Saturday, December 21, 2019

21st December,2019 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

China is acting as economic booster for Pakistan, LCCI President
By Muhammad Sudhir Chaudhry – Deputy Bureau Chief Lahore
20th December, 2019
Description: LCCI 
Back to back visits of Chinese trade delegations are not only reflect unbreakable friendship between the two countries but are also an ample proof of Chinese Investors’ growing interest in Pakistan.
These views were expressed by the LCCI President Irfan Iqbal Sheikh while addressing a delegation of Chinese investors at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The Chinese delegation was accompanied with Senator Mian Ateeq ur Rehman while Senior Vice President Ali Hussam Asghar and Vice President Mian Zahid Jawaid Ahmad and Mr. Yang Yong also spoke on the occasion. Executive Committee members Harris Attique, Fiaz Haider, Zeeshan Sohail Malik, Dr Riaz Ahmad, Rana Nisar Ahmad, Arshad Khan, Atif Ikram and Haji Asif Sehar were present in the meeting.
Irfan Iqbal Sheikh said that China is acting as economic booster for Pakistan in true sense of words. He was of the view that Chinese investment and cooperation for building of dams in Pakistan can be faith changer as agriculture sector of Pakistan is starving for water and industrial sector is in a dire need of cheap hydel electricity.
“Pakistan is looking for foreign investors and buyers especially belonging to China. It will not be wrong to say that at present it is the most appropriate time and environment where both countries can add a new dimension to their bilateral ties”, the LCCI President added.
He said that that in last few months, we did have the honour of hosting important trade missions at Lahore Chamber visiting from different parts of China. Frequent visits of Chinese delegation to Pakistan to explore trade and investment opportunities are enough to prove that Pakistan is top priority of the Chinese businessmen.
Irfan Iqbal Sheikh invited Chinese businessmen to join hands with their Pakistani counterparts in Information Technology, Real Estate, Solar Technology, Banking & Finance, Printing, Security, Cosmetics, Porcelain Manufacturing and General Trading etc. After the formal session of speeches, hopefully, there will be fruitful interaction among you.
LCCI Senior Vice President Ali Hussam Asghar said that both the countries not only share border but also have unanimity of views on various political & economic issues. The two countries have a combined market of more than 1.5 billion people but the trade volume needs to be pushed up. He said that Chinese importers may have better prospects for Pakistani goods particularly of Carpets, Leather and leather products, Surgical Equipment, Sports goods, Fruits and vegetables, Rice, Pharmaceuticals, Cotton etc.
Senator Mian Ateeq hoped that Chinese businessmen would find more opportunities for trade and investment. He said that being a major hub of trade and economic activities, Lahore can provide more opportunities to the Chinese entrepreneurs. He hoped that visit of delegation would be result oriented and Chinese companies will find new trade partners in Pakistan.
REAP seeks meeting with MNFS&R
By ZAHID BAIG on December 21, 2019
Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) has requested the Ministry of Commerce & Trade to arrange its meeting with the Ministry of the National Food Security and Research (MNFS&R) to seek solutions to the hardships being faced by the rice exporters because of the Department of Plant Protection (DPP).

The Department of Plant Protection (DPP) is an allied department of the MNFS&R and is responsible for managing the export and import of all agricultural commodities. This is the most important organization for monitoring and controlling the import and export by applying international Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) regulations, which have already been ratified by Pakistan under the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC).
Rice is a major export commodity of Pakistan, besides cotton, citrus, mango, dates, vegetables, potato and other raw and processed foodstuff, said REAP Chairman Shahjahan Malik while talking to Business Recorder here on Friday.Rice export could be enhanced immediately but the DPP is facing a host of institutional capacity issues, which can be managed through aggressive capacity development.
Shahjahan Malik further said that they are facing multiple issues concerning inspection by the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) such as not having a proper place for inspection or not enough strength of the staff concerned.

Allow gene editing, urges top plant biologist as she retires
Will Harvie04:45, Dec 21 2019
Looking back: Paula Jameson has been awarded the Marsden Medal by the NZ Association of Scientists for her 36-year career as a researcher and science administrator.
There comes a time in many careers when even the high-flyers are surpassed by hot new technologies and younger people with the skills to use them.
So it's been for Dr Paula Jameson, the University of Canterbury plant biologist and science administrator.
She was awarded her doctorate in 1983 and since then there's been an explosion of DNA tools, techniques and research. 
She understands perfectly well what can be done with DNA, but was increasingly aware of her limitations in the laboratory. 
"That's mostly why I retired," she says. Plus she's 65, which is a good age to bow out.
She capped a 36-year career by winning the New Zealand Association of Scientists' 2019 Marsden Medal for her "lifetime of outstanding service to … science".
Canterbury also named her an Emerita​ Professor, an honorary title awarded for outstanding service as an academic.
She was also, for the record, Massey University's first pregnant professor.
She exits academia with a message – for Parliament, environmentalists and the public – about DNA technology and research.
Initially, it was reasonable and wise for New Zealand to be sceptical about genetic engineering.
"In those days, the early 2000s, there wasn't a lot of good information out there," she says. "I felt New Zealand needed to be relatively cautious about releasing crops [before] substantive field tests were conducted under New Zealand conditions.
"I could see advantages for other countries, but not necessarily advantages for New Zealand," she says.
NZ should change its restrictive legislation covering gene editing, Jameson says.
But technology has changed again and we're now talking about gene editing with hot new tools like Crispr. 
Don't worry, we're not going to get too technical here.
"It's the precision," she says. "Using editing, we can target a very specific site and cause a mutation."
This must be compared to other types of genetic manipulation that have been going on for 80 years, including in New Zealand.
An important one has various names but let's go with "mutation breeding".
For the purpose of mutating the DNA of plants, they are irradiated with something like cobalt 60 or treated with a mutagenic chemical. 
The result increases yield or enhances traits such as disease resistance, herbicide tolerance and drought tolerance. Sometimes mutation breeding makes food more desirable for humans – grapefruit with a deeper red colour for example. 
Mutation breeding also produces "random, multiple and unspecific genetic changes" to plants, Jameson says.
About 25 per cent of ornamental and decorative plants and about 75 per cent of crop plants like rice, wheat, barley, peas, grapefruit and pears have been mutated by these methods at some point.
There are about 3200 mutant varieties registered in more than 170 plant species.
In New Zealand in recent years, a herbicide-tolerant brassica has been released and these techniques were investigated in kiwifruit to find resistance to the vine-killing disease Psa.
There is no New Zealand legislation covering these mutation breeding processes, which are "generally regarded as safe" (GRAS).
There are big differences between "random, multiple and unspecific genetic changes" and "targeting a single gene and mutating that", which is gene editing.
An example here is helpful. About 2005, Japanese scientists observed that some rice has a natural mutation in the gene that controls a hormone called cytokinin.  
The more hormone available, the higher the number and size of rice grains – desirable results when feeding humans and animals.
About a decade later, another group of scientists edited the gene that controls the hormone. They copied or mimicked the natural mutation, what nature had already done.
And they got the same results – higher yields.
What could be wrong with that?
Well, it risks a "wild west of gene editing that puts at risk the environment, people's health and consumer trust in … food," according to lobby group GE Free NZ.
"We are not growing any genetically engineered crop plants commercially in New Zealand," Jameson says, "but we should look to be growing gene-edited plants, as gene editing is so much more precise."
Her beef is that New Zealand's current legislation governing genetic engineering is "very, very restrictive" and also bans gene editing. 
The legislation should be "urgently" changed, she says.
Jameson first used this University of Canterbury zoology lab in the 1970s. It was essentially unchanged when this photo was taken in 2006. She got a major upgrade funded and completed while head of the School of Biological Sciences.
Paula Jameson was born and raised in Christchurch to a family closely tied to the land, trees and gardening. 
She's the great granddaughter of Harry Ell, a Christchurch member of parliament from 1899 to 1919. He was a prohibitionist, unionist and progressive reformer. 
He is now best remembered for the Summit Road, a network of reserves and rest houses linked by a scenic road on the Port Hills above Christchurch. It is today the city's playground for lovers of the outdoors.  
Her father was John Jameson, who founded the Summit Road Society to carry on the Ell dream. He also ran Arbor Days for local schools for "many decades", she recalls.
This early exposure to plants, trees and the outdoors led Paula Jameson to the University of Canterbury.
She was a good student and remembers someone suggesting medical school. However, she thought "without plants, we don't need doctors" – because humans would be extinct.
So she honed her interest in plant chemistry, what's going on inside plants and trees.
After a stint lecturing at Otago, she wound up at Massey and married to fellow plant biologist Dr John Clemens. She was head of department at 39 and had Massey's first professorial child.
The family moved to Christchurch in 2004 and she became head of the School of Biological Sciences, a much larger operation.
She liked university administration and its endless meetings because she got to "facilitate the careers of my colleagues".
Paula Jameson, right, and Anne Kennedy examine damage from the 2017 Port Hills fires. Jameson is descended from Harry Ell, founder of the Summit Rd scheme and today sits on the board of the Summit Road Society.
She also sometimes facilitated people out of their careers or off the campus. Sacking students and academics came with the management job.  
Meanwhile, she was rising through the PBRF​ ranks. Performance-based research funding is a chunk of government money divided among tertiary education organisations depending how their academics rank.
Most of these people have PhDs and most have been A+ students their entire lives.
Every six years, their peers rank their work and many get Bs and some – horrors – Cs. Many complain PBRF is harsh and unfair.
Jameson was the Principal Moderator for PBRF 2018. "I was essentially the final arbiter of every PBRF grade nationally," she says.
There was facilitating under way here too. 
The role required a "wise and dispassionate voice while superintending a fair process", according to the University of Canterbury.
Despite these administrative duties, Jameson kept up her teaching and research.
Her main speciality was the hormone cytokinin,​ mentioned above, and she has written 120 peer-reviewed academic publications, which is a good number.
She is in the "top 1 per cent of cited plant/animal scientists", according to one international benchmarking service.
Her citation from the NZ Association of Scientists mentions all this, plus her research on Aotearoa's indigenous flora, her major collaborations with industry in forage and seed production, and her life fellowships from the agricultural, horticultural and plant biology communities.
"It was nice to be recognised with the [Marsden Medal] because it's beyond being an academic. It includes all the service and community work," she says.
Her retirement is not final. She's got a sweet gig in China with a former student and collaborator that could produce 100 new wheat breeding lines.
She has committed to assisting for nine months over three years.
And she's probably not done advocating for gene editing.
It's likely, she says, that New Zealand's big environmental issues – climate change and agricultural issues – could be ameliorated by editing. Grasses could be edited to reduce nitrogen runoff or reduce methane emissions. 
But before that, we'll need to change the country's genetic engineering legislation? 
"I believe it should be," Jameson says.


