Tuesday, September 08, 2020

8th September,2020 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter


Weak rupee partially contributed to Q1 agri-export value growth

G. CHANDRASHEKHAR  | Updated on September 07, 2020  Published on September 07, 2020

Description: https://bl.thgim.com/markets/commodities/r7m9q/article32540927.ece/alternates/WIDE_615/weak-rupee

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But lot needs to be done on tapping the potential offered by export markets, especially pulses export to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka

Increase of farm goods export by as much as a quarter in value terms during the peak national lockdown period of April-June quarter is a commendable performance. Exporters deserve to be complimented for fighting against odds – inadequate availability of lorry transport, labour and port facilities – to push their shipments.

Usually, April-June period is when shipments of agri commodities such as grains and oilseeds peak because exporters are keen to beat the onset of the South-West monsoon. During the rainy season, there is the risk of quality deterioration as also logistics disruption.

Currency depreciation

Be that as it may, a closer scrutiny of the latest export data reveals something not communicated. The comparison is between export value realised during April-June quarter this year and the same quarter last year 2019 in rupee terms.

Interestingly, between the first quarter of 2019 and corresponding period in 2020, the rupee has depreciated by as much as 10 per cent. From an average of around 68.5 to a US Dollar in Q1 2019, the rupee has moved lower to 76.0 in Q1 this year. No wonder, when expressed in rupee terms, the export value this year appears attractively higher; but the reality of currency depreciation cannot be glossed over.

A realistic picture of export performance will be known if we compare Q1 2019 and Q1 2020 export performance in dollar terms. It is also necessary for the government to share volume data and unit value realisation in both rupee terms and dollar terms. It would then allow people to come to their own conclusion about agri-export performance.

Pulses, sugar exports

Close to 95 per cent of the increase in Q1 export in value terms is accounted for by two commodities — non-basmati rice and sugar. It is well recognised that sugar export from the country is not on own merit or intrinsic competitiveness of the commodity, but is highly subsidised in order to reduce domestic inventory burden.

It is interesting that pulses export is beginning to pick up. Shipments of both chickpea and pigeon pea have shown a sharp rise during the last quarter, albeit from a low base. However, we are far short of the potential offered by export markets and have done nothing to consciously promote pulses export.

Slack promotions

Bangladesh and Sri Lanka together import nearly 20 lakh tonnes of pulses annually. These two should be our easy target markets; but stakeholders – Commerce Ministry, promotional agencies and trade bodies – have not bothered to cultivate these geographically proximate markets. Remotely located origins such as Canada and Australia happily service our neighbours.

The bilateral trade agreement with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka has remained on paper. This writer believes, India has the potential to export at least 500,000 tonnes of pulses annually; but a conscious effort is required to cultivate overseas markets.

Higher exports will support domestic prices and bring some relief to beleaguered growers. More often than not, domestic rates are well below the minimum support price assured by the government.

The author is a policy commentator and agri-business specialist. Views are personal.


Mum, 33, ditches her daily breakfasts of slurpees and hot chips to shed 20 KILOS - and shares the exact diet behind her newly shredded physique



Mum, 33, ditches her daily breakfasts of slurpees and hot chips to shed 20 KILOS - and shares the exact diet behind her newly shredded physique

·         Sport and fitness were Kristel Hudson's greatest passions her entire life

·         But that changed after welcoming her first child and laying her father to rest

·         The Sydney conveyancer became depressed and sought comfort in junk food

·         Ms Hudson gained 20kg by eating hot chips and drinking 'slurpees' for breakfast

·         Over the past four years, she has regained motivation by doing home workouts

·         The single mum now weighs 57kg and recently won three bikini competitions

PUBLISHED: 05:45 BST, 7 September 2020 | UPDATED: 23:09 BST, 7 September 2020

Fitness was Kristel Hudson's greatest passion her entire life, but everything changed when she discovered she was pregnant weeks after her relationship broke down.

One year later in March 2015, her beloved father - who had raised her as a single parent - died from lung cancer, a devastating loss that pushed the marketing coordinator from Sutherland, south of Sydney, into a deep depression.

Grappling with the emotional and financial pressures of raising daughter Isla alone, Ms Hudson sought comfort in junk food and gained 20 kilos on a diet of chicken shop hot chips, sugar-laced slurpees and Chinese takeaway. 

But after overhauling her lifestyle and toning up with almost daily workouts, Ms Hudson went on to win one of Australia's top bikini modelling competitions in October 2019 - a show of gritty determination she hopes to pass on to her little girl.

Sydney marketing coordinator Kristel Hudson (pictured left, in 2015 and right, in 2019) went from eating hot chips and slurpees for breakfast to winning bikini competitions

Ms Hudson resolved to transform her body after seeing other working mothers getting fit on Instagram

'I was looking at other mums on Instagram with two and three kids who were just as busy as I was and I thought, if they can do it, so can I,' she told Daily Mail Australia.

At her heaviest, Ms Hudson tipped the scales at 65 kilos.

While many might see that as a goal weight, for the pint-sized brunette who stands at 153cm - barely five feet - it was a dramatic departure from her usual physique which had always sat between 45 and 50 kilos.

Lethargic, unmotivated and stripped of confidence, Ms Hudson dressed in baggy track pants and loose-fitting dresses to hide her changing form.

'I didn't look like I was typically overweight, but I had a really high body fat percentage - I went from being super lean to having over 30 percent body fat,' Ms Hudson said.





Agri dep’t renews push for rice farmers to cultivate other crops

September 7, 2020 | 12:04 am

Description: https://www.bworldonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/rice-farmer-071019.jpgPHILIPPINE STAR/EDD GUMBAN

RICE FARMERS are being encouraged to try growing other crops like corn, onion, and garlic to raise their incomes, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said.

The DA said in a recent administrative circular that the crop diversification program targets rice farmers willing to grow alternative crops with market potential.

In a mobile phone interview, Program Director Milo D. Delos Reyes said: “The crops that will be used in the program depend on the market situation and the weather in the locality… We are demonstrating to farmers that it is possible,” he added.

“Eligible beneficiaries are preferably rice cooperatives and associations or groups composed of smallholder rice farmers registered in the Registry System for Basic Sectors of Agriculture (RSBSA) and/or accredited by the DA who are willing to participate in the program and whose farms are identified by the DA regional field offices in coordination with respective local government units,” according to the circular.

The DA’s High-Value Crops Development Program will be the lead implementor of the program.

Other participating agencies are the Bureau of Plant Industry, Bureau of Soils and Water Management, Agricultural Training Institute, and National Economic and Development Authority, among others.

The program will be funded by a portion of the excess revenue from tariffs generated by Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave



Can you grow rice in the desert? Sharjah says it can

The UAE is looking to local food propduction by growing rice in the desert

Description: Rice, UAE, Sharjah, Food security, Korea, Farming


Thomas Shambler


Sharjah is about to start its second experimental rice cultivation project, that hopes to prove that despite the hot weather, rice can indeed be grown here in the UAE. The first experiment – which lasted from November to May 2020 – was a huge success, with researchers able to cultivate two types of rice in an area of 2,200 square meters. The rice was capable of withstanding the UAE’s high temperatures, as well as our local soil.  The next stage of the experiment is getting ready to begin, and is a joint partnership project between the ministry’s Agricultural Innovation Centre in Al Dhaid, Sharjah, as well as the Rural Development Administration of the Republic of Korea. The general idea is to both increase local production of food, and expand the agricultural sector. Being able to turn parts of the desert into rich farmland would obviously do wonders for both those factors, as well as increase the UAE’s sustainability when it comes to food. Rice appears to be the perfect crop to be grown in the desert, as it is extremely hardwearing. For the second stage of the project, researchers are going to try and increase production while at the same time reducing water demand in hopes that it will become easier to grow in future. The pilot phase of the project created 763 kilograms of rice per 1,000 square metres of land.


Riding on non-Basmati rice, sugar, agri exports jump 23% in Q1 despite lockdown

NEW DELHI: Despite Covid-19 and the lockdown, India saw a 23% increase in export of farm produce from April to June compared to the corresponding period last year, with rice and sugar dominating the charts. Though Basmati rice tops the list of exported farm items in terms of value (Rs 8,591 crore) — accounting for a third of India’s agri export in the first quarter of 2020-21, it’s an export of non-Basmati rice that contributed the highest rise of Rs 2,392 crore. Overall, India recorded an increase of Rs 4,818 crore of agri export compared to 2019 Q1. Rice, sugar contributed over 95% to agri export increase Export of refined sugar contributed an increase of Rs 1,719 crore and export of raw sugar Rs 448 crore during the period — this means non-basmati rice and sugar (refined and raw) together contributed Rs 4,559 crore (over 95%) in total increase of agri commodities export.

Description: https://static.toiimg.com/photo/imgsize-174859,msid-77970550/77970550.jpg

Though pigeon pea (tur), Bengal gram and raw groundnut oil figure at the top in percentage term increase, their contribution in value terms in total export is low compared to rice, sugar and onion during the pandemic-hit period. In fact, export of Basmati rice recorded minor decline while other key commodities in India’s agri export basket such as tea and soya meal reported decline of 27% and 14%, respectively, during the first quarter of current financial year compared to the corresponding period in 2019. India’s contribution to sustaining the global food supply chain through increased export amid Covid-19 situation was noted last week during the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) 35th regional conference for Asia and the Pacific, organised by Bhutan on a virtual platform. The country’s representatives, including Union minister of state for agriculture Parshottam Rupala, spoke how the prompt measures during the lockdown period mitigated the impact of the pandemic at a time which coincided first with the peak harvest season and subsequently with fast-paced summer sowing operations during the monsoon. Analysis of the agri export figures of April-June period shows that pigeon pea recorded highest increase of 440% (from Rs 15 crore last year to Rs 81 crore this year) while Bengal Gram recorded an increase of 407%, groundnut oil 243% increase and wheat 148% rise. Incidentally, rice (both Basmati and non-Basmati) and sugar (refined and raw), which together account for nearly 78% of total agri export during April-June, are the two biggest water-guzzling farm commodities — a point which experts on sustainable agriculture invariably raise while pitching for micro irrigation and diversification towards less water-consuming nutri-cereals such as millets.

: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/rice-sugar-push-up-q1-farm-exports-by-23/articleshow/77968974.cms



Social Minister Ensures Adequate Rice Supply for Social Assistance




Petir Garda Bhwana

6 September 2020 17:42 WIB

TEMPO.COJakarta - Social Affairs Minister Juliari P Batubara has ensured adequate rice supply for social assistance to 10 million beneficiaries of the Family Hope Program (PKH) until October.

"Bulog's (State Logistics Agency's) rice supply is adequate for 10 million PKH beneficiaries who will receive 15 kg per household per month in August, September and October," the minister said in a statement on Sunday.

The rice aid would be disbursed in two stages, where each household would receive 30 kg in September and 15 kg in October, he elaborated.

In addition to the implementation of social safety net scheme, the synergy between the ministry and the State Logistics Agency will help the distribution of rice stock in Bulog's warehouses, Batubara said.

"Hence Bulog can absorb more farmers' rice, and this can improve the farmers' welfare," he added.

Rice assistance is a program under the Social Safety Net (JPS) scheme to cope with the social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program is also aimed at absorbing farmers' rice production.

Director General of Social Empowerment at the Social Affairs Ministry Edi Suharto said the ministry has the responsibility to ensure that beneficiaries will receive qualified rice for consumption.

"We guarantee the rice quality. We have to monitor this starting from packaging and distribution. We have to check the process in Bulog's warehouses," Suharto said.

After the packaging process in the agency's warehouses, the rice will be delivered directly to beneficiaries' houses. PT. Bhanda Ghara Reksa (BGR) and PT. Dos Ni Roha (DNR) were appointed to transport and deliver the rice.

Read also: Minister Says Farmers Ready to Harvest 19.8mn Tons of Rice


FAO Cereal Supply and Demand Brief

The Cereal Supply and Demand Brief provides an up-to-date perspective of the world cereal market. The monthly brief is supplemented by a detailed assessment of cereal production as well as supply and demand conditions by country/region in the quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation. More in-depth analyses of world markets for cereals, as well as other major food commodities, are published biannually in Food Outlook.

Monthly release dates for 2020: 6 February, 5 March, 2 April, 7 May, 4 June, 2 July, 3 September, 8 October, 5 November, 3 December.

Cereal supplies to remain ample in 2020/21 despite this month’s cut in global production forecast

Release date: 03/09/2020

Description: http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/worldfood/images/home-graph_4_sep.jpgFAO lowered its forecast for world cereal production in 2020 by 25.0 million tonnes (0.9 percent) compared to the previous forecast in July. Notwithstanding this downturn in prospects, the expected global cereal output still stands at 2 765 million tonnes, an all-time high and 58 million tonnes above the 2019 outturn.

