Thursday, October 31, 2019

31st October,2019 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

Rice Prices

as on : 31-10-2019 01:04:53 PM

Arrivals in tonnes;prices in Rs/quintal in domestic market.
Bankura Sadar(WB)
Indus(Bankura Sadar)(WB)
Tamkuhi Road(UP)
Buland Shahr(UP)
Published on October 31, 2019


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Researchers double sorghum grain yield to improve food supply

Description: Researchers double sorghum grain yield to improve food supplyThe left image shows the grains of a normal sorghum plant. The right image depicts how the amount of grains doubled in the genetic variant. Credit: Ware lab/CSHL, 2019
Plant scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) and USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), in their search for solutions to global food production challenges, have doubled the amount of grains that a sorghum plant can yield.
Sorghum, one of the world's most important sources of food, animal feed, and biofuel, is considered a model crop for research because it has a high tolerance to drought, heat, and high-salt conditions. Increasing the grain yield has become even more important to plant breeders, farmers, and researchers as they try to address and overcome food security issues related to climate change, growing populations, and land and water shortages.
Led by Doreen Ware, CSHL Adjunct Professor and research scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and USDA colleague Zhanguo Xin, Ph.D, the research team identified novel genetic variations that occurred in sorghum's MSD2 gene, increasing the grain yield 200 percent. MSD2 is part of a gene line that boosts flower fertility by lowering the amount of jasmonic acid, a hormone that controls the development of seeds and flowers.
"When this hormone is decreased, you have a release of development that does not normally occur," said Nicholas Gladman, a postdoctoral fellow in Ware's lab and first author on the study, recently published in The International Journal of Molecular Sciences. "That allows for the full formation of the female sex organs in these flowers, which then allows for increased fertility"
MSD2 is regulated by MSD1, a gene discovered by Ware's team last year. Manipulating either gene increases seed and flower production.
"Major cereal crops are very close to each other evolutionarily. A lot of the genes that they share have similar functions," said Yinping Jiao, a postdoctoral associate in the Ware Lab and an author on the study. "This gene that plays an important role controlling the sorghum yield may also help us improve the yield of other crops like maize or rice."
Ware's lab uses this type of genetic research to understand how plants have changed over time.
"These genetic analyses actually give us the molecular mechanisms that provide more opportunities to engineer crops in the future," she said.

IRRI collaborates to reduce rice disease

Photos courtesy of IRRI.
MANILA, PHILIPPINES — In an effort to be a step ahead of rice diseases that can affect yield and smallholder farmer income, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is collaborating with partners in the Healthy Crops Research Consortium.
Two recent publications in the journal Nature Biotechnology describe an integrated strategy to eradicate diseases that reduce global rice production. This is the case of bacterial blight, a plant disease that affects large areas in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The research team behind the publication generated multi-resistant rice varieties as well as a diagnostic kit to recognize new variants of the pathogen.
According to the IRRI, bacterial blight is a devastating plant disease that affects rice crops and can cause as much as 70% yield loss when susceptible rice varieties are grown, and weather conditions are optimum for its spread. Once rice plants are infected and the lesions appear, there are no chemical or crop management practices that farmers can apply to stop the disease.
The Healthy Crops Research Consortium, led by Heinrich Heine University (HHU), with the University of Missouri, the University of Florida, the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the Institut de Recherche pour le Dévelopement (IRD), and IRRI, are working together to develop solutions to combat bacterial blight in rice.
“Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae, the causal agent of bacterial blight, uses transcription activator-like (TAL) effectors to manipulate the rice cell and activate the so-called SWEET genes,” IRRI said. “Those genes are responsible for exporting sugars outside the rice cell. As a result, massive amount of nutrients fuels the pathogen enabling the disease to occur.”
In the first Nature Biotechnology paper, the scientists were able to generate SWEET variations that can resist the activation by the pathogen.
“Under normal conditions, the pathogen promotes the leakage of sugars by turning those SWEET genes on,” said Dr. Oliva, cluster leader. “However, the new variants prevent the SWEET activation and thus the release of sugar. The bacterium fails to get nutrition from the host plant and eventually dies. Essentially, this approach aims to outsmart the bacterium by depriving it of nutrients that it needs to survive and propagate. We defeat the enemy by starving it.”
According to the first paper, trials have shown that by making minimal changes at the DNA level to block nutrient flow that feeds bacterial growth, rice lines, including the mega-varieties IR64 and Ciherang-Sub1, have resistance to bacterial blight. These variants have been introduced into other elite rice lines, where a new class of blight-resilient rice varieties will become available in a few years.
“These variants are naturally occurring in rice,” said Sarah Schmidt, PhD, from the Heinrich-Heine University (Germany). “We discovered how to mimic the way plants protect themselves against invading pathogens, and we used this knowledge to obtain broad-spectrum and durable disease resistance. The tools that we developed here can help to completely eradicate bacterial blight disease.”
Description: digital tool interface.
In addition to developing these disease-resistant rice varieties, the research team developed a diagnostic kit for rapid pathogen detection and deployment of rice blight resistance, which is described in the second Nature Biotechnology paper.
“This toolkit helps us efficiently identify specific strains of the gene in different regions and make the breeding process more responsive to local demands,” said Marian Hanna Nguyen, IRRI associate scientist. “These diagnostic tools include PathoTracer, an innovative web-based decision support system that will soon be available to rice growers and researchers in Asia and Africa.
“PathoTracer integrates early-season pathogen disease diagnostics to accurately define breeding priorities and guide coordinated actions to manage crop diseases in real-time. Through these technologies, we want to enable breeders even in remote rice-growing areas to have the tools in developing resilient rice varieties that are responsive to the needs of local farmers.”

CRISPR used to edit rice DNA as defense against pathogen

Altering rice genes the pathogen needs renders rice strains resistant to blight.

Description: Image of a rice plant.
Bacterial blight attacks rice crops in Southeast Asia and West Africa. It is a very well-studied crop disease, and it often serves as a model system to examine the interactions between microbes and their host plants. The pathogen is called Xoo, for Xanthomonas oryzae pathovar oryzae, and it makes its living by hijacking a number of rice genes that export sugars.
Now, researchers have figured out how to edit the rice's genome to block this hijacking.

A TALe of sugars

Xoo secretes TALes (transcription activator-like effector molecules) that bind to the DNA near the rice's SWEET genes, activating them. These SWEET genes (Sugars Will Eventually Be Exported Transporters) are ubiquitous in plants. As their name indicates, the SWEET proteins transport sucrose across the cell membrane. Their expression is required for susceptibility to Xoo.
Researchers thought that modifying the rice SWEET genes would confer resistance to Xoo, especially since natural-occurring resistance has arisen this way. But thus far, only a few Xoo strains have been characterized genetically, so it wasn't clear whether it had additional ways of attacking its host.
In order to see how to most efficiently render the rice resistant to Xoo—which of the rice's SWEET genes to change, and how—an international team of scientists first examined 63 strains of Xoo, 33 from Asia and 30 from Africa. All of them were found to use TALes to induce the expression of SWEET genes.
As a proof of concept, the scientists then used CRISPR to edit the DNA near three SWEET genes in Kitaake rice. This editing specifically targeted the DNA sequences that the TALe proteins stick to but left the surrounding DNA intact. It's far more specific than could be expected to occur simply by selecting for naturally occurring variants.
The engineered rice was resistant to all known Xoo strains. The Kitaake cultivar is a variety of japonica rice that is optimal for such studies since it has a quick flowering cycle and high regeneration. In the future, this new resistant line can serve as a diagnostic test to assess the virulence of any new Xoo strains that crop up.

Testing on crops

Since it is a variety of japonica, it can also be harnessed to breed the resistant trait into Japanese and Chinese rice. But it is not ideal for breeding with the indica varieties that are grown in most of Southeast Asia and Africa.
So next the team used CRISPR to modify two rice mega varieties—those grown over a million hectares. In paddy experiments, the edited rice grew normally and performed much like its unmodified parents in terms of plant height and other agriculturally relevant metrics. Critically, it was resistant to three representative strains of Xoo. Although encouraging, the researchers note that these results hardly provide a sound base for going out and planting fields of the stuff; much more extensive field trials are required, along with complete sequencing to ensure that CRISPR did not generate any off-target DNA edits.
Rice has over 20 SWEET genes, and only three are naturally targeted by Xoo. "Broad resistance to bacterial blight at the SWEET promoters will not prevent adaptation of the pathogen, and the durability of this approach will depend on the ability of Xoo populations to adapt to recessive resistance alleles," the authors sagely note. They suggest that making large changes in the SWEET gene promoters might delay Xoo's ability to overcome the engineered resistance.

Businessman duped of 3.5 crore in rice pulling machine scam
OCTOBER 30, 2019 20:51 IST

He has filed a complaint against 22 persons

A 34-year-old businessman has filed a cheating complaint against 22 persons who convinced him to invest 3.5 crore in a rice-puller, supposedly a high-end machine which international agencies like NASA are interested in purchasing because of its ability to generate energy.
In reality, such a machine does not exist. But, the scam has become so widespread that it now goes by the name ‘rice pulling’ scam. It is touted as a device that can not only draw grains of rice towards itself, but also has capabilities that appeal to researchers in the field of nuclear energy and aeronautics.
In this case, the gang promised a demonstration to Syed Saleem for which they sought money to buy specially designed anti-radiation suits and kits, said the police.
Based on the complaint by Syed, the Tilaknagar police, on Tuesday, registered an FIR and are searching for the accused. The businessman told the the police that he transferred money and also made payments in cash over a period of two years. He realised that he had been cheated on October 14 when the accused disappeared.
“We have registered a case, but we think there is more to the story that what the complainant has told us,” said a senior police official.


