Food & Agriculture Update: April 1, 2019

Food & Agriculture Update | April 1, 2019
Authors: Sunita Kapoor, Hai Pham and David Mineo
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

Upcoming Events to be Rescheduled:
Both the 2019 Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to Vietnam (planned for April 11-12) and the ASEAN Safe, Nutritious Food forum in Vietnam (planned for April 10-12) will be rescheduled due to timing conflicts with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, with new dates coming soon. For more information, please contact Sunita Kapoor at skapoor@usasean.org and Hai Pham at hpham@usasean.org

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 
Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam Reviewing Stance on Ban of Crop Protection Technologies

On March 19, 2019, a federal court in San Francisco ruled that the glyphosate-based chemical “Roundup” is cancer-causing, leading countries in ASEAN to further review their policies on the use of certain agrochemicals. The verdict of glyphosate’s carcinogenic properties was the second in seven months in the United States. Malaysia and Vietnam are now following the lead of the United States, which has banned the use of glyphosate in more than 50 U.S. cities and counties. Glyphosate is currently the most widely used herbicide globally.

In Malaysia, a ban on the use of the herbicide paraquat will become effective on January 1, 2020. Malaysia’s Minister of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry, Datuk Salahuddin Ayud, is currently campaigning in favor of the ban. Minister Ayud maintains that despite the low cost of paraquat relative to other herbicides, a ban will not result in a serious price increase for estates and farmers, particularly as paraquat must be applied more frequently than alternative herbicides. The Minister is aiming to spread awareness throughout Malaysia as he champions the use of alternative herbicides. Malaysia’s Cabinet had decided in 2002 to ban paraquat starting 2020, and has since attended international conventions to consult with other experts before implementing this complete ban. At the time of writing, paraquat usage is restricted to just four types of plants. In a recent press conference, Minister Ayud noted that following the 2020 ban, violators will be subject to the Poisons Act of 1952 and can be fined up to RM 10,000 (roughly US $2,450) for a first offense and RM 50,000 (around US $12,245) for second offenders.

In Vietnam, the Plant Protection Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has banned the import of glyphosate-based herbicides. The head of the Plant Protection Department, Hoang Trung, announced that the ban was issued as soon as the San Francisco court issued its verdict. Products currently in circulation are exempt from the ban. The Plant Protection Department plans to remove glyphosate from the list of usable herbicides in Vietnam soon and has asked those who use the chemical to report to the Department. Mr. Trung stated that Vietnam uses around 30,000 tons of glyphosate each year.

In a Thailand Cabinet meeting statement on February 18, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha declared that he was not opposed to the Hazardous Substance Committee’s decision on February 14 to delay a ban on the agrochemical paraquat, which 53 countries have banned as a hazardous substance. 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. Prime Minister Prayut stated that the government will work to reduce and phase out the three chemicals, a call echoing a statement made by Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister, 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.

Malaysia Delays Tax on Sweetened Beverages
Malaysia’s Customs Department has announced that it will delay an excise duty on packaged sweetened beverages until July 1, 2019. Customs Director-General, Datuk Seri T. Subroniam stated that the delay is intended to allot enough time to ensure industry compliance with the new mandate. On March 7, Mr. Subroniam affirmed that the delay would provide the Customs Department enough time to “carry out roadshows and issue licenses to sweetened beverage manufacturers under the Excise Act 1976.” The Malaysian government has proposed placing an excise duty of RM 0.40 per liter (approximately US $0.01) on packaged sweetened beverages as a part of Budget 2019. The tax will apply to products under the tariff heading 22.02 that contain more than 5gm of sweetener per 100ml of liquid in addition to products under the tariff heading 20.09 that contain more than 12gm of sugar per 100ml of fruit or vegetable juice. Mr. Subromaniam has also revealed the Government’s intention to increase the threshold of sugar content from 5gm to 7gm per 100ml for milk-based beverages other than soy that fall under the tariff heading 22.02. While the excise duty is one part of Malaysia’s initiative to promote healthy lifestyles, it is reassuring that the Malaysian government is taking measures to accommodate industry as it implements the new tax.

Exploring a Thailand Ministry of Public Health-Private Sector AMR Partnership
On March 13, the Council held a multi-stakeholder meeting with Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health to discuss how the private sector can support the Ministry in achieving its global, regional, and country-level AMR objectives. The companies present walked through examples of their current AMR offerings, which range across surveillance, stewardship, and education/awareness building. The private sector is poised to offer the Ministry subject-matter expertise across various AMR domains, data, implementation/demonstration support, training and capacity building, and global policy expertise. Stakeholders discussed mechanisms for building trust between the private sector in a transparent and collaborative manner. Short-term activities discussed include education programs, sharing of expertise, and project-based engagement. Moving forward, the Council will continue to serve as a conduit for private sector support for the Ministry. Companies interested in joining this effort should contact Sunita Kapoor at skapoor@usasean.org.

ASEAN Guidelines on Promoting Responsible Investment in Food, Agriculture and Forestry
On March 27, Grow Asia organized a roundtable on responsible agricultural investment in ASEAN. During the session, the group discussed the ASEAN Guidelines for Responsible Investment in Food, Agriculture and Forestry, which were developed by Grow Asia with support from the ASEAN Secretariat and other organizations and with input from its partners and stakeholders through a consultative process - to access the document, please click here. The guidelines aim to promote investment in food, agriculture and forestry in the ASEAN region that contributes to regional economic development, food and nutrition security, food safety and equitable benefits, as well as the sustainable use of natural resources.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 

Technical Barrier to Trade in U.S.-Vietnam Agricultural Trade
The Council has been working with the U.S. grains industry on an issue that is affecting U.S. grains trade with Vietnam. On March 1, Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) implemented a regulation on grains import that is a technical barrier to trade - a zero tolerance policy on traces of Canadian Thistle in grains shipment entering Vietnam, requiring processing before the shipment enters Vietnam and re-exportation if traces are found. While we are supportive of MARD's Plant Protection Department (PPD) and its intention to protect the animal and plant health in Vietnam, the industry's stance is that this policy is not practical, and the added costs associated with the risk of shipments being re-exported will deter companies from shipping to Vietnam - the Council highlights that a reduction in exports could negatively impact the U.S.-Vietnam agricultural trade relationship (which has historically been balanced) as well as adversely affect the overall trade deficit between the two countries.

The Council transmitted a letter to MARD earlier this month following the policy implementation to offer its assistance in working through this issue with PPD officials. Suggestions include the establishment of a regular public-private consultation process to address policies related to plant health concerns - through these platforms, we can identify best practices with industry assistance and apply science-based internationally accepted industry protocols that will enable Vietnam to continue importing U.S. wheat, soybeans and corn. The Council also plans to convene a meeting between U.S. industry representatives and MARD/PPD officials in Vietnam as soon as possible to discuss mutual interests in Vietnam's plant protection and imported grains requirements.

Philippines Senate Bill No. 2068 and Proposed Bill on “Pet Food Additive Information Act”
The Council has recommended that the Government of the Philippines adopt a science-based legislative frameworks for pet food labelling as adopted by the USA FDA/AAFCO or EU FEDIAF requirements. As the current Philippine National Standard (Pet Food Labelling) — PNS/BAFS 140:2014 / ICS 65.120 is already aligned with international standards, which permit only safe and approved ingredients in the manufacturing process, warning statements on pet food labels are not necessary or required. The Council has therefore recommended that the Philippine Senate consider the adoption of the Philippine National Standard. Under Section 3 of the Bill, the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) has been tasked with verifying the accuracy of information contained in pet food packaging as well as creating a database of toxic and harmful additives in pet food. To assist BFAD, the Council has offered its support in elevating BFAD’s scientific expertise and knowledge base through the sharing of references and use of registers from the U.S. and EU. The Council has highlighted that mandatory warning labels may result in the increase of pet food prices, which will have the greatest impact on farmers and consumers, as well as adversely affect foreign direct investment in the Philippine agriculture and food processing sectors.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Brunei
Ministries join hands to promote Young Farmers Programme
Agriculture, agri-food based sectors to be strengthened

Cambodia
Cambodia Requests More Loans from the Bank of China to Further Develop Agricultural Sector
PM Reminds One Million-Ton Rice Export Target
Drought warning leads Cambodian government to tell rice farmers not to plant
Kingdom sees minimal change in rice exports between 2016-2018
Gripped By Drought, Cambodian Farmers Struggle Against Changing Climate

Indonesia
Malaysia, Indonesia threaten EU goods boycott over palm oil crackdown
Declining deforestation in Indonesia: Anomaly or sustainable trend?
Palm oil producers eye domestic market amid challenges
North Sumatra, ministry work to revive cabbage exports
Agriculture Ministry to train 12,000 ‘millennial farmers’ in Bali
In West Jakarta, landless farmers race against urbanization

