Tuesday, October 29, 2019

29th October,2019 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

Senate speaks out over contaminated baby food
October 28, 2019 Sarah Adamo Nation & World 0
By Sarah Adamo
Staff Writer
Sen. Chuck Schumer D-N.Y., called for the Food and Drug Administration to investigate a report regarding contaminated baby food on Oct. 20. According to The Associated Press, dozens of baby food products contain problematic metals, such as arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium. 
The report in question was a study released by the nonprofit organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures, which detected traces of heavy metals in an alarming 95 percent of the 168 baby foods tested. One in four of those tested possess all four metals, the report claimed. Schumer urged federal regulators to discern the legitimacy of the study and post a public statement of their conclusion.
Remarking on this potential danger, Schumer offered a statement that, unless given reason to be wary, consumers generally trust the food that is marketed to them to be regulated by proper authorities and nutritious when indicated as such. According to The Associated Press, Schumer urged for the FDA to defend against breaches that may undermine this general understanding.
The risk is high if there is a continuation in baby food contamination. CBS News reported that researchers caution that “‘even in the trace amounts found in food, these contaminants can alter the developing brain and erode a child’s IQ.’”
The brands tested in the new study were not obscure either, according to CBS News, as household names like Gerber and Parent’s Choice are under scrutiny because the research tested 61 brands for 13 different types of baby food, declaring only very few to be free of toxic metals.
Among the foods tested were infant formula, infant cereal, teething biscuits and rice puffs, USA Today reported. However, only nine out of the 168 baby food containers were devoid of toxic metals, according to CBS News.

Toxic metals can be highly dangerous to humans, and children are particularly vulnerable. CBS News reports that lead, the most common metal found in the samples, can stunt and alter brain development. The FDA also linked arsenic to cancer and heart disease.
To counter the contamination, HBBF warned that foods like carrots and sweet potatoes must be consumed sparingly, according to CBS News. The organization suggested supplementing them with other vegetables.
While many consider such research to be credible, USA Rice has challenged the notion that arsenic exposure negatively impacts child IQs, according to CBS News. The federation argued that studies in the U.S. have not yet been released to uphold the claim.
Nevertheless, USA Today included a list of what HBBF recommends instead of the foods it cautions against, naming frozen bananas, multigrains, oatmeal, fresh fruits and tap water as a replacement for fruit juice.

Research team wants to eliminate dangerous plant diseases in rice
OCTOBER 28, 2019
by Heinrich-Heine University Duesseldorf
 Rice plants infected by the Xoo bacterium and that succumbed to bacterial blight as a result. Credit: HHU / Sarah M. Schmidt
Rice is the No. 1 staple food for the world's poorest and most undernourished people. More than half of the world's population eats rice every day. In sub-Saharan Africa, rice is the fastest-growing food source, providing more food calories than any other crop. One dangerous threat to food security is the rice disease bacterial blight, caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae (Xoo). The annual losses caused by bacterial blight are estimated at U.S. $3.6 billion in India alone. Xoo can destroy a smallholder's entire annual harvest, putting their food supply, income and land ownership at risk.
Healthy Crops aims to provide these farmers with effective tools to combat bacterial blight and thus eliminate the epidemic in the long term. The consortium is composed of six research institutions on three continents.
So how did the team manage to rein in the bacteria? "We limit the ability of the noxious Xoo bacterium to divide by preventing it from hijacking the plant's resources as food supply," explains Dr. Bing Yang from the University of Missouri. To understand this, they used their knowledge of how the Xoo bacteria accesses the host's nutrients. Once Xoo infects a rice plant, it secretes proteins, the so-called TAL effectors, into the rice cell. TAL effectors turn on the host's SWEET genes, which then export sugar from the rice cells and make it available to the bacteria, which live in the cell wall space. The bacteria then have enough resources to multiply.
 Rice terraces in Sapa, Vietnam: Rice is the world's most important food plant, playing a vital role for nutrition in Asia and Africa in particular. In those countries, rice is generally grown by small farmers. If their fields are infected by bacterial blight, their very existence is threatened. Credit: HHU / Sarah M. Schmidt
Some rice varieties are resistant against some specific types of Xoo bacteria. The team had previously determined that these varieties contain variants of the SWEET promoter, which do not allow binding of the bacterial TAL effectors. In essence, the plants changed the lock, so the bacteria cannot activate the SWEET transporters and manipulate sugar transport for their own benefit.
In turn, the bacterium can adapt: Different strains of Xoo attack with different keys. There is a race between Xoo strains developing new keys on the one hand, and resistant rice varieties with altered locks on the other. The consortium identified six points of attack in the SWEET promoters. Wolf B. Frommer, the project leader, said, "With the knowledge gained and the tools developed here, we might be at least as fast in developing new resistances as the bacteria can develop new keys."
In two back-to-back publications in the journal Nature Biotechnology, Healthy Crops present a series of variants collected from all over the world for two popular rice varieties that are resistant to a large collection of Xoo strains that cause bacterial blight disease. It also describes the Sweetr-Resistance Kit that enables rapid characterization of new bacterial strains to devise a rapid and well-targeted deployment strategy of new resistances to defeat the disease also in the long term.. This kit should soon be available to rice growers and researchers in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Dr. Boris Szurek, the team leader from IRD, says, "We used the most advanced tools to get one step ahead of the pathogen in its arm's race with the rice plant."
Dr. Ricardo Oliva, who heads the IRRI team, says, "It is an exciting time to work on rice breeding for disease resistance. Our findings pave the way for the eradication of diseases that have severely affected the lives of smallholder farmers who depend on rice for their livelihood. It is now even more possible to outsmart the enemy by being a step ahead of it."

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has left rice farmers fuming over a policy that was supposed to curb inflation but also enhance their competitiveness. (Nikkei montage/Source photos by Getty Images)
Duterte's war on inflation hammers Philippine farmers
Backlash over cheap rice imports casts doubt on agricultural reform
CLIFF VENZON, Nikkei staff writerOCTOBER 29, 2019 15:21 JST
GUIMBA, Philippines -- Harvest time in the Philippines usually lifts the spirits of the country's 2 million rice farmers, but this year the mood in the agricultural heartlands north of Manila is gloomy.
"This is such a serious tragedy that hit us," said Roy Valdez, a farmer in the town of Guimba, where roads are covered with unhusked rice drying in the sun and paddies are dotted with mechanical harvesters and water buffaloes.
Valdez, 50, has been tending a half-hectare plot he inherited from his parents since he was 15. Traders bought his recent crop for 12 pesos ($0.24) per kilogram, below the production cost.
An influx of cheaper imported rice has sent farm-gate prices in the Philippines -- the price a commodity fetches where it is grown, before transport -- to an eight-year low. The impact of the imports, largely from Thailand and Vietnam, has triggered demands to abolish a still-fresh law that was supposed to make the domestic grain supply more secure and affordable while enhancing farmers' competitiveness over the long haul.
Some experts say farmers need to be patient, but it is hard to be patient when you cannot pay your bills. Either way, the controversy has thrown government plans for further agricultural liberalization into doubt, under a president who has focused primarily on his violent campaign against drugs and crime.
Roy Valdez, a farmer in the town of Guimba north of Manila, is feeling the pain from Duterte's rice liberalization policy. (Photo by Cliff Venzon)
Back in February, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Rice Tariffication Law, which removed limits on imports. This came after a rice shortage drove nearly decade-high inflation last year, hitting the $330 billion consumer-driven economy hard.
Now, after a flood of foreign rice and multiple interest rate increases by the Philippine central bank, inflation has settled at an average of 2.8% this year -- well within the 2% to 4% official target. The September figure stood at 0.9%, the lowest since early 2016.
"Rice tariffication has done wonders," Ernesto Pernia, Duterte's socioeconomic planning secretary, said last Friday. "The poor are benefiting. So, 100 million Filipinos versus 1.5 million farmers."
The law, which imposes 35% tariffs on imports from Southeast Asia and 40% from elsewhere, comes with competitiveness-boosting features built in. A total of 10 billion pesos, or $200 million, collected from the tariffs will be deployed annually over a period of six years to bankroll machinery, seeds and interest-free loans for farmers.
Nevertheless, groups such as the Peasant Movement of the Philippines insist the legislation should be repealed.
Rice is both a political and emotional issue in the Philippines. It is a dietary staple especially for the poor, who spend a fifth of their incomes on it. Past administrations vowed to upgrade the rice-growing sector to ensure self-sufficiency for the country, but made little headway due to underinvestment in irrigation and mechanization.

While the Chao Phraya and Mekong rivers have helped propel the rise of Thailand and Vietnam as rice exporters, the Philippines lacks bountiful natural irrigation sources. So although it has a proud history of rice-planting, and hosts the International Rice Research Institute, the archipelago remains a net importer.
Many Filipinos see this as a "national embarrassment," according to researchers at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, a state think tank.
"I think we can feed the country with government support," said Daisy Hermano, 55, another farmer in Guimba who also sold her harvest at a loss.
After joining the World Trade Organization in 1995, the Philippines kept the rice industry protected until 2017, when import quotas expired. Then, last year, as commodity prices soared and midterm elections loomed, Duterte told lawmakers that the Rice Tariffication Law had to be passed urgently.
The two congressional chambers controlled by the president's allies obeyed, but disagreements erupted within the cabinet.
The Philippines is catching up with regional neighbors in the mechanization of agriculture. (Photo by Cliff Venzon)
The agriculture secretary at the time, Emmanuel Pinol, opposed the policy on the grounds that domestic farmers were not prepared for more foreign competition. He clashed with Duterte's economic brain trust, which advocated liberalization, and was ultimately transferred to a different government post.
The law also stung the state-owned National Food Authority, which had monopolized imports while granting licenses to a few importers. The NFA had been accused of mismanaging its role and causing last year's shortage. Former NFA head Jason Aquino, one of the many retired military officers in Duterte's cabinet, was forced to step down.
This year, the government awarded import licenses to 200 companies and granted over 2,000 import clearances, paving the way for less-expensive foreign rice, even factoring in the tariffs. Farmers are crying foul, while proponents of liberalization, including business groups and economists, argue their problems are simply "transition pains."
That may be, but the administration is feeling enough heat to offer relief.
Wary that farmers' frustration will dent his public support, Duterte has ordered the government to buy local rice at a premium, while the agriculture department has vowed to distribute cash assistance to farmers. "This tariffication is a mode that is intended to serve the greater interest of the majority of the people," the president said in September. "The solution is let's buy [the local produce]. We lose [money], but that's why we collect taxes -- to lose."
On Monday, the money-losing NFA, which keeps a buffer stock of rice, said it will buy unmilled rice from local farmers at 19 pesos a kilo and resell it for less than the prevailing retail price.
Government officials even considered safeguard measures to rein the imports back in -- including doubling the tariffs -- but abandoned the idea. Secretary Pernia said it was "just a knee-jerk reaction."

