Food & Agriculture Update: March 1, 2019

Food & Agriculture Update | March 1, 2019
Authors: Sunita Kapoor, Hai Pham and David Mineo
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 
March 25 & April 10: ASEAN Safe, Nutritious Food PPP Initiative in Thailand and Vietnam
For more information, please contact Sunita Kapoor at skapoor@usasean.org
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam Embrace Agro-technology to Boost Productivity and Bolster Agricultural Sector
As the global demand for agricultural products increases in proportion with population growth, Southeast Asian countries—including Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam—are looking to introduce new and innovative technologies to increase the scale of output and ensure logistical efficiency. Taken together, these measures can be instrumental in creating healthy and efficient agriculture sectors and improve the livelihoods of agricultural workers.

In Malaysia, precision agriculture (PA), otherwise known as smart farming, has been advanced as a solution to improve and more tightly integrate the agricultural value chain. PA enables the agro-sector to maintain a competitive edge by optimizing inputs and utilizing technology—such as sensors, drones, and automaticity—in a way that leads to enhanced decision-making and greater productivity. Moreover, PA provides farmers with a means to obviate some of the challenges associated with traditional agriculture; more technologically integrative practices will lead to waste reduction, better coordination among farmers, greater consistency and improved quality of agro-products, and increased yield.

In the Philippines, Secretary of Agriculture Emmanuel F. Piñol has announced that the Department of Agriculture will establish a prototype farm at the Upland Agriculture Research Center in Dangcagan, Bukidnon. The corn farm will feature new farming technology such as fertigation—mixing soil and fertilizer with irrigation water—and solar-powered irrigation systems (SPIS) and will serve as a model for the nationwide adoption of agro-technology. Secretary Piñol is confident that SPIS will increase productivity and hopes to expand upon the 169 SPIS units that are currently in operation or under construction throughout the Philippines.

In Indonesia, agricultural coordination deputy of the Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister, Musdhalifah Machmud, has indicated that technology can provide a solution to ensuring stable food prices. Musdhalifah has noted that technology should be integrated into logistics and storage to not only guarantee higher food quality, but also prevent food waste and avoid costly preservation measures. Additionally, Musdhalifah has stated that adopting technology that can bolster the Ministry of agriculture’s information systems and enhance data collection would add value to agricultural products and help increase food prices.

Vietnam has also begun to integrate technology into agricultural production. According to Vietnam News, 70% of workers in the Mekong Delta work in the agricultural sector. This, coupled with its tech savvy population, has made Vietnam exceptionally well-suited and disposed toward adopting agro-technology. From blockchain to sensor technology, Vietnam has embraced digital farming as a means to increase output and efficiency. While visiting Ninh Binh province on February 11, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc praised the role that technology has played in the agricultural sector and called on the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Planning and Investment to support and draft policies that would promote the modernization of agriculture in Vietnam.

While agro-technology requires considerable investment, transition to more tech-based agricultural practices would prove a long-term cost-saving measure that will boost productivity and lead to a more robust agricultural economy. As governments around Southeast Asia prepare to modernize agriculture, they are searching for the means by which to facilitate this transition with increased investments and discovery of best practices.

Government of Indonesia to Make Halal Labeling for Consumer Products and Services Compulsory
The Government of Indonesia is preparing to make halal labeling for consumer products and services compulsory, pursuant to the Halal Law passed in 2014. Under the provisions of the regulation, the Halal Product Guarantee Agency (BPJPH) will assume greater responsibilities in the halal certification process, which in the past has fallen under the exclusive purview of the Islamic Ulema Council (MUI).

On January 17, the Council in coordination with other trade associations met with the Office of the Vice President; Head of BPJPH; BPJPH’s Head of Registration and Certification; BPJPH’s Head of Legal Division; and Head of Regulation Drafting from Indonesia’s Ministry of Religious Affairs to further clarify the status of the halal implementing regulation. We learned that the proposed time frame for the implementation of halal requirement on food and beverages is five years starting October 17, 2019; and seven years for products other than food and beverages starting October 17, 2019. Products that are not certified halal by October 17, 2019 will still be able to be distributed if such products have valid distribution permit. By the end of the five-year and seven-year grace period, all relevant products are required to be compliant. We also learned from the meeting that pharmaceutical products will be regulation separately. It is currently still unclear when the implementing regulation to the 2014 Halal Law will be issued; however it is most likely going to be tied to three other ministerial regulations considering the breadth of scope it covers.

The BPJPH was inaugurated in 2017 in order to transition from a previous opt-in halal certification regime to mandatory labeling. Under the new arrangement, BPJPH will work in consultation with MUI and auditors of a halal inspection agency to ensure greater oversight of and transparency in the certification process. According to BPJPH Director General Sukoso, mandatory halal certification will cover goods and services related to food and beverages in addition to all consumer goods. Once President Joko Widodo approves the draft regulation, implementation is expected to transpire over three to five years, depending on the type of product to be certified.

The certification overhaul is expected to generate an additional Rp22.5 trillion (approximately US$1.6 billion USD). Indonesia’s burgeoning Shariah economy has been projected to reach US$427 billion USD by 2022, with halal food products expected to contribute to around half that figure. This trend has been reflected in the doubling of halal certifications in 2018 to 17,398. BPJPH hopes to transform Indonesia into a global leader in halal certification. In the future, it aims to expand halal certification beyond food and services and to issue at least 100,000 certificates in 2020. There are currently around 300,000 halal-certified food products in Indonesia as of January 2019. The growth in the halal food sector dovetails with the government’s strategy to transform Indonesia into global leader in halal certification.

Singapore’s Budget 2019 Allocates More Than S$90 Million to Agri-Food Tech Startups
Among the items mentioned during Singapore Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat's reading of Budget 2019 in Parliament on February 18 was Singapore’s plans to invest in the agro-industry—particularly tech startups—to capitalize on the global demand for high-quality food. The government’s agro-investment plan was previously disclosed to the public on January 15, when Singapore’s Ministry of Communication and Information released a media statement noting that SEEDS Capital, the investment arm of Enterprise Singapore, had appointed seven partners to co-invest more than S$90 million in agri-food tech startups. In the statement, Mr. Ted Tan, the Chairman of SEEDS Capital and Deputy Chief Executive of Enterprise Singapore, underscored the importance of agri-tech in transforming Singapore into a regional food and nutrition hub, emphasizing that these investments would also help Singapore reduce its reliance on food imports.

