Saturday, February 01, 2020

1st February,2020 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

Nagpur Foodgrain Prices Open- January 30, 2020
JANUARY 30, 2020 / 1:32 PM
* * * * * *
Nagpur Foodgrain Prices – APMC/Open Market-January 30, 2020 Nagpur, Jan 30 (Reuters) – Gram and tuar prices showed weak tendency in Nagpur Agriculture Produce and Marketing Company (APMC) auctions here in absence of buyers amid high moisture content arrival. Fresh fall on NCDEX in gram, weak trend in Madhya Pradesh pulses and release of stock from stockists also pushed down prices here. About 50 bags of gram and 300 bags of tuar reported for auction, according to sources.

* Gram varieties ruled steady in open market here on subdued demand from local


TUAR * Tuar gavarani moved down in open market here on poor demand from local


* Moong Chamki reported weak in open market here on poor buying support

from local traders.

* In Akola, Tuar New – 5,200-5,400, Tuar dal (clean) – 8,100-8,300, Udid Mogar (clean)

– 9,900-11,000, Moong Mogar (clean) 9,300-10,200, Gram – 4,400-4,500, Gram Super best

– 5,500-5,700 * Wheat, rice and other foodgrain items moved in a narrow range in

scattered deals and settled at last levels in thin trading activity.

Nagpur foodgrains APMC auction/open-market prices in rupees for 100 kg

FOODGRAINS Available prices Previous close

Gram Auction 3,600-3,800 3,600-3,860

Gram Pink Auction n.a. 2,100-2,600

Tuar Auction 4,300-4,790 4,350-4,800

Moong Auction n.a. 3,950-4,200

Udid Auction n.a. 4,300-4,500

Masoor Auction n.a. 2,200-2,500

Wheat Lokwan Auction 2,000-2,155 2,000-2,170

Wheat Sharbati Auction n.a. 2,900-3,000

Gram Super Best Bold 5,700-6,000 5,700-6,000

Gram Super Best n.a. n.a.

Gram Medium Best 5,100-5,400 5,100-5,300

Gram Dal Medium n.a. n.a

Gram Mill Quality 4,300-4,400 4,300-4,400

Desi gram Raw 4,350-4,450 4,350-4,450

Gram Kabuli 8,500-10,000 8,500-10,000

Tuar Fataka Best-New 8,000-8,200 8,000-8,200

Tuar Fataka Medium-New 7,500-7,800 7,500-7,800

Tuar Dal Best Phod-New 7,000-7,300 7,000-7,300

Tuar Dal Medium phod-New 6,300-6,800 6,300-6,800

Tuar Gavarani New 5,000-5,100 5,000-5,150

Tuar Karnataka 5,350-5,450 5,350-5,450

Masoor dal best 6,000-6,200 6,000-6,200

Masoor dal medium 5,600-5,800 5,600-5,800

Masoor n.a. n.a.

Moong Mogar bold (New) 9,800-10,500 9,800-10,500

Moong Mogar Medium 8,500-9,500 8,500-9,500

Moong dal Chilka New 8,150-9,150 8,150-9,050

Moong Mill quality n.a. n.a.

Moong Chamki best 8,500-9,500 8,500-9,500

Udid Mogar best (100 INR/KG) (New) 10,000-11,500 10,000-11,500

Udid Mogar Medium (100 INR/KG) 8,500-9,200 8,500-9,300

Udid Dal Black (100 INR/KG) 7,200-7,700 7,200-7,700

Mot (100 INR/KG) 6,200-7,400 6,000-7,400

Lakhodi dal (100 INR/kg) 4,900-5,300 4,900-5,300

Watana Dal (100 INR/KG) 6,500-6,600 6,500-6,600

Watana Green Best (100 INR/KG) 11,700-12,000 11,700-12,000

Wheat 308 (100 INR/KG) 2,350-2,450 2,350-2,450

Wheat Mill quality (100 INR/KG) 2,250-2,350 2,250-2,350

Wheat Filter (100 INR/KG) 2,700-2,800 2,700-2,800

Wheat Lokwan best (100 INR/KG) 2,700-2,850 2,700-2,850

Wheat Lokwan medium (100 INR/KG) 2,500-2,600 2,500-2,600

Lokwan Hath Binar (100 INR/KG) n.a. n.a.

MP Sharbati Best (100 INR/KG) 3,600-4,200 3,600-4,200

MP Sharbati Medium (100 INR/KG) 2,800-3,200 2,800-3,200

Rice Parmal (100 INR/KG) 2,600-2,700 2,600-2,700

Rice BPT best new (100 INR/KG) 3,200-3,800 3,200-3,800

Rice BPT medium new(100 INR/KG) 2,900-3,100 2,900-3,100

Rice BPT New (100INR/KG) 2,700-3,300 2,700-3,300

Rice Luchai (100 INR/KG) 3,200-3,300 3,200-3,300

Rice Swarna best new (100 INR/KG) 2,800-3,000 2,800-3,000

Rice Swarna medium new (100 INR/KG)2,500-2,700 2,500-2,700

Rice Swarna New (100 INR/KG) 2,400-2,700 2,400-2,700

Rice HMT best new (100 INR/KG) 4,200-4,500 4,200-4,500

Rice HMT medium new (100 INR/KG) 4,100-4,200 4,100-4,200

Rice Shriram best new(100 INR/KG) 5,200-5,700 5,200-5,700

Rice Shriram med new (100 INR/KG) 4,700-5,100 4,700-5,100

Rice Shriram New (100 INR/KG) 4,000-4,300 4,000-4,300

Rice Basmati best (100 INR/KG) 8,500-13,000 8,500-13,000

Rice Basmati Medium (100 INR/KG) 5,000-7,500 5,000-7,500

Rice Chinnor best new 100 INR/KG) 5,900-6,300 5,900-6,300

Rice Chinnor medium new(100 INR/KG)5,600-5,800 5,600-5,800

Rice Chinnor New (100 INR/KG) 4,500-4,700 4,500-4,700

Jowar Gavarani (100 INR/KG) 2,350-2,550 2,350-2,550

Jowar CH-5 (100 INR/KG) 2,050-2,250 2,050-2,250 WEATHER (NAGPUR) Maximum temp. 30.0 degree Celsius, minimum temp. 13.0 degree Celsius Rainfall : Nil FORECAST: Mainly clear sky. Maximum and minimum temperature likely to be around 29 degree Celsius and 12 degree Celsius respectively. Note: n.a.—not available (For oils, transport costs are excluded from plant delivery prices, but included in market prices)

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Bracing for global rice export