Laos
Taming Waters In Xayaboury
France grants over 14 billion kip for tea project
Nation cultivating production methods to drive agriculture strategy

Malaysia
Dry spell to affect dam levels and farms
Study needed on proposed ganja cultivation in Selangor
Seeking answers to livelihood issues
Paraquat ban will not have major impact on agriculture costs
Sweetened drink tax delayed until July 1
Sowing seeds of good durian

Myanmar
Good growth potential for gum crop
Chin farmers urged to grow permanent crops
Fisheries sector forced to restructure as declining demand decimates earnings
More investments needed for expansion in food-processing industry
Agricultural burning worsens in Tachileik
Myanmar's agricultural products export reaches over 1 bln USD in over 4 months

Philippines
Russia seen as possible market, source of agricultural investment | BusinessWorld
Rice tariff law IRR could be ready next week | BusinessWorld
Palay prices continue to decline in first month of rice tariff law | BusinessWorld
El Niño farm damage doubles to P2.68 billion
Wide Range of Meat Products Drives Record Exports to the Philippines
Cebu province placed under state of calamity
DA warns of major water crisis for farmers
Angara urges gov’t to address the rising number of young people’s interest in agriculture
Maguindanao declares state of calamity
UAE minister for food security in Manila for 2-day visit
Red tide info in E. Visayas pushed
Philippines Billionaire Offers to Build New Dam as Taps Run Dry

Singapore
Singapore sets 30% goal for home-grown food by 2030
Singapore opening up land and opportunities for agri-tech ventures
Singapore to grow high-tech farming with 18ha facility at Sg Kadut
Boosting food security, creating jobs and strengthening the economy through agri-tech
Parliament: Agri-food innovation park in Sungei Kadut to open from early 2021, says Koh Poh Koon

Thailand
Govt seeks ways to curb destructive armyworms
Fruit farmers seek help as drought bites
BAAC preparing drought support
Alternatives for farmers
Tobacco farmers seek support from political parties against tax hike
‘Cruel marketing in a friendly cloak’: drinks firms taken on by government
Partners aim for SWEET rewards
Special rainmaking unit to be set up to alleviate drought in Buri Ram
Thailand plans world's biggest floating solar farms to drive green push
Not enough water left for rice farmers in Northeast

Vietnam
Vietnam steers towards better water for everyone
Chu Lai to become high-quality agro-forestry processing hub: PM
India, Vietnam lift import bans on coffee, pepper and other agro-products
FAO calls on Vietnam to declare swine fever a national emergency
Cần Thơ licenses $14m seafood processing plant
Agricultural sector posts trade surplus of $1b in two months
Solutions to curb African swine fever discussed
Localities working hard to cull infected pigs
More investment in processing key to boost fruit and vegetable exports
Vietnam affirms commitment to contributing to IFAD activities
Logistics in Mekong Delta yet to meet expectations
Central Highlands province opens coffee festival, calls for investment
Farming products face difficulties in export this year
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Brunei

Ministries join hands to promote Young Farmers Programme Borneo Bulletin 25th Mar 2019
GOVERNMENT ministries are playing their part in promoting and reviving the Young Farmers Programme which was highlighted on the 11th day of the 15th Legislative Council (LegCo) meeting on Saturday. LegCo members approved a motion to revive the Young Farmers Programme which was conducted several years ago in Kampong Jerudong with new approaches not only in the Brunei-Muara District but also in the other three districts as suggested by member of LegCo Yang Berhormat Haji Mohimin bin Haji Johari @ Jahari. In his motion to support the speech, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Yang Berhormat Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin said the ministry’s target for agriculture is youth, people facing hardship and those receiving a monthly assistance and their dependents with the aspiration to make agriculture a career, to become entrepreneurs and a source of extra income, thus contributing to the gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the agricultural sector. The minister said his ministry and their strategic partners will continue to implement and enhance the youth agricultural programme in a more affordable way, participated by 32 youth and the Paddy Planting Programme through the Youth Development Programme and at the same time provide entrepreneurship grant including an independent programme and an empowerment assistance programme through the Community Development Programme.

Agriculture, agri-food based sectors to be strengthened Borneo Bulletin 24th Mar 2019
THE Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) will continue to strengthen and improve the profile of local agricultural and agrifood-based sector through means of technology which in turn will contribute significantly to the gross domestic product (GDP). This was stated by Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong in his closing remarks on the final day of the 15th Legislative Council (LegCo) session yesterday. He explained that apart from poultry, vegetables and fruits farming, flower, and livestock; aquaculture and deep-water fishing has enjoyed the biggest growth and has been identified by the MPRT as the emerging sector that will contribute significantly to the economy in the near future. The Fisheries Department has set a target to increase aquaculture revenue from BND9 million in 2015 to BND400 million per year by 2020. “In view of this development, we have also seen the processing sector grow, especially the processing of fresh fish and prawns not only for local consumption but also for the export market,” he noted, adding that it has generated local employment.

Cambodia

Cambodia Requests More Loans from the Bank of China to Further Develop Agricultural Sector Agence Kampuchea Presse 19th Mar 2019
Minister of Commerce H.E. Pan Sorasak has requested the Bank of China to provide more loans to Cambodia to further develop its agriculture, said a news release of the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) issued after the minister’s recent meeting with Mr. Chen Changjiang, CEO of the bank’s Phnom Penh branch. The MoC, according to H.E. Minister, was implementing on-site rice dryer construction projects in order to help buy rice from the farmers directly and increase the country’s rice-export capacity, emphasising that the loans from the bank would help the ministry succeed in these projects. H.E. Minister also thanked the Bank of China for their investment in Cambodia and their contributions in attracting more Chinese investors into the country. Mr. Chen Changjiang accepted the request and would see to its actual possibilities. He also requested H.E. Minister to sign the Memorandum of Understanding between the MoC and the Bank of China in order to create a Chinese desk at the ministry to facilitate Chinese businessmen in the country, give way to payment through WeChatPay or Alipay, and cooperate in e-commerce sector.

PM Reminds One Million-Ton Rice Export Target Agence Kampuchea Presse 14th Mar 2019
Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen reminded here this morning about the milled rice export target of one million tons that the country has failed to achieved in the past years. Addressing to the closing ceremony of the annual meeting of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), Samdech Techo Hun Sen said the rice production cost in Cambodia is high and he therefore called on all the stakeholders, especially the MAFF, the Ministry of Water Resources, and Meteorology, to do their best to help reducing the production cost. “We never win the bidding to export our rice to the Philippines against Viet Nam and Thailand because our cost of production is high, so all stakeholders should check this point […]”, he underlined. At the same time, Samdech Techo Hun Sen encouraged all stakeholders to promote the Cambodian milled rice’s potential, conduct research and increase the competiveness of local milled rice as well as other agro-products, etc.  The Premier also urged the private sector to invest in potential products to support the agriculture such as agro-fertiliser … to reduce the spending on imported fertilisers to help local farmers. Last year, Cambodia exported 626,225 tons of milled rice to markets in 62 countries – of them China was Cambodia’s largest market buying 27.17 percent or 170,154 tons of the export, followed by France and Malaysia buying 86,050 tons and 40,861 tons of it respectively, according to a report from Secretariat of One Window Service for Rice Export Formality.

Drought warning leads Cambodian government to tell rice farmers not to plant AsiaNews 12th Mar 2019
Water shortages have been reported in 16 Cambodian provinces. El Niño is behind higher-than-average temperatures. About 75 per cent of Cambodia is farmland, devoted mostly to growing rice. The authorities hand out fertiliser and water to affected communities. Phnom Penh (AsiaNews) – Cambodian rice farmers should refrain from planting crops because of a drought and record high temperatures. The cause is this year’s El Nino with temperatures expected to peak in April and May, warned Neth Pheaktra, spokesman and secretary of state for the Cambodian Environment Ministry. Communities in 16 provinces around the Kingdom have reported water shortages due to higher than average temperatures – a stark reality in a nation more used to dealing with floods than droughts. A tributary of the Tonle Sap River in Kampong Thom province has dried out. As a result, a local rice farmer said he had been relying on eating lotus roots to survive. About 75 per cent of the country’s farmland is devoted to growing rice. Cambodia exports about three per cent of the world’s supply, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

Kingdom sees minimal change in rice exports between 2016-2018 Phnom Penh Post 7th Mar 2019
The Kingdom’s rice exports saw little change during the last three years to 2018 as the sector appears to face new challenges requiring the government and private sector to work harder to keep the industry healthy. The challenges are centred around the EU market as the bloc imposes tariffs on Cambodia’s rice, added on to existing issues such as higher production costs and a lack of infrastructure. However, industry insiders said the volume of this year’s rice exports will remain steady due to a new quota from China and Vietnam. Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries figures show that the Kingdom exported 626,225 tonnes of rice last year, decreasing 1.5 per cent from 635,679 tonnes in 2017. The figures show that the main destinations were the EU with a total of 269,127 tonnes and China with 170,154 tonnes.

