Friday, December 06, 2019

6th December ,2019_Daily Global Regional and Local Rice E-Newsletter.pdf

6th December,2019 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

PU awards three PhD degrees

By admin
The Punjab University on Thursday awarded three PhD degrees to scholars in various disciplines. The scholars who were awarded degrees included Sharqa Hashmi in the subject of Statistics after approval of her thesis titled ‘A Critical Analysis of the Family of Beta Exponentiated Weibull Distributions’, Farman Ahmad in the subject of Agriculture Sciences (Plant Pathology) after approval of his thesis titled ‘Role of Commercial Banks in Agri-Business Management in Pakistan (Punjab) A Case Study of Rice Business in Sialkot District (Punjab)’. Similarly, Muhammad Raza Taimoor was awarded degree in the subject of History after approval of her thesis titled ‘Conceptualizing the Idea of Pakistan: Public Sphere in the Colonial Punjab’.—APP


Rs 400/kg in Pakistan, but sky-high prices not a problem as devotees feast on tomato dish at Kartarpur Sahib

Thanks to devotees carrying supplies as an offering at Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib, a problem of plenty ensured that a delicious tomato dish was served in langar to around 581 pilgrims who visited the historic gurdwara on Monday.

Written by Kamaldeep Singh Brar | Published: December 6, 2019 12:04:57 pm
Sai Das cuts vegetables
A heap of tomatoes outside Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib kitchen belied the essential vegetable’s current luxury status in markets across Pakistan. At close to (Indian) Rs 200 per kg (Pakistani Rs 400), tomato prices may have gone through the roof across the border, but thanks to devotees carrying supplies as an offering at Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib, a problem of plenty ensured that a delicious tomato dish was served in langar to around 581 pilgrims who visited the historic gurdwara on Monday.
“Tomato prices are very high in Pakistan. So, we had requested a group of devotees to send tomatoes for the community kitchen. Now, we have them in abundance. Sikh devotees are not only coming with tomatoes, but they have been bringing other green vegetables as an offering too,” said Amanat, the Muslim head chef at Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib for last eighteen years.
He added: “We have no storage capacity and we feared that tomatoes will start rotting. So, we decided to make special tomato dish for devotees. I am surprised that devotees are loving it. Till now, many have asked me the recipe of this special dish. These are just tomatoes. But it is blessings of the Guru that everyone is loving it.”
The chef said that he wants to request devotees coming to Gurdwara Sahib through Kartarpur Corridor to bring material for community kitchen that can be stored for a longer period of time.
“For now we have tomatoes, ginger and garlic in abundance and we will have no shortage of these. So the devotees who have plan to visit the gurdwara in near future should come with offerings like pulses, rice, sugar, desi ghee, salt and spices instead of green vegetables,” said Amanat.
It is not uncommon for devotees to offer vegetables and other material for the gurdwara community kitchens.
 Amanat, the Muslim head chef at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib for last 18 years.
About managing the kitchen, Amanat said: “I have been here for 18 years. There was staff of six more, all Muslims, with me. We have employed 12 women and 10 more men for serving langar and washing utensils, peeling vegetables and other jobs.”
“We start working at 6 am and work for almost 12 hours in a day. We often get information about how many people are coming via the Corridor. We plan our day accordingly. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are most busy days. Around 2500 devotees came this Sunday via the corridor and it was highest number since the opening of the Corridor. On other week days, numbers of devotees remains between 500 to 1000. But numbers are increasing with every passing day,” he added.
Devotees also do sewa at the community kitchen apart from employees hired by Pakistan Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee, who are mostly Muslims.
The oldest employee at the gurdwara kitchen is Sai Das. Peeling onions, Das said: “I am aged now. I have been working here since the gurdwara was reopened. Earlier, very few Sikhs would come to the gurdwara. Sometimes no one would come in for weeks. But now, we welcome hundreds of visitors every day. I am very happy that Sikhs have opportunity to visit this gurdwara. I have seen Sikhs crying after coming here, but now there are more happy faces.”
A group of Pakistani students, meanwhile, was stopped outside langar hall. “We don’t know why students are not allowed. We should be also allowed inside Langar,” said Iqbal, a student from Narrowal.
Amanat explained: “There are some restrictions on Muslim devotees, mostly students. Muslim families are allowed and they have langar. But authorities have restricted the access of Muslim students. It is mainly because they click many pictures while sitting for langar.”
Fatima, who came with her younger sister and two children, said: “We have come from Sialkot. My children wanted to have experience of langar. Today, we had this chance and it was great spiritual experience.”
Davider Singh, who visited Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib on Monday, said: “It was sad to see that some Muslims were not allowed inside the langar hall. It hurts the purpose of langar. Its main purpose is to make everyone feel equal. Pakistan government and Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee should look into it and everybody should be allowed.”


