Tuesday, December 31, 2019

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

350,000kg of expired rice discovered at a Sathosa warehouse
Written by Staff Writer    30 Dec, 2019 | 9:43 PM
COLOMBO (News 1st) – 350,000kg of expired rice was discovered from a Sathosa storage facility in Hingurakgoda today. The stock was discovered following an inspection carried out by the All Ceylon Farmers Federation.
A group including the national organizer of the All Ceylon Farmers Federation, inspected the Sathosa warehouse today. Stocks of paddy were still being issued for the purpose of animal feed.
Namal Karunaratne, National Organizer of the All Ceylon Farmers Federation stated that the stocks of paddy were brought in 2017 and the expiry date was in August 2019.
An officer-in-charge stated that the PHI officers had deemed these products as unfit for human consumption. He added that the paddy stocks were then sent to Gannoruwa, and passed as animal feed.
Meanwhile, stock of paddy passed as animal feed, which is only due to expire in February 2020 was discovered inside the warehouse.
Namal Karunarathne:
“Why was this stock of paddy, that will only expire in February 2020, passed as animal feed? When there was no rice shortage in 2018, why did the government spend so much, and import rice?
Once paddy is passed as animal feed, they purchase the paddy at a lower cost. They once again polish the paddy in mills and sell it to the consumer.
We should not allow the government to import rice like this, and waste public funds. We urge President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to take immediate action and to address this issue.”
Meanwhile, a group of UNP MPs visited the Narahenpita Economic Centre today to inquire about the prices of rice.
UNP MP Ajith P. Perera: What just happened? Did the cooperatives get closed down after the new government was appointed?
A representative responded that after a week it was decided to deliver paddy stocks directly to millers without handing it to the cooperative unit.
He added that the price of rice increased following this decision as the Government lost the opportunity to control the price of rice when paddy stocks were withdrawn from the cooperative.
A merchant stated that it ideal for the Government to manage rice production and stop mafia from being continued by the mill owners.
Ajith P. Perera stated that the whole supply of rice is controlled by about 6 people and they determine the price.
He added that with the change in Government the Shakthi cooperative was stopped and they must look into why it was shut down.
He further added that it was a conspiracy because they are now controlled by mill owners.
UNP MP Nalin Bandara Jayamaha:
“We have information that the Government has about 10,000kg of red rice in their stores. They can provide it for Rs 75. I don’t understand how they are beneath this rice mafia and are unable to control the situation. The President doesn’t have to come to Narahenpita, he just has to make 5 or 6 calls.”

Rice growers meeting is planned for Jan. 23; latest developments will be discussed

·       Dec 28, 2019
 Rice farmers throughout the north state will have an opportunity to learn about the latest developments and key issues impacting the industry during annual grower meetings planned for next month.
The events are put on by the California Rice Commission. The informational meetings will cover issues in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., that affect the rice industry. https://www.appeal-democrat.com/news/rice-growers-meeting-is-planned-for-jan-latest-developments-will/article_8b4204b0-29fe-11ea-b488-1b279db271b9.html

Rise in rice production: FAO predicts export scale down in 2020

Description: https://i1.wp.com/www.blueprint.ng/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/FB_IMG_1577648176596.jpg?zoom=1.5&resize=624%2C351&ssl=1

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has predicted that rice trade in 2020 will be scaled back largely on account of downgraded imports by Nigeria.

The Organisation in its 2019/2020 Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) outlook from its website predicted that stocks (2019/20 carry-outs) raised further, with rice exporters, in particular India and Thailand, accounting for much of the revision.
Considering four major produce (Wheat, Rice, Maize, and Soybeans), the organisation states that as 2019 draws to a close, but market uncertainties are not.

“From escalating trade tensions to geopolitical risks, massive swine fever outbreaks and weather abnormalities, food markets have experienced more than their fair share of unpredictability this year.

“However, good supply conditions and strong fundamentals have spared the four AMIS crops from much disarray, also sustaining a cautiously optimistic market outlook for 2020.


Rice 2019 production upgraded, as reductions for Thailand and Viet Nam are outweighed by improved prospects for Pakistan and several countries in Africa, in particular Egypt and Nigeria.
Its revealed further that utilization in 2019/20 raised, mostly on more buoyant expectations regarding food intake; now seen rising by 0.7% y/y on a per capita basis.
While trade in 2020 scaled back largely on account of downgraded imports by Nigeria, but also by China and Egypt.

Wheat 2019 production according to the report raised, reflecting bigger harvests in the EU and Ukraine; the latest forecast points to an increase of nearly 5 percent from last year’s record level. And that utilization in 2019/20 lowered following further downgrading of feed use estimates in several countries; but still rising by 1.4 percent from the 2018/19 level driven by higher food, feed and industrial demand. Trade in 2019/20 (July/June) expected to expand by 2.3 percent from 2018/19 and reach the third highest level on record.
Stocks (ending 2020) scaled up, mostly on expectation of larger build-ups in several major exporting countries; now indicating a 3.0 percent increase over the previous season and the second highest recorded level.


Maize production in 2019 increased on improved yields in China and in Ukraine, but still 1 percent below the 2017 record. Utilization in 2019/20 remains flat with a projected decline in feed use (most significantly in China, Ukraine and the US) offsetting the overall rise in food and industrial demand.
Trade in 2019/20 (July/June) to contract but less than anticipated earlier, underpinned by stronger pace in exports from Brazil and Ukraine more than offsetting a slowdown in sales by the US.
Stocks (ending in 2020) raised by 8.5 million tones, mostly reflecting upward revisions in China, Ukraine and, to a lesser extent, the US; but still down 5.4 percent from their opening level.