 During a courtesy visit to Nestle Nigeria Plc. in Lagos, the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, revealed that plans were afoot by the Federal Government to commence export of locally produced rice in the next two years. Taiwo Hassan reports 
Indeed, the commencement of the Federal Government’s rice policy in the country’s agric sector by President Muhammadu Buhari has today made the country a leading producer of rice in Africa following recent statistics released by United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Africa Rice Center.The statistics showed that Nigeria was now the numero uno in Africa in terms of rice production with capacity storage of four million tonnes, surpassing Egypt and Madagascar respectively.
For stakeholders in rice value chain, attaining the continent’s new position did not come easily. The success is attributable to hard work, conducive clime and support of the Federal Government in ensuring that the non-oil sector of the economy becomes the lead in GDP contribution.
At the beginning
In 2015, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) introduced the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) targeted at boosting agric and manufacturing value chains in line with Federal Government’s economic agenda to improve revenue earnings for the economy.
Besides, the timing to aggressively invest in rice cultivation by the present administration came with challenges because it was the period oil prices at the international market crashed to all-time low.
That same year, the CBN launched the ABP in 14 states of Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Kano, Zamfara, Adamawa, Plateau, Lagos, Ogun, Cross-Rivers and Ebonyi for rice and wheat farmers to advance their status from small holder farmers to commercial or large growers of the commodity.
During the flag-off in Birni-Kebbi, Kebbi State, the CBN set aside N40 billion out of the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Fund (MSMEDF) for local farmers at single digit interest rate of maximum nine per cent per annum under the ABP so as to encourage intensive rice production in the country.
As history would have it, the country’s rice industry has never been the same again as the Federal Government’s decision on rice policy gave new vista for the country’s non-oil sector to overtake the oil sector as the leading revenue earner to the GDP
However, in the space of four years, the rebirth of the country’s rice value chain through the APB has brought recognition to Nigeria at both continental and global levels with the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation affirming the impact of inclusive growth in rice production under the Buhari’s administration to ensure food sufficiency in rice production.
Border closure
Following the intention to ban rice importation into the country in favour of local rice production, there has been aggressive move by private sector –led firms to invest in rice mills in order to boost rice production in the country.
Particularly, many rice millers have commenced rice cultivation, in line with government’s rice policy to ensure sufficiency in the country to boost production.
Similarly, the border closure has also seen hundreds of rice mills spring up, while those that were moribund are now being activated in many rice-producing states of the federation. It has been reported that the border closure drastically brought down rice smuggling, which has affected farmers, processors and investors positively.
Potential exporter
To prove how good the country has gone, during a recent visit to Lagos, the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, revealed that locally produced rice would be exported to other countries in the next two years.
In fact, this is cheering news for Nigeria as many rice merchants are already bracing to commence export to neighbouring countries and beyond with the tag ‘Proudly Made in Nigeria.’
According to Nanono, Federal Government’s move on border closure boosted the productivity of milling plants in Nigeria, which were formerly operating below capacities.
Affirming there has been a great improvement in the production of rice in the country, he said “if we maintain the momentum in the next two years, we may export rice to other countries. “Nanono also said that the increased production of rice in the country had stirred the expansion of local rice value chains and pave way for job creation.
“As at today, we have 11 rice milling plants with the capacity to produce from 180 tonnes to 350 tonnes of rice per day.
“In a few months, another mill with a capacity to produce 400 tonnes of rice per day is going to be opened, with another upcoming 34 smaller mills; then, we have clusters in different areas,” Nanono disclosed.
Processing challenges
The minister also hinted that to avoid challenges in processing, the country would cultivate rice in a nine-month cycle, stressing that from November to January, rice is not being grown in Nigeria. He, however, hopes that the cycle will widen to upscale production.
He said: “I was worried in terms of the production of rice, but what I have found out is that most rice producers have stocked rice for the next six months.
“This means that before the stock is finished, dry season rice will be harvested, and before that finishes, the rainy season will come back.”
Rice clusters
He further noted that local rice farmers were being engaged fully in clusters and they use between 200 and 300 farmlands directly to achieve the targeted output.
Last line
With Federal Government’s projection of rice export in two years’ time, Nigeria is on the verge of earning more foreign exchange (forex) to boost her revenue profile. However, despite the ambition, Nigerians are yet to feel adequate presence of local rice even as the price remains exorbitant where available.

Brazil may start Importing Rice and Wheat from India after Expressing Interest

Agriculture and Farmer’s welfare ministers of India and Brazil resolved to strengthen cooperation. Reports indicate that Brazil may start importing rice and wheat from India after expressing interest. Ties between the countries strengthened after Brazil’s President was invited to be Chief Guest at Republic day ceremony in India.
Bilateral Trade of Rice and wheat
Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar discussed bilateral trade with Brazilian Agriculture Minister Costa Dias. The official release after the minister’s meeting of both countries revealed Brazil’s willingness to import wheat and rice from India. Further, they also discussed interests and opportunities in agriculture and allied sectors in both countries.
In addition, Dias mentioned that both countries face similar problems with the large population dependent on agriculture. She said that Brazil has a large number of small farmers without market access and lack of innovation and technology. Further, Dias stated that India will benefit from exporting wheat, rice, millet, and sorghum. Brazil will make efforts to remove bottlenecks that will boost trade between the two countries.
Potential of India and Brazil
Tomar, holding portfolios of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, stated that bilateral trade (2018-19) was less than both the country’s potential. India and Brazil traded for USD 1.045 billion, which does not fully reflect the strength of both economies. Citing the complementary and synergies of both countries, Tomar stated the need to encourage more trade.
Discussion on PDS
The Brazilian delegation also had an interaction with Ram Vilas Paswan, Union minister of consumer affairs. Paswan highlighted the political relationship and strategic partnership of both counties. Further, he mentioned an effective targeted public distribution system providing subsidized food grains to 800 million people of the country. Besides, he highlighted ‘one nation one ration card’ scheme that ensures inter-state portability of ration cards. 
Access to Market
Paswan also requested Brazil to grant access to markets for corn seeds and onions, pending since 2012. However, India has already provided a market for Brazilian commodities like cotton, maize, and soybeans. Further, he thanked the Brazilian government on visa-free travels and MERCOSUR Preferential Trade Agreement. Apart from this, both countries discussed climate issues and how blending ethanol with petroleum can help it.
In all, India and Brazil have the same aspirations and development challenges, and cooperation can help them.

Govt now pushing for rice exports

12:00 AM, January 31, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:48 AM, January 31, 2020


Announces 15pc cash subsidy

Star Business Report
The government will provide 15 per cent cash subsidy to rice exporters for the first time in the country’s history with the view to encouraging shipment of the surplus grain.
Millers, who process rice from locally grown paddy, will be eligible for the cash subsidy on their earnings from export, according to a Bangladesh Bank notice yesterday.
“This subsidy will be instrumental in making locally grown rice competitive in the global market,” said Anup Kumar Saha, deputy executive director of consumer brands at ACI, which has four automatic rice mills.
The announcement comes at a time when the prices of the staple are rising, prompting the food ministry to form seven committees to monitor the market and stave off unusual price hike.
The teams will visit wholesale markets in the Dhaka metropolitan area to check prices of rice and flour and submit reports in this regard, the food ministry said on Wednesday.
The prices of all varieties of rice have been on the rise since January 26, according to data compiled by the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB).
For instance, the average prices of coarse rice consumed mainly by low-income people rose 3 per cent to Tk 33.5 each kilogram in the markets of Dhaka from Tk 32.5 a week earlier.
However, the prices still remain below last year’s levels, according to the state-run TCB.
The cash subsidy has been declared upon recommendations from the finance and commerce ministries, said a central bank official.
Earlier, a commerce ministry report had suggested incentive for rice export against the backdrop of higher production than local demand in fiscal 2018-19.
Bangladesh had surplus rice of 34.95 lakh tonnes last fiscal year after production hit 3.73 crore tonnes, according to the report.
Amid the production glut, rice millers had been demanding export subsidy. But the government imposed 62.50 per cent import duty in a bid to help farmers offset losses caused by price decline.
Exporters who want to get the cash subsidy will have to take prior permission from the commerce ministry and obtain certificates from the customs department, said the Bangladesh Bank notice.
Millers using duty-free packaging materials for rice export will not be entitled to the subsidy.
Banks will have to preserve all subsidy-related documents for three years so that the BB or other authorities can verify the export if necessary.
The central bank will debit the amounts from banks if the subsidy is provided illegally. Stern actions also will be taken against officials involved in malpractice, according to the notice.
KM Layek Ali, general secretary of the Bangladesh Auto Major and Husking Mills Association, welcomed the government move as exports have become necessary as production now exceeds demand.
“Due to the subsidy, we will become competitive in the international market,” he said.
Locally grown rice has so far been uncompetitive in the international market because of low prices from India, a leading exporter, according to Saha.
The incentive will encourage millers to buy paddy, which will also help raise prices at the farm gates, Ali said, adding that the export subsidy will not lead to abnormal spiral in prices.
The government had earlier slapped a ban on the export of parboiled rice but softened the stance last year, when it gave private operators the go-ahead to ship nearly one lakh tonnes abroad in the face of falling prices in the local market.
However, the private sector has long been exporting aromatic rice based on approvals from the commerce ministry.
The government move will help increase the overall export earnings that are now witnessing sluggish growth, the BB official said.
Export earnings fell 5.84 per cent year-on-year to $19.3 billion in the first six months of the fiscal year.
The receipts between the months of July and December last year were also 12.77 per cent lower than the half-yearly target of $22.12 billion, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau. 

