Friday, January 03, 2020

3rd January,2020 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter


TRADE GOALS

 JAN 02 2020  Description: https://www.newsweekpakistan.com/daisnews/wp-content/themes/hades/images/author.png BY NEWSWEEK PAKISTAN
Description: https://www.newsweekpakistan.com/daisnews/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/china-pakistan-flag.jpg
UNDER CHINA-PAKISTAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT, ISLAMABAD CAN NOW EXPORT 1,047 PRODUCTS TO BEIJING WITH ZERO DUTIES
China on Wednesday lowered tariff rates on 313 products for Pakistan, in accordance with the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (CPFTA), which seeks to bridge the trade deficit between the neighboring nations.
The implementation of the second phase of CPFTA, which was inked in 2006, brings to 1,047 the products that Pakistan can export to China with zero duties. According to state-run Associated Press of Pakistan, the waivers are especially beneficial for Pakistan’s textile sector, as a majority of exports from it would now be virtually duty-free.
In addition to the textile sector, the CPFTA also applies to leather and agriculture products, as well as confectionery and baked goods. A report published in APP claimed the zero duty products could raise the value of Pakistan’s exports to China by around $1 billion in the short-term, with a potential boost to $4-5 billion in the medium-term, as more industries avail the special benefits applicable to industries located in the special economic zones being established under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor initiative. Similarly, in the long-term, Pakistan has the potential to raise its exports to China to $10 billion—a dramatic uptick considering the trade balance currently is firmly in favor of Beijing.
Presently, cotton yarn, copper, rice, nephrite, seafood and ethylene alcohol are the main products being exported to China by Pakistan. Agricultural products have the greatest potential for growth, say observers, noting that cotton and its related products alone account for nearly 45 percent of Pakistan’s total exports to China. To boost this yield further, experts from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences are actively engaged in technology exchange and cooperation with Pakistani experts to improve the quality of cottonseeds.
Additionally, Pakistan’s mangoes are also finding a home in China. Exports of the fruit jumped by 42 percent last year, with 115,000 tons traded by mid-September.
A report published in the Global Times, Beijing’s English-language mouthpiece, said the lowered tariffs should help Pakistan and China deepen trade ties by reducing their deficit—currently Pakistan exports approximately $2 billion in goods to China; it imports around $12 billion. A greater parity in trade would promote the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as the benefits of CPEC, it added.
CPFTA allows Pakistani traders to export 313 new products on zero duty

Description: https://bolnews.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Aizbah-Khan.jpg
By Aizbah Khan - Web Editor
02nd January, 2020
Description: China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement 
The second phase of China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (CPFTA) came into effect which will allow the Pakistani manufacturers and traders to export around 313 new products on zero duty to the Chinese market.
Pakistan was already enjoying zero duty on export of 724 products to China under the first FTA signed between the two countries in 2006. After the implementation of the second phase of FTA, Pakistan has been allowed to export a total of 1047 products to China on zero duty.
The new facility will particularly benefit the textile sector to enhance its export to China as textile exports to China will virtually be duty free.
There are a number of other items particularly leather and agriculture products as well as confectionery and biscuits etc which Pakistani manufacturers can export to China.
In the long-term, Pakistan can enhance its exports to China up to US$ 10 billion in the next few years as the volume of Chinese import market is around US$ 64 billion.
Currently, cotton yarn, copper, rice, chromites nephrite, seafood and ethylene alcohol are main products being exported to China.
Moreover, data shows that Pakistan’s mango exports to China jumped 42 percent year-on-year to 115,000 tons as of mid-September. Exports are further expected to reach a new high of 120,000 to 130,000 tons.
China wants to import quality products from different countries including Pakistan owing to which China has lowered tariff rates in accordance with the free trade agreements it has separately signed with Pakistan, New Zealand, Peru, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Iceland, Singapore, Australia, the Republic of Korea, Chile and Georgia.

Pakistan Czech Republic ties growing Possibilities for closer cooperation being harnessed: Envoy

By  admin


Ashraf Ansari
THIS scribe is cur
rently visiting Czech
Republic. This country is located in Central Europe and is member of the European Community. It is flanked by Germany, Austria and Poland. Czech Republic takes pride in its developed infrastructure and industry. Ambassador Mohammad Khalid Jamali heads Pakistan mission in Czech Republic.
The embassy in the capital Prague is well located. Its building is impressive and well maintained. Interior decor of the embassy reflects Pakistan ‘s history and culture. Ambassador Mohammad Khalid Jamali answers questions posed to him by Pakistan Observer.
Q: What is the current level of cooperation between Czech Republic and Pakistan?
A: Czech Republic offers a good market to Pakistan’ s rice, textiles, leather and sports items, surgical equipment and certain other things. There are possibilities to boost imports from Pakistan.
Pakistan can buy more industrial products from Czech Republic. There are also chances of joint ventures.
Q: What are the main areas where Pakistani and Czech investors can join hands?
A: Automobile and avion sectors are quite advanced in Czech Republic. Pakistan and Czech Republic have reached understanding on setting up an automobile production unit in Pakistan in collaboration with a Czech included consortium.
Q: Can Pakistan learn from Czech experience and practices to promote tourism?
A: Tourism is very important component of Czech culture. This country attracts millions of foreign tourists every year. Domestic tourism is also rooted in the Czech culture. Necessary facilities are available to the tourists. Pakistan has very rich potential to develop tourism. Yes, Pakistan can learn from Czech experiences.
Q: Are you taking some initiatives to upgrade relations between Czech Republic and Pakistan?
A: I have been very recently posted here as ambassador. I am developing rapport with the Czech government, Parliament, Czech businesses and industry as well as Pakistani students who are studying in the Czech universities.
The friends of Pakistan group in the Czech parliament is active to strengthen relations between Pakistan and Czech Republic.
I am working on the proposal to set up a joint chamber of commerce and industry of the two countries. I am taking measures to support Pakistani students here. I believe that Pakistani students should be encouraged to take up courses in science and technology sectors in the Czech Universities
.
https://pakobserver.net/pakistan-czech-republic-ties-growing-possibilities-for-closer-cooperation-being-harnessed-envoy/S.Korea buys 22,222 T rice for June, seeks to buy 30,764 T for Sept-Oct
JANUARY 2, 2020 / 8:49 AM

  SEOUL, Jan 2 (Reuters) - South Korea bought 22,222 tonnes of non-glutinous rice for June delivery, while seeking to buy 30,764 tonnes of rice for arrival between September and October,
state-run Korea Argo-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp said on its website. www.at.or.kr     The agency said it bought 22,222 tonnes of U.S.-origin rice at $784.20 per tonne from Posco International             via a  tender that closed on Monday.
The agency sought to buy a total of 42,222 tonnes of rice for arrival between April and June. It said it would release the tender result of the remaining rice products later.          
      
    The new tender will close at 0600 GMT on Jan. 7, and electronic bidding will be held from 0100 GMT to 0200 GMT on Jan. 8.     Details of the new tender are as follows:
    TONNES(M/T)  GRAIN TYPE      ARRIVAL/PORT
        20,000   Brown Medium    Sept.1-Oct.31,2020/Busan
        10,764   Brown Medium    Sept.1-Oct.31,2020/Gwangyang
   
    *Note: The agency seeks U.S. No.3 standard for the brown
rice.
   
   
    
   
   
    

 (Reporting By Jane Chung; Editing by Rashmi Aich)
 

Description: North Koreans farming in North Hamgyong Province in early June 2019 ban

N. Korea slaps ban on private sale of recently harvested grains
Sources speculate that the ban on grain distribution may lead to an inflation of rice prices
By  Jong So Yong
 2020.01.02 4:00pmOn Monday, Daily NK learned that the North Korean government has banned the private sale of recently harvested grains as a result of the poor agricultural yields. According to sources, guards have even been stationed at major train stations in order to enforce the ban. A similar ban was issued last year as well.
Daily NK spoke to a source from South Pyongan Province, a major grain-producing region. “After the typhoons swept through the country in September, the authorities announced that they would penalize the private distribution of food supplies,” he reported. “Following the fall harvest, they posted guards at major stations like Sunchon and Pyongsong.” 
The North Korean authorities apparently decided to monitor food distribution levels after Typhoon Lingling had swept through the country in September and wreaked havoc. This year’s outlook for North Korea’s grain harvest had been poor to begin with, due to droughts and other natural disasters.
WHOLESALERS FACE OBSTACLES DUE TO BAN
The majority of wholesale traders in foodstuffs are allegedly trying to circumvent the ban by bribing officials at both train and police stations, or by finding ingenious ways of transporting their goods. Sellers who haven’t engaged in such activities, however, are finding themselves burdened with unexpected expenses.
“Sometimes, grain deliveries end up at odd locations, due to the measures to enforce the distribution bans on grains like corn and rice, like the posting of guards at stations,” a source told Daily NK. As a result, he said, “grain shipments will be tossed off the train, and it costs the sellers even more to retrieve them and deliver them properly.”
Description: Typhoon LinglingNorth Korean farmers in South Hwanghae Province cleaning up damaged farm field after Typhoon Lingling. / Image: Rodong Sinmun
Last month, six wholesalers, who had rented a cargo car on a train to deliver rice and corn from Sunchon to Kaechon, found themselves in a similar situation. They had been unable to offload their deliveries because of the guards that had been posted at the station. Eventually, they just drove past Hwangri Station and managed to unload their sacks of rice just before Pongchon Station.
However, a source from North Hamgyong Province explained that the same tradesmen faced several difficulties once they tried to transport their rice to its final destination. “They used to buy corn from the farms of North Hamgyong Province,” the source said. “But this time, they underwent a series of ordeals because of the guards at Kimchaek Station. They eventually had to unload their goods in between stations.” 
Sources explained to Daily NK that railway workers will take bribes and guarantee a safe passage of goods. However, these workers often succumb to the authorities and don’t always keep their promises. 
INFLATION MAY RESULT FROM RESTRICTIONS
The ban, however, probably won’t be enough to fully stop the flow of all grains since wholesale traders play a crucial role in the food supply for the North Korean population. Nevertheless, the ban might lead to an inflation of rice prices – and thereby worsen the already existing food shortages.
North Korean authorities enacted a similar ban last year when natural disasters had a negative impact on harvests. The authorities attempted to prevent any redirection of supplies from the national stocks, which are reserved for the army, munition factory workers, government officials and Pyongyang residents.
*Translated by Violet Kim and edited by Laura Geigenberger
Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

