Food & Agriculture Update: Philippine House Body Rushes Soda Tax Bill

Food & Agriculture Update | October 23, 2015
Authors: Sunita Kapoor, Hai Pham
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

The Council will be organizing an inaugural Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to Indonesia in Q1 2016. The following meetings will be proposed for this mission:

  • Ministry of Agriculture
  • Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs
  • Ministry of Trade
  • Ministry of Industry
  • Ministry of Health
  • Ministry of Environment and Forestry (secretariat for the National Biosafety Commission for Genetically Engineered Products)
  • Ministry of Research and Technology
  • National Agency of Drug and Food Control
  • Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries
  • U.S. Embassy Jakarta, Foreign Agricultural Service (breakfast briefing)
  • USAID, Nathan Associates, FAO Indonesia and ASEAN Secretariat (a potential lunch panel discussion)

Please let the Council’s Food & Agriculture Manager, Sunita Kapoor (skapoor@usasean.org) know of other ministries and stakeholders that you would like to see added. The final meetings will be based on members’ interests and officials’ availability. 

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Philippine House Body Rushes Soda Tax Bills

The Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives of the Philippines plans to zero in on two measures it hopes would plug billions of pesos in forgone revenues estimated from a proposal to cut income taxes. Marikina Rep. Romero Federico S. Quimbo (2nd district), who heads the Ways and Means Committee, said his panel will take up a measure seeking to raise the prices of soft drinks by as much as P10 per liter, alongside three bills proposing a new mining fiscal regime. The additional P10 per liter pricing was based on studies cited by the World Health Organization showing that raising prices by 20 percent would reduce consumption by 24 percent. The extra levy on the sugar-based drinks will be on top of the 12% value-added tax already imposed on consumer goods. The extra levy (House Bill No. 3365) will cover soft drinks, soda and soda pop, fruit drinks and punch, sport drinks, sweetened tea, coffee drinks, energy drinks and all non-alcoholic ready-to-drink beverages. Exempted are 100 percent fresh fruit juices, yogurt, as well as milk and milk substitutes. According to the draft proposal, it is envisioned to take effect in 2016 and will be hiked by 4 percent every year thereafter starting January 1, 2017. It is estimated that the new soda tax could raise an additional P34.4 billion that could offset a similar amount in foregone revenues expected by cuts in income taxes for both individuals and companies but not everyone is convinced. Bottling companies and sugar producers have opposed the bill, arguing that their industries are being “unduly targeted,” which in turn could discourage investments. The Philippines Sugar Regulatory Administration has also expressed concern over the proposal, saying it could negatively affect local sugarcane farmers. The Beverage Industry Association of the Philippines (BIAP) said the proposed soda tax will not generate additional tax revenue for the government contrary to claims by the bill’s proponents and have described it as an “anti-poor” legislation targeting basic commodities that are within the reach of the middle, lower middle and lower income classes instead of taxing luxury goods. BIAP also cites potential job losses as another consequence of HB 3365 with drop in sales having a multiplier effect on employment in not only the beverage industry but also other allied industries such as packaging, trucking, and retail. With less than four months of congressional sessions left and ahead of the May 2016 elections, Mr. Quimbo said the committee hopes to approve this measure and a mining tax bill before Congress takes its Dec. 19 – Jan. 18 Christmas and New Year break. 

Indonesian Administration Prioritizes Food and Infrastructure Development

On Monday, October 19, President of the Republic of Indonesia Joko Widodo reiterated that during the first year of leadership, along with Vice President Jusuf Kalla, the government will prioritize food production and infrastructure development. This was the same directive announced during the  revised 2015 draft budget in December 2014. As the government completes its first year on October 20, President Jokowi said overhaul of the fuel subsidy scheme has been key in redirecting funds towards infrastructure projects that support the achievement of food resilience. The President said nearly 65 to 70 percent of the fuel subsidy is being diverted, and the funds will now be used to finance projects related to inter-island, inter-city and inter-provincial connectivity with the aim to facilitate food distribution. Another government policy related to strengthening the national food development sector is to build reservoirs and irrigation facilities nationwide. Specifically, construction of 49 reservoirs is being undertaken and the administration plans on building 13 dams in addition to irrigation facilities and also pushing to further boost food self-sufficiency programs. President Jokowi hoped that the lowering of transportation costs will in turn lower the prices of primary goods.  