Dark Matter Can Be Found in Rice Genome

December 20, 2019 6:33 AM EST
Description: Dark Matter Can Be Found in Rice Genome
Domesticated rice has fatter seed grains with greater starch content than its wild rice kin — the results of many generations of preferential seed sorting and sowing. However, although the rice was the primary crop to be totally sequenced, scientists have solely documented a number of the genetic adjustments that made rice right into staple meals for greater than half the world’s inhabitants.
New analysis now finds that a sizeable quantity of domestication-associated modifications in rice displays choice on traits that are decided by a portion of the genome that doesn’t transcribe proteins. Noncoding RNAs are suspected of playing crucial roles in regulating progress and improvement; however, they’re solely starting to be characterized.
A big proportion of the DNA within the chromosomes of many vegetation and animals contains genes that don’t encode directions for making proteins — as much as 98% of the genome for any given species. However, this genetic data is poorly understood. Some scientists have known as these items the ‘darkish matter’ of the genome, and even dismissed it as ‘junk DNA’ — but it surely seems to have performed an outsized position in rice improvement.
In this research, researchers discovered that key modifications that occurred throughout rice domestication greater than 9,000 years in the past might be tied again to molecules referred to as lengthy-noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs), a category of RNA molecules with a size of greater than 200 nucleotides.
About 36% of the genetic data recorded within the rice genome may be tracked again to noncoding areas. However, greater than 50% of the variety of traits essential to agriculture is linked to those identical areas, the researchers discovered.
Working with a number of hundred rice samples and greater than 260 Gbs of sequence, the researchers employed delicate detection strategies to quantify and robustly observe lncRNA transcription in rice. The brand new examine some beforehand recognized lncRNAs and, in addition, supplies new info on beforehand undescribed molecules.
This new research provides gasoline to a hypothesis by some researchers that almost all adaptive variations between teams of plants or animals are because of adjustments in gene regulation, and never protein evolution. This rice research additionally opens eyes and presumably new doorways for producing new crops and grains by way of precision breeding.

A photo taken with a mobile phone to detect frauds in rice labelling

A simple photograph taken with a mobile phone is able to detect irregularities in the labelling of rice, according to an investigation conducted by the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) and the Scintillon Institute of San Diego (USA).
This has led scientists to develop an algorithm based on deep learning - a field of artificial intelligence - that is able to determine whether that rice is really the one described with the images taken with the smartphone.
"What we contribute compared to other detection methods is simplicity and we show the consumer that you do not need large sums of money to verify whether a certain type of rice is the one mentioned on the label," states José Santiago Torrecilla, Professor and researcher from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials of the UCM.
Although in Europe the most common fraud is selling low-quality rice as if it were high quality, in other places plastic has been added to grains in quantities undetectable by the consumer until it is cooked.
To carry out the study, the researchers used five types of rice that were ground "in order to distinguish the type of rice not only when it is in grain form but also when it is ground into flour," says Torrecilla.
With all this information, algorithms based on convolutional neural networks were designed and optimized to process the information contained in the images for classification based on the type of rice, obtaining final precision models between 93 and 99 %.
"It should be noted that rice is just one example of cereal and, therefore, this technology could be extrapolated to other types of cereals or food," concludes the UCM chemist, leaving the door open for future applications in the food industry.

Plant scientists identify new strategy to enhance rice grain yield

DECEMBER 20, 2019
Description: HKU plant scientists identify new strategy to enhance rice grain yieldOsACBP2-overexpressing (OE) rice plants produce bigger grains (A) and higher biomass (B). OE-1, OE-3, OE17 and OE-21 are four independent OsACBP2-OE transgenic rice lines. VC, vector-transformed control. ZH11, Zhonghua11 wild type. Scale bar = 1 cm.(*statistically different from the control) Credit: The University of Hong Kong
Rice provides daily subsistence for about three billion people worldwide and its output must keep pace with a growing global population. In light of this, the identification of genes that enhance grain yield and composition is much desired. Findings from a research project led by Professor Mee-Len Chye, Wilson and Amelia Wong Professor in Plant Biotechnology from the School of Biological Sciences of The University of Hong Kong (HKU), with postdoctoral fellows Dr. Guo Zehua and Dr. Shiu-Cheung Lung, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Calgary and Rothamsted Research (UK), have provided a new strategy to enhance grain yield in rice by increasing grain size and weight. The research results have been published in The Plant Journal and an international patent has been filed.
In this technology, the research group led by Professor Chye has identified a protein, ACYL-COA-BINDING PROTEIN2 (OsACBP2) from rice (Oryza sativa), that when overexpressed in transgenic rice, will enhance grain size and weight by 10% and elevate grain yield. The biomass of the OsACBP2-overexpressing transgenic rice grains exceeded the control by over 10%. OsACBP2 is a lipid-binding protein that binds lipids such as acyl-CoA esters, the major precursors in seed oil production. Oil was observed to accumulate in the transgenic rice grains. OsACBP2 is promising not only in enhancing grain size and weight, but also in improving nutritional value with a 10% increase in lipid content of rice bran and whole seeds.
As OsACBP2 contributes to boosting oil content as well as size and weight in transgenic rice grains, an application of this technology in rice is expected to benefit agriculture by increasing grain yield and composition to satisfy the need for more food. Professor Chye said: "Increasing grain size and yield, besides rice bran and seed lipid content, in crops such as rice is an important research area that aligns with the aspirations of Dr. Wilson and Mrs Amelia Wong on the use of plant biotechnology for a sustainable future. Furthermore, as rice bran oil is considered highly valuable because it contains bioactive components that have been reported to lower serum cholesterol and possess anti-oxidation, anti-carcinogenic and anti-allergic inflammation activities, this technology, if applied to other food crops, would not only help address food security but also elevate nutritional properties in grains."
Description: HKU plant scientists identify new strategy to enhance rice grain yieldIn OsACBP2-OEs, more OsACBP2 protein is available to bind acyl-CoA esters, enriching the cytosolic acyl-CoA pool (red arrow) and increasing oil production (green arrow). Credit: The University of Hong Kong

