Thursday, May 21, 2020

22nd May,2020 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

COVID-19 Export Restrictions Threaten Global Food Supply

By Kristina Arianina and Patrick Morris
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Law360 (May 20, 2020, 5:20 PM EDT) -- 
Kristina Arianina
Patrick Morris
Across the world, countries are coming to terms with the economic devastation created by COVID-19 and measures taken to limit the virus's spread. One aspect of the global economy that has been directly affected by the pandemic is the global food supply chain.

Within the U.S., meat shortages have prompted presidential and congressional action, and across the world, staple crops such as rice and sugar have more than tripled in price. As a result, some countries have taken steps to limit exports of foodstuffs. If more countries enact these and other food protectionist policies, there could be an even greater threat to the global food supply chain.

This article explains current government actions affecting global food supply, as well as the threat posed if more countries are pressured into establishing food protectionist policies.

U.S. Response to Potential Food Disruptions

As with many other countries impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. food production and supply chains have been disrupted by the virus. Recently, a number of meat processing facilities have begun to reduce output or suspend production as workers fall ill with the coronavirus.

As of May 20, at least 57 meatpacking and food processing plants had closed at some point for at least a day, although some closures have lasted over two weeks.[1] As of May 18, these closures have resulted in a 10.6% reduction in the nation's pork slaughter capacity and a 24.6% reduction in beef slaughter capacity, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture weekly livestock update.[2]

In addition, dairy farmers and other foodstuff manufacturers have been forced to dispose of excess food, as their main consumers — schools and restaurants — have been forced to cease or limit operations due to government-required lockdowns.[3] As this food goes to waste, food manufacturers are faced with even greater losses, potentially forcing them out of business.

The U.S. government has taken varied forms of action in response to these mounting food supply concerns.

On April 28, President Donald Trump signed an executive order invoking the Defense Production Act in regards to the production of meat and poultry.[4] The president's executive order classified meat and poultry production facilities as critical infrastructure under the law, thereby requiring them to remain open. However, as Americans buy more protein while they work from home, this measure in itself will not completely eliminate potential shortages and rising prices, particularly in the short term.[5]

On March 27, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act into law. The CARES Act provides significant funding to support the U.S. food supply chain. With funds allocated from the act, the USDA has implemented a $19 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP.

The CFAP will provide $16 billion in direct support to agricultural producers "based on actual losses ... where prices and market supply chains have been impacted." In addition, the CFAP will provide assistance where there are losses "resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year caused by COVID19."[6]

The USDA will also partner with area distributors to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat to maintain the nation's food supply.[7] It has up to an additional $873.3 million available in funding to purchase a variety of agricultural products for distribution to food banks.[8]

Further, though historically limited to loan programs through the USDA, agricultural producers, farmers, ranchers and other agricultural businesses have been deemed eligible for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program of the U.S. Small Business Administration.[9] These loans can now provide up to $2 million in financial assistance to small agricultural producers, farmers, ranchers and other agricultural businesses, as well as other small businesses, that suffer substantial economic injury as a result of the declared disaster.[10]

Global Food Supply Concerns and Worries of Food Nationalism

Beyond the U.S., the COVID-19 crisis has also forced many governments to reconsider their food supply chain and security policies. With almost a fifth part of the population under lockdown, global food supply chains are extremely strained. The virus has complicated shipping logistics and slowed commodity exports around the world. Food supply is further strained due to labor shortages, logistics interruptions, and limited access to markets.

This has resulted in food loss and waste. In India, a global rice and sugar exporter, the country's lockdown has disrupted several logistics channels. It won't be able to ship around 5 million tons of sugar because of a shortage of labor at ports and sugar mills.[11]

Lockdowns have also created obstacles to hiring a seasonal workforce. In the U.K. for example, farming leaders have called for almost 80,000 workers to replace a shortfall of seasonal foreign workers.[12] France and Spain, who generally rely on Eastern European labor for seasonal agricultural employment, currently have thousands of acres of rotting, unpicked crops due to boarder closures. Similar concerns will affect almost every country with lockdown measures in plan.

In response to these concerns, leaders of the G-20 pledged on March 26 to inject over $5 trillion into the global economy to preserve jobs and to maintain trade flows, limiting disruption to supply chains.[13]

The U.K. passed legislation to, among other things, support the food industry and maintain suppliers.[14] The European Commission published guidelines to protect health and ensure the availability of goods and essential services. The guidelines provide that "[c]ontrol measures should not undermine the continuity of economic activity and should preserve the operation of supply chains."[15]

However, other countries have taken a more self-supply focus in implementing pandemic-related food policies.

Seventeen countries have imposed export restrictions on food and agriculture since the end of March.[16] Russia has approved a 7 million ton grain export quota;[17] Serbia has suspended shipments of sunflower oil;[18] Kazakhstan restricted exports of wheat flour, buckwheat, sugar and sunflower oil;[19] the Eurasian Economic Union countries have introduced quotas on some vegetables until September;[20] and Vietnam, one of the world's largest global rice producers, implemented export restrictions on the crop fearing a spike in global demand.[21]

These export restrictions will only add to the strain on food supplies. Export restrictions have generally pushed global prices for food higher, as the food supply reduces in quality.

An example of this can be seen during the Great Depression, when food protectionism exacerbated and extended the economic and social disaster. More recently, during the 2008-2011 economic crisis, governments worldwide imposed 85 new export restrictions on food. These actions pushed world food prices up by 13% on average — including a substantial 45% increase in the price of rice.

Just in the last few weeks, when Vietnam suggested pausing its rice exportation, prices for rice shot higher.[22] These prices could devastate the economies of food importing countries, while also pricing out poorer consumers. Moreover, the restrictions will severely limit the amount of food available globally. Vietnam's restrictions on rice exports could have reduced the global supply rice by 10% to 15%.[23]

Not only will these restrictions harm the global food supply, they will also cripple food producers domestically. The international markets provide endless numbers of buyers, especially of staple crops like rice and wheat. When export restrictions are imposed, domestic sellers cannot find buyers of their products, leading to excess supply and waste, as well as potentially huge economic losses for the producer.

Further, such restrictions of exports are not necessary to maintain food supply. The USDA projects that global production of rice and wheat this year will be enough to meet global demand, and the United Nations World Food Program analysis reported that global stocks of staple commodities are well supplied, assuring food availability.

However, the head of the World Food Program warned that if countries continue to restrict the global food supply, "we could be looking at famine in about three dozen countries."[24] While many of these export restrictions are meant to be temporary, any extended application of such policies could be devastating, for both the global supply of food and the country implementing such policy.[25]

What Should Governments Do?