The SEED Capital co-investments compliment the government’s larger initiative to facilitate the development and expansion of local businesses—a key pillar of Budget 2019 to which Minister Heng has pledged S$1 billion. Enterprise Singapore, which was inaugurated in April 2018, is a government agency tasked with supporting budding enterprises—in part through capacity building, fostering innovation, and internationalization—to contribute to enterprise growth and industry transformation. In the case of Singapore’s agro-industry agenda and in the spirit of Enterprise Singapore’s mission statement, the SEEDS Capital co-investments will be allocated toward developing disruptive food and agri-technologies solutions. Going forward, it is apparent that the government of Singapore is prepared to sponsor greater public-private cooperation to support the development of its agricultural sector and to maximize self-sufficiency. Though the transformation is likely to take years to transpire, members should be prepared to adapt their marketing strategies to accommodate this transition and remain competitive.

Thailand Prime Minister Prayut States He Is Not Opposed to Delaying Ban on Agrochemicals
In a Cabinet meeting statement on February 18, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha declared that he is not opposed to the Hazardous Substance Committee’s decision on February 14 to delay a ban on the agrochemical paraquat. Since its announcement, the 29-member committee has faced opposition from over 600 civic groups as well as the Public Health Ministry. The civic groups have mounted a campaign imploring the committee to review its decision and to also place a ban on the agrochemicals glyphosate and chlorpyrifos. Prime Minister Prayut explained that while the government agrees that toxic substances should not be used in farming, it must not interfere with the committee’s inviolable decision. In what appears to be an effort to satisfy both businesses and civic groups, Prime Minister Prayut stated that the government will work to reduce and phase out the three chemicals, a call echoing a statement made by Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Grisada Boonrach, on February 15. Minister Grisada also indicated that the ban could be implemented within two years, pending the discovery of alternatives to the agrochemicals. These plans coincide with the government initiative to promote organic farming in Thailand.

 
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Brunei
Youth urged to look at agriculture as important career option
Temburong visit bolsters students’ skills in agricultural entrepreneurship

Cambodia
Cambodia’s agriculture sector urged to source own raw materials

Indonesia
Indonesia Moves to Establish Fishing Zone Near South China Sea
Tech key to maintaining staple food prices
Indonesia sees $1.6bn gain from halal labelling rule
Indonesia invites Japanese firms to invest in fish shipment
Tough policing is restoring Indonesia’s fisheries

Laos
Hongsa Farmers Trained On Melon Processing

Malaysia
State govts told to amend rules on releasing fish into rivers
Diversifying agriculture industry
A digital solution towards data-driven agriculture in Malaysia
MARDI focused on future of farming technology
Govt mulls granting nafas tender for supply of padi fertilisers

Myanmar
FAO assists Myanmar to improve food security
With 'on-the-go' loans and tech, social firm boosts Myanmar farmers

Philippines
Philippines targets $90 million export sales from world’s biggest food fair
Swine fever import bans not easing pork oversupply; total ban needed — growers | BusinessWorld
Solon pushes transparency in implementation of rice tariffication law
D.A. chief urges technology shift to raise farmers’ yield
Corn growers call new rice policy unrealistic
LANDBANK loans to agribusiness rise 83% in 2018 | BusinessWorld
Bill protecting agri reform beneficiaries hurdles committee
PRDP targets 30% farm income gains
Palace rejects farmers’ call for rice tariffication veto | BusinessWorld
Economic cluster calls for greater focus on agri
Agropolis
Agri sector devt to temper inflation – think tank

Singapore
Illegal fishing during closed season detected in Visayan Sea — NGO | BusinessWorld
New centres of innovation for food and energy
Singapore Budget 2019: New aquaculture centre to work on improving Singapore's food resilience
New agency to be formed to oversee Singapore’s food safety, security

Thailand
No drought this year, says irrigation dept
Forest Act to be amended to encourage felling and growing of rare trees
PM 'not opposed' to paraquat ban delay
BAAC helps farmers meet food safety standards
Assembly retreats on rice bill
Bill on protection of fishing crew sails through, despite protests from operators
Health Ministry vows to curb use of dangerous agrochemicals
Farms to get B12bn for upgrade
Farmer aid scheme topped up with B5bn
Spraying water, burning bans to combat toxic dust in Khon Kaen
Ruling on 3 farm chemicals edges closer
India seen as food export destination

Vietnam
VN carries out new food safety measures in agricultural sector
Bình Phước enters pepper harvest season, plagued by labour shortage
Vietnamese mangoes to be exported to US
Fisheries industry sets export target of $10 billion
Pepper output to reach 200,000 tonnes this year
Provinces to boost shark catfish trade
Mekong Delta farmers embrace new technology
PM urges New Year festival inspections
PM calls for application of technology in agricultural production
Agri-tourism attracts more visitors to Mekong Delta
Local dairy industry will have to compete with foreign brands under CPTPP
Việt Nam to see $2.4b in tra fish exports this year
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Brunei

Youth urged to look at agriculture as important career option Borneo Bulletin 19th Feb 2019
AMIDST the present challenging era, the country’s youth need to look at agriculture as a field where there is an opportunity to forge careers as important as those in other sectors. Doing so can not only benefit the economy but also support His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s aspiration to see more young locals venture into the field and make the country’s economy more dynamic and less dependent on oil and gas. These points were underscored by Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports Datin Paduka Dr Hajah Norlila binti Dato Paduka Haji Abdul Jalil while officiating the launch ceremony for the new Agriculture and Farming Exposure Course for Young Farmers at the Youth Development Centre in Tanah Jambu. “I believe that in order to attract the interest of youth to choose agriculture as one of the main careers is not easy,” she said. “This needs a paradigm shift among the youth, so that they can see the true potential of the industry in [boosting] not only the country’s economy but also the youth economy.”