Scientists modify plants to fight off widespread crop disease

The test plants produced a bacteria-derived antibiotic throughout their lives, successfully protecting them against a common disease.
Last updated: 5 December 2019 - 4.01pm
Scientists have tested a new method to protect crops from disease by making the plants manufacture antibiotics derived from bacteria.
They hope it can replace conventional antibiotics used to treat plants, removing a driver of antibiotic resistance that could spread to human diseases.
The team at Glasgow University genetically engineered plants to fight off bacterial infection on their own by producing a targeted protein antibiotic, or bacteriocin.
This was effective against the common crop bacteria Pseudomonas syringae (Ps), which causes diseases including blight and spot.
Researchers claimed Ps is responsible for about 5% of worldwide crop loss, and attacks plants including tomatoes, kiwis, peppers, soybeans, olive and fruit trees.
By replacing conventional antibiotics, we take away an important driver of resistance that could even spread to human bacterial pathogens
Researcher Joel Milner
The team genetically modified plants to manufacture the bacteriocin putidacin L1, which is produced by a harmless soil-living relative of the disease-causing strains of Ps.
The modified test crops produced the bacteriocin throughout their life – the first time this modification has been trialled in plants – and fought off the bacterial infection without any damage to themselves or the environment.
Co-author Joel Milner said: “Our results provide proof of principle that the expression of a bacteriocin in plants can provide effective resistance against bacterial disease.
“Unlike conventional antibiotics, bacteriocins are highly targeted – in this case they act only against the Ps strains that infect plants.
“By using bacteriocins we avoid the risks associated with conventional antibiotics – that resistance will spread indiscriminately to other bacteria.”
The modified plants remained healthy with no environmental damage (Glasgow University/PA)
Mr Milner added:  “In fact, by replacing conventional antibiotics, we take away an important driver of resistance that could even spread to human bacterial pathogens.
“Now we know that expression of bacteriocins in crops can offer an effective strategy for managing bacterial disease, we are undertaking research to fully realise the potential of this novel method.”
Co-author Will Rooney said: “All major bacterial species produce bacteriocins so we should be able to use our research as a blueprint to tackle a wide variety of important bacterial diseases in crops like potato, rice and a variety of fruits.”
The work, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Wellcome, was published in the Plant Biotechnology Journal.

KAU’s innovative formulation comes to the rescue of farmers

UPDATED: DECEMBER 05, 2019 22:35 IST

Sampoorna mix mitigates loss of micro-nutrients from top soil

Crop loss owing to micro-nutrient deficiencies in the post-flood scenario of the hill district Wayanad is the major concern of farmers. However, a group of farmers in Nenmeni grama panchayat in the district tackled the issue on their field level demonstration plots by applying “Sampoorna KAU Multimix”, a mixture of micro-nutrients developed by the scientists of the Kerala Agricultural University.

Jordan Government to Raise Public Sector Wages Next Year

Thursday, 5 December, 2019 - 18:30
Jordanian Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Jordan agreed on Thursday to public sector wage rises, a move that will increase government spending at a time of rising public debt but is crucial to stave off social instability, officials said.

Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz said the government took the decision, which covers 700,000 state employees including army personnel and civilian and military retirees, even though the country's finances were stretched.

"The economic situation and the exceptional circumstances that Jordan is going through in the region necessitates improving living conditions," Razzaz told an audience of officials and prominent figures.

The government, which has said it will not resort to new taxes, is mindful of protests in neighboring countries, including Lebanon and Iraq, in the past month over eroding living standards and corruption.

Tax rises pushed by the IMF last year sparked some of the biggest demonstrations in years and were also blamed by economists and politicians for a contraction in business activity.

The last significant public sector pay rises in 2010 and 2011 were part of billions of dollars in extra social spending to curb protests inspired by regional uprisings.

The public sector has over the last two decades expanded rapidly as successive governments sought to appease citizens with state jobs to maintain stability.

The runaway spending contributed to a soaring $40 billion public debt, equivalent to 94% of gross domestic product which Jordan has been struggling to rein in under a three-year IMF program that ended this year.

The latest wage increase, which starts next year, will give state workers from bureaucrats to drivers pay increases ranging from 15 to 20 percent along with other substantial rises to army pensioners and civil servants.