This month’s production cutback results from a reduction in the world coarse grains forecast, now pegged at 1 496 million tonnes, down 23.5 million tonnes from the previous report in July. The bulk of the decline relates to a 26.3 million tonne downward revision to the maize production forecast in the United States of America (USA), where plantings, albeit still up year-on-year, are lower than earlier expectations and recent storm damage in the Midwest caused crop losses and impaired yield prospects. Overall, however, yields are still expected to recover from the previous year’s low level and the country’s output is forecast at 380 million tonnes, 10 percent higher than in 2019. Production forecasts were also lowered in the European Union (EU) and Ukraine, due to adverse weather that diminished yield prospects, and in Indonesia, where the historical production estimates as well as the 2020 forecast were revised downwards in line with recently released official statistics. These reductions more than offset upward revisions to the maize production forecasts in Argentina and Brazil, with both countries expecting record-high harvests. The forecast for global barley production in 2020 has been trimmed by 1.2 million tonnes, driven by lower yield prospects in the EU, and now stands at 154.2 million tonnes. By contrast, world sorghum production is now expected to reach nearly 60 million tonnes, 6 percent higher than the previous year, following increased forecasts for India, Mexico and the USA. Global wheat production has been reduced by 1.4 million tonnes since July, which puts this year’s output at 760.1 million tonnes, marginally below the good outturn of 2019. The recent decrease is mostly the result of cuts to production forecasts in Argentina, the EU and the USA by 1.3 million, 4.0 million, and 1.1 million tonnes, respectively, which outweighed upward revisions for Brazil, Canada, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine. Small area-based increases to July forecasts of rice production in Colombia, the Philippines and the USA compensated for more downbeat expectations of output in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Viet Nam. As a result, global rice production in 2020 is still projected at an all-time high of 509 million tonnes (milled basis), up 1.7 percent from the 2019 reduced level.

The forecast for world cereal utilization in 2020/21 has been increased by 11.0 million tonnes since July, now amounting to 2 746 million tonnes, up 63.1 million tonnes (2.4 percent) from the 2019/20 level. The projected growth and upward revision this month mostly reflect a foreseen increase in total utilization of coarse grains, revised up by 8.4 million tonnes since July and now surpassing the 2019/20 level by 51.5 million tonnes (3.6 percent). An anticipated increase in feed use of coarse grains, especially maize, up 31.4 million tonnes (3.8 percent) from 2019/20 levels, is the biggest driver of the expected annual growth. However, the recovery of industrial use from last year’s slump, now seen increasing by 16.4 million tonnes (4.2 percent), as ethanol demand regains ground, also contributes to the anticipated expansion. The forecast for total wheat utilization in 2020/21 has also been lifted since July, albeit marginally (by 2.0 million tonnes), to 756 million tonnes, representing an increase of 3.0 million tonnes from the 2019/20 level. Higher food consumption is the main driver behind this increase, while the feed demand for wheat is likely to remain suppressed and its industrial use to stagnate. World rice utilization in 2020/21 is pegged at 511 million tonnes, up 600 000 tonnes from July expectations and 1.7 percent above the 2019/20 level. Although non-food uses of rice are anticipated to recover over the season, the predicted expansion is forecast to be driven by food intake, rising at a faster rate than the population growth aided by large supplies and food assistance programmes.

The forecast for world cereal stocks by the close of the 2021 seasons has been cut by 33.4 million tonnes since July, dropping to 895.5 million tonnes, but still up 14.6 million tonnes (1.7 percent) above their opening levels and representing an all-time high. This month’s downward revision of the global cereal stocks and the lifting of world cereal utilization forecast results in the 2020/21 world cereal stocks-to-use ratio dropping to 31.8 percent, down slightly from July and the lowest in four years, but still relatively high from a historical perspective. The bulk of the downward adjustment to global stocks is the result of an expected 24.0 million tonne reduction in maize inventories in the USA, triggered by reduced production prospects since the previous report in July. This cut in maize stocks lowers the forecast for total global coarse grain stocks to 432.1 million tonnes, down 30.9 million tonnes since July but still 10.8 million tonnes (2.6 percent) above their opening levels. Despite a slight downward revision (by 1.6 million tonnes), global wheat inventories at the close of 2021 seasons are also still predicted to increase by 5.7 million tonnes (2.0 percent) above their opening levels and reach 282.2 million tonnes, the second highest on record. However, most of the forecast increase stems from an expected 11.0 million tonne rise in China’s wheat inventories from the previous season. By contrast, following a 1.0 million tonne downgrade since July, world rice stocks are now seen falling 1.0 percent below their opening levels to 181 million tonnes, which is still the third highest volume on record. This latest revision primarily reflects lower anticipated reserves in importers, particularly China, which is also envisaged to account for much of the forecast annual stock drawdown. Conversely, 2020/21 carry-outs in the major rice exporters were raised further and are now predicted to reach a seven-year high.

FAO’s forecast for world trade in cereals in 2020/21 is pegged at 441.4 million tonnes, up 7.1 million tonnes from the July forecast and 6.3 million tonnes (1.6 percent) above the 2019/20 level. The forecast for world wheat trade in 2020/21 (July/June) has been raised to 181.5 million tonnes, up 2.9 million tonnes from July and marginally (0.3 percent) above the 2019/20 record level. The more robust wheat import demand in 2020/21 will likely be met by larger shipments from Australia and the Russian Federation, offsetting an anticipated cut in exports by the EU. The forecast for world trade in coarse grains in 2020/21 (July/June) has also been lifted since the previous report in July, by 3.9 million tonnes; it now points to a likely trade expansion of nearly 4.0 million tonnes (1.9 percent) from the 2019/20 level and marking a new record. Higher world trade of maize than earlier anticipated is responsible for most of this month’s upward adjustment, reflecting strong import demand, especially in Asia, amid large supplies in major exporters. Despite a 400 000 tonne downward revision from July, ample exportable supplies and rekindling African demand are expected to sustain a 6 percent annual expansion in international rice trade in (calendar) 2021 to 47 million tonnes. 

Summary Tables

Description: http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/worldfood/images/cereal_balance_sep.png

Download full dataset Description: http://www.fao.org/uploads/RTEmagicC_8552cbedac_30.gif.gif


1/  Production data refer to the calendar year of the first year shown. Rice production is expressed in milled terms.
2/  Production plus opening stocks.
3/  Trade data refer to exports based on a July/June marketing season for wheat and coarse grains and on a January/December marketing season for rice (second year shown).
4/  May not equal the difference between supply and utilization due to differences in individual country marketing years.
5/ Major wheat exporters are Argentina, Australia, Canada, the EU, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United States; major coarse grain exporters are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the EU, Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United States; major rice exporters are India, Pakistan, Thailand, the United States, and Viet Nam. Disappearance is defined as domestic utilization plus exports for any given season.






Vietnamese rice takes bite out of global market

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Vietnam’s rice exports have expanded during the pandemic to surpass rival Thailand in price for the first time in three decades, leading experts to suggest the sector should consolidate its position.

Description: Vietnamese rice takes bite out of global market

In July, Vinaseed – a member of The PAN Group, exported VJ Pearl Rice and RVT fragrant rice to the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. — Photo courtesy of Vinaseed

According to industry insiders, Thailand is expected to export 6.5 million tones of rice this year and drop from 3rd to 5th place on the list of global rice exporters in the next decade.

While other agricultural products suffered from a decline in exports due to the impacts of COVID-19, domestic rice export value reached US$2.2 billion in the first eight months of 2020, up 10.4 per cent over the same period in 2019.

According to the Vietnam Food Association (VFA), local rice export prices had continued to increase. Specifically, local 5 per cent broken rice was of $20 per tonne higher than Thailand in August.

Earlier this year, Thailand's 5 per cent broken white rice price was between $50 and $60 higher than the Vietnamese variety. By mid-August, local 5 per cent broken white rice was trading at $493 to $497 per tonne, while the Thai variety stood at $473-477, Pakistan was at $423-427 and India was down at $378-382.

A VFA official told local media: “It is the first time Vietnamese rice export prices have risen above Thailand in 30 years."

With the European Union – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), effective last month, Vietnam has a quota of 80,000 tonnes of rice to export per year with a tax rate of zero per cent, giving the country to the chance to assert its position in the EU market and also the world, said Le Thanh Hoa, deputy director of the Agro-Processing and Market Development Authority at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).

Hoa added that each year the EU consumes about 2.5 million tonnes of rice, but before the trade agreement Vietnam was only able to supply 20,000 tonnes due to the high import tax. In the past Vietnamese rice could not compete with rice from Thailand, the United States or Australia, which were allocated large quotas, or Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar which were tax exempt.

The MARD official said rice consumption in the EU was increasing significantly due to the popularity of Asian food, so there was still room for Vietnamese exporters, especially with zero tariffs.

According to the ministry, local rice exports reached 4.5 million tonnes worth $2.2 billion in the first eight month of 2020. Export volume decreased due to the pandemic but the value increased significantly thanks to higher prices, averaging $488 per tonne.

He detailed that white rice export value accounted for 38 per cent of total turnover, of which low-quality white rice only accounts for two per cent.

Boost the brand

Trung An High-Tech Agriculture Joint Stock Company in Can Tho Province is planning to export its first batch of rice to the EU after signing contracts to sell 3,000 tonnes to three customers in Germany.


Tin tài trợ

According to the firm, in the first shipment, it will deliver 150 tonnes of ST20 at more than US$1,000 per tonne, and jasmine at more than $600 per tonne.

In July, Vietnam Rice Company Limited (Vinarice) under Vinaseed – a member of The PAN Group, exported VJ Pearl Rice and RVT fragrant rice to the Netherlands and the Czech Republic at a price of $1,040 per tonne as the first Vietnamese branded rice products imported officially into those markets.

Despite a relatively low quota of 80,000 tonnes tax to the EU, local firms know the requirements they have to meet to take advantage.

CEO of Vinaseed Nguyen Quang Truong said: “To meet the demand, Vinaseed has focused on selecting varieties and investing in modern facilities and quality management systems that meet international standards for food hygiene and safety, while developing a sustainable supply and distribution network.”

Even though Vietnam was one of the top three rice exporting countries in the world, Truong noted that one of the major challenges was quality.

As CEO of the firm with more than 50 year of experience in the market, Truong said: “Vietnam has yet to nail down key varieties for export and instead exports many different varieties. This limits competitiveness and branding.”

“In other countries, they focus on highly competitive rice for export,” he said, recommending that rice producers should build sustainable production chains for safe, organic materials with clear traceability to attract customers from high-end markets.

Vietnamese rice exports needed to follow a strict chain from research and development to processing, packaging and marketing to establish a national brand in the future, he said.

“Building a good and consistent agricultural product with geographical indications and brand protection is a must in the branding process,” he added.

According to the MARD representative, the ministry was applying to register the brand “Vietnam Rice” under the Madrid System. After completing the registration, the ministry will then ask the Government to allow the VFA to manage and certify the Vietnamese rice trademark.  VNS


Opportune time for Vietnam to boost rice exports

Export prices of Vietnam’s 5% broken rice have climbed to USD488-492 per tonne, up US$25 from a month ago and marking the highest levels for years.

 Rice exports increase sharply with highest price in many years


Description: http://en.dangcongsan.vn/DATA/3/2020/09/790a9cb7afb5f8824c828acafde4063d-12_28_12_705.jpg

Photo for illustration

Purchasing prices in the Mekong Delta also rose significantly against previous crops, up to VND6,200 per kilogram, generating good profits for rice farmers.

According to the Vietnam Food Association, Vietnamese rice price rises were partly thanks to many countries increasing their reserves to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, with Vietnam’s ST25 rice named the world’s best rice, global consumers have paid more attention to Vietnamese rice in general, helping to boost both export volumes and prices.

In other good news, Vietnamese rice has begun to penetrate high-quality markets with Vinaseed recently announcing it will ship 50 tonnes of Japonica rice to Australia. The company already exported VJ Pearl Rice and RVT fragrant rice to the Netherlands and the Czech Republic in July at a price of US$1,040 per tonnes.

Such varieties have received the FSSC 22000 certificate on processing, packaging and shipping from Bureau Veritas, a world-leading British certification company. This is one of the comprehensive food safety standards necessary to penetrate demanding markets such as the EU and the US.

Besides Vinaseed, many Vietnamese rice exporters are also working to meet the stringent requirements of the EU, especially as the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement has already come into force, under which the EU is giving Vietnam an annual quota of 80,000 tonnes of rice with zero tariffs.

This is a special opportunity for Vietnamese rice exporters to build and promote their image as well as outlining new strategies for production and export by focusing on speciality rice varieties designed to target discerning markets with higher prices and also reduce reliance on traditional markets, which mainly purchase lower-quality rice at lower prices.

It is a fact that Vietnamese rice accounts for small market share in European supermarkets while the rice of Thailand and Cambodia dominates. In order to expand their market and raise the value of rice, Vietnamese enterprises, therefore, need to change their mindset from creating safe growing regions to forging closer links with farmers in order to achieve high level domestic and international certificates regarding agricultural practices and food safety./.

