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International Rice News:
« on: May 26, 2008, 11:28:58 AM »
Philippine president calls for Southeast Asian cooperation to ensure rice supply
Oliver Teves
May 21, 2008 - 12:09 a.m.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo called Wednesday for cooperation among Southeast Asian countries to ensure adequate rice supplies and stable prices.

Addressing a meeting of farmers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in southern Cagayan de Oro city, Arroyo urged the regional bloc to work on improving productivity through research and development of new high-yielding varieties.

The Philippines is the world's top rice importer while Thailand and Vietnam are among the biggest exporters. All are members of ASEAN, along with some of the world's other top rice-consuming nations — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore.


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Re: International Rice News:
« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2008, 11:34:47 AM »
Japanese eat more rice as other food prices climb
Thu May 22, 2008 5:20am EDT  Email | Print | Share| Reprints | Single Page
More Business & Investing News... TOKYO (Reuters) - The average Japanese ate 0.6 percent more rice in March than a year earlier, a survey showed on Thursday, marking the biggest rise in three years in the wake of a series of price hikes for bread, noodles and other food.

The recovery, though slight, could signal the beginning of a shift from wheat that may eventually weigh on international grain prices, given that Japan is the world's fourth biggest wheat importer. Japan imports about 90 percent of the wheat it needs.

An Agriculture Ministry survey of 8,340 households showed rice consumption per person was an estimated 4.91 kg in March, compared with 4.88 kg a year earlier and 4.58 kg in February.

The year-on-year growth was the biggest since February 2005, when consumption increased 1.3 percent from a year earlier.

World rice prices have almost trebled this year, but the price that Japanese consumers pay for a 5 kg bag of rice has held around 2,000 yen to 2,500 yen ($19-$24), due to heavy restrictions on imports and government intervention to maintain supplies. ID:nT240312

The government, which controls bulk imports of wheat, plans to import 4.99 million tonnes of the grain in the current year to March 2009, up 4 percent from a year earlier.

The price of wheat products in Japan will likely rise further, with the government set to boost prices for wheat it sells to flour millers by 30 percent or more in October, from the current level set in April.

Last week Yamazaki Baking Co (2212.T: Quote, Profile, Research), Japan's biggest bread maker, boosted the price of bread and pastries by 8 percent on average, followed by similar moves among its rivals.

The cost that Yamazaki suggests for "Double Soft", a popular loaf of bread, is 240 yen ($2.30). That's up from 200 yen before the company raised prices in December for the first time since 1983.  Continued...


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Re: International Rice News:
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2008, 11:37:34 AM »
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Rice subsidy reaches P6.9B
NFA already given more than half of allotment

State-run National Food Authority  (NFA) already availed of more than half of its programmed tax subsidy this year in the first four months alone, the Department of Budget and Management reported Wednesday.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said the tax subsidy extended to the grains agency from January to April reached P6.9 billion, or more than half of the P7.5 billion for the entire 2008.

As a result of higher spending by the food authority for rice importation, Andaya added that the government possibly will raise the programmed tax subsidy to accommodate additional expenses needed by the cash-strapped state firm.

Finance Secretary Margarito Teves earlier said they were considering a higher tax subsidy for the grains agency to compensate for the high prices of rice in the world market and to increase its buffer stocks.

This year, Teves added, the grains agency is expected to post a budget deficit of P43.1 billion from last year’s P17 billion.

Economists said the agency’s losses are seen to reach P136 billion by 2010 on account of high prices of commodities.

Andaya said the government has set aside P43 billion in the next two years to support the Agriculture department’s programs on rice sufficiency, production support, irrigation and post-harvest facilities.

To cut government spending on rice importation, the food authority scrapped the 50-percent duty imposed on rice starting last month. Under the lifting, commercial-rice traders will not pay the full duty, but only a service fee of P2 per kilo of rice.

President Gloria Arroyo also earlier lifted the country’s quota on rice imports.

At end-April, government subsidies extended to government-owned and controlled corporations and government financial institutions dropped 70 percent to P2.29 billion from P8.43 billion year on year.

This year, state subsidies are programmed to reach P10.12 billion, compared with P27.33 billion last year.

If the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is to be believed, the country can attain 100-percent rice self-sufficiency by 2010 with a projected production of palay (unhusked rice) reaching 19.70 million metric tons, enough to feed the Philippines’ projected population of 94.89 million.

The PhilRice website revealed that to attain a 100-percent sufficiency in rice by 2010, the government has to spend P14.89 billion in 2009 and P14.97 billion in 2010 or a total of P29.857 billion.

Palay production this year is projected at about 17 million metric tons for a population of about 89 million. At present, the country is 90-percent to 95-percent sufficient in rice production.

“That’s even 100.74-percent sufficiency level [for 2010]. Translating it to the terms of the current daunting issue, it means the country will be freed from scrambling for a rice-supply commitment from any member of the cartelized rice trader in the region,” said Dr. Anselmo Roque of PhilRice, referring to Asia.

The palay self-sufficiency plan is called “Focusing on Increasing Provincial Productivity,” which by its name will involve provinces named as “rice champions,” according to the PhilRice website. The agency had identified 49 provinces as “rice champions.”

Under the plan, each province will get a support fund, and a P1-million incentive will be given to the top three provinces that will exceed their palay production targets.

The palay self-sufficiency plan was formulated by a PhilRice team led by its executive director, Dr. Leocadio Sebastian, along with current and former officials of the Agriculture department, the International Rice Research Institute and a number of local officials and other government agencies involved in agriculture.

In a statement, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said the plan is “highly doable because the planners themselves are teaming up to implement it.”