Iloilo farmers sell 1.1M bags of rice to NFA


ILOILO – The National Food Authority (NFA) has procured 1.1 million bags of rice from farmers here in the second half of this year or from July to Dec. 21.
The purchase price was P10 per kilo of rice, according to Pat Espinosa, provincial information officer of NFA-Iloilo.
In September NFA bought 250,554 bags of rice; October, 386,833 bags; November, 345,145 bags; and Dec. 1 to 21, 146,133 bags.
NFA set up rice procurement sites in 10 municipalities to make it easier for farmers to sell their produce to the grains agency.
According to Espinosa, this was NFA-Iloilo’s answer to Gov. Arthur Defensor Jr.’s call for NFA to reach out most especially to farmers reeling from the drop in rice prices primarily due to the deluge of cheap, imported rice.
Other farmers chose to deliver their produce themselves to NFA warehouses, said Espinosa, with the help of their local government units which provided trucks for the hauling.
At its office in Jaro, Iloilo City NFA has two huge warehouses.
Some of the buying stations of NFA-Iloilo were in the towns of San Dionisio, Dumangas, Pototan, Dumangas, and DueƱas./PN

Floods in Indonesia capital recede as death toll reaches 30
·       NINIEK KARMINI Associated Press

Jan 2, 2020 Updated 
A young boy sits on a chair in a flooded neighborhood in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. Severe flooding in the capital as residents celebrated the new year has killed scores of people and displaced tens of thousands, the country's disaster management agency said.
·       Dita Alangkara


People walk through a flooded neighborhood in Tanggerang, outisde Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. Heavy flooding in Indonesia's capital as residents celebrated the new year has killed scores of people, displaced tens of thousands and forced an airport to close, the country's disaster management agency said Thursday.
·       Tatan Syuflana


A man carries his baby niece through a flooded neighborhood in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. Severe flooding in the capital as residents celebrated the new year has killed scores of people and displaced tens of thousands, the country's disaster management agency said.
·       Dita Alangkara


Youths use an inflatable raft to move through a flooded neighborhood in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. Severe flooding in the capital as residents celebrated the new year has killed scores of people and displaced tens of thousands, the country's disaster management agency said.
·       Dita Alangkara


Residents wade through a flooded neighborhood in Tanggerang on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. Heavy flooding in Indonesia's capital as residents celebrated the new year has killed over a dozen, displaced tens of thousands and forced an airport to close, the country's disaster management agency said Thursday.
·       Tatan Syuflana
A man rides floats in a styrofoam box on a flooded street in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. Severe flooding in the capital as residents celebrated the new year has killed scores of people and displaced tens of thousands, the country's disaster management agency said.
·       Dita Alangkara


Residents use an inflatable chair as a raft to make their way through a flooded neighborhood in Tanggerang on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. Heavy flooding in Indonesia's capital as residents celebrated the new year has killed over a dozen, displaced tens of thousands and forced an airport to close, the country's disaster management agency said Thursday.
·       Tatan Syuflana


An Indonesian man carries his rooster through a flooded neighborhood in Tanggerang on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. Severe flooding in Indonesia's capital as residents celebrated the new year displaced tens of thousands and forced an airport to close, the country's disaster management agency said Thursday.
·       Tatan Syuflana


A family walks their son through a flooded neighborhood in a bucket in Tanggerang on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. Heavy flooding in Indonesia's capital as residents celebrated the new year has killed at least 16 people, displaced tens of thousands and forced an airport to close, the country's disaster management agency said Thursday.
·       Tatan Syuflana


Residents wade through a flooded neighborhood in Tanggerang on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. Severe flooding in Indonesia's capital as residents celebrated the new year displaced tens of thousands and forced an airport to close, the country's disaster management agency said Thursday.
·       Tatan Syuflana


Children play in a flooded neighborhood in Tanggerang on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. Severe flooding in Indonesia's capital as residents celebrated the new year has killed at least 16 people, displaced tens of thousands and forced an airport to close, the country's disaster management agency said Thursday.
·       Tatan SyuflanaTop of Form
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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Residents of Indonesia's capital who had been forced into shelters by widespread flooding began returning to their homes Thursday as the waters started to recede, though the death toll from the disaster jumped to 30.
Monsoon rains and rising rivers submerged at least 182 neighborhoods in greater Jakarta starting Wednesday and caused landslides in the Bogor and Depok districts on the city's outskirts.
Jakarta Gov. Anies Bawesdan said much of the water had receded by Thursday evening and the number of displaced people at temporary shelters had fallen to about 5,000 from 19,000. Officials had earlier said 35,000 people were in shelters across the greater metropolitan area.
Those returning to their homes found streets covered in mud and debris. Cars that had been parked in driveways were swept away, landing upside down in parks or piled up in narrow alleys. Sidewalks were strewn with sandals, pots and pans and old photographs.
Authorities took advantage of the receding waters to clear away mud and remove piles of wet garbage from the streets. Electricity was restored to tens of thousands of residences and businesses.
At their peak, the floods had inundated thousands of homes and buildings, forced authorities to cut off electricity and water and paralyzed transport networks, National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said. Floodwaters reached as high as 2.5 meters (more than 8 feet) in places.
Wibowo said the number of people killed in the disaster had climbed to 30.
It was the worst flooding since 2013, when 47 people were killed after Jakarta was inundated by monsoon rains.
Jakarta's Halim Perdanakusumah domestic airport reopened Thursday after operations were suspended when flood water submerged its runway, said Muhammad Awaluddin, the president director of PT. Angkasa Pura II, the airport's operator. Nearly 20,000 passengers had been affected by the closure.
In Jakarta's satellite cities of Bekasi and Tangerang, where rivers had burst their banks, large areas remain inundated.
Residents of Bekasi waded through water up to their necks or floated on makeshift rafts carrying clothes and other salvaged possessions. Some scrambled onto roofs to await rescue from soldiers and emergency workers in rubber dinghies.
"The government is awful and the rescue effort is too slow," said Imas Narulita, who spent 36 hours on the second floor of her suburban house with her 6-month-old baby.
She said that she have a neighbor who is sick but no one has come to rescue him.
"In this modern time, no one should have died because of this," she said.
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Social affairs minister Juliari Peter Batubara said the government dispatched medical teams and rubber rafts to the worst-hit areas, while rescuers in boats delivered instant noodles and rice to those who chose to stay on the upper floors of their homes.
The flooding has highlighted Indonesia's infrastructure problems.
Jakarta is home to 10 million people, or 30 million including those in its greater metropolitan area. It is prone to earthquakes and flooding and is rapidly sinking due to uncontrolled extraction of ground water. Congestion is also estimated to cost the economy $6.5 billion a year.
President Joko Widodo announced in August that the capital will move to a site in sparsely populated East Kalimantan province on Borneo island, known for rainforests and orangutans.
Widodo told reporters in Jakarta on Thursday that one of the causes of flooding is due to damage to the ecosystem and ecology in addition to many people who throw garbage into rivers.
He said that the government is working to mitigate and prevent flooding in regions across the country. Especially in Jakarta, the construction of West Java's Cimahi and Ciawi dams is expected to be completed by next year.
"Both the central and regional governments would work together to solve the problem," Widodo said.

As Rice Exports To EU Drop, Dealers Are Reducing Prices Due To Tariffs
02 January 2020
·       Sun NarinDescription: FILE: Villagers in Kampong Thom province were drying rice in front of his house in Kampong Thom province, January 19, 2019. (Sun Narin/VOA Khmer)
FILE: Villagers in Kampong Thom province were drying rice in front of his house in Kampong Thom province, January 19, 2019. (Sun Narin/VOA Khmer)
As exports to the EU have fallen, farmers said that rice dealers were using the tariffs as an excuse to lower rice prices in the market, leading to losses for farmers.
PHNOM PENH — 
Government data showed that Cambodia’s rice exports to the European Union had dropped by 30 percent in 2019, after the economic bloc imposed tariffs at the start of last year.
Ministry of Agriculture data showed that rice exports dropped from 300,000 tons in 2018 to around 200,000 tons last year. At the same time, China has increased its imports, after the country’s leaders agreed to increase rice trade to 400,000 tons a year.
The European Union imposed tariffs for three years starting January 2019, after Italy triggered protectionist measures to safeguard its rice sector. The tariffs were around $200 a ton in 2019 and will fall to $140 for the third year.
As exports to the EU have fallen, farmers said that rice dealers were using the tariffs as an excuse to lower rice prices in the market, leading to losses for farmers.
Farmers in Battambang province’s Omal commune – at the center of Cambodia’s rice production –have complained about low prices for their paddy crop last year.
Choeun Socheat, a rice farmer, said the price of paddy was surprisingly low, around just $232 per ton, around $60 lower than they were getting in the previous year.
“The dealers told us that the price is low because they are buying rice to keep at the rice mills, but not for exporting abroad,” she said.
“I don’t know whether to believe them or not. We have to sell with the price dealers set.”
Description: FILE: Trucks loaded with paddy rice parked outside rice mill in Pursat province, December 2019 (Sun Narin/VOA Khmer)
FILE: Trucks loaded with paddy rice parked outside rice mill in Pursat province, December 2019 (Sun Narin/VOA Khmer)
Another farmer in the same commune, Kheun Pheakdey, said it was getting hard to recoup costs, especially fertilizer costs, which had gotten more expensive. He said around $267 a ton would be the very least he needs to make any earnings.
“I can’t make profit even to pay for the fertilizer costs,” he said.
Chan Sokheang, vice president of Cambodia Rice Federation, agreed that dealers were undercutting farmers on the pretext of the tariffs, but claimed the industry body could do nothing about it.
“How can we curb since it happens across the country? It is them taking advantage [of farmers],” he said.
He claimed that the cost of fragrant, or high-quality rice was still high, and that farmers should try to directly sell to millers.
However, Cambodia’s agriculture sector has long been plagued with the lack of storage facilities or cheap transportation for crops, with millers taking on these investments on an individual basis.
Theng Savoeun, the director of the NGO Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community, said it was possible to take advantage of farmers because they had no access to market information and were disconnected from millers, allowing dealers to misinform them.
“The dealers at the lower level take this opportunity to lower the price of paddy rice,” he said. “Some dealers have networks with officials or big business people.”
Total rice exports for Cambodia in 2019 was around 620,000 tons, with the EU accounting for 32 percent of this exported rice and China for 41 percent, or around 250,000 tons.
No shortage of rice in Sri Lanka: CAA
Written by Staff Writer    02 Jan, 2020 | 9:01 AM
Colombo (News 1st): The Consumer Affairs Authority notes that there is no shortage of rice in the country. A senior official of the CAA noted that relevant reports have been obtained from island-wide Customer Service Officers.
He also said that large scale rice mill owners have sent rice stocks to rice shortage areas. Meanwhile, search operation continues to nab traders who sell rice beyond the control price
Indian rice export rates firm in muted holiday trade
Karthika Suresh Namboothiri
JANUARY 2, 2020 / 5:47 PM
BENGALURU (Reuters) - Indian rice export prices edged higher this week, buoyed by a stronger rupee and higher local paddy prices, while trade remained thin in rival hubs because of the holiday season.FILE PHOTO: A worker carries boiled rice in a wheelbarrow to spread it for drying at a rice mill on the outskirts of Kolkata, India, January 31, 2019. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/File Photo
Top exporter India’s 5% broken parboiled variety was quoted around $362-$366 a tonne, up from last week’s $360-$365.
The slight upturn was because of a strong rupee, which trims exporters’ margins from overseas sales, though demand remains weak, said one exporter based at Kakinada in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
Last year New Delhi had raised the paddy rice purchase price by 3.7% to 1,815 rupees per 100 kg for the 2019/20 crop.

