Wednesday, February 26, 2020

26th February 2020 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter


Thailand approves aid package to help drought-hit farmers

Thailand’s cabinet on February 25 approved a aid package worth 3.12 billion THB (98.3 million USD) to support farmers hurt by prolonged drought.
VNA Tuesday, February 25, 2020 18:01 

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Description: Thailand approves aid package to help drought-hit farmers hinh anh 1Illustrative image (Photo: Bangkok Post)

Bangkok (VNA) – Thailand’s cabinet on February 25 approved a aid package worth 3.12 billion THB (98.3 million USD) to support farmers hurt by prolonged drought.

The package will benefit more than 530,000 eligible farmers in 19 provinces, said deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhanadirek.

Sponsored by the central budget, it covers five projects including a scheme to promote farmers growing crops that use less water, another to maintain the quality and volume of rice production, and one to promote farmers raising tilapia and poultry, she noted.

The scheme to promote farmers growing crops that use less water is estimated to cost 348 million THB, while another to maintain the quality and volume of rice for the 2020 – 2021 crop year will cost 1.74 billion THB, she added.

Some 260 million THB of the total budget will go to promote farmers raising tilapia and the remaining budget will be allocated to promote farmers raising poultry and freshwater prawn to generate extra income.

The cabinet also approved allowing the farm aid fund to extend 538 million THB worth of no-interest loans to farmers to build water supply for their farmland, she said.

Thailand has been striken by the worst drought in decades with water levels in the country’s main reservoirs hitting very low. The Thai government has urged people to save water while farmers have been asked to not grow off-season rice.

The dry spell in Thailand lasts from November to May every year./.

Rice to our table

...At the right price
Tuesday, February 25, 2020 - 01:00
Description: The reaping of harvests
The reaping of harvests
“Paddy farming is not just a profession in Sri Lanka, it is a part of its culture—a symbol of dignity. Therefore, new agricultural policy will see that the standards of the country’s paddy farmers livelihoods are raised within a year.”
This is mentioned in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Election Manifesto: ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’.
Under the paddy purchasing programme launched by the present government, farmers will be able to grab better prices for their harvests; and this will take a positive turn, as a relief to many a farmhand who previously suffered owing to paddy price issues.
Tackling rice market issues
The government’s decision to step in for the farming community and tackle their issues in the volatile rice market by purchasing stocks this Maha Season, has put a smile on their faces as they are already reaping benefits from it. Moreover, this has encouraged private millers to buy stocks at fair prices, thus ensuring a fixed price for paddy.
Information and Communication Technology State Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena said that the purchasing of paddy this Maha Season is currently running smoothly, and that the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) has already acquired 5,217 metric tonnes of paddy.
Accordingly, the PMB has purchased 776 tonnes of paddy from Mullaitivu, 454 tonnes from Kilinochchi, 1.9 from Gampaha, 60.8 from Kurunegala, 69.3 from Puttalam, 21.9 tonnes from Jaffna, 56.4 tonnes from Anuradhapura, 297.4 from Vavuniya, 782.8 from Mannar, 809.2 tonnes from Ampara, 1878 from Batticaloa, 8.8 tonnes from Trincomalee.
Paddy Marketing Board Vice-Chairman Duminda Priyadarshana said that the harvesting of paddy for this year’s Maha Season has already begun, and that it is expected to reap a harvest of 3 megatonnes.
Certified prices
Furthermore, the government has taken measures to ensure that a kilogram of rice would have a minimum certified price of Rs.50. The government has also recently decided to acquire wet rice, and the minimum price for it is to be Rs.45. Wet rice is to be available at District Secretariats, as well as the Paddy Marketing Board.
The PMB Vice-Chairman said that the new paddy purchasing programme will be carried out parallel to the Maha/Yala harvesting seasons. He added that this would be ideal in order to save farmers from the clutches of errant private millers who wish to exploit them. Priyadarshana also urged farmers to make the most of the prevailing dry weather in the country to sell dry rice.
Under the instructions of President Rajapaksa, it has been decided to raise the living standards of small- and medium-scale rice millers by providing them with the opportunity to buy and sell wet rice via district and divisional secretariats. Rice millers will also be able to obtain loans with 8% interest from state banks such as People’s Bank, Bank of Ceylon, and Regional Development Bank.
Paddy preservation
The maximum amount of paddy that can be obtained from farmers, according to the acreage they use for cultivation, has been increased to 1,000kg per acre, 3,000kg per 1 – 3 acres, and 5,000kg per 3 – 5 acres. The government has also stated that it is willing to buy paddy from farmers owning lands that exceed these area limits. Paddy storage has also become a prevailing issue for farmhands in present times. Farmers in ancient times never encountered such issues as traditional storage units called ‘Vee Bissas’ were in plenty, and kept paddy from spoiling for long periods. The modern world has seen no technology that surpasses these traditional methods of paddy preservation.
In order to tackle the obstacles faced in paddy preservation, the government has decided to use a storage unit and trading complex set up during the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime in Marandagahamula, Divulapitiya. Moreover, maintaining a continuous supply of rice during the months of November and December is necessary as price hikes are likely to occur.
The Food Commissioners Department has storage units which can hold 24,000 metric tonnes of rice. Stocks of rice stored there are to be provided via Sathosa at a fixed price whenever there are price hikes. So far this year, the Paddy Marketing Board has collected 15 to 20% of this year’s paddy harvest, which stands at around 500 metric tonnes.
Description: http://www.dailynews.lk/sites/default/files/news/2020/02/24/z_p04-rice-02.jpg
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Georgia Tech physicists unlock the secret to perfect wok-tossed fried rice


The trick is a timely combination of side-to-side and see-sawing motions.

Description: Wok tossing has long been suspected of causing the high shoulder injury rate among Chinese chefs.
Enlarge / Wok tossing has long been suspected of causing the high shoulder injury rate among Chinese chefs.
Hunting Ko and David Hu/Georgia Tech
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Fried rice is a classic dish in pretty much every Chinese restaurant, and the strenuous process of tossing the rice in a wok over high heat is key to producing the perfect final product. There's always chemistry involved in cooking, but there's also a fair amount of physics. Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have devised a model for the kinematics of wok-tossing to explain how it produces fried rice that is nicely browned but not burnt. They described their work in a recent paper published in the Journal of the Royal Society: Interface.
This work hails from David Hu's lab at Georgia Tech, known for investigating such diverse phenomena as the collective behavior of fire ants, water striders, snakes, various climbing insects, mosquitos, the unique properties of cat tongues, and animal bodily functions like urination and defecation—including a 2019 Ig Nobel Prize-winning study on why wombats produce cubed poo. Hu and his graduate student, Hungtang Ko—also a co-author on a 2019 paper on the physics of how fire ants band together to build rafts—discovered they shared a common interest in the physics of cooking, particularly Chinese stir-fry.  

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Hu and Ko chose to focus their investigation on fried rice (or "scattered golden rice"), a classic dish dating back some 1,500 years. According to the authors, tossing the ingredients in the wok while stir-frying ensures that the dish is browned but not burned. Something about this cooking process creates the so-called "Maillard reaction": the chemical interaction of amino acids and carbohydrates subjected to high heat that is responsible for the browning of meats, for instance.
But woks are heavy, and the constant tossing can take its toll on Chinese chefs, some 64 percent of whom report chronic shoulder pain, among other ailments. Hu and Ko thought that a better understanding of the underlying kinematics of the process might one day lead to fewer wok-related injuries for chefs.
In the summers of 2018 and 2019, Ko and Hu filmed five chefs from stir-fry restaurants in Taiwan and China cooking fried rice and then extracted frequency data from that footage. (They had to explain to patrons that the recording was for science and that they were not making a television show.) It typically takes about two minutes to prepare the dish, including sporadic wok-tossing—some 276 tossing cycles in all, each lasting about one-third of a second.
·       Image sequence showing the wok-tossing process, modeled as a two-link pendulum.
 Hungtang Ko and David Hu/Georgia Tech
·       Schematic diagram showing mathematical model for wok-tossing.
 Hungtang Ko and David Hu/Georgia Tech
·       Graph showing the metrics for evaluating wok tosses.
 Hungtang Ko and David Hu/Georgia Tech
·       Description: Image sequence showing the wok-tossing process, modeled as a two-link pendulum.
·       Description: Schematic diagram showing mathematical model for wok-tossing.
·       Description: Graph showing the metrics for evaluating wok tosses.
Ko and Hu presented preliminary results of their experiments at a 2018 meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics, publishing the complete analysis in this latest paper. They were able to model the wok's motion with just two variables, akin to a two-link pendulum, since chefs typically don't lift the wok off the stove, maintaining "a single sliding point of contact," they wrote. Their model predicted the trajectory of the rice based on projectile motion, using three metrics: the proportion of the rice being tossed, how high it was tossed, and its angular displacement.
The authors found two distinct stages of wok-tossing: pushing the wok forward and rotating it clockwise to catch rice as it falls; and pulling the wok back while rotating it counter-clockwise to toss the rice. Essentially, the wok executes two independent motions: side to side, and a see-sawing motion where the left end moves in a clockwise circle and the right moves counterclockwise. "The key is using the stove rim as the fulcrum of the seesaw motion," the authors wrote. Also key: the two motions share the same frequency but are slightly out of phase.
Hu compared the effect to "flipping pancakes or juggling with rice." The trick is to ensure that the rice constantly leaves the wok, allowing it to cool a little, since the wok temperature can reach up to 1,200 degrees Celsius. That produces fried rice that is perfectly browned but not burned.

FURTHER READING

Based on their analysis, Hu and Ko recommend that chefs increase both the frequency of motion when tossing fried rice in a wok and the "phase lag" between the two distinct motions. This "may enable rice to jump further, and promote cooling and mixing."
The mathematical model Hu and Ko developed isn't just a fun curiosity; it should also prove useful for industrial robotic designs. One goal for the authors is to develop a wearable exoskeleton or similar device to reduce the rate of shoulder injury among Chinese chefs. But there has been interest in automating cooking since the 1950s to perform such basic functions as cutting, boiling, frying, and pancake flipping—the latter task usually relying on reinforcement learning algorithms.
There have also been attempts to automate stir-frying fried rice in large batches, with limited success. Prior robotic designs have included a rotating drum to mix ingredients, and a see-sawing wok to flip ingredients, augmented with an automated spatula. These could mix ingredients via rotation or shaking but could not toss the rice and, thus, could not produce the ideal carbonated grains. "If there was an automated way of doing this, it could be very useful [for chefs]," said Hu.
DOI: Journal of the Royal Society: Interface, 2020. 10.1098/rsif.2019.0622  (About DOIs).