While governments should make all efforts to keep the food supply chain operating, they should not succumb to the illogic of food export restrictions or other food nationalism policies.[26] Rather, countries should follow the example of the U.S., Group of 20, and European nations and implement fiscal stimulus and lending programs to ensure continued production.

Further, lowering import tariffs could help address rising food prices and ensure a stable supply of food, especially for food importing countries, which are more vulnerable to potential food shortages.[27] Additional measures, such as temporarily reducing value-added taxes and other duties would further help stabilize world food markets.

Beyond fiscal policies, governments should ensure social distancing policies do not disrupt essential food supply sectors, similar to the executive order signed by President Trump. Countries have successfully done this.

For instance, in the Philippines, the government has permitted food-producing companies to operate with 50% of their workforce despite a countrywide lockdown,[28] and in Chile, salmon farms and their employees are exempt from the lockdown restrictions.[29] Ireland's Department of Agriculture allowed all food production to continue close to normal over the coming weeks but restricted gatherings to less than 100 people.[30]

Pandemic May Bring Lasting Changes

Currently, experts believe that the U.S. domestic food supply chains are secure, and while short-term disruptions may happen, they are not likely to be critical. Closed food processing plants can be backed up by other facilities to avoid disruptions, and oversupply can be turned into secondary processed goods (for instance, milk to ice cream and yogurts). Meanwhile, the producers should be flexible and proactive in accessing the market and consumption changes and adjusting their production and operations to the new model.

Globally, the pandemic is going to change the way supply chains are operating and force businesses to reconsider their contracts and prepare for other crises in the future.[31] The situation today allows businesses to detect where the links in the supply chain are broken and to strengthen them before the next emergency.

Further, governments should abandon the idea of food nationalism through import restrictions. While it may make sense in theory to keep foodstuff exports within a domestic market due to fears of supply shortages, in reality such policies only lead to higher prices, waste and, eventually, food shortages.

Sharp increase in food imports during nationwide lockdown

May 21, 2020 08:10 AM NPT By: Republica  |  @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, May 20: Import of food items has almost doubled in the last two months of nationwide lockdown. This comes at a time the local farmers are complaining to take their produce to the market due to the problem of transportation and shortage of labor.
The government enforced nationwide lockdown for the first time on March 24, and has extended until June 2. Along with the extension of restrictive measures, the import of food items, including rice, pulses, vegetables, fruits and dairy products, have been increasing, according to the records of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies. In the first week of the lockdown, import of cereals stood at 13,343 tons that has jumped to 24,365 tons as of Tuesday, the eighth week of the lockdown.
During the same period, the import of pulses increased more than two folds to 8,532 tons while that of fruits surged almost four folds to 3,541 tons. However, there was a nominal rise in vegetable imports.
Urmila KC, assistant spokesperson of the ministry, said the increased household consumption has triggered the import of edibles during lockdown. According to her, having low domestic production of fruits, Nepal relies mainly on imported farm products that usually shoots up during summer time.
The ministry’s record shows that the country now has 182,429 tons of rice in stock that includes over 16,000 tons of the cereal with the government-owned Food Management and Trading Company.  
Meanwhile, the country imported medicines worth Rs 2.71 billion and raw materials of medicines worth Rs 614.99 million during the period. According to the ministry, the supply of goods from all bordering points, except Rasuwagadhi-Kerung, the Nepal-China border that has remained closed last January after the very first case of novel coronavirus was traced in Kathmandu, is smooth. 

Farmers upset over curbs on paddy cultivation: Haryana Congress tells government
CHANDIGARH , MAY 20, 2020 19:43 IST
Description: Former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. File
Former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. File   | Photo Credit: AKHILESH KUMAR

Come up with better water conservation schemes for good yield, it says

Leader of the Opposition and former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Wednesday said farmers were strongly opposing the BJP-JJP government’s decision of restricting paddy cultivation in parts of the State but the government was turning a blind eye towards farmers demand.
“The farmers are not willing to accept the restrictions. The Congress stands with them. Despite repeated requests for reconsideration of the decision, the government is adamant,” he said.
“The farmer is in the best position to decide what to sow and hence the Congress supports their judgment. Such decisions should be taken with the consent of the farmer and especially at a time when the world is fighting a pandemic,” said Mr. Hooda, addressing a video conference.
Mr. Hooda said the concern about depleting ground water was legitimate but putting restrictions on paddy cultivation was not the solution. “The government should take a pragmatic view of things and take a positive stand towards ground water conservation schemes, which would provide long-term solutions. Direct seeding of rice for sowing and hybrid seeds should be encouraged, which will enable farmers to get a good crop in less time and with less water,” he said.
Mr. Hooda also accused the State government of being ignorant towards the plight of the farmers growing flowers and vegetables. “Their crops are getting spoilt. Farmers from all over the State, including Bhiwani, are forced to feed their produce to livestock as these are not being bought, and even if they are bought, proper payment is not made,” he said.

Non-basmati exporters see opportunity amid Covid-19 as crops fail elsewhere

They are looking to tap exports in Africa, South East Asia as paddy crop in Tahiland and Vietnam fails, other exporting nations maintain buffer stocks