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Cambodia
Minister Promises Further Drops in Poverty, Hunger Rates

Indonesia
Putrajaya may adopt Singapore’s transboundary law on smoke pollution
Asian coffee premiums widen in Vietnam, Indonesia
Govt regrets KL decision to halt RI palm oil imports
Indonesia May Soften Sugar Import Rules to Avoid Shortages
Govt to cancel relaxation on timber certification policy
President prioritizes food, infrastructure development
Population growth challenge to food production: VP Kalla
Apply agricultural technology to enhance food production: VP Kalla
Indonesia May Be Losing Billions in Uncollected Fees on Timber Producers

Malaysia
Focus on agriculture to reduce economic slowdown impact, says deputy minister
Downstream industries to enhance agriculture sector in Sarawak
Hong Kong firm to invest in Malaysian agriculture
Local farmers urged to adopt modern agricultural practices
Asia’s longest running livestock expo returns to Malaysia

Myanmar
DPNS focuses on winning support of farmers
Minister Seeks SEARCA Assistance to Develop Agriculture

Philippines
P5.9B estimated damage to agriculture due to 'Lando'
DA intensifying GAP promotion initiatives for Asean integration
House committee approves bill extending ACEF
DA-NIR working on long-term agri dev’t plan
Agri dept eyes facility for export processing
DA intensifies cloud seeding operations
House panel OKs bill extending ACEF fund to 2022
House body rushes mining, soda tax bills
Population growth threatens PHL rice self-sufficiency goal
Brace for dry spell, sugar growers told

TPP
PANAP: Reject the TPP! Defend food sovereignty!
The details: how does TPP agreement impact US produce exports?
Tariffs on U.S. fruit to much of Asia go away with TPP agreement

Thailand
Famers warned again not to grow off-season rice
Farming into the future
Thailand invests in partnership-driven rice research
Thailand to reclaim top rice exporter crown this year – in pictures

Vietnam
Sugar factories see raw material shortage
Viet Nam farmers seek out technology, markets
Vietnam secures on food
Vietnam’s agriculture needs second period of reform
Back to basics: Big Vietnamese listed firms want to feed masses
Vietnam's fruit and veg exports on track to hit $2 billion this year
Ministry to crack down on illegal husbandry substances
IFC proposes better access to finance for Vietnamese farm sector
Vietnam to divest $2.5 bln share in top firm Vinamilk - media
Vietnam’s agricultural achievements are significant: FAO representativ
Cashew exports to top $2.2 billion
Agriculture insurance vital to mitigate risks
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Cambodia

Minister Promises Further Drops in Poverty, Hunger Rates Khmer Times 19th Oct 2015
Cambodia will continue to see reductions in poverty, hunger and malnutrition as it continues to prioritize development of the agricultural industry, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ouk Rabun said on Friday at an event to mark World Food Day in Kandal Province. Mr. Rabun said Cambodia had already been lauded by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization as a model for other developing countries for its achievements in meeting its Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

Indonesia

Putrajaya may adopt Singapore’s transboundary law on smoke pollution The Malaysian Insider 21st Oct 2015
Putrajaya is studying Singapore's new transboundary law on smoke pollution to ascertain if it can be adopted in Malaysia. Underlining the country's seriousness in tackling this annual problem, natural resources and environment minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said he had spoken to the Attorney-General (A-G) about this. Malaysia has no legislation similar to Singapore's Transboundary Haze Pollution Act 2014 which allowed the city state to impose steep fines on local or foreign companies found to contribute to smoke pollution in the republic. "We are still studying this to see whether we can use it, whether it can relate to us, its terms and conditions or whether we can improve on it." "We are serious. I told the A-G we need to look into this and the A-G told me he will raise this with his Singaporean counterpart," he said, replying to points raised by MPs during the emergency debate on the smoggy conditions currently blanketing the region, including Malaysia.

