Tuesday, April 21, 2020

21st April,2020 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

Sustenance in the midst of lockdown
Afshan SubohiUpdated April 20, 2020
Description: Currently, the country has sufficient stocks of wheat, rice, sugar, pulses, edible oil, onions, tomatoes, potatoes and greens besides cattle stocks. — Reuters/File
Currently, the country has sufficient stocks of wheat, rice, sugar, pulses, edible oil, onions, tomatoes, potatoes and greens besides cattle stocks. — Reuters/File
THE future depends on the Covid-19 trajectory, but the good news is that Pakistan will not run out of food anytime soon. Thanks to the nature and the farming community, Pakistan is food secure for now.
Experts believe that if the health crisis exacerbates, the risk to food security can only be mitigated by radical plans to divert the requisite resources to support the rural economy.
Currently, the country has sufficient stocks of wheat, rice, sugar, pulses, edible oil, onions, tomatoes, potatoes and greens besides cattle stocks. The government has banned the export of wheat and wheat products, pulses and onions for a year. This will also serve to ensure the price stability in Ramazan when food demand spikes.
According to dependable sources in the Ministry of Food Security and Research, the wheat harvest is good and should be sufficient for a year. Stocks of imported cooking oil can last for seven months. Stocks of pulses will give a cover of over a month. Supplies of fruits and vegetables are normal with no sign of stress so far.
Some progressive farmers from Sindh and Punjab noted a dip in demand for fruits and vegetables in cities. The lockdown, they said over the phone, has affected perishable horticulture products the most. They called for enhanced trading through smartphones and a settlement through e-payments so that only truckers would need to travel. “The government needs to guarantee the availability of agricultural inputs at affordable rates to skirt disruptions in food supplies,” a Sindh farmer said.
‘The government must ensure the availability of agricultural inputs at affordable rates to skirt disruptions in food supplies’
Agriculture experts are worried about mid-sized farmers who are said to be bearing the brunt of the lockdown. They are facing difficulties in acquiring farm inputs and selling their produce. Experts urged policymakers to ensure the well-being of the farming community for steady grains and greens supplies. “Much will depend on access to quality seeds and affordable fertiliser and pesticides,” a retired agriculturist noted.
With the textile industry in trouble, demand prospects for cotton are not bright. Besides, a greater interest from the government in food crops can nudge farmers in the cotton belt to switch to food crops in the Kharif season for which sowing has started and will continue till June. Rice, sugar cane, cotton, maize, moong, mash, bajra and jowar are key Kharif crops.
In the absence of the geographical mapping of food stocks, the extent of coordination among the provinces is important. When contacted, the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination appeared to be dormant. Its minister, Dr Fahmida Mirza, attributed the state of inactivity to the reluctance of the provinces. She said the provinces are opting for independent positioning instead of complementing the federal policies in the current difficult phase.
“A holistic approach is required for food security. The provinces should bring to table all the relevant data and draft proposals to ensure the sufficient stocks of essentials to feed the population of the entire country. Collectively, they can streamline mechanisms and pen policy advice for the federal government.
“Unfortunately, the provinces have pushed their independence post-18th Amendment a bit too far and the value of consultation is lost on them,” she told Dawn.
The reports about mob attacks on grain depots in some parts of the country were brushed aside as isolated incidents by government functionaries in Islamabad. “The issue, as far as we know, was that of affordability. The high anxiety level amongst people who lost livelihoods to the lockdown caused commotions at some places,” said a close watcher of the commodity market in Punjab.
Fakhar Imam, who assumed the charge of federal food minister in place of Khusro Bakhtiar in a cabinet reshuffle early this month, was too busy to make time to share his views. But the hierarchy of his ministry was hopeful that Pakistan would ride out the challenge of feeding its population despite economic distress.
Dr Javed Humayun, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, told Dawn that the ministry is closely tracking, monitoring and reporting the updates on food supplies to the command and control operation centre on a daily basis.
“It is our primary mandate to keep an eye on all the four components of food security — availability of stocks, accessibility through transportation from farm gates to the market, utilisation based on ensuring minimum quality standards and stability in the market based on affordable prices. We are at it to the best of our capacity beating all odds.”
“Based on the assumption of 115-kilogram requirement of wheat per person annually, the average yearly requirement is about 27m tonnes, about the same as the country’s production. To provide a buffer in emergencies/shocks and check market manipulation, the federal and provincial governments maintain their own buffer stocks of the staple grain besides the Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation Ltd (Passco) operations.
As the harvesting of wheat started last month, the Economic Coordination Committee decided to acquire 8.25m tonnes of wheat collectively. Punjab has been asked to buy 4.5m, Sindh 1.4m, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 0.45m, Balochistan 0.1m and Passco 1.8m tonnes,” he told Dawn by phone from Islamabad.
“With the threat of Covid-19 spreading to rural Pakistan still lingering, the government can’t afford to be complacent,” said a member of the economic team.
Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, April 20th, 2020