“Self-sufficiency in rice, after all, is not a puzzle to us Filipinos. Not so long ago, we had produced more than enough rice for ourselves, we even shared part of our produce to the world,” Yap wrote in the plan’s foreword.

The amounts to be spent in 2009 and 2010 are on top of the P43-billion FIELDS initiative of President Arroyo, where massive amounts of funds will be infused for fertilizers, irrigation and other rural infrastructure, education and training of farmers, dryers and other post-harvest facilities and seeds of high-yielding varieties.

According to PhilRice, the country can save up to $500 million annually from importing rice if local rice production is boosted to self-sufficient levels.
--Chino S. Leyco And  Conrad M. Cariño


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Re: International Rice News:
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2008, 11:42:12 AM »
Myanmar’s next rice crop in peril
Larry Jagan, Foreign Correspondent

Last Updated: May 20. 2008 11:52PM UAE / May 20. 2008 7:52PM GMT 
A homeless Myanmar woman eats rice beside her one-day-old infant at a temporary shelter on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar. Associated Press
BANGKOK // As Myanmar mourns the thousands dead or missing from Cyclone Nargis, the UN is warning that time is running out for the country’s rice farmers if they are to plant new crops before the end of the main growing season.

If seeds are not sown before the end of June in the Irrawaddy Delta – Myanmar’s rice bowl – the country will lose a significant amount of food that it desperately needs to feed its impoverished people.

“The clock is ticking if we are to save the country’s next rice crop,” Diderik de Vleeschauwer, a spokesman for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, said.

But the signs are not good, as much of the rice paddy in the cyclone-hit areas of the delta are still under water and farmers are in need of the most basic amenities — food, shelter and clothing.

The United Nations said it has only been able to reach a quarter of the people in need, as the junta has refused to allow foreign aid workers into the country.

But in what appeared to be a breakthrough, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, said yesterday the generals had granted permission for the World Food Programme to use helicopters to drop aid to people in the delta.

The medium- and long-term effects of the cyclone on Myanmar’s economy are going to be significant. Agricultural experts are now warning that the disaster could turn Myanmar from a rice exporting nation into an importer.

“Food stores have been lost, seeds have been destroyed and other assets needed have all been swept away,” Mr de Vleeschauwer said.

“In the lower Delta [hardest hit by the cyclone] they just do not have the capital to replace the seeds, livestock and tools needed to start replanting rice in the next few months,” he said.

This is the time the usual planting season starts in the Irrawaddy Delta – which produces two-thirds of Myanmar’s rice. Around a quarter of the rice paddy in this area is flooded with salty sea water and decaying animal and human carcasses. These have to be cleared before planting can begin.

The heavy rains that have fallen in the area over the last week have helped dilute the brackish water a little, but it is still a major problem. The irrigation channels need to be repaired and water pumps replaced.

More than half of the region’s livestock, which was used for ploughing, has been killed.

The excess water needs to drained away and the debris cleared from the land. So far, very little has been done.

Pumps are badly needed, according to local aid workers who have been to the region, and then the land needs to be tilled.

“We are looking at providing small Chinese-made tractors for some of this work,” said another agricultural expert working in Myanmar. “But in some areas the water is so high that machines wont work.”

There is an acute need for fertilisers, which are scarce in Myanmar. All fertilisers must be imported and are generally too expensive for the average farmer, but are essential to boost rice yields, according to the FAO.

“On poor or depleted soils, yields can be increased by up to 30 per cent through the provision and use of nitrogen fertilisers,” said Mr de Vleeschauwer. “In this area, the use of fertilisers is considered highly critical,” he said.

“Our rice could recover if the sun ever got the chance to shine,” one farmer in the delta told a local journalist as he tried to dry his rice seeds beside the road. “But it will never be good quality again.”

The most pressing problem is getting the farmers back on to the land. “There is a question about the ability of the rice planters to get back to cultivation,” said Paul Risely, a regional spokesman for the World Food Programme. “They’ve got to put their houses back together first.”

While next year’s rice crop hangs in the balance, the survivors of the cyclone are now faced with a new threat, from water borne-disease: diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera, dengue fever and malaria.

“There is a very real danger of a second wave of death from disease if food, clean water, shelter and emergency health care cannot be provided to the displaced people on the move from the devastated areas in the delta,” said Amanda Pitt, the regional spokesman for the UN.

Already, cases of cholera have been confirmed among those affected by the cyclone in the Irrawaddy Delta, according to Maureen Birmingham, the acting head of the World Health Organisation based in Bangkok.

“At this stage the numbers are not significant and consistent with the usual presence of the disease in the area,” she said.

But there is cause for concern, especially with the acute lack of safe water, she said. There has been a massive jump in the number of cases of diarrhoea, which could lead to a cholera outbreak. “There is no explosion yet, but the risk is very high,” she said.

As a precaution, the authorities have begun fogging – a technique used to spray insecticides – in temporary shelters to prevent and control the proliferation of diseases spread by mosquitoes, such as malaria and dengue, according to the WHO in Yangon.

People in the delta area are also in acute need of medical attention. Many have suffered injuries that have become infected, according to a young Australian volunteer helping in the area.

More than 100 Asian doctors have arrived in Myanmar in the last few days, from Bangladesh, India and Thailand, and this should help the relief effort.

Yesterday, the junta gave permission for the WFP to start using helicopters to distribute food and other aid in the delta.


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Re: International Rice News:
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2008, 11:44:24 AM »
Philippine rice crisis due to bad policies, not shortage: economist
4 days ago

MANILA (AFP) — The rice crisis affecting the Philippines is not caused by a shortage of rice but due to bad policies that have hurt the agriculture sector, a leading economist said in a report released Wednesday.

"The so-called rice crisis is really an income crisis," said Rolando Dy, executive director of the food division of the Manila-based University of Asia and the Pacific.