Gripped By Drought, Cambodian Farmers Struggle Against Changing Climate VOA 1st Mar 2019
Trapaing Thmar reservoir, the largest of the Khmer Rouge regime’s irrigation projects built atop the bones of the dead, is running dry amid one of the worst droughts to hit Cambodia in living memory.In northwestern Cambodia, over 400 kilometers from Phnom Penh, the vast protected area serves as a crucially important water store for thousands of rice farmers and their families in Phnom Srok district and other neighboring areas.Trapaing Thmar reservoir also provides a home to a number of endangered species, including the Sarus crane.During a recent visit to the area, farmers were fishing and pumping water to their rice field from small ponds that are all that remains of the more than 12,000-hectare reservoir.In Banteay Meanchey province’s Phnom Srok district, farmers complain that there is a scarcity of rain, both during the wet and dry season.


Indonesia

Malaysia, Indonesia threaten EU goods boycott over palm oil crackdown South China Morning Post 22nd Mar 2019
Malaysia and Indonesia, which account for a combined 85 per cent of the global palm oil supply, have warned that millions of farmers risk losing their livelihoods if the European Union stops using the commodity in its biofuels. The EU’s proposed move comes following a push by the European Parliament to phase out the use of palm oil starting in 2023, ramping up to a ban in 2030, on concerns palm oil production causes deforestation and aggravates climate change. Both countries have threatened to take retaliatory trade measures, including boycotting EU products, if the ban is implemented. “We are serious about boycotting EU products,” Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan told the South China Morning Post. Additionally, Malaysia and Indonesia plan to take the issue to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). “Malaysia will continue to raise the issue at the various WTO meetings to put pressure on the EU,” said Dr Ong Kian Ming, Malaysia’s Deputy Minister for International Trade and Industry, via email.

Declining deforestation in Indonesia: Anomaly or sustainable trend? The Jakarta Post 21st Mar 2019
Environmentalists were elated in mid-February when news broke that the Indonesian and Norwegian governments had come to an agreement that the later would pay the former for reducing its carbon emissions. The agreement was part of the countries’ cooperation under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) scheme that was signed in 2010. Norway has also been working with several other countries under similar schemes, such as Brazil, Guyana and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Almost a decade after the signing of the US$1 billion pledge with Indonesia to help protect the latter’s tropical forests, Norway agreed to make the first payment after Indonesia reported a drop in the deforestation rate in 2017, according to a statement from the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta on Feb. 16.

Palm oil producers eye domestic market amid challenges The Jakarta Post 18th Mar 2019
Amid tough global market challenges, the country’s palm oil producers have to start expanding in the domestic market in order to boost absorption and stay afloat. Palm oil producer PT Astra Agro Lestari (AALI), part of diversified conglomerate Astra International, is no exception. Astra Agro Lestari president director Santosa said the company must explore opportunities in the domestic market to boost absorption. “The challenge, for now, is to find a new market for our products if we face obstacles in the international market. Whether we want it or not, we have to open the domestic market,” Santosa said recently in Bandung. He added that the use of biosolar for power plants offered the company an opportunity to maximize the domestic absorption of its products. Santosa expressed hope that the government would soon implement the B100 policy, which is the use of 100 percent biodiesel as the mandatory fuel for specific vehicles.

North Sumatra, ministry work to revive cabbage exports The Jakarta Post 14th Mar 2019
North Sumatra has suffered a sharp decline in its cabbage exports over the past two years, but is trying to revive exports of the produce with assistance from the Agriculture Ministry and the provincial administration. Ali Jamil, the head of the ministry’s Agriculture Quarantine Agency (Barantan), recently said the agency had been providing technical assistance to farmers since early this year to meet the tightened export requirements of destination countries. He said the province's cabbage exports had declined sharply over the last two years because the frequent eruptions of Mount Sinabung had affected the produce's quality. At the same time, major importers like Japan, South Korea and Singapore had tightened their requirements for imported agricultural products. North Sumatra also exports cabbage to Taiwan and Malaysia. The ministry recorded a steady increase in the province’s cabbage exports from 11,747 tons in 2012, worth Rp 35 billion (US$2.45 million)  to 32,680 tons in 2016, worth Rp 98 billion.

Agriculture Ministry to train 12,000 ‘millennial farmers’ in Bali The Jakarta Post 13th Mar 2019
I Made Agus Wijaya, 29, spends most of his day in front of his computer at an elementary school in Bangli village, Tabanan, Bali. From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m, Monday to Friday, he works at the school. Once his working hours are done, he changes into a T-shirt and shorts, takes a sickle and heads out into the rice fields.  "My father was a farmer. I should continue what he did," Agus said.  Agus was taught to farm by his late father since he was 6 years old. He is used to getting dirty and working under the scorching sun. "It doesn't matter. I enjoy it," said Agus, who now manages a 7,000 square meter plot of land he inherited from his father. Agus also allows parts of the land to be managed by other farmers who share their profits.  Agus said he was proud of being a farmer although many do not aspire to take up the profession these days. "Most young people in the city think becoming a farmer would lower their status. They don't know that many farmers send their children to university. If done seriously, farming is a fruitful endeavor," he said. 

In West Jakarta, landless farmers race against urbanization The Jakarta Post 12th Mar 2019
Asdedi, 37, has been planting rice in Semanan, Kalideres, West Jakarta, since he arrived Jakarta in 1997, after his goldfish business in Subang, West Java, went bust. “I have been here since 1997, and straight away farmed rice,” Asdedi told The Jakarta Post on Monday. He could not afford to buy land at that time and decided to rent plots belonging to developer PT Citra Adyapataka for farming. Asdedi said he rented 36 plots at that time, paying around Rp 500,000 (US$35) per three months per plot. Each plot was about 1,000 to 3,000 square meters (sqm). He mainly planted rice but in the past also planted shallots. Nowadays he is only able to rent and work one plot. Skyrocketing rents for the land and the shrinking number of plots available to rent make life harder for farmers in Semanan.

Laos

Taming Waters In Xayaboury KPL Lao News Agency 15th Mar 2019
Almost four years ago, UNDP had a project in Xayaboury province of northern Lao PDR to help farmers in their struggles to cope with climate change. This February, we returned to one of the villages to see how they have managed with changing weather conditions ever since. The Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the global community in 2015, compels us at UNDP Lao PDR to take even more responsibility to ensure that our projects do not only offer a temporary sigh of relief to struggling communities in the Lao PDR, but that they serve as an enduring foundation on which they can begin to build a more sustainable future for themselves. That is why in February 2019, UNDP, along with members of the Green Climate Fund and representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, took a trip to Nasom village in Xayaboury province to catch up with some old friends made during a project entitled “Improving the Resilience of the Agricultural Sector to Climate Change”, which was implemented between 2011 and 2015. In the early 2000s, the farming population of Nasom had difficulties in adjusting to a phenomenon most of them had probably never even heard of: climate change. Although the small village nestled in a modest valley between the lush hillsides of northern Laos had occasionally suffered from floods, the usual predictability of seasons had become a thing of the past.

France grants over 14 billion kip for tea project Vientiane Times 7th Mar 2019
The French government has provided grant assistance of over 14 billion kip (EUR 1.5 million) to fund a tea value-chain project in Laos. The three-year project is aimed at improving the quality of life and earnings of small-scale tea producers and developing a regulatory structure for the tea supply chain in Laos. A financing agreement for the project was signed on Wednesday between the Lao government and Agence Française de Développement (AFD). The agreement was signed by Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Dr Kikeo Chanthaboury, Ambassador of France to Laos Mrs Florence Jeanblanc-Risler, and AFD Country Director Mr Matthieu Bommier. Speaking at the signing ceremony, Dr Kikeo said “The government of the Lao PDR highly values the support of the French government through AFD’s projects, which focus on the sectors of agriculture, cultural preservation and justice. The signing ceremony today for the tea value-chain project will add to the expansive Lao-AFD portfolio and further contribute to the strengthening of bilateral cooperation between the Lao and French governments.”

Nation cultivating production methods to drive agriculture strategy Vientiane Times 7th Mar 2019
The government is targeting modern production methods in the nation’s agricultural development strategy to help push forward its policy agenda on food security and reducing poverty in rural areas. Deputy Prime Minister Dr Sonexay Siphandone told those attending the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s annual meeting on Tuesday that agricultural development played an important role in expanding growth in other sectors. Consequently, the government and the authorities concerned have been enacting laws and regulations in agricultural management and forestry, particularly in rural areas, to foster sustainable development. Dr Sonexay pointed out that while the country’s poverty rate had reduced markedly agricultural production was still of low quality overall as farmers were not employing modern techniques and getting enough support from authorities. He urged the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to further refine its strategic plans with a focus on science and technology, to promote environmentally-friendly agriculture in response to climate change. Increasing crop variety and improving infrastructure in rural areas to allow farmers to access more markets were also highlighted.