Explore further

More information: ZeHua Guo et al, The overexpression of rice ACYL CoA BINDING PROTEIN 2 increases grain size and bran oil content in transgenic rice, The Plant Journal (2019). DOI: 10.1111/tpj.14503
Journal information: The Plant Journal 
Budget chief Avisado bypassed by CA
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - December 21, 2019 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Appointments (CA) has bypassed Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado after confirming Secretary William Dar’s appointment to the Department of Agriculture (DA).            
Bypassing takes place when Congress adjourns session and the CA has yet to confirm the appointment of an official subject to its processes. The legislature officially adjourned for its month-long Christmas break yesterday.
When bypassed, an official has to be issued a new appointment by the president.
Avisado replaced former budget secretary and now Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno. He served as city administrator of Davao City when President Duterte was its mayor.
The bypassing of the budget chief comes at a time when Congress is preparing to submit the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for next year to the President, who will most likely ask the Department of Budget and Management to review it.
Avisado could be subject to pressure from certain lawmakers since his appointment has not been confirmed and he is therefore not holding his job in a permanent capacity.
In Dar’s case, the CA confirmed him on Wednesday after the commission’s committee on agriculture chaired by Rep. Florencio Noel of party-list group An Waray voted to endorse him.
In endorsing the DA secretary, Noel described him as an “action man” who could propel agriculture to the growth path.
The President appointed Dar in August to replace then secretary Emmanuel Piñol after the Chief Executive and his economic managers expressed dismay over the dismal performance of agriculture, which has been holding back the nation’s economic growth.
For some years, agriculture even registered negative growth despite the tens of billions Congress has been appropriating for it in the annual budget.
Lawmakers, farmers and other farming groups are pinning their hopes on Dar to improve the agriculture sector’s performance.
The DA secretary is described as an “expert on agriculture,” having worked for some international organizations involved in agriculture and research, and served as DA chief under the Estrada administration.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who was agriculture secretary during the Aquino administration, said Dar’s “background and professional experience would do well in the job for the benefit of millions of Filipinos who work in agriculture.” 
However, in his first few months as secretary, palay prices dropped to levels below production cost, resulting in billions of losses for rice farmers.
Some lawmakers have accused him of failing to take aggressive measures to prop up prices despite remedies available to him under the law, like the imposition of higher tariff for rice imports.
The low palay prices have been blamed on the flood of imported rice in the market, which reportedly brought down retail prices of the staple. Traders and middlemen peg their buying rates for palay on rice prices

Rice Exports from India Fall, Prices Recover after Hitting 5 Year Low

Data released by the government revealed decline in rice export from India due to subdued global demand. Price of basmati and non basmati rice are currently at 5 year low. However, non-basmati rice prices recovered last week.
Indian rice exports fell by 42% in October 2019 to 485,898 tonnes. The surplus supply of rice during harvest season decreased its domestic prices too. However, domestic prices recovered after hitting five year low owing to increased MSP and supply decrease from flood affected areas. Despite being the biggest rice exporter, India’s exports decreased by 28% during April-October 2019 owing to a decrease in demand from Iran for basmati rice and African countries for non-basmati rice. The price for India’s 5% parboiled non-basmati rice variety decreased to USD 356-USD 361 per tonne in the first week of December, being lowest since January 2017. India exports non-basmati variety to Bangladesh, Nepal, Benin and Senegal and Basmati to Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Iran, one of the largest importers of Indian basmati, accounts for one-fourth of Indian’s exports while European countries import around 8% of Indian rice. India has lost its export contracts from the EU and Iran due to strict pesticide residual laws and ending oil imports respectively. It also came into news that Pakistan’s basmati rice export to Iran increased since the US sanctions on Iran. On the contrary demand for Vietnam’s 5%, parboiled rice has picked up from the Philippines. Thai variety prices remained unchanged owing to the strength of the local currency. Besides, China is favoring Cambodia and Myanmar for importing rice due to low prices.
Indian rice is losing international competitiveness due to high domestic prices. This is caused due to high MSP on paddy by the government. Earlier, government provided 5% MEIS benefit to exporters of non-basmati rice but they stopped MEIS benefit on 24th of March 2019. Government must provide subsidies for international sales to encourage exports.
Basmati rice prices decreased to USD 800-USD 900 per tonne from USD 1100-USD 1200 per tonne in six months. Further, no new basmati rice export contracts to Iran have been signed. Usually Iran signs these contracts with India by the end of September or beginning of October every year.
In all, excess supply in domestic market and low demand for export is a worrisome situation of Indian rice farmers and exporters. Further, export to Iran requires a resolution to bypass US sanctions.

Rice farmers ‘worse off’ under liberalization — think tank

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:55 AM December 21, 2019
IMPACT OF ‘REFORM’ A study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies noted that while consumers gained from the decline in retail rice prices, it “dealt a blow” to rice farmers as it pulled down farm-gate prices to record lows. —MARKALVIC ESPLANA
MANILA, Philippines — Farmers have been made “worse off” under the liberalization of rice imports, according to a new study by government think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).
An ex-ante (based on assumption) analysis by the PIDS released on Wednesday said local rice producers are projected to lose an average P10 billion a year until 2030 under Republic Act No. 11203, or the Rice Tariffication Law, which was enacted in February.
“The negative impacts in producers’ welfare worsens over time. Loss in rice farmers’ income is up to P7.6 billion per year in 2016 prices to 2024, rising to P12.6 billion per year to 2030, for an average reduction of about P10 billion per year,” the study read.
The study looked at the probable long-term effects of the policy on both consumers and producers, and found that while consumers gained from the decline in retail rice prices, it pulled down farm-gate prices to record lows.
“The impact of the law differs sharply between rice consumers and rice producers along the value chain. Availability of cheap imports will tend to pull down the retail price … However, the same cheap imports allow traders to quote lower palay prices, likewise pulling down the farm-gate price. Hence, the reform has dealt a blow to rice producers… ” the PIDS said.

Flat income

From March to June, the government think tank said, rice imports reached 966,690 metric tons, a four-fold jump from the volume during the same period last year of only 185,100 MT.
This caused rice prices to fall by P7 per kilogram or about 15 percent in one year. The policy helped in tempering the country’s inflation rate, and the trend has continued since postliberalization, the PIDS said.
Without liberalization, the PIDS predicted that the farm-gate price of palay could increase by 1.5 percent a year, accelerating slightly to 1.7 percent to 2030.
With liberalization, however, the buying price would only rise by 0.2 percent per year.
Palay farmers’ income was also projected to grow by 2.5 percent yearly to 2024, and would accelerate to 2.9 percent every year until 2030. But the PIDS, on the contrary, said farmers’ income is flat initially after liberalization, and a 1.8-percent reduction is expected thereafter.
“Obviously, farmers are made worse off by liberalization. On the other hand, consumers gain from the decline in retail price,” the PIDS said.

Still ‘propoor’

As of the fourth week of November, a kilogram of palay was being sold at an average of P15.57, down 22.34 percent from prices last year. In September, palay prices hit its lowest in eight years at P15.96 a kilo.
Similarly, rice prices during the period were between P36 to P46 a kilo depending on the variant—a continuous downtrend since the policy was implemented in March.
Despite these findings, the PIDS considered the rice tariffication law as a “propoor” policy, noting that it has cut rice spending across all income brackets except for those that produce the staple locally.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said during the recent World Rice Congress that all these were “temporary transition challenges,” and added that, regardless, the government had been responding with decisiveness.
During his agency’s year-end press conference early this week, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the implementation of the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, which is designed to aid farmers’ transition to the new rice regime, has been accelerated and would continue for the next five years.
The Department of Agriculture has also instituted conditional cash transfers and loan programs, and intensified campaigns against smuggling and hoarding as well as local palay procurement.

First millet-meals scientific study in schools shows millets boost child growth by 50%