The report also shows that soybean 2019/20 production forecast trimmed, as downward adjustments in South American crops are only partially compensated by higher estimates elsewhere.
“Utilization in 2019/20 lifted marginally, underpinned primarily by upward revisions in China. 2019/20 trade forecast raised slightly on higher import demand by China, reflecting a possible recovery in soymeal demand fueled by herd rebuilding.
“Stocks (2019/20 carry-outs) lowered further on reduced forecasts in a number of countries. Global inventories poised to drop by almost one-fourth from last season’s historic record,” the report reveals.

Plant Scientists Identify New Strategy to Enhance Rice Grain Yield

Since rice is so important to feeding a large portion of the world's population, the identification of genes that enhance grain yield and composition is much desired
By University of Hong Kong 
Description: Protein Enhances Grain SizeOsACBP2-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 KONGRice provides a 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 (Patent Application No. WO 2019/104509).
In this technology, the research group led by 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 percent and elevate grain yield (Image 1). The biomass of the OsACBP2-overexpressing transgenic rice grains exceeded the control by over 10 percent. 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 percent 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. 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." https://www.labmanager.com/news/2019/12/plant-scientists-identify-new-strategy-to-enhance-rice-grain-yield#.Xgs4vFUzbm4
Japan to launch project to boost farm productivity in Myanmar
December 30, 2019 (Mainichi Japan)
Description: https://cdn.mainichi.jp/vol1/2019/12/30/20191230p2g00m0na041000p/6.jpg?2
This file photo shows the National flag of Myanmar. (LightRocket/Getty/Kyodo)
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan will launch a 390 million yen ($3.6 million) project in May in Myanmar to boost irrigation and agricultural management as part of efforts to increase productivity and eradicate poverty in the Southeast Asian country.
Development of the agriculture promotion system, the improvement of the rice value chain, among other things, will be conducted in six townships in the Shwebo district of the Sagaing region, home to some of the largest irrigated farmland in Myanmar.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Myanmar government signed an agreement for the project in the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw last week.
The two sides also aim to secure a stable water source by establishing a water management organization for farmers and improve profitably by obtaining a geographical indication tag for Shwebo Pawsan, a high-end variety of local rice.
The project, designed to improve the income and management skills of farmers, runs from May 2020 to November 2024, according to JICA.
About 60 percent of the Myanmar people engage in agriculture, with agriculture, forestry and fisheries accounting for about 30 percent of the country's gross domestic product.
However, the development and dissemination of agricultural technologies are not that advanced in Myanmar, with its rice yields standing at 3.50 tons per hectare, lower than the 5.54 tons per hectare in Vietnam, 5.15 tons per hectare in Indonesia and 4.34 tons per hectare in Bangladesh, JICA said.
Myanmar's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation's Department of Agriculture will carry out activities related to agricultural promotion, while the ministry's Irrigation and Water Utilization Management Department will engage in participatory water management activities.
Japan has already started repairing irrigation facilities as well as bridges and roads in the Shwebo district as part of another assistance project, according to JICA.

Asia Rice-Thai Rice Export Prices Rise As Drought Triggers Future Supply Concerns

Published on Dec 28 2019 10:29 AM in Supply Chain tagged: Rice / Drought / asia / World News

Thailand's rice export prices rose this week on concerns that a drought hitting the country may harm future supplies of the crop, while the festive season led to thin trade in India and Vietnam.
Thailand's benchmark 5 percent broken rice prices were quoted at $424-$435 on Thursday, an increase from $395-$420 the week before.
"There are concerns that the ongoing drought could hurt future supply so there is speculative buying and stockpiling by some mills and exporters, which has driven up the prices," a Bangkok-based rice trader said.

Emergency Measures

The government introduced emergency measures last week in 11 provinces around the country, many of them rice-growing areas.
Thailand, the world's second-largest rice exporter, will not have enough water to grow the crop in some 960,000 hectares of rice fields around the Chao Phraya River basin, authorities said in early November.
The dry season is expected to last through to April 30 next year.
Rice export rates notched up in Vietnam as well, with 5 percent broken rice quoted at $355-$360 a tonne, slightly higher from last week's $350-$352.

Christmas Break

"The market is just quiet during this Christmas and New Year holiday," said a trader based in Ho Chi Minh City. "I think it won't pick up until at least February, when supply of the winter-spring crop is available."
Despite domestic inventory being nearly empty, prices would likely not go up in the short term due to weak demand, another trader based in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang said.
In top exporter India, weak demand amid a rise in paddy rates in the local market kept export prices steady.
The 5 percent broken parboiled variet was quoted around $360-$365 per tonne.
"Most of the traders are on Christmas vacation. Demand is negligible," said an exporter based at Kakinada in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
New Delhi earlier this year raised paddy rice purchase price by 3.7% to 1,815 rupees per 100 kg for the 2019/20 crop.

Overseas Deals

Meanwhile, Bangladesh has failed to secure any overseas deals since a long-standing export ban on common variety was lifted in May, with its rice more expensive than supplies from India or Thailand.
"There is no good news. We are still looking for a market to export common rice variety," a Dhaka-based trader told Reuters.
"We could fetch some deals on aromatic rice. But for common variety of parboiled rice, we can offer at least $500 per tonne while our competitors can offer much lower rates.