Malaysia

Dry spell to affect dam levels and farms The Star 24th Mar 2019
The continuous dry season, likely to last until May, will affect dam levels and the planting of padi, says the Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry. Reiterating calls for prudent water use, Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar said there are three dams which have water levels of only around 50% and one below that. “The three are Muda Dam (Kedah) at 58.97%, Machap Dam (Johor) at 55.61% and Sembrong Dam (Johor) at 54.07% while for the Bukit Kwong Dam in Kelantan, the storage capacity is 37.28%,” he said. In a statement issued yesterday, Dr Xavier noted that the country began feeling the impact of extreme hot weather since January, which resulted in a drought that affected water sources and related activities such as water supply and agriculture. During this period, certain areas have not had any rainfall; in Setiu, Terengganu, it has not rained for the past 30 days and worse in Hulu Perak, which has not seen any rainfall for the past 56 days, he added. “Other critical areas that have received only a cumulative rainfall (for the quarterly period of January to March) that is below 25% of the average annual rainfall include Rembau and Tampin in Negri Sembilan, Rompin in Pahang, and Hulu Perak in Perak.”

Study needed on proposed ganja cultivation in Selangor New Straits Times 23rd Mar 2019
A thorough study needs to be conducted before cannabis (ganja) cultivation in Selangor for medical and export purposes is given the green light. Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said the study must be carried out by related ministries such as Agriculture and Agro-based Industry, Home, Health and Primary Industries, as well as state authorities. “Ganja is classified under the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, but this doesn’t mean we can’t use it for medical purposes,” he told a press conference after opening a debate competition at Poi Lam High School, here, today. “There are other drugs under the same act such as pethidine and morphine, which are used by hospitals and clinics.” Dr Lee was commenting on a proposal put forward by Jeram assemblyman Mohd Shaid Rosli at the Selangor State Assembly on Thursday. Shaid said Selangor could become the world’s biggest ganja producer. Shaid said the state had great potential because Kuala Selangor had been designated as an agricultural cluster and could become the centre for ganja production for medical research and export purposes. Dr Lee said the ministry was carrying out research on hemp, a member of the cannabis sativa family, to use its fibre and edible seeds for agricultural and industrial purposes.

Seeking answers to livelihood issues The Star 21st Mar 2019
FARMERS and fishermen of Penang pounced on the chance to have a townhall session with Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub. When it was their turn to speak, they lined up and hogged the microphone, even when officials tried to reclaim it after a while. In the end, Salahuddin, his deputy Sim Tze Tzin and their team of top directors from Putrajaya spent nearly two hours listening to their grouses. The corporate communication team of the ministry were left dumbstruck by the insistence of the farmers and fishermen to have their say. “This is the fourth townhall the minister did. We did not have a questions and answers session in Johor. In Kedah, he had three questions and in Perlis, he only had two. “We never expected this many questions in Penang,” said a communication officer at the recent event organised by the state Fisheries Department at Fisheries Research Institute Malaysia in Batu Maung, Penang. But Salahuddin and his team took it all patiently, listening to almost 20 people and accepting at least six memorandums from various fishermen and farmers associations. “There are many burning issues in Penang that affect agriculture. I don’t blame them and I feel satisfied to have come here,” Salahuddin told reporters later. Among the fishermen, the most frequently mouthed complaint was their fear of reclamation plans off the southern coast of Penang island.

Paraquat ban will not have major impact on agriculture costs New Straits Times 18th Mar 2019
The ban on the herbicide paraquat beginning Jan 1, 2020 will not have a major effect on the costs to estates and farmers in the country Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub said although paraquat was cheaper compared to other poisons proposed by the government, namely glyphosate and glufosinate-ammonium, it has to be applied more frequently than the two alternative herbicides. “Half-an-hour after paraquat is sprayed, you can see black marks on the leaves, and the farmers like this because the effect looks fast, but the roots are not killed and they have to apply the paraquat several times. “The alternative poisons are more environment-friendly, even though it takes about two to three days to show an effect, but it kills right down to the roots. “So use the alternative poisons, although they seem slow, but they are very effective and there is very little difference in price,” he said at a press conference held after the launch of a campaign on the ban of paraquat use here today. On the campaign, Salahuddin said all parties especially farmers must be made aware of the dangers of using paraquat to health and the environment. He said the Cabinet had decided in 2002 to ban paraquat beginning next year to enable studies on reducing its impact on the agriculture industry. During this time, he said, the ministry also attended several international conventions such as the Rotterdam, Basel and Stockholm Conventions, to study all the resolutions discussed before taking further steps towards a total ban of the poison.

Sweetened drink tax delayed until July 1 The Star Online 8th Mar 2019
PUTRAJAYA: The government has agreed to postpone the excise duty on ready-to-drink packaged sweetened beverages to July 1, 2019, says the Customs Department.

Sowing seeds of good durian The Star 5th Mar 2019
KEDAH is set to export high-quality durians such as Musang King, Black Thorn (or chi) and D24 when its fruit farm projects in Kulim, Sik and Baling districts start producing yields in three years from now. State Agriculture and Transportation, Agro-based and Primary Industries Committee chairman Azman Nasrudin said that up till now, 30 farmers in the state had begun planting these types of durian species on 50 hectares of land since last year. He said the project, conducted with monitoring and guidance from the state Agriculture Department, was expected to produce around 1,500 metric tonnes of durian per hectare, with each hectare estimated to produce as much as 30 metric tonnes of the king of fruits. “Kulim, Sik and Baling districts were selected due to the appropriate soil and landforms there, apart from getting responsive farmers from Kubang Pasu, Padang Terap and Yan who want to cultivate these particular durian species,” he said.

Myanmar

Good growth potential for gum crop The Myanmar Times 21st Mar 2019
The Japanese and Chinese governments have signed agreements to buy gum sterculia from Myanmar. The agreements were signed in Myaing township, Magway Region, on March 9. Gum sterculia, also known as gum karaya or Indian gum tragacanth, is a vegetable gum produced by trees of the genus Sterculia. The gum is used as a thickener and emulsifier in foods, as a laxative, and as a denture adhesive. Locally, the gum is known as say kalarma. Primary buyers of the gum are China, Japan, Taiwan.

Chin farmers urged to grow permanent crops The Myanmar Times 21st Mar 2019
Shifting cultivation is an agricultural system in which plots of land are cultivated temporarily and later abandoned to allow the lands to revert to their natural vegetation. Meanwhile, the cultivator moves on to another plot. The main disadvantages of shifting cultivation are forest decimation and climate change. The areas are also prone to landslides and floods. Meanwhile, the cost of cultivation is also higher for farmers.  The state government is now encouraging farmers to harvest their crops on permanent farm land using modern upland cultivation and slopping agriculture land technologies, Mang Hen Dal said. To encourage the cultivation of permanent crops such as coffee, mulberries, avocado, grape, yam, cluster beans and apples, the state government will allocate 5000 acres of land for upland cultivation via mechanised farming and 55 acres for slopping agriculture land technology, Mang Heng Dal said. As Chin State is a mountainous area, farmers have traditionally relied on shifting cultivation methods to harvest crops. “To encourage farmers to grow permanent and more sustainable crops such as coffee and avocado, we will stop giving support to those who still opt for shifting cultivation crops,” Shing Khe, the director of Mindat Farmers Group Company in Chin State, said.

Fisheries sector forced to restructure as declining demand decimates earnings The Myanmar Times 21st Mar 2019
Myanmar fisheries and marine product exports have been declining over the past year after big buyers like Saudi Arabia and the US stopped importing from the sector last year. Meanwhile, demand trends from Myanmar’s other major trade partners such as Bangladesh are evolving, which has forced the industry to explore new products and strategies. Myanmar exports most of its wild fish and marine products to Thailand and China. Value-added marine products are exported to Japan and the US, while farmed carp and catfish are sold to Bangladesh, India and the UK.

More investments needed for expansion in food-processing industry The Myanmar Times 21st Mar 2019
The Myanmar processed food industry needs more investment support in order to develop further, U Aye Win, chair of the Myanmar Food Processors and Exporters Association, told The Myanmar Times. Currently, Myanmar processes basic raw commodities such as rice, beans, maize and other agricultural products. Excess products are exported. However, the country also imports value-added processed foods such as canned or dairy products. In that light, Myanmar should increase its focus on manufacturing higher value food products, which will require funds from both local and foreign investors, U Aye Win said.