Mixed reactions trail customs new policy on foreign rice By Tijjani Ibrahim | Published Date Feb 26, 2020 5:14 AM TwitterFacebookWhatsAppTelegram The seized 110 bags of 50kg rice. Despite the renewed efforts by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) to stamp out the menace of rice smuggling into Kano state, foreign rice still find its way into the state, Chronicle investigation, revealed. It is against this background, the NCS Kano/Jigawa states command adopt a new strategy of preventing rice smuggling into the states by shutting down any super market or shop were foreign rice is found. In a warning letter dated February 17,  2020, with a reference number NCS/KAN/053/S.28, signed by Comptroller Ahmed Nasir, the NCS warned shops and supermarkets owners in the state, seeking for their cooperation to desist from patronizing foreign rice and other prohibited items or risk having their supermarkets/shops sealed off by the operatives of the NCS. When contacted, the comptroller, Ahmed Nasir, on why the customs would not concentrate on the borders rather than descending on shops and supermarkets owners, he said, the agency was acting within the purview of the law as it was empowered by some provisions to clamp down on any errant trader. ADVERTISEMENT HOW OVER 5000 NIGERIA MEN HAVE PERMANENTLY OVERCOME TERRIBLE BEDROOM PERFORMANCE DUE TO THIS RECENT DISCOVERY BY MEDICAL CONSULTANTS “First of all, there is no any country in the world that smuggling is 100 per cent wiped out. So, while we are recording great success at the borders, this new effort will complement that which we are gaining at the borders. “Our attempt to close down any supermarket or shop selling foreign rice and other prohibited goods is not out of place as there are sections of the law that empowered us to do so. “Section 158 of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) 2004 gives us the power to patrol freely. Section 147 of the same Act gives us the power to search premises, while Section 167 gives us the power to detain, make seizures and condemnation,” he explained Comptroller Ahmed said at least 85 per cent success was achieved at the borders as a result of the combined efforts of different agencies involved in the border drill exercise which was aimed at protecting the country against transnational security concerns such as smuggling, proliferation of arms and terrorism. A visit to some of the super stores indicated that foreign rice is still on display in some shops while investigation has shown that others have theirs hidden only for sale on demand by the customers. Majority of them have complied with the order as they resorted to selling wholly local rice. At Sahad Stores, an official who didn’t want his name mentioned said the chairman of the enterprise decided to stop selling foreign rice even before the recent issue of warning by the NCS. They decried the turnover though as many customers prefer the foreign rice, saying some people do patronize the local one only when they could not get the foreign rice. At Shehe Supermarket, a business supervisor, Shuaibu M. Aliyu, said “What customers are after in this situation is cheap goods. So, if the prices of the commodity could be reduced, people will buy the local rice. He said even though his supermarket did not receive the NCS’s letter, they have since restrained from selling foreign rice. A super store owner who spoke on condition of anonymity said “If the government is really ready to boost local production, instead of the abrupt border closure, they should have made the duties paid on foreign rice excessively high and make the local rice relatively affordable. He said the customs should concentrate on the borders to ensure that foreign rice does not get into the country rather than going to shops. On his part, Alhaji Bashir Wada Kura, the chairman of Sabuwar Singer Supermarket, said government must intervene to regulate the prices and ensure that the millers complied to that. He said there was no reason why the company price should go beyond N14,000, saying the prices were unnecessarily hiked by the millers. When contacted on the latest prices, one of the millers in the state, Alhaji Abba Dantata said the price ranges from N15,000 to N16,000 depending on different parameters used to determine the cost of production. On the part of the end users, a consumer, Alhaji Yusuf Description: The seized 110 bags of 50kg rice.Nadabo, said “I don’t buy foreign rice, I feed my family with our local rice because it is more nutritious and healthy. It is also the only way we can support our economy. “Our local millers now have machines for de-stoning and polishing, and that was what we are looking at with the foreign rice, and it is through our patronage that they will be able to purchase the more sophisticated facilities for milling,” he said. He added that as a value chain that comprises farmers, paddy rice dealers, millers and traders, consumers had to render their support for economic growth, adding that there was the need to  review the current prices. Another, Ibrahim Abba Sadiq, who also said he prefered local rice due to its good taste and nutritional value, also said, “I am currently eating foreign rice because I had the opportunity to get it at a very low price, but to be frank with you I prefer our local rice because of its taste and the milling is relatively good now.”

Read more: 
https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/mixed-reactions-trail-customs-new-policy-on-foreign-rice.html
  


Price hike of rice, again  

Published:  February 24, 2020 22:05:44


Description: Price hike of rice, again   
The rice market, particularly in the city, is getting jittery. A primary commodity such as rice always maintains price difference between rural and urban settings in the context when its cultivation is enough to feed the nation. This equation can be completely reverse when the staple has to be imported. On both occasions, though, it is the big traders who dictate the terms. In countries where fair play governs the market, the theory of demand-supply works well but in this part of the world the theory is not allowed to operate by a section of traders who try to manipulate it to their advantage. When growers of paddy are incurring losses on account of low prices of the commodity millers who husk paddy into rice and stockists of paddy control the market in order to get the best deal out of it. In fact the millers are mostly stockists as well and they act in league with each other.
The pattern of market manipulation is not quite unfamiliar either. But so powerful is the association -or call it a syndicate -of millers or traders that they can call the shot whenever they consider the time 'propitious'. Everyone including the government can see the irrationality behind recent price hikes of rice or many other commodities but all prove powerless before the artificial engineering of prices. What has happened and is still happening with onion price hikes will go down in the history of market mechanism as a black chapter. True, prices of different varieties of paddy have gone up in the village market too but at this time of a new cultivation season few farmers have stocks for disposal except the amount they will need for their family consumption. The poor and marginal farmers, on the other hand, now have to purchase rice from market. Big traders waited for this opportune moment to raise rice prices.
This has, however, not happened for the first time. In the past when the high-yielding varieties were not cultivated, most villagers had to fall in such a trap as they had to dispose of their produce immediately after harvest at a throw-away price to meet some long postponed demand. Now production has gone up and fewer villagers run short of the staple for the lean period but those who do have to suffer financially. It is a clear case of maldistribution of agricultural lands and food.
Description: https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/images/bd-bank.jpg
If the situation continues, it may backfire. Already farmers, prompted by the continuous low prices of paddy and higher prices of vegetables, fruits and even exotic crops, have been turning to alternative cultivation. The government does not seem to have a long and comprehensive agriculture policy in this regard. Even the data on production of paddy often let the policymakers down. In 2017, the government even planned rice export but then it had to desperately look for market to reimburse the subsequent shortfall. The right policy on paddy cultivation would be to incentivise farmers so that they do not abandon its cultivation in droves. Procurement of paddy during harvest at a reasonable price has to be extensive so that it can act as a buffer stock and benefit the majority of farmers.


Rights of nature: Can Indigenous traditions shape environmental law?

Indigenous ideas of nature are gaining a foothold in mainstream legal systems by making rivers, forests and even rice legal persons. Can rights of nature laws protect ecosystems?
    
Description: An Anishinaabe protestor marches against oil pipeline development in Canada
"We see ourselves not as an owner of wild rice but a symbiotic partner and a parallel entity from the Creator," says Frank Bibeau, a lawyer from the Anishinaabe indigenous group in the United States and Canada.
Harvesters use flailing sticks to beat the wild rice — or manoomin, by its Anishinaabe name — and release grain into the air. "A good portion of the rice gets sent out in all directions to reseed the rice. Maybe half of it or a little more falls into the canoe for food," Bibeau explains. "So we are part of the natural reseeding process ourselves."
Seeking ways to block an oil pipeline through the Great Lakes ecosystem where his people and the rice have thrived together for generations, Bibeau designed legislation granting wild rice its own rights under tribal law.
According to the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) that advised Bibeau on the legislation, manoomin is the first plant in the world to be granted rights. But it joins a growing number of rivers, forests, and characterizations of nature as a whole, that are protected by "rights of nature" laws around the world.
Watch video01:22

BaAka and Sangha-Sangha forest school

Indigenous approaches written into law
"Conventional environmental laws are really about regulating how we use nature," says Mari Margil of CELDF. "The consequences of that have been so devastating that people in different parts of the world are saying we need to make a fundamental shift in our relationship with nature."
With the idea that indigenous peoples are the most reliable custodians of our planet now repeated by politicians and environmental NGOs alike, giving nature rights suggests a way their approaches might be adopted by broader society.
It was in this spirit that Ecuador became the first country to enshrine the rights of nature — personified as Pachamama, the Andean earth goddess — in its constitution, in 2008.
Bolivia and Uganda have since enshrined the rights of nature in their constitutions, and an amendment was recently proposed for Sweden to do the same.
Description: The Whanganui River in New Zealand
As a legal person, the Whanganui River and its ecosystem now have the right to exist and flourish
A healthier relationship with nature?
Asserting that nature has intrinsic rights isn't just a legal tool to prosecute polluters. It also challenges the "ecosystem services" approach to environmental protection that costs up the economic value of clean air, water and biodiversity — and even the concept of conservation areas.
As a national park, land surrounding the Whanganui River in New Zealand was off limits to the Iwi Maori tribe who had hunted and fished there sustainably for generations. In 2017, the dispute was resolved by making the river a person in its own right, owned by neither the state nor the tribe.
Maori law professor Jacinta Ruru sees it as a major breakthrough that New Zealand law now reflects the relationship the country's indigenous people have with the environment — one that sees no division between what's good for people and the planet.
"My tribe — we'll talk about your veins in your arms as being like the riverways of the land," explains Ruru. "So you're seeing the health and wellbeing of who you are as a person, your health, your own happiness, as entirely connected with the health and well-being of the environment around us."
Description: Worani women protest in Ecuador in 2019
Worani people from the Ecuadorian Amazon protest against an oil project in Quito
Strategic compromise
Ruru says it's too soon to judge the ecological impact of the Whanganui River's change of status. And it remains to be seen if the Rights of Manoomin will be any match for the interests invested in the pipeline.
In Ecuador's case, the new constitution has been used to block plantations and road-building that threatened forest, but it hasn't proved enough to transform an entire system geared toward economic development; cases brought by indigenous activists have ended in Pachamama's rights being trumped by those of businesses.
Critics also point out that making rivers and forests honorary people owes less to any indigenous deification of nature than to the Western rights discourse.
"There is a strategic relationship between indigenous communities and the rights of nature," says Mihnea Tanasescu, a political scientist who authored a book on the subject in Ecuador. "But there is not necessarily an intrinsic philosophical affinity, because rights are a very Western legal category."
Michelle Maloney of the Australian Earth Laws Alliance is developing legislation based on Aboriginal traditions that ground all law in relationships to the land. She says nature rights are a way for different cultural perspectives to work together.
"The legal personhood argument is getting traction around the world," she says, because "the average Westerner-lawyer type understands it as a construct."
Description: Indian Hindu devotees hold a lamp as they pray in celebration of the 'Ganga Dussehra' Festival on the banks of the River Ganges at Patna
The Ganges was made a legal person in 2017, but for Hindus it has always been an embodiment of the goddess Ganga
The Ganges and Yamuna rivers now have legal personhood, as do each of Bangladesh's hundreds of rivers. The Colombian judiciary, meanwhile, has repeatedly ruled that the rights of rivers of forests had been violated by pollution and logging.
These laws draw on specific local indigenous ideas. Yet a single US-based organization, CELDF, has been instrumental in drafting nature rights legislation around the world.
CELDF worked on the world's first rights of nature law — a local ordinance to stop toxic waste dumping in Pennsylvania — in 2006, and Margil says close to 40 nature rights bills have now been passed in the US. Many are brought by activists with no indigenous ties frustrated by a legal system that doesn't recognize damage to nature as a crime until it affects human health or livelihoods.
Conversation changer
Last year, one such case made international headlines. Residents of Toledo, a city on the shores of heavily polluted Lake Erie in the US state of Ohio, voted to give the lake rights.
Description: A satellite photo shows the quality of water in Lake Erie
Fed on fertilizer run-off from surrounding farms, algae has choked out other life in Lake Erie
A local farm responded by filing a lawsuit claiming this violated the rights of agribusinesses. 
Since the bill was more or less quashed by Ohio state legislature, activists are fighting to revive it from legal limbo. But if nothing else, their struggle has drawn attention to the priorities of a legal system that treats nature as property but corporations as legal persons.
"Often people just don't think about these invisible systems that govern our world," Maloney says. "So as a starting point — and a conversation- and discourse-changer — the rights of nature is very powerful."
·       Description: Extreme smog in India's capital, Delhi (picture-alliance/Photoshot/P. Sarkar)

