Wednesday, February 19, 2020

19th February ,2020 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

Export potential hangs by a thread

LAHORE: The economic planners have developed a very narrow export base of the country by refusing to think beyond textiles, and the export potential of other sectors of the economy remains neglected.
Hardly a few sectors in Pakistan are part of the billion dollar club, which includes few subsectors of textiles which cumulatively export goods worth $13.5 billion. The next highest export item is rice, not a manufactured good, with exports of $3 billion.
Exports of all other items are less than $1 billion. One cannot expect much with its total exports hovering around $24 billion.
If we look at neighbouring India, there are over three categories where exports are worth $40 billion or above. These include mineral fuels, including oil, gems and precious metal, textiles and clothing.
Exports from pharmaceuticals, machinery including computers, organic and inorganic chemical fetch over $20 billion. There are many sectors that are in $10 billion club.
Those include vehicles ($18 billion), electrical machinery equipment ($11.8 billion) and iron and steel ($10.1 billion). Apart from these, scores of sectors including handicrafts register exports of around or above $5 billion. Total Indian exports are worth $330 billion which is over 13 times higher than Pakistan’s textile exports.
India is the world’s fifth-largest meat producer and exporter, accounting for 6.9 percent of global meat production. Last year, India produced 4.50 million tons of meat. Meat exports fetch India over $4 billion a year.
In Pakistan the economic planners have periodically been paying rebates, refunds on textile exports based on calculations conducted in consultation with the textile industry. The refunds are provided only on inputs where the sales tax has been paid or in other words where the purchases have been made from sales tax registered persons.
Though the refunds in recent years are being delayed, still the exporters have legal and genuine claim over these refunds that the government is bound to pay. Since textile sector had government support and facilitations, they mostly procure inputs from sales tax registered persons and then claim back that amount after exports are made. This also includes the sales tax they pay on electricity and gas.
For most of the other sectors of the economy, the refund of taxes paid on exported goods remains a problem. They do not even get the refunds on the general sales tax paid on electricity and natural gas.
For the textile sector there is a precise calculation made with the assistance of the private sector on the amount of gas and electricity used in manufacturing any item, and the sales tax paid is calculated and refunded accordingly.
For other sectors no such exercise has been conducted. Most of them export goods without claiming refunds because their inputs are available with persons that are not registered in sales tax.
Even the sales tax paid on power and energy bills is not refunded. In some cases, the FBR has arbitrarily fixed some refunds on exports that are much less than the amount they paid at the time of buying inputs.
Exports the world over are zero-rated, but in Pakistan the exports are made almost zero-rated through refunds for only five sectors. Of these five, textiles sector claims the highest refunds in terms of the zero-rated facility.
For all other exporters, planners have made no such provisions. The non-textile exporters of the country are real heroes who are earning foreign exchange against all odds.
If we look at the profile of Indian exporters, we find similar sectors in Pakistan. If we see the textile export performance in our official export records, handlooms do not export. In fact, handlooms are things of the past in Pakistan, but these very handlooms, considered the primitive weaving machines operated manually are adding billions of dollars to Indian exports.
Our gems and jewellery exports are still in nascent stage even 15 years after this concept was promoted. The Indians are way ahead. Why can we not add $5 billion in our exports through gems and jewellery?
It needs similar handholding that government and the financial institutions provide to the textile sector. We produce top quality drugs, but the regulators here are more interested in controlling prices than ensuring global standards on manufacturing and storage of drugs.
The pharmaceutical industry should be facilitated to get approvals from developed economies so their products can be exported.

PM seeks report on duty structure of food items
Mubarak Zeb KhanFebruary 19, 2020Facebook Count
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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has asked the National Tariff Commission (NTC) to compile duty structure including regulatory duties on essential food items which have led to an increase in domestic food inflation, a senior official told Dawn on Tuesday.

The NTC has been directed to compile the report in the next couple of days to identify all essential food items which were subjected to duty, taxes and regulatory duties.

“We have started work on identifying all food items subject to additional customs”, Chairperson NTC Rubina Athar told Dawn. She added that the commission will present a report to government for consideration.

The government has taken away the power of imposing or removing duty from customs department and given it to NTC.

After coming into power the PTI government imposed regulatory duties and introduced non-tariff barriers to discourage imports as part of its policy to bring down overall import bill.

The import of fruits and vegetables were linked with quarantine certification requirements at border stations with Iran and Afghanistan. However, the requirement of no-objection certificate (NOC) is mostly unmanageable, according to traders.

According to an official report, the import of fruits and vegetables from Iran and Afghanistan fill the gaps during the arrival of new crops. “The combination of ill-timed government policies has led to disruption in supplies to domestic market,” the report noted.

As a result of these policies, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is collecting 5.5 per cent income tax on import of tomatoes while there is no customs duty or sales tax on it. However, on the import of onion, the government charges 20pc sales tax and 5.5pc income tax only. On potatoes, the government collects 25pc additional customs duty, 17pc sales tax and 5.5pc income tax on import. Similarly, the government imposed 60pc regulatory duty (RD) on wheat, 25pc RD on wheat flour, 40pc RD on sugar and 5pc RD on boneless bovine meat (frozen).

On pulses, the government charges around 2pc income tax at import stage. Similarly, the duty structure is very high on import of palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia. The changes in duty structure on palm oil can bring down edible oil prices in the domestic market.

“As a result of these duties and quarantine requirements, fruits and vegetables are going to India,” former president Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industries Daroo Khan Achakzai told Dawn. Pakistani authorities are also not accepting quarantine certificates of Afghanistan to allow entry of tomatoes and onions into the country, he added.

The prime minister has also tasked the Commerce Division and Food Security Division to come up with a detailed report clearly mentioning product wise production of essential food items in domestic market. The divisions were also asked to report food items which can be exported or imported seasonally.

“We have started work on this report,” a senior official of Commerce Division told Dawn.

Food inflation in urban areas rose by 19.5pc in January on a yearly basis and 2.7pc on a monthly basis whereas it increased by 23.8pc and 3.4pc, respectively, in rural areas.

The suspension of trade with New Delhi in the wake of Kashmir issue has also contributed to rising prices of vegetables in the domestic market.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s rice exports increased by 15pc to $1.2bn in July-Jan period this year as against $1.05bn over the corresponding months of last year. In quantity, export of rice also witnessed 15.4pc growth during the months under review.

In bilateral trade with UAE, rice is Pakistan’s major exports. A Lahore-based rice exporter told Dawn that Pakistani exporters are supplying rice to Dubai-based importers who are repackaging the grain with Indian branding and selling it in European market.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2020

UN chief terms Kartarpur Corridor 'Pakistan's practical proof' for keeping interfaith harmony

  Last Updated On 18 February,2020 04:18 pm
UN chief reviews different sections at Kartarpur Corridor
NAROWAL (Dunya News) – United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, during his visit to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kararpur and the Kartarpur corridor on Tuesday, lauded Pakistan’s efforts to maintain peace and interfaith harmony.
“The opening of the Kartarpur corridor is a practical proof of Pakistan s desire for peace and interfaith harmony”.
Terming the opening of the corridor a "good step", the UN chief said that it would promote tolerance and interfaith harmony.
The UN chief was briefed about the steps taken by the government for facilities being provided to the Sikh community.
He was told that purpose of opening of Kartarpur Corridor was to provide an easy access to the Sikh Community across border.


During his visit, the UN secretary general was given a special briefing on the development of the Kartarpur corridor.
Guterres was then taken on a tour of the gurdwar and visited various sections of Kartarpur Complex. The UNSC also laid floral wreath at the grave of Baba Guru Nanak
The UN chief appreciated facilities being provided to the Sikh yatrees at the complex.
Inside the temple, Mr Guterres met various Sikh religious leaders and was presented with mementos to commemorate his visit.
Guterres also visited the on-site soup kitchen at the gurdwara, where he was served a traditional meal of rice and lentils. Minister of Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri accompanied the UN secretary general on the visit.