CPV (Source: Nhan Dan News)


Vietnamese rice export price hits 9 year high

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CHRISTIAN FERNSBY ▼ | September 7, 2020

The average export price of Vietnamese rice in the first seven months jumped to $487.2 per tonne, the highest level since 2011.

SEVEN MONTHS   Vietnam rice

This marks a year-on-year increase of 12.5 percent, according to the Agriculture Products Processing and Development Department (Agrotrade).


The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed many countries to increase rice purchases for bolstering reserves, leading to higher prices, it said.

Vietnam’s 5-percent broken rice is currently priced at around $480 per tonne and is forecast to continue rising until the next harvest which falls in next month.

In the first seven months, the Philippines was the top importer of Vietnamese rice, accounting for 35.3 percent of total export volume. Some markets that boosted their rice purchases from Vietnam were: Senegal, up 19.8 times, Indonesia, up 3.1 times and China, up 84 percent.

The country has exported 4.5 million tonnes of rice worth $2.2 billion in the first eight months, up 10.4 percent in value year-on-year. ■



Rice federation seeks more opportunities

The Cambodian Rice Federation and Bank of China have agreed to leverage their respective strengths to further deepen a strategic alliance. KT/Chor Sokunthea


The Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF)  is seeking more business opportunities for Cambodia’s rice sector by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with  Bank of China (Hong Kong) Ltd on the third China International Import Expo (CIIE) project to promote the industry.

The MoU was signed by Song Saran, president of the CRF, and Bank of China (Hong Kong) Ltd Phnom Penh branch (BOC), represented by Liu Zheng.

“As the strategic partner of the third CIIE, BOC acknowledges the CRF as an important business association in Cambodia with the advantage of having many corporate members,” Saran said.

He said it will actively introduce corporate members to BOC, having the intention to participate in the CIIE for CRF’s members to get opportunities in global trade and expand business.

Saran said the MOU is an essential key principle to further facilitate the implementation of the third CIIE project, in which both the CRF and BOC have agreed to leverage their respective strengths to further deepen a strategic alliance.

Cambodia’s rice exports rose 31.05 percent, reaching 448,203 tonnes, in the first eight months of the year, according to a report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

China is still the top market for Cambodian rice exports with around 159,253 tonnes in the first eight months, followed by France with 56,964 tonnes. However, In Asean countries, Malaysia imported about 23, 201 tonnes from Cambodia, Vietnam 12,836 tonnes and Brunei 10,500 tonnes.

According to the announcement from CIIE, the third CIIE will be held as scheduled from Nov 5-10 in Shanghai, China.

“The CRF strongly expects to actively participate in this event as well as aiming to promote Cambodia’s rice brand on the international stage. It is also seeking more business opportunities in the rice sector and related sectors from the event,” he said.

Saran said that the sector needs about $300 million to buy rice paddy during this year to reach the target of 800,000 tonnes in exports.

“With the target of exporting 800,000 tonnes of rice this year, the government needs to inject between $80 million to $100 million while the private sector needs to have reserves of about $200 million,” he said.

He added both state and private sectors will also need to inject more money to reach the ultimate target of 1 million tonnes.











CRF, China-owned bank ink MoU to promote rice sector

Hin Pisei | Publication date 06 September 2020 | 21:26 ICT

Description: Content image - Phnom Penh Post

The Kingdom exported 448,203 tonnes of milled rice to international markets in the first eight months of this year. Heng Chivoan

Cambodia milled-rice export market is expected to widen next year after the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) and Bank of China (Hong Kong) Ltd (BoC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation and support tied to the upcoming 3rd China International Import Expo (CIIE) in November.

The MoU was signed on Friday between CRF president Song Saran and BoC Phnom Penh Branch representative Liu Zheng and aims to shore up the Kingdom’s rice industry. BoC is a subsidiary of the Chinese State-owned Bank of China Ltd.

Both parties will further strengthen cooperation between banks and enterprises, and “effectively and efficiently” provide services and financing for Cambodian companies that are interested in attending the CIIE.

As a “strategic partner”, BoC will actively provide comprehensive financial services to the corporate members of CRF as part of the greater CIIE project.

CRF secretary-general Lun Yeng told The Post on Sunday that through the MoU, the BoC would make it easier for CRF members to attend the CIIE, held in Shanghai, China from November 5-10.

He said the event is taken very seriously by the Chinese leadership, and stressed the importance for the Kingdom’s rice sector to capitalise on the opportunity and expand its export market.

“Every year at the event, CRF leaders meet Chinese vendors to discuss and sign supply agreements. This is an opportunity for exporters for the coming year,” Yeng said, adding that the CRF has signed MoUs and rice sale agreements at both prior iterations of the CIIE.

Cambodia exported 448,203 tonnes of milled rice to international markets in the first eight months of this year, an increase of more than 31.04 per cent compared to 342,045 tonnes in the same period last year.

The General Directorate of Agriculture reported this, citing data from the General Department of Customs and Excise that was extracted from phytosanitary certificates.

Yeng said the exports were worth between $298 and $300 million.

The directorate said jasmine and fragrant rice accounted for 352,802 tonnes, equivalent to 78.71 per cent of total milled-rice exports, while white long-grain rice accounted for 89,699 tonnes (20.01 per cent).

Long-grain parboiled rice accounted for 5,679 tonnes (1.27 per cent) and red rice 23 tonnes (0.01 per cent).

China topped the list of 59 destination markets for Cambodian milled rice with 159,253 tonnes imported (up 19.79 year-on-year), accounting for a 35.53 per cent market share.

Exports to Europe, ASEAN countries and other destinations reached 149,848 tonnes, 60,933 tonnes and 78,169 tonnes, up 24.81, 42.49 and 68.92 per cent year-on-year, accounting for 33.43, 13.59 and 17.44 per cent of total milled-rice exports for the period.

But milled-rice shipments slipped 34.97 per cent to 22,130 tonnes last month, from 34,032 tonnes in August last year.

The CRF attributed the drop in dry-season milled-rice exports to climate change and the rescheduled Khmer New Year holiday last month.

Contact author: Hin Pisei




Bridging agricultural livelihoods and energy access - Barriers and opportunities for rice and rice husk value chains in Labutta, Myanmar










5 Sep 2020


Originally published


4 Sep 2020




View original


Executive Summary

This report presents the results of a one-year collaborative research project between Mercy Corps Myanmar, Renewable Energy Association of Myanmar with Biomass Energy Association of Myanmar and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester. The project explored the intersection between agricultural livelihoods and energy access through an investigation of social networks in rice and rice husk value chains in rural farming communities of Labutta in Myanmar’s Lower Delta.

Rice production is an important agricultural activity in Myanmar, significantly contributing to its economy by providing income and employment to half of the country’s population. However, because of lack of access to electricity in many rural areas, rice farmers have limited opportunities to increase their income. For many off-grid communities, heat and electricity for household lighting and livelihood activities are provided through steam and electricity produced from combustion or gasification of rice husk – a by product of rice milling. With an estimated over 3 million tonnes of rice husk produced every year, Myanmar has potential to utilise rice husk for income-generating activities and energy generation in order to support agricultural production and rural livelihoods.

Focusing on case study sites in Bi Tut and Kan Bet in Labutta, this research mapped social networks in rice production and rice husk value chains. This allowed us to identify actors and network structures that could play important roles in supporting energy access and increasing livelihood opportunities for smallholders. In addition to this, interviews and focus group discussions with farmers and millers also revealed important challenges and opportunities for rice husk bioenergy within rural farming communities.

Among the challenges identified are:

·         Access to credit and financing. This is one of the most urgent requirements to enable smallholder farmers and millers to adopt value-adding activities such as access to high quality inputs (e.g., seeds and fertilisers) or mechanised drying, and so increase their income.

·         Small-scale millers in off-grid areas offer an important service to smallholder farmers and need financial and technical support to upgrade their facilities.

·         A rice husk market exists but mostly for traditional biomass uses, e.g., as briquettes or fuel sticks or direct burning for rice husk cook stoves; these can lead to pollution and negative impacts on health.

·         Medium-scale millers are willing to participate in new or additional rice husk value added activities, but only if other actors or businesses can manage rice husk collection and transportation for them.

There are a number of opportunities for both farmers and millers that can address these challenges, including:

·         Building or strengthening connections between medium-scale millers and local businesses that use rice husk • Supporting market development for rice husk use in energy generation

·         Empowering local partnerships within communities to manage husk-to-energy business models • Linking groups of farmers to service providers in order to lower costs of production

Reflecting on these, results from this research suggest that in order to bridge agri-livelihods and energy access:

·         Farmers and millers need access to credit under fair financing schemes. It is also particularly important to address issues in rice trading (e.g., differences in trading price) to increase farmers’ income.

·         Investments are needed to support facilities and activities that add value to rice husk, especially by using it for modern bioenergy. This requires financial support for millers, especially small-scale and husk-to-energy operators to allow them to invest in zero-effluent husk-to-energy facilities.

·         Capacity building and partnerships strengthening initiatives are needed, which could be enabled by collaboration between local businesses, communities, and civil society organisations.

·         More policy focus on rice husk bioenergy is needed to encourage investments and upscale existing initiatives. This includes a consideration of stricter implementation of rules preventing rice husk or wastewater disposal into river systems.

These findings draw on learnings from our case study sites and may not be applicable to other rice farming communities or regions. Nonethless, taken together they encourage thinking about the role of energy in poverty alleviation, particularly in consideration of urgency and justice – what is needed now and what is fair, especially for smallholders in rice production. Future work on this subject should undertake an economic analysis to further strengthen the case for value chain development for rice husk, including for rice husk gasifiers which have been valuable in powering off-grid farming communities, but are beyond the scope of this research.


Natural pests’ management becomes popular in Aman rice farming


 Published at 05:39 pm September 7th, 2020

Description: Web_Paddy-rice-Farmers-Mehedi-hasan

File photo of farmers reaping paddy in a field in Moulvibazar Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Adopting perching methods, farmers have set up bamboo poles on 4.72 lakh hectares of growing Aman rice fields out of the total cultivated land area of 5.99 lakh hectares so far in all five districts of the region

The natural methods of pests’ management like perching and light trap are becoming popular among farmers while farming Transplanted Aman rice in Rangpur agriculture region.

The farmers are applying live and dead perching and light trap methods innovated by agriculture researchers and scientists to increase more hygienic Aman rice output minimizing the cost of insecticide.

Additional Director of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) for Rangpur region Agriculturist Muhammad Ali said farmers are reaping benefits by adopting perching and light trap methods in preventing pests’ attacks on Aman rice plants.

Adopting perching methods, farmers have set up bamboo poles on 4.72 lakh hectares of growing Aman rice fields out of the total cultivated land area of 5.99 lakh hectares so far in all five districts of the region.

“Of them, farmers have brought 1.86 lakh hectares of land under the live and 2.86 lakh hectares of land under dead perching methods in the region till Saturday while cultivating Aman rice this season,” Ali said.

At the same time, farmers have set up light traps on 655 hectares of Aman rice fields, including permanent light traps on 605 hectares and temporary light traps on 50 hectares of their croplands.

“The process of adopting live and dead perching and light trap methods still continues on Aman rice fields in all five districts of Rangpur, Gaibandha, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, and Nilphamari in the region,” he said.

The DAE is conducting motivational and training activities to inspire farmers in using these eco-friendly methods for saving growing Aman rice plants from pests’ attacks at different stages to get more rice yield.

“Random application of pesticide and insecticide are threatening the ecosystems causing the extinction of indigenous species of fishes, beneficial insects and birds while many other species of them are on the verge of annihilation,” Ali said.

Farmers are erecting bamboo poles on Aman rice fields so that birds could perch on those in search of food and eat harmful pests’ for rice plants to protect the crop reducing the use of pesticides.

Farmers Ariful Haque, Manik Miah, and Azizul Haque of different villages here said the adoption of the perching and light trap methods minimizes the cost of insecticide and saves the environment and ecosystems.

Farmers Mozammel Haque, Aiyub Ali, and Mohsin Ali of village Kathihara in Rangpur Sadar upazila said many birds perch on the poles on growing Aman rice fields to eat insects protecting the growing rice plants

“Now, we know how to protect growing Aman rice plants and save money using effective natural methods of perching and light traps,” Aiyub said, adding that application of these methods have really been productive and profitable.

Senior Coordinator (Agriculture and Environment) of RDRS Bangladesh Agriculturist Mamunur Rashid said the adoption of perching and light trap methods are reducing the arbitrary use of pesticide while Aman rice cultivation.


