Wednesday, November 20, 2019

20th November,2019 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter


Brand loyalty drives demand for imported goods in Pakistan

Published: November 18, 2019
Description: PHOTO: REUTERS
ISLAMABAD: External deficits are coming down. After the current account and trade deficits were cut by $6.3 billion (31.6%) and $5.76 billion (15.3%) respectively in FY19, the contraction continues into the current financial year (FY20).
In the first quarter (Jul-Sept), the trade imbalance came down to $5.7 billion compared with $8.7 billion in the corresponding period of FY19, down a substantial 34.8%. Likewise, the current account deficit narrowed $2.7 billion or 64.3% year-on-year.
In FY19, the fall in trade deficit was exclusively on account of decrease in imports as exports remained stagnant. In FY20 (Jul-Sept) as well, imports declined 20.6% while exports registered only 2.7% growth.
If the first-quarter trend continues, FY20 is likely to end up with $23.6 billion in exports, $43.5 billion in imports and $20 billion in trade deficit. However, this is a very rough projection, because it is based on the unwarranted premise that key independent variables relating to both exports and imports will remain substantially the same.
For example, if the economic growth in major export markets, notably China and the United States, slows down, or in case the Chinese currency depreciates further, or world oil prices go up due to volatility in the Middle East, the overall trade deficit at the end of FY20 will be much higher.
Description: Chart 1
It is, however, almost certain that the external deficit size on June 30, 2020 will in large part be a function of imports rather than exports. This is hardly surprising as stabilisation policies put brakes on economic growth and are thus inherently biased towards import compression rather than export expansion.
Paradoxically, however, the stabilisation policies may also end up increasing imports by reducing the domestic output. At any rate, Pakistan’s import-to-GDP ratio is 19% compared with the export-to-GDP ratio of 8%.
A popular view links the large import bill to the high propensity to buy foreign goods. Therefore, it is argued that if each Pakistani shuns foreign products and buys only locally made goods for at least three months, it will set the stage for putting the balance of payments position back on track.
Let’s assume this view is valid. There are two ways in which imports can be slashed. One, the government may restrict imports through administrative steps ranging from imposing high customs or regulatory duties to clamping outright prohibition on imports.
However, in view of the country’s commitments arising out of legally binding multilateral and bilateral international agreements, only a limited policy space is available to the government to scale down imports.
Restrictive measures may force the country’s trading partners to retaliate by subjecting its exports to a similar treatment. The result will be a zero-sum game.
Consumer needs
While the government may have its hands tied, the citizens are free to choose. No international agreement compels private individuals to prefer foreign over domestically produced goods.
But then why do people spend billions of dollars on foreign goods each year? The answer is that buying foreign or local products is largely a question of consumer needs and wants.
Imports represent the difference between domestic demand and domestic output (minus exports). The wider the gap, the higher is the import volume. All else equal, high imports are undergirded by low or inefficient productivity.
Pakistan is among those countries which have a very narrow production or manufacturing base. We are essentially a producer of primary products such as wheat, cotton, sugarcane and rice, and low value-added manufactures such as textile, sugar and leather articles, which are derived from these primary products.
A wide range of products that the country’s households, businesses and factories consume are either not manufactured locally at all or are produced in relatively small quantities or on a low quality scale. Such products include oil and gas, chemicals and fertilisers, pharmaceuticals, iron and steel, machinery and electronic equipment, vehicles, consumer durables and aircraft. In case we don’t import these products, our factories will be forced to shut down and households will be deprived of a decent living.
Domestic supply-side constraints are well brought out by the net imports (difference between exports and imports). Pakistan is an agro-based economy but still it is a net food-importing country to the tune of $1.1 billion annually.
Rice is the only crop which is consistently produced in surplus. Net imports in case of other product groups in FY19 were as follows: petroleum group ($14 billion), machinery ($8.7 billion), chemicals and pharmaceuticals ($7.6 billion), metals ($4.5 billion) and transport group ($3.1 billion).
The only product group in which we have net exports is textile ($10 billion). However, despite being the world’s fourth largest cotton producer, Pakistan imports cotton as the local produce is not deemed of export quality.
Since the performance of the entire textile value chain depends in large measure on cotton quality, the exporting enterprises prefer to use imported cotton. In FY19, $936 million worth of cotton was imported.
Not only that, over the years cotton output has declined because of shrinking area on which the crop is cultivated. In FY19, only 9.9 million bales of cotton were produced compared with 11.9 million bales in FY18 as area under cultivation shrank from 2.7 million hectares to 2.4 million hectares.
Even in industries where we have sufficient productive capacity, the efficiency of the production process and the quality of products are below the mark.
Utility maximisation
Customers, whether they are households buying for consumption or industrial users purchasing for producing goods and services, want the best value for their hard-earned money. While making purchase decisions, they are guided by the utility maximisation rule, that is to say, within their budget constraints, they will buy that basket of goods and services which, they believe, gives them the highest possible satisfaction.
While satisfaction is subjective and consumers may look for different product characteristics in terms of colour, taste, size, weight and texture, consumer behaviour is not all that arbitrary.
While shopping, the customers have some expectations from the manufacturers or suppliers in terms of product reliability, performance, safety, conformity to standards and after-sales service. No one expects their new refrigerator, no matter of which brand, to go kaput when the mercury rises.
When fulfilled, the expectations create brand loyalty. The principal reason for preference for foreign brands is that there are few local brands which command customer loyalty. Of the food items that Pakistan imported in FY19, palm oil had the largest share ($1.84 billion) followed by tea ($572 million) and pulses ($506 million). The consumption of tea and pulses is part of our culture and it is difficult to significantly bring down their imports.
As for palm oil, its import reflects preference for processed fruit, which uses it as an ingredient. Pakistan does not produce palm oil while only a limited amount of tea crop is grown in the country. Likewise, pulses are cultivated on less than 5% of the crop area.
Together with rice, they constitute the staple food for the low-income households. Thus, it is only by shoring up the productive capacity of the economy and developing credible local brands that dependence on foreign products can be shed.
The writer is an Islamabad-based columnist
Published in The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2019.



Rice millers prolong closure till Friday as stand-off with paddy growers continues in Shahdadkot

The Newspaper's CorrespondentUpdated November 20, 2019


Description: PADDY growers protest outside Qambar-Shahdadkot DC’s office on Tuesday against closure of rice mills.—Saeed Memon
PADDY growers protest outside Qambar-Shahdadkot DC’s office on Tuesday against closure of rice mills.—Saeed Memon

LARKANA: The stand-off between rice millers and paddy growers over cuts in weightage of crop consignments prolonged on Tuesday when former announced that they would keep their mills closed till Friday. Growers also vowed to intensify their protest by staging sit-ins outside the Qambar-Shahdadkot deputy commissioner’s office over the next three days and hold a march up to the Sindh Assembly building if the issue remained unresolved by Friday.
Owners of close to 100 rice mills in the district abruptly shut down their establishments on Monday when Sub-Divisional Magistrate Sajjad Haider Qadri and DSP Yar Mohammed Rind along with a police team arrived in the Anaj Mandi — a major paddy trading market in Sindh — to ensure compliance of the agreement between the two sides on doing away with applying cuts on weightage of consignment.
Some millers were found violating the agreement and were asked by the SDM to mend their ways which irritated millers. Their association announced closure of their mills in protest against official monitoring of the trading.
Paddy growers blocked the roads leading to Shahdadkot with their crop-laden vehicles for many hours over millers’ attitude but were persuaded by the district administration to end their protest in the evening.
On Tuesday several hundred paddy growers assembled at Koto-Moto Chowk in Shahdadkot to demand resumption of the trade and compliance of the agreement.
The protesters riding different vehicles later moved to Qambar, some 30 kilometres away from Shahdadkot, in a big procession and reached the town’s by-pass, where growers from Qambar also joined them.
The joint rally proceeded to the deputy commissioner’s office, where a sit-in was held.
Sindh Abadgar Board general secretary Abdul Khalik Khoso, Khalid Umar Khoso, Gaibi Khan Mugheri, Shehri Ittehad president Abdul Wahab Pandrani and other leaders of growers’ organisations, including those from Gandakha (Balochistan), spoke to the protesters and endorsed their demand.
SDM Qadri and Additional Deputy Commissioner-I (ADC-I) Amir Ali Mirani held negotiations with their leaders but could not convince them to end their sit-in. DC Jawed Ahmed Jagirani then joined in the talks and asked them to suspend their protest till Friday. He told growers’ leaders that he had talked to the agriculture secretary on the issue and requested him to issue notices to paddy buyers through the market committee in order to stop the illegal cuts. Notices were also being issued to millers in this regard, he added.
The DC said that if they [traders] did not adhere to the administration’s orders, action against them would be initiated in accordance with the relevant law.
After the DC’s assurance, the protesters ended the sit-in.
Later, speaking to local reporters, growers’ leaders criticised the indifferent attitude of the elected representatives from the area who, according to them, would always turn to them for votes but were found nowhere at the time of need.
A good number of women activists belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) led by Naheed Khuhawar also joined the protest.
Speaking to local reporters on Tuesday, rice miller’s representative Manzoor Chandio declared that the mills would remain closed till Friday in protest against interference by the district administration in trading at Anaj Mandi.
Daily wage earners and other labourers associated with the business and employed at the mills appeared to be the worst-hit segment due to the stand-off.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2019
Description: Farmers protest against rice millers, demand fair price for paddy in Badin0