Boro harvest a big challenge

Md Owasim Uddin Bhuyan | Published at 11:56pm on April 19, 2020
Timely boro harvests in the haor belt and other parts of the country have emerged as a big challenge for the farmers amid spread of coronavirus across the country, according to experts and Department of Agricultural Extension.
The department officials and agricultural experts said that growers were currently facing severe shortage of farm labourers to harvest their standing boro, the largest cereal crop of Bangladesh, amid ongoing lockdown imposed by the government to stop spread of coronavirus.
The department director general Abdul Mueed told New Age on Friday that the government was working desperately to complete harvest of boro in the haor belt and other districts to ensure cereal production uninterrupted amid coronavirus pandemic.
‘At this moment, boro harvest becomes a big challenge for us,’ he said, adding that about 7 per cent of boro rice has been cut so far in the haor areas and 50 per cent of harvest was expected to be completed by the end of April.
He said that government had already provided the farmers with subsidies to get at least 180 combined harvesters and 137 reapers to harvest their boro quickly amid shortage of farm labourers.
Local administration has been instructed to ensure hassle-free movement of farm workers travelling from one district to another, the DAE chief said.
Abdul Hamid, a farmer in Austagram of Kishoreganj, said that his three acres of boro cropland got matured as he grew early variety of rice.
He said that he was facing difficulties to start harvest the matured rice mainly for lack of farm workers in the area.  
Hamid said that farmers in his area were facing similar challenge as the Met Office forecast heavy rainfall this week.
After boro season, Mueed, also an agriculturist, said that the government would provide more incentives to promote cultivation of Aus and Aman after boro.
Agronomists and agricultural experts said that coronavirus pandemic already started affecting agriculture in Bangladesh and it would seriously hamper the crop productions in the coming days.
Bangladesh, a heavily dependent on seeds imports for growing its vegetables and other cereal crops, would have to face serious crisis of seeds for crop production in next seasons due to the pandemic, they said.
Almost all seeds of vegetables, hybrid crops and high yield varieties are imported from India, China, Italy and other countries which have been badly affected by the pandemic, they said.
About possible seed crises, Abdul Mueed said that the government was currently focused on smooth harvest of boro rice to escape natural calamities.
In the long run, the government would ensure smooth supply of seeds by providing supports to farmers and private sectors, he said.  
Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University’s agronomy professor Abdullahil Baque told New Age that the government should immediately ensure the farmers’ access to mechanised equipment for the harvest of their boro crop.
He suggested the government to provide immediate financial supports and incentives to the farmers to keep up agricultural production amid the outbreak.
Professor Baque asked the government to extend financial supports to local seed breeders and other private companies to boost seed productions to meet local demands.
‘If agriculture production gets hampered, the countrymen will face serious food crisis after the pandemic,’ he said.
The agriculture ministry asked the DAE field officials to ensure the government’s instructions about guidelines on COVID-19 to be followed by the farmers about during boro harvest.
DAE set target to produce 2.04 crore tonnes of boro rice across the country this year.
The haor region comprises parts of seven districts, including Sunamganj, Kishoreganj, Netrakona, Habiganj, Sylhet, Moulvibazar and Brahmanbaria. It provides about 20 per cent of the total boro rice output of the country.
The haor farmers largely depend on migratory labourers who come from Rangpur, Mymensingh and Faridpur divisions to complete harvesting crops quickly.
These farm workers could not move due to the countrywide shutdown since March 26. 
Rare good news amid Covid-19 crisis: Telangana witnesses bumper paddy harvest
Description: Representative image . Updated: 19 Apr 2020, 05:06 PM ISTIANS
·       Thanks to completion of some key irrigation projects, India's youngest state is on the way to emerge as the new rice bowl of India
·       With record cultivation of paddy on nearly 40 lakh acres during the ongoing Rabi season, the state expects a yield of more than one crore tonnes
Hyderabad: A bumper harvest of paddy has brought cheers to Telangana in the otherwise gloomy environment due to coronavirus-induced lockdown, resulting in the state's revenues coming to almost nil.
Thanks to completion of some key irrigation projects, including prestigious Kaleswaram and 24X7 electricity supply, India's youngest state, once described as most backward and parched, is on the way to emerge as the new rice bowl of India.
With record cultivation of paddy on nearly 40 lakh acres during the ongoing Rabi season, the state expects a yield of more than one crore tonnes, the highest for the season since creation of the state six years ago.
While opening nearly 7,000 centres in villages to procure paddy directly from farmers, Telangana is also catering to requirements of other states with the supply of rice from the warehouses of Food Corporation of India (FCI).
About 2.52 lakh tonnes of rice has been supplied to Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. FCI officials are also working to meet the requirement from West Bengal.
Telangana also distributed 3 lakh tonnes of free rice among people living below poverty line as part of its aid for the lockdown period.
These developments have brought into focus how Telangana turned around its story. In fact, the jump in paddy production is the second biggest achievement by the state since it was carved out of unified Andhra Pradesh in 2014.
Overcoming electricity shortage was the first major achievement. It was remarkable considering the apprehensions voiced by some people before bifurcation that the new state would plunge into darkness.
The government says Telangana is the only state in the country offering 24x7 power supply to agriculture serving 24.16 lakh farmers. This enabled farmers to irrigate their farms at their desired timing.
Construction of major projects like Kaleswaram, completion of the on-going projects, revival of tanks under Mission Kakatiya besides round-the-clock free power to farmers have all resulted in farmers are getting water in abundance, says Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao.
The area under paddy cultivation was 18.35 lakh acres in Rabi season of 2018-19 and it has more than doubled to 39.12 lakh acres now. This was only 12.23 lakh acres in 2014-15.
The state expects paddy cultivation in 55 to 60 lakh acres during Kharif season which begins with monsoon. It was 40.7 lakh acres last year and a mere 22.7 lakh acres in 2014-15. This is expected to go up to at least 70 lakh acres next year.
KCR, as Rao is popularly known, is confident of Telangana cultivating 2.25 crore tonnes paddy every year. This means the yield will be over one crore tonnes in each season.
Agriculture Minister S Niranjan Reddy believes that the state will emerge as the rice bowl of India in three years.
According to him, the completion of Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Scheme (KLIS) contributed mainly to the extent of paddy cultivation doubling in just one year.
Ever since forming the first government after achieving the goal of statehood to Telangana, KCR accorded top priority to building irrigation projects with the slogan of 'Bangaru (golden) Telangana' with an aim to irrigate one crore acre. The target was achieved last year.
This coupled with the uninterrupted power supply, financial assistance towards farm inputs and other support systems encouraged more and more farmers to take to paddy cultivation.
In normal days Telangana would have celebrated the occasion. As KCR himself said people would have danced to celebrate it, but outbreak of coronavirus and subsequent lockdown created a challenge both for the state and the farmers.
Though the government exempted agriculture operations the unavailability of labourers due to coronavirus scare and shortage of harvesting machines affected the operations.
The agriculture market yards in towns were shut to avoid large gatherings. As the situation had the potential to cause large-scale distress among farmers, KCR assured them that the government will buy the entire paddy and corn, together cultivated over 50 lakh acres during the current season by opening procurement centres in villages.
"The government is ready to buy every single morsel from farmers and hence the farmers need get panic," KCR said.
He said the government gave bank guarantee for 30,000 crore to buy the entire paddy and corn directly from farmers. "No other state government ever purchased the entire paddy and corn grown in a season. Telangana is the first state which is doing this."
Another problem faced in the procurement is that the labourers from Bihar who constitute 90 per cent of the workforce in rice mills are stuck in their home state. They had gone home to celebrate Holi, but got stranded due to lockdown.
The chief minister has requested Bihar government to send back the workers as loading of procured paddy from farmers on the truck and their unloading at godowns and rice can't be done without them. The chief minister had said he would even request Prime Minister Narendra Modi to arrange special trains to bring back the workers from Bihar.
Central govt. offers additional rice at 22 per kg to non-priority households
CHENNAI, APRIL 19, 2020 23:20 IST
UPDATED: APRIL 19, 2020 23:20 IST
Priority household cardholders are getting it free-of-cost for three months
The Central government is offering to provide an additional 5 kg rice per person per month for the next three months to non-priority household (NPHH) cardholders in States and Union Territories.
But the offer carries a cost. For NPHH cardholders, the rice will be provided at 22 per kg, whereas for priority household (PHH) cardholders, the Centre is providing 5 kg rice per person per month, free of cost, for three months — April, May and June — under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY).
The offer has been made to Tamil Nadu as well, and the State is considering the proposal. There is a view within the State government that the cost is on the higher side. Food Minister R. Kamaraj, at a video-conference session last week with Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, reminded the latter of the Chief Minister’s request to the Centre for the provision of free rice to around 85.99 lakh NPHH cardholders (covering a population of around 3.07 crore).
As for the availability of rice in T.N., the Food Corporation of India’s godowns have a stock of 13.5 lakh tonnes, which can cater to the State’s requirements for four-and-a-half months, at the pre-COVID-19 level of three lakh tonnes a month. Since the imposition of the lockdown, T.N. has received around 2.6 lakh tonnes of grains by train from various States, including Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. Besides, the Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation has its own stock.
Free rice component
Pointing out that the State government had lifted about 2.2 lakh tonnes of rice so far this month, R.D. Nazeem, Executive Director (South), Food Corporation of India, said the free rice component under the PMGKAY entailed around 1.78 lakh tonnes a month for Tamil Nadu. As for the latest offer, the State can get around 1.5 lakh tonnes.
The Union government has also launched a scheme of supplying rice or wheat to registered charitable institutions or non-governmental organisations that are engaged in relief operations like providing cooked meals to the needy, including migrant labourers and other vulnerable groups. The cost of rice will be 22 per kg and wheat, 21 per kg.

Surplus rice produced will be used to manufacture sanitisers’: Govt amid lockdown

However, the move comes amid the lockdown which has left millions of migrant labourers and daily wage labourers with no job and food to survive.
SNS Web | New Delhi | 
Description: rice
(Representational image: iStock)
The Central government on Sunday said the excess rice produced in the country will be used to manufacture ethanol to keep up the supply of hand sanitisers.
“A meeting of NBCC was held today under the Chairmanship of the Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas Shri Dharmendra Pradhan, wherein it was approved that the surplus rice available with Food Corporation of India (FCI) may be converted to ethanol for utilization in making alcohol-based hand-sanitizers and in blending for Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme,” Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas said on Monday.
However, the move comes amid the lockdown which has left millions of migrant labourers and daily wage labourers with no job and food to survive.
There were reports that the poor were going hungry in the aftermath of the nationwide lockdown, even though the godowns of Food Corporation of India have been full.
In the press note, the government-supported its decision by quoting the National Policy on Biofuels, 2018, which allows conversion of surplus foodgrain to ethanol.
As per the National Policy on Biofuels, “During an agriculture crop year when there is projected oversupply of food grains as anticipated by the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, the policy will allow conversion of these surplus quantities of food grains to ethanol, based on the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee.”

Egypt has enough rice stocks to last until November 2021 -state news agency

The country also expects to receive nearly 3mln tonnes of white rice during the new harvest season
An Egyptian seller shows consumer goods as rice, at a vegetable market in Cairo, Egypt January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
By Omar Fahmy, Reuters News
CAIRO- Egypt has enough rice for the local market to last until November 2021, the head of the rice division at Egypt's grain industry chamber said on Sunday.
The country also expects to receive nearly 3 million tonnes of white rice during the new harvest season, which starts next September, the state news agency MENA quoted Ragab Shehata as saying. The new harvest would help boost the country's strategic stocks of rice for long periods, he added.

Iranian farmers produce 2.9 million tons of rice in one year

Tuesday, 21 April 2020 03:43 GMT Description: img


(MENAFN) As said by the Director-General of the Agriculture Ministry's Grains and Essential Goods Department Faramak Aziz-Karimi, during the past Iranian calendar year of 1398, Iranian farmers produced 2.9 million tons of rice.

Faramak Aziz-Karimi said that, the rise in the production came after the important rise in the rainfalls across Iran in the past spring.

The official added, "The average area under rice cultivation in Iran in the past three years was about 605,000 hectares, of which 70 percent is concentrated in Gilan and Mazandaran provinces".

Back in September last year, the Secretary of Iran Rice Association Jamil Alizadeh Shayeq had placed Iran's rice output at 2.6 million tons.

Rice production stands at 2.9m tons in a year
April 19, 2020 - 14:59
Description: https://media.tehrantimes.com/d/t/2020/04/19/4/3430341.jpg
TEHRAN - Iranian farmers produced 2.9 million tons of rice during the past Iranian calendar year of 1398 (ended on March 19), according to Director-General of the Agriculture Ministry's Grains and Essential Goods Department Faramak Aziz-Karimi.
As the official told IRNA, the rise in the production came after the significant increases in the rainfalls across the country in the past spring.
“The average area under rice cultivation in the country in the past three years was about 605,000 hectares, of which 70 percent is concentrated in Gilan and Mazandaran provinces (about 427,000 hectares),” the official said.
Back in September 2019, the Secretary of Iran Rice Association Jamil Alizadeh Shayeq had put the country’s rice output at 2.6 million tons.
According to Shayeq, the country’s rice production stood between 2.2 and 2.3 million tons in the Iranian calendar year of 1397 (March 2018-March 2019).
In October 2019, Deputy Agriculture Minister Abdolmehdi Bakhshandeh announced that Iran has become completely self-sufficient in rice production as it plans to cut up to two million tons of imports a year.
The Statistical Center of Iran estimates that Iranians consume approximately 35 kilograms of rice per person each year. That would mean a domestic demand of nearly three million tons for a country of 83 million people.
Bakhshandeh said rice self-sufficiency would save Iran more than $1.1 billion in imports, adding that it would also be a major success amid efforts to minimize the impacts of the American sanctions on food security in the country.