They will add at least half a billion dinars ($700 million) to salaries and pensions that already consume the bulk of state expenditure in the 9.8 billion dinars ($14 billion) 2020 draft budget.

The specter of bigger spending has already alarmed the IMF mission that came in November and will return in January to hold talks over a reform program, officials say.

Jordan wants the new program to focus on raising growth that has been stagnant at around 2 percent in the last decade and reduce record unemployment, which has risen sharply in the last two years to 19 percent, they added.

Jordan would resist any push by the IMF to adopt more austerity measures that risked increasing stability and civil unrest, officials say.

The government hopes higher revenues in revived economic activity in a country that has been hit by regional turmoil would help offset the wage bill hikes.

"We hope it will push growth and raise revenues and move the wheels of the economy," Finance Minister Mohammad Al Ississ said

Border closure: Spurring rise in rice milling plants


It is reported that the Federal Government’s decision to partially close the country’s land borders since August this year is already yielding fruits in rice value chain with more rice milling plants springing up nationwide. Taiwo Hassan reports

The Yuletide season is around the corner and all eyes are on the country’s rice sector as processors and merchants are going to step up to meet demand for the number one staple food of many Nigerians. 
There is no doubt that the border closure has cleared the way for rice millers and producers in the country to produce abundant rice for consumption at a period smuggling of the commodity has drastically reduced.
However, against all odd, reports have, however, showed that hundreds of rice milling plants have sprung up in the country, while those that were moribund are now being reactivated in many rice-producing states.
A number of rice millers are now floating milling plants by adding to their production lines in a bid to ensure sufficiency and also key into government’s diversification agenda to promote agriculture.
For the record, Nigeria is now a rice producing nation following Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Anchor Borrowers Programme (APB), which has opened gateway of opportunities for the development in the country.
The current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari would be remembered for the active role it played towards sustainable development of rice production in Nigeria.
At the launch of ABP scheme on rice development at Birni Kebbi, Kebbi State in 2015, there were lots of doubts among some sections of Nigerians about government’s capability to deliver on its promises on developmental project in the country.
Emphatically, the Anchor Borrowers Programme has been a success story in all ramifications and it is even being replicated in some neighbouring countries.
In 2015, at a Federal Executive Council meeting (FEC) in Abuja, it was agreed that to float rice APB to be managed by the apex bank, with focus to attain self-sufficiency in rice production.
Rice millers’ impact
Following Federal Government’s intention to ban rice importation in favour of local rice production, there has been aggressive move by private sector–led firms to invest in rice mills.
Particularly, many rice millers have commenced rice cultivation in line with government’s policy to ensure sufficiency in the country by year end.
Some of the major rice milling companies in the country that have heeded the clarion call have intensified their efforts to see that more rice mills are established in the country to meet national demand.
These rice companies include Olam Nigeria Limited owned by Stallion Group, WACOT rice mill, Dangote rice mill, Sunti Rice Limited, a subsidiary of FMN Plc, Miva rice mill and BUA rice mill.
Others are Umza Rice, Ebonyi Rice Mill, Tiamin Rice Mill Limited, Coscharis Farms Limited and others.   
Dangote Group is also planning to establish a multi-billion naira rice processing mill in Hadin, Jigawa State. The Chairman of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, who laid the foundation stone for the construction of the mill, said it had the capacity to process 16 metric tons of paddy rice per hour when completed.
He said that in a year, the mill would process paddy rice worth N14billion, bought directly from famers in Jigawa at market rate.
Apart from the large millers, there are many medium-scale ones upgrading their facilities to strengthen production. They include NFG-CS Rice Mill in Ga’ate and many more in Lafia and Doma in Nasarawa State; Ogoja Rice Mill in Cross River.
Recently, the management of Tiamin Rice Mill Limited disclosed that about $13,370,500 was invested to boost its production capacity from the current 320 tonnes to 1,520 tonnes per day.
The Managing Director of the company, Aminu Ahmed, explained that the policy of the current administration, especially the ban on smuggling and the interventions given to them by CBN, had helped immensely in boosting local production of rice.
He also revealed that the company was established in 2016 in Kano and started production of rice in 2018 with 320 tonnes per day.
Ahmed disclosed that the existing production line in Kano would be expanded from 320 tonnes to 920 tonnes next year, just as a new production line would start production of 600 tonnes per day in Bauchi by May 2020.
New rice mills
In order to sustain the momentum in rice production, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the sum of N10.7 billion for the construction of 10 new rice mills to sustain the actualisation of rice-sufficiency programme last year.
Speaking at the press briefing after the council’s meeting, a former Minister of State for Agriculture, Heneiken Lokpobiri, said FEC approved the establishment of 10 rice mills with capacity to produce 100 tonnes per day, which would be managed by private rice millers.
Lokpobiri said the FEC approved the construction of 10 large rice mills to boost the milling capacity of rice value chain in the country.
“A few years ago it was reported that this country needs a minimum of 100 large rice mills. As of today we have about, 21, but the Federal Government in its wisdom decided that today we should approve the establishment of 10 at the total cost of N10.7 billion,” he added.
According to the former minister, the rice mills would be given to the private sector for proper management as they would pay back within a given time frame as agreed between the Bank of Agriculture and the rice millers.
Lokpobiri noted that the mills wouldbe located in Kebbi, Zamfara, Benue, Kogi, Bayelsa, Anambra, Kaduna, Ogun, Niger and Bauchi states.
Last line
With brisk business at full swing for local rice millers at this period despite challenges of sophisticated equipment to improve on paddy processing, some agric experts still doubt the capacity of the rice millers to meet national demand.