Critics question why the decline in retail prices of rice has not matched the sharp fall of farm-gate prices. As of early October, the weekly average farm-gate prices of unmilled rice -- purchased from farmers -- were down by 29% to 15.56 pesos a kilogram while regular milled rice was 18% cheaper at 37.53 pesos.
The Philippine antitrust watchdog is looking into possible collusion among importers to manipulate prices. But Agriculture Secretary William Dar told the Nikkei Asian Review that criticisms of the policy are simply premature.
"We are just starting the whole thing," Dar said last Wednesday, when he formally launched a 10 billion peso Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, or RCEF. "Give it a chance for a year."
He said the subsidy fund, which will give farmers free equipment and seeds, will halve production costs to 6 pesos per kilogram. "That is the intent, to reduce it to the level of Vietnam for a period of six years."
The program, Dar said, will make farmers more competitive and the country less reliant on imports "in due time."
In its October report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it expects the Philippines to import 3.1 million metric tons this year, significantly more than the 2 million tons the country needs. This would make it the world's second-largest importer after China.
With the surplus, the U.S. projects the Philippines' imports to fall 23% to 2.4 million tons next year.
To keep imports somewhat in check, Dar has urged his Thai and Vietnamese counterparts to strictly enforce phytosanitary standards in their customs procedures. "There is a lot of imported rice coming without clearance," he said.
  Duterte pushed the Rice Tariffication Law, and is now pushing relief measures to help farmers cope with its impact.   © Reuters
Meanwhile, the rice controversy is giving opponents of other agricultural reforms ammunition.
Sugar farmers are using it to fight plans to open up their sector. Currently, the amount of imports is determined by the Sugar Regulatory Administration depending on harvest projections, and inbound shipments are subject to a 5% tariff.
"The high price of sugar affects the competitiveness of the sugar-using manufacturing industries," said Rolando Dy, executive director of the Center for Food and Agribusiness at the University of Asia and the Pacific, explaining the case for liberalization. "For example, baked products, coffee mix and confectionery are disadvantaged by imports from Indonesia and Malaysia."
But Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, who hails from a southern sugar-producing province, said: "I will fight against the liberalization of the sugar industry for the precise reasons that it will kill 5 million people directly and indirectly and it will affect provinces nationwide."
Asked about broader liberalization, Dar replied, "I don't want to talk about it now." The agriculture secretary said he is focused on rice and African swine fever, which is threatening the country's $4 billion hog industry. Government officials insist the disease, which has killed over 50,000 pigs in mostly backyard farms, remains manageable.

Even though the rice law has been a lightning rod for criticism, economists still hail it as a positive game-changer.
Those calling for repeal "are the guys calling for the past, and that past hasn't really made the farmers better off," stressed Ramon Clarete, former dean of the University of the Philippine School of Economics.
Roy Kempis, an agricultural economist at the Pampanga State Agricultural University, argued that if anything, the government should resist the temptation to placate farmers with handfuls of cash, since the cash will not last. Instead, Kempis called for attracting more private investment in agriculture.
"The RCEF could provide some relief but it will not be the sole determinant in successfully upgrading the rice sector. The government is only a small player in the rice industry. The private sector is [bigger]."
Farmers in Guimba use water buffaloes to haul bags of rice. (Photo by Cliff Venzon)
Bureaucratic efforts to help farmers have been unproductive in the past. Even the name of the RCEF echoes that of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, a financial assistance program for farms and fisheries that the state think tank described in 2012 as "one of the greatest program failures among many in recent years," due to mismanagement.
Dennis Coronacion, chair of the political science department at the University of Santo Tomas, said the government must ensure subsidies are given to those in need, and warned that losing more support from farmers could erode Duterte's high public approval ratings. "Government assistance is usually subject to patron-client politics," Coronacion said.
To make the RCEF work, Clarete suggested organizing small farming cooperatives to ensure efficient use of the free machinery, and to avoid letting politically connected farmers dominate the assistance. Dy, at the University of Asia and the Pacific, favors cash handouts for the next three harvest seasons, as cheaper imported rice is dampening farmer morale.
Valdez, the farmer in Guimba, said he has yet to receive the money but plans to pay off the 15,000 pesos he borrowed for the recent planting season.
"I am also thinking of just selling my farm," he said.

Genetically Engineered Golden Rice: A Silver Bullet that Misses the Target
by Colin Todhunter / October 28th, 2019
Promoters of genetic modification (GM) in agriculture have long argued that genetically engineered Golden Rice is a practical way to provide poor farmers in remote areas with a subsistence crop capable of adding much-needed vitamin A to local diets. Vitamin A deficiency is a problem in many poor countries in the Global South and leaves millions at high risk for infection, diseases and other maladies, such as blindness.
Some scientists believe that Golden Rice, which has been developed with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, could help save the lives of around 670,000 children who die each year from Vitamin A deficiency and another 350,000 who go blind.
Meanwhile, critics say there are serious issues with Golden Rice and that alternative approaches to tackling vitamin A deficiency should be implemented. Greenpeace and other environmental groups say the claims being made by the pro-Golden Rice lobby are misleading and are oversimplifying the actual problems in combating vitamin A deficiency.
Many critics regard Golden Rice as an over-hyped Trojan horse that biotechnology corporations and their allies hope will pave the way for the global approval of other more profitable GM crops. The Rockefeller Foundation might be regarded as a ‘philanthropic’ entity but its track record indicates it has been very much part of an agenda which facilitates commercial and geopolitical interests to the detriment of indigenous agriculture and local and national economies.
Smears and baseless attacks
As Britain’s Environment Secretary in 2013, Owen Paterson claimed that opponents of GM were “casting a dark shadow over attempts to feed the world”. He called for the rapid roll-out of vitamin A-enhanced rice to help prevent the cause of up to a third of the world’s child deaths:
“It’s just disgusting that little children are allowed to go blind and die because of a hang-up by a small number of people about this technology. I feel really strongly about it. I think what they do is absolutely wicked.”
Just recently, Robin McKie, science writer for The Observer, wrote a piece on Golden Rice that uncritically presented all the usual industry talking points. On Twitter, The Observer’s Nick Cohen chimed in with his support by tweeting: “There is no greater example of ignorant Western privilege causing needless misery than the campaign against genetically modified golden rice.”
Yes, that Nick Cohen; the one who cheer-led for the illegal invasion of Iraq and who remains unrepentant.
Whether it comes from the likes of corporate lobbyist Patrick Moore, Owen Paterson, biotech spin-merchant Mark Lynas, well-remunerated journalists or from the lobbyist CS Prakash who engages more in spin that fact, the rhetoric takes the well-worn cynically devised PR line that anti-GM activists and environmentalists are little more than privileged, affluent people residing in rich countries and are denying the poor the supposed benefits of GM crops.
Golden Rice does not work and opponents are not to blame
Despite the smears and emotional blackmail employed by supporters of Golden Rice, in a 2016 article in the journal Agriculture& Human Values Glenn Stone and Dominic Glover found little evidence that anti-GM activists are to blame for Golden Rice’s unfulfilled promises. Golden rice was still years away from field introduction and may fall far short of lofty health benefits claimed by its supporters.
Professor Glenn Stone from Washington University in St. Louis stated that:
Golden Rice is still not ready for the market, but we find little support for the common claim that environmental activists are responsible for stalling its introduction. GMO opponents have not been the problem.
Stone added that the rice simply has not been successful in test plots of the rice breeding institutes in the Philippines, where the leading research is being done. While activists did destroy one Golden Rice test plot in a 2013 protest, it is unlikely that this action had any significant impact on the approval of Golden Rice.
Stone said:
Destroying test plots is a dubious way to express opposition, but this was only one small plot out of many plots in multiple locations over many years. Moreover, they have been calling Golden Rice critics ‘murderers’ for over a decade.
Believing that Golden Rice was originally a promising idea backed by good intentions, Stone argued:
But if we are actually interested in the welfare of poor children – instead of just fighting over GMOs – then we have to make unbiased assessments of possible solutions. The simple fact is that after 24 years of research and breeding, Golden Rice is still years away from being ready for release.
Researchers continue to have problems developing beta carotene-enriched strains that yield as well as non-GM strains already being grown by farmers. Stone and Glover point out that it is still unknown if the beta carotene in Golden Rice can even be converted to vitamin A in the bodies of badly undernourished children. There also has been little research on how well the beta carotene in Golden Rice will hold up when stored for long periods between harvest seasons or when cooked using traditional methods common in remote rural locations.
Claire Robinson, an editor at GMWatch, has argued that the rapid degradation of beta-carotene in the rice during storage and cooking means it’s not a solution to vitamin A deficiency in the developing world. There are also various other problems, including absorption in the gut, the low and varying levels of beta-carotene that may be delivered by Golden Rice in the first place and the rapid degradation of beta-carotene when stored.
In the meantime, Glenn Stone says that, as the development of Golden Rice creeps along, the Philippines has managed to slash the incidence of Vitamin A deficiency by non-GM methods.
In whose interest?
The evidence presented here might lead us to question why supporters of Golden Rice continue to smear critics and engage in abuse and emotional blackmail when they are not to blame for the failure of Golden Rice to reach the commercial market. Whose interests are they really serving in pushing so hard for this technology?
In 2011, Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, a senior scientist with a background in insect ecology and pest management, asked a similar question:
“Who oversees this ambitious project, which its advocates claim will end the suffering of millions?”
She answered her question by stating:
An elite, so-called “Humanitarian Board” where Syngenta sits – along with the inventors of Golden Rice, Rockefeller Foundation, USAID and public relations and marketing experts, among a handful of others. Not a single farmer, indigenous person or even an ecologist, or sociologist to assess the huge political, social, and ecological implications of this massive experiment. And the leader of IRRI’s Golden Rice project is none other than Gerald Barry, previously Director of Research at Monsanto.
Sarojeni V. Rengam, executive director of Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific, has called on the donors and scientists involved to wake up and do the right thing:
Golden Rice is really a ‘Trojan horse’; a public relations stunt pulled by the agri-business corporations to garner acceptance of GE crops and food. The whole idea of GE seeds is to make money… we want to send out a strong message to all those supporting the promotion of Golden Rice, especially donor organizations, that their money and efforts would be better spent on restoring natural and agricultural biodiversity rather than destroying it by promoting monoculture plantations and genetically engineered (GE) food crops.
And she makes a valid point. To tackle disease, malnutrition and poverty, you have to first understand the underlying causes – or indeed want to understand them. Walden Bello notes that the complex of policies that pushed the Philippines into an economic quagmire over the past 30 years is due to ‘structural adjustment’, involving prioritizing debt repayment, conservative macroeconomic management, huge cutbacks in government spending, trade and financial liberalization, privatization and deregulation, the restructuring of agriculture and export-oriented production.
And that restructuring of the agrarian economy is something touched on by Claire Robinson who notes that leafy green vegetables used to be grown in backyards as well as in rice (paddy) fields on the banks between the flooded ditches in which the rice grew. She argues that the ditches also contained fish, which ate pests. People thus had access to rice, green leafy veg, and fish – a balanced diet that gave them a healthy mix of nutrients, including plenty of beta-carotene.
But indigenous crops and farming systems have been replaced by monocultures dependent on chemical inputs. Robinson says that green leafy veg were killed off with pesticides, artificial fertilizers were introduced and the fish could not live in the resulting chemically contaminated water. Moreover, decreased access to land meant that many people no longer had backyards containing leafy green veg. People only had access to an impoverished diet of rice alone, laying the foundation for the supposed Golden Rice ‘solution’.
Whether it concerns The Philippines, Ethiopia, Somalia or Africa as a whole, the effects of IMF/World Bank ‘structural adjustments’ have devastated agrarian economies and made them dependent on Western agribusiness, manipulated markets and unfair trade rules. And GM is now offered as the ‘solution’ for tackling poverty-related diseases. The very corporations which gained from restructuring agrarian economies now want to profit from the havoc caused.
Genuine solutions
In finishing, let us turn to what the Soil Association argued in 2013: the poor are suffering from broader malnourishment than just vitamin A deficiency; the best solution to vitamin A deficiency is to use supplementation and fortification as emergency sticking-plasters and then for implementing measures which tackle the broader issues of poverty and malnutrition.
Tackling the wider issues includes providing farmers with a range of seeds, tools and skills necessary for growing more diverse crops to target broader issues of malnutrition. Part of this entails breeding crops high in nutrients; for instance, the creation of sweet potatoes that grow in tropical conditions, cross-bred with vitamin A rich orange sweet potatoes, which grow in the USA. There are successful campaigns providing these potatoes, a staggering five times higher in vitamin A than Golden Rice, to farmers in Uganda and Mozambique.
The Soil Association says, despite the fanfare, Golden Rice has not yet actually helped a single person and if commercialised it will not be helping to reduce people’s reliance on a rice-based diet. It believes that we could have gone further in curing blindness in developing countries years ago if only the money, research, and publicity that have gone into Golden Rice over the last 15 years had gone into proven ways of curing the Vitamin A deficiency that causes blindness.
However, instead of pursuing genuine solutions, we continue to get smears and pro-GM spin in an attempt to close down debate.