Asian coffee premiums widen in Vietnam, Indonesia Business Recorder 11th Oct 2015
Coffee trade in Vietnam, the world's top robusta producer, was moderate this week at the start of the new 2015/2016 season, while Indonesian traders said the recent strengthening of the rupiah had squeezed profits amid light buying. Coffee prices turned lower as dry weather concerns in top grower Brazil were viewed as overdone. ICE November robusta settled down 2.6 percent at $1,559 per tonne on Wednesday. The contract was down 0.06 percent at $1,558 a tonne at 1024 GMT. Vietnam's robustas grade 2, 5 percent black and broken were offered at a premium of $70 a tonne to the November contract for spot shipment, from premiums of $50-$60 a week ago, while bids were at a premium of $35/tonne. Beans grade 1, similar to Sumatran coffee, stood at a premium of $120 a tonne.

Govt regrets KL decision to halt RI palm oil imports The Jakarta Post 9th Oct 2015
The Indonesian government expressed its regret on Thursday over a Malaysian palm oil group’s decision to temporarily halt imports of palm oil from Indonesia, saying the move was against the spirit of free trade. Gusmardi Bustami, who is chairman of an Indonesian trade policy forum and a former senior official at the Trade Ministry, said that the measure imposed by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) was not in line with the spirit of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). “It is also suspected that Malaysia is trying to prevent its processed goods made of imported Indonesian CPO from being banned from entering into various export destinations due to speculations that the CPO producers might be involved in forest fires [in Indonesia],” he told the Post on Thursday.

Indonesia May Soften Sugar Import Rules to Avoid Shortages Jakarta Globe 8th Oct 2015
Indonesia may relax its raw sugar import regulations to set quotas every six months rather than quarterly, the industry minister said, as it tries to avoid supply shortages that led to refinery closures last year. Many sugar refineries in Indonesia, one of the world's biggest buyers, were forced to close late last year after the government slashed imports in line with its aggressive food self-sufficiency policies.

Govt to cancel relaxation on timber certification policy The Jakarta Post 21st Oct 2015
The government is set to cancel its plan to relax certification requirements for downstream timber products. Previously, the Trade Ministry stated that small and medium enterprises should be allowed to export their timber products without meeting the criteria of the timber legality verification system (SVLK) as part of the ministry's new policies on deregulation. According to Trade Minister Thomas Lembong, among the 32 rules that were supposed to be deregulated, one of them included the mandatory SVLK for downstream timber products such as furniture.

President prioritizes food, infrastructure development Antara News 19th Oct 2015
President Joko Widodo reiterated that during the first year of his leadership, along with Vice President Jusuf Kalla, the government prioritized food production and infrastructure development. "This year we are focusing on infrastructure and food production," the President said here on Monday. As the government completes its first year on 20 October, President Joko Widodo said the national sectors foundations will be fully strengthened to support policies that Indonesia plans to adopt in the future. One of the fundamental policy shifts that the government has decided on is to reduce the subsidy on fuel oil, and instead divert it towards infrastructure projects that support the food sector. This way, the funds would be utilized more productively. "Nearly 65-70 percent of the fuel subsidy is being diverted. These funds are being diverted to finance infrastructure projects related to inter-island, inter-city and inter-provincial connectivity with the aim to facilitate food distribution," he said. Another government policy related to strengthening the national food development sector is to build reservoirs and irrigation facilities nationwide. "In order to ensure food development, construction of 49 reservoirs is being undertaken. This year we are building 13 dams plus irrigation facilities, and boosting food self-sufficiency program," the President noted.

