Food & Agriculture Update: Growing a Vision for High-Tech Agriculture in Vietnam

Food & Agriculture Update | March 31, 2017
Authors: Sunita Kapoor, Hai Pham, Trixia Apiado
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

Save the Date: May 30 & 31 - 2017 Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to Philippines (Manila & Davao)
Please contact Sunita Kapoor (skapoor@usasean.org) for a discussion.

Save the DateJune 7 - 2017 ASEAN Agricultural Attache Roundtable (Washington D.C.)
Please contact Hai Pham (hpham@usasean.org) for a discussion.

Save the Date: June - Food & Agriculture Workshop in Vietnam
During the Council’s 2017 Business Mission to Vietnam, the delegation met with the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, His Excellency Nguyen Xuan Cuong. One of the follow up action items is for the Council to host a workshop in April 2017, providing members a platform to share feedback and views on current issues faced by the industry in the realm of feed management, animal health, regulations such as Circular 36, Decree 08 amongst others. The Ministry has approved this workshop idea to be held in June 2017 instead and has requested the Council to produce a detailed agenda. Minister Cuong is expected to attend. Please contact Sunita Kapoor (skapoor@usasean.org) to collaborate in designing the agenda, and reviewing sponsorship parameters.

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Growing a Vision for High Tech Agriculture in Vietnam

Vietnam’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, His Excellency Nguyen Xuan Cuong, has articulated a vision of sustainable and smart agriculture through the use of technology. He has already received the support of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who executed a directive on a USD$4.39 billion credit package for high tech agriculture on March 23. In line with this, and under the direction of Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) will require commercial banks to support high tech agriculture enterprises. Commercial banks are to cut interest rates by between 0.5 and 1.5 percent on loans to these enterprises, and must advertise their programs to facilitate access to borrowers.

The Council’s Food & Agriculture (F&A) Committee is well positioned to support the digitalization of the ASEAN agricultural sector, including exploring ways digital platforms can be utilized to transfer knowledge from the agricultural agencies and institutions to smallholder farmers, such as the ability to identify the difference between quality seeds and counterfeit agricultural products. Part of Minister Cuong’s high tech agriculture initiative will need to address the gap between rural and urban access to technology, and also moderate the information made available to the farmers as info needs to tailored and targeted to farmers specifically. It is still early days but the various ASEAN governments have yet to harmonize their digital outlook or collaborate on a cohesive framework to tackle ICT agricultural regulations.This creates an opportunity for Vietnam to play a leadership role during the 39th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) in Thailand. During the Council’s recent meeting with Minister Cuong alongside the 2017 Vietnam Business Mission, members shared plans to enhance access to technology for plant science, education for farmers and other capacity building measures. The Council sees a valuable opportunity for collaboration between the F&A and ICT committees to explore ideas and synergies to promote smart agriculture.

Philippines Department of Agriculture to Put Sugar Regulatory Administration Order on HFCS Imports on Hold

On March 24, Secretary of Agriculture Emmanuel Piñol announced that an order giving the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) the authority to regulate imports of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) would be suspended for six months to give food and beverage companies time to make the necessary adjustments to their production lines.  However, as of March 27, the suspension order had yet to be signed and put into effect.  Secretary Piñol’s announcement came after several major companies in the agriculture and food and beverage sectors raised concerns that, if enacted immediately, the order would cause severe disruptions to supply chains and operations.  The SRA issued the order, officially designated Sugar Order No. 3 (SO 3), on February 17.  SO 3 requires that importers and cosignees of imported HFCS and chemically pure fructose be duly registered as an international trader with the regulatory body at the time of applying for the clearance or release of imported HFCS, and that importers and cosignees also meet other requirements even before having their applications accepted for processing.  On March 17, the Council sent a letter to Secretary Piñol warning that implementation of SO 3 risked disrupting supply chains and raising prices in the food and beverage sectors.  The letter also recommended that greater stakeholder consultation be undertaken for future orders.  A copy of the Council's letter can be found here.

SRA administrator Anna Rosario Paner cited cane sugar’s loss of market share to cheaper high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), especially within the last year, as the reason for SO 3.  According to the agency, cane sugar has suffered a 33% loss of market share as a result of the importation of almost 800,000 metric tons of HFCS over the last six years.  Last year alone, HFCS imports for industrial use were estimated to be around 373,000 metric tons—an increase of just over 58% from 2015.  The SRA also blames HFCS imports for a significant drop in sugar prices; at the time SO 3 was issued, sugar cost P1,448.68 (US$28.86) per bag, down from an earlier high of over P1,800 (US$35.85) per bag.  The SRA estimated this drop in prices could result in revenue losses of as much as P20 billion (nearly US$400 million) for the current crop year.

SO 3 was met with swift criticism from sugar industry stakeholders.  In addition to criticizing the lack of industry consultation before issuing the order, stakeholders questioned the SRA’s authority to regulate a sugar substitute.  The SRA countered by pointing to the significant drop in the price of sugar and citing Executive Order 18, with gives the agency the authority to maintain a “balanced relation between production and requirement” of sugarcane “at a level profitable to producers and fair to consumers.”  While Secretary Piñol accepted the SRA’s claim that it has the authority to regulatory HFCS, he stated that he believed it was drafted without adequate industry stakeholder consultation.  The six month-suspension, which both Secretary of Finance Carlos Dominguez and Secretary of Trade Ramon Lopez support, is intended to provide extra time for such consultation, in addition to giving industrial users the time to make the necessary adjustments to their production lines.