Iran rice output surge by 45% to feed domestic demand

Sunday, 19 April 2020 6:32 AM  [ Last Update: Sunday, 19 April 2020 9:03 AM ]
Rice harvesting in Iran’s Mazandaran Province (Photo via tasnimnews)
Iranian agriculture authorities say output and cultivation area for rice both increased significantly over the last calendar year to satisfy a growing domestic demand for the staple.
A senior official at the Iranian agriculture ministry (MAJ) said on Saturday that the total harvest of rice plant across Iran in the year ending late March increased by over 46 percent compared to the previous year to reach 4.518 million metric tons.
Faramak Aziz Karimi, who heads the MAJ’s department for grains and staples, said that total output for white rice, the grain left from processing rice plant, topped 2.9 million tons at the end of last calendar year, an increase of 45 percent compared to the previous yearly period.
Karimi said the figure is exactly equivalent to the amount of white rice consumed inside Iran which is 35 kilograms a year per person based on official government estimates.
He said growing rice production in Iran last year was mainly due to an increase in cultivation area for the crop and better precipitation.
The official said lands used for rice farming expanded by 230,000 hectares or 38 percent across Iran to reach an unprecedented figure of 834,000 hectares.
Karimi said rice farming area almost doubled in Golestan and Khuzestan, two provinces in northeast in southwest of Iran respectively which saw much of the flooding and heavy rainfall in March-April 2019.
Iranian authorities announced in October that the country no longer needed to import rice in heavy volumes from countries like India.
They said self-sufficiency in rice production could help the country cut around two million tons of imports each year.
Surplus Rice Can be Used For Making Ethanol to Keep Up Supply of Hand Sanitizers, Says Government Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Team LatestlyApr 20, 2020 08:03 PM IST
Description: Surplus Rice Can be Used For Making Ethanol to Keep Up Supply of Hand Sanitizers, Says Government Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan holding a meeting (Photo Credits: IANS)
New Delhi, April 20: The central government on Monday allowed use of the surplus rice for manufacturing ethanol to keep up the supply of hand sanitisers amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country. The Centre's move can trigger a political storm as millions of migrant workers in the country have been pushed to the brink of starvation following the countrywide lockdown that started in March to contain the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Coronavirus Tracker Live.
According to the government, the decision was taken at a meeting of NBCC (National Biofuel Coordination Committee) chaired by Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. "It was approved that the surplus rice available with Food Corporation of India may be converted to ethanol for utilization in making alcohol-based hand-sanitizers and in blending for Ethanol Blended Petrol programme," read the statement by the government. Coronavirus Precautions: Hand Sanitizer vs Hand Washing, Which Is a Better Option to Protect Against COVID-19?
The government cited the National Policy on Biofuels, 2018, which says: "During an agriculture crop year when there is projected over supply of food grains as anticipated by the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, the policy will allow conversion of these surplus quantities of food grains to ethanol, based on the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee."
Surplus Rice Can be Used For Making Ethanol to Keep Up Supply of Hand Sanitizers, Says Government Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Team LatestlyApr 20, 2020 08:03 PM IST
New Delhi, April 20: The central government on Monday allowed use of the surplus rice for manufacturing ethanol to keep up the supply of hand sanitisers amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country. The Centre's move can trigger a political storm as millions of migrant workers in the country have been pushed to the brink of starvation following the countrywide lockdown that started in March to contain the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Coronavirus Tracker Live.
According to the government, the decision was taken at a meeting of NBCC (National Biofuel Coordination Committee) chaired by Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. "It was approved that the surplus rice available with Food Corporation of India may be converted to ethanol for utilization in making alcohol-based hand-sanitizers and in blending for Ethanol Blended Petrol programme," read the statement by the government. Coronavirus Precautions: Hand Sanitizer vs Hand Washing, Which Is a Better Option to Protect Against COVID-19?
The government cited the National Policy on Biofuels, 2018, which says: "During an agriculture crop year when there is projected over supply of food grains as anticipated by the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, the policy will allow conversion of these surplus quantities of food grains to ethanol, based on the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee."
Arkansas planned rice acreage increases
·       By Ryan McGeeney, U of A System Division of Agriculture

·       Apr 20, 2020Top of Form
Bottom of Form

Arkansas growers intend to plant about 1.39 million acres of rice in 2020, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released Tuesday. The acreage is a rebound from 2019’s 1.15 million acres, but still shy of 2018’s 1.44 million acres. The modest increase surprised some analysts, who expected acreage as high as 1.5 million acres, given prevailing market conditions.
Scott Stiles, extension economist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said the relatively small bump in the state’s rice acreage was the most notable detail in an otherwise unsurprising report.
“The comparative returns across all crops have favored rice this spring,” Stiles said. “Everything has pointed toward a huge expansion in rice this year—except weather.
“Diesel prices have dropped a dollar per gallon, year to date,” he said. “Fertilizer and seed costs have gone nowhere over the past year. In fact, fertilizer costs are lower than last year. These are facts. Weather permitting, my bias leans toward a higher rice acreage number come June 30,” when the USDA is expected to release a revised acreage report based on actual planting.
“Surprised would be my immediate reaction,” Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist for the Division of Agriculture, said.
“My expectation at this point, weather permitting, is north of 1.5 million acres of rice,” he said. “That has been my expected target for some time, with recent events pointing the needle even further up. We still have all of April and May to get it planted, and history has shown that in just a few weeks’ time we can plant a lot of acres.
“We just need the window,” he said.
Corn and soybean see modest growth
Corn acreage grew a modest 4 percent over 2019 planting, from 770,000 to 800,000 acres. If growers follow through successfully, this would be the highest Arkansas corn acreage since 2013, when growers planted 880,000 acres.
Soybean, the state’s No. 1 crop, enjoyed a mild rebound from 2019 as well, growing 9 percent from about 2.65 million to 2.9 million acres, still well short of the 3.27 million acres seen as recently as 2018. At least three major factors have conspired to discourage soybean acreage—the ongoing trade dispute with China, more than a year’s worth of unfavorable weather and generally depressed commodity prices.
“At current price levels it’s difficult to imagine soybean acreage increasing,” Stiles said. “Today’s report didn’t reflect a huge change from last year. I guess you have to consider the whole picture: One side of the picture hangs over 2019 and all the prevented planting acres. Another side of the picture hangs over the rest of 2020 and hope that China comes through and buys our commodities.”
Jeremy Ross, extension soybean agronomist for the Division of Agriculture, said that while the acreage may be disappointing from a numbers perspective, he still has high hopes for the overall crop.
“I was hoping for a few more acres of soybean, but with the decline in price, the soybean acreage projections don’t surprise me,” Ross said. “We just need some dry weather so we can get started.
“The soybean field in Prairie County planted the first week of March has a good stand,” he said. “They look a little yellow, but that’s not surprising with the cool, wet conditions they have had since planting.”
Cotton falls slightly
Cotton acreage fell from 2019 plantings by about 5 percent, from 620,000 acres to 590,000 acres. Stiles said that previous surveys, conducted by the National Cotton Council in December and January, suggested that overall cotton acreage would be down. During the period that the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service conducted its grower surveys for Tuesday’s report—the first two weeks of March—cotton prices were “tanking,” Stiles said.
“It shouldn’t be a surprise at all to see cotton acreage decline 5 percent,” he said. “Some would argue for a larger reduction with December 2020 futures trading around 53 cents today.”
Overall market forces sending confusing signals
Stiles said that even before the market fluctuations associated with the global COVID-19 pandemic began to send shockwaves through various agricultural markets (See: “Cattle industry feels effects of COVID-19 pandemic” https://bit.ly/2R0e5Pw), a variety of issues had been complicating planting decisions for some time.
“At current prices, there's not any incentive to switch from cotton to corn or soybeans,” Stiles said. “None of those are at profitable levels right now.  Arkansas’ cotton acres had increased 4 straight years—it looks like the streak ends here.
“The past two years, growers have become accustomed to ad hoc assistance from things like the Market Facilitation Program,” he said. “Our perception of how things ‘have’ worked in the past probably influences planting decisions to some extent. That’s another issue at play in today’s numbers: growers may believe that under the current circumstance there’s a strong possibility for another round of ad hoc subsidies, and they’ll need to plant something in order to receive those potential payments.”