The Rice Tariffication Law and how it affects you

Published December 30, 2019 3:02pm
Presented by: Department of Finance Description: http://images.gmanews.tv/webpics/2019/12/For_RTL_cover_2019_12_27_15_34_49.jpg
While the Philippines has around 4.80 million hectares of rice farmland, the country’s rice industry isn’t as stable and globally competitive as one would hope. In September 2018 for instance, Filipinos paid around P45.57/kg of rice, while Thailand and Vietnam paid P25.00 less per kilo for their rice due to lower cost of production and more efficient markets. Local rice farmers still can’t compete with our neighboring countries, even with the international trade protection and multibillion-peso programs by the government for the sector.
The bottom line: Filipinos are paying too much for rice and local farmers aren’t doing so well either.
This is where the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) or Republic Act 11203 comes into the picture. This law opens the Philippine rice market and places a minimum 35% tariff on imported rice. This means that while rice from other countries is cheaper, the tariff imposed on them would level the playing field for less efficient local producers. This stable supply of rice also helps lower rice prices for Filipino consumers.
Meanwhile, tariff revenues go to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which is being utilized for programs dedicated to increasing yield and boosting the income of our farmers.
Under the RCEF and other programs, total tariff revenues or 10 billion pesos, whichever is higher, are allocated annually for the provision of modern farm equipment, high-yielding seeds, expanded credit assistance, training for local rice farmers, etc. These programs are expected to help bring down the cost of palay production, boosting the disposable income of our farmers.
The government is also implementing other measures to help farmers adjust to the new rice trade regime, such as the distribution of Rice Farmer Financial Assistance and provision of zero-interest loans, among other existing programs being implemented for the sector.
For the average rice-eating Filipino, here’s how the RTL can affect you:
1. Rice will be made affordable for everyone.
Since the RTL, retail prices of rice have dropped by an average of P9/kg compared to September last year, making it more affordable for everyone. This is good news for over 100 million Filipinos, including farmers who buy rice during non-harvest season and the poor households who spend 20 percent of their budget on the staple.
2. Workers can have more disposable income.
Workers will feel their real income increase as the price of rice decreases. Money saved can be put into their savings, education of their children, emergency funds, or other investments.
3. Taxes can now be allocated to other sectors.
Filipinos’ tax payments will no longer heavily subsidize the National Food Authority (NFA) under the RTL. Taxpayers’ money can now be allocated to other programs that improve education, healthcare, public works, and more.
4. People can improve their nutrition and well-being.
As more Filipinos gain access to affordable and high-quality rice, the country will have about 2.1 million less hungry people and malnourished children by 2025.
5. You will be helping farmers become globally competitive.
The RTL also protects farmers and modernizes their livelihood. About P10 billion from RCEF are allocated to upgrading farmers’ equipment and the distribution of high-quality rice seeds. Farmers are also given programs for skills enhancement, financial and rice credit assistance, and crop insurance. As farmers’ agricultural methods improve, so do their productivity and income.
The Rice Tariffication Law addresses major problems from the current agricultural system to make the country’s rice sector more efficient, progressive, and competitive. It safeguards the welfare of local rice farmers and ensures that every Filipino will always have food on their plates.
Stay informed about the Rice Tariffication Law. Visit https://www.dof.gov.ph/ for more news.

Rice price spike but drought conditions to recede – security concern for the Mekong river

·       December 30, 2019 at 7:03 pm
·       by Joseph O' Connor
·       in EconomyThailand
Last year at the height of the drought crisis, the Thai government reached out to Beijing and called in the Chinese ambassador to discuss conditions in the Mekong river basin and the effects of climate change. While the low water levels then and the scarcity of water now may be more to do with the lack of precipitation heightened by the El Niño effect, many in the northern provinces and environmentalists are concerned about the real impact of dam building upriver on the Mekong where China has put in place at least 11 mega-dams that appear to be able to switch on and off the flow of the once-mighty but now tamed Mekong river.
There have been reports of profiteering and rising rice prices in the last week as the current drought in the north of Thailand continues. The situation has seen some farmers holding on to rice supplies and middlemen stockpiling the crop. However, experts with the Mekong River Commission expect the situation to alleviate from the middle of January with wetter conditions expected. The price of rice is also still well within median levels although it has risen significantly since November. Since last year’s drought and record low levels of water within the Mekong basin, there is concern being expressed for the health of the river and the threat from Chinese dam building. One of those who highlighted this concern in August was US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, on his visit to Bangkok. Northern provinces have now been told to expect as much as a 1-metre drop in water levels in certain provinces from January 2nd to 19th because of testing on a huge upriver dam project in China’s Yunnan province.
Description: mekong-river-thailand-rice-price-drought-rainfall-water-levels-chinese-damsThe Mekong River Commission predicts that drought conditions will improve in northern Thailand as wetter conditions are expected as the price of rice spikes amid speculation and stockpiling. The continuation of the drought problem has sparked mounting concerns about the water flow on the Mekong River and the impact of huge Chinese dams upriver. In August 2019, US Secretary Mike Pompeo addressed the problem in a hard-hitting statement in Bangkok which clearly identified China and its dam-building programme as being part of the problem. Many expert observers now see this issue as a potential threat and flashpoint for conflict in the future between China and Southeast Asian countries including Thailand.
Concerns are developing in the north of Thailand where the price of rice or the 5% Broken Rice Price has shot up by 6% since November due to drought concerns and is being quoted at $445. Long considered Thailand’s hidden secret because of its ability to produce an abundance of rice, the basin of the Mekong River has been experiencing problems in recent times.
This week, with reports of large areas of land from 600,000 to 960,000  rai which may not able to be cultivated in the short term due to a severe drought similar to last year, there is evidence of profiteering with farmers and producers holding on their rice output as the price rises.

Plentiful rains in August saved the 2019 rice harvest

Last year, the year began with a drought which severely impacted farmers in Thailand’s northern region but a plentiful supply of rain in August caused a recovery in the harvest.
It still left the land with a shorter monsoon period and significantly lower rainfall. This is being felt now. The price of rice, while it has varied in recent years, is still well within its median price range although exports of Thai rice last year were down significantly. This was attributed to a higher-priced baht.
The price of rice in Thailand has a significant impact on the lives of poorer Thais as the food is an essential staple of Thai cuisine eaten by the population throughout the country in rural and urban settings alike.

Rice has become a focus on speculation

In the last week alone, the price for the essential crop could be seen to be moving up sharply. This can be seen from Thailand’s benchmark 5 per cent broken rice price which rose from a range of ฿392 to ฿420 last week to $424 to $445 this week.
There are also reports of speculative buying within the market. ‘There are concerns that the ongoing drought could hurt future supply so there is speculative buying and stockpiling by some mills and exporters, which has driven up the prices,’ this was according to an experienced rice trader in the Thai capital this week.