SO 3 is not the SRA’s only recent attempt to force sugar prices back up, and the SRA is likely to increase its efforts to regulate HFCS in the run up to local elections in October.  With the aim of putting upward pressure on the price of sugar, the SRA announced on March 14 that it would allow traders and millers to export more sugar to the United States.  Sugar Order 4 allows people to export sugar that was originally intended for the domestic market to the United States, though the order only applies to sugar that is sold in crop year 2016-2017.  SO 4 is set to expire on August 31.  As a follow-up to SO 3, the SRA also plans to propose an import duty to HFCS.  Currently, China exports HFCS to the Philippines with zero duty, while sugar has a 5% import duty levied on it under the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA).  The SRA has said it would ask for an import levy on HFCS that is at least equal to that of sugar.  The SRA is also reportedly considering capping HFCS imports.  A cap of just over 280,000 metric tons has been floated, though this is just a preliminary figure.  Nevertheless, with barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections slated for October, the Philippine sugar industry is likely to want to take advantage of local politicians seeking votes to raise the visibility of depressed sugar prices and high HFCS imports.  Consequently, further attempts by the SRA to make it more difficult to use large volumes of HFCS over domestically-produced sugar are likely to continue.  Copies of SO 3 and SO 4 can be found here and here, respectively.

Weather Index-Based Insurance: Financing Philippines Agriculture at a time of Climate Change

In 2015, total production loss in rice, corn, cassava, coconut, high value crops, fisheries, livestock, irrigation and infrastructure facilities due to calamitous weather conditions in the Philippines amounted to $24,900 million. To address this, Congressman Arthur C. Yap, Chairman, Committee on Economic Affairs of the House of Representatives, 3rd District of Bohol, is proposing a shift to Index Insurance and Reinsurance, and wants to prioritize Weather-Index Based Insurance (WIBI). In 2016, Congressman Yap filed a measure mandating crop insurance for unmilled rice and essential crops to help farmers immediately recover from natural disasters. In House Bill 40 or the “Expanded Crop Insurance of 2016”, he said the recurrence of natural disasters caused farmers to incur heavy financial losses due to the destruction of their crops. Th bill states that participation in the insurance for palay and other crops deemed to be critical for food security shall be compulsory for all farmers. The measure also mandates the National Food Authority (NFA) to secure crop insurance for farmers who are not able to do so themselves. The NFA will pay the insurance premium and become at least a 50 percent beneficiary of the insurance proceed or claim. Congressman Yap has the support of Senator Cynthia Villar (chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food) who has expressed interest in championing Crop Insurance bills in the Senate. In the United States for instance, the federal crop insurance program promotes resilient agricultural practices that mitigates the future impact of climate change. As a condition to federal coverage, a farmer-insured must utilize “good farming practices” to obtain coverage for covered cause of loss.

The Council’s F&A Committee advocates for Climate Smart Agriculture. In recent years, we have seen a change in the climate that has hindered the growth of the agriculture sector across ASEAN. As a solution, there has been a push for “Climate Smart Agriculture” from the U.S. business community, and ASEAN governments alike to combat against the ability of the climate to factor into the agriculture sector. A key talking points during the committee’s various industry engagement in ASEAN is to encourage the use of the best possible technology in smart seeds, smart plant protection solutions, smart irrigation, which can significantly increase agricultural output and efficiency. To address this large gap in the food and agriculture ecosystem in not only the Philippines, but also ASEAN, the Council proposes elevating this topic during 2017 engagements, specifically but not limited to the 39th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) in September. Additionally, there may be a valuable opportunity for collaboration between the F&A and Financial Services committees to explore ideas and synergies to promote the concept of WIBI amongst ASEAN parliamentarians.

Responsible Business Forum on Food and Agriculture 2017: Securing Asia’s Food and Nutrition Future

On March 13-15, the 4th Responsible Business Forum on Food & Agriculture convened in Jakarta, Indonesia. Over 650 decision makers from business, government, investors, the development community and farmers met to establish innovative and collaborative approaches to achieving food and nutrition security in Asia. Delegates produced actionable recommendations for increasing productivity across seven key agricultural commodities in the Asia Pacific region, focusing on agricultural sustainability, product innovation for food safety and nutrition, and collaboration along the entire food chain.

Throughout the forum, smallholder farmers, land right issues, unequal land distribution, and the need for more nutrition sensitive agrifood system were recurring themes for stakeholders and policy makers. By the end, stakeholders drew solutions on how to improve sustainability and the welfare of smallholders in aquaculture & fisheries, cocoa, coffee, dairy, grains, palm oil and rice. Giving farmers access to finance and technology were among the top urgent recommendations.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 

Philippines Sugar Order No. 3

On February 17, the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) issued Sugar Order No. 3 (SO 3), which gives the SRA authority to regulate imports of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The SRA has blamed increasing HFCS imports for depressing the prices and demand for domestically-produced sugar. In response to SO 3, the Council sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Emmanuel Piñol warning him that implementation of SO 3 risked disrupting supply chains and raising prices in the food and beverage sectors. The Council's letter also recommended that greater stakeholder consultation be undertaken for future orders. More information on SO 3 can be found in the Council's Take above. A copy of the Council's letter to Secretary Piñol can be found here.