What suspension of Thiba Dam means for rice economy
Mt Kenya Star  28th Oct 2019 11:59:04 GMT +0300
The construction of the Sh19 billion Thiba Dam meant to double rice production in Kirinyaga County has stalled due to a financial crisis, Central Regional Coordinator Wilfred Nyangangwa has confirmed.
Consequently, over three hundred workers previously engaged by the contractor Strabag International have been suspended.
The suspended workers said they were sent packing because the government had not released money to the company.
A Strabag official who is however not authorized to speak for the company confirmed that the national government has not remitted money in excess of Sh1 billion which has left them with no other alternative but to suspend the work Nyangangwa however termed the suspension ‘short’ with resumption of construction being ‘soon’.
“It is true the construction has temporarily been suspended due to problem of resources,” he said. He blamed National Treasury officials of the delay in releasing the money.
 “Once the problem is solved, the project will resume in the shortest time possible, we are taking the matter seriously,” he said.
Nyangangwa said that the government is committed to ensuring the project with the scheduled time to enhance irrigation of rice and Mwea and improve of the country’s food security.
For More of This and Other Stories, Grab Your Copy of the Standard Newspaper.
“We have been told to go home until further notice because the company has no money to pay us and finance the project,” John Njiraine, a worker at the dam said.
Officials from the construction company said they have gone for over eight months without receiving any funding from the government which has virtually brought everything to a standstill.
“We are getting worried that the works at Thiba Dam which has been on good progress at 30 percent is now almost abandoned. We don’t exactly know what is happening,” said one of the official.
“There is even a possibility that cartels importing cheap rice to the country could be behind the whole thing trying to frustrate the work with intention of making sure the dam is not completed to enable them continue importing the rice,” the official said.
The Sh19 billion project was expected to be completed in 45 months but its Manager Eng. Stephen Mutinda always claimed the work could be completed much earlier before the problem occurred.
Mutinda previously claimed with all factors remaining equal and according to the work plan, the construction could have taken about 36 months to complete. But this will now change.
Delayed revenue Data from Kenya Bureau of Statistics shows that Kenya imports rice worth about 40 billion every year largely from Pakistan, Thailand, India, and Vietnam.
It is estimated that with the completion of Thiba Dam, this amount will be reduced by half or even more if it succeeds in proving more water to allow for three sea sons of rice per year, unlike the current two. While the current rice production during a good season is about 100,000 tones, or about 80 percent of Kenya’s total rice, it has been achieved without dedicated water flow.
The current rice scheme is fed by direct water flow from Thiba and Nyamindi rivers without a dam. But Thiba Dam will provide a holding ground for water, ensuring controlled flow even during the times of lower rainfall.
This is planned to increase normal production by about 100 percent, meaning 140,000 tonnes and since the water will double overall area under rice, Mwea is set to produce about 280,000 tonnes of rice.
There is much more opportunity as by the time the dam is fi nished, ongoing research on better yielding rice is likely to have reached the farm level.
Rice farms are also likely to be more mechanized by then. The storage of rice will have improved, eliminating post-harvest losses.
More farmers will also be educated on modern farming methods to ensure that they harvest more bags of rice per acre than they currently do.
For instance, while Kenya produces on average 4 tonnes of rice per 2.5 acres, Egypt produces double that at 8 tonnes while Vietnam produces 6 tonnes, same as China. Pakistan and India, exporters of rice into Kenya produce the same tonnage as Kenya, according to data aggregator IndexMundi.
It, therefore, means Kenya has a very big opportunity to become self-sufficient in rice if it can increase its yield per acre.
The project will also help in the stabilization of the irrigation water supply, allowing double cropping with the area under irrigation increasing from 25,000 acres to 35,000 acres.
The construction of Thiba dam is being fi nanced in partnership with the Japanese government through Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The contractor is STRABAG. The dam will be 40 metres tall and 1 kilometre long. It is expected to have a water holding capacity of 15 million cubic metres.
The construction will take 3 years and 7 months, meaning that it will be completed around July 2020. The dam is being constructed at Rukenya in Gichugu constituency, about four kilometres from Kutus town, the county headquarters. https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001347142/what-suspension-of-thiba-dam-means-for-rice-economy

Vietnam’s rice prices hit multi-month peak
By RECORDER REPORT on October 29, 2019
Vietnamese rice export prices rose to a four-and-a-half-month high this week on healthy demand from Africa and Cuba as supply remained scant, while a stronger rupee helped rates for Indian variety recover from a four-month low.
Rates for Vietnam's benchmark 5% broken rice rose to $350-$355 a tonne four-and-a-half month high-from $350 a tonne a week earlier due to limited stockpiles.
“Supplies are running low while demand remains steady, especially from Africa and also Cuba," a trader based in Ho Chi Minh City said.
The Vietnamese market could get a further fillip as the Philippines, which accounts for 36% of total shipments from Vietnam, might be considering easing its restrictions on rice imports soon, another trader said.
In September, prices for the Vietnamese variety had touched their lowest in nearly 12 years at $325 per tonne.
In top exporter India, prices for the 5% broken parboiled variety rose to $368-$372 per tonne from $365-$370 a week ago.
The Indian rupee on Thursday hit its highest in more than a week, reducing exporters' margins.
President of the Rice Exporters Association B. V. Krishna Rao, however, said, “demand from African countries is still weak".
India's rice exports in August fell 29% year-on-year to 644,249 tonnes due to weak demand from African countries for non-basmati rice, among other factors.
Neighbouring Bangladesh, meanwhile, has failed to secure any overseas deals since a long-standing export ban was lifted in May, due to cheaper rice from competitors.
“We are still looking for a market to export rice. India can export rice at $370-390 per tonne while we are asking for at least $500," said Shah Alam Babu, president of Rice Exporters Association.
Prices in second biggest exporter Thailand's benchmark 5-percent broken rice rose to $396-$410 a tonne on Thursday from $395-$400 last week.
Traders attributed the slight rise in prices to the changes in the currency exchange rate.
“There has been very little change in demand and supply and the strengthening of the baht has moved the price up slightly," a Bangkok-based trader said.
A stronger baht has marred demand for the Thai variety for many months now.
“If the baht weakens a little, we may be able to sell some rice, but at the moment, Thai rice is just too expensive compared with competitors," another rice trader said.
Raising tariff on rice imports not good for PH’s global ratings
 October 29, 2019, 12:50 PM
By Madelaine Miraflor
Raising tariff on rice imports as part of the measures to address the declining price of palay will send a negative signal to the global market, a lawmaker said.

Cynthia Villar
“We have to prove that we can compete,” Senator Cynthia Villar said on the sidelines of the 2019 National Food Security Summit.
She went on to say that “we got good ratings in the world when we were able to liberalize [because] we weren’t afraid to open the market to imported rice.”
“If we will impose safeguard measures, they will think that we just gave up and that we can’t do it,” she further said.
Implemented in March, the Rice Tariffication Law or Republic Act (RA) 11203 allowed the entry of more imported rice into the country.
Since the law’s passage, more than 2 million metric tons (MT) of cheaper, imported rice already entered the country, resulting in the continuous decline in the price of palay.
Villar, who serves as the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, admitted that it would be easier to impose safeguard measures to address the declining price of palay but “it is an indication that we are afraid” to prove the country’s competitiveness.
Under the Section 10 of the law, in order to protect the Philippine rice industry from sudden or extreme price fluctuations, a special safeguard duty on rice could be imposed in accordance with Safeguard Measures Act.
During the first week of October, the average farmgate price of palay fell by 28.8 percent to P15.56 per kilogram (/kg) from the P21.86/kg during the same period last year.

MANILA, Oct 28 (Reuters) - The Philippine government will nearly treble rice purchases from local farmers this year, officials said on Monday, after it rejected a proposal last week to impose safeguard duty.
The National Food Authority (NFA) said it will now buy up to 1.14 million tonnes of unmilled rice from local farmers, who were hurt by the removal of quantitative import restrictions, compared with the previous target of 389,000 tonnes.
The state-run agency's purchases this year have already exceeded half of the new target, spokeswoman Rebecca Olarte said.
NFA also said it has been authorised by its council to buy the staple grain at 19 pesos ($0.37) per kilogram, from 17 pesos previously, and sell them to retailers at 23 pesos per kg, reduced from 25 pesos.
The announcement comes after Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said on Friday that the "foolhardy idea" of imposing safeguard duty on rice imports, which could push up inflation, has been dropped.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar had pushed for the safeguard duty to be imposed on top of existing tariffs, as proposed by some farmers' groups, to ease the pain of local producers hit by a surge in rice imports.
The Southeast Asian nation, which is one of the world's biggest rice importers and often buys grains from its neighbours Vietnam and Thailand, lifted a two-decade-old cap on purchases early this year and replaced it with tariffs.
The policy shift has led to unhampered rice importation by the private sector, with this year's purchases seen reaching a record annual volume of more than 3 million tonnes, way beyond what the country needs to fill the supply gap.
While that helped bring down retail prices and ease inflation to the lowest in nearly three years in September, from its peak in almost a decade last year, farmers suffered as farmgate prices plunged.
The fall in farmgate prices is not a nationwide concern, however, according to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, saying those in central and southern Philippines in particular "seem to be holding up".
($1 = 51 Philippine pesos) (Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; editing by Uttaresh.V)