UK and European Union Finalize 3.5-Year Divorce 

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM -- Celebrations are underway here after more than three and a half years since the epochal referendum in June 2016 when UK voters opted to separate from the European Union (EU).  The "Brexit" train ebbed and flowed throughout that time but experienced a resurgence of support after Prime Minister Boris Johnson took the helm in July 2019 and helped deliver a resounding new majority to parliament for the pro-Brexit conservative party in December 2019.

After midnight tonight, the world will watch and wait for the UK to publish their negotiating objectives with both the United States and the EU to determine where discussions are likely to lead.  While a comprehensive deal with the EU will be the likely priority for the UK, concurrent negotiations with the U.S. are expected to begin as early as next month.

Late last week, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, "We're focused on trying to get this done this year," in reference to a trade agreement with the UK.  When asked about the ability for the UK to negotiate concurrently with the EU and the U.S., he said, "there are certain issues that perhaps they need to resolve with the EU, but there are a lot of issues that can be resolved simultaneously."

Last month, the U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Robert Lighthizer said, "The U.K. is a priority.  As soon as they get their objectives agreed to, we will start talking."

As a rice miller and consumer, but not a rice producer, the UK provides a new opportunity for the U.S. rice industry to gain some ground by providing UK buyers with a quality, consistent, and price-competitive product outside of the existing 38,000-ton quota for the broader EU.Mark Holt, chair of the USA Rice European Union Trade Policy Subcommittee, said, "USA Rice supports the full, existing EU quota for U.S. rice to remain with the EU, providing an opportunity for duty-free access into the UK.  Brexit finalization has been a long time coming but the real work is about to start."

He added, "Following an industry trip there last month, it is evident that there's demand for our rice, but we also know that trade negotiations are usually tougher than they seem on the outset.  We are prepared to ride this one out until completion, even if it's beyond 2020."

Food or War? A look at feast and famine in our quest for peace and sustainability

The foods in our stores are more bountiful than ever -- but they're also more vulnerable than ever.

Food or War
By Julian Cribb
Cambridge University Press, 350 pages | Buy on Amazon
The world is 9 meals away from anarchy, American journalist Alfred Henry Lewis noted in 1906, an idea which has been reiterated by numerous scientists and writers since then.
That still stands true today, though we might not think it. In a thought-provoking new book, science writer Julian Cribb discusses how important food is for mankind, and how the availability we often take for granted is much more vulnerable (and much more vulnerable) than we think.
Julian Cribb is what you might call an extinctologist. As a science author, he has focussed on some of mankind’s biggest challenges: climate change, pollution, and food security.
We don’t think about it too much because we take it for granted nowadays, but food availability has been a constant issue over mankind’s evolution — even today, billions of people live in food insecurity. Meanwhile, our supermarkets are brimming with choices but we’re overexploiting resources at an unprecedented pace — and we can’t keep this up for much longer. Our eating habits are not sustainable, and the check might be larger than we can afford to pay.

Famine in the past

Communist regimes and lack of food go hand in hand. It’s hard to imagine today, but people used to line up for hours at food shops, trying to get their “allocated ratios” of meat or milk — without any guarantee that there is enough.
Communist regimes also brought in widespread hunger, resulting in the starvation of millions. In Soviet USSR, the traditional kulak peasants were wiped off by Lenin’s regime leaving the country’s agriculture in the hands of an incompetent and unprepared (but servile) part of the population. Stalin’s regime only made things worse, ironically completing the destruction of the food supply that he promised to rebuild. Meanwhile, in Cambodia, Pol Pot’s bloodthirsty regime managed to completely destroy the seed of native rice — fortunately, the Rice Research Institute in the Philippines had stored some varieties.
But nowhere has famine struck with such severity as China. The fact that there’s a Wikipedia page called ‘List of famines in China‘ is telling, and in the 20th century alone, famines killed in the tens of millions.
Cribb does an excellent jobs at explaining the causes associated with these famines, and how they are often tied with bad governance and recklessness. It’s not just agricultural know-how and seeds — the entire infrastructure was destroyed by reckless regimes — and, as Cribb warns, we’re not out of the woods yet. If anything, modern famines could be more devastating than ever.

Modern hunger

Our modern society relies upon complex, modern supply chains for food — but this also makes them more vulnerable. How would we cope if they were to suddenly collapse?
To many people in the western world, the idea of a conflict based on food seems ludicrous — but food and war are often intertwined. Even in 1990s Europe, when Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital Sarajevo was suddenly besieged, the food disappeared almost instantly.
It doesn’t take a catastrophic event to lead to famine. Even without war or any unforeseen disaster hitting our food production systems, the rate at which we are using resources is unsustainable, Cribb emphasizes — backed by a mountain of science.
We’re doing a pretty lousy job when it comes to managing our resources sustainably.
Even something we almost never think about (soil) is threatened by our unsustainable consumption. For every meal we consume in the developed world, between 5 and 10 kilograms of soil are lost, in addition to 800 liters of freshwater — and that applies to every person and every meal. This, Cribb writes, makes the human jawbone one of the most destructive forces on the face of the Earth.
Soil erosion is a naturally occurring process that affects all landforms, but current agricultural practices mean soil is eroded at a faster rate than new soil is produced. A rough calculation, we have around 60 years of topsoil left before we start coming across major problems, Cribb writes.
Water shortage is also an issue. Water scarcity is even a bigger trigger for war than food scarcity, and most of not all groundwater aquifers (which are the largest reserve of freshwater on our planet) are being used unsustainably — which means that they could run out. Farmers are increasing their water usage more and more, which they can’t truly be faulted for, but without careful water conservation policies, many parts of the world could face major water shortage within decades or even years. We are already seeing these effects in major cities in India and Brazil, for instance.
Pollution and fertilizer usage (which is threatening pollinators and other vital parts of ecosystems) are two other major issues that must be approached and improved.
Business-as-usual emissions (including those from agriculture) are sufficient to raise temperatures by 4-5 °C by 2100 — a temperature at which many crops will fall globally.
“As we race towards a population of nine billion, business as usual for farming is no longer a viable option. We must take a more ecological approach,” argue two agrucultural experts, Nina Moeller and Michel Pimbert.

A book for a starved planet

Food or War is definitely an enticing book, and one that poses some crucial and very dark questions. The story invariably ventures into doomsday scenarios, but as any writing of this type should, it also ends with some proposals for solutions.
However, some of these solutions are even more depressing than the rest of the book.
It’s not that the solutions aren’t good, on the contrary. Cribb offers a very pragmatic and very cynical analysis — one that is almost certainly correct. But the fact that we don’t know if it’s feasible is outright depressing.
Cutting down global military expenditure by 20% and generating a whopping $340bn annually sounds like a great idea. Using that money for eco-agriculture, environmental projects, education, and novel farming techniques (particularly in the urban areas) also sounds great. But is this realistic? Hard to believe. Will politicians allocate this money from other sources? That’s also questionable.
In many ways, the global food problem — even without the ‘war’ component — seems impossible to solve under the current social and political context.
We know it is problematic, we know what must be done, but action is slow or non-existent. We are starving the planet for resources and as a result, we might eventually starve ourselves.
Transitioning to a sustainable model will be costly no matter how we look at it. Like many works before, Food or War concludes that we need to make sustainable changes or we pay the price.
I’d recommend the book to anyone, regardless of whether or not they have an interest in agriculture, history, or sustainability. It’s a book about all of us, written in a time when we are increasingly decoupled from our food sources and the environmental cost of our meals.
This is not a book that’s easy to read — neither intellectually or morally. It is complex, and at points, it is very dark. But it is a book that’s important to read, perhaps now more than ever.

Description: Knowable Magazine | Annual Reviews 

Bent into shape: The rules of tree form

How do trees find their sense of direction as they grow? Researchers are getting to the root — and the branches — of how the grandest of plants develop.
There’s a place in West Virginia where trees grow upside-down. Branches sprout from their trunks in the ordinary fashion, but then they do an about-face, curving toward the soil. On a chilly December day, the confused trees’ bare branches bob and weave in the breeze like slender snakes straining to touch the ground.