Myanmar Ministry of Commerce

On March 17, the Council’s Food and Agriculture Committee met with Myanmar Minister of Commerce H.E. U Than Myint in Nay Pyi Taw to discuss the government’s efforts in developing the private sector and SMEs as well as trade liberalization and facilitation. On March 31, the Council sent a letter to the Minister of Commerce U Than Myint to reiterate that wider participation by foreign companies in the trade of agricultural commodities and how full ownership in the agricultural and livestock sector can bring about various benefits and add value to local businesses and consumers in Myanmar. A copy of the letter to Minister Myint can be found here.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Brunei
Supervision of Food and Drinks Brought Up

Cambodia
Bright prospects in sight for banana farmers
Government Recalls Fungicide to Conform to New EU Rules
Wonder of the Mekong: Billions of fish migrate across Cambodia each year

Indonesia
Indonesia's rice self-sufficiency to be achieved by 2020
Netralnews.com - Indonesia"s Efforts to Achieve Maize Self-sufficiency
Environmental damage, social conflicts overshadow Indonesia’s palm oil future | Asia Pacific Report
Ministry Allocates Rp7tn for Technology Use in Agriculture Sector
Ministry issues regulation to address chicken oversupply
Plunging agriculture share to GDP major concern for policymakers
Coffee Prices Fall in Indonesia on Harvest, Vietnam Exports Seen Lower
Indonesia to export rice to Malaysia
President asks KPPU to watch competition in food business
Indonesia potential to become world`s largest gastronomy country
Spanish beef no threat to Aussie beef in Indonesia says MLA
Palm oil producers revise up palm oil production, stock data
Contributions from Agriculture Sector Remain Low
Minister Khofifah urges Bulog to ensure quality of distributed food
Indonesia needs liberal trade in services: World Bank

Malaysia
Fishing ships to be given QR code
Sarawak mulls going into grain corn farming

Philippines
Philippines looks to Asia-Pacific partners to advance agriculture exports
22% tariff for Philippine tuna if GSP+ removed
Climate change gradually affects tilapia production
‘Agriculture and fisheries are our country’s hope’ for faster progress
Coca-Cola Philippines to buy more local sugar: Piñol
New products seek boosting PH food production, security
Sugar regulator proposes import duty on corn-based sweetener
PCA chief suspended over corruption allegations
SRA defends order regulating entry of imported fructose

Thailand
As Thailand ramps up its palm oil sector, peat forests feel the pressure
Thailand's biggest agri company to invest $2B in PH within 5 years
Philippines forges agri deals with Thailand in Duterte visit
Thailand eyed in pet food labour reform

Vietnam
BIDV offers VNĐ10 trillion loan for high-tech agriculture
Vietnam eyes organic food potential
High-tech agriculture should suit VN conditions
SGGP English Edition- US$4,34 billion credit package to be spent on high-tech agriculture
Slash-and-burn agriculture to rage on in northern mountainous province
Agri-tech’s fields grow FDI interest
Vietnamese grow coffee, foreigners pocket profits
Nearly VND165 billion for fisheries restructuring in 2017-2020
Vietnamese tuna exports suffer from Japan’s high import tariff
Sugar factory prime suspect behind mass fish deaths in Vietnam lagoon
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Brunei

Supervision of Food and Drinks Brought Up BruDirect 17th Mar 2017
The supervision of food and drinks was also raised during the presentation by the Minister of Health. According to Yang Berhormat health care is important in order to avoid the risk of diseases, adding that the country needs healthy and productive citizens to build a prosperous and competitive nation.

Cambodia

Bright prospects in sight for banana farmers Khmer Times | News Portal Cambodia | 31st Mar 2017
The banana is Cambodia’s national fruit and makes an excellent after-meal dessert. But its popularity extends further than just being a sweet fruit. Due to its affordable price, it’s also food for the poor and can be used regularly as offerings to the spirits or for Buddhist ceremonies.   While cheaper imports from neighboring countries have made their way to Cambodia, local banana farmers have little to worry about.   “Our Cambodian bananas still taste the best. Take our ‘chek pong moan’ or chicken egg banana, for instance. There is a reason that it is called sugar banana,” said Un Sokkea, a banana farmer in Kandal province’s Prek Thmey commune in Chbar Ampov district.  

Government Recalls Fungicide to Conform to New EU Rules The Cambodia Daily 29th Mar 2017
The government has ordered a nationwide recall of the fungicide tricyclazole to keep its rice exports eligible for the important E.U. market, but said it might not get the chemical out of its supplies in time to meet the bloc’s July deadline. The E.U.’s new threshold is 0.01 milligrams of tricyclazole residue per kilogram of rice paddy, down from the current cutoff of 1 milligram. The Agriculture Ministry issued an announcement on Monday asking farmers to stop using the fungicide and all wholesalers and retailers to hand over their supplies to the government. It also orders provincial agriculture departments to inspect suppliers for compliance. The minister was dubious that Cambodia would manage to meet the deadline, however. Mr. Sakhon said he planned to ask the E.U. for an extension, but added that he was not hopeful. He said Cambodia could turn to other fungicides in the long run, but would have to pay twice as much as it does for tricyclazole, most of which it currently imports from Thailand and Vietnam. The E.U. remains a major market for Cambodian rice, importing 63 percent of the 542,000 tons the country sent abroad last year. China was the largest single buyer, importing 127,000 tons.