Temburong visit bolsters students’ skills in agricultural entrepreneurship Borneo Bulletin 10th Feb 2019
THE Core Knowledge Centre of Religious Teachers University College of Seri Begawan (KUPU SB) held an agricultural visit project under the Self-Potential Development in Co-Curriculum Programme which included a two-day visit to the Temburong District recently. The visit was undertaken by 62 KUPU SB students under Agriculture and Photography and Multimedia, led by Assistant Lecturer of Core Knowledge Centre Ustaz Haji Mohammad Shahrul Azmi bin Haji Abdul Muluk and Assistant Registrar of KUPU SB Ustazah Amshahnoorwadi binti Haji Yakub. The project was part of an initiative to encourage and improvise the students’ skills in agricultural entrepreneurship, in line with the desire of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

Cambodia

Cambodia’s agriculture sector urged to source own raw materials The Cambodia Daily 5th Feb 2019
Agricultural sector insiders said relying on neighbouring markets to source raw materials for Cambodia’s agriculture products is a short-term strategy that needs to be managed. During a discussion last week with Vietnamese Ambassador to Cambodia Vu Quang Minh, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon asked the country’s help to buy paddy from Cambodian farmers in line with market prices in Vietnam. Following the discussion, Vietnam said it will hold an emergency meeting with relevant businessmen and then submit a detailed report to the Vietnamese Prime Minister to encourage them to buy paddy from Cambodia at a reasonable price.

Indonesia

Indonesia Moves to Establish Fishing Zone Near South China Sea Radio Free Asia 26th Feb 2019
Indonesia is pushing ahead with plans to develop a fishing zone on the edge of the South China Sea, a senior official said Tuesday, as the country seeks to assert sovereignty amid claims of overlapping rights by China. The government plans to construct the Integrated Marine and Fisheries Center, which would include a cold storage facility that has been in development for two years on the Natuna Islands, Maritime Affairs Coordinating Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said. The island-chain lies in the far southern reaches of the South China Sea. “We are studying details of how the port and other facilities will be built,” Luhut told reporters on Tuesday.

Tech key to maintaining staple food prices The Jakarta Post 20th Feb 2019
Food prices, which are vulnerable to inflation and import policies, are becoming a hot issue as the nation gears up for the presidential and legislative elections. The opposition camp has used food price hikes to attack government policies. Food price hikes sometimes, however, have nothing to do with government policy. According to the Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister, seasonal food price hikes remain a problem even though there is sufficient stock of staple food. The office's food and agricultural coordination deputy Musdhalifah Machmud said it was because prices tend to increase during the dry season from October to January when food stock is usually low.

Indonesia sees $1.6bn gain from halal labelling rule Gulf-Times 19th Feb 2019
Indonesia is set to make halal labelling mandatory for consumer products and services this year with the government assuming greater control of the certifying process from the Muslim-majority nation’s Islamic cleric council. Issuing halal certificates to consumer goods from shampoos to toothpaste and cosmetics may net the government about 22.5tn rupiah ($1.6bn) in annual revenue, said Sukoso, head of the Halal Product Guarantee Agency, known as BPJPH. The draft regulation on mandatory halal labelling is awaiting President Joko Widodo’s approval, he said.

Indonesia invites Japanese firms to invest in fish shipment Jakarta Post 14th Feb 2019
The government has invited Japanese companies to invest in fish shipment and cold storage services to take advantage of Indonesia’s growing fish production, especially in the eastern part of the country. The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry held a meeting recently with 13 Japanese companies, including trading company Hanwa, temperature-controlled logistics company Nichirei Logistics Group and logistics transport provider PT Seino Indomobil Logistics Services.

Tough policing is restoring Indonesia’s fisheries China dialogue 12th Feb 2019
When Susi Pudjiastuti became minister of fisheries and maritime affairs in 2014, she began dramatically curbing this practice of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. A report last year found a more than 80% drop in foreign vessels fishing in Indonesian waters, as well as evidence of increased catches by Indonesian fishermen. “Before this paper, the ministry [of fisheries] would say their anti-IUU policy was having an effect, and would throw in numbers, but there was no hard evidence,” said Reniel B Cabral, a lead author of the report, from the University of California, Santa Barbara. “We used independent data … to show that there really is an effect, and gave confidence to Indonesia that [their policy] was working.”

Laos

Hongsa Farmers Trained On Melon Processing KPL Lao News Agency 6th Feb 2019
Farmers in Hongsa district, Xaaboury Province have attended a training course to learn how to process fruits. Held at Nakenkham village, Hongsa district, Xayaboury Province on 3-5 Feb, the training was conducted by professors from the Mongkhonlanna Technology University of Thailand. The trainees were members of the Hongsa Agricultural Producers’ Association. They were taught how to make different products from melons such as melon juice, dried melon slices, and melon jams so that they can have more products available in local and export markets.

Malaysia

State govts told to amend rules on releasing fish into rivers New Straits Times 23rd Feb 2019
The Fisheries Department (DoF) has recommended all state governments to amend Kaedah-Kaedah Perikanan (Fishing methods) to prevent the public from releasing alien fish into public waters. Agriculture and Agro-based Minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub said such exotic fish was released or dumped into rivers or lakes by the public. “At the moment, we do not have a rule that prevents the member of public from releasing fish into the river. “We have asked the state government to include a new clause in the state river rules to prevent the public from releasing prohibited species into public waters. “If they want to release fish in the river, they will need to refer to the respective state DoF. Should they fail to obtain permission, they must adhere to the directive,” he told reporters after launching of DoF excellence programme at Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS) today.

Diversifying agriculture industry The Star 15th Feb 2019
The Farmers’ Organisation Authority (LPP) plans to develop a large-scale coconut plantation in Johor as part of the government’s plan to help farmers cope with the fluctuating price of crude palm oil (CPO). Its chairman Datuk Mazlan Aliman said LPP has yet to identify the exact location for the coconut plantation but was looking at areas in Pengerang and Kota Tinggi “We will send a formal request to the Johor agriculture department to look for the budget to plant Matag and Pandan-type coconuts at the area. “It is still in the planning stages but we foresee it happening in the near future,” he said during a handing-over ceremony of a cold-truck to Kota Tinggi district LPP. He added that the move to plant coconuts was to help farmers cope with the fluctuations in the CPO price and to diversify the agricultural industry here. There are about 650,000 oil palm smallholders and farmers whose earnings have been badly affected by the drop in CPO prices over the past year.

A digital solution towards data-driven agriculture in Malaysia Digital News Asia 8th Feb 2019
THE world population is expected to grow from seven billion to 9.6 billion by 2050. We would require 70% more food than what we produce now with the same or less natural resources like land and water due to urbanisation, soil erosion, climatic changes, water shortages and excessive use by livestock. Agriculture is at the heart of our daily lives. We need farm lands to survive. It contributed 8.2% to the national GDP in 2017 and provides employment for 28 % of the population. The agricultural value chain is very complex and inefficient, burdened with almost 33% wastage due to poor logistics and storage, exorbitant lending rates and poor insurance coverage. Farmers who toil the most continue to remain poor, being at the bottom of the value chain while the middlemen continue to make the most significant profits. So, what does the future hold for agriculture? How do we feed the exploding world population while simultaneously providing employment opportunities and improving our country’s economy? How do we enhance the quality of life of the farmers? Precision agriculture could just be the answer.