Building Bodies

Read more from Knowable Magazine’s special report on development
“It’s really kind of mind-boggling,” says plant molecular biologist Chris Dardick, waving toward the bizarro plum trees. “They’re completely messed up.”I’m visiting an orchard at the Appalachian Fruit Research Station, an outpost of the US Department of Agriculture nestled in the sleepy Shenandoah Valley. Here, at Dardick’s workplace, the disoriented plums are but one in an orchard of oddities, their outlines, seasonally stripped of leaves, standing out in stark relief.
There are trees with branches that shoot straight up, standing to attention in disciplined rows, with nary a sideways branch. There are trees with branches that elegantly arch, like woody umbrellas; others with appendages that lazily wander this way and that.
Dwarf trees crouch, sporting ball-like crowns akin to Truffula trees. Compact “trees” poke from the ground in clumps of scraggly, knee-high sticks. Apple trees with some hidden predicaments grow in a greenhouse nearby: Their roots reach sideways rather than down. The topsy-turvy growth of all of these trees comes from genetic variations that cause the dialing up, dialing down or elimination altogether of the activity of key genes controlling plant architecture.
Understanding these misfits has real-world applications: It could help grow the next generation of orchards that, densely packed with trees, produce more fruit while using less land and labor than today. But Dardick is also trying to answer a fundamental question: How do different trees get their distinctive shapes? From the towering spires of spruce and fir, the massive spreading limbs of an oak to the stately arching canopies of an elm, the skeletal shapes of trees offer signature silhouettes.
Dardick’s work and that of other researchers also could help to explain how the shapes of individual trees are far from fixed. Trees, much more than we can, will morph in response to their literal neck of the woods. Limbs in the shade reach toward spots of sunlight. Trees on windswept hills bend trunk and branches into gnarled architectures.
Description: The growth of a normal plum tree’s branches is contrasted with a “pillar” plum whose branches grow only straight up and a weeping plum with cascading branches.
The familiar shape of a regular plum tree (left) is transformed by dialing down the activity of certain plant architecture genes, leading to plums with erect branches that shoot straight up (middle) or plums with branches that cascade downward (right).
Work by breeders, biologists and botanists have revealed sizable pockets of knowledge about the hormones, genes and processes that yield the diverse shapes of trees and other plants, between species and within species. It has not been easy: Two of trees’ most appealing attributes — their long lives and large sizes — make them intractable research subjects.
But as scientists pursue these questions, commonalities are emerging between vastly different species. The puzzle of shape diversity and adaptability turns out to be tied to the fundamentals of being a plant: grappling with gravity, fighting for sunlight, all while anchored in one place for a lifetime.
“Plants are stuck. The best they can do is grow toward something,” says Courtney Hollender, a former postdoc of Dardick’s who now runs her own lab in the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University in East Lansing. “That’s all they’ve got; they can’t run, they have to adapt to their environment. And they’ve developed brilliant ways to do it.”

Available at all branches

Scientists have a word for the ability to adapt so readily: plasticity. In plants, this feature is both obvious and astounding. Most animals are born in specific shapes then just grow larger, but plants are modular — they grow in various iterations of two building blocks: shoots and roots.
It is the first of these — where and when a shoot grows or doesn’t grow — that governs the basic form a tree takes.
Some aspects are hardwired. Leaves emerge in a pattern that is usually fixed throughout the tree’s life, with structural arrangements that tend to be shared by members of a given plant family. And shoots emerge where leaves meet the stem. So, for example, plants in the maple family, which have leaves set opposite each other, have branches in the same format. Members of the beech family have leaves, and thus branches, that alternate up the stem.
But the interplay between physiology and external forces also plays a large part. Take your standard-issue plant with a main central stem that grows upward and has few side branches. Most plants, from basil to birch, start out this way, a growth habit that probably evolved because it enables them to quickly reach the light — more rapidly than the competition. Called apical dominance (the tip of the plant is the “apex”), this is largely under the purview of the plant hormone indole acetic acid, also known as auxin. Made in the tip, auxin diffuses downward and blocks the growth of side branches.
This is why pinching the tips off of basil or geranium makes them bushy — you are removing the source of that bossy auxin, freeing buds on the stem’s sides from the prohibition and allowing them to grow. (Though auxin is mighty, it’s not the only player here. Other plant hormones, along with light intensity and access to nutrients, also wield power.)  
Another related and less-understood phenomenon occurs in some tree species. Called apical control, it also is imposed by the tip of a tree and probably also by auxin. But rather than operating at the scale of a branch, it commandeers the whole dang tree.
Think of a pine. At the top, there’s a pointy tip, then upper branches that tend to reach skyward. Moving down, the branches become more horizontal, growing out more than up. But unlike a basil plant, a pine tree does not become bushy when you lop off the top. Instead, a new bud near the top grows upward, becoming the new leader. Or an existing branch reorients to grow up and become the new dominant tip.
These two principles are always in the back of arborists’ minds as they work. “They have to consider, ‘If we cut a branch here, that bud below is going to break and we’ll just get a branch in basically the same spot,’” Dardick says. “All of their rules of what to prune and where are based on these physiological factors that contribute to tree shape.”

A natural reaction

Physiology also underpins the plastic responses trees have to more extreme situations they may face. A tree on a high mountain peak or windswept coast must contend with exposure to mechanical forces that could topple and kill it. To survive, such trees become short and stocky, their bent, asymmetric crowns reducing drag and presumably protecting a tree from violent gusts. The driver is the wind’s very touch — a response now called thigmomorphogenesis that has been observed for hundreds of years.
How it works is still unclear, but over the past decade researchers have made some headway. They’re actively studying force-sensing proteins and processes that may be involved. And recent work suggests an important role for hormones such as jasmonate, which accumulates in all kinds of plants in response to damage and mechanical stress. In experiments with a weedy mustard called Arabidopsis, plants became stunted when researchers bent their leaves back and forth twice a day. Mutants that couldn’t make jasmonate, though, grew normally.
Sometimes, wind does more than gust against a tree: It blows the whole tree over, and that tree, if still rooted, must reorient the growth of its branches and buds toward the sky. Avalanches, erosion and landslides deal similar fates. And trees in all sorts of circumstances must grow around obstacles, away from competitors and toward the light. To get these jobs done, trees make a special kind of wood called reaction wood.
Description: A hefty, old leafless tree, surrounded by boulders, on a mountain ridge, leans to the right, its form gnarled and contorted.
Trees may become contorted in challenging physical environments, such as this ridge in the Rocky Mountains. The touch of wind and other forces prompt physiological responses by the plant that yield a shorter, stockier stature, gnarled asymmetric shape and the development of specialized wood. This characteristic tree form is called a krummholz (German for “crooked wood”).
Hardwoods such as maple, beech, oak and poplar form this tough stuff (in this case called tension wood) on the upper side of their stems. Incredibly, it creates a tensile force that pulls the stem upward. “If you walk around the woods, you can see that most species, if not all species, have this kind of reaction wood response,” says Andrew Groover, a research geneticist with the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station in Davis, California.
The hardwood tree first discerns that it is off-kilter using specialized gravity-sensing cells. Where these cells reside in trees — the woody stem? the tip of new shoots? — was unknown until Groover and colleagues detected them in woody and soft tissues of poplar, a few years back. The cells contain organelles called statoliths that sink down in the cell and indicate to the plant that it’s leaning one way or the other. This, in turn, causes that influential auxin to mobilize, triggering the growth of tension wood on the top. Cellulose with a peculiar gelatinous layer is thought to act as the “muscle” that generates the pulling-up force.
In this experiment, young, potted poplar trees were placed sideways to investigate the plants’ gravity-sensing machinery. The poplar in this time-lapse movie, taken over two weeks, responded to being tipped on its side by reorienting its growth upward. The plant hormone auxin is key to this response. Mutants that cannot respond appropriately to auxin’s signaling instructions do not right themselves this way. (This particular poplar also received a dose of a chemical called gibberellic acid that interacts with auxin, so that scientists could learn more about its role.)