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Nigeria: Let's Import Rice Into Nigeria - Vietnam

30 OCTOBER 2019

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam yesterday begged the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to appeal to the Federal Government to allow its country import rice to Nigeria at discounted rates.
The Deputy Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Vuong Dinh Hue, made the appeal in Abuja when he led a five-man delegation to meet the Adams Oshiomshole-led National Working Committee.
He said the delegation would also meet Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to present similar demands.
Reacting, Oshiomhole said Nigeria would not accept such demand from Vietnam, advising the country to rather secure land and invest in rice production in Nigeria.
He said Nigeria would no longer become a dumping ground for unwanted chemicals and spoilt products among others, stressing that Nigeria's borders would remain closed until neighbouring countries learn to respect the rule of fair trade.

Rice exports to be increased to $5 billion in five years: Razak Dawood

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce, Industries and Production, Textile and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood on Monday said rice was the largest agro-export commodity in the country’s export basket with a total volume of over $2 billion, which will be increased to $5 billion in the 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 rice export would be removed with effective coordination and cooperation among all the relevant ministries and departments, he assured.
The adviser said rice export to China and Indonesia was on an 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 that purpose it was taking different measures to reclaim traditional markets besides accessing new ones.
The REAP president appreciated the current government’s endeavors 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.

Gov’t to curb rice imports via non-tariff measures

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:11 AM October 30, 2019
The proponent and author of the rice tariffication law wants to limit the country’s rice imports as the downtrend in palay prices continued.
The call was made by Sen. Cynthia Villar at the sidelines of the National Food Security Summit on Tuesday, adding that the move would help local farmers adjust to the new rice regime as the government helps the sector be more competitive.
The average buying price of palay hit its lowest in eight years based on government monitoring and are expected to decline further as the harvest season begins.
Villar noted that the Philippines produces 93 percent of its rice requirement, while the rest —estimated at 1.1 million metric tons (MT)—are mostly imported from Thailand and Vietnam.
“We will try to lessen importation and limit it to 1 million MT [annually] because that’s all we need. Let us help our farmers,” she said.
Villar added that this could be done if the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) would be more strict when it comes to issuing sanitary and phytosanitary permits (SPS), which are major requirements before traders are allowed to import the staple.
In response, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the agency would be releasing a set of guidelines next week compelling BPI to strictly impose food safety regulations. This includes updating the bureau’s lists of pests and diseases to look out for.
Latest data from the Bureau of Customs showed that about 1.9 million MT of rice had already entered the country since the enactment of the new rice law in March.
The number is expected to swell further to 2.4 million MT by yearend and this would be the highest on record for the country, according to the United States of Agriculture-Foreign Agricultural Services.
Last month, Dar also pushed for the imposition of safeguard measures, but these were rejected by the administration’s economic managers due to their “inflationary effects.”
Slapping safeguard duties on imported rice could have been the easiest way to curb the inflow of imported rice in the market, Villar said, but she said the move would leave an impression that the Philippines was “scared” of competition.
“We have to prove that we can compete. If we are going to employ safeguard measures, they would think that we’ve already given up and that we are not capable. Let’s show them that we can [compete],” she added.
In lieu of the safeguard measures, the Department of Agriculture said it would distribute P5,000 in cash subsidies to 600,000 farmers with one hectare of land or less. This is on top of the loan programs it opened to rice farmers and interventions under the rice competitiveness enhancement program.

Farmer's group seeks higher tariffs on imported rice

Oct 30 2019 10:19 AM
The government should consider raising tariffs on imported rice to help local farmers compete, Alyansa Agrikultura says. Farmers are coping with the new tariff-based regime that aims at bringing down the price of the staple. The duties replaced import quotas.
MANILA – There is no need to require China to recognize Philippine ownership and sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea before a joint oil and gas exploration, retired Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said.
"There is really no need to demand that from China because if it's a service contract the first whereas clause of the service contract is 'the resources belong to the Philippines'. In every service contract we state that's the premise," Carpio explained on ANC’s Headstart.
On Monday, Vice President Leni Robredo said the Philippine should not enter an agreement with China until Beijing recognizes Manila’s ownership and sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines and China in August agreed to form working groups to explore commercial oil and gas agreements in the West Philippine Sea, which falls inside Manila’s exclusive economic zone.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon earlier said a 60-40 sharing scheme to explore new energy sources in the West Philippine Sea was “more than fair” for Manila.
Under the Constitution, Carpio said it should be the government that directly conducts oil exploration, the utilization and development. But the government can hire contractors to do it under a service contract.
“What we are saying in the MOU now with China and the TOR, that's exactly the structure. China will come in as a service contractor or through a service contractor. When you are a service contractor like Shell now in Malampaya, they never claim that they own the gas. They are just a service contractor and a service contractor admits it doesn’t own it that's why it’s a service contractor,” he explained.
Carpio said the deal with China can work in favor of the Philippines. He said China would implicitly recognize the Philippines' sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea when it signs an oil and gas service contract with Manila. 
In fact, Carpio believes the deal is a face saving solution for China.
"But of course, China has more to give because in addition to being a service contractor, China will in effect not press anything with respect to sovereign rights. They impliedly accept we have sovereign rights and that's why this is actually the face saving solution for China," he said.
Meanwhile, spreading service contracts for the possibility of joint oil and gas exploration to other countries other than China is also a good idea. This after President Rodrigo Duterte invited Roseneft Oil, Russia's top oil producer, to invest in the Philippines earlier this month.
"I think it’s a good idea because we should spread out our service contracts. We should not limit it to China alone. We should spread it to European countries, the US, to Russia," said Carpio.

Kingdom will export one million tonnes of rice by 2022, says CRF

Thou Vireak | Publication date 30 October 2019 | 22:42 ICT

Description: Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The Kingdom exported 538,396 tonnes of rice in 2015, 542,144 tonnes in 2016, 635,679 tonnes in 2017 and 626,225 tonnes last year. Hong Menea
The Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) has committed to raising the Kingdom’s rice exports to one million tonnes by 2022, its president Song Saran said on Wednesday.
The comment was made at the Strategic Plan 2020-2023 Consultation Workshop, which was attended by CRF members, ministry representatives, government agencies and international stakeholders.
In an effort to attain its goal, the CRF will export 35 per cent of its rice to the Chinese market, 30 per cent each to Europe and Asean countries, and five per cent to other markets said, Saran.
Of that, luxury fragrant rice will account for 30 per cent of its exports, regular fragrant rice 40 per cent and regular rice 30 per cent, he said.
“To meet export demand, we have a special interest rate credit package of $200 million to purchase rice during the harvest season,” he said, adding that the available funds can buy around 500,000 tonnes of paddy – particularly jasmine varieties – during the season.
A CRF report says the Kingdom exported 398,586 tonnes of rice in the first nine months of this year, up 2.3 per cent from the same period last year, or 389,264 tonnes.
Rice shipments to China stood at 157,793 tonnes during the period. This was up more than 44 per cent year-on-year. But exports to Europe fell to 135,471 tonnes, or down nearly 30 per cent.
However, Saran said earlier this month that after three consecutive quarters of decline, Cambodia’s rice exports to the European market are expected to grow in the fourth quarter following a CRF working group’s visit to the EU to promote the grain.
In August 2010, the government pledged to export one million tonnes of rice by 2015. However, the Kingdom exported 387,000 tonnes of rice in 2014, 538,396 tonnes in 2015, 542,144 tonnes in 2016, 635,679 tonnes in 2017 and 626,225 tonnes last year.
The Kingdom’s exports so far this year have amounted to just more than 600,000 tonnes, with insiders blaming a lack of funds and rice facilities.
Contact author: Thou Vireak

Nigeria: Let's Import Rice Into Nigeria - Vietnam

30 OCTOBER 2019
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam yesterday begged the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to appeal to the Federal Government to allow its country import rice to Nigeria at discounted rates.
The Deputy Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Vuong Dinh Hue, made the appeal in Abuja when he led a five-man delegation to meet the Adams Oshiomshole-led National Working Committee.
He said the delegation would also meet Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to present similar demands.
Reacting, Oshiomhole said Nigeria would not accept such demand from Vietnam, advising the country to rather secure land and invest in rice production in Nigeria.
He said Nigeria would no longer become a dumping ground for unwanted chemicals and spoilt products among others, stressing that Nigeria's borders would remain closed until neighbouring countries learn to respect the rule of fair trade.

Businessman duped of 3.5 crore in ‘rice pulling machine’ scam

OCTOBER 30, 2019 20:51 IST
UPDATED: OCTOBER 30, 2019 20:51 IST

He has filed a complaint against 22 persons

A 34-year-old businessman has filed a cheating complaint against 22 persons who convinced him to invest 3.5 crore in a ‘rice-puller’, supposedly a high-end machine which international agencies like NASA are interested in purchasing because of its ability to generate energy.
In reality, such a machine does not exist. But, the scam has become so widespread that it now goes by the name ‘rice pulling’ scam. It is touted as a device that can not only draw grains of rice towards itself, but also has capabilities that appeal to researchers in the field of nuclear energy and aeronautics.
In this case, the gang promised a demonstration to Syed Saleem for which they sought money to buy specially designed anti-radiation suits and kits, said the police.
Based on the complaint by Syed, the Tilaknagar police, on Tuesday, registered an FIR and are searching for the accused. The businessman told the the police that he transferred money and also made payments in cash over a period of two years. He realised that he had been cheated on October 14 when the accused disappeared.
“We have registered a case, but we think there is more to the story that what the complainant has told us,” said a senior police official.