Floods washed away more than 25% of Nigeria’s rice harvest

Bloomberg  September 7 | Updated on September 07, 2020  Published on September 07, 2020

Description: https://bl.thgim.com/news/world/xtcrc7/article32540626.ece/alternates/WIDE_615/364480851

Floods washed away at least two million tonnes of rice in Nigeria, the second-largest importer of the grain. That is more than 25 per cent of the previously projected national output of 8 million tonnes (mt), according to estimates by a farmers’ organisation.

At least 450,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) were destroyed in Kebbi, the country’s main rice-growing state, according to Mohammed Sahabi, the state chairman of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria. Planters had targeted a 2.5 mt contribution to the national basket, but will now meet less than 20 per cent of the target. Farmers in five other states — Kano, Nigeria, Enugu, Jigawa and Nasarawa — also reported damage.

“Although we heard the forecast of flooding this year, we didn’t expect that the damage will be of this magnitude,” Sahabi said by phone from the northwestern city of Birnin Kebbi. “Our target at state level was 2.5 million tonnes this year, but now we are looking at only 500,000 tonnes of harvest.”

Nearly 50 people died in Nigerian floods this year as torrential rains caused Africa’s most populous country’s two main rivers to overflow, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). The agency had warned that at least 28 of 36 states of West African nation were at risk of flooding due to heavy rainfall. Other crops such as sorghum, millet and corn were also affected.

“There is this trepidation that we might have food problems on flooding and existing insecurity challenges,” Kabir Ibrahim, head of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, said by phone from Abuja, the nation’s capital. “It will be too soon to know how devastating the impact is.”

Nigeria’s rice production was about 6.7 mt in the last three years, with imports seen declining by 200,000 tonnes in 2020 from 1.2 mt last year as price-sensitive consumers switch to local staples, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

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UAE prepares for second run of local rice-growing project after successful harvest

Pilot phase yielded 763kg of rice per 1,000 square metres of land in Al Dhaid, Sharjah


Published:  September 06, 2020 18:10 Staff Report

The UAE's first rice field in Al Dhaid, Sharjah. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Sharjah: Preparations are underway for the launch of the second experimental phase of a landmark rice cultivation project in the UAE after a successful first harvest in June, officials announced on Sunday.

In its first phase that ran from November 2019 to May 2020, the project achieved success in cultivating japonica and indica rice on an area of 2,200 square meters. The two varieties proved capable of withstanding UAE’s high temperatures and local soil conditions.

The pilot phase had yielded 763kg of rice per 1,000 square metres of land, Gulf News had reported in June.

Sunday’s announcement of a second phase followed a recent tour by Dr Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) of the ministry’s Agricultural Innovation Centre in Al Dhaid, a region of Sharjah.

He inspected preparations for the latest phase of the rice cultivation project at the centre, in cooperation with the Rural Development Administration (RDA) of the Republic of Korea.

Watch: Rice crop in the UAE

Expanding rice footprint across UAE

In talks with the Korean team, the minister explored possibilities of developing rice cultivation projects in the UAE to increase production and reduce water demand in order to expand the footprints of this staple crop across the country.

Dr Al Nuaimi said: “Building innovation capabilities is one of the basic pillars of developing the agricultural sector and achieving food security and sustainability — currently a top priority for the UAE. Therefore, MOCCAE seeks to strengthen cooperation with all UAE entities active in the agricultural sector as well as independent innovators to identify solutions to increase the volume of local agricultural production and raise its efficiency.”

Boosting food security

He also toured Al Foah’s date receiving centre and the Sharjah Seed Bank and Herbarium at Sharjah Research Academy. The visit was part of the ministry’s efforts to enhance food security in the UAE.

Sultan Alwan, acting undersecretary of MOCCAE, and Saif Al Shara, assistant undersecretary for the Sustainable Communities Sector, accompanied the minister during his visit.

During his visit to Sharjah Research Academy, Dr Al Nuaimi reviewed advancements in the research and development of high-yielding crop varieties that can adapt to the country’s climatic conditions, in addition to climate-resilient varieties.

During his visit to the date receiving centre of Al Foah, the UAE’s flagship date producer, the minister examined the requirements for increasing date production in the country and boosting the global competitiveness of the product.


Shortfall fear makes rice market volatile

Market operators suggest prompt public-sector import

 DOULOT AKTER MALA AND YASIR WARDAD | Published:  September 06, 2020 09:37:25 | Updated:  September 06, 2020 15:47:22


Description: Shortfall fear makes rice market volatile

A three-phase natural calamity, COVID-19 pandemic and the perceived fear of production shortfall are making the country's rice market volatile.

The fear of staple shortage deepened after multiple natural disasters hit the crops.

Excessive rainfall in March-April, cyclone Amphan in the month of May and consecutive floods in June- July damaged crops, of which 70 per cent is paddy.

Already prices of rice in the local market showed an upward trend during the last three weeks, compounding the hardship of the limited income people.

Prices of all kinds of rice rose by 10-20 per cent in a month across the country, according to the Department of Agricultural Marketing and the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh.

Rice prices started increasing at a time when the government agency revealed that production of the key staple was all-time high amounting to 20.26 million tonnes in Boro season.

But people involved in the sector said the two-month flood has severely affected Aman farming, triggering the fear of further spike in rice prices.

Millers said traders and big farmers are storing the paddy following flood fearing crop loss during the Aman season.

According to the Food Department under food ministry, the government's procurement of rice was below requirement by the end of August, for which it extended the rice purchase period until mid-September.

Until August 31, the government procured less than 60 per cent of its target.

Mohammad Moniruzzaman, additional director of food department, said the government procured 656,000 tonnes of boro rice (parboiled and white rice) against its target for 1.15 million tonnes from May 7 to August 31.

He, however, said although the procurement remained poor the government has sufficient stock around 1.0 million tonnes of the staple.

About the procurement price for farmers, he acknowledged it is one of the major reasons for poor procurement.

The government is buying rice at Tk 35-36 a kg when the price of coarse rice is Tk. 38 a kg at the mill-gate now.

Prices of rice varieties like Swarna, Brridhan-28 and 29, Miniket, Jeera, Najirshail showed a Tk 250-275 hike per 50-kg sack at mill gates in Naogaon, Kushtia, Rangpur, Dinajpur in a month, according to the Bangladesh Auto Major Husking Mill Owners Association (BAMHMOA).

BAMHMOA secretary K M Layek Ali, said high paddy prices as well as flood in many milling hubs had caused the hike. He said Brridhan-28 paddy prices have increased to Tk 1,200-1,250 a maund, which was Tk 900-950 a maund a month back.

A Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) study said there will be no shortage of rice until November as the country will have 5.55 million tonnes of surplus rice during the period.

BRRI, in its latest study, said rice production increased by 3.54 per cent in Boro season despite decline in acreage as per hectare yield rose notably.

The Institute also found that farmers have stored 29 per cent of total paddy they produced in Boro season, which was 20 per cent last year.

Agricultural economist and former research director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) Asaduzzaman said it is assumed that there is a shortfall in rice and the procurement target to be not met.

He said the government should go for import immediately, not depending on the private sector alone. He said already prices of rice have gone up in the market so there is no time to make any delay.

However, international prices of the staple are surging in recent times. The FAO Rice Price Index said prices surged by 2.7 per cent in August from that of July and the current price is 8.7 per cent higher than the corresponding period of last year. Indian, Thai and Vietnamese parboiled rice are now trading at prices between US $ 385 and $ 508 a tonne. The prices were between $330 and $440 a tonne before the pandemic.

A study, released on Saturday by Disaster Management Watch, said farmers have been facing problems. About 56 per cent of them do not have sufficient cash for the next cropping season, some 54 per cent find the prices of input high, and 56 per cent are facing labour shortage.

Underscoring the need for ensuring fair price for farmers, report said COVID coupled with flood has led to such problems. It estimated that there could be 22 per cent crop loss due to the floods.





Rice has special significane in Asia.

Shahzad Malik Updated 08 Sep 2020


ARTICLE: Rice has special significance in Asia, where about 90% of the rice is produced and consumed as staple food. Though in Pakistan it is the second most favorite food after wheat, even then increasing mouths to feed in the country and decreasing land and water resources available for rice cultivation needs serious and concrete efforts through research & development to come up with such rice technologies that will result in higher yields.

Pakistan's total population is slightly over 220 million and at current growth rate of over 2.1 percent it is expected to become the 4th most populous country of the world in 2050.

Involvement of seed companies from private sector is crucial to meet the increased demand for hybrid seed.

Realizing the importance of private seed research, Guard Agricultural Research & Services (GUARD) established in 1989 launched research to develop new hybrid seed in collaboration with Hunan Rice Research Institute (HRRI) Hunan, China in 1999. Later on for commercialization of hybrid rice we made joint venture with Yuan LongPing High-Tech Agriculture Co., Ltd, China which is off shoot of HRRI, having share holding of eminent scientist and breeder, Professor Yuan LongPing who is inventor of hybrid rice technology and is also known as "father of hybrid rice", with special focus on looming water scarcity and climate change threats which are posing serious threat to national food security.

So far, Guard alone has introduced 10 new hybrid varieties for general cultivation all over Pakistan. These all are coarse varieties generally sown in Sindh and South Punjab having tolerance against heat and water scarcity. The company is also on the way to introduce a basmati hybrid having an average yield up to 80 mounds per acre with an average grain length of 8 mm. We are very near to achieving this target after hard work of five to six years; our scientists in collaboration with our Chinese partners have developed basmati hybrids out of which one variety is giving 75 mounds per acres and average grain length of 7.4 mm, slightly short of the target of 80 mounds per acre. Our scientists have been tasked to develop heat, drought tolerant and salinity resistant varieties.

Guard commercialized Super Basmati in 1991, which was eventually approved by Government in 1997 for commercial cultivation after 40 percent of Punjab area came under its cultivation. The Company after introduction of coarse hybrid has also started local production of hybrid rice seed. We are the leading company by developing such a large number of hybrids and starting local commercial hybrid rice seed production.

The need to bring new hybrids of rice is because the yield of rice varieties is low and stagnant. Low rice yields do not match with increasing cost of inputs; due to increase in cost of production Pakistan is becoming un-competitive in international market. Land resources are declining, water shortage is becoming a problem, solution is adoption of hybrid rice.

Since the introduction of hybrid rice in Sindh, income of rice farmers has doubled due to double yield of hybrid rice as compared to IRRI varieties, doubled income of farmers, resulted in poverty alleviation, socio-economic changes in rural areas of Sindh and South Punjab. Due to early maturing hybrid rice crop, timely sowing of Rabi crops is ensured. Timely sown Rabi crops give positive and significant increase in per unit production / per acre yield which consequently increase farmer income. Due to shorter maturity period, hybrid rice crop can be planted in late season. Further to shorter maturity period, hybrid rice crop consumes less irrigation as compared to traditional rice varieties. Hybrid rice crop can be successfully grown in stress areas like saline, drought and water logged as compared to inbred.

Success in getting more per acre yield has paved the way for producing more non-basmati rice and increasing its exports thus fetching more revenue for the cash strapped country. There is also a need of more production and supply to explore new markets and achieve the target of US 5 billion dollars export in the next five years, hybrid seeds can make this possible.

High yielding hybrid rice area is going to cross 50 percent in three years from present 25 to 30 percent paddy coverage, yielding additional two million tons output.

All efforts of introducing hybrid rice seed in Pakistan is being commanded by national seed companies mainly in collaboration of Chinese leadership in research & development with 'Guard Agri' having the lion's share. Several multinational seed companies did try to introduce hybrid rice seed but could not outperform national seed companies. Their varieties were less rewarding for farmers due to lack of jump in production while seed cost was also high when compared to what local seed companies were offering.

Being founding chairman of Seed Association of Pakistan (SAP) and Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) and former President of Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI), I believe with untiring efforts of local scientists, the role of private sector in seed research and development is increasing day by day, as I have closely worked with Government and Private researchers.

With doubling of hybrid rice seed coverage from present 25-30 percent to over 50 percent in next three years, national rice production is potentially expected to be increased by hefty two million tons. At present yield is 6.9 million ton from 2.79 million hectares. By doubling the area from 25 percent to 50 percent, the expected increase in yield will be around 2 million tons and total yield will be around 9 million tons.

In total rice hybridization, around 90 percent area of long-grain paddy is in Sindh province while 10 percent in South Punjab. As aromatic basmati rice is first choice for farmers in Punjab, coarse varieties area is still low. However, with production of hybrid rice seed in central Punjab, paddy area in Punjab is likely to increase significantly in coming years, he observed.

The major factor behind success of national seed companies in large-scale acceptance of rice hybrid seed has been development of heat-resistance and drought tolerant varieties. Multinational seed companies had varieties that could not perform well in harsh summer weather of Sindh and Southern Punjab. Long grain hybrid rice that substituted IRRI-6 in the coastal belt and central Sindh is a major success as its export market is rapidly evolving in the favor of farmers and exporters.

Consequently, our long grain rice is gaining grounds globally with much ease by competing major producers and exporting countries of the world like Vietnam and Thailand.