When genes defy gravity

Much of the knowledge about the architecture of plants is rooted in millennia of human efforts to alter crop shapes to make them more suitable for cultivation, and modern science is now revealing the genetic changes that lie behind these creations. The lessons, it turns out, apply broadly across the plant kingdom, to herbaceous and woody species alike.
It is hard to overstate the importance to human history of some of these plant-shape changes, says plant molecular geneticist Jiayang Li, who details some of their genetic underpinnings in the Annual Review of Plant Biology. A classic example is the transformation of the ancestor of corn (maize) into a key staple crop for much of the world. It arose from a species of the Central American grasses called teosintes — bushy plants with many branches. Domestication, among other things, abolished that branching, yielding the single-stalked upright corn we plant today.
Similarly, explains Li, who works at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, the green revolution of the 20th century ushered in compact, dwarf varieties of wheat and rice. By modifying the height and thickness of the stems of these grasses, breeders developed varieties that could carry more grain without toppling over in wind and rain.
Much of Li’s own research has focused on architectural variation in rice, although the work turns out to have implications for the architecture of plants in general, from lowly mosses to towering trees. Like other grasses, rice grows shoots called tillers — specialized, grain-bearing branches that emerge from the base. In cultivated rice, the angle at which these tillers grow varies widely: Some varieties are squat and wide-spreading, others have shoots that are more upright. Breeders are interested in altering tiller angle because upright plants can be grown more densely, giving farmers more bang for their acreage.
In a key advance, in 2007, a team including Li reported they’d discovered the genetic cause of the spread-out architecture trait. The scientists named the responsible gene TAC1, short for “tiller angle control.” A functional TAC1 gene increases rice’s tiller angle, leading to open, widely branching plants. Mutations in TAC1 lead to the opposite: plants with erect shoots that reach up, instead of out.
That same year, Li’s team and a group in Japan both reported another major achievement: finding a long-sought gene behind a curious trait in some rice varieties that gives plant branches a scruffy, lounging look. The trait, known as “lazy,” had intrigued plant breeders and geneticists since the 1930s, when researchers described its extreme manifestation in corn: “The lazy plants grow along the ground, following the unevenness of the surface.”
Description: Rice plant in a pot has erect leaves that grow straight up, while a pot with a mutant rice plant has branches that sprawl out to the side.
In ordinary rice (left), the hormone auxin helps to tell the plant which direction is up. Auxin transport within the plant goes awry when a gene called LAZY malfunctions, leading to confused plants with sprawling branches (right).
The cause, it turns out, was errors in a gene that normally makes branches shoot straight up. Li and his colleagues surveyed some 30,000 mutant rice plants to pin down that gene, now called LAZY (names of genes, confusingly, often refer to what happens when a gene is mutated and doesn’t work, rather than when it is functioning properly). And they provided convincing evidence for an idea batted around for decades — that lazy plants have muddled perceptions of gravity and that auxin is centrally involved.
A common test for whether a plant’s gravity-perception machinery is working is to lay the plant on its side. If it knows up from down, it won’t continue to grow sideways, but will start to grow up again, akin to the reaction-wood response of a toppled tree’s branches. An important step in this reorienting involves auxin pooling on the bottom side of the shoot. But in lazy mutants, proteins that help ferry auxin around the plant are malfunctioning, so instead of shoots growing in the correct direction, they’re prone to casually sprawl about.
Scientists now know that LAZY genes come in multiple versions. Some appear to operate in plant roots, telling them which way is down, probably using similar, auxin-related signals. If those genes are absent or inactive, confused roots grow upward. And though the genes were first found in monocots, a branch of the plant kingdom including rice and corn, researchers now know that LAZY genes exist in numerous plants, including the plums growing in the fruit research station in West Virginia.
Description: A corn (maize) plant drapes down over the sides of a hanging pot next to a picture or an ordinary corn plant standing upright in a pot.
A lazy mutant of corn (left) compared with normal corn (right). Such corn mutants were described nearly 100 years ago, but it took 21st century molecular biology to nail down the growth habit’s cause: genetic malfunctions that meddle with responses to gravity.

Reaching upward and outwards

As our boots crunch along the uneven ground, Dardick points at an errant orchard cat watching our tree tour from a distance. One row of trees stands so upright that a fencepost at the end of it is enough to block the row from view. These regimented trees are “pillar” peaches, and they are favorites of landscapers (one reason: it’s easy to get around them with a lawnmower). They also were key to uncovering genes like LAZY and TAC1 at the Shenandoah Valley station.
By comparing ordinary peaches to pillar peaches, and drawing on decades of work by former lead scientist Ralph Scorza, a team of station scientists and others in the US and Germany discovered the cause of the pillar trait: mutations in the peach version of TAC1.
Description: Three varieties of peach trees in flower: a weeping tree with spreading branches, a pillar peach with upright branches and a dwarf peach that is short and squat like a shrub.
Many of the strange plant architectures under investigation existed as naturally occurring varieties that were developed by breeders for ornamental gardens or orchards; only recently have the genes underlying these forms been identified. It’s now known that the upright growth habit of the pillar peach (center), available commercially under the name “Crimson Rocket,” results from mutations in a gene that helps plants branch outward.
The team also found that LAZY was at work in many of their misfits. Just as with the corn plants described nearly 100 years ago, mutations in LAZY made plums grow topsy-turvy, their branches seeking the soil. Apple trees with LAZY mutations have similarly disoriented roots. And when multiple copies of LAZY genes malfunction in the weed Arabidopsis, its roots grow up, its shoots down.
In the last decade, researchers have found that TAC1 influences branch angle in plums, poplar trees, the grass Miscanthus and Arabidopsis, and it appears to affect leaf angle in corn. But LAZY genes have even deeper roots. They’re found in all manner of plants, including the evolutionarily older Loblolly pine and even more ancient mosses.
This finding suggests a very old role for LAZY: It may have allowed plants to grow up, literally, when they first colonized land. Plants got their start in water. There, rootless and leafless, they were buoyed, unconcerned with gravity. The transition to land spurred the development of proper roots and stems, and plants then had to figure out up from down. LAZY seems to have allowed plants to orient their above-ground growth away from gravity and up toward the sun.
Scientists think that TAC1 evolved somewhat later, providing a counterpoint to LAZY — ensuring that branches don’t only grow straight up, but also reach out. Together, these genes laid critical groundwork for the diversity of plant forms we see today, all seeking sustenance in their own ways.
“Once you start to grow up as a vascular plant, you need to maximize your resources, you need to capture as much sun as possible,” says Hollender, who has been working on yet another gene, called WEEP, that — when nonfunctional — lends plants a weeping, waterfall-like structure seen here and there in trees of ornamental gardens. (But it’s probably not responsible for the shape of weeping willow trees.) “Modifying your shoot angles is an important adaptive trait for plants that allows them to capture light. It’s essential for them to survive.”
This kind of research has broad economic implications. Fruit and nut trees bring $25 billion annually in the US alone and there are hefty costs associated with pruning, bending and tying branches; spraying hormones; and the manual labor of picking fruit from an unruly cacophony of limbs. Understanding the genetic controls behind tree architecture could help scientists breed trees that make the whole fruit-farming enterprise more efficient and environmentally friendly.
“Orchard systems are not the most sustainable in the world,” Dardick says. “The idea is, if we can modify tree architecture, if we could reduce their size and limit the amount of area they take up, then we could plant them at higher density and potentially increase their sustainability.”
And there may be odder outcomes than friendlier outdoor orchards: In collaboration with NASA, the USDA team is investigating genetic tweaks that might even help bring fruit to space. On that December day, Dardick takes me to a greenhouse tucked in a corner of the lab. In it are plum and apple trees whose shape is so transformed that they look more like the love children of shrubs and vines. This strange growth habit is a side-effect of efforts to breed plants that flower and make fruit sooner and then do so continuously, rather than flowering after growing for several years, and then only in the spring.
The genetic tweaks that sent the trees’ developmental program into overdrive have also transformed their architecture. In the greenhouse, these precocious “trees” sprawl, draping lazily along wire trellises, happily flowering and heavy with fruit. “They’re growing almost like tomatoes,” Dardick says. “So we’re broaching the concept of, can we bring an orchard indoors?”
Description: A close-up of a potted plum plant with slender branches that curve like vines and are heavy with fruit.
The strange, vine-like growth of this plum results when a gene controlling the timing of flower development malfunctions. Such unusually shaped “trees” may facilitate indoor “orchards” that produce fruit many months of the year.
Those ambitions aside, Dardick has his hands full trying to answer numerous basic-science questions about how trees do what they do. Researchers still don’t know how different tree species set the angles of their branches — going wide like an oak, or arching like an elm. They don’t know how trees alter those angles during the course of mature growth, as branches sprout from branches sprouted from branches, until some of them finally point down. Trees are both kindred and foreign to us, their various forms so familiar, but their architectural rules still in so many ways opaque.
“I find myself looking at trees all the time now in a new way; they fill space so beautifully and efficiently,” Dardick says. “They are the biggest organism we have that’s visible, that’s in our face all the time. But there’s so much we don’t know.”