Agricultural burning worsens in Tachileik The Myanmar Times 18th Mar 2019
The burning of farm fields has enveloped Tachileik township in Shan State with thick smoke, and the air pollution is expected to worsen in the coming weeks, residents said. They added that the burning of agricultural waste happens every year but appears to be more severe this year.  “Even when we are in our homes, our eyes water from the smoke,” said Cherry Soe Thein, one of the residents. “We don’t go out as much as we used to. If it’s important to go out we use a mask, sun glasses and wear long sleeves.”  Cherry Soe Thein added that some commercial flights to and from Tachileik have been cancelled due to the smoke caused by the burning of farm fields. Farmers burn straw and stalks left over from the previous harvest to prepare for the next planting. The government is trying to reduce the thick smoke by spraying water, amid concerns that the pollution could become a health issue and further disrupt air travel, Cherry Soe Thein said.  “It’s been going on for six days and it has become worse. All we can do to reduce it is to water it down,” said U Khin Maung Tint, state MP for Tachileik. The air quality index for Tachileik was 302 on Saturday, and the government warned people to wear a mask when they’re outdoors.

Myanmar's agricultural products export reaches over 1 bln USD in over 4 months Xinhua 6th Mar 2019
Myanmar's export of agricultural products reached over 1.28 billion U.S. dollars as of Feb. 22 in present fiscal year 2018-2019 which started in October, according to the Commerce Ministry on Wednesday. The figures showed an increase of 81.9 million U.S. dollars while compared with the same period in last fiscal year 2017-2018 when it showed 1.2 billion U.S. dollars. The country exports rice as the major agricultural product, pulses, corn, rubber, fruits and vegetables and others.

Philippines

Russia seen as possible market, source of agricultural investment | BusinessWorld Business World 28th Mar 2019
THE Philippines and Russia have discussed possible Russian investment in Mindanao and market access for Philippine produce, the Philippine Embassy in Moscow said in a statement Wednesday. The Embassy said Ambassador to Russia Carlos D. Sorreta met with Director Maxim Markovich of Russian Agriculture Ministry’s Department of International Cooperation on March 4 in Moscow.

Rice tariff law IRR could be ready next week | BusinessWorld Business World 28th Mar 2019
THE National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said Wednesday that it targets to approve “next week” the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Rice Tariffication Act submitted by the National Food Authority (NFA) Council. In a phone message to BusinessWorld, NEDA Undersecretary Rosemarie G. Edillon said: “The intent is to have it approved next week.”

Palay prices continue to decline in first month of rice tariff law | BusinessWorld Business World 28th Mar 2019
THE average farmgate price of palay, or unmilled rice, continued to fall as the rice tariffication law came into force, with prices in the second week of March falling 1.91% week-on-week to P19.03 per kilogram. According to Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the average wholesale price of well-milled rice fell 0.78% week-on-week to P40.79 per kg. The average retail price also fell 0.07% from a week earlier to P44.42 per kg.

El Niño farm damage doubles to P2.68 billion BusinessMirror 28th Mar 2019
EL Niño has cost the agriculture sector an estimated P2.68 billion—double the earlier P1.3 billion reported by the Department of Agriculture—and forced 16 areas to declare a state of calamity, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said on Wednesday. Based on the report, the largest damage was in rice, worth P1.45 billion or more than half of the total damage reported.

Wide Range of Meat Products Drives Record Exports to the Philippines Drovers 26th Mar 2019
Joel Haggard, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) senior vice president for the Asia Pacific, just completed a market visit to the Philippines, where he helped lead a delegation of producers and other ag industry leaders from Iowa on an examination of one of the world's fastest-growing red meat import markets. 2018 was a record-breaking year for U.S. exports to the Philippines, with pork exports of nearly 48,000 metric tons (mt), up 23% from 2017, valued at $116.1 million (up 19%). Beef exports were nearly 18,000 mt valued at $87 million - up 39% and 42%, respectively.           Haggard explains that while a large percentage of U.S. export volume to the Philippines consists of lower-cost muscle cuts and variety meat used for further processing, rapid economic growth is helping generate demand for higher-end products. He notes that USMEF has increased its presence and the level of promotional activities in the Philippines in recent years, and this trend will likely continue as new growth opportunities emerge.

Cebu province placed under state of calamity Manila Bulletin 26th Mar 2019
The Cebu provincial government has declared a state of calamity, following massive agricultural damage due to the ongoing weak El Niño. On Monday, March 25, the Cebu Provincial Board (CPB) approved a resolution submitted by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) to declare Cebu under a state of calamity. Baltazar Tribunalo, PDRRMO head, told The Manila Bulletin that his office had recommended to the CPB the approval of the resolution following an assessment conducted in all of the affected areas in the province. With the declaration of a state of calamity in the province, Cebu’s 51 local government units (LGUs) can start releasing their calamity funds to help assist affected sectors, particularly farmers whose crops and livestock were affected by the ongoing heat wave. Tribunalo said the estimated agricultural damage caused by the weak El Niño in Cebu has already reached P100 million.

DA warns of major water crisis for farmers philstar.com 25th Mar 2019
Amid the current water supply issue and El Niño phenomenon, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has warned of a major water crisis for the farm sector if the government does not act on it immediately. Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said water supply for agriculture in the Philippines has been declining over the last few decades because of several reasons, including continued deforestation, threatening the headwaters of major river systems. “There are three key elements in agricultural productivity: land, sunlight and water. Land and sunlight can be substituted with aquaponics technology and artificial light, but there can never be agriculture without water,” Piñol said. The agriculture chief added that the frequency of the occurrence of the drought-inducing El Niño phenomenon, which now hits the country every two years, and the delay in the implementation of irrigation systems are among the reasons why supply for agriculture gets less and less. “There is also absence of water conservation programs, water catchments and small impounding dams and the reliance of agriculture on traditional irrigation systems instead of embracing modern irrigation technology using solar power,” Piñol said.

Angara urges gov’t to address the rising number of young people’s interest in agriculture Manila Bulletin 25th Mar 2019
Reelectionist Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara has urged the government to come up with mechanisms that would make the agriculture industry appealing to young Filipinos. Angara noted that today’s Filipino youth are not interested to venture into farming, putting the future of the country’s agriculture industry at risk. He said it is high time the government should put in place measures that would create more jobs and allow today’s Filipino youth to try their hand in agriculture. “Kailangan nating palakasin ang sektor ng agrikultura at palakihin ang kita ng mga magsasaka para mahikayat natin ang mga kabataan na magsaka, (We need to strengthen the agriculture sector and increase the earnings of our farmers to encourage our youth to farm),” said Angara, who joined the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HnP) campaign caravan in Negros Occidental. Negros Occident is home to at least six universities and colleges offering various courses in agriculture.

Maguindanao declares state of calamity Manila Bulletin 25th Mar 2019
The provincial government of Maguindanao has declared a state of calamity after a four-office assessment report showed that some P130-million worth of crops and livestock have been damaged in the ongoing dry spell, officials announced Monday. Engr. Abdulrahman Asim, provincial administrator, said the declaration came through a resolution passed on March 19 by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. “The resolution was unanimous after I presented to SP members and presiding Vice Governor Lester Sinsuat in their Tuesday session the consolidated findings of an assessment body on the extent of drought-related damages across Maguindanao,” Asim told The Manila Bulletin. As of March 11, the consolidated reports of the offices of the provincial disaster risk reduction management, social welfare and development, agriculture, and veterinary showed at least P130-million worth of drought damages in 26 of 36 towns in Maguindanao, Asim said. The damage included P50-million worth of rice farms, P70-million corn fields and the death of 324 livestock, mostly cows and goats, he said. Asim said the brunt of dry spell was felt in the towns of Paglat and Datu Paglas, whose Sangguniang Bayans have earlier declared municipal-level states of calamity. Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu ordered the conduct of the “synchronized” assessment by the four provincial offices a few days after the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) announced on March 6 that the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Zamboanga Del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Maguindanao, and Sulu had started experiencing meteorological drought as early as last February. Pagasa officials predicted that the dry spell would worsen in April and cover 22 other provinces in the country. Mangudadatu emphasized to his constituents the need to develop and sustain backyard gardening for vegetables and other food crops to cushion the effect of dry spells on every household. News about Mangudadatu’s backyard gardening advocacy sparked discussions in other component provinces of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). A Maranao women’s group said in Facebook posts that dozens of households in Ditsaan-Ramain, the hometown of Lanao del Sur Gov. Soraya Alonto-Adiong had started opening backyard gardens because signs of drought began to be felt in their province.

UAE minister for food security in Manila for 2-day visit Manila Bulletin 25th Mar 2019
A high-ranking official of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be in the country for a two-day visit beginning Monday, March 25, to explore cooperation with the Philippines in the areas of agriculture and food sciences, particularly in rice. UAE Minister of State for Food Security Mariam Al Mehairi will visit the Philippines Rice Research Institute in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, and the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, Laguna. During her visit, Mehairi is also expected to meet senior officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA), as well as other stakeholders in agribusiness. She will be feted with a welcome dinner to be hosted by the DA. Preparations for her visit are being jointly undertaken by the DA, the UAE Embassy in Manila and the DFA. Philippine Ambassador to Abu Dhabi Hjayceelyn Quintana will accompany the UAE cabinet official during the visit.