In Vietnam, rates for 5% broken rice were quoted at $360 a tonne on Thursday, little changed from last week’s $355-$360.“Trade is very thin at the moment as inventory has run low and many exporters are still on holiday,” said a trader based in Ho Chi Minh City.
“Farmers in the country’s largest rice-growing area, the Mekong Delta, are preparing land for the key winter-spring crop, which is expected to peak by the end of February,” he added.
No new deals were clinched in the past two weeks, apart from those to fulfil signed contracts, another trader said.  Preliminary shipping data showed more than 100,000 tonnes of rice is to be loaded at Ho Chi Minh City port between Jan. 1 and Jan. 23, with most of it bound for West Africa, Iraq and South Korea.
Vietnam’s rice exports in 2019 are forecast to be up 2.5% from a year earlier at 6.259 million tonnes, official data showed last week.

In Bangladesh, meanwhile, the rice crop could be hit by a prolonged cold spell, said senior agriculture ministry official Mizanur Rahman.

“The rice seedbeds are taking on a yellow tinge as sunlight is failing to reach them on the ground due to thick fog. If it persists for long, crops will be affected,” he said.
Two cold spells hit the country over the past two weeks and another is expected in a few days.Thailand’s rice-trading market was closed for most of the week because of the New Year holidays.Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Ruma Paul in Dhaka, Phuong Nguyen in Hanoi and Patpicha Tanakasempipat in Bangkok; Editing by David Goodman
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Description: previewAfghanistan - Market Monitor Report, November 2019
REPORT
Published on 30 Nov 2019 

HIGHLIGHTS
·       Wheat: The current average wheat price in main cities’ markets of Afghanistan (AFN 24.9/Kg) is slightly higher by 2.7% compared to the same time last year (November 2018) and slightly higher by 3.7% compared to the last 5-year average price of the same months (Novembers 2014 - 2018).
·       Wheat flour (High Price): The current retail price (AFN 32.0kg) is slightly higher by 7.9% compared to the same month last year (November 2018), and slightly higher by 8.5% compared to the last 5-years average price of the same months.
·       Rice is considered as the 2nd main staple food in Afghanistan. The current average retail price of Low Quality Rice (AFN 45.6/kg) is negligibly lower by 1.9% compared to the same month last year (November 2018), and slightly higher by 6.3% compared to the last 5-year average price of the same months. The current average price of High Quality Rice (AFN 88.6/kg) is slightly lower by 6.1% compared to the same month last year (November 2018), and slightly higher by 5.0% compared to the last 5-years average price of the same months.
·       Pulses: The current retail price (AFN 76.0/kg) is slightly lower by 2.3% compared to the same month last year (November 2018), and slightly higher by 3.3% compared to the last 5-years average price of the same months.

Rice farmers demand inclusion in industry decision making

Thursday, 2 January 2020

 

The group of farmers who expressed their sentiments at the meeting
Description: The group of farmers who expressed their sentiments at the meetingRice farmers in the five regions of the North have made a passionate appeal to government to put in place mechanisms to ensure that local farmers partake in decisions to resolve issues in local rice production.

According to the farmers, although government acted swiftly to respond to the concerns raised by the farmers about their inability to get ready market for the hundreds of tonnes of local rice produced in the Fumbisi, Yagaba, Tono, Vea, Nasia and Nalerigu valleys, the problem persists.

At a Meeting at Navrongo in the Upper East Region organized by the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) to among other things discuss strategies to boost rice production and marketing in the coming years, the farmers pointed out that making Ghana self-sustainable in rice production will not succeed without the involvement of rice farmers themselves in decision making to improve the sector.

They further expressed regret that although arrangements were made for the National Food Buffer Stuck Company (NAFCO) and a private company, Avnash Industry Ghana, to purchase local rice from the farmers, the challenges of getting ready market for the produce has not been resolved as some of the farmers have incurred losses either through bush fires, or middlemen and market women taking advantage of the situation to offer them ridiculously low prices as well as purchasing the rice on credit without payment.

They further explained that farmers in the rice valleys in the Upper East Region currently do not have the needed resources to transport their rice produce from their respective farms to Tamale for Avnash company to purchase.

The farmers who expressed their sentiments at the Meeting include Samuel Abiayega from the Gbedembilisi valley in the Fumbisi area; Alhaji Jibril from the Yagaba rice valley; Abdulai Inusah from the Sumbrungu-Karbeo rice valley; Mrs Humu Abdulai; Reverend John Akaribo from the Tono rice valley; Alhaji Ahmed Bogobiri from the Tono and overseas rice valley areas; and Mr Abubakar Mutalakimu from the Yagaba valley.

They mentioned such challenges as lack of access roads to rice fields, high cost of mechanization services including combined harvesters, planters, processors, rice milling equipment, tractor services, fertilizers, destruction of rice fields by birds, cattle, bush fires and floods.

The National President of PFAG, Mr Abdul Rahman Mohammed observed that “as we speak, I have lost 50 acres of my rice farm due to bush fire and most of you equally have such bad experiences".

He cited other challenges as low and unreliable rainfall in recent times, bad feeder roads, difficulty in accessing credit for farming activities and limited access to extension services.

Mr Mohammed noted that most of the challenges being faced by the farmers are “historical and several efforts in the past and present were implemented to address them but unfortunately they are far from over."

The Head of Programmes and Advocacy of the PFAG, Mr Charles Nyaaba observed that in 2018, the Avnash Company in Tamale guaranteed ready market for rice farmers in Northern Ghana.

“Nevertheless, their failure to buy rice in 2019 led to a glut in the months of November and December which triggered the rice campaign initiated by the PFAG", Mr Nyaaba further noted.

According to him, the PFAG has observed that after the campaign, many private individuals and organizations who have no hint of the difficulty “we the farmers went through but are fortunate to have access to government institutions due to their proximity to the seat of government, have started lobbying for support for rice sector development without consulting any of the farmers in the valleys who are facing the problems.”

Nigeria: 1 Million Rice Farmers Ready for Dry Season Production

2 JANUARY 2020

No fewer than one million rice farmers are currently been mobilised to begin massive rice production for the 2019/2020 dry season programme.
The momentum for this year's production is fired by the land border closure and the apparent benefits, among them widening of the internal market.
The border shutdown is a turning point for rice farmers across the country, motivating many who hitherto left production to return with greater enthusiasm.
National president of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, while speaking with Daily Trust Monday said arrangements have been concluded to motivate one million farmers nationwide under the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Borrowers' scheme.
"The major preparation that we started is that the CBN invited RIFAN last week; met with us and gave us the nod to quickly identify the participating farmers and also gave us the go-ahead to do everything possible to achieve more production in the dry season that is already in place.
"And he (the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele) has given us the go-ahead to consider at least one million farmers for the dry season which, by extension if we are able to achieve that one million, five million metric tons will be produced," Alhaji Goronyo stated.
Following the directive, the RIFAN president has begun a tour of the major producing areas to motivate and mobilise farmers to meet the five million tons target.
"I'm on a tour to all the producing states. I started touring Sokoto, Kebbi, and will be going to Zamfara, Taraba, Cross River, Ogun, Ekiti, Ebony and Anambra, virtually all the producing states," he said, emplaning that the dry season was already in place virtually across the country and the preparation was in top gear to make sure that there are enough paddies for millers to mill for consumers in the country.
No shortage of seeds, fertiliser
For the dry season, the leader of the rice farmers does not envisage any problem occurring in the areas of availability of quality seeds and fertiliser.
"As I'm talking to you, we have more than enough fertiliser in all the production areas that we have already deployed; the seeds also are already there.
"In Cross River, we have signed a MoU to work with Governor Ayade who has a seedling factory that has enough to cater for all the farmers that are going to transplant during the cultivation period. So we don't have problem with fertiliser and seed," he stated.

Despite gov’t interventions, palay prices remain too low

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:10 AM January 03, 2020
Despite a number of government interventions, the average farm gate price of palay in November had remained low.
Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that as of the last week of November, a kilo of palay was sold at an average of P15.55, down 22.29 percent from a year ago.
While economic managers said palay rates were only going back to their “average” levels coming from an “abnormal year,” PSA data reflected that between 2015 and 2017, the farm gate price of palay was at P18.53 a kilo, or higher by 19 percent.
The lowest quotation in November was recorded in Zamboanga Sibugay at P10 a kilo—lower than the current palay production cost at P12 a kilo—while the highest quotation was recorded in Surigao del Sur at P20.40 a kilo.
In major rice-producing provinces such as Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Tarlac, Occidental Mindoro and Cagayan, the prevailing palay prices per kilo were at P19.35, P16, P15.60, P16 and P16, respectively.
Before 2019 drew to a close, the government has rolled out several programs to cushion the blow on farmers of the declining palay prices due to the continued inflow of cheaper rice imports.
The Department of Agriculture distributed cash aid and provided loans, issued stricter requirements to be followed by importers, and asked local government units to buy palay from their respective constituents to ensure that there would be a market for local produce.
It also started projects under the rice competitiveness enhancement program, which has a budget of P10 billion yearly.
The National Food Authority, for its part, has intensified its palay procurement operations.However, palay prices remained low.
“The more palay prices drop because of the continued inflow of cheap imports, the more losses farmers will incur and the more pressure on the government to provide relief to farmers,” said Raul Montem

Rice sector eyes rebound after small exports drop

Hin Pisei | Publication date 02 January 2020 | 23:27 ICT

Description: Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Rice exports reached 620,106 tonnes last year, a drop of almost one per cent from the 626,225 tonnes the previous year. Afp
Rice exports reached 620,106 tonnes last year, a drop of almost one per cent from the 626,225 tonnes the previous year, the Cambodian Rice Federation (CRF) said.
The total value of exports dropped more than four per cent last year from 2018, the Kingdom’s rice industry body added.
Coupled with the 1.43 per cent decline between 2018 and 2017, the modest drop marks the second consecutive year that exports have fallen.
According to a CRF report obtained by The Post on Wednesday, the total value of the Kingdom’s rice exports were valued at some $501 million last year, down 4.3 per cent from $524 million in 2018.
A breakdown of the data showed that the 202,990 tonnes to the Chinese market accounted for 40.73 per cent of rice exports, followed by 13.41 per cent, or 83,164 tonnes, to the Asean region and 13.84 per cent, equal to 85,847 tonnes, to other markets.
According to Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries data, Cambodia also exported 2.15 million tonnes of rice to Vietnam last year.
Meanwhile, rice exports to European markets declined steadily after the EU imposed tariffs on rice imports from Cambodia last January. Myanmar was also hit with the tariffs.
CRF secretary-general Lun Yeng blamed the decline on reduced demand from European markets, but he predicted that exports would rebound this year.
He said that the 400,000-tonne export quota to China, a drop in EU taxes from €175 to €155 per tonne and access to new markets, notably Australia and Brunei, would favour this year’s exports.
“I am optimistic that this year’s exports will experience strong growth and revenue will rebound,” Yeng told The Post.
He added that while the Kingdom had lowered the price of rice to address demand in the European market, the volume of fragrant rice exported to Europe had increased from 79 per cent in 2018 to 86 per cent last year.
“At the same time, white rice and parboiled rice exports fell from 21 per cent to 14 per cent,” he said.
Yeng explained that while Australia had previously banned rice imports, unfavourable weather conditions for rice cultivation had prompted it to allow imports and invest in Cambodia’s rice sector.
Thmor Korl Rice Import Export Co CEO Heng Pheng said his firm had exported the same amount of rice last year as in 2018, with the bulk to Malaysia.
He also warned that climate change would threaten future harvests of Cambodia’s top agricultural export.
“Based on quality and value, Cambodian rice still has plenty of opportunities for exports to international markets. I think that exports will see a boom this year, especially to the Chinese market,” Pheng said.
Cambodian Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng estimated the Kingdom’s rice production capacity to be at more than 10 million tonnes per year.
He said that rice exports are expected to increase this year provided there is strong cooperation between stakeholders, including farmers, rice millers, exporters and all authorities.
Heng added that along with increasing production capacity, developing new markets in Japan and South Korea were also important factors to ensure sustained growth.
“To increase rice export capacity for the international market, Cambodia needs to work together, while farmers have to commit more to contract farming,” he said.