Virendra Singh Rawat  |  Lucknow Last Updated at May 20, 2020 02:33 IST
Description: basmati rice
TREA is targetting to push non-basmati rice exports to Rs 40,000 crore by 2022.
Indian non-basmati rice players have spotted export opportunities amid the unfolding Covid-19 crisis across the globe, especially in Southeast Asian and African nations.
The failure of non-basmati paddy crop in Vietnam and Thailand, coupled with major producing nations' attempt to buffer stocks to deal with the uncertain Covid-19 situation, has presented a lucrative playground for Indian exporters.
“Given all these factors and the fact that India currently has three times the rice buffer stock, we have a big opportunity to tap export destinations,” said Rajiv Kumar, executive director, The Rice Exporters Association (TREA). He said the central government should give incentives to exporters, so that their benefits could accrue to domestic players.
“Last year, non-basmati rice exports had come down by nearly 25 per cent, resulting in a huge stockpile. The current year looks great for exporters,” he said, adding that export contracts have been signed with Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. Similar opportunities exist in African nations, including Nigeria.
Description: chartA major debilitating factor is a ban on paddy movement in Andhra Pradesh and this is impeding exports from Kakinada port, which accounts for 35-40 per cent of annual rice shipments. “While there are other logistical issues related to the transportation of commodities owing to the lockdown, the ban on the free movement of paddy is a big negative since Kakinada is the anchorage port for rice consignments,” he informed.
Normally, paddy from the neighbouring states is brought for milling in Andhra Pradesh and subsequently taken to ports for export.
While Indian non-basmati rice exports are valued at nearly Rs 22,000 crore, these had gone down considerably last year following the withdrawal of a key tax incentive, which made the domestic exports price uncompetitive. “There is a big opportunity to increase non-basmati rice exports by more than 20 per cent this year, if we are proactive in our approach and the government extends support,” Kumar observed.
The industry has urged the Centre to allow a 5 per cent incentive under the Merchandise Exports from India Scheme, until the Remission of Duties or Taxes on Export Products, a scheme for exporters to reimburse taxes and duties, such as, coal cess and mandi tax, is implemented.
Technology is of vital importance to food security
Since it was first cultivated over 15,000 years ago, rice has been central to many civilizations. As a staple food, it supports industry, inspires culture and feeds more than half of the world's population. With the global population due to reach 9.8 billion by 2050, the global demand for food is far from being met. We need to produce more food, but with less land.
Today, crops of hybrid rice have been planted in over half of China's total rice-growing areas and are also grown all over Asia, the Americas and Africa, even in sandy areas and on seashores. So why is hybrid rice so important and what do hybrid crops mean for the future of food security?
According to Zhang Jianping, director-general of the Center for Regional Economic Cooperation at CAITE, hybrid rice has raised rice productivity in China, doubling yields. Now with about 98 percent self-sufficiency, China produces enough rice that it can export to other countries.
Referring to the importance of technology, Maximo Torero, chief economist and assistant director-general of the Economic and Social Development Department at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that the use of technology in agriculture can play a crucial role in increasing crop productivity and creating more resistant varieties to ensure that farmers get proper returns for their investments.
With the annual sessions of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, known in China as the Two Sessions, approaching, Zhang said that agriculture always occupies a prominent position in the Sessions because it is directly connected with the economy. At the start of each year, the Communist Party of China Central Committee and central government also release a related document covering the agricultural sector.
"Because China has the largest population in the world, that means we have to guarantee our food security," he said.
But food security is also a global issue. Take the situation in Africa, for example, where many countries are currently being affected by swarms of locusts, in addition to COVID-19 pandemic.
Catherine Kunyanga of the Food Security Center at the University of Nairobi said that due to the pandemic, and issues like climate change, Kenya is already experiencing challenges to food access and availability. Currently, most African countries rely on food imports and so "[Kenya is] not able to produce enough [food] to be consumed by all Kenyans."
Kunyanga believes that the lack of technology and mechanization is behind the fact that many African countries are unable to increase crop productivity and meet the nutritional requirement of their people.
She added that although agriculture is the economic backbone of most African countries, most African governments, including her own, have not given the sector the importance it deserves, resulting in food insecurity.
"If the government invested in agriculture adequately, and even research in agriculture, in technologies that can improve productivity, then I think we could produce enough for everyone in Kenya and not have to rely on imports," she said.
Turning to the locust swarms ravaging Eastern Africa and particularly the Horn of Africa, Kunyanga said that so far, the areas affected by locusts in the northern part of Kenya are mostly not arable lands and so the impact has been limited. However, Kenyans fear that the locusts may migrate to agricultural areas and if that happens, it will be difficult for Kenya to produce sufficient food.
"So, we are hoping that technologies and the strategies that the government has put in place will actually be able to contain the spread of these locusts before the situation gets worse," she concluded.
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Home > Business > Nepal Stocks ‘92000 Tons of Rice’ to Address COVID-19 Crisis

Nepal Stocks ‘92000 Tons of Rice’ to Address COVID-19 Crisis

So far, Nepal has reported 445 COVID-19 cases and two deaths.
Apart from striving to prevent and control coronavirus in the country, the Nepali Government has managed to secure adequate food stock to relieve people from the food crisis.
So far, the Nepali Government has stocked 91,504 metric tonnes of rice with the Food Management and Trading Company Limited and the private sector traders.
According to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Supplies, the Trading Company has stocked 16,504 metric tonnes of rice grain while the private sectors stocked 75,000 metric tonnes.

Other Essential Product Stocks include
664 quintals
524 quintals
557 tonnes
16,099 tonnes
137,966 tonnes
65,263 tonnes
33,174 kl
6,550 kl
2,142 kl
Aviation Fuel
7,034 kl
Cooking Gas
11,000 tonnes
Moreover, the Nepali Government is in the process of importing 83,967 tonnes of cooking oil.
So far, Nepal has reported 445 coronavirus positive cases and two death cases. Meanwhile, 45 patients were discharged after recovery.
Cambodia and IRRI partner to modernize, accelerate rice sector

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) have partnered to strengthen the cooperation in modernising and enhancing the rice sector.
The agreement on a four-year Collaborative Work Plan for 2020-2023 was signed by Cambodian Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Veng Sakhon and Dr. Yurdi Yasmi, IRRI’s Regional Representative for Southeast Asia.
According to a press release issued at the signing ceremony, with the signing of the Collaborative Work Plan, IRRI seeks to boost its collaboration with MAFF and other national partners to enhance the commercialisation of the rice sector through value chain assessment and strengthening and enhance productivity and resiliency through and utilisation, crop improvement, and seed system development.
IRRI also work to enhance sustainable management of agricultural land through climate-smart production techniques, optimisation of diversified land management options and landscape monitoring, modeling, and planning and to promote agricultural modernisation through on-farm mechanisation, post-harvest, by-product management.
Under the MAFF, other partners include the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute Council (CARDI), the General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA), the Development of Agricultural Extension (DAE), as well as other government agencies and non-government organisations, agriculture universities, and the private sector.
The agreement also has provisions to work with organisations within CGIAR, the world’s largest global agriculture network, of which IRRI is a founding institution.
“Cambodia is pleased to enter into increased collaboration with IRRI, our long-time partner and ally in the development of our rice sector,” said Mr Sakhon. “The Royal Government places strategic importance in strengthening the role of the agricultural sector, with rice-based farming systems central in generating jobs, ensuring food security, reducing poverty, and development rural areas.”
“The new Work Plan will be key to achieving our national policy goals and contribute to the country’s economic transformation,” he added.
Dr. Yurdi Yasmi of IRRI recalled the partnership between IRRI and Cambodia’s MAFF on the rice sector, underlining the new collaboration will contribute to enhance the sustainable rice development in Cambodia.
“As the country prioritises the modernisation of its rice sector, IRRI is excited to work more closely with our partners to achieve their R&D objectives, and contribute to the nation’s advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals,” Dr Yurdi said.
IRRI’s supports for Cambodia’s rice sector began in 1960’s, and through IRRI’s continued support, Cambodia was able to significantly increase its rice production from 2.4 million tons in 1993 to 10.8 million tons in 2019. Chea Vannak/AKP