Don't let rice and salt to follow the path of onion
Wednesday, November 20, 2019

PRICES of rice have been increasing. This is happening at a time when people are trying hard to absorb tremendous shock following the abnormal price hike of onion. Like the onions, the millers earlier had claimed surplus of rice and demanded cash incentives to export their product; whereas now prices of rice are climbing upward showing lack of reserve. Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) data shows that depending on quality, retail prices of the cereal rose between 4 percent and 10 percent a kg in Dhaka city since November 10 -- that means Tk 2 to Tk 6 rise per kg. What's significant is that rice prices started rising when farmers are harvesting the second biggest paddy crop, Aman. Farmers produced 1.40 crore tonnes of the crop last year and they hope 1.94 crore tonnes of Boro paddy this year. The price of a 50kg sack of rice rose by Tk 300 in Dinajpur, a major rice growing district. Interestingly, the rice prices had started falling since October last year due to surplus production. Like the millers, the farmers had also been protesting for not getting fair price. But what has happened just with a few days that rice becomes pricier!  
When we were preparing this article last evening, at that time thousands of people were thronging to shops across the country to get a pack of salt following a rumour of price hike. Though the government urged all not to get confused, saying the current salt reserve is much more than the country needs, the frightened consumers didn't pay heed to it. We don't blame the consumers for not keeping trust on the government. If we say truly, the people don't believe in on government's statement anymore, as they have already been cheated with spending extra money for the onions. Despite huge reserve, the government failed to monitor market properly and for that reason the hoarders stockpiled the necessary kitchen item to get extra money. Now they are dumping rotten onions in the canals and other places.
It's clear; the authorities have lost control of the market. Like the onions, if the same thing happens for rice and salt, it will be very tough for the government to tackle the situation.


Haryana cracks down on rice millers over ‘bogus’ purchase

Nov 20, 2019, 6:55 AM; last updated: Nov 20, 2019, 1:57 PM (IST)


Description: Haryana cracks down on rice millers over ‘bogus’ purchase
The authorities in Karnal, Kurukshetra, Ambala and Kaithal, the districts with the largest number of rice millers, have started keeping a close vigil on millers since Monday night to ensure that no stocks of paddy or rice comes out of or goes into the mills till a physical verification of the stock on their premises is completed.
Sushil Manav
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, November 19
A day after complaints of bogus procurement of paddy with the connivance of rice millers, traders and government officials cropped up at the Cabinet meeting, the authorities have launched a crackdown on the millers.
The authorities in Karnal, Kurukshetra, Ambala and Kaithal, the districts with the largest number of rice millers, have started keeping a close vigil on millers since Monday night to ensure that no stocks of paddy or rice comes out of or goes into the mills till a physical verification of the stock on their premises is completed.
In Karnal, Deputy Commissioner Vinay Pratap Singh confirmed having recovered PDS rice from some millers, though he didn’t elaborate its exact quality since the counting was still in progress. “Nearly 130 mills have been checked since last evening. We will do physical verification of all mills,” he added.
Kurukshetra DC SS Phulia informed The Tribune that 20 teams comprising officials of the Food, Civil Supplies and Consumers Affairs Department, Haryana State Agriculture Marketing Board, civil administration and a representative of the association of rice millers have been constituted to conduct the physical verification.This exercise would take four to five days, he added. Ambala DC Ashok Kumar Sharma also confirmed that the exercise has been started with the help of the police.
Virender Kumar, District Food and Supplies Controller in Kaithal, said a round-the-clock vigil was being kept to ensure that nothing comes out of the mills and nothing goes in till the verification was completed.
Sources said that 416 mills in Karnal district, 238 mills in Kurukshetra and 192 in Kaithal district besides some more in some other districts were on the radar of the government with complaints that they had siphoned off money from the state exchequer by ‘bogus’ procurement of paddy for custom milling of rice (CMR).
The complaints said the purchase was on paper alone so that the millers could supply rice (generally PDS rice) purchased from other states on lower rates when they have to deliver rice to the government.
Pankaj Agarwal, Director General of Food, Civil 
Supplies and ConsumersAffairs Department, Haryana, confirmed that action had been initiated upon receiving directions from the government after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.
“A meeting of the department was held today under the Additional Chief Secretary SN Roy where it was decided to constitute teams for conducting physical verification of the entire stock of rice millers across the state,” said Agarwal.
Sources said the issue was taken up by the Cabinet yesterday at the instance of Dushyant Chautala, Deputy Chief Minister, Haryana, who also has the portfolio of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumers Affairs.
“I will divulge the details of the complaint and the action contemplated by the government only at an appropriate time. But I will like to ensure everyone that if any matter of corruption comes to my notice, I will not let the guilty get away with it,” Chautala said when contacted by The Tribune.
Even last year, a scam involving ‘bogus’ procurement of paddy for ‘pushing’ PDS rice bought from eastern states was unearthed in Haryana when 1.25 lakh bags of rice were recovered from one miller and sacks of rice meant for the poor and bearing the mark of the Bihar State Food and Supplies Department were recovered during a raid at a rice mill in Karnal. 
Mills under lens
416 Karnal
238 K’shetra
192 Kaithal


How long will Delhi gasp for breath?

Published: November 20, 2019 2:30:54 AM

The Kharif paddy crop sowing cannot be advanced—the existing Preservation of Subsoil Water Act in Punjab and Haryana can’t be relaxed because of a fast depleting water table (studies say it is reducing at 0.3 to 1 metre/year). So we need technological alternatives to stubble burning.

Description: Delhi, Delhi pollution, Delhi pollution news,  Delhi pollution news, Diwali, stubble burning
Scientists working in this field, environmentalists, farmers’ organisations and agricultural economists have suggested responsible solutions. (ANI)
By Arabinda K Padhee
& ML Jat
Delhi is considered one of the most polluted cities in the world. Air pollution is caused due to rising number of vehicles, industrial pollution, construction activities and a lessening green cover not commensurate with rapid urbanisation. Air quality from mid-October to mid-November is worst, often slipping from severe to hazardous category. A major reason ascribed to poor air quality is stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and parts of UP. The situation gets compounded by lighting of firecrackers on Diwali. Regulatory actions in Delhi (odd-even scheme) or cajoling farmers through sops (or drastic actions) have not proved successful. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) and State Pollution Control Boards have issued several directions to states to control stubble burning, but without noticeable outcomes.
Are there no solutions to tackle stubble burning? Scientists working in this field, environmentalists, farmers’ organisations and agricultural economists have suggested responsible solutions. The authors have first-hand experience in the field; they interacted with scientists, policymakers, farmers adopting prescribed technological solutions, and analysed the body of ‘limited’ literature on the subject in the past few years. Based on these, an actionable framework, in short and medium to long term, is suggested that needs political will and cooperation of all the stakeholders, mainly the farming community.
How did the problem start?
Earlier, farmers of Punjab and Haryana used to grow three crops in a year: short-duration paddy (termed Sathi) in May that was harvested by mid-July; during Kharif (rainy season), farmers would go for late-sown high-yielding paddy, for which free irrigation and procurement by government agencies were favourable (few farmers started cultivating Basmati rice during this season); and after harvest of Kharif paddy, high-yielding varieties of wheat were grown in the winter. Cultivation of Sathi was possible because of plenty shallow groundwater to irrigate the water-guzzling crop even during peak summer. But unsustainable cropping practices led to a steep decline in water table, prompting both Punjab and Haryana to enact laws to ban early transplanting of paddy. As per law, paddy nurseries can only be started from May 10 and transplanting from June 13 in Punjab (dates for Haryana are May 15 and June 15, respectively).
These fixed dates led to delayed harvest of the crop to October, a time when farmers are supposed to prepare land for wheat. Although tech solutions are available, farmers take the easiest option to clear the fields, by burning the stubble/residue. And then there are other factors—increased straw production surpassing the demand of fodder, drastic decline in agricultural workforce (labour) and increased mechanised harvesting operations.
What are the solutions?
The Kharif paddy crop sowing cannot be advanced—the existing Preservation of Subsoil Water Act in Punjab and Haryana can’t be relaxed because of a fast depleting water table (studies say it is reducing at 0.3 to 1 metre/year). So we need technological alternatives to stubble burning.
Short-term solutions: Happy seeder is a tractor-mounted machine that sows (wheat) seeds without the need to till the field or remove existing paddy straw. The remains of rice crop residue act as mulch, conserving soil moisture and improving soil health. Research shows such climate-smart practices lead to reduced carbon dioxide emissions, enhanced micro-biome activities in the soil, and less weed infestation. Happy seeder and implements like straw-spreader or straw management system (SMS) have been field tested. Governments (Union and states) have encouraged farmers with subsidies to adopt these. The usage of happy seeders has incrementally gone up, but hasn’t caught up fast enough to make a perceptible dent on stubble burning. The cost of machines (`1.5 lakh and above) is often cited as a reason for low adoption. Business models with lead farmers, farmers’ cooperatives and service providers through custom-hiring centres have to be developed to provide machinery on demand. Massive awareness campaigns and capacity-building activities need to be undertaken for all the stakeholders. Initially, subsidies on machines may be raised and farm cooperatives and specialised start-ups may be encouraged to operate custom-hiring centres. Gram Panchayats may also be made responsible to take up such activities. Banks and financial institutions should provide capital assistance to desirous individuals/groups.
Machinery would displace manual labour. It could, therefore, be suggested to engage agricultural labourers in the collection of paddy straws for production of manure and other purposes. Wages of these labourers could be met from the MGNREGA funds by Panchayati Raj institutions. This will generate employment.
A new cadre of trained human resource would be needed to provide technical know-how to farmers. For this, attracting youth in agriculture would greatly help.
Till kharif paddy is substituted with other crops, cultivation of short-duration rice varieties suited for direct-seeded-rice (DSR) method coupled with micro-irrigation could be tried as an alternative. DSR paddy takes less time for establishment and there is no transplanting shock to the plant. This method may significantly save irrigation water and advance the growing season (as no transplanting is done). This would widen the gap between paddy harvest and wheat sowing, thus potentially reducing burning problem.
Baling of straw by suitable machines can clear the field for next sowing, and scientific binding of straw can be employed to address fodder scarcity in nearby areas.
Adoption of zero-tillage farming for crop residue management has been advocated by ICAR and CIMMYT. Zero-tillage using happy seeder alone has the potential to solve half of the residue burning issues. It reduces GHG emissions, and also ensures remunerative income to farmers.
Medium to long-term solutions: Phasing out current subsidies provided on piecemeal basis and transitioning towards a holistic farming approach through provisioning of payments for ecosystem services will provide farmers better opportunities to take wise decisions in accordance to their local circumstance. In addition to conservation agriculture, high-value crops like fruits, vegetables, maize, soybean, etc, could be replaced in stubble burning areas. Climate-resilient crops like sorghum and millet (nutri-cereals) could be planned.
Processing infrastructure to support a vibrant value chain linking to the market would, however, be needed. Also, making pellets/briquettes from paddy straw for their use in (thermal) power plants, use of stubble in bio-refineries (bio-ethanol), biomass gasification, etc, have been suggested as solutions to utilise paddy straw.
Non-basmati paddy cultivation is preferred by farmers, mainly because of assured procurement under MSP. A gradual reduction of the common paddy area and substitution with other crops (including Basmati) may reduce environmental footprint. Subsidies for power/irrigation water, fertilisers, etc, have compounded the problem. Diversification of existing cropping system is also fraught with high political dynamics. A strong will from top political leadership (maybe with a direction from the judiciary) may change the behaviour of all actors in the policy arena.
India is world’s third-largest emitter of GHGs. As per a report submitted by the government of India to the UNFCCC, crop-residue burning accounts for 2% of GHG emissions within the agriculture sector. Effective mitigation measures with contextual adaptation practices as suggested above would reduce stubble burning, thus lessening the load on the environment and possibly making the Delhi air cleaner.
Padhee is country director, India, ICRISAT; Jat is principal scientist, CIMMYT. Views are personal.