Wonder of the Mekong: Billions of fish migrate across Cambodia each year University of Nevada, Reno 29th Mar 2017
Billions of fish migrate down the Tonle Sap River outside of Phnom Penh every year from October to March – and scientists from the University of Nevada, Reno’s Global Water Center went to Cambodia recently to document it. The migration, and the accompanying harvest, signifies the importance of the connection between the floodplain and the main river for people and for the fish caught in fishermen’s nets. With almost 50,000 tons of fish caught annually in peak years in a single fishery, there may be hundreds of thousands of tons of fish – tens of billons of individual animals, in the Tonle Sap Lake and Tonle Sap River systems.

Indonesia

Indonesia's rice self-sufficiency to be achieved by 2020 The Jakarta Post 31st Mar 2017
Bank Indonesia (BI) projects the country will achieve rice self-sufficiency by 2020 if paddy conversion stops and the government is consistent in its efforts to increase the size of paddy and develop irrigation infrastructure. “Agriculture infrastructure projects are ongoing. It will take three to five years for us to reap the results. Indonesia can be a rice self-sufficient country by 2020,” Dody Budi Waluyo, assistant to the BI governor for monetary and economic policy, told a media briefing on Thursday. The central bank predicts rice production will reach more than 50 million tons in 2020, while consumption will reach fewer than 43 million tons.

Netralnews.com - Indonesia"s Efforts to Achieve Maize Self-sufficiency netralnews.com 31st Mar 2017
JAKARTA, NETRALNEWS.COM - Various regions have begun actively planting maize through an intercropping system with palm oil and rubber plantations to support the government's vision of making Indonesia self-sufficient in maize production in 2018. This year, the government plans to open three million hectares of new maize plantations of which about one million hectares will be developed on palm oil plantations through the intercropping system.

Environmental damage, social conflicts overshadow Indonesia’s palm oil future | Asia Pacific Report Asia Pacific Report 27th Mar 2017
By Ratri M. Siniwi and Muham in Jakarta Palm oil is an important commodity for Indonesia’s economy, contributing US$17.8 billion, or about 12 percent, to its export revenue. While this year the production of crude palm oil is likely toincrease 16 percent, to up to 33 million tons, with expected conducive weather conditions, environmental issues and social conflicts continue to overshadow the sector’s future in the world’s biggest palm-oil producing country. Palm oil industry has been accused of causing deforestation, environmental degradation, and human rights violations ranging from land disputes to child labor.

Ministry Allocates Rp7tn for Technology Use in Agriculture Sector Tempo 18th Mar 2017
TEMPO.CO, Makassar - Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman said the ministry has allocated around Rp7 trillion for the application of agriculture technology by collaborating with the Research, Technology and Higher Education Ministry. The minister hopes that the application of technology in agricultural sector can boost Indonesia’s agricultural products. "The devices cost around Rp 2-3 trillion, so on the whole, the technology costs around Rp7 trillion," Amran said in Makassar on Friday. The minister also said that the technology application is also aimed at supporting Indonesia’s food security program.

Ministry issues regulation to address chicken oversupply The Jakarta Post 31st Mar 2017
The Agriculture Ministry has issued a ministerial decree to address the oversupply of chicken, which has sparked complaints by businesspeople about decreasing  prices of the commodity. The regulation reduces the supply of day old chickens (DOC), the ministry’s livestock and animal health director general, I Ketut Diarmita, said on Thursday.

Plunging agriculture share to GDP major concern for policymakers The Jakarta Post 31st Mar 2017
The persistent decline in the contribution of the agriculture sector to the gross domestic product (GDP) has been a key concern for policymakers, an official has said. The share of the agriculture sector to the GDP fell to only 13.45 percent last year from 22.09 percent in 1990 as massive conversion of land traditionally used for farming to other purposes and poor advancement in farming methods have prevented much of the country’s population from becoming farmers, Bank Indonesia (BI) said in reference to data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS).  

Coffee Prices Fall in Indonesia on Harvest, Vietnam Exports Seen Lower Jakarta Globe 30th Mar 2017
A small harvest in Indonesia dragged prices of coffee beans down, while the market in Vietnam remained quiet amid low supply and thin stockpile, traders said on Thursday (30/03). Traders in Indonesia quoted robusta grade 4, 80 defects at a discount of $25 a ton to the London's ICE May contract, wider than last week's discount of $5-$10, as a small harvest boosted supply.

Indonesia to export rice to Malaysia Antara News 30th Mar 2017
Indonesia will export 15 to 50 thousand tons of rice to Malaysia in an effort to meet the neighboring countrys demand and requirement for the commodity. "Some time ago, the agriculture minister of Malaysia had met me and expressed interest to import rice from Indonesia," Agriculture Minister Andi Amran Sulaiman noted here on Thursday.

President asks KPPU to watch competition in food business Antara News 30th Mar 2017
President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has ordered the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) to keep an eye on the competition in the food commodity business in order to promote commodity price stability.

Indonesia potential to become world`s largest gastronomy country Antara News 29th Mar 2017
Indonesia is potential to break into the ranks of worlds largest gastronomy countries with a number of supporting factors it has, an expert has said. "Very likely with its varieties of fauna and flora in addition to its cultures and culinary," Chairman of the Indonesian Gastronomy Academy (AGI) Vita Datau Mesakh said here on Wednesday.