Villagers donate rice to protesters to carry on agitation against CAA

Dibrugarh/Guwahati: The protest against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act saw a large number of villagers in Dibrugarh district donating a large quantity of rice to AASU on Saturday to carry on the agitation.
At a public rally in Sasoni circle, which is the largest revenue circle of Dibrugarh district, residents of 85 villages donated 350 quintals of rice to All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) in the presence of its general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi, sources in AASU said.
AASU is spearheading the agitation across the state against the contentious legislation and is demanding that the law which seeks to provide citizenship to the religious minority in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan be repealed. The revenue circle is the highest producer of rice in Dibrugarh and the sources said villagers donated 645 sacks of rice, each weighing 50 kg, to the students union.
“We are totally against the CAA as it will endanger our existence….We are donating our rice. If needed, we will not think twice to shed our blood in our fight against the Act,” Bidyanka Borgohain of Sukani village told PTI.
Siddhi Duwarah of Kukurapomia village said as CAA has already been enacted the only option to get it withdrawn legally.
“To fight a case in the Supreme Court, one needs a huge amount of money. We are an agrarian community. We do not have money, but we have our produce. So, we decided to give it to AASU for the legal battle,” he added. Bikash Baruah of Paniabuwa village said every family donated at least four kg of rice and all the households of the Sasoni took part in this exercise.
“We started collecting rice from January 3. If needed we will donate more rice in the coming days,” Jatin Dhadumia, a resident of Khatuwa village in the circle said.
Over 60 petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court against the Act and AASU is one of the petitioners. Meanwhile, protests against the controversial law continued across the state with thousands of people coming out on the roads to join it. “Amit Shah thought that he would be able to implement CAA very easily in Assam, but he is wrong. We will not deviate from our stand and accept a single Bangladeshi. We will not give one inch of our land for the illegal immigrants,” the AASU general secretary said in Duliajan.
He alleged that there has been an attempt by the government to suppress the movement and efforts are being made to lure people from different fields.
“But the people of the state will not be swayed by the government tactics. The peoples’ movement will continue until the goal is reached,” Gogoi said.
The AASU and the artistes’ community organised a public rally at Chandmari in Guwahati, while a huge gathering took place at Dharapur near the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in the city. “BJP had promised to deport all illegal immigrants from Assam after May 16, 2014. But they did nothing and are now trying to bring Hindu Bangladeshis.
They are dividing illegal immigrants into Hindus and Muslims. Assam is a place where people are not discriminated on the basis of their religion,” popular singer Manas Robin said at Dharapur. The government had thought this agitation would end within 4-5 days but it is on for over a month and will continue till CAA is repealed, he added.
In Golaghat and Dhekiajuli too public rallies were organised under the aegis of AASU and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP).
An event was organised against CAA at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Guwahati in which a number of speakers spoke against the Act. In almost all the rallies, traditional Assamese musical instruments were played to foster anti-CAA sentiments in the people.
Peaceful protests have been continuing across Brahmaputra valley after violent protests by the people against CAA in which three rail stations, a post office, bank, bus terminus, shops, dozens of vehicles and many other public properties were set ablaze or totally damaged since December 9. (PTI)

The COVID fall-out
posted February 19, 2020 at 12:20 am
by Lito Banayo
"It is clear that the economic impact of the contagion would be far greater than initially predicted."

Description: observations in this article were being written earlier, but the sudden travel ban on Taiwan last Monday night required that we concentrate on the lifting of the ban through explaining the strict protocols that our office instituted to prevent the possible spread of the COVID 19 to the country.
As the number of victims rose in China and the number of cases in other countries were reported, it is clear that the economic impact of the contagion would be far greater than initially predicted.
China after all is the world’s second largest economy, and for us in Asia, it has the greatest economic influence. The Philippines particularly imports so much from China, whether these are consumer goods or intermediate goods which are part of the supply chain required by Philippine manufacturing. This disruption of supply chains would have the greatest negative impact on the Philippine economy, and the entire global economy for that matter.
While we import much, we export very little to China, with bananas gaining ground in the past three years only after political relations with it improved under President Rodrigo Duterte’s apertura Sinica.  
If only eating Philippine bananas would cure the coronavirus, we would be running out of land for planting bananas. Some doctors have posited coconut oil as containing antiviral properties from mono-laurins.  If validated, this would be good news for the long-suffering coconut farmers of our country.
We will leave it to our economic managers to determine the numbers of the COVID 19 negative fall-out.  This writer, however, having served under previous administrations as Philippine Tourism Authority and later, National Food Authority administrator, would currently just zero in on two: Tourism and the potential movement of rice prices.
NEDA’s DDG Rosemarie Edillon already stated before the House Committees on Tourism and Economic Affairs that the tourism sector could lose as much as P22.7 billion a month, and the travel bans as well as downturn in visitor arrivals due to the tourism slump would result in the loss of anywhere from 30,000 to 95,000 jobs.
Depending on how long it would take to control the contagion and the discovery of medical remedies, the numbers could become worse.  Many workers in the hospitality sector are casuals, and many in the restaurant and resort businesses are small and medium-scale businesses which could not absorb continued losses.
For the month of February alone, Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo Puyat said foregone revenues due to COVID 19 could reach 16.8 billion.  Some 101,452 seats per week of the two-week long ban were forfeited.
As much as the DOT and the industry are heroically promoting domestic tourism to take up the decline in foreign visitor arrivals, domestic travel can only do so much.  But with the precautions against crowded gatherings, both MICE events and even fiesta celebrations will be affected months after the contagion has subsided.  
In 1998 in the wake of the Asian recession, DOT could only start reversing the tide after more than three years, and under a new government with Secretary Dick Gordon at its helm.  And let us pray that when temperatures start climbing this spring and summer, the cases of this pestilence will likewise wither out.
It would probably be best for us meanwhile to improve our tourism infrastructure during the period of slack, in preparation for better times which would surely lie ahead.  Looking forward, we should concentrate on sustainability of our tourism destinations, some of which are over the top in carrying capacity.  Millennials will always have the urge to travel, and as soon as the coronavirus red light turns green, it will be business as usual for the tourism sector.
Secretary Berna has approved so many tourism rehabilitation projects for immediate implementation, in Baguio, Palawan, Bohol, even in Manila.  This is the way to go.  As they say, “when the going gets rough, the tough gets going.”  
The Chinese always say that the other Mandarin character for “crisis” is “opportunity.”
To the highly adverse effects of the ASF infestation on our hog industry now comes the fears of the poultry sector also being threatened by a resurgence of the deadly bird flu.
There are reports coming from Hunan province in China about a big broiler farm affected by a pathogenic strain of the deadly H5N1 disease or bird flu.  God forbid!
Now let me share my worry about rice.
The management of its supply and demand is always critical to a nation of 110 million rice eaters.  In late 2017 until the whole of 2018, the mismanagement of the supply of the staple caused inflation to spike, causing consternation among our economic managers.  They saw this however as an opportunity to pressure Congress to swiftly pass a Rice Tarrification Law which removed the rice import monopoly from the National Food Authority, and liberalized the private importation of rice subject only to payment of import duties.
I shall not belabor the resulting effects on the Filipino palay farmers; enough has been written about it.  Due to record imports of close to 3 million metric tons, we now have ample stocks of rice, estimated at 84 days of average consumption.
But most of that supply is in the hands of the private sector.  Government has palay stocks purchased from the last harvest plus a few left-overs from its 2018 importation some of which arrived as late as the first semester of 2019.
The news coming from our rice suppliers are not very salutary.  Thailand is restricting export volumes in a bid to jack up prices for its farming sector.  Vietnam’s rice production, the winter-spring crop, is not too promising.  Besides, after almost a decade of stable paddy prices, many Vietnamese farmers have shifted to other crops whose export prices were more profitable.
But my bigger worry is China.
It produces some 208 million tons of rice per year, and imports some 2.2 million more. 35 million hectares are cultivated to rice compared to our 4 million hectares, but the major rice-producing provinces are those near the Yangtze River.
These major rice cultivating provinces are Heilongjiang, Hunan, Jiangzi, Hubei, Jiangsu, Anhui, Sichuan, Guangdong and Guangxi.  Except for Heilongjiang which is in northernmost China, all these provinces are close to Hubei, the rice farms of which are irrigated by the Yangtze River and its tributaries.  Together, these provinces produce two-thirds or 140 million tons out of China’s total production of 208 tons.  Hubei province alone produces close to 20 million tons, the equivalent of the Philippines’ harvest target for 2020.
What are the effects of the COVID 19 on China’s agricultural production, particularly its rice harvest, with Hubei immobilized, and neighboring provinces cowering with fear due to the virus dread?  Would China thus import more from Asean producers such as Vietnam and Burma, Cambodia and Thailand?
What will be the effect on world rice prices?  How will the Philippines compete with China in securing its needed imports?
And finally, with the NFA devoid of its rice trading functions and the bulk of our present rice stocks in the hands of the private sector, how can government intervene in the market when this confluence of negative factors materialize in the latter half of this year?
Baboy ASF,  posibleng manok, bird flu,  pati kaya bigas?  Huwag naman sana.  