Up 1 million rai of land out of production because of drought conditions for the start of the year

In early November, the government which has been closely monitoring the situation warned that up to 960,000 hectares within the Chao Phraya River basin would not have enough water to grow the crop in the early part of the year. The Chao Phraya and Mekong rivers combined are the basis of Thailand’s vast agricultural economy.

El Niño effect is playing a part in the problem

The reasons for the problem are somewhat varied. For a start, it is down to the weather. While some would argue that this is an impact of climate change, most scientists and people close to the management of water on the Mekong such as those working with the Mekong River Commission will certainly identify a strong El Niño effect both last year and this year.

Lower rainfall and faster evaporation due to hot weather caused by El Niño in 2019

Experts working with the commission have suggested that the area has suffered from lower rainfall amounts with the Monsoon season beginning late and ending early. They also explain that the El Niño effect produced abnormally high temperatures which caused water to evaporate faster. In 2019, it is reported that the rains began two weeks later than at the end of May which is normal and ended three weeks earlier than October.
‘This year’s prolonged dry weather conditions can possibly adversely impact agricultural and crop production. The issue of water shortages for consumption could also come into play as the drought persists,’ predicted Dr Lam Hung Son who works with the Mekong River Commission speculating on drought patterns this year.
Southeast Asian countries came together to sign the 1995 Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin. However, China has persistently refused to be part of that agreement which includes Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

Mekong River Commission predicted drought from December to January 2020 but then wetter conditions

In fact, this body last year had already predicted drought conditions in the Mekong affecting Thailand’s northern provinces which they said would worsen from December until early January when matters should improve somewhat. This, they explained would be due to a lack of raim across 12 of Thailand’s northern provinces from Chiang Mai to Sisaket.
The experts predicted that the drought will weaken from the second week in January 2020 when wetter conditions are expected.

Problems of 2019 extending into 2020, Mekong River saw its lowest level in 60 years last July

However, there is concern that the problems from 2019 impacting the valuable rice crop in Thailand appear to be extending into 2020. There is also concern about the state of the Mekong River which in 2019 saw its lowest levels in 60 years.

Anxiety over Chinese dam building

A significant part of this anxiety is due to China and its huge dam-building programme on the upper stretches of the Mekong River.
On a visit to Bangkok, last August, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed what may be a more significant and pressing problem than had previously been thought when he said: ‘The river is at its lowest levels in a decade, a problem linked to China’s decision to shut off water upstream.’

A new Chinese threat and weapon

There is now a growing acceptance among experts that the situation on the Mekong River could well emerge as a bigger flashpoint between China and Southeast Asian nations than the quarrel over the South China Sea.
In 2017, an independent expert, Eugene Chow described the situation that now exists. He said it was a Chinese weapon hidden in ‘plain sight’ that would allow the emerging superpower to ‘hold a quarter of the world’s population hostage without firing a single shot.’

Thai water agency tells farmers to expect a drop in Mekong River water level due to Chinese testing

This week, the Thai Office of National Water Resources announced that even existing water levels already challenged by drought would drop in the provinces of Chaing Rai, Nakhon Phanom, Nong Khai, Mukdahan, Bueng Kan, Amnat Charoen and Ubon Ratchathani when testing begins on the Chinese $1.676 billion Jinghong dam, a huge 1,750 MW power station being developed in Yunnan province.
It is only one of many which are now using the water flow of the Mekong River with significant and unknown side effects on the river downstream and the environment.

Up to 1-metre drop in water levels from January 2nd to 19th on the Mekong in northern provinces

For now, the Thai government statement outlines that water levels on the Mekong will be down 40-60 centimetres during the initial stages of the tests being carried out in certain provinces at different times. Farmers have been told to expect to see lower water levels from January 2nd to the 5th. 
They have also been told that at the height of the tests to expect a further 30-centimetre drop meaning that in some areas, the river will have dropped by nearly a metre.
This guidance to farmers and users of the river was issued by the Secretary-General of the Office of National Water Resources, Somkiat Prajamwong.

Release of water by Chinese authorities last year only confirmed the extent of control of the river

The announcement is bound to further disturb farmers and those in Thailand dependant on the Mekong river as a basis to grow rice and even those involved in fisheries. 
It is similar to an announcement by the Chinese government at the height of the problem last year that would release more water into the river. This served only to confirm that something fundamental had changed and that the river is now substantially controlled by the Chinese dams upriver.
However, most experts still believe that while this situation is cause for concern, the real problem causing the drought conditions and lower water reserves is still primarily a lack of rain.
However, this does not preclude the controlled water levels in the Mekong and lack of water flow from upstream from being a contributing factor to what has become a problematic environment with drought conditions and low reservoir levels.

Warning of bleak outlook going into 2020 for water management efforts with low reservoir levels

It comes at a time in Thailand where bodies charged with overseeing the water supply are warning of a dire situation. Thailand’s Hydro-Informatics Institute has confirmed that reservoirs across Thailand are at a critical level due to lack of rainfall.
The expert body points to a rainfall level in 2019 which had been 18% below average and this effect has been most pronounced in the northern provinces where rainfall was 24% below average with southern provinces also below average.
A lack of rainfall and freshwater volume is also seen in higher levels of saltwater encroachment into the system meaning higher salt levels in the water posing a challenge for tap water production.

‘China is completely in control of the water’

Last year in July, fishermen in Nakhon Phanom reported the lowest water levels on the Mekong that anyone alive could remember. While some experts pointed to lower rainfall, many locals and experts blamed the dam-building upstream by Chinese authorities.
A report by Reuters quoted Premrudee Deoruong of the Laos Dam Investment Monitor, an environmental group that monitors the river: ‘Now China is completely in control of the water. From now on, the concern is that the water will be controlled by the dam builders.’