Our company has emerged as a leader in demand driven research in agriculture, challenging the monopoly of public sector institutions and multinationals.

With great passion to increase productivity of farming sector, we are actively striving to achieve food security in an untiring effort spanning over past 30 years. We successfully pioneered the introduction of hybrid rice seed in Pakistan with collaboration of Chinese scientists for which Government of Pakistan honoured me Sitara-e-Imtiaz for contribution in revolution of rice production which doubled the income of farmers, resulting in changing socio-economic conditions and poverty alleviation in rural Sindh. The surplus rice production resulted in increased rice (non-basmati) exports bringing in valuable foreign exchange.

Shahzad Malik (SI) Chief Executive, Guard Agriculture Research & Services (Pvt.) Ltd

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020




Researchers isolate responses of crop yield and production to climate disasters in China

Description: Researchers isolate responses of crop yield and production to climate disasters in ChinaThe response of crops yield and production to climatic disasters and the frequency of drought and flood disasters in different provinces of China. Credit: Prof.SHI Wenjiao’s group

Climate disasters have disrupted food production and caused yield losses in recent decades. These disasters have threatened food security at both local and global scales. Quantitative identification of the impacts of climate disasters on crop yields and production is conducive to ensuring food security and formulating effective measures to deal with climate disasters.  

In the past, crop models and statistical models were mostly used in research, and could well separate the impact of climate change on the yield and production of different crops. However, both models extensively used the climatic indices (such as extreme temperature and extreme precipitation) to identify the relationship between crop yield and climate disasters, and the impact of extreme weather disasters on crop yield and production cannot be completely separated.  

Considering the limitations of crop models or statistical models, Prof. Shi Wenjiao's team at Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research of Chinese Academy of Sciences defined the actual-occurred composited series (AS) and control composited series (CS), and quantitatively separated the losses of yield and production of the major grain crops (maize, rice, soybean, and wheat) resulting from droughts and floods across China and major grain-producing areas (MGPA) during 1982–2012 using the superposed epoch analysis (SEA) method, which is suitable for analyzing the losses of crop yield and production caused by climatic disasters such as droughts and floods.  

The research showed that between 1982 and 2012, various responses of droughts and floods were found for main crops; specifically, responses varied throughout China, and among the three MGPA.  

The flood disaster reduced the yield and production of major crops by 4.4-6.8%, while the impact of drought disaster was significant and widespread, with the yield loss of major crops being 4.5–11.6%, especially maize and soybean, with the yield and production decreasing by 7.8–11.6%. Wheat yield was affected by both droughts and floods, with significant decreases of 5.8% and 6.1%, respectively.  

Moreover, rice yield and production were sensitive to both droughts and floods, with reductions of 4.5–6.3%. In the three MGPA, crops cultivated in the Northeast China (NEC) and the Huang-Huai-Hai plain (HHH) were more sensitive to drought; the yield and production of only early rice were significantly affected by floods in the mid-lower reaches of the Yangtze River (MLYR).  

They developed the new method for directly determining the response of crop yield and production in different regions to climate disasters and hope to provide scientific support for agricultural solutions of climate disasters in the future. 



Punjab, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa free from locust menace: NLCC

The National Locust Control Centre says that an anti-locust survey and control operation is now in progress to ascertain the progress of anti-locust drive

News Desk


September 7, 2020

Description: free from locust

The National Locust Control Centre (NLCC) on Monday declared Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa free from locust. According to a statement released by the NLCC spokesperson, the locust is now only present in Balochistan.

The statement further said that an anti-locust survey and control operation was in progress and at least 201441 hectares area was surveyed in a day. During the last 24 hours, about 280 hectares of area in Lasbella was sprayed.

The control operation had been completed on 1,125,777 hectares of land across the affected areas in the country during the last six months, reads the press release by NLCC.

It is pertinent to mention here that Prime Minister Imran Khan, on July 10, granted approval to Phase-II of the National Action Plan for Locust Control to eradicate the menace of ravenous pests posing risk to the country’s food security.

“Pakistan suffered its worst locust attack”

A few months ago, GVS reported that the threat of a locust flare-up comes as summer crops of cotton, sugar cane, and rice are being sown in Pakistan, while fruit and vegetables are ready to be harvested.

The latest FAO situation report warns that desert locust breeding is ongoing across 38% of land area in Pakistan, with the entire country under threat of an invasion if the pest is not contained. Pakistan suffered its worst locust attack in nearly three decades in 2019, for which the country was ill-prepared at the time.

China, meanwhile, is also assisting Pakistan in its locust efforts. The Chinese Embassy in Islamabad said in a statement that Beijing has already sent teams of agricultural experts to advise Pakistani farmers, donated 300 tons of malathion, and 50 air-powered high-efficiency remote sprayers to combat the insects.

India’s proposed trilateral response

As Pakistan is almost free from locust, it confirmed that India proposed a trilateral response in partnership with Iran to counter the worst locust attack. “We have received a proposal from India,” Pakistan’s then Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aisha Farooqui told VOA.

“We believe that a well-coordinated response is critical to deal with the challenge posed by desert locusts,” she stressed. She would not say what Islamabad’s possible response to the Indian proposal would be.

Farooqui, however, noted that Pakistan was “working closely” with regional countries, including India and global partners, particularly the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to address the looming locust threat.

The ongoing wider regional cooperation is happening under FAO’s Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in Southwest Asia (SWAC), established in 1964 with Afghanistan, India, Iran, and Pakistan as its members.

Under the proposed trilateral response, New Delhi has reportedly suggested to Islamabad that both countries “coordinate locust control operations along the border and that India can facilitate the supply of malathion, a pesticide, to Pakistan.”

Keith Cressman, FAO’s senior locust forecasting officer, told reporters that India and Pakistan face an “imminent threat of several waves of spring-bred swarms” from southwest Pakistan and southern Iran during May and June.

Earlier, BR Kadwa, deputy director of the agriculture department of India, said that “swarms of locusts are entering Rajasthan from adjoining areas in Pak every 2-3 days for a month. Pakistan has become the new breeding ground of the locusts and hence we are seeing the repeated attacks of locusts in the state. Four swarms have entered Jaipur recently”.

Notably, according to a report in Times of India, locust swarms have reached as far as Vidarbha in Maharashtra and caused crop damage. This, according to the report, has not happened since 1974.


Did You Know: White Rice May Increase Diabetes Risk – A 21-Nation Study Finds

The researchers analysed data on rice consumption of 132,373 individuals from the 21 nations for a span of 10 years.

Somdatta Saha  |  Updated: September 08, 2020 13:18 IST

Description: Did You Know: White Rice May Increase Diabetes Risk – A 21-Nation Study FindsChawal with dal defines comfort for all. A staple in almost every part of India, it is probably one of the easiest foods to make and eat. White rice is versatile and has various recipes to its credit. From its inclusion in a dosa batter to whipping up a bowl of appetising biryani and kheer, white rice has several culinary usages. But did you know that this all-rounder ingredient is linked to an increased risk of diabetes? A new study claims so. An international research, conducted in collaboration with 21 nations, has found that white rice is not as healthy as it seems. This large-scale study was a part of the multinational Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study.

The researchers analysed data on rice consumption of 132,373 individuals from the 21 nations for a span of 10 years. The nations include India, China, North America, South America, Europe and more. The participants were aged between 35 to 70 years.




White rice linked to diabetes, claims a 21-nation study

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Created: Sep 7, 2020, 17:14 IST

Description: White rice linked to diabetes, claims a 21-nation study

White rice has gained a bad reputation over the past few years. Not only has it been linked with weight gain but also high blood sugar levels. Though there are many studies that say it's not the case and white rice is not as bad as it's presented to be.
A recent study done on 1,30,000 adults, over 10 years in 21 countries also shows some not so favourable results about white rice.

As per the study's result, the consumption of white rice is linked with a high risk of diabetes. And the risk was found to be more common among the South Asian population.
The study was done on a large scale and was an international collaboration between researchers from various countries, including China, Brazil, India, North and South America, Europe and Africa and was led by Bhavadharini Balaji of the Population Health Research Institute, Hamilton Health Sciences and McMaster University, Canada. The study was published in the Diabetes Care journal.

The milling and polishing process of white rice removes nutrients from it like Vitamin B and its high glycemic index leads to a spike in the blood sugar level.

An old study conducted in 2012 found that each extra serving of rice increases the risk of diabetes by 11 per cent.

However, the findings changed depending on the countries they were conducted in. A study conducted on 45,000 participants found no substantial increase in diabetes with the consumption of white rice.

To beat this barrier, the authors of the new study included 21 countries in this study.

The study

The South Asian people were found to be genetically predisposed to diabetes, due to both lifestyle and biological reasons.

To understand this data, the findings from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan were compared.


The participants in the study were aged between 35-70. Out of the 1,32,372 people, 6,129 people developed diabetes over the course of nine and a half years. The average consumption of rice was 128 mg.

However, the highest consumption of white rice was seen in South Asia at 630 grams a day, followed by South East Asia and China with 238 grams and 200 grams per day respectively.

The higher consumption of rice was linked with lower consumption of other foods like fibre, dairy products and meat.

It was also found that carbohydrates make up for nearly 80 per cent of calories consumed in many South Asian countries.

But over time carbs have become increasingly polished and refined, the process which makes them lose nutrition.

But it's not necessary that everyone who eats white rice is prone to get diabetes. It does not just depend on the consumption but also on the quality of rice and what it is consumed with makes a difference.

China and India are the world's two largest countries where white rice is the staple food. But the researchers have found there is no significant association between white rice consumption and diabetes in China.


This might be because of their other lifestyle factors. The sticky rice that Chinese eat could also be the reason for this difference, said researchers.


What can one do?

Studies have shown that replacing white rice with unpolished brown rice decreases the glycemic index by 23 per cent and fasting insulin response by 57 per cent overweight Asian Indians.


People who consume white rice as a staple, the risk of increased diabetes can be lowered by substituting white rice with a healthier option and also pairing it up with legumes, pulses and green vegetables. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/health-news/white-rice-linked-to-diabetes-claims-a-21-nation-study/articleshow/77978399.cms


Can seeds survive 100 years: Agri-researchers begin Arctic experiment

An experiment has begun in the Arctic at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault to find to how long seeds live. This seed longevity experiment will last a century, and Hyderabad-based ICRISAT has made its contribution to the experiment as well.

By : Sahitya P Poonacha

Sep 6, 2020 15:22 IST


The Global Seed Vault in Svalbard (Photo: ICRISAT)ICRISAT

Ever wondered how long seeds in fact live? Well, researchers in the Arctic are taking on the mantle to find out exactly that. As of September, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault has become the site of this intriguing quest. 6 global research institutions and genebanks including the Hyderabad-based ICRISAT have contributed seed specimens for the research.

This experiment, which will carry on for the next 100 years, will observe the conditions and how long seeds may be preserved. 

ICRISAT joins seed experiment in the Arctic

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics based in Hyderabad will be joining in the fascinating research on seed longevity. The ICRISAT will be providing four of the 13 crops that will be tested through the research. The other participating institutions are -- The National Rice Seed Storage Laboratory for Genetic Resources (NRSSL) in Thailand, Instituto Nacional de Investigação Agrária, (INIAV) in Portugal, Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (Embrapa) in Brazil, The Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Germany and Nordic Genetic Resource Centre (NordGen) in Sweden. 


100-year experiment begins at Svalbard Global Seed Vault.ICRISAT

In a genebank, many frozen seeds that are well-dried can be preserved for a long time. Exactly, how long 'after germination under optimal conditions' however, isn't quite well-researched. What's more, it has been assumed that many seeds can survive centuries and some more than thousands of years at length. 

Speaking about the experiment, and ICRISAT's role, "ICRISAT will bring seeds of chickpea, groundnut, pearl millet and pigeon pea to the experiment during 2022-23. The seeds will be tested initially before being put in the vault for storage at -18 degree Celsius. They will be taken out for testing once every decade during the course of the next 100 years to determine longevity," said Dr Vania Azevedo, Head of ICRISAT's R S Paroda Genebank.

The seeds being collected from the six participating research institutes are: 

·         Rice – The National Rice Seed Storage Laboratory for Genetic Resources (NRSSL) in Thailand

·         Groundnut, chickpea, pearl millet and pigeonpea – ICRISAT in India

·         Maize – Instituto Nacional de Investigação Agrária, (INIAV) in Portugal

·         Soybean – Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (Embrapa) in Brazil

·         Barley, pea, wheat, lettuce and Brassica oleracea (of the cabbage family) – The Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Germany

·         Timothy – Nordic Genetic Resource Centre (NordGen) in Sweden.

So far, the first test sets deposited in the vault for the experiment on Thursday were-- barley, pea, wheat and lettuce produced by the German genebank IPK in Gatersleben. Over the next three years, these six institutions will be placing seeds of other crops into the vault for the experiment.