Southeast Asia’s Water Troubles Underscore Climate Threat – Analysis

By RFA
By Dan Southerland*
Over the past year, growing environmental threats in Asia have had much to do with water—most importantly rising seas driven by global warming.Southeast Asia is proving to be particularly vulnerable.
New studies show that climate change and rising sea levels will threaten the lives of tens of millions of people and much of the wildlife in East Asia sooner than had originally been expected.
A recent study referred to by some as a “Doomsday Report” suggests that rising sea levels could flood three times more land than previously predicted.
In Southeast Asia, if the study prepared by a United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued in late September 2019 proves accurate, parts of Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok could be underwater by 2050.
Some scientists caution that these could be “worst case scenarios.”But nonetheless, millions of people in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta could be forced to flee coastal areas.
The Mekong, Southeast Asia’s longest river, is where everything may go wrong due to the impact of man-made dams, rising sea levels, deforestation, and droughts that alternate with heavy rainfall. And all of this is exacerbated by climate change.
In the meantime, contrary to what might seem common sense, some experts say that due to a combination of these factors the Mekong may someday run dry.
According to scientists, the Mekong’s banks will be increasingly threatened by the loss of sediment now held back by upstream hydropower dams in China and Laos as well as by salt intrusions caused by the rising South China Sea.
Mangrove trees, which once played a vital role in the Mekong Delta in protecting the river banks and rice fields from salt intrusions, have disappeared in some areas.
Mangrove forests consist of small trees that thrive in saline water. In Vietnam, they not only guard against salt intrusions into farm land in the southernmost part of the Mekong Delta but also provide protection for a variety of wildlife.
The Delta is the main food basket of Vietnam, producing more than 50 percent of the nation’s goods, 90 percent of its rice exports, and 75 percent of its fish, which are a main source of protein.
Bu the Delta still suffers from an ill-advised attempt to expand rice production by the new Communist rulers of Vietnam when they came to power in the spring of 1975. In order to grow more rice, they encouraged the destruction of the mangrove swamps which had acted as a buffer to protect farm land from sea-driven salt.

The impact of ice melting in the Arctic

A main source of flooding in places in Southeast Asia is global warming causing the ice to melt in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Ocean currents carry the rising seas more than 6,000 miles from the poles to reach cities such as Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City in Southeast Asia.
In its September issue, the National Geographic magazine explains how the Arctic tundra is thawing in a cover story by Susan Goldberg titled “The Arctic is heating up.”
Goldberg reports that the thawing of the vast, nearly level, treeless plains of the Arctic known as tundra will speed up global warming.
“The unexpectedly rapid collapse of ice-rich permafrost, or permanently frozen subsoil” in the Arctic, Goldberg says, “could pump billions of additional tons of methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year—a threat that has yet to be fully accounted for in climate models.”
Scientists have found that permafrost that once thawed a few inches a year can now thaw up to 10 feet within days or weeks, “creating wetlands in once frozen regions and accelerating emissions from up to 1,600 gigabytes of carbon still locked underground.”
Fires, once considered rare in the Arctic, are now becoming more common as a warming climate melts the region. When permafrost thaws near a hillside or a stream or river, it can trigger a landslide, thus accelerating the thawing.
Arctic lakes once filled with ice also have begun to melt, allowing microbes to feed on organic material, which releases greenhouse gases.
In short, this sounds like a slow-moving, but accelerating catastrophe of which many around the world are still barely aware.

The greenhouse effect

Gradual increases in the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere are attributed to a “greenhouse effect” caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. Greenhouse gases collect in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation. Normally, the radiation escapes into space, but now the pollutants can last for years in the atmosphere, trap the heat, and cause the planet to get hotter.
In the United States, the burning of fossil fuels to make electricity is the largest source of heat-trapping pollution. The second largest source of carbon pollution is the transportation sector.
According to The Economist magazine, China was the source of about 27 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2017. But China, the magazine says, has been reluctant to curb emissions unless the United States moves first.
Meanwhile, on the website GlobalAsia, Matthew A. Shapiro cites atmospheric scientists who report that as much as 70 percent of Japan and Korea’s air pollution originates in China.
China’s far-ranging Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), designed to establish land and sea links with nearly 70 nations at a potential cost of $1 trillion, has brought warnings from scientists and environments regarding the environmental impact of its various infrastructure projects.
Following numerous complaints, China’s President Xi Jinping vowed in the spring of 2019 to make the BRI environmentally friendly, but the experts are still waiting for measures to be taken to implement his pledge.
Finally, as noted in previous commentaries, plastic trash piling up in the world’s oceans is causing the death of a number of marine species. Ever since China stopped buying trash for recycling, the U.S., European nations, and Southeast Asian nations have been scrambling to find the best ways of disposing of their plastic trash.

Top-level attention needed in Thailand and Vietnam

When it comes to the rising tides, people in both Thailand and Vietnam appear to be aware that more water is coming.
But several friends in Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City recently said via email that the “water problem” isn’t getting the high-level attention that it deserves from Thai and Vietnamese government leaders.
One friend in Bangkok joked that some city dwellers might soon be living on houseboats, with Chinese manufacturers ready to supply them for around $10,000 each.
While this commentary has focused on Southeast Asia, it’s obvious that rising seas will have a huge impact in many parts of the world.
As The Japan Times noted in an editorial published in November 2019, the people hardest hit by rising sea levels will be the millions who live on small islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans that are only a meter or two above sea level. They may also be among those least able to cope.

The good news

To end this commentary on at least one positive note, let’s return to the subject of those threatened mangrove trees that were mentioned earlier.
The website Smithsonian Ocean says that one shouldn’t underestimate the ability of mangroves in many locations to prevail.
In a report on mangrove trees around the world, the Smithsonian says that “mangroves are survivors.”
With their roots submerged in water, it says, mangroves thrive in hot, muddy, salty water conditions that would kill most plants.”
How do they do it? “Through a filtration system that keeps out much of the salt and a complex root system that holds the mangroves upright in the shifting sediments where land and water meet.”
And, the Smithsonian says, “as scientists are discovering, mangrove swamps are extremely important to our own wellbeing and to the health of the planet.”
But the Smithsonian ends with this question: “Will the mangroves be able to survive the impact of human activities?”
*Dan Southerland is RFA’s founding executive editor.

Top investment priorities in agriculture

Taiwo Hassan
The current year provides ample opportunity for investors to stake their resources in agriculture following Federal Government’s deep interest in food security and produce export, Taiwo Hassan reports
Indeed, it has been a new dawn in the country’s agriculture sector since President Muhammadu Buhari came into power in 2015.
The intention of the government in this regard is to rescue the economy from continued dependence on oil as a major driver of the economy in terms of foreign exchange earnings.
 Having chosen agriculture, manufacturing and mining as the three key sectors in line with its policy thrust to diversify the economy, President Muhammadu Buhari administration has given hope to many Nigerians, especially farmers, to increase their stakes in their area of specialisation.
 Specifically, the president’s call urging private sector investors, foreigners and teeming youths to embrace agriculture clearly gave a policy direction to where the country’s economy is heading.
 However, following its different agric policies aimed to right the wrong in the country’s agric space, the country’s agriculture is now a goldmine in the heart of Nigeria’s economy as it is driving the economy positively.
Prospects     
 As the New Year arrives, attention will once again shift to the country’s agric space to improve on the value chain.
 Following the new dawn, sokenof the areas to invest in include rice milling plants, cotton, palm oil, cashew nuts, piggery, fishery, GMOs, fertilizers and many others.
Rice milling plants