Rice Sector Sounds Alarm On Shrinking Working Capital, Asks for $200 Million

05 December 2019

Description: FILE: A farmer collects and packages his rice along a local road in Banteay Meancheay province, on Feb. 23, 2019 (Sun Narin/VOA Khmer)
FILE: A farmer collects and packages his rice along a local road in Banteay Meancheay province, on Feb. 23, 2019 (Sun Narin/VOA Khmer)
In 2016, the Cambodian government infused $27 million through the Rural Development Bank to assist the sector, adding another $23 million in 2017. The new request is the largest request made so far. 
The Cambodia Rice Federation on Wednesday said the sector needed at least $200 million in capital infusion to enable rice millers to buy paddy from farmers, far higher than previous requests for assistance.
Chan Sokheang, vice president for the CRF, said the $200 million was needed as emergency capital to continue the purchase of paddy till January 2020. The rice federation official said there had been a drop in loan approvals from commercial banks, which coincided with the European Union’s imposition of tariffs on rice exports.
He did not provide additional details for why loan approvals were easing off. The rice sector was in January hit with tariffs for three years on exports to the EU, after Italy triggered protectionist measures in the ‘Everything But Arms’ trade scheme.
“We need $200 million to buy rice because the commercial banks have decrease the number of loans in the agricultural sector after [tariff] restrictions from the EU,” he said.
He added that available working capital was around $150 million, but the demand was for around $300 million to $350 million, hoping that multilateral institutions could help ease this credit shortage as well. Proposals had been made to the Rural Development Bank, he said, and they were awaiting a response from the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
In 2016, the Cambodian government infused $27 million through the Rural Development Bank to assist the sector, adding another $23 million in 2017. The new request is the largest request made so far.
Kao Thach, CEO of Rural Development Bank (RDB), could not be reached for comment on Wednesday and Thursday.
Agriculture expert Yang Saing Koma said he was unaware of why there was a credit shortage or why commercial banks were scaling back loan approvals to the sector. But that the RDB needed to increase available capital to rice millers, he added.
“When commercial banks don’t give out loans, interest rates are high and the Rural Development Bank doesn’t add capital, it will not be good at all for this year,” Saing Koma said.
While Cambodian rice exports to the EU are being tariffed, China has increased its imports of rice from the Kingdom, to preempt any drops in the European demand. At the same time, rice farmers have seen a decrease in prices and have been asked by the government to refrain from planting rice this dry season.
Leng Yen, a rice farmer in Banteay Meanchey province’s Monkulburi district, said it seemed the rice millers, how purchase, process and export rice, did not have money to buy paddy, which was already being sold by farmers at a low price.
“If the state gives loans to the big rice millers, the millers will be able to buy rice for storage and potentially the rice will fetch [us] a good price,” he said.
Cambodia exported around 400,000 tons of rice for the first nine months of 2019, a small two percent increase compared to the same period in 2018. The EU was still the largest importer of rice at 269,000 tons, followed by China which imported 170,000 tons, as of October this year.