Over $35b supplied for import of basic goods since last March

February 18, 2020 - 15:50
TEHRAN- Despite the U.S. sanctions and their most pressures on Iranian economy Iran has managed to supply $35.5 billion for importing basic commodities in the current Iranian calendar year (began on March 21, 2019), Central Bank of Iran (CBI)’s governor informed on Tuesday.
The official said that of the mentioned figure, about $14 billion has been for importing some more essential goods such as medicine, medical equipment and livestock food, and there is an abundant supply of such products in the country, IRIB reported.
In last December, Industry, Mining and Trade Minister Reza Rahmani had announced that the basic goods that the country needs in the current Iranian calendar year and also in the next year have been reserved.
The minister said the government and private sector’s warehouses are already filled up with the basic commodities and there is no concern in this due.
Also, the deputy finance and economic affairs minister has announced that the government has provisioned $14 billion of official-rate foreign currency in the next Iranian calendar year (March 2020-March 2021)’s budget bill for imports of basic goods.
Importers of rice, barley, corn, edible oils, oilseeds, and livestock feed, as well as medicines and a few other items are going to receive the government support, according to Mohammad-Ali Dehqan Dehnavi.
“The government has identified these goods as the basic needs of the people and has decided to keep the prices of such items low in the market, so $14 billion of foreign currency with official rate will be provided to the importers of these commodities next year,” Dehnavi said.
Meanwhile, in a new directive in January, Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration (IRICA) obliged the customs departments throughout the country to take necessary measures (mentioned in the new instruction) for facilitation of the clearance of basic goods.
As the sanctions may make the country face shortage of basic goods, the government and IRICA have taken various measures to avoid such condition.
One major action is facilitating condition for the importers of the basic commodities, for example providing them with required foreign currency through NIMA (Iran’s Forex Management Integrated System).
In August, 2019, Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Farhad Dejpasand, in a directive addressing the IRICA head, obliged the customs administration to take measures for facilitating customs processes.
Meanwhile, following a previous directive by President Hassan Rouhani, IRICA has been providing new facilities for importers of basic goods which makes them able to clear their commodities in less than an hour.

Liberia: Agriculture Minister Sets Agribusiness, Youth Empowerment, Loans As Priorities

17 FEBRUARY 2020

By Judoemue Kollie
Clarifies issue relating to import tariff on rice
The newly confirmed minister of Agriculture, Jeanine Cooper, has disclosed the development of agribusiness, encouraging more youths for agriculture activities and the provision of loans for smallholder farmers to expand production among other things as priorities for her administration within the next few months.
She said prioritizing these areas will help change the narratives and perceptions about agriculture in the country.
"As I mentioned during my confirmation that agriculture in Liberia is still being practiced at subsistence level with limited success stories, we intend to work in changing such narratives and perceptions. This means that we must attract more youths in the sector and empower smallholder farmers, mainly cooperatives, to produce more so that they can see agriculture as a business to improve their incomes," she said.
She made the disclosure to the Daily Observer recently in Monrovia in an exclusive interview.
Madam Cooper was nominated by President George Weah in January 2020, after series of vetting process to replace former Agriculture Minister, Dr. Mogana Flomo, who was relieved of his post in June 2019. She was subsequently confirmed by the Senate on February 5, 2020, during a hearing session.
Prior to her appointment, she served as founder and chief executive officer of Fabrar Liberia, the country's largest rice processing company, based in Kakata, Margibi County.
Her company Fabrar is involved in purchasing paddy rice from farmers, processing it for both the domestic and export markets.
Agribusiness Development
Many Liberian farmers still produce crops at low scale due to the lack of capacity. Minister Cooper believes that, in order for farmers to expand the level of production for commercial purpose, they must be subsidized to enable them cultivate large areas of land.
"We shall work with partners and the Government in the next few months to subsidize farmers, mainly cooperatives, to make agriculture a business. The commercial possibilities in which agriculture can drive development is high on my agenda, especially where we are in the planting season for rice.
She also stated that she is engaging other partners to assist with machineries to alleviate the constraint of labor in the rice sector.
"We want to help our farmers, mainly cooperatives, with land-clearing using machines. The availability of improved seed is also our major concern to get farmers plant on time," she said.
Youth Empowerment in Agriculture
Minister Cooper stressed the need to revamp programs that are intended to build the skills of young people in the agriculture sector.
"We are working with our international partners and other ministries and agencies to revamp training centers for youth involvement in farming. This will require that we provide the necessary funding to access equipment to make agriculture attractive for the youths," she said.
She said that when the youths are empowered in agriculture it will reduce the level of unemployment facing the country's young people.
Liberia has had a lot of youth programs over the years, but these have lacked sustainability. Agricultural training facilities, such as the Tumutu Agricultural Program in Bong County, the Clay Agriculture Training Center in Bomi and Songai Agriculture Training Center in Montserrado, are not functional due to lack of funding, something the new minister might think to revamp. Other institutions like the Booker Washington Institute, Grand Bassa Community College, Nimba Community College and the Lofa Community College, once initiated as Centers of Excellence in Agriculture by the USAID Food and Enterprise Development Program (FED), which phased out in 2016, could also be strengthened under Minister Cooper's administration, with support from partners.
Agricultural Lending
Most commercial banks in Liberia are not willing to promote credits for smallholder farmers due to risks involved. But the new Agriculture Minister stated that she is engaging the commercial banks in the country to see reason to provide loans for farmers in all areas of agriculture.
"Within the next few months, we will be working with the banks to provide some soft and long term loans for our farmers across the value chains at reasonable interest rates," she said.
According to her, farmers, especially those engaged in rice production, will need loans to enable them expand production.
"We have been speaking with partners to open up the line of credit at commercial banks for agricultural loans -- soft and longer terms -- that partners can underwrite some of the risks and with low interest that farmers can be able to pay. We are hoping to do this with the commercial banks in the next few days to set up a window as soon as possible," Minister Cooper explained.
"It is mainly cooperatives that will need such assistance to help them move forward. This is a huge task but we hope that in the next six months we can find tangible results of the interventions," she added.
Export Opportunities
Madam Cooper further stated that she is considering seriously the improvement of the National Standards Laboratory and other food testing centers to provide opportunity for Liberian farmers to improve income generation through exports. However, she stressed the need for the Private sector to drive the initiative.
"It is important for the Private Sector to run the laboratory and the Government serve as the regulatory body. This is because where there is no funding, such program spearheaded by the Government may soon collapse, leaving our farmers deprived," she asserted.
According to her, when the Standards Lab is fully equipped, farmers will have better opportunities in that, they can improve their incomes from the sale of produce through exports.

Are potatoes bad carbs?

Description: are potatoes bad carbs

Researchers recently compared the nutrient value of non-fried potatoes with that of refined grains, addressing the question, are potatoes bad carbs?