With the border closure policy of the present administration still in place, the hottest investment haven for any prospective investor in agriculture this year is rice milling plant to aggregate the country’s rice production.
Particularly, since the Federal Government announced the border closure with neighbouring countries in a bid to stop them violating Nigeria’s laws against smuggling, especially foreign rice, floating of new rice milling plant has emerged as big investment option.Basically, the land border closure is already yielding fruits. 
Reports showed that hundreds of rice milling plants are springing up in the country, while those that were moribund are now being activated in many rice-producing states.
 Many rice millers are now floating rice mills by adding more lines to their production lines in a bid to ensure rice sufficiency in Nigeria and key into government’s diversification agenda to promote agriculture.
 Notwithstanding the progress  achieved so far, there is still room for other prospective investors to establish more plants in the country.
 Palm oil
 This is another lucrative area for prospective investors willing to make money in the country’s agriculture sector.
 Last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) revealed that about 40 applications from investors willing to cultivate palm oil production were received nationwide, in addition to committing about N30 billion to enhance palm oil production in the country.
 In a bid to revive the country’s palm oil sector to stimulate growth and development, the apex bank has been at the forefront to ensure that Nigeria’s lost glory in palm oil returns to the front burner with the release of intervention fund to local investors in the country’s palm oil value chain.
 At a meeting with some state governors in Abuja, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, disclosed that it had committed about N30 billion to enhance oil-palm production in the country.
 Emefiele explained that the fund was disbursed through deposit money banks to six oil palm companies to support their expansion programmes.
 These companies are PZ Wimar, Biase oil company Limited, Eyop, Okomu oil company, Presco oil company and SIAT Limited and Ada Palm Imo State.
 Indeed, with the new dawn in the country’s palm oil sector, there are still more opportunities for prospective investors going into palm oil production.
 Hybrid cotton
 This is also an attractive area for prospective investors that are expecting to make huge profit in agriculture.
 Last year, under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) disbursed N4 billion loan to farmers across some cotton-producing states in a bid to grow cotton in abundance for the revival of the country’s textile industry.
 Particularly, the resurgence of hybrid cotton production can create a new vista for Nigeria’s textile industry to thrive and in turn curb unemployment as it is expected to create 10 million jobs.
 Indeed, the textile industry from the instrumentality of cotton production alone, can adequately guarantee jobs if factionalised.
 The opportunity in hybrid cotton is that it can be conveniently grown in 24 states of the 36 states in the country and could positively influence the macro-economy of the country and ensure its contribution to Gross Domestic Product.
 For prospective investors, this is an area of interest to explore in agric opportunities in the New Year.
Cashew nuts
 Anytime, any day, the country’s cashew nut is a good bargain for any prospective investor in agric value chain because of its high return on investment.
 Indeed, one of the lead agric commodities, cashew, has been a money spinner for the country’s economy following the rate of sustainable development being achieved in terms of production, export and accrued revenue.
 Interestingly, in a space of eight years, the country’s cashew production grew from 90,000 tons in 2011 to 260,000 tons last year.
 In addition, the turnaround in the country’s cashew sector has seen the commodity being listed among new exports, which the Federal Government had earmarked to generate about $30 million from the non-oil export sector of the economy.
 In fact, the commodity (cashew) was identified as juicy crop in the non-oil export sector because of its high return on investment for exporters vying to trade in the product.
 This in return has buoyed the country’s non-oil export revenue for this fiscal year.
 In the same vein, the Federal Government also announced that it was planning to get more cashew nuts processing machines nationwide that will enable the country double her export earnings from $800 million to $1.7 billion yearly through the commodity.
 Besides, cashew nuts is one of the key non-oil exports that the current administration is looking at  to increase its revenue base with its contribution to national export earnings.
 With the lucrative deals involved in cashew, it will be a big bargain for every prospective investor.
 GMOs
 For the establishment of genetically modified organic (GMOs) in Nigeria by the Federal Government, the next big thing in the country’s agric sector is GMOs, based on the huge support it is getting from foreign donors.
 Indeed, Nigeria is one of the luckiest countries in the world that is blessed with large span of arable lands for planting of crops in order to ensure food productivity and security.


But the introduction of GMOs into the country’s agriculture may not have gone down well with some section of Nigerians over its lack of empirical evidence to ascertain and certify them safe for human consumption despite the country facing challenges in meeting food production for its teeming population.
 The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that food production will need to double in some parts of the world by 2050 and this translates to the need for more land for cultivation which will not be readily available.
 Hence, the introduction of GMO crops to make enough nutritious food available with limited land, water and other resources was one of the reasons GMO was approved to complement food security in the world.
 So as GMOs continue to expand in Nigeria, it is a big opportunity for some prospective investors to key into the new ideology in the country’s agricultural space and tap into it.
 Besides, the Federal Government has given the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) the legislative approval to regulate and control GMOs foods in Nigeria.
Chinese Scientist Who Genetically Engineered 3 Babies Sentenced to Jail
Thursday, January 2, 2020
Editor-in-Chief

He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist who is the first and only to genetically engineer babies, was sentenced to three years in prison and a $430,000 fine on Monday for “illegal medical practice.” Two of his colleagues were also sentenced to time in prison for practicing medicine without a license, crossing an ethical line, and violating Chinese regulations.
At the time of the research as well as currently, it is illegal in much of the world to use a genetically engineered embryo to establish a pregnancy. In China, it is prohibited under a 2003 ministerial guidance to IVF clinics.
Regardless, He announced on Nov. 26, 2018 via a YouTube video and interview with the Associated Press that he used CRISPR/Cas9 to help make the world’s first genetically edited babies—twin girls born earlier in the month. A third baby, carried by a second woman, was reportedly born in Summer 2019.
In the announcement video, He explained the mother of the twins, Grace, got pregnant through “regular” IVF—with one significant difference. After Grace’s egg was implanted with her husband, Mark’s, sperm, He and his team also implanted protein and instructions for gene surgery to disable a gene called CCR5, which is a protein doorway for HIV to enter a cell. Mark, the twins’ father, is HIV-positive. Before returning the embryo to Grace’s womb, He said whole genome sequencing indicated the surgery worked safely.
Post-birth, He did another deep sequencing of the twin girls’ whole genome. His team compared 80 to 95% of the twins’ genomes to their parents’ and only saw one mistarget in one girl’s DNA, in a section of inactive genes. However, the tests suggest that one twin had both copies of the intended gene altered while the other had just one altered. He said no other genes were altered except CCR5.
Still, scientists worldwide condemned He and the experiment. Most raised concerns about the long-term health of the twin as humans without the normal CCR5 gene have been shown to face higher risks of contracting other viruses, such as West Nile or the flu.
Despite He’s assurance that no other genes were changed, scientists said not enough is understood about mistargeted editing to perform such an experiment on live children. They pointed to the fact that only one twin had both genes altered as proof itself. For the other twin, this means the risk of HIV infection is the same as everyone else. Essentially, her genes were altered—with possible unknown consequences—for no purpose.
Other scientists, including HIV researchers, questioned the ethics of He recruiting parents for his experiment directly (and only) from an HIV advocacy group. While He and his U.S. colleague Michael Deem, former Rice University physics and bioengineering professor, told the AP the study participants were aware of the purpose of the experiment, the paperwork suggests otherwise. Consent forms called the project an “AIDS vaccine development” program.
He did receive approval for his project from Shenzhen Harmonicare Women’s and Children’s Hospital, and he gave official notice of his work to the Chinese registry of clinical trials—but only months after he started. Through the duration of the experiment, 16 of 22 embryos were edited and 11 were used in six implant attempts before the twin pregnancy was achieved, as well as the third baby, He told the AP.

China Seeks Public Opinion on GMO Corn Approval, Gets an Earful

The Chinese public has long been wary of genetically modified crops despite little scientific evidence of food safety risks. Description: http://image5.sixthtone.com/image/5/22/771.jpg
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Cai Xuejiao

Jan 03, 2020 3-min read
Chinese people may be more averse to genetically modified foods than most, but domestic media outlets are hoping to change that following the country’s first proposed biosafety approvals for GMO crops in a decade.
In a statement Monday, China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) said it is soliciting public opinion on a list of 192 genetically modified plant species — including two strains of corn and one strain of soybean — that are awaiting biosafety certification. The public feedback period will conclude after 15 days, on Jan. 20.
The soybean species SHZD32-01, which is especially suitable for cultivation in southern China, was developed by Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The two GMO corn species, meanwhile, can be grown in China’s colder northern provinces. The DBN9936 corn species was developed by Beijing Dabeinong Biotechnology Co. Ltd., and the “double-stacked 12-5” species was co-developed by Hangzhou Ruifeng Biotechnology Co. Ltd. and Zhejiang University.
In the days since, several major state-controlled media outlets have published articles explaining the science behind GMOs in an effort to assuage the public’s fears.
China began researching genetically modified crops in the 1980s. MARA approved insect-resistant cotton and disease-resistant papaya for commercial production in 1997 and 2006, respectively, and greenlit GMO soybeans, corn, canola, cotton, and sugar beets as for import to the Chinese market.
In 2009, MARA issued biosafety certificates for a genetically modified corn species and two GMO rice species, though none were later approved for commercial production. In early 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a genetically modified strain of rice developed by Chinese researchers as commercially viable, though its developers said at the time that large-scale production in China would not be possible without new policies to grease the wheels.
Monday’s news from MARA hasn’t been enthusiastically received by all, with many on Chinese social media expressing concerns about the potential health and safety risks of GMOs. Some netizens have called for a boycott on GMO foods, while others have questioned the scientific basis for such skepticism.
The Chinese public’s fears of adverse health effects from GMOs have been stoked over the years by high-profile figures like Cui Yongyuan, a former televisions presenter and outspoken anti-GMO campaigner who is now perhaps best known for exposing the A-list actor Fan Bingbing’s fraudulent contract in 2018.
Many scientists have also spoken out over the years and tried to reassure the public that China’s current policy framework for assessing GMO foods is sufficient to guarantee their safety.
Wu Kongming, chairman of China’s biosafety committee overseeing agricultural GMOs, told Xinhua earlier this week that any genetically modified foods approved for the domestic market would be safe, and that the environmental risks of commercially grown GMO crops can be effectively controlled.
For over 20 years, Wu said, billions of people in 70 countries and regions around the world have consumed genetically modified products without a single scientifically confirmed food safety problem.
Genetically altered crops must receive a production certificate from MARA before they can be commercially grown in China, and all GMO foods must be clearly labeled as such when sold to consumers.
Also on Monday, MARA published a list of 12 GMOs that have been approved for import until December 2022, including an insect-resistant strain of soybean developed by U.S.-based company Dow AgroSciences LLC, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: Ships unload imported soybeans at a harbor in Nantong, Jiangsu province, March 28, 2012. Tuchong)

As Rice Exports To EU Drop, Dealers Are Reducing Prices Due To Tariffs
02 January 2020