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Pre- and post-rice trade liberalization law, big traders gaming farmer groups

This June 19, 2017, file photo shows an assortment of commercial rice on sale at a grocery store in Antipolo City.
By The BusinessMirror Broader Look Team
RIGHT from the get-go, experts had projected the opening up of the Philippine rice market as the gateway to a better life for Filipinos: lower staple prices leading to slower inflation and lesser hunger.
Indeed, the liberalization of the country’s rice industry allowed the unabated entry of cheaper imported staple.
As figures released by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) showed, about 1.614 million metric tons (MMT) of rice from seven countries entered the Philippine market, from March 5, when Republic Act 11203 (the rice trade liberalization law) took effect, to October 4.
The BPI data showed over 208 rice importers were behind the volume of imports. Surprisingly, more than half of these are farmer-members of cooperatives or irrigators’ associations.
The BPI data also revealed that, as of August 30, over 120 farmers’ cooperatives and associations applied to import rice since RA 11203, or the rice trade liberalization law, took effect.
They accounted for 51 percent (about 1.427 MMT) of the 2.776 MMT applied volume for rice imports, BPI data showed.
The BPI approved all of these applications with sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPS-IC): the last piece of paper that allowed these groups to proceed with their importation.

From NFA scheme to dummy games

BUT one may wonder: why are Filipino rice farmers importing rice?
Industry sources told the BusinessMirror this is not the first time rice farmers did. In fact, they have been doing it for years now, even with the pre-RA 11203 era.
Mario Pilapil (not his real name), a long-time farmer-leader privy to the dealings of farmers cooperatives, told the BusinessMirror that importation of rice has been a regular “sideline” business for these cooperatives.
Pilapil explained that these farmer groups learned the ropes of “importation” through the importation programs of the National Food Authority (NFA), the government’s grain trade overseer.
Since the inception of the NFA’s “farmers-as-importers,” or FAI, program more than a decade ago, cooperatives were introduced to the business of importation, including its good side and its bad side, according to Pilapil.
However, he said that big players started to prey on cooperatives when the country’s minimum access volume (MAV) for rice imports rose to 805,200 MT in recent years.
The NFA’s cap on the allowable volume that every eligible importer could bring into the country gave birth to the dummy scheme, he added.
Pilapil said a private trader—for example, one with a cap of 50,000 MT—connives with farmers organizations to corner additional volumes provided in the importation program.
Farmers’ organizations, in previous NFA importation programs, were allowed to import a maximum of 5,000 MT.

Unscrupulous traders

PILAPIL said it was by tapping the allowed importation capacity of farmers’ groups that big rice industry players secured more control of the stocks coming into the country. Hence, this allowed these big players to easily calibrate the release of the staple in the market to maintain high profits, he added.
Further, unscrupulous rice traders undertake such scheme to take advantage of privileges provided to importer-cooperatives, such as leniency in documentary requirements and even tax exemptions, he added.
These rice traders also serve as the financiers of the cooperatives so the latter can comply with government requirements for rice importation, such as bank statements, proof of warehouse and exporter networks.
“The NFA is aware of this scheme but cannot do anything about it because there was no sanction for selling your import rights or permits that time,” Pilapil told the BusinessMirror. “It’s technically legal. They didn’t see anything illegal about it. You applied for the quota and sold your rights.”
He further revealed that the dummy scheme cuts across the country; there is even a Mindanao cohort that engages cooperatives based in that island-group for such business transactions. To date, that group is still alive and working, Pilapil said.
“Imagine, some of the cooperatives in Mindanao are in the mountains—way outside the city proper—and yet they are able to import,” he said.
NFA documents confirmed that almost all of the rice-importing farmers’ cooperatives today were also participants in the agency’s MAV programs in the past years.

Source of income

THE BusinessMirror found out that government regulators were well aware, and even foresaw, that such unscrupulous scheme would be the inevitable fruit of the original NFA scheme.
Former Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo R. Serrano told the BusinessMirror the NFA created the FAI program so that rice farmers would have an alternative source of income in times of production shortfall. This was especially during the time that the country was way below self-sufficiency.
Serrano explained during an interview at his home in Victoria, Laguna, that the FAI program had two key goals. The first is to allow farmers to engage in importation and earn additional money, which they could invest for competitiveness. The second goal was to expose farmers to the international market and, hopefully, appreciate price signals.
“The intention of the program was to lessen the prejudice of importation to the principal sector that will be affected by the importation, which are the farmers,” he said.
“Technically, the program also allows the farmers to exercise restraint and control over additional imported volumes,” Serrano added. “So if they see the market is being flooded with rice, they can choose not to import, hence, stabilizing prices.”

Inevitable monster

FORMER NFA Administrator Gregorio Tan Jr. told the BusinessMirror they had foreseen that farmers participating in the FAI program would just eventually sell their rights to bigger players since they don’t have the financial and operational capabilities.
But, Tan pointed out, there was another possibility: farmers entering into joint-venture agreements with bigger players.
“These possibilities were recognized. And these were accepted bottom lines,” Tan explained.
“Since the farmers would be the ones adversely affected by rice importation, then why not give them the opportunity to make some money out of it? Whether selling rights or entering into joint venture,” he added.
According to Tan, who headed the NFA from 2004 to 2006, they wanted the farmers to become the “gatekeepers” of importation so that they could influence the market in terms of supply and stabilize farm-gate prices.

No harm, no foul

THE issue of cooperatives as dummies were not a big issue back then, since the FAI was only a new program and the players were fewer compared to today, Tan said.
Further, he said the purpose of the importation, which is to provide additional supply for the domestic market, wasn’t defeated—whether these be by legitimate cooperatives or by dummies.
Tan said there were also penalties for unused import allocation since it would jeopardize the whole program and put the country’s supply at risk.
“And maybe for these cooperatives, if there is no harm, then [there’s] no foul,” he said. “But now, I don’t see any reason why farmers would be the ones importing since it is an open market.”
Serrano said connivance between unscrupulous rice traders and farmers cooperatives was inevitable.
“Unfortunately, the issuances did not contain safeguards for abuse or misrepresentation. And this is a perennial problem in rule-making,” he said.
“When you provide for special privilege or flexibility for something, a positive action, in the absence of safeguards, leads to a lot of abuses,” he added.


UNIVERSITY of Asia and the Pacific (UAP) Center for Food and Agribusiness Senior Management Specialist Senen U. Reyes explained that the aim of the FAI was to pave the way for farmers to become “agri-entrepreneurs.”
Through this program, farmers organizations (FOs), multipurpose cooperatives and irrigators’ associations participated in the NFA’s out-quota rice importation program for the private sector.
Reyes, who occupied various positions at the NFA prior to joining the academe, echoed Serrano’s view. He explained that, at that time, the government wanted to help farmers directly access the international market and give them exposure on the rice economy through importation.
The primary loophole in the program is the farmer organizations’ capacity or capability to import. Reyes said these groups, along with cooperatives, “may not have the financial capability and administrative skills to comply with the requirements.”
“This flaw may have been taken advantage of by some private sectors who ‘assisted’ farmers organizations in qualifying for import permits,” Reyes told the BusinessMirror. He said there are anecdotes that some of these organizations are being given, “and became content with, a few pesos as fee per bag or lumpsum amount offered by private financiers.”
Reyes explained there are two reasons why farmers’ organizations, multipurpose cooperatives and irrigators’ associations continued to import. For one, they may have already reached a certain level of maturity that allowed them to compete. For another, “the usual financiers/importers” continued to act as their backers.
In return, Reyes said, these financiers are able to get the supply they need while hiding behind the tax perks enjoyed by the cooperatives.

Sans surges, smuggling

REYES said the total imports of cooperatives ranged from 50 tons to as much as 31,479 tons as of August 30, based on data from the BPI.
He reckoned that based on their NFA import permits of 260 tons at $400 per ton, freight on board (FOB), this could mean at least P5.2 million in cost for 5,200 bags of rice. This does not yet include insurance, freight, tariff, trucking and storage costs.
Considering the costs of importation, Reyes said it would be imperative for the government to validate the credentials and capabilities of farmers’ organizations, multipurpose cooperatives and irrigators’ associations, in order to distinguish between those who are legitimate and those who do their business without suspicion.
“It is unfortunate that farmers’ organizations and co-ops are being used, and this practice must be stopped. This is not something new. However, with the RTL [rice trade liberalization], it may not make sense to perpetuate this practice as importation is open to all interested parties without import volume and timing restrictions,” Reyes said. “Hopefully when the situation has normalized, import volume and price movements will be driven by supply and demand sans surges and smuggling.”

Spawned an industry

MONETARY Board Member Bruce Tolentino agrees with Reyes, saying that instead of empowering farmers, the system that allowed cooperatives to import rice “spawned an industry where the licenses were sold.”
Tolentino said this was one of the reasons cited to justify the removal of NFA’s regulatory functions under the RTL law. He said the NFA’s powers to grant licenses is one of the issues why the rice sector has “distorted” the rice trade.
Unfortunately, these permits issued by NFA continue to be in effect. Prior to the passage of the RTL in January 2019, Tolentino, who used to be the Agriculture Undersecretary for Policy and Planning during the term of Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez at the helm of the Department of Agriculture, said there were already licenses and permits issued and some have not been used. And these are still being honored by the Bureau of Customs. Nonetheless, he said, the numbers of these permits have already declined.
As opposed to the sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances, Tolentino said, the primary goal was to ensure health and safety. The clearance did not grant any volume or attempt to impose price controls on rice imports.
Tolentino said under an RTL regime, the SPSIC should not only be strict enough to protect Filipinos, but should also not become a barrier to trade. Otherwise, this would open the Philippines to trade disputes and complaints from its main trading partners at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Practice continued

A PERSON privy to matters concerning rice importation among local cooperatives explained that many of these groups do not have the capacity to import and were just “dummies” for Metro Manila-based traders.
Renato Cruz, not his real name, said there are over 20 cooperatives who import rice in his province. However, many of them not only lack the funds to import large volumes of rice, but also do not own warehouses that can be used to store their purchases.
Nonetheless, such practice is deemed within the law.
Cruz said that in order to “purchase” rice, they declare their warehouses as “leased” properties and not part of the assets of the cooperative. This “legality” allowed these cooperatives to import rice under the MAV importation of the NFA.
The farmer explained to the BusinessMirror that importing rice at the time of the MAV allowed cooperatives to earn substantially. Cruz further said that big traders in Metro Manila pay these farmers’ organizations, cooperatives and rice millers to earn P50 per bag of imported rice. The liberalization of the rice trade limited their earnings to around P3 per bag to P5 per bag. Despite the 90-percent to 94-percent decline in the payments they receive, Cruz said farmers continued the practice.
It’s better than nothing, he said. At least under this system, they are able to make P100,000. Before, under the MAV, they were able to earn millions from Manila traders, Cruz added.