Group, firms partner to stop foreign rice imports

 December 6, 2019

Samuel Awoyinfa
Nigerians in Diaspora organisation, Asia, has partnered Kanryu Industry, Japan and Irai Denchi Nigeria Limited to produce rice processing machines to ensure sufficiency in rice production and halt importation of the staple food.
The rice processing machines among other things would dehusk, dehull, remove pebbles and do total polishing of rice paddy.
The groups hosted a one-day sensitisation seminar on the ‘rice value chain’ in Lagos on Wednesday.
The President, NIDO, Asia, Emenike Ejiogu, said rice remained a major stable food in Nigeria, noting that with the recent closure of nation’s borders, the quest for foreign quality of rice was on the increase.
He said this informed the need for NIDO to collaborate with other technological companies to produce rice modular machines that could perform total processing of rice paddy that could match global standards.
He said, “The Nigeria government some years ago encouraged Nigerians in diaspora to do business outside Nigeria, and form association of technology hub and skills that will help in national development. Following the call of the government, most of us in Asia, America among others formed this group called NIDO, an NGO, in pursuance of national development.
“We partner a Japanese manufacturing company to produced rice modular machines that do dehusking, dehulling, ‘destoning’ and polishing.”
The Chairman, Nigerian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Japan, Ochade  Osekwe, said the processing machine could produce 400kg rice per shift, amounting to eight (50kg) bags of rice.
He noted that the production of the technology- based machine for rice processing would boost the Nigerian economy and grow its Gross Domestic Product.
The Managing Director, International Consulting Company, Japan, Mr Taeho Park, said its company produced the machine in an electrical and engine-based format.

Iraq Outlines 2020 Wheat Import Goal, Says Protests Not Disrupting Cargoes

Thursday, 5 December, 2019 - 09:30
Iraq plans to purchase 750,000 tons of wheat from abroad in 2020. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Iraq, a major Middle East grain importer, said on Wednesday it planned to purchase 750,000 tons of wheat from abroad in 2020 and said nationwide protests that have extended to a key port were not disrupting shipments so far.

Iraq needs between 4.5 million and 5 million tons of wheat a year to supply its food rationing program. It mixes local wheat with grain from Australia, Canada and the United States.

“This is within our planning budget,” Hassanein al-Zubaidi, the new head of the Iraq Grain Board, told Reuters, referring to the target of importing 750,000 tons of wheat next year.

Zubaidi, who took up the post as head of the state grain buyer in October, said Iraq had 1.2 million tonnes of strategic wheat reserves, enough to last three months.

Zubaidi replaced Naeem al-Maksousi a week after the eruption of protests against the government and demanding an end to corruption. Protests, in which over 400 demonstrators have been killed, have spread to the Gulf port of Umm Qasr.

But Zubaidi said on Wednesday shipments were offloading normally. “We don’t currently have problems in discharging rice and wheat from vessels in Iraqi ports,” he said. Umm Qasr receives imports of grain, vegetable oils and sugar shipments to a nation largely dependent on imported food.

Zubaidi said Iraq, which had a two-month strategic reserve of rice, signed a contract to import 120,000 tons of Vietnamese rice last week.

The country’s rice purchases from local farmers were expected to reach 667,000 tons this season, he said.

The grain board, which falls under the Trade Ministry, holds regular international tenders to import wheat and rice for the rationing program that covers flour, cooking oil, rice, sugar and baby milk formula.

The program was first created in 1991 to combat UN economic sanctions.