In many popular diet plans, such as keto and paleo, the plain white potato gets a bad rap. Deemed as a “starchy” vegetable, they are either prohibited in these diet plans altogether or are at least limited to one serving per day.
Of course, the most popular form of potatoes, French fries, is obviously not the healthiest. Potato chips will not rank very high in the list of diet foods either. But these forms of potato are deep fried and full of calories and the unhealthy type of fat. Studies show that diets with a higher intake of fried potatoes are associated with a higher incidence of diabetes and heart disease.
Just how unhealthy is the tasty tater? Are potatoes bad carbs? They are vegetables after all, how unhealthy can they be? Researchers at Pennsylvania State University recently assessed the potatoes’ nutritional value against diets that contain refined grains such as bread, pasta, and rice. The study was published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Between February 2018 and March 2019, 50 generally healthy adults between 25 and 75 years of age participated in the study. There were 34 females and 16 males. The study consisted of two four-week diet periods followed by a two-to-four-week rest period.
Before the study, the participants’ weight, pulse rate, and blood sugar data were collected. Also, at the beginning of the study and after each diet period, blood pressure data were monitored. Participants were randomly assigned to the refined grain diet group or the potato diet group.
In the potato diet group, participants replaced one of their normal starchy side dishes with either a steamed or a baked potato. Boiled potatoes were not used because boiling removes nutrients. Each potato side dish contained about 200 calories.
In the refined grain diet group, participants ate a refined grain side-dish such as pasta, rice, or white bread with their main meal once per day. When the four-week diet period was over, the participants had a two-week rest period. They then switched to the opposite diet group for four weeks and then a four-week rest period.
The researchers found that daily consumption of a steamed or baked potato did not increase participants’ blood sugar and had no effect on their risk for heart disease. The diet quality of the potato diet was better than that of refined grains. Potassium and fiber consumption was also higher for participants in the potato diet. The researchers also found no evidence that the potato diet caused its participants to gain weight.
The study was limited by the number of participants, intervention time, and the participants self-reporting their data. The results of the study do suggest that not only can potatoes be part of a balanced and healthy diet, but they might not be bad carbs either.

Written by Rebecca K. Blankenship, B.Sc.

USDA once hid climate reports. Now adaptation is a priority

Daniel Cusick, E&E News reporter Climatewire: Tuesday, February 18, 2020Description: President Trump speaks with Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue. Photo credit: Preston Keres/USDA/Flickr
President Trump speaks with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue during a meeting with farmers. Preston Keres/Agriculture Department/Flickr
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will allow agency scientists to study how U.S. farmers are responding to climate change — a notable departure from the Trump administration's history of squelching climate science through budget cuts and the suppression of scientific reports.
The recently released "USDA Science Blueprint" identifies climate adaptation as one of five focus areas the agency will pursue between 2020 and 2025. It includes 26 objectives, strategies and evidence-building activities around climate change, divided under two broad headings: landscape-scale conservation and management, and climate research and resiliency.
"We are committed to putting science to work for the American public," Scott Hutchins, head of USDA's research, education and economics mission area, said in a statement. "We will always strive for scientific excellence and integrity in support of America's agriculture."
The decision is notable given Perdue's record of squashing scientific reports on climate change. Congressional Democrats last year demanded answers after a Politico investigation found that Perdue had released only two of 45 recent agency studies on global warming (E&E Daily, June 26, 2019).
The suppressed research included one study into whether rice loses vitamins under elevated carbon conditions and another that warned farmers and ranchers about declining quality of forage grasses due to warming.
USDA oversees one of the government's largest and longest-running research programs. Six USDA offices are charged with advancing research and knowledge about the nation's production of crops, livestock and forest products, as well as the management of 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands.
Forest managers and experts have relied on USDA research to address a number of major climate events, including the recent California wildfires. The agency also provides critical information to the agriculture sector about climate change impacts to farms, ranches and managed forests. It also looks at ways agricultural land can be managed as carbon sinks.
Perdue said, "USDA's agricultural research is vital to helping our farmers, ranchers, producers and foresters increase efficiency and productivity, and our science agencies play an integral role in setting forth new visions for innovation through their work."
John Piotti, executive director of the American Farmland Trust, called the blueprint "an important commitment" by Perdue and USDA to scientific research on behalf of farmers and ranchers, and that the organization "is heartened to see climate change as a key focus."
"As farmers struggle to deal with the impacts of both extreme weather and a challenging farm economy, it is good to see the department intends to help them build resiliency and adapt to new realities," Piotti said.
Other experts said the Trump administration now must meet USDA's climate research agenda with seriousness and transparency.
"It is relatively easy to put things down on paper, but delivering on them in the real world and carrying through is a totally different thing," said Mike Lavender, senior manager for government affairs at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Lavender said the Trump administration also has contradicted itself on climate change, noting that the president's proposed fiscal 2021 budget includes "steep cuts to the very research and conservation programs that help farmers adapt and be resilient to climate change."
"Talking out of both sides of your mouth is a phrase that comes to mind," he added.

This hidden ingredient battles high blood sugar and heart disease

Description: man_eating_oatmeal
Despite the current backlash against bread, there’s evidence that whole-grain bread is good for you.
In fact, whole grains (whether baked into a loaf of bread, eaten in a cereal bowl or enjoyed as a side dish at dinner) may be one of the healthiest foods around. They protect you against diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and more.
What makes whole grains so wholesome?
Well, there’s no shortage of beneficial nutrients and compounds in whole grains. But researchers just discovered a new one that plays an important part in their health benefits… especially when it comes to balancing your blood sugar and supporting your heart.
A study from researchers at the University of Eastern Finland uncovered some previously unknown compounds in whole grains that could be responsible for their diabetes-fighting effect — betaine compounds.
Scientists already knew that betaine compounds were present in our bodies and in certain foods, like wheat. But in this study, they discovered new types of betaine compounds that seem to lower blood sugar and support heart health.
The study was performed on mice and humans. Both ate a whole-grain rich diet for 12 weeks. When researchers investigated the effects of the whole-grain-heavy diet, they found that eating whole grains increased the number of betaine compounds in the bodies of both mice and humans.
Some of these betaine compounds had never been discovered before. And many of them had major health benefits…
Pipecolic acid betaine, for example, lowered blood sugar levels after meals. And 5-aminovaleric acid betaine (5-AVAB) accumulated in tissues like the heart and helped heart cells use fatty acids as a form of energy. That’s something certain heart disease drugs do too. And this betaine compound from a whole-grain rich diet did it almost just as well.
So, betaine compounds may be behind the health benefits of whole grains. But whatever makes whole grains healthy, all you really need to know is that they’re good for you and you should eat more of them… starting today.
The USDA says you should make half of the grains you eat whole grains. But I say go for broke and eat all whole grains (with the occasional exception).
It’s not hard to do. Just swap out refined grains like white rice and white bread with whole grains like brown rice and wheat bread. Here are some healthy, whole-grain products to look for:
• brown rice
• buckwheat
• bulgur
• millet
• oatmeal
• popcorn
• quinoa
• rolled oats
• whole-grain barley
• whole-grain sorghum
• whole oats
• whole rye
• whole wheat
• wild rice
And when you’re shopping for whole grains, always read your labels.
Look for the word “whole” at the beginning of the ingredient list (like whole oats, whole-wheat flour, whole-grain brown rice, whole rye, etc.) Some products might say “multigrain,” “100 percent wheat,” “high fiber,” but they’re not actually whole grain.
Also, some whole grain products appear healthy, but they’re filled with unhealthy ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and chemical additives. As always, the simpler the ingredient list, the better.
I also recommend supplementing with Peak Cardio Platinum™. Much like whole grains, this supplement’s nutrients support cardiovascular health.
This entry was posted in Alternative Medicine. Bookmark the permalink.
Customs seeks business community’s support on border closure
By Tola Akinmutimi   
| Published Date Feb 19, 2020 4:47 AM
Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd). The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), on Tuesday, extended his appeal to stakeholders in the business community on the border closure policy, saying the policy measure is aimed at stimulating economic growth and improved security. Ali, who made the appeal in a keynote address with the topic: “Impact of Border Closure on the Nigerian Economy”, at a symposium organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), with the support of the Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), in Lagos, said the implementation of the policy had impacted positively on the nation’s economy. He expressed the Customs Service’ appreciation to all stakeholders for their understanding over the border closure in the past few months, assuring that the service would continue to count on the support of Nigerians in its sustained effort to ensure that the objectives of the initiative were achieved. While recalling the circumstances that led government to close the borders after several efforts to make Nigeria’s neighbouring countries help mitigate the impact of smuggled goods and small arms into the country failed, listed the reduced rate of smuggled rice, as well as revenue collection upsurge as some of the benefits of the policy to the economy. ADVERTISEMENT PHARMACIST REVEALS HOW HE REVERSED HYPERTENSION & NORMALIZE BLOOD PRESSURE WITHIN FEW WEEKS He said: “The partial border closure has so far curbed the smuggling of foreign rice into the country, in addition to prohibited items. Our series of interactions and engagements with the National Rice Millers Association of Nigeria (NRMAN) since the commencement of this exercise has shown that the border closure has impacted positively on that sector. ADVERTISEMENT HOW OVER 5000 NIGERIA MEN HAVE PERMANENTLY OVERCOME TERRIBLE BEDROOM PERFORMANCE DUE TO THIS RECENT DISCOVERY BY MEDICAL CONSULTANTS “On revenue generation, the NCS’ daily revenue collection before the border closure ranged between N4 to N5bn, now the NCS collects between N5 to N6bn daily…at the nation’s seaports. This will in turn be used to build more infrastructure and develop critical sectors of the nation’s economy.” On the need for the business community’s support in order to consolidate on the gains of the policy measure, Ali promised that the NCS would “continue to seek the support of all and sundry, including the ever dependable media to ensure that the desired objectives of this exercise, which is to promote a secured, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria, is optimally achieved.” He added that, “While we call on all Nigerians to be patriotic by patronising Nigerian made goods and agro-products, this will help the country in reaching self-sufficiency in local food production, create job opportunities and boost our economy.”