Pakistan Market Monitor Report - April 2020


20 Apr 2020

Originally published

20 Apr 2020
·       In March 2020, the average retail prices of wheat and wheat flour slightly decreased by 2.8% and 1.1%, respectively, from February 2020; the price of rice Irri-6 slightly increased by1.6% while rice Basmati negligibly increased by 0.6% in March 2020 when compared to the previous month;
·       Headline inflation based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased in March 2020 by 0.04% over February 2020 and increased by 10.24% over March 2019;
·       The prices of staple cereals and non-cereal food commodities in March 2020 experienced negligible to slight fluctuations when compared to the previous month’s prices;
·       In March 2020, the average ToT slightly increased by 1.6% from the previous month;
·       In April 2020, the total global wheat production for 2019/20 is projected at 764.46 million MT, indicating a decrease of 0.03 million MT compared to the projection made in March 2020.
Rains to worsen locust outbreak, harm wheat crop
Amin AhmedUpdated April 19, 2020Facebook Count
ISLAMABAD: Raising concerns over unseasonal rains in March and Arpil in the country, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in its report said desert locust outbreak will worsen and eventually harm wheat crop in Pakistan.

The country has been facing locust infestation since the beginning of 2019.

Abundant rains during March and April has improved vegetation conditions which along with warm temperatures in April could support locust breeding. An increase in locust numbers may damage late-planted wheat crops still to be harvested, the report said.

Overall, 2020 wheat production is expected to remain close to the five-year average, but below previous expectations of a bumper output, FAO said in an analysis report on Pakistan.

Harvesting of the 2020 Rabi wheat crop started in March in Sindh, with the bulk to be gathered between April and mid-June. The 2020 wheat crop season started on time last October and progressed well until February.

During this period, favourable weather conditions, ample irrigation water supplies and adequate availability of agricultural inputs, such as fertilisers, chemicals and labour, allowed farmers to plan an above-average area and fostered expectations for bumper yields.

In March and April, unseasonal heavy rains and localised hail over areas of the main wheat-producing province of Punjab, delayed harvesting operations and caused localised damage to standing crops, the report said.

The 2019 cropping season was finalised in November last year. The aggregate cereal output, including wheat, paddy rice and maize is estimated at a record level of 43.6 million tonnes. Cereal exports consist mostly of rice and wheat. In calendar year 2020, rice exports forecast is at 4.8m tonnes, almost 20 per cent above the five-year average, reflecting adequate availabilities from the 2019 record output.

The risk posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, both through the negative impacts associated with a reduction in economic activities and the potential adverse effects on the food supply chain is an additional concern for food security in the country, the FAO notes.

Recent price increases of wheat grain and flour as well as other important food items, such as chicken meat, milk and onions, are affecting households’ access to food.

According to the report, overall, food security conditions in the country are generally stable reflecting adequate cereal supplies from the record 2019 production. However, concerns about food insecurity persist in some parts of the country, particularly in western and southwestern areas of Balochistan province, in the arid southeastern and western areas of Sindh and newly merged areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2020
Trostle named statewide AgriLife Extension hemp specialist
By Kay Ledbetter, Texas A&M
Apr 20, 2020
Calvin Trostle, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist, Lubbock, has recently been named the statewide hemp specialist for the agency.
“We’ve had a lot of excellent work being done by our AgriLife Extension Industrial Hemp Initiative team to prepare Texas for the production of industrial hemp,” said Dan Hale, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension associate director — agriculture and natural resources, College Station, in announcing the new position.
 “Dr. Trostle has worked tirelessly in this area and has already been serving in a lead specialist capacity. He will do an excellent job in helping lead our Initiative team’s and agency-wide Extension and research activities.”
Description: http://www.ntxe-news.com/artman/uploads/1a1a1a1atrostle4.jpg
Calvin Trostle, Ph.D., on a hemp tour in Colorado. (AgriLife Extension photo by Kay Ledbetter)
AgriLife Extension formed an Industrial Hemp Education Initiative Team to provide information concerning industrial hemp production in Texas after House Bill 1325 was signed into law by the Governor last June.
While the U.S. Department of Agriculture was finalizing federal regulations and guidelines, along with the Texas Department of Agriculture writing of state regulations and guidelines and getting them approved by the USDA, Trostle was already at work.
The industrial hemp education team helped develop resources for agents and specialists to utilize across the state in producer and public education programs. Trostle led or participated in about 20 educational hemp seminars from Dumas to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. He also made trips to New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado, where hemp is already legal to grow, in order to learn more about the crop.
Industrial hemp hasn’t been grown in Texas since the 1930s, when there was some hemp production in South Texas. So, there’s no track record of what varieties might work in Texas, and only this year will there be any research on industrial hemp, Trostle said.
Trostle said initial hemp field efforts will begin with implementing the Texas A&M AgriLife variety testing program for hemp. These hemp cannabinoid, fiber and grain trials are planned for Plainview, Commerce, San Angelo and College Station.
“We won’t be able to implement meaningful planting date studies until 2021,” he said. “Procuring funding for any field work will be key in how quickly we can address research questions.”
Another of Trostle’s initial objectives for Texas hemp is investigating and encouraging improved hemp seed quality.
“Apart from business issues, poor seed has been the No. 1 production issue in most states already growing hemp,” he said.
Trostle grew up on a farm and ranch in eastern Kansas. He earned his bachelor’s degree in agronomy from Kansas State University, his master’s in soil chemistry from Texas A&M University and his doctorate in soil science from the University of Minnesota. He joined AgriLife Extension at Lubbock in 1999 after three summers in rice research at the Texas A&M AgriLife center in Beaumont.
The new title of statewide hemp specialist fits in with how has been known in West Texas – as the “alternative crops guy.”  After serving in Lubbock for two years and learning more about the region’s farming, Trostle said he chose to pursue a broad working knowledge on many different crops rather than focus heavily on just one or two.
“I believe I made the right decision,” he said. “That approach has positioned me better to start from scratch with learning about hemp.”
He also is currently the state specialist for sunflowers, as well as provides education and applied research support in the South Plains region and across Texas for grain sorghum, sunflowers, peanuts, wheat/small grains, guar, alfalfa, winter canola, summer annual forages and sesame. 
Trostle said while he knows this first year or two of hemp work will keep him busy, he will maintain his educational programs on all the crops he’s working with.
“I want farmers of grain sorghum, wheat, alfalfa, peanuts, guar and other crops to know that I remain fully committed to maintaining my Extension support to their cropping needs.  I will have to reduce my field work in these crops, but the 21+ years of experience I have gained isn’t going anywhere.”
Trostle can be reached at 806-746-6101 or ctrostle@ag.tamu.edu. He has written a monthly hemp newsletter since November and has initiated an AgriLife Twitter account @TXAgriLifeHemp. Trostle also contributed to the AgriLife Extension hemp resources page, along with members of the hemp team.
Exclusive Video Pitch Helps Promote U.S. Rice to Chinese Market  

BEIJING, CHINA -- As China continues implementation of the U.S.-China Phase One agreement, signed in January of this year, rice purchases continue to be noticeably absent.  The U.S. and China approved a phytosanitary protocol which officially permitted imports of U.S. milled rice in 2017 and U.S. export facilities were approved in late 2018, yet imports have not occurred to date.

To encourage importers in China to purchase American-grown rice, U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad and his staff created a short video featuring the Ambassador touting safe, nutritious U.S. rice and looking to strengthen the relationship with our rice importing partners. Branstad authorized the use of the video for U.S. rice marketing efforts in China.  So far, USA Rice has featured the video on the social media platform, Weibo, as well as sending the video directly to private rice importers using both email and wechat.  To date, the video is not available outside China.

USA Rice has spent years developing a partnership with our Chinese counterparts and building relationships with the private rice importers and state trading enterprises (STEs) here.

"Private importers continue to express strong interest in bringing in U.S. rice; however, they appear to be reluctant to commit to buying until a purchase is first made by an STE, especially the largest such organization, COFCO, China's state-owned food trader, manufacturer, and processor, " said Sarah Moran USA Rice vice president international.  "Such a purchase would likely send the signal to private companies that timing is right to import U.S. rice.  Given the outstanding obligations from Phase One, there is sufficient opportunity to purchase U.S. rice."

In January 2020, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced that purchases of U.S.-grown rice would be part of the U.S.-China Phase One agreement.  Additionally, China agreed to come into compliance with World Trade Organization commitments regarding domestic support for rice producers and tariff rate quota administration for imported rice.

Import of several commodities temporarily restricted

April 20, 2020   06:27 pm
The government has decided to restrict imports of identified commodities to reduce the pressure on the exchange rate and the financial market with the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.
The Controller General of Imports and Exports has issued a gazette notification with a list of imported items that have been imposed restrictions upon.
Accordingly, the import of agricultural products such as peanuts – except basmati rice -, locally manufactured goods, plastic products, and other non-essential items has been temporarily suspended.
In addition, the import of building materials, electrical and electronic components, wheat flour and other identified items is permitted only on a credit basis.