100-year experiment on seed longevity.ICRISAT

How this experiment will help is that a lot of data on the preservation of seeds would be valuable to future generations. Moreover, it'll help preserve species for regeneration as genetic resources. This will considerably help the world's genebanks. While many genebanks are as old as five decades and have accumulated some knowledge, the ICRISAT said in its release. However, it's far from complete and that is the gap this experiment will try to fill. 

"This experiment will provide future generations with valuable information about seed viability and more precise knowledge of how often seeds need to be regenerated," said Dr Asmund Asdal, Seed Vault Coordinator at NordGen, the genebank responsible for managing the project.

Dr Azevedo adds, "In this experiment, all the variables that cannot be measured or recorded during the normal course of genebank operations will be measured using advanced techniques when learning about seed longevity. Seeds from multiple harvest years of different crops and different varieties produced under varying conditions in diverse geographies are subject to extensive testing for germination and gene expression once a decade over a very long time. This kind of testing hasn't been attempted before."

How the experiment will pan out

While the experiment on seed longevity is surely a long one, there are numerous variables in the process that can barely be pre-empted.

ICRISAT told IBTimes about how data will be recorded and how the research will be conducted in 100 years, "A sample of a few hundred seeds will be tested before being put into the vault and then taken out every 10 years for testing including germination. The RNA will also be extracted for analysis. The RNA analysis can help compare genetic differences over baseline and over time. The operations involved before the experimental seeds enter the vault are production of seeds in the field, packaging and shipping to Svalbard Seed Vault. The seeds are stored in the vault under – 18 degree Celsius. ICRISAT will be taking seeds from its genebank to the vault. These seeds in the genebank will have to be regenerated i.e. planted and harvested because we want to take freshly produced seeds to the experiment in order to correctly understand longevity. The planting and harvesting will happen in 2022-23."

When asked about the challenges in conducting the experiment, the organisation says, "The conduct of the experiment itself is not a challenge as genebanks have been depositing their seed accessions in the vault for about a decade now. However, the experiment is expected to produce information to better manage one of the biggest challenges to conservation – maintaining genetic purity and diversity at the same time. Conserving a seed over long term means that it has to be taken out periodically and regenerated (sowing, growing and harvesting) so that only viable seeds are conserved. With every cycle of regeneration, however, some divergence from the parent seed is likely. To keep such divergence to a minimum, scientists plant a certain number of seeds per accession. Despite this, natural selection can bring about undesirable changes when regenerating that over a period of time can lower genetic purity, result in loss of some rare alleles and thus affect diversity."


The Svalbard Global Seed VaultICRISAT

They add, "Knowing just how long seed of a particular crop is desirably viable will help in determining how many regenerations are needed and thus help improve conservation. This can also increase the cost-effectiveness of conservation."

Speaking about how the Svalbard Global Seed Vault's location in the Arctic will benefit the experiment ICRISAT says, "Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic. The cold is needed for long-term conservation. The Global Seed Vault is the only facility of its kind and it works with genebanks from across the world, and already conserves the world's crop resources. It is best poised to conduct the experiment." 

It'll be exciting to see the outcomes of this ambitious experiment over the next hundred years. 


Promote local products, regulate imports: exec


THE Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) has pushed for the strengthening of regulations on imports while of promoting local products of Mindanao.

In a press statement Sunday, Secretary Emmanuel Pinol, MinDA chair, said that there is a need to help local producers, especially those producing agricultural products like meat who have been drastically affected by the coronavirus pandemic, by also ensuring that importing these products is tightly regulated.

“This was the recommendation I submitted during the meeting of the Mindanao Regional Development Council (RDC) chairmen headed by Agusan del Norte Governor Dale Corvera earlier this week,” he said.

The heads of the councils, Pinol said, told him about the appeal of the stakeholders of the agricultural sector, especially rice farmers, who have sought for government support as prices have gone down.

“At the height of harvest, rice farmers in Mindanao say that farm gate prices have dipped to as low as PHP12 per kilo which is equivalent to the production cost. Corn prices have also fallen to as low as PHP10 per kilo from a high of PHP16 before harvest,” the MinDA chair added.

“I recommended that the importation of rice and other products which the local farmers could easily produce and benefit from, should be regulated as we address the economic slowdown brought about by the pandemic,” he said, adding taht the agency has also been urged to submit a comprehensive report on the situation in the agricultural sector in relation to the economic recovery of the island.

“That process (of formulating the report), however, will take months and by the time it is completed, harvest season would be over and the farmers would have lost their shirts again,” he said, adding that there is a need for the sector to take advantage of the present opportunities, like promoting local products, to trigger the economic recovery.

To jumpstart the economic recovery, he explained, is for local producers to be able to gain access to the market instead of allowing imported products to flood it.

He also urged local government officials to also help prompting the “Buy Local” movement to s support the local producers as this will also result not only in better economic opportunities to small and medium enterprises, but will also provide better employment opportunities to their constituents.

“These are suggested solutions which will not cost government anything and will certainly be welcomed by the agriculture and fisheries sector,” he said.



How to avert a looming global food crisis on top of pandemic woes?

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Greater openness and collaboration in global agriculture and food trade is called for in the post-pandemic era, said Luan Richeng, president of China National Association of Grain Sector, during a summit that addresses food insecurity held on Monday during the ongoing 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services in Beijing.

Due to the uneven distribution of agricultural resources – some countries are endowed with more fresh water and arable land while others aren't – a global food supply chain is thus of crucial importance to even out the distribution of food, he added. In the past ten years, the international trade in grain has increased over 40 percent and that of soybean over 50 percent, thanks to a resilient supply network.

But the pandemic has wreaked havoc on that global food supply chain. Lockdowns, closed borders, trade restrictions, and a public health crisis have resulted in a system breakdown. Large-scale industrial farms and meat operations were forced to closed down, culling and then discarding the animals as their routes to market were lost.

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The International Forum for Development and Investment of Modern Supply Chain of Food held on September 7, 2020. /VCG

As the virus further spread, countries have resorted to stockpiling food and limiting exports. For example, both India and Vietnam, two of the world's largest rice exporters, halted their rice exports in the middle of the pandemic which quickly led to price surges, threatening to trigger a food security crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa, the world's largest rice importing region.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 820 million people regularly go to bed hungry, of whom 135 million suffer from acute hunger. The pandemic may add an additional 83 to 132 million people to the ranks of the undernourished in 2020, which means the number of people suffering from chronic hunger could double.

Even before the pandemic, there were signs that global food prices would surge. The worst locust blight in 70 years, climate change-induced extreme weather, on top of African Swine Fever, all drove up global food prices to record highs.

Description: https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-09-08/How-to-avert-a-looming-global-food-crisis-on-top-of-pandemic-woes--TCeMTyb2W4/img/2f842d59ced84289aa4a5998b6e5a2da/2f842d59ced84289aa4a5998b6e5a2da.jpeg

A vegetable vendor sells tomatoes in a public market, October 16, 2011 in Quezon City, Philippines. /VCG

There are fears that China, with one-fifth of the world's population, may find it hard to feed its people with one-tenth of its agricultural farmland, as the pandemic inflicted heavy woes on the global food system. 

"China has ample grain reserves and the current stock of rice and wheat exceed one year's annual consumption," said Zhang Xiaoqiang, executive vice chairman of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, during the summit. Data suggests that China's summer grain output reached a historic high of 142.81 million tonnes this year, up 0.9 percent from last year. 

China imported around 12.6 million tonnes of corn in the first half of this year, an increase of 34 percent compared with the same time last year. Soybean imports stood at around 45 million tonnes, an increase of 18 percent, according to Zhang. 

"It shows the strong demand China has for food imports and its commitment to global trade in food supply," he said. Openness to global trade on the part of China amid pandemic-driven upsets in the food supply chain would help food exporting countries and their farmers, he added.

Description: https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-09-08/How-to-avert-a-looming-global-food-crisis-on-top-of-pandemic-woes--TCeMTyb2W4/img/a1f0e644d5c547728d75790b5c6ee957/a1f0e644d5c547728d75790b5c6ee957.jpeg

A child works outside Aweil, Northern Bahr al Ghazal, South Sudan, a region with a high level of food insecurity. /VCG

The pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of smallholder farmers who lack the buffer of large agricultural businesses. Nearly 98 percent of farmers cultivate farms smaller than two hectares in China, and the country is home to more than half the world's small farms.

Restrictions of movement and road closures cut farmers' access to both buy and sell products. Many perishable goods, like fruit and vegetables were thus wasted, which resulted in a significant loss of income, and affected future cultivation seasons. 

Chinese e-commerce companies have relevant policies to support smallholding farmers, said Qu Dongyu, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, during the summit. He noted that the Chinese government also took measures to stabilize food production and supply with a focus on small farmers and consumers.

A series of financial support measures were carried out in China to mitigate the financial losses of smallholder farmers, including establishing fiscal emergency funds, supporting cold storage and preservation of agricultural products and waiving fees on farmers' loans and extending payment deadlines.

Description: https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-09-08/How-to-avert-a-looming-global-food-crisis-on-top-of-pandemic-woes--TCeMTyb2W4/img/d28cd1b206014756acc2fa41e1f0a5d1/d28cd1b206014756acc2fa41e1f0a5d1.jpeg

An advertisement that calls for food saving is held at a canteen in Hebei, China, August 2020. /VCG

The paradox of today is, while food is wasted in some places, others see empty shelves in their market. Food loss and waste can take place at various stages of the food supply chain, resulting from low-efficiency production and processing, to waste in consumption. A nationwide "Clear Your Plate" campaign is recently launched in China against food waste, as 35 million tons of food is wasted annually in the country.

"Regulatory changes are called for to address food losses and waste, and more public education campaign should be launched to alter cultural attitudes toward food," said Zhao Yi, chief engineer of China National Association of Grain Sector, announcing an initiative at the end of the summit that aims at strengthening food security.

Clear regulations, supervision and enforcement mechanism need to be in place to foster an environment in which wasting food is shunned, she noted.





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Nigeria see 200, 000 tons slump in rice imports as price-sensitive consumers switch to local staples


 Naija247news Media, New York


September 7, 2020



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Nigeria’s rice production was about 6.7 million tons in the last three years, with imports seen declining by 200,000 tons in 2020 from 1.2 million tons last year as price-sensitive consumers switch to local staples, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Even as notorious climate change has washed away at least two million tons of rice in Nigeria, the second-largest importer of the grain. That is more than 25% of the previously projected national output of 8 million tons, according to estimates by a farmers’ organization.

At least 450,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) were destroyed in Kebbi, the country’s main rice-growing state, according to Mohammed Sahabi, the state chairman of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria. Planters had targeted a 2.5 million ton contribution to the national basket, but will now meet less than 20% of the target. Farmers in five other states — Kano, Nigeria, Enugu, Jigawa and Nasarawa — also reported damage.

“Although we heard the forecast of flooding this year, we didn’t expect that the damage will be of this magnitude,” Sahabi said by phone from the northwestern city of Birnin Kebbi. “Our target at state level was 2.5 million tons this year, but now we are looking at only 500,000 tons of harvest.”

Nearly 50 people died in Nigerian floods this year as torrential rains caused Africa’s most populous country’s two main rivers to overflow, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). The agency had warned that at least 28 of 36 states of West African nation were at risk of flooding due to heavy rainfall. Other crops such as sorghum, millet and corn were also affected.

“There is this trepidation that we might have food problems on flooding and existing insecurity challenges,” Kabir Ibrahim, head of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria said by phone from Abuja, the nation’s capital. “It will be too soon to know how devastating the impact is.”



Winners and losers from the rice tariffication law

By: Raul Montemayor - @inquirerdotnet

10:26 PM September 06, 2020

Description: Probe sought as tariff law hurts rice farmers

It would seem that planting rice would never be fun, especially for hundreds of thousands of farmers who had stopped the backbreaking work in the field because of falling prices of the staple resulting from import liberalization. —WILLIE LOMIBAO

In recent weeks, several staunch advocates of the liberalization of the rice sector released a series of opinion pieces, touting the alleged gains from Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) and debunking the claims of critics of the law and its implementation.  This paper seeks to set the record straight by assessing what really happened, using mutually acceptable assumptions and more precise calculations, with the hope that the findings will point policy makers and stakeholders in the rice industry to a more realistic and productive way forward.


To review, RA 11203 was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 14 and took effect on March 5, 2019.  The law removed government limits, called quantitative restrictions (QRs) on rice importation.  Traders could now bring in unlimited volumes of rice at any time.  RA 11203 far exceeded Philippine commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO) by deregulating the rice industry and eliminating practically all regulatory and trading functions of the National Food Authority (NFA) and reducing it to a buffer stocking and calamity relief agency.  Aptly, the formal title of RA 11203 is “An Act Liberalizing the Importation, Exportation and Trading of Rice”.