Red tide info in E. Visayas pushed Manila Bulletin 15th Mar 2019
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has stepped up efforts to enhance understanding and pro-active management of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), commonly known as red tide, in Eastern Visayas. The program, dubbed as Community Alliance for Sustaining our Threatened Seas (COASTS) was launched in this town last Thursday in partnership with the Marine Science Institute of the University of the Philippines (UPMSI) and the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD). Jiabong was chosen as the pilot area since the first red tide infestation occurred in Maqueda Bay here, which killed 21 people and downed at least 278 in June 1983. It is also the primary producer of mussel or tahong in Samar. The program also aims to address the risks of red tide blooms and pollution by providing tools to instantly detect the conditions and harmful organisms.

Philippines Billionaire Offers to Build New Dam as Taps Run Dry Bloomberg 13th Mar 2019
Philippine tycoon Enrique Razon is pushing to build a new dam east of the capital to prevent another water shortage hitting thousands of people in Metro Manila as the dry season begins. Wawa Dam in Rizal province can be the nearest major source of bulk water and provide 80 million liters per day by 2021 and 540 million liters daily by 2024, Razon said in a mobile-phone message. The billionaire said his group can start building the dam by the end of 2019 after signing a supply agreement with Manila Water Co. Inc. and securing environment and other permits. “Our water project is obviously badly needed,” Razon said. “But it’s not an immediate fix and is for the medium-to-long-term or this will be a recurring problem.” The water regulator supports the project, Razon said. President Rodrigo Duterte has tapped $211 million in Chinese loans for a dam south of Manila as another water source.

Bangsamoro area gets $1.8 M funding for agri Philippines Star 10th Mar 2019
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Japanese government have allocated $1.8 million to improve the agriculture sector in Mindanao to ensure sustainable peace and development in the region. Japan has partnered with FAO for a $1.76 million (P92 million) initiative that aims to enhance the agricultural vocational skills of farmers and fisherfolks in the Bangsamoro areas and other post-conflict areas in Mindanao. The partnership is one of the four projects that Japan will be supporting as contribution to the promotion of peace and development in Mindanao. The project will assist 2,000 farmers and fisherfolks from the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga Sibugay. “Mindanao, particularly its agriculture sector, is a major contributor to the Philippine economy given its vast natural resources. However, despite its huge potential, Mindanao’s agriculture sector continues to face high underemployment rates and low wages,” FAO representative in the Philippines Jose Luis Fernandez said.

CCCI trains Cebu farmers on organic farming and independent certification Philippines Star 6th Mar 2019
The Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) conducted a two-day training on Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) on February 26 and 27 at the Training Room of the newly renovated Chamber Centre. A total of 30 participants comprised of farmers, agri-entrepreneurs and advocates of healthy food from Cebu province attended the training.  The objective of the training was to heighten the interest of the participants to promote and expand the outreach of organic agriculture in Cebu. The trainers were Ms. Rowena Buena and Ms. Carmen Cabling, two senior officers of PGS Pilipinas, a network of PGS practitioners based in Los Baños, Laguna which supports the different PGS throughout the Philippines. The training highlighted the differences between organic and conventional agriculture and the organizational framework of PGS. According to the trainers many PGS have already been established in the last years in Luzon, Mindanao and Western Visayas, but Cebu was a “white spot on the PGS map” so far.

Government all set to limit intervention in rice market under new law BusinessMirror 5th Mar 2019
THE government is ready to exit from local rice markets and fulfill its new role under the rice trade liberalization law, which will take effect on Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said on Monday. Piñol also said the National Food Authority Council (NFAC) would meet on Tuesday to finalize implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 11203, which will bring sweeping changes to the domestic rice market.

Push for cost-competitive rice production continues Philippines Star 3rd Mar 2019
Some experts maintain that targeting a national average rice yield level of six tons per hectare (t/ha) is too much to achieve self-sufficiency and that 4.5t/ha will be enough. This may be true if the country is only interested in achieving self-sufficiency per se, disregarding competition from imported rice. But in the context of ASEAN economic integration, the Philippines must produce rice at a competitive price to profitably sell it in a common regional market. The Philippine rice industry is now staring at a different scenario. Because of the Philippines’ commitment to the World Trade Organization, the country needs to replace its quantitative restriction (QR) policy with its tariff equivalent. QR is a trade restriction placed on the amount of an item or service that can be imported into a country. Tariff refers to a tax levied on a commodity imported from another country. Along with this, there are bills pending in Congress to have the tariff policy fully implemented. Under a tariff regime, the government can no longer restrict the total amount of rice to be imported into the country.

FAO allots $5.8 M for agri in Mindanao Philippines Star 3rd Mar 2019
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Korean government have allocated $5.8 million to improve the agriculture sector in Mindanao to ensure sustainable peace and development in the region. The money will be used to improve agriculture and fisheries-based livelihoods, and accelerate agriculture-based enterprises in Mindanao. To be implemented this year until 2021 in the provinces of North Cotabato and Maguindanao, the project aims to increase the income of farming and fishing households, primarily by enhancing agribusiness value chains of key commodities. The project is currently the single largest contribution to FAO’s work in Mindanao. It will help establish a halal training and business center in Cotabato City and corn silage processing plant in North Cotabato. FAO will provide post-harvest facilities for rice and corn, and production and processing support for high value crops and fisheries.

Bohol Fish Market and Tienda opened Philippines Star 3rd Mar 2019
The Bohol Fish Market and TienDA was relaunched yesterday at the Bohol-Agricultural Promotion Center in Tagbilaran City. The project, according to the Department of Agriculture, aims to promote locally-produced agri-fisheries products, provide market access, and bring down the prices of some basic commodities most especially on fishery products. Department of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol graced the relaunching and led the ribbon-cutting ceremony along with Undersecretary for Fisheries and BFAR Director Commodore Eduardo Gongona, DA Regional Executive Director Salvador Diputado, and local officials of Bohol. DA-BFAR first launched the Bohol Fish Market and TienDA last year to address the shortage and high prices of fish and other seafood commodities. BFAR-7 Regional Director Alfeo Piloton, in a separate statement, assured the project’s continuity by making the fish Market and TienDA available every Friday and Saturday every week starting next week.

Singapore

Singapore sets 30% goal for home-grown food by 2030 The Straits Times 8th Mar 2019
Almost one-third of the food that Singapore needs will be home-grown by 2030. This will include vegetables cultivated in climate-controlled greenhouses under special LED lighting to maximise yields, and fish farmed at sea in contained systems to shield them against toxic algae blooms and oil spills. Announcing the ambitious "30 by 30" goal yesterday to produce 30 per cent of Singapore's nutritional needs locally by 2030, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli told Parliament that this calls for new solutions to raise productivity. The agri-food industry would also have to apply research and development, strengthen climate resilience and overcome resource constraints, he added. Technologies such as indoor multi-storey LED lighting for vegetable farms and indoor multi-storey recirculating aquaculture systems can produce 10 to 15 times more than traditional outfits. And high-tech farms can be less labour-intensive as well. "Farmers of the future will operate computerised control systems in a pleasant environment," Mr Masagos said during the debate on his ministry's budget.

Singapore opening up land and opportunities for agri-tech ventures The Straits Times 5th Mar 2019
Singapore wants a bite of the $5 trillion global food and agri-tech pie, and is putting its money where its mouth is. It is opening up land, giving out grants and increasing education opportunities for those who want to join the sector. And farmers here will not be the workers of old toiling under the sun, but highly trained individuals who use technology to do the work and to maximise harvests in a limited space. Just like Mr Joseph Phua, who made the switch from pig farming in the 1980s to vegetable farming, and grows pesticide-free crops in greenhouses at his farm, Orchidville, in Sungei Tengah. He has even created his own hybrid aquaponic farm to rear fish and grow vegetables. Here, vegetables are grown stacked above fish tanks to cool them, while water used for the fish is filtered and pumped back into the system to water the vegetables. More farmers like Mr Phua are needed. Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, said in Parliament yesterday: "Our good innovation climate, strong talent base, reputation for food safety and strategic location position us very well to capture a slice of this industry, particularly here in Asia."