River depth last July was 1.5 metres when it should be 8 metres as fishermen gave up on big fish

At the end of July 2019, the Mekong River in the area was 1.5 metres in depth when it should normally be 8 metres. Fishermen who had worked on the river for a lifetime were reported to have changed their fishing nets in recent times as the river no longer supported large fish.
For those making their living from the water, this meant smaller net sizes, more work and smaller income.
‘What I have seen this year has never happened before,’ said one fisherman named as Sun Prompakdee. The 60-year-old fisherman from Ban Nong Chang village had been fishing the river for all his life. ‘Now we only get small fish, there are no big fish when the water is this low,’ he said.

Significantly lower rainfall last year 

Again the rainfall last year was, at that point, 40% below normal and no one is quite certain which is the most decisive factor in lowering water levels on the powerful Mekong River.
China has now constructed 11 huge dams to provide hydropower to generate massive 21,300 MW of electricity on the river.

Thai government reached out to Beijing through the Chinese ambassador and action was taken

At the height of the crisis, last year, the Thai government reached out to Chinese authorities. At the time, the Chinese ambassador was invited to discuss the drought in the Mekong River basin and climate change. This prompted a positive response from Beijing which later announced a release of water into the river.

Confirmed the worst fears of observes and environmentalists as it demonstrated Chinese power

Ironically, this development only confirmed the worst fears of environmentalists who have long expressed concern with the continuous use and deployment of the Mekong upriver for generating electricity by Chinese authorities.
They warn of irreversible change to the ecosystem of the river and its natural balance which they fear may come with a long list of unintended consequences for the river and the countries downstream.
‘It is using the river for only one use, hydropower and the other users are being marginalized,’ revealed Pianporn Deetes of the International Rivers group, a worldwide organisation which promotes the health of powerful international rivers and their watersheds across the planet.

Thailand’s economy ends gloomy year with slim prospects for cheer
Description: Thailand-Economy
A woman takes photos with balloons in front of a shopping mall, in Bangkok on Monday. Agence France-Presse
Thailand is set to end 2019 at the weakest pace of growth in five years and little to cheer about next year, as Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy faces headwinds from global trade tensions, a surging baht and rising political risks.

The export-reliant country has been sharply hit by the Sino-US trade conflict. Exports fall 3.3 per cent in 2019 before rising just 0.5 per cent in 2020, according to the Bank of Thailand (BOT).

A strong Thai Baht, which has gained 8.3 per cent against the dollar in 2019 and is Asia’s top-performing currency, has added to the pressure on exports. Analysts say it could also hit tourism.

Thailand’s growth has lagged peers for years, and the central bank, after several downgrades, predicts it will be just 2.5 per cent this year, the weakest pace since 2014 when the army seized power in a coup, and forecasts it would be 2.8 per cent in 2020. Some analysts are even more pessimistic.

“We see growth of just 2.4 per cent this year and 2.5 per cent next year,” said Somprawin Manprasert, chief economist of Bank of Ayudhya. “The economy is still in a slowdown,” he said, adding that poor exports are now hurting domestic activity.

Charnon Boonnuch, an economist at Nomura in Singapore, said he only expected a sluggish economic recovery in 2020.

Thailand is a regional production and export base for global carmakers, but car shipments fell 6 per cent in the first 11 months of 2019, prompting some factories to cut work hours, said Surapong Paisitpattanapong, spokesman of the Federation of Thai Industries’ auto division.

“A profit from making one car is no more than 5 per cent, but our baht has gained 7 per cent-8 per cent. So the more they export, the more they suffer losses,” he said.

In a bid to fight currency strength, the BOT imposed various steps and cut its key rate twice in 2019 to a record low of 1.25 per cent, but the baht remains firm, driven by the large current account surplus.

The central bank has said that more measures are possible, adding that market intervention may be difficult as Thailand risks being added to a US watchlist of currency manipulators.

The government has been trying to lift growth by infusing more funds, including a $10 billion stimulus package, but with little impact. There was also a four-month delay in the 2020 budget to February due to a delay in cabinet formation, after an election in March voted former junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha back to office as prime minister with a slim majority in parliament.

Political uncertainty is rising after thousands of people recently joined the biggest protest since Prayuth’s 2014 coup, following a move by authorities to ban a party that has rallied opposition to the government.

In January, a court will rule on the dissolution of the Future Forward Party, which could again spark protests.

“The economy should be better next year, albeit not much, if there is no fresh political chaos,” said Sanan Angubolkul, vice chairman of the Board of Trade of Thailand.

Visit Limluecha, vice chairman of the Thai National Shippers’ Council, said there are no positive signs for the economy yet. “I see no light at the end of the tunnel.”

Meanwhile Thailand’s rice export prices rose this week on concerns that a drought hitting the country may harm future supplies of the crop, while the festive season led to thin trade in India and Vietnam.

Thailand’s benchmark 5 per cent broken rice prices were quoted at $424-$435 on Thursday, an increase from $395-$420 the week before.

“There are concerns that the ongoing drought could hurt future supply so there is speculative buying and stockpiling by some mills and exporters, which has driven up the prices,” a Bangkok-based rice trader said.

The government introduced emergency measures last week in 11 provinces around the country, many of them rice-growing areas.

Thailand, the world’s second-largest rice exporter, will not have enough water to grow the crop in some 960,000 hectares of rice fields around the Chao Phraya River basin, authorities said in early November.

The dry season is expected to last through to April 30 next year.

Rice export rates notched up in Vietnam as well, with 5 per cent broken rice quoted at $355-$360 a tonne, slightly higher from last week’s $350-$352.

“The market is just quiet during this Christmas and New Year holiday,” said a trader based in Ho Chi Minh City. “I think it won’t pick up until at least February, when supply of the winter-spring crop is available.”


Cambodian PM defends stance on rice pricing

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has defended his stance on letting the free market determine prices of rice, saying that appeal for the government’s intervention in rice prices is unreasonable.
Hun Sen said the country has a free market economic system and the private sector has the right to determine prices of goods, adding that the government could only appeal to people to set an affordable price.
President of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community Theng Savoeun said farmers want the government to set a fixed price for rice so as to sustain their lives.