What to Eat in Iran: 10 Essential Persian Dishes

Description: What to Eat in Iran: 10 Essential Persian Dishes
The well-known food website Food Republic has introduced 10 Iranian dishes and invited its users to try them during their visits to the country.
Iran’s Tourism Newspaper has covered the report by Food Republic about best Iranian foods to try. Here is the article written by Louisa Shafia:
A visit to Iran yields a stunning variety of culinary delights. Between the familiar kebab and the decidedly outré grilled lamb’s testicles, there’s a vast spectrum of foods: caviar, pickle, and smoked fish in the north; samosas, falafel and hot and sour shrimp in the south; noodles, flatbread and rosewater-scented ice cream across the country.
Take a look at Iran’s place on the map and it’s easy to understand why the scope of native foods is so wide. Once the centre of the Persian Empire, Iran neighbours the former Soviet Union countries, as well as Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Arab states and Turkey. Although Iran is part of the Middle East, it has close ties to Europe, the Far East and Africa, owing to its central place on the Silk Road trade route.
What’s more, the ancient warrior-king of Greece, Alexander the Great, conquered the Persian Empire back in the 4th century, and later it was invaded by Arabs, Turks, Mongols and Uzbeks. While Iranians already had a well-developed food identity before these invasions, they assimilated what the outsiders brought in. Think Russian-style borscht with cumin and cilantro and Chinese noodles in a soup of beans, herbs and sour fermented whey.
Many coveted ingredients are native to Iran, including pistachios, almonds, walnuts, saffron, mint, oranges, pomegranates and grapes. Iran has a variable climate with four distinct seasons, and unlike other parts of the Middle East, where the dry terrain limited what food could be grown, the ancient Persians transformed vast stretches of arid land into fertile oases via underground aquifers that drew melted snow water into the desert. A bright, sensuous, fruit-and-herb filled cuisine was born.
A core curriculum of classic Persian favourite dishes can be found on most Persian-American restaurant menus. Here are 10 to try. Noosh-e jan! (Yes, that’s Farsi for “bon appétit.”)

Fesenjan (Pomegranate Walnut Stew)

This iconic stew, an essential part of every Persian wedding menu, pairs tart pomegranate with chicken or duck. Ground walnuts, pomegranate paste and onions are slowly simmered to make a thick sauce. Sometimes saffron and cinnamon are added, and maybe a pinch of sugar to balance the acid.
Fesenjan has a long pedigree. At the ruins of Persepolis, the ancient ritual capital of the Persian Empire, archaeologists found inscribed stone tablets from as far back as 515 B.C., which listed pantry staples of the early Iranians. They included walnuts, poultry and pomegranate preserves, the key ingredients in fesenjan.
Description: Fesenjan, Prominent Iranian FoodIranians serve Fesenjan for their special guests. Click here to read the recipe!

Khoresht Bademjan (Eggplant and Tomato Stew)

This stew has the shimmering red-gold colour of tomatoes cooked with turmeric, with a sheen of oil on top, a prized characteristic in Persian cooking that shows a stew has been cooked long enough for the oils to rise up. Slightly tart, with the tang of tomatoes, lemon juice, and sometimes the juice of unripe grapes, its tanginess is kept in check by the eggplant, which is first fried on its own until golden-brown, then cooked with onions, lamb and the tomatoes and seasoning. Like all Persian stews, bademjan is thick and meant to be eaten over rice with a fork.
Description: Iranian Bademjan (Eggplant) and Tomato StewPersian Eggplant Stew

Baghali Polo (Rice with Dill and Fava Beans)

In Iranian cooking, rice can be prepared simply with butter and saffron, known as chelo. But just as often, it’s cooked with other ingredients and called polo. Polo can be made with herbs, vegetables, beans, nuts, dried fruit, meat and even noodles, and acts as the centrepiece of the meal. This polo is particularly good in the spring, when fava beans are young and tender and dill is in season. This Persian dish is flecked with green dill and favas, and is often cooked with very tender chunks of lamb. Alternately, it may be served alongside lamb on the bone. The rice should have a mild saffron flavour, with the saffron mixed into the rice just before serving.
Description: baghali polo, luxury Persian foodBaghali polo, luxury Persian dish. Click here for the recipe!

Zereshk Polo (Barberry Rice)

Iranians love sour flavours. Like cranberries, barberries have a vibrant red color, but they’re even sourer. This classic rice dish is studded with the red berries, which are dried and then rehydrated before cooking. The rice is cooked with plenty of butter, which helps to soften the intensity of the berries. Quince, rhubarb, green plums, sour oranges, lemons, limes, dried limes, sour cherries, tamarind, sumac and pomegranate are all used in Persian cooking to make food tarter.
Description: Persian food: zereshk poloIranian Barberry Rice

Ghormeh Sabzi (Green Herb Stew)

Made from herbs, kidney beans and lamb, deep green ghormeh sabzi satisfies two Persian flavour obsessions: it’s sour and full of herbs. The stew is seasoned with dried limes, limoo Amani in Farsi. These limes are extra intense and sour, with a bittersweet taste that gives the stew a unique flavour. The other constant in ghormeh sabzi is fenugreek leaves, a taste unfamiliar to most westerners. Other herbs include parsley, coriander and scallions.
Description: ghormeh sabziGhormeh Sabzi is the favourite food of many Iranians. Read its recipe here!

Ash e Reshteh (Noodle and Bean Soup)

A richly textured soup full of noodles, beans, herbs and leafy greens like spinach and beet leaves. It’s topped with mint oil, crunchy fried onions and sour kashk, a fermented whey product eaten in the Middle East that tastes akin to sour yogurt. The noodles, which made their way to Iran from China, are thought to represent the many paths of life, and this soup is traditionally served when someone sets off on a long journey. Because of its auspicious ingredients, it’s also part of the menu for Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which occurs at the spring equinox in March.
Description: Persian food: ash-e-reshtehAsh e Reshteh, traditional Iranian soup

Tahdig (Crunchy Fried Rice)

Tahdig is the soul food of Persian cooking. It’s the crisp, golden layer of fried rice at the bottom of the rice pot, and it tastes like a combination of popcorn and potato chips, but with the delicate flavour of basmati rice. (Tahdig is usually not printed on the menu, so you may have to ask for it.) At Iranian family gatherings, there are always plenty of leftovers, but the one dish that disappears completely is tahdig. It’s eaten as a side dish, and it’s forgivable to pick it up and eat it with your fingers.
Description: Iranian TahdigIranians serve Tahdig beside rice and spaghetti. Click here to read the recipe of varied Tahdigs!

Jewelled Rice (Rice with Nuts and Dried Fruit)

Dotted with brightly coloured dried fruit and nuts, like little jewels, this is a sweet-and-savoury dish that shows off some of the native ingredients of Iran, including pistachios, almonds, candied orange peel, barberries, carrots and saffron. This Persian dish is cooked with a little sugar to balance the sourness of the barberries. Jewelled rice is served for special occasions, particularly at weddings, because the sweet elements symbolize a sweet life. It’s traditionally served with chicken, which contrasts nicely with the sweetness.
Description: Iranian Jewelled RiceDescription: Iranian TahdigJewelled Rice, colourful Persian dish

Kebab (Lamb, Chicken, Lamb Liver, Ground Meat)

Kebabs have more variety than you might think. First, there’s koobideh, ground meat seasoned with minced onion, salt and pepper. It sounds simple, but the taste is sublime. There is kebab-e barg, thinly sliced lamb or beef, flavoured with lemon juice and onion and basted with saffron and butter. Chicken kebab, known as joojeh, is traditionally made from a whole chicken, bones and all, for more flavour (although in American restaurants it’s often made from skinless chicken breast), marinated in lemon and onion, and basted with saffron and butter. If you’re lucky, you’ll find jegar, lamb liver kebab, garnished with fresh basil leaves and a wedge of lemon.
Description: KebabIranians eat varied types of kebab

Sabzi Khordan (Herb and Cheese Plate)

No Persian meal is complete without a dish of sabzi khordan, or edible herbs. The plate can include mint, tarragon, basil and cilantro, alongside scallions, radishes, walnuts, feta cheese and Iranian nan (flatbread). Simply tear off a piece of flatbread, tuck a bit of the herbs and cheese and other garnishes inside, and fold it up like a rustic sandwich. The plate stays on the table throughout the meal, and the herbs are a crunchy palate cleanser between bites of stew and rice. Fresh and dried green herbs are eaten daily in Iran. The Zoroastrian New Year Nowruz celebrates rebirth and renewal, and the Nowruz menu includes several dishes made with green herbs representing new life, including rice with herbs, an herb omelette and the herb platter.
Description: sabzi_khordanDescription: KebabIranians eat fresh herbs beside their meal
The IFP Editorial Staff is composed of dozens of skilled journalists, news-writers, and analysts whose works are edited and published by experienced editors specialized in Iran News. The editor of each IFP Service is responsible for the report published by the Iran Front Page (IFP) news website, and can be contacted through the ways mentioned in the "IFP Editorial Staff" section.