Border Closure: Panacea For Rice Production, Rice Processing


TUNDE OGUNTOLA writes on the renewed commitment to change the narratives in rice production and processing in the country as Darma Rice Mill projected to bridge the mechanisation gap in rice production in the country.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, as of 2019, the estimated population of the country is over 200 million. The nation’s domestic economy is dominated by agriculture, which accounts for about 40% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and two-thirds of the labour force. Agriculture supplies food, raw materials and generates household income for the majority of the people. The external sector is dominated by petroleum, which generates about 95 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings while agriculture contributes less than 10 per cent.
Sadly, squealing to the discovery of petroleum, Nigeria has rapidly grown into a major food-importing nation as the government has become neglectful of the agricultural sector since petroleum is considered a more viable resource for economic development.
Preoccupied with the challenge of diversifying the structure of its economy and its desire to boost local production of rice considering its investment in the agriculture sector, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government on 22 August, 2019 closed its land borders aimed at plugging leakages and helping the economy by checkmating smuggling and unbridled importation, conserving foreign reserves and boosting local production, necessary for food sufficiency and the long march towards industrialization.
This is even as the federal government noted that since ongoing border drill in four geo-political zones of the country the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) now generates between N5 and N8 billion daily and has recorded over 30 per cent increase in revenue since the drill and has drastically curtailed the inflow of arms and ammunition.
The exercise, code-named, ‘Ex-Swift Response’, was launched, as part of measures to secure Nigeria’s land and maritime borders, the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), in collaboration with the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) as well as the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and other security and intelligence agencies commenced the joint border security exercise, in four geopolitical zones of the country, namely; South-South, South-West, North-Central and North-West on the 20 August, 2019. The exercise is being coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and is aimed at better securing our borders to strengthen the nation’s economy and address other trans-border security concerns.
The food sub-sector of Nigerian agriculture parades a large array of staple crops, made possible by the diversity of agro-ecological production systems. The major food crops are: cereals – sorghum, maize, millet, rice, wheat; tubers – yam, cassava; legumes – groundnut, cowpeas and others such as vegetables
These are the commodities that are of considerable importance for food security, expenditures, and incomes of households. But of all the staple crops, rice has risen to a position of preheminence. Since the mid-1970s, rice consumption in Nigeria has risen tremendously, at about 10 per cent per annum due to changing consumer preferences. Domestic production has never been able to meet the demand, leading to considerable imports as the country consumes almost 7 million tonnes a year. The imports are procured on the world market with Nigeria spending annually an average of US $22 billion (₦7.92trn) each year on food imports.
However, Nigeria’s rice statistics suggest that there is an enormous potential to raise productivity and increase production. Yields have remained at 2 tonnes per hectare, and as population increases, along with rural to urban migration, ensuring food security in key staples becomes critical. But, it has become evidently clear that food security cannot be achieved by a system that depends almost entirely on human muscle power and other manual methods.
As of September 2019, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said it has spent N146 billion to support 849,480 wet and dry seasons rice farmers across the country. The CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, gave the details at a meeting with some state Governors in Abuja said that the bank was working with other stakeholders to wage war against smuggling of rice into the country.
As the country continues to take steps to ramp up domestic production in rice production and as part of efforts to bridge its mechanisation gap in the country and to complement the effort of federal government, the chairman of Max Air, Alhaji Dahiru Mangal is building a ₦20 billion worth rice mill in Kastina state aimed at revolutionalising rice production in the country.
With the renewed commitment of the federal government in direct response to the mechanisation gap in the country and also to complement the federal government’s effort, Darma Rice rice mill is projected to be the biggest in Africa.
The rice mill project LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered will be divided into two phases, and would be completed by the first quarter of 2020, and is aimed at assisting the country to meet the domestic demand for high quality parboiled rice and attain self-sufficiency in rice production.
The project manager, Mr. Mukhtar Kafinsoli said that with a production capacity of 36 tonnes per hour in two production lines, the mill would be the largest rice mill in Africa.
While speaking with LEADERSHIP Weekend added that the second line of the mill comprises of silos and raw materials store, stressing that the plan is to have four capacity, but they are starting with two at the moment.
Kafinsoli: ‘’We intended to have four capacity starting with two. We will start the second batch immediately after completing the ongoing project. The machines arrived Nigeria by 25 December, 2019 and the project will be completed by March 2020.’’
Meanwhile, the managing director of the Rice Mill, Dr. Nural Dahiru Mangal, said that over 2000 direct staff would be employed, along with over 200 expatriates who are going to train the indigenous staff. He revealed that the rice mill would have a conventional storage facility of 12,00 metric tonnes of rice worth N20 billion. Mangal added that fertilizer plant would equally be built to help increase the yield of rice.
According to him, ‘’The rice mill was designed by Indians due to their expertise in rice mill business but is being built by Nigerians. We will give it maximum support for the project to be achieved.
‘’The government has long been concerned that its people are too focused on importing the things they want, and they are using their money to support foreign countries, instead of home-grown goods and Darma is here to change the narratives.”
He said the welfare of its staff remains paramount hence, staff quarters will be built to accommodate 130 staffers.
“A story building will be built for staff quarters with the capacity to accommodate 130 staff. Also, a staff quarter that will accommodate over 200 expatriates with staff canteens would also be built,” he said.
He said with Darma rice mill projected to be the biggest rice mill in Africa, the much-expected rice revolution in the country is about to begin.
‘’Food is no doubt, the most basic of all human survival needs. Although, so many efforts have been sunk in improving the quality as well as production but failed. Economists both locally and internationally have severally pointed out that Nigeria’s economic output is underperforming, but we are here to change the narratives,’’ he added.

LifeStyle Matters: All rice is not the same

by LifeStyle Matters
Friday, January 31st 2020


In this episode of LifeStyle Matters, show host Marilyn Moore talks with Tawnie Graham about the different kinds of rice and the benefits of each.
In this episode of LifeStyle Matters, show host Marilyn Moore talks with Tawnie Graham about the different kinds of rice and the benefits of each.
Tawnie is a Registered Dietitian from and a regular guest on FOX26, where she prepares delicious and healthy dishes in the Great Day Kitchen.
Click here to follow Tawnie on Facebook.
In this episode of LifeStyle Matters, show host Marilyn Moore talks with Tawnie Graham about the different kinds of rice and the benefits of each.