Delta RIFAN Nominates 6,500 Farmers For Dry Season Farming

 February 18, 2020

The Delta State chapter of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), says it has nominated 6,500 farmers for this year’s dry season farming being sponsored by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The state Chairman of RIFAN, Mr Silver Ejezie said this in an interview with our correspondent in Asaba, yesterday.
Ejezie said that the nominees would be screened by CBN and that successful farmers would be participating in the dry season farming under the CBN-RIFAN Anchor Borrower’s Peogramme.
He said that the list of nominees from the state rose from below 300 to 6,500 farmers because of federal government’s ban on rice importation.
He said that the demand for local rice in the state had steadily risen, adding that farmers had taken advantage of the import ban to make good business from rice farming.
He said that though the list of the farmers had reached the CBN, participants would be required to present their Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) for proper documentation.
“I submitted a list of 6,500 rice farmers who will participate in the dry season farming to the CBN in Abuja.
“There will be screening. Farmers are expected to provide their BVN after which they will qualify to receive inputs to participate in the programme.
“The challenge has been the delay in the delivery of inputs and land to cultivate, but the small farmers are operating in cooperatives to secure lands,” Ejezie said.
He said that big farmers would not have to wait for the arrival of inputs from CBN since they had commenced transplanting from nursery to the field.
“As we speak, I have started transplanting from nursery to the field while we wait for arrival of the inputs from the CBN,” he said.
Ejezie expressed the hope that the inputs, including rice seedlings, chemicals, fertilizers, water pumps and herbicides, among others, would be delivered soon to farmers in the state.

One shot, two vehicles destroyed as smugglers attack Ogun Customs
One shot, two vehicles destroyed as smugglers attack Ogun Customs
Raheem Ibrahim 15 mins ago LATEST NEWSNEWS 
LAGOS – One youth shot, two security vehicles destroyed in on Monday when smugglers and Customs men in Ogun State engaged in bloody over illegal importation and stock-pilling of ban foreign rice.
The Ogun 1 Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) said suspected smugglers on Monday afternoon attacked its officers and men during its operation to seize the rice at a hideout.
This is contained in a press statement made available to the public by the Public Relations Officer of the command, Abdullahi Maiwada.
The statement said that the officers and men of the command with support of the Nigerian Army personnel on a tip off busted a hide-out where smugglers stockpiled smuggled rice and other prohibited items.
It stated further that while the operatives with the help of some youth in the community were trying to evacuate the stockpiled rice, the criminals shot at the officers.
According to the release, one of the boys helping the operatives to evacuate the rice was hit by stray bullet but added that he was immediately rushed to the hospital where he is receiving treatment.
The statement stated, “Furthermore, two official vehicles attached to the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Customs Service respectively were equally pelted with bullets.
“However, the team gallantly responded to the aggression and succeeded in evacuating one hundred and ten (110) bags of smuggled parboiled rice of 50kg each.
“Also, one suspect was arrested in connection with the incident and is currently undergoing interrogation.
In similar development, the command spokesman stated further in the statement that, “The CAC Special Taskforce led by ASC I M. Lawal, made another discovery of new antics being employed by smugglers to beat ‘the eagle eyes’ of Officers and Men of the Command.
“Large quantity of Smuggled rice which were carefully concealed in a volvo truck with Chassis number: YB1E6A2A2JB420916 and registration number: FFF–897 ZC (Ogun state) was criminally disguised as Cassava Flour (White Elubo), Fufu and Maize.
Further examination revealed four hundred and ten (410) bags of smuggled parboiled rice of 50kg each deceptively packaged in the said vehicle.
“To this end, Comptroller Agbara Michael assured members of the public that the renewed hostilities by armed smugglers will not deter the Command from discharging its statutory responsibilities.
“He emphatically pledged to decisively stop all forms of aggressions applied by smugglers in the interest of social and economic prosperity of our dear country,” the statement assured.

India to harvest record rice, wheat crops

Wheat output in India, the world’s second-biggest producer, is expected to go up by 2.5% in the crop year to June 2020, the farm ministry said in its second crop forecast for 2019/20.

INDIA Updated: Feb 18, 2020 23:54 IST

Mumbai/New Delhi
Description: India is expected to produce a record 106.21 million tonnes of wheat this year, the farm ministry saidIndia is expected to produce a record 106.21 million tonnes of wheat this year, the farm ministry said(HT Photo)
India is expected to produce a record 106.21 million tonnes of wheat this year, the farm ministry said, as favourable weather conditions helped to improve crop yields, with output far exceeding demand and further boosting stocks at grain bins.
Wheat output in India, the world’s second-biggest producer, is expected to go up by 2.5% in the crop year to June 2020, the farm ministry said in its second crop forecast for 2019/20.
Rice output in the world’s biggest exporter and No. 2 producer is estimated to rise by 0.9% to 117.47 million tonnes.
The farm ministry forecast this year’s total grains output at a record 291.95 million tonnes against 285.21 million tonnes produced in the previous year.
Output of rapeseed, the main winter oilseed with the highest oil content, is expected at 9.11 million tonnes, higher than a target of 8.23 million tonnes but lower than previous year’s production of 9.26 million tonnes.
Production of chickpea, a popular variety of pulses, is likely to be 11.22 million tonnes against 9.94 million tonnes harvested in the previous year.
Any increase in rapeseed and chickpeas production cuts imports of expensive vegetable oils and pulses - the commodities that are in short supply in India, the world’s biggest importer of both cooking oils and protein-rich pulses.
Also, repeated bumper harvests of rice and wheat - thanks to high-yielding seed varieties, increasing farm mechanisation and good weather conditions - have bumped up local supplies.
Brim-full granaries have hardly any extra space to accommodate new season harvests that will start trickling in from next month, exposing food stocks to rains and rodents, India’s leading farm economists and farm trade policy experts said.
Discussions with Iraqi Grain Board Smooth the Way for U.S. Rice Trade 

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES -- Over the weekend, USA Rice and U.S. Wheat Associates hosted a seminar here for officials from the Grain Board of Iraq to discuss sampling procedures and tender processes.  This seminar was proposed as a follow-up to an Iraqi reverse trade mission to Louisiana, Kansas, and Washington, DC, last fall where there were several questions about the U.S. grading process (see USA Rice Daily, October 3, 2019).