U.S. Secures Carve-Out of Korean Market   
 WASHINGTON, DC -- The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that a long-sought deal was reached between the United States and Korea for U.S.-only rice import access, referred to as a country-specific quota.  The agreement ensures that Korea will import a minimum of 132,304 MT annually, beginning January 1, 2020.  While the U.S. has regularly exceeded that tonnage in exports since 2014, this additional certainty allows for long-term planning and regularity by American exporters doing business in the Korean market.  In addition to the U.S.-specific quota, Australia, China, Thailand, and Vietnam all share a combined 256,396 MT of Korean quota.  Korea will also solicit 20,000 MT of rice through global tenders, of which U.S. exporters will be eligible to submit bids.

"This agreement gives our farmers the largest volume of guaranteed market access for rice in Korea that the United States has ever enjoyed," said Ambassador Lighthizer.  "It will prove enormously beneficial for American producers and their customers in Korea, who will enjoy access to high quality and cost competitive U.S. rice."

Michael Rue, a California rice grower and chair of the USA Rice Asia Trade Policy Subcommittee, said, "USA Rice applauds Ambassador Lighthizer and Secretary Perdue for their efforts to complete the negotiation of the country-specific quota with Korea.  The industry and U.S. government have spent the better part of five years working to finalize this agreement with Korea, so we are pleased to see it come to fruition."

The agreement will be formally signed in mid-to-late December before going into effect next year.

It is important to note that within the U.S. quota, a portion will be required to be table rice, ensuring high quality grain is shipped to Korea.  The U.S. government and USA Rice will regularly participate in consultations with Korea to review progress, U.S. specifications, and compliance with WTO commitments.

Korea is consistently a top ten export destination for U.S.-grown rice and one of the best and highest-valued markets for our farmers, merchants, and millers.

Rachel Roddy’s recipe for rice with pumpkin, chestnuts, sage and butter

A sumptuously sticky rice dish packed with autumnal flavour
Description: Rachel Roddy
Description: Rachel Roddy’s rice with pumpkin, sage chestnuts and butter.
 Rachel Roddy’s rice with pumpkin, sage chestnuts and butter. Photograph: Rachel Roddy/The Guardian
It is such a good time of year for fruit and vegetables. Pumpkins and squash, the rabble of roots and their greens, the first fennel and the last grapes, freckled apples, pears and fuzzy-felt quinces, wild and tame mushrooms, pomegranates, green-black kale and red-stalked chard, the first artichokes and green-tinted citrus, smooth, chocolate brown chestnuts: with all this to wear, no wonder the market, corner shop and supermarket shelves look so gorgeous. The changeable weather – sun, then scudding clouds that arrive full of rain and inevitable humidity in between – just serves to exacerbate the scent and fruitfulness of it all. A scent that lingers long after you have left the market or the shop ... especially the apples – why is it that apples smell so strongly and persistently?
Strong and persistent is the pleasure I get from putting autumn produce in its place, ripping open nets of chestnuts or mandarins and watching them skittle in a bowl, attempting my own private Caravaggio with two pomegranates, three pears and a quince that may never get cooked, and putting the pumpkin on the shelf like an ornament. I get less pleasure from cutting pumpkin, having almost lost a finger last year. “You must woo an autumn squash,” wrote Molly O’Neill in her book A Well Seasoned Appetite. I disagree: you need to discipline them or delegate the task. Scoring chestnuts, on the other hand, I like, because it means we are going to roast them, wrap them in a paper bag and then a tea towel, so the shells come off easily when we eat them with cheap red wine.
You could roast the chestnuts for this recipe, or open a vacuum pack for a most autumnal dish: it’s one of my favourites for this column this year, rice with pumpkin, chestnuts, sage and butter. The ingredients are almost exactly the same as for a pumpkin and chestnut risotto but, unlike risotto, the rice for this dish is cooked separately from the pumpkin and chestnuts and the sage butter is added at the end. While the resulting dish is not as creamy as risotto, the starchy nature of arborio and carnaroli rice mean it is still a soft and deliciously sticky plate of food.
The sage fried in butter is essential. Pumpkin and chestnuts can both teeter on the edge of too sweet, which is where sage – musty, domineering and soaked in butter – steps in, stops the fall and rounds the dish into absolute savouriness. While I have little time for useless aesthetics, I have lots of time for useful ones; sage looks beautiful here.
“La primavera per l’occhio, l’autunno per la bocca” (“spring is for looking, autumn for tasting”) wrote the Italian refugee, humanist and food writer Castelvetro in 1614. He is right, though I would add that autumn is for the looking, too – everyday admiration of the good things wherever we see, buy, arrange, skittle, dominate and eat them.

Rice with pumpkin, chestnuts, sage and butter


Sign up for Word of Mouth: the best of Guardian Food every week

250g carnaroli or arborio rice
1 small onion
, peeled and finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
50g butter
300g pumpkin or butternut flesh
, cut into small cubes
120g cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped
12 sage leaves
Salt and pepper

Cook the rice in plenty of well salted boiling water, then drain. Set aside and keep warm.
In a large frying pan over a medium/low flame, gently fry the onion in the olive oil and half the butter until starting to soften. Add the pumpkin and a pinch of salt, stir so every cube glistens, then add 100ml water, cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes, or until the pumpkin is soft and there is just a little liquid.
Add the chestnuts to the pan, stir and cook for a few minutes, then add the rice and stir again. Taste and salt and pepper to taste.
In another pan, melt the butter and fry the sage leaves for 30 seconds, then pour both over the rice, and serve immediately.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.
The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.
Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.
We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable.