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Description: Lahijan Cookies; Centuries-Old Souvenir of Northern Iran

PSA: Farm-gate price of rice continues to rise


The average farm-gate price of unhusked rice went up for the sixth consecutive week and reached P16.69 per kilogram in the fourth week of March, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed.
In its latest price monitoring report, the PSA said the average farm-gate price of rice during the period was 1.71 percent higher than the previous week’s P16.41 per kg.
However, the latest quotation was still 11.22 percent lower than the average price of P18.80 per kg recorded in the same period of last year, PSA data showed.
Nonetheless, the current average quotation for dry palay is the highest in seven months, or since August 2019, when it reached P16.68 per kg, according to historical data from the PSA.
The highest buying price for dry palay was recorded in Davao del Sur at P20.50 per kg while the lowest was observed in Surigao del Sur at P9 per kg, PSA data showed.
However, a farmers group warned that the increase in farm-gate prices may be short-lived and that it could fall again during the main harvest season due to higher rice imports.
The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) decried the ”pro-import stance” of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Food Authority (NFA) and ”warned that excessive imports will again end up discouraging farmers from planting and make the country even more dependent on foreign suppliers for its food requirements.”
In particular, FFF questioned the need for the 300,000 metric tons (MT) of rice that the Philippines will import via the government-to-government given that the country’s projected stockpile by end-June would reach a ”comfortable” level of 84 days.
FFF argued that private-sector importation and the government’s purchases would lead to a ”supply glut that will again lead to a fall in palay farm-gate prices during the main harvest season in September to November.”
”On the one hand, it is encouraging farmers to expand their production and enticing them with loans, subsidies and other incentives.  On the other hand, it is leaving the room open for private importers to bring in unlimited volumes of rice from abroad,” FFF National Manager Raul Montemayor said in a recent statement.
”The DA was even the one who proposed that government import another 300,000 MT. It appears that the DA just wants to flood the market with rice and is not really concerned about what happens to farmers in the process,” Montemayor added.

Salceda warns of rice price crisis as drought hits Asian nations
posted April 19, 2020 at 09:20 pm by Manila Standard Business
A congressman warned of a possible rice price crisis in the weeks to come as drought continues to pummel staple grains sources like Thailand and Vietnam, aggravating the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic on rice importing countries such as the Philippines.
Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda, who chairs the House ways and means committee and serves as co-chairman of the House stimulus cluster, said a rice price crisis would make the country’s response more costly, as world stocks are being kept out of trade by export bans.
He said the Agriculture and Trade Departments should anticipate apparent challenges in supply pointing to “warning signs” of upcoming issues on rice price and accessibility in the coming weeks.
“I was shocked when I started buying rice from the NFA [National Food Authority] for my relief donations, then at P1,250 per bag only. When the NFA stock ran out, we purchased from commercial stores and the prices progressively shot up and recently hit P1,850 per bag. What happened? I thought there was a rice price freeze,” he said.
Data showed that as of March 1, the country’s total rice stock inventory stood at 2,178.64 million metric tons, 1.9 percent lower year-on-year and 8.3 percent lower month-on-month. The harvest season was not expected to start until May.
Salceda said China’s withholding from Mekong and temptations towards export ban were posing risk to supply. “The current COVID-19 crisis should remind policy makers that food security and health goods security are two vital national concerns,” he said.
Salceda also cautioned DA and DTI about possible manipulations from rice cartels to take advantage of the emergency and derail government’s urgent efforts to deliver foodstuffs on time to communities under the enhanced community quarantine.
“How prices actually are in public markets and other retail outlets depend on transport, logistics and demand situations in these areas. While bulk purchases by government and provision of rice as relief goods for lower income families are expected to dampen price increases in the aggregate, issues in transport, logistics, and the presence of local cartels may push prices upwards,” he said.
The lawmaker urged DA and DTI to “unchain the whole supply chain” for smooth delivery of food requirements to communities through government checkpoints most of which, he said, seem confused by regulations and thus, in most instances, unduly stall the vital food supply delivery.
“Historically, we’ve had challenges with rice price and supply in economic and social crises, but those challenges were rarely about having enough rice for everyone. The issues have always been about getting the national supply of rice into the communities needing the staple. These challenges are made starker now by delays in ECQ checkpoints,” Salceda said.
He said there were existing export bans in Vietnam and Cambodia due to drought and low water supply from the Mekong river. He also cited global data showing rice prices in the world market went up by as much as 12 percent weekly since the first week of April.
“Hence, the need to be prepared. Our monitoring will have to span the whole chain, from farm to points of retail sale. Harvest season doesn’t come until May. So, we have to be better prepared,” he said.
Salceda said ensuring the adequate supply of rice and other prime commodities is essential to effective enforcement of ECQ and other non-pharmaceutical interventions.
“The surer the supply, the less likely people will violate stay-at-home and quarantine rules. If they’re not sure they can buy rice at fair prices, our people will break the rules,” he said.
The Albay lawmaker also bewailed persisting issues about checkpoints. “Just recently, the National Food Authority reported that some drivers of 14 trucks carrying 14,000 sacks of rice from Regions 1, 2 and 3 failed to meet at their Malolos warehouse and haul rice to Valenzuela and Cavite. Only 8 trucks reached the Malolos warehouse because the other six were allegedly held at quarantine checkpoints,” he said.
In a paper titled “Potential Issues in Rice Supply in the Philippines during the ECQ”, Salceda recommended the several measures to ensure adequate supply in all areas.
The said DA and DTI should monitor the strict implementation of their respective issuances on the flow of rice and other essential commodities as well as the necessary inputs to produce and process these commodities, such as fertilizers and pesticides.
He said to burst artificially inflated prices in local areas, DA and the DTI may open mobile stores and other similar schemes that sell rice and other commodities at fair prices.
Salceda cited the need to facilitate matching of rice producers and markets to keep middleman costs at a minimum and Develop an online, citizen-based monitoring of the prevailing prices of rice and other prime commodities.
He said in localities with anomalously higher prices compared to baseline or expected prices, DTI and DA should use appropriate interventions such as stricter monitoring and enforcement of retail price measures.
The system will also allow consumers to compare prices in nearby areas, making local cartel practices easier to spot and prevent.
He also cited the need to secure commitments for adequate supply from supplier countries such as Vietnam and Thailand, while also sustaining support for local production through programs such as the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund and the National Rice Program.
His other recommendations include relaxing rules on rice importation and consolidating small import orders through the Philippine International Trading Corporation and ensuring that the labor force across the rice supply chain (from farmers, to mill workers and transport drivers) are able to work and are conferred the privileges granted to those who work in essential services.
Bidding for rice supplies to be re-organized
The Saigon Times
Saturday,  Apr 18, 2020,12:29 (GMT+7)
Description: https://english.thesaigontimes.vn/Uploads/Articles/76192/f4c82_rice_harvest.jpg
Rice is harvested in the Mekong Delta Province of Kien Giang. GDSR will re-organize bidding sessions on May 12 to purchase 182,300 tons of rice - PHOTO: VNA
HCMC - The General Department of State Reserves (GDSR) has announced that it will re-organize bidding sessions on May 12 to purchase 182,300 tons of rice to meet the target of 190,000 tons for the national reserve, as many winning bidders previously withdrew from signing supply contracts.
GDSR would issue bidding application forms on its system on April 17, news site VnExpress reported.
To date, it had signed agreements to purchase only 7,700 tons of rice, with 3,280 tons being held in stock.
Among the 182,300 tons of rice, GDSR had earlier issued tenders to purchase over 178,000 tons of rice from 28 rice traders, though most of them refused to sign contracts to hand over rice.
Particularly, according to the General Department of Vietnam Customs, four winning bidders who refused to sign contracts to supply rice for GDSR had registered to export thousands of tons of rice after the prime minister approved the resumption of rice exports and the online customs system for April’s rice export registration was opened.
Accordingly, GDSR suggested adjustments to prevailing regulations to tackle cases similar to these winning bidders.
A GDSR representative told VnExpress that there were rice traders who refused to sign rice contracts after winning bidding sessions over the past few years, but the number of such winning bidders remained modest and the impact was minor.
However, amid the on-going coronavirus pandemic, the demand for rice consumption and storage, as well as for export, has skyrocketed, resulting in scores of rice traders refusing to sign rice contracts. The withdrawal from signing contracts left a substantial impact on rice supplies for the national reserve this year.
GDSR is set to stock over 180,000 tons of rice in June, which is 15 to 30 days later than expected.
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Rice seed distribution continues amidst COVID-19 crisis

Description: farmer
A farmer from Agusan del Norte happily received high-quality seeds through the continuous seed distribution under RCEF.

Despite the challenges caused by global COVID-19 pandemic, DA- Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) continues to serve the Filipino rice farmers by providing easy access to high-quality seeds in their communities through the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF)-Seed Program.

“We have to ensure that the supply of rice, being our staple food, is sufficient for every Filipino family,” said Dr. Flordeliza Bordey, PhilRice Deputy Executive Director.

As of April 12, 10,310 bags of certified seeds were delivered to 14 cities and municipal local government units (LGUs), and are soon ready for distribution to farmers through a special protocol. PhilRice started delivering seeds to early-planting cities and municipalities across the country for 2020 wet season since March 16.