Published on 18 Dec 2019

Description: previewNew Delhi, 18 December: Findings from a recently published three-month feeding study with 1,500 children in Karnataka suggest that millet-based mid-day meals can increase relative growth by 50%. Children rated the meals, which were designed by scientists and chefs and included little millet as a rice substitute, over 4.5 on 5 for taste.
The findings of the study were released jointly by Prof Ramesh Chand, Member, NITI Aayog, and Dr Ashok Dalwai, Chair, Empowered Body, Doubling Farmers’ Income, Government of India, in New Delhi on Wednesday. The results were presented at the Tasting India Symposium later in the day.
“This is an example of not only a science-backed nutrition solution, but also a link between agriculture and nutrition. It is important now that we achieve mainstream consumption of millets and that they are not just for the elite,” said Prof Ramesh Chand.
Dr Ashok Dalwai emphasized, “Making it profitable for farmers to grow nutritious foods like millet has to be a key part of the Doubling Farmers’ Income vision and millets are important in the rainfed areas for farmers to cope with climate change and water scarcity.”
This Smart Food study, ‘Acceptance and impact of millet based mid-day meal on nutritional status of adolescent school going children in a peri-urban region of Karnataka state in India,’ published in the journal Nutrients, was undertaken by The Akshaya Patra Founda.on and the Interna.onal Crops Research Ins.tute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). Early adolescent school children in four villages—Thathaguni, Kagallipura, Allahali and Chensandra which are located around Bengaluru— participated in the study. Growth was assessed using anthropometry measurements-height and weight, along with age, while sensory evaluations were made to determine acceptability.
The researchers found that children feed millets had a 1.5% increase in height on average in three months while children in the control group registered a one percent increase in height during the same period. In effect, the study group children grew 50% taller than the height increase of control group children. Similarly, the study group children registered a five percent increase in weight on average, while three percent average weight increase was registered in the control group during the study period. Thus, the weight increase of the study group children was over 50 percent higher than that of the control group.
“It is not good enough just to say we are going to add millets into the meal,” said Dr S Anitha, a nutritionist at ICRISAT and the study’s corresponding author. “The type of millet, its variety, how it is cooked and the foods it is combined with are some of the key elements that can make a difference in nutrition. For instance, the amount of iron available in a meal can be doubled by selecting the right variety of millet. This is the first known scientific study of millet based meals in a school feeding program.”
The researchers gave the study group children meals including idli, khichdi, upma and bisibella bath in which rice was replaced by pearl millet (bajra), ragi (finger millet) or little millet (kutki). The anthropometric measurements at the end of the feeding program were compared with that of control group children who consumed fortified rice with sambar.
“Akshaya Patra is always looking for ways to improve nutrition in mid-day meals. The millet meals were exceptionally successful and were really liked by the children. We appreciate the Karnataka state government’s support, and with this positive result, we now hope this will garner the support needed to make nutritious millet based meals available to our future generations,” added Ajay Kavishwar, Head of Research at The Akshaya Patra Foundation. “This initiative also included developing guidelines on how to introduce millets into menus to maximize the nutrition benefits and likability. This is pertinent now given the renewed interest in millets,” said Ashok Jalagam, Smart Food Coordinator for Asia Pacific and one of the study’s authors.
Call to policy makers
The study’s authors have called for policies that (1) Follow the lessons learnt on how to include millets into meals; (2) Create a level playing field for the pricing and availability of millets (through Minimum Support Price (MSP), Public Distribution Scheme (PDS) and feeding programs (MDMs, ICDS) that will benefit from not only including millets, but also from the approach taken to introduce them; (3) Go one step further and select millets by varieties in programs, ensuring maximum nutritional value and impact and (4) Promote millets in positive fun ways.
This is highly relevant now as millets have gained attention for their nutritional value and resilience in the face of water scarcity and climate change, making them a viable option for struggling farmers if markets can be further developed. The Government of India and various states like Karnataka and Odisha have led the cause to make millets a popular food choice. The Government of India designated 2018 as ‘National Year of Millets’ and initiated a millet mission. NITI Aayog recently announced a pilot to include millets in the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and MDM schemes.
“These results and guidelines developed from the study are equally important for any scheme addressing malnutrition or general health diets–whether that of governments, NGOs or private sector processors or caterers,” noted Joanna Kane-Potaka, Executive Director of Smart Food and Assistant Director General of ICRISAT. Ms Kane-Potaka outlined plans for clinical testing to determine bioavailability of millets and the role of gut-microbiome, besides research to see how different forms of processing and cooking can affect nutritional composition of millet meals.
“ICRISAT holds the world’s largest collections of millet genetic material and works closely with Indian Institute of Millets Research and other partners to improve millets by developing varieties having higher nutrient levels as well as the more conventional traits like yield and resilience,” commented Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT.

Support local rice consumption with Executive Instrument — Oteng-Gyasi

Date: Dec 20 , 2019 , 06:46
BY: Maxwell Akalaare Adombila

An economist and industrialist, Mr Tony Oteng-Gyasi, has called for an Executive Instrument (EI) that will compel public and private institutions to procure and consume local rice.

He was of the view that such a law would help provide a ready market for farmers and processors of the crop, leading to increased production of the cereal and sustained growth in the crops subsector of the agricultural industry.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Accra last Wednesday, he said the current situation where moral suasion was being applied to get Ghanaians to patronise local rice was not productive enough.
 He said there was the need for legislation which would make sure that local institutions such as prisons, hospitals and schools patronised local rice.
He pointed out that such a policy could also prop up the economy, adding: “Ultimately, it is good for the economy when we buy local rice.”
The industrialist argued that legislation, with sanctions for the person who fell foul of it, would be of great help to the nation, farmers and other players in the value chain.
Special audits
Mr Oteng-Gyasi, who is a former President of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), was speaking on how to sustain the ongoing campaign for the consumption of locally produced rice and extend it to other products in which the country and indigenous businesses in particular had competitive advantage.

While describing the initiatives as laudable, Mr Oteng-Gyasi, who is also the Founder and Managing Director of Tropical Cable Conductor Limited (TCCL), said history had showed that the goodwill and moral suasion that were being used to canvass support for indigenous rice “have never worked” and would not yield lasting results.
“In my opinion, it will be good to back it (the goodwill) with some legal force or something of that sort,” he said.
Already, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia have backed the push for the consumption of rice produced locally.
President Akufo-Addo has given instructions to all state agencies to patronise local rice.
Although Mr Oteng-Gyasi lauded the President and the Vice-President for their advocacy and directives, he believed legislation held a stronger position on the issue.
“So, in order not to leave it to the discretion of the individual purchasing officer, it is important that some executive instrument or some way of enforcing the purchase of local rice by all institutions is instituted because goodwill has proved not to be sufficient,” he said.
If local rice was not purchased, in spite of the coming into force of the EI, Mr Oteng-Gyasi said, “there can be an audit to see which rice an institution purchased at what time”.
All that, he suggested, would motivate rice farmers and millers to increase production to levels that would help make the country self-sufficient in rice production.
Central tendering system
Rice consumption in the country has enjoyed strong growth, with data from the International Food Research Institute (IFRI) showing that per capita consumption rose from 17.4 kg between 1999 and 2001 to 24kg between 2010 and 2011.
A chunk of that growth had been satisfied by imports, according to the data.
Last year, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, said conservative estimates showed that rice imports were costing the country about $1.1 billion a year.
Mr Oteng-Gyasi, who has been a strong advocate for local businesses, said those imports could easily be replaced with locally grown rice when the right policies and programmes were in place.
One such programme, he said, was the establishment of a central purchase and tendering system for the purchase and supply of rice to institutional buyers.
“Rice is a non-perishable commodity and so you could have a central purchase tendering system where the government is buying a few thousands and distributing them to all the agencies that require it,” he said.
He noted that the National Buffer Stock Company Limited (NAFCO) could play that role to help ensure that ordinary consumers were not easily deceived into consuming imported rice disguised as locally produced rice.
He said he was also hopeful that increased demand for locally produced rice would help lower the prices of the produce.
Expanding campaign
To further ensure that people did not re-bag imported rice to sell as local produce, Mr Oteng-Gyasi said the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) should certify all indigenous rice for easy identification by consumers.
He advised the government and other stakeholders to take advantage of the current euphoria around the consumption of locally produced rice and extend the campaign to other foodstuffs.

Customs raid Mubi market, seize foreign rice
 ON DECEMBER 20, 20193:32
 Officers and men of the Adamawa/Taraba Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), on Friday raided Mubi town market for foreign rice and other contraband. News Agency of Nigeria ( NAN) reports that the raid, led by the Comptroller, Kamardeen Olumoh, led to seizure of many bags of foreign rice and the arrest of three suspects. The customs personnel, with reinforcement from the police, stormed the commercial border town main market around 11 a.m and raided many shops and stores. Rivers Task Force continues state-wide recovery of government properties Speaking on the development, the Command Comptroller said the raid was in compliance with a directive from the Comptroller-General of the service in Abuja. “The menace of smuggling around this axis is alarming for quite some time, the Comptroller General of Customs ordered that operations be carried out; that Mubi market must be mopped up of all smuggled items, especially foreign rice. “Today, we are in the market and we are able to evacuate large quantity of rice and this is a clear signal to smugglers. “We are backed by the Law, Section 147 of Customs and Excise Management Act has given us the power to enter or search premises day or night, to break and enter, make arrest; in fact, without warrant and that is exactly what we did today,” Olumoh said. READ ALSO: Yuletide: LAKE rice now N17,000 per bag as LASG releases products for public sales There was, however, mixed reactions over the raid in Mubi. While marketers were lamenting and condemning it as they count their loss, farmers were happy and commending the exercise as a positive step to boost local production of rice.