Florida Crystals rice farmer: No two days are the same

David Cavazos just finished his first season as director of Rice Farming at Florida Crystals.
Monday Meeting with Daniel Cavazos, director of Rice Farming for Florida Crystals
Daniel Cavazos, 31, was born in Pahokee and raised in Belle Glade. He just finished his first season as director of Rice Farming with Florida Crystals Corp., based in West Palm Beach.
“I am responsible for 20,000 acres of rice farming in rotation with sugarcane at Florida Crystals. My duties include but are not limited to leading a very talented group of people in performing land preparation, planting, irrigation, crop protection and harvesting of rice. All of these operations require precise timing and keeping within budget,” Cavazos said.
Rice is an important food grown all over the world, but in the Everglades Agricultural Area in western Palm Beach County, it’s also valued as a rotation crop with sugar cane and sweet corn. Growing rice restores the soil, removes pests and provides a habitat for many species of native wildlife, especially wading birds.
The rice plants, resembling a sea of verdant grass, grown in about two inches of water. It’s a low-input crop that doesn’t require fertilizer, and for the most part, weeds are controlled by flooding the rice farm.
Florida Crystals is the state’s largest rice grower and owns Florida’s only rice mill. Planting begins in March and runs through June. Harvesting begins in July and ends in early November.
Cavazos started working for R.C. Hatton in Pahokee at its farm and packinghouse during his high school years at Glades Day School.
After high school he worked at R.C. Hatton full time doing such tasks as land preparation, planting and spraying. After a couple of years, he was transferred to the packinghouse, but realized that business wasn’t for him.
Cavazos moved to Veg Pro International in Belle Glade where as farm manager he oversaw the growing of specialty lettuces, spinach, arugula, carrots and onions and rice. In 2018 he was hired by Florida Crystals.
“I love my job, and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else but farming,” Cavazos said.
Name: Daniel Cavazos
Title: Director of Rice Farming, Florida Crystals Corp.
What you like most about your job: I have and extreme passion for agriculture, I love the fast-paced environment and enjoy traveling around the farms scouting my crops. I also enjoy working with people, I enjoy interacting with my team, sharing ideas in order to optimize our operations. No day is the same out here, every day brings its challenges and I enjoy the process.
Hometown and where you live now: I grew up in Belle Glade and now live in Wellington.
Family: Married to my lovely wife Maria and we have two beautiful kids, Aislynn, 9, and Daniel Jr., 6.
Education: Graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
About your company: 2,000 employees in South Florida. Headquartered in West Palm Beach. Founded in Palm Beach County in 1960.
First paying job and what you learned from it: My mother has been a farm labor contractor for as long as I can remember. During my freshman year in high school she volunteered me to work on the farm for Spring Break. According to her, she wanted to teach me a lesson, field work was not easy and she wanted better for me. That week was a tough one, but I survived. I enjoyed every second of it, especially the $300 check I earned at the end of the week. She wanted me to stay in school and become someone in life. For me it was a rite of passage. That week I knew I wanted to be a farmer.
First break in business: Before coming to work at Florida Crystals, I worked for Veg Pro International. It is a Canadian company that farms specialty lettuces, onions, and carrots in Canada during the summer and in Florida during the winter months. They entrusted a young 20 year old wide-eyed kid with a complex and challenging crop. Obviously, I had plenty of support staff but ultimately became the farm manager and learned so much about all aspects of specialty crop farming. I spent almost 10 years there.
How your business has changed: Farming is becoming more technology driven. Big data, precision Ag, and sustainable farming practices are at the forefront of today’s farming culture. New technology is changing the game, the way we did things just 10 years ago seems archaic to the way we do things now. Everything used to be paper and pencil, now I can access everything I need using an app on my smartphone.
What are some of the biggest challenges? Mother Nature is by far is our biggest challenge. Unfortunately, we cannot control what weather does, we can only anticipate, plan, prepare, and execute to the best of our ability. It’s a constant battle, but it keeps us humble and on our toes.
Best business book (or any leadership book) that you have read: I’m a big fan of Colin Powell, I’ve read all his biographies and leadership books written by him or about him. If I had to pick my favorite it would be “The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell” by Oren Harari.
Best piece of business advice you have received: Take care of your people and they’ll take care of you.
What you tell young people about your business: That if they want to be challenged every minute of every day and they enjoy the freedom of being outdoors producing the food that feeds America, and they have a genuine passion for agriculture, then we want them on our team.
Many successful people learn from failure. Do you have a failure you can share and what you learned from it? What separates successful people from non-successful people is the ability to be accountable and owning up to your mistakes. I firmly believe that to be a great leader you have to learn from your failures.
What do you see ahead for Palm Beach County? As a county we keep growing in population. I see a lot of opportunity for growth from an economic standpoint. Agriculture is a major driver in our county’s economy. Palm Beach County is one of the largest ag counties in the country. We as farmers need to continue to educate the public of our role in this county. Continuing to be stewards of the land will allow for Palm Beach County to grow and prosper for generations to come.
Power lunch spot: My wife is an excellent cook and I enjoy eating lunch at any of our satellite farm offices. But normally I eat lunch in my truck in the middle of one of our many farms.
Where would we find you when you are not at the office? Riding our farms scouting our crops and spending time with our hard-working farmers.
Favorite smartphone app: It’s a tie between our company data collector app or storm radar.
What is the most important trait you look for when hiring? Passion, and the ability to anticipate. I also look for candidates that are curious and have lots of questions. These traits confirm to me that candidates have a genuine interest in learning and are easily coachable.


A one-pot slow-cooker curry for when you’re not in a hurry

Daily Dish: A mild, creamy ‘hug in a bowl’ that cooks itself

A mild and creamy curry that you can add kick to with extra chilli flakes

Share to FacebookShare to TwitterShare to Email AppShare to Pinterest

As the evenings are getting colder and darker, I want my dinners to be comforting and require minimal effort. “A hug in a bowl”, so to say.
November is Food Month in The Irish Times.
I invested in a slow cooker about a year ago, and it was one of my best winter purchases. It means I can put my dinner on in the morning and by the day’s end I’ve something warm to tuck into.
This recipe would also work cooked on the stove top in a shorter time, but I find the slow cooker gives a richer flavour.
I’ve always loved adding baby potatoes to a curry – don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! It also takes away the hassle of remembering to get the rice on, but if you’re very hungry or feeding a gang, you might still want to add rice.
This is a simple recipe, but the garnishes are key – adding some chopped coriander, natural yogurt and toasted almond flakes makes the world of a difference. You can make it as spicy or as mild as you like, depending on your taste, and those you’re cooking for. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
What you’ll need:

Ghana to end rice importation in next five years – AGRA

Description: File photoGhana could stop rice importation in the next five years, according to Odiasempa Antwi Obugyei II, a rice seedling producer for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).He said with the right structures in place for continuous progress of the government’s Planting for Food and Jobs (PfFJs) programme implementation, Ghana could reach the level of food self-sufficiency sooner than ever thought.

This is because all the essential factors such as land, improved quality seed for rice and food crops, access to modern farming technology being provided by Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA)/AGRA and other governmental support for processing and marketability were all available to attain maximum production of food items, particularly in the rice and cassava value chains, he said.

Odiasempa Obugyei II was speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency at his rice seedling production site at Ejura in the Ejura-Sekyedomase Municipality of the Ashanti Region.

He was a member of an AGRA Team that undertook a day’s field trip to its project sites in the Asante Mampong and Ejura-Sekyedomase Municipalities and Atebubu-Amantin Municipality in the Bono East Region.

The sites included; Josma Agro-Industry Limited, a Gari, ‘Konkonte’ and Cassava Flour processing factory in the Asante Mampong Municipality and Baba Alhassan Rice Mill Company, an AGRA Ghana Rice Mill Project at Aframso in the Ejura-Sekyedumase Municipality.

The team also visited the AGRA Ghana Cassava Industrialization Partnership Project (GCIPP), a cassava seed multiplication field at Akotoa-Amantin in the Atebubu-Amantin Municipality.

It was to monitor the progress and impact of the projects as contributions to government’s strategic framework for agriculture and strengthening production sector delivery system to improve productivity with the goal to doubling incomes for smallholder farmers to eradicate poverty.

In a broader sense, the projects aim at improving farmers’ income, food security/safety in the Northern, Brong-Ahafo, Volta, Ashanti and the Central Regions through enhanced rice production and marketing systems.

Another major objective of the projects is to “increase rice productivity for smallholder farmers, strengthen and expand access to output markets, increase capacity of smallholder farming households and agricultural systems to better prepare for and adapt to shocks and stresses, strengthen continental, regional and government multi-sectoral coordination and mutual accountability in the agricultural sector”.

Odiasempa Obugyei II, also the ‘Kurotirehene’ of Ejura, emphasised that the country had enough land for food production, saying “we just have to train and push our farmers, so that between now and the next three years, many people will have the interest to come into farming because harvesting and clean processing is no more a challenge,” he added.

He said the AGRA project was expected to produce 1,700 metric tons of high-quality rice this year adding that the varieties included perfumed fragrant and the cylinder type just like what is being imported, hence there would not be the need for the country to import rice again in the next few years.

Odiasempa Obugyei II, also a livestock farmer said AGRA, in addition, sought to catalyse Agriculture Transformation in Africa and impart knowledge to smallholder farmers by providing technical capacity building that would address market problems for a successful value chain drive.

This would enable the government to achieve the rice sub-sector goal of becoming self-sufficient in its production to improve the livelihoods of 128,763 farmers by 2020, he said.

Mr Foster Kwame Boateng, AGRA Regional Head for West Africa, revealed in another interview that to facilitate the successful implementation of the government`s One-District-One Factory Programme, AGRA in collaboration with government was training cassava processors to drive the cassava value chain and enhance sustainable market that could push processors to improve production.

The AGRA cassava seed multiplication project, he said, would be capable of producing 6,000 metric tonnes of cassava varieties per day for human consumption and starch production to assist in making the government`s PfFJs a reality, he said.