And now, locusts
posted February 26, 2020 at 03:50 am by Lito Banayo
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Description: https://manilastandard.net/panel/_files/image/columnists_photos/_banayo.jpg"There is cause for worry."


Last Monday, we wrote about the negative economic impact of the CoViD 19 epidemic.  We made comments particularly on tourism, which is of course easy to see.  And we worried about food security, particularly on rice, which is the country’s staple food.
Early into DA Secretary William Dar’s appointment, he was confronted with the African Swine Fever infecting livestock in Rizal and Bulacan.  Quick action prevented the spread of the hog disease, but of late, ASF has begun affecting piggeries in Davao del Sur and elsewhere in Southern Mindanao.  That is worrisome.
In Hunan province, the H5N1 disease has wreaked havoc on a big broiler farm, and hopefully effective quarantine actions could prevent its spread.  Otherwise, Asia will have to worry about bird flu, the negative impact on food production being incalculable.
But we are particularly worried about rice, whose impact on overall inflation is quite huge.  Notice how in 2018, rice prices drove inflation to highs of 5 percent and more.  In 2014, we also experienced high prices for the staple.  In 2009, there was a world rice price crisis which made the Philippines the world’s largest rice importer at prices exceeding $1,000 per ton, and non rice-producing regions such as NCR experiencing long queues for the staple.  Similarly in 1995, people were stopping rice delivery trucks on the streets, demanding their share because stores had run out of the staple.
As immediate response early last year, Congress passed the Rice Tariffication Law at a time when the national grains agency had low inventories.  The law practically neutered the NFA and opened up rice importation to the private sector, sans quantitative controls.  The private sector responded bybimporting unprecedentedly huge volumes, which USDA estimated at 3 million tons.
This resulted in the depression of palay-buying prices, leaving most of the country’s rice farmers impoverished.  The NFA could only buy so much, even as it upped its prices by orders of the economic managers.  How much could the castrated agency do with a P7 billion budget for palay purchases, and even if increased belatedly to P10 billion, the same could only buy a little over 500 thousand tons, equivalent to 6 million bags when milled into rice. That is equivalent to nine days of the country’s overall requirement, Philippine per capita consumption being among the highest in the world. 
But now, worry about the externalities.
China’s major rice-producing provinces are Heilongjiang in the north, Hunan, Jiangxi, Hubei (!), Jiangsu, Anhui, Sichuan, Guangdong and Guangxi.  Look at the map and realize that most of these provinces are close to Hubei.  Together, these central China provinces produce 140 million tons out of China’s total production of 208 million tons.
With CoViD 19, would you expect farmers to plant their paddy fields well enough considering the threat to their health? Hubei province alone, where the virus began, produces 20 million metric tons, equivalent to 10 percent of China’s total production, and equivalent to the Philippines’ total rice consumption needs.
Thailand is limiting its exports, preferring to export only the high-quality and high-priced jasmine.  India is cutting its exports of rice, preferring to export more of its high-priced basmati, with its farmers likewise shifting from locally consumed lower varieties to export-demanded basmati.
Many Vietnamese paddy fields have been converted to other crops over the past ten years because of stagnant prices for their staple export.
With the depression of palay farm-gate prices owing to the over-importation of the staple by the private sector last year, it is likely that many of our own palay farmers switched to other crops.  By how much, only the DA knows at this point.  Add to that the impact of strong typhoons which devastated the Mindoros and Panay, major rice-producing provinces.  That may have delayed planting.
With demand being inelastic, the 3 million tons in the hands of the private sector should be just enough for the market until the beginning of the lean months, if not earlier sold out. 
Now look at the outlook for the world market.
On top of CoVid 19’s impact on Chinese rice production, on top of India and Thailand’s self-imposed constriction of their exports of low and medium-quality rice, now comes locusts.
There is a major, major swarm of desert locusts travelling from Kenya, Ethiopia and other Horn of Africa nations to India and Pakistan.  India alone is suffering its worst hit from locust infestation in the last 60 years.  And India and Pakistan are among the world’s biggest rice exporting countries, along with Thailand and Vietnam. 
The International Grains Council is looking at high world prices.  Even the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, noted that “today, locust swarms are as big as major cities and it is getting worse by the day.”
Hopefully, those locust swarms will not migrate to China, and hope that the mountains of Tibet and Xingjiang will prevent them from invading China.
Our current secretary of agriculture, having worked as head of ICRISAT, which specializes in the semi-arid countries now affected by the locusts, knows exactly how devastating these insects can be.
There is cause for worry.  Once again, our staple food will hound our day-to-day economics in 2020.
https://manilastandard.net/opinion/columns/so-i-see-by-lito-banayo/318231/and-now-locusts.html


[Graphic News] Rice consumption dips to all-time low in 2019
Published : Feb 25, 2020 - 16:12       Updated : Feb 25, 2020 - 16:12
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South Korea’s per capita annual rice consumption fell to a record low in 2019 amid changes in diet and eating habits, data showed.

Per capita average annual rice consumption hit a fresh low of 59.2 kilograms last year, down 3 percent from a year earlier, according to data compiled by Statistics Korea.

It marked the first time for the amount to fall below the 60-kilogram threshold.

The latest figure indicates Koreans consumed around 162 grams of rice on a daily basis. (Yonhap)




Rice Prices

as on : 26-02-2020 10:31:04 AM

Arrivals in tonnes;prices in Rs/quintal in domestic market.
Arrivals
Price
Current
%
change
Season
cumulative
Modal
Prev.
Modal
Prev.Yr
%change
Rice
Lakhimpur(UP)
30.00
-14.29
1240.00
2470
2460
7.39
Anandnagar(UP)
5.40
116
136.30
2555
2550
11.09
Jambusar(Kaavi)(Guj)
1.00
NC
49.00
3300
3200
10.00
Published on February 26, 2020

Deputies approve US$29m rice value chain project

Tuesday, February 25, 2020
Legislators at the National Assembly on Friday approved the sum US$29, 800,000.00 signed between The Gambia government, Islamic Development Bank and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA). The amount is for the financing of the regional rice value chain development project in The Gambia.
Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Mambury Njie, who moved the motion said the project is designed to achieve the National Development Plan (NDP) – a target of 122,000 metric tons of clean rice to meet local consumption demand for rice (i.e. 80,000 metric tons). He added that the project will reduce importation and improve nutritional status of the growing population.
According to him, it will pave the way for private sector participation in rice production processes through community agreements that are endorsed by the government. It is also to strengthen farmers’ organisations so that they will serve as the entry point to reach farmers and to provide services and manage machinery in a sustainable manner.
Finance Minister Njie said the total project cost is estimated to be $29,800,000.00. $17,300,000.00 will be financed by the Islamic Development Bank, BADEA finance $ 10,000,000.00 and the government of The Gambia would contribute $2.500,000 towards the project.
“The Islamic Development Bank financing would come in the form of installment sale in the amount of $15,000,000.00, a loan of $2,000,000.00 and a grant of $300,000.00, whereas BADEA’s financing of $10,000,000.00 would be a loan.”
Mr. Njie mentioned that the project is a rice value chain development project that will be executed within the rural areas of the Gambia targeting over 80,000 beneficiaries mainly in Upper River Region, Central River Region north and south. “It will affect several districts and villages in the respective regions.”
“The project is adopting a multi-lateral strategic approach that is derived from the national priorities, lessons learned from previous investment and sector review and analysis. Thus, this approach is based on private sector engagement, micro financing and market mechanisms,” he said.
He added that the component will focus on land improvement that could enhance rice production and productivity. “It will include land development and rehabilitation of production infrastructure and irrigation systems.”
He further added that a total of 3,265 hectares have been targeted out of which 2000 hectares will be implemented by Arab Bank for Africa Development (BADEA) as a co-financier with 1265 hectares. “The total investment cost to implement this component is $18,652.000 which accounts for 68% of the total project cost.”
He said the other component will focus on providing market infrastructure, storage and processing facilities development as well as access to roads.
“The project will be implemented by Ministry of Agriculture, as the executing agency, the existing Central projects Coordinating Unit (CPCU) will coordinate the project implementation process and it will be equipped by a loan implementation unit that includes key dedicated project team including: project coordinator, Community Officer, Agribusiness Specialist among others to serve main functions and responsibilities of this project.”

Telangana’s foodgrain output zooms on back of bumper paddy

KV Kurmanath  Hyderabad | Updated on February 25, 2020  Published on February 25, 2020
Description: https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/agri-business/7rpso6/article25775360.ece/alternates/WIDE_435/PADDY
Thanks to a bumper paddy output, Telangana’s foodgrain production has shot up in 2019-20. According to the first Advance Estimates, the total foodgrain production would be a record 130 lakh tonnes, including 99 lakh tonnes of rice (converted from 148 lakh tonnes of paddy).
Foodgrain output showed a growth of 40 per cent over the previous year’s production of 93 lakh tonnes. The tally is more than the five-year average production of 83 lakh tonnes.
Despite a dismal start to the agricultural season, Telangana has reaped a bumper harvest this year, with paddy leading the table with a 48 per cent growth in output.
According to the estimates compiled by the government, the paddy production is pegged at 148 lakh tonnes in the kharif and rabi seasons for the year 2019-20. This is 48 per cent more than the previous year’s tally of 100 lakh tonnes.