Population growth challenge to food production: VP Kalla Antara News 17th Oct 2015
Vice President M. Jusuf Kalla has said the increase in population poses a challenge to the government in its efforts to maintain the countrys agricultural production. "We have numerous challenges, and foremost among these is the increasing population. The acreage of rice fields continues to shrink while we need a two-fold increase in food production," Jusuf Kalla said while addressing a World Food Day anniversary celebration in Ogan Ilir District, South Sumatra, on Saturday. In the face of these challenges, the Vice President said, the government and all stakeholders in the food sector need to apply technology in order to increase food production. He pointed out a number of key factors that could help the government achieve its food self-sufficiency program, namely good seeds, availability of adequate water, efficient agricultural tools and agricultural research technology. "One of the ways to improve the welfare of farmers is to increase their productivity. If prices are raised, then that is not the correct way. Neither is increasing area of agricultural land correct because doing so would require us to cut down forests. So, we need good research and good seeds," Kalla noted.

Apply agricultural technology to enhance food production: VP Kalla Antara News 17th Oct 2015
Vice President M. Jusuf Kalla has called upon the people to apply agricultural technology to make the countrys agricultural sector more advanced. If farmers could use agricultural technology, the countrys economy will become more advanced, the Vice President told journalists after observing a technology presentation held in conjunction with the celebration of the World Food Day here on Saturday. Food diversity could also increase the countrys food resilience. Therefore, agricultural technology is quite important because it could increase farm production. More importantly, it is the farmers who should take a lead in applying technology. After all, agricultural land cannot be increased and therefore, resorting to application of agricultural technology is the only way out. The country needs to develop food crops that do not need much water and can survive even a drought. On this occasion, the Vice President also called upon companies to preserve the environment to ensure that it remains sustainable. Vice President Jusuf Kalla is on a working visit to South Sumatra to commemorate the World Food Day at Ogan Ilir district and Jakabaring Sport City on Saturday.

Indonesia May Be Losing Billions in Uncollected Fees on Timber Producers The Wall Street Journal 9th Oct 2015
Indonesia lost between $6.5 billion and $9 billion in potential state revenue from royalties and fees on unreported timber production from 2003 to 2014, the national anticorruption commission found. The shortfalls, which occurred during both a major boom and bust in Indonesia’s commodities-dependent economy, have hobbled successive governments in funding social and infrastructure projects, analysts said, and point to a wider question of poor management of resources.

Malaysia

Focus on agriculture to reduce economic slowdown impact, says deputy minister Malaysian Insider 17th Oct 2015
Focus should be given to the agriculture sector to reduce the impact of the economic slowdown in the region, said Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Nogeh Anak Gumbe. He said the drop in the price of crude oil, the ringgit value and regional economic slowdown had affected the country's economy.

Downstream industries to enhance agriculture sector in Sarawak Borneo Post 15th Oct 2015
The development of downstream industries especially food processing in Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) will create higher value products for sale. Subsequently, the commercialisation of the higher value products will enhance the agriculture sector and in turn increase the state’s gross domestic products (GDP) which will also boost Sarawak’s economy.

Hong Kong firm to invest in Malaysian agriculture The Sun Daily 14th Oct 2015
Hong Kong-based private equity firm AFC (Hong Kong) Investments Ltd plans to invest between US$10 million (RM41.8 million) and US$20 million in start-ups as well as medium and large agriculture-related Malaysian companies including in food processing and farming.

Local farmers urged to adopt modern agricultural practices Borneo Post 12th Oct 2015
Local farmers here are advised to equip themselves with modern agricultural practices and knowledge to improve their productivity. District Senior Assistant Agriculture Officer, Emak Uyu, made the call when officiating at the opening of a two-day course on Rubber and other commercial crops planting technology, organised by his office in collaboration with village security and development committee (JKKK) of Rumah Ujon @Unjong Ambu in Ulu Sugai near here recently.

Asia’s longest running livestock expo returns to Malaysia Far East Agriculture 8th Oct 2015
Livestock Asia 2015 was held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center between 21 and 23 September, showcasing the latest technologies and supplies for feed and livestock production. There were more than 300 participating companies representing 32 countries, and over 25 leading industry speakers at the expo.