He blamed "under-investment in agriculture and infrastructure, a poor record in eliminating poverty (and) poor infrastructure quality," for the crisis which has forced thousands of poor Filipinos to line up for hours for subsidised rice.

"We cannot reap what we did not sow. We failed in reducing rural poverty compared to other countries," like China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, he said.

The Philippines is one of the world's biggest rice importers and does not enjoy large contiguous land areas with large river systems that allow China, India, Vietnam and Thailand to grow huge amounts of rice, Dy conceded.

But he said other countries which are more dependent on imported rice, like Malaysia and Singapore did not have long queues for rice and were not suffering from the crisis as badly as the Philippines.

Dy said that rice consumption in the Philippines was so high because much of its population was still poor and could afford to eat nothing else.

"There are so many poor people here, the only food they can afford is a mound of rice and some catsup (tomato sauce)," he said.

The Philippines could raise productivity but it had not properly invested in agriculture or its support infrastructure like irrigation and farm-to-market roads, Dy said.

He said the government was investing little in research and development, building sub-standard rural roads and not putting enough irrigation into potential growth areas like the southern region of Mindanao.

Dy also complained that an agriculture modernisation law that took effect in 2000 was not getting adequate funding.

Graft and corruption also hurt the agriculture sector with rural infrastructure being built to poor standards.

The rice crisis might even be a blessing in disguise because it "will spur production and even investments," in agriculture which will have a positive effect in the long run, Dy said.

But he said the rice issue is "a problem not just of the executive branch... it is a problem of the legislative and judiciary," as well.

Dy said that there is likely to be "some correction in rice prices in the next 12 months but not dramatically," remarking that world rice prices will not return to levels seen in 2006.


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Re: International Rice News:
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2008, 11:46:57 AM »
IBM taps idle computing power to help solve rice crisis

By Lawrence Casiraya
First Posted 18:40:00 05/21/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- IBM is tapping unused computing power worldwide to help solve the rice crisis in developing countries like the Philippines.

IBM is collaborating with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which is based in Laguna, and the University Washington in a project called World Community Grid.

The project aims to create a network that will tap into unused computing power from individual PCs worldwide to harness unused computing power in studying rice protein structures.

The goal is to create "super hybrids" that can withstand worsening climate conditions and produce more yield. Nearly a million PCs -- equivalent to the processing power of 167 teraflops -- have signed up for the project, IBM said in a statement.

World Community Grid will run a three-dimensional modeling program created by computational biologists at the University of Washington to study the structures of the proteins that make up the building blocks of rice.

Understanding the structure, according to IBM, is necessary to identify the function of those proteins and to enable researchers to determine which ones could help produce more rice grains, ward off pests, resist disease or hold more nutrients.

In the end, the project aims to create the largest and most comprehensive map of rice proteins and their related functions, helping agriculturalists and farmers pinpoint which plants should be selected for cross-breeding to cultivate better crops.

“There are between 30,000 and 60,000 different protein structures to study," said Dr. Ram Samudrala, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Washington.

"Using traditional experimental approaches in the laboratory to identify detailed structure and function of critical proteins would take decades," said Samudrala. "Running our software program on World Community Grid will shorten the time from 200 years to less than two years."

The project received an initial grant of $2 million from National Science Foundation in the United States.


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Re: International Rice News:
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2008, 11:50:40 AM »
 IRRI’s 9-point action plan for grain crisis
 Commodity Online
MANILA: Many reasons have been cited for the ongoing food grain crisis: consumption overtaking production, lower annual yield growth, lack of land resources to raise acreage, reduced public investment in agricultural research and development, increase in population, adverse weather, pests, diseases etc..

What are the solutions?
According to International Rice Research Institute, Manila, in the near term, urgent actions from national governments and international agencies are needed on two fronts: rapidly exploiting existing technological opportunities for increasing rice yields and policy reforms to improve poorpeople’s food entitlements. Rice production can be revitalized, but there are no silver bullets.

The world community must invest now and for a long time to come.

Some of the actions listed below deal with the immediate crisis while others provide long‐term solutions to prevent future crises. IRRI is calling for the implementation of the following nine‐point program of short‐ and long‐term interventions:

1. Bring about an agronomic revolution in Asian rice production to reduce existing yield gaps
Farmers have struggled to maximize the production potential of the rice varieties they are growing, so there is a gap between potential yield and actual yield. Depending on production conditions, an unexploited yield gap of 1–2 tons per hectare currently exists in most farmers’ fields in ricegrowing areas of Asia. Such yield gaps can be reduced through the use of better crop management practices, particularly in irrigated environments.This requires funding support for programs aimed at improving farmers’ skills in such practices as land preparation, water and nutrient management, and control of pests and diseases.

2. Accelerate the delivery of new postharvest technologies to reduce losses
Post harvest includes the storing, drying, and processing of rice. Most farmers in Asia suffer considerable losses in terms of both quantity and quality of rice during post harvest operations because of the use of old and inefficient practices. Active promotion of exciting new technologies that are currently available for on‐farm storage and drying will reduce losses considerably.

3. Accelerate the introduction and adoption of higher yielding rice varieties
New rice varieties exist that could increase production, but farmers are not using them mainly because the systems that develop and introduce new varieties are under‐resourced.

4. Strengthen and upgrade the rice breeding and research pipelines
Funding for the development of new rice varieties has steadily declined over the past decade or more. This must be reversed in order to develop the new rice varieties that will be required for sustained productivity growth.

Opportunities exist to accelerate the development of new rice varieties with increased tolerance of abiotic stresses (such as drought, flooding, and salinity) and resistance to insects and diseases through new precision‐breeding approaches. Likewise, record high fertilizer prices and new pest outbreaks demand the urgent revitalization of research on rice crop and resource management.