Thwarting Smugglers Leave Nigerians Counting Costs of Stony Rice

Tope Alake, Ruth Olurounbi and Anthony Osae-Brown
BloombergJanuary 31, 2020
Description: Thwarting Smugglers Leave Nigerians Counting Costs of Stony Rice
(Bloomberg) -- In Adeola Adejare’s market store in Lagos, two teenage boys separate stones from Nigerian rice, preparing it for sale after the government closed land borders and stemmed the flow of cheap, smuggled grains.
“Most people cannot afford to buy” even the least costly local variety, said Adejare, a trader in Daleko, the largest rice market in the country’s financial hub. Sales have plummeted by 90%, with the 47-year-old now considering herself lucky to sell two 50-kilogram bags a day.
In a drastic effort to boost domestic production and stem widespread rice smuggling, Nigeria closed its crossings with Benin and Niger five months ago. Since then, it’s been a bittersweet experience for locals in the world’s second-biggest buyer of the white grain.
While some farmers have made fortunes taking advantage of the elimination of cheap foreign competition, prices of the Nigerian staple -- used to make delicacies such as jollof rice -- have soared by at least 70% in that period, according to traders. Many also complain about the shoddy condition of some local grain.
Rotten Rice
Adejare’s hired help have to clean the cheapest produce to make it edible. “Our experiences range from receiving wet, rotten rice from the north, some of it turning black within two to three weeks,” she said. “Some are so stone-filled.”
Once a major agriculture exporter, Africa’s largest oil producer has long depended on imports after successive administrations since independence in 1960 allowed farming to languish following the discovery of crude. Easy oil money flowed into government coffers --though much was either pilfered or squandered by military dictatorships and democratically elected leaders.
President Muhammadu Buhari -- a 77-year-old austere former general who was elected for a second term last year -- is attempting to promote self-reliance and wean Nigeria off its dependence on oil and foreign goods.
His measures have been severe. Along with imposing restrictions on the use of foreign currency for imports, Buhari first ordered the partial closure of Nigeria’s border with Benin in August to halt smuggling that undercut the price of locally produced rice. In October, his administration further restricted trade of all goods over land crossings with Benin and Niger.
Part of the problem with relying on domestic rice is Nigeria’s lack of widespread industrial farming. Costs are further pushed up by woeful infrastructure that delays produce reaching the market.
With supply constricted, food inflation reached almost 15% in December, a 20-month high, hitting a population of about 200 million people who spend almost two-thirds of their income on food, according to Lagos-based SBM Intelligence.
The increase has affected many families, with 44% now unable to afford nutritious food, the Nigerian statistics agency said in its latest household survey published in December.
“Rice is one of the most consumed staples in the country and issues around pricing and quality affect the common man,” said Michael Famoroti, a partner at Lagos-based Stears Business. “People are being short-changed in an already tough economy.”
While the government has begun talks with the neighboring states, it has yet to find a way to stem smuggling if land trade resumes. Buhari told journalists in London last week that his administration has no plans to reopen the borders until a committee established to consider the issue releases a report. A spokesman for the president declined to comment further.
On Tuesday, Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Muhammad Sabo Nanono said in a statement that Nigeria would become a rice exporter by 2021 thanks to the border closures “if we maintain the momentum.”
Boosted Production
Despite widespread discontent over rising prices, many Nigerian farmers are happy with Buhari’s tough stance.
Estimates of Nigeria’s grain supply and demand vary wildly -- though they point to Buhari’s measures boosting domestic cultivation. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows the country’s milled rice production increased by 24% since 2015 to reach 4.9 million tons this year, leaving a near 2-million ton deficit.
The ban has improved the confidence of planters and expected output for this year is 13 million tons, said Muhammad Sahabi Augie, chairman of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria in the northwestern state of Kebbi.

Two Day-long Kisan Mela concludes in Morigaon

January 31, 2020 11:30 am
Description: Kisan Mela
MORIGAON: A two-day long Kisan Mela concluded on Thursday at Bhakatgaon in Morigaon. In the Kisan Mela, various organizations took part. Among them, the Grant Thornton led by Pradeep Bhuyan, in association with the members of AAPIAM, Morigaon, participated in the mela. The initiative was taken under the banner of Grant Thornton and AAPIAM. The products showcased were from food processing sector, rice millers and dairy processors.

Navy seizes 2,053 bags of rice smuggled into Akwa Ibom
ON JANUARY 30, 20206:14 PMIN NEWS Kindly Share
A vehicle with smuggled foreign rice.
By Chioma Onuegbu – Uyo The Nigerian Navy, Forward Operating Base, FOB, Ibaka, in Mbo local government area of Akwa Ibom State, has arrested 13 suspects and seized 2,053 bags of rice they smuggled into the state. The Commanding Officer, FOB, Captain Peter Yilme disclosed this while handing over the suspects and 50kg bags of rice to the Deputy Superintendent of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Garba Hassan. Yilme who was represented by the Base Operations Officer, Description: Lieutenant Commander Kabiru Yusuf, said the suspects were arrested on 26th and 29th January 2020 at respectively at the Unyenge Creek area in Mbo local government area, during a routine patrol by Navy gunboats. He expressed worries over the unrelenting drive of the smugglers, noting that the recent arrests were made just three days after 5 suspects and 98 bags of rice were handed over to the NCS.
Navy seizes 3,378 bags of smuggled rice in Akwa Ibom He reassured that the base will not relent in putting an end to illegalities on the waterways, and warned the rice smugglers to desist from the illicit act. His words, “On behalf of the Commanding Officer, FOB, Ibaka, I hand over 2 053 bags of seized rice and 13 suspects to the Nigeria Customs Service. “The arrest brings to fore the unrelenting drive of the smugglers to continue their illicit acts. Nevertheless, the Base will not relent in ridding the waterways of all forms of criminal activities in order for legitimate economic activities to strive. “Smugglers are advised to turn a new leaf and embrace legitimate business activities. FOB, Ibaka appreciates once again, the provision of necessary logistics to the Base by the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ete Ibas. “Additionally, the Base would not be achieving its operational mandate if not for the support and encouragement accorded her by the FOC Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral David Adeniran”.

Babytalk: We need to talk about arsenic levels found in children's rice products

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We don't mean to alarm you but researchers from Melbourne's RMIT University have found some riced based products for children found in Australian supermarkets contain arsenic at levels above European safety guidelines. While obviously this is not great news, most children will be fine if they eat regular amounts of rice based products.
Families most at risk will include children whose diets are very high in rice based products.. this will include children with gluten intolerance, coeliac disease or allergies, where rice is a substitute for another ingredient.. like rice milk, rice pasta, rice milk formula or rice cereal. If this is what your child's diet is filled with rice substituting for other food products you can imagine how the rice levels consumed could be quite high.
But how does arsenic get into rice products? Are products made from Australian rice safer? (Actually Chinese rice products have been found to have the lowest levels of arsenic.) And what are the safe levels for rice products eaten by babies and children.
In this week's Babytalk podcast you'll hear from Senior Researcher Associate Professor Suzie Reichman an environmental toxicologist at RMIT University. She'll explain how the research was conducted, how the findings might inform some food choices for your family and raise the question on why Australia does not have safety standards around arsenic that are specific for children

Bioseed to launch 4-5 hybrids each year
M Somasekhar  Hyderabad | Updated on January 31, 2020  Published on January 31, 2020
Dr Paresh Verma, Executive Director & Chief Executive- Bioseed S-E Asia & Research Director- BRI
Bioseed, the hybrid seeds business of DCM Shriram, plans to launch four to five new hybrid seeds every year with focus on vegetable hybrids, while strengthening corn and rice, the main drivers.
Eggplant, tomato, bitter gourd and watermelon are some of the products in the pipeline. The company will invest more on bioinformatics and molecular breeding capabilities as it diversifies into newer crops.
At present, it is strong in corn, cotton, hybrid rice and select vegetables with its R&D lab in Hyderabad driving its developments, says Paresh Verma, Executive Director & Chief Executive, Bioseed South East Asia, and Research Director BRI.
With the changing consumption patterns the share of vegetables is growing. Hybrid technology helps in making tailor-made changes in the produce and improve farmer incomes, he told BusinessLine.
The DCM Shriram group set up the biotech lab at the ICRISAT about 12 years ago. Today, it is among the best, fully-equipped and is being constantly upgraded. It has 20-25 researchers. It provides expertise across R&D, field and lab testing, data analytics, seed production, and farm extension, among others. Overall, the company has about 75 scientists, including 25 breeders and 30-35 agronomists.
DCM Shriram took over Bioseed in 2002 and since then they have expanded operations to many countries. It strengthened its operations in the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand recently.
Dr Sharad Sharma, Executive Director& Chief Executive- Bioseed South As

To accelerate its growth, Shriram Bioseed and KeyGene entered into a multi-year strategic co-development research program for development of improved rice hybrids last year.
According to the agreement, KeyGene’s platforms will be exploited to boost important traits like higher yields, tolerance to abiotic stresses and better grain quality in Bioseed’s elite rice germplasm.
The partners agreed to make joint investments and push the growth of hybrid rice markets in India and South East Asian markets.
At the Hyderabad laboratory, scientists use biotechnology to build resistance traits into crops by marrying appropriate strains of seeds. These experiments undergo vigorous testing, first in sterile conditions in laboratories, and then in breeding stations that simulate farming conditions, Paresh explained.
On an average, the gestation period of each Bioseed project is seven to 10 years, from experiments in the laboratory to observation in the fields to commercialisation.
The company has breeding stations in Bengaluru, Aurangabad, Alwar, Faizabad and Hissar. The main crops include cotton, rice, wheat, paddy, mustard, tomato, and chilli.
A strong distribution network also enables Bioseed to provide quality seeds to farmers across South and South East Asia. It uses biotechnology-based solutions for the benefit of countries with similar climatic and soil conditions, he added
“Bioseed is registering stable growth in all verticals in India except cotton seed business, which continues to suffer because of the government’s policy towards introduction of new technologies and price controls. Internationally, the Philippines is registering consistent growth,” according to its latest quarterly performance.