The politics of border closure

Description: The politics of border closure
December 05

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Description: Jideofor Adibe
The closure of Nigeria’s land borders to the movement of goods and persons, since October 2019, has understandably been generating intense debates among Nigerians and others, especially the countries affected by the border closures. Nigeria shares land boundaries with Benin, Niger and Cameroun. The government had initially imposed a partial closure of the borders in August ostensibly to facilitate a joint operation involving customs, immigration, police, and army officers on those borders, which it code-named Swift Response. President Buhari has not given definite indications about when the closed borders will be re-opened, though not many expect such to happen before the end of January next year.
In taking the decision to close the borders, the Nigerian government highlighted the well known facts that these borders are avenues for the smuggling of all sorts of goods into the country (such as rice and poultry products) and for the illegal export of subsidized petrol from the country to the neighbouring countries.  The World Bank estimates that about 80 per cent of imports into Benin Republic, which has a population of only 11 million people, are destined for Nigeria. Similarly, the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria has claimed that some 10-20% of Nigerian fuel is smuggled into the neighbouring countries.  The Buhari government feels convinced that our neighbouring countries are not doing enough to enforce regional protocols on the transit of goods. Buhari, whose government has pursued a wide range of protectionist measures since he came to power in 2015 (including placing restrictions on the sale of foreign exchange for the importation of 41 products that include rice, palm oil, beef) has argued that allowing cheaper imports will undermine his government’s efforts to push the country towards self-sufficiency in local production.
There are a number of issues raised by the government’s decision to “temporarily” close its land borders:
One, border closure in Africa is not unusual.  For instance, earlier this year Sudan closed its border with Libya and the Central African Republic while Kenya suspended cross-border trade with Somalia. Both countries cited security concerns for their actions. Rwanda also briefly closed its border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo in response to the Ebola outbreak in the DRC.  Nigeria’s border closures however differ from the above mentioned on their suddenness and the fact that they were premised mostly on smuggling concerns – though the government also mentioned the need to checkmate the movement of terrorists. The unexpected nature of the announcement gave traders and communities little time to prepare for the economic shock that followed.
Two, there is a feeling that the government is using the border closures to opportunistically mobilize patriotic sentiments through making scapegoats of the neighbouring countries. For instance the government recently claimed it uncovered “hundreds of filling stations” along Nigeria’s Magama Jibia border with the Republic of Nigeria, which it said were set up for the sole purpose of smuggling of petroleum products from Nigeria.  As if to drive home the innuendo that the neighbouring countries are major causes of the country’s economic woes,  the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, claimed that since the border closure, the country has recorded over 30 per cent increase in revenue – with the Customs recording daily revenues of between N5bn and 8bn compared to the N4.5bn it recorded daily before the closure. The argument here is that the move has boosted government revenues because more duties are being collected on the increased volume of goods entering the country legally through the ports than before. The Minister further asserted that since the border closures, bandits and terrorists are finding it hard to procure arms and ammunition. He also inveighed that since the closures there has been a reduction in cases of cattle rustling, kidnapping and armed banditry.
Three, while the government has been proclaiming the successes of the border closure, the negative economic impact of the move is often downplayed. For instance while the government claims that the border closure will protect domestic industries and stimulate local production, it glosses over critical issues like domestic demand. A good example here is rice, a heavily consumed staple in the country. According to the US Department of Agriculture, domestic production of rice in Nigeria in 2018/2019 was only 3.7 million tonnes (or about half of local demand). Though the Buhari government has since 2015 provided incentives to rice farmers, including generous credit and subsidized inputs, demand still far outstrips supply, and the government’s ban on rice imports (on a wrong assumption that the country has attained self sufficiency in rice production) has the unintended effect of encouraging smuggling since the shortfall in supply provides an enhanced opportunity for accumulation.  Not surprisingly therefore, with the ban on the  importation of rice,  and with domestic demand for the staple outstripping supply, prices of the staple – both the imported and the locally cultivated varieties –  have skyrocketed.
Four, border closures also have consequences for legitimate Nigerian businesses that export their goods to neighbouring countries through the closed land borders. For instance a recent report by FSDH Merchant bank found that some textile firms in Kano have closed shop because they cannot export to clients across the border with Niger. Following from this, critics have wondered whether border closure is an effective solution to the problem of smuggling or whether it can simply complicate the problem.
Five,  is the question of whether  the obvious benefits from the border closures (such as increased revenue to the government) are enough to offset  some of their deleterious impact on the informal sector, which at 65 per cent of the country’s GDP, is the largest in sub-Saharan Africa?  How, for instance, do the gains from the measures offset the pains they inflict on ordinary Nigerians, more than half of whom live in abject poverty? For example,  following the border closures, official  inflation figures rose in October to 11.6 per cent  year-on-year, driven by food prices, which jumped 14.1 per cent during the same period to an 18-month high.  It is estimated that an average Nigerian spends about 60 per cent of his/her wage on food.
Six, very worrying is that the border closures come just three months after the country celebrated signing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in August. AfCFTA, which aspires to create a ‘continental market’ with the free movement of persons, capital, goods and services comes into force in July 2020 and is predicted to increase intra-African trade by 53.2 per cent.  There are also questions of whether the border closures are consistent with the country’s commitments to the ECOWAS’ protocol on trade liberalization, in which members commit to eliminating custom duties, quotas and quantity restrictions and to accord each other most favoured nation treatment. It can even be argued that as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1995, Nigeria is bound to comply with similar commitments at a multilateral level. In essence, Nigeria’s border closure demonstrates the implementation gap that often exists in Africa between the letters of regional and continental agreements and the actual measures that some African governments adopt.
Seven, no one doubts that Nigeria as a sovereign country has a right to do all it can to protect itself from smugglers, and to allow its perceived national interests to drive its policy options. No one also doubts that the concerns about the impact of smuggling on local production and industries are legitimate. The question however is whether border closure is the most appropriate instrument for dealing with the problem. For instance both the AfCFTA and the ECOWAS protocol on trade liberalization contain a number of provisions that could be used to respond to border smuggling, including provisions to strengthen customs cooperation and trade facilitation. It should also be highlighted that Nigeria is already moving away from a heavy reliance on physical monitoring of entry points to technology-driven monitoring. For instance in late April, the government approved N52bn for electronic monitoring of 86 border posts and over 1,400 illegal routes to tackle smuggling and criminality.  The question is whether the deployment of technology, the strengthening of the capacity of border agents to do their job well, and invigorating custom co-operation with the neighbouring countries will not give a better outcome than the blunt measure of border closure?
Twitter: @JideoforAdibe