Acreage goes up, too

The growth is attributed mostly to the increase in area under the crop. From 48 lakh acres in 2018-19, the area under paddy went up to 68.50 lakh acres, a growth of 43.50 per cent. A State government official said the increase was made possible because of a slew of irrigation projects that were taken up by the Government.
The growth in production is also attributed to increase in yields, which went up by 3.19 per cent. From 5,178 kg a hectare, it went up to 5,343 kg/ha.
“Of the total production, we estimate that the aggregate procurement would be about 45 lakh tonnes,” the official said.
The State expects a tally of 99 lakh tonnes for 2019-20 as against 67 lakh tonnes, a growth of 48 per cent.
Maize, which was grown in 14 lakh acres, showed an increase of 23 per cent at 26 lakh tonnes in 2019-20 against 21 lakh tonnes in the previous year.
Published on February 25, 2020
Description: https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/markets/commodities/6ewd0w/article30904296.ece/alternates/FREE_810/BL25-SUGAR1

Deputies approve US$29m rice value chain project


Tuesday, February 25, 2020
Legislators at the National Assembly on Friday approved the sum US$29, 800,000.00 signed between The Gambia government, Islamic Development Bank and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA). The amount is for the financing of the regional rice value chain development project in The Gambia.
Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Mambury Njie, who moved the motion said the project is designed to achieve the National Development Plan (NDP) – a target of 122,000 metric tons of clean rice to meet local consumption demand for rice (i.e. 80,000 metric tons). He added that the project will reduce importation and improve nutritional status of the growing population.
According to him, it will pave the way for private sector participation in rice production processes through community agreements that are endorsed by the government. It is also to strengthen farmers’ organisations so that they will serve as the entry point to reach farmers and to provide services and manage machinery in a sustainable manner.
Finance Minister Njie said the total project cost is estimated to be $29,800,000.00. $17,300,000.00 will be financed by the Islamic Development Bank, BADEA finance $ 10,000,000.00 and the government of The Gambia would contribute $2.500,000 towards the project.
“The Islamic Development Bank financing would come in the form of installment sale in the amount of $15,000,000.00, a loan of $2,000,000.00 and a grant of $300,000.00, whereas BADEA’s financing of $10,000,000.00 would be a loan.”
Mr. Njie mentioned that the project is a rice value chain development project that will be executed within the rural areas of the Gambia targeting over 80,000 beneficiaries mainly in Upper River Region, Central River Region north and south. “It will affect several districts and villages in the respective regions.”
“The project is adopting a multi-lateral strategic approach that is derived from the national priorities, lessons learned from previous investment and sector review and analysis. Thus, this approach is based on private sector engagement, micro financing and market mechanisms,” he said.
He added that the component will focus on land improvement that could enhance rice production and productivity. “It will include land development and rehabilitation of production infrastructure and irrigation systems.”
He further added that a total of 3,265 hectares have been targeted out of which 2000 hectares will be implemented by Arab Bank for Africa Development (BADEA) as a co-financier with 1265 hectares. “The total investment cost to implement this component is $18,652.000 which accounts for 68% of the total project cost.”
He said the other component will focus on providing market infrastructure, storage and processing facilities development as well as access to roads.
“The project will be implemented by Ministry of Agriculture, as the executing agency, the existing Central projects Coordinating Unit (CPCU) will coordinate the project implementation process and it will be equipped by a loan implementation unit that includes key dedicated project team including: project coordinator, Community Officer, Agribusiness Specialist among others to serve main functions and responsibilities of this project.”

DA chief sees rice imports to decline further

Published February 25, 2020, 10:00 PM
By MADELAINE B. MIRAFLOR
Agriculture Secretary William Dar is seeing a decline in rice imports for the year but at the same time reiterated his appeal for traders not to purchase imported rice during the dry harvest season.
In an interview, Dar told reporters that he sees rice imports further declining amid the strict issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPS-IC) to private traders. Still, he reiterated his appeal for them not to bring in imported rice during the upcoming harvest season.
“We appeal for traders not to apply for SPS-IC because dry harvest season is coming soon,” Dar said, adding that on the part of Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), permit issuance will continue to be restricted.
It was in November when the Philippine government has issued stricter set of guidelines on the issuance of SPS-IC for imported rice.
The move, which is meant to address the influx of imported rice in the country, was done in exchange for the proposal for the government to raise the tariffs slapped on imported rice as a safeguard measure for farmers.
According to Dar, the reception to this move among rice traders is “so far so good.” Regarding the existing SPS-ICs that haven’t been used since last year, he said the government is now looking to revoke them in order to avoid hoarding of permits among traders, who would sometimes use dummies just to be able bring in more cheaper imported rice.
Last year, the Philippines imported about 3 million metric tons (MT) of rice, making the country the world’s top rice importer, beating China.
As a result, palay prices have gone down, incurring as much as ₱70 billion losses among rice farmers.
“We will always strengthen the guidelines,” Dar said, adding that he is now asking BPI Executive Director George Culaste for recommendations on what to do with the unused SPS-IC.
Meanwhile, Dar said he hopes that the country’s mechanization program under Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF) will finally be implemented within the year.
Mechanization is the most crucial process in making Filipino rice farmers competitive because it will lower their production cost at the same time increase their output.
“If the fund will be given to us soon, then we will start by March,” Dar said, referring to the procurement process of new farm machinery that will be distributed to the farmers’ cooperatives that will initially benefit from the RCEF.
RCEF, which is where all the tariffs collected from imported rice should go, was supposed to have P10 billion allocation upon the implementation of Rice Tariffication Law or Republic Act (RA) 11203.
Nevertheless, Dar said the DA was already able to validate 944 farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs) and corresponding technology requirement.

How Japan Boosts Fayemi’s Rice Production Revolution in Ekiti

Description: https://storage.googleapis.com/thisday-846548948316-wp-data/wp-media/2020/02/e5619989-japanese-ambassador-in-ekiti--696x522.jpg
Victor Ogunje writes that Ekiti State has entered the league of states producing rice in commercial quantity with a recent grant from the Japanese government facilitated by a civil society organisation
The declining economic fortune of the nation and dwindling resources from the oil sector has taught the discerning chief executives of many states a good lesson. Every state of the federation is now compelled to look inwards and strengthen their local economies by fortifying and expanding the scope of economic benefits where they are identified as having comparative advantage.
Dissecting the atmospheric and edaphic nature of Ekiti, it has unquantifiable comparative benefit in agriculture. Fortunately, Governor Kayode Fayemi came with a glowing vision that would develop a unique brand for Ekiti in agriculture, for state’s economic breakthrough and for the lifting of individual farmers.
As was visible in his first term, between 2010 and 2014, Fayemi instituted some agricultural policies that changed the face of the sector. The Youth in Commercial Agriculture (YCAD), the cocoa and cassava revolution policy that was supported by the Agriculture Development Bank (ADB) and the subsidized agriculture implements were some of the areas where farmers enjoyed benefits that really improved the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the state.
Fayemi could fathom the fact that Ekiti does not enjoy the cosmopolitan effect of a blossoming population and thick industrial hub like Lagos and is also landlocked with heavy reliance on agricultural produce like; cocoa, oil palm, kola nut, plantain, banana, cashew, water melon, citrus, timber, rice, yam, cassava, cocoyam, maize, cowpea. Having realized this, the governor decided to develop a brand around those areas where all the strata of the society could benefit through partnership with the corporate bodies, civil society organisations and other interested states of the federation.
Looking at the possibilities of Ekiti production capacity, there is no crop that has brought so much fame to Ekiti like the Igbemo Rice brand. The existence of Igbemo predates the country’s amalgamation of 1914. For donkey years, its production by local farmers at subsistence level had no value added to give it better packaging despite being identified as uniquely nutritious and delicious.
The state government, however, understood that the huge capacity that could have accrued to the state was being hampered by poor credit facilities for farmers and lack of modern equipment. The government decided to bring to the fore a modern innovation that can break this barrier, reposition the Igbemo and make it the mainstay of the economy.
Many Nigerians are aware of the huge gains being savoured by Lagos and Kebbi States with their Investments in the production of LAKE Rice. The Ebonyi state economy has also been strengthened with the remodeling and repackaging of Abakaliki Rice among other brands being promoted by corporate organisations and individuals.
To achieve this task, the governor has taken advantage of the veritable window in the partial closure of land borders by the Federal Government which has curbed rice smuggling into the country to a large extent. Local farmers now have opportunities to boost their economies and make gains out of this opportunity.
Igbemo Rice may soon be accorded national recognition as the story is about to change with the giant leap being made by a civil society organization, the New Initiative for Social Development (NISD) to attract huge investment from the government of Japan to boost the capacity of local rice farmers in Ekiti State.
The NISD has entered into a pact with the Embassy of Japan in Nigeria to provide farmers in Ekiti State with modern equipment to boost rice production and make the state one of the leading rice producers in Nigeria.
The organization was presented with a cheque of $148, 209 by the Ambassador of Japan to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mr. Kikuta Yutaka.
The Japanese government through its Embassy in Nigeria is investing in the provision of power tillers and combined harvesters for rice farmers in Gbonyin Local Government Area of the state.
The grant which was facilitated by NISD is already causing excitement and a sense of fulfillment in the Ekiti State government and the local farmers to benefit from the project.
There was excitement on February 20, 2020 when the contract was signed at the Embassy of Japan in Abuja in the presence of officials of NISD, Ekiti State Government and Japanese diplomats.
The Ekiti State Government was represented by the Commissioner, Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Folorunso Olabode; Special Adviser to the Governor on Development Partnerships, Mrs. Margaret Fagboyo and Special Assistant to the Governor on Civil Society Matters, Mr. Biodun Oyeleye.
While Ambassador Kikuta signed on behalf of the Japanese Government, Mr. Martins Ogunlade, the Programme Manager of NISD signed on behalf of his agency.
According to the contract documents seen by our reporter, the donor (Government of Japan) will make available to the recipient (NISD) the grant of $148, 209 or its local currency equivalent as of the date of disbursement by March 31, 2020.The project initiated by NISD in Ekiti will be implemented in collaboration with Toyota Tsusho Corporation which will provide agricultural equipment from Yanmar Co., Ltd. and Mitsubishi Mahindra Agricultural Machinery Co. Ltd. to the farmers in Ekiti State.
Ogunlade promised that the grant would be properly and exclusively used for the purchase of products and services necessary for the execution of the project as stated in the agreement.
The NISD chief promised transparency in the disbursement of the funds as the agency would not use products and services purchased with the grant for anything other than the execution of the project, without acquiring prior written approval from the donor.
Ogunlade explained that the report would outline achieved results in the light of the original goals and objectives as stated in the application proposal for the project which was expected to include accounting report of the allocation and disbursement of the grant.
He pointed out that the provision of the facilities would boost the capacity of rice farmers in the targeted area and ensure that the staple food is made available in commercial quantity.
The Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Olabode, thanked the Japanese Embassy for investing in rice production in Ekiti State. He said Governor Fayemi appreciates the gesture.
Olabode said Ekiti needs more support from development partners to boost food security and create more job opportunities for its people.
The commissioner further promised that every equipment given to Ekiti State would be judiciously used and also gave assurance on their maintenance and sustainability.
The Special Assistant to Governor Fayemi on Civil Society, Mr. Oyeleye, said the state government’s investment drive has been yielding dividends which he noted would benefit the people and the economy.
Oyeleye said, “We really appreciate the Japanese government through their Embassy in Nigeria for supporting the civil society in Ekiti to bring development to Ekiti State.
“The support given to NISD is to assist the state government in achieving the five-pillar development agenda under agriculture and civil society has contributed to the government achieving this development.
“It’s a very great opportunity given to us by Japan for the civil society to contribute towards achieving the five pillars agenda of Mr. Governor and we are looking forward to such partnerships, this should not be a one-off.”
A rice farmer in Egbe Ekiti, also in Gbonyin Local Government, Mr. Ola Ogunmodede, heaped praises on the Japanese government and NISD for making the feat possible.
Ogunmodede said, “We have formed ourselves into cooperatives to be able to access loans and inputs and the provision of modern farming methods by the Japanese will help us realize our dreams.
“The rehabilitation of Egbe Dam by the Ekiti State government which will soon be completed is also a major boost for rice production.”
A member of Rice Growers Association in Ekiti State, Mr. Bode Lucas, urged the government of Japan and other development partners collaborating with the Ekiti State government to extend the gesture to rice farmers in other parts of the state.
Lucas said, “We appreciate what the government of Japan has done for our colleagues in Gbonyin but we have rice farmers in virtually all the local government areas in Ekiti State.
“Investment in rice production is capable of turning Ekiti State into a major rice producer that can rival Kebbi, Ebonyi and other states because what the farmers need here is support in the areas of credit facilities and state-of-the-art equipment.”
QUOTE:
Many Nigerians are aware of the huge gains being savoured by Lagos and Kebbi States with their Investments in the production of LAKE Rice. The Ebonyi state economy has also been strengthened with the remodeling and repackaging of Abakaliki Rice among other brands being promoted by corporate organisations and individuals. To achieve this task, the governor has taken advantage of the veritable window in the partial closure of land borders by the Federal Government which has curbed rice smuggling into the country to a large extent. Local farmers now have opportunities to boost their economies and make gains out of this opportunity.
Igbemo Rice may soon be accorded national recognition as the story is about to change with the giant leap being made by a civil society organization, the New Initiative for Social Development (NISD) to attract huge investment from the government of Japan to boost the capacity of local rice farmers in Ekiti State