Starvation in Nigeria
October 29, 2019

Samuel Oluwole Ogundele
Extreme hunger or starvation is a monstrous enemy of mankind and by extension, progress in many senses.  Therefore, it must be defeated or substantially tamed at all costs.  The Nigerian political leadership has to do much more to wrestle starvation to the ground because many citizens are now desperately hungry and hopeless.  This scenario has implications for the corporate existence of Nigeria as unprecedented insecurity reigns supreme.  As a Nigerian, I’m pained that our country is now one of the hungriest in the world despite the fact that we stand upon a huge mountain of mineral and agricultural resources.  Government can only politicise the issue of food production at the peril of the Nigerian masses.  Merely mouthing empty slogans about food productions is a disservice to the country.  Thus, for example, the President, Rice Farmers’ Association of Nigeria, Aminu Goronyo said recently that annual rice production in the country had increased from 5.5 million tonnes in 2015 to 5.8 million tonnes in 2017.  But this rice can hardly be found in the local markets or other related outlets.  This reality underscores the reason why a lot of Nigerians go for foreign rice which in my own opinion, is less delicious and yet more expensive.  Now that the government has banned food especially rice imports from abroad, a disequilibrium has been created between demand and supply.  This imbalance leads to a higher price.  I do not think that one needs to be a professor of economics to know this elementary economic theory.  While it is a truism, that agriculture and industries must be domesticated and protected from the influxes of foreign goods and services through the lens of tariffs and quotas among others, caution should not be thrown to the winds.
Reduction in imports has to be critical and/or gradual until local productions are enough for the Nigerian consumers and also exports.  Currently, the prices of food items especially rice have gone up astronomically, thereby further reducing the purchasing power of an average Nigerian.  Most Nigerians (except the political class and its business associates) are experiencing unprecedented hunger.  This is very instructive because in our geo-polity, workers’ salaries are never revised upward even in the face of hyper-inflation.  The political leaders imbued with hedonistic, primordial mentality look the other way, as the ordinary people groan under the weight of economic hardships arising among other things, from poorly managed inflation.  This is at variance with what obtains in saner climes and cultures where workers’ salaries are automatically revised upward in the face of rising inflation.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Nigerian Customs Service among other bodies, Nigerians as of 2018 consumed an average of $4.5 billion worth of parboiled rice annually.  Indeed, Nigeria is the largest importer of rice in the world.  This country also doubles as the highest producer of rice in the West African sub-region. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has started facilitating a N250 billion intervention fund for the Bank of Agriculture (BOA).  This is being disbursed through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.  But despite all these attempts to save monies for other developmental projects, it is too early to completely stop rice importation.  Rice is Nigeria’s most staple food.
A bag of locally produced rice which was formerly about N10,000 or thereabouts is now N22,000.  The available imported rice is becoming too costly for an average Nigerian to buy.  A full bag of this rice is now between N28,000 and N30,000.  This is a serious problem especially as we approach the Christmas season.  Many Nigerians are fast losing facets of their humanity as a result of monumental material poverty.  Consequently, our age-old culture of fellow feeling and/or sharing is almost totally gone.  Our indigenous ideology of communalism has been sacrificed shamelessly on the altar of rugged individualism coupled with hedonism and self-indulgence.  Although there has been a steady decline in the Nigerian values and value-systems right from the colonial period, the situation has reached epidemic proportions in the last 4 or 5 years.
Many local farmers have either been killed or displaced from their settlements by the Boko Haram insurgents, bandits, ritualists and kidnappers.  As a result of this, agricultural productions have fallen to near zero in the northeastern region of Nigeria.  This is in addition to Tivland in Benue State, where farming activities are coming to a grinding halt due to incessant security challenges.  Nigeria, a notoriously blood-stained country has over 8.5 million people in dire need of humanitarian help.  According to Action Against Hunger (AAH) about 400,000 children under-5 in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states would face starvation in a couple of months from now.  Aside from these young children, nursing mothers as well as pregnant women are also experiencing mal-nutrition or starvation.
Fears and insecurities have led to the abandonment of many farms even as far afield as southern Nigeria.  Starvation is rapidly spreading throughout the country.  This situation encourages all kinds of unorthodox coping strategies.  There would be less need to buy almost on a weekly basis arms and ammunition as well as fighter jets with Nigeria’s scarce resources, once the level of hunger is reduced to the barest minimum.  Crime rate would necessarily come down in the face of more employment opportunities, more security and more food for the citizens.  Hungry people easily become morally bad and evil in order to survive.  The recent upsurge in crime rate in Nigeria is symptomatic of the poor state of the economy and stone age-like politics of the belly.  It seems to me that the government is losing its critical edge with respect to economic development.
The Buhari administration would be doing posterity a great deal of honour by widening its vision of social, economic and political engineering.  The leaders need to appreciate the fact that they are also for the future.  They should create greater growth opportunities on a sustainable scale instead of trying to run Nigeria aground.  This country is sinking fast into the swamp of hopelessness and focuslessness.  Therefore, a rescue operation is most desirable now.  African leaders who once ruled their countries within the framework of despotism, and other forms of recklessness have been finally consigned to oblivion.  Our political leaders today must begin to learn from history otherwise they risk the charge of eternal damnation.
Most of the numerous palatial mansions illegally acquired by Mr. Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire in his heyday have become the abode of reptiles and other animals.  These scenarios are a warning signal to other African leaders who refuse to govern their countries with the fear of God.  Hunger and security among others cannot be glossed over by any political leader even with the faintest idea of fairness and responsiveness. Nigerians are not interested in the rhetoric of political slogans but positive action on a sustainable scale. This underscores the reason why a huge budget is allocated to the Aso Rock Villa for the comfort of the president and his nuclear family among others.  The arrangement is a social contract between the central leader and the ordinary people. Therefore, the former has to be strong-hearted and clear-minded, while the latter also must not be a bunch of imbeciles.  Such a scenario paves the way for a balance that necessarily promotes a healthy society where political infantilism coupled with reactionary complexes has no place to stand.

An ongoing conversation on diversity in science
Stories from the front line of research on inclusivity in STEM
By Javiera Gutierrez Duran
Published: 7:36 pm, 27 October 2019
under Science
Tags: Diversity, Science, STEM
The Gairdner/L’Oréal-UNESCO Forum on Diversity and Excellence in Science took place at the MaRS Centre on September 30.
The conference was hosted in part by the Gairdner Foundation, which aims to recognize “international excellence in fundamental research that impacts human health.”
“Many groups are underrepresented in research, including women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, Indigenous people, and socially disadvantaged populations,” said Dr. Janet Rossant, a professor at U of T’s Departments of Molecular Genetics and Obstetrics & Gynaecology, in an interview with The Varsity. Rossant is also the president and scientific director of the Gairdner Foundation, and chief of research emeritus at the SickKids Research Institute.
“This is an ongoing conversation and ongoing discussion that we have to have across many aspects of our lives today.”
Stories from the front line
A panel discussion named “Diversity in STEMM- Stories from the Frontline” included Dr. Eugenia Duodu, Dr. Quarraisha Abdool Karim, and Dr. Janet Smylie, and was moderated by Dr. Imogen Coe.
“We need to be having those conversations about those kinds of uncomfortable things in order to move forward,” said Coe, a professor at Ryerson University’s Faculty of Science, and an advocate for equity in STEM.
Smylie is a professor at U of T’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and also serves as the director of the Well Living House, which focuses on bettering health outcomes for Indigenous children and families.
Her talk focused on the importance of a balance of power, specifically highlighting the importance of finding an individual balance in one’s life.
Duodu received her PhD in chemistry from U of T and is the chief executive officer of Visions of Science, a charitable organization which uses STEM as a way to empower youth from low-income areas in Toronto.
She spoke about a time where she was not invited to a competition that her colleagues were invited to. “It was really interesting that there was this kind of assumption that this is not something that I would [want to] be a part of,” she said.
Karim is the associate scientific director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa, a research centre focused on studying HIV. She is also a professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Medical Centre.
She discussed how her activism work tied into the medical work she was doing. “That anti-apartheid activism era in my life gave me an opportunity to respect all forms of knowledge,” she said.
She further elaborated that it enabled her “to understand, even in communities where literacy levels are low and people may not have degrees, [that] they have important knowledge that could be tapped into.”
Afternoon STEM talks
The afternoon session included eight talks about STEM topics with L’Oréal-UNESCO scientists Dr. Eugenia Kumacheva, Dr. Vanessa D’Costa, Dr. Janet Rossant, Dr. Nausheen Sadiq, Dr. Victoria Arbour, Dr. Molly Shoichet, Dr. Kate (Hyun) Lee, and Karim.
The concept of arsenic in rice was discussed in Sadiq’s talk, who is a research chemist at Brooks Applied Labs and a L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science fellow. The reasoning behind this, Sadiq said, is that “in Canada, there is no set limit for arsenic in food.”
A focus of Sadiq’s PhD research was on arsenic levels in rice. A type of rice she looked at was rice cereal, which is often eaten by babies, which has relatively high amounts of arsenic.
“If you take [one thing] away from today, from me speaking,” said Sadiq jokingly, “it’s please wash your rice.”
Fighting Climate Climate With Local Know-How – OpEd

 October 28, 2019  Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan 
By Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan
Sali Dummay personifies what wordsmiths call a “dirt-poor farmer”.
His crops are at the mercy of adverse weather conditions, sky-rocketing farm inputs, middlemen monopoly and worsening attack of pests and diseases, not to mention anti-farmer government policies.
Worse, climate change, a man-made enemy, is rearing its ugly head– there are more destructive typhoons, droughts are longer, water sources are drying up. Not even science or the most advanced technology can reverse the phenomena.
But Sali, unschooled, every bit illiterate to any schooled pen-pusher, but learned in the ways of the old, has what it takes to survive this fast-changing world. So much so that he can take scientists to school.
Old Ways Given New Names
Sali makes use of traditional heirloom seeds—upland rice, corn, beans squash,— handed down by ancestors for generations. His kaingin garden is watered by cool spring water, his soil fertilized by rotten remains of weeds, sedges and grass.
“Outsiders came to say what I’m doing is organic gardening, , what is that, another new name for an old practice?, he sneered.
“When government foresters visited my father’s “tayan” (communal woodlot), they said we were doing agroforestry, why do they give names to our old ways, ways they don’t understand”?
“Our ricefields are fertilized by rotten pig manure, rice hay and wild sunflower leaves and this is good government agriculturists say but these are the same people who brought poison to kill insect pest that later killed birds and bees, the same people who brought the golden snail that now kill our rice plants, “ Sali exclaimed.
The indigenous practices that Sali still adheres to are sustainable ways that help stymy global warming and climate change.
Amy Dickie and Monica Zurek of the University of Oxford, in an IPCC Conference paper titled “Strategies for Mitigating Climate Change in Agriculture”|,they said organic farming practices including those of indigenous peoples reduce the GHG intensity of agriculture, both by changing production practices without harming yield.
By using traditional organicfertilization techniques, Sali and his lot enhance regenerative agriculture strategy focused on the nourishment of the soil, an effective way for farmers to adapt to the challenges of a climate change and even help reverse the problem.
Maybe it doesn’t look like much more than dirt, but soil does more than just give crops life — it also serves as the terrestrial ecosystem’s most significant carbon storehouse. Fertile soil is microbe- and carbon-rich, traditional practices are less excessive tilling and use less monocropping (producing a single crop every year on the same land) thereby killing less of those critical microbes that oxidizes in the air and transforms into carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat and contributes to warming temperatures.
Traditional Crops, Cropping Patterns More Climate Change Resilient
By using traditional crops, Sali and his lot refrain from depending on expensive and input-demanding and intensive genetically-tinkered seeds.The local heirloom seeds have adapted to local conditions for hunreds of years.The crops include bush beans, pigeon peas, corn, rice, chillies, squash and sweet potato tubers
Also included are indigenous vegetables water cress or tongsoy, Amaranthus spp, bracken fern, Sonchus spp., and Pasiflora spp. amti, gendey and burburtak, all climate change resilient indigenous crops.
As climate change poses threats and dangers to the survival of communities worldwide, indigenous peoples contribute the least to greenhouse emissions.
In fact, indigenous peoples are vital to, and active in, the many ecosystems that inhabit their lands and territories and may therefore help enhance the resilience of these ecosystems. In addition, indigenous peoples interpret and react to the impacts of climate change in creative ways, drawing on traditional knowledge and other technologies to find solutions which may help society at large to cope with impending changes.
Sali also makes use of a variety of seeds,often, exchanged with other farmers to enhance agro-biodiversity. This allows good characteristics of other seeds to blend with others through cross-pollination. A drought resistant pigeon pea seed may acquire weevil-resistant trait from another seed.
Sali is also changing his cropping patterns, a knowledge gained from ancestors, When most neighbors plant following sucessive patterns of sweet potato, he deviates and does not plant because the pattern completes the life cycle of insct pest, increasing infestation. He plants cassava, instead. When his neighbors harvest all their sweet potato, killing all the vines, thereby eliminating host plant of pests, he plants sweet potato becauase there will be least pest infestation.
Ensuring Water Supply of Springs and Brooks
While Sali’s family owns a tayan or a communal woodlot, he ensures that the spring and brook where he farms have ample water recharge. This he does by transplanting giant ferns or tanapu and Ficus nota figs or tebbeg wildlings above his watershed headwaters.
Tayans are hereditary communal properties such as forestlands inherited through generations. The tayan system refers to the indigenous concepts of managing the communal properties. Common to the indigenous peoples is their land tenure system that defines the practices of access, use, and control over resources by individuals, clans, and communities. These practices among indigenous cultural communities are restricted and modified by varying economic and political transformations as well as national land laws within a diversity of historical and social conditions.
Replanting with ferns and figs is a practice long been learned from old folks who say both fern and tree have good water holding capability.
Sali said “What most don’t realize is trees are important members of the landscape, what good is a land without water and only trees can give us water.
Sali’s tayan is Pinus insularis pine dominated with a mixture of few semi- tropical dipterocarps, wild edible berries and vines and mossy trees. Guarded by members of Sali’s clan, cutting of timber for housing, furniture, firewood and for rituals is covered by unwritten laws passed down from one generation to another. Use of any part of the land, trees, plants and water are likewise ruled by customary laws of the clan and tribe.
Forest Gives Life
Sali has developed a forest garden, where trees, indigenous vegetables , different species of diverse biological types annual herbs, perennial herbaceous plants, climbing vines, creeping plants, shrubs and trees thrive.
Natural processes of cycling water and organic matter are maintained; dead leaves and twigs are left to decompose, keeping a continual litter layer and humus through which nutrients are recycled. Compost, rice terraces mud and green manures are commonly used on cropland. These forms of recycling are sufficient to maintain soil fertility without the use of chemical fertilisers.
Sali, unschooled, regulates or modifies the functioning and dynamics of each plant and land within the system.
He understands this, his people have been doing it for hundreds of years. Didn’t they carve stairways to heaven with their rice terraces?