Spanish beef no threat to Aussie beef in Indonesia says MLA ABC News 29th Mar 2017
Spanish beef does not pose a threat to Australia's live cattle and boxed meat trade with Indonesia, according to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA). Competition within Indonesia's beef market has intensified in the last 12 months with the arrival of frozen Indian buffalo and Spanish meat now being sold.

Palm oil producers revise up palm oil production, stock data The Jakarta Post 28th Mar 2017
The Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (GAPKI) has revised the 2016 palm oil production and stock figures. According to the revised figures, production stood at 35.57 million tons and stock at 3.57 million tons, from 34.5 million tons and 1.07 million tons, respectively, as reported previously. The 35.57 million tons of production consists of 32.52 million tons of crude palm oil (CPO) and 3.05 million crude palm kernel oil (CPKO). “The revision is based on data collection and field surveys with various related associations,” said GAPKI executive director Fadhil Hasan in a recent press statement.

Contributions from Agriculture Sector Remain Low Tempo 27th Mar 2017
 Finance Deputy Minister Mardiasmo said that Indonesia's economic growth and those of other countries today are far worse than those in the 90s. Mardiasmo explained that Indonesia's economic growth in the 90s was mainly supported by the agriculture sector that made up 50 percent of the total GDP. However, over the years, the sector's contribution started to decrease during the global crisis in 1998.

Minister Khofifah urges Bulog to ensure quality of distributed food Antara News 23rd Mar 2017
Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa urged the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) and all parties to offer high-quality food, especially rice, in e-Warong, a program of social assistance distribution through an electronic system.

Indonesia needs liberal trade in services: World Bank The Jakarta Post 23rd Mar 2017
While the United States is bulking up trade protectionism under President Donald Trump, the World Bank has urged Indonesia to liberalize its trade in services, arguing the move would boost the country’s competitiveness in many business sectors.

Malaysia

Fishing ships to be given QR code The Star Online 31st Mar 2017
KOTA KINABALU: The abundant marine life in the seas around Sabah has not just earned the state a reputation as a seafood paradise but has also enticed the wrong crowd. For years, foreign fishermen have “cloned” Malaysian fishing vessels by painting fake registration numbers on them and even flying the Jalur Gemilang to hide their presence in Malaysian waters. To curb the problem, the state Fisheries Department has begun a Quick Response (QR) code that would be assigned to all Sabah registered deep sea fishing vessels. It would take about a month to complete this exercise on the 51 Sabah-registered deep sea fishing vessels.

Sarawak mulls going into grain corn farming BorneoPost Online 21st Mar 2017
KUCHING: The state government is looking to introduce the planting of grain corn as part of its efforts to reduce the cost of production of the state’s livestock industry. Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said the state was currently importing RM263 million worth of corn for livestock feed and the amount for the whole country was RM3 billion. In view of this, he pointed out that the federal government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry had decided to increase corn production in the country so as to reduce its dependence on imported corn. “So if Indonesia can do it, there is no reason Malaysia cannot, especially in Sarawak which is one of the most potential areas for corn planting because of our vast available lands,” he said.

Philippines

Philippines looks to Asia-Pacific partners to advance agriculture exports Oxford Business Group 29th Mar 2017
Increased export opportunities in the region, notably to China and Australia, should help drive further growth in the Philippines’ agriculture industry, which expanded strongly last year after overcoming the impact of natural disasters.

22% tariff for Philippine tuna if GSP+ removed Business World 29th Mar 2017
PRICES of fish exports will likely increase significantly if the European Union (EU) carries out its threat to remove the Philippines from its Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+), making the country’s products less competitive. GSP+ removal will also have an adverse impact on the country’s fisherfolk as less-competitive prices will decrease the demand from importing countries, thereby increasing the supply of fish in the Philippines. “It’s a cascading effect. Fishermen will realize lower prices for their catch,” said Mr. Ingles. Meanwhile, the sardine industry is being threatened by over-fishing, according to Oceana Philippines.

Climate change gradually affects tilapia production Fish, Information, and Services 28th Mar 2017
A new report reveals that the major tilapia producing regions in the Philippines are now experiencing significant impacts from the progressing negative effects of climate change. Released by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the document states that the recurrent decline in farm productivity, mass mortality and fish kill is the result of extreme weather conditions. Farmers, weather scientists and agriculturists are preparing for what they see as the inevitable impact of a changing climate: prolonged dry season, increasing air and water temperatures, critical dry spell and drought, frequency of strong thunderstorms, and heavy rainfalls which induce flooding and overflows of aquaculture farms.

‘Agriculture and fisheries are our country’s hope’ for faster progress The Manila Times 26th Mar 2017
LIGAO CITY, Albay: Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol has urged Filipinos living in key cities to go back to the countryside to till the land and go into fisheries as these are the ways development can be hastened and food for a continuously growing population can be provided. The Farmers’ Day is an annual event in this city spearheaded by Rep. Fernando Gonzalez of Albay’s Third District for more than two decades now in partnership with Mayor Patty Gonzalez-Alsua. To make agriculture profitable, Piñol told the farmers to embrace new technology with the aid of the newly-produced color-coded guide map of the government. “Two things are needed in our country to beef up agriculture. First, farmers have to embrace technology, then the government must establish a financing and marketing scheme for farmers,” he pointed out. For the farmers to embrace technology, Piñol said the government will be establishing solar power irrigation facilities throughout the country.