Nagpur Foodgrain Prices Open- November 19, 2019

NOVEMBER 19, 2019 / 2:32 PM
Nagpur, Nov 19 (Reuters) – Gram and tuar prices firmed up in Nagpur Agriculture Producing and Marketing Company (APMC) here on increased seasonal demand from local millers amid weak arrival from producing regions. Notable rise on NCDEX in gram, fresh hike in Madhya Pradesh pulses and repeated enquiries from South-based millers also jacked up prices. About 500 bags of gram and 50 bags of tuar reported for auctions here, according to sources.


* Desi gram prices recovered in open market here on renewed demand from local traders.
TUAR * Tuar varieties ruled steady in open market here but demand was poor.
* Mot prices reported strong in open market here on good buying support from
local traders amid tight supply from producing regions.
* In Akola, Tuar New – 5,600-5,800, Tuar dal (clean) – 8,400-8,600, Udid Mogar (clean)
– 9,200-10,700, Moong Mogar (clean) 8,800-9,800, Gram – 4,350-4,550, Gram Super best
– 6,200-6,400 * Wheat, rice and other foodgrain items moved in a narrow range in
scattered deals and settled at last levels in thin trading activity.
Nagpur foodgrains APMC auction/open-market prices in rupees for 100 kg
FOODGRAINS Available prices Previous close
Gram Auction 3,750-4,550 3,750-4,400
Gram Pink Auction n.a. 2,100-2,600
Tuar Auction 4,800-5,200 4,800-5,100
Moong Auction n.a. 3,950-4,200
Udid Auction n.a. 4,300-4,500
Masoor Auction n.a. 2,200-2,500
Wheat Lokwan Auction 2,050-2,095 2,000-2,115
Wheat Sharbati Auction n.a. 2,900-3,000
Gram Super Best Bold 6,200-6,500 6,200-6,500
Gram Super Best n.a. n.a.
Gram Medium Best 5,800-6,000 5,800-6,000
Gram Dal Medium n.a. n.a
Gram Mill Quality 4,550-4,650 4,550-4,650
Desi gram Raw 4,550-4,650 4,500-4,600
Gram Kabuli 8,500-10,000 8,500-10,000
Tuar Fataka Best-New 8,700-8,900 8,700-8,900
Tuar Fataka Medium-New 8,200-8,500 8,200-8,500
Tuar Dal Best Phod-New 8,200-8,400 8,200-8,400
Tuar Dal Medium phod-New 7,500-8,000 7,500-8,000
Tuar Gavarani New 5,900-6,000 5,900-6,000
Tuar Karnataka 6,300-6,400 6,300-6,400
Masoor dal best 5,600-5,800 5,600-5,800
Masoor dal medium 5,300-5,400 5,300-5,400
Masoor n.a. n.a.
Moong Mogar bold (New) 9,000-10,000 9,000-10,000
Moong Mogar Medium 8,000-8,800 8,000-8,800
Moong dal Chilka New 7,500-8,500 7,500-8,500
Moong Mill quality n.a. n.a.
Moong Chamki best 9,000-11,000 9,000-11,000
Udid Mogar best (100 INR/KG) (New) 9,500-11,000 9,500-11,000
Udid Mogar Medium (100 INR/KG) 8,200-9,000 8,200-9,000
Udid Dal Black (100 INR/KG) 6,600-7,200 6,600-7,200
Mot (100 INR/KG) 6,000-7,500 6,000-7,000
Lakhodi dal (100 INR/kg) 5,000-5,200 5,000-5,200
Watana Dal (100 INR/KG) 5,800-6,000 5,800-6,000
Watana Green Best (100 INR/KG) 8,800-10,000 8,800-10,000
Wheat 308 (100 INR/KG) 2,350-2,450 2,350-2,450
Wheat Mill quality (100 INR/KG) 2,200-2,300 2,200-2,300
Wheat Filter (100 INR/KG) 2,700-2,800 2,700-2,800
Wheat Lokwan best (100 INR/KG) 2,700-2,850 2,700-2,850
Wheat Lokwan medium (100 INR/KG) 2,400-2,600 2,400-2,600
Lokwan Hath Binar (100 INR/KG) n.a. n.a.
MP Sharbati Best (100 INR/KG) 3,400-4,200 3,400-4,200
MP Sharbati Medium (100 INR/KG) 2,800-3,200 2,800-3,200
Rice Parmal (100 INR/KG) 2,400-2,500 2,400-2,500
Rice BPT best new (100 INR/KG) 3,000-3,600 3,000-3,600
Rice BPT medium new(100 INR/KG) 2,700-3,000 2,700-3,000
Rice Luchai (100 INR/KG) 3,000-3,100 3,000-3,100
Rice Swarna best new (100 INR/KG) 2,600-2,800 2,600-2,800
Rice Swarna medium new (100 INR/KG)2,400-2,500 2,400-2,500
Rice HMT best new (100 INR/KG) 3,900-4,000 3,900-4,000
Rice HMT medium new (100 INR/KG) 3,600-3,800 3,600-3,800
Rice Shriram best new(100 INR/KG) 4,600-5,000 4,600-5,000
Rice Shriram med new (100 INR/KG) 4,100-4,400 4,100-4,400
Rice Basmati best (100 INR/KG) 8,500-13,500 8,500-13,500
Rice Basmati Medium (100 INR/KG) 5,000-7,200 5,000-7,200
Rice Chinnor best new 100 INR/KG) 5,400-5,500 5,400-5,500
Rice Chinnor medium new(100 INR/KG)5,000-5,200 5,000-5,200
Jowar Gavarani (100 INR/KG) 2,350-2,550 2,350-2,550
Jowar CH-5 (100 INR/KG) 2,050-2,250 2,050-2,250 WEATHER (NAGPUR) Maximum temp. 31.0 degree Celsius, minimum temp. 14.5 degree Celsius Rainfall : Nil FORECAST: Mainly clear sky. Maximum and minimum temperature likely to be around 31 degree Celsius and 15 degree Celsius respectively. Note: n.a.—not available (For oils, transport costs are excluded from plant delivery prices, but included in market prices)

Rice farmers accept Duterte apology but want action
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - November 19, 2019 - 12:00am
Andy G. Zapata Jr./File
MANILA, Philippines — Local farmers accepted President Duterte’s apology, but demanded that concrete actions be taken as their losses due to the steep drop in palay prices are expected to reach P140 billion for the whole year.
In a briefing yesterday, the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) said it had accepted Duterte’s apology, but also urged the Chief Executive to do something about the farmers’ situation.
“If the President apologizes, it means that he knows something is wrong, but an apology is not enough; we need concrete action,” FFF president Leonardo Montemayor said.
“When the President says sorry, it’s a good sign that he has accepted that there is a problem and he wants to make amends,” he added.
Over the weekend, Duterte apologized to farmers for the government’s shortcomings to the agriculture sector, but maintained that he is not repealing the rice tariffication law.
“What I am saying to our people is that, do not despair, we can always correct a wrong. I apologize to you if the result you wanted to get during the early days of my administration has been well delayed or not good, not to your expectations. If I can’t help you, then I have no business being here, I have the goal, I will immediately do something about it,” Dutere said.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas national chairman Rafael Mariano echoed Montemayor’s statement as he expressed hope that the President is sincere in his apology.
“On one hand, we can accept that, but we need something concrete from the government to reverse this damaging effect of the law,” Mariano said.
“We estimate that total losses of farmers for the year could reach P140 billion or P30,000 per hectare. This is more than 10 times the damage inflicted by Typhoon Yolanda on the agriculture sector in 2013,” Montemayor said.
“The severe drop in palay prices and the losses incurred by millions of rice farmers have resulted in a brewing socio-economic and humanitarian crisis in the already poverty-stricken areas,” he added.
Farmers are demanding that the government act immediately to compensate them for the losses they have incurred.
They are also not giving up on their call for the law’s immediate suspension and for a comprehensive review of its effects on the industry.
“We demand that all affected farmers be adequately compensated for their actual and projected losses over successive cropping seasons and be given subsidies to help them cope with higher prices of fertilizers and other farm inputs,” Montemayor said.
The surge in imports has resulted in the drastic and continuous drop in palay farmgate prices from their peak of P23.14 per kilogram in September 2018 to only P15.50 per kilo last month.
This represents a 33-percent drop in prices and farm incomes. Farmers are claiming that actual situation on the ground is much worse.
Rice accounts for 20 percent of the gross value added of Philippine agriculture. The industry employs 2.1 million farmers. Local farmers supply 90 to 95 percent of the country’s rice requirements.