The co-ops’ ironic role

ACCORDING to Cruz, the cooperatives did not even know who these traders are simply because they also operated through middlemen.
He said he has alerted the cooperatives for their role in the steep decline in rice prices: the very reason for the decline in their primary income, which is rice farming.
Cruz said traders are just using cooperatives because these groups enjoy privileges granted to them by government such as tax exemptions. He said no less than the governor begged cooperatives to stop importing any more rice.
Cruz added that cooperatives are also submitting legal documents to financiers who use these to continue enjoying the privileges meant for cooperatives. He said officials of cooperatives also issue these financiers a Special Power of Attorney.
Cruz said the cooperatives apparently only saw the income they could derive from such a scheme—and for them, whatever income that is, is enough, regardless of how much those big players who are using them are actually raking in.
After all, he said, many of the co-ops were able to pay bank loans, build offices and even warehouses. While he does not believe that the cooperatives bought farm equipment such as tractors, Cruz said he also knew of some officials and members of cooperatives who were able to buy new cars.
Further, Cruz said that despite the tons of imported rice being imported in the name of the cooperatives, only a small volume reach the province. Majority of their rice still come from local production.

Permit to import

ANOTHER source privy to rice importation, Ricardo Magsaysay (not his real name), said cooperatives have no financial capacity to import rice. He even received an offer to buy imported palay at P70 per sack to P100 per sack.
Magsaysay said currently there is an “over-inventory of rice” due to the decision of the DA to grant cooperatives a permit to import prior to the passage of the RTL law. While this has translated to lower rice prices, many wholesalers are also reaping the benefits of the RTL.
In his capacity as a businessman, he was only able to import a small amount of rice because he did not want to contend with low rice prices when it comes to commercial rice due to the “over-inventory of rice.”
Meanwhile, a farmer in Luzon who requested anonymity said that the RTL and big-ticket infrastructure projects being built in his province are displacing farmers and robbing them of a decent livelihood.
Arturo Pagkalinawan (not his real name) said that, with the harvest already small as it is and the price of unmilled rice very low, many farmers may eventually resort to other means to earn their keep.
Further, Pagkalinawan said farmers in his province are still unable to sell their palay or unmilled rice to traders and the government at this time. This was also a strong argument against any plans of the cooperatives in the province to import rice. This will be the cause of the “death” of their own local rice produce.
Pagkalinawan said the prevailing system in their province still involves traders buying palay from farmers. These traders are the ones who bring these products to the market. The problem now is that under the RTL, what the government did was to encourage the proliferation of middlemen, instead of removing them from the equation.
“For us farmers, there is no guarantee that we can still continue planting rice during the dry season because even in the wet season, we are not given any water allocation,” Pagkalinawan said in Filipino.

Edged out

PHILIPPINE Competition Commission (PCC) Chairman Arsenio M. Balisacan told the BusinessMirror there will likely be a large variation in the capacity of cooperatives, millers and other farmers organizations. This will affect their ability to import rice.
Rice importation, he said, has a “thin market” where there are only a few players and, more often than not, volumes matter. The bigger player will always have an advantage because it can bring down retail costs compared to smaller players who import in smaller quantities.
Balisacan, who was also an Agriculture Undersecretary for Policy and Planning prior to becoming head of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary, said evidence is key to proving the capacity and capability of these cooperatives and other organizations to import rice.
However, he said he has already heard allegations that some cooperatives are being used as dummies. However, there has never been any evidence proving this claim.
Balisacan said it is possible that the transaction between cooperatives, rice millers and other farmers’ organizations was purely a “business deal,” which was legal.

Required tariffs

IT could also not be a competition issue outright because evidence should be established that these business deals actually had a hand in reducing competition in a sector, in this case, the rice sector.
Asked whether some cooperatives could be dummies, Balisacan said in a mix of Filipino and English: “Yeah, well, we’ve heard that before but evidence is [something] I don’t have, not that I ask [for it] but it is possible that they were able to get an import quota and, since they are small, they don’t have the capacity to renew it themselves,” he said. “So they subcontract it to large firms who already are in business.”
In general, Balisacan said the RTL law aims to promote more competition where consumers and even producers benefit. As long as firms have the capability to pay the required tariffs, they can import rice from anywhere in the world.
The law also serves as a deterrent to firms or even cooperatives who intend to behave like a cartel or become a dominant player.
“Now, anybody [who wants] to import could import provided that the tariffs are paid. And that import could serve as competitive pressure on anyone who wants to behave like a cartel or a dominant player.”


RELIABLE government sources told the BusinessMirror that “four big groups” are into the dummy scheme of trading rice.
These are in Pangasinan, Bulacan, Pampanga and Mindoro.
BPI data analyzed by the BusinessMirror showed that Bulacan leads all provinces in terms of applied importation volume with 603,012.25 MT.
This was followed by Pampanga at 274,388.83 MT, Tarlac at 127,075 MT, Occidental Mindoro at 104,703 MT, and Pangasinan at 69,830 MT.
An import application by a farmer cooperative ranges from 50 MT to almost 70,000 MT. In terms of value, the BusinessMirror estimated this would be worth from P910,000 to P1.274 billion at a conservative average of $350 per MT.
Serrano said it is not surprising that rice-producing provinces are also the ones leading the list of rice importers since farmers in these areas are already well-organized.
“Farmers’ cooperatives are strong in production areas because they are the ones that are able to avail themselves of government assistance. In terms of resource and influence endowments, they are the ones that have the capability and power through their overlords,” he said.

Face sanctions

IF there are lapses in the system, particularly on how cooperatives conduct their daily routines, Tolentino said, this should be looked into and regulated by the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA).
Cruz said the local CDA in his province also threatened to impose sanctions on erring cooperatives, especially if they allow themselves to be used by unknown financiers. He said the CDA warned that if the cooperatives are found to have misdeclared their reports, they can be sanctioned.
In July, the CDA warned duly-registered cooperatives to take “extreme precautionary measures” in dealing with unscrupulous traders that are into illegal rice trade operations.
The CDA added that cooperatives that allow unscrupulous traders to use their documents for illegal rice importation or smuggling shall face sanctions under pertinent laws.
“All cooperatives engaging in rice importation are warned to take extreme precautionary measures not to be used by unscrupulous traders/importers in rice smuggling/illegal importation and other entities/persons to use cooperative documents such as Certificate of Registration and Permits including other acts not within the provision of RA 9520,” the CDA said in its public notice.
“Please be reminded that such violation of law shall neither be tolerated nor condoned. The public is hereby advised to report directly any knowledge pertaining thereto to the [CDA] for appropriate action,” it added.

Taxes, exemptions

BASED on Article 8 of the RA 9520, “No cooperative or method or act thereof which complies with this Code shall be deemed a conspiracy or combination in restraint of trade or an illegal monopoly, or an attempt to lessen competition or fix prices arbitrarily in violation of any laws of the Philippines.”
In terms of taxes and exemptions, RA 9520 provides that registered cooperatives that “do not transact any business with non-members or the general public shall not be subject to any taxes and fees imposed under the internal revenue laws and other tax laws.”
For cooperatives that do transact with non-members and the general public, RA 9520 provides that if cooperatives were able to accumulate “reserves and undivided net savings” of under P10 million, they will not be taxed. But if they have, they will be charged with income taxes, value-added tax and other taxes stated in the law.
However, cooperatives shall also be exempt from paying “all court and sheriff’s fees payable to the Philippine government for and in connection with all actions brought under this Code or where such actions is brought by the Authority before the court, to enforce the payment of obligations contracted in favor of the cooperative.”

Heavy price

SERRANO pointed out that it would be more difficult for the government to police the rice trade today since the industry has been deregulated.
For one, the NFA has been stripped of its powers to inspect warehouses and revoke licenses of erring rice industry stakeholders.
Serrano said the government, particularly the BPI, should do a detailed verification of the capacity of rice importers to ensure they are really a viable business for such venture.
“There should be an investigation over the track records of these cooperatives. Check for indicators of operational capabilities such as capitalization,” he said.
“If there is a disjoint between their capitalization and capacity, which could be proven by their books, they should be excluded from the importation,” he added.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, a former Presidential Adviser on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, said the government should exert more effort in enforcing its police powers to weed out dummy cooperatives.
Pangilinan said the government has all the tools and authority to conduct warehouse inspections and check the profile of current rice importers.

Enforce the law

PANGILINAN is recommending that government should “go after the dummies.”
“Enforce the law against those who are taking advantage of the law, going around the law. Manipulation has corresponding penalties especially those who do profiteering,” he told the BusinessMirror “Revoke their licenses and business permits. File charges against them.”
Pangilinan recalled the time when the government pressed charges against dummy cooperatives and traders in 2015 due to unscrupulous rice trade dealings. The NFA was then under Pangilinan’s office and attached to the Office of the President.
In 2015, the National Bureau of Investigation discovered that some farmers’ cooperatives participating in the NFA rice importation acted as dummies for unscrupulous rice traders.
The malpractice proliferated as traders wanted to corner bulk of the import volume and take advantage of cooperatives’ privileges such as tax exemption.
Further, the malpractice led to the hoarding of rice stocks since the traders were in control of the imported volume.