Byron Reilley, director of International Affairs Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), provided a thorough overview of FGIS and the laws that regulate how U.S. rice and wheat are graded.  Reilley also reviewed inspections for both bagged and bulk rice, and the group discussed the merits and challenges of reintroducing bulk rice shipments to Iraq that have been halted since 2015.

"U.S. rice and wheat exporters here got to ask about several obstacles in the tenders, such as discharging, payment timing, and penalty language," said Sarah Moran, USA Rice vice president international, who was also in attendance.  "The officials offered to ameliorate many of these obstacles.  This was a great follow-up to last year's reverse trade mission and we will work to maintain this positive momentum."

At the end of the seminar, USDA Undersecretary for Trade & Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney thanked the Iraqi's for their participation and for being strong purchasers of U.S. rice and wheat.

Iraq was the United States' seventh largest export destination for rice in 2019, bringing in 154,000 MT valued at $72 million.


USA Rice Goes Big at Annual Gulfood Show  

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES -- The annual Gulfood show, the world's largest food, beverage, and hospitality exhibition, is going on this week, and traders and foodservice professionals from all over the world, but especially from the Middle East and Africa, are here.  Last year the exhibition set attendance records with 98,000 visitors and more than 5,000 companies from 185 countries exhibiting their products.

USA Rice set up in a prominent position in the U.S. Pavilion, and several USA Rice members are participating in the trade show.

"This year the USA Rice booth has an improved appearance with attractive visuals and high visibility helping to draw in the crowd," said Sabrina Schumacher, director of marketing at American Commodity Company.  "We're able to network with both potential and existing customers, and to gather information on the global rice market and trends."

Rice is an important food in the Middle East, and U.S. rice is appreciated for its high quality and suitability to different local cuisines.

"The Gulfood show is the most important trade show in the Middle East region," said Derek Alarcon, director of export sales at Farmers Rice Cooperative.  "It provides a good opportunity to collect trade leads from potential partners interested in importing U.S. grown rice, and also to meet with existing trade contacts."

Weak demand, pricing hit agri exports in April-December

Vishwanath Kulkarni  Bengaluru | Updated on February 18, 2020  Published

Shipments down 13 per cent at $11.64 billion

India’s farm produce exports continued to remain in the red for the first three quarters of the current financial year, despite a late pick-up in shipments of basmati rice.
Total agri shipments were down by 13 per cent in dollar terms at $11.64 billion as compared with $13.35 billion in the same period of the previous year. In rupee terms, the value of shipments for the April-December 2019-20 period stood 11.51per cent lower at 81,901 crore (92,558 crore in same period last year).
The decline in exports is mainly on account of weak demand for a majority of the products, including non-basmati rice, buffalo meat, guargum, pulses, fresh fruits and vegetables. Also a dip in pricing for several of these commodities contributed to the decline in overall shipments.
Basmati shipments stood at 2.83 million tonnes valued at $2.97 billion for April-December 2019-20 as against 2.86 million tonnes valued at $3.07 billion in same period last year. Average realisations were down marginally at $1,050 per tonne as against $1,075 per tonne in the same period last year. Basmati accounted for 25.58 per cent of total shipments and was the largest product in the APEDA’s farm produce export basket.
Non-basmati rice shipments were down sharply at 3.56 million tonnes as against 5.73 million tonnes in the same period last year. In value terms, non-basmati rice shipments were down 37 per cent at $1.45 billion as against $2.29 billion. Non-basmati accounted for 12.5 per cent of total shipments.
Buffalo meat shipments were lower at 8.9 lakh tonnes in the April-December period as compared to 9.28 lakh tonnes in the corresponding period of the previous year. In value terms, buffalo meat exports stood at $2.51 billion as against $2.27 billion. Buffalo meat accounted for 21.64 per cent of overall shipments.
Shipments of groundnuts were up both in value and volume. Groundnut exports during the April-December period stood at 4.54 lakh tonnes (3.57 lakh tonnes). In value terms, groundnut shipments were up 42 per cent at $489 million ($346 million).
Other major products such as guargum, pulses, fresh vegetables and fruits saw a contraction during the period. Interestingly, processed vegetables registered a marginal increase.


One year after rice tariffication: Farmers hurting, angry at new law

Republic Act No. 11203, better known as the “rice tariffication law” or RTL, is now one year old.  The purpose of the RTL is fully reflected in its title: “An Act liberalizing the importation, exportation, and trading of rice, lifting for the purpose the quantitative import restriction on rice, and for other purposes”.  Farmer leaders simply call the law as the “rice trade liberalization law”, for the law allows any private rice importer-distributor to import any volume of rice. The only requirement: a sanitary permit from the Bureau of Plant Industry.
The enactment of the RTL was bitterly opposed by all farmer organizations and some  officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA).  Their main criticism: the rice tariffication law gives up the power of the government to protect the rice industry, especially the small rice farmers numbering 2.5 million. 
First, RTL sets a low tariff of 35 percent on imported rice sans any production subsidy. This means Filipino rice farmers can only compete with the Thai and Vietnamese rice farmers if the former also enjoy the subsidy and other assistance given to the latter, including better enabling production environment such as reliable irrigation. The assistance that the RTL promised to the Filipino rice farmers is paltry and haphazardly formulated: a program of mechanization and seed assistance, which was not even ready or in place when the law was passed. 
Another criticism: RTL downsized the National Food Authority (NFA) and limited its role to “buffer stocking” for emergency situations and disaster relief.  RTL removes the various regulatory powers of the NFA, from import licensing to warehouse inspection. This means big private importers can now import any volume of cheap rice and dump this in the domestic market without worrying on the situation of the Filipino rice farmers, millers and town traders.   
Shortly after the passage of the law, horror stories on the catastrophic collapse of palay prices around the country mushroomed.  Palay farm gate prices went down to as low as P8-P10 a kilo, well below the estimated production cost of P12 a kilo. An increasing number of palay producers are  now contemplating the idea of giving up rice farming and selling their lands.
Surprisingly, the collapse of palay prices and the extraordinary hardships being experienced by the Filipino palay producers was first raised to the mass media by the domestic rice millers and viajeros.  They too were affected by the “gaming” operations by the big private importers-distributors, which  found the rice importation-distribution business suddenly wide open to the private sector. No need to knock at the doors of the NFA or any government agency. 
Per monitoring by the US Department of Agriculture, as much as three million tons of rice were imported by these corporations within months after the RTL passage.  This huge volume of imports made the Philippines the world’s biggest rice importer in 2019.  This volume of imports is thrice the normal annual of imports made by the then NFA to fill in the production gaps in the country.
These imports were immediately packaged by the big private importers for distribution in the malls and commercial outlets, many of which they also own.  Thus, a large part of the locally-produced palay  became “homeless”,  that is, no market to sell to.  Hence, palay prices plunged down to as low as P7-P8 a kilo in far-flung areas.
The plight of the domestic palay producers prodded the new Agriculture Secretary, William Dar, to seek the assistance of LGUs in rice-producing provinces in buoying up palay prices.  Eventually, President Rodrigo Duterte himself got involved.  He  helped mobilize additional government funds to help the NFA procure more locally-produced palay.  He even issued a statement on his plan to ban any rice importation during rice harvest seasons at home.
Ironically, the above market intervention measures clearly contradict the intent of the law: to have a fully deregulated rice market.  Hence, some neo-liberal economists criticize the executive department for subverting the RTL!  Their reasoning: let the rice and palay market situation stabilize for a year or two.  The basic idea: let the fittest or more efficient survive and grow.  Those who cannot survive, let them shift to the planting of new crops, preferably higher value-adding crops.
The problem is that the experience of farmers in other crops under the regime of “agricultural deregulation” pushed by the IMF-World Bank for the Philippines in the last four decades (1980s to the present) show that most of the losing farmers do not shift to new crops.  They simply opt out of farming and sell their lands to the local elite, land speculators and realtors. 
This precisely is the scenario that is beginning to take place in the rice sector under “rice tariffication”. Consecutive rice farming losses for a year or two shall shrink the country’s palay production sector, a sector that has been shrinking gradually through the years because of  rising cost of farm inputs, limited government assistance, urban encroachment and unchecked land conversions. With RTL, the rate of rice land shrinking has become faster.  In the rice fields near the urban or peri-urban areas, puro sementado na ang mga palayan kasi nabenta na sa mga realtors.  
Today, the above government efforts to buy more locally-produced palay have somehow boosted palay prices to rise to P14-P15 a kilo in some provinces.  This, however, is still low compared to the P19-P21 a kilo in the pre-RTL period.  And if the labor of the rice farmer is given value based on the equivalent minimum wage in a given rice-producing region, rice farming easily becomes a losing proposition. And in areas of the country untouched by the above palay-price-boosting exercises, palay prices remain stuck at P10-P12 a kilo. 
Overall, rice farmers are angry and furious at the RTL.  Farmer organizations in the country are still agitating for a repeal or reform of the RTL. Specifically, they want the government’s role in rice procurement and trade be restored and strengthened. They also want  an alternative “rice road map” crafted based on joint and transparent government-farmer dialogue-consultation and planning.
The road map should include the formulation of “equalizing incentives” to Filipino rice farmers such as the adoption of support programs extended by other countries to their rice farmers.  For example, the governments of China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam all intervene heavily in rice production and international/domestic rice trade, to shield their palay farmers  from market volatility and production losses.  Thailand alone spends roughly $2 billion a year as subsidy, in the form of price support, to their palay producers. 
In contrast, the RTL provides for a paltry P10 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), half of which is allocated for the mechanization of rice farming and one-fourth for the development-propagation of high-yielding seeds.  These twin RCEF programs are work in progress because the development and promotion of appropriate technology takes time and requires huge bureaucracy to administer. They also require skills or human resources development as well as testing on their adaptability to different soil and land situations.  Note that rice farms in the country have varying sizes, topography, ownership, access to irrigation, etc. It is difficult to develop a one-size-fits-all solution to rice mechanization.
Hence, some agricultural experts are suggesting that the RCEF should be re-organized and should re-focus on agricultural credit and insurance, both of which are badly needed in agriculture. Also note the inadequacy of the RCEF fund given the fact that the palay production sector is worth at least several hundred billion pesos.  Former DA Secretary Manny Pinol estimated the 2019 palay losses of the farmers to be around P120 billion; however, farmer leaders  put the total palay losses to reach as high as P200 billion.  How can P10 billion RCEF fund, allocated mostly for mechanization and seed development, cure these huge losses?
Incidentally, DA, under Secretary Dar, failed to utilize some trade flexibility measures allowed by the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).  Specifically, DA failed to use its authority to recommend to the Tariff Commission the  adoption of provisional safeguard measures to stem the flood of rice imports. Under the WTO rules, a Member State may impose safeguard measures when imports “are found to  cause or threaten serious injury to a competing domestic industry”. 
But what happened?  After a non-transparent system of “investigation”, the DA found no reason to initiate a process of instituting safeguard measures for rice based on a finding that “serious injury” was being inflicted on the Filipino palay farmers by the surge of rice imports amounting to three million tons. The WTO defines “serious injury” as “a significant overall impairment in the position of a domestic industry”, which can be established based on an investigation of the “increase in imports, the market share taken by the increased imports, as well as changes in the levels of sales, production, productivity, capacity, utilization, profits and losses, and employment of the domestic industry”.  The DA found no “serious injury” to warrant the imposition of safeguard measures!  
Clearly, the country needs better agricultural and economic officials with 20-20 vision.  The country needs officials who have the backbone to assert the survival and growth of local industries, especially industries involving millions of small producers.

Drought slashes Australian crop output to record low


FEBRUARY 18, 2020
Description: Swathes of Australian farmland have suffered three or more years of droughtSwathes of Australian farmland have suffered three or more years of drought
Australia's hottest and driest year on record has slashed crop production, with summer output expected to fall to the lowest levels on record, according to official projections released Tuesday.
The country's agriculture department said it expects production of crops like sorghum, cotton and rice to fall 66 percent—the lowest levels since records began in 1980-81.
"It is the lowest summer crop production in this period by a large margin," Peter Collins, a senior economist with the department's statistical body ABARES told AFP.
Early February downpours are likely to have come too late to help farmers.
Swathes of Australian farmland have suffered three or more years of drought. But 2019 saw rainfall below the previous record low set in 1902 and average temperatures 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above the previous warmest year in 2013.
The fall in the summer forecast follows a drop of winter crops—which includes wheat, a major cash crop—by an estimated five percent.
Australia is one of the world's leading agricultural producers, with the sector making up around three percent of total GDP.
The climate-change-fuelled drought also exacerbated a bushfire season that ripped through more than 10 million hectares (25 million acres) of tinder-dry landscape in Australia's south and east, killing 33 people.

Vietnam rice exports seen up 6% this year to 6.75 million tonnes - food association
·       FEBRUARY 18, 2020 / 3:41 PM / UPDATED

A farmer plants rice on a paddy field outside Hanoi July 4, 2013. Vietnam's rice exports in the first half of 2013 dropped 6.8 percent from a year earlier to an estimated 3.57 million tonnes, the Agriculture Ministry said. REUTERS/Kham/Files
HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam expects to export 6.75 million tonnes of rice this year, up 6% from last year, Vietnam Food Association Vice Chairman Do Ha Nam said on Tuesday.
“Demand is seen rising this year as Vietnamese rice is more competitive in terms of prices,” Nam told Reuters, adding that the coronavirus epidemic in China had had no impact on shipments of Vietnamese rice to China.Nam said rice exporters from Vietnam have over recent years sought to expand their markets to reduce their reliance on China, adding the Philippines was currently the largest market.“Vietnam is producing more fragrant rice to tap new markets, such as South Korea and Africa,” Nam added.
Traders based in Ho Chi Minh City said a delegation from the Department of Agriculture of the Philippines will visit rice production sites in Vietnam in March to work on food safety issues, paving the way for more shipments.Rice exports from Vietnam, the world’s third-largest shipper of the grain, rose 4.2% in 2019 from a year earlier to 6.37 million tonnes.
Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Edmund Blair and David Evans

Southern Vietnam responds to severe saltwater intrusion

Source: Xinhua| 2020-02-18 18:09:12|Editor: Xiaoxia
HANOI, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- The saltwater intrusion level in Vietnam's Mekong Delta region has occurred earlier than normal and is expected to be more serious this year, Vietnam News Agency reported Tuesday.
Specifically, saltwater intrusion and drought came one month earlier compared to previous years, seriously affecting the agricultural activities and daily life of people in 12 out of 13 localities in the country's Mekong Delta region, according to the report.
It said that 32,000 hectares of rice have been affected and some 80,000 households are facing water shortage for daily life, including 24,400 households in Soc Trang province, 20,100 in Ca Mau province and 12,700 in Ben Tre province.
Localities have worked out measures to cope with the salinity encroachment and drought, including planting the 2019-2020 winter-spring rice a month earlier than usual, urging farmers to switch to drought-resistant crops, building embankments to store irrigation water as well as adding more water pipes to secure the supply of water for local residents.
Though this year's salinity intrusion and drought level may be higher than that of 2016, which saw a saltwater intrusion level record, the damages will be less serious thanks to early warnings and response measures of localities, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development was quoted as saying.
In 2016, saltwater intrusion and drought made 600,000 households in the delta suffer a shortage of daily use water and some 160,000 hectares of land in the delta salinized, posting total damage of more than 5.5 trillion Vietnamese dong (239 million U.S. dollars), according to its Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Việt Nam needs to find new rice markets to replace China: experts