Singapore to grow high-tech farming with 18ha facility at Sg Kadut The Straits Times 5th Mar 2019
A plot of land equivalent to 33 football fields in size will serve as Singapore's farming hothouse, as the country seeks to develop and export know-how in the emerging agricultural technology sector. The 18ha set aside for the Agri-Food Innovation Park at Sungei Kadut seeks to bring together a range of high-tech farming and research and development (R&D) activities, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon told Parliament yesterday. The park will have indoor plant factories, insect farms and animal feed production facilities, and agencies are working with local and overseas industry leaders to develop its first phase, which should be ready from the second quarter of 2021. "Our vision is for Singapore to be a leading urban agriculture and aquaculture technology hub with a food production model that can be exported to the region," Dr Koh said during the debate on the Trade and Industry Ministry's budget. Singapore has also been looking at ways to improve food security. The agri-tech hub's strategic location, with existing farms in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah to the west and Senoko Food Zone to the east, will form part of a larger northern agri-tech and food corridor set aside for food-related industries.

Boosting food security, creating jobs and strengthening the economy through agri-tech The Straits Times 4th Mar 2019
Singapore wants a bite of the $5 trillion global food and agri-tech pie, and is putting its money where its mouth is. It is opening up land, giving out grants and increasing education opportunities for those who want to join the sector. And farmers here will not be like the workers of old, toiling under the sun, but highly trained individuals who use technology to do the work and to maximise harvests in limited space. Just like Mr Joseph Phua, who made the switch from pig farming in the 1980s to vegetable farming, and grows pesticide-free crops in greenhouses at his farm Orchidville in Sungei Tengah. He has even created his own hybrid aquaponic farm to rear fish and grow vegetables. Here, the vegetables are stacked above fish tanks to cool them, while water used for the fish is filtered and pumped back into the system to water the vegetables.

Parliament: Agri-food innovation park in Sungei Kadut to open from early 2021, says Koh Poh Koon The Straits Times 4th Mar 2019
As Singapore looks to develop a new sector of agri-technology, it will open an 18ha Agri-Food Innovation Park in Sungei Kadut, which will be ready in phases from the second quarter of 2021. Announcing this development on Monday (March 4), Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon said the park, which is the size of about 33 football fields, will bring together high-tech farming and research and development activities, including indoor plant factories, insect farms and animal feed production facilities. "We are working with local and overseas industry players to develop this first phase of the park, which will be ready from the second quarter of 2021 with potential for future expansion," said Dr Koh, who spoke on the need to strengthen infrastructure support to encourage innovation in the sector.

Thailand

Govt seeks ways to curb destructive armyworms Bangkok Post 24th Mar 2019
The spread of fall armyworms in corn fields across the country has prompted authorities to seek measures to minimise economic damage to the agricultural sector. The nocturnal worms can survive on corn crops. They have adapted to the weather conditions in the country, according to the United Nations of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). "We are seeing an invasive pest literally sweep across the Asian continent," said Kundhavi Kadiresan, Assistant Director-General, FAO regional office for Asia Pacific. "Let's be clear that the fall armyworm is a pest that threatens our food security, our economies, domestic and international trade, and of course the smallholder farmers who wake up one morning to a cash crop under attack," Mr Kadiresan said. The fall armyworms, a long-time American pest, are munching their way around the globe. The insect is now spreading to Asia through Yemen and South Asia, China and Thailand. According to the FAO, the worms are native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas.

Fruit farmers seek help as drought bites Bangkok Post 21st Mar 2019
Hundreds of fruit farmers in Trat rallied outside the provincial hall on Wednesday to pressure authorities into speeding up efforts to solve water shortages. The farmers, from several tambons in Khao Saming district, said their orchards have been hit hard by drought and a poor harvest was likely if no action was taken to alleviate the problem. They also demanded to meet the provincial governor to voice their plight in person. The rally coincided with a meeting among provincial officials chaired by Trat deputy governor Supamit Chinsri to discuss drought relief measures for Muang, Bo Rai, and Khao Saming districts. Sa-ard Bussayapinit, from tambon Sator in Khao Saming district, said time was running out for fruit farmers there to save their crops. Mr Supamit was met with boos and jeers when he appeared and tried to talk to the protesters. Khao Saming district chief Pirawat Wangratkul, meanwhile, tried unsuccessfully to persuade the farmers to disperse.

BAAC preparing drought support Bangkok Post 18th Mar 2019
The state-owned Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) is set to launch a drought relief measure, offering farmers a three-year instalment plan for interest payments. The measure has been prepared in anticipation of lower rainfall this year, bound to hurt farmers' debt-servicing ability, said bank president Apirom Sukprasert. Although the government recently offered to suspend debt principal payments for three years, farmers are still liable for interest. The BAAC is offering a three-year payment period for interest instalments if the predicted drought takes a toll on their income, Mr Apirom said. Last year the cabinet approved two measures to aid farmers. The first was an extension of debt repayments for 3.81 million BAAC borrowers for three years, from Aug 1, 2018 to July 31, 2021. Farmers are required to repay interest at least once a year.

Alternatives for farmers Bangkok Post 15th Mar 2019
Before causing widespread alarm among Bangkok residents this year, PM2.5 fine dust particles plagued the skies in the North, Northeast and Central Plains for over a decade -- and it might be getting worse. At some points on Tuesday, the air quality in Chiang Mai ranked the worst in the world. Many other provinces in the region have also suffered high levels of this microscopic particulate matter (PM), which is harmful to people's health. PM2.5 refers to PM with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres. It can lodge in the lungs and enter blood vessels, leading to respiratory and cardiovascular disease. With motor vehicle emissions a major source of PM2.5 in the capital, the smog in the regions is mainly caused by forest fires and outdoor burning activities on corn and sugarcane plantations. This usually takes place from late January to April. The authorities have focused on giving orders and enforcing laws to deter and punish farmers from open burning, as a swift response to the problem.

Tobacco farmers seek support from political parties against tax hike The Nation 14th Mar 2019
Songkran Pakdeejit, president of the Burley Tobacco Farmers Association of Phetchabun, on Thursday met with representatives from the Democrat Party, Pheu Thai, Bhumjaitahi, Chartthaipattana, and Seri Ruam Thai to discuss the affect of the new tax rate on tobacco farmers. Cigarettes are liable for tax both in terms of volume and value, regardless of price, under the current excise tax structure. The tax based on value is divided into two rates, or 20 per cent of suggested retail price for cigarettes priced below Bt60 per pack and 40 per cent for those priced more than Bt60.  The new structure, which will come into force on October 1, will see tax for cigarette packs priced Bt60 or lower raised to 40 per cent, or the same rate applied to packs priced above Bt60.  That means the retail price for a pack will also increase.  According to the network, it is expected that the retail price per pack will increase by about Bt30 per pack to cover the new tax rate.

‘Cruel marketing in a friendly cloak’: drinks firms taken on by government The Nation 14th Mar 2019
Anti-alcohol advocates, meanwhile, slammed such products as a brazen attempt by alcohol firms to indirectly advertise their brands and seduce new drinkers, especially young people. They found an ally in Dr Nipon Chinanonwet, director of the Disease Control department’s Office of Alcohol Control Committee, who said on Tuesday that brewers could be taking advantage of a legal loophole.  “If it’s advertised as an alcohol-free malt beverage, there’s no problem, but if it’s advertised as an alcohol-free beer, we have to examine the intention and whether the advertising is breaking any law,” he said. The new drinks had been registered as food products under FDA control and can therefore be openly promoted, Nipon said, but the advertising features alcohol brand logos, which is broadly prohibited. Nipon noted that other countries had already sealed the loophole by prohibiting any similarities between logos of alcohol and non-alcohol drinks. Thailand would need to amend its Alcoholic Beverage Control Act 2008 and in the meantime, impose other measures, such as applying FDA regulations on exaggerated advertising, Nipon said.

Partners aim for SWEET rewards The Nation 9th Mar 2019
AIMING to strengthen Thailand’s agriculture industry with the use of technologies to do precision farming, government agencies and the private sector have joined hands to launch a two-year pilot project on 2,000 rai. The precision farming research collaboration involves three parties – the National Science and Technology Development Agency’s (NSTDA) National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (Nectec), IBM Thailand and Mitr Phol  The objective is to transform sugarcane farming into precision farming through increasing the yields of one of the country’s most economically important crops. The industrial crop is transformed in Thailand and around the world into sugar and bioenergy. According to a breakdown by country of sugar exports done by the website World’s Top Exports, Thailand plays an important role in the world market as the second largest sugar exporter, with a 9.4-per-cent market share in 2017.

Special rainmaking unit to be set up to alleviate drought in Buri Ram The Nation 6th Mar 2019
Nopparat Pongkittichote, chief agricultural officer for Buri Ram, said the special rainmaking unit will be based at the Buri Ram Airport in Satuek district on Thursday. The department will deploy two planes at the airport for operations to attack cloud with chemicals to make rains that would replenish reservoirs and creeks so that there would be enough raw water for making tap water during the dry season, he added. He said on-going drought in several districts of Buri Ram prompted the provincial governor to seek help from the Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation Department for special rainmaking operation. Nopparat expressed confidence that the cloud seeding would bring enough rains to alleviate drought in the province.