No such order

Meanwhile, the government clarified that it is not poised to stop rice importation even if farmers are losing billions from the steep drop in palay prices brought about by the liberalization of the industry.
Malacañang yesterday clarified a television report that Duterte had suspended rice importation, which would contradict the law that he signed nine months ago.
“As of this time, there is no order to stop rice importation given to Secretary (William) Dar of the Department of Agriculture (DA) per the latter,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
In a message to The STAR, Dar maintained that he has no knowledge of such an order from the Chief Executive.
“None so far,” he said.
Even Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said there is no plan to suspend in any way the rice tariffication law, which Duterte signed in February to allow the unlimited entry of rice in a bid to bring down retail prices of Filipinos’ main staple.
The move, however, also pulled down prices of palay to the detriment of local farmers.
With stopping importation no longer in the picture, the DA will instead implement stricter and more stringent measures, particularly on the issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance for importers.
Over the last few months, data have shown that country imported an average of 245,000 metric tons a month. This has gone down to about 85,000 MT as the government moves toward stricter measures.  – With Alexis Romero



Neda chief says rice imports, though hurting farmers, is for greater good

By: Ben O. de Vera - Reporter / @bendeveraINQ
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:06 PM November 19, 2019
For the greater good.
The country’s chief economist on Tuesday, Nov. 19, said this was the objective of removing restrictions on rice imports which he said benefited poor families and tamed inflation although hurting local farmers.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said the Duterte administration had already put in place measures to cushion the impact on rice farmers of the law that removed volume restrictions on rice importation subject to tariffs.
Pernia, who heads the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), said the Cabinet approved the distribution of up to P3 billion in cash to farmers financially hurt by the influx of imported rice which depressed prices of unhusked rice, or palay.
The P3-billion will come from tariff collection from imported rice exceeding the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).
If the government backtracked on liberalized rice importation, Pernia said “we will be back to where we were last year” when supply bottlenecks caused runaway inflation and raised rice prices to nearly P50 per kilogram.
If imports were stopped or restricted again, supply would be tight, prices will rise and “the poor will suffer,” Pernia said.
He said bulk of Filipino families’ expenses are on food.
Partly because of improved supply as a result of rice imports, Pernia said inflation for the 30 percent poorest households had gone down to 0.9 percent which meant “the bigger majority is benefiting.”
The latest Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data showed that the consumer price index (CPI) for the bottom 30-percent income households in October fell to a 46-month low of 0.9 percent year-on-year as food prices and cost of utilities declined year-on-year.
In a press conference last Monday, International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission chief Thomas Helbling described the lifting of volume restrictions on rice imports as a “major step forward” that had been long overdue.
“I think rice tariffication—that is to move from import quotas to import tariffs—is helping the broader population.,” Helbling told reporters.
“We would also know that, of course, rice farmers may suffer from this but the government has instituted income support for affected farmers,” Helbling said./Edited by TSB

Palace clarifies: rice imports to go on


Description: worker carries a sack of imported rice at a warehouse in Divisoria, Manila, on Monday. Malacañang officials said there is no order yet for the Department of Agriculture to suspend the importation of rice during the harvest season, as calls mounted for such following reports of multibillion-peso income losses to local farmers.
THE prevailing liberalized rice importation regime will continue for now, Malacañang clarified on Monday, amid mounting calls for a halt to importation after the losses to local farmers were reported to have surged beyond the worst forecasts, with one study putting it at over P60 billion.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said President Duterte has yet to issue an official order to the Department of Agriculture (DA) to cease the nonquota purchase of rice abroad under the rice trade liberalization (RTL) law, which took effect in March.
“As for this time, there is no order to stop rice importation given the Secretary
[William] Dar of the Department of Agriculture per the latter,” Panelo said.
He issued the pronouncement after GMA News came out with a report that Duterte had already “ordered the suspension of rice importation” to help local farmers, who are now forced to sell their rice at rock-bottom prices as imported rice flood the market.
“We have no knowledge of this,” Dar told the BusinessMirror in a phone interview, referring to the report of the supposed halt-imports order posted by other media.
Dar declined to comment further as he awaits further instruction from Duterte on the matter.
Rice farmers have been appealing for government intervention as they suffer significant loses because of the effect of the RTL.
The BusinessMirror earlier reported that the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) estimated farmers lost P61.77 billion because of the steep decline in farm-gate prices for rice.
While such losses had been foreseen by the RTL authors—and provisions were made for a P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) to cushion the impact—the deep cuts in farmers’ incomes were apparently not expected. This was compounded by claims in some quarters that the expected tradeoff, i.e., the general public can benefit from much cheaper rice as those from other countries enter the local market, is not happening as expected.
There are observations that retail rice prices have not declined, while local farmers incomes plunged from record-low farm-gate quotations for palay.


WTO to allow S. Korea to keep current tariff rate on imported rice
Published : Nov 19, 2019 - 15:45
·       Updated : Nov 19, 2019 - 15:45
The World Trade Organization will allow South Korea to keep a 513 percent tariff on imported rice next year, the agriculture ministry said Tuesday, a move that could help protect the rice market of Asia's fourth-largest economy.

The move came after South Korea reached deals with five rice exporters -- the United States, China, Australia, Thailand and Vietnam -- to end a process meant to verify whether South Korea's high tariff is appropriate.


The five countries, which had taken issue with South Korea's high tariff in 2014, are set to send letters to the global trade body to inform it that the issue has been resolved.

The Geneva-based trade body is expected to finalize South Korea's 513 percent tariff on imported rice as early as January, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Under the measure, South Korea will be able to keep a 513 percent tariff on imported rice for quantities outside the quota of 408,700 tons of annual rice imports.

South Korea has been imposing a 513 percent tariff on imported rice since 2015.

The system of tariff-rate quotas -- in which South Korea imposes a five percent tariff -- is meant to provide minimum market access.

Under the quotas set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, South Korea's imports from China will come to 157,195 tons of rice, followed by 132,304 tons from the US, 55,112 tons from Vietnam, 28,494 tons from Thailand, 15,595 tons from Australia and 20,000 tons from other countries.

Rice is a key staple food for Koreans, but its consumption has been on a steady decline in recent decades due mainly to changes in diet and eating habits.

Per capita average annual rice consumption hit a record low of 61 kilograms in 2018, compared with a record high of 136.4 kg in 1970, according to Statistics Korea. (Yonhap)


Rice gets pricier

Tk 2-6 increase per kg in a week; millers, traders increase price citing declining stock, supply shortage

After soaring prices of onions, consumers now have to deal with rice prices creeping up over the last few weeks.
The rising rice prices question the claims of surplus by millers and their demand for cash incentives to export the grain to invigorate the paddy market and save the farmers from losses.
All rice varieties saw jumps in prices owing to supply shortfall, declining stocks of paddy, government procurement of 6 lakh tonnes of paddy, and exports, claimed traders. 
Data of the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) shows that depending on quality, retail prices of the cereal rose between 4 percent and 10 percent a kg in Dhaka city since November 10. This translates to Tk 2 to Tk 6 rise per kg.
In Dinajpur, a major rice growing district, the price of a sack of rice (50 kg) rose by Tk 300.
Rice prices started rising when farmers are harvesting the second biggest paddy crop, Aman. Last year, they produced 1.40 crore tonnes of the crop. 
The biggest harvest is Boro and it fetched 1.94 crore tonnes of paddy this year.
These two crops account for 93 percent of the total annual rice output, 3.60 crore tonnes in fiscal year 2018-19, according to preliminary estimate of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).
The remaining seven percent is met by scattered Aus crop.
Amid a production excess, rice and paddy prices started falling since October last year and they were low until last month. Farmers had been protesting for not getting fair price, and millers had been pleading for export incentives so that they could clear the surplus.
“Given the production of the last two seasons, and consumption requirement, there is supposed to be a surplus. So, it is not clear why the price has increased,” said Quazi Shahabuddin, former director general of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.
Hopefully, this hike will not last once Aman harvest begins in full swing, he said.
There should be around 30 lakh tonnes of surplus rice, said an official of the agriculture ministry.
Azizul Islam, a farmers’ leader in Dinajpur, said farmers do not have any Boro paddy. All the paddy over the last month and a half have gone to large millers, he said. 
Abdul Matin, owner of Titas Rice Agency at Mohammadpur Krishi market, a wholesale depot of rice in the capital, said, “This is not fully clear to us why millers are increasing prices. But there are speculations that stock of premium- and medium-quality grains, especially those grown once a year, are not that good. 
“That is why, it appears that millers think they would be able to sell slowly. They are trying to make a quick buck.”
Millers, however, said prices of premium varieties, including Miniket and BR-28, increased as stocks were declining due to increased consumption. 
Nirod Boron Saha, president of the Naogaon Dhan O Chal Aratdar Babshayee Samity, (a rice, paddy traders’ body), said, “As the prices of rice had been low for several months, people consumed finer grains more. This has created a shortage in the market. That is why those who have stocks are now selling slowly.” 
He said that in Naogaon, Miniket price increased to Tk 2,250 per sack from Tk 1,800 of three weeks ago. Prices of other varieties have not increased that much in our area, he said.
KM Layek Ali, general secretary of the Bangladesh Auto Major and Husking Mills Association, said, “Prices of paddy have increased after the government declared it was buying more grain [6 lakh tonnes of paddy] from the farmers.” 
Responding to a question, he said the demand for paddy also increased as there has been some moves made for exporting the grain.
The commerce ministry has so far approved export of around one lakh tonnes of rice. The ministry is yet to decide on permitting export of another 1 lakh tonnes, said a senior official. It plans to allow shipment of 2 lakh tonnes in total. 
The news of rice being exported has an impact on the local market, said Reza Humayun Kabir Chowdhury Shamim, president of Dinajour Auto Rice Mills Association.
Saidul Islam, a retailer at Kushtia municipal market, shared his experience of visiting the country’s largest rice hub in Khajanagar on Thursday. Khajanagar has 290 rice mills. “We suddenly came to know at mill gate that price of all varieties have increased.” 
Three weeks ago Miniket was selling for Tk 37-38 a kg at mill gates, now it is Tk 42-43, according to millers and traders there.
Contacted, Agriculture Secretary Md Nasiruzzaman said it was not possible to simply explain the price hikes. “But one thing I understand is that an upward trend in rice price is good news for those who are harvesting paddy. From that perspective, it is a positive symptom,” he said, adding that government’s announcement of 6 lakh tonnes of paddy purchase directly from growers might have impacted the market indirectly. “Procurement will begin on November 20 and listing of farmers is on,” he said, adding that there might be no artificial crisis related to rice.