DA-10 to brush up corn, rice projects implementation protocols

Philippine Information Agency
25 Feb 2020, 22:38 GMT+10
Description: https://cdn.bignewsnetwork.com/pia1582634312.jpg
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Feb. 25 -- After a five-day intensive audit by the Nationwide Agri-Fisheries Investment Audit Team (NAFIAT), the Department of Agriculture - Regional Field Office 10 (DA-RFO 10) management committed to strengthen its operational policies and project implementation for its Rice and Corn programs.
DA-RFO 10 OIC-Regional Executive Director Carlene C. Collado eyed for the build-up of corn and rice projects execution strategies in the coming years noting NAFIAT findings.
"The biggest room in this world is the room for self-improvement. We assure you [NAFIAT] that we will be doing our best to improve our weaknesses and further strengthen our strengths as we continuously serve our farmers in Region 10," Director Collado candidly said as he thanked the audit team's inputs.
The director assured them that the findings will be properly addressed through a concerted effort by the DA-10 management committee.
The nationwide corn and rice programs audit by NAFIAT was prompted by the media storm over improper allocation of government-granted agri machineries and infrastructure projects, prompting DA to organize a special audit team under Special Order No. 1042.
NAFIAT is primarily commissioned to audit DA mechanization programs from CY 2015-2019 to strengthen the country's agricultural modernization program focusing on two key frameworks: funds audit and physical audit.
Dr. Rosanna Marie C. Amongo of PSABE, NAFIAT sub-team 2 leader and her team rolled-out a five-day audit of DA-10 Corn and Rice Programs farm mechanization projects.
The audit was conducted by interviewing and meeting focus groups and key informants involved in the project's implementation - DA-RFO 10 key personnel, selected LGU and AFC officials, agri- machinery dealers, solar-powered irrigation system contractors, farmer associations and cooperatives.
To gather ground-level information, the audit team also visited selected farmer-beneficiaries in Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon provinces.
After comprehensive data gathering, analysis and assessment, NAFIAT came up with its audit findings and was presented to DA-RFO 10 management committee in an exit meeting on February 21, 2020 at the Marianne Suite, Cagayan de Oro City.
Aside from DA's good operational practices, NAFIAT has also observed areas to be strengthened for improved project implementation.
In her part, Regional Technical Director for Operations, Carlota S. Madriaga moved for the creation of a unified inter-division monitoring team to strategically monitor the projects implemented under the Rice and Corn programs.
DA-10 is one of the first six regions audited by NAFIAT. While the audit observations are detailed in the exit meeting, the group will be presenting consolidated recommendations to the six DA regional field offices. (DA-10)


Food Prices High, Beyond Means Of Poor Ghanaians – Says IEA

By News Desk

Description: Food Prices High, Beyond Means Of Poor Ghanaians – Says IEA
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The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has lamented that local food prices are still high and beyond the means of many people in Ghana, especially the poor.
According to IEA, many crops are still subject to seasonality and considerable price fluctuations.
The assertions of IEA are sharply in contrast to claims made by President Nana Akufo-Addo that agriculture has improved under his administration and that Ghana is no longer importing maize, and that rice imports have been reduced.
Mr. Akufo-Addo also claimed that Ghana is now a net exporter of foodstuffs and that food prices are at their lowest for decades.
However, at a press conference on Tuesday, February 25, in Accra to respond to claims made by the President in his SONA, Dr. John K. Kwakye, Director of Research, IEA, said “the fact that food accounts for 43℅ of the average Ghanaian’s monthly spending is enough evidence that food prices are still prohibitively high.”
According to him, on the whole, Ghana still has a long way to go in producing more food locally to reduce food prices and the general cost of living.
He mentioned inadequate irrigation facilities, high dominance of peasant farming, inadequate availability of high-yielding seed varieties and fertilizer, among others, as factors for low food production in Ghana.
—Daily Guide

Tax on rice imports down as shipments slumped 61.8%

By: Ben O. de Vera - Reporter / @bendeveraINQ
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:08 AM February 25, 2020
Due to the lower rice import volume, tariff collections slid by nearly a fourth to P1.71 billion as of mid-February this year, the Department of Finance (DOF) said Monday.
Citing the latest Bureau of Customs data, the DOF said in a statement that the duties collected from imported rice between Jan. 1 and Feb. 14 declined 23.1 percent from P2.22 billion a year ago.
As of mid-February, 209,320 metric tons (MT) of rice entered the country, a 61.8-percent drop from 759,810 MT during the same period last year.
Citing the BOC’s report, the DOF noted that the Rice Tariffication Law was not yet in effect at the start of last year as it was signed into law in mid-February 2019.
Republic Act No. 11203 slapped the following import duties on rice: 35 percent if rice is imported from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean); 40 percent if within the minimum access volume (MAV) of 350,000 MT from countries outside Asean, and 180 percent if above the MAV and coming from a non-Asean country.

Earmarked for RCEF

In 2019, the implementation of RA 11203 generated a total of P12.3 billion in rice import duties as the private sector imported 2.03 million MT of the Filipino staple.
Of last year’s collection, P10 billion will be automatically earmarked for the yearly Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) aimed at modernizing the sector, while the excess amount will be allocated to local farmers whose livelihood were affected by the surge in imports due to liberalized trade.
In turn, the DOF said rice retail prices already dropped by a minimum of P9 a kilo after the import quota aimed at protecting the domestic industry was lifted while importation and regulation were taken away from the state-run National Food Authority. INQ

Government to invalidate unused SPS-ICs for rice imports


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Description: Top01 091219Different prices of rice are on display at a local store in San Andres, Manila.
THE Philippines will void all unused import clearances for some 1.8 million metric tons (MMT) of rice issued last year to protect local planters who will harvest their crop starting next week.
Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar on Monday also announced that the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) will no longer issue sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPS-ICs) to farmers’ organizations that serve as dummies of unscrupulous traders.
Dar made an assurance that invalidating SPS-ICs issued in 2019 will not cause a shortfall in rice supply, as the Philippines has stocks sufficient for at least three months. Apart from this, he said 175,000 metric tons (MT) of imported rice entered the country in January.
“We will void unused SPS-ICs because we have rice inventory good for 90 to 94 days. Plus harvest is coming,” he told reporters in an interview.
The chief of the Department of Agriculture (DA) said he has instructed BPI Executive Director George Culaste to find out why there are still unused SPS-ICs, some of which were issued a few months after the effectivity of the rice trade liberalization law (RTL).
He added the government may indicate an expiration date for the SPS-ICs to force traders to bring rice into the Philippines within a specified period of time.
Data from the BPI, an attached agency of the DA, showed that there were some 1,752 unused SPS-IC at the end of 2019.  The BPI issued a total of 4,069 SPS-ICs from March 5 to December 31, 2019, for 3.63 MMT of imported rice.
The agriculture chief urged traders to desist from applying for SPS-ICs during harvest so as not to depress the farm-gate price of unhusked rice. He said the BPI may approve fewer SPS-ICs during harvest.
The enactment of Republict Act 11203, or the rice trade liberalization law, deregulated the rice industry and eased import requirements. Under the law, traders must secure SPS-ICs from the BPI prior to purchasing imported rice.