Coca-Cola Philippines to buy more local sugar: Piñol Manila Bulletin Business 24th Mar 2017
By Ali G. Macabalang Coca-Cola Femsa Philippines (CCFP) will buy more sugar from Filipino planters who became restive lately over issues of product patronage and marketing, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol announced on Friday, March 24. Piñol said lawyers Adel Tamano and Juan Lorenzon Tañada, CCFP vice president for corporate affairs and corporate director, respectively, visited his office Thursday, March 23 to personally convey their company’s win-win option. He said the company’s pledge to buy more local sugar came with a request for a six-month period to be able to install a new “clarification equipment” that could process raw sugar into syrup.

New products seek boosting PH food production, security Manila Bulletin Newsbit 23rd Mar 2017
Several climate- and weather-based knowledge products aim helping enhance Philippine agricultural and fishery production to further promote food security nationwide. Presented Thursday (March 23) in Metro Manila, the products are results of collaboration of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) carried out over the years in coordination with the agriculture department to help build up the country’s resilience particularly to climate change. “The products will help us adapt,” said PAGASA Administrator Dr. Vicente Malano during the event. Among those products is the technology bulletin “Impact Management of Weather Systems on Tilapia Pond Aquaculture.” Such bulletin covers Philippine weather system’s immediate impact on production of “tilapia”, a popular local fish. Also covered in the bulletin are tilapia growers general emergency response measures against adverse weather and climate conditions.

Sugar regulator proposes import duty on corn-based sweetener Business World 22nd Mar 2017
The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) is set to propose to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) this week the imposition of an import duty for high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), the sweetener that has dampened industrial demand for refined sugar. SRA Administrator Anna Rosario V. Paner said that the duty was requested by the sugar industry and that the agency is elevating these concerns to the NEDA. “Industry asked whether the tariff of HFCS can be likened to those for sugar, or higher, but not kept at zero, which leads to their unbridled importation. Under that scenario we might as well close the refineries,” Ms. Paner said in a phone interview on Tuesday. Under the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), sugar is levied an import duty of 5%. Asked whether the move may result in disputes with other World Trade Organization members, Ms. Paner said: “There are exceptions to the rule if foreign products are imported to the detriment of local products. It does not curtail trade but it doesn’t mean you cannot regulate.” Last year, an estimated 373,000 tons of HFCS entered the Philippine market, up 58.72% year on year. HFCS importation has driven down sugar prices from a high of more than P1,800/bag to less than P1,448.68 per bag as of Feb. 12, translating to potential revenue losses of about P20 billion for the current crop year. Last month the SRA issued Sugar Order No. 3 to authorize the regulation of the HFCS imports. However, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol suspended the implementation of the order, citing the failure to consult stakeholders more widely.

PCA chief suspended over corruption allegations philstar.com 21st Mar 2017
Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) administrator Avelino Andal is being investigated by the Office of the Cabinet Secretary that recently placed him under preventive suspension following allegations of corruption. Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. issued the board resolution to suspend Andal “to conduct an unhampered investigation upon deliberation of recent events involving the administrator.” “There’s an alleged illegal collection of P1.50 per board foot of lumber in Basilan by Andal’s trusted employees. We also received sworn statements stating that he is the mastermind of such scheme,” said Cabinet undersecretary Halmen Valdez in a text message. Although the amount sounds small, she pointed out that it would actually amount to P90 million when 400,000 trees would be cut as part of the debris management process of the post cocolisap treatment in Basilan alone. The same scheme is reportedly done in Mindoro, Marinduque and Quezon provinces. Andal denied the charge and vowed to continue his work as administrator. He slammed Valdez, saying she is instituting a grand plan similar to what happened to National Irrigation Administration chief Peter Laviña and National Food Authority head Jason Aquino, who is currently being investigated. He believes that the plot against him is in relation to the nearing release of the P75-billion coconut levy fund. The coconut levy fund amounting to P75 billion is now with Congress and its release is being fast-tracked for the benefit of the industry. It was taken from the taxes imposed on coconut farmers through Presidential Decree 755 issued by dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1975.

SRA defends order regulating entry of imported fructose BusinessMirror 20th Mar 2017
The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) on Monday said it was not required to consult soft-drink makers before issuing an order that effectively limited the entry of imported high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) into the country. Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol wanted to suspend the implementation of Sugar Order (SO) 3, which imposed additional requirements on importers of HFCS, saying soft-drink makers were not consulted prior to its issuance. “The SRA’s point was in the exercise of our quasilegislative powers, the agency is not required to have prior consultations before coming up with our rules and regulations,” SRA Administrator Anna Rosario V. Paner told the BusinessMirror. “Even assuming that we are required to do so, we consulted the concerned stakeholders of the SRA, specifically those who have sectoral representatives in the SRA board. Our sectoral representatives include the planters and the millers,” she added. Paner said they also held consultations with labor groups and food companies. “There were consultations conducted. Maybe the difference is the extent of the consultations in terms of the appreciation of the secretary.” The SRA is a government-owned and -controlled corporation attached to the Department of Agriculture (DA). Its administrator is appointed by the President, while the DA chief serves as ex officio chairman of the SRA Board. In February the SRA issued SO 3, after farmers and millers complained they were losing some P10 billion a year due to the unregulated entry of HFCS imports being used by local beverage and food producers. Piñol said he would convene the SRA Board on March 23 to discuss HFCS importation and the possible suspension of SO 3.