While all these are going on, it’s the consumers who are suffering. 
Azaharul Islam of Dinajpur town said, “Not only onion and rice, prices of every essential is high in the market.
“How can a kg of onions reach Tk 260.”
Blaming traders for such hikes, he said if there were any market monitoring, such a trend could have been contained.Shahanaz Begum, who lives in Mohammadpur, said her family used to consume 14kg of onions a month. “Now we have already reduced it by 80 percent. 
“At this time, higher prices of rice will add to the burden on fixed-income families, like ours. We will have no choice but to go for coarse rice,” she said.
“It would be very unfortunate to see prices of rice to go up after farmers had set fire to their paddy fields in protest after failing to get fair prices. Now farmers will not get higher prices that we will pay. Instead millers and middlemen will profit.”

NegOcc rice farmers to get P174M in seeds

BACOLOD. Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson with Board Members Andrew Montelibano and Ernesto Agustin Bascon, Provincial Agriculturist Japhet Masculino and farmers of Valladolid during the seed distribution at the Provincial Capitol Grounds in Bacolod City Tuesday, November 19, 2019. (Capitol PIO Photo)
November 19, 2019
ABOUT 57,000 rice farmers in Negros Occidental are getting a total of almost P174 million in certified seeds through the government’s Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) – Negros Occidental director Gerardo Estoy Jr., on the sidelines of the ceremonial seed distribution at the Provincial Capitol Grounds in Bacolod City Tuesday, November 19, said the province has a total allocation of 57,118.25 bags covering 51,118.25 hectares per cropping.

In terms of amount, per bag of certified rice seeds costs P1,520 thus, the allocation for the province is almost P87 million per cropping.

Estoy said they started the distribution of 2,035.5 bags to farmers in Sipalay City on Monday, while farmers in Valladolid town received a total of 2,773 bags during the activity Tuesday.

“By second week of December, we target to fully distribute the seeds to 29 other localities in the province in time for the planting season,” he said, adding that the same volume of certified rice seeds will be distributed to the farmers during the first cropping season next year.

The RCEF, or Rice Fund, is created under the Republic Act 11203, or the Trade Liberalization Law. It is taken from the tariff revenues of the rice being imported by the country.

The program mainly aims to help improve the competitiveness of Filipino rice farmers and augment their income while sustaining the resilience and responsiveness.

The RCEF has an annual appropriation of P10 billion for the next six years.

Of the figure, 50 percent will be allotted for rice farm machinery and equipment; 30 percent for rice seed development, propagation and promotion; 10 percent for expanded rice credit assistance; and 10 percent for rice extension services.

Other recipient-localities in the province are Bago City with 9,615.5 bags; Kabankalan City – 5,590.5 bags; Cauayan – 3,652 bags; San Carlos City – 3,368 bags; Hinoba-an – 2,604.5 bags; Himamaylan City – 2,274.5 bags; Sipalay City – 2,035.5 bags; Murcia – 1,805 bags; Moises Padilla – 1,764 bags; Binalbagan – 1,751.5 bags; Isabela – 1,742.5 bags; La Castellana – 1,732 bags; Calatrava – 1,611 bags; Hinigaran – 1,457.5 bags; and Pontevedra – 1,448 bags.

Farmers in Candoni will get 1,304.5 bags; Sagay City – 1,227.75 bags; Salvador Benedicto – 1,169 bags; Ilog – 1,116.5 bags; Cadiz City – 1,211 bags; San Enrique – 1,114.5 bags; Victorias City – 984.5 bags; La Carlota City – 693 bags; Bacolod City – 646.5 bags; Silay City – 627.5 bags; E.B. Magalona – 616 bags; Manapla – 475 bags; Pulupandan – 294 bags; Escalante City – 271.5 bags; and Toboso – 180 bags.

Estoy said recipient-farmers are identified based on various criteria like they should be members of farmers organizations then they should fill out in the Registry System for Basic Sector in Agriculture (RSBSA), among others.

Estoy said aside from seed distribution, they aim to increase the yield and reduce the losses of the farmers through provision of trainings on various farming technologies.

“The free seeds have no use if farmers do not know the proper ways or new technologies for rice production,” he said, adding that it is the PhilRice that facilitates the procurement of seeds.

These “high quality” seeds up for distribution are sourced from seed growers in Negros Occidental, the agency official also said.


Beyond the green revolution

Description: grain productionCredit: CC0 Public Domain
There has been a substantial increase in food production over the last 50 years, but it has been accompanied by a narrowing in the diversity of cultivated crops. New research shows that diversifying crop production can make food supplies more nutritious, reduce resource demand and greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance climate resilience without reducing calorie production or requiring more land.
The Green Revolution—or Third Agricultural Revolution—entailed a set of research technology transfer initiatives introduced between 1950 and the late 1960s. This markedly increased agricultural production across the globe, and particularly in the developing world, and promoted the use of high-yielding seed varieties, irrigation, fertilizers, and machinery, while emphasizing maximizing food calorie production, often at the expense of nutritional and environmental considerations. Since then, the diversity of cultivated crops has narrowed considerably, with many producers opting to shift away from more nutritious cereals to high-yielding crops like rice. This has in turn led to a triple burden of malnutrition, in which one in nine people in the world are undernourished, one in eight adults are obese, and one in five people are affected by some kind of micronutrient deficiency. According to the authors of a new study, strategies to enhance the sustainability of food systems require the quantification and assessment of tradeoffs and benefits across multiple dimensions.
In their paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers from IIASA, and several institutions across the US and India, quantitatively assessed the outcomes of alternative production decisions across multiple objectives using India's rice dominated monsoon cereal production as an example, as India was one of the major beneficiaries of Green Revolution technologies.
Using a series of optimizations to maximize nutrient production (i.e., protein and iron), minimize greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and resource use (i.e., water and energy), or maximize resilience to climate extremes, the researchers found that diversifying crop production in India would make the nation's food supply more nutritious, while reducing irrigation demand, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions. The authors specifically recommend replacing some of the rice crops that is currently being cultivated in the country with nutritious coarse cereals like millets and sorghum, and argue that such diversification would also enhance the country's climate resilience without reducing calorie production or requiring more land. Researchers from IIASA contributed the design of the optimization model and the energy and GHG intensity assessments.
"To make agriculture more sustainable, it's important that we think beyond just increasing food supply and also find solutions that can benefit nutrition, farmers, and the environment. This study shows that there are real opportunities to do just that. India can sustainably enhance its food supply if farmers plant less rice and more nutritious and environmentally friendly crops such as finger millet, pearl millet, and sorghum," explains study lead author Kyle Davis, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Data Science Institute at Columbia University, New York.
The authors found that planting more coarse cereals could on average increase available protein by 1% to 5%; increase iron supply by between 5% and 49%; increase climate resilience (1% to 13% fewer calories would be lost during times of drought); and reduce GHG emissions by 2% to 13%. The diversification of crops would also decrease the demand for irrigation water by 3% to 21% and reduce energy use by 2% to 12%, while maintaining calorie production and using the same amount of cropland.
"One key insight from this study was that despite coarse grains having lower yields on average, there are enough regions where this is not the case. A non-trivial shift away from rice can therefore occur without reducing overall production," says study coauthor Narasimha Rao, a researcher in the IIASA Energy Program, who is also on the faculty of the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
The authors point out that the Indian Government is currently promoting the increased production and consumption of these nutri-cereals—efforts that they say will be important to protect farmers' livelihoods and increase the cultural acceptability of these grains. With nearly 200 million undernourished people in India, alongside widespread groundwater depletion and the need to adapt to climate change, increasing the supply of nutri-cereals may be an important part of improving the country's food security.