5. Accelerate research on the world’s thousands of rice varieties so scientists can tap the vast reservoir of untapped knowledge they contain
Working with IRRI, the nations of Asia have spent decades carefullycollecting the region’s thousands of rice varieties. More than 100,000 types of rice are now being carefully managed and used at IRRI and in Asian nations. However, scientists have studied in detail only about 10% of these types. It is urgent that researchers learn more about the other 90% so they can be used in the development of new varieties.

6. Develop a new generation of rice scientists and researchers for the public and private sectors
Another vital concern for the Asian rice industry is the education and training of young scientists and researchers from rice‐producing countries.Asia urgently needs to train a new generation of rice scientists and researchers—before the present generation retires—if the region’s rice industry is to successfully capitalize on advances in modern science.

7. Increase public investment in agricultural infrastructure
Adequate investments in agricultural infrastructure such as roads, irrigation systems, and market systems are critically important for raising and sustaining productivity growth in rice. As with agricultural research, the underinvestment in infrastructure needs to be corrected urgently.

8. Reform policy to improve the efficiency of marketing systems for both inputs and outputs
Domestic and international marketing systems need to improve so that changes in consumer prices are reflected in producer or farm‐gate prices (this is known as efficient transmission of price signals). Policies should be developed and revised to remove barriers to the efficient transmission of price signals and to create conditions that allow the private sector to function smoothly.

9. Strengthen food safety nets for the poor
Poor and disadvantaged people who are highly vulnerable to food shortages require strong food and social safety net programs to ensure that their needs are adequately met. Both urban and rural poor people would benefit from food or income transfers and nutrition programs focusing on early childhood.



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Re: International Rice News:
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2008, 11:54:27 AM »
High rice price empties Dhaka begging bowls
Wed May 21, 2008 2:05pm IST  Email | Print | Share| Single Page[-] Text
  • By Azad Majumder

DHAKA (Reuters Life!) - It's a tough life being a beggar in impoverished Bangladesh, and now the global crop crunch has made it even harder.

Rice has always been the alms of choice in this South Asian nation where the crop is a staple food, but shortages in the grain, and ensuing high prices, have meant less rice on Bangladeshi tables -- and in begging bowls.

Many beggars in the capital Dhaka make a living by selling their rice donations at a steep discount at a makeshift market which has been convening each day in a disused, downtown stadium for over 20 years.

Their customers are usually labourers and rickshaw drivers who cannot afford to buy rice at supermarket prices.

But these days the market sees few hawkers, and even less rice. The food shortages have also driven many beggars to leave the capital for the countryside, hoping to feed themselves and their families off a bumper summer rice harvest.

"Even a year ago it was a good business for us," said Maziran Begum, who has been begging in Dhaka for years.

"I would get three or four kgs of rice every day and I could sell most of it. Now nobody wants to give us rice as it became costlier. If we ask people for rice, they give us a coin.

"Now, whatever I get, is sometimes not even good enough to feed myself," she said. 


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Re: International Rice News:
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2008, 11:57:22 AM »
Little typhoon damage on rice crops
May 20, 2008 23:19:00
Neal Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The typhoon that barreled through Northern and Central Luzon damaged many homes but not, luckily, the rice crops-not much anyway. The rice fields were newly planted with rice seedlings or were just being prepared for planting, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap told the Kapihan sa Manila last Monday, so there wasn't much damage. All that has to be done is to plant again. The previous crop has long been harvested.

So what is the rice situation?

"There is no rice shortage," Secretary Yap said confidently.

But read between the lines. That answer is full of mental reservations. He means there is no rice shortage "at present," today, this week, this month. There is plenty of rice stocks-at present.

But what will happen beginning July when the lean months come marching in?

"We have already contracted for the rice imports to fill in our production shortfall," said Yap, but not so confidently this time.

For having import contracts is one thing and having the rice actually delivered is another. Rice exporting countries have already warned that they may not be able to fulfill export commitments because of less supply and increased demand.

What will happen when typhoons (this is the typhoon season) hit the rice exporting countries and their rice crops are damaged, their productions fall short, and they are not able to deliver on their export contracts? Yap was asked.

"We will just have to look for other sources," was his answer.

But there are no other sources. The whole world is short of rice. What then?

Let the people eat cake, as Marie Antoinette advised. Or, more practically, eat camote. Don't laugh at this last advice. During the war, when there was practically no rice, the people survived on camote, both the tubers and the camote tops. And on coconuts, of which we have plenty.

Practically speaking, camote and coconut can really be used to bake cakes. Flour can be made out of sweet potatoes and coconuts--and from cassava and bananas. These four can be processed into flour and mixed with wheat flour and used for bread, cakes, biscuits, etc. If we do this, they will augment the supply of wheat and rice. Or they can be eaten cooked as is.

The trouble is Filipinos have to be weaned away from rice. Filipinos do not feel satisfied unless they eat rice. This is just a matter of habit and taste, however. Sweet potatoes, coconut and bananas have better nutrition than rice.

What is rice, anyway? It is mostly starch. Camote and bananas are also starch but they also have sugar. And coconut has fat. Plus they have plenty of vitamins. So these three are better than rice, nutrition-wise.

What's more, rice needs plenty of water. Many liters of water are needed to grow just one rice plant. That is why rice is grown on irrigated fields, and only during the rainy season on farms without irrigation. But constructing water impounding dams and reservoirs and kilometers of irrigation canals and maintaining them are very expensive. Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam can grow plenty of rice only because the mighty Mekong River runs through them and their flat rice lands run along the river. The Philippines, on the other hand, is made up of many islands and their rivers do not run as long with deltas like the Mekong.