Thailand

As Thailand ramps up its palm oil sector, peat forests feel the pressure Mongabay Environmental News 24th Mar 2017
Thailand is currently the world's third-largest producer of palm oil. As of 2015, around 70 percent of land used for oil palm cultivation was managed by small-scale farmers. Most of Thailand's palm oil is grown in the southern part of the country. In one protected area, called Pru Kaching, the government is trying to reclaim land from palm oil growers. But complicating factors have mired the effort. In order to grow crops like oil palm in peatlands, the swampy peat must be drained – which releases carbon into the atmosphere and makes the forests that overlay them more susceptible to fire.

Thailand's biggest agri company to invest $2B in PH within 5 years ABS-CBN News 25th Mar 2017
Thailand's largest agricultural company is set to pour in $2 billion to expand its pork and chicken production in the Philippines in the next five years, Agriculture secretary Emmanuel Piñol said. Charoen Pokphand Group (CP Group) chairman Dhanin Chearavanont said they decided to invest more in the Philippines because of its distinction as the only country in the whole of Asia which is free from foot and mouth disease (FMD) and avian influenza or bird flu, Piñol said in a statement. The expansion is expected to generate at least 2,000 jobs, and increase the local demand for corn and soybeans that will be used as part of the company's feed production, Piñol said.

Philippines forges agri deals with Thailand in Duterte visit ABS-CBN News 21st Mar 2017
The Philippines on Monday signed agricultural deals with Thailand, three months before it scraps a quantitative restriction on rice imports under an agreement with the World Trade Organization (WTO). The agricultural agreement encompasses information exchange concerning best practices in irrigation, livestock and fisheries, and technology for soil and water conservation, said President Rodrigo Duterte in a joint statement with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. “The Philippines and Thailand have vibrant economic relations with a trade value of almost $8 billion in 2016. We have yet to reach the limit of our potentials. That is why we also recognize the importance of cooperation in agriculture…our agricultural sector should drive national growth,” he said.

Thailand eyed in pet food labour reform Bangkok Post 17th Mar 2017
Swiss food giant Nestle SA and U.S. candy and pet food company Mars pledged on Thursday to take steps to ensure their pet food supply chains are free from human rights abuses and illegally caught seafood - in a move welcomed by campaigners. Thailand had been previously named in alleged labour abuses, and is in the spotlight again in the new reform promises.

Vietnam

BIDV offers VNĐ10 trillion loan for high-tech agriculture vietnamnews.vn 31st Mar 2017
The Bank for Investment and Development of Việt Nam (BIDV) will offer preferential loans up to a total of VNĐ10 trillion (US$439 million) this year to support high-tech agricultural businesses. Companies and agricultural production establishments will be given loans to invest in agricultural machines and equipment, expand production scale, buy fertilisers and spend on irrigation, harvesting and plant protection products. The development of hi-tech agriculture is considered as one of the Government’s key agendas.

Vietnam eyes organic food potential Vietnam Net 31st Mar 2017
Vietnam eyes organic food potential There is great potential for organic food production in Viet Nam, but the industry faces a number of challenges, experts said. “International customers expect a very high quality of Vietnamese shrimp and other products, and prioritise organic products,” Christian Henckes, programme director of the Integrated Coastal Management Programme implemented by the German Development Agency (GIZ) on behalf of the German and Australian governments, told a two-day workshop titled “Organic Viet Nam: Development Trends”, which ended in Ca Mau City on Tuesday.

High-tech agriculture should suit VN conditions Vietnam Net 29th Mar 2017
High-tech agriculture should suit VN conditions VietNamNet Bridge – Professor Tran Dinh Long, Chairman of Viet Nam Plant Varieties Association tells the Khoa hooc & Doi song (Science & Life) newspaper that hi-tech agriculture should match Vietnamese conditions to ensure sustainable growth. So what’s the difference between hi-tech agriculture in Viet Nam and other countries? It’s obvious that the hi-tech agriculture model or models applicable in Viet Nam will have to be different from other countries, given its unique tropical and subtropical climate, red basalt and alluvial soil in the Red River Delta. We have 12 agricultural, forestry and seafood products that are among the top export revenue earners in the world. Therefore, it is necessary to select technology that suits the particular characteristics of the country and to ensure that the produce has a stable consumption market.

SGGP English Edition- US$4,34 billion credit package to be spent on high-tech agriculture Saigon GP Daily 24th Mar 2017
Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue and related agencies yesterday discussed on the implementation of credit package of VND100 trillion (US$4.34 billion) from commercial banks’ called-up capital for high-tech agriculture development loan. Deputy Governor of the State Bank of Vietnam Nguyen Dong Tien said banks have collected VND3,700 billion from 25 enterprises certified by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development as high-tech agricultural enterprises. SBV and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will monitor the implementation process of the program. Besides,The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development should liaise with local authority to plan areas for hi-tech agriculture, for breeding key animal, and planting trees and the Ministry of Finance will soon propose the policies of agriculture insurance.