Description: FILE: Villagers in Kampong Thom province were drying rice in front of his house in Kampong Thom province, January 19, 2019. (Sun Narin/VOA Khmer)
FILE: Villagers in Kampong Thom province were drying rice in front of his house in Kampong Thom province, January 19, 2019. (Sun Narin/VOA Khmer)
As exports to the EU have fallen, farmers said that rice dealers were using the tariffs as an excuse to lower rice prices in the market, leading to losses for farmers.
PHNOM PENH — 
Government data showed that Cambodia’s rice exports to the European Union had dropped by 30 percent in 2019, after the economic bloc imposed tariffs at the start of last year.
Ministry of Agriculture data showed that rice exports dropped from 300,000 tons in 2018 to around 200,000 tons last year. At the same time, China has increased its imports, after the country’s leaders agreed to increase rice trade to 400,000 tons a year.
The European Union imposed tariffs for three years starting January 2019, after Italy triggered protectionist measures to safeguard its rice sector. The tariffs were around $200 a ton in 2019 and will fall to $140 for the third year.
As exports to the EU have fallen, farmers said that rice dealers were using the tariffs as an excuse to lower rice prices in the market, leading to losses for farmers.
Farmers in Battambang province’s Omal commune – at the center of Cambodia’s rice production –have complained about low prices for their paddy crop last year.
Choeun Socheat, a rice farmer, said the price of paddy was surprisingly low, around just $232 per ton, around $60 lower than they were getting in the previous year.
“The dealers told us that the price is low because they are buying rice to keep at the rice mills, but not for exporting abroad,” she said.
“I don’t know whether to believe them or not. We have to sell with the price dealers set.”
Description: FILE: Trucks loaded with paddy rice parked outside rice mill in Pursat province, December 2019 (Sun Narin/VOA Khmer)
FILE: Trucks loaded with paddy rice parked outside rice mill in Pursat province, December 2019 (Sun Narin/VOA Khmer)
Another farmer in the same commune, Kheun Pheakdey, said it was getting hard to recoup costs, especially fertilizer costs, which had gotten more expensive. He said around $267 a ton would be the very least he needs to make any earnings.
“I can’t make profit even to pay for the fertilizer costs,” he said.
Chan Sokheang, vice president of Cambodia Rice Federation, agreed that dealers were undercutting farmers on the pretext of the tariffs, but claimed the industry body could do nothing about it.
“How can we curb since it happens across the country? It is them taking advantage [of farmers],” he said.
He claimed that the cost of fragrant, or high-quality rice was still high, and that farmers should try to directly sell to millers.
However, Cambodia’s agriculture sector has long been plagued with the lack of storage facilities or cheap transportation for crops, with millers taking on these investments on an individual basis.
Theng Savoeun, the director of the NGO Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community, said it was possible to take advantage of farmers because they had no access to market information and were disconnected from millers, allowing dealers to misinform them.
“The dealers at the lower level take this opportunity to lower the price of paddy rice,” he said. “Some dealers have networks with officials or big business people.”
Total rice exports for Cambodia in 2019 was around 620,000 tons, with the EU accounting for 32 percent of this exported rice and China for 41 percent, or around 250,000 tons.
Iflation clocks in at 12.63pc in December
Mubarak Zeb KhanUpdated January 02, 2020
Description: Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered relevant provincial authorities to arrest rising trend in prices of pulses, wheat, fruit and other food items.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered relevant provincial authorities to arrest rising trend in prices of pulses, wheat, fruit and other food items.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s inflation rate slightly eased to 12.63 per cent in December from 12.7pc last month but still scaled the highest level in nine years, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) reported on Wednesday.
Inflation, measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) lowered 0.34pc over the previous month. The data released shows that higher food prices have been the largest driver in overall inflation in December. It has also been observed that the prices of essential food items are higher in rural areas than in urban areas.
Food inflation in urban areas rose by 16.7pc in December on a yearly basis but declined 1.7pc on a monthly basis whereas it increased by 19.7pc in rural areas and declined 1.1pc respectively.
In urban areas, the food items which saw an increase in their prices included: dry fruits 6.35pc, wheat 5.62pc, eggs 4.61pc, fresh fruits 2.3pc, pulse moong 1.88pc and fish (1.22pc).
On the flipside, prices of items that declined in urban areas included: tomatoes 36.49pc, onions 12.45pc, chicken 11.21pc, fresh vegetables 4.62pc, sugar 3.54pc, and potatoes 1.96pc.
PM orders country-wide launch of ‘Durust Daam’ application
Similarly, non-food inflation in urban centres was recorded at 9.5pc year-on-year, while it was 8.8pc in rural areas. The rise in non-food inflation is mainly driven by an increase in oil prices over the past few months and a combined impact of depreciation of the exchange rate. The government passed on this increase to domestic consumers.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has estimated that the country‘s inflation may rise as high as 13pc, but the government’s estimates it remain within the range of 11-13pc for the current fiscal year.
Read more: Govt confident of beating IMF’s inflation projection
The urban CPI covers 35 cities and 356 consumer items, while the rural CPI tracks 27 rural centres and 244 items. The former grew by 12pc year-on-year in December, whereas the latter jumped by 13.6pc.
The core inflation rate in urban areas was 7.5pc in December, according to the new methodology, as it remained at the previous month level. The core inflation rate in rural areas was 8.1pc in December, while it was 8.4pc in the previous month.
The central bank determines the key policy rate — currently at 13.25pc — on the basis of the core inflation rate. The average inflation between July-December was 11.11pc as against 5.96pc over the same period last year.
Average inflation measured by the Sensitive Price Index crawled up 14.87pc in July-December period from 1.90pc during the same period last year, while the Wholesale Price Index went up 13.31pc from 16.9pc.
PM reviews prices
Prime Minister Imran Khan held a meeting on Wednesday to review prices of essential food items: flour, rice, ghee, sugar, pulses and vegetables. The meeting also reviewed the progress on launching of application “Durust Daam” in big cities of all provinces and crackdown against adulteration in food items.
KP Chief Secretary Dr Kazim Niaz informed the meeting that the Durust Daam app will be launched in three cities—Peshawar, Mardan and Abbottabad in the first week of January.
He said sample of 2,122 food items were collected for checking adulteration. Elaborating further, he said around 20,000 inspections have been carried out so far. As a result, 3,500 notices have been issued, besides imposition of about Rs7 million as fine. Moreover, about 200,000 kg/liters goods were destroyed.
On the price issue, he informed the meeting that the price of Basmati rice witnessed a reduction of Rs16 per kg, local tomato Rs55 per kg and Daal Mash Rs2 per kg. He said 73 Kissan markets have been established in 28 districts of the province, where farmers can sell their produce directly.
Punjab Chief Secretary Major (Retd) Azam Suleman apprised the premier that the Punjab Food Authority had inspected 29,500 sites. Meanwhile, he said that tomato prices have decreased by Rs40 per kg, potatoes Rs12 per kg, and those of flour and rice reduced by Rs2-3 per kg respectively.
He said the Qeemat application has already been launched in Rawalpindi to control price hike and so far 600,000 residents had downloaded it. He further said that an online home delivery system has been formally launched in Rawalpindi. A total of 32 model bazaars have also been set up in 19 districts of the province whereas locations for establishment of such bazaars in 95 tehsils have been identified.
The food and vegetable grading system, he added, had commenced in Lahore and Faisalabad which would be gradually expanded to the entire province.
He further said that through the Radio Frequency Identification (RID System), CCTVs and price magistrates, continuous monitoring of the fruits and vegetables markets was being made.
The chief secretary said that complete record of the edible commodities was maintained and so far 82 Kissan markets had been established.
Sindh chief secretary and Balochistan’s industries secretary also apprised the meeting about the steps taken to control adulteration in the food and presented comparative figures of the prices of the daily use items in the rural and urban areas.
Prime Minister Imran Khan directed all provincial governments to take effective administrative actions to control rising food prices and carry out timely planning to maintain the demand and supply of basic items. He said possible efforts should also be made to eradicate food adulteration using modern technology.
The premier said he will review the progress in this regard on a weekly basis through video conference and exchange views to address problems faced by general public.
Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2020

Actionable Policies To Make Indian Agriculture Climate-Resilient

Challenge before the governments is to build systems to sustain focus and integrate activities aligned to sustainable agriculture practices as climate change poses new risks to yields and quality of food crops