New rice collaboration inked
Sok Chan / Khmer Times  

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) inked their collaborative work plan for 2020-2023 yesterday.
The agreement aims to further strengthen the cooperation between the two organisations for the crops research and development activities that has been going on for many years.
IRRI’s support for Cambodia’s rice sector began in the 1960s, when it trained Cambodian scientists and collected more than 4,000 local rice varieties for conservation in the International Rice Genebank. Then in the late 70s and early 80s, many traditional rice varieties were lost because of conflict and famine. The IRRI was able to repatriate 766 varieties to replenish the country’s rice diversity.
The partnership was formalised with the first memorandum of understanding in 1986 and, through the IRRI’s continued support, Cambodia was able to significantly increase its rice production from 2.4 million tonnes of in 1993 to 10.8 million tonnes in 2019. Transformation in rice-based farming systems have also played a key role in the country’s recent economic development and growth.
According to the collaborative work plan 2020-2023, the IRRI seeks to boost its collaborations with the ministry along with other national partners to achieve key goals.
These include enhancing the commercialisation of the rice sector through value chain assessment and strengthening, and productivity and resiliency through germplasm conservation and utilisation, crop improvement and seed system development.
Veng Sakhon, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and fisheries, said that over the next four years, both parties will drive the crops production chain and attempt to boost exports.
Sakhon added that the IRRI would help Cambodia to research new types of rice breeding. He added that Cambodia has to find the new rice seedlings to ensure resilience against both climate change and pests.
“While some seedling is of low quality, we also have to further strengthen, and improve our ability to produce the seedling response to market needs and exports,” he added.

BRRI Hybrid Dhan - 5, BRRI Hybrid Dhan - 3 bring ray of hope to Gopalganj farmers

·       Published at 04:31 pm May 20th, 2020
Description: Web-Farmer_Rice-Paddy
Photo: Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune
There was bumper yield in all areas in the district due to timely rainfall, favourable weather and absence of disasters like storm
Cultivation of BRRI Hybrid Dhan - 5 and BRRI Hybrid Dhan - 3,  high-yielding rice varieties developed by Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, has raised a ray of hope among the farmers of Gopalganj district.
According to the Rice Research Institute of Gopalganj region, about 10.86 metric tons of BRRI Hybrid Dhan - 5 on five-acre land and 9.67 metric tons of BRRI-3 on 3-hectare land have been produced this year.
Md Milon, Kotalipara Upazila Agriculture Officer (UAO), said BRRI-Dhan is more profitable and its spending cost is less than the conventional variety.
The seeds of the two varieties produce more rice — 11 to 12 tons per hectare — as compared to only seven tons per hectare produced by other varieties in the same planting areas,” said Milon.
Many local farmers expressed their interest in cultivating the varieties, he added.
There was bumper yield in all areas in the district due to timely rainfall, favourable weather and absence of disasters like a storm.
Farmers can grow the new varieties in 140-145 days, and its neck is hard enough to survive storms. Each paddy plant of the varieties contains 12-15 bunches, which helps deliver higher yields, BRRI scientists informed.
“It is a new variety of Boro paddy and farmers get good yield at very low cost. Local farmers are showing their interest to cultivate this variety on their lands,” said Sayeedi Rahman, scientific officer of BRRI, Gopalganj region.
Hybrid-5 and 3 are thinner than other high-yielding varieties developed earlier. The new variety is rich in food value as it contains 23.4 percent carbohydrates.
They are resilient to diseases, natural calamities and adverse weather conditions and it is suitable for cultivation during the boro season.
He also said most of the hybrid rice varieties are imported and some of those were developed from foreign paternal lines.
“Farmers won’t need to buy imported seed at a higher price each year, they can now easily produce seeds from this hybrid variety.”
“This hybrid variety’s rice is crispier than other similar rice varieties - a quality more desirable by the consumers,” said the scientist.
 farmer has to spend Tk 200-250 for per kg seed of foreign hybrid variety but now he can buy the same amount of the new local BRRI-5, and 3 only at Tk 35-50.
The demand for the new grain of rice is very high compared to conventional varieties, he also said.
Thanda Sheikh, a farmer of Harinhati village of Kotalipara, said he has cultivated the varieties on 1.5-acre land at a cost of Tk 15,000.
He has already harvested 5.18 tons of rice, he also said.
“I hope I will make a profit of Tk 40, 000 by selling the rice this time, whereas I earned only Tk 21, 000 last year by cultivating the conventional varieties,” he further said.
He added that he is very happy as he got bumper yield, which is a record yield for him than previous years.
Dr Khairul Alam Bhuiyan, head of BRRI, Gopalganj region, said the production of the varieties is better than conventional paddies.
BRRI Dhan-5 and 3 a short duration and drought tolerant paddy variety innovated by Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), has gradually been gaining popularity among farmers.
Baka Sheikh, a farmer of Patgati Sardarpara village in Tungipara upazila, expressed his happiness over cultivating the varieties.
Dr Khairul Alam Bhuiyan said the conventional variety is being replaced by the new variety which is a good sign for the region in terms of boosting yield.
The research institute sources said a project of 100 plots have been launched for cultivating the varieties on 40-acre land in Gopalganj, Narail, Bagerhat and Pirojpur districts this year.
Anyone can produce seeds from the paddy as the Hybrid-5 has been developed from local paternal lines. Farmers can collect seeds of this hybrid variety from us at lower cost and BRRI scientists will provide technical support to them.
The production of the new variety has been set to boost farmers’ rice yields and food security in the country, said Sayeedi Rahman, scientific officer of BRRI.

Location Matters Most in 2020 U.S. Rice Crop Progress 
By Steve Linscombe

MOUNTAIN HOME, TX -- According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service Information (NASS) as of Sunday, May 17, the following percentages of the U.S. rice crop were planted-emerged:  Arkansas (76-58), California (88-25), Louisiana (91-86), Mississippi (76-49), Missouri (60-46), and (Texas (97-92). 

The rice areas of California, Texas, and southwest Louisiana have had excellent planting conditions for the most part.

California rice country has had a very dry spring, which allowed growers to get in early.  "We just had some rain this past weekend, and when growers saw rain in the forecast, they pushed to get as much as they could in," said Bruce Linquist, rice extension agronomist at UC Davis.  "I think by the end of this week we will be close to 95 percent planted.  This puts us about five days to a week ahead of a normal year."  Christine Wylie, who farms near Colusa, has completed planting although her operation's acreage was limited by a 75 percent water allotment this year. 

The report on the Texas crop comes from Scott Savage in Matagorda County who said that Texas is basically planted and probably 50-60 percent has a permanent flood.  Dustin Harrell, rice specialist with the Louisiana State University AgCenter, estimates that 85 percent of the southwest Louisiana crop is flooded and over 25 percent has reached the panicle initiation stage.  Both Savage and Harrell said that other than one cool snap, growing conditions have been excellent for the southern belt crop.