On the other hand, camote, cassava and banana need little water. After you have stuck the camote and cassava cuttings into the soil, you hardly need to water them. Like the bananas, they grow by themselves, with little care from humans. And coconuts are already growing and bearing fruit in vast plantations.

Even better, camote and cassava grow on poor soil, and bananas fertilize themselves with the abundant fronds that they produce. The first two produce huge tubers on sandy soil (because the soil is loose), especially in Pampanga and Tarlac where Mt. Pinatubo deposited huge amounts of lahar many centuries ago. Now that Pinatubo has again erupted with vast quantities of lahar only years ago, camote and cassava may make the vast wastelands of lahar around the volcano productive again.

But farmers won't start planting camote and cassava in the sand unless they see somebody else do it and profit from it. So the Depapartment of Agriculture has to experiment and see if this can be done. If it is possible, then it should show the way to and encourage the farmers.

It cannot just rely on importation, although there are plenty of commissions to be had from importation. We have to be self-reliant on food.

I think that in the future, it is the agricultural countries that will survive. The present, rich industrialized countries will increasingly be dependent on the agricultural countries for their food. They cannot eat the metals that they produce. So they will be at the mercy of the agricultural countries in the same way that the world is now at the mercy of the oil-producing countries. But when the oil under their ground run out, they will have to buy biofuels and food from the tropical, agricultural countries that they made to pay through the nose during the times when oil was king. Then it would be the turn of the tropical nations to make them pay through the nose. That would be sweet revenge. And global justice.

Similarly, the world will be forced to eat less meat in the future. It takes many kilos of grain to produce one pound of meat. Unlike before when cattle thrived on grass alone, now they are fattened with grain-grain that will henceforth be needed to feed humans. And unlike before, when pigs, poultry and cattle were free-roaming animals that fed themselves, now they have to be fed with plenty of grains and fishmeal-food that humans will increasingly need for themselves.


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Re: International Rice News:
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2008, 12:04:09 PM »

 Frank A. Hilario
May 20, 2008
 2008, Battle for the Stomach. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines and Director General Robert Zeigler of the International Rice Research Institute did not talk about the wars of the world on Friday, May 2 at the IRRI main campus in Los Baños, Laguna in the Philippines; they talked about the war for the stomach of the Filipinos, which are hungry for rice. The Warrior Queen by genes, the Warrior King by environment.

Did they talk about this paradox: That the Philippines is the world’s biggest importer of rice and, based in the Philippines, IRRI is the world’s biggest researcher on rice? No. And no, she didn’t beg for more rice from IRRI; and no, IRRI did not turn his back on his mother country. They talked about the worst of soils and the best of soils.

My shot shows the sign in the ricefield beyond and between them saying, ‘IDSA 77: TOLERANT’ – very suggestive, very educational. IDSA suggests EDSA, Epifanio de Los Santos Avenue, synonymous to People Power to the Filipinos and the world (EDSA Revolution); tolerant means able to put up with, withstand notwithstanding. GMA has so far tolerated an infinite number (77 times, Matthew 18: 21-22, New American Bible) of EDSA attempts to oust her from power. Will she be able to weather this food crisis? Wrong question!

She is my President, if you have to know. No, there is no food crisis in the Philippines – there is a food price crisis. And that’s true all over the world. The difference is gross: Food goes to the stomach, price goes to the pocket.

The use of food crops for biofuels has triggered the rises in the prices of foods. The United States and China are guilty in using corn to produce bioethanol – corn is a food crop, food to people and feed to animals. Brazil is guilty in using sugarcane to produce the same – sugarcane is sugar to everyone, confectionery and syrup and juice to millions. You can’t have our food and we eat it too!

The price crisis is a supply crisis. And it is triggered by 2 kinds of hunger: on one hand, peoples’ hunger for green & gold; on the other hand, other peoples’ hunger for food.

In fact, it’s not simply a crisis; it’s a war. In fact, it’s not simply a war; it’s 2 wars. In fact, it’s not simply 2 wars; it’s 3 wars.

2020, the Third World War. Which alien species brought the plague called climate change to the human inhabitants of the Earth? Homo sapiens. This species was alien to the idea that if you allow Politics to blend with Science to blend with Private Interests and leave out much of the Public long enough, there is a Climate Change where the Icebergs of Indifference melt and the Temperatures of Neglect rise and the Storms of Protests visit with fury. I’m imagining the 3rd War of the World, the very last. 100% success.

Leading to that 3rd War of the World, I'm imagining a failed 1st War of the World and a failed 2nd War of the World. Failed wars? I’m imagining wars different from your World War I and World War II. Those wars are nothing compared to what I am about to describe. Because they are largely unseen, and they seem to be unreal. And that makes each one of them deadlier than the physical thing. And yes, they are occurring simultaneously, in parallel worlds.

The First War of the World

The 1st War of the World is the War on the Poverty of the Spirit. Between those who empty their hearts and those who refuse to empty themselves of their baggages. I’m referring not only to Roman Catholics and Protestants of all denominations.

Why do we have a food price crisis in the Philippines? Despite the efforts of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and IRRI in increasing rice production, farmers suffer because of hoarders, private warehouses and private houses, big and small stashers of food, human squirrels who think nothing but of themselves. In one conference outside Manila, an official of a government agency confessed that some of his staff were buying ‘one sack of rice every day’ (see my ‘The Drylanders’). It’s easy to be selfish, to be self-indulgent – you don’t need practice.

The cause is the same as the political crisis in the Philippines: unlimited human wants. This is the take-off point, The Grand Assumption for the Science of Economics. That is to say, here is one Science that assumes gluttony as a necessary beginning for the acts of Man. So, why are we surprised that politicians have insatiable desires for power and privilege?

