Food & Agriculture Update: An Overview of Sugar Taxes in ASEAN

Food & Agriculture Update | January 8, 2018
Authors: Sunita Kapoor, Hai Pham
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

Upcoming 2018 Program Dates:

  • Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to Thailand (Bangkok) - Q2 2018
  • Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to Vietnam (Hanoi) - July 11-12, 2018
  • Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to Indonesia (Jakarta) - August 28-29, 2018
  • Mission to the 40th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry (Vietnam) - October 2018 (TBC)
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

An Overview of Sugar Taxes in ASEAN

In 2017, we saw a trend by countries around the world beginning to create and implement tax legislation on sugar. These sugar taxes, which often focuses on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), were introduced in different forms and for a variety of public policy purposes ranging from: Responding to adverse health trends such as diabetes in populations attributed to diet; and creating new revenue streams for public health and infrastructure development initiatives. However, opponents of sugar taxes have cited numerous studies showing little evidence of changes in behavior, underwhelming revenue generation, detrimental consequences to the lower-class population, and in some cases WTO violations. Below, please see an overview of current or pending legislation related to sugar in ASEAN:

  • Philippines – On December 19, 2017, the first package of the Philippine Government’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill was signed into law by President Duterte. The bill includes a section on SSB, imposing a tax of P6 per liter for beverages using caloric and non-caloric sweeteners and P12 per liter for beverages using High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), with rates increasing per year.
  • Singapore – In Singapore, the government has considered a range of regulations on sugar, including taxes, restriction of advertisements, and warning labels on products for soft drink manufacturers who fail to meet sugar-reduction objectives. In the country, many large beverage companies have committed to a maximum sugar content of 12 percent for all drinks sold in Singapore by 2020. Further, the Singapore government has launched several public health initiatives to promote health and reduce sugar consumption, including a “Singapore Healthier Choice” movement for food & beverage products in which products that contain less than 6 percent sugar can have the “Healthier Choice” symbol on its packaging.
  • Thailand – In September 2017, the Royal Thai Government implemented a new excise tax on sugar that would target beverages to reduce consumption of sugar and increase health consciousness. The new tax would increase prices of various products, including sugary drinks. The scope of the specific tax on sugar content includes added sugar and natural sugar, but excludes non-sugar sweeteners. After two years, taxes on sugary drinks will increase proportionally with the level of sugar content per unit.
  • Vietnam – In Vietnam, the Ministry of Finance proposed in 2017 several draft amendments to current tax laws that would subject carbonated drinks to a special consumption tax rate of 10 percent, and VAT would increase from 10 percent to 12 percent for all beverages and 5 percent to 6 percent for sugar. More recently, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc called on the Ministries of Health, Education and Training, and Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs to implement a regulation to improve children’s health, including a ban on advertisements for soft drinks, alcoholic drinks and unhealthy food at schools.

The Council recognizes a growing trend in the introduction of a broad array of tax related measures in ASEAN. In 2018, we plan to monitor this space closely and look to develop appropriate advocacy efforts noting both an understanding of growing fiscal pressures to support public policies; and the economic linkages between ASEAN’s FDI competitiveness, innovation, and SME development and tax policies.
 

Vietnam Agriculture Ministry Administrative Reforms

Following the vision of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has been making administrative reforms to improve the ease of doing business in the country throughout 2017. In August 2017, MARD established a one-stop agency using public online systems dedicated to streamlining administrative processes, helping to remove cumbersome procedures that would reduce cost and boost productivity. This department would become the single agency to accept, classify and forward businesses’ submitted documents to the appropriate departments within the Ministry, all of which would be available on a national database online portal on the Ministry’s public service system.

To date, MARD has developed 18 online public services and 11 one-stop administrative procedures and has been reviewing a simplification proposal of 18 of 40 specialized inspection procedures, opting for unified food safety and quarantine testing and combining two procedures of quarantine registration and declaration for efficiency. With this system, MARD is also simplifying pre-test procedures, reducing the number of sampling and testing, and accepting test results from exporting countries.

The addition of these online public systems, the “one-stop administrative process,” has reduced 60 to 70 percent of goods inspection and clearance time, and in turn saving time and money for businesses. Moving forward, the Ministry will continue to make more changes to further reduce red tape and accelerate reform, to create favorable business conditions.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 

Indonesia Soybean Restrictions

Following on our advocacy effort in December to engage the Government of Indonesia on agricultural import restrictions (focusing on soybean), the Council is sending a letter to Indonesia President Jokowi to highlight the potential costs and consequences of using import restrictions as a tool to increase domestic supply. The letter also highlights the connection between the ability to import/export to foreign direct investment, and technology transfer for key farm inputs which could lead to significant yield and income opportunities for farmers. The Council’s Food & Agriculture Committee will also work towards gaining access to a dialogue with the Government of Indonesia in 2018, providing opportunities for members to provide concrete examples of how they can be a resource to GOI, if they have the ability to import their products to conduct business and invest. For more information, please contact Sunita Kapoor, the Council’s Senior Manager for F&A, at skapoor@usasean.org

Food & Agriculture Committee 2018 Planning Call

In December 2017, the Food & Agriculture Committee held a 2018 committee planning call to review our activities in 2017 and discuss upcoming priorities and advocacy efforts. The call also included a presentation on potential partnership opportunities by William Sparks of Winrock International, a USAID project in Asia. Please click here for a readout and follow-up items from the call – if you have any questions, please contact Sunita Kapoor (skapoor@usasean.org) and Hai Pham (hpham@usasean.org).

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
ASEAN
APAC's four key private label trends into the 2020's: Premium, sustainable, digital and healthy
Asia Rice: India Prices Climb on Bangladesh Demand; Thailand-Vietnam Markets Muted
Sugar Taxes: The Global Picture in 2017
Blockchain can bring supply chain transparency and transform food firms

Brunei
Course aims to raise capacity of local farmers in hybrid rice technology
Farmers are Encourage to Apply for the Brunei GAP | Brunei's No.1 News Website
2 more farms receive DAA’s Brunei GAP certification
MoRA makes exemptions in acquiring Halal certification –
More FDIs flowing in as reforms gain momentum –

Cambodia
China Looks into Agricultural Banking and Packaging Investment in Cambodia
Cabinet Ministers Discuss 3 Important Documents
Export of Cambodia’s Milled Rice Increases by over 17% for First 11 Months
Minister’s Insights in Agriculture Diversification

Indonesia
Indonesia Join Hands With FAO to Build Integrated Sago Processing Plant in SE Sulawesi
Indonesia to boost partnership with IDB members
Indonesian losses at WTO fuel concerns
Universal Health Coverage Can Help Beat Antimicrobial Resistance
Indonesia's Sugar Demand Projected to Increase 6% Next Year

Laos
Food prices remain stable throughout 2017
Japan funds upgrade of irrigated agriculture in Thangon
Agriculture survey to be broadened in 2019
Farmers Get Help Reaching Fields
Vientiane's First Fecal Sludge Treatment Plant Launches

Malaysia
Creating a healthy living environment ― Sin Chew Daily
LKIM Plans To Build 10 Fish Collection And Distribution Centres Next Year
Growing Discord in Malaysia's Paddy Industry
As Malaysians get heavier, consumer groups call for sugar tax and more (VIDEO)
Malaysian Tilapia safe to eat - Fisheries Dept
Malaysia promotes sustainably-produced palm oil in Japan
13 key policies to promote a healthier gov’t
Seized fake milk formula 'safe', but doesn't meet quality standards
New health policies draw mixed reaction from various parties
Durian cultivation will be an industry of its own in future, Ahmad Shabery says
Fake baby formula makers will be named and shamed, minister promises
Discovery of fake baby formula in Johor triggers widespread concern

Philippines
Villar calls on farmers to turn animal wastes into compost, renewable energy
Pinoy rice farmers may lose $4B under tariff-free Asean
Cebu food security program intensified
Fast-tracking distribution of lands to ARBs empowers the Filipino farmer
Agriculture trade deficit narrows in Q3
DA’s Piñol sticks to PHL rice self-sufficiency goal | BusinessMirror
House pushes regulation of food technology in PH | Philippine Canadian Inquirer
FAO calls for more food security in Mindanao
FAO calls for more food investments in Mindanao
Philippines may soon import cattle from Latin America
2017 milled-rice output seen rising to 12.78 MMT
Halal accreditation to help Phl achieve growth target
TRAIN supports healthy lifestyle programs — DOH
PHL bid against import surge fails to fly at WTO