Study: The difference between helping, hurting male allies

Emily Rappleye (Twitter
Being a male ally in the workplace can help female peers feel supported and empowered, but occasionally can have a negative effect, according to a study from Houston-based Rice University.
Interested in how men play a role in combating sexism at work, Rice Associate Professor Eden King, PhD, surveyed 100 women varying in age, work experience and ethnicity about their experiences with male allies.
The researchers identified helpful behaviors of a male ally, which include listening to female peers; suggesting women for promotions, projects and raises; and speaking up if they witness bad behavior.
Survey respondents said allyship can sometimes be ineffective when it has no effect on workplace culture or even causes backlash. A few respondents described unwanted allyship, when a man intervenes for a woman who doesn't need help, which can leave women feeling less confident. 
"While we found that allies can have a very positive impact, we encourage these individuals to confer with their female colleagues to see if help is wanted or needed," Dr. King said in a press release. "If the answer is yes, then allies should keep doing what they are doing. If the answer is no, they should respect that."

Young law graduate in Indonesia finds a simple farmer's life a happy life

Miftahul said he chose to become a farmer to help sustain the country's food production and prevent land from being developed into a sea of buildings.
PHOTO: The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

It was early afternoon and the sun was no longer boiling hot when Miftahul Abdurrakman, 30, started clearing weeds from his rice field.
Using a lawn mower, he cut the weeds that grew among his 13-day-old rice plants but left the debris there to decompose, thus providing extra organic fertiliser for his crops.
Miftahul implements a semi-organic farming method, meaning he uses only a small amount of pesticide to help the plants grow in their early stages. The rest of the time he uses homemade organic fertiliser.
"I don't want to produce rice that contains pesticide as it can cause many diseases," Miftahul recently told The Jakarta Post.
A graduate of Indonesian Islamic University's (UII) School of Law, Miftahul has for the last three years earned a living as a farmer, an occupation that not many youths in Indonesia want to pursue.
The results of a 2018 survey released by the Statistics Indonesia (BPS) revealed that only 191,000 out of some 2.7 millions family heads aged between 25 and 34 years earn a living from farming. In total, there are 33.5 million farmers across the country.
Miftahul said he chose to become a farmer to help sustain the country's food production and prevent land from being developed into a sea of buildings.
He said his ancestors, including his parents, were all farmers. Yet, of the four siblings in his parents' family, he alone has decided to take up the line of work.
Unlike his ancestors, who used traditional farming methods, Miftahul is a modern farmer and has pioneered the implementation of agricultural mechanisation in his village of Timbulharjo in Sewon district, Bantul regency, Yogyakarta.
"There are currently at least five other young farmers in my village who also implement agricultural mechanisation," he said, referring to the use of machinery in agriculture such as lawn mowers and other equipment.
Description: Grown from necessity: Vertical farming takes off in ageing Japan
Sitting by his rice field, Miftahul recounted how he gained his knowledge of agricultural machinery from the internet. He also recalled that when he was a university student, he often snuck into the agriculture class at Pembangunan Nasional University (UPN) Yogyakarta.
Miftahul is one of only a handful of farmers who do not have their own land but are confident that agriculture can be a promising livelihood.
With the help of a worker, he cultivates 10,000 square metres of land that he rents, of which 9,000 square metres is used to grow rice while the rest is used to breed catfish.
With the use of agricultural machinery, he can control his expenses and overcome the difficulties of finding workers.
To earn more profit, Miftahul does not sell his harvests unhusked but instead mills the rice first on his own before selling his produce online through social media.
"I can sell a kilogram of rice for between Rp 11,000 (S$1.10) and Rp 12,000, higher than the market price of around Rp 8,500 per kg," he said.
He added that with the use of machinery, from 1 hectare he could harvest 3 tons of unhusked rice every 85 days. If the rice is sold for Rp 11,000 per kg, he said, he could earn Rp 9 million per harvest.
"I have no rice left at the moment. It's all sold out," he said, adding that put all the money he earned from rice into savings. To support his daily expenses, he uses the revenue from his catfish sales, which he harvests once every two weeks.
Description: Chinese farmers' offer of free radishes for locals goes viral... costs them $58,000
"I'm happy living as a farmer. I can support my family and save money for my children's school fees."
He expressed confidence that many other youths would become interested in farming if the government created good market conditions for agricultural produce, such as by buying all unhusked rice produced by farmers and ending rice imports.
"Unfortunately, rice is still a very political product. If the price increases just a bit, it will promptly be decreased by importing rice to prevent chaos," explained Miftahul.
Agricultural Innovation Partnership announces projects

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The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute recently announced the projects selected for the third installment of its Agricultural Innovation Partnership program.
The selected projects align with AURI’s core focus areas: biobased products, renewable energy, coproducts and food. Each project furthers AURI’s mission to foster long-term economic benefit through value-added agricultural products. The projects will receive funding from AURI, plus additional support and guidance to help capitalize on these ideas to catalyze innovation.
The 2019 AIP selections are:
Food waste
Packaging Technology & Research will map out the food loss and waste value chains for select Minnesota agricultural products from farm to end of retail. Through this work PTR aims to provide insights to add value to ag processing waste streams through diversion from landfills, including new processing and product solutions, innovative supply chain solutions to decrease food loss, novel sustainable packaging solutions and innovative system solutions to help reduce food waste.
Shelf life
Minnesota food entrepreneurs bring many new products to market each year. These entrepreneurs often turn to AURI for guidance and frequently inquire about product shelf life. Through this project, AURI will work with Minneapolis-based Clutch Business Accelerator to create a shelf life primer, enabling food entrepreneurs with the science behind and supply chain ramifications of defining a food product’s shelf life.
Wild rice
Minnesota is one of the world’s largest suppliers of cultivated wild rice. Producers are increasingly looking for ways to blend wild rice into new products as a way to expand market share. In partnership with the Minnesota Wild Rice Council, this project will conduct a Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score evaluation on wild rice. PDCAAS is the industry standard and preferred method for measuring the protein quality of a food product, an important attribute in defining the product’s impact on human nutrition. Additionally, this project will measure the relative impact of a wild-rice rich diet, relative to other diets. This will help position cultivated wild rice as a key ingredient in new food uses ranging from nutrition/protein bars to gluten free flours/pastas, as well as a gateway to plant-based ingredient alternatives.
Through the AIP program, AURI provides expertise and oversight to assist entrepreneurs in finding diverse funding sources to advance ideas; support communicating and managing project activities; aid in monitoring progress and reporting against goals; and tracking and reporting initiative impacts.
In addition, all AIP projects are intended for public consumption and AURI will share the information generated through the program to help producers, entrepreneurs, businesses and agricultural processors explore opportunities and technologies. Past research through the program has produced applied research studies, as well as guides and tools to help businesses utilizing the state’s agricultural products.
AURI considers proposals spanning the value-added agricultural sector and encourages new and returning applicants to submit ideas to its AIP program next year.