The destructive forces in the 1st War of the World emanate from unlimited desires; the Wealth of Nations is the Wealth of Some, not the Wealth of All. An unwinnable war?

The Second War of the World

The 2nd War of the World is the War on the Poverty of the Mind. Between those who are ignorant and those who think they know better.

Battle Stations #1

Take the advocacy of the Philippines in research for development (R4D) in agriculture. Last Friday, Agriculture Secretary Arthur C Yap and IRRI Director Robert Zeigler signed in between IRRI ricefields in the presence of GMA a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on ‘Accelerating Rice Production in the Philippines.’ Good for 5 years, in brief, the MOA calls for IRRI to ‘enhance’ – IRRI Deputy Director William Padolina’s term – the capabilities of the DA to improve advocacy and assistance to Filipino rice farmers from seed to drying of grains, and the capacity of the farmers to produce more rice, particularly in areas with either lack or excess of water supply. According to the MOA, the collaboration calls for, among other things, provision of high-yielding rice varieties, training, extension, use of modern information & communication technologies, including assessment of potentials of current and candidate rice-growing areas with the use of geographic information systems, remote sensing, crop & climate modeling. The farm technologies include site-specific nutrient management, integrated pest management, controlled irrigation, as well as better postharvest handling of produce to reduce losses. I say the farmers don’t have to be fed these hard-to-digest terms to benefit from them.

In his brief talk, Zeigler was very generous in his praise of Filipino IRRI staff and very emphatic in his promise of assistance by IRRI. Zeigler said:

I would like to make special mention of the extremely high quality of nationally recruited staff that makes us the envy of the agricultural research world. Their high quality work and dedication are the foundation of the success and contributions that IRRI has made to the Philippines and to the world. Madam President, I can assure you that as other international centers recruit our national staff to go work for them, we also contribute to (or suffer from) the excellent reputation of the Filipino Overseas Workers.

If IRRI’s so smart, why are Filipinos rice poor? It is neither technology nor mathematics, my dear Aunt Sally. The Filipino farmer, Zeigler said, produces much more per hectare than the Thai farmer. This is ‘testament to the ingenuity, hard work and effectiveness of the DA – farmer partnership.’ And oh, no, Zeigler said, ‘Thailand doesn’t even have to deal with typhoons!’

Madame President, I and my colleagues both in IRRI and in the Department of Agriculture are honored to have you witness the signing by me and Secretary Yap of a new Memorandum of Agreement between IRRI and DA that will allow us to work together to quickly move Philippine rice production forward towards self-sufficiency.

I liked the sound of that.

In his short message, among other things, I heard Yap talk about a ‘new management approach’ to rice production with the use of ‘compact cluster areas’ of 40-100 hectares, especially but not solely in agrarian reform communities. I understand that to mean the communities must learn to be communities.

I liked the sound of that too.

But I was expecting more. But I was expecting too much: The MOA was only for meeting the need to increase the rice supply up to the need to handle the harvest to decrease losses, not for meeting the needs to act to bring about advantageous marketing arrangements and react to adverse market developments.

Still, another thing I would expect is the DA convincing GMA on the need to pay serious attention to the drylands (the unirrigated as well as the uplands). For starters, the setting up of a Philippine Drylands Institute has been recommended as a result of a national conference on the drylands held at the Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga last April 17-18. (For more details, see my ‘The Drylanders’).

The drylands can contribute much. With 1 million hectares of the drylands adding say, a modest 10 cavans more per hectare, that’s 10 M cavans of added rice in 100 days. The drylands are also good for planting other cash crops that the farmers need, such as sweet sorghum, a drought-tolerant species used as food, feed, forage, fuel, fertilizer. (For more details, see my ‘Grey-to-Green Revolution.’)

Who are those who think they know better? The politicians in the Philippines, especially the opposition. And the noisy minority in and out of media who cannot see anything good that GMA does or says.

Battle Stations #2

Take the advocacy of the United States in R4D for the developing countries of Asia, Africa, America: Instead of slosh, there’s slash. According to Science, the magazine published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), ‘Researchers charge that the US Government is moving to slash funding for international agricultural research’ (Dennis Normile, April 18, Fionna Douglas, speaking for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), said that the CGIAR has been told that ‘the 2008 USAID budget includes extensive earmarks requiring funding to be directed primarily to health issues, leaving little for agriculture.’

The 2008 USAID budget is like 75% for health, 25% for food. That is to say, for every dollar, 75 cents for AIDS and cancer and stem cells and the like, and 25 cents for cereals of the tropics. That is to say, the illnesses of the First World are more important than the hunger of the Third World. That is to say, the peoples of the developed countries first before the peoples of the underdeveloped.

So I understand when Zeigler says, ‘This is the worst of times.’ Certainly for IRRI, which is one of 15 CGIAR centers that depend on outside funding for their science, certainly for all of us in the tropics: ‘Part of the reason we’re having this deterioration of the global agricultural situation is that there has been a steady erosion of support for research.’ Zeigler means the global food crisis is in part explained by dearth of funds for research to improve the lives of poor farmers. So, the poor farmers we shall always have with us?

In the meantime, David Dickson reports that a ‘global agriculture study calls for increased research’ (April 16, ‘An international study of global agriculture has concluded that significant investment in agricultural research is needed for the world to feed its growing population in an economically and environmentally sustainable way.’ Rather than investing in war, the United States of America should be investing in peace.

To be fair, for the last 50 years, with US aids, science in agriculture has been concentrating on increasing yields of crops, for example, rice and corn for the Third World. And they have succeeded quite well, thank you very much. Did you know that, for instance, the Philippines increased its rice production from 5.3 M tons in 1970 to 16.2 M tons in 2007, that is, by more than 300%? Tell that to the Thais!