Schemes

Dar also said the government will stop issuing SPS-ICs to farmers’ cooperatives and associations that serve as dummies of unscrupulous rice traders and importers.
“We don’t want farmers’ cooperatives to be used [by unscrupulous traders] That’s a bad practice. We will not allow that. We have the list and once they come forward, we will not give them the clearance,” he said.
The DA earlier disclosed that it has identified the farmers’ organizations, particularly cooperatives, that are being used by unscrupulous traders who want to take advantage of the tax exemption privileges of coops.
Dar said the DA will strengthen its partnership with the CDA in weeding out these cooperatives.
He said he will request the CDA to submit all the financial statements of all registered cooperatives in the past three years to determine if they are capable of importing rice.
Cooperatives, farmers’ groups and associations edged out companies and traders in terms of rice imports under the new trade regime, as they cornered a total of 1 MMT of the staple at the end of 2019.
BPI data obtained and analyzed by the BusinessMirror showed that at least 120 multipurpose and farmers’ cooperatives, organizations and irrigators’ associations imported 1.043 MMT from March 5 until December 31, 2019.
The volume imported by farmers’ organizations was 28 percent higher than the 810,548.85 MT of rice imported by the 96 traders, rice millers and corporations, which included the likes of Puregold Price Club Inc. and Davao-based firm Davao San-Ei Trading Inc.
Documents obtained by the BusinessMirror showed a discrepancy between the financial capacity of some irrigators’ associations and the volume of rice they are importing (See “Farmer groups ‘top rice importers’–are they?,” in the BusinessMirror, November 21, 2019).
Image Credits: Nonie Reyes



Co-ops, groups top rice importers under RTL

By
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COOPERATIVES, farmers’ groups and associations edged out companies and traders in terms of rice imports under the new trade regime, as they cornered a total of 1 million metric tons (MMT) of the staple at the end of 2019.
Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) data obtained and analyzed by the BusinessMirror showed that at least 120 multipurpose and farmers’ cooperatives, organizations and irrigators’ associations imported 1.043 MMT from March 5 until December 31, 2019. The rice trade liberalization law (RTL) which deregulated the industry took effect on March 5, 2019.
The volume imported by farmers’ organizations was 28 percent higher than the 810,548.85 MT of rice imported by the 96 traders, rice millers and corporations, which included the likes of Puregold Price Club Inc. and Davao-based firm Davao San-Ei Trading Inc.
BPI data showed that the total volume of rice that entered the country under the new trade regime by end-2019 was at 1.853 MMT, or half of the total applied volume of 3.632 MMT.
Rice importers used a total of 2,317 sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances to bring the staple into the Philippines out of the 4,069 total SPS-ICs issued to them from March 5 to December 31, 2019, according to BPI data.
During the 10-month period, farmers’ organizations used 1,134 SPS-ICs to import rice. The top rice-importing farmers’ group during the period was San Jacinto Poblacion Farmers Consumers Cooperative, which brought in 40,392 MT of rice. It was followed by Timmaguab II Primary Multi-Purpose Cooperative, which purchased 36,720 MT of rice imports, BPI data showed.
Davao-based firm Davao San-Ei  Trading Inc. led all rice importers during the period with 64,636 MT, followed by publicly listed firm Puregold Price Club Inc. with 63,854.83 MT.

Investigation

Currently, farmers’ groups are under the scrutiny of the government after the Department of Agriculture (DA) initiated an investigation into cooperatives and associations that are supposedly being used as dummies or fronts by unscrupulous traders who want to take advantage of their tax-exemption incentives.
Documents obtained by the BusinessMirror showed a discrepancy between the financial capacity of some irrigators’ associations and the volume of rice they are importing (See “Farmer groups ‘top rice importers’–are they?,” in the BusinessMirror, November 21, 2019).
Bureau of Customs data compiled and analyzed by the BusinessMirror showed that the country’s total rice imports in 2019 reached a record-high 2.98 MMT. At least P14.7 billion in tariffs were collected from importers.
However, preliminary Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data obtained by the BusinessMirror showed that rice imports last year reached 2.76 MMT, which was 38 percent higher than the nearly 2 MMT imported in 2018.
The Philippines overtook China as the world’s top rice buyer in 2019 as the deregulation of the rice industry drove its total staple imports to record-high levels.
The United States Department of Agriculture expects the Philippines to remain as the top rice importer in the world this year as the country’s purchases are projected to reach 2.5 MMT despite the waning appetite of traders for the staple.

DA chief sees rice imports to decline further

Published February 25, 2020, 10:00 PM
By MADELAINE B. MIRAFLOR
Agriculture Secretary William Dar is seeing a decline in rice imports for the year but at the same time reiterated his appeal for traders not to purchase imported rice during the dry harvest season.
In an interview, Dar told reporters that he sees rice imports further declining amid the strict issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPS-IC) to private traders. Still, he reiterated his appeal for them not to bring in imported rice during the upcoming harvest season.
“We appeal for traders not to apply for SPS-IC because dry harvest season is coming soon,” Dar said, adding that on the part of Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), permit issuance will continue to be restricted.
It was in November when the Philippine government has issued stricter set of guidelines on the issuance of SPS-IC for imported rice.
The move, which is meant to address the influx of imported rice in the country, was done in exchange for the proposal for the government to raise the tariffs slapped on imported rice as a safeguard measure for farmers.
According to Dar, the reception to this move among rice traders is “so far so good.” Regarding the existing SPS-ICs that haven’t been used since last year, he said the government is now looking to revoke them in order to avoid hoarding of permits among traders, who would sometimes use dummies just to be able bring in more cheaper imported rice.
Last year, the Philippines imported about 3 million metric tons (MT) of rice, making the country the world’s top rice importer, beating China.
As a result, palay prices have gone down, incurring as much as ₱70 billion losses among rice farmers.
“We will always strengthen the guidelines,” Dar said, adding that he is now asking BPI Executive Director George Culaste for recommendations on what to do with the unused SPS-IC.
Meanwhile, Dar said he hopes that the country’s mechanization program under Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF) will finally be implemented within the year.
Mechanization is the most crucial process in making Filipino rice farmers competitive because it will lower their production cost at the same time increase their output.
“If the fund will be given to us soon, then we will start by March,” Dar said, referring to the procurement process of new farm machinery that will be distributed to the farmers’ cooperatives that will initially benefit from the RCEF.
RCEF, which is where all the tariffs collected from imported rice should go, was supposed to have P10 billion allocation upon the implementation of Rice Tariffication Law or Republic Act (RA) 11203.
Nevertheless, Dar said the DA was already able to validate 944 farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs) and corresponding technology requirement.

Land border closure: A necessary evil?

Published February 25, 2020
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In August 2019, Nigerian President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Retd.), gave orders for the closure of the country’s land borders across West Africa to check the uncontrolled and seemingly uncontrollable activities of smugglers. Nigeria’s nearest neighbour, the Republic of Benin, offers the most notorious avenue for smugglers of anything from vehicles to agricultural products. With a population of a little over six million people, Benin’s economy thrives on huge imports from Europe and around the world. It is one of the largest importers of goods on the African continent. But that is not the whole story.
About 90 per cent of the goods imported into Benin are not for domestic consumption. They are for onward export into Nigeria – tariff free as it happens. Of particular concern to Nigeria is the problem of rice smuggling into the country, which had almost crippled local production of the product. Local rice producers had experienced continued depression for the last 30 years due to the saturation of the market with cheap rice, especially (though not exclusively) from Thailand.
The Goodluck Jonathan administration had started to reverse this trend by aggressively pushing for increased rice production and offering subsidies to local farmers across the country. Rice production across the country had, in fact, started on the upward trend by the time the Muhammadu Buhari administration took over in 2015, but smuggling through Nigeria’s land borders continued to hamper the much vaunted growth in the industry, hence, the drastic and sudden decision to shut down the land borders. Is this an act of good neighbourliness? Is this the action of a good “big brother”?
 Conversely, is it also an act of good neighbourliness for the Republic of Benin and others to push into Nigeria goods that are desired by Nigerians, even if through smuggling? Can our neighbours’ economies survive without the smuggling of goods into the largest market in Africa? Even more crucially, can the Nigerian economy itself survive without the smuggled items?
Where there is an option, locally, for a banned product, then, it makes sense. But where there is little or no alternative, it creates artificial scarcity capable of driving up inflation, and stifling growth.
Nigeria’s capacity to produce rice is not strong enough to keep up with current demand once smuggling is taken out of the equation. Question is, why smuggle the item at all? Why not come through legitimate ports? The answer is that the high tariffs on rice importation do not make it economic for the poor smugglers, on average incomes, at the lower end of the economic ladder. Also, to be frank, certain elements within the Nigeria Custom Service have vested interests in the smuggling business, as they use it to line their own pockets. It is called bribery and kickbacks. Rice is the most in-demand staple food that millions of Nigerians are hooked onto. Shut out the smuggling bit and its market price goes up exponentially because of the country’s low capacity to keep up with demand. Nigerian consumers are effectively held hostage by the local producers of rice in that instance. Relent on smuggling and local capacity to produce the item at a competitive price becomes weak. The capacity may even disappear altogether. What does  good neighbourliness require in this see-saw scenario? Investigate the causes of smuggling and explore the mechanisms for preventing it from both sides of the border or set up a committee to investigate the border closures? This latter option would be tantamount to dealing with the symptoms rather than the cause of the problem. But, apparently, this is exactly what the Nigerian government has signed off on. Would you believe?
The decision to set up a committee “to study and make a full report on the closure of Nigerian land borders” was made at a side event, right in the middle of the meeting of the 33rd African Union Summit in Ethiopia last Sunday January 9th 2020.
According to Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema, the President of Burkina Faso, Marc Christian Kabore, was charged with the task of undertaking a full study of the situation and making a report to enable the AU to take a decision on the matter. No deadline has been set for the submission of the report. I am sorry to say this, but this is not the action of a regional power. It is the action  of a supine regional leader. Why is Nigeria’s foreign minister acquiescing to an investigation, by smaller neighbours, of the Federal Government’s decision to close the land borders when the neighbours should be investigating their own complicity in the smuggling operations, which prompted the closures in the first place?
The report, whenever it is submitted, will obviously show how the border closure has impacted negatively on the economies of the region and how it was ill-conceived but understandable, etc.
The real problem of the inability and unwillingness of Nigeria’s neighbours to play fair and not keep dumping contraband goods on Nigerians will be toned down, if not swept under the carpet. There will be a wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed commitment to redouble efforts at monitoring and eliminating smuggling, but nothing will be resolved. This is yet another policy blunder by the foreign ministry, I am afraid.
The terms of reference for such an investigation ought to have emphasised smuggling and illegal dumping of goods on Nigeria and what to do to stop it. It is a day light from investigating “Nigeria’s decision to close its land borders”. This is international diplomacy readers. Yes, Article 3 (2) of ECOWAS Treaty (1975) aims to, amongst others; “liberalise trade by the abolition of customs and duties on imports and exports among Member States, and removal of obstacles to the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital….”.That said, Article 41 of the same Treaty permits Nigeria to restrict imports from neighbouring states on grounds of national security, as long as this is not deliberately aimed at restricting the legitimate flow of trade.
In addition, Article 42 of the Treaty is pretty clear on “dumping” of goods on one another: “Member State undertakes to prohibit the practice of dumping goods within the Community”. The appraisal of this particular provision would have provided the President of Burkinabe with a more useful task for his committee to engage with. After all, a person was inflicted with a disease by a foreign agent, you now set up a committee to look into the type of medication the victim is applying to cure himself in order to measure its impact on the agent. Give us a break, please!
Copyright PUNCH.

https://businessmirror.com.ph/2020/02/24/co-ops-groups-top-rice-importers-under-rtl/