Opposed to safeguards

DOCUMENTS obtained by the BusinessMirror showed that some farmers’ cooperatives, which are rice importers as well, opposed the move of the DA to impose safeguard duties on imports last month.
During the DA’s preliminary safeguards investigation, eight entities—one rice miller and seven cooperatives—submitted a templated position paper expressing their opposition to the trade remedy.
All of the eight position papers were submitted on the same day, September 24, and contained exactly the same comments.
Five of the cooperatives are located in Pampanga, while one is in Mindoro and the other one in Bulacan. The rice miller is registered in Metro Manila.
Government sources told the BusinessMirror they were surprised when they received the position papers, with some saying it was “disheartening” to some extent.
“Why are these farmers’ cooperatives complaining about a measure that is aimed to protect them? So, the decline in farm-gate prices, due to higher imports, is a self-inflicted injury?” the person privy to the matter said.

Registered as importer

IN their position papers, the cooperatives and the rice miller argued that the imposition of safeguard duties would lead to “tightening of the supply of rice and spiraling of the prices of rice.”
Further, they argued that it would “encourage smuggling, as others declare rice as other commodity and with government losing billions of pesos in customs revenues.”
The BusinessMirror cross-checked the eight entities with publicly available BPI data and found out that all of them were registered with the agency as rice importers.
In fact, the seven cooperatives alone applied for a total import volume of 94,308.33 MT, which has an estimated value of at least $33 million (or over P1.7 billion) from March 5 to August 30.
As of October 4, BPI data showed that the seven cooperatives have imported already nearly 85,000 MT of rice, which is estimated to be worth $29.75 million or P1.547 billion.

Rice imports stifling Ghana's economy - Osafo-Maafo laments
Source: Ghana|| Ama Cromwell|
Date: 30-10-2019 Time: 03:10:16:pm
Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo-Maafo
The Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo-Maafo, has disclosed that Ghana spent $1.35 billion of its revenue to import rice in 2017.
Delivering a speech at the consultation forum on the ‘Ghana Beyond Aid for Northern Ghana in Tamale’ on Wednesday, the Minister stated that proceeds made from exports are used to import rice although the country was capable of cultivating and producing the crop.
“We have natural resources in abundance; we have arable land and favourable climate. Ghana has no business to be importing any food from anybody,” he stated.
”$1.35 billion of your hard foreign exchange for rice is unacceptable and there must be change and a change now,” he said.
The ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’ agenda envisioned by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is a complete package aimed at propelling Ghana to become a beacon of economic liberty in Africa by 2028.
The agenda details some notable aspirations for economic growth, industrialisation, governance, and many more.
The Senior Minister also added that Ghana has enough resources to develop on its own the reason President Akufo-Addo is advocating for a Ghana Beyond Aid.
“Ghana and Guinea alone control 80 per cent of the world’s bauxite and if well managed, this country could be the lead bauxite exporter in the world,” he stated.
The minister observed that in recent times people preferred imported rice, making it nearly impossible to ban rice imports.
Mr Osafo-Maafo said for ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’ agenda to be achieved in the agricultural sector, the country must adopt a programme of production to help support people in the agrarian sector.
“We have to establish initiatives to help those who do not have enough capital and provide them with seedlings and fertilizer” he stated.
Ghana Beyond Aid secretariat has begun consultations with Ghanaians on the President’s proposed Ghana Beyond Aid agenda.
The consultation is to seek the views and suggestions of Ghanaians and to clear questions people may have.
To that effect, a town hall meeting is being held in Tamale on Wednesday.  A session was held for academia on Tuesday at the University for Development Studies.

Nigeria's border crisis fuelled by rice

Description: A Nigerian man poses next to some rice in his shop at Ajara Market in Badagry, near Lagos, on 6 September 2019
Nigeria, one of Africa's superpowers, closed all its land borders two months ago to tackle smuggling - but the unprecedented move is affecting trade across the region.
Bustling borders have come to a standstill, with goods rotting and queues of lorries waiting at checkpoints in the hope the crossings will reopen.
The closures were imposed without warning on 21 August - and Nigeria's neighbours are angry.

What prompted the move?

Mainly rice. It seems Nigeria was fed up about the flouting of its ban on the importation of rice over its land borders.
Description: Nigerian jollof rice with fried chicken wings Image copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage captionNigerians' appetite for rice is insatiable - especially for the dish jollof rice
Smugglers bringing in rice from Benin appeared to be making a killing.
The biggest contraband route was between Cotonou, Benin's biggest city, and Nigeria's commercial hub Lagos, which is just a few hours' drive away.
According to the World Bank, Benin's economy is heavily reliant on the informal re-export and transit trade with Nigeria, which accounts for about 20% of its GDP, or national income.
And about 80% of imports into Benin are destined for Nigeria, the bank says.
Nigeria banned the importation of rice from Benin in 2004 and from all its neighbours in 2016, but that has not stopped the trade.

Why is rice so lucrative?

Nigeria is only allowing in foreign rice through its ports - where since 2013 it has imposed a tax of 70%.
The move is intended not only to raise revenue but also to encourage the local production of rice.
But smugglers have been taking advantage of the fact that it is cheaper to import rice to Nigeria's neighbours.
According to the Nigerian maritime site Ships and Ports, in 2014 Benin lowered its tariffs on rice imports from 35% to 7% while Cameroon erased it completely from 10%.

Rice import from Thailand (metric tonnes)

Source: Thai Rice Exporters Association
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Neighbouring Benin then recorded an astronomical rise in imports from Thailand, the world's second-largest producer.
At its height, each of Benin's 11.5 million citizens would have had to consume at least 150kg (330lb) of rice from Thailand alone.
So it seems pretty clear that the rice was making its way into Nigeria to meet the shortfall in local production for a country of almost 200 million people.
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And Nigerians' appetite for rice is almost insatiable in a country where the grain is a staple.
There was a time was when it was considered an elitist meal consumed only on Sundays. But now its affordability - plus the love for jollof rice - has made it a national dish.

Is it just about rice?

No. Benin is also a major corridor for second-hand cars to Nigeria, where there is a ban on importing cars that are more than 15 years old.
Description: Petrol from Nigeria being sold in Cotonou, Nigeria - archive shotImage copyrightAFPImage captionPetrol from Nigeria is cheap as it is subsidised - and is smuggled to Benin to be sold
Official figures are difficult to come by, but Luxembourg-based shipping company BIM e-solutions says an average of 10,000 cars arrive at the Cotonou port from Europe monthly.
According to the Nigeria Customs Service, many are smuggled across the border.
The authorities also want to tackle smugglers going the other way. Many sell cheap subsidised Nigerian petrol in neighbouring countries.
Description: Presentational white space
In July, the head of Nigeria's national petroleum company, Maikanti Baru, said petrol smugglers were taking about 10 million litres (two million gallons) out of the country each day.

How has West Africa been affected?

Many goods come in through the port of Lagos and are transported by road throughout the region by hundreds of thousands of lorries.
Nigeria's immediate neighbours Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon - as well as Ghana and Togo have been hit by the crisis.
Description: Map of countries surrounding Nigeria
Ghana's Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey said the country's traders had incurred huge losses because their goods had been detained for weeks at the Nigeria-Benin border.
She advised the Nigerian government to "find ways of isolating the issues and the countries that it has problems with, so that Ghana's exports can enter Nigeria's market without being lumped up with all these issues that have emerged".
In Benin, photographer Yanick Folly posted images of baskets of tomatoes, lined up and decaying near the border.
Description: Rotten tomatoesImage copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage captionPhotographer Yanick Folly posted images of tomotos rotting at the Benin
Benin's Agriculture Minister Gaston Dossouhoui described it as "a distressing sight" when he visited markets in the town of Grand Popo.
"It's very difficult for our producers. It's a disaster," he was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.
In an effort to mollify its powerful neighbour, Niger has since imposed its own ban on the exportation of rice to Nigeria.
But it is the border communities, where traders often criss-cross for market days, that are suffering.
BBC Hausa reporter Tchima Illa Issoufou in Niger said traders in two border towns she visited were unable to do business as most were not able to cross the border.
And a long line of lorries, most heavy with goods, stands at Maradi close to the border with Nigeria.

Is the move illegal?

The border closure goes against an agreement that guarantees free movement between the 15 members of the West African regional bloc Ecowas.
Description: Seme borderImage copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage captionThe Benin border is a popular crossing for Nigerians seeking second-hand cars
However it is legal for an Ecowas member state to restrict the importation of certain food and agricultural products - and in 2004 Benin and Nigeria agreed to ban 29 foreign products from being imported into Nigeria.
Yet Nigeria's actions have many questioning its commitment to the historic AfCFTA free-trade agreement, which it signed up to in July that lays the foundation for the creation of the world's largest free trade area and is intended to boost trade between African countries.
There are those who describe Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's protectionist attitude as "Trumpian".
But Kalu Aja, a financial analyst in Lagos, says the very fact that Mr Buhari signed AfCTA is proof that he is different from his US counterpart Donald Trump.
"Buhari is not being protectionist but seeking to protect the gains made in local agriculture, in rice especially," he told the BBC.
"Keep in mind the sea borders are still open, tariffs have not gone up. Trump cut taxes, then cut regulations then imposed tariffs on China, Canada etc."

How has Nigeria been affected?

In the southern state of Rivers, some traders at the rice depot section of the Mile 1 market in Port Harcourt have packed up and gone home.
Description: Rice shops that have closed in Port Harcourt, NigeriaImage captionThe market in Port Harcourt was popular for wholesalers and retailers of rice
They say the dramatic closure of the borders gave them no time to stock up.
And prices have gone up too. Foreign rice now sells for 60% more, while locally produced rice has increased by almost 100%.
But there has been the up side.
Nigeria customs chief Hameed Ali recently told MPs that tax revenues had gone up as cargo destined for Benin was now arriving at Nigerian ports.
One day in September, a record 9.2bn naira ($25m, £20m) was collected, which had "never happened before", he said.
"After the closure of the border and since then, we have maintained an average of about 4.7bn naira to 5.8bn naira on a daily basis, which is far more than we used to collect."

What happens next?