Duterte may suspend rice importation

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has apologized to Filipino farmers and vowed to suspend rice imports amid falling palay prices that have caused them to lose billions of pesos as a result of the imposition of tariffs on imported grain in lieu of quotas.
But presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo later clarified that no directive had been issued to suspend rice imports.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles on Monday said that suspending rice importation “is not as simple as that.”
In an interview with GMA News over the weekend, the President said he would direct the purchase of palay from local rice farmers.
“In the months of harvest, just buy it. Don’t import too much. Do not allow import, the government will not import. Put it on hold until the produce of local farmers is bought,” Mr. Duterte said.
He said the government was willing to incur losses in buying palay from local farmers, who have been forced to sell their produce at a lower price.
“That is what government is for, to incur losses to help our farmers … That’s the only solution, to buy,” he said.
‘Just another joke’
He appealed to Agriculture Secretary William Dar and heads of other departments to help the farmers.
The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) did not take Mr. Duterte’s statements at face value.
“We want to ask the President if this is just another joke or if this is the truth,” said FFF president Leonard Montemayor.
“We’ve been disappointed by so many false hopes that we cannot just take the President’s statements at face value.” he said.
Mr. Duterte made the remarks amid complaints about the effects of Republic Act No. 11203, or the rice tariffication law, which he signed in February.
The law lifted caps on rice imports to bring down prices of rice, following soaring prices of the staple in 2018. It allows individuals and businesses to import additional volumes of rice but requires them to pay tariffs to fund mass irrigation, warehousing and rice research projects to help farmers.
Sen. Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate agriculture committee and one of the proponents of the measure, said the law would help farmers “improve their profitability and competitiveness.”
But the implementation of the law had the opposite effect as it led to plunging palay prices.
P62B in losses
The Philippine Rice Research Institute, an attached agency of the agriculture department, has placed at P61.8 billion the losses farmers have incurred so far due to the sharp drop in farm-gate prices of unhusked rice.
At P15.49 a kilo, the prevailing price of palay is the lowest in eight years, according to latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority. In other provinces, rates are much lower at P11 a kilo.
The rice tariffication law reportedly led to the shutdown of 4,000 rice mills around the country and prompted 200,000 farmers to abandon their farms just five months after the law was passed.
Groups like Bantay Bigas and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas have been calling for the law’s repeal as government interventions did not offset the huge losses incurred by farmers unable to compete with cheaper imported rice.
Biggest rice importer
With the law in place, the Philippines has become the top importer of rice for 2019 with orders of 2.99 million metric tons (MT).
The volume is expected to reach a record of 3 million MT by year-end despite a Philippine shortfall of just 1.9 million MT, according to a report of the US Department of Agriculture this month.
The President said he was not ready to repeal the rice tariffication law as he did not want another rice crisis on his hands.
Sought for comment, Panelo said: “As of this time, there is no order to stop rice importation given (to) Secretary Dar of the Department of Agriculture per the latter.”
In a phone interview, Nograles told reporters that economic managers and the DA would have to meet to respond to the President’s pronouncements.
“We will discuss that perhaps in the next Cabinet meeting,” he said.
In an interview aired over ABS-CBN’s “Failon Ngayon” on Saturday, the President said he was “conscious of the fact” that the rice tariffication law “will create a problem among our local rice growers.”
Higher rates
He said he could also order higher tariff rates for rice imports to discourage rice imports and balance the interests of Filipino farmers.
“But let me state, here and now, that my main concern is there must be rice at any given time,” Mr. Duterte said.
The FFF and the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura have called for the imposition of safeguard duties to temper the volume of rice imports, but economic managers rejected it for being “inflationary.”
“There is no need to repeal, revise, or suspend the rice tariffication law,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said during the recent World Rice Congress.

Neda: rice imports halt now will hurt poor more

Description: Top03 091619This file photo shows various rice varieties are on display in a market in San Andres, Manila.
STOPPING rice importation at this time will only burden the poorest Filipinos, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said on Tuesday, amid mounting calls from farmer sectors groaning under the deep cuts to their income from the imports surge enabled by the rice tariffication law (RTL).
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia expressed his misgivings about calls to suspend the RTL at this time in an exchange with reporters on Tuesday.
Pernia said removing rice importation will worsen the situation as it will burden the poor even more and cause inflation to spike, causing pain to more people.
“We will [find ourselves] back to where we were last year and the poor will suffer. Inflation for the 30 percent poorest has come down to [around] 0.9 [percent]. The much bigger majority is benefitting,” Pernia said on the sidelines of the 8th M&E Network Forum on Tuesday.
Given that measures are already being put in place to “alleviate the difficulty, the hardship of farmers,” Pernia said he shares the opinion of members of the economic team in allowing rice imports to go on.
He said these measures include the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) as well as the proceeds of the duties paid by importers.
Pernia said, however, that he has yet to take a look at the study of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) which said farmers lost P61.77 billion due to the decline in farm-gate prices caused by the RTL implementation.

Rice traders into hoarding–AER

On Tuesday, the Action for Economic Reforms (AER) said imposing policy changes at this time will lead to further volatility in rice prices.
“Rice traders who anticipate a reversal of the law are hoarding rice, depressing farm-gate prices to the detriment of Filipino rice farmers. Halting implementation would only play into their hands,” AER said.
AER said in order to help farmers, the government can directly procure rice from local farmers in order to buoy prices.
It tariff collections in excess of P10 billion for the purpose of direct and conditional cash transfers to the rice farmers will provide transitional aid and an incentive for farmers to increase productivity as they continue farming.
Earlier, Neda Undersecretary for Planning and Policy Rosemarie G. Edillon told the BusinessMirror that the oversight agency will not comment on the matter pending a review of the study.
“We’re not ready to comment on the [PhilRice] study sans a full review. Bottomline, we are aware that there will be negative transition effects, hence the RCEF [Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund],” Edillon said.
Edillon added that in order to help the sector, the government plans to provide unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) to farmers affected by the rice trade liberalization (RTL) law.

Impact on growth, poverty

However, Ateneo Eagle Watch Senior Fellow Leonardo A. Lanzona Jr. told the BusinessMirror these losses would undermine the country’s GDP growth, especially if these continue.
He added that these also threaten the achievement of the country’s poverty targets, as well as efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Lanzona said that while these losses were expected, the government still failed at distributing the subsidies to help farmers in timely fashion.
He added that there is a need to provide effective programs that can help farmers transition to alternative forms of livelihood.

Villar: It’ll work in long run

At the Senate, meanwhile, Sen. Cynthia Villar, who chairs the Committee on Agriculture and Food, on Tuesday praised President Duterte for clarifying a brewing controversy over the recently enacted rice tarrification law.
“I thank the President for allaying the fears of our farmers and for reassuring them that Republic Act 11203 or the rice tariffication law will work for their benefit in the long run,” said Villar.
In a statement, Sen. Villar affirmed that “we are in unison that there are kinks that need to be ironed out in the initial phase of its implementation, but we believe that programs under the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) will address the perennial woes in the agriculture sector, and will help our farmers and fisherfolks reduce their production cost and increase their productivity and income.”
Villar added that as chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and Food in the Senate, “I intend to exercise our oversight function to see to it that the law is properly and faithfully implemented.”
With a report by Butch Fernandez


More interventions for farmers affected by rice tariffication
By Lilybeth Ison  November 19, 2019, 8:10 pm

Agriculture Secretary William Dar Reyes (PNA file photo)
MANILA – Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar on Tuesday assured more interventions would be given to farmers affected by the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).
To ensure the proper and efficient implementation of the RTL, Dar said the DA is committed to fast-track the various components and interventions under the PHP10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).
"We have started the RCEF seed distribution, conduct trainings, bidding for machinery, alongside the validation of farmers' cooperatives, and processing and granting of loans," Dar said in his first 100 days report since he assumed office.
Dar said implementing the RTL is both a "challenge and an opportunity to transform our traditional rice lands into modern farming communities through the annual PHP10-billion resources that RCEF provides."
He said this year's RCEF has been allocated to make rice farmers more competitive and to prop up prices of palay, which has dropped to 1.4 percent in the third week of September to PHP15.96 per kilogram, based on the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data.
The DA chief said President Rodrigo Duterte also approved the granting of PHP3 billion as unconditional cash assistance to benefit 600,000 rice farmers tilling one hectare and below.
Dar said additional PHP3-billion cash assistance will be allotted next year for rice farmers tilling 1.01 hectares to two hectares.
Another PHP2.5 billion was also allocated for the expanded Survival and Recovery Assistance (SURE) Aid Program wherein PHP15,000 zero-interest loan payable in eight years will be available to affected farmers tilling one hectare or less.
The National Food Authority (NFA) was also given PHP7-billion budget to buy palay directly from the farmers, of which some 10.25 million bags were procured.
In partnership with provincial government units, governors of the top 33 rice-producing provinces have committed an initial PHP5 billion to procure palay from their farmers, and dry and mill the grains into rice, and sell them directly to their constituents and institutional buyers.
Dar said the amount is on top of the PHP3.5 billion credit line the local governments of Isabela, Nueva Ecija, and Camarines Sur have secured from the Land Bank of the Philippines to bankroll palay procurement and related rice industry chain initiatives.
On the issue of rampant rice smuggling, Dar said they are conducting investigations together with concerned government agencies, which include the possible collusion between DA personnel and traders.
"May kutsabahan, meron kaming iniimbestigahan, even our men and women sa department, nagkukutsabahan so nakakalusot (There is collusion. We are investigating our own men and women in the department, they are in collusion [with traders] so [smuggled items] slip past authorities)," he said.
Dar said the DA is working with authorities to resolve the "huge" illegal entry of imported rice.
"Maraming dumating na imported na bigas na walang import clearance or used recycled clearance kaya kinumpiska ang mga ito ng Bureau of Customs (A huge volume of imported rice arrived in the country but without import clearance or have used recycled clearance so these were confiscated by the Bureau of Customs)," he said.
Dar said the smuggled rice is not included in the 2.9 MMT of imported rice recorded entered the country from January to October 30 this year.
Despite the challenges, Dar committed to pursuing imperatives with greater vigor and "laser-like'' focus to enable Filipino farmers and fishers to be more prosperous and transform them into agri-preneurs.
"Truth be told, the first 100 days have not been easy. {But) we have made a strong beginning, we have only just begun," he said. (PNA)

Seed farms being established in 450 hectares

NOVEMBER 19, 2019 19:14 ISTUPDATED: NOVEMBER 19, 2019 19:14 IST
As quality seeds have always helped farmers to increase the yield, the Agriculture department has identified 450 hectares for land for establishing seed farms of different paddy varieties to produce about 900 metric tonnes of quality seeds.