Over 110,700 tonnes of rice from reserve allocated to localities

Description: https://vnn-res.vgcloud.vn/ResV9/images/logo-bridge-vnn.pngOver 110,700 tonnes of rice from the national reserve have been allocated to localities to support people after natural disasters, ahead of Lunar New Year and in forest plantation projects, and students living in especially disadvantaged areas.
Description: Over 110,700 tonnes of rice from reserve allocated to localities
Rice from the national reserve have been allocated to localities to support people after natural disasters. — Photo baodansinh.vn
Deputy General Director of the State Reserves Le Van Thoi said the rice aid came promptly and safely, contributing to easing difficulties in poor localities.
Pham Viet Ha, deputy head of the General Department of State Reserves’ Goods Management Department, said the general department provided equipment for the National Committee on Disaster Response, Search and Rescue, with a total value of nearly VND59 billion in accordance with the Prime Minister’s Decision.
The general department and the committee are working to submit a plan to the Finance Ministry and PM to provide more disaster-response equipment for ministries, agencies and localities.
Ministries, agencies also allocated items from reserves for national defence-security, disaster and epidemics control, social welfares with a total value of over VND294 billion ($12.7 million). — VNS

Groups press safeguard duties on rice imports

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:12 AM December 30, 2019
With mounting losses incurred by farmers due to the rice tariffication law, several groups have renewed calls for the imposition of safeguard duties on rice to mitigate the adverse effects of the policy in the long run.
In an email to the Inquirer, Alyansa Agrikultura chair Ernesto Ordoñez said the government should not wait further before it decides to make use of general safeguard measures, which could address the low prices of palay.
In September, the average farm-gate price of palay reached its lowest in eight years at P15.56 a kilo due to the unimpeded importation of more affordable rice and palay rates have not gone up significantly since then.
“The decrease in [farmers’ income] right after liberalization was at 56 percent. It decreased from P32,000 per hectare to P14,280. Must we wait for even a year before we take the legally allowed and recommended safeguard measure of increased duties? Since much data have already been collected, we think the action is already delayed. It should therefore be taken now,” he said.
Federation of Free Farmers national chair Raul Montemayor relayed the same sentiment, saying that any form of government interventions should be complemented by the management of imports—the root cause of the depressing palay prices.
“Why wait for more farmers to suffer when we have a tool to alleviate the situation?” Montemayor said in a phone interview with Inquirer. “They have already admitted that the farmers were affected. The cash transfers, the loans and the procurement, all these cannot accommodate every farmer. We have to manage the imports.”
Under the rice tariffication law, import duties may be increased, reduced or revised by the President to protect Filipino farmers and consumers.
Its imposition would increase tariffs and would make imports more expensive and discourage traders from bringing in the staple to the domestic market. This will force local traders to buy from local farmers at higher rates.
The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura has also remained firm on its position to slap additional duties on rice.
While the move to impose safeguards on rice gained traction at the Department of Agriculture in October, it was eventually rejected by economic managers for being “inflationary”, claiming there would be enough government interventions to help those in need.
Based on the latest study conducted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, it said farmers have already lost P8.22 billion in palay revenues due to the new rice law.
Montemayor said that following the PIDS study, farmers could then lose around P75 billion on average yearly.
In response, the government has decided to distribute cash aid worth P5,000 to 600,000 farmers who were considered to be the “most affected,” while the National Food Administration was tasked to intensify palay procurement operations.

U of A releases Lynx, high-yielding medium-grain rice

Lynx, a new medium-grain rice variety from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, offers high yields and early maturity. Special to The Commercial/Xueyan Sha, UA System Division of Agriculture
STUTTGART — Lynx, a new medium-grain rice variety from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, offers high yields and early maturity, according to a news release.
“Lynx consistently showed a yield advantage over both Jupiter and Titan in rice-growing areas north of I-40 and west of Crowley’s Ridge, where the majority of the state’s medium-grain rice is grown,” said Xueyan Sha, professor and rice breeder for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the Division of Agriculture.
“Lynx reaches 50 percent heading in an average of 86 days, the same as Jupiter,” Sha said, “but it matures three to four days earlier. It appears to have a better seedling vigor than Jupiter and a slightly better milling yield than Titan.
“Its plump kernel size is similar to that of Titan but much larger than Jupiter,” he said.
Lynx averaged 207 bushels per acre in 62 statewide and regional replicated trials from 2016 through 2019, Sha said. That’s compared to 202 bushels per acre for Jupiter and 201 bushels per acre for Titan.
Those tests also indicated Lynx has good grain and milling quality, and good lodging and blast resistance compared with Jupiter and Titan, Sha said.
Lynx had an average milling yield of 59 percent whole kernel and 68 percent total milled rice in 30 state and regional tests, Sha said.
In tests where the plants were inoculated with disease, Lynx showed moderately susceptible to leaf blast. Also, in inoculated tests and under natural infestation, it appeared susceptible to sheath blight and false smut, similar to Jupiter. It is more susceptible to bacterial panicle blight, false smut. Lynx is more susceptible than Jupiter to bacterial blight, but only because Jupiter is the only rice variety with a moderate level of resistance to the disease, Sha said.
Sha said 4.5 acres of Lynx foundation seed was grown this year and will be available to seed growers in 2020. Seed will be available to rice producers in 2021.
For more information, visit the Division of Agriculture’s Variety Testing Program website: https://aaes.uark.edu/variety-testing/, or contact Xueyan Sha at xsha@uark.edu.
To learn more about Division of Agriculture rice breeding and research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uark.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch and Instagram at ArkAgResearch.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.
— Fred Miller is with the U of A System Division of Agriculture.