No-one knows. Nigeria has not said how long it will keep the borders shut to commercial traffic.
Description: Presidents Muhammadu Buhari and Patrice TalonImage copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage captionPresident Muhammadu Buhari (L) and his Beninois counterpart Patrice Talon (R) failed to resolve the impasse in August
In August, Benin's President Patrice Talon pleaded with Mr Buhari, on the sidelines of a summit in Japan, for the reopening saying: "Our people are suffering."
But Nigeria's customs boss has been quoted as saying the borders will remain closed, blaming neighbouring countries for not doing more to stamp out smuggling.
Some point to corruption at border points as the main culprit behind the smuggling, which implicates Nigerian officials as much as those of its neighbours.
However, as its crude oil exports are not being affected, Nigeria's borders might remain closed for a while.

Rice planters must get relief funds soon’


Description: in Palawan are preparing to plant rice in this file photo.
Rice planters will end the year on a happy note if lawmakers will immediately approve relief measures when Congress resumes session on Monday, according to the Action for Economic Reforms (AER).
The non-government organization said proposals that seek to provide relief to the “plagued” rice industry may be taken up at the plenary of both chambers of the legislature next week.
“If fate allows it, relief measures will be on their way to the rice farmers in time for the Christmas season,” AER said. While the implementation of the rice trade liberalization “caused disruption,” AER President Jessica Reyes-Cantos said this is expected in the short term.
“The best way to help our farmers improve their rice production is to make the [rice trade liberalization law] work. The various mechanisms —quality seeds distribution, training, and mechanization—and the funding provided from tariffs will improve productivity and competitiveness of farmers in the long run,” Cantos said in a statement.
“Returning to import controls, as Senator Villar and other legislators suggest, will again lead to complacency. The decades of quantitative restrictions [QR] did not actually protect our farmers; their productivity even declined. The QR regime only bred waste, inefficiency and corruption,” she added.
Cantos urged the government to immediately put in place a 2019 supplemental budget for conditional cash grants and palay procurement, and to allot funds for these until 2021.
She said government must allot funds for short-term social protection measures for farmers, such as cash assistance, until 2021.
Cantos said the government has sufficient fiscal space available to provide relief measures. Citing data from the Department of Finance (DOF), Cantos said tax effort stood at 14.7 percent in 2018, the highest since 1997. Data also showed that for the first semester of 2019, tax effort is at 5.6 percent.
Rolling out these fiscal measures will give farmers time to realize the gains of Republic Act (RA) 11203, according to AER.

‘Don’t wait’

Sen. Francis N. Pangilinan said government must not wait for one to two years before using safeguard duties as a trade remedy against the surge of imports.
“Anything that would help cushion the impact of imports on our rice farmers at this point should be put in place [immediately],” Pangilinan told the BusinessMirror in a recent interview.
Pangilinan is one of the first senators that called for slapping safeguard duties on rice imports after the farm-gate price of unhusked rice fell by an annualized rate of 30 percent.
He also said imposing safeguard duties will only be inflationary if the government will not be able to punish the cartels that are hoarding rice.
“They say if you increase the duties they would just pass it on. But the supply is already high and they are hoarding. The government should go after them [rather than forgoing safeguard duties],” said Pangilinan.
More imported rice were shipped to the Philippines after RA 11203 took effect on March 5. The law made it easier for traders to buy import rice by removing the QR on imports and transforming the National Food Authority into a buffer-stocking agency.
The National Economic and Development Authority said the law will add some 0.44 percentage points to GDP. The Neda based this on a 35-percent tariff rate on imports.
With a report by Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas

Border closure: Rice importers’ loss, farmers, millers’ gain


The current high cost of rice in the country has been traced to insufficient mill and supply deficit estimated at 4.79 million tonnes, reports BAYO AKOMOLAFE

Inadequate mills and insufficient local production estimated at 4.79 million tonnes in the country have affected the price of rice in the market.

The country needs some 8.30 million tonnes of the grains to meet consumer demand.

Currently, a bag of the local grains is sold between N19,000 and N23,500 per 50 kilogrammes bag instead of the projected N6,000  envisaged by the former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh.

Statistics revealed that the country depend on imports to support local consumption.

For instance, in 2012, the country’s ports took delivery of 2.8 million tonnes; 2013, 2.8 million tonnes and 3.5 million tonnes in 2014.

According to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the country spent about $2.41 billion on rice importation apart from those smuggled from the neighbouring countries between January, 2012 and May, 2015.

Government was forced to ban the grains importation from the land border in 2015.

However, despite the restriction in the last four years, findings revealed that the country had imported seven million tonnes of the grains from Thailand, Pakistan, India, United States and Vietnam owing to inadequate equipment, mills and high cost of producing the local grains.

Statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that the country imported 2.34 million tonnes in 2015; 2.3 million tonnes in 2016; while in 2017 it took delivery of 2.4 million tonnes and 2.2 million tonnes in 2018.


Regardless of the import restriction of the grains by the Federal Government, Nigerian markets are still filled with the grains.
Collectively, the local rice farmers are only able to   produce about four million tonnes per year.

Finding by New Telegraph revealed that the country needs additional 34.38 per cent or 2.51 million tonnes of the grains to meet domestic consumption estimated at 8.30 million tonnes.

It was further revealed that the country depends on 21 large integrated rice mills with a total processing capacity of 1.22 million tonnes yearly.

The mills are located in Kano, Enugu, Ebonyi, Kebbi, Anambra, Edo, Nasarawa, Benue, Kwara, Jigawa, Niger and Kogi states.


Trouble started in 2015 when the Federal Government imposed a ban on the commodity at the land border.

The ban sparked up massive smuggling of the grains to the country through the land borders of Seme, Idiroko, Calabar, Jibya and some creeks in Lagos and Calabar.

Levy on imported parboiled rice was raised from 40 per cent to 100 per cent in addition to the 10 per cent statutory duty at the port.

However, the levy died on arrival when  Benin Republic reduced its rice import duty from 35 per cent to 7 per cent to attract Nigerian rice merchants to patronise Cotonou Port, while Cameroon importers enjoy zero import duty per cent.


Findings by New Telegraph revealed that some rice merchants were forced to relocate to Benin where they enjoy low import tariff to ship the grains from Thailand and other major importers of the grains.

It was learnt that the Republic of Benin does not consume parboiled rice; 90 per cent of the imports are for Nigerian markets. Large volumes of the imports are shipped from Thailand, Pakistan, India, United States and Vietnam to Benin for transhipment to Nigeria.

For instance, parboiled rice from Thailand is sold at $421 (N151,568) per tonne or $21.05 (N7,578) per  50 kilogrammes at  a landing price as at October, 2019, as revealed by the Thai Rice Exporters Association (TREA).

It was learnt that the Beninioise Government had already licensed some Nigerian companies and several other rice merchants who are importing parboiled rice through Cotonou and Bollore port’s terminals.

It was also learnt that some Nigerian firms were given a mandate by the Benin authorities to import between 290 and 300,000 tonnes of parboiled and white rice each at 7 per cent tariff per annum.

Other small scale traders where licensed to imports 10,000 tonnes each.

In January, 2015, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) record revealed that some rice valued at N938.2 billion was seized from smugglers despite the grains restriction from the borders.

For instance, between January and August, 2015, N330.5 billion worth of the grains was intercepted by the service.  Also, NCS added that some rice valued at N597.7 billion was impounded from the various land borders in 2016.

Border closure

However, with the recent border closure since August, 2019, smugglers have been finding it difficult to move large grains out of the two Benin ports.

The Customs Comptroller General, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), said that since the commencement of the border closure only 21,071 bags of 50 kilogrammes of parboiled foreign rice were seized, while 317 suspected smugglers were arrested.

The Managing Director of Sceptre Consult, Mr. Jayeola Ayodele, while commending the government decision to ban the grains, said the Federal Government should have subsidised the price of the grains and supported local farmers so that consumers would not feel the impact of the ban.
Ayodele said that the insufficient of the grains was responsible for the high price of rice and other consumable goods in the market which could be averted if government had financial backing to consumers just like the fuel subsidy.

He added: “The Federal Government should have asked famers to sell the products at N5,000 for 50 kilogrammes bag and pay the farmers the balance of their cost of production before the ban was slammed. They can still do it if they have the interest of the masses in mind.”
The MD said that Kebbi and Ebonyi states, as well as multi

Gov’t plans to ban rice, poultry imports in 3 years – Minister
Source: Ghana|| Oswald Azumah|
Date: 31-10-2019 Time: 02:10:43:am
Rice importers would be ordered to cease their trade in three years if everything goes as planned, the Agric Minister has said.
The same applies to persons who import poultry products.
Dr. Owusu Afriyie-Akoto says the government is working fervently to “establish the local capacity” to meet demand.
Speaking on JoyNews’ PM Express programme on Wednesday, he said this should be completed in the next three years. After that, merchants would be expected to trade with local farmers.
Description: Owusu Afriyie-Akoto---
Dr. Afriyie-Akoto says the law gives him the power to approve food imports 
Currently, most of the rice consumed locally comes from overseas.
Deputy Trades Minister, Robert Ahomka Lindsay had previously said rice importation alone takes 82 per cent of all imports into the country.
This cost more than $1billion, almost two per cent of the country’s GDP in 2018.
This must stop, the Agric Minister says.
The government intends, with the help of its flagship planting for food and jobs programme, to increase the yield of farmers.
This, Dr. Afriyie-Akoto said should be achieved in three years, paving way for the order to stop imports.
He said this is not over-ambition, neither does it violate WTO protocol.
Planting for Food and Jobs 
The government has been selling fertilisers to farmers at subsidised rates as part of the planting for food and jobs programme.
The Minister says with 50 per cent government subsidy on fertilisers for smallholder farmers, a farmer who was previously producing three bags of rice per acre was now producing 10 bags.