Rice farmers in North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Antique, Iloilo, Leyte, Pampanga, Bataan, Zamboanga Sibugay, and Zamboanga del Sur are expected to receive their high-quality seeds until end of the month. Schedule of seed deliveries is based on planting calendar of the rice areas.

Bordey encouraged farmer-recipients to coordinate with their LGUs through the city/municipal agriculture office for the process and final schedule.

In claiming the provision from RCEF program, farmers are required to wear face mask, monitor body temperature, use hand sanitizers, and practice physical distancing to ensure the health and safety of the farmers and involved staff and stakeholders.

DA-PhilRice, together with its partners from the DA-Regional Field Offices, and LGUs target to distribute 2.5 million bags of certified inbred seeds (at 20kg/bag) to over 1.2 million farmers this season.

DA ramps up food security programs amid health crisis

By Lade Jean KabaganiPhilippine News Agency on April 19, 2020

FILE: Agriculture Secretary William Dar at Agricultural Training Institute-Rural Development Education Center (ATI-RDEC) building along Elliptical Road, Quezon City on Thursday (Dec. 19, 2019). (PNA photo by Ben Briones).
MANILA – The Department of Agriculture (DA) targets to boost the country’s food sufficiency level amid the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic. Description: http://www.canadianinquirer.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/dar-1.jpg
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said DA has rolled out urban agriculture under the “Plant, Plant, Plant” program or “Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) Laban sa Covid-19″ which sought to advance planting and harvesting activities.
“The objective of the (‘Plant, Plant, Plant’) program is to boost the food sufficiency level of the agriculture commodities starting from rice, corn, fisheries, vegetable and many other commodities that are essential in the country’s food security,” Dar said in a Laging Handa interview on Saturday.
He noted the importance of the food value chain amid the crisis.
There is a need to ensure that every household has enough food and vegetable supplies with them.
He said, for instance, that although there are enough vegetable imports from nearby areas of Metro Manila, “it is more efficient for the Metro Manila residents to encourage them to plant vegetables at their backyards and harvest on their own.”
He said there are new technologies that can be used to pursue planting in our own backyards.
The DA, he said, is helping by distributing vegetable seedlings for small-time farming.
“We are initially distributing vegetable seedlings that can be harvested within one to two months’ time, to augment the food provision to every Filipinos,” he said.
The DA pushes backyard gardening to Metro Manila residents, he said, as part of ensuring food security for every Filipino household.
He said the department has already rolled out the urban agriculture program in other areas outside Luzon.
“We are now prepositioning those needed materials, inputs and seeds,” he added.
He urged urban residents to plant agricultural products while the ECQ is still in effect.
Rice resiliency project
Dar added that the DA will pursue the PHP8.5-billion ‘Rice Resiliency Project’ which targets to increase the country’s rice production, providing an additional 6-percent increase from the rice sufficiency level from 87 percent to 93 percent by the end of 2020.
The project covers 2.7 million hectares, he said.
The target, he said, is to boost palay production to reach 22.12 million metric tons (MMT) by end of December 2020, equivalent to 13.51 MMT of rice or 93 percent of the country’s total demand at 14.46 MMT.
The DA will provide quality seeds, fertilizers, and appropriate technical assistance, to ensure enough food security in the country, especially during the quarantine period.

Inspection team set up to check rice volume stuck at ports

Update: April, 20/2020 - 08:00

Description: http://image.vietnamnews.vn/uploadvnnews/Article/2020/4/19/80907_xkgao.jpg
Rice loaded for export. An interdisciplinary inspection team was set up to check how much rice is stuck at ports.  — VNA/VNS Photo
HCM CITY — An interdisciplinary inspection team led by the Ministry of Industry and Trade has been established to work with agencies to determine how much rice is stuck at ports so that the ministry can come up with an appropriate rice export plan.
The inspection team is led by Deputy Minister Trần Quốc Khánh, and the team’s deputy heads includes the director and deputy director of the Import and Export Department.
The team includes the leaders of the Agricultural Products Processing and Market Development Department and Department of Crop Production (Ministry of Agricultural and Rural development), General Department of Customs (Ministry of Finance), Department of Economic Security (Ministry of Public Security), and the Việt Nam Food Association.
The mission of the team is to work with customs authorities and a number of agencies to determine the actual amount of rice volume at ports. The team will then write a report on the rice export situation in April and recommend measures to regulate rice exports in May. This will be submitted to Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc.
The team’s working time is expected to be from April 20 to April 24 and will dissolve upon completion of the task.
The establishment of the inspection team arose after chaotic developments occurred when the General Department of Customs began accepting online customs declarations from rice exporters on April 12 after the Government approved the resumption of rice exports but capped them at around 400,000 tonnes for April.
Many rice exporters were left disappointed since the quota of 400,000 tonnes was reached within only three hours. And many firms with rice consignments stuck at ports were unable to submit declarations.
In recent days, the Ministry of Industry and Trade has received many documents from rice exporters saying that the opening of the e-customs declaration software system has not been transparent since many firms have not received prior notice.
Some said that they could not access the system due to system error. In addition, some companies said that they had successfully submitted declaration forms, but the forms then disappeared on the e-customs system. — VNS

Mekong Delta farmers increase income by switching crops

SGGPSaturday, April 18, 2020 14:41
Amid the context that climate change, saltwater intrusion, and drought-affected negatively the production of rice, many farmers in Hau Giang, Tra Vinh, An Giang, and Dong Thap provinces have actively reduced the rice-growing areas for the cultivation of vegetables and fruit trees, or aquaculture, bringing in high efficiency.
Description: Farmers in Tra Vinh Province grow corn on rice-growing land. (Photo: SGGP)
Farmers in Tra Vinh Province grow corn on rice-growing land. (Photo: SGGP)
Mr. Thach Sach, a farmer in Thong Hoa Commune in Cau Ke District in Tra Vinh Province, said that his 6,000-square-meter cornfield has been sowed for more than one month, by taking the initiative in the source of fresh water, despite the severe drought, his cornfield is not affected. Currently, the price of corn fluctuates from VND25,000 to VND30,000 per 14 items, after deducting costs, farmers earn a profit of nearly VND5 million per 1,000 square meters, much higher than growing rice, and the cultivation duration is also shortened to 70 days per crop.

Also reducing the rice-growing area to switch to grow vegetables, Mr. Nguyen Hoang Khoi, a farmer in Thien My Commune in Tra On District in Vinh Long Province, pointed at his lush green 3,000 square meters of cucumbers, saying that the advantage of growing cucumbers is short cultivation duration. Cucumbers are ready for harvest within just 32 days and a crop takes only 60 days. The cucumber yield is around 3-4 tons per 1,000 square meters, with a price of VND5,000 per kilogram upwards, farmers will definitely have profits.

According to the People’s Committee of An Giang Province, in recent years, the province has encouraged reducing the rice-growing area. In 2013, the province grew more than 641,340 hectares of rice, the figure now has dropped to below 620,000 hectares. Most of the altered areas were prioritized for the cultivation of fruit trees and vegetables, of which, some centralized vegetables areas were established, including nearly 700 hectares in Cho Moi District, and 3,200 hectares in Tri Ton District. Currently, the province continues to develop specialized farming areas for baby corn with 2,000-2,500 hectares, hybrid corn with 4,100 hectares, soybean with 450 hectares, and Japanese okra with 500 hectares. Reasonable crop alteration has helped the provincial total agricultural production value to reach VND183 million per hectare, higher than the level of VND120 million per hectare in 2015.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) said that reducing rice-growing areas is encouraged in order to increase the income of farmers. Accordingly, the altered rice-growing area in the winter-spring rice crop in the Mekong Delta was more than 41,230 hectares. The most grown vegetables included corn, peanut, soybean, sesame, and vegetables. Meanwhile, the area of fruit trees, including orange, pomelo, tangerine, dragon fruit, and longan, tended to increase because of high economic efficiency.

Mr. Le Thanh Tung, Deputy Director of the Department of Crop Production, said that vegetables grown on the rice-growing area gained revenue of around VND178 million per hectare and a profit of VND113 million per hectare; fruit trees earned an estimated revenue of VND607 million per hectare, and a profit of VND207 million per hectare. All these crops are more efficient than rice. Shortly, the department will continue to collaborate with provinces to alter inefficient rice-growing areas and saltwater intrusion affected areas to grow other crops that are suitable for each place to help farmers to raise their income and ensure the sustainable development goals.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said that last summer-autumn crop, farmers grew vegetables on rice land, collecting a revenue of VND143 million per hectare and a profit of VND88 million per hectare; watermelon cultivation brought revenue of VND169 million per hectare and a profit of VND70 million per hectare. Based on these results, this summer-autumn crop, the province has encouraged farmers to continue to switch crops to increase the production value.

In Dong Thap Province, last summer-autumn crop, farmers replaced rice by purple sweet potato, raking a revenue of VND200 million per hectare and a profit of VND95 million per hectare; chili cultivation gave a revenue of up to VND418 million per hectare and a profit of more than VND243 million per hectare, much higher than growing rice. Many farmers in the Mekong Delta have also applied cultivation models following the VietGAP standards, high-tech farming, or the models of growing orchids, decorating flowers, and ornamental plants that bring high income.