MARDI focused on future of farming technology Bernama 6th Feb 2019
The Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) is optimistic about its expansion into modern farming technology through the growth of plant factories this year, its director-general, Datuk Dr Mohamad Roff Mohamad Noor, told Bernama recently. He said MARDI is committed to developing the technology to make it easier for young farmers so that they won’t have to rely on conventional farming methods. "By 2050, many farmers will be aged. This technology can help young farmers produce quality crops that do not require much land and is monitored automatically," he said at MARDI headquarters.

Govt mulls granting nafas tender for supply of padi fertilisers Bernama 4th Feb 2019
The government is considering granting the National Farmers Organisation’s (NAFAS) fertiliser factory, Malaysian NPK Fertiliser Sdn Bhd (MNFSB), the tender to supply padi fertilisers directly under the padi fertiliser subsidy scheme. Deputy finance minister Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah said though the award of tenders via the open tender system was the general policy under the Pakatan Harapan government, the government would also consider certain aspects of each tender. “But that being said, it does not mean that there is no possibility of direct negotiations or a system for direct awards to suppliers, service providers or product suppliers.

Myanmar

FAO assists Myanmar to improve food security vietnamplus.vn 20th Feb 2019
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Myanmar government have signed a multi-year framework agreement to improve nutrition and food security in the country while safeguarding and sustainably managing the use of natural resources.

With 'on-the-go' loans and tech, social firm boosts Myanmar farmers Reuters 12th Feb 2019
A social venture in Myanmar is boosting farm outputs with customised technologies and giving loans for seasonal migration to raise incomes in one of the world’s poorest countries. Proximity Designs, which was set up in 2004 in the country’s commercial hub Yangon, focuses on farming, on which more than two-thirds of the population relies to make a living. The ethical business gives farming advice, custom-designed irrigation products and loans for crops, livestock and migration to about 200,000 clients in the Southeast Asian nation. “It’s about improving access of smallholder farmers to knowledge, technology and capital,” said Ben Warren, head of strategy and finance at Proximity.

Philippines

Philippines targets $90 million export sales from world’s biggest food fair Philippines Star 22nd Feb 2019
The Philippines aims to generate $90 million in export sales from its participation in the world’s largest food and beverage trade show, Gulfood, being held in the United Arab Emirates, the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) said. In a statement, the Department of Trade and Industry’s export promotion arm said the 25-company Philippine delegation targets at least $90 million worth of export deals and meet a minimum of 1,300 buyers during the five-day event which ended yesterday (Feb. 21) at the Sheikh Rashid Hall, Dubai World Trade Center. This year’s target is higher than the $89.7 million worth of sales generated by the Philippine delegation last year from best-selling products including coconut, rice, mangoes, canned fruits, canned seafood and fermented marine products. CITEM executive director Pauline Suaco-Juan said the participation in Gulfood would enable Philippine food brands to get a bigger market share in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region.

Swine fever import bans not easing pork oversupply; total ban needed — growers | BusinessWorld Business World 20th Feb 2019
HOG raisers said the industry remains beset by oversupply and low prices despite bans on imports from some countries due to African Swine Fever (ASF). “Supposedly (ASF) is an opportunity but not in our case. Since September last year, we have had a buffer stock of two months’ domestic local produce plus the imported meat that came in during the third quarter last year,” National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc (NFHFI) Chairman and President Chester Warren Y. Tan said in a text message to BusinessWorld on Wednesday.

Solon pushes transparency in implementation of rice tariffication law BusinessMirror 20th Feb 2019
A lawmaker on Tuesday called for full transparency in the implementation of Rice Tariffication Act, or Republic Act (RA) 11203, by disclosing the identities of all rice importers. Deputy Majority Leader Ron Salo of Kabayan party-list, a principal author of the new law, asked the Departments of Finance (DOF) and Agriculture to fully disclose the identities of each and every rice importer under the new system.

D.A. chief urges technology shift to raise farmers’ yield BusinessMirror 20th Feb 2019
The use of modern farming technology, such as fertigation and solar-powered irrigation system (SPIS), could allow farmers to double their produce and earn more profits, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said. Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said the agency is set to commission a 10-hectare corn demonstration farm that uses fertigation and drip irrigation technology that uses SPIS in Dangcagan, Bukidnon, next month.

Corn growers call new rice policy unrealistic Business World 18th Feb 2019
THE Philippine Maize Federation (PhilMaize) said the abandonment of the policy goal of rice-self-sufficiency does not reflect reality, with Filipinos still favoring rice over other staple carbohydrates. “This does not reflect what is on the ground. We are a nation that mostly eats rice and a little bit of corn,” PhilMaize President Roger V. Navarro said in a statement over the weekend, suggesting that advocates of more liberal rice imports are conducting theoretical exercises in mapping out agricultural policy. “(Budget) Secretary (Benjamin E.) Diokno should calibrate his pronouncements (when he sits at his) table planning for us in the field. They don’t even know if their words inspire or hurt farmers’ feelings,” Mr. Navarro added. The rice tariffication bill was signed into law by President Rodrigo R. Duterte last week. This will allow more liberal rice imports by the private sector, with the shipments to be charged tariffs which will help finance a rice industry competitiveness fund while bringing rice prices down for consumers. Mr. Navarro said if rice exporting countries decide not to sell their produce, it could ultimately lead higher prices. “We cannot abandon growing in favor of importing it. [In] 2007 to 2008, our country had money to buy rice but exporting countries refused to sell, then prices went to the ceiling. We don’t want a repeat,” Mr. Navarro said. On Thursday, a day prior to Mr. Duterte signing the bill, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said that relying heavily on imports will kill the rice industry. “Ten years from now, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Pakistan and India will no longer be able to export the same volume of rice that they ship out today. They have to feed their growing population as well,” Mr. Piñol said. “This is a shortsighted view which will kill the rice industry and drive away farmers from the rice fields. The next generation of Filipinos will surely curse us for this misjudgment prompted by a myopic view which focuses on fleeting and changing economic numbers,” according to Mr. Piñol. The rice tariffication bill also removed the importation role of the National Food Authority. The NFA approved last year rice imports of 750,000 MT, auctioned off to private companies and to the governments of Thailand and Vietnam. This volume turned out to be the last of the NFA-supervised rice imports. The last tranche of the imports — equivalent to 500,000 MT — is now 88.79% complete with 443,943.60 MT having arrived in the country as of Feb. 15. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio

LANDBANK loans to agribusiness rise 83% in 2018 | BusinessWorld Business World 11th Feb 2019
THE Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) said lending to agribusiness entities rose 83% in 2018, which supported the rapid expansion of its loan book. In a statement, the state-owned bank said lending to small farmers and fisherfolk as well as micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) also helped the bank’s total loans to grow by a third in 2018. Gross regular loans ended at P799.2 billion last year to post the strongest increase since 2009.