Following WTO’s tariffication procedure, rice QRs were replaced by tariffs, most notably the 35% preferential duty that the Philippines had previously imposed on imports from ASEAN countries.  RA 11203 also created the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), amounting to Php 10 billion annually for six years, to assist rice farmers with seeds, farm machineries, credit and technical extension.

In the lead up to RA 11203, many RTL proponents prophesied that import liberalization would significantly lower domestic rice prices, tame inflation, and moderate malnutrition and poverty.  While acknowledging that farmers would get hurt in the immediate term, they promised even larger benefits to consumers, including those farmers who were net rice buyers. 

The question now is:  Did this trade-off, described as a “no brainer” by then Director-General Ernesto Pernia of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), actualy happen during the first year (March 2019 to February 2020) of RTL’s implementation?

In brief, no!  This analysis shows that rice farmers suffered drastic losses, which far surpassed any gains to consumers.   In addition, a few importers and big-time traders cornered tremendous profits from rice trade liberalization at the expense of millions of farmers, millers and other market players, who were swamped by the deluge of cheap and undervalued rice imports.  RTL came out to mean “Rice Traders Liberated, at last!”

In 2019, with nearly three million tons of imported rice, the Philippines overtook China and received the dubious honor of being the world’s biggest rice importer. 

As stated previously, RTL seriously clipped government’s supervision over the rice industry and effectively ceded control to the private sector.  By doing so, it has undermined its capacity to stabilize the rice market, safeguard producer and consumer welfare, ensure food safety, and sustain efforts aimed at food security.

How did farmers fare in the first year of RTL?

Analyzing the situation further, let us first tackle the impact of trade liberalization on farmers.  Earlier, the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) and other groups had estimated that rice producers lost around Php 80 billion in 2019 due to palay prices plumneting from a high of Php 23.14 per kilo in September 2018 to a low of Php 15.36 in 2019.  A more precise recalculation, using monthly price and production data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), yields practically the same outcome. (See Annex A.)  Coincidentally, the results are close to PSA’s own computation of a Php 87 billion reduction in the palay sector’s value of production in 2019 compared to the previous year. 

Description: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/files/2020/09/Screen-Shot-2020-09-06-at-9.43.06-PM.pngWhy did palay prices drop so precipitously?  To address the rice crisis in late 2018, the government allowed NFA and the private sector to import an additional 1.5 million metric tons, of which some 1 million entered the country in January and February 2019.  Although these imports normalized inventory levels, they immediately pressed rice, and inevitably, palay prices downward.  By February 2019, palay farmgate prices had dropped by 16.5% to a monthly average of Php 18.40 per kilo, from their high of Php 22.04 in September 2018. 

With RTL in place in early March, another 2 million tons arrived during the next seven months.  This created a serious glut that, by September 2019, raised national stocks to 42% over historical levels.  (See Annex B.)  The oversupply coincided with the peak of the main harvest season in October and November, making it difficult for traders to dispose of their stocks in a market flooded with imported rice.  Some suspended their operations; others continued buying palay, but at deeply discounted prices.  Prices plunged further to an average of Php 14.40 per kilo in October. 

Prompted by farmers groups, in September 2019, the DA initiated an investigation on possibly imposing safeguard duties to stem the flow of imports.  Inexplicably, the DA ended its study and refused to apply a provisional safeguard duty allowed by law.  Instead, it tightened the issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances.  Meanwhile, the NFA and local government units intensified their palay buying operations.  By then, however, most of the damage had already been done.

Pro-RTL proponents have criticized the estimates of farmers’ losses as exaggerated, noting that the latter used an annual (January to December) data series, instead of a March to February data cycle that would match the implementation period of the RTL.  They added that prices should not be compared to rates in 2018, which was a crisis year during which rice prices were abnormally high.  Further, they argued that only the 83% of production thatfarmers actually sold in the market, called marketable surplus, should be used in the computations, since the 17% that they kept for their own consumption was not affected by any movement in market prices.

Before responding to these observations, it should be emphasized that the Php 80 billion loss estimate was accurate and real if palay prices during the first year of RTL were compared to prices in the same 12 month period of the previous year.  Farmers did incur a drop in their income equivalent to Php 80 billion compared to what they earned in the preceding 12 months.  Furthermore, the palay that farmers did not sell commercially was an asset whose value could go up or down while in storage.  This change in value could still be reasonably treated as an imputed gain or loss.

Nevertheless, we proceeded with our recalculations, using March 2017-Feb 2018 (instead of March 2018-February 2019) as the reference period and recognizing only the marketable surplus of farmers.  With these adjustments, farmers’ losses during RTL’s first year will be halved to about Php 40 billion.  This number is still significantly large.  Notably, it approximates the Php 38.4 billion in losses estimated by NEDA’s Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) when using a similar reference period.

RTL defenders further argue that farmers’ net losses would just be Php 6 billion if government support to them is taken into account.  However, their idea of fully crediting the Php 10 billion RCEF for 2019 is illogical, because only about Php 3 billion were actually given to farmers, mainly in the form of free seeds.  Oddly, they also want to deduct in full the RCEF, SURE-Aid and other soft loans, which farmers have to pay back.  If ever, only the interest subsidy should be considered a benefit, and this will be minimal since only around Php 4 billion were actually lent out to farmers.  While Php 3 billion were given separately as partial compensation for lost income under RTL, only one-fourth of all farmers qualified for this Php P5,000 assistance.  Overall, the creditable subsidies actually received by farmers would amount to about Php 6 billion.  Farmers would still end up with a consolidated loss of Php 34 billion.  The RTL proponents are duty-bound to show how they arrived at a considerably smaller net loss figure of Php 6 billion.

Clearly, farmers were worse off in the first year of RTL.  On average, palay prices under RTL were Php 4.28 per kilo lower than those in the preceding 12-month period (March 2018 to February 2019). Even against the more “normal” period from March 2017 to February 2018, farmgate prices were still by Php 2.60 per kilo.  Cumulative losses from gross palay production amounted to about Php 80 billion when comparing pre- and post-RTL prices; and half of that (Php40 billion) when using 2017-18 prices as reference and counting only marketable surplus.  Compared to the 12-month period preceding RTL, farmers’ incomes dropped by 21%, or Php 17,355 per cropping per hectare on the average.

Did consumers gain due to RTL as promised?

This, however, is only half of the story.  Pro-RTL advocates had theorized that consumers would be the biggest winners under rice liberalization.  The question is:  were they?

In recent opinion posts, the Department of Finance (DoF) was cited as having determined that consumers gained around Php 21 billion from lower rice retail prices following RTL’s enactment.  However, DoF must explain how it reached this figure.

Description: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/files/2020/09/Screen-Shot-2020-09-06-at-9.44.47-PM.pngOur own analysis, using monthly price and rice consumption data, indicates that consumers may have enjoyed a much larger benefit of Php 38.6 billion during the first year of RTL, as compared to the preceding 12-month period.  Retail prices fell by a weighted average of Php 3.90 per kilo from a peak of Php 46.10 for regular-milled rice (RMR) and Php 49.43 for well-milled rice (WMR) in September 2018.

But even with the higher estimates, the Php 38.6 billion gain of consumers in terms of lower rice prices still pales in comparison to the Php 80 billion that farmers lost due to depressed palay prices when using the same reference period.  Additionally, the Php 38.6 billion translates to a measly saving to each rice consumer of only about Php 1.00 per day.

To be consistent, however, we also compared prices during the first year of RTL against prices in March 2017 to February 2018, given that the 12 months immediately preceding RTL were abnormal times as maintained by RTL proponents. We likewise excluded the rice equivalent of the palay output that farmers kept for their own consumption, since this quantity was not directly affected by the movement in rice prices.

Results show that benefits to our 108 million consumers totaled only Php 232 million, inasmuch as retail prices for both RMR and WMR rice hardly changed relative to prices during the comparative period.  (See Annex C.)  In effect, each rice-consuming Filipino was able to save a measly Php 2 in one whole year of initial RTL implementation.

Given these analytical findings, the “no brainer” theory about consumers’ gains far outweighing rice farmers’ losses under RTL appears to have been disproven resoundingly.  Even with the computational adjustments prescribed by RTL adherents, farmers still lost Php 34 billion, or more than 150 times what consumers gained from rice liberalization.

The DoF has also reportedly claimed that, aside from cheaper rice prices, consumers gained another Php 42 billion due to lower overall inflation.  It is unclear why this should enter the discussion.  Rice consumption accounts for only about 10% of the consumer basket.  Lower rice prices help lower the overall inflation rate and result in savings to consumers which have already been quantified above.  The other 90% of the inflation rates comes from purchases of fish, meat, and other consumer products and services.  The movement in the prices of these items is not dependent on the prices of rice.  Therefore, any additional benefit to consumers arising from the lowering of prices of non-rice items cannot be attributed to the RTL.

Even before the rice crisis in late 2018, many government officials and economic advisers were already predicting that rice prices would go down by Php 7 to 10 per kilo once imports were liberalized.  One NEDA official boldly announced that private importers would be selling rice below the NFA-subsidized price of Php 27 per kilo.  PSA data confirm that retail prices for both RMR and WMR decreased significantly from their peak in September 2018.  But when matched against prices during a more normal period (March 2017 to February 2018), retail prices hardly moved under RTL.  In other words, consumers were no better off under RTL.

Official PSA data also reveal that much of the drop in retail prices from their peak in September 2018 actually occurred before RTL took effect in March 2019.  After government allowed additional imports during the rice crisis in late 2018, WMR prices immediately dove by 9.4% to Php 44.37 per kilo by February 2019.  In the next twelve months coinciding with the first year of RTL, prices fell further, but only by an additional 6.7%.  Similarly, 60% of the reduction in RMR retail prices occurred before RTL took effect.

So, why did the rosy projections for RTL not materialize?

First, the claims that Filipinos were paying twice or triple what consumers in other countries were spending for rice were deceptive and overblown.  Free on Board (FOB) export prices cannot be compared to domestic wholesale rates because the foreign rice still has to be shipped, taxed, warehoused, handled and sold before reaching local wholesalers.  Moreover, major exporters like Thailand and Vietnam have to sell their surplus stocks at a relatively low price so that they unload their inventories before new harvests come in.  Consumers in these countries do not enjoy these discounted export prices.  One Internet publication suggests that rice retail prices are actually higher in Thailand and only about 20% lower in Vietnam compared to the Philippines.  Even imported fancy varieties like Thai Jasmine rice are sold locally for as much as 40% more than our local Dinorado or Sinandomeng rice.

Secondly, NFA and its subsidized Php 27 rice disappeared from the retail market soon after RTL’s passage.  The agency is now limited by its RTL mandate to keep most of its stocks in reserve for emergencies and has decided to service only the needs of LGUs and government offices during the current COVID-19 crisis.  Private traders and importers did fill in the gap left by NFA in the market, but the equivalent rice grade they supplied was sold at an average of Php 37.29 per kilo.  This was almost the same as the price two years back, and Php 10 more per kilo than NFA’s former selling price.

Thirdly, around 85% of total rice imports during the first year of RTL were WMR with 5% brokens.  Few importers ordered the RMR with 25% brokens that NFA used to import and sell to poorer buyers.  Although WMR was around Php 1.50 more expensive per kilo to import, it could be sold for an average of Php 5 per kilo more than RMR in the domestic market.  Understandably, importers brought in more expensive grades that could be sold with a higher profit margin, unlike the NFA which was willing to forego profits and even lose money in order to serve needy consumers with lower quality but cheaper rice.

Fourthly, there was excessive profiteering in the market, and the government, particularly the NFA (whose power to license, monitor and regulate private traders had been eliminated by RTL) was helpless about it.  The analysis in the next section on traders’ profits indicates that there were huge variances between import and wholesale prices and between wholesale and retail prices, but a large portion of the difference was not passed on to consumers and was instead pocketed by the traders. 

The government’s attempts to impose Suggested Retail Prices (SRPs) on both local and imported rice appear to have been ineffective.  Not much has been heard about the publicized commitments of the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), the local price councils, and other government agencies to run after cartels and price manipulators.  It appears therefore that, contrary to what RTL proponents predicted, traders and importers did not openly compete with each other to bring down prices.  Instead, they likely agreed not to outprice each other and collectively shoot for the highest prices that consumers could bear.

So, if farmers lost a lot, and consumers gained almost nothing, who won?

Rice Traders Liberated (RTL), At Last!

An additional analysis looked into what happened to market players in between the farmers and the consumers; namely, a) the trader-millers who bought palay from farmers, milled them into rice then sold the rice to wholesalers, b) the importers who brought in stocks from abroad and unloaded them to wholesalers, and c) the wholesalers who passed on the rice to retailers who then sold the staple to final consumers.