The MARD recognized that most provinces in the Mekong Delta got high efficiency by switching crops, improving the income for farmers, saving water, especially when the situation of drought and saltwater intrusion is more intense. Crop switching also helps to improve the soil and reduce pests and diseases. However, the current shortcomings are that irrigation has not been appropriate; some altered crops have weak competitiveness due to small-scale production, difficult mechanization, increased input materials, and high-cost prices. Especially, consumption has not been stable because of a lack of connection between farmers and enterprises. Policies to encourage crop switching on rice-growing land have also not been strong enough.

These are shortcomings that need to be resolved timely to help farmers to bravely change crops to increase the production value in the future. 

Farmers in Binh Dinh plant rice early to avoid drought

The harvest of the winter-spring rice crop in the south-central region is now upon us. Having learned from previous crops, local farmers now plant rice for the next crop immediately after this harvest, to avoid any upcoming drought.
VNA Monday, April 20, 2020 09:09 


Rice farmers told to follow sowing schedules amid saline intrusion, drought

Saturday, April 18, 2020 10:42

INFOGRAPHICMekong Delta locals respond to drought and saltwater intrusion

Friday, April 17, 2020 12:33

Ministry proposes over 515 billion VND to deal with salinity, drought

Wednesday, April 15, 2020 10:42

After harvesting the winter-spring rice crop, farmers in Hoai NhonPhu CatTuy Phuoc districts in Binh Dinh province will immediately sow seeds for the summer-fall crop, which is much earlier than previous crops. Rice varieties with shorter growth cycles have also been selected, to avoid any upcoming drought.
Farmers are now planting rice on a rolling basis. Sowing and harvesting are carried out simultaneously. Planting rice this way puts the next crop two weeks ahead of schedule compared to previous years, which is expected to save a considerable volume of irrigation water.
Water levels for irrigation in Binh Dinh province are estimated to adequately supply 43,000 ha of the summer-fall rice crop, meaning that 2,000 ha are likely to be damaged by drought if planting and harvesting are not conducted ahead of the usual schedule./.

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PM orders inspection of alleged rice export irregularity
The Saigon Times
Monday,  Apr 20, 2020,20:11 (GMT+7)
Description: https://english.thesaigontimes.vn/Uploads/Articles/76230/61eab_ttxvn_lua_gao.jpg
An individual holds paddy in hands. The Government Inspectors have been asked to probe efforts made by the relevant agencies to comply with prevailing regulations on the State management of rice export activities - PHOTO: VNA
HCMC – Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has urged the Government Inspectors to probe efforts made by the relevant agencies to comply with prevailing regulations on the State management of rice export activities.
The inspection is aimed at verifying allegations of fishy interference in rice exports, especially with regard to procedures for opening the online customs system for rice export registration, as covered by local media recently, PM Phuc said in a notice issued today, April 20.
Any violators will be disciplined, he noted.
The Government Inspectors were told to report the inspection results to the Cabinet leader in June, reported Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper.
The Government leader in the notice approved the continuation of rice export activities as previously suggested by the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
Further, the Finance Ministry, later that day, proposed the Ministry of Public Security launch an investigation into the alleged rice export scam.
A few days ago, Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung asked the ministries of Industry and Trade and Finance to make reports on their management of rice exports.
Earlier, many rice traders had filed complaints that the opening of the online customs system for rice export registration at midnight lacked transparency, leaving them unable to register for rice exports while their rice inventories remain stockpiled at ports.

Cambodia could export rice to East Timor ‘as soon as May’
Thou Vireak | Publication date 19 April 2020 | 21:52 ICT
Cambodia exported 230,948 tonnes of rice worth $161 million in the first three months of this year, up 35.20 per cent from the same period last year. HENG CHIVOAN
Cambodia could export rice to East Timor ‘as soon as May’
Sun, 19 April 2020
Cambodia plans to export rice to East Timor next month to meet the country’s growing demand amid the Covid-19 outbreak, making it the newest market for the Kingdom’s rice, Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) chairman and former vice-president Hun Lak told The Post on Sunday.
East Timor on Friday expressed its interest in importing the crop at a meeting between state-owned Green Trade Company, the Ministry of Commerce and the CRF with newly-appointed Ambassador of East Timor to Cambodia Ermenegildo ‘Kupa’ Lopes, he said.
“We could export rice to East Timor as soon as May. I believe that we can initially export some $10 million worth of rice to the country,” said Lak.
He said the East Timor side will soon send an official letter to the Kingdom’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation outlining the timing, quantity, types of rice, shipping and other conditions of the trade.
He added that Vietnam’s tightening restrictions on rice exports to curb food shortages during the pandemic had led East Timor to strike a deal with the Kingdom instead.
The move comes as the government and the CRF strive to find new markets for the Kingdom’s rice to deliver a quarter-on-quarter rise in exports in the second quarter.
“We hope that this year’s rice exports will be higher than last year, while the rice is better than the previous year and the price of rice from farmers is also reasonably high,” said Lak.
Cambodia exported 230,948 tonnes of rice worth $161 million in the first three months of this year, up 35.20 per cent from the same period last year, said a Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries report.
Figures show that during the period, the Kingdom exported 101,345 tonnes of rice to China, up 34.88 per cent year-on-year; 70,040 tonnes to Europe, up 30.33 per cent year-on-year; 28,799 tonnes to Asean, up 12.47 per cent year-on-year; and 30,764 tonnes to other markets, up 13.32 per cent year-on-year.
Meanwhile, East Timor imported 6,800 tonnes of rice in the first two months of this year, around 5,000 tonnes less than the year-ago period, data from the Port Authority of Timor-Leste (Aportil) shows.
Cambodia exported 620,106 tonnes of milled rice last year, down 0.97 per cent from 2018, ministry data shows.


Rice millers face price squeeze by importers, says council

Description: https://s3media.freemalaysiatoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/REUTERS_INDONESIA-ECONOMY-TRADE-Rice.jpgThe Malay Economic Action Council has called for a government review of the rice import monopoly and the padi and rice industry. (Reuters pic)
PETALING JAYA: Rice millers and wholesalers are complaining of being squeezed by a “rice import cartel” which has twice raised prices although retail prices are controlled, according to the Malay Economic Action Council.
The council, better known as MTEM, said the complaints had come from the Malay Rice Millers Association Malaysia and members involved in the wholesaling of rice.
MTEM chief executive director Ahmad Yazid Othman said rice imports were controlled by the agriculture and food industry ministry and PadiBeras Nasional Berhad (Bernas).
“The wholesale price of rice that is resold by these cartels was increased by RM0.20 and now increased yet again by RM0.40,” he said.
However retailers could not increase market prices and are forced to bear a small profit margin.
MTEM called for an official explanation on whether rice is being imported every week to meet domestic demand, and whether Bernas had received a subsidy on rice imports as was the case in 2008.
Bernas, formed in 1996 when the National Padi and Rice Board was privatised, has sole rights to import rice until 2021.
Yazid urged the government to be fair in distributing rice to all wholesalers at a reasonable price. Large companies who have been enjoying a lot of privileges while making millions in profit before should not be taking advantage of other businesses.
“The rice industry must be managed and operated more transparently to ensure sustainability of the country’s food security, the country’s food sovereignty and also the economic safety of Bumiputera industry players,” he said.
“The time has come for the new government to review the paddy and rice industry,” he said. The monopolies only benefited one party and were no help for the rice supply chain from the farmers, millers, wholesalers and retailers.
“The Covid-19 crisis should not be manipulated to profit one party’s monopoly, but should be a lesson by the government to develop the full capacity of the country’s food security, and to equally develop all of the players in the industry, especially the farmers and small and medium enterprises,” he added.

Rice exports to East Timor agreed in principle

Chea Vannak / Khmer Times  :   

Cambodia and East Timor have moved closer to sealing a rice-export deal following a meeting between officials.
Initial conversations between the country’s two governments about trading the commodity, along with other agricultural products including palm sugar, began in 2016.
However, the talks resumed in earnest last week as East Timor seeks to increase its food stockpiles in a precautionary measure against the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. The island nation, which lies in the Indonesian archipelago, has not reported any fatalities but closed its borders with Indonesia and declared a state of emergency last month.
Speaking after the meeting, attended by Ermenegildo Kupalopes, East Timor’s ambassador to Cambodia, fellow attendee Lun Yeng, secretary-general of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CFR) said that while no official agreement had been made, a follow-up letter is expected to cement the deal.
“We are now waiting for East Timor to send an official letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Based on the official letter, we will find out what variety of rice and  the volumes they wish to import and put the wheels in motion,” Yeng said.
The Cambodian government has temporarily banned exports of white rice to the international market in efforts to ensure domestic food security. Exports of fragrant rice are permitted. In the first quarter of this year, Cambodia exported rice in a total of 230,948 tonnes to foreign markets, a 35 percent increase compared with the same period in 2019