Chinese scientist who claimed to create gene-edited babies sentenced to 3 years in prison

Description: Chinese scientist He Jiankui was heavily criticized by the scientific community after saying he had edited the genes of twins.    (Anthony Wallace/AFP  )Chinese scientist He Jiankui was heavily criticized by the scientific community after saying he had edited the genes of twins. (Anthony Wallace/AFP )
Dec. 31, 2019 at 2:46 a.m. GMT+5
The Chinese researcher who stunned and alarmed the international scientific community with the announcement that he had created the world’s first gene-edited babies has been sentenced to three years in prison by a court in China.
He Jiankui sparked a bioethical crisis last year when he claimed to have edited the DNA of human embryos, resulting in the birth of twins called Lulu and Nana as well as a possible third pregnancy. The gene editing, which was aimed at making the children immune to HIV, was excoriated by many scientists as a reckless experiment on human subjects that violated basic ethical principles.
On Monday, He was convicted of “illegal medical practice,” sentenced to three years in prison and fined about $430,000, according to the news agency Xinhua. He pleaded guilty, along with two collaborators, Zhang Renli and Qin Jinzhou, who also received prison sentences and fines.
The court found the three were not qualified to work as doctors and violated China’s regulations with experiments that were “in the pursuit of personal fame and gain” and “disrupted medical order.” The court also found that He forged documents related to the ethical review of his experiment.
The judicial proceedings were not public, and outside experts said it is hard to know what to make of the punishment without the release of the full investigative report or extensive knowledge of Chinese law and the conditions under which He will be incarcerated.
Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist at the University of California at Berkeley who co-invented CRISPR, the gene editing technology that He utilized, has been outspoken in condemning the experiments and has repeatedly said CRISPR is not ready to be used for reproductive purposes.
“When I saw the announcement from Dr. He, initially, one of my very early thoughts was, ‘Gosh, I wonder if this is just the first of multiple such announcements that will start to be made by fertility clinics in various countries,’" Doudna recalled Monday. “That hasn’t happened — and I think that is good.”
R. Alta Charo, a fellow at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, was among a small group of experts who had dinner with He the night before he unveiled his controversial research in Hong Kong in November 2018.
“He Jiankui is an example of somebody who fundamentally didn’t understand, or didn’t want to recognize, what have become international norms around responsible research,” Charo said. “My impression is he allowed his personal ambition to completely cloud rational thinking and judgment.”
Closely monitoring the health of the gene-edited children will be critical to ensure that any problems potentially introduced by the technology are caught early, she said. But doing so in a way that respects the autonomy and privacy of them and their families will be equally important, she added — to prevent turning them into a spectacle or oddity.
Scientists have been testing an array of powerful biotechnology tools to fix genetic diseases in adults. There is tremendous excitement about the possibility of fixing genes that cause serious disease, and the first U.S. patients were treated with CRISPR this year.
But scientists have long drawn a clear moral line between curing genetic diseases in adults and editing and implanting human embryos, which raises the specter of “designer babies.” Those changes and any unanticipated ones could be inherited by future generations — in essence altering the human species.
He’s experiment was also criticized because it appeared to have failed to meet basic ethical principles intended to protect people who participate in research. Even scientists who maintain that gene editing may one day be safely used to create babies free from lethal diseases noted that because of the many safe ways to prevent the transmission of HIV, there is no reason to edit the genomes of healthy babies.
He, a former associate professor at the Southern University of Science and Technology, had been under investigation in China, but the announcement of his sentence was a surprise. Several international scientific bodies, including the World Health Organization, have been holding meetings over the past year to create standards and a framework for oversight of the fast-moving science.
A Russian scientist, Denis Rebrikov, created a stir this summer when he said he planned to create gene-edited babies. But Rebrikov later told the journal Nature that he would not proceed without government approval. Charo cited Rebrikov’s change of plans as a “good sign” that the efforts to move toward a coordinated global framework will deter others.
The entire He episode has focused questions on whether and how scientists should take action if they learn about experiments that raise deep ethical questions. Several U.S. universities have looked into whether scientists who knew about He’s experiment were involved in the research.
“The fact that the individual at the center of the story has been punished for his role in it should not distract us from examining what supporting roles were played by others, particularly in the international scientific community and also the environment that shaped and encouraged him to push the limits,” said Benjamin Hurlbut, associate professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University.
Stanford University cleared its scientists, including He’s former postdoctoral adviser, Stephen Quake, finding that Quake and others did not participate in the research and had expressed “serious concerns to Dr. He about his work.” A Rice University spokesman said an investigation continues into bioengineering professor Michael Deem, He’s former academic adviser. Deem was listed as a co-author on a paper called “Birth of Twins After Genome Editing for HIV Resistance,” submitted to scientific journals, according to MIT Technology Review.