Bill protecting agri reform beneficiaries hurdles committee Business World 11th Feb 2019
A BILL protecting the rights of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) entering into Agribusiness Venture Arrangements (AVA) has hurdled the House Committee on Agrarian Reform. House Bill No. 9060, or the “Agribusiness Ventures Arrangements in Agrarian Reform Lands Act,” has been recommended by the panel to the Rules Committee for plenary action. The measure is intended to ensure that “control over the lands awarded under the agrarian reform program shall remain always with the agrarian reform beneficiaries.” This is to address the issue of landowners losing control and access after the takeover of their land’s management by agribusiness partners. An AVA is an entrepreneurial collaboration between ARBs and private investors, such as growership, contract growing, marketing contracts, service contracts, build-operate-transfer, joint venture agreements and lease agreements.

PRDP targets 30% farm income gains Business World 11th Feb 2019
DAVAO CITY — The Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) is targeting a 30% increase in income for its beneficiaries before the end of its sixth year of implementation in 2020. The World Bank-funded project, with the Department of Agriculture as main implementing agency, has so far monitored a 15% income improvement since the launch in 2014, particularly among the “beneficiaries of the farm-to-market road projects,” the PRDP said in a statement, citing a December 2018 report. For beneficiaries of agri-enterprise projects, the increase is even higher at around 30%. The farmers who directly bring their produce to the market and have benefitted from the improved access, totalling about 700,000, saw a 15% rise from the average baseline annual income of P53,311 per household when the project started in 2014. “For the first time in decades, we can finally transport our crops with ease and without delay. We are inspired to improve farming and expand our farms,” Clemente Pontejos, a farmer in Damulog, Bukidnon, was quoted as saying in the PRDP statement.

Palace rejects farmers’ call for rice tariffication veto | BusinessWorld Business World 8th Feb 2019
OVER the opposition of farmers’ groups to rice tariffication, Malacañang on Thursday said President Rodrigo R. Duterte will not veto the measure, with his signature “forthcoming.” In a briefing on Thursday, the President’s spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said a farmers’ group had met with Mr. Duterte last Wednesday night regarding the Rice Tariffication Bill.

Economic cluster calls for greater focus on agri The Inquirer 7th Feb 2019
Economic managers are calling on the Department of Agriculture (DA) to boost the farm sector’s performance as the administration continued to work on tempering inflation, noting that the industry “needs greater attention now more than ever” if the government wants to boost economic growth. The call was made in a statement released by the government’s economic cluster after the report on the January inflation rate came out. Inflation on the first month of the year hit 4.4 percent, the slowest in 10 months, thanks to slower rise in the prices of food and nonalcoholic beverages and the continued improvement in the supply of food, particularly rice, corn and fish. Despite these developments, members of the National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Finance and the Department of Budget and Management said the DA must “facilitate a comprehensive crop management system to align farming activities with the prevailing supply-demand condition and weather pattern.”

Agropolis The Manila Times 7th Feb 2019
“MANY Filipinos suffer from lack of food or poor diets despite rising food availability because of inadequate access to food due to high poverty and low income…” (World Food Program). Worsening climate conditions contribute to surges in food prices as agricultural lands are devastated, and farmers are forced to salvage any marketable produce they have. This year, the United Nations ranked the Philippines as the 13th most populous country in the world. These data offer a snapshot of how our country is faring — it is one of the fastest urbanizing countries and because of high food prices, many Filipino do not have enough means or are barely meeting the most basic of needs — proper nutrition. As urban populations grow, so does the demand for sustainable and resilient food supply systems. Instead of solely relying on rural regions to supply food for the city, an agropolis makes a city self-sustaining because it integrates agricultural farms into the urban setting. Derived from “agros,” meaning farm, and “polis,” meaning city, an agropolis places the food source in the city itself or in nearby cities or towns. In other countries, the agropolitan approach is applied as urban farming. Argentina is known for its estancias or ranches that feature orchards, gardens and barns for livestock. Bordeaux’s famous vineyards made France the best producer of wine in the world. Elsewhere, urban rooftops are sprouting everywhere, most especially in the busiest cities. The world’s largest is a 7.5-hectare rooftop greenhouse in Chicago that produces fresh vegetables equivalent to the yield of a 20-hectare farm. In New York, urban agriculture has been taking over in backyards, rooftops and community gardens as many residents are experiencing its countless benefits. By 2020, the city of Paris aims to cover its roofs and walls with 99 hectares of vegetation, one-third of which is dedicated to urban farming. Even though Singapore is the greenest city in Asia, most of its fresh vegetables and fruits are imported from neighboring countries, so the country is raising its efforts in promoting sustainable urban farming to increase their food resiliency.

Agri sector devt to temper inflation – think tank The Manila Times 6th Feb 2019
Agricultural development should be prioritized by the Duterte government to keep inflation low, a think tank said. “[L]ow agricultural productivity and anemic agricultural growth will increase the risk of a return of high inflation and will drag down the economy as it has in 2018,” the Foundation for Economic Freedom said in a statement. Agricultural production grew by only 0.56 percent in 2018, below the government’s 4-percent target and 2017’s record 3.95 percent. The Department of Agriculture has blamed crop damage due to a series of typhoons but the FEF said that the Philippines’ neighbors had posted healthy growth rates despite similar weather disturbances. The group added that poverty in rural areas would remain a problem if agriculture sector development was not pursued.

Singapore

Illegal fishing during closed season detected in Visayan Sea — NGO | BusinessWorld Business World 20th Feb 2019
ENVIRONMENT protection group Oceana Philippines said that it detected illegal fishing activity in the Visayan Sea during the three-month closed fishing season between November and February. According to Oceana Philippines, it deployed a Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) system which detected such activity in the municipalities of Carles, Concepcion, Barotac Viejo, and Aruy, and Cadiz City, Negros Occidental; and in Madridejos and Bantayan in Cebu. The Visayan Sea is encompassed by Masbate in the north and Leyte, Cebu, Negros and Panay to the south.