IRRI, government tap cloud computing for rice database

Description: Photo: An irrigation canal divides a huge tract of land planted with rice in Bulacan.
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) have unveiled a comprehensive database that can help policy-makers and researchers create new knowledge to improve rice production.
Dubbed Ricestats Database, Irri said it intends to create a reference resource by using ontology to combine data into a one-stop accessible database with a displayable dashboard for rice statistics.
The platform runs on Amazon Web Services, such as AWS Glue, Athena, and S3 for data extraction, transformation and loading while the transformed data is stored in AWS cloud warehouse Redshift.
The database will contain data from existing household surveys conducted by Irri globally and will include data from national bureaus and international organizations. Currently, Irri said such a consolidated database with disaggregated data, such as production by season and gender of household head up to the barangay level, does not exist for rice in Asia.
“Without new knowledge especially in science and technology, without the new knowledge that will be generated, it will be difficult to make good decisions on conservation and resource use, something that is vital to the success of rice production,” said academician Dr. William Padolina in his speech.
The launch held recently in Makati City, was hosted by Irri, the DOST-Advanced Science and Technology Institute (Asti) and AWS.
Irri is connected to the Philippine Research, Education, and Government Information Network, which is being managed by the DOST-Asti. PREGINET is the Philippines’s only National Research and Education Network (NREN) that is connected to a global REN, of which “Asi@Connect” is the Asia-
Europe connection.
“Ricestats Database will enable the dissemination of comprehensive rice socioeconomic data through an easily accessible database interface on a wider scale. The project will provide a unique resource for agricultural and social science researchers, academia, policy-makers, donors and investors in the rice sector and beyond,” said Irri Representative for the Philippines Romeo Recide. Asi@Connect empowers Asian countries by enabling them to participate in collaborative programs like Ricestats Database. They also bridge the digital divide that exists within the global communities of research, education and health.
Asi@Connect marks the fourth phase of European Union funding to the Trans-Eurasia Information Network program which was launched as an Asia-Europe Meeting initiative in 2000; it successfully established a regional research and education Internet network from scratch in 2004, and progressively expanded its geographical footprint over the years.
The Asi@Connect partners are the NRENs of Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Warmer Temperatures Will Increase Arsenic Levels in Rice, Study Shows