Singapore
AVA to roll out 5-year sterilisation programme of stray dogs
Parents and kids rice to the challenge
Food licence suspensions near last year's figure, NEA advises good food hygiene during festive season
Public-private Initiative to Train GMS Scientists in Food Safety Lab Testing Launches in Singapore
Public hospitals to offer more affordable milk formula to newborns

Thailand
Govt predicts good economy based on EEC development
Pinched farm incomes hit purchasing power
Bioeconomy to give boost to agriculture
Measures mulled to lift farm sector
Mitr Phol, Olam partner for Indonesian sugar investment
Plantation policy leaves farmers still powerless
Govt hemp farms start operations on January 1
China urges utilisation of LMC scheme for boost to agriculture sector
New campaign promotes premium grade rice
Rubber encroachments in forests targeted
More state aid for rubber approved
Exporters fret over currency's influence
Thailand halal assembly 2017
Cabinet okays B1.7bn in rice policies
Strong baht may dampen rice exports

Vietnam
Vietnam imposes heavier penalties on filthy food producers, traders - Xinhua | English.news.cn
Islands should turn to green economy: expert
Food safety violations in Hanoi on the increase
Agro, forestry, seafood exports up
Organic farming has great potential in VN: experts
Đà Lạt market hi-tech farming models, produce
Agricultural insurance flawed
Agriculture Ministry puts business satisfaction at the heart of reforms
Goods quality, food safety not closely supervised in HCMC
VietGap standards to merit national rice brand
Food industry attracting Japanese interest
Asia Coffee-Vietnam supply steady but trade thin; Indonesia subdued
Livestock farmers urged to join production links
Vietnam: 90 percent of farm products exported in raw form
Food management a top concern
National project seeks to improve coffee quality, develop premium brand
Vietnam needs to enhance public investment in food safety: WB official
Market pork, poultry test 100% positive for E.coli in Vietnam
Global brewers line up bids for Vietnam's Sabeco sale: sources
Vinacas develops 1-million-tonne cashew material region in Cambodia
33 percent of farming cooperatives efficiently operate: Ministry
Conference talks co-management in fishery resources protection
NCDs increase due to excess salt intake
Vietnam active in Zero Hunger Action Programme
HCM City sets up groups to inspect food safety
Agricultural reform needed in Plain of Reeds region: experts
Fruit, vegetables become big foreign currency earner
Seminar discusses supply chains for safe farm produce
Vietnam provides training to help farmers professionalize - News VietNamNet
Provinces spend big on new rural development
Food safety a focus ahead of Lunar New Year
PM imposes ban on sale of soft drinks at schools
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
ASEAN

APAC's four key private label trends into the 2020's: Premium, sustainable, digital and healthy Food Navigator Asia 2nd Jan 2018
Growing digitisation, premium packaging formats and a rising focus on health and wellness are among the key trends in private label that Asia-Pacific will face into the next decade. Private label has become big business for supermarkets in recent years, in contrast to the generic offerings of the past. Retailers are increasingly managing and marketing own-brand food and beverage in order to improve their competitive edge, market research has found. According to Euromonitor, private labels are now being seen as brands in their own right, with manufacturers having shifted their emphasis over the last decade from aggressive own-brand promotion and discounting to providing better quality and a unique position.

Asia Rice: India Prices Climb on Bangladesh Demand; Thailand-Vietnam Markets Muted Jakarta Globe 2nd Jan 2018
Meanwhile, demand in Thailand and Vietnam remained weak as Christmas and New Year holidays in some importing countries kept buyers away from the market, but exporters were optimistic about the fresh deals. "As it is approaching the end of the year, buyers are not active at the moment," said a Bangkok-based trader. Thailand's benchmark 5 percent broken rice eased to $390-$400, free-on-board (FOB) Bangkok, from $401-$405 a tonne last week. Traders remain hopeful as the European Union's Foreign Affairs Council is to resume gradual political engagement with Thailand, and there are possibilities for resuming talks on an EU-Thailand Free Trade Agreement (FTA). "If the EU-Thailand FTA materializes, this should help boost Thai rice exports to the EU a bit. However, the EU isn't currently a big buyer of Thai rice," said the Bangkok-based trader. In Vietnam, benchmark 5-percent broken rice was quoted at $390-$400, compared with $395 a week earlier.

Sugar Taxes: The Global Picture in 2017 Beverage Daily 21st Dec 2017
Sugar taxes have continued to gain momentum in 2017, but the introduction of new legislation is rarely straight-forward. We take a look at countries around the globe where sugar taxes have been making headlines this year. The concept of sugar taxes (usually specifically on sugar-sweetened beverages) attracts strong feelings both for and against. Proponents see taxes as a way to tackle the growing obesity crisis by curbing consumption, encouraging manufacturers to reformulate and create a revenue stream for public health initiatives. Opponents, however, say there is little evidence that such measures are effective, that they costs jobs in the industry and that they simply push sales into other regions.

Blockchain can bring supply chain transparency and transform food firms Food Navigator Asia 18th Dec 2017
Blockchain can be the “key mediator” to make supply chains more transparent by enabling food firms to share data based on trust, and to transform their operations to be much more efficient, but it will require a fundamental shift in organisational mindsets.

Brunei

Course aims to raise capacity of local farmers in hybrid rice technology Borneo Bulletin Online 31st Dec 2017
The closing ceremony for the 2017 Training Course on Hybrid Rice Yield Increasing Technology in Brunei Darussalam was held on December 30 at the Simpur Hall of the Rimba Horticulture Business Centre in Gadong. Present as the guest of honour was Hajah Aidah binti Haji Mohd Hanifah, Director of Agriculture and Agrifood under the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT). Also present at the event were Ning Bo, Charge d’Affaires ad Interim and Zhu Rong, Chief of Economic and Commercial Office from the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Brunei Darussalam; and senior officers as well as officers from the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood.

Farmers are Encourage to Apply for the Brunei GAP | Brunei's No.1 News Website BruDirect 28th Dec 2017
The Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism through the Agriculture and Agrifood Department will continue to strive in diversifying the country's economy and reduce dependency on oil and gas. Stressing the matter, the Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism also call on all farmers to make use of the lands provided by the government in a more effective and productive manner. Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Apong said that farmers who work hard have the opportunity to be provided with land as a pilot project.

2 more farms receive DAA’s Brunei GAP certification Borneo Bulletin Online 28th Dec 2017
THE Department of Agriculture and Agrifood (DAA) under the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism has certified two more local farms owned by Bioprop Sdn Bhd in Kampong Lumapas and Eco Nadi Agrobiz at Kampong Sinaut in Tutong with Brunei Good Agricultural Practice (Brueni GAP), taking the total number of GAP-certified farms in the country to four. The other Brunei GAP-certified farms are Hua Ho Agricultural Farm in Bongkok Masin and Eco Nadi Agrobiz in Kampong Bukit Udal and Kampong Bangungus.

MoRA makes exemptions in acquiring Halal certification – Borneo Bulletin Online 17th Dec 2017
THE Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) yesterday announced some exemptions in the current procedures of obtaining Halal certification and Halal permit for eateries, food vendors and stall operators that are not in compliance with the requirements and guidelines under the recently amended Halal Certificate and Halal Label Order 2005. The ministry also unveiled a new pricing regime for the issuance of Halal permits for each product, depending on the size of business operations, said Dato Seri Setia Haji Abdul Aziz bin Orang Kaya Maharaja Lela Haji Mohd Yusof, Permanent Secretary at the MoRA, at a press conference held at the MoRA Building in Jalan Dewan Majlis yesterday.

More FDIs flowing in as reforms gain momentum – Borneo Bulletin Online 16th Dec 2017
THE government’s reform agenda to ensure a pro-business and conducive investment climate in Brunei has started bearing fruits, thanks to a slew of investment incentives, political stability and peaceful environment in the country. Taking advantage of the congenial business atmosphere in the Sultanate, more and more foreign companies are choosing the country as their preferred investment destination. And the latest to join the bandwagon is United Arab Emirates-based Saahtain Group which recently launched its Bruneian subsidiary Saahtain Asia Sdn Bhd. Its state-of-the-art facility at the Salambigar Industrial Park began manufacturing Halal ready-to-eat meals for export recently.

Cambodia

China Looks into Agricultural Banking and Packaging Investment in Cambodia Agence Kampuchea Presse 24th Dec 2017
A Chinese firm is interested in investing in promoting loan access and packaging process in agricultural industry of Cambodia. The investment plan was revealed in a recent meeting between Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries H.E. Veng Sakhon, and visiting General Director of Weihai Dragon Union Agriculture Mr. Long Yunhai at the ministry office here in Phnom Penh.