New centres of innovation for food and energy The Straits Times 19th Feb 2019
A centre of innovation focusing on food resilience and another on industry-led innovation in the energy sector will be opened here as part of efforts to cement Singapore's position as the Global-Asia node of technology, innovation and enterprise, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday. He added that the Government will also prepare and develop people here to take advantage of the opportunities. The Centre of Innovation in Aquaculture at Temasek Polytechnic will bring together high-tech marine farms in Singapore to improve the country's food resilience.

Singapore Budget 2019: New aquaculture centre to work on improving Singapore's food resilience The Straits Times 18th Feb 2019
“In the digital age, we still need food, not just bits and bytes,” Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in his Budget speech on Monday (Jan 18), adding that the agriculture and food production sectors are transforming to meet this need. A new Centre of Innovation in Aquaculture at Temasek Polytechnic will work on promoting aquaculture (high-tech marine farming) and will be funded to find ways to improve Singapore’s food resilience, said Mr Heng.

New agency to be formed to oversee Singapore’s food safety, security Channel NewsAsia 12th Feb 2019
A new agency to oversee food-related issues will be formed under new laws passed in Parliament on Tuesday (Feb 12). The Singapore Food Agency (SFA), which is set to be formed on Apr 1 and come under the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, will consolidate the regulatory oversight of food safety and security, which are currently divided among three public agencies. These are the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Health Sciences Authority (HSA). All three work together to oversee the food supply chain — from import, local production, manufacturing to retail. Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli, in presenting the Bill for a second reading in Parliament, said Singapore will not be the first to adopt such a “farm-to-fork model” and the Government has studied other countries where a single agency is responsible for food safety along the entire food supply chain.

Thailand

No drought this year, says irrigation dept The Nation 20th Feb 2019
THE ROYAL Irrigation Department (RID) announced yesterday that Thailand will not suffer from drought this year as there will be enough water for use until early 2020.  Deputy director-general Thaweesak Thanadachopol said an official survey in irrigation zones had learned that there will be sufficient water supply for consumption and farming.  Thailand will not experience a repeat of recent drought disasters because the RID and related agencies had undertaken a detailed study of water usage over the past two years and are planning drought-tackling measures to cope with any problems that arise, he added.  However, the senior RID official said that six key reservoirs were still being monitored, namely Khon Kaen’s Ubol Ratana Dam, Lampang’s Mae Mok Dam, Uthai Thani’s Thap Salao Dam, Suphan Buri’s Krasiao Dam, Nakhon Ratchasima’s Lam Phra Phloeng Dam and Buri Ram’s Lam Nang Rong Dam.  Operators of the Ubol Ratana and Mae Mok dams also imposed a ban on all farming in those areas, in order to reserve water during the current dry season, which runs until the end of April, to ensure there is sufficient water for consumption, Thaweesak said.

Forest Act to be amended to encourage felling and growing of rare trees The Nation 20th Feb 2019
FThe amendment to the 1941 Forest Act will legalise the felling of 158 “reserved” species, including teak, para-rubber, chingchan (Burmese rosewood) and phayung (Siamese rosewood), along with another 13 “rare” species.  Athapol Charoenchansa, director-general of the Royal Forest Department (RFD), said on Sunday that the amendment had cleared all major hurdles and will be published in the Royal Gazette by March or April. Once the law is enforced, some 10 landowners will receive official pardons after being prosecuted for felling such trees on their land. This amendment will also be applied to the felling of trees on plots with a full-ownership title (chanote), a confirmed right of possession (Nor Sor 3) or a notification of land possession (Sor Kor 1). He added that Article 7, which subjects precious trees to state regulation despite logging activities on private land, has been removed as it proved to be an obstacle to logging business and obsolete in the current situation.  With this amendment in place, people will be encouraged to grow rare trees and either fell them or use them as collateral to secure a bank loan without having to seek permission from the authorities, he added.

PM 'not opposed' to paraquat ban delay Bangkok Post 19th Feb 2019
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said that he is not opposed to the Hazardous Substance Committee's decision to delay the ban on paraquat, but stressed that the decision must be properly explained to calm the public uproar. Gen Prayut made the comment Monday, after 686 civic groups pledged to pressure the 29-member committee into reviewing their decision by bringing the issue to the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Administrative Court. Civic groups mounted a fierce campaign after the committee on Thursday decided to allow the continued use of three toxic herbicides -- paraquat, glyphosate, and chlorpyrifos -- despite repeated calls from consumer groups and the Public Health Ministry to impose a total ban. Gen Prayut said that the government agrees with the campaigners' stance that the hazardous substances must not be used in farming, but added that it cannot intervene with the committee's decision.

BAAC helps farmers meet food safety standards The Nation 18th Feb 2019
The previous drive for organic farming had failed because consumers were not well-informed about food safety, he said, adding that as a remedy the BAAC had been working with government agencies issuing certification for food products. Farmers are advised to obtain GAP (good agricultural practice) certificates to ensure that there were no pesticide residues in their products. “BAAC Go Green” is our policy this year, he said. It will take three years for farmers who have adopted the organic farming method to qualify for organic agriculture certification in Thailand, he said.  The BAAC has been working with 315 communities to produce high-quality farm products, some of which have opted for organic farming. High-quality products could command higher prices and the bank is negotiating with major supermarkets and convenience-store chains, such as Big C and 7-Eleven, to market the farm products, Apirom said.

Assembly retreats on rice bill Bangkok Post 16th Feb 2019
A National Legislative Assembly (NLA) committee has backed down on revising a controversial rice bill following fierce public resistance. Meanwhile, a Deputy Commerce Minister also slammed the committee for rushing the bill without proper consideration. Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Grisada Boonrach said yesterday that the committee has removed a controversial section of the bill based on the recommendation of the ministry. Section 27 prohibits the trade of rice seeds which are not approved under requirements set by the bill. Violators are liable to a jail term of one year and/ or a fine of up to 100,000 baht. Critics said that the section was designed to benefit large-scale commercial rice producers.