People around the world consume rice in their daily diets. But in addition to its nutrient and caloric content, rice can contain small amounts of arsenic, which in large doses is a toxin linked to multiple health conditions and dietary-related cancers.
Now researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have found that warmer temperatures, at levels expected under most climate change projections, can lead to higher concentrations of arsenic in rice grains. The team will present these findings Dec. 10 at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting in San Francisco.
“We know that more arsenic is released from soil at higher temperatures. Here we saw this response to temperature in the soil impact the arsenic content of rice grain,” says senior author Rebecca Neumann, a UW associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. “We were working with soil that had relatively low arsenic levels, but the warmer temperatures still led to increased arsenic concentrations in the grains at ranges where we begin to have health concerns. If these results are representative of what we might expect for field-grown rice, then climate change could exacerbate the problem of arsenic-contaminated rice.”
Arsenic occurs naturally in the soil, though its concentration is higher in areas that have historically used arsenic-based herbicides or where irrigation water contains arsenic. When farmers grow crops like rice under flooded conditions, arsenic is drawn out of the soil and into the water.
“In general, the plant is like a big tube or a straw as it draws water up from its roots to its leaves. And rice naturally takes up arsenic because the arsenic mimics other molecules that these plants preferentially draw out of the soil,” says lead author Yasmine Farhat, a UW doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering. “It’s a perfect storm for concentrating arsenic.”
To determine whether rice would draw up more arsenic under warmer conditions, the team collected soil from a paddy field in Davis, California. Back in Seattle, the researchers grew rice in this soil in temperature-controlled growth chambers.
They compared arsenic uptake under four different temperature conditions. Some plants were grown under normal conditions for that part of California: 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 C) on average during the day. Others were grown at incrementally warmer temperatures reflecting different potential levels of warming for that region by the end of this century: 82 F (28 C), 87 F (30.5 C), and 91 F (33 C). Night time temperatures were 3.6 F (2 C) cooler than daytime for all plants.
As the temperature increased, the team saw increased uptake of arsenic to every part of the plant the researchers looked at — including the rice grains.
“For the stem and the leaves, it’s a clear step up in arsenic concentration as we increase the temperature,” Farhat says. “For the grains, the highest temperature made the plants so stressed out that they didn’t produce any grains. But these other two forecasts of increasing temperature show a similar increase of arsenic in the rice grains. Arsenic concentrations in the grain more than tripled between the low- and high-temperature treatments.”
Arsenic is a toxin for rice plants too, and they have mechanisms to protect themselves against higher levels of it. One method includes turning on a protein that sequesters arsenic in specific cells and tissues of plant. But when the researchers measured expression levels of this protein in their plants at higher temperatures, they saw no difference compared to the plants grown at today’s relatively low temperatures.
“Maybe the arsenic concentration was so low in our soil that the plant wasn’t ‘aware’ it needed to turn on its defense mechanism,” Farhat says. “We haven’t been as concerned about these low-arsenic systems, but our data suggest that as temperatures start to warm, even rice grown in soil with low arsenic could be at risk for having higher levels of arsenic in the grains.”
Some forms of arsenic are more toxic than others. The team is now collaborating with researchers at UW Tacoma to develop a method that would allow them to see what forms of arsenic are in the different parts of the plant. That way, they can get a better picture of any potential health risks to people.
“Arsenic in all forms is bad for us, and it’s bad for the plants as well,” Farhat says. “Increasing arsenic can decrease crop yield. That can be economically bad for rice farmers. I want people to remember even if they are not eating a lot of rice, a lot of people are heavily relying on this crop. When we’re thinking and planning for the future, we need to remember that rice touches a lot of people and we should work together on that.”

Less rice, more nutritious crops will enhance India’s food supply

Description: Less rice, more nutritious crops will enhance India’s food supply
Credit: Columbia University

India can sustainably enhance its food supply if its farmers plant less rice and more nutritious and environmentally-friendly crops, including finger millet, pearl millet, and sorghum, according to a new study from the Data Science Institute at Columbia University.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that diversifying crop production in India, in this case replacing some rice—India’s main crop—with millets and sorghum, would make the nation’s food supply more nutritious while reducing irrigation demand, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions. Such diversification of crops would also enhance India’s climate resilience without reducing calorie production or requiring more land.
“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,” says Kyle Davis, an environmental data scientist at the Data Science Institute at Columbia University and lead author of the study.
With nearly 200 million undernourished people in India as well as widespread groundwater depletion and the need to adapt to climate change, increasing the supply of nutri-cereals may be an important part of solving India’s food shortage, Davis says.
Historical practices, especially the Green Revolution, have promoted the use of high-yielding seed varieties, irrigation, fertilizers, and machinery and emphasized maximizing food calorie production often at the expense of nutritional and environmental considerations. But Davis assessed India’s crops according to multiple indices. He and fellow researchers evaluated alternative production decisions across multiple objectives using India’s rice-dominated monsoon grain production as a case study.
The team performed a series of optimizations to either maximize the production of important dietary nutrients (i.e., protein and iron), minimize greenhouse gas emissions and resource use (i.e., water and energy), or maximize resilience to climate extremes. They found that planting more coarse cereals such as millets and sorghum could improve India’s national food supply in myriad ways. On average, it would increase protein by 1 to 5 percent; increase iron supply by 5 to 49 percent; increase climate resilience (1 to 13 percent fewer calories lost during a drought), and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2 to 13 percent. The diversification of crops would also decrease the demand for irrigation water by 3 to 21 percent and reduce energy use by 2 to 12 percent while maintaining calorie production and using the same amount of cropland.
These findings show the many potential benefits of increasing millet and sorghum production in India, particularly in regions where rice yields are currently low, Davis says. “This work provides strong evidence that agriculture can be a powerful tool in helping to solve many of our planet’s most important challenges, including malnutrition, climate change, and water scarcity.”
The Indian Government is also promoting the increased production and consumption of nutri-cereals, which will be important for farmers’ livelihoods and the increased cultural acceptability of these grains.

More information:
Kyle Frankel Davis et al. Assessing the sustainability of post-Green Revolution cereals in India, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2019). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1910935116
Less rice, more nutritious crops will enhance India’s food supply (2019, December 4)
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