Myanmar

DPNS focuses on winning support of farmers Myanmar Times 15th Oct 2015
A revived political party is aiming for the farmers’ vote. Canvassers for the Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS) are concentrating on agricultural concerns in Tada-Oo township, Mandalay Region, local secretary U Thant Zin said.

Minister Seeks SEARCA Assistance to Develop Agriculture Myanmar Business Today 8th Oct 2015
Minister for Agriculture and Irrigation U Myint Hlaing has requested the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) to assist Myanmar in developing rice scientists and farmers. In a bilateral meeting attended by 18 Myanmar SEARCA graduate scholars studying at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), the minister said Myanmar needs to urgently address contemporary issues that affect agriculture, including climate change, land conversion and degradation, and supply chain, while developing seeds and reserves. The minister acknowledged SEARCA’s recent efforts to develop human resources in Myanmar’s agriculture sector during his visit to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines. In addition to the 18 Myanmar scholars from the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MOAI), nine other Myanmar are currently enrolled in PhD and masters programs under SEARCA scholarship. To date, SEARCA has awarded a total of 80 masters and PhD scholarships to Myanmar nationals, 53 of whom have completed their graduate programs. Currently, two Myanmar researchers are implementing research projects funded by SEARCA under its Seed Fund for Research and Training (SFRT).

Philippines

P5.9B estimated damage to agriculture due to 'Lando' Sun Star 20th Oct 2015
The Department of Agriculture (DA) said Tuesday the estimated damage on agriculture sector caused by Typhoon "Lando" (international name: Kuppo) has already reached P5.9 billion. The damages resulted as the typhoon pummeled about 277,060 hectares of rich agricultural lands in the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and Cordillera regions. Through partial field validation, the DA estimated that the regions have already incurred a production loss of 386,000 metric tons.

DA intensifying GAP promotion initiatives for Asean integration Sun Star 19th Oct 2015
With the looming Asean economic integration, all stakeholders of the agriculture sector, not only farmers, should be well-informed of the good agricultural practices (GAP) that could help the local industry cope with the challenges of global free trade. This was stressed by Renato Manantan, regional executive director of the Department of Agriculture (DA) Negros Island Region.

House committee approves bill extending ACEF Business Mirror 15th Oct 2015
The House Committee on Agriculture and Food has approved a measure extending the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (Acef) to 2022. House Bill (HB) 6162, principally authored by Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food and Nationalist People’s Coalition Rep. Mark Llandro L. Mendoza of Batangas City, was approved in substitution of the original three similar bills and four House resolutions.

DA-NIR working on long-term agri dev’t plan Sun Star 14th Oct 2015
The Department of Agriculture (DA) Negros Island Region which covers the provinces of Negros Occidental and Oriental under the newly-created Negros Island Region (NIR), is working on a long-term regional agriculture development plan. The DA interim structure for NIR has started its transition period operation last October 1, with Renato Manantan as designated regional executive director.

Agri dept eyes facility for export processing Sun Star 13th Oct 2015
The Department of Agriculture (DA) is looking at the possibility of establishing a one-stop-shop for export processing of agricultural produce in Mindanao. The move came after the Mindanao business community through the recently concluded 24th Business Conference (Minbizcon) 2015 last September 2, to 3, 2015 in Dipolog City adopted a resolution urging the agriculture department to establish the facility.

DA intensifies cloud seeding operations Manila Bulletin 12th Oct 2015
The Department of Agriculture (DA) has intensified its cloud seeding operations in strategic areas nationwide to save crops and other products from the harsh effects of El Niño. “We will seed all (of the) seedable clouds; we will waste no opportunity,” DA Secretary Proceso Alcala said.

House panel OKs bill extending ACEF fund to 2022 The Philippine Star 21st Oct 2015
The House Committee on Agriculture and Food has approved a measure extending the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) to 2022 to allow the government to use the remaining P2 billion for the sector. The ACEF is allocated by Congress from the proceeds of the importation of minimum access volume to be utilized for the development of farm or agricultural infrastructure and machinery, creation of agricultural social infrastructure, implementation of other projects and support for enhancement of global trade competitiveness and to improve the lives of small farmers and other stakeholders in the sector. At least P2 billion remains as the current balance of the ACEF, which when utilized and managed well, can spur agricultural competitiveness locally and globally, according to the authors of the bill.