Bill on protection of fishing crew sails through, despite protests from operators The Nation 15th Feb 2019
NLA members voted unanimously to endorse the Bill on Labour Protection in the Fisheries Sector, which the government said would bring the conditions on fishing vessels up to par with the C188 Work in Fishing Convention.  The new law will apply to large commercial vessels, not small fishermen.  Only fishing vessels that go out to sea for more than three days at a time and exceed 26.5 metres in length, or those that venture beyond Thai waters for three days will be subject to the law.  The bill requires owners to ensure accommodation, food, safety, welfare and work conditions on their boats are in line with seven related laws, including the fisheries law, labour relations law and compensation law. Thailand ratified the C188 earlier this month. Unrealistic demands Many fishing operators have been protesting over the past few years against the ratification of C188, claiming that its requirements are too strict and unrealistic.

Health Ministry vows to curb use of dangerous agrochemicals The Nation 15th Feb 2019
The Public Health Ministry will do everything within its power to discourage the use of three dangerous agrochemicals, following a ruling that paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyfiros will be allowed in Thailand for at least two more years. A day after the Hazardous Substance Committee (HSC) passed a resolution permitting the use of the hazardous farm chemicals, Public Health Minister Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, said: “We respect the HSC’s decision but we will do what we can to curb the use of these substances.” He said the ministry will step up campaigns that all hospitals use only chemical-free vegetables for patient meals. “We will also seek to boost public awareness of the dangers of tainted crops,” Piyasakol said. “We will try to make clear to farmers that organic produce is in high demand too.” The Public Health Ministry has called for a ban on the dangerous agrochemicals since 2017. Several organisations have also urged a halt to their use, pointing to research that shows paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyfiros are a health hazard.

Farms to get B12bn for upgrade Bangkok Post 15th Feb 2019
The government pledges to splurge a combined 12 billion baht to finance farm sector reform in fiscal 2020, focusing largely on the megafarm scheme in which the government procures machinery and agricultural equipment for farmers who group together to cut production costs and raise productivity. The fiscal 2020 budget is the first year in which state agencies are required to conduct a budgeting plan on an agenda basis jointly operated by seven ministries comprising agriculture and agricultural cooperatives, commerce, industry, science and technology, public health, interior, and finance. Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who yesterday chaired a joint meeting with the seven ministries to carry out the farm sector reform in the fiscal 2020 budget, said the government is committed to reforming the farm sector, with the Agriculture Ministry functioning as a core agency while the other six ministries provide support. The government also aims to strengthen the role of agricultural cooperatives and upgrade them to community businesses or private companies based on the model of Japan's Sowa Kajuen Co based in Wakayama prefecture.

Farmer aid scheme topped up with B5bn Bangkok Post 12th Feb 2019
Another 5 billion baht has been added to finance the rice harvest and quality improvement scheme for farmers in the 2018-19 season. Boonyarit Kalayanamit, commerce permanent secretary, said the National Rice Policy Committee chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday approved an additional 5 billion baht for the rice aid scheme in the 2018-19 season that started in November last year, on top of 56.47 billion baht approved earlier. The government expects more farmers to register for the scheme, especially those from southern areas that have yet to harvest.

Spraying water, burning bans to combat toxic dust in Khon Kaen Bangkok Post 10th Feb 2019
Actions are being taken to combat the high levels of hazardous dust particles currently prevailing in all 26 districts of this northeastern province, according to governor Somsak Jangtrakul. Mr Somsak said on Sunday morning toxic dust levels in many parts of Khon Kaen had reached 97 microgrammes per cubic metre -- well in excess of the safety standard of 50 µg/m³, and probably the highest in the country. He said local officials are spraying water at various spots found to be blanketed in thick smog in all 26 districts of the province in a bid to reduce the haze. The provincial authority has issued an order for farmers to completely halt burning sugarcane fields and rice stubble -- or face drastic legal action. Sugar factories buying sugarcane from farmers have been asked to cooperate by giving preference to sugarcane not burned before harvesting, the governor added.

Ruling on 3 farm chemicals edges closer Bangkok Post 7th Feb 2019
A suggestion to ban paraquat and put glyphosate and chlorpyrifos under restricted use will be forwarded to the national committee on hazardous substances so it can have a final say on the future use of these hazardous yet widely used chemicals in the farm sector. The committee is due to announce its decision on Valentine's Day, said PM's Office Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhan. The proposal is based a recent academic study by the National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT), Mr Suwaphan said. He was speaking in his capacity as chair of the ad hoc panel. The study, commissioned by the committee that was formed last July, championed a ban of paraquat and restrictions on the other two substances.

Vietnam

VN carries out new food safety measures in agricultural sector Vietnam News 25th Feb 2019
Large-scale production areas for key national products will be expanded this year under the country’s action plan to ensure food safety in the agricultural sector, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Agricultural products are classified into three main groups, including key national products, key provincial products and local specialties. The ministry this year has expanded the One Commune One Product Programme, in which each rural commune or district will develop its own specialty, apply high technologies, use organic cultivation procedures, and global Good Agricultural Practices in farming and production. It is also strengthening chains for “safe” agricultural products and aquatic and forestry products. The origin of products continues to be traced, and the ministry has made efforts to seek markets for products.

Bình Phước enters pepper harvest season, plagued by labour shortage Vietnam News 23rd Feb 2019
Farmers in the south-eastern province of Bình Phước are entering the peak black pepper harvest season but suffer from a shortage of workers. In Bù Đốp District, the largest pepper growing area in the province, many farmers have to contract workers in advance, increase payment and provide them with lunch. Đỗ Cao Phong, who owns 4,000 pepper trellises in Bù Đốp’s Thiện Hưng Commune, said he has been looking for workers for harvesting his crop since last month but has only managed to find two. He needs at least eight workers to harvest his pepper orchard within a month but does not know where to find six more. Trần Văn Lương, a pepper farm owner in Bù Đốp’s Tân Thành Commune, said to make sure he had enough workers for the harvest, he paid wages of VNĐ180,000 – 200,000 (US$7.8 – 8.6) per day, VNĐ20,000 – 50,000 more than last year.

Vietnamese mangoes to be exported to US Vietnam News 18th Feb 2019
After 10 years of negotiations, Vietnamese mangoes were licensed for export to the US on Feb 18. Speaking at a ceremony to announce the licence held in Hà Nội on the same day, deputy minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Lê Quốc Doanh said US imports of mangoes from Việt Nam have shown effective co-operation between the two countries in the agricultural sector. “Mangoes are a strong fruit of Việt Nam. The approval from the US for the imports has been good news for the agricultural industry and mango farmers in Việt Nam as well as affirming Vietnamese fruits’ position,” Doanh said. He added that imports would also bring opportunities for Vietnamese fruits as the US is a demanding market with strict regulations on quality control. It would therefore open opportunities to other demanding markets.