Things have been a bit more challenging in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and north Louisiana, where continual rainy weather impeded planting.  However, more favorable weather over the past 2-3 weeks has facilitated planting progress in some areas of the region.  Some producers are completely planted, but others have yet to put a seed into the ground, depending on location.

LA farmer Richard Fontenot loads the planter

Jarrod Hardke, rice agronomist with the University of Arkansas, said the first Arkansas rice has gone to flood over the previous week or so, and that rains this past weekend in northeast Arkansas may lead to some of the potential rice acreage there going to Prevented Planting.

Geographic variations in planting progress exist for Mississippi growers as well, according to Bobby Golden, agronomist with Mississippi State University.  "I would agree with the NASS numbers for Mississippi.  Some areas of the state, like the far north delta and part of the mid-delta, are lagging behind due to persistent wet weather.  Rains have been sporadic and non-uniform throughout the rice growing region, recently."

"Little rice in the state has been planted over the last few days because of wet conditions," said David Martin, with Martin Rice Company in Bernie, Missouri.  "We are around 50-60 percent planted and all the emerged rice looks good, but needs warmer weather, fertilizer, and at least one more herbicide application.  The NASS numbers for Missouri should hold."

Elliot Maschmann, with RiceTec, agrees that Missouri is 60-65 percent planted but said some producers have not been able to get in the field for three weeks because of persistent rain.

"The north Louisiana rice crop is 80 percent planted," said Scott Franklin, who farms in Rayville.  "The region has progressed well in the past two weeks as far as planting."  Marley Oldham with Kennedy Rice Mill said their growers are 75 percent planted overall, with the majority of that in long grain varieties, while over 95 percent of the medium grain acreage in north Louisiana is planted.  Jason Waller, who farms near Mer Rouge, is 60 percent planted with no fields flooded yet.

According to USDA prospective planting estimates, rice acreage is expected to rise above 2019 levels in all six states, totaling a 12.1 percent national bump in plantings
USA Rice Daily

Rice up, crawfish down in Louisiana rotation system

Louisiana rice off to good start. Crawfish struggle.
Ron Smith | May 20, 2020
Louisiana rice farmers are off to one of the best early season starts in recent memory, accompanied by higher prices and increased acreage.
The fate of a key rotation enterprise, however, is headed in the opposite direction. The crawfish market has burrowed into the mud of COVID-19 restrictions as consumers are not going to restaurants or gathering for crawdad boils.
With limited markets, crawfish producers are enduring a shortened season.
"It's almost completely opposite of past years," says Dustin Harrell, professor and research coordinator, Rice Research Station, Rayne, La. "Rice jumped back into potentially being profitable again."
Harrell says the past four or five years took a toll on rice farmers. "They have suffered floods and lost a lot of their crops. Yields four of the last five years have been poor, and rice prices have not been the best. Producers have been just skating by.
"Crawfish had helped keep rice growers in business," he adds. "Acreage devoted to crawfish jumped to nearly 250,000 in southwest Louisiana, where almost all of U.S. crawfish are grown."
A combination of supply and demand factors, some prodded by the coronavirus pandemic, makes rice one of the most profitable crop options available to Mid-South farmers.
On the other hand, "Crawfish pond production is heading downhill," says Mark Shirley, LSU area Extension agent, Abbeville, La. "Some producers were beginning to drain ponds in late April. Still, local demand around Mother's Day remained good and producers had enough crawfish to meet demand in coming weeks and thereafter. But total supply is starting to go down."

Demand dips

Shirley says restaurant demand in March and April dropped following COVID-restrictions. The live market across the Southeast is down. "A tremendous volume is not moving, right at peak harvest time."
Shirley says producers "had nowhere to go with their harvest. Buyers had to slow down and put producers on a quota or limited the number of days they could fish."
Harrell says the rice/crawfish rotation works well together, either as every other year alternate crop system or as a permanent crawfish operation with rice as a forage.
Either way, rice serves as forage for crawfish. "Producers can grow rice, harvest it and leave the ratoon crop for crawfish. That's common. It's a great symbiotic relationship," he says.
Growers who keep crawfish as the permanent crop plant rice late as a forage for crawfish and put little money into the rice.
"The rotation is a dynamic system," Harrell says. "Crawfish have been keeping rice producers in business, and now crawfish are losing business and rice is one of most lucrative crops available, compared to other row crops."
He says rice producers hope the trend continues for the rice market and that crawfish come back and demand for rice stays up.

Rice looks good now

"We're off to a good start," Harrell says. "We planted most of the southwest Louisiana rice in good time and with dry weather. March temperatures averaged about 10 degrees higher than normal, which caused the rice crop to jump out of the ground. The water-seeded rice took off and grew quickly. It was an almost perfect start."
He says an April cold spell of about 10 days slowed the crop a bit. "We saw some visual stress symptoms on rice, but weather warmed up and the rice grew out of it.
"The yield potential is higher at this point than it has been for the last five years," he says. "But something can always come in, a disease or a hurricane. But for now, yield potential is high, and prices are better than they've been in a long time."
LSU AgCenter economist Michael Deliberto, in a recent  AgCenter news release, noted several reasons why the economic outlook for rice is positive.
He says supplies are tight and demand has been good. "These are the highest U.S. prices in at least seven years,” he says.
July rice is selling for roughly $23 a barrel, and September rice was priced north of $19 a barrel, which is 162 pounds.
“I think that number could go higher,” Deliberto says.
Current advantages include large sales of U.S. long-grain milled rice to Haiti, expectations of much tighter U.S. supplies later this market year and higher and rising global trading prices.
“Given the uncertainty of the pandemic, it’s hard to say just how high prices will go. Asian exporters are starting to relax some of the export restrictions,” Deliberto says.
The trend could change. Deliberto says lower prices could come from a larger than expected switch from soybeans to rice in Arkansas, the largest rice-producing state.
Other issues may affect the crop before harvest, Harrell says.

Nitrogen management

"With the rains over the past few weeks, some growers did not get nitrogen out on dry ground. Some opted to hold flood water and apply nitrogen into the flood."
That works, Harrell says, but nitrogen efficiency is a lot lower than when applied onto dry ground.
"If producers can't apply nitrogen to dry ground, we recommend they apply into standing flood with three separate applications instead of one big one. Spoon feed nitrogen.
"We recommend 100 pounds of urea in three different timings, seven to 10 days apart. That helps improve nitrogen efficiency. The plants take it up faster, before the nutrient is lost."