Cabinet Ministers Discuss 3 Important Documents Agence Kampuchea Presse 22nd Dec 2017
According to the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Office of the Council Minister, the cabinet ministers discussed the draft National Action Programme to Combat Desertification 2017-2026, the draft Report on the Progress of the Implementation of Cambodia Industrial Development Policy 2015-2025, and the request to send the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation between the Republic of India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to the legislative body for ratification. After the discussion, the cabinet ministers decided to return the draft National Action Programme to Combat Desertification 2017-2026 to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for amendments, and approved the draft Report on the Progress of the Implementation of Cambodia Industrial Development Policy 2015-2025, it added.

Export of Cambodia’s Milled Rice Increases by over 17% for First 11 Months Agence Kampuchea Presse 22nd Dec 2017
For the first 11 months of 2017, Cambodia exported a total of 562,237 tons of milled rice, up 17.20 percent compared to the same period in 2016. According to statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, during the period, Cambodian milled rice was exported to 63 countries around the world, mainly to China (164,979 tons), France (70,741 tons), Poland (41,469 tons), Malaysia (35,209 tons), Bangladesh (26,970 tons), England (25,889 tons). By the end of November this year, rainy paddy rice cultivation ended successfully with 106.45 percent of the yearly plan, said the source.

Minister’s Insights in Agriculture Diversification Agence Kampuchea Presse 14th Dec 2017
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries H.E. Veng Sakhon has shared insights on agriculture diversification with a Cambodia-based delegation of World Bank. Led by Ms. Chamroeun Motita, the bank’s delegation outlined its new agriculture sector diversification project in Cambodia aiming to promote farmers’ sustainable livelihood and contribute to the country’s economic growth. H.E. Veng Sakhon welcomed the initiative and suggested the team to look into rehabilitation of necessary irrigation infrastructure and application of appropriate technology that will ensure stable production and supply.

Indonesia

Indonesia Join Hands With FAO to Build Integrated Sago Processing Plant in SE Sulawesi Jakarta Globe 2nd Jan 2018
As part of a collaborative effort on food diversification to ensure increased food production, the government and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, on Monday (18/12) opened an integrated sago processing plant in Southeast Sulawesi. "I hope the integrated sago processing center will lift sago to become a product on the global market and improve the wealth of Besulutu villagers and the people of Konawe," M. Akbar, head of Konawe district’s food security agency, said, as quoted in a statement received by the Jakarta Globe. The event, which took place in Besulutu, Konawe, was attended by representatives from the local government, the FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture’s Food Security Agency.

Indonesia to boost partnership with IDB members The Jakarta Post 29th Dec 2017
The government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with member countries of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to boost knowledge exchange. The MoU was signed by National Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro at the IDB headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday. IDB country representative communications officer Riza Iskandar said on Thursday that Indonesia would cooperate with Suriname in artificial insemination for livestock and with Morocco and Tunisia on vaccine development.

Indonesian losses at WTO fuel concerns The Jakarta Post 27th Dec 2017
The recent string of losses suffered by Indonesia at the World Trade Organization dispute panels have led to calls for better trade regulations that do not contradict the institution's principles but at the same time continue to protect local industry.

Universal Health Coverage Can Help Beat Antimicrobial Resistance Jakarta Globe 2nd Jan 2018
Universal health coverage is critical to keeping our most precious drugs fit for purpose. Ensuring all people everywhere have access to health services that are affordable, of good quality and within reach is a public health imperative. Whether to drive down maternal and child mortality, to halt rising rates of noncommunicable disease, or to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies, strong, accessible health systems are key to achieving the sustainable development agenda and securing health and wellbeing for all at all ages. They are also critical to beating back the rapid advance of antimicrobial resistance, a problem caused by mutations in microorganisms – including bacteria – that then become resistant to even the most powerful antimicrobial and antibiotic drugs. Though the battle against antimicrobial resistance across the World Health Organization's Southeast Asia region is being fought on many fronts – from optimizing the use of antibiotics in the animal and agriculture sectors to investing in research and the development of new antibiotics – increased health coverage remains a powerful tool to counter antimicrobial resistance's deadly menace and ensure our most precious drugs remain fit for purpose. This is so for a number of reasons.

Indonesia's Sugar Demand Projected to Increase 6% Next Year Jakarta Globe 13th Dec 2017
Indonesia will need 3.6 million tons of sugar for industrial use next year, compared with this year's 3.4 million tons, according to an estimation by the Ministry of Industry.

Laos

Food prices remain stable throughout 2017 Vientiane Times 2nd Jan 2018
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce has confirmed that prices of goods have remained at stable levels despite the country continuing to import many products from neighbouring countries. According to an assessment of the cost of staple products in the five-year period from 2013-2017 at markets around the country, foodstuffs increased by an average of 1-4 percent over the period, a ministry official, Ms Chansy Manichanh, told Vientiane Times last week. The price of rice, pork, beef and fish in Vientiane markets has remained stable. Grade A white polished rice is selling for 10,000 kip a kg, 8,750 kip a kg for grade A sticky rice, 33,000 kip a kg for grade A pork, 30,000 kip for grade B pork, 70,000 kip for grade A beef, 65,000 kip for grade B beef, and 22,000 kip a kg for fish. “The price of rice in Vientiane compared to Thailand, especially in Bangkok, is higher as Thailand is the main rice producer and exporter in the region,” she said.

Japan funds upgrade of irrigated agriculture in Thangon Vientiane 27th Dec 2017
The government of Japan has provided grant aid worth over 61 billion kip (837 million yen or about US$7.4 million) to carry out the Improvement of Irrigated Agriculture in Thangon project in Xaythany district, Vientiane. A grant for the project was signed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday by Deputy Minister Mrs Khamphao Ernthavanh and the Ambassador of Japan to Laos Mr Takeshi Hikihara. The project will rehabilitate water pumps, canals, farm roads, etc. and will enable more than 100 hectares of land to be cultivated in the dry season. Japan has been engaged in the economic and social development of Laos for many years.

Agriculture survey to be broadened in 2019 Vientiane Times 20th Dec 2017
A nationwide agriculture survey to be carried out in 2019 will be widened and farmers will be questioned about the various practices they use. The plan for the survey was explained yesterday at the first meeting of the National Guiding Committee for the Third Nationwide Agriculture Survey. The survey will involve five forms and questionnaires will be circulated among all households in the country. As well as the questions asked in previous surveys, the 2019 survey will ask about farming business operations and production methods, the equipment and raw materials used, and land. Interviews will look into the circumstances of all villages throughout the country such as their location and classified areas, production situation, education, health, and incidence of natural disasters. Each household will be interviewed about their agricultural activities, their agricultural land area, and income generation.

Farmers Get Help Reaching Fields KPL: Lao News Agency 21st Dec 2017
Farmers in Keosenkham village, Bolikhamxay Province, have taken delivery of new boat motors and hand tractors to help them work their fields. On Dec 15, staff from the Theun-Hinboun Power Company (THPC) handed to the villagers 141 boat motors and eight hand tractors worth a total of over 630 million kip. Located close to the Nam Gnouang Reservoir in Xaychamphone district, Ban Keosenkham is an upland village with little flat land, and its people mainly use hillside fields to grow rice and cash crops.

Vientiane's First Fecal Sludge Treatment Plant Launches The Laotian Times 11th Dec 2017
It’s official. Three years after the feasibility study was complete, Vientiane’s first fecal sludge treatment plant in Nahai (Xaysettha District) has officially launched. The plant was made possible through financial support from French metropolitan agencies SIAAP (Syndicat interdépartemental pour l’assainissement de l’agglomération parisienne), AIMF (Association Internationale des Maires francophones) and AESN (Agence de l’Eau Seine Normandie), costing over USD $1.4 million.

Malaysia

Creating a healthy living environment ― Sin Chew Daily Malay Mail 2nd Jan 2018
The government will introduce 13 new policies to tackle the rising trend of non-communicable diseases (NCD) among Malaysians. Non-communicable diseases include cardiovascular diseases, cancers, respiratory diseases and diabetes, among many others. According to the WHO, smoking, lack of physical activities, excessive alcohol intake and unhealthy diet will all increase the risk of NCDs.

LKIM Plans To Build 10 Fish Collection And Distribution Centres Next Year Bermana 30th Dec 2017
The Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia (LKIM) plans to build 10 fish collection and distribution centres next year to stabilise the price of the main source of protein for local people especially during the monsoon season. LKIM chairman Datuk Seri Dr Irmohizam Ibrahim said the setting up of the 10 new centres, however, would be decided in January after it had talks with the National Fishermen's Association (Nekmat) and Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority (FAMA).

Growing Discord in Malaysia's Paddy Industry The Straits Times 30th Dec 2017
Anyone shopping for rice in Malaysia's supermarkets will find a bountiful array of nearly two dozen brands and varieties on the shelves, both locally grown and imported. But most of these are actually produced or marketed by firms linked to one company - Padiberas Nasional, or Bernas, the national rice agency. Bernas' monopoly over the country's rice supply has become a hot-button issue among some farmers in the upcoming general election, after some of them in October complained to the government about alleged unfair trade practices committed by the billion-ringgit company which is controlled by politically connected tycoon Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary.

As Malaysians get heavier, consumer groups call for sugar tax and more (VIDEO) Malay Mail 28th Dec 2017
Malaysia needs new health policies to address the unhealthy eating habits and risk of non-communicable diseases among Malaysians, consumer groups said today. Their remarks come amid the Health Ministry’s plans to introduce steps such as sugar tax and closing eateries beyond midnight.

Malaysian Tilapia safe to eat - Fisheries Dept NST Online 18th Dec 2017
In a statement on December 18, the department rubbished an allegation in the social media that the tilapia fish should not be eaten as it would cause cancer. “There is no scientific article inside and outside of the country regarding reports that there are cancer cells in the flesh of the tilapia. “There is also no scientific report concerning the use of hormone-mixed fish pellets and growth booster agent in the country’s fishing industry,” it said. According to the statement, the department under the Agriculture Residue Monitoring Programme had conducted a fish quality monitoring programme at farm-level to ensure fish and its products were free from pollution and safe to eat. It said most tilapia fish breeders currently used tilapia strains which had been improved through selective breeding and hybrid to increase growth rates. “Therefore, the use of hormones and growth boosting agent is unnecessary and it will increase the operating cost,” said the statement. - Bernama

Malaysia promotes sustainably-produced palm oil in Japan NST Online 18th Dec 2017
Malaysia is promoting sustainably-produced palm oil in Japan following the approval of Malaysian timber usage for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. "We're engaging with the Tokyo Organising Committee for Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games to include Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) in their procurement since the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS) is approved," said Malaysia's Plantation Industries and Commodities minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong. In a statement from Japan, Mah assured Japan that the Malaysian government in protecting the environment and taking care of social wellbeing of smallholders while developing its economy.

13 key policies to promote a healthier gov’t Malaysiakini 31st Dec 2017
The Health Ministry is discussing 13 key policies to promote a healthier living environment for implementation in 2018 and 2019. This campaign is focused on fighting the rise in NCDs or non-communicable diseases. NCDs are conditions caused as a direct result of lifestyle and environmental factors. They are long-term and chronic diseases that rob affected people of many productive years of their life, eventually resulting in death in most cases. These include lung diseases, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Seized fake milk formula 'safe', but doesn't meet quality standards NST Online 28th Dec 2017
The fake infant formula milk recently seized by the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry (KPDNKK) in Johor has been deemed safe, but did not meet quality standards. Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said lab test results on the sample showed that the milk did not meet the stipulated quality standard in terms of fat content. "The ministry, through the Food Safety and Quality Division, is working closely with the ministry. We took the samples of the product to be analysed by the Food Safety and Quality Laboratory and Chemistry Department, to confirm the safety of the product.

New health policies draw mixed reaction from various parties NST Online 26th Dec 2017
The move to introduce new policies to promote a healthier nation has been deemed as timely, despite mixed reactions from various stakeholders. Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca) president Datuk Dr Marimuthu Nadason said the move was apt and called the people to support it. “Just look at our Malaysian lifestyle now. The obesity rate is high; many suffer from diabetes, hypertension, and heart problems. “Prevention is better than cure and this is a good initiative, making people start with the government’s nudge,” he told the New Straits Times.

Durian cultivation will be an industry of its own in future, Ahmad Shabery says Malay Mail 19th Dec 2017
Durian cultivation will emerge as an industry of its own in the future. said Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek. He said it will a big income generator for the country. “The durian economy will benefit all along the value chain besides the growers like fertilizer suppliers, transporters to market durians and factories to process various durian products.

Fake baby formula makers will be named and shamed, minister promises Malay Mail 13th Dec 2017
The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives, and Consumerism will make public the identity of those who produce imitation baby formula, its minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin said today. He said his ministry is working closely with genuine baby formula manufacturers and the Health Ministry to stop production of the fake goods. “We will name and shame whoever is doing this. “This investigation is proceeding with the input of the manufacturer of the product and the health ministry,” he said.

Discovery of fake baby formula in Johor triggers widespread concern NST Online 11th Dec 2017
The discovery of fake baby formula being sold in Johor has sparked consternation among various quarters. Concerns have since been raised on whether the problem is limited to just the southern state, and how to best tackle it. The scandal came to light last Thursday when the Johor Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry seized 210 boxes of fake baby milk formula, worth about RM42,000, from five supermarkets and pharmacies in the state. The five premises were located in Iskandar Puteri, Mutiara Rini, Taman Orkid, Nusa Bestari and Taman Daya. The raids were conducted after the ministry's enforcement unit had conducted surveillance for the past four months.

Philippines

Villar calls on farmers to turn animal wastes into compost, renewable energy Manila Bulletin News 2nd Jan 2018
Senator Cynthia Villar urged farmers to take small steps in mitigating the effects of climate change by turning animal wastes into compost and renewable energy sources. Villar, who chairs both the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Food, and Environment and Natural Resources, said animal wastes management will “really go a long way in minimizing the effects of climate change and protecting the environment.” Speaking at a recent event, Villar underscored the significance of farmers’ training on animal waste management, particularly how to efficiently and appropriately manage and utilize wastes into biogas and vermicompost.

Pinoy rice farmers may lose $4B under tariff-free Asean BusinessMirror 1st Jan 2018
Filipino farmers could incur losses of as much as $4 billion under a zero rice-tariff trade regime within the Asean, according to a recent study of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In the study, titled “Market implications of the integration scenario of Southeast Asian rice markets,” authors Gen Furuhashi and Hubertus Gay projected the outcomes of rice trade within the Asean region under two scenarios by 2025: a zero-tariff regime and a fully integrated market. The authors noted that, under a zero-tariff regime, rice farmers in the Philippines would incur production losses of at least $2.082 billion, while under a fully integrated market they could lose $3.966 billion. The value of the country’s rice production is estimated at $6 billion annually. The country is still importing rice, with the tariff imposed of on rice coming from other Asean member-countries set at 35 percent.

Cebu food security program intensified Manila Bulletin News 1st Jan 2018
The Cebu provincial government vowed to continue to provide equipment for programs involved in the improvement and progress of the agricultural sector here. This came after Governor Hilario Davide said his goal is to achieve the food security agenda for the entire province. A projection of 1.4 million Filipinos will be at risk of hunger by 2030 and another 2.5 million, 20 years later. This, due to lower agricultural production caused by climate change.

Fast-tracking distribution of lands to ARBs empowers the Filipino farmer Manila Bulletin News 30th Dec 2017
The thrust of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration to fast-track the distribution of lands to agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) has empowered Filipino farmers to become landowners in the near future. Free land distribution, at the core of genuine and comprehensive agrarian reform, is one of the six sector outcomes and legislative agenda backed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in President Duterte’s 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan (PDP).

Agriculture trade deficit narrows in Q3 BusinessWorld 30th Dec 2017
THE TRADE DEFICIT in agriculture commodities narrowed in the third quarter, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said on Friday. Data from the PSA showed the country shipped out $1.605 billion worth of agricultural goods in the third quarter of the year, a 14.34% increase from the $1.403 billion in the same three months last year. Meanwhile, the country shipped out $2.845 billion worth of farm products in the July-September period, a 2.49% uptick from $2.776 billion last year. As a result, the agriculture trade deficit was at $1.240 billion in the three months ended September, down 9.63% from the $1.372-billion shortfall a year ago.

DA’s Piñol sticks to PHL rice self-sufficiency goal | BusinessMirror BusinessMirror 26th Dec 2017
The year 2017 could have proven itself as one of the memorable years for the agriculture sector in the early years of the Duterte administration. For one, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is still on its quest to achieve rice self-sufficiency for the Filipinos. And this year might be one of the closest years that the country could achieve that feat, based on government estimates. For Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol, there’s only one test to gauge on how he and his department fared well with these issues: sufficient and affordable food supply. And as 2017 closes its curtains, the agriculture department continues the show what Duterte wants to provide next year: a food- secure nation. “Again, as I have said, guided by the directive of the President, we will focus on what the Filipino people need,” Piñol said. For example, Piñol added, the DA will now begin to implement its dairy program next year that seeks to boost the local milk production to meet at least 10 percent of the total annual requirement by the end of Duterte’s term. Furthermore, Piñol emphasized that the DA will rollout programs that would seek to boost local production to meet the increasing domestic demand for commodities, such as coffee and onion, next year.

House pushes regulation of food technology in PH | Philippine Canadian Inquirer Canadian Inquirer 19th Dec 2017
The House of Representatives has unanimously approved on final reading a measure seeking to regulate the practice of food technology in the Philippines. With 189 affirmative votes, the Lower House passed House Bill 6714, or the Philippine Food Technology Act, which seeks the creation of the Professional Regulatory Board of Food Technology (PRBFT).

FAO calls for more food security in Mindanao Manila Bulletin News 14th Dec 2017
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has called for more food investments in the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao. “We cannot solve poverty, hunger and lack of education, ensure good health for all, achieve lasting peace and build sustainable cities when access to food and livelihood especially in rural areas is not fully addressed,” Jose Luis Fernandez, FAO representative in the Philippines said. Bringing safe, affordable and nutritious food to everyone’s table is “as important as it is complex,” Fernandez said, noting that global hunger is on the rise again after a steady decline in the past decade.

FAO calls for more food investments in Mindanao philstar.com 14th Dec 2017
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is calling for increased investments in the country, particularly in Mindanao, to address food security, rural development, resilience-building and peace in the area. As the organization celebrates its 40th year in the country, FAO representative in the Philippines Jose Luis Fernandez said global hunger is on the rise again after a decade-long steady decline. Fernandez said investments in the systems that address the most basic needs of people should remain a priority. “We cannot solve poverty, hunger, lack of education, ensure good health for all, achieve lasting peace and build sustainable cities when access to food and livelihoods, especially in rural areas, are not fully addressed,” he said. Over the past 40 years, FAO has implemented more than 400 national projects in the Philippines, reaching over 500,000 farming and fishing families or over 2.5 million people. FAO continues to focus on strengthening the country’s food and nutrition security, increasing the sustainability and competitiveness of agricultural production, including fisheries and forestry.

Philippines may soon import cattle from Latin America philstar.com 13th Dec 2017
The Philippines inched closer to its plan to bring in cattle from Latin American nations after the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) laid down guidelines that will allow the country to import the breeding materials. Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said OIE has a set of protocols which would allow the Philippines to bring in cattle from Brazil and Argentina without compromising its foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) free without vaccination status. Piñol said he met with OIE director for the Americas Jose Osvaldo Barcos and OIE Southeast Asia representative Ronel Avila on the sidelines of the ongoing World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires and received a favorable response to the country’s plan to import.

2017 milled-rice output seen rising to 12.78 MMT BusinessMirror 11th Dec 2017
The country’s milled-rice production this year could settle at 12.78 million metric tons (MMT), 5.35 percent higher than the 12.13 MMT recorded output last year, according to the latest forecast of the United Nations’s Food Agriculture Organization (FAO). Through its marketing outlook arm Agricultural Market Information System (Amis), the FAO hiked its projection for Philippine milled-rice production this year by 1.614 percent, or by 203,000 MT, from its earlier forecast of 12.577 MMT.

Halal accreditation to help Phl achieve growth target philstar.com 11th Dec 2017
The Philippines will be able to easily hit its economic growth targets over the medium term if it succeeds in penetrating the trillion-dollar global halal market. In a report, International Halal Accreditation Forum (IHAF) secretary general Mohammed Saleh Badri said the country could easily accomplish the growth targets set in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 and the Philippine Export Development Plan 2018-2022 once it is able to get a bigger slice of the global halal market. Badri said the halal industry is a new but fast-growing industry currently worth $2 trillion. It is forecast to expand to $3.8 trillion by 2022. The Philippines last week gained membership to the IHAF, a development seen to further spur the local halal industry by strengthening trade between the Philippines and other member countries. The IHAF is an independent and non-government network of accreditation entities mandated to enforce halal standards in their respective countries and regions. He said IHAF at present is offering to assist the government to set up a halal certification system so that local enterprises will not have to get certification from abroad.

TRAIN supports healthy lifestyle programs — DOH philstar.com 22nd Dec 2017
With higher taxes on cigarettes and sweetened beverages under the newly enacted Tax Reform For Accreditation and Inclusion (TRAIN), there will likely be fewer cases of non-communicable diseases in the country next year, according to the Department of Health (DOH). “The TRAIN law provides for an increase in taxes of cigarettes and sugar-sweetened beverages that will support the DOH programs on the promotion of healthy lifestyles and prevention and control of non-communicable diseases,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said yesterday.

PHL bid against import surge fails to fly at WTO Business Mirror 15th Dec 2017
THE Philippines’s request for a scheme that would protect agriculture from harmful import surges did not merit a draft decision from the World Trade Organization (WTO), effectively sending home the country’s negotiators from Argentina empty-handed. As the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11) reached its conclusion, 164 member-countries failed to come up with a firm ministerial decision on agriculture as they expressed divergent views on issues, such as special safeguard mechanism (SSM) and public stockholding (PSH).

Singapore

AVA to roll out 5-year sterilisation programme of stray dogs Channel NewsAsia 2nd Jan 2018
The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said on Thursday (Dec 21) it is working closely with animal welfare groups (AWGs) and veterinarians to embark on a five-year Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage (TNRM) programme to manage the stray dog population in Singapore. This is AVA's first sterilisation programme for stray dogs, the authority said, stressing that it is a "humane and science-based method" to reduce the stray dog population in the country. Read more at https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/ava-to-roll-out-5-year-st...

Parents and kids rice to the challenge The Straits Times 24th Dec 2017
Understanding where staple foods like rice come from and the hard work needed to grow each grain is important, and there's no better way to learn about it than to go in ankle-deep into the rice field. At a rice-planting session yesterday in Lorong Chencharu, off Sembawang Road, (from left) Ms Szeto Hiu Yan, 30, her daughter Sarah Yeo, three, volunteer Chang Hui Bue, 48, Hana Rahmah, six, and her father Habeebul Rahman, 43, were among those who got their hands and feet dirty planting green seedlings at an activity planned for children and their parents, organised by non-profit organisation Ground-Up Initiative (GUI). Called The Paddy Experience, the session was set up to help participants build a relationship with food, and to appreciate the amount of hard work that farmers put in to grow these crops. The Paddy Experience took root in early July this year. Plots of land were fertilised with organic green waste compost. The first planting of the seedlings began the next month, and the first harvest was reaped this month. GUI expects another round of planting in May next year, with a harvest in September.

Food licence suspensions near last year's figure, NEA advises good food hygiene during festive season World News 20th Dec 2017
The National Environment Agency (NEA) suspended 131 food outlet licences as at the end of November, nearly on par with the 132 suspensions in the whole of last year. It conducted more than 82,000 inspections on food retail establishments and took some 2,900 enforcement actions against operators who failed to comply with hygiene regulations, the agency said on Wednesday (Dec 20).

Public-private Initiative to Train GMS Scientists in Food Safety Lab Testing Launches in Singapore Food Industry Asia 19th Dec 2017
Effective, fit-for-purpose laboratory testing for food safety forms the cornerstone of food safety control – this was the underlying theme of a week-long training programme for 14 food safety scientists chosen by the six ministries of agriculture in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). The programme, led by the International Food Safety Training Laboratory (IFSTL), is the first out of three phases of a pilot capacity-building programme borne out of a partnership among Food Industry Asia (FIA), its member companies Waters Corporation and Nestlé, and the GMS Core Agriculture Support Program (CASP) Phase ll through the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Public hospitals to offer more affordable milk formula to newborns Channel NewsAsia 29th Dec 2017
All three public hospitals with maternity wards will offer only more affordable Ready-to-Feed (RTF) infant formula to newly born infants from Jul 1, 2018.

Thailand

Govt predicts good economy based on EEC development The Nation 1st Jan 2018
THE GOVERNMENT has expressed optimism about the economic outlook for 2018, with Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha saying his New Year’s resolution is to push the “Smart City” concept in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). Government Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday that the government expected that the economy would boom and extreme poverty “be eradicated” this year, despite signs of a deteriorating economy, including mass layoffs in several sectors. Sansern said the government planned to allocate “an amount of money” to the grassroots economy, using the tourism and agricultural sectors as mechanisms to create sustainability.

Pinched farm incomes hit purchasing power The Nation 29th Dec 2017
CONSUMER purchasing power remains weak despite the country’s economic expansion being sustained in November, the Bank of Thailand said yesterday. A decline in farm incomes held back consumer purchasing power last month, the central bank said. Farmers experienced declines in both agricultural production and product prices. Prices of rubber sheet and palm oil dropped in November, while past severe flooding in the Northeast cut rice production significantly, said the central bank’s monthly economic report released, Farmers’ nominal income dropped 5.5 per cent year on year. The averages income of workers in the non-farm sector remained flat, said the central bank.

Bioeconomy to give boost to agriculture Bangkok Post 28th Dec 2017
The first-ever bioeconomy development plan aimed at promoting more private investment in biotech-related businesses and adding value to farm products is scheduled to go before the cabinet for approval in early 2018. According to Prime Minister's Office Minister Kobsak Phutrakul, related agencies are now considering private-sector proposals presented at the latest meeting of the Pracha Rat steering committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak on Dec 15. "The development plan for bioeconomy is expected to be submitted to the cabinet early next year," Mr Kobsak said. "The plan is to conform with the government policy to develop new S-curve industries."

Measures mulled to lift farm sector The Nation 22nd Dec 2017
THE MINISTRIES of Commerce and Agriculture and Cooperatives have laid out plans to boost the agricultural sector by employing a marketing-led strategy. Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Grisada Boonrach and Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong, as well as senior officials from the two ministries yesterday met and discussed ways to support the farm sector. They agreed to work closely both in Bangkok and at the provincial level to boost the farm sector. The ministries also agreed to use a marketing-led strategy. Information on food nutrition and nuggets of local wisdom will be added to products in order to draw consumer attention.

Mitr Phol, Olam partner for Indonesian sugar investment The Nation 19th Dec 2017
Mitr Phol Group, the world’s fourth-largest and Asia’s biggest sugar producer, and Olam International, a leading agri-business operating across the value chain in 70 countries, on Tuesday announced a strategic partnership to invest in Olam’s sugar business in Indonesia. Mitr Phol will acquire a 50-per-cent stake in Singapore-listed Olam’s wholly owned subsidiary Far East Agri, which operates PT Dharmapala Usaha Sukses, a sugar refinery in Cilacap, in central Java. Krisda Monthienvichienchai, chief executive officer and president of Mitr Phol Group, said: “We are extremely excited to begin our Indonesian journey by partnering with an established Indonesian player like Olam. Indonesia is the biggest sugar importer from Thailand and Australia. Our firm belief in the Indonesian sugar industry’s potential and in creating value will underpin industry growth.

Plantation policy leaves farmers still powerless The Nation 17th Dec 2017
THE GOVERNMENT has been trying to promote its large-plantation policy since last year with the ambitious goal of bringing farmers out of the “middle-income trap” by 2021. But farmer groups cannot help but wonder whether the policy has really increased their bargaining power. “When I go to rice mills, I still feel powerless,” the manager of a large rice plantation in Khon Kaen province said on condition of anonymity recently. Under the large-plantation policy, the government does not push farmers into working on the same plots of land. Rather, a shared management system is promoted that the government believes will help farmers lower their costs and boost their productivity.

Govt hemp farms start operations on January 1 The Nation 13th Dec 2017
STARTING ON January 1, government agencies will be allowed to grow hemp in six provinces as a part of ongoing efforts to treat the plant as an economic crop. Agencies will have to declare how they will use the hemp and present production as well as distribution plans to seek permission. Also, they will have to report their harvest schedules and transport of crops to provincial governors. Known as Cannabis sativa, hemp contains Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is a psychoactive substance. The varieties allowed for cultivation must have THC levels of no more than 1 per cent of weight when dried. The government has been planning to legalise the production of hemp for years. In late 2016, the Cabinet approved a plan to let government agencies seek permission to grow, sell and possess hemp.

China urges utilisation of LMC scheme for boost to agriculture sector The Nation 13th Dec 2017
CHINA sees an imbalance in the agriculture development among the six countries in the Mekong basin and would push for utilisation of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) scheme to unlock its potential, a Chinese senior official said. Trade in farm products is also a key concern for the countries in the basin, said China’s Agriculture Ministry’s Deputy Director General of International Cooperation Department Zhang Zhenbiao. “I’m actually aware of the fact that the five Mekong countries have great potential in developing trade in agriculture and hope that you can sell more good products to us,” said Zhang who is responsible for agriculture coopeation in the LMC scheme.

New campaign promotes premium grade rice Bangkok Post 27th Dec 2017
The Commerce Ministry is planning a new campaign called "Think Rice: Think Thailand", aimed at promoting the export of premium-grade rice instead of focusing on commodity grades, says Deputy Commerce Minister Chutima Bunyapraphasara. She said the scheme is due to kick off in 2018 as a pilot project to raise the export volume of premium-grade rice by around 200,000 tonnes within six months to one year.

Rubber encroachments in forests targeted The Nation 16th Dec 2017
Amid the plunging price of rubber latex to below Bt50 per kilogram, concerned officials are now eyeing the potential for eliminating the encroachment of rubber trees in forests. As well as returning forests back to nature, the move would help reduce the volume of latex and thus push up prices. The Rubber Authority of Thailand recently contacted Natural Resources and Environment Minister General Surasak Karnjanarat for help as he oversees the newly-opened Forest Protection Operations Centre, tasked with suppressing all forms of forest encroachment nationwide.

More state aid for rubber approved Bangkok Post 16th Dec 2017
The government on Friday approved state measures to tackle low rubber prices, including a new loan package worth 20 billion baht for entrepreneurs who agree to purchase and stockpile rubber. According to Grisada Boonrach, the agriculture and cooperatives minister, the measures were endorsed yesterday by the Natural Rubber Policy Committee chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Under the new loan package, the government will subsidise a 3% interest rate for loans taken out by entrepreneurs who agree to purchase rubber and keep in their stockpiles.

Exporters fret over currency's influence Bangkok Post 14th Dec 2017
Food export value is likely to miss its target by 30 billion baht this year as the strong local currency has led to a drop in orders of many items such as shrimp, canned tuna, tapioca and fruit juice. Yongvut Saovapruk, president of the National Food Institute (NFI), said the value of food exports is estimated at 1 trillion baht this year, down from an earlier target of 1.03 trillion baht. The NFI projected food exports would grow 5.3% this year from 950 billion baht. "The strong currency is taking its toll on food exports," Mr Yongvut said. "But we are hopeful next year's prospects will recover to record strong growth." The institute forecasts food exports to grow 7% next year to 1.07 trillion baht driven by the fully recovered economies of key trading partners, decent raw material supplies, and the government's support measures for the farm sector. But the NFI remains concerned about the negative impact from ongoing baht appreciation, higher energy prices and higher wages. The institute predicted promising prospects for fresh fruit, energy drinks, bakery products, dairy, food supplements excluding vitamins, and ice cream. Key export markets are Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Japan, the US, China and Europe. Poj Aramwattananont, vice-chairman of the Thai Board of Trade, said the baht's gain is the key area of concern for 2018 as it has appreciated 10% this year to 32.6 per dollar from 35.4 per dollar in late 2016. Left unharnessed, Mr Poj said the baht will weaken export competitiveness, particularly against key rivals such as Indonesia and Vietnam. "Every baht gain will affect the value of exports in baht terms. This will eventually result in lower income for farmers and small and medium-sized enterprises," he said. "The government needs to step up its efforts to control the baht, ensuring it moves in the same direction as the currencies of competitor countries." Mr Poj said another concern is the impact of a daily minimum wage hike from 300 baht, saying it will raise production costs for exports. The National Tripartite Committee, consisting of representatives for workers, employers and the government, agreed earlier this month to raise the daily minimum wage from 300 baht by up to 5% next year, or 15 baht. The rise of 0-15 baht is based on average inflation of 0.4%, still in the range of the 0.6-1% inflation target set by the Commerce Ministry for this year. The committee's decision is in line with the Federation of Thai Industries' estimation of an increase in the daily minimum wage of 0-15 baht, bringing the new rate to a range of 300-400 baht next year.