Fisheries industry sets export target of $10 billion Vietnam News 18th Feb 2019
The fisheries sector has set itself an export target of US$10 billion this year, the target set by the Government only for 2020, according to the Việt Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (Vasep). Speaking at a conference to discuss export plans in HCM City on Saturday, Vasep chairman Ngô Văn Ích said exports last year had been worth $9 billion, a year-on year increase of 6 per cent, and met the target. Tra fish exports had surged 26 per cent to $2.26 billion thanks to increased buying by the US and China and the recovery of the EU market, he said. But shrimp exports were down 8 per cent to $3.6 billion due to a drop in demand in a number of markets such as the US and Canada and higher production by competitors like India, Indonesia and Thailand, resulting in a 15-20 per cent fall in prices, he said.

Pepper output to reach 200,000 tonnes this year Vietnam News 18th Feb 2019
Việt Nam’s pepper output this year would reach around 200,000 tonnes, according to the International Pepper Community (IPC). Output of black pepper was forecast at 175,000 tonnes, while the remainder would be white pepper. The IPC also predicted the pepper output of the world’s biggest exporters such as Việt Nam, Brazil, Indonesia and India in 2019 would be lower than last year. The Import-Export Department under the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade said up to 95 per cent of Việt Nam’s pepper output was exported. Experts said local pepper producers and exporters should associate and connect with international customers to expand their consumption markets as well as improving pepper quality.

Provinces to boost shark catfish trade Vietnam News 14th Feb 2019
For the shark catfish industry in the Mekong Delta region to develop sustainably, authorities need to regulate output and quality and the use of chemicals more stringently and prevent unauthorised farming, Lê Hoàng Vũ, head of Đồng Tháp Province’s Sub-department of Fisheries, has said. The province would push for more co-operation between brood stock producers, fish farmers and processing firms, he said. This year it plans to increase the area of fish farms by 150 ha to 2,600ha and output by 60,000 tonnes. Trần Phùng Hoàng Tuấn, his An Giang Province counterpart, said his province is helping farmers through a three-tier project to produce high quality brood stock to supply farms in the delta, fully meeting demand by 2025. The first tier involves research institutes and universities researching into techniques in selecting high quality fish breeders, the second involves brood stock producing centres and nurseries and the third, establishments that raise the fish until they reach the fingerling stage.

Mekong Delta farmers embrace new technology Vietnam News 13th Feb 2019
Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta provinces are making efforts to develop digital farming, enabling farmers to use technologies to take care of their farms remotely. Since 70 per cent of the delta’s population works in the agricultural sector, it is an ideal place to develop new farming models and agricultural start-ups. Furthermore, like the rest of the country, a large proportion of people here use the internet, creating favourable conditions for them to apply hi-tech farming. In fact, digital farming is already widespread here. In Bến Tre for instance modern technologies have been used in agriculture for a long time.

PM urges New Year festival inspections Vietnam News 12th Feb 2019
Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc yesterday urged localities and the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sports to step up inspections of upcoming New Year festival celebrations to ensure the events are held in a solemn and safe manner. The ministry must conduct inspections and impose punishments for negative behaviours such as service fee hikes at festivals, he said. In a dispatch sent to ministries, sectors and localities on the first working day of the Lunar New Year, the PM ordered cadres, civil servants and public employees to follow administrative and labour disciplinary practices, especially no delays due to the Tết holiday and those related to production, manufacturing and investment. Employees of ministries, sectors and localities are not allowed to go to festivals during working hours or use State-owned cars to visit festivals, except when performing their duties. Leaders of agencies and localities are not allowed to attend festivals if they are not assigned to do so by authorities.

PM calls for application of technology in agricultural production Voice of Vietnam 12th Feb 2019
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc called for the strong application of technology in agricultural production while visiting the Dong Giao Foodstuff Export Joint Stock Company (DOVECO) in northern Ninh Binh province on February 11. Meeting with the company’s officials and workers, the Prime Minister highly valued their efforts in applying advanced science and technology in production and business, as well as boosting links with farmers in Ninh Binh and other localities. He said agriculture can serve as a steppingstone to make Vietnam an upper-middle-income country before 2035. He asked the sector as well as Dong Giao company to apply advanced technologies like sensor technology, automation, drone technology, big data, cloud computing, 3D printing and internet of things in order to develop Vietnam’s modern agriculture.

Agri-tourism attracts more visitors to Mekong Delta Vietnam News 12th Feb 2019
Farmers in the Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta have developed agri-tourism models that have not only increased their incomes but also contributed to sustainable agriculture and rural development in the area. The Mekong Delta, which is the country’s largest agricultural production area, has great potential to develop ecotourism. It has been listed among the best destinations to visit in 2019 by the US travel magazine Condé Nast Traveler. The delta attracts millions of visitors each year thanks to its cultural diversity, natural beauty and a large range of tourism products. According to HCM City’s Department of Tourism, tourist demand to seek hands-on experiences has increased from 20-30 per cent compared to recent years.

Local dairy industry will have to compete with foreign brands under CPTPP Vietnam News 11th Feb 2019
The domestic dairy industry will face competitive pressure this year due to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), according to a report of the Rồng Việt Securities Company (VDSC). The VDSC believes that Việt Nam’s dairy brands will face fierce competition from foreign brands because when the CPTPP came into effect in Việt Nam on January 14, import tariffs on dairy products from New Zealand, Singapore and Japan were cut to zero, making these product lines more competitive. In addition, local consumers are more concerned about their own health and have improved awareness of nutritional products so they have become more demanding. They now prefer high-quality, organic milk products as well as those from walnuts and macadamia nuts. Meanwhile, demand for reconstituted milk has decreased, according to the report.

Việt Nam to see $2.4b in tra fish exports this year Vietnam News 11th Feb 2019
The Việt Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) has predicted the export value of tra fish will reach US$2.4 billion this year, up from $2.3 billion last year. According to economic experts, this number is feasible because the US-China trade is impacting many economies, including Việt Nam, but has had a positive impact on some export products. The tra fish industry is poised to benefit from increasing Chinese demand for seafood products. When the Việt Nam-European Union (EU) free trade agreement (EVFTA) comes into effect, tariffs on both raw and processed tra fish entering the EU will be eliminated. They currently stand at 5.5 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively.