanese government is usually loath to take risks in foreign investment, as opposed to Beijing whose Africa development policy of massive investment has helped it wrest diplomatic partners from rival Taiwan.
Now it seems, in order to keep up with the competition, Japan is shifting the way it interacts with Africa, both in its cultural and economic relationship, explains Professor Oussouby Sacko, the president of the private Seika University in Kyoto, known for its manga cartoon research centre.
“I think Japanese start to realise they are a little bit slow in their relationship with Africa, the African market and even African people”, he said to RFI English on Friday.
According to the Mali-born professor, Japan is trying to catch up.
“During the time they were thinking what to do and how to deal with Africa, other countries were moving practically”.
For Ryuichi Kato, this delay is due to Japan’s distinctive way of interacting with other countries.
“We like to do the cooperation on equal footing, obtain consent from African authorities and discuss with them the elaboration of the projects. It takes time but it’s important not to force something. This approach is a bit particular, different from other countries”, he says.
Japan has been hosting TICAD since 1993, and African countries attend the event around every five years.

Beyond Carolina Gold: Researchers work to revive ancient Southern crops

Rick Boyles, a research scientist at Clemson’s Pee Dee Research and Education Center, talks about how a combination of traditional and advanced plant genetic approaches are being used to determine which grain lines are best adapted to South Carolina and the entire Southeast.
FLORENCE – Clemson researchers are working with the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation to revive heirloom grains in South Carolina and renewal of the university’s Small Grains Breeding and Genetics Program is one asset researchers believe will assist in this effort.
Rick Boyles, a research scientist at the Clemson University Pee Dee Research and Education Center (Pee Dee REC) and a foundation board member spoke about reviving the breeding program when he gave a research update to almost 100 people attending the foundation’s spring meeting held recently at the Pee Dee REC and Carolina Plantation Rice in Darlington. Boyles is in the process of evaluating thousands of grain lines to determine which ones are best adapted to South Carolina, as well as to the entire Southeast.
“We’re evaluating important traits such as disease resistance and grain quality,” Boyles said. “To become more efficient, we are using a combination of traditional and advanced plant genetics approaches to understand the genetic basis of important traits and help to broaden the gene pool that exists in regional breeding populations.”
 The war on weeds: Researchers arm farmers with new tools for old battle
The Small Grains Breeding and Genetics program has been inactive since 2008. Boyles said revival of the program is desperately needed to help increase the availability of improved plant varieties that have beneficial attributes to increase farmer productivity and profitability in South Carolina.
 Seedless watermelons: Researcher explains how these wonders dominate S.C. crop
“This program is continuing to build where it needs to be so that, as Clemson researchers, we can identify, develop, and release small grains cultivars that are tailored for South Carolina growers and end-users, as well as additional stakeholders across the southeastern United States,” Boyles said.
Boyles annually evaluates local cultivars, also known as landraces, and crop wild relatives to find natural genetic variation that can be exploited for crop improvement. Landraces represent the oldest cultivated varieties that have been handed down in communities to the present age. In comparison, heirlooms are varieties that were carefully selected by growers over generations and distributed across regions as a result of their uniqueness and value.
 Want to get a whole lot more from
Boyles earned a doctoral degree in genetics from Clemson and began working at the Pee Dee REC in 2017. He is working with Clemson researchers, Stephen Kresovich and Brian Ward, as well as David Shields, foundation chairman and Carolina distinguished professor for the University of South Carolina, to research and repatriate the landrace grains that once thrived in South Carolina.
Carolina Gold Rice is one of these grains and was introduced to South Carolina in 1685 when a merchant ship damaged by a raging storm hobbled in to the Charleston Harbor. In the ship’s cargo bay was Carolina Gold Rice from Madagascar, Africa. The rice found its way to South Carolina fields and became a major cash crop before a series of mishaps caused it to totally disappear from the state. But, with help from the foundation and some Clemson researchers, Carolina Gold is once again becoming a popular rice for cultivation, owing to its resiliency and versatility.

Growing and promoting S.C. culture

The agenda included a visit to the Carolina Rice Plantation near Darlington where plantation owner Campbell Coxe talked about how rice is grown, milled and sold from the plantation. He has been farming rice for 20 years.
“I was growing cotton and was not doing really well,” Coxe said. “I decided to diversify and grow something that I could sell directly to consumers. This was a rice-growing area in the 1700s and 1800s, so I started growing rice.”
When Coxe started growing rice, he was shipping it 800 miles to be milled. After gasoline reached $4 a gallon he decided he needed to do something, so he built a mill on the family farm. Rice he grows, mills and packages is sold from a small farm store nearby. He grows aromatic rice including: Carolina Plantation Brown Rice, Carolina Plantation Charleston Gold Rice, Carolina Plantation Gold Rice and Carolina Plantation White Rice.
Chefs all over South Carolina are ambassadors for Carolina Gold Rice and South Carolina’s roots, including a group of 4-H’ers from Charleston County who are taking their recipe, which includes Carolina Gold Rice, to the Great American Seafood Cookoff in New Orleans on August 4. The recipe is a modified version of Limpin’ Susan served over a thick fish filet.
“The reason we chose this dish is because it comes from the Gullah culture,” said Ian Adams, one of the 4-H’ers going to the cookoff. “Gullah ties in to South Carolina’s roots and we wanted to do our best to respect that connection and provide some insight to the judges who may not be aware of that part of South Carolina’s history. We chose Carolina Gold Rice because it too is a part of our state history. This rice has a flavor that cannot be replicated with any other rice and it adds to the flavor profile very nicely.”
Legend has it Limpin’ Susan was the wife of Hoppin’ John, a peas and rice dish Gullah cooks have made for generations in the South Carolina Sea Islands and Lowcountry, as well as the Caribbean. While there are several versions of this recipe, depending on whose kitchen it is being prepared, all have one ingredient in common – rice. In fact, rice is a main ingredient in most Gullah dishes.
Joining Adams in New Orleans are team members Joey Camarota and Lydia Potter.

Taking agriculture to new levels

Diversified crop research and development is conducted at Clemson’s Advanced Plant Technology Program. Led by Kresovich, who holds the Robert and Lois Coker Endowed Chair of Genetics, the program is home to an assembly of world-class scientists dedicated to taking agriculture to new levels by developing innovative crop breeding and management systems.
The foundation’s annual meeting usually is held in Charleston, but in an effort to reach more farmers and show diversity among South Carolina heritage crops, this year’s meeting was held in Florence. In addition to farmers from several states, a delegation of rice farmers from the West African country of Guinea-Bissau attended the event. Rice and cashews are Guinea-Bissau’s largest crops. The Guinea-Bissau farmers speak Portuguese and were lucky to have Clemson graduate student Giovanni Caputo translate for them. Caputo is from Brazil and is working on his master’s degree in weed science. Brian Ward, a research scientist at Clemson’s Coastal Research and Education Center, asked Caputo to translate after finding out the farmers were attending the event and just spoke Portuguese.
“This was the first time I’ve ever translated for someone, so I was a little nervous,” Caputo said. “I wanted to be sure I got everything correct, so if I didn’t understand something, I asked someone who knew the topic and what was being said to be sure I was giving the correct translation.”
Other speakers at the meeting include Glenn Roberts, founder of Anson Mills on Folly Beach in Charleston, who said weather conditions have kept him and his workers out of the fields.
“The weather has been very challenging,” Roberts said. “The climate is changing and is presenting problems we haven’t had in the past. We need to breed crops for climate change and we need to move as quickly as we can.”
Also, during the meeting, Shields discussed the history of the American palate and how changes in taste acceptance have influenced plant breeding.
“Growing out a cuisine with the guidance of the historical record gives the most convenient grounds for experimentation with making ingredients as fine as they can be – given the time, place, economy and environmental conditions,” said Shields, who is author of Southern Provisions: The Creation & Revival of a Cuisine.
In addition, Hayden Smith, adjunct professor at the College of Charleston, proposed forming a Rice Institute at the College of Charleston with input from Clemson researchers and others to help promote the growth of rice in South Carolina. Smith said this would be a valuable asset for teaching agricultural and environmental demands associated with growing rice.