In the meantime, businesses have been concentrating on increasing their income from crops, that is to say, from the sweat of the producers of those crops.

Who are those who think they know better? Those who have ignored the marketing needs of farmers. Those who do not know that the Wars of the World are not between the Haves and Have-Nots; they are between the Grow Mores and the Gain Mores in the member countries of the United Nations.

In my mind, IRRI and DA, through PhilRice (and the Philippine Drylands Institute when established), can collaborate and together work with local government units, civil society and private interests to bring about not only a rice self-sufficient Philippines as soon as 2010 but also help create a social system that ensures an equitable distribution of the benefits from the growing of more rice.

If we can talk about that, then we can talk about fighting the Third World War. Is winning this war an impossible dream? No, but winning over our insatiable desires may be.


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Re: International Rice News:
« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2008, 12:07:56 PM »
Loss of Filipino rice crops was stoppable The ongoing loss of rice crops throughout the Philippines at the hands of a growing insect horde could have been prevented, researchers say.

International Rice Research Institute researchers say they could have created rice varieties that would have been resistant to brown plant hoppers, but budget cuts by the Filipino government hindered their research, The New York Times reported Sunday.

Institute Director General Robert S. Zeigler said the budget cuts were due to the international stance that the world's food problems had finally been under control.

People felt that the world food crisis was solved, that food security was no longer an issue, and it really fell off the agenda, he told the Times.

Yet with East Asian rice crops now threatened with billions of the minuscule insects, global leaders have begun to finally take action.

The Times said the U.S. Congress has been asked for $770 million to provide food aid to struggling global populations. Nonetheless, the United States has begun cutting funding to global research sites such as the rice institute that are aimed at improving crops in poor countries, the U.S. newspaper said.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International


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Re: International Rice News:
« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2008, 08:11:00 AM »
UN Aims to Raise Potatoes' Appeal
High grain prices and the International Year of the Potato bring greater attention to the vegetable. Transcript of radio broadcast:
26 May 2008

Some governments and agricultural experts have this advice to help people deal with high grain prices: Eat more potatoes.

The United Nations has declared two thousand eight the International Year of the Potato. There is even a Web site to help bring more attention to the world’s third most important food crop, after rice and wheat:

The world produced three hundred twenty million tons of the vegetable last year, about the same as in two thousand five. The top five producers were China, Russia, India, Ukraine and the United States. India hopes to double production in the next five years.

Officials in Bangladesh say that country produced a record eight million tons this season. Prices for rice, the main food crop, have doubled in Bangladesh in the past year. Potatoes now cost much less than rice.

Yet potatoes are not an especially popular food choice in Bangladesh. The government hopes that will change. And some Bangladeshis may have no choice. Soldiers are now being served potatoes as part of their daily food.

The International Potato Center in Lima, Peru, says potatoes could offer better food security for at least twenty Asian countries.

International trade in potatoes currently represents only about six percent of production, so prices are set locally. Potatoes are a good source of nutrients. And farmers can plant them in rotation with grain crops.

The United Nations World Food Program says potatoes can grow in almost any climate. They do not require very much water. And experts say potatoes can produce more food per hectare than wheat or rice.

Until the early nineteen nineties, most potatoes were grown in Europe, North America and the former Soviet republics. Person for person, Europeans still eat the most potatoes. But the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says production has increased sharply in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The F.A.O. says developing countries grew more potatoes than developed countries for the first time in two thousand five.

That same year, an American-led research team tried to settle the debate over where potatoes came from. They reported that all potatoes today have a single origin in southern Peru. The earliest evidence suggested that farmers developed potatoes from wild plants more than seven thousand years ago.

And that’s the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson.



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Re: International Rice News:
« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2008, 08:14:03 AM »
Bangladesh farmers rush to plant rice before monsoon
Mon May 26, 2008 5:38pm IST  Email | Print | Share| Single Page[-] Text

1 of 1Full SizeDHAKA (Reuters) - Barely three weeks before the start of the annual monsoon, Bangladesh farmers are preparing to sow aus and aman varieties of rice, shortly after a bumper harvest of the summer rice crop, boro.

"We have no time to waste, it's a close call," said Anwar Faruk, a senior official of the government's agriculture ministry.

The harvest of boro is nearly finished with a confirmed yield of more than 19 million tonnes, 2 million above target and up from 15 million tonnes last year, other officials said.

It compares with an average annual total rice production of over 29 million tonnes, including aus and aman.

Farmers are now clearing their fields to sow the monsoon varieties over the next couple of weeks before widespread, heavy rain heralds the advent of the monsoon season, from mid-June to September.

Two-thirds of Bangladesh, home to more than 140 million people, remain under water through these months.

But farmers and officials said they were better equipped this time to face any impending disaster following the bumper boro crop.

Weather officials said on Monday the monsoon was advancing from the Bay of Bengal steadily and likely to spread over the country over the next two or three weeks.

"But it is too early to predict a flood or any other unusual monsoon phenomenon," one meteorology official said. 


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Re: International Rice News:
« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2008, 08:18:36 AM »
Food aplenty with Sabah's agriculture policies

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Datuk Seri Panglima Yahya Hussin says the state is self-sufficient in fishery products.

Sabah is going great guns in agriculture, Deputy Chief Minister cum Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Yahya Hussin tells JOSEPH SIPALAN.

Q: What are the main obstacles to increasing the yield of rice production in Sabah? What is needed to achieve the state's goal of 100 per cent self-sufficiency?
A: One major problem is the lack of infrastructure. Of the 35,600 hectares used for rice production, only 10,400 hectares have basic irrigation and drainage in place and are ready for double-cropping.

This has led to a lack of interest among land owners, as low production means low income. This makes the multi-million ringgit offers from property developers more attractive.

We need a comprehensive plan which will get each and every stakeholder - that is, the Agriculture Department, Department of Irrigation and Drainage, Agrobank, Mardi, Bernas and the local authorities - to collaborate and synergise their roles rather than compartmentalise their efforts.

Q: Is Sabah planting or considering planting hybrid rice?
A: There is no hybrid rice cultivation in Sabah at the moment, but the Department of Agriculture is looking into the feasibility of hybrid rice cultivation, either through private sector participation or joint efforts with outside expertise such as Mardi and/or the International Rice Research Institute of the Philippines.

Q: Has Sabah set aside land for permanent food production parks?
A: Sabah has five permanent food production parks planned for implementation under the Department of Agriculture. The parks are in Mandalipau and Kampung Langkawit in Papar, Sungai Lokan in Sandakan, Sungai Koyah in Kinabatangan and Mile 15, Jalan Apas in Tawau. The parks will focus mainly on fruits and vegetables and cover a total of 1,525 hectares.

The Department of Veterinary Services and Livestock Industry has identified 3,800 acres in Nabawan for breeding cattle. When fully operational by 2010, it is expected to have 6,000 head of beef cattle, 15,000 head of goat and 3,000 head of deer.

Another 486 hectares have been identified in Sebrang, Keningau, as a dairy cattle production centre with a targeted 3,000 head of dairy cattle under the Sabah Development Corridor.

Sabah has also been identified as a National Aquaculture Zone, with 69,900 hectares identified for five types of aquaculture production - seaweed, marine fish, molluscs and invertebrates, marine crustaceans and freshwater fish.

Sabah is self-sufficient in fisheries products, amounting to a total of 230,966 tonnes valued at RM679.81 million last year.

Q: Sabah is Malaysia's biggest milk producer. How many litres were produced last year and which are the export markets?
A: Sabah is 120 per cent self-sufficient in liquid fresh milk production, producing 10.30 million litres last year. It is projected to produce 12 million litres this year. The milk is exported mainly to Brunei, Sarawak, Labuan and Peninsular Malaysia.

Q: What is Sabah's self-sufficiency level in meat and poultry production?
A: Sabah is 100 per cent self-sufficient in eggs and pork production. The state produced 401 million eggs and 11,340 tonnes of pork last year and exports both commodities to Brunei, Sarawak, Labuan, Kalimantan in Indonesia and southern Philippines.

However, Sabah is only 26 per cent self-sufficient in beef production (including buffalo, cattle, goat and deer meat), with imports totalling 5,678 tonnes of frozen buffalo meat from India and 757 tonnes of frozen beef from Australia and New Zealand, with an overall value of RM45.51 million.

We are 98 per cent self-sufficient in poultry production, with the two per cent balance comprising chicken wings and processed products such as sausages, nuggets, burgers and meat balls from Peninsular Malaysia, Holland and Denmark


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Re: International Rice News:
« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2008, 08:21:18 AM »
Timor's Ramos-Horta Says Farm Subsidies Will Help Food Security

By Jason Gale

May 26 (Bloomberg) -- East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta said his country must use subsidies to bolster agriculture and protect its food security in the face of soaring import costs.

East Timor, Asia's youngest and least-developed nation, can be ``mostly'' self-sufficient within five years, Ramos-Horta, 58, said in an interview in Singapore today. About two-thirds of the rice consumed in the country is bought from Vietnam and Thailand.

Cheaper food from overseas can't be relied on because rising fuel prices are ratcheting up transport costs and major rice- producing countries, such as China and India, will need more to feed their own people, leaving less for export, Ramos-Horta said.

``Food security must be priority No. 1 for us,'' he said. ``For our own food security, our survival, our independence, we should spend more money -- including subsidizing our farmers -- to produce more.''

The Nobel laureate, who served as prime minister from 2006 until his inauguration as president last year, was shot and almost killed in a Feb. 11 rebel attack.

``At the time I was prime minister I said I am going to subsidize our agriculture sector,'' he said. ``We have to. That would make us independent, and eventually it will be cheaper.''

Ramos-Horta said that using subsidies to protect farmers and encourage domestic agricultural production may rankle multilateral finance agencies, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which advocate free trade as a mechanism for lowering food costs.

``If we do the opposite of what they say, I think that will be about right,'' he said.

Import Surge

The cost of importing rice has more than doubled this year as countries including Vietnam and China curbed overseas sales to protect domestic supplies. Governments worldwide may spend a record $1.035 trillion on imported foodstuffs in 2008 because of higher commodity prices and escalating transport costs, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said in a report last week.

In East Timor, which derives about $100 million a month from its petroleum reserves, farmers are offered incentives to expand crop production, and new roads and bridges are being built to bring food to consumers faster.

The government is considering building warehouses to store food in strategic areas around the country for emergencies to assist ``vulnerable people,'' said Ramos-Horta. About 40 percent of the nation's 1 million people live on $1 or less a day.

`Matter of Decency'

Ensuring the availability of affordable food is ``a matter of decency and morality for the poor, but also a matter of stability and security,'' Ramos-Horta said. The poverty-inducing affects of food inflation ``will set back development efforts in developing countries at least 10 years,'' he said.

Food prices would have escalated more in East Timor had the government not stepped up imports of rice, corn and potatoes to bolster local supplies, the president said.

``With climate change, more industrialization and the development of countries like India and China, there will be less and less land available for agriculture,'' Ramos-Horta said. ``We have to quickly make ourselves completely independent in food.''

East Timor, formally known as Timor-Leste, was established in May 2002, ending 24 years of Indonesian control and three years of UN administration.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jason Gale in Singapore at

Last Updated: May 26, 2008 05:04 EDT


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