Thailand halal assembly 2017 Bangkok Post 14th Dec 2017
The Halal food industry is one of the country’s most revenue-generating sectors. Last year, Thailand was ranked among the world’s top 10 halal product exporters. Now, all parties concerned, both from the public and private sectors, have joined forces to position Thailand as a top-five Halal-exporting country by 2020.

Cabinet okays B1.7bn in rice policies Bangkok Post 13th Dec 2017
The cabinet has approved 1.68 billion baht worth of additional measures to encourage rice farmers to grow other crops in lieu of rice in the 2018 off-season. Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Luck Wajananawat said the measures aim to decrease rice plantation by almost 1 million rai as part of the government's strategic move to create a greater balance between rice demand and supply in the next season. Of the total budget, 647 million baht will be slated for a project to promote alternative crops, 240 million for a promotion to grow more green manure crops, and 860 million for a promotion to grow animal feed crops.

Strong baht may dampen rice exports Bangkok Post 11th Dec 2017
Thailand is set to export 9.5 million tonnes of milled rice next year, says the Thai Rice Exporters Association. That is down slightly from the 11 million tonnes Thailand is forecast to ship for the whole of this year, as the stronger baht is expected to curb exports, said president Charoen Laothammatas. Thailand has exported 10.3 million tonnes of rice so far this year, up 16.3% from the same period of last year, according to Commerce Ministry data.

Vietnam

Vietnam imposes heavier penalties on filthy food producers, traders - Xinhua | English.news.cn Xinhua 2nd Jan 2018
Those who produce or trade dirty food in Vietnam can be sentenced up to 20 years in prison, local media reported on Tuesday. According to Vietnam's amended Penal Code which took effect on Jan. 1, the slightest penalty for filthy food producers or traders is a fine of 50-200 million Vietnamese dong (2,200-8,800 U.S. dollars) or a jail term of 1-5 years, and the heaviest one is a jail term of 12-20 years, daily newspaper Tien Phong (Pioneer) reported.

Islands should turn to green economy: expert vietnamnews.vn 30th Dec 2017
The development of green economic models on islands could help ensure sustainable residency and livelihoods, an expert has suggested. Dr Lê Xuân Sinh from Hải Phòng-based Institute of Marine Environment and Resources said that green economies helped improve living standards and social equality as well as reducing environmental risks and ecological deficiencies.

Food safety violations in Hanoi on the increase vietnamplus.vn 29th Dec 2017
More than 22,500 units in Hanoi were found to have violated food safety regulations this year after inspectors examined 110,930 units, according to the city’s Health Department. Of the violators, more than 7,200 units had to pay fines exceeding a total of 37 billion VND (1.6 million USD) and had their unsafe food destroyed.

Agro, forestry, seafood exports up vietnamnews.vn 29th Dec 2017
The export value of agro, forestry and seafood products reached a record US$36.37 billion this year, a year-on-year increase of 13 per cent, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The export of major agricultural products was estimated at $18.96 billion, a year-on-year growth of 15.7 per cent and that of seafood at $8.32 billion, 18 per cent higher than last year. The export value of forestry products in 2017 was estimated at $7.97 billion, an increase of 9.2 per cent year-on-year.

Organic farming has great potential in VN: experts vietnamnews.vn 28th Dec 2017
Việt Nam holds great potential for organic farming as more consumers, particularly those with high incomes, have demand for such products, experts have said. Speaking at the First National Forum on Organic Agricultural Development held on December 27, Vũ Kim Hạnh, chairwoman of the High Quality Vietnamese Product Business Association, said demand for organic products has increased significantly both in Việt Nam and globally, and this offers great potential for farmers and businesses investing in the field.

Đà Lạt market hi-tech farming models, produce vietnamnews.vn 25th Dec 2017
More than 100 enterprises are presenting fruits, vegetables and other farm produce to international and domestic customers at a market in Đà Lạt City, Lâm Đồng Province. The market, held as part of the seventh Đà Lạt Flower Festival, has nearly 180 booths, some of which are displaying hi-tech agriculture models being implemented in some localities like Lâm Đồng, HCM City and Đồng Tháp, as well as equipment in hi-tech farming.

Agricultural insurance flawed vietnamnews.vn 23rd Dec 2017
Since an agriculture insurance pilot programme began in 2011, it has come to play an important role in farmers’ financial lives, but still has many shortcomings, said Hoàng Quang Phòng, vice president of the Việt Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) at a forum held in Hà Nội on Thursday. “Việt Nam is an agricultural country, but annual natural disasters and epidemics have robbed farmers of their property. So farmers need a guarantee for their labour and productivity, and agricultural insurance is the best choice," he said at the forum, titled “Identify challenges and promote growth”.

Agriculture Ministry puts business satisfaction at the heart of reforms vietnamnews.vn 20th Dec 2017
By putting the satisfaction of businesses at the heart of its admin reform efforts, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has been able to remove many cumbersome procedures, helping reduce production costs and boost productivity, experts said at an online discussion on December 19. Nguyễn Thị Kim Anh, director of the agricultural ministry’s Legislation Department, said that in August 2017, the ministry had established a one-stop agency dedicated to streamlining administrative procedures.

Goods quality, food safety not closely supervised in HCMC SGGP 20th Dec 2017
The Economic and Budget Committee of HCMC People’s Council yesterday worked with agencies about goods preparation and inspection, market supervision and prices before, during and after the coming Tet holiday. One of issues reported at the meeting is that goods quality and food safety has not been closely supervised.

VietGap standards to merit national rice brand vietnamnews.vn 18th Dec 2017
Rice products will be certified under the “Vietnam Rice” national brand if they are produced in accordance with VietGAP or GlobalGAP standards -- good agricultural practices to produce clean and safe farm products. This is one of the regulations drafted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) to build, promote, manage and certify the national brand for Vietnamese rice exports.

Food industry attracting Japanese interest VietnamNet 15th Dec 2017
Vietnam’s food industry will attract increasing numbers of Japanese enterprises in the years to come, Mr. Kitagawa Hironobu, Chief Representative of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) in Hanoi, told the Vietnam Food Industry Development Conference on December 12. He pointed out that many Japanese enterprises work with JETRO in seeking investment opportunities in Vietnam’s food industry.  The number of enterprises investing in non-manufacturing in Vietnam increased 70 per cent last year, with a particular interest in agriculture and food. Mr. Le An Hai, Deputy Head of the Asia-Africa Market Department at the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said that many Vietnamese companies have invested heavily in the processing industry, providing a range of high-quality products for the domestic market and for export.

Asia Coffee-Vietnam supply steady but trade thin; Indonesia subdued Kitco News 14th Dec 2017
Vietnam's coffee supply was steady as good weather supported harvesting but trading was thin, while Indonesian markets were also subdued due to low stocks, traders said on Thursday. Farmers in Vietnam's main coffee-growing province Daklak sold coffee beans at 36,000-37,000 dong ($1.58-$1.63) per kg, lower than last week's range of 37,300-37,600 dong, and tracking a decline in London prices, traders said. The London ICE March futures contract fell as low as $1,686 a tonne on Tuesday, the weakest for the third position since June 2016. Traders said 5 percent black and broken grade 2 robusta was quoted at a discount of $50-$75 per tonne to the ICE March futures contract , compared to a discount of $65-$75 per tonne a week earlier.

Livestock farmers urged to join production links Vietnamnews 13th Dec 2017
Livestock farmers should join production links with co-operatives as well as processing and trading enterprises to sustain their livelihoods, experts said at a conference in Hà Nội yesterday. The conference, organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), sought measures to enhance production and consumption linkages in the livestock industry. Deputy head of the ministry’s Department of Livestock Production, Nguyễn Xuân Dương, said the concerted efforts made earlier this year to “save the pigs” as the prices of live pigs dropped to a record lows can only be a temporary measure.

Vietnam: 90 percent of farm products exported in raw form VietnamNet 13th Dec 2017
Though Vietnam is among the world’s top exporters of farming produces, 90 percent of the products are exported in the raw form with quality and value lower than many foreign rivals, said Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong in a recent meeting. Cuong voiced his concern at the International Support Policy (ISG) Plenary Meeting held by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Hanoi on December 11, focusing on the theme “Global Agricultural Value Chains: Promotion of Food Safety and Market Linkages”. Vietnam has remained among the world’s top 15 agricultural suppliers with products shipped to 180 countries and territories. The country’s export of agricultural, forestry and seafood products reached 32 billion USD in 2016 and is likely to hit 36 billion USD this year.