House body rushes mining, soda tax bills Business World 20th Oct 2015
With less than four months of congressional session left before the May 2016 national elections -- and legislative leaders already straining to muster the quorum needed for final approval of bills -- the Ways and Means committee of the House of Representatives plans to zero in on two measures it hopes would plug billions of pesos in forgone revenues estimated from a proposal to cut income taxes. Upon resumption of session on Nov. 3, Marikina Rep. Romero Federico S. Quimbo (2nd district), who heads the committee, said his panel will take up a measure seeking to raise the prices of softdrinks by as much as P10 per liter, alongside three bills proposing a new mining fiscal regime. The proposed additional tax will cover soft drinks, soda and soda pop, fruit drinks and punch, sports drinks, sweetened tea, coffee drinks, energy drinks and all non-alcoholic ready-to-drink beverages. Exempted are 100% fresh fruit juices, yogurt, as well as milk and milk substitutes. The proposal for a new mining fiscal regime, meanwhile, remains pending before the committee in the face of opposition from large-scale miners and big business groups.

Population growth threatens PHL rice self-sufficiency goal Business Mirror 18th Oct 2015
The current El Niño episode may have been the single biggest factor behind the decision of the government to import more rice for this year and 2016. In the next five years, however, experts warned that the increase in the country’s population would make it more difficult for the Philippines to avoid the international rice market. The drought caused by El Niño has forced the Philippines to front-load its importation of 500,000 metric tons (MT) of rice for next year. The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said the government is looking to buy an additional 1 million metric tons (MMT) of imported rice for 2016.

Brace for dry spell, sugar growers told The Philippine Star 8th Oct 2015
The Sugar Regulatory Administration yesterday urged the sugar industry to implement preemptive measures to counter the destructive effects of the strengthening dry spell as sugarcane cultivation areas nationwide are expected to be badly hit. SRA administrator Ma. Regina Martin is encouraging sugarcane farmers to plant early and have their canes milled in the earlier part of the current cropping season to benefit from higher sugar recovery. Canes brought in for milling in the middle and late part of the sugar production season risk having lower sugar content and faster sugar quality deterioration because of the hot and dry planting conditions, she said.

TPP

PANAP: Reject the TPP! Defend food sovereignty! Aliran 16th Oct 2015
Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific vows to continue working on alternative initiatives to develop and promote small-scale, biodiversity-based, climate-resilient and food-secure farming systems. Great difficulties and challenges await peasants and other small food producers in Malaysia and 11 other countries that negotiated and recently finalised the controversial and secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal.

The details: how does TPP agreement impact US produce exports? Fresh Plaza 9th Oct 2015
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will provide significant new market opportunities for U.S. exporters, according to a release published by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. The agreement will promote economic growth in 11 countries across the Asia-Pacific region and expand demand for US food and agricultural products among nearly 500 million consumers outside the US, the release said.

Tariffs on U.S. fruit to much of Asia go away with TPP agreement Good Fruit 8th Oct 2015
The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will cause a significant number of tariffs on fruit exported to many Asian nations by the United States to go away immediately or within several years, according to an analysis released today by the U. S. Department of Agriculture. The TPP region accounts for nearly $63 billion in U.S. food and agricultural exports, according to USDA. The agreement expands market access into Canada, which already has a free trade agreement with the United States, and grants new and enhanced market access in Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, New Zealand, Brunei and other countries.

Thailand

Famers warned again not to grow off-season rice Thai Visa 15th Oct 2015
The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry has warned farmers again not to plant off-season rice as there is still insufficient water for rice farming in the upcoming dry season although there would be rains during the past weeks. The ministry’s permanent secretary Teerapat Prayoonsit said yesterday that there are several large areas in the country that did not receive rain in the past few weeks.