Read more at:

Physical verification of paddy stocks in Hry to commence today

Saturday, 21 December 2019 | MANOJ KUMAR | Chandigarh
With the Opposition alleging gross irregularities in paddy procurement and demanding an independent inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Haryana Government has decided to conduct physical verification of paddy stocks at all the rice mills of the State from Saturday.
State Additional Chief Secretary (Food and Civil Supply) PK Das on Friday said the teams comprising officers of Food and Civil Supply, Haryana State Co-operative Supply and Marketing Federation (HAFED) and Food Grains Warehousing Federation have been constituted and they would start conducting physical verification of paddy stocks from Saturday.
The State government will get paddy stocks verified in 15 districts of the State, he said, adding the formal physical verification of the paddy stocks will be completed in five days. No policemen will be deployed along with the team. But team members have been directed to seek police assistance if needed in course of inspection in rice mills. The Civil and Criminal actions will be taken against rice mill operators after being found irregularities in the procurement of paddy in the State, he added.
For 1305 rice mills, 140 teams constituted.
The additional chief secretary said that there are 1305 rice mills in the State. As per reports, 65 lakh metric tonnes have been procured by the rice millers on behalf of the Government agencies against target of 45 lakh metric tonnes. A total of 140 teams comprising 168 officials have been constituted for completing formal physical verification of paddy stocks in 1305 rice mills in the State. Days for completing physical verification of particular mill will be done through lottery system so that millers could not know the day of verification and indulge in irregularities, he said, adding ten days ago, the department had conducted internal verification of the stocks and now formal verification of the stocks will be done.
"Senior officers have been assigned for supervising the physical verification of paddy stocks of State procurement agencies lying in rice mills at district level. The verification is to be completed in five days. I will supervise the physical verification of paddy stock from secretariat. Media will be briefed about verification reports on daily basis," he said,
Paddy is purchased every year and its procurement is done by rice millers on behalf of government agencies. Necessary quota for the same is determined. Farmers brings their crop to mandis with more than permitted moisture level of 17 per cent. Some mill owners opposed physical verification of the paddy stocks while few of them have welcomed.
Physical verification of paddy stocks ordered after Oppositions raise paddy scam
Leader of Opposition in the Assembly and former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and senior Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) general secretary Abhay Chautala had alleged in the Vidhan Sabha that paddy was being hoarded by people with vested interests in the State and sold in the market when the prices of rice internationally went high. Recently Hooda had demanded CBI inquiry over irregularities in paddy scam in the State. He alleged that farmers in the state had been cheated by buying paddy at lower cost from them.
Hooda said a government cannot function like this. If there is a scam, the government should immediately order an inquiry by the CBI. “The moment government said a scam came to light in the milling of paddy, I demanded a probe. However, the government has not taken any action.” He said.
Giving the example of stand-off between rice millers and the state government, Hooda said while Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Jai Prakash Dalal gave clean chit to the millers, some others in the government were alleging a scam and another physical verification was ordered.
Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had earlier announced that physical verification of stock of paddy purchased in the mandis during the current Kharif procurement season would be conducted by the Additional Chief Secretary.

JAK Foundation supports President’s directive on local rice

Date: Dec 20 , 2019 , 06:59
BY: Zadok K. Gyesi
Professor Baffour Agyeman-Duah (middle), addressing the media in Accra. Those with him are Nana Adjei Ayeh (right) and Nana Ama Oppong-Duah (right). Picture: GABRIEL AHIABOR

The John Agyekum Kufuor Foundation (JAK Foundation), in partnership with the Ghana Rice Inter-Professional Body (GRIB), the Millers Association of Ghana and Hopeline Institute, has lauded President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for issuing a directive to compel state agencies and institutions to purchase and use Ghana rice.

According to the rice interest institutions, the President’s directive would inure to the benefit of rice farmers in the country, consumers and the  economy in general.
At a press conference in Accra last Wednesday, the Chief Executive Officer of the JAK Foundation, Professor Baffour Agyeman-Duah, said: “We are unreservedly happy by the President’s directive asking all state institutions to procure Ghana rice. This will go a long way to revitalise the local industry which has seen a decline.”
He said the foundation and its partners would work out a plan of action towards improving service delivery by developing a monitoring mechanism to ensure that public institutions adhered to the President’s directive on local rice.
“We shall also, in collaboration with our partners, evolve effective and institutionalised monitoring and evaluation frameworks or strategies for monitoring and/or evaluating compliance with the President’s directive,” Prof. Agyeman-Duah said.
President Akufo-Addo, at a media encounter at the Jubilee House in Accra on Friday, December 13, this year, directed all state institutions to purchase rice and other foodstuffs produced in Ghana from January 1, next year to boost the country’s agricultural sector.

India's Intense Agri Drive After 1947 Didn't Stop Crop Diversification: Study

USA Rice Hosts Chinese Importers on Tour through U.S. Rice Country  
By Sarah Moran

RICE COUNTRY, USA -- USA Rice hosted a group of seven Chinese importers for the past ten days, traveling with them through rice country in Arkansas, Louisiana, and California.  The tour kicked off at the USA Rice Outlook Conference in Little Rock last week, where members of the delegation had one-on-one business meetings with several approved exporters to China. 

They toured several mills in Arkansas and Louisiana, and visited the Louisiana State University Rice Research Center where they learned about rice production practices in Louisiana, variety development, and the important role growers play in funding research and promotion for the betterment of the rice industry in the United States.     

Could've used a selfie stick
for this one

"The group was very engaged at every stop on our tour," said Kane Webb, USA Rice director of field services, who accompanied the group throughout the entire trip.  "They asked a lot of questions, particularly about jasmine and other varieties, packaging options related to consumer preference in their market, and the availability of milled rice throughout the year for export.  We were told the "Grown in the USA" logo was something Chinese consumers want to see on packages, as it reflects the assurance of a high quality, safe product."

A highlight of the trip was the visit to a Louisiana crawfish farm as China consumes more than 90 percent of the world's crawfish.

"They saw crawfish being caught on John and Pat Shultz's farm outside of Crowley," said rice farmer Fred Zaunbrecher from Acadia Parish, Louisiana.  "We cooked them up later that day and had a great feast.  This trade mission has been an educational and enlightening visit, both for the Chinese importers and for us farmers as well, as we get to learn what characteristics are important to the Chinse rice consumer."

The team then traveled to California where they attended a seminar with the California Rice Commission and their members, followed by one-on-one discussions with several approved exporters to China.


            Derek Alarcon (third from left) leads the FRC tour
"Farmers' Rice Cooperative (FRC) hosted an in-depth mill tour showcasing the high standards adhered to in the U.S. food safety program," said Derek Alarcon, FRC director of export sales.  "They saw our state of the art milling and packaging equipment, and the process and procedures that ultimately provide some of the highest quality and safest rice produced anywhere in the world.  I believe our guests were impressed with the consistency and reliability of U.S. rice, and will share these attributes when marketing to Chinese consumers." 
"The trip coincided with news of the U.S. and China nearing an agreement on trade, which includes increased purchases of U.S. agricultural goods including rice (see USA Rice Daily December 13, 2019)," said Webb.    "Everyone toasted to the positive news between the two governments and to the prospect of U.S. rice sales to China."

USA Rice continues to facilitate meetings between Chinese importers and U.S. exporters, with the next opportunity being at the SIAL show in Shanghai in May 2020.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Congress Ends 2019 on a High Note for Trade and Ag Funding 

WASHINGTON, DC -- The first session of the 116th Congress is officially a wrap.  To say that the happenings in Congress during 2019 have been interesting would be an understatement.  But, two vital pieces of legislation made headway prior to Congress leaving Washington for the holiday break.

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5430, which is the implementing legislation for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 385 to 41.  The new trade pact is slated to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if approved by all three member countries.

Mexico approved the agreement this past summer; remaining is passage and signature by the U.S. Senate and President, respectively, as well as approval by Canada, which is likely to closely follow U.S. approval.  Given the end of the legislative session in the U.S., the Senate will not consider the measure until early next year.
"USA Rice strongly supports the ratification of the USMCA and appreciates the House of Representatives' approval of the agreement," said Charley Mathews, Jr., California rice farmer and chair of USA Rice.  "While rice trade with our neighbors to the north and south remains duty-free, we look forward to market stabilization and advancing our efforts to increase exports to our North American trading partners.  We're hopeful for the Senate's quick approval of the agreement early next year so we can achieve these goals."

Also yesterday, the Senate passed two omnibus appropriations measures that were passed by the House earlier this week.  President Trump is expected to sign the bills into law later today, funding the government for fiscal year 2020 through September 30, while also reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and several other policy riders.

Discretionary funding in fiscal year 2020 for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and related agencies is $23.5 billion, an increase of $183 million over fiscal year 2019.  Included in the measure is an additional $1.5 billion allocated for agriculture disaster assistance programs.  This additional disaster funding authorizes USDA to cover additional causes of loss, including excessive moisture for the 2018 and 2019 crop years.  The measure also replenishes the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) with $26.3 billion in mandatory funding.

"As the 2019 legislative session comes to a close, the U.S. rice industry can be proud of our accomplishments over the past year," said Ben Mosely, USA Rice vice president of government affairs.  "However, much work remains to be done this Congress, and USA Rice looks forward to representing our members in Washington and advocating for our priorities next year."

Supreme Rice announces $20 million expansion

Expansion will add 25,000 square feet to Crowley facility
Posted: 3:56 PM, Dec 19, 2019

Updated: 2:56 AM, Dec 20, 2019

By: KATC News
Description: items.[0].image.alt
Photo by: Robideaux, Heidi
Supreme Rice President and CEO Bobby Hanks and Gov. John Bel Edwards announced a $20 million expansion of the rice mill's facilities in Crowley.
The project will add 25,000 square feet of manufacturing space, bringing the facility to 75,000 square feet.
With the expansion, Supreme Rice will retain 150 employees across the state, including 105 at the Crowley site. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the Crowley mill supports an additional 374 indirect jobs, for a total of more than 475 jobs in Acadiana and the surrounding areas.
"Louisiana's natural resources and geographic position have blessed us with an agricultural bounty that is the envy of the world," Gov. Edwards said. "This landmark Crowley company will celebrate 85 years in business in 2021, and they are celebrating this milestone with a reinvestment in the community. I congratulate the Supreme Rice team on this expansion and on the securing of great jobs in Acadiana."
The investment will allow the company to upgrade its current milling process to a new state-of-the-art milling process. New equipment to be installed will include the latest technology in milling machines and milled rice storage, and the project will include related railroad improvements to the site.
"Supreme Rice is pleased to announce plans to upgrade and expand our rice mill in Crowley, which has been in operation since 1937," Hanks said. "This expansion is a commitment to our local community, to Louisiana jobs and to demonstrate Supreme Rice's strong commitment to the Louisiana rice industry and to the success of the Louisiana farmer. The Crowley mill will undergo a major state-of-the-art upgrade and expansion in capacity to improve the ability of the Louisiana worker to mill, package and ship high-quality milled rice grown by Louisiana farmers to our customers in the U.S. and around the globe."
Supreme Rice was established in 1936 in Kaplan and moved to Crowley in 1935. The mill processes more than 1 billion pounds of rice annually and produces packages of white long grain, medium long grain, jasmine, and brown long grain rice. Supreme Rice is the premier exporter of U.S. milled rice on the gulf coast.
"On behalf of the City of Crowley, it is an honor to offer congratulations to Supreme Rice and its leadership on this great day," said Crowley Mayor Tim Monceaux. "With your leadership and compassion, we are very confident that you will have many years of success. Crowley is very blessed to have Supreme Rice call this city home. Again, congratulations and thank you."
Louisiana Economic Development began discussing a potential expansion project with Supreme Rice in July 2019. To secure the project, the state offered Supreme Rice a competitive incentive package that includes $500,000 from Louisiana's Economic Development Award Program to support infrastructure improvements, as well as a $300,000 Modernization Tax Credit. The company also is expected to utilize the state's Industrial Tax Exemption Program.
"For over 80 years, Supreme Rice has been rooted in Crowley and continues to serve as a driver in our region's agricultural economy," said President and CEO Amy Thibodeaux of the Acadia Parish Chamber of Commerce. "We are extremely proud of Supreme Rice's expansion, which is a testament to the success businesses are having in Acadia Parish. We appreciate their endless commitment to the farmers and agricultural industry they serve."
"Supreme Rice has a long history of helping fuel the growth of Acadia Parish and the surrounding region, and we're proud they are expanding right here in South Louisiana," said Troy Wayman, President and CEO of One Acadiana. "This expansion is a testament to Acadiana's strong business climate, outstanding farmers, and our incomparable workforce. We're honored to share this milestone with Supreme Rice and hope to celebrate many more."
For more information on Supreme Rice, click here.
Copyright 2019 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
REAP plans to send trade teams to S Arabia, Australia
Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) is planning to take trade delegations to Saudi Arabia and Australia during the next calendar year in a bid to boost Pakistani rice exports to the two nations.
‘Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest buyers markets for Pakistani rice. Currently, it is importing around one million tons of rice out of which 70 per cent is Basmati and this figure can be enhanced substantially provided both the public and private sector make concerted efforts,' said REAP Chairman Shahjahan Malik while talking to Business Recorder here on Thursday.
REAP has decided to send around 18-members Trade Delegation to enhance rice export to Saudi Arabia at the end of January 2020. It will be the second delegation under Shahjahan Malik as he took first such delegation during his tenure as Senior Vice Chairman too.
Shahjahan said that they are planning to visit Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam and holding Biryani festivals there to showcase Pakistani rice's taste, aroma and potential to the big buyers.
IMF approves second tranche of $452m for Pakistan
DECEMBER 20, 2019
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday (Dec 19) during a meeting of its executive board in Washington, approved second tranche worth of $452 million for Pakistan under the $6 billion loan package.
Description: Image result for IMF Approves Second Tranche of $452m for Pakistan"
The IMF’s Executive Board was scheduled to meet on December 19 in Washington to approve the first review and release of second tranche under $6 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF).
The letter signed by Shaikh and Baqir demonstrated Islamabad’s commitment that it would pursue all committed reforms and conditions so the executive board grants approval for release of next installment worth $452 million.
“The IMF management have circulated the signed Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies (MEFP) among the members of Executive Board and now the meeting is scheduled to take place before Christmas holidays on December 19, 2019 for approving release of next tranche”, official sources confirmed.
IMF’s spokesperson, Gerry Rice, had confirmed the news on Twitter, saying, “IMF Executive Board approved today a three-year US$6 billion loan to support Pakistan’s economic plan, which aims to return sustainable growth to the country’s economy and improve the standards of living.”
The IMF and Pakistan’s government had earlier already signed a staff agreement on May 12 in this regard.

“Respect Akufo-Addo's Directive On Local Rice Use” – Stakeholders tells State Institutions
By Nana Yaw Reuben

Description: “Respect Akufo-Addo's Directive On Local Rice Use” – Stakeholders tells State Institutions
 LISTEN   DEC 19, 2019
Chief Executive Officer for the John A. Kufuor Foundation Prof. Baffour Agyeman-Duah is urging public and government institutions to start using Ghana Rice for their programmes and activities as directed by the President.
Prof. Agyeman-Duah believes that an enabling policy environment will facilitate massive uptake of the Ghana Rice sector for increased productivity to make the Ghana Rice sector a viable business for farmers.
“We are working tirelessly in different capacities to promote the adoption of Ghana Rice to reduce the country’s dependence on imported rice” he added.
Prof. Agyeman-Duah made these remarks during a press conference organized by The John A. Kufuor Foundation in partnership with value chain institutions such as the Ghana Rice Inter-professional Body (GRIB), the Miller’s Association of Ghana and Hopeline Institute to commend the president’s executive order on the consumption of Ghana Rice.
He believes that the growth of the rice industry in Ghana would lead to massive job creation and save Ghana millions cedi’s.
The Value Chain Actors urged everybody to eat grown in Ghana rice, “So for this Christmas, as you go out to buy your rice, please make sure you are buying rice which is grown in Ghana; let’s buy and eat made in Ghana rice,” they added. Below is the press release by the Value Chain Actors.
We would like to warmly applaud the directive by the President H.E Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo-Addo, that all state institutions must procure Ghana rice, beginning next year.
The John A. Kufuor Foundation in partnership with value chain institutions such as the Ghana Rice Inter-professional Body (GRIB), the Miller’s Association of Ghana and Hopeline Institute, have been working tirelessly in different capacities to promote the adoption of Ghana Rice to reduce the country’s dependence on imported rice.
After years of collaborating in diverse ways, mainly through policy and advocacy for reforms in the rice sector, we find it immensely important that this bold step will be undertaken by government.
The president’s directive comes at a very opportune time when local producers, together with government and importers are working out modalities for import substitution in the rice sector.
We would like to use this opportunity to reiterate our full commitment to creating a viable local rice sector where Ghana will become self-sufficient. We believe that the government’s target of achieving self-sufficiency in rice production by 2023 is achievable and we will work to support this goal.
In view of this, we would like to outline the following actions in support of the government’s decision.
1. We are unreservedly happy by the President’s directive that all state institutions to procure Ghana rice. This will go a long way to revitalise the local industry which has been blighted by decline.
2. The Foundation and its partners shall, as a matter of urgency, work out strategies for improving service delivery by developing a monitoring mechanism to ensure that public institutions adhere to the directive of the president.
3. We shall also, in collaboration with other partners, evolve effective and institutionalized monitoring and evaluation frameworks/strategies for monitoring and/or evaluating the compliance with the president’s directive.
4. We shall also engage further with other state institutions to develop measures that will encourage nationwide adoption of Ghana rice.
5. The Foundation will support the value chain actors to forge closer ties to address the challenges of the rice sector and to create the most conducive environment.
Once again, we will like to express our sincerest gratitude to the president and also reaffirm our commitment to promoting Ghana rice and ending the country’s dependence on imported rice.
The John A. Kufuor Foundation
The Ghana Rice Inter-professional Body (GRIB)
The Miller’s Association of Ghana
Hopeline Institute Ghana

Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Bangkok rounded up by police during Christmas season

Description: Image
19 Dec 2019

Bangkok: (PCP) While people around the world begin preparations for Christmas and the holidays, parties and family gatherings that ensue around 30 Pak-Christian asylum seekers and refugees begin a morale-sapping detention in a Thai cell before moving into a long-term detainment in the substandard Immigration detention centres (IDC) in Bangkok.