This has massively increased jobs since more hands are needed to harvest the produce and process same for the market.
The Minister puts the figure of jobs created at 745,000 in 2017 but that number has gone up to 900,000; he says. 

Rice self-sufficiency level fell to 8-year low in 2018–report

Description: Top01 091219Different prices of rice are on display at a local store in San Andres, Manila.
The country’s rice self-sufficiency ratio (SSR) fell to an eight-year low in 2018, as more imports flowed into the Philippines to plug the shortfall in domestic production, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
The PSA said in its report published on Wednesday that the rice SSR of the Philippines fell to 86.17 percent last year, from 93.44 percent recorded in 2017.
“This means that 86.17 percent of the total supply of rice was sourced from the domestic production,” the PSA report read.
The PSA said rice SSR declined last year as domestic output shrank while the supply of imports went up.
The country’s corn SSR also fell to an all-time low last year, according to the PSA. In 2018, the corn SSR was at 88.43 percent, lower than the 94.34 percent in 2017.
“The drop in the SSRs of both commodities was attributed to the decreasing local production while there was a large increase in importation,” the PSA said.
The country’s palay output last year slid to 19.066 million metric tons from 19.276 MMT in 2017, PSA data showed. Also, total corn production in 2018 contracted by 1.8 percent to 7.771 MMT from the 2017 record of 7.914 MMT.
The PSA defines SSR as “the magnitude of production in relation to domestic utilization.” The SSR shows the extent to which a country’s supply of commodities is derived from its own domestic production.
“A ratio of less than 100 percent indicates inadequacy of food production to cope with the demand of the population; equal to 100 percent indicates that food production capacity of the sector is just enough to support the food needs of the population; ratio of greater than 100 percent indicates that domestic production is more than enough to support the domestic requirements,” the PSA said.
“The higher the ratio, the greater the self-sufficiency,” it added.
Due to the decline in local production, the country’s import dependency ratio for rice and corn rose last year. The IDR, the PSA said, “indicates the extent to which a country’s supply of commodities came from imports.”
“A high ratio implies greater dependency on importation,” it said.
The country’s rice IDR rose to 13.83 percent from its 2017 record of 6.56 percent, the PSA said. “This indicates that 13.83 percent of the country’s supply of rice came from imports.” “Likewise, importation of corn went up as it recorded an IDR of 11.57 percent in 2018,” it added.

Allow us import rice, Vietnamese government lobbies Nigeria

Description: Allow us import rice, Vietnamese government lobbies Nigeria
October 30
Vuong Dinh Hue, the Vietnamese deputy prime minister, has requested that his country be allowed to increase rice imports into Nigeria.
Speaking on Tuesday during a meeting with Adams Oshiomhole, chairman of the All Progressives Congress, the diplomat said his country would like to increase trade cooperation with Nigeria.
Soha, a Vietnamese news platform, quoted Vuong Dinh Hue as saying both countries have to strengthen their relations by cultural and sports exchanges.
Other agricultural items that the Vietnamese made a case for were cashew, seafood, leather shoes and textile.
Addressing journalists at the end of the meeting, Oshiomhole said he told the delegation that the government’s decision to restrict forex for rice importation will not be reversed.
“Nigerians should unanimously back the decision of the federal government to close the border until our neighbours try to respect the laws of fair and free trade. Nigeria must not and can’t be a dumping ground for imported food, imported rice and other smuggled chemicals and drugs from other countries,” he said.
“I think this is one policy that Nigerians across the party divide, across primordial sentiments, should salute the courage of President Muhammadu Buhari in closing down the borders.
“For too long, Nigeria has been a big brother to our neighbours. Now, that big brother is hurting and hurting very, very badly. We must secure ourselves as in the way you board an aircraft that if oxygen fails, and they drop the mask, you help yourself before helping others. This is the moment. We must close the borders even if we do it for two, three years, it doesn’t matter. So that our neighbours will begin to respect the rules of international engagement and trade.
“What has happened is that people relocate out of Nigeria, target Nigerian market, use our neighbours to compromise our own trade policies.”

Border closure: Nigeria rejects Vietnam’s rice importation plea By Francis Arinze Iloani | Published Date Oct 31, 2019 4:31 AM TwitterFacebookWhatsAppTelegram Deputy Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Vuong Dinh Hue The Federal Government (FG) has rejected plea by Vietnam that its rice should be allowed into Nigeria. Instead, the FG asked Vietnamese investors to build rice processing mills in Nigeria, given the country’s large arable lands and potentials in rice farming. ADVERTISEMENT Speaking at the Nigeria-Vietnam Trade and Investment Forum (NVTIF) in Abuja yesterday, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Sunday Akpan, told the gathering that Vietnam was among the top five rice producers in the world. ADVERTISEMENT OVER 5,000 NIGERIAN MEN HAVE OVERCOME POOR BEDROOM PERFORMANCE SYNDROME DUE TO THIS BRILLIANT DISCOVERY Akpan said Nigeria would welcome collaboration with Vietnamese government and investors in the area of building rice processing mills in Nigeria given their vast experience in rice production. The permanent secretary’s position appears to be a rejection of the appeal of the Vietnamese government that the Federal Government should allow it to export rice to Nigeria at discounted rates. The Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam, Vuong Dinh Hue, had on Tuesday made the appeal through the ruling APC when he led a five-man delegation to meet the Adams Description:
Oshiomshole-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the party. The appeal may not be unconnected with the biting effect of Nigeria’s recent border closure and ban on rice importation through the land borders. Rejecting the appeal, the APC Chairman, Oshiomhole, had told the visiting deputy prime minister that Nigeria would not accept such demand from Vietnam, advising the country to rather secure land and invest in rice production in Nigeria. Oshiomhole said, “If government allows importation of food, our youths will become idle; that will lead to unemployment. We want to promote food security. Rather than importing rice from Vietnam, your (Vietnam) farmers can take advantage of our arable land. We have to do that not only to protect farmers, but to tackle food security,” he said. The Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) President, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, in 2017, said the trade volume between the countries was $303.83m, out of which Nigeria’s export to Vietnam was $232.65m and imports from Vietnam was $71.18m.

Mending the cracks in the Benin-Nigeria trade relationship

Wednesday, October 30, 2019 10:49 am

*Photograph taken by Gerald Masila at the Seme-Krake border on 23rd October 2019
By David Luke and Gerald Masila
On 21 August this year, the Seme-Krake border between Nigeria and Benin was closed without prior notice. This was part of a broader crackdown by the Nigerian authorities to close all land borders between Nigeria and it’s neighbouring countries. Today, over two months later, the border remains closed, with vehicles piled up on either side. Border closures are all too familiar at Seme-Krake, but this is reportedly the longest closure in about forty years.
This mammoth closure reflects deep fractions in the cross-border trading system. The cracks at Seme-Krake are particularly deep since the border feeds the ECOWAS Abidjan-Lagos Corridor.
According to sources at the border, the main purpose of the closure is to put a stop to smuggling of contraband goods from Benin, which is compromising Nigeria’s agricultural policies, job creation, revenue collection and security.
The smuggling of rice is particularly contentious. In fact, rice is first on a long list of contraband goods issued by the Nigerian authorities. The country has invested significant resources in expanding rice production, but these efforts are undermined by smuggling from Benin. The rice entering is smuggled because it is not produced in Benin. It is sourced from outside the ECOWAS region and therefore does not meet the rules of origin requirements to qualify for duty-free treatment. Benin imports rice from outside ECOWAS at cheaper tariffs than Nigeria, and this rice enters Nigeria through unofficial routes and is then sold at below-market prices.
A single trip to the Seme-Krake border and surrounding trade routes is enough to verify that smuggling is a very real problem, that requires targeted treatment. The blanket closure of the border to all trade is, however, not the right medicine.
This is because, since the establishment of ECOWAS in 1975, the region has made significant strides in regional integration. The fifteen ECOWAS member countries have become one interdependent system. The Seme-Krake border closure thus has significant knock-on effects.
First, the border closure blocks the trade of every single good, not just contraband goods such as rice and frozen poultry. This is based on the ground that trucks entering Nigeria are not adhering to the ECOWAS Convention relating to inter-state road transit of goods, which requires all goods to be containerised and sealed at the point of origin until the final destination.
The Nigerian government has kept its seaports and airports open for non-contraband imports, as they are reported to have the scanning facilities necessary to inspect all imported goods. But this is not a realistic alternative for most traders. Key staple agricultural commodities such as maize, wheat and cassava, which qualify for duty-free status within ECOWAS, are therefore no longer being traded in either direction. This has negative ramifications for income generation and food security. It also calls into question the entire functioning of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS).
The visit to Seme-Krake verified that the majority of the backlog of trucks on the Benin side of the border are carrying goods that are non-contraband and not imported from outside of Benin. A female trader with 9 seized coconut trucks complained that her trade had been held up for two months, which has created huge unforeseen costs and unrecoverable losses.
Second, regional integration has facilitated the development of cross-border regional value chains. Much of the goods sourced from Benin are raw agricultural goods, some of which are used to feed Nigeria’s growing agro-processing industry. This means that the land border closure may in fact eventually defeat its main objective to support agro-industry and employment. Without agricultural goods crossing the border from Benin, the supply of inputs for agro-processing will be lower, resulting in higher costs of production. Taking the only option of re-routing to seaports or airports will similarly translate into higher costs of production for Nigerian industries.
Third, hard border infrastructure hides the strong and indestructible linkages and bonds between border communities on either side of Seme-Krake. This has given rise to a microeconomy that thrives on informal cross border trade. This trade is small-scale, fluid and not subject to official border crossing procedures. Unlike large consignments of formal trade, women moving with heavy loads of plantain and fabrics on their heads still cross the border. Yet, this is not without challenge. The time taken to cross the border has more than doubled, and harassment by customs officials has increased significantly. Rolling out the recently piloted ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card to all cross border communities would help to identify traders originating close to the borders, who may not have passports or other official means of identification.
Fourth, Nigeria holds the title of the biggest supplier of traded goods along the Abidjan-Lagos corridor. The closure of the Seme-Krake border has cut off the origin and supply of many semi-processed and manufactured products to cross-border markets in Benin, Togo, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), African Export-Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK) and Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) are currently carrying out a pilot informal cross border trade data collection exercise along the corridor.
Border communities and customs officials engaged in the process speak to the significant impact the Seme-Krake border closure is having on volumes and prices of goods traded both informally and formally along the corridor. Some referred to this as a “chain effect” resulting from the interconnectedness of ECOWAS economies. If Nigeria’s land borders are not re-opened soon, it’s neighbouring countries may look to alternative suppliers to fill the current gaps created by the closure. If this happens, even when the border reopens, it may be too late for Nigerian suppliers to regain their market share. This would certainly be a big shot in the foot.
If a blanket closure of the Seme-Krake border is not the correct medicine to mend the cracks in the Benin-Nigeria trade relationship, what is the appropriate remedy? Smuggling along unofficial trade routes has significantly reduced, but as highlighted in this article, this has not been at a small cost.
Instead, the main complaint of smuggling must be tackled through specific and targeted measures. The Nigerian government are urging Benin to sign an agreement that commits the country not to import goods that are outwardly smuggled. However, effective enforcement of such an agreement would require the deployment of security forces from both countries along the entire length of the porous border. This would be a worthwhile exercise, but not a cheap one. A more cost-effective treatment and one in the spirit of furthering regional integration would be to fully-implement the ECOWAS Common External Tariff that officially entered into force in 2015. This would mean that all externally imported goods would face the same tariff in Benin and Nigeria. This would go a long way to eliminating the unfair price differentials which currently incentivise smuggling. At the same time, governments must continue to invest heavily in transforming agriculture with a view to boosting local production and competitiveness. This will remove the need to resort to trade policy measures to remain competitive.
Finally, the cracks at the Seme-Krake border have surfaced due to much deeper cracks in the implementation of ECOWAS trade policy. For effective functioning of the ETLS, the Nigerian and Beninois customs authorities must cooperate to enforce the ETLS, including through joint operations at the border. If the start of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), from 1st July 2020 is to work, strong political commitment and reliable institutional arrangements to keep the continent’s 107 land borders open will be critical.