He cautions growers to look for chinch bugs. "We have seen some cinch bugs in the region. Because of the dry season, chinch bugs are more prolific. I've never had so many chinch bug calls. Typically, we don't see many, but they are everywhere this year."
Harrell says the pest is relatively easy to manage with insecticides, including CruiserMaxx seed treatments; however, Dermacor X100 seed treatment is more common in southern Louisiana due to crawfish production. "It's not labeled for crawfish, but it is believed to be safer than other seed treatments."
It could be a heavy chinch bug year, he says. "Scout, watch, be ready to treat. Flood the field or use a pyrethroid."
A pest typically considered more of a nuisance than a serious problem may demand more attention. "We've seen the channel apple snail this year and it is a growing invasive pest in south Louisiana. Typically, it's been a nuisance pest for crawfish. They get into the traps and producers have to separate them from the crawfish."
The snails also burrow into the levees and can weaken and break them. They also attach to grates and clog them up.
"Recently, for the first time, a grower has reported significant damage to rice plants," Harrell says. "He held water over the winter and water-seeded the next crop. Snails ate the rice stand. He had to treat for snails and replant."
Harrell says currently snail control options are limited. "We can use copper sulfate, but that also kills crawfish." He says copper sulfate is labeled in rice for algae control.
"We recommend that if a grower had snails in the past in surface water used for irrigation, he should switch to well water, if that option is available, to prevent reintroducing the snail into the crawfish ponds."
He recommends looking for snail egg masses above the waterline or in grasses along the field edge. "Kill those with crop oil."
Harrell doesn't believe snail damage to rice plants will be a recurring problem, with proper management. In drill-seeded rice and surface water that contains snails, he recommends no flooding until just before tillering. "Snails probably will not cause a problem, and rice will outgrow vegetative damage. The grower with the field completely eaten had an already established population of snails."
In the meantime, rice producers are hoping to capitalize on the promising start for the 2020 crop and hope as the economy begins to recover crawfish will dig out of t

Covid-19 drives Mexico to lift Brazilian rice import barriers

Total shipments of 60,000 tonnes expected in May

·       20 May 2020
·       NEWS
Mexico has lifted its barriers for Brazilian rice imports as Covid-19 limits supplies from the US. 
Description: grains of white rice in a bowl with a wooden spoon

Focus on South Korea

The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is a small-scale producer of grains, except for rice, leaving it highly dependent on imports for food as well as animal feed.
In its Grain Market Report from the end of February, the International Grains Council (IGC) puts South Korea’s total grains imports in 2019-20 at 15.5 million tonnes, unchanged from the previous estimate and up from 13.7 million in 2018-19. Maize imports for 2019-20 are forecast at 11.3 million tonnes, unchanged from last month, with 2018-19 imports at 9.8 million tonnes.
The total includes 4.1 million tonnes of wheat, also an unchanged forecast, up from 3.9 million the year before.
The IGC also expects South Korea to import 600,000 tonnes of rice in 2019-20, up from an estimate made a month earlier of 400,000 and also up on imports of 300,000 in 2018-19.
South Korea’s soybean imports are put at 1.5 million tonnes in 2019-20, unchanged from the earlier forecast, with the previous year’s imports at 1.4 million.
In an Oct. 30, 2019, update, the USDA attaché said official government data released at the end of June put wheat production in 2018 at 25,788 tonnes, based on a yield of 3.91 tonnes a hectare, down by about 3% from the year before because of frequent rain during the growing season. The government said at the end of July that the wheat area for the 2019 crop was 3,736 hectares, triggering a 46% cut in the USDA’s estimate of the South Korean crop to 13,000 tonnes.
Description:*Projected // Source: US Department of Agriculture
“The projected decrease in production is due to the lack of demand for locally produced wheat, leading farmers to plant less wheat as they double crop in rice paddy areas,” the attaché said, explaining that official production data will not be available until June 2020.
For maize, the attaché gave a 2018 crop figure of 78,012 tonnes based on Korean government figures released at the end of June 2019, a rise of 7% from the previous year on improved yield.
The USDA in Seoul forecast 2019-20 maize consumption at 10.8 million tonnes, with 8.4 million for feed and 2.4 million for food, seed and industrial uses. Feed maize accounts for 42% of the total ingredients used for compound feed, with feed wheat at 6%.
“Food, seed, and industrial (FSI) corn consumption is expected to stay around 2.4 million tonnes to meet stable demand for high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and other corn products from Korean food industries,” the attaché said.
Total compound feed production is forecast to reach a record 20.5 million tonnes in 2019-20, according to the attaché.
“This record volume is based on strong growth in poultry and beef cattle inventories, which will partly offset the anticipated reduction in swine inventories affected by the Sept. 17, 2019, outbreak of African swine fever (ASF),” the attaché said. “Poultry and beef cattle numbers are expected to be strong as they may replace the reduction of pork production and consumption.”
Outside animal feed, the attaché said “corn processors use Genetically Engineered (GE) corn, non-biotech Identity Preserved (IP) corn, and conventional corn to produce corn starch, HFCS and corn flour.”
“Perceived public concern about biotech products continues to influence decisions regarding imported processing corn, especially corn that is used to manufacture cooking oil and HFCS,” the attaché said. “Many food processing companies have been reluctant to use ingredients sourced from biotech corn. Some food processing companies utilizing corn starch products are sourcing ingredients imported from China, since these items are reportedly derived from non-biotech corn.”
In an April 2, 2019, update, the attaché put South Korean production of barley at 151,403 tonnes in 2018, up 38% from the previous year, on the basis of a sharp increase in area, adding that production had fallen sharply in 2012, when a government purchasing program ended, but has rebounded since and is expected to remain constant.
In a March 1, 2020, report on the oilseeds sector, the USDA attaché cited crop figures for 2018, from the farm minister and Statistics Korea (KOSTAT), of 80,804 tonnes for soybeans, 11,002 for peanuts, 25,129 for sesame and 37,377 for perilla. In 2019, soybean production rose to 105,340 tonnes, while sesame output was up slightly at 12,896 tonnes, while figures for the other crops will not be made available until May 2020.
“Soybeans are the most heavily consumed oilseed in Korea,” the attaché said, forecasting total domestic consumption in 2020-21 at around 1.39 million tonnes, unchanged from the previous year, “amid stagnant domestic production and flat consumer demand consistent with a mature market.”
The total is expected to include 1 million tonnes for crushing, 340,000 tonnes for domestic food use in products like tofu, soymilk and soy sauce, and 53,000 tonnes used for domestic animal feed and waste.
“All domestic production goes to food use,” the attaché said. “Future growth in overall soybean consumption is expected to be minimal.
“Consumption for crushing will be constant at the level of 1 million tonnes as long as CJ Corporation, the largest Korean soybean crusher, continues soybean crushing in their flexible crushing facilities, which are convertible depending on the comparison of crushing margins between rapeseed and soybeans.”
In an annual report published April 1, 2019, the USDA attaché cited figures from the Korea Feed Association (KFA) and Korea Flour Millers Industry Association (KOFMIA) showing 2017-18 milling wheat use in the country to be 2.186 million tonnes.
The attaché expected 2.6 million tonnes of the forecast 4.1 million of wheat to be imported in 2019-20 to be used for milling. The figure includes wheat and pasta imports on a wheat equivalent basis. Demand for milling wheat, therefore, was expected to remain steady.
According to the attaché, South Korea’s milling wheat suppliers are the United States, which sent 732,000 tonnes in 2018-19, followed by Australia (583,000 tonnes) and Canada (118,000 tonnes), with a further 3,000 coming from undefined other sources.
The (KOFMIA) website names seven large milling companies. They are Daehan Milling Co. Ltd., Sajo Dongawon Co. Ltd., Daesun Milling Co. Ltd., Samyang Corporation, CJ CheilJedang, Samhwa Powder Co. and Hantop Co. Ltd.
In a quarterly update on world trade in wheat flour published Jan 23, the IGC forecast South Korea’s flour imports in 2019-20 at 25,000 tonnes (wheat equivalent), down from its earlier forecast, made in September, of 50,000 tonnes.
Description:*Projected // Source: US Department of Agriculture
In a Dec. 12, 2019, update on rice production, the USDA attaché cited figures released on Nov. 12, 2019, by KOSTAT showing the country’s 2019 rice production at 3.744 million tonnes, down on a September estimate of 3.780 million, and also down on the 2018 production of 3.868 million tonnes. The fall reflected lower area and yield.
The attaché explained in a Jan. 28, 2020, update that “under the 2019 rice Tariff Rate Quota (TRQ), Korea purchased a total of 408,700 tonnes of rice (milled basis) from three countries: the United States, China and Vietnam.”
The US share of that was 32.8%, 5.9 percentage points lower than in the previous year.
“The slow pace of sale auctions for imported table rice in Korea has continued since 2014, resulting in unsold imported rice accumulating every year,” the report said. “The unsold rice loses quality in storage over time and usually in Korea is then converted for alcohol processing.”
The attaché put Korea’s calendar year 2019 rice exports at just 52,663 tonnes, most of which was accounted for by a 50,000-tonne donation under the Food Assistance Convention (FAC), and a 1,000-tonne donation under the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve.

Dominguez schools Imee Marcos: Masagana program left farmers in debt

(UPDATED) Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III tells Senator Imee Marcos that the rice program during her father's regime led to the bankruptcy of some 800 banks
Ralf Rivas
Published 6:50 PM, May 20, 2020
Updated 11:00 PM, May 20, 2020
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III corrected claims of Senator Imee Marcos that Masagana 99, her late father's rice program, was an "effective use" of banks.
Masagana 99 was the agricultural rice production program implemented by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
It was discontinued because the government took in massive foreign loans to finance the program. When farmers were unable to pay up, it placed great stress on rural banks, and in turn, affected the country's overall fiscal health.
The foreign loans were part of the massive debt left by the Marcos patriarch.
Other experts also claimed that the rice variety, developed by the International Rice Research Institute, was highly dependent on fertilizers and pesticides that were derived from both petroleum and chemical derivatives. When oil prices spiraled, the cost of production was so high that farming no longer became a profitable enterprise. (READ: The tragedy of Martial Law)
Senator Marcos proposed the revival of the program to assist farmers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
"I was the secretary of agriculture who cleaned up the mess that was left by Masagana 99. There were about 800 rural banks that were bankrupted by that program and we had to rescue them," Dominguez said.Dominguez was agriculture secretary during the presidency of Corazon Aquino.
Marcos then went on to say that "the success perhaps was not in banking, but the success was in rice exportation."
Dominguez debunked Marcos again. "We never exported rice [during that time], ma'am," he told the senator.
Marcos replied: "I prefer to stick to the finance data for now. But in the meantime, iba 'yung ating data, tsaka na lang tayo magdiskusyon (our data is different, let's discuss this some other time)."
At that point, Marcos cut off the discussion to tackle other matters related to the pandemic.
President Rodrigo Duterte once said he wanted his own version of the Masagana 99 program.
"'Yung Biyayang Dagat niya pati 'yung Masagana 99, that was the time na hindi tayo nag-import talaga ng pagkain," Duterte said in 2016.
(The Biyayang Dagat and Masagana 99, that was the time when we didn't import food.)
In 2017, Duterte launched Masaganang Ani 200, which followed a similar scheme and aimed to raise rice yield to around 200 cavans per hectare to stop, if not minimize, importation of rice.
But to date, the Philippines is the world's top rice importer. (READ: Philippines to remain world's top rice importer until 2021)
This is the second time that Dominguez and Marcos clashed during the coronavirus crisis.
Last April, Dominguez rejected Marcos' proposal to defer debt obligations, even calling the recommendation "narrow-sighted."
"Debt moratorium has not crossed our mind. It was never entertained or will ever be a part of our crisis response measures," Dominguez said in a strongly-worded statement on April 14. –

Farmers in Punjab and Haryana opt for more cotton acreage over labour-intensive rice

CHANDIGARH, MAY 21, 2020 18:08 IST
UPDATED: MAY 21, 2020 19:46 IST

They anticipate labour shortages without migrant workers; State governments are also advising them to opt out of water-guzzling rice

Farmers in Punjab and Haryana have sown more cotton this kharif season as against the corresponding period last year on account of a possible labour shortage in future. Both governments have discouraged farmers from growing rice, officials told The Hindu.
Director, Punjab Agriculture Department, Sutantar Airi, said, “Cotton has already been sown in nearly 3.6 lakh hectare, which is around 10,000 hectare more than the corresponding period of last year.”
In neighbouring Haryana, farmers had sown cotton in 5.11 lakh hectares till May 19. Last year, the area under cotton cultivation up to the same period was 4.2 lakh hectares, according to government data.

‘Luxury of choice’

“Cotton is a less labour intensive crop than paddy (rice). Farmers are currently sowing cotton as they are apprehensive about the return of the migrant labour by June-July, when the sowing of rice commences. Labourers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have expertise in planting paddy but with many of them having returned to their native places, farmers here, who have the luxury of choice between crops, are going for cotton,” said Rakesh Rathi, former president of India Cotton Association Limited (ICAL).
In Punjab and Haryana, Bt cotton is sown in over 95% of the total area under cotton cultivation, the remaining 5% of cultivable area usually has indigenous (desi) cotton varieties. Cotton is usually planted from mid-April to till late-May in most parts of Punjab and Haryana.
“Farmers are preferring to sow cotton wherever its feasible. Paddy is a labour intensive crop in comparison to cotton and hence farmers don’t want to take a chance. I am sure the area under cotton cultivation will increase this season,” said Gun Parkash, Bharatiya Kisan Union’s Haryana unit president.

‘Crop diversification’

Jagraj Dhandi, Joint Director, Haryana Agriculture Department, said, “The area under cotton has increased as the government is discouraging sowing of water-guzzling rice and going for crop-diversification this year. Also, labour shortage is another reason that farmers are planting more cotton as many would want to mitigate risks to the minimum.”
The State Agriculture Department’s Mr. Airi said that the government was providing thrust to crop-diversification, and hence the area under paddy will fall, and the area under other crops will rise.

Cyclone Amphan kills 72 in West Bengal, CM Mamata Banerjee announces compensation

PTI Kolkata/Bhubaneswar | Updated on May 21, 2020  Published on May 21, 2020
Villagers walk on a road during a storm due to Cyclone Amphan at Kakdwip near Sunderbans area in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, Wednesday, May 20, 2020.   -  PTI
A powerful cyclone Amphan that tore into West Bengal has killed 72 people and completely devastated two districts, even as Kolkata and several parts of the State wore a battered look on Thursday, a day after the storm left thousands of people homeless, washed away bridges and swamped low-lying areas.
The fiercest cyclone to hit West Bengal in 100 years that destroyed mud houses and agriculture crops, and uprooted trees and electric poles also wreaked havoc in Odisha damaging power and telecom infrastructure in several coastal districts. Odisha government officials estimated it has affected around 44.8 lakh people in the State.

Complete devastation

“So far as per the reports we have received, 72 people have died in the state due to Cyclone Amphan. Two districts — North and South 24 Parganas — are completely devastated. We have to rebuild those districts from scratch. I would urge the Central government to extend all help to the state,” Banerjee told reporters after conducting a review meeting with officials.
“I will visit the affected areas very soon. The restoration work will start soon. A large part of North and South 24 Parganas and Kolkata are facing massive power cut since last evening. Even telephone and mobile connections are down,” she said. “I have never witnessed such a fierce cyclone and destruction in my life. I would request Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come and visit Cyclone Amphan-affected areas.”
The Chief Minister also announced a compensation of 2 lakh to 2.5 lakh for the family members of each of the deceased. Besides North and South 24 Parganas and Kolkata, the districts of East Midnapore and Howrah were the worst hit as portions of several dilapidated buildings came crashing down in several places.
Senior officials of the West Bengal government said it was too early to estimate the exact death toll or damage to property as the worst hit areas were still not accessible.

‘Worse than corona’

In Kolkata, hundreds of cars were overturned in the strong winds with speed up to 125 kmph that also felled trees and electricity poles blocking key arterial roads and intersections. Large parts of Kolkata and other affected districts went without power. Mobile and internet services were also disrupted as the fierce cyclone had damaged several communication towers.
According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Amphan is the fiercest cyclone to hit West Bengal in the last 100 years. It said the cyclone has weakened significantly and moved to Bangladesh where 10 people have been killed.
Banerjee, who has been monitoring the situation at state secretariat Nabanna since Tuesday night, said the impact of Amphan was “worse than coronavirus”. “The situation is very serious. We are in a state of disaster,” the TMC chief was earlier quoted as having said in an official statement. No bridges exist, electricity lines have been completely disabled and damaged, Banerjee said while describing the situation in the worst hit districts.
In several shelter homes in the affected districts, people were seen jostling for food and shelter ignoring the social distancing norms due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
More than five lakh people were already evacuated to safety by the state government.
“It is not the city where I have grown up... it seems to be a destroyed one. It seems there was a war yesterday... I cannot believe that this is my Kolkata,” said Sudhir Chakraborty, a resident of south Kolkata’s Rashbehari area.
Packing heavy rain and winds with speeds of up to 190 kmph, the cyclone barrelled through coastal districts of North and South 24 Parganas of Bengal and Odisha on Wednesday unleashing copious rain and windstorm.

Rescue and relief operations

The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) reviewed the rescue and relief operations in West Bengal and Odisha at a meeting in Delhi and was told that minimal loss of lives was reported due to accurate forecast by the IMD and timely deployment of NDRF troops.
Headed by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, the NCMC was told by the chief secretaries of West Bengal and Odisha that timely and accurate forecast by the IMD and advance deployment of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) facilitated in evacuation of about five lakh people in West Bengal and about two lakh in Odisha.
This has resulted in minimal loss of human lives, considering the fact that the intensity of the Amphan was next only to that of the super cyclone that struck Odisha in 1999 causing large scale devastation, an official statement said in Delhi.
The Food Corporation of India will also ensure adequate availability of food grains, especially rice, to West Bengal so that marooned people are provided immediate sustenance. The Power Ministry and Department of Telecommunications will also assist in the early restoration of services in both the states.
The Railways, which suffered major damages to its infrastructure, is in the process of restarting its operations at the earliest, the statement said.
The West Bengal government informed there were major damages to agriculture, power and telecommunication facilities in the affected areas. Odisha informed that damages have been mainly limited to agriculture.
At Kolkata central avenue, a small concrete temple situated at the base of a banyan tree was uprooted. According to officials, more than 1,000 mobile towers across the state and city have been completely destroyed. Streets and homes in low lying areas of Kolkata were swamped with rainwater. Four jetties in South 24 Parganas also collapsed on Wednesday night due to the storm.
According to the state agricultural department, paddy crop in districts of Burdwan, West Midnapore and Hooghly has been completely destroyed due to the savage cyclone.
Teams of the NDRF and State Disaster Relief Force (SDRF) have been working on a war footing to clear the roads blocked by the falling trees. The NDRF is moving additional teams to West Bengal to speed up restoration work, especially in Kolkata.

Centre offers full support

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said no stone will be left unturned in helping those affected by the cyclone. “Have been seeing visuals from West Bengal on the devastation caused by Cyclone Amphan,” he tweeted. In this challenging hour, the entire nation stands in solidarity with West Bengal, the prime minister said.
Top officials are closely monitoring the situation and also working in close coordination with the West Bengal government. No stone will be left unturned in helping the affected, he said.“Praying for the well-being of the people of the state. Efforts are on to ensure normalcy.”
The prime minister also said his thoughts are with the people of Odisha as the State bravely battles the effects of the cyclone.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to chief ministers of Odisha and West Bengal — Naveen Patnaik and Mamata Banerjee — and assured them of all central help to deal with the prevailing situation.
Published on May 21, 2020