Worse still family members and friends may have to suffer long term, distant separation from one another as refurbishment at the main Bangkok IDC has already scattered the Pak-Christian community across the nation of Thailand.

This morning at 6am (19th December 2019) immigration officers accompanied by police and the army raided condos at Siriroongruang Soi 38, with intention to arrest the large Pak-Christian asylum seeker/refugee community residing there.

28 people were arrested which includes 9 men, 11 women 6 children under the age of 10 and 2 teenagers. Already our BPCA officer has met and spoken with those arersted and efforts are being made to help with the necessary court fines to keep these vulnerable victims from incarceration in the brutal Central Jails in Bangkok by paying the necessary overstay fines they will be required to pay in court within the next four days and we are seeking information of the date of the court hearing and location. We estimate fines of 4000 baht for each victim. These fines will need to be paid irrespective of any UNHCR held asylum or refugee status as Thailand is not signatory to UN Conventions for asylum.

After paying for court fines the families will be detained in the brutal IDC's throughout the country as repairs are still ongoing on the Bangkok IDC This will leave families separated by some distance in some cases and away from friends and other support as Bangkok. This lack of access will no doubt create a significant amount of stress and anxiety and we will be praying for individuals and ask for others to unite in prayer for them too.

Our lead officer in Thailand, John, said: "The timing of these arrests could not be worse.

"Our community is feeling distraught and extremely sorrowful for our suffering brothers and sisters.

"We were all beginning Christmas celebrations but for many now their joy will be dulled as they await upon their future with only the thinnest strand of hope."

Juliet Chowdhry, said: "This will be a devastating Christmas for all those arrested and we will do all we can to make Christmas feel special for these and other detainees.

"Our primary concern is to cover the overstay fines those arrested will have to pay in order to prevent them from incarceration in a brutal Thai Jail with murderers and rapists - this will adversely affect the children in particular.

"Our staff in Thailand are producing Christmas cards made by asylum seeker children and will distribute them to as many IDC's as financially possible with some Biryani rice near to Christmas.

"Biriyani is a traditional Christmas meal for pak-Christians and when I think of the plain boiled rice they will eat on other days.

"I hope this will remind them that one day this world will end and more pleasant things are awaiting us in heaven."

Price of paddy rice ‘acceptable’, CRF says

Chea Vannak / Khmer Times  

The Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) has fought back against claims that the current price of paddy is too low to sustain farmers’ livelihoods.
For in depth analysis of Cambodian Business, visit Capital Cambodia
“Despite what people are saying on social media, the price of paddy has not decreased below market price. The current price is acceptable for farmers,” said CRF president Song Saran.
CRF comments follow viral posts on social media platforms claiming the current price level is insufficient to make a living.
At a press conference held at the Council of Ministers yesterday, Mr Saran acknowledged that the price of paddy rice has decreased, but said it is not as bad as portrayed on some social media posts, which he labelled fake news.
According to Mr Saran, fragrant paddy rice sells above 1,000 riel ($0.25) per kilogram, which represents a 10 percent decrease compared with the prices during the previous harvest.
He said the depreciation is linked to a downward trend in the price of milled rice in international markets.
“It is lower than last year, but it is not a big fall and farmers can survive,” Mr Saran said.
He also suggested that the drop in the price of paddy may be the result of farmers planting lower quality varieties. He called on farmers to focus on “purer” rice types.
Mr Saran highlighted a government initiative to stabilise the price of rice. Through the state-owned Rural Development Bank (RDB), the government is disbursing “emergency” loans to help rice millers purchase and store paddy during harvest season.
The initiative, Mr Saran argued, has kept rice in the hands of millers and away from middlemen who would have sold it to neighbouring countries.
RDB director-general Kao Thach also praised the scheme.
“With warehouses and silos build with loans from the government, millers have money to buy rice from farmers and can store it for longer periods,” Mr Thach said.
Cambodia exported 457,940 tonnes of rice during the first 10 months of 2019. Of this, 184,844 tonnes were sent to China.

Asia Rice-India export rates gain as demand picks up
Karthika Suresh Namboothiri
December 19, 2019
8:28 AM EST
Last Updated
December 19, 2019
1:15 PM EST
Filed under
PMN Business
BENGALURU — Indian rice export prices extended gains this week as demand ticked up and paddy prices on the local market rose, while demand for Thai rice was still being hurt by cheaper competitors.
Top exporter India’s 5 percent broken parboiled variety was quoted around $360-$365 per tonne this week, up from last week’s $358-$363.
“Paddy rice prices have been rising as farmers are demanding the minimum support price,” said an exporter based at Kakinada in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
New Delhi earlier this year raised the paddy rice purchase price by 3.7% to 1,815 rupees per 100 kg for the 2019/20 crop.
Demand for the Indian rice has been fairly subdued of late, with export rates near multi-year lows. Rice exports in October fell 42% year-on-year to 485,898 tonnes, government data showed, due to weak demand from African countries for non-basmati rice.
Demand has been dull for Thailand’s exports too, with prices throughout the year significantly higher than those from main competitor Vietnam, largely due to a strong local currency .

“Prices are already low for us, but still not low enough to compete with Vietnam,” said one Bangkok-based trader.
Thailand’s 5% broken rice was quoted at $395-$420 a tonne, on a free on board basis, compared with $397-$411 last week.
Farmers are harvesting new season rice and exporters hope the new supply could help lower prices in the near future.
In Vietnam, rates for 5% broken rice were quoted at $350-$352 a tonne on Thursday, compared with $350 a week earlier.
“Demand from the Philippines is increasing, but domestic supplies are running low,” a trader based in An Giang province said.
“We expect prices to edge up further until supplies from the winter-spring crop are available from late January and early February,” he said.
In Bangladesh, the rain-fed rice output or Aman crop is expected to exceed the 14 million tonne target for this year, helped by favorable weather, a senior official at the agriculture ministry said.
Aman, the second biggest rice crop after summer variety Boro, makes up just under 40% of Bangladesh’s total rice production of around 35 million tonnes.
Fears that Cyclone Bulbul that ripped through coastal areas of Bangladesh and eastern India last month could cause havoc, were unfounded, the official added. (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Ruma Paul in Dhaka, Khanh Vu in Hanoi and Patpicha Tanakasempipat in Bangkok; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

India Basmati Rice exports fall to $2.22 bn in Apr-Oct FY20
Commodity Online | December 20 2019
UPDATED 11:56:17 IST
India's basmati rice shipments declined by a tenth at $2.22 billion during April- October 2019-20 on lower volumes, despite a marginal increase in per unit realisation, according to the latest figures released by the Agricultural and Processed Foods Export Development Authority (APEDA) under the Commerce Ministry.

Exports of basmati stood at $2.47 billion in the corresponding period last year.

In volume terms, shipments stood lower at 2.05 million tonnes (2.29 million tonnes). Basmati rice is India’s largest export product, and accounted for a fourth of the total farm produce shipments.

Non-basmati rice saw a major decline in both volumes and value terms after being outpriced in the international market. Non-basmati rice shipments were down 37% at $1.14 billion ($1.81 billion) during the period.

Volumes fell drastically to 2.81 million tonnes, against 4.48 million tonnes in the corresponding period last year. Non-basmati rice accounted for 13% of the overall farm produce exports.