Farming into the future Bangkok Post 14th Oct 2015
Kong Srilalak, a farmer in Ubon Ratchathani, looks a decade younger than 63. That's because of his robust and muscular frame and tan skin he has acquired from decades of harvesting rice fields. But his heart is weary about the future. Like many farmers his age, Kong wonders how long he can keep rice farming and what his children are going to do with the ancestral land.

Thailand invests in partnership-driven rice research Ag Professional 13th Oct 2015
In an effort to further implement the rice research agenda of the country, the Royal Thai Government through the Rice Department recently approved annual donation of THB 3,600,000 (equivalent of USD 100,000) starting fiscal year 2014-2015 to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). In a letter addressed to the Thai Rice Department Director General Anan Suwannarat, IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler acknowledged the funding contribution. “We once again take this time to convey our deep gratitude to the Royal Thai Government for its support of IRRI and its mission,” Zeigler stated.

Thailand to reclaim top rice exporter crown this year – in pictures The National 12th Oct 2015
Thailand, which accounts for about a quarter of global rice trade, has exported 7.1 million tonnes of rice to date in 2015 and may regain the crown of top exporter this year.

Vietnam

Sugar factories see raw material shortage Viet Nam News 19th Oct 2015
Sugarcane production plants in Tay Ninh, Soc Trang and Hau Giang provinces do not have enough sugarcane to process for the 2015-16 production season, as many farmers have shifted to other products. As the province with the biggest sugarcane area in the Southeast region, Tay Ninh Province has three plants with a capacity of 15,000 tonnes of sugarcane per day.

Viet Nam farmers seek out technology, markets Viet Nam News 17th Oct 2015
Vietnamese farmers want more co-operation with international partners in applying modern technology and expanding the market, said the chairman of the Viet Nam Farmers' Union (VNFU), Nguyen Quoc Cuong. The official made the appeal at a union conference to review the effectiveness of previous co-operation between farmers and international partners this week in Ha Noi.

Vietnam secures on food Saigon GP 16th Oct 2015
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO) in Vietnam yesterday celebrated the 35th World Food Day and the 70th anniversary of establishment of FAO in the northern province of Lao Cai. Vietnam has made efforts to move toward its 2020 goal of forming a social protection system covering the entire population to ensure people have jobs, a minimum income and social insurance. It would also support people with difficulties, such as children with special needs, low-income households and those with disabilities to ensure access to basic social services.

Vietnam’s agriculture needs second period of reform Viet Nam Net 14th Oct 2015
Dr. Dang Kim Son, former director of the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development, and Dr. Vu Trong Khai, former Rector of the School for Rural and Agricultural Management Training, talk with VietNamNet about the urgent needs of the second major reform of agriculture.

Back to basics: Big Vietnamese listed firms want to feed masses Tuoi Tre News 13th Oct 2015
Two of Vietnam’s biggest listed firms with earnings outside agriculture have shifted their attention to the stomach of the 90-million-strong market. Both Vingroup and Mobile World JSC, which have made their fortune from real estate and electronics retailing, have begun eyeing up the huge demand for essential goods and are redirecting their investment into the planting and distributing of agro-products.

Vietnam's fruit and veg exports on track to hit $2 billion this year Thanh Nien News 9th Oct 2015
Vietnam's fruit and vegetables are getting more popular overseas with exports growing 26.5 percent annually, local media reported. In the January-September period, the revenue was estimated at over $1.4 billion, up 16.5 percent year-on-year. Exports are expected to hit $2 billion by the end of the year, news website Bao Dau tu reported, citing the Vietnam Fruit and Vegetables Association.

Ministry to crack down on illegal husbandry substances Viet Nam News 8th Oct 2015
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) will conduct regular inspections and deal strictly with the use of banned substances in animal husbandry, officials said. Pham Tien Dung, head of the MARD's inspectorate announced at a press conference on Tuesday that inspectors had been working with authorities in southern provinces to manage the consumption of banned substances and antibiotics in the sector.