LSU AgCenter partners with GB Sciences to produce medical marijuana
 Sep 2, 2019 Updated 4 hrs ago

Marijuana sits in an LSU AgCenter warehouse.
Courtesy of LSU AgCenter
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As anyone who has ever been put on hold by the LSU Office of Admissions can tell you, LSU is an award-winning school that participates in ground-breaking research. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that LSU AgCenter is partnering with GB Sciences Louisiana in a historic program researching and producing medical marijuana. 
GB Sciences Louisiana President John B. Davis said the partnership between the AgCenter and GB Sciences is the first of its kind.
“This doesn’t exist anywhere else in the United States or in the world," Davis said. "This is a first." 
The production facility in Baton Rouge began full-scale production of therapeutic cannabis in March 2019 and released their first products in early Aug. 2019. The facility was built by GB Sciences and includes a 6,000 square foot laboratory space the AgCenter will use for research on the cannabis plant, similar to the research it has conducted on rice and wheat crops. 
GB Sciences produces 3 different formulations of therapeutic cannabis. The different formulations contain different concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), and also have different delivery methods. 
The bill that granted LSU AgCenter one of two licenses in Louisiana to grow and research medical marijuana also outlined what medical conditions are eligible for treatment via medical marijuana, as well as the process doctors and pharmacies must go through to become licensed. 
The list of eligible medical conditions is wide-ranging and includes disorders such as HIV and AIDS, cancer, seizure disorders and epilepsy, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, and PTSD. 
Davis said therapeutic cannabis is not an appropriate treatment for everyone. He recommends patients with a medical condition eligible for medical marijuana treatment talk to their doctors.
Like any pharmaceutical, there is no blanket dosage that works for every patient. Different patients with different conditions and symptoms will need different concentrations and dosages. 
“In all cases, the suggested recommendation is to start low and stay low until you find your most therapeutic level of medication,” Davis said. 
Davis and AgCenter Vice President Ashley Mullens said the program has not received any backlash so far.
Mullens said many people have a personal connection to someone who has or perhaps could in the future benefit from medical marijuana.
“We all have loved ones that will benefit from this product,” Mullens said. 
Davis believes the program hasn't received any backlash because it isn't providing recreational marijuana, but instead a medication for people in need.
“When we think of medicine, we think of those family members or friends within our circle who have a debilitating medical condition,” Davis said. “And all that we really want is to provide them with improved quality of life.”
Currently, the GB Sciences lab employees 15 people, but Davis predicts the program could grow to employ up to 60 people. The project has drawn interest from Louisiana scientists but had been working in regions with more robust medical marijuana industries, such as Colorado, the West Coast and Washington D.C. 
As for the future of the project, the AgCenter is currently in talks with Pennington Biomedical Research Center and LSU Health Science Center about the possibility of conducting clinical trials.
Currently, no active University students are allowed inside the facility, but Mullens hopes grad students will be able to conduct research there in the future. 