Food management a top concern vietnamnews.vn 12th Dec 2017
Despite natural disasters and market regression, in the past 11 months, Việt Nam’s total agriculture, forestry and aquaculture export turnover hit US$33.14 billion, though food management still has room for improvement. Vietnamese agricultural products have been exported to 180 countries and territories, with 2016’s export value $32 billion and the figure set to hit $36 billion this year, said Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyễn Xuân Cường at the International Support Group (ISG) Plenary Meeting 2017 yesterday.

National project seeks to improve coffee quality, develop premium brand VOV 11th Dec 2017
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has approved a five-year coffee industry development project, worth VND170 billion or US$7.48 million, to improve coffee quality, develop a premium Vietnamese brand and expand export markets. While Vietnam has been the world’s second largest coffee exporter for two decades, 90% of coffee exports were still in the raw form; and when it is sold at the international markets, it mostly comes under foreign names. In 2016, the country’s exports of coffee hit a record high of 1.78 million tonnes, generating turnover of US$3.34 billion, year-on-year increases of 32.8% in volume and 24.7% in value from 2015. Vietnamese coffee only accounted for one percent of the world’s total output in 1991; 25 years later, its market share reached approximately 20%.

Vietnam needs to enhance public investment in food safety: WB official Nhan Dan 11th Dec 2017
The WB expert made the suggestion at the International Support Group (ISG) Plenary Meeting 2017 in Hanoi on December 11, an annual meeting held by the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) to exchange experiences and policies on agricultural and rural development with international donors. Vietnam’s farm produce has been participating well in the global value chain, with many products registering high export values, such as coffee, pepper, seafood, and fruits and vegetables, Dione said. Hailing food safety as the toughest challenge currently facing Vietnam, he stated that the country still lacks standards and knowledge on food safety, while the capability of food safety testing laboratories remains limited and relevant supervision programmes have yet to work effectively. Although the number of ministries and sectors in charge of food safety management has already been cut to just three, overlaps remain in Vietnam’s legal documents concerning food safety management, the official shared.

Market pork, poultry test 100% positive for E.coli in Vietnam Tuoi Tre News 11th Dec 2017
A recent test by research institute the Pasteur Institute on poultry and pork samples taken from local markets revealed that 100 percent of the meat was contaminated with E. coli because of unhygienic conditions at marketplaces and slaughterhouses. Sixty-four percent of seafood samples also tested positive for the bacteria. E. coli, short for Escherichia coli, is a type of bacteria that normally lives in human intestines and is also found in the gut of some animals. According to doctors, most types of E. coli are harmless and even help to keep humans' digestive tract healthy, but some strains can cause diarrhea, pneumonia, breathing problems, urinary tract infection and even life-threatening symptoms such as acute kidney failure or seizures.

Global brewers line up bids for Vietnam's Sabeco sale: sources Tuoi Tre News 11th Dec 2017
Brewing groups including Thai Beverage, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Kirin Holdings are gearing up to bid for a stake in Vietnam’s largest brewer, Sabeco, people familiar with the matter said, with the $5 billion sale process by the government opening this week. The auction of up to 54 percent of Sabeco, in what is set to be Vietnam’s biggest privatisation, offers brewers access to a fast-growing market with a youthful population and beer drinking culture. Thai Bev, controlled by tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, is shaping up as a strong contender, the people said, as it is familiar with the Vietnam system and sees Sabeco as key to expanding outside its home market. “They have been around this situation for many years and are very keen to get this asset,” said one of the people, none of whom wanted to be named as they are not authorised to speak to the media.

Vinacas develops 1-million-tonne cashew material region in Cambodia VOV 11th Dec 2017
The Vietnamese cashew sector is working with Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Cambodian firms to develop a 1-million-tonne cashew material region in Cambodia. According to President of the Vietnam Cashew Association (Vinacas) Nguyen Duc Thanh, the association will help Cambodia cultivate 500,000 hectares of cashew, with all the output set to be bought by Vietnamese enterprises. Before 2014, Cambodia sold only 30% of its cashew nuts to Vietnam. But in the last two years, Vietnam has become the largest consumer of Cambodia’s cashew by buying more than 90% of exports, making Cambodia Vietnam’s fifth largest raw cashew supplier.

33 percent of farming cooperatives efficiently operate: Ministry VOV 11th Dec 2017
About 33% of agricultural cooperatives in Vietnam operate efficiently, mostly in horticulture, animal husbandry and aquaculture, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The effective cooperatives have developed on a scale suitable to their specialities and engaged in safe and high-tech farming production. They have also created links with other agribusinesses and organisations to expand production and distribution channels. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has developed high-tech farming cooperatives and linked them with agribusiness in tea, coffee, pepper, rice and shrimp in each of Vietnam’s regions.

Conference talks co-management in fishery resources protection VOV 11th Dec 2017
A national conference on co-management in protecting fishery resources between the State and community took place in the central province of Binh Thuan on December 9. Hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD)’s Directorate of Fisheries and the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the event was attended by authorities, representatives of the fisheries sectors and fishermen of cities and provinces from Quang Ninh to Ca Mau. It aimed to refine legal framework and boost coordination in co-management in fishery resources protection and to rally financial support to support local fishermen and protect the coastal eco-system.

NCDs increase due to excess salt intake vietnamnews.vn 3rd Jan 2018
The Vietnamese are eating a lot of salty food. However, many people refuse to accept that excess salt in one’s daily diet is not healthy and may cause several non communicable diseases (NCDs)) such as high blood pressure or heart diseases, participants heard at a workshop on Monday. Speaking at the event, National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) vice director Prof. Trương Tuyết Mai said fatalities caused by NCDs are increasing in Việt Nam.

Vietnam active in Zero Hunger Action Programme VOV Vietnam 3rd Jan 2018
Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung has asked for strict implementation of the Zero Hunger Action Programme of Vietnam by 2025 after it is approved by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

HCM City sets up groups to inspect food safety VOV - VOV Online Newspaper 3rd Jan 2018
The Food Safety Management Board of Ho Chi Minh City has established 12 groups to inspect food safety during the Lunar New Year and Spring Festival 2018 across the city. Head of the board Pham Khanh Phong Lan said the inspections will run from now to March 2018, focusing on examining highly-consumed food on Tet holiday such as confectionary, beverages and aquatic products.

Agricultural reform needed in Plain of Reeds region: experts vietnamnews.vn 2nd Jan 2018
The Đồng Tháp Mười (Plain of Reeds) area in the Mekong Delta, known for its agricultural prowess, is in need of major agricultural reform to reach its true potential, experts have said. Authorities in the Plain of Reeds region, which spans Long An, Tiền Giang and Đồng Tháp provinces, have been dealing with the effects of climate change and rising sea levels, including drought, floods and saltwater intrusion.

Fruit, vegetables become big foreign currency earner VOV - VOV Online Newspaper 2nd Jan 2018
Fruit and vegetables have surpassed traditional farm produce such as rice, rubber, tea, and cashew nuts to become a major foreign currency earner in the agricultural sector.

Seminar discusses supply chains for safe farm produce vietnamnews.vn 29th Dec 2017
Creating efficient supply chains for safe farm produce is essential to guarantee sales as well as ensure quantity and quality, delegates told a seminar in HCM City yesterday. There have been many programmes to connect agricultural co-operatives and businesses, with encouraging results, but there are hurdles to developing linkages between them, they said.

Vietnam provides training to help farmers professionalize - News VietNamNet VietNamNet 29th Dec 2017
Nguyen Thi Hoang Yen, deputy director of the Department of Co-operatives and Rural Development under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, speaks to the newspaper Nong thon Ngay nay (Countryside Today) about the work of training professional farmers in Vietnam.

Provinces spend big on new rural development VOV - VOV Online Newspaper 28th Dec 2017
Nearly VND5.2 trillion (US$229.3 million) will be spent on building new-style rural areas in the southern province of Ba Ria – Vung Tau in 2018-2020, heard a conference in the locality on December 26.

Food safety a focus ahead of Lunar New Year vietnamnews.vn 26th Dec 2017
Nguyễn Như Tiệp, director of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ Quality Management Department, speaks to the newspaper Nông thôn Ngày nay (Countryside Today) on measures to ensure food safety over the Lunar New Year festival

PM imposes ban on sale of soft drinks at schools VOV - VOV Online Newspaper 25th Dec 2017
The PM has asked the Ministries of Health, Education and Training, and Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs to implement the regulation in a bid to improve children’s health and height. The Ministry of Education and Training has been asked to raise the awareness of teachers and students on how to eat a healthy, balanced diet and ensure food hygiene and safety.