Supreme Rice in Crowley to undergo $20 million expansion

 DEC 19, 2019 - 4:17 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards and Supreme Rice President and CEO Bobby Hanks on Thursday announced a $20 million expansion of the rice mill’s facilities in Crowley. The project will secure the company’s position as a leading rice processor by adding 25,000 square feet of manufacturing space, bringing the facility to 75,000 square feet.
Supreme Rice is the largest rice-milling operation in Louisiana. With the expansion, the company will retain 150 employees across Louisiana, including 105 at the Crowley site.
“Louisiana’s natural resources and geographic position have blessed us with an agricultural bounty that is the envy of the world,” Edwards said. “This landmark Crowley company will celebrate 85 years in business in 2021, and they are celebrating this milestone with a reinvestment in the community. I congratulate the Supreme Rice team on this expansion and on the securing of great jobs in Acadiana.”
The new investment will allow the company to upgrade its current milling process to a new state-of-the-art milling process. New equipment to be installed will include the latest technology in milling machines and milled rice storage, and the project will include related railroad improvements at the site.
“This expansion is a commitment to our local community, to Louisiana jobs and to demonstrate Supreme Rice’s strong commitment to the Louisiana rice industry and to the success of the Louisiana farmer," Hanks said. "The Crowley mill will undergo a major state-of-the-art upgrade and expansion in capacity to improve the ability of the Louisiana worker to mill, package and ship high-quality milled rice grown by Louisiana farmers to our customers in the U.S. and around the globe.”
Established in Kaplan in 1936, Supreme Rice moved to Crowley the following year. Founder Joseph Doré built and implemented one of the first drying units in the industry, as rice processing moved from field-dried shocks and threshing to one-step methods. Since its founding, the company has expanded its reach and is shipping worldwide to more than 50 countries. Processing more than 1 billion pounds annually, Supreme Rice produces packages of white long grain, medium long grain, jasmine and brown long grain rice.
“On behalf of the City of Crowley, it is an honor to offer congratulations to Supreme Rice and its leadership on this great day,” said Crowley Mayor Tim Monceaux. “With your leadership and compassion, we are very confident that you will have many years of success. Crowley is very blessed to have Supreme Rice call this city home. Again, congratulations and thank you.”
Louisiana Economic Development began discussing a potential expansion project with Supreme Rice in July 2019. To secure the project, the state offered Supreme Rice a competitive incentive package that includes $500,000 from Louisiana’s Economic Development Award Program to support infrastructure improvements, as well as a $300,000 Modernization Tax Credit. The company also is expected to utilize the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program.
“Supreme Rice has a long history of helping fuel the growth of Acadia Parish and the surrounding region, and we’re proud they are expanding right here in South Louisiana,” said Troy Wayman, President and CEO of One Acadiana. “This expansion is a testament to Acadiana’s strong business climate, outstanding farmers, and our incomparable workforce. We're honored to share this milestone with Supreme Rice and hope to celebrate many more."

Acadiana Business Today: Supreme Rice in Crowley to undergo $20 million expansion; First riverboat casino approved to come ashore near Lake Charles; see next steps, expected completion

Inconsistent Weather Brings Low Yields for 2019 Rice Harvest

Inconsistent weather has defined the 2019 rice harvest season in Acadiana, bringing low yields.
LSU AgCenter County Agent for Acadia Parish Jeremy Hebert explains rice yields have dropped anywhere from 15 percent to 30 percent for farmers.
“It’s been a challenging year across southwest Louisiana.” said Hebert
Hebert added the rice season began poorly with a wet spring, only accentuated by Hurricane Barry.
He points out that prevented farmers from properly fertilizing their rice crop putting them behind the eight ball.
Conditions improved in the fall but it wasn’t enough to recoup the losses from the spring.
“They’ve gotta explain to their banker who they are going to get their loans from why they had bad a 2019 year and it’s going to be tough for a lot of these guys in 2020 to get that loan and to get back out there in the field.” said Hebert
Alan Lawson is a rice farmer in Acadia Parish who saw a 20 percent drop in yields.
He believes the down year will have a trickle down effect
“When a farm turns a profit. We have a lot of businesses that service the farm sector. You have suppliers and you have bag manufacturers and you have mills and just every part of the community, down to the grocery store will notice less disposable money from the farm side.” Lawson explained.
Both Lawson and Hebert understand this is just the nature of the beast.
“You can’t spend all of your money in the good years. You have to have something left over.” said Lawson.
“We’re not going to press the doomsday button. 2019 shouldn’t dictate how 2020 goes because it’s all up to mother nature.” said Hebert.
Rice farmers like Lawson are also keeping a close eye on President Trump’s trade negiotations with China.
Lawson says he hopes they can break into china market, because us rice isn’t currently sold in China.

Agriculture Ministry Rejects Criticism Over Low Rice Prices

A Cambodian vendor cleans her rice as she prepares it to sell at a rice store in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday, April 27, 2019.
The Cambodian Agriculture Ministry rejected criticism circulating on social media about farmers getting low prices for their rice in the paddy-producing provinces of Battambang, Pursat and Banteay Meanchey.
The ministry released a statement on Tuesday claiming that farmers receiving low rice prices were selling poor quality rice and that prices were still within an acceptable range. Ministry officials were also working with rice mills to procure as much rice as possible from farmers.
The claims of low prices, the ministry said, were “far from the truth” and that the ministry was ensuring that farmers’ paddy was purchased and at fair prices.
Pakistan should export value-added products’
Islamabad:Ambassador of Bosnia-Herzegovina Brig Gen (r) Sakib Foric, has said that Pakistan can use Balkans as a bridge by capitalising on the trade and investment opportunities in the Balkans, especially Bosnia, because other regional countries like India were not that focused on the region.

Brig Foric was addressing a Roundtable Discussion on ‘Regional ties: Balkans and South Asia’ organised by Institute of Regional Studies here Thursday.

Mr Foric asked Pakistanis to focus on value additions to their export commodities. He maintained that while Pakistani leather was very good, the Pakistani finished leather products like shoes and jackets were not trendy.

Appreciating Pakistan’s support to the Bosnian refugees during the Balkans war and supporting its UN mission in completing membership documentation of various UN bodies, he said that Pakistan was among the first few countries recognising Bosnia soon after its independence.

He said that there was very little Pakistani investment in Bosnia. He said that since Bosnia was an energy-surplus country and energy prices were low, it was a good destination for investment. He regretted that there were only 22 Pakistanis studying in Bosnian universities despite the fact that there were some very good universities in his country.

Mr Foric said that although Pakistan and Bosnia were negotiating a preferential trading agreement, no free trade agreement had been signed between the two countries, which had limited the trade potential of the two countries. He regretted that Bosnia and Pakistan only had 7 operational ratified agreements between them. He said that the market for Pakistani rice, mangoes and furniture in Bosnia could be explored by Pakistani traders. He said that another limiting factor in Pakistan-Bosnia economic relations was the lack of direct flights between the two countries.

Talking about his life in Pakistan, the Ambassador shared that he received tremendous affection from Pakistanis wherever he disclosed that he was from Bosnia. He expressed his profound appreciation for the hardworking spirit of Pakistanis and the remarkably beautiful tourist destinations in the country. He called for improving tourism infrastructure in Pakistan for further enhancing Pakistan’s international tourism potential.

He disclosed that Bosnia had attracted 1.8 million foreign tourists last year. He added that Bosnia had received a large amount of investment in residential real estate from Arab countries. He estimated the total number of homes built by Arabs in Bosnia in the last few years at more than 100,000. He opined that since the Middle Eastern summers were very hot, many Arabs had invested in real estate in Bosnia to visit in summers. He said that complete Arab villages had been established by investors from the Arab countries in the suburbs of Bosnian cities like in the capital Sarajevo.

Dr Rukhsana Qamber, President IRS, in her vote of thanks said that she had travelled to Bosnia and had found the Bosnian people very friendly toward foreign tourists.

Modi Govt agrees to procure 24L MT rice under central pool

Friday, 20 December 2019 | Staff Reporter | RAIPUR
Finally the Union government has agreed on procuring 24 LMT rice from Chhattisgarh through Food Corporation of India under central pool.
A consent letter        regarding the same came on Thursday after the state submitted details of paddy purchase from farmers on Minimum Support Price  prescribed by the Union  government.
Centre had earlier refused the demand of the state for procuring all the surplus rice which amounts to be 32 LMT. Earlier in the letter written to Union Minister for Food, Ram Vilas Paswan, Chief Minister Baghel outlined the amount of surplus rice    available with the state while talking about the state's expectations about Central procurement of rice.
"Out of 57.37 LMT of rice produced after custom milling, 25.40 lakh will be procured for PDS requirement of the state (Central 15.48 lakh metric ton, State Pool 9.92 LMT) and nearly 32 LMT of surplus rice     will be made available for central pool of FCI", the state Chief Minister said demanding of the Centre to procure all the surplus paddy.