Searca backs Golden Rice amid calls to void permit

Description: https://businessmirror.com.ph/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/SEARCA-696x466.jpg
THE Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) has thrown its support behind Golden Rice (GR2E) amid calls by certain sectors to revoke the genetically modified organism’s (GMO) biosafety permit.
In a statement on Monday, Asean’s farm research center said it is also boosting support for the country’s biotechnology regulations and policies by opening a program to expand knowledge on biotechnology, particularly GMOs and  regulations, for stakeholders, especially policy-makers.
“We stand behind products of agribiotechnology that increase agricultural productivity to feed a growing population in the midst of dwindling natural resources and erratic changes in climate,” Searca Director and National Academician Glenn B. Gregorio said.
“Due attention must be given to our resource-poor farmers by providing them access to information, best practices, and new technologies that give them a fighting chance to cope with the many challenges they face and to open up better opportunities for them and their families so that they can have better quality lives,” Gregorio added.
Despite safety questions on these biotechnology products, Searca said “it is important to harness the full potential of agri-biotechnology through effective communication and science-based regulatory frameworks.”
Searca’s statement came a week after environmental group Greenpeace urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to revoke the biosafety permit for food, feed and processing (FFP) use of GR2E.
In a statement on Christmas Eve, Greenpeace said it “believes” that the approval of the GR2E’s FFP biosafety permit is “unwarranted” due to “incomplete data submitted by proponents” and “lack of transparency and adequate public participation.”
Greenpeace added that it submitted a formal appeal on December 23 to Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar, urging him to revoke the biosafety permit issued by the Bureau of Plant Industry, an attached agency of the DA.
Searca said it partnered with the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (Isaaa), the Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre, and Monash University for its program called “Second Asian Course on Agribiotechnology.”
The program, Isaaa Global Coordinator Dr. Mahaletchumy Arujanan said, would provide
Asian stakeholders with “updated information and hands-on experience on agribiotechnology, exercises on food/feed safety assessment, and tips on strategic communication, and risk management and communication.”
“This year’s Asian Short Course on Agribiotechnology gathers 25 participants from both public and private sectors of eight countries. These are China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam,” Searca said. The program focuses on Agribiotechnology, Biotechnology Regulation and Communication.
Description: mm
Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas is a graduate of the UST Journalism School (Batch 2016). He currently covers agribusiness for the BusinessMirror. He joined the news outfit in August 2016.

Experts press for wetlands conservation

By Himanshu NitnawareHimanshu Nitnaware, Pune Mirror | Updated: Dec 30, 2019, 06:00 IST
Wetlands are threatened by the excessive growth of water hyacinth that forms a thick mat and blocks the sunlight for aquatic flora
Given the benefits, including a boost for ecotourism, research calls for sustainable measures that augur well with ecology

On the lines of sustainable livelihood methods suggested for dwindling forests, a researcher has suggested a number of methods to develop sustainable options for conservation and wise use of wetlands.

Researcher Priyanka Sarkar, wetland ambassador for Society of Wetland Scientists, USA, has studied the ecosystem in depth over time and formulated the requisite processes.
Wetland conservation is important as more than 50 per cent of the systems have vanished or dried due to human interventions. While forests are considered as the “lungs of the earth”, wetlands are referred to as “earth’s kidneys”, absorbing harmful pollutants like nitrogen and phosphorous. Besides, wetland soils store carbon for hundreds of years, thus, playing a significant role in combatting climate change.

“The fact that wetlands should be protected for dependent biodiversities like indigenous fish and other aquatic fauna, including migratory birds — appropriate measures should be adopted in this regard,” said Sarkar, who is also a PhD scholar.

She added that having rice or paddy cultivation could be the key contribution of wetlands towards sustainable livelihoods. The practice of integrated rice-fish farming could help in improving the status of food security, health and socio-economy of the fishermen and farmer community, hence improving the economy of the region.

“The low-lying rice fields in wetlands have the potential for concurrent rice-fish culture due to its rich stocks of planktonic communities (fish food). The excreta from fish can, in turn, serve as fertiliser for rice plots. Besides, the can also control waterborne diseases by feeding on various insect larvae,” the researcher said.

Sarkar said the wetlands are threatened by the excessive growth of aquatic macrophyte namely water hyacinth (eichhornia crassipes). “This free-floating invasive species form a thick mat in the water surface that blocks sunlight for the submerged plants and degrades water quality. However, these plants produce beautiful golden-brown natural fibres after drying that could be used to make good handicraft items and decorative pieces. It could provide a livelihood to many,” she told Mirror, adding, “Besides, wetlands hold great potential for ecotourism owing to its biodiversity and natural setting, and thus may support local livelihoods.”

City-based conservationist Dharmaraj Patil said that the sustainable options should be provided and the feasibility of dependence on the lake must be checked. “The usage and dependence of the population could differ from the context of the urban and rural scenario,” he said.

Patil said that such interventions are possible and could benefit the wetlands. “However, care should be taken to adopt the conservation methods according to the needs. Some areas could be demarcated as buffer zones, while some areas in and around the lake should be prioritised, depending on the need and the threats faced by the birds and another biodiversity,” he said.

The expert said that some parts of the lakes should be left alone and repeated assessments should be taken to understand the conservation aspects of each water system.

Datta Nagare from Bhigwan, who conducts bird tours, said, “The conservation methods are important as the earnings through bird tourism are an important source of income.”

Nagare added that protecting the wetlands by taking care of the birds and conserving them during the migratory season is already implemented.

In 2020 Indonesia to export rice commodity

Published On 28 Dec 2019 09:33 AM

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture report. In 2020, Indonesia plans to export rice in the new year.
Indonesia is the largest Island country in Southeast Asia. It is located between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It is be made up of seventeen thousand islands.
As the price of local rice supplies in Indonesia was high. It was importing rice from other countries. It was tough to meet demand of the rice commodity.
According to the Indonesia’s Minister of Agriculture Syahrul Yasin Limpo commente in local newspaper. Indonesia will try to export 100,000 tonnes to 500,000 tonnes of rice in 2020.
USDA stated how will Indonesia compete with reasonable priced rice variety. From Vietnam and Thailand in the export market remains uncertain. Between January to October 2019, Indonesia only exported 202 tonnes of rice.
A commerce source involved in exports of premium quality rice to the U.S.  Stated that it accounted for 50% of Indonesia’s rice exports. That had problem in securing even 10 tonnes to 20 tonnes of rice per month.
According to the report there is demand for export of rice. Indonesia’s main harvest is in March and April as stocks are expected to increase from 4.64 million tonnes to 675 million tonnes.
According to the report, it is projected that Indonesia’s main crop are expected to increase from 4.64 million tonnes to 675 million tonnes in March and April.
Yet, the country’s high rice consumption rate may delay the country’s export goal.
The USDA quoted the National Statistics Agency. Stating Indonesia’s total rice consumption is projected to reach 34.3 million tonnes in 2020. That includes the additional surplus of 2.11 million tonnes. Though the harvest has less rice stock for meeting one month of consumption.  Throughout the second crop cycle off-season period.