Rice imports tax collection down by 23%

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Description: The private sector has urged the government to enforce safeguards on rice importation amid the continuing decrease in the price of unhusked rice or palay since the Rice Tariffication Law was implemented. PNAThe Bureau of Customs recorded a total of 2019,320 metric tons (MT) of rice from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14 this year. This is 61.8 percent lower than the 759,810 MT brought into the country during the same period in 2019, when the tariffication law was not yet in effect. PNA
COLLECTIONS of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) from duties on rice imports fell by 23.1 percent as of mid-February, the Department of Finance (DOF) reported Monday.
Data released by the DOF showed that BOC collections from rice imports of private traders fell to P1.71 billion from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14 this year from the P2.22 billion in 2018.
President Rodrigo Duterte in February 2019 signed the Rice Tariffication Law, which liberalized the entry of imported rice into the Philippines.
Effective March 2019, the Philippines allowed the unlimited importation of rice as long as traders secure a phytosanitary permit from the Bureau of Plant Industry and pay the 35 percent tariff for shipments from neighbors in Southeast Asia.
According to the DOF, the BOC recorded a total of 2019,320 metric tons (MT) of rice from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14 this year.
This is 61.8 percent lower than the 759,810 MT brought into the country during the same period in 2019, when the tariffication law was not yet in effect.
“BOC collections from rice imports of private traders since the enactment of RA 11203 in March 2019 will benefit palay growers as such revenues are earmarked for the annual P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund,” the DOF said.
The RCEF was mandated to help rice farmers in the face of unrestricted flow of imported rice into the country. The P10-billion fund includes P5 billion for farm mechanization, and P3 billion to procure seedlings.(GMA News)
DA to void unused rice import clearances
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - February 25, 2020 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture is bent on canceling the existing sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPSIC) of those who failed to bring in the volume they applied for to prevent palay (unhusked rice) prices from declining.
“We have enough rice. We have inventory good for 90 to 94 days plus the harvest is coming,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar.
“There are new permits. Last month, about 175,000 MT of imports came and we expect it to be the same in February. We expect a decline in March and April as the harvest season begins,” Dar said.
Data from the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) showed that 4,069 SPSIC were issued as of the end of 2019, equivalent to 3.63 million MT. However, only 2,317 SPSIC arrived,  equivalent to 1.85 million MT.
This means that about 1,700 SPSIC, equivalent to 1.78 million MT were not used. There are 544 registered importers listed under the BPI.
“I already sent my memo to BPI to analyze why those who have been issued SPSIC until middle of last year failed to bring in those,” Dar said.
“We would like to strengthen the guidelines. There should be a timeline on the arrival of shipments,” he said.
Dar is appealing to traders to not apply in the meantime while the harvest season is ongoing.
USGC Helps Feed Supplier Start Selling DDGS In Southern Mexico
By U.S. Grains Council | February 25, 2020
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Southern Mexico has a new supplier of U.S. dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS), thanks the U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC’s) work to demonstrate why DDGS is a good fit for end-users in the region and to connect an interested company with U.S. exporters.
Promexa is a rice processing company located in the port of Veracruz. The company imports rice from the United States to Mexico through vessels originating in New Orleans and then sells its rice bran to poultry and cattle farmers nearby. In early 2019, the chief executive officer from the company contacted the Council’s Mexico staff with interest to buy and sell DDGS as a way to expand their feed ingredient offerings.
“The volumes of DDGS the company was interested in handling were an easy fit to include in combo shipments from the United States,” said Javier Chavez, USGC marketing specialist in Mexico. “Having experience importing rice from the United States and an existing customer base in the feeder cattle and poultry industries made the company a great contact to explore adding DDGS to their product line.”
Chavez responded by sending information from the USGC's "DDGS User Handbook," a list of U.S.-based DDGS suppliers who operate in Veracruz and – most importantly – the results of DDGS feeding trials conducted in the area.
The Council has conducted a series of successful feeding trials in southern Mexico in recent years. A key component of these programs is introducing future customers to suppliers, resulting in the development of increased capacity of end-users and encouraging more suppliers to start offering DDGS.
“Trial partners are finding that beef cattle fed DDGS have better average daily gains compared with commercial feed alone, and the cost per kilogram of grain was lower,” Chavez said. “These results demonstrate that DDGS is a key ingredient that can complement traditional production practices and improve overall farmer profitability at the same time.”
A salesman from Promexa attended some of these trial presentations to learn even more about DDGS and make new business connections for his company. USGC consultants in the region have worked directly with the company in the field to provide additional support as they started to market DDGS.
Mexico is already the largest buyer of U.S. DDGS – purchasing 2.02 million metric tons in the 2018/2019 marketing year, valued at nearly $416 million. Even with this large overall market, there is still significant untapped potential for DDGS, particularly in the southern part of Mexico. Coupled with expansions at the port of Veracruz, which will be one of the largest ports in Latin America when those projects are completed, the Council’s work with Promexa is well-timed to take advantage of these infrastructure improvements and new interest in DDGS from regional end-users.
By September 2019, Promexa had already imported its first 5,000 tons of U.S. DDGS, sold to poultry producers who had previously purchased rice bran. When Chavez met with the company to solidify cooperation on promoting DDGS, the company only had 650 tons of that original purchase left to sell. Promexa later purchased a second shipment of 5,000 tons.
Building on that success, Promexa formed a new company in December 2019 – Feed Derivatives and Grains (FDG) – which now markets U.S. DDGS, corn and soybean meal. The company is marketing a third shipment of 5,000 tons of U.S. DDGS purchased by Promexa in December 2019. The new venture is also working with the Council to further develop markets for U.S. DDGS to cattle and dairy producers in southern Mexico.
“The company was very interested in our work and understood how we could work together,” Chavez said. “Their foray into this market was very timely and the company is an ideal supplier for our promotion work in southern Mexico.”

Dummy Inc.



The chief aim of cooperatives, according to the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), is to help improve the quality of life of their members. Co-ops can do this by providing goods and services to their members and by increasing their income, savings and purchasing power. The importance of cooperatives in assisting the State usher in economic development, particularly in the countryside, is underscored by the fact that an agency was created to promote their viability and growth. 
There are 26,000 registered co-ops engaged in various undertakings in the Philippines. The most popular types of cooperatives are credit co-ops (which promote and undertake savings and lending services); consumer co-ops (which procure and distribute commodities to members and nonmembers); producers’ co-ops; and service co-ops. These co-ops enjoy a number of privileges, including exemptions from all national, city, provincial, municipal, or barangay taxes for those with accumulated reserves and undivided net savings of not more than P10 million.
These tax exemption privileges, according to the CDA, are what attracted unscrupulous traders to use certain co-ops as dummies for importing rice under the new trade scheme (See, “CDA presses overhaul of rice import scheme,” in the BusinessMirror, February 14, 2020). These tax exemptions are particularly tempting to those who do not want to incur additional costs as rice imports are now slapped a 35-percent tariff. At $360 per metric ton plus the 35-percent tariff, a trader or group will have to spend a
minimum of P24.3 million to import 1,000 MT of rice. 
Sources informed this newspaper that farmers’ co-ops serve as fronts of institutions or firms that wanted to avail themselves of tax exemptions (See, “Pre- and post-rice trade liberalization law, big traders gaming farmer groups,” in the BusinessMirror, October 31, 2019). These co-ops earn a certain percentage or a specific amount for every ton of rice brought into the Philippines under their name. While this arrangement allows co-ops to earn, it also enables unscrupulous players to dodge payment of correct taxes and duties.
The law does not prohibit co-ops from importing rice, but their increasing involvement in the rice trade following the enactment of Republic Act 11203 could rob government of much-needed revenue. Shipments that are not meant for their members and are channeled instead to their financiers could cause local rice inventory to swell and pull down farm-gate prices of unmilled rice. The increasing involvement of co-ops in the rice trade could also spell doom for their members who are badly in need of their services. 
The government must fast-track its investigation so it could identify the financiers of co-ops who are gaming the current rice trade regime. These cheats must not be allowed to profit from local planters, who have already lost billions of pesos due to the drop in farm-gate price of unmilled rice (See “Planters lose P61.77 billion due to rice price drop,” in the BusinessMirror, November 15, 2019)If these traders want to sell imported rice, they must do so legally. The government must put a stop to their despicable practice of using co-ops as dummies in an effort to maximize earnings by not paying the correct taxes.


Ag Negotiator Highlights 2020 Game Plan on Trade 

WASHINGTON, DC -- The Trump Administration's chief ag negotiator Ambassador Gregg Doud kicked off the 2020 Government Affairs Conference yesterday afternoon with remarks that energized the more than 100 rice industry representatives here from across the country ready to fan out for meetings with Members of Congress and agency offices.

Doud has made several trips to rice country in recent years, both to the mid-south and California, and has traveled extensively throughout the world, often accompanying his boss, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Doud's remarks focused on the U.S.-China Phase One agreement, which includes commitments by China to purchase U.S. rice.  He also talked about the importance of a level playing field in trade, citing wins at the World Trade Organization against China and hinting at more cases on the way.  He also discussed future trade negotiations with the United Kingdom, Japan, the European Union, and Kenya.

"We were encouraged by Ambassador Doud's talk as he really laid out the Administration's game plan for the next 10 months, explaining things from a farmer's perspective and helping us understand some of the challenges they face as negotiators," said USA Rice Chair Charley Mathews, Jr.  "Many of us have had the opportunity to interact with Ambassador Doud before, and this type of continued, candid access makes our visits to Washington really worthwhile.  We appreciate him coming to our meeting and his staff's willingness to meet with us, too."