Arabinda K Padhee01 January 2020
Climate change is one of the most extreme challenges Indian agriculture is facing today and will have to deal with in future. There have been overwhelming and growing scientific evidences to establish that the world is getting warmer due to climate change and such increasing weather variabilities and worsening extremes will impact the agriculture sector more and more adversely.
The growth story of Indian agriculture since the days of food scarcity (in the mid-1960s) to the present satisfactory production level of food grains has been very impressive. In these efforts, land degradation and environmental challenges have however emerged to thwart sustainability of agri-food systems. The frequent occurrences of natural disasters like food, drought, storms, hails, cyclones have led to severe hardship and farm distress. Feeding a growing population and ensuring food and nutritional security in future thus becomes a daunting challenge in a changing climate. It is in this context, suitable policy actions with scientific interventions become imperative for Indian agriculture to adapt and mitigate climate change impacts.
There has been a growing interest in India to scientifically ascertain the impacts of agriculture sector on climate change and the impact of climate variability as well as climate change on farm sector of the economy. The second Biennial Update Report (BUR) submitted by Government of India to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in December 2018 mentions that agriculture sector is responsible for 16.2% of the total Green house gas (GHG) emissions. Scientific analyses have predicted that the trend could lead to a decline in agriculture production due to further climate change. Studies carried out at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi, have indicated the possibility of a loss of 4 to 5 MMT in wheat production with every 1 degree centigrade rise in temperature. This study has assumed that irrigation would be made available at present level, which of course may not be a possibility considering the receding Himalayan glaciers and increased demand of water from other sectors.
The Economic Survey in 2017-18 (it has an exclusive chapter that covers climate change and its impact on agriculture in India) has warned that “Climate change could reduce annual agricultural incomes in the range of 15% to 18% on an average, and up to 20% to 25% for unirrigated areas”. It has further pointed out the stagnation of growth in agriculture gross domestic product (GDP) and farm revenues in the preceding four years due to repeated monsoon failures.
The quality of food grains is also significantly affected by temperature in many crops, which could in turn have great impact on the nutritional security aspects in a developing country like
India. Research has indeed shown that the decline in grain protein content in cereals could partly be related to increased carbon di-oxide concentrations and temperature. There are also reports of quality of Basmati rice being adversely impacted due to temperature increase beyond the optimum level. The yield in temperate crops like apple has been seen to be directly related to climatic extremes. Average productivity of apples in the traditional Kullu and Shimla regions of Himachal Pradesh has often been attributed to inadequate chilling in recent decades, crucial for good apple yields. Pest and disease incidences in any crop are functions of ambient temperature and humidity. Crop -pest/ disease interactions will therefore change significantly in an era of climate change.
The author (as a part of his Masters Dissertation at the University of Birmingham) attempted to analyse the weather data for Odisha State to find out the trend, if any, on the climate variables and also to see correlation with the production of major crops. Analysis of the weather data, mainly rainfall (precipitation) figures for all districts since 1901 and temperature data since 1931 (till 2010) was made. Crop production data (for the wet, Kharif season) for past one and half decades (period of pronounced climate change impacts) was taken for correlation and regression analysis of seasonal weather variables. These analyses presented interesting results. It empirically established that monsoon onset is getting delayed (than the normal date of onset) in the recent years that may adversely affect cropping system of the state. Mean annual precipitation (rainfall) and mean number of rainy days showed a decreasing trend over the last one century (since 1901). This would obviously disturb crop choice and crop planning. Although total amount of rainfall in a year has decreased over the years, occurrence of very heavy rainfall events in the state has increased in the recent period (last 15-20 years). Similarly, the mean annual maximum temperature has shown an increasing trend in the analysis period with a decrease in the mean annual minimum temperature. All these results call for effective planning and research, as temperature regimes greatly influence the growth pattern and productivity of rice and many other crops.
Similar studies have since been carried out by researchers which has established that extreme weather events are becoming very common in the entire country and thus, necessitate suitable policy measures at all levels -- Union, States and the Local self-Governments, for framing and implementation of mitigation (and adaptation) strategies to arrest the trend.
The threat of climate change has necessitated framing of suitable policies by individual governments and international community. India has been doing a balancing act between growth and sustainability in its climate change policies and leading the developing countries to place agriculture in the ongoing negotiations. The National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture as a part of NAPCC (National Action Plan on Climate Change) since last one decade has focused to make Indian agriculture sustainable in the light of likely risks arising from climate variability.
The ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) has initiated the National Innovations on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) network project since 2011 to enhance resilience of Indian agriculture to climate vulnerability through strategic research and technology demonstration as well as capacity building of all the actors in the system. Similarly, CGIAR (Consultative Group on  International Agricultural Research) Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) is also promoting adaptable and resilient agriculture and food systems in many countries including India. ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics) has also developed a pool of climate-smart technologies. Few such approaches highlighted by ICRISAT for building climate smart villages like the watershed management approach (improving rural livelihoods by rehabilitating natural ecosystems) and the meteorological advisory and farm systems approach
(building resilience agro-ecosystems by using climate information) have gained acceptance in many project areas and being replicated elsewhere.
Addressing food security and climate challenges in a “business-as-usual” approach will make the tasks more difficult. Therefore, it’s high time that rationale of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is understood and appreciated by decision makers at all levels. There should be structured trainings to build the capacity of officials of relevant departments to sensitize them to understand the diverse impacts of global climate change events at local levels. Similarly, defined institutional architecture has to be built into the Government system to sustain focus and integrate activities into ongoing schemes and programs aligned to sustainable agriculture practices.
The hardest political problem in climate change policy framework comes from the least appreciation of a changing climate at the level of local self-governments. Till a village Sarpanch is sensitized to tune the development strategies of a Gram Panchayat for adapting agriculture to climate variability, any efforts at higher levels of governance may not bear desired fruits. The institution of a Panchayat in Indian context has the capacity to leverage funds from a plethora of schemes. Allocations under MGNREGA can be purposefully utilized in climate-proofing projects such as farm ponds; soil and water management through participatory watershed approaches; plantation and agro-forestry; and many other eco-friendly activities that will adapt and build resilience to climate change.
Fortunately, the ICAR, the state agricultural universities (SAUs) and even the private sector have been pursuing their research works to develop new and more tolerant cultivars to multiple (both biotic and abiotic) stresses. Governments at both central and state levels must enhance funding support for development of technologies and approaches that suit local crops and ecology in a complex scenario of climate variability. Simple and affordable insurance products should be properly implemented to create safety net for the farmers, especially the small holders who are often the neglected part of agricultural community. There is also need of knowledge sharing platforms for all stakeholders to ensure wider adaptation and mitigation to the weather variabilities.
Priority has to be accorded for upscaling research on emerging areas of climate science to develop technologies that must include pest-surveillance and forewarning systems; simulation modelling and big data analytics, etc. Digital agriculture through use of ICT and emerging technologies could play an important role in helping to adopt various climate-smart interventions. Focus on agricultural research and innovation to ensure efficiency in resources (water; nutrient) use; carbon sequestration; assessment of GHG emissions from agriculture sector, etc., has to be made with enhanced allocation of budgetary support and collaborations/partnerships.
Reduction of GHG emissions from animal agriculture has to be prioritised since livestock is a significant contributor to GHG emissions within agriculture sector (about 60 per cent coming from enteric fermentation). Balanced ration/nutrition for livestock is often suggested to reduce greenhouse gases emissions per unit of animal product. Effective mitigation measures and appropriate adaptation technologies have to be taken to reduce emissions in the entire animal food chain such as land use and land-use change; feed production; animal production; manure management; processing and transport, etc. Manure management practices need to be promoted that would ensure recovery and recycling of nutrients and energy.
India has submitted its NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) to the UNFCC as a part of its commitments to Paris Agreement that inter-alia includes adoption of climate friendly practices for a cleaner path of development. Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has delineated its intended climate actions in the agricultural sector like increasing efficiency in water use; promotion of organic farming; conservation agriculture practices; plantation and agro-forestry, etc. Specific schemes such as Paramparagat Krishi Vikash Yojana; Soil health Card scheme; Neem-coated urea; Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana; etc., are aimed to make the agriculture sector more resilient to a changing climate. Few state governments like Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, etc., have initiated programs to promote natural and organic farming practices on a large scale. Enhanced solarization (and use of renewable energy) by Indian agriculture is now being seriously prescribed to reduce carbon footprints from the sector.
If we are to achieve the sustainable development goal (SDG) of zero hunger, agriculture and food system must reorient to become sustainable and enhance the agricultural productivity and incomes of smallholder farmers (India has as high as 86 per cent of its farm households coming under small and marginal category owning less than two hectares of arable land) who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Moreover, promotion of consumer awareness on diversity of diets that originates from sustainable agri-food systems has to be a priority in policy agenda. Nutri-cereal and climate-resilient crops such as sorghum and millets are increasingly gaining popularity amongst a growing health and nutrition-conscious population in India and this is a good news. We have to also focus on reducing food wastage to offset emissions and ensure food availability to the needy. Suitable policies and strategies as enumerated above can help sustain growth of Indian agriculture in a scenario of changing climate.

Dr A K Padhee is Director, Country Relations-India of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT) based at New Delhi. Views expressed are his own.
Biotech ruling could change global farming through the 2020s
Description: Owen Roberts
Column By Owen Roberts
January 2, 2020
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While most of us were preparing for Christmas, a game-changing pro-biotechnology ruling took place on the other side of the world that could profoundly affect agriculture everywhere through the next decade and beyond.
In mid-December, the Philippine Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Plant Industry ruled that that Golden Rice, a genetically engineered, vitamin A-enabled crop (vitamin A gives it its golden colour), is “as safe as conventional rice.”
That ruling is huge. It’s being touted as a victory for science-based regulatory decision-making – an approach to which Canada has traditionally subscribed – by a country where this enhanced crop can really make a difference in people’s lives.
Here’s why. Vitamin A deficiency causes a host of debilitating and sometimes fatal conditions including blindness and death.  It’s rare in the western world, including Canada, because we generally eat a balanced diet from which we receive vitamin A.
But in countries where rice is a staple, it’s a real problem, because Vitamin A does not naturally occur in rice. The World Health Organization estimates up to a half-million vitamin A-deficient children go blind every year, and in the year that follows blindness, they die.
Golden Rice has been a focal point for pro- and anti-biotechnology groups for years. It was developed in the early 2000s by multinational plant and crop protection company Syngenta, making Golden Rice an enemy of anti-technology groups, despite its potential to help save lives. Ultimately, Syngenta gave it over to global development organizations such as the International Rice Research Institute, whose interests are not shareholder driven.
Still, Golden Rice struggled to shed the negative image of a biotech crop. It was further vilified because some of the countries where it could help the most did not have regulations in place for testing or adopting such crops. Its western world opponents positioned Golden Rice as an untested industry-driven technology being imposed on uninformed populations. They also feared its acceptance would much more broadly open the door for plant biotechnology.
Now, two decades later, regulations have been instituted in many countries that eliminate some of those arguments. The Philippines is among them. More testing will follow, and Golden Rice must still be approved for commercial propagation in the Philippines. But there was no way that would happen if it was not officially considered safe. Now, it is.
Canada took a big step in 2018 to declare Golden Rice safe – but didn’t go as far as to allow it to be sold here. Maybe someday. But that’s not why it gave its approval. Globally, Canada is considered to have a tough regulatory system. If officials here said it was safe, it could have sway with regulatory agencies in other countries. And that appears to be what’s happening.
In 2020 and beyond we’ll see the doors open further for genetically modified crops grown abroad. Some will be imported here and will need to go through our own regulatory channels.  Some already are, like papayas, which have been saved by genetic intervention from a virus that was destined to wipe them out.
We need a strong and thorough regulatory system here to monitor what’s coming in, and what’s going out. The export environment is tough enough with political trumped-up trade restrictions against our farmers’ crops and livestock. We need to be leaders in food safety at home and abroad to give Canadian producers a fair chance to compete, and to give consumers the assurance they need to feel confident in our food supply, regardless of where it’s produced.
I hope I get a chance someday to try Golden Rice. Food variety helps make life rich. And I hope we all get the opportunity to be as healthy as possible this decade, thanks to dedicated researchers, smart regulations, and good, affordable choices.



Malnutrition rears its head in B'luru city kids: Study

  • Jan 02 2020, 23:36pm ist
  • updated: Jan 03 2020, 07:29am ist
Malnutrition isn’t a condition confined to rural areas if a study conducted on children in Bengaluru by the Indian Institute of Health Management Research (IIHMR) is any indication. 
Researchers found that 10% of the children surveyed were severely stunted, 16% severely wasted and 10% severely stunted.
The study — ‘Household Consumption Pattern and Nutritional Status Of Children In Anaganwadis’ at Dommansandra, Bellandur and Mandur — was conducted earlier this year as a prelude for interventions made by NGO United Way.
The study took into account the anthropometric measurements of a child. “After measuring the children’s height and weight, we realised that malnutrition was a concern even in a developed state like Karnataka,” said Dr Usha Manjunath, Director, IIHMR.
The researchers also interacted with the kids’ families to examine diet patterns.
Most of the affected children were born to young mothers who had their first baby around 20. “When the mothers are married off young, their nutrition is at stake. Many women are anaemic. This leads to low birth weight in children and hence malnourishment,” said Dr Usha.
Researchers found that there was no dietary diversity in the families of such children. They consumed pulses and cereals, mostly eaten with rice. They had white rice for most of their meals. In some cases, a form of flavoured white rice was consumed even for breakfast.
The children didn’t consume any other grains, and the minimal consumption of fruits, vegetables and greens was another concern. The study also found that 55% consumed readily available sugar-laden drinks almost every day.
The research suggested medical attention for such children as they showed a higher tendency of falling sick. As most families did not have access to a diet chart, Indian Institute of Health Management and Research, said awareness must be created about low-cost, easily available nutritional snacks.


PM-Kisan, mandi reforms steal the show in 2019

The Centre's focus in 2019, continued to be 'kisan kalyan' (farmers' welfare) in the second term of the Modi administration and the policy changes were as per the recommendations by the Dalwai Committee for doubling farmers' 2015-16 income level, in real terms, by 2022.

PTI|Updated: Jan 01, 2020, 03.54 PM IST
BCCL
Description: Description: agrichemicals-bcclNot only the budget allocation for the sector was hiked over 78 per cent to Rs 1.39 lakh crore for the current fiscal, the government persuaded states to adopt long pending agri-marketing reforms.New Delhi: Good monsoon may have laid the foundation for record foodgrain production, but it was the launch of schemes like PM-Kisan that has set the ball rolling for structural reforms in the agriculture sector to achieve the target of doubling farmers' income. The Centre's focus in 2019, continued to be 'kisan kalyan' (farmers' welfare) in the second term of the Modi administration and the policy changes were as per the recommendations by the Dalwai Committee for doubling farmers' 2015-16 income level, in real terms, by 2022.

Not only the budget allocation for the sector was hiked over 78 per cent to Rs 1.39 lakh crore for the current fiscal, the government persuaded states to adopt long pending agri-marketing reforms as per the Model Agriculture Produce and Livestock Market Committee (APML) Act.

Besides, it tweaked some existing schemes for promoting quick transfer of new farm technology and facilitate agri-exports by allowing treatment of Methylcyclopropene (MCP) for enhancing the shelf life of fresh fruits and vegetables among others.