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Meeting with Iraqi Ministry of Trade Yields Fruitful Discussion  

ARLINGTON, VA -- Yesterday, USA Rice hosted eight officials from Iraq's Ministry of Trade for a presentation on the quality and reliability of U.S. rice.  After discussing this year's crop, the officials asked questions about available aromatic varieties in the U.S., ways to conduct sampling that are more consistent with U.S. methods, and common fumigation practices.  USA Rice also raised the issue again of reintroducing bulk rice shipments to Iraq as a way of facilitating greater participation by U.S. exporters.

"This is the second time that USA Rice has hosted Iraq's Ministry of Trade in the past two months and we look forward to additional visits so that we can continue to strengthen trade with one of our top export markets," said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward.
Over the past six months, 180,000 MT of U.S. rice has been sold to Iraq.

The delegation will be in the U.S. for nearly three weeks as part of the Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program.  In addition to learning about U.S. agricultural commodities, they will review the benefits of open trade regimes and examine global standard practices of administering trade policy.


USA Rice Daily

Customs intercepts expired rice, other contraband worth N1.7b in Rivers

 in NewsNews Update
Description: Customs intercepts expired rice, other contraband worth N1.7b in Rivers

By Jane Chijioke

The Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali on Wednesday said the Area II Command, Onne Port, Rivers State, has intercepted another batch of expired rice and other contraband valued at N1.7 billion.
Among the items seized are  20 container of tomatoe pastes with a total Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N272,261,026.69;  10 containers of vegetable Oil with DPV of N58,380,528.00;  34 containers of roofing tiles amounted to the sum of N505,687,096.00;  11 containers of expired rice totaling the sum of N102,352,800.00;  1 container of machetes with a total DPV of N36,347,786.00;  9 containers of expired vegetable oil and jam worth the sum of N117,614,232.00;  1 container of expired baby wipes with a total DPV of N9,041,714.00 and 1 container of scrap metal amounting to the sum of N6,043,780.00.
It has recorded a total seizure of 87 containers with Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N1, 107,728, 944.69.
He said the seizure has been in furtherance to prevent the importation of harmful and prohibited items into the country, and were all in line with the provisions of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) CAP C45 LFN 2004, Sections 46 and 161.
Alli told reporters that the ongoing partial closure of land borders across the country has increased smugglers activities who now use the seaports.
“Let me reiterate our concern and determination to do all it takes to protect the wellbeing and safety of all citizens and residents by preventing the devastating effect of these hazardous importation and smuggled items. They endanger our lives as Nigerians hence will not be allowed to find their ways into the markets.
“As a responsible Agency, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) will not disappoint on its mandate of enforcing compliance by maintaining zero tolerance to smuggling activities, irrespective of whoever is involved and under whatever circumstance.
“Let me assure you that a thorough investigation will be conducted with a view to bringing all connected to justice.
“We shall continue to apply stringent sanctions on any act capable of compromising our efforts towards achieving better efficiency in the discharge of our mandate.”
The comptroller-general commended the Area II Command, Onne Port for its effort to curb smuggled and harmful items as well as its revenue collection of N89,754,878,264.18  since January.

India Grain: Spot wheat up on low arrivals; maize dn on weak demand

Wednesday, Oct 30

By Sampad Nandy

NEW DELHI – Prices of mill-quality wheat rose today in the spot markets due to low arrivals and firm demand from flour millers, as normal trade resumed today post Diwali, traders said. 

Today wheat arrivals in Indore were pegged at 300 bags (1 bag = 100 kg), down from 500 bags on Thursday, traders said. In Kota, arrivals were pegged at 20 tn compared with 28-30 tn on Thursday, they said. Arrivals were subdued between Friday and Tuesday due to Diwali.    

Prices of the grain are seen falling in the near term as they have crossed the base price in the government's weekly auction scheme at most mandis, traders said.

For Oct-Dec, the government has set a base price for wheat at 2,190 rupees per 100 kg in non-wheat producing states under its open market sale scheme. The price will be hiked by 55 rupees every quarter in the current financial year.

Futures contracts of wheat, however, ended steady today on the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange as an anticipated decline in demand from bulk buyers offset firm spot cues, traders said. The November contract ended at 2,150 rupees per 100 kg.

Prices of maize across key spot markets fell today due to a decline in demand from bulk buyers, traders said. However, weak arrivals limited the fall in prices, they said. 

In most key spot markets, maize arrivals were lower as supply was disrupted due to continuous rainfall in parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka, traders said. In Nizamabad, farmers did not bring the fresh crop to markets due to low demand for poor quality crop, they said. 

Arrivals in Nizamabad were pegged at 300 bags (1 bag = 100 kg), down 500 bags from Tuesday.

Demand for the new crop is seen weak in the coming days as fresh arrivals are of poor quality due to high moisture content of 25-30%, against the acceptable limit of 13-14%, Davangere-based trader Shiv Kumar said. 

Prices of Pusa 1121 basmati paddy fell today due to low demand from rice millers and higher arrivals, traders said. The new crop has started arriving in some parts of Haryana and Punjab in full swing, Amritsar-based trader Ashok Sethi said. 

The November 1121 basmati paddy futures contract on the Indian Commodity Exchange fell nearly 2% to 3,275 rupees per 100 kg. Futures contracts fell today tailing spot cues, traders said.

Following are today's prices of wheat, maize, and paddy, in rupees per 100 kg, in key wholesale markets, and the change from the previous day: 

Pusa 1121 basmati paddy


Edited by Maheswaran Parameswaran

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Border closure: Nigerians consuming expired rice —Customs boss

Published October 30, 2019
Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service, Hameed Ali
Chukwudi Akasike, Port Harcourt
The Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) has said that Nigerians consuming foreign rice were eating an expired product that was only polished and re-bagged
Ali also said that the closure of the nation’s border would attract long term gains, which requires Nigerians to make sacrifices.
He made these remarks on Wednesday during his inspection tour of Area I Command, Port Harcourt and Area II Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Onne.
Ali said the security outfit must reach out to Nigerians through the media and make them realise the ”deadly” effect of what they were consuming.
Ali pointed out that the aim of the smugglers of foreign rice and other banned products was to bring the country to her knees, adding that the Customs will continue to maintain zero tolerance for smuggling.
He said, ”We are consuming expired foreign rice and when it causes cancer, we begin to look for who to blame. What they do is that they polish the rice, re-bag them for unsuspecting consumers. That is what we eat.
”We (Nigeria Customs Service) must reach out to Nigerians through the media and make them know the deadly effect of what they are consuming.”
On the closure of Nigeria’s border, Ali stated that the country would be able to realise its deficiencies and tackle them once and for all, adding that Nigerians must make sacrifices for the nation’s industries to grow.

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Retired Abuja based Pharmacist Reveals a Natural Healing Formula That Completely Reverse Hypertension & Lower Blood Pressure. Click Here

Nigerian Navy impounds 1221 bags smuggled rice, arrests seven suspects in Calabar ON OCTOBER 30, 20192:32 PMIN NEWSBY LAWAL SHERIFAT FacebookTwitterEmailWhatsAppPinterestShare By Emmanuel Una – Calabar A giant wooden boat laden with one thousand two hundred and twenty-one bags of  foreign parboiled rice  smuggled into the country has been impounded by Nigerian Navy Ship, Victory in Calabar The snuggled rice along with seven suspected crew members was on Wednesday handed over to Nigerian Customs Service Anti Snuggling Taskforce for further investigation and prosecution.

Genetically Engineered Golden Rice: A Silver Bullet that Misses the Target

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 Stones 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, EthiopiaSomalia 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.
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Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former social policy researcher based in the UK and India.