IFC proposes better access to finance for Vietnamese farm sector Deal Street Asia 16th Oct 2015
World Bank’s private lending arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), has developed a toolkit to enable Vietnamese financial institutions to develop agricultural finance products. “Agriculture is fundamental to Vietnam’s economy and its future,” said Kyle Kelhofer, IFC country manager for Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. “IFC is working to expand access to finance in the agricultural sector, as long-term and affordable funding will help farmers and agribusinesses raise income, increase employment, and improve export earnings, contributing to Vietnam’s economic growth,” he added. Vietnam has seen only 20 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) generated by the agricultural sector, although it remains the main source of income and employment for up to 70 per cent of the local population. Access to finance remains one of the major constraints to exploiting the country’s full agriculture potential, as farm sector lending represents just 10 per cent of Vietnamese banks’ loan portfolio. The financial toolkit was developed by IFC’s Agricultural Finance and Post‐Harvest Handling Programme in Vietnam, which targets to improve sustainable rural growth in Vietnam, leading to an increased net income of $36.6 million for farmers by 2019, thanks to capacity building and expansion of financing to the agricultural sector.

Vietnam to divest $2.5 bln share in top firm Vinamilk - media Reuters 15th Oct 2015
Vietnam's government will divest all of its shares in Vinamilk, one of the country's most sought-after equities, state media reported on Tuesday, in a rare sign of openness by the state towards relinquishing controls on major firms. Vinamilk, or Vietnam Dairy Products JSC, the top listed company by market value, is 45 percent owned by the government, with the largest other shareholder F&N Dairy Investment, a unit of conglomerate Fraser and Neave, with 9.54 percent. Minor stakeholders include asset management firms of Templeton and J.P. Morgan Singapore. Vinamilk dominates the local market and its value has climbed 10 times over the past decade, from $500 million in 2006 to around $5.47 billion now, making it a rare success story in a state sector plagued by bad debt, inefficiency and low profitability. Online news sites of state-controlled media cited a directive signed by a deputy prime minister sent to the government's State Capital Investment Corporation (SCIC), instructing it to divest from 10 firms, including Vinamilk, its 6 percent stake in technology conglomerate FPT Corp, and its share of unlisted subsidiary FPT Telecom.

Vietnam’s agricultural achievements are significant: FAO representativ VietnamPlus 15th Oct 2015
The achievements that Vietnam has gained in agriculture is significantly ensuring food security and implementing the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, heard an event to mark the 35th World Food Day in northern Lao Cai province on October 15. The outcomes were attributable to the farmers’ engagement in cultivating activities and application of new technologies to cope with climate change, said Jong-Ha Bae, a representative from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Quoc Doanh thanked the international communities, including the FAO, for their technical assistance in agriculture for Vietnam. The theme of the 2015 World Food Day, which is “Social Protection and Agriculture: Breaking the Cycle of Rural Poverty”, holds significance to Vietnam, especially when the country is striving to build hi-tech agriculture to ensure sustainable food security, rural modernisation, and poverty reduction, he said. He noted that Vietnam has around 10 million farm households with over 30 million rural workers, accounting for some 70 percent of the country’s labour force and contributing 20 percent to the national gross domestic product (GDP).

Cashew exports to top $2.2 billion Viet Nam News 12th Oct 2015
Cashew export revenue is expected to reach US$2.2 billion this year, after reaching robust growth due to higher prices and demand, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade's Viet Nam Industry and Trade Information Centre. The country's other key agricultural exports such as rubber, coffee and rice, however, fell both in export volume and value in the past nine months.

Agriculture insurance vital to mitigate risks Viet Nam News 10th Oct 2015
Agricultural insurance will not only help farmers cope with natural disasters, storms, floods, epidemics, but also contribute to a new rural development programme, officials said. Le Duc Thinh, Deputy Director of the Department of Co-operatives and Rural Development under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, talked about the importance of risk management in agriculture through insurance at a workshop on Thursday.