The next green revolution for rice


Wednesday, 26 February, 2020
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Description: The next green revolution for rice
Researchers at the University of Oxford and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have discovered a gene that improves the yield and fertiliser use efficiency of rice.
A ‘Green Revolution’ in the late-20th century led to significant increases in global grain yields of rice and other cereals; it was fuelled by increased fertiliser use and high-yielding dwarfed Green Revolution Varieties (GRVs) that are still used today. GRVs have a higher number of grain-bearing branches (‘tillers’) per plant, which are enhanced by increased nitrogen fertiliser use. However, fertilisers can be expensive, and can also cause environmental damage. Researchers have discovered a gene that can help develop new GRVs that combine increased tiller number and grain yield with reduced nitrogen use, to help reach a global sustainable agriculture goal.
“This study is a prime example of how pursuing fundamental plant science objectives can lead rapidly to potential solutions to global challenges. It discovers how plants coordinate their growth in response to soil nitrogen availability, then shows how that discovery can enable breeding strategies for sustainable food security and future new green revolutions,” Professor Harberd said.
The study, published as the cover story of the journal Science, was led by Professor Xiangdong Fu from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology and Professor Nicholas Harberd from the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Oxford. Researchers identified a rice gene that responds to nitrogen and increases the accumulation of a protein called NGR5 in plant cells. Nitrogen-stimulated NGR5 accumulation changes the structure of genes that inhibit tiller growth, thereby increasing the numbers of yield-enhancing tillers.
“Discovering how nitrogen stimulates tiller growth was exciting in itself. But our discovery was particularly exciting because NGR5 controls the activity (via a mechanism known as chromatin modulation) of multiple genes in the rice genome, genes likely responsible for many different rice responses to soil nitrogen in addition to tiller growth,” Professor Harberd said.
Description: https://production-ems.s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/assets/343032/web_image_article/Rice-picture.jpg
Soil nitrogen promotes rice branching. Nitrogen fertilisers (High N, right) increase the number of rice plant flowering branches (compared with Low N, left), thus boosting grain yield. The researchers have now discovered the underlying gene that controls this nitrogen-responsive increase in branch number. Image credit: Kun Wu/Xiangdong Fu, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
GRVs also increase tiller numbers by accumulating another branch-promoting protein called DELLA — an accumulation that is reduced by the plant hormone gibberellin (GA). The study revealed that GA also reduces NGR5 accumulation, and that tiller growth is the product of complex interactions between BGR5 and DELLA proteins.
“We next reasoned that further increase in the accumulation of NGR5 might increase tiller number and yield with reduced fertiliser use. To our delight, we found that increasing NGR5 accumulation caused an increase in both tiller number and grain yield of a current elite rice GRV, especially at low fertiliser levels,” Professor Harberd said.
Researchers say NGR5 could become a major target for plant breeders in enhancing crop yield and fertiliser use efficiency, to achieve global grain yield increases at a reduced environmental cost.
Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/WR.LILI

When engineers do good

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:04 AM February 25, 2020
Engineering is a profession I actually found myself seriously thinking I should have pursued instead, at a time I was about to complete my Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, major in Agricultural Economics, at the University of the Philippines-Los BaƱos. Having studied at the Philippine Science High School, I was among those who strayed off from a career path in “hard” science, as our mentors apparently envisaged for us, going instead into the social sciences. An engineering course and career would have fulfilled that, but the pull in that direction came a bit too late for me to redirect my career without substantial cost and disruption.
Not that I regret being an economist. I’ve seen too many engineers, and scientists in general, miss looking at the economics of their inventions, then wonder why the product of their hard work has remained in the pages of scientific journals, or stuck in prototypes, rather than used and adopted. But neither can we economists claim to have all the answers. To my mind, it is when engineering knowledge and economic intuition come together that the product of an engineer’s mind truly helps uplift human lives.
One can certainly say that with the Bravura
Roasting Machine developed by engineer Ruel M. Mojica, reputed to be the cheapest coffee-roasting machine in the market worldwide. But cheap need not mean lacking in sophistication. Dr. Mojica’s machine is described as the first-ever vertical coffee roaster, itself an innovation that permits more even roasting, and is driven by a microcontroller that permits automatic operation. His invention was motivated by his observation that coffee farmers—which his very own parents were—could receive far higher incomes if they would not stop at selling raw coffee beans, but add value to their farm product. Roasting, according to him, is the single most value-adding operation in coffee production. Indeed, coffee farmers now using his machine have raised their incomes by at least 50 percent.
Similarly, Dr. Michael Gragasin’s invention of a compact corn mill and impeller rice mill makes the crucial value-adding operation of milling palay into rice widely accessible to farmers, in a country where rice farmers’ incomes place them among the country’s poor. An all too common scene in rice-growing areas is the stark contrast between the humble homes of farmers and the palatial houses of the millers and traders who buy their produce, suggesting lopsided gains in the rice value chain. Rice farmers traditionally sell their palay at low farmgate prices to commercial-scale millers either directly or via traders, receiving the least net income in the value chain, often barely able to recover production costs. Gragasin’s mill, ranging in cost from only P28,000 to P350,000 (vs. traditional mills costing P1-3 million each), can be manufactured domestically and use locally available spare parts, and are thus within reach of groups of farmers. Needing less power to function, his mills also bring down the costs of rice production, and could eventually lower the price Filipinos pay for the staple.
Mojica and Gragasin are among four latest recipients of the Manila Water Foundation Prize for Engineering Excellence, honoring engineers with notable contributions to solve development challenges in water, sanitation, environment, and sustainability. Another awardee is engineer Alexis Belonio, whose rice husk gasifier stove turns the ubiquitous waste product into a safe, smokeless fuel that can substitute for liquefied petroleum gas in household cooking. Foregoing royalties, Belonio’s design was made freely accessible to small manufacturers, and has found its way into other countries like Vietnam and India. The fourth awardee is Dr. Francis Aldrine Uy, inventor of the USHER (Universal Structural Health Evaluation and Recording) System, a device that allows constant monitoring of the structural integrity of buildings and bridges. Occupants of buildings now using USHER can feel more secure as it minimizes their vulnerability to earthquakes.
Thank God for engineers, especially those with a keen economic sense. They make life better for the rest of us.
cielito.habito@gmail.com


Beware of economic saboteurs over border closure, group tells Buhari

By Abdulganiyu Alabi, Kaduna
26 February 2020   |   4:13 am Description: https://guardian.ng/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Biobarakuma-Degi-2-281x158.jpg
A Non-Governmental Organisation, the Social Integrity Network (SINET) has faulted report credited to Director General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, (MAN), Segun Ajayi-Kadiri, in which he described the border closure as unsustainable.
The group expressed disappointment that in spite of his knowledge that influx of foreign products would affect local manufacturers, Ajayi-Kadiri wanted the Federal Government to open the nation’s borders at the expense of the Nigerian economy.
In a statement by its National Coordinator, Ibrahim Issah, it alerted the Federal Government to a possible collapse of several local rice factories, which would eventually frustrate the nation’s economic diversification drive, insisting that the President should beware of economic saboteurs.
Arguing that banks might also be negatively affected if foreign rice continued to flood the nation’s markets, Issah noted that President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointment of economic experts into his cabinet has further cleared Nigerians’ doubt on salient financial and economic matters.
SINET commended the Federal Government for adopting policies capable of overhauling the nation’s economic fortunes amidst numerous global challenges, stressing, “Government’s recent decision on treasury bills has clearly shown that the era of looting tax payers’ money was over in the country.”
The group also raised the alarm over attempts by some groups to mount pressure on the President to re-open the Nigerian borders, saying that does not reflect the overall interest of Nigerians and that the move was sponsored by a few economic saboteurs.
“While the nation is counting the gains of border closure, especially in economic recovery, revenue generation and reduction of insurgency, it is sad that some unpatriotic fellows want the policy reversed.
“With the border closure, many industries have commenced operations, thereby providing more jobs for Nigerians, while the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has invested heavily on local manufacturers by providing them loans.
“Unfortunately, with the efforts of rice farmers and rice millers towards ensuring that the nation remains self-sufficient in rice production, it is surprising that foreign rice are already getting back into the country,” he said.
He maintained that the effect of such unwholesome moves by some cartel would have negative impact on the nation’s economic diversification drive, stressing that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and CBN recently rolled out various economic gains of border closure, while influx of arms and ammunitions has reduced drastically.
Insisting that the Federal Government should extend the border closure, as the economy was not ready for distraction, SINET, however, advised government to engage the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) to be checking warehouses that may have foreign rice and impose sanctions on culprits in the collective interest of Nigerians.

Customs intercepts 400 bags of smuggled rice concealed under water melons

Yesterday at 1:35 PM
The Comptroller, Customs Federal Operation Unit Zone “B” Kaduna, Mustapha Sarkin-Kebbi, on Tuesday said 400 bags of smuggled rice and 600 bags of fertiliser had been intercepted in the zone in the last two weeks.
Description: Customs intercepts 400 bags of smuggled rice concealed under water melons. [NAN]Customs intercepts 400 bags of smuggled rice concealed under water melons. [NAN]
BusinessInsider USA Images

Sarkin-Kebbi sid that the unit’s operatives attached to Ilorin/Jebba/Mokwa axis discovered new antics deployed by smugglers to evade arrest in carrying out their nefarious activities.

“Large quantity of smuggled rice were criminally sandwiched between watermelons in two trucks, which further examination revealed were 400 bags of 50kg rice each.”
Sarkin-Kebbi said this in a statement signed by Mr Abubakar Usman, the command’s Public Relations Officer, and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Kaduna.
“Our officers arrested two trucks laden with 140 units of refurbished gas cylinders smuggled into the country from Niger Republic.
“Another truck load of NPK fertilizer was arrested along Jibia/Agangaro axis of Katsina State and after 100 per cent physical examination, the vehicle was found to contain 600 bags of NPK 15-15-15 fertilizer smuggled into the country, ” he said.
Description: Customs intercepts 400 bags of smuggled rice concealed under water melonsCustoms intercepts 400 bags of smuggled rice concealed under water melons
According to Sarkin-Kebbi, NPK 15-15-15 fertilizer falls under the import prohibition list order and bringing in such product violates section 46 of Customs Excise and Management Act (CEMA) CAP C45 LFN 2004.
The Comptroller said that any goods imported, landed or unloaded contrary to any prohibition shall be forfeited as stated in the section.
He said that other items seized where 200 pieces of used tyres, 90 bales of second hand clothings and 322 kegs of vegetable oil along Katsina/Kano axis.
The comptroller said that the unit had resolved to adopt more strategies to vigorously combat smuggling activities in the zone.


KVK organized three-day training programme under APART conducted in Tezpur

February 25, 2020 11:02 am
Description: KVK
A Correspondent
Tezpur: KVK, Sonitpur organized a three-day training programme on ‘Resource Efficient Crop Establishment Method, Integrated Pest, and Disease Management on Rice’ in collaboration with International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) at its Napam campus from February 20 to February 22.
The training programme was inaugurated by Dr. Pramod Chandra Deka, Head, KVK, Sonitpur. He welcomed the farmers and dignitaries on the occasion. Pankaj Barman, Junior Researcher, IRRI, delivered the lecture on quality seed production and scientific mat nursery preparation of rice.  Vivek Kumar, a Specialist, IRRI, acted as a resource person who presented the technical knowhow of different agricultural pieces of machinery and tools.  Vivek also demonstrated to the farmers about the functioning of some of the pieces of machinery and tools provided to the KVK, Sonitpur under the APART project. Dr. Bikram Borkotoki, Junior Scientist, AICRP, Dryland, Biswanath College, AAU also acted as a resource person who delivered a lecture on nutrient management. Dr. Borkotoki also discussed soil fertility and the importance of soil health cards.
More than 30 farmers from different parts of the district and all officials of KVK, Sonitpur attended the programme. On the last day, a short interactive session was also held between the farmers, APART staff, IRRI scientists and scientists of KVK, Sonitpur regarding different aspects of agriculture and the programme was concluded with a certificate distribution ceremony.


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