To mitigate severe agrarian distress, the government launched a new agri-scheme the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan), just before the
Lok Sabha polls, with an aim to provide direct cash benefit of Rs 6,000 annually to each of 14 crore farmers. Later it also unvieled an old age pension scheme the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Maan-Dhan Yojana.

"By and large the government's priority was on improving the farmers' income and accordingly the schemes were framed and some existing ones were tweaked to achieve this objective," Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told in an interview.

Asserting that several of the Dalwai Committee's recommendations are being implemented, the Minister said, "the work is in progress, the results will be visible soon."

On foodgrain production, the Minister said despite delayed but good monsoon, untimely rains in some states like Maharasthra and Karnataka affected some kharif (summer) crops, the country's overall foodgrain output is expected to be better and most likely will surpass 281.37 million tonne achieved in 2018-19 crop year (July-June).

The prospect of rabi (winter) crops like wheat are "extremely" good because of better soil moisture and good weather conditions, he said. Tomar, however, noted that the country is self-sufficient in many commodities and the government's policy has shifted from production-centric to farmers' income centric.

The government has set a production target of 291.1 million tonnes of foodgrain in 2019-20 crop year (July-June). Already kharif (summer) crops have been harvested, the sowing of rabi (winter) crops is coming to end soon.

According to experts, the year was no doubt "better" in terms of prices that farmers got for their produce when compared to last two years even though the rising food inflation was a concern with retail onion prices touching the peak of Rs 200/kg last month due to estimated 25 per cent fall in kharif output of the key kitchen staple, they said.

On export front, India -- which exports nearly 14 per cent of the total marketable surplus -- faced problem in shippping basmati rice due to new pesticide residue level set by the European Union. Non-basmati rice and sugar shipments were also hit as global prices were lower than the domestic support price, they added.

Asserting that much awaited agri-market reforms are underway finally in the country, government think-tank Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand said, "the trend has begun now. Many states have started adopting mandi reforms which is a real game changer in the agriculture sector."

North eastern states have adopted fully the new Model APLM Act, while some states like Uttar Pradesh have adopted it partially even as the Centre is pursuing with the state governments to implement all the provisions of the law, he said.

Tamil Nadu has become the first state to adopt fully the model contract farming law that will pave way for food processing and better post harvesting. The government has kept the contract farming out of the ambit of Essential Commodities Act.

Besides these reforms, the government this year allowed inter-state trade on the electronic National Agriculture Market (eNAM) platform in 12 states.

However, the efforts to plug the holes in the procurement system and address the gaps in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) scheme through the new program Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay SanraksHan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA) could not give desired results owing to lack of state government's support, experts observed.

The government also banned KCC loan against gold, plugged duplication and linked the KCC with aadhar number. With these changes, the government is aiming to bring additional 2 crore farmers under the KCC by June 2020. At present, 7 crore farmers are enrolled.

The overall farm sector growth stood at 2.90 per cent in the 2018-19 fiscal. It was 2 per cent and 2.1 per cent in the first and second quarter of the 2019-20 fiscal, respectively, he added.

Next year, the government has mega plans to leverage farmers' data collected under the PM-Kisan scheme for providing better facilities to farmers. The data will be linked with land records,
Kisan Credit Card (KCC), crop insurance, soil health card, and other important schemes.

The government is also likely to launch few more schemes in the forthcoming budget that would bring a major shift in the agriculture sector.

Despite gov’t interventions, palay prices remain too low

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:10 AM January 03, 2020
Despite a number of government interventions, the average farm gate price of palay in November had remained low.
Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that as of the last week of November, a kilo of palay was sold at an average of P15.55, down 22.29 percent from a year ago.
While economic managers said palay rates were only going back to their “average” levels coming from an “abnormal year,” PSA data reflected that between 2015 and 2017, the farm gate price of palay was at P18.53 a kilo, or higher by 19 percent.
The lowest quotation in November was recorded in Zamboanga Sibugay at P10 a kilo—lower than the current palay production cost at P12 a kilo—while the highest quotation was recorded in Surigao del Sur at P20.40 a kilo.
In major rice-producing provinces such as Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Tarlac, Occidental Mindoro and Cagayan, the prevailing palay prices per kilo were at P19.35, P16, P15.60, P16 and P16, respectively.
Before 2019 drew to a close, the government has rolled out several programs to cushion the blow on farmers of the declining palay prices due to the continued inflow of cheaper rice imports.
The Department of Agriculture distributed cash aid and provided loans, issued stricter requirements to be followed by importers, and asked local government units to buy palay from their respective constituents to ensure that there would be a market for local produce.
It also started projects under the rice competitiveness enhancement program, which has a budget of P10 billion yearly.
The National Food Authority, for its part, has intensified its palay procurement operations.However, palay prices remained low.
“The more palay prices drop because of the continued inflow of cheap imports, the more losses farmers will incur and the more pressure on the government to provide relief to farmers,” said Raul Montemayor of the Federation of Free Farmers.
Based on studies of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies and the Philippine Rice Research Institute, the downtrend was seen to continue until 2020, bringing further losses to palay farmers
Rice centre sprouts new climate-resilient varieties
The Rice Research Centre under the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI), Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is accelerating efforts to develop new climate-resilient rice varieties to help farmers in times of flood or drought.
Director of the Rice Research Centre, Dr Chanthakhone Boualaphanh, said the centre is now breeding rice varieties Xebangfay (XBF) 1, 3 and 4 in response to extreme weather conditions, which are occurring more frequently.
These varieties are developed for flood tolerance and can withstand being submerged for 21 days.
The centre has also researched 15 rice seed varieties to cope with harsh weather patterns, which it will distribute to farmers, and expand planted rice areas as part of the government’s targeted dry season cultivation area of 185,000 hectares.
Dr Chanthakhone said the centre would continue cooperation with development partners to enhance rice breeding by increasing the number of varieties available, especially in line with Laos’ rice seed conservation goals.
NAFRI officials reported that since 2007 it has set up a rice breeding programme to develop new climate-resilient rice varieties that are expected to reduce crop losses.
The programme breeds rice varieties for submergence tolerance, drought tolerance, aerobic varieties, direct seeding, and species that are lodging resistant, suitable for mechanised harvesting and are shatter resistant.
Since 1991, rice breeding efforts have imported varieties from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Thai-IRRI. Since 1993, the programme has provided a total of 37 varieties to farmers.
The nation has faced prolonged dry spells followed by severe floods in some years.
Last year, floods destroyed rice fields which led to production losses of up to 40 percent while dry weather also affected yields with losses to late maturity varieties of up to 20 percent.
Insect pests (brown and green leafhoppers) and disease (blast and bacterial leaf blight) which also damage rice plants have been observed with more frequency.
By Ounkham Pimmata

New rice strains offer brighter future for nomadic herders in Xinjiang

2020-01-03 15:38:04China DailyEditor : Cheng ZizhuoECNS App Download
Description: http://i2.chinanews.com/simg/hpic/2020/01-03/pic1-32697211.jpeg
Photo taken on Sept 26, 2018 shows rice crops ready for harvest in Qapqal Xibe autonomous county, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. (Photo/Xinhua)
Large swathes of barren salty land in Akto county, in the southwest of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, were close to worthless for members of the nomadic Kirgiz ethnic group.
However, this year more than 660 hectares of saline-alkaline soil are being cultivated with new rice varieties that can tolerate high salt concentrations in soil, putting the nomadic herders on track to embrace a more secure way of life.
The area planted with such rice strains in Akto will eventually be expanded to about 6,667 hectares to diversify sources of income for the traditional herders and foster the development of a production model that combines herding with farming, said Mi Tiezhu, deputy director of the Qingdao Saline-Alkali Tolerant Rice Research and Development Center, which is based in Qingdao, Shandong province.
Akto is just one of many regions across China pinning their hopes on saline-alkaline tolerant rice to transform arid, salty areas into productive rice fields, and the prospects for scaling up cultivation of the advanced rice strains have never been brighter.
Nationwide, about 1,300 hectares of experimental fields sown with the resilient rice strains have averaged yields of nearly 6 metric tons per hectare, crossing the threshold that determines if total profits gained from selling rice can balance out production costs, Mi said.
"In addition to the expanding fields in Xinjiang, in Inner Mongolia autonomous region, the Tumd Left Banner of Hohhot and the Hanggin Banner of Ordos will each see nearly 10,000 mu (667 hectares) of salty land being planted with the highly tolerant rice seeds this year," he said.
The two bannerssimilar to counties in terms of administrative levelare home to thousands of hectares of saline-alkali soil.
Trial planting on a smaller scale will also be carried out in South China, including Beihai in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, to test the tolerance of rice strains in infertile soil in coastal areas.
"From the very beginning, our goal has been to achieve commercialization of the technology, and the improved average output is a key determinant and will accelerate commercial production in the future," Mi said.
The average output has already outstripped goals set three years ago by renowned Chinese agricultural scientist Yuan Longping.
During the Fourth International Saline-Alkali Tolerant Rice Forum held last week in Sanya, Hainan province, Yuan, who is also a chief scientist of the R& D center, lauded the progress.
"Crops planted in test fields in Dongying, Shandong province, are capable of yielding as much as 11.99 tons per hectare," he said.
"In Taizhou, Zhejiang province, the average output was about 10 tons per hectare despite an onslaught of typhoons.
"The momentum of improvement is truly miraculous."

P3-B aid distributed to rice farmers in 33 provinces

Published January 3, 2020 6:13pm
By DONA MAGSINO, GMA News
The distribution of P3-billion worth of cash assistance to small farmers in the country who bore the brunt of the drop in the prices of palay last year is ongoing, according to Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Friday.
"The P3 billion is now being given to those farmers in 33 provinces affected by the falling prices of palay," Dar said, noting that the distribution was first rolled out in Pangasinan and Nueva Ecija last December.
"We're hoping that within the whole month of January maibigay na lahat," he added.
Those 33 provinces were recommended by the Philippine Rice Research Institute to receive financial aid after a thorough study on the impact of the changes in prices of palay to the local farmers, he said.
Around 600,000 farmers are expected to receive P5,000 each from the said unconditional cash grant which was sourced from excess government funds in 2019, according to Dar.
Another P3 billion of cash assistance will be distributed to farmers this year, he added.
Further, the Agriculture chief said that P5 billion-worth of farm equipment from the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) is expected to be distributed to Filipino farmers before the harvest time in the dry season.
RCEF is part of the Rice Tariffication Law which President Rodrigo Duterte enacted in 2019, removing quantitative restrictions on rice imports and setting a 35% tariff for shipments from Southeast Asia.
The farmgate prices of palay spiraled down as the impact of the influx of imported rice.
Dar, however, maintained that the RCEF will be a game-changer once properly utilized.
He also appealed to the critics of the Rice Tariffication Law not to nip it in the bud and instead give it a chance to be implemented. —NB, GMA News