Of Market Forces and Forced Markets 

“Indeed, a major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it… gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.” Milton Friedman(1912-2006).
“Famine emerges from a lack of interlocal trade; when one locality’s food crop fails, since there is virtually no trade with other localities, the bulk of the people starve. It is precisely the permeation of the free market throughout the world that has virtually ended this scourge of famine by permitting trade between areas.” Murray Rothbard (1926-1995)
Economics is a (social) science that deals with the allocation of scarce resources. Nevertheless, people have called it all sorts of names. Some say it is not a science at all because it has to do with human behaviour. Some more complimentary ones have conceded that though it may be deemed some sort of science it is most appropriate to address it as a ‘dismal’ science. Wherever you come out in the debate, the truth is that it is settled that economics is a social science. This is more because of its capacity to predict human behaviour. Another settled fact is that Demand and Supply respond differently to price, while Price itself responds to Demand and Supply. This is one fundamental truism in the discipline of Economics. If you want prices to go up, the easiest way to achieve it is by bringing supply down. The converse is also correct if you want prices to go down. Those who are familiar with behaviour agree that human beings are inherently rational and therefore selfish, they respond in a way that serves primarily their self-interest. It is for this reason that modern day administrators of the economy know what factors to manipulate to achieve a desired outcome. Done any other way, it will invariably bring distortion to the economy.
As Nigeria was celebrating the Sallah holidays last week, news came from the Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity that the President had directed the Central Bank of Nigeria not to allocate any cent to food importation any more. Going by statistics, the Central Bank has done very well in reigning in frivolous importation of items that could be produced in Nigeria. The jury, though, is still out as to the effect of the ban of the 41 items from enjoying foreign exchange in the official foreign exchange market and the recent addition of Milk to that list. It is assumed that the ban is effective and will as such result in the development of local substitutes. If, on the other hand, the ban is not as effective, (a Nigerian common experience), it would mean that the order would merely raise the price of such commodities in the market. This is because the ban leaves importers with the option of funding at the black market at rates much higher than the official window. At the end of the day, this cost will have to be transferred to the final consumer, with its inflationary effects and probably the impact on the poverty index.  The simple truth here is that it is the ultimate consumer that pays the price of all commodities.
At a Bankers’ Dinner held in Lagos late last year, the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, was reported to have said that the nation’s monthly food import bill fell from $665.4m in January 2015 to $160.4m as at October 2018. The reductions in food import were recorded mainly on rice, fish, milk, sugar and wheat. This represents a cumulative fall of 75.9% and implied savings of over $21b on food imports alone over that period. “Most evident were the 97.3% cumulative reduction in monthly rice import bills, 99.6%  in fish, 81.3% in milk, 63.7% in sugar, and 60.5% in wheat” the governor had concluded. Without prejudice to the other points made above, these are significant numbers which indicate that the policy had been effective over the period under review. 
Mr. Emefiele also pointed out that to achieve the success so far recorded, the CBN introduced the Anchor Borrowers Programme, which had ensured that Nigeria moved from being a net importer of rice to becoming a major producer, supplying key markets in neighbouring countries. The Anchor Borrowers Programme had been supported by other CBN interventions like the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) and the National Collateral Registry. The Governor revealed that as of October 2018, a total number of 862,069 farmers cultivating about 835,239 hectares, across 16 different commodities, had so far benefited from the Anchor Borrowers programme, which had in the process, generated 2,502,675 jobs across the country. 
There is no doubt that these are good stories coming out of the Central Bank of Nigeria. It is not unlikely that these may be one of the major reasons the President considered an outright ban on allocation of official foreign exchange for importation of food items in the country. While agreeing that in the long run, this would help the country conserve scarce foreign exchange, build our external reserves and ensure sustainable self-sufficiency in food production, there are inherent dangers in that directive which the President may not have taken into consideration. The first of these is statutory and should be of concern to all who appreciate the concept of rule of law and separation of powers. All over the world, the monetary authorities of all democratic nations are, by law meant to be independent and autonomous of both executive and legislative direct influence.  This is to ensure that monetary policy decisions are not used to achieve short term political advantages that would have long term adverse impact on the overall economy. In order to enforce this, the Central Bank has its Monetary Policy Committee and Board of Governors. Statutorily, the President has his nominees sitting in both bodies and can influence the decisions of those bodies through these nominees. Theoretically, the President has no power to make the pronouncement he made, except if it was an opinion which he is free to hold. Even as an opinion, he could be seen as interfering with the autonomy of the monetary authority. We are all familiar with the implications of the executive crossing the Central Bank independence line. Those in doubt should read about the Late Idi Amin’s Uganda. The same uproar greeted Trump a few days ago when he voiced his frustration at the exchange rate of the dollar in the wake of the lowering of the value of the Chinese Yuan.
Having dwelt extensively on the statutory aspects of the pronouncement, let us now turn to the economics of it. Like we had earlier stated, the undue penchant of Nigerian consumers for imported items has a direct adverse effect on the value of the Naira, the stock of our foreign reserves, the creation of jobs, imported inflation and general phenomenon of self-sufficiency, or lack thereof, in food production in the country. Conventional wisdom suggests that for a country like Nigeria, still struggling with economic growth and development, we shouldn’t import what we can produce. Economists, however, recommend that we should maximize the production of goods over which we have comparative advantage, while we exchange with countries who have comparative advantage over other goods which we cannot efficiently produce. Two major economic theories, Specialisation and International Trade, have their foundation from this thinking. The big issue therefore, is this; how do we ensure that we do not buy from foreign countries, things we can produce in Nigeria? There are two ways: by a directive like the one the President has just given or by using market forces to influence consumer behaviour. Economists would tell you that legislations and directives hardly work in the real world. You will also agree that were it so, with the plethora of policies and legislations, a host of government agencies meant to enforce such policies, the Nigerian consumer would have become the model in the whole world. However,  human beings, like we highlighted earlier, are bound to act in their own self-interest. To the extent that there is demand for those goods, people will continue to demand them and the importers will invariably continue to bring them in. The import therefore, is that bans will only drive people away to informal markets; a very dangerous phenomenon. Just like the saying goes, when you drive people away from the arena where opinions are expressed, they only go to converge in the cellar where revolutions are born. Because economists operate at the arena, they will rather deal with those opinions.
 The solution therefore is to find sustainable and holistic ways to make it unviable for businessmen to import the items. How then do we do that? Simple; it is by making importation of food unprofitable. For instance, if the same food item, in terms of quantity and quality is available in the country at a lower price than imported ones, no rational consumer will buy them. Once there is no demand for the goods, no one will import them. Therefore, market forces would rather support a programme that makes the locally produced goods more competitive than one that directs that imports are prohibited. In reality, confronted with a directive that prohibits imports, market forces would not be bereft of responses. The first question market forces would ask is, is there a demand for the banned items? Once the answer is yes, then a few other questions would follow. Is the market in such a state that it will pay the price for bringing in the goods “by fire and by force”? The next question would be, where is the best and most cost-effective place from which to bring the goods? How can the goods be brought in without the prying eyes of the government that had restricted the importation? Since government has banned the item, how can it be brought in at the cheapest cost possible in order for profitable sales to be made? In the process of answering these questions, there is a huge question that may not necessarily be asked and it is the most important question. That question about the quality and safety of the food, since it has been taken out of the sight of the regulatory authorities, standards and safety measures may no longer be enforced. Bear in mind that the country is not self sufficient in food production and may never be. Truth be told, we are yet to see a country that is self-sufficient in food production.
It is our considered opinion that it would be very difficult for the CBN, even if it wanted to do so, to successfully implement this latest Presidential directive. The CBN should indeed worry about the implications of the directives on the economy. I am not sure that it has reliable statistics to show that we have attained self-sufficiency in food production. In fact statistics available point to the fact that more Nigerians are falling below poverty line and Nigeria has actually become the poverty capital of the world. One thing you can literally take to the bank is that should the CBN decide to implement the directive, it will not stop the importation of food into the country. The directive is that our subsidised foreign exchange should not be allocated to importers of food. The importers would naturally source their funds from the black market at higher prices. This price will naturally be passed on to consumers which means higher cost of food with its attendant implication on inflation. Again, the level of banditry and kidnapping in the country also points to declining farming activities in the rural areas and this year may witness very poor harvest. It is also a known fact that a lot of banned items find their way into the Nigerian markets at more exorbitant prices. Sadly, the government is wittingly or unwittingly enriching the ports of neighbouring countries anytime we place a ban on the importation of essential items. Despite our celebration of all the feats we have achieved with rice production, our markets are still flooded with imported rice. That shows that there is still a market for it. It is important to state that in the process, we also deny the country of the tariffs on those smuggled goods, were the goods imported directly into, and through, our facilities.
Our position is that we should avoid the temptation of trying to manage the economy by fiat. That approach has not worked in Nigeria, nor has it worked in any economy I know. I make bold to say that it will also not work in this instance, unless we want to hide our heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich. Every well-functioning economy has in-built mechanisms to correct itself. All we need are effective and knowledgeable managers who know what to do to achieve desired outcomes at both monetary and fiscal levels. Let us leave command economics for the military era, where, by the way, it was also a colossal failure!
Villar seeks audit of funds for farmers
 September 01, 2019 at 10:40 pm by Macon Ramos-Araneta

Senator Cynthia Villar has demanded for an “accounting” of the funds intended to help farmers cope with the lifting of the quantitative restriction on rice imports.
She specifically cited the P500 million spent for the inbred seeds reportedly distributed to rice-producing provinces even as Region 3 was left out.
“For the inbred seeds alone, we spent P500 million, but how come Region 3 was excluded when it has some of the biggest rice-producing provinces,” Villar said.
Villar, chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, also directed the Department of Budget and Management to return the P4 billion intended for the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.
While the DBM released P5 billion in December last year for the RCEF, only P1 billion went to the program providing farmers access to cheap credit through Landbank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines this year.
During Villar’s committee hearing on RCEF, the budget department promised to release the remaining P4 billion to complete the P10-billion fund.
Under the rice tariffication law, farmers will be given P10 billion a year for the next six years under the RCEF, which will be obtained from the collected tariffs to boost their productive capacities.
“Although they might say they spent it because RCEF is yet to be passed then, they should have waited and not spent it on other matters. I want the Department of Agriculture to account for the remaining P4 billion and also to make sure that P4 billion will be immediately returned to RCEF,” the senator said.
Villar’s committee was also informed that very little of the initial release of funds for the RCEF went to farmers, with 80 percent captured by the DA National Rice Program.
Villar warned against the slow disbursement of the RCEF, saying it will not improve the competitiveness of the domestic agriculture sector if it is not fully implemented.
“In this age of liberalization, our farmers will continue to fear competition because they were not given the chance to improve their ways,” she said.
“Now that Philippine authorities can no longer limit the entry of imported rice, we impose tariffs and collect the amount to spend for programs that will help improve our farmers’ productivity and profitability under the RCEF,” Villar added

The ANC Brief: A lot of explaining to do

Sep 02 2019 04:00 AM

Many questions linger over the release of convicts under a new system. Here are the stories making the headlines on ANC today:
Artful dodger
He has a lot of explaining to do. Pressure is building up on Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Nicanor Faeldon to explain the release of convicts under the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law. But Faeldon seems intent in dodging questions. The Senate sent a subpoena to Faeldon and ordered him to appear in today’s hearing on the controversy over the releases. Sen. Ping Lacson said he has a copy of the release order of former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez. Earlier, Justice Sec. Menardo Guevarra said no release order was issued in the case of Sanchez and that Faeldon denies signing any. Lacson also said the convicts in the Chiong sisters slay case have also been released. ANC will be airing the Senate hearings live.
High-stakes meeting
It was a high-stakes visit. President Duterte arrived from his latest trip to China. But what did he accomplish? Before he left, he said he would finally raise the arbitral victory of the country against China’s claims in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). But as expected, China said they were rejecting the victory but assured Duterte there would be no provocative acts in the area. Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to fast track a code of conduct (COC) for the WPS. Before he left, Duterte lamented the delays in the drafting of the COC. Already, the Palace is spinning the trip as a “success.” But was it really a success?
Farmers taking a hit
The flooding of rice imports as a result of the Rice Tariffication Law is hurting rice farmers. The law might have addressed issues of rice supply and inflation with lower prices. But rice farming is taking a huge hit. What happened to the safeguards and cash assistance for farmers? Are they getting the cash assistance and if not, why not? And are these safeguards and cash assistance enough to offset what farmers are losing?
Obsession with basketball
Gilas Pilipinas lost to Italy in a lopsided game during the FIBA World Cup. The team will have to face a better and bigger Serbian team. The loss to Italy puts focus on the country’s basketball program. Can we ever be a contender again in world basketball just like the Philippine teams of the 50s? Or is it time to focus on another sport besides basketball?
Rise up
Gio Visitacion lost his business partner and co-barista at Cebu’s The Good Cup Coffee Company last April when John Michael Hermoso was shot dead in the very coffee shop their friendship built. Four months after the gruesome murder, Gio shares to ANCX how he and his staff are picking up the pieces.

PH mayors laud gov’t for lower rice prices, inflation downtrend

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:16 AM September 02, 2019
The umbrella organization of city mayors across the country has commended Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, the Department of Finance and the rest of President Duterte’s economic team for pushing the enactment of the law liberalizing rice imports, which has led to lower prices of the staple food and a corresponding significant decline in the country’s inflation rate.
In a manifesto, the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) said since Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law took effect in March, the average retail cost of rice had dropped by at least P7 per kilo or 20-percent less than last year’s peak rates.
The mayors cited, in particular, Dominguez’s efforts “for pushing the approval and enactment of RA 11203.”
“We in the League of Cities of the Philippines have seen the huge benefit of this law to our respective constituencies who now enjoy more affordable prices of rice,” the LCP said in the manifesto signed by the organization’s national chair, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella.
The LCP also pointed out that as a result of the law’s implementation, the country’s inflation rate had also fallen significantly in June, “from a high of 6.7 percent in September and October 2018.” The June 2019 headline inflation rate fell to 2.7 percent. It further decelerated to 2.4 percent in July.
“In this regard, the efforts of Secretary Dominguez, the Department of Finance, and the rest of the country’s economic team should not go unnoticed,” said the LCP, which has 145 city mayors as members.
Besides opening rice importation to private traders, the rice liberalization law also benefits palay growers as revenues from rice import tariffs are earmarked for the annual P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).
Under RA 11203, RCEF would help finance the modernization of the agriculture sector and directly provide farmers with access to credit and training, and funds for mechanization, high-quality seeds, and fertilizers, among other forms of assistance to sharpen their global competitiveness and increase their incomes. —DAXIM L. LUCAS

Group asks govt to probe rice traders

The Federation of Free Farmers Inc. (FFF) called on the government to look into the marketing and selling practices of traders who are now making a killing out of the relaxation of rules for importing the staple.
A study by the FFF, a copy of which was obtained by the BusinessMirror, showed the supposed huge discrepancy between the landed and retail prices of imported rice. The results of the study, FFF said, indicate that certain players are raking in huge profits from cheap imports.
“The data shows a huge gap of P18 per kilogram between declared import prices of rice and prevailing retail prices in July 2019,” read the paper, which was submitted to Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar last week.
Using publicly available government data, the FFF computed the difference between the landed cost of imported rice and its retail price. The group found that the average retail price of regular-milled rice in July was at P38.72 per kilogram, P18.11 more than its import price of P20.61 per kg.
The FFF study also showed that there was a P18.93 difference between the average retail price of well-milled rice at P43.10 per kg and its import value of P24.17 per kg.
“The big gap between import and retail prices suggests that importers, wholesalers and retailer can still enjoy reasonable profits even if retail prices are brought down,” the group said.
The local rice market is no longer regulated by the government after Republic Act 11203 took effect on March 5. Currently, traders are only required to secure sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance and pay the corresponding tariffs if they want to buy rice from abroad.

Detailed analysis

Due to these findings, the FFF urged the government to undertake a detailed study of the cost components of imported rice plus the additional costs and trading margins to determine the “reasonable” retail price.
With this, FFF argued, the government would be able to pinpoint those who are taking advantage of the relaxed rules and earning huge profits.
“It would therefore be helpful if costs and trading margins throughout the rice value chain can be computed so as to determine a reasonable retail price level for imported rice based on a declared FOB [freight-on-board] value,” it said.
“This will make it easy to pinpoint segments of the value chain where unreasonable profits are being made, and may guide the government in making the necessary interventions,” it added.
The government could also analyze the relationship between the prevailing farm-gate prices of unhusked rice and retail prices of milled rice to determine if unscrupulous traders are “short-shelling” farmers, FFF said.
FFF added that the study may determine if the plunge in palay prices is “mainly attributable” to the entry of cheap imported rice.
“The big gap between import and retail prices suggests that importers, wholesalers and retailer can still enjoy reasonable profits even if retail prices are brought down,” the group said.
“However, the government should carefully study how this can be done without further exacerbating the problems of palay producers,” it added.
FFF said the implementation of a suggested retail price (SRP) on rice could help pull down prices.
“If, for example, SRPs are imposed, this may be used as a pretext by traders to lower their buying prices even further,” the group said.
“This implies that, as efforts are made to bring down retail prices, these should be complemented by measures that will force importers to declare the true cost and value of the imports, and thereby provide room for local traders to proportionately adjust their buying prices upwards,” it added

Corruption, Porous Borders Ducking Nigeria’s Rice Sufficiency Drive
Rice is a big deal in Nigeria. Almost everyone eats it. With an annual consumption rate at 6.4 million tonnes as of 2017 and an increase of 4.7% in the last decade, the country accounts for about 20% of Africa’s total consumption. But meeting the growing demand through local production has proven to be a huge problem for the country. In recent decades, Nigeria has increasingly relied on importation to meet this demand.
The general election in 2015 ushered in a new federal government led by Muhammadu Buhari. After assuming office he announced his intention to invest in agriculture, making Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production and reduce unemployment and place a 70% import tariff on rice.
To drive this home, new intervention programmes were birthed. Chief among them is the Anchor Borrowers Programme. This initiative was hailed as the most comprehensive government-driven agro-initiative in Nigeria’s history. Speaking at its launch on November 2015, Buhari reiterated his commitment to diversifying the economy. “The programme has been designed as a one-stop-solution for agricultural value chain by creating economic linkages between farmers and processors to not only ensure a clear agricultural output but to also reduce dependence on imported food.”
The other programmes include the International Fund for Agricultural Development, to make funding worth $15 million available for farmers, the World Bank’s Fadama programme, as well as the UN Development Programme partnership worth $8.06 million.
Before the introduction of the Anchor Borrowers Programme, $2.41 billion was spent to import rice between January 2012 and May 2015. According to a BBC report quoting Audu Innocent Ogbeh, Nigeria’s former Minister of Agriculture, the country spent $5 million a day on rice importation to bring in 2.3 million tonnes of the grain in 2016.
Corruption Fraught Intervention
The launch of the Anchor Borrowers Programme came with lots of fanfare and hype. Designed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), it targeted smallholder farmers with a special focus on rice farmers. The programme was designed to make loans available to them at an interest rate of 9% and has, as of May this year, disbursed about $527.6 million to farmers across the country. However, fast forward to about four years after the launch, allegations of corruption and discrimination have bedeviled it while reliance on rice imports is still high.
In the northern part of the country, where there are many of the beneficiaries, it was alleged that politicians high jacked the programme to compensate their followers and practically shut out local farmers. Some farmers saw the loan as their own share of the national cake. A sort of personal reward for voting for President Muhammadu Buhari and hence their refusal to service the loan.
While in the south, there were allegations that the programme was designed primarily with northerners in mind. Some beneficiaries could not get the funds even after meeting the set criteria. But CBN debunked the allegation. The bank attributed the poor implementation to the inability of farmers to meet several conditions.
Adaku Ezeibe, a lecturer at the University of Nigeria, attributed the failure of the programme to lack of awareness of the availability of locally grown rice and the nutritional edge it has over foreign grown rice. “Most Nigerians do not know that our rice is more nutritious than imported rice. They also don’t know that the more we buy foreign rice, the more we kill our economy. We can’t keep patronizing foreign farmers to the detriment of our economy.”
But local production cannot match demand. Hence the gap is being plugged by imports. This gap is driving the high patronage foreign grown rice is enjoying. However, she advised that campaigns should be embarked upon by the central government to “create awareness for Nigerians to patronize our rice and the farmers would be encouraged to improve and produce more. This would go a long way to bridge the gap you talked about and help our economy.”
Dashed Hope
When Evelyn Agon learned of the Fadama programme from her fellow farmers “during a chat” at a local market, she had high hopes. Chief of which were hopes of expanding her small rice farm located in southeast Nigeria. But like the hazy dust of the dry farming season flutters with the wind, her hopes fizzled when she discovered the programme was not as great as her friend had told her at the market.
Evelyn is one of the beneficiaries of the Fadama III programme – the third phase of the programme launched in 1993 by the World Bank and run in partnership with Nigeria’s Ministry of Agriculture to make about $200 million available for farmers along the agro value chain.
“My friend told me at the market that the government was coming to our village to assist those of us that are serious with our farms, especially rice farm. I was happy. I believed it would make me expand my farm and take care of my children. I needed fertilizer, seedlings, chemicals, and guidance. We were told we would get them when we went to Enugu (capital of Enugu state) to see the officials.”
Evelyn explained that she, alongside other women from her community, spent the little money they had on transportation to the capital, more than 30 kilometres from their village for training, but they ended up being told about the old practices they knew without any other assistance. Her experience resonates with the thoughts of other beneficiaries who complained of the slow takeoff.
However, the programme team leader, Adetunji Oredipe, described it as a huge success. “The project had contributed to the agricultural transformation and development in Nigeria in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), food security, youth and women employment and rural development and World Bank is happy for this.”
Smugglers on a rampage
The government had hoped that the programmes were working optimally, hence the claim by President Buhari that the country has cut rice importation by 90%. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, during the build-up to the 2019 general elections, made a similar claim. In the same vein, Audu Innocent Ogbeh, stated that Nigeria’s success at meeting her rice demands led to the collapse of 7 giant rice mills in Thailand, Nigeria’s major exporter of rice.
Statistics from the CBN, show real progress in import reduction and reinforces the claim of government officials. The Central Bank of Nigeria revealed that the country had imported only 5,587 metric tonnes between January and July 2018. This, however, is a sharp contrast to the figure released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which stood at about 3 million tonnes during 2018.
On the flip-side, import of parboiled rice, which is mostly consumed in Benin, Nigeria’s neighbour, increased by about 100%, according to a report by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition.
Hence, government intervention only succeeded in stifling legal importation but encouraged smuggling. In the first quarter of 2019 alone, the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria decried that over 1 million metric tonnes – 20 million bags of 50kg of rice and about 29% of the USDA’s 3.4 million metric tonnes 2019 estimate for the country – was smuggled in. This is largely blamed on porous borders.
Meanwhile, the agency charged with the task of manning the borders, Nigeria Customs Service, seems inadequate. Hameed Ali, the head of the Customs Service, in turn, blamed it on the interconnectivity of Nigeria’s borders with adjoining nations and asked Nigerians to prevail on the smugglers to stop their “deadly activities.”
Then in a total clampdown a few days ago, many Nigerians woke up to the news of the closure of the country’s porous border with Benin which has served as a hub for smuggled goods, especially rice. Explaining why his government made the move, Buhari hinted that the decision was aimed to curb activities of smugglers.
“Now that our people in the rural areas are going back to their farms, and the country has saved huge sums of money which would otherwise have been expended on importing rice using our scarce foreign reserves, we cannot allow smuggling of the product at such alarming proportions to continue,” Buhari said in an address to the Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Yokohama, Japan.
Beyond the challenge of porous borders, Ikenna Ukwuaba, a public policy analyst and lecturer of Agricultural Economics at the University of Nigeria, thinks price is a major factor. “Nigeria has not been able to grow rice in the way and manner that would reduce the influx of foreign grown rice.”
“Foreign rice is cheaper than locally grown rice. Price is a major factor in the demand and supply of any commodity, and thus, Nigeria cannot effectively compete with other rice producers in the world. Most of the equipment used in rice processing is imported, and thus add to the cost of production, consequently putting Nigerian farmers in a disadvantaged position.”
Checks by this writer at Bodija and Dugbe markets located at the heart of Ibadan, in southwestern Nigeria, confirmed earlier reports that locally grown rice is more expensive than imported rice. One of the dealers revealed that she makes more profit selling imported rice than locally grown rice.
“The prices of the two are not the same. The foreign ones are cheaper and we make more profit by selling them than the local rice. Also, people buy the foreign more,” she said.
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Senator Marcos lists measures to alleviate plight of rice farmers amid plunging farm gate prices

Updated September 2, 2019, 4:39 PM
By Mario Casayuran
Senator Imee R. Marcos has sought to suppress the panic of local rice farmers over cheap imports that threaten to reduce further the buying price of palay when harvest time begins late this month.
“Let’s not exaggerate that the situation of our rice farmers is hopeless and that little can be done,” Marcos said.
Description: Senator Imee R. Marcos  (Senator Imee R. Marcos official Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Imee R. Marcos
(Senator Imee R. Marcos official Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)
Marcos, a former Ilocos Norte governor, noted that local farmers have lost as much as 41.6 percent of their investment in August, with the farm gate price of palay plunging to as low as P7 per kilo, compared to their average production cost of P12.
She asserted that a number of near-term solutions were available to the government to at least bring back the P17 support price of palay, like activating provisions in the six-month-old rice tariffication law, tapping into existing support programs, and considering solutions adopted by other Asian countries.
The lady legislator said that the government could provide more funding support for rice farmers by activating Section 7 of the Rice Tariffication Law, which allows the President to raise the current 35 percent tariff on rice imports from Thailand and Vietnam.
The higher 180 percent tariff on rice imports from non-members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) countries could also stand a further increase so that the government could earn more revenue intended for rice farmer support, she explained.
“If South Korea and Japan have imposed import tariffs of 500 percent to 800 percent to protect their local farmers, why can’t we?” Marcos asked.
Marcos also cited how Singapore prevents rice traders from manipulating prices by cornering 25 percent of private rice imports when smuggling is detected, buying them at cost with a five percent margin.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) also has a calamity measure known as the Quick Response Fund (QRF) that could be tapped to buy palay from local farmers and triple the government’s “currently inadequate” rice buffer stock good only for 30 days, she said.
Recipients of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4P’s) can also receive rice subsidies instead of cash, with rice bought from local farmers using the P28 billion that the social welfare program provides.
Stricter phytosanitary requirements could also be imposed on rice imports to slow down their entry and market distribution, Marcos added.
The Philippines could also include rice in a “special products list” according to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, which allows more flexible trade arrangements when livelihood security is at risk, Marcos also said.
In a Senate agriculture committee public hearing last week, Marcos already pressured the National Food Authority (NFA) to immediately sell more than four million bags of imported rice stocked in its warehouses and use expected proceeds of more than P6 billion to buy palay from local farmers.
“We can save our rice farmers if we could just be thorough in our tasks, work hard, and get things done ASAP,” Marcos said.

Rice millers to build storage facilities with ADB loan

Chea Vannak /
September 2, 2019:    

Selected rice millers in Battambang, Kampong Thom, and Prey Veng have been granted access to $10 million loaned by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to build warehouses and silos.
The rice millers on Friday signed an agreement with the Rural Development Bank (RDB) and the Climate Resilient Rice Commercialisation Sector Development Programme (Rice-SDP) of the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
Under the agreement, the millers will build storage facilities using an ADB loan. The agreement is important in achieving the government goal of reaching 1 million tonnes a year in rice exports.
Warehouses and silos have been built in Battambang, Kampong Thom, Prey Veng, and Takeo provinces as part of RDB’s emergency fund, a government-led scheme to aid the sector.
RDB’s emergency fund consists of $30 million. The loans must be repaid over ten years with a 5 percent interest rate.
The initiative aims to boost millers’ storage capacity during harvest season and bolster paddy prices for farmers.

Scientists find drought-resistance gene that could help barley survive climate change

Discovery has 'significant' ramifications for the crop, a key ingredient in beer and whisky production, say researchers
More extreme and frequent droughts have been recognised across the globe ( Ian Waldie/Getty )
Scientists have discovered a gene in barley that could help to make the crop more drought resistant as climate change threatens to create difficult growing conditions for farmers.
A five-year study of the crop, a key ingredient in beer and whisky production, saw scientists isolate the specific gene responsible for drought resistance – HvMYB1.
The gene is one of 39,000 present in the plant, and when more prominently expressed can create crops that are better able to survive dry, hot conditions, according to testing led by Peter Morris of Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh.
The finding is expected to have important ramifications for cereal crops amid increasing challenges caused by climate change-related droughts.
In 2018, when a cold winter brought on by the “beast from the east“ weather phenomenon was followed by a long dry summer, barley harvest fell by 7.9 per cent compared to the average of the previous year.
At the time, NFU combinable crops board chairman Tom Bradshaw said the extreme weather events of the year had caused crop yields to become increasingly unpredictable.
And with more extreme and frequent droughts recognised across the globe, and a growing scientific consensus willing to point the blame for the exacerbated dry spells at climate change, scientists believe the new development could help see the crop grown well into the future.
Peter Morris from Heriot Watt University, who led the research team, said: “By increasing the expression of this particular gene in test plants and simulating drought conditions, we’ve been able to prove that plants in which HvMYB1 is more prominently expressed are able to survive prolonged periods of drought.
“This is a significant finding that will allow more drought resistance crops to be bred in the future.
“Drought is already impacting yields with the European cereals harvest hit particularly hard in 2018. A prolonged, dry and hot summer significantly impacted yields and quality.
“As climate change gathers pace and we experience more extreme seasons, it is essential we can maintain continuity of supply.”
The research was funded in part by the Scotch Whisky Association.
Mr Morris said that the finding was significant for key industries such as scotch whisky production, but also had important implications for the wider cereals industry including the production of wheat, maize and rice.
The interaction between scientists and cereal in the past has created answers to significant global problems – most notably by Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug, who created a semi-dwarf wheat which led to higher yields of the crop and reduced famine in countries including Mexico, India and Pakistan, becoming the most prevalent version of the crop on the planet today.

People with insomnia can help Fig

By paradox
Experts analyzed data of annual medical examinations in 1848 men and women.
Japanese scientists have discovered that eating rice can help regain the quality of sleep people who suffer from its disorders.
This writes the with reference to
According to the study, the report of which was published in the journal PLoS ONE, people, personal experience faced with insomnia, it is useful to eat with rice dishes. Researchers explain the hypnotic effect of rice on its ability to stimulate the body’s production of tryptophan — the amino acid that causes drowsiness. The brain converts tryptophan into serotonin and then into melatonin, causing sleep.
Scientists were primarily interested in indicators that serve as parameters of quality of sleep, in particular, the amount of time required to fall asleep, sleep duration, complete night of rest, use of drugs, feeling for the next day. In the result, it was found: people who consumed more rice, measures on a scale of best sleep – they sleep very well.
At the same time, the study showed that drinking at dinner, pasta and noodles, unlike rice, can be a precipitating factor of insomnia

Davao Region farmers urged to plant ‘NextGen’ rice varieties
By Che Palicte  September 1, 2019, 5:07 pm
NEXTGEN RICE VARIETIES. Jissel Cardines, DA-11 NextGen focal and science research specialist, presents her study on the next generation or NextGen rice varieties in front of Davao media practitioners on August 27, 2019. The NextGen varieties are being pushed by the Department of Agriculture in Davao Region (Region 11) because of being climate resilient and resistant to pests and diseases. (PNA photo by Che Palicte)
DAVAO CITY -- The Department of Agriculture in Davao Region (Region 11) urged rice farmers in the region to plant the next generation or ‘NextGen’ varieties.
Jissel Cardines, DA-11 NextGen focal and science research specialist, told Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Saturday (Aug. 31) that said varieties are climate-resilient and resistant to pests and diseases.
He said it is an elite inbred and hybrid rice lines developed to attain desirable traits such as high-yielding ability, disease resistant, flood, drought, heat or salinity tolerant.
Cardines bared that elite rice varieties were meticulously monitored from planting to harvesting with farmers using their indigenous knowledge and experience.
Sensory evaluations were also conducted to ensure that said varieties are also palatable and will be acceptable to the consumers. Rice varieties (such as NSIC Rc 216, Rc160, Rc222) bred by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and Rc 300 produced by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) were the top four most preferred rice varieties of Filipino farmers in irrigated lowland fields nationwide, both for dry and wet seasons.
Cardines, who led the NextGen research team, said their 2017-2019 field trials resulted to three emerging varieties in terms of its superior quality and adaptability to most of the region’s ecosystem. These are Rc222, Rc216 and Rc160 which are also recommended by PhilRice.
However, Cardines also clarified that inbred varieties such as Rc402, Rc436, Rc480, Rc 27 and special purpose rice Rc218SR are also good varieties based on their studies, which is suitable in Davao Region’s ecosystem.
“Cost on pesticides can be reduced. As to the production, given the right source, amount and timing of fertilizer application, favorable climate, and good irrigation NextGen varieties yield can reach 9-10 tons per cropping for hybrid and 8-9 tons per cropping for inbred,” she explained.
If not planting the NextGen varieties, Cardines said the normal production ranges from 5-7 tons both hybrid and inbred with the common practice of farmers on rice farm management.
On the other hand, Melani Provido, DA research chief, said farmers including millers and traders should keep an open mind on the emergence of the said varieties not only on its yield performance but also its high acceptability among local rice consumers.
“We urged our partners from the local government as well as our seed producers to promote these varieties for our farmers to plant it and rise above the challenges that confront our local rice industry,” Provido said in one of the recent Field Day on Next Generation Rice Varieties.
NextGen is a product of recent advances in plant breeding and subjected to multi-location testing both by scientist and farmers to identify and select best performing varieties for particular ecosystems.
It became the grain of hope where the local farmers can thrive amid the entry of unlimited rice in the country.

Philippines delegates visit

Aug 31, 2019, 7:12 AM; last updated: Aug 31, 2019, 7:12 AM (IST)
Ludhiana: A team of the Direct Seeded Rice Consortium (DSRC) members, led by Varinder Kumar, IRS, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Philippines, and scientists from the IRRI South Asia Regional Centre, Varanasi, visited Punjab Agricultural University (PAU). The delegates discussed water, soil health, labour, environment, energy and food security issues in north-western states, and the sustainability of rice cultivation. They explored all available options (crop diversification, water use efficient varieties (non-basmati versus basmati), crop establishment methods and irrigations methods) to sustain the production. The progress and problems related to direct seeded rice in Punjab was also discussed. The team visited the DSR experiments in the department of plant breeding and genetics, department of agronomy and School of Agricultural Biotechnology.
23 farm women attend training programme
A four-day training programme for the farmers and farm women of Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, began at the Skill Development Centre of the university under the guidance of JS Mahal, director of extension education. A total of 23 participants attended the course, which provided technical know-how of vegetable and fruit cultivation, beekeeping and mushroom growing. TS Riar, associate director (Skill Development), said the centre aimed at making farmers, farm women and the rural youth self-reliant.
Lecture on baking skills
The department of food science and technology organised a lecture-cum-demonstration on commercial functional bakery products by professional baker Alpna Gupta from M/s Maple Foods. Students from BTech food technology and other courses attended the lecture. Gupta demonstrated the preparation of soft dough cookies using different functional ingredients such as multigrain flour, oats, millets, cookies utilising low GI sugar for diabetics. TNS

Minister says change of base price of rice paddy must not affect 2020 elections

31 August 2019

Description: Minister says change of base price of rice paddy must not affect 2020 elections. Photo: Screenshot
Minister says change of base price of rice paddy must not affect 2020 elections. Photo: Screenshot
Deputy Commerce Minister Aung Htoo said that they were changing the base price of rice paddy and it was important that this should not affect the forthcoming 2020 general elections.
He said these words at the opening address delivered at the Rice Market and Price Reviewing Advisory Working Committee meeting held at the commerce ministry office on August 30.
“The fixing of the paddy base price is a very sensitive matter. We must fix a probable and practical price.
Overpricing is good but underpricing will have implications in politics as we had had seen protest demonstrations last summer over this matter. We must take utmost care in fixing the paddy base price as next year is the year of the general elections,” Aung Htoo said. 
The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation will fix the paddy base price based on production costs, and a survey conducted by asking questions of experienced traders and millers, farmers, experts and academics.
Dy. Minister Aung Htoo added that demand and supply of paddy in the market should also be taken into consideration in fixing the new paddy base price.
“The new base paddy price must be win-win situation for both producers and traders. The new price must be calculated correctly and we must give assurance to this new base price. For doing this we must submit our new base price calculated by this committee and production costs to the leading committee to obtain their guidance,” the deputy minister said.
The last paddy base price for 2018 was 500,000 kyats for 100 baskets of paddy. (1 basket = 46 lbs)
The Federation of Myanmar Rice and Paddy Traders issued a press statement which says rice mills and rice traders from this federation will buy the paddy at the base price when the regional market price is below this base price.
Deputy Minister Aung Htoo said that his commerce ministry would hold a price support fund of 15 billion kyats withdrawn from the State until the end of the 2029 financial year as the paddy price for this year is above the production costs.
The fixing and approval of this new paddy base price is being done to be completed at the end of coming October and it is not yet known how much it will be.

Nigeria’s surging food prices may rise faster on dollar ban
September 01 2019 01:06 AM

A vendor arranges bags of rice at the Wuse market in Abuja. Nigeria’s plan to spend less on food by restricting access to dollars for importers could have the opposite effect by threatening food supplies and pushing up prices.
Description: .Bloomberg /Abuja
Nigeria’s plan to spend less on food by restricting access to dollars for importers could have the opposite effect by threatening food supplies and pushing up prices.
President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the central bank on August 13 to stop dollar supply for food imports, saying food security has been achieved and agricultural production has increased. That came after governor Godwin Emefiele said in July the central bank plans to cut off dairy importers’ access to foreign exchange in a bid to bolster domestic milk output.
The food price index in Africa’s largest oil producer has risen almost 80% since the start of 2015, pushing inflation above the central bank’s target and putting pressure on households’ finances in a country where about 60% of consumption spending goes to food.
“Many of us are agitated by this food import ban,” said Abosede Ogungbemi, who sells imported rice, wheat and other food items in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. “Food will become scarce and very expensive.”
The central bank already restricts access to dollars for the import of 40 kinds of items from cement to soap. In June, the Lagos-based Punch newspaper reported that Buhari instructed the central bank to blacklist companies or individuals caught illegally importing palm oil or other prohibited goods, such as poultry.
Nigeria spent about $1bn importing food and live animals in the three months to March, according to the statistics agency. Domestic food-supply chains have been disrupted by a decade-long insurgency in the northeast region. Clashes between herdsmen and farmers have also decimated communities, destroyed crops, killed cattle and forced producers to flee to protective camps in Nigeria’s northern and central regions.
“Many families have abandoned their farms and the crops on them have either been stolen, destroyed by war or abandoned,” said Henry Kam Kah, a senior history lecturer at the University of Beau in the Southwest region of Cameroon.
Still, Buhari and Emefiele insist Nigeria can produce all the food it needs, and the dollar ban will help with that. That’s even as large quantities of rice and other goods are being smuggled into the country, according to the president.
The restriction is “certainly counterproductive,” said Nonso Obikili, director of the Abuja-based Turgot Centre for Economic Policy Research. “Nigeria currently does not grow many of the key food products we consume and such a restriction will likely have the dual effect of higher food prices and increased smuggling.”
The UN’ Food and Agriculture Organization last year said Nigeria is one of 37 countries in need of external food assistance.
“We can’t produce enough food,” said Suleiman Adulaziz, a wheat grower in Born state in the northern region. “Banning food imports without supporting farmers and creating an enabling environment to produce food on a large scale is condemning Nigerians to hunger.”

Dar asks Ilocos agri group to implement RCEP
By Reynaldo Andres  August 31, 2019, 5:37 p
Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar explains the role of Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Program in providing financial aid to farmers and finances the government’s farm modernization programs. (PNA photo by Reynaldo E. Andres)
BATAC CITY -- Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar on Friday called on the leaders of the Ilocos Agriculture, Aquatic and Resources Research and Development Consortium (ILAARRDEC) in this city to implement the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Program (RCEP) in the Ilocos region to ease the adverse impact of rice imports on local rice farmers.
The ILAARRDEC is a consortium of 18 development agencies in Region 1 involved in agricultural research and extension. Its headquarters is in the main campus of the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU), the lead agency of the consortium.
In a stakeholders forum held at MMSU on August 30, Dar said he wanted to accelerate the implementation of the RCEP and improve the sector’s growth rate in the next three years.
The RCEP provides financial aid to farmers and finances the government’s farm modernization programs to make farmers more competitive, and counter the negative impact of the Rice Tariffication Law.
Dar said the sector’s growth could be accelerated by boosting support to local food production and strengthening the industry’s agribusiness component by bringing in the private sector.
Dar said the enormous fund for RCEP is enough to be given as grant to farmers’ cooperatives and for the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) to handle the training program.
“The amount we are dealing here is PHP10 billion -- PHP5 billion for mechanization and PHP3 billion for seed distribution alone. And the ATI will handle PHP500 million for each of these programs to be implemented in line with skills development,” Dar said, urging the agency to tap the expertise of ILAARRDEC, under the leadership of MMSU, to provide skills development for farmers.
“The ATI cannot really cover all the training in skills development, that is why I am asking the agency to tap the consortium to be given areas of responsibility,” he pointed out.
Dar said in implementing training, ATI should also bring in more resource persons from the business sector, ordering the agency to strengthen its agreements with the universities and DA laboratories in implementing experiential training.
He also urged the consortium to make an effort in the region to upscale the developed technologies going to the farmers’ cooperatives, associations, and the business sector.
“If you can pilot in a bigger scale, and you have now the trust and confidence that you can now let go of the mature technologies, then go for training and bigger upscaling of millions of hectares,” Dar said, adding that the business sector will do the commercialization of these technologies.
Meanwhile, Dar urged the MMSU to develop and showcase more agriculture technologies and innovations in rural areas.
“You must continue to do research, which is the proof of concept for the modern agricultural industry,” Dar said as he challenged the MMSU to put up “disruptive programs” wherein the university can disrupt its present programs to bring in the dimension of the Agriculture Industry 4.0.
An advocate of agribusiness, Dar said the MMSU should also integrate entrepreneurial courses in all the degree programs that it offers so that all its graduates will have basic knowledge of agribusiness.
“We are now working with Senator Imee Marcos in putting up a Youth Farmers’ Development Program in which there will be a youth enterprise development fund,” he said, noting that the program will be loan assistance with zero interest and payable for three to five years. (PNA)



Reaping success from agri-equipment

Ahmed Deepto . Dhaka and Shah Alam . Chuadanga | Update: 17:09, Aug 31, 2019
When river erosion struck and Md Ole Ullah's lost his hearth and home, he had no alternative but to shift to another district. Starting anew, he then joined an engineering workshop and gained experience. And within four years, he opened a workshop of his own.
He started the workshop with the capital of only Tk 4000 and it is now one of the biggest manufacturers of agricultural machinery in the country, with annual sales reaching Tk 200 million.
Md Ole Ullah is from Kutubpur union in Chuadanga. He uses local material and technology to manufacture agricultural equipment. The prices of his machines are cheap and keeps agricultural costs low.
Ole Ullah has made 18 types of agricultural equipment so far, using foreign machineries as prototypes. He has 32 people working for him now and his success has serve others to take up manufacturing agricultural tools as well.
Starting days
Ole Ullah’s company, Janata Engineering, was established in 1992 and is located in Sarojganj Bazar of Chuadanga's Sadar upazila. He is known as ‘Ole Huzur’ in the area. Originally from Debidwar, Cumilla, he shifted to Chuadanga in 1988 after losing everything to river erosion. He was just 24 years old then and had been a day labourer. He then began working in Islam Mechanic in Sarojganj Bazar.

He learnt how to build and repair machines and within four years decided to establish his own factory. He has not looked back ever since.
Janata Engineering has grown over the years and is now one of the leading establishments in agricultural technology and machineries.
It manufactures 18 types of agricultural equipment including machines to sow seeds, combined harvesters, straw and grass cutting machines, potato planting and reaping machines and so on. And 16 of these machines are always in demand. The company has 50 dealers around the country.
Ole said a combined harvester normally costs from Tk 1.2 million to Tk 2.8 million. However, the combined harvester manufactured by his factory costs only Tk 600,000 to Tk 700,000.

A day at Janata Engineering
Ole Ullah is the managing director of Janata Engineering and has two factories. A third factory is on the way. He said the cost of the agricultural machines will further decrease once his third factory starts production. The farmers will be able to buy quality machines at cheap prices.
Janata Engineering would make only paddle threshers till 2010. These would separate chaff from paddy. Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) and Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) assisted Janata Engineering to make the machine that year.
Janata Engineering and BRRI in 2015 jointly using local agricultural machinery for cultivation. This cost Tk 700,000, which would have been Tk 1.5 million if imported machines were used.
By 2015, Janata Engineering started expanding its market to Khulna and Barishal divisions. They started countrywide distribution by 2016. SME foundation awarded Ole as the best small entrepreneur of on 3 March this for overcoming poverty to become a successful entrepreneur.
Speaking at the Janata Engineering head office on Wednesday, Ole said, “We don’t just make machines. We have trained 220 people to make machines in 45 workshops. It is true that we lack institutional knowledge, however, we have learned a lot from our experience.”
Farmers and businessmen
Farmer Mahbubur Rahman bought a seeder, a rice reaper, and a drum thresher machine for threshing paddy from Ole. He rents out the machines after his own use. Mahboob said, “I bought the three machines from Ole for Tk 95,000. The same machine from a different company would have cost me Tk 170,000. Ole Huzur is a good man, well reputed in this area. He repairs the machines himself if there is any problem.”
Owner of Mim Engineering workshop of Sarojganj Bazar area, Milon Mia said, “Ole Huzur taught me everything while I was working in his factory. Now I own a factory myself.”
Inspired by Ole’s success, at least 86 entrepreneurs from Jhenidah and Meherpur are manufacturing and distributing agricultural machineries. Most of them earlier worked at Ole’s factor.
Ole himself manufactures 70 per cent spare parts for the agricultural equipment and imports the rest. Ole has a dream of making machines entirely using local parts.
Additional deputy director of the department of agriculture extension, Sufi M Rafiquzzaman said, the reasonably priced agricultural machinery for the farmers from Ole has a positive impact on agriculture.

‘Submergence gene’ rice soon in state

TNN | Updated: Sep 2, 2019, 4:28 IST

Panaji: The widespread flooding of fields and destruction of crops in the state this August has inspired the Central Coastal Agricultural Research Institute (ICAR) to explore the possibility of engineering a hardy selection of rice that can withstand submergence.
“This rice will have the inherent capacity to tolerate submergence in water,” ICAR director Dr EB Chakurkar told TOI.
Farmers across the state have lost their precious crop to the floods this season and this, has come as a big blow to the state’s agricultural sector.
“When there is an overflow of the river during high tide, salty water flows into the fields following a spell of heavy rain. This suffocates the crop when the water remains in the fields for extended periods of time, thus damaging it,” Chakurkar said.
However, there are some rice varieties that have the submergence gene and can survive despite being underwater for days.
“We are trying to bring this submergence gene into our rice to help the plant survive if fields get inundated,” he said.
The ICAR expert said that even though they have developed salt-tolerant varieties like the ‘Goa Dhan-1’ and ‘Goa Dhan-2’, they had to introduce ‘Goa Dhan-4’ as well, owing to farmers’ preference for the accustomed Jaya and Jyoti varieties of rice.

“Farmers in Goa mostly sow the Jaya and Jyoti varieties of rice. But if they try to grow Jaya in salt-affected areas, it will not survive. It will get scorched. We have replaced them with Goa Dhan-4 because this new variety looks a lot like a modified version of Jaya, but with salt-resistant properties,” he said.
“Even as we are looking to develop a new (unnamed) variety with the submergence gene, we will also have to consider the preference of the local people,” he added.