Update: February, 17/2020 - 09:34

Việt Nam exported 560,000 tonnes of rice in January 2020, worth US$270.3 million, according to the General Department of Customs. VNS Photo Văn Châu
HCM CITY – Since the novel coronavirus (Covid-2019) epidemic will surely affect exports to China, diversifying markets is an urgent requirement for Vietnamese rice exporters, experts have said.
The winter-spring rice crop harvest has begun in the Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta.
In Hậu Giang Province 1,000ha of crops have been marginally affected by salinity but farmers have harvested hundreds of hectares of rice early, and the yield is quite high at 7.7 tonnes per hectare.
Prices have decreased slightly since the beginning of the season earlier this month because exports to China have ceased, Trần Chí Hùng, director of provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said.
The price would continue to drop unless new markets are found, he said.
Bùi Thị Thanh Tâm, general director of VinaFoods 1 Corporation, said five years ago China was the largest market for Vietnamese rice, but now export markets have been expanded, meaning the novel coronavirus epidemic would not hit Việt Nam's exports too badly.
The Philippines became the largest market for Vietnamese rice, buying US$885 million worth last year, according to the General Department of Customs. 
Đỗ Hà Nam, vice chairman of the Việt Nam Food Association, said China would continue to reduce rice imports this year.
But Việt Nam has a chance to ship to Japan this year since that latter wants to diversify its import sources to other suppliers from countries that have signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), including Việt Nam.
It now relies much on US supply.
But to export to Japan, the Vietnamese agriculture sector needs support from authorities.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade focuses on developing markets and negotiating free trade agreements. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) is in charge of production, including quality improvemens.
Local authorities need to guide and encourage farmers to produce organic rice.
Businesses also need to ensure the quality of the rice they are exporting.
If these tasks are well co-ordinated, export growth could be ensured, Tâm said.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyễn Xuân Cường said global rice exports now are 36-40 million tonnes a year, with Việt Nam accounting for seven million tonnes, but its export value is not high because of its passive approach.
In the long term, the agricultural sector should look at reducing the total area under rice to a level that ensures food security and reasonable export volumes, he said.
It also needs to ensure the quality of the grain and packaging, he said.
As for exports, Việt Nam should expand to new markets like Africa and the Middle East besides regional countries such as Indonesia and Singapore, he said.
Việt Nam's major competitor, Thailand, faces a severe drought, affecting rice production, while Singapore, which imports 30-40 per cent of its rice from Thailand, is considering diversifying import sources, MARD said.
Việt Nam has shipped the grain to 150 countries and territories in Asia, Africa and the Americas. – VNS


Rice Prices

as on : 18-02-2020 11:12:32 AM

Arrivals in tonnes;prices in Rs/quintal in domestic market.
Tamkuhi Road(UP)

Government to boost confidence in rice sector

Description: File photoThe government is taking steps to boost confidence in the rice sector by addressing the issue of gluts and ensuring that rice farmers get value for money and were motivated to increase production, the Ghana News Agency has learnt.

In pursuit of that agenda, and to improve the rice value chain, farmers were being incentivized to produce more paddy rice, while solar-powered millers have been procured for processing, all in an effort to prepare the country towards reducing rice imports.

Speaking to the Ghana News Agency on Monday, Mr Issa Alhassan, the Press Secretary to the Minister of Food and Agriculture, said the government took delivery of four millers in December and dispatched them to four strategic rice farming areas to address the problem of inadequate capacity for milling paddy rice.

He said the millers, which have been dispatched to New Edubiase and Ejura, both in the Ashanti Region, Yamoransa in the Central Region and Fumbisi in the Upper East Region, were part of efforts by the government to boost the cultivation and consumption of rice locally.

“With the millers around, after harvesting farmers can mill and wait for marketing. This will avoid the incidence of fire burning produce of farmers, issues of moisture and post-harvest losses,” he said.

Currently, he said, the installation of the milling facilities were nearing completion and would be used to mill the paddy for the up-coming dry season as a pilot to test it efficacy and then would be upscale to other rice producing areas in the Upper East and West.

In addition to the four millers, Mr Alhassan said the government had received over 1000 small multipurpose shellers that could process rice.

Commenting on the recent fire, which ravaged the produce of some rice farmers, he hinted that the government was working with the leadership of Peasant Farmers Association (PFA), having already received the details of the affected farmers and preparing for them.

“This is a natural disaster and livelihoods have been lost, so we will put them on some special incentive arrangement and cushion them through the supply of inputs such as seeds and fertilizers,” he added.

Mr Alhassan said that the sector Minister, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, had set up a rice technical team made up of importers, millers, processors and representatives from the Ministry of Finance to discuss the ministry’s drive towards self-sufficiency in rice production by 2022.

The Committee would come out with a comprehensive solution to post harvest loses, processing, marketing, distribution to end rice gluts.

He said the committee made up of the Finance Ministry, National Food Buffer Stock Company, Ghana Inter Professional Rice Body, Jak Foundation, Rice Millers Association, GCB Bank and other Banks commenced work last year and almost ready with their plan.

Mr Charles Nyaba, the Programme Officer of the Peasant Farmers Association (PFA) speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency commended the government for taking steps to ensure the smooth running of the value chain.

He said his outfit would continue to work with the state to better the lives of farmers and urged the government to collaborate more with farmers through PFA especially on the rice technical committee to ensure that the concerns of farmers were captured.

Regarding the new solar-powered milling facilities that were being piloted by the government, he said they would really help rice farmers.

“One of the major problem disturbing milling facilities over the years has been the issue of power. If the new ones have the capacity to deal with the challenge, then it will be the best,” he added.


Govt ensures sufficient water as drought continues


LOPBURI – The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has assured the public of sufficient water throughout the remaining dry season, while relevant agencies work to refill dams along the Chao Phraya River.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompow, together with executives and officers from relevant agencies today gathered at PasakJolasid Dam in Lopburi province to assess the effects of the present drought.
Following a helicopter flight over the area, Thammanat stressed that the drought this year might be considered the worst in many years, however, the Royal Irrigation Department has assured farmers and members of the public, that the remaining water will be sufficient for normal daily activities, except for out-of-season rice farming.
Statistics compiled at the four major dams namely Bhumibol, Sirikit, KwaeNoi Bam Rung Dan and PasakJolasid, today show roughly 3.477 billion cubic meters or 19% of the total capacity is in storage, after a continuous reduction from November’s measurement of 5.377 billion cubic meter.
The water level at that time was already considered the second-lowest in 20 years, just behind 2015 that stands at just 4.247 billion cubic square meters.
The lower than usual water levels in the dams is due to unusual weather patterns, resulting in less-than-usual precipitation. The public is urged to use water sparingly while agriculturalists must refrain from conducting out-of-season rice farming.
A full rainmaking operation is slated to be carried out starting tomorrow, to enable the dams to increase water storage.
Drought in the kingdom usual runs from November to May.


31 silos to come up in Punjab for scientific storage of foodgrains: Union Minister

The minister said that soon the "one nation, one ration card' policy will be implemented in all states of the country as 12 states have already been divided into clusters. He added that under this scheme, the beneficiaries of the public distribution would get their share of rations in any state in which they will be residing

ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Feb 18, 2020, 06.57 PM IST
Description: Rice-agenciesHe added that leaders of the labour, rice millers and some other unions have highlighted some issues which would also be addressed on priority.Chandigarh: Union Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Raosaheb Patil Danve, on Tuesday, said that in order to prevent wastage of foodgrains in traditional storage system, the government has planned to construct 31 silos in Punjab for proper scientific storage of food grains. He was here at Sangrur to inspect the godowns of Food Corporation of India (FCI) and review the public distribution system of food grains. He added that the process for the identification of suitable sites has been initiated and soon construction of new silos will be started. He said that silo structures follows a scientific method of storing grains where stored grain is kept dry and aired so as to prevent fungal and insect attacks for much longer time period as compared to traditional methods.

The minister said that soon the "one nation, one ration card' policy will be implemented in all st
ates of the country as 12 states have already been divided into clusters. He added that under this scheme, the beneficiaries of the public distribution would get their share of rations in any state in which they will be residing. He added that leaders of the labour, rice millers and some other unions have highlighted some issues which would also be addressed on priority.


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