Slash-and-burn agriculture to rage on in northern mountainous province Vietnam Net 24th Mar 2017
VietNamNet Bridge – So far this month, northern mountainous province authorities have detained 56 people allegedly involved in the destruction of 18.6ha of forest in total, Vietnam News Agency reports. These serial offences took place in Dien Bien Province’s Muong Nhe District, an area populated by ethnic minority groups and that is rife with deforestation activities, mostly of the slash-and-burn type. To address this situation, starting from the beginning of the month, concerned agencies have started to step up their efforts to curb this serious violation of natural resources. Awareness raising campaigns are also given a boost to educate ethnic groups regarding State laws and regulations concerning forest protection. Most mountainous regions in the north of Viet Nam are economically challenged, and local authorities will not be able to ensure livelihood and necessity supply for an unexpected number of nomads arriving in their jurisdiction ‘outside of the original plan’. In addition, ethnic groups that have nomadic lifestyle will likely engage in slash-and-burn agriculture, which they might not even know is illegal. Once they have exhausted a place’s natural resources, they will start to relocate elsewhere, starting the vicious cycle again, the agency reported.  Source: VNS

Agri-tech’s fields grow FDI interest Vietnam Net 20th Mar 2017
Agri-tech’s fields grow FDI interest Due to what many perceive as an opening for high-tech applications, Vietnam’s agricultural sector has been becoming increasingly attractive to foreign investors. According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), since early this year the number of foreign firms exploring business and investment opportunities in the agricultural sector has significantly increased. Many want to deploy high-tech projects in Vietnam. MARD Minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong last week worked with Adam Blight, director of Government Affairs in Asia and Africa at US-based Monsanto Group.  Blight said that Monsanto is interested in deploying a pilot project on applying IT in agricultural production in Vietnam. This project got the thumbs-up from Cuong, who expects it to be implemented as soon as possible. Currently, Monsanto is locally trading in cross-bred maize, pesticides, and micro-organism products.  It has also deployed a public-private investment in the central province of Thanh Hoa that supplies high-quality maize varieties and pesticides which can help farmers increase their crop productivity by 10-15%. Cuong also worked with Microsoft Group, which hopes to cooperate with MARD’s Department of Science and Technology on an IT project.  More discussions are to follow in the near future. MARD expects that the decree will help raise Vietnam’s foreign agricultural investment from the current US$3.5 billion, to US$4.45 billion in 2020 and US$6 billion by 2030.

Vietnamese grow coffee, foreigners pocket profits Vietnam Net 20th Mar 2017
Vietnamese grow coffee, foreigners pocket profits VietNamNet Bridge - Though Vietnam is the second-largest coffee producer in the world, it is not earning profits corresponding to its ranking.  In 2016, Vietnam exported nearly 1.8 million tons of coffee, worth $3.4 billion, accounting for 19 percent of the global coffee market. However, as Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ha Cong Tuan said, Vietnam’s coffee industry is facing challenges, including climate change, drought and higher demand for arabica beans (Vietnam mostly grows robusta).  However, the biggest problem is the low processing rate, with little added value and thus lower profits. According to Truong Hong, head of the Western Highlands Agriculture & Forestry Science Institute, 80 percent of coffee output in Vietnam is farmed on a small household scale.   He said it is now the time to re-organize production by collecting households into cooperatives and enterprises.  Only by doing this will Vietnam be able to control input materials, cultivation and harvesting and improve coffee quality.

Nearly VND165 billion for fisheries restructuring in 2017-2020 Vietnam Net 18th Mar 2017
Nearly VND165 billion for fisheries restructuring in 2017-2020 As many as 164.8 billion VND (7.16 million USD) will be earmarked for technology transfer serving the restructuring of the fisheries sector during 2017-2020 under a scheme recently approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).  Of the figure, 81.3 billion VND (3.53 million USD) will be sourced by the State budget and the remaining will come from other sources.  The plan targets promoting technological transfer and application in aquaculture as well as in fishing and fish preservation on vessels in order to improve their output and quality. 

Vietnamese tuna exports suffer from Japan’s high import tariff Vietnam Net 17th Mar 2017
Vietnam’s tuna exports to Japan have dropped for four consecutive years since 2013 partly due to high import tariff at 6.4 percent – 7.2 percent.  After peaking at 54 million USD in 2012, Vietnam’s tuna exports to Japan went down to below 20 million USD in 2016. From the third largest importer of Vietnamese tuna, Japan dropped to the sixth place the same year.  The high import tariff reduces Vietnam’s tuna competitiveness against products from other regional countries such as Thailand and the Philippines, which enjoy a 0 percent tariff in the Japanese market.

Sugar factory prime suspect behind mass fish deaths in Vietnam lagoon Tuoitre News 17th Mar 2017
Large numbers of fish and prawns at a lagoon in south-central Vietnam’s Khanh Hoa Province were found dead on Monday, with locals pointing to wastewater from a local sugar factory as the main suspect. Massive amounts of dead fish were reported at five hectares of fish and prawn farms at the Thuy Trieu Lagoon in Cam Thanh Bac Commune, Cam Lam District in Khanh Hoa, with damages estimated at billions of VND. (VND1 billion = US$44,643) Ho Tho, chairman of Cam Thanh Bac’s administration, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Thursday that local authorities were being bombarded with complaint letters from local farmers denouncing the nearby Khanh Hoa Sugar Factory dumping untreated wastewater into the lagoon, killing the exposed marine life. According to the People’s Committee of Cam Lam District, the Khanh Hoa Sugar Factory had been penalized multiple times for violations concerning sewage discharge prior to the current incident. The factory has been temporarily closed since Monday afternoon for further investigation into its operations.