Changes in palay buying prices (converted to rice equivalent) were compared to changes in wholesale prices to determine the gains or losses of trader-millers,  For WMR, the equivalent prices for palay went down by Php 0.73 per kilo more than the decline in wholesale prices, thus giving trader-millers some extra margin.  However, trader-millers lost Php 0.98 per kilo in buying palay then selling the rice output to RMR wholesalers, resulting in an overall loss of almost Php 4 billion for the sub-sector.  (See Annex D.)

Description: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/files/2020/09/Screen-Shot-2020-09-06-at-9.45.56-PM.pngThese findings validate field reports that many trader-millers who had bought palay from farmers at relatively high prices in the first half of 2019 had to dispose of their stocks at a loss in the second semester when cheap imports flooded the market.  Some of them reportedly had to downscale or suspend their operations, lay off workers, leave their mills, trucks and other equipment idle, and restructure their bank loans while waiting for the supply glut to subside.  Some reportedly left the rice business and moved on to other ventures.

Description: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/files/2020/09/Screen-Shot-2020-09-06-at-9.49.27-PM.pngImporters, on the other hand, appear to have made a gross profit of Php 14.5 billion when comparing the cost of their imports with prevailing wholesale prices for rice..  On the average, imports of rice with 5% brokens, deemed equivalent to WMR rice, were Php 6.48 cheaper per kilo than wholesale prices.  In turn, importers enjoyed a gross margin of Php 5.34 per kilo from dealing rice with 25% brokens, equivalent to RMR rice.  (See Annex E.)

Some of the computed gains may not yet have been realized by importers if a portion of their imported stocks were not yet sold at the end of the first year of RTL.  Still, the sizeable margins per kilo and the continued arrival of large volumes of imports indicate that rice importation was a lucrative business.  Aside from this, importers were able to save some Php 2.5 billion in tariffs by understating the value of their imports.

Among all the market players however, the big winners were the wholesalers and retailers.

An analysis in the movement of rice prices indicates that while wholesale prices went down due to the inflow of imports in the first year of RTL, only about half of the decrease was passed on to consumers in the form of cheaper retail prices.  In the case of WMR for example, wholesale prices went down by Php 6.17 per kilo on the average during RTL, but retail prices declined by only Php 3.11 per kilo.  Poorer consumers who bought mainly RMR were worse off since retail prices dropped by only Php 3.90 per kilo even as wholesale rates fell by Php 7.57 per kilo.  Using consumption figures between March 2019 and February 2020, this implies that the value chain segment between wholesalers and retailers earned an extra Php 37 billion in windfall profits during the first year of RTL.  (See Annex F.)

Description: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/files/2020/09/Screen-Shot-2020-09-06-at-9.50.55-PM.pngThe results of the analysis expose the faulty logic that RTL proponents, including renowned institutions like the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), use in espousing their “no-brainer” theory – that consumer gains will surely outweigh producer losses because there are simply many more consumers than producers.

On the average, each Filipino consumer bought and consumed around 100 kilos of rice during the first year of RLT implementation.  (This excludes the volume that farmers did not sell commercially and used for their own family consumption.)  Of this quantity, 90 kilos came from local farmers while 10 kilos were imported.  If the price of local rice goes down by Php 1 per kilo, and trading margins and costs did not change, the value of the palay needed to produce one kilo of rice should also go down by Php 1.  Hence, consumer gains would cancel out farmers losses overall.  The only variation would come from the 10 kilos of imports, from which consumers gain because of the lower price, but farmers are not affected because they did not produce and sell this quantity.  Even then, total consumer gains would not exceed producer losses by a significant amount despite the fact that consumers outnumber farmers by ten to one.

In reality, traders and market intermediaries can distort the parity between consumer gains and farmer losses either by withholding some of the price reduction from consumers or lowering palay buying prices much more than necessary.  This is effectively what happened in the first year of RTL wherein farmers lost Php 40 billion while consumers gained a measly Php 232 million.  While wholesale prices decreased by an average of 11.4% (when compared to 2017-18 prices) with the arrival of cheap imports, palay prices went down by a larger 14%.  Retail prices, on the other hand, hardly budged.  In the process, importers, wholesalers and retailers earned a windfall profit of Php 51.5 billion.

Even in the unlikely event that traders donated all of their extra profits to consumers, the latter’s gains would exceed farmers losses by only about P15 billion, admittedly still a significant amount, but nowhere near the huge net gains that RTL proponents had predicted.

It is therefore logical to conclude that any variation in the gains of consumers vis-à-vis losses of farmers arising from trade liberalization will not be influenced by the proportion of consumers to producers.   Rather, it will depend on the volume of imports that come in and the relative greed of market intermediaries who will decide how much of the gains they will pass on to consumers and how much of the costs they will ask farmers to absorb.

Did government gain anything from RTL?

Government probably emerged a winner too.  It was able to collect around Php 12 billion in tariffs in 2019, despite the undervaluation of import prices, and recoup the Php 10 billion it allocated for the RCEF.  It also trumpeted its “success” in bringing down rice prices and overall inflation rates significantly after the 2018 crisis and thereafter keeping rice prices more stable.  Still, it was more or less an empty victory because rice prices actually just reverted to their levels before the pre-crisis period.

The fate of NFA is a little harder to figure out.  In the past, the agency usually received budgetary support only for its overhead costs and had to borrow from banks to fund its rice imports and local palay purchases.  But because it was instructed to buy high from farmers and then sell low to consumers, it usually ended up in huge losses, which it covered by increasing borrowings. As a result, NFA’s debts reportedly ballooned to Php 170 billion.

After RTL took effect, NFA was prohibited from importing rice and was mandated to source its buffer stocks only from local farmers.  It was given a higher procurement budget of Php 7 billion annually and still allowed, to some extent, to borrow from banks.  However, while NFA sometimes made money and at other times lost about P2 per kilo from past rice imports, it now stands to lose up to Php 10 for every kilo of rice that it sells, if it buys the palay from farmers at Php 19 per kilo.  This means that NFA will lose nearly half of its Php 7 billion annual procurement fund after a single buy-palay-sell-rice cycle.  After two cycles, the money will be gone, and the agency must resort to bank loans again in order to replenish its buffer stocks.  Notably, Php 7 billion can buy the equivalent of only 2% of the country’s rice requirement for one year and can finance only half of the country’s 15-day minimum buffer stock requirement.

The possibility that NFA’s financial condition will not improve, and might even worsen, appears paradoxical, considering that it was its rising indebtedness and continued losses that were highlighted to justify its decapitation under RTL.  Critics had further chastised the agency for being inefficient and graft-prone, and questioned its simultaneous role as market regulator and player.  These arguments became the basis for transforming RTL from a mere tariffication bill to a unilateral and indiscriminate liberalization statute, whereby the government relegated NFA to the sidelines and surrendered to the private sector the supervision and control of rice importation and the local rice business.

It is worth mentioning that the debate over NFA’s proper role in the rice market helped trigger the rice crisis in 2018 and RTL’s eventual passage. Earlier, the country’s economic managers who sat in the NFA Council had grown increasingly at odds with management, accusing the latter of inefficiency and corruption, especially in the handling of rice imports.  They repeatedly denied management’s requests to replenish the agency’s dwindling stocks, until the NFA actually ran out of inventories, and domestic rice prices spun out of control.  The Council somehow managed to shift the blame to the Administrator, who was replaced. 

             Following these developments, there was speculation that the 2018 rice crisis had been orchestrated to pave the ground politically for NFA’s dismemberment and the termination of rice QRs through the RTL.

In sum, there is little to celebrate after one year of RTL’s existence.  The promised benefits have not come about, farmers are in dire straits, consumers have practically gained nothing, NFA is still losing money, and government has effectively lost control over the market.  Only the importers and traders are smiling, happy to have been “liberated” at last from competition and regulation from the NFA, and free to amass profits with minimal government intervention. 

What has to be done?

Clearly, this is neither the result that the government wanted, nor what both farmers and consumers expected.  What has to be done, to set things aright?

Several groups have proposed the repeal of the RTL and its replacement with a new law.   Others have suggested a major review and amendments to accommodate the following changes:

Strengthen the trade remedy provisions to equip government with WTO-legal tools to address import surges and other injuries that cheap imports can inflict on farmers and local market players.  This could include an automatic imposition of special safeguards and a mandatory application of general safeguards once certain conditions are met.  The option to temporarily reimpose QRs as a last resort to address serious situations should be approved.

Restore the power of the NFA or any other appropriate government agency to license importers and other players in the rice market, monitor their activities and stocks, and enforce quality, sanitary, phytosanitary, and related market standards.

Adopt stricter measures to prevent the undervaluation and misdeclaration of rice imports; and allow third parties to freely access BoC import data and monitor the entry, pricing, and taxation of imported rice.

Reconfigure the utilization of RCEF to make it more flexible and effective in addressing site-specific needs and emerging priorities of farmers; return control and accountability over RCEF funds and program implementation to the DA proper, while taking steps to improve program delivery and impact.

Reinstate stakeholders’ participation in the planning and monitoring of RCEF and DA Rice Program activities, and establish an on-line implementation monitoring and impact assessment system for programs and activities.

Partially restore the NFA’s role in price stabilization and functions other than buffer stocking when deemed necessary and provide the corresponding budgetary or fiscal support to enable the agency to accomplish its tasks.

While the foregoing analysis shows that the RTL’s performance leaves much to be desired, some RTL proponents have unfortunately tended to brand RTL critics as anti-reformists who just want a return to the QR regime with all its alleged deficiencies and costs.  In a recent opinion piece, Dr. Fermin Adriano wrote that his kindest description of RTL’s detractors was “foolish” since they were allegedly offering “no better alternative than to revert back to the old ways”.

Indeed, some RTL critics are demanding a repeal of RA 11203.  Others are pushing for its amendments.  For sure, all parties do not want to go back to the time when QRs were in place but were used in exchange for government neglect and complacency.  But neither will these groups accept the current situation under the RTL.  They are not against making farmers more productive, efficient and competitive.  However, this will take time because government has long neglected the sector.  Opening up the rice market must be calibrated so that farmers can survive while striving to become competitive. 

At the same time, it will be foolhardy to be too dependent on foreign suppliers for our rice requirements in the future.  Climate change, food safety concerns, pandemics, the rise in trade protectionism, and emerging regional conflicts over water and natural resources can easily constrict the amount of rice that we can buy, or afford to buy, from the international market.  In turn, continued land conversion, deforestation, and price volatility brought about by excessive imports will only reduce our capacity to feed ourselves.  A more nuanced and strategic approach to liberalization is crucial.

There is nothing “foolish” about this thinking.

Recall that in 1994, highly paid “expert” consultants — employing wrong past analysis, faulty assumptions and economic variables – issued a grievously wrong econometric forecast that Philippine agriculture would be a big winner upon joining the WTO.

Academics like Dr. Adriano tend to go into a denial mode, when actual events go against their pet theories and ideological beliefs.  Loath to admit mistakes, they will shrug off any aberration from their predictions as “birth pains” and argue that “it is too early to make conclusions”.  They may even resort to childish name calling.  Hopefully, they can become humbler, better attuned to the real world, and more open to civil discourse with people they disagree with.

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COVID-19 vaccine update: China's Sinovac coronavirus vaccine candidate appears safe, slightly weaker in elderly

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Updated: Sep 8, 2020, 09:08 IST

Description: https://static.toiimg.com/thumb/msid-77989815,imgsize-526228,width-800,height-600,resizemode-75/77989815.jpg

Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech Ltd said on Monday its coronavirus vaccine candidate appeared to be safe for older people, according to preliminary results from an early to mid-stage trial, while the immune responses triggered by the vaccine were slightly weaker than younger adults.
Health officials have been concerned about whether experimental vaccines could safely protect the elderly, whose immune systems usually react less robustly to vaccines, against the virus that has led to nearly 890,000 deaths worldwide.

Sinovac's candidate CoronaVac did not cause severe side effects in a combined Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials launched in May involving 421 participants aged at least 60, Liu Peicheng, Sinovac's media representative, told Reuters. The complete results have not been published and were not made available to Reuters.
Four of the world's eight vaccines that are in the third phase of trials are from China.


For three groups of participants who respectively took two shots of low, medium and high-dose CoronaVac, over 90% of them experienced significant increase in antibody levels, while the levels were slightly lower than those seen in younger subjects but in line with expectation, Liu said in a statement.


CoronaVac, being tested in Brazil and Indonesia in the final-stage human trials to evaluate whether it is effective and safe enough to obtain regulatory approvals for mass use, has already been given to tens of thousands of people, including about 90% of Sinovac employees and their families, as part of China's emergency inoculation scheme to protect people facing high infection risk.


The potential vaccine could remain stable for up to three years in storage, Liu said, which might offer Sinovac some advantage in vaccine distribution to regions where cold-chain storage is not an option.


Such estimation is extrapolated from the fact that vaccines readings stayed within acceptable ranges for 42 days at 25 Celsius (77 Fahrenheit), 28 days at 37C (98.6 F), and five months for 2-8C (35.6-46.4 F), Liu said, without disclosing complete data.