Thailand plans world's biggest floating solar farms to drive green push The Straits Times 5th Mar 2019
Thailand plans to build the world's largest floating solar farms to power South-east Asia's second-largest economy and to boost the country's share of clean energy. State-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) will float 16 solar farms with a combined capacity of more than 2.7 gigawatts on nine of its hydroelectric dam reservoirs by 2037, said Mr Thepparat Theppitak, a deputy governor with the utility. Several of the proposed projects are more than double the size of the world's largest floating system now and the venture dwarfs the 1.3 gigawatts of generation installed globally as of October. The plan represents an ambitious bet for Thailand on floating solar, which tends to be more expensive than the ground-mounted units that dominate the sector. If EGAT builds all its proposed projects, the company says floating solar will account for one tenth of the country's clean energy sources, compared to just 1 per cent of global solar capacity by 2050, according to BloombergNEF.

Not enough water left for rice farmers in Northeast The Nation 5th Mar 2019
At risk are Roi Et, Maha Sarakham and Yasothon. Some parts of the Chi River in Yasothon are already running dry and the water level in the Maha Sarakham-based Wang Yang Dam is running low.  Songwut Kitworawut, who manages an irrigation project in Khon Kaen province, said that several communities in northeastern provinces had asked that more water be released from Ubolrat Dam to help them cope with the ongoing dry season.  Ubolrat Dam “Requests have come from Khon Kaen, Yasothon, Roi Et and Maha Sarakham,” he said. “But the truth is that the Ubolrat Dam is now just 29 per cent full.”  Songwut said that while there was 699 million cubic metres of water left in the Ubolrat Dam, only 117.6 million cubic metres could be used. The rest needed to be retained to sustain the dam’s structure. Although Khon Kaen province’s Ubolrat is a substantial asset when full, the 117.6 million cubic metres of surplus water contained within accounts for just 5 per cent of its total capacity.  The Royal Irrigation Depart-ment’s deputy director-general, Dr Taweesak Thanadechophol, said the country’s medium and large dams had a total of 26,758 million cubic metres of water on March 1. Of this, the four major dams on the Chao Phraya River Basin had only 7,907 million cubic metres of disposable water, he added. 

Vietnam

Vietnam steers towards better water for everyone Voice of Vietnam 26th Mar 2019
Many families in Hong Linh commune in Ha Tinh province still keep water pipes running from mountain creeks. Others in the province’s Thuan Loc commune prefer to use their wells, just in case tap water dries up. And over the last several years that seems to be the better option as there has often been tap water shortages during the hot season. In many other parts of the province, clean water shortages happen all the time. In Thach Tri commune, residents have to buy canned clean water for daily use at high price, in Duc Tho and Can Loc districts, people have to collect rain water and use water from lakes and ponds for washing and showering. Only 47 percent of Ha Tinh province’s population has access to clean water that meets national standard. Tran Van Hai, Chairman of the People's Committee of Duc Thanh commune in Duc Tho district, said he didn’t know when the situation would improve. “Finding a clean water resource for residents in the commune now seems hopeless. We have to use polluted water from wells and lakes and we have asked the higher authority for clean water, but all plans are still on paper," he said.

Chu Lai to become high-quality agro-forestry processing hub: PM Voice of Vietnam 24th Mar 2019
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said he wishes that Chu Lai would strive to become a high-quality agro-forestry processing hub of the country to be able to meet huge demand in ASEAN, northeastern Asia, G7 and G20 countries. He expects Chu Lai would help turn Vietnam into one of the world’s wooden interior production centres, while addressing a groundbreaking ceremony for Chu Lai agro-forestry industrial park at the Chu Lai Open Economic Zone in the central province of Quang Nam on March 24. The leader suggested Chu Lai (Quang Nam) team up with Dung Quat (Quang Ngai) and Da Nang city to form growth poles and required close coordination in policymaking and pooling resources for development. He urged provinces to submit breakthrough mechanisms and policies to the Party Central Committee to improve competitiveness of key economic area in the central and Central Highlands, including Da Nang, Quang Nam and Dung Quat – Quang Ngai. The 450ha agro-forestry industrial park will develop a materials farming area for the central, Central Highlands and neighbouring Laos and Cambodia. It will be built from 2019 to 2022 at a total cost of over 8.1 trillion VND (352 million USD).

India, Vietnam lift import bans on coffee, pepper and other agro-products VnExpress 22nd Mar 2019
A woman sorts coffee beans at a coffee factor. India and Vietnam have removed their back-to-back bans issued earlier this month on the imports of several key agricultural commodities, including coffee beans and pepper, the Vietnamese government said on Wednesday. Photo by Reuters India and Vietnam have removed bans issued earlier this month on imports of several key agricultural commodities, including coffee and pepper, the Vietnamese government said on Wednesday, in line with market expectations. The Indian ban, which had been in place since March 7, has prevented coffee roasters in India from securing raw material to meet fast growing demand at home, while pepper prices in Vietnam have dropped to multi-year lows due, in part, to the restriction. Vietnam is the world's largest exporter of robusta coffee and black pepper. The Indian Embassy in Hanoi advised Vietnam's Industry and Trade Ministry late Tuesday that India has lifted its ban on six commodities from Vietnam, namely coffee beans, bamboo and bamboo toothpicks, black pepper, cinnamon, cassia and dragon fruit, the ministry said in a statement.

FAO calls on Vietnam to declare swine fever a national emergency VnExpress 20th Mar 2019
An area in northern Vietnam is disinfected with lime powder and chemicals following detection of swine fever. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh The virus was first detected in the Southeast Asian country a month ago at three farms in two northern provinces and has spread to 17 provinces in northern Vietnam with 239 outbreaks confirmed, the FAO said in a statement.  Pork accounts for three quarters of total meat consumption in Vietnam, a country of 95 million people where most of its 30 million farm-raised pigs are consumed domestically. "The loss of pigs due to ASF infection and control measures leads to a heavy economic burden to many rural families," Albert T. Lieberg, the FAO representative in Vietnam, said following meetings last week with Vietnamese authorities. Vietnam has been implementing strict movement control of pigs and pig products and culled more than 25,000, but the FAO said small farms with low biosecurity will allow ASF’s spread.

Cần Thơ licenses $14m seafood processing plant Vietnam News 20th Mar 2019
A Việt Nam and Japan joint-venture is planning to develop a seafood processing plant worth US$14 million in the southern city of Cần Thơ’s Trà Nóc 1 Industrial Zone. The joint-venture between the city-based Viet Foods Co and the Marine Foods Corporation of Japan received an investment licence from the municipal People’s Committee Chairman Võ Thành Thống last week during his trip to Japan to adveritise the city’s investment opportunities. The plant is slated for completion in May 2020 and its products will be shipped to the Japanese market, online newspaper baodautu.vn reported. Nguyễn Thị Kiều Duyên, deputy head of the Cần Thơ Export Processing and Industrial Zones Authority, said she hoped more Japanese investors would come and invest in the city. As of last year, the city had 82 valid foreign-invested projects with total registered capital of more than $693 million, according to the Cần Thơ Investment, Trade and Tourism Promotion Centre.

Agricultural sector posts trade surplus of $1b in two months Vietnam News 18th Mar 2019
The agricultural sector gained a trade surplus of US$1 billion in the first two months of this year despite a year-on-year decrease of 1.6 per cent in export value. According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), the sector earned $5.5 billion from the export of farm produce and forestry and aquatic products. Meanwhile, $4.5 billion worth of agro-forestry-fishery products were imported in the reviewed period, up 3 per cent from the same period last year. In the two months, the reduction in total export revenue was partly due to a fall of 10.1 per cent in export value of farm produce to $2.71 billion while that of animal husbandry hit $77 million, down 7 per cent. Nguyễn Trung Kiên, head of the Department of Market Research and Commodities under the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development, said bright spots of the agriculture sector were still seafood and forest products with year-on-year export growth at 4.4 per cent to $1.1 billion and 12.8 per cent to $1.5 billion, respectively, in the first two months of this year.

Solutions to curb African swine fever discussed Voice of Vietnam 15th Mar 2019
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong chaired a meeting in Hanoi on March 14 to discuss solutions to curb and prevent further outbreaks of the African swine fever (ASF), which is developing and likely to spread wildly. He suggested focusing on the prevention of the disease in small-scale households, cleaning the breeding facilities, and strictly managing the transport of pigs. ASF has occurred in 17 cities and provinces in the north and so if not controlled well, it could spread to the south and become more dangerous as the region is home to key livestock localities such as Dong Nai and Ho Chi Minh City. Therefore, it is necessary to strictly control the transport of pigs on roads to the south, the minister stressed. He also suggested implementing policies to support the destruction of infected pigs while raising public awareness of the issue.

Localities working hard to cull infected pigs Vietnam News 14th Mar 2019
Pig-farming Từ Tây Ward in Yên