The EU and UK Punt Brexit:  Fourth Time's the Charm? 
By Peter Bachmann

ARLINGTON, VA - Last week, the United Kingdom's parliament delivered a blow to Prime Minister Boris Johnson by forcing the pro-Brexit leader to request yet another extension, this one for 90 days, prior to separation from the European Union.  Today, EU ambassadors signed off on the UK's request for an extension, punting the hard-split date from October 31, 2019 to January 31, 2020.  Though, the UK and the EU could, in theory, reach an amicable deal sooner than January 31 and ratify it via legislation.

The shadow of uncertainty surrounding Brexit still remains, leaving questions for many American, European, and other global export businesses about how the UK will conduct trade business once the formal separation occurs. 

USA Rice members visited with officials with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) in Washington two weeks ago where a U.S.-UK Free Trade Agreement was a popular topic of discussion.  At the direction of President Trump, USTR is prepared to quickly begin hammering out a free trade agreement with the UK once the separation from the EU formally occurs.  While the U.S. government is not privy to the conversations between the EU and UK on how a split is shaping up, USTR is relaying feedback on behalf of industry to help secure a strong free trade agreement in the future.

"USTR and USDA are certainly taking USA Rice's feedback into account on how to best position ourselves for a future deal, as well as helping us work out the logistical concerns in the short-term, like managing import licenses auctioned off prior to the split, quota allocation between the EU and the UK, etc.," said Mark Holt, vice president of international sales for Riceland Foods, and chair of the USA Rice European Union Trade Policy Subcommittee.

"While this is the fourth official extension, I do think that the finish line is nearing as the length of the delays shortens, giving time to work out some of the remaining formalities," Holt added.

USA Rice will continue to monitor the political and logistical implications of the UK's exit from the EU, particularly looking for opportunities for market growth for U.S. rice.
DA releases P130M worth of aid to Eastern Visayas rice farmers
October 28, 2019 | 10:30 pm
THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it has released over P130 million worth of loans to rice farmers in the Eastern Visayas region.
In a statement, the DA said it has disbursed P136.425 million worth in loans under the expanded Survival and Recovery Assistance (SURE Aid) program, which targets 9,095 farmers from Biliran, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, and Samar provinces.
The loans are distributed via cash cards provided by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK). This program is implemented by the DA through the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) and the bank, targeting rice farmers affected by the drop in the price of palay, or unmilled rice, the form in which they sell their harvest to traders.
Under the SURE Aid program, farmers tilling one hectare or less may avail of the one-time loan of P15,000, with no interest, payable over eight years.
The DA also awarded farmers farm inputs and machinery worth P65.83 million in nine Leyte towns — Abuyog, Bato, Hilongos, Hindang, Inopacan, Javier, Mahaplag, Matalom, and Baybay City. The package includes certified and hybrid rice, fertilizer, threshers, reapers and hand tractors.
More than P600,000 worth of agricultural assistance, which includes hybrid and certified rice seed, as well as veterinary drugs and biologics, was given to farmers in Tacloban City.
Assistance from other DA agencies were also distributed by the Philippine Fiber Development Authority, Philippine Coconut Authority, and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang

Much of Asia still goes to bed unfed
Climate-smart and resource-saving farming technologies could be one way to address hunger in Asia, write Akmal Siddiq and Md Abul Basher of Asian Development Bank.
 Filipino children eat a meal of rice and broth in Obrero, Manila. While 800 million men, women and children from all over the world face chronic hunger and malnutrition, about a third of global food production per year gets wasted. Image: Feed My Starving Children, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
By Akmal Siddiq and Md. Abul Basher
Monday 28 October 2019
Despite repeatedly faltering on the targets to reduce hunger, the global community renewed its pledge in 2015 to build a hunger-free world by 2030. Ironically, the number of food-insecure people has been increasing since then. In 2017 about 518 million people went to bed unfed or half-fed in Asia and the Pacific. In parallel, the challenges for farmers are increasing with economic and demographic transformations, and climate change. 
Agricultural resources, including land, are shrinking and being increasingly claimed by other sectors. The farm workforce is decreasing as the incomes from other sectors including migration become more attractive and the youth are less interested in agriculture, making it a sector reliant on an aging population.

Rice paddies raise methane threat
In this situation, doing more of the same will not resolve the challenge of Sustainable Development Goal 2: ending hunger and malnutrition by 2030.
Fortunately, the future does not have to be that gloomy. As always, science and technology provide solutions to these evolving challenges. ADB and the International Rice Research Institute, in partnership with a number of national research organisations, completed field experiments of two climate-smart and resource-saving technologies in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Nepal in 2019 to showcase scientific solutions to the problems faced by the agricultural sector.
In Bangladesh, alternate wetting and drying technology was used for comparisons with the continuous standing water irrigation system – the traditional irrigation method. In Cambodia and Nepal, direct-seeded rice technology was tested to compare with the traditional transplanted puddled system. In all pilot countries, vegetables were also cultivated between two rice crops.
The alternate wetting and drying technology, used in experiments in Bangladesh, required about 22 per cent less water compared to the traditional irrigation. Depending on the rice varieties and season of the rice cultivation, greenhouse gas emissions were 13 per cent–41 per cent less under alternate wetting and drying compared to continuous standing water irrigation.
This was achieved through reductions of periods of flooding of the rice field which in turns reduces the emission of methane. Yield of rice under alternate wetting and drying has either increased or remained at par with the traditional method of irrigation.
In Cambodia, mechanised direct-seeded rice technology decreased use of labor by 60 per cent–79 per cent compared to the traditional transplanted pu
Farmers in Asia face substantial challenges but climate-smart and resource-saving technologies give them a fighting chance of producing the food the region needs in a way that is both profitable and sustainable.
ddled system. It also increased the yield of rice by 26 per cent–50 per cent compared to the traditional transplanted system; and saved water by about 19 per cent‒32 per cent. Greenhouse gas emission was 68 kg/ha under direct-seeded rice compared to 98 kg/ha under transplanted puddling system.
In Nepal, direct-seeded rice technology combined with the machine-operated boom sprayer for plant protection and combine harvesting reduced the total cost of production of rice by 25 per cent compared to the conventional method. This technology also reduced the use of labor by about 83 per cent compared to conventional transplantation. Seed requirements decreased from 80 kg/ha under conventional methods to only 45 kg/ha under mechanised direct-seeded rice.
Overall, the income of the farmers increased by 52 per cent-61 per cent and the benefit–cost ratio increased by more than two-fold under these climate-smart and resource-saving technologies.
The results show that technology can lead to a shift from labor- and resource-intensive, to technology- and knowledge-intensive agriculture. This new paradigm will require less water, less workers, and emit less greenhouse gases to increase food profitably for farmers.  This shift, however, would also face roadblocks.
Farmers’ lack of access to knowledge and technology is one of them. The appropriate approach, mechanism, and institutions to deliver the knowledge and technology to farmers are yet to be developed.
The key is to have a clear picture of the field to determine the suitability of a technology or combination of technologies to be promoted. There is a need to assess current practices, level of mechanisation, and availability of services. Appropriate technologies should be developed through field experiments and should be validated involving farmers in the process. The governments need to create an enabling environment for private companies to manufacture custom-designed machines to support the new production practices.
A smart extension service system should be developed to improve farmers’ access to information and knowledge. A platform involving scientists, farmers, private sector, and academia working together in partnership to support climate-smart agriculture will be useful.
In order to promote the mechanisation required for climate-smart agriculture, land consolidation at the production level is important. Governments should take measures to promote more voluntary land consolidation at the production level.
The majority of smallholder farmers are unable to own machinery by themselves to practice climate-smart agriculture. The private sector should be given incentives to set up hiring centers where farmers can rent machinery at a more affordable price.
Farmers’ cooperatives should be promoted as well to set up hiring centers. However, such cooperatives should be run following corporate principles, i.e., with a clear demarcation between equity holders and management personnel, all of whom should be accountable for their decisions.
Farmers in Asia face substantial challenges but climate-smart and resource-saving technologies give them a fighting chance of producing the food the region needs in a way that is both profitable and sustainable.
Akmal Siddiq is Chief of Rural Development and Food Security Thematic Group of the Asian Development Bank, (ADB), while Md. Abul Basher is Natural Resources and Agriculture Specialist, Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department.This article is republished from the ADB Blog.

New role created for biobased products initiative
By Sage Smith, sage.smith@iowastatedaily.com

Oct 28, 2019 Updated 7 hrs ago
 Iowa State's Biorenewables Research Laboratory on Bissell road near the College of Design. Recently, Iowa State added chief of technology for biobased products as a role in their biosciences-based economic growth initiative.
Alec Giljohann/ Iowa State Daily
Iowa State has created the new role of chief technology officer for biobased products as part of the biosciences-based economic growth initiative of the State of Iowa.
Sundeep Vani has been welcomed to Iowa State to take on the new position. According to a press release, Vani will work as a bridge between research and industry.
Vani will work with Brent Shanks, a distinguished professor in the Center for Biorenewable Chemicals, as well as his team and the Iowa Innovation Corp.
“The chief technology officer is a lynchpin position that plays a vital role in accelerating translation of emerging technologies,” Shanks said in the news release.
Shanks also said they conducted a national search to find a candidate for the position who understands the science and technology of the biobased products portfolio. Candidates needed extensive industry experience to qualify.
“I’m excited to join Iowa State in this mission to grow Iowa’s economy through the state’s overall Biosciences initiative,” Vani said in the news release. “Iowa has the production, agriculture and biotechnology assets and the expertise and research infrastructure — including the Center for Biorenewable Chemicals, Bioeconomy Institute, Center for Crop Utilization Research and BioCentury Research Farm — to lead the nation in the development of new value-added Biobased Product solutions.”
According to the news release, Vani received his doctorate in chemical engineering from Rice University and his Master of Business Administration from the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management. He has 21 years of experience in industrial biotechnology. Vani has spent the past two years as an independent consultant, advising venture capital firms, serving as a member of the advisory board and advising large multinationals. He has served in various positions focused on technology with Archer Daniels Midland Co. — one of which being the role of technology director.
Shanks said in the news release that Vani checks all the boxes they were searching for and that they are delighted to welcome him to Iowa State.
Sarah Nusser, vice president for research, said in the news release that they firmly believe a key to success in advancing biobased products is to expand the nationally renowned innovation ecosystem.
"Bringing [Vani] onboard as [chief technology officer] is a critical step in affirming Iowa as an innovation leader in Biobased Products and will help accelerate technology transfer from the research labs of Iowa State to the marketplace served by Iowa-based companies," Nusser said in the news release.

U.S. Announces Forfeiture of North Korean Carrier Ship ‘Wise Honest’

Julia Arciga


Published 10.21.19 6:29PM ET

The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York announced on Monday the forfeiture of a North Korean carrier ship seized earlier this year that was violating sanctions by participating in illicit coal exports from the country. In addition to illegally exporting coal, the ship also hauled machinery back to North Korea, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. Participants in the scheme also attempted to hide where the ship was really from and made ship-related payments totaling over $750,000 through U.S. financial institutions, he said. According to the U.S. Naval Institute, the ship was seized in May and was sold with the intention of compensating the families of Otto Warmbier and Kim Dong-shik–both victims of the North Korean regime. However, Berman said in a statement that Warmbier’s parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, voluntarily withdrew their claim in the action in order to facilitate the carrier’s forfeiture. “Today’s judgment of forfeiture finalizes the U.S. government’s seizure of the Wise Honest and officially takes this North Korean vessel out of commission,” Berman said. “It will no longer be used to further a criminal scheme.”
Twin Witnessed NSC’s Vindman Report Trump's Ukraine Call: NYT

Jamie Ross


Updated 10.29.19 7:42AM ET / Published 10.29.19 7:05AM ET

Reuters / Kevin Lamarque
Alexander Vindman—the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert who will testify before House impeachment investigators Tuesday—took his twin brother along to a meeting where he voiced his concerns about Donald Trump’s July telephone call with the Ukrainian president, The New York Times reports. In a profile of the latest star witness in the impeachment proceedings, the newspaper reports Vindman’s twin brother, Yevgeny, also works for the NSC and the two have offices across from one another in the West Wing of the White House. Yevgeny is a lieutenant colonel in the Army and serves on the NSC as a lawyer handling ethics issues. When Alexander decided to raise his concerns about Trump’s conduct, he turned to his twin and brought him along to a conversation with John Eisenberg, the top NSC lawyer. The twins were 3 years old when they fled Ukraine. Alexander Vindman will become the first sitting White House official to testify in the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
200K Ordered to Flee Kincade Fire, Crews Save 2017 Tubbs Fire Area

Jamie Ross


Published 10.29.19 5:54AM ET
Evacuation orders have expanded to nearly 200,000 people as the Kincade Fire in Northern California grew to 75,000 acres. According to NBC Bay Area, the wind-whipped wildfire has destroyed 123 structures and threatens as many as 90,000 others. The blaze, which has been burning since last Wednesday, is 15 percent contained, but forecasters have warned that another round of strong wind gusts could hit the area Tuesday, risking a further spread of the fire. In Sonoma County’s Santa Rosa, news emerged that fire crews managed to defend a neighborhood that was rebuilding after being ravaged by the deadly 2017 Tubbs Fire, which destroyed thousands of homes and killed at least 22 people. “No matter how tired we were, no matter how overwhelmed we were, we were going to throw everything we had at it,” Sonoma County Battalion Chief Fire Marshal Cyndi Foreman told the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. The outlet reports the department enlisted a never-before-used “all-tone” call to dispatchers to enlist all hands to make the stand against the fire, which firefighters described as pouring embers like rain.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. told more than 1.2 million people that they may have their electricity shut off for what could be the third time this week. PG&E and other utilities in California have been shutting off power to help prevent fires during the strong winds.
Eliminating dangerous plant diseases in rice
28th October 2019
A consortium of researchers is aiming to attack to dangerous rice disease threatening to world’s food stability and the economical health of developing countries.
As the number one staple food for the world’s poorest nations, more than half of the world’s population eat rice every day. One dangerous threat to the food security of the world is the rice disease ‘bacterial blight’. The disease, caused by Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae (Xoo), causes an estimated €3.2bn loss in India alone.
Xoo can cause complete destruction of a smallholder’s annual harvest, risking the food stability, income and land ownership of farmers all over the world.
The consortium, Healthy Crops, is comprised of six research institutions, spanning across three continents. Health Crops aims to provide at-risk farmers with effective tools to combat bacterial bight and thus eliminate the epidemic. Two universities in the USA (University of Florida and University of Missouri), the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Columbia, the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) in France and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, are all contributors to Healthy Crops.
“We limit the ability of the noxious Xoo bacterium to divide by preventing it from hijacking the plants resources as food supply”, explains Dr. Bing Yang from the University of Missouri. Once a rice plant is infected, it secretes TAL effectors. TAL effectors turn on the host’s SWEET genes. These genes export sugar from the rice cells and make it available to the bacteria which live in the cell wall space.
A number of varieties of rice are resistant against some types of Xoo bacteria. Previous research from the team highlighted that these varieties contain variants of the SWEET promoter which do not allow binding of the bacterial TAL effectors. These plants have adapted to stop the bacteria from activating the SWEET transporters.
However, the bacteria can also adapt as different strains evolve with the rice plant. The consortium identified six different points of attack in the SWEET promoters. Wolf B Frommer, the project leader, said: “With the knowledge gained and the tools developed here, we might be at least as fast in developing new resistances as the bacteria can develop new keys.”
Philippines to nearly triple local rice purchases, scraps safeguard duty proposal
OCTOBER 28, 2019 /
MANILA, Oct 28 (Reuters) - The Philippine government will nearly treble rice purchases from local farmers this year, officials said on Monday, after it rejected a proposal last week to impose safeguard duty.

The National Food Authority (NFA) said it will now buy up to 1.14 million tonnes of unmilled rice from local farmers, who were hurt by the removal of quantitative import restrictions, compared with the previous target of 389,000 tonnes.

The state-run agency’s purchases this year have already exceeded half of the new target, spokeswoman Rebecca Olarte said.

NFA also said it has been authorised by its council to buy the staple grain at 19 pesos ($0.37) per kilogram, from 17 pesos previously, and sell them to retailers at 23 pesos per kg, reduced from 25 pesos.

The announcement comes after Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said on Friday that the “foolhardy idea” of imposing safeguard duty on rice imports, which could push up inflation, has been dropped.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar had pushed for the safeguard duty to be imposed on top of existing tariffs, as proposed by some farmers’ groups, to ease the pain of local producers hit by a surge in rice imports.

The Southeast Asian nation, which is one of the world’s biggest rice importers and often buys grains from its neighbours Vietnam and Thailand, lifted a two-decade-old cap on purchases early this year and replaced it with tariffs.

The policy shift has led to unhampered rice importation by the private sector, with this year’s purchases seen reaching a record annual volume of more than 3 million tonnes, way beyond what the country needs to fill the supply gap.

While that helped bring down retail prices and ease inflation to the lowest in nearly three years in September, from its peak in almost a decade last year, farmers suffered as farmgate prices plunged.

The fall in farmgate prices is not a nationwide concern, however, according to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, saying those in central and southern Philippines in particular “seem to be holding up”.

$1 = 51 Philippine pesos Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; editing by Uttaresh.V

NFA lowers selling price
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - October 28, 2019 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines — The National Food Authority (NFA) has lowered its selling price to various government agencies and retailers as it employs new strategies to cope with the liberalization of the rice industry.
In a briefing over the weekend, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the interagency NFA Council has approved new strategies and initiatives to make NFA more responsive and effective under the Rice Tariffication Law.
One of the strategies is the reduction of selling price of NFA rice for other government agencies to P25 per kilogram from P27 per kilo.
These include the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Bureau of Corrections, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and local government units.
NFA also lowered its selling price to accredited retailers from P25 to P23 per kilo. However, rice will still be sold to end-consumers at P27 per kilo.
“This would ensure that NFA will be able to sell its stocks faster. This will be the selling price even for our local palay procurement,” Dar said.
Further, NFA’s credit line was renewed with the Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines, while its revised corporate operating budget has been approved.
Palay procurement target was increased from 389,000 metric tons to 1.14 million MT this year to meet the 15-day buffer stock. NFA will no no longer divest its properties and warehouses as these could be used for buffer stocking.
As part of its new mandate to buy solely from local farmers, NFA has put up 558 palay buying stations from the previous 311.
NFA’s palay buying activities will focus on the top 10 rice-producing provinces, namely Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Cagayan, Tarlac, Pangasinan, Iloilo, Camarines Sur, Negros Occidental, North Cotabato and Zamboanga del Sur.
It will also buy palay in Oriental and Occidental Mindoro and other traditionally high rice-producing areas.
The NFA continues to gear up for the procurement of more palay as the main harvest season begins with the aim of exceeding its target for the year.
The grains agency already started to procure high volume of palay last month as wet season harvest started early in some areas.
For September alone, NFA procured 621,430 bags of palay, mostly in Western Visayas and some areas in Luzon, increasing total procurement since January to 6.6 million bags.

Feature: Cuba to have modern rice drying plant with Chinese support
Source: Xinhua| 2019-10-27 12:50:09|Editor: ZD
PINAR DEL RIO, Cuba, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- Everything is hustling and bustling in the province of Pinar del Rio, some 150 km west from Havana, where one modern rice drying plant is under construction with the support of China.
"We started the earthwork in March 2017, and currently the work is at 65 percent of its execution," the project's main specialist Fernando Gonzalez told Xinhua.
The plant, one of five such supported by China in different parts of the island, will have a drying shed and two storage silos with a capacity of 500 tons each, as well as a laboratory and facilities for the unloading and cleaning of the grain.
The rice drying plant will be able to process 37 tons of rice per day, a staple food in the island country.
Gonzalez, 60, has supervised the construction of the plant and the installation of modern technology provided by the Chinese company Muyang Group who gives professional advice on the assembly of the machinery.
"It is the most modern technology we have, not only in Pinar del Rio, but in the country," Gonzalez said while touring the facilities of the plant.
Gonzalez voiced belief that once the drying plant is operational, it will produce high-quality products without impurities.
At the request of Cuban partners, Chinese specialists incorporated into the design an oven in which rice husk would be burned to provide water vapour to the drying system.
As the husk's ashes are rich in potassium, they would be collected and used as agricultural fertilizer.
An 8-km canal running from the El Punto dam is also under construction, which would irrigate the land over 2,000 hectares.
"Now everything will be close: technical advice, water for irrigation and the rice drying plant. We hope that these possibilities will turn into high production levels," said Jesus Maurence, a specialist of the Pinar del Rio Agroindustrial Grain Company.
With an expected yield of 4.3 tons per hectare, Pinar del Rio will produce around 73,800 tons of wet paddy rice in 2019.
The province aims to grow rice in around 60,000 hectares in 2020, a figure that would match the full production potential within the western end of the island in 1980s.

Rice export to be increased to $5 bln in five years: Razak
October 28, 2019
ISLAMABAD, Oct 28 (APP):Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce, Industries and Production, Textile and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood Monday said rice was the largest agro export commodity in the the country’s export basket with a total volume of over $ 2 billion, which will be increased to $5 billion in next five years.
He said this during a meeting with a Rice Exports Association of Pakistan (REAP) delegation, led by its president Syed Almas Hyder to chalk out policy proposals in order to enhance the commodity’s export.
The adviser appreciated all the proposals of REAP and ensured full cooperation of the Ministry of Commerce in that regard.
He advised the delegation to introduce new varieties of rice to enhance production and quality by investing in research and development.
All bottlenecks in the rice export would be removed with effective coordination and cooperation among all the relevant ministries and departments, he assured.
The adviser said the rice export to China and Indonesia was on upward trajectory due to additional market access secured by the current government in those countries.
Razak said the government intended to take the exports to the highest level ever and for the purpose it was taking different measures to reclaim traditional markets besides accessing new ones.
The REAP president appreciated the current government’s endeavours for boosting exports of traditional and non-traditional products.
The REAP delegation presented various proposals for achieving the envisaged target, which included better farm practices, higher yields through water management, mechanical transplanting, drying and storage and BMR of existing rice mills.
The REAP office-bearers assured that the rice would be exported as per quality and standard to the markets like Iran, Qatar and China where additional market access had recently been gained by Pakistan.

Farmers rally against Seoul’s decision to relinquish developing country status under WTO
: Oct.28,2019 17:40 KST Modified on : Oct.28,2019 17:40 KST

A coalition of six farmer groups holds a press conference denouncing US pressure to change South Korea’s agricultural status as a developing country under the WTO in front of the South Jeolla Provincial Office on Oct. 21. (provided by the Korean Peasants League)
Farmers throughout South Korea warned of a battle to “force out the administration,” denouncing the government’s decision to relinquish status as a “developing country” within the WTO as a “national humiliation in the area of trade.”
On Oct. 25, members of the group Joint Action by Farmers to Preserve Developing Country Status in the WTO held a rally in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Complex in Seoul’s Jongno District, where they denounced the administration for “bowing to [US President Donald] Trump’s pressure, giving up trade and food sovereignty and driving agriculture to the brink.” Dressing in mourning clothes (funerals), the demonstrations wore headbands bearing the words “protect our developing country status.”
With their worst fears confirmed, farmers from all around South Korea vowed to “condemn” the Moon Jae-in administration with a farmers’ rally in November and the general elections next April. In a statement, the Korean Peasants’ League (KPL) asked, “Do we farmers even have country? [The government] would sell off the destiny of farmers at a single word from Trump.”
“After its path of collapse since the Uruguay Round negotiations and the launch of the WTO, South Korean agriculture has been pushed to the edge of a cliff with these measures,” KPL said.
“The fields of South Korea are filled with the groans of farmers. The 6 trillion won [US$5.13 billion] that Trump is demanding in defense costs could be used to pay allowances of 500,000 won [US$427.24] a month to one million farming households nationwide, and over 200,000 won [US$170.90] to the 2.4 million total farmers,” it continued, calling on Seoul to “overcome the pressure from the US and uphold our trade and food sovereignty.”
Farmers agreed that relinquishing South Korea’s developing country status would lead to a collapse of the domestic agricultural base.
”They’re basically telling us to not grow rice’
“The US is opening up our agriculture to suit their own interests. Really, it’s all about rice,” said Park Heung-sik, chairman of the North Jeolla Association of Farmer Groups. “If we give up developing country status, South Korea’s base for food self-sufficiency completely collapses.”
“In the past, we’ve managed to sustain domestic agriculture with the allowance of 1.49 trillion won [US$1.27 billion] in subsidies, but if we’re only able to use 700 billion won [US$598.19 million] of these subsidies in the future [after developing country status is relinquished], we’ll have no recourse when rice prices fall,” Park argued. “They’re basically telling people not to grow rice.”
Kim Hee-sang, secretary-general of KPL’s Cheongju branch, said, “Giving up developing country status means giving up agriculture.”
“As soon as we let go of our developing country status, there’s going to be a flood of agricultural products from the US and other countries. In Chile, 95% of farms have been sold to major corporations,” Kim noted. “As we let go of developing country status, South Korean farming will be quickly subordinated to overseas food and seed companies with corporate structures, capital, and scale.”
“We don’t have the time right now because it’s harvest season and we’re short-handed, but once the harvesting is over, farmers will come together,” he promised. “There will be a fierce battle from farmers for their own survival.”
Farmers vow to punish administration in next election
Park Haeng-deok, chairperson of Farmers’ Road, said, “We can no longer support an administration that has abandoned agriculture. We are going to fight, carrying on the same spirit that the late Baek Nam-gi [a farmer fatally struck with a water cannon jet during a 2015 demonstration] did when he was injured while calling for the preservation of farming.”
Park Hyeong-dae, a former KPL policy committee chairperson, said, “After being left on the brink of death by agricultural policies of import openness, agriculture is poised to suffer the coup de grace with reductions in rice tariff rates and agricultural subsidies.”
“Today will go down in history as a day of national humiliation in the areas of foreign affairs and trade,” he declared.
Others sounded a warning that the administration would pay the price for abandoning agriculture in next year’s general elections. Calling the decision a “death sentence for South Korean agriculture,” Kim Seong-bo, secretary-general of KPL’s Gwangju/South Jeolla alliance, said, “Now that it has given up even on treatment to prolong their lives, the government and ruling party will face judgment from farmers in next year’s general election.”
Farmers also signaled their unhappiness over the decision being made without listening to what the National Assembly and farmers had to say.
“With a food self-sufficiency rate of 24%, South Korea should rightly retain its status as a developing country in the area of agriculture,” said Lee Gap-seong, vice chairperson of the Gwangju Farmers’ Association. “The WTO has not even mentioned this as an issue, yet [the administration] gave away the future of agriculture at a single word from Trump, without even listening to farmers or the National Assembly.”
On Nov. 30, farmers plan to stage a nationwide rally in front of the National Assembly building in Seoul’s Yeouido neighborhood to denounce the government and ruling party for abandoning agriculture with their policies.
By Ahn Kwan-ok, Gwangju correspondent, Oh Yoon-joo, Cheongju correspondent, and Park Im-keun, North Jeolla correspondent
Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

Rice exports go up by 50.76% to 470.584 million in first quarter of 2019-20

ISLAMABAD: Rice exports from the country during first quarter of current financial year grew by 50.76 per cent as compared the exports of the corresponding period of last year.
During the period of July-September 2019, about 839,356 metric tons of rice worth $470.584 million were exported as compared to the exports of 551.586 metric tons valuing $312.147 million of the same period of last year.
According to the data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the exports of basmati rice increased by 47.29 per cent, about 212,873 metric tons of basmati rice valuing $194.669 million exported as compared the 127,669 metric tons worth $132.166 million of same period of last year.
Country earned $275.915 million by exporting rice other then basmati, as about 226,983 metric tons of above mentioned commodity exported 423,917 metric tons valuing $179.981 million of same period of last year, it added.
Meanwhile, 34,090 metric tons of fish and fish preparations worth $79.549 million were also exported in first quarter of current financial year as compared to the exports of 25,859 metric tons valuing $67.294 million of same period of last year.
According the trade data, the fish and fish products exports registered about 81.21 per cent growth in last three months as compared to the same period of last year, the data reveled.
During the period under review, fruits and vegetables exports from the country also recorded positive growth of 10.20 per cent and 21.11 per cent respectively.
The country earned $111.338 by exporting about 131,762 metric tons of fruits, where as $38.459 million by exporting 145675 metric tons of vegetables respectively, it added.
Meanwhile the exports of the commodities that remained on down track during the period under review included wheat 88.11 per cent, spices 2.71 per cent, oil seed nuts and kernals reduced by 13.50 per cent and the exports of sugar decreased by 22.95 per cent.
It may be recalled here that food group exports of the country during first quarter of current financial year increased by 13.98 per cent as different food commodities worth US$984.757 million exported as compared to the exports of $864.005 million of the corresponding period of last year.
Meanwhile, the imports of the food commodities into the country decreased by 24.78 per cent as it came down from $1.458 billion of first quarter of last year to $1.096 billion in same period of current financial year.

Rice growers yet to ascertain exact cause of crop loss this year
HYDERABAD: It is the first time in Fida Hussain Khoso’s career as a rice grower that he believes he will receive less than 50 percent yield due to the sudden heat wave that struck his crop right when it was ripening.

Residing near Mehar town, Dadu district, he said his family as usual had cultivated rice on 20 acres. They follow the sowing season starting from the months of May to June. “Everything was fine, but then a sudden heat wave destroyed the crop in the entire neighbourhood,” he said.

Farmers buy hybrid varieties of seeds from markets and normally get 50-60 maund per acre yield. But now it might be less than 50 percent of the yield, which would hit the rice producers hard as they have already invested a huge amount on cultivation.

About 20-25 years ago, Dadu was among a few districts along with Qambar-Shahdadkot, Larkana, Kashmore, Jacobabad and others in Sindh that produced fine quality rice.

Recalling the old varieties of rice and their distinct aroma and taste, Fida Hussain said now all the growers relied on the market to buy hybrid seed varieties for all the crops.

Ramzan Nangraj, a graduate from Sindh Agriculture University Tadojam, working with growers in Dadu district, said the reports were different from each area. Some farmers though their crop was affected by a virus, while others found white butterfly (insects) on the crop plants, which has affected the grain, he said.

“However, the growers are yet to ascertain the exact problems which may have destroyed the food crop at the time of ripening,” Nangraj added.

According to estimates given by the growers, they might lose 50-70 percent of crop yield this year.

So, if they harvested 50-60 maunds/acre in the normal season, they might not get only 25-30 maund/acre, depending on the situation in the area. He said this happened in early October, when the heat wave hit the crop.

Talking to rice producers from different areas it was learned that the supply of impure seeds and chemical input by unauthorised dealers and companies in the province has caused colossal losses to farmers. Growers have been observing empty cobs, which has alarmed the entire community.

Sindh Chamber of Agriculture President Qabool Muhammad Khatian linked the recent loss of major rice crop in the northern districts of the province to the adulterated seeds sold by certain dealers. He said they were receiving complaints by growers accusing seed providers for this loss.

Khatian did realise that climate change also contributed to lower yield of all crops, and said, “We have observed that for the last few years, farmers receive less than 50 percent yield of all crops, mainly wheat, cotton, rice, chilli and sugarcane.” In some areas growers could not even recover the cost of cultivation, he added.

“However, we cannot blame only climate change. These unauthorised dealers and companies have played a destructive role by providing adulterated seeds of seasonal crops and chemical inputs to farmers,” Khatian said, adding that it was happening because there was no check and balance by government authorities.

Sindh Growers Alliance (SGA) President Nawab Zubair Talpur also accused the provincial government authorities of putting growers at the mercy of unauthorised dealers, who supply impure seeds and chemical inputs.

“I have witnessed this in my own fields of cotton and chilli, where we received impure hybrid seeds,” he said. “We have cried against these happenings, but nobody from the government department paid heed to our complaints. Now, these complaints are pouring in from different areas by different crop producers,” he lamented.

He urged the government to implement much needed policies to avoid such happenings in future, as food security depended on agricultural success.

Altaf Mahesar of Basic Development Foundation (BDF), whose organisation has collected traditional seed varieties of different food crops, mainly wheat, rice, sorghum, pearl mullet and vegetables through farmers’ network in Dadu district, said it was enough to open the eyes of both growers and government authorities.

“We opposed the Seed Act 2015, which does not carry the issues facing farmers in terms of seed varieties. The Seed Act supports the hybrid seed varieties, advocating it as the only solution to have more yield to feed the growing population of the country,” he said.

Introduction of hybrid seeds on the pretext of population increase was not justifiable at the time, when growers were experiencing loss and failed to get the right yield, he added.

Mostly farmers have lost indigenous and traditional seed varieties and depend on the market to buy hybrid seeds, which were not authentic. It was observed that some rowdy elements kept these seeds from crops and used those seeds in the packing of brands to sell to unaware farmers.

Mahesar pleaded that these hybrid seed varieties were not prepared as per the local environment and weather. Thus, the recent climate change phenomenon like heat wave created problems for rice producers, who lost their entire crops.

“This will happen in future too until the seeds are not prepared in the local environment.

He gave examples of old high yielding rice varieties like irri 6, irri -9 and others, which survived heat waves in the province, as they were prepared as per the local environment. These varieties of irri family were considered good quality, and usually grew in parts of Sindh and southern Punjab.

Rice Prices
as on : 28-10-2019 05:38:10 PM
Arrivals in tonnes;prices in Rs/quintal in domestic market.
Arrivals Price
Current %
change Season
cumulative Modal Prev.
Modal Prev.Yr
Bangalore(Kar) 3705.00 101.14 78960.00 4650 4650 8.14
Manjeri(Ker) 290.00 NC 8120.00 3500 3500 NC
Baxirhat(WB) 235.00 -2.08 1438.00 2750 2750 1.85
Bangarpet(Kar) 90.00 - 180.00 1800 - -1.10
Kalipur(WB) 60.00 -28.57 1842.00 2400 2400 -
Manvi(Kar) 50.00 138.1 142.00 2050 2250 -
Egra/contai(WB) 36.00 1.41 359.00 2500 2500 NC
Pandua(WB) 36.00 -20 1506.00 3000 3000 NC
Toofanganj(WB) 24.70 5.56 169.90 2750 2750 1.85
Fatehabad(UP) 15.00 188.46 57.90 2350 2320 NC
Kaliaganj(WB) 15.00 NC 134.00 3600 3550 -
Chintamani(Kar) 13.00 -62.86 567.00 2300 2300 21.05
Purulia(WB) 12.00 NC 138.00 2640 2640 0.76
Champadanga(WB) 12.00 -33.33 409.00 3100 3050 -4.62
Dibrugarh(ASM) 11.00 NC 242.20 3100 3100 5.84
Vilthararoad(UP) 10.00 NC 681.00 2150 2150 NC
Nadia(WB) 8.00 33.33 374.00 3800 3750 -2.56
Bishnupur(Bankura)(WB) 7.00 -17.65 452.00 2600 2600 NC
Hanagal(Kar) 3.00 -86.96 473.00 1900 1900 NC
Khatra(WB) 3.00 NC 561.40 2650 2650 3.92
Perinthalmanna(Ker) 2.90 NC 14.50 3000 2800 -6.25
Nandyal(AP) 1.00 NC 28.00 3900 4250 -
Jambusar(Kaavi)(Guj) 1.00 NC 85.00 3000 3200 -
Aroor(Ker) 1.00 NC 13.00 9200 10000 1.10
Alibagh(Mah) 1.00 NC 96.00 2200 2200 -56.00
Murud(Mah) 1.00 NC 97.00 2200 2200 -45.00

Agri dept speeds up RCEF implementation
The Department of Agriculture accelerates the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) by releasing the P10 billion allotment to implementing agencies.Agriculture Secretary William Dar said 32 percent or P3.2 billion is being used for RCEF program activities such as procurement of high-quality inbred seeds, bidding of farm machines, granting of loans, and training of rice specialists.
“[RCEF activities] are timely as [it’s generally the start of rice cropping season]. Now, the program is rolling out and [recently launched] in Roxas, Isabela. [We’re starting to make] the farmers productive, competitive, and progressive through the program,” Dar said in a press conference, Tuesday, at the Agricultural Training Institute in Quezon City.

Under seed component, Dr. Flordeliza Bordey, deputy executive director for special concerns of Philippine Rice Research Institute, said about 2 million bags of seeds are procured as of Oct. 18 while more than 2,000 bags of certified seeds are now ready for distribution. The RCEF seed monitoring system is also in place.

“Seed distribution will peak in November. Planning for wet season distribution in 2020 and positioning of registered seeds for the dry season in 2020 are being worked out,” she said.

Technical briefings, a requirement for farmers to receive seeds, were recently conducted to tillers in regions 1, 2, 3, 4-B, 5, and 12.  The first batch of rice specialists under the program also completed their training last week.

The seed component targets 1.06 million hectare covering cities and municipalities with more than 100 ha areas planted to rice. Farmers listed in the Department of Agriculture’s Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture will be given 20-80 k of high-quality inbred rice seeds depending on farm size.
RCEF seed distribution in full swing
In time for the planting season, farmers under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) program had started receiving certified rice seeds during the program’s first distribution in Balungao, Pangasinan, Oct. 28.About 1,500 bags of certified seeds are given to 600 farmers until Thursday in the 4th class municipality bordering Nueva Ecija to the south.
“You’re lucky to be the first beneficiaries of this program. The government gives this support for you to be more competitive so I urge you to do your part for you to gain more from farming amidst challenges,” Maria Theresa Peralta, town mayor said.Peralta encouraged farmers to plant the certified seeds as this can increase yield by 10 percent.
“Please do not sell what you have received. The grain from this bag might lead you to prosperity,” she said. Under the program, farmers who are listed in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA) of the Department of Agriculture can receive 20-80kg of high-quality rice seeds for two consecutive seasons. After two seasons, farmers are still entitled to the program benefits if their municipality achieves the target yield.Dominica Lobusta, one of the beneficiaries, said the distributed seeds would help them cope with the low rice price.
“Palay price is quite low this season at P11-P14 a kilo. But we hope to rise from this challenge through this provision. Seeds are certified so we can also expect high yield,” she said.Farmers can also avail of machines, credit, and training from RCEF program.

Strong baht to shave rice exports by up to B40bn
PUBLISHED : 28 OCT 2019 AT 06:00
 The strong baht is expected to whittle down the revenue of Thai rice exports in baht terms by 30-40 billion baht this year. (Bangkok Post file photo)
The strong baht is expected to whittle down the revenue of Thai rice exports in baht terms by 30-40 billion baht, lowering shipments to 8-8.1 million tonnes this year.
Chookiat Ophaswongse, honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said rice export prospects remain dim, with the baht making local grains more expensive than those from Vietnam, China and India.
Prices of Thai white rice are around US$50 per tonne higher than those of Vietnam, while China, which holds hefty rice stocks, has beefed up shipments of its cheaper rice to Africa.
"Thai rice shipments may slip as low as 8 million tonnes this year from 11.2 million tonnes last year, led by a sharp drop in white rice exports," said Mr Chookiat.
The strong baht is expected to lower white rice shipments by up to 35% from 5.49 million tonnes last year.
Normally Thailand's rice exports average 10 million tonnes a year, with white rice making up half the amount.
He said white rice shipments may only total 3 million tonnes this year.
In July, the association cut its target for annual rice exports from 9.5 million tonnes to 9 million.
Of the total, white rice will account for 3.9 million tonnes, followed by parboiled rice at 2.8 million tonnes, hom mali rice at 1.3 million tonnes, aromatic rice at 600,000 tonnes and glutinous rice 400,000 tonnes.
Major rice-importing countries have also changed their rice-buying policies. The Philippines allows its private sector to play a greater role in imports, stiffening competition in the domestic market.
The drought in Thailand will also cut rice output and may result in higher prices, said the group.
The Commerce Ministry's latest report put rice exports in the first nine months this year down by 28.1% year-on-year to 5.9 million tonnes.

Erratic payments from Iran put commodity exporters in a fix
While the rice industry says more than Rs 2,000 crore has yet to be reimbursed to Indian traders, tea and sugar traders said that payments have been delayed by a fortnight to a month.
By Madhvi Sally,
Sutanuka Ghosal, ET Bureau|
Oct 28, 2019, 12.00 PM IST
Exporters are facing the challenge of getting the letter of credit (LC) by the buyer’s bank to remit the amount, said Karan Amin, chief executive, KM Sugar Mills. Indian exporters of commodities such as basmati rice, tea, sugar and soyabean meal are worried over increasingly erratic payments from Iran owing to the banking sanctions imposed by the United States.

While the rice industry says more than Rs 2,000 crore has yet to be reimbursed to Indian traders, tea and sugar traders said that payments have been delayed by a fortnight to a month. “Indian basmati rice exporters are facing issues in getting payments of over Rs 1,500 crore for rice exported to Iran. Further, another Rs 500-600 crore worth of rice for Iran is either stuck up in ports or godowns due to various issues,” said Vijay Setia, president, All India Rice Exporters Association.

Owing to the banking sanctions imposed, India and Iran have been carrying out trade through a rupee account in UCO Bank. As per this mechanism, India deposits payments in rupees into Iran’s account for the oil purchased and then uses it to make payments to Indian exporters of goods to Iran.

“Earlier, it took us 15-30 days to get the LC, but now we are waiting for two-three months, even after signing the contracts,” he said.

Iran has been the largest importer of basmati rice from India in recent years, accounting for more than 30 per cent of the total basmati rice shipped outside of India.

Similarly, soyabean meal exports to Iran, which accounts for more than 25 per cent of the 1.5-2 million tonnes of the commodity exported from India, have come to a standstill, said Davish Jain, chairman of the Soybean Processors Association of India.

“Every month we were exporting 1-1.5 lakh tonnes of soyabean meal to Iran for the livestock and poultry feed industry, which has now come down by 70 per cent. Exporters are worried about delayed payments,” said Jain.

Unlike rice and soyabean meal exporters who have slowed down on exports, though, tea and sugar traders have stepped up shipments to the Persian Gulf nation, surpassing last year’s figures.

In the first eight months of 2019, India exported 41 million kg of tea, 128 per cent more than 18 million kg in the year-ago period.

Anish Bhansali, managing director at exporter Bhansali & Co, said: “Iran has been very active this year. However, even though the volumes have gone up, payments have sometimes been delayed by a fortnight or a month. Things are very uncertain in Iran right now, though the country is still buying teas. Hopefully, payments will become regular in the coming weeks.”

Iran imports orthodox teas from India and this year the country has offered a price of Rs 277.27 per kg, as compared to Rs 238.58 per kg last year.

Meanwhile, sugar traders expect exports to increase 10 per cent yearon-year to 550,000 tonnes. “There is a huge demand in Iran for Indian sugar. If the payment issue is resolved then we can see an exponential increase in exports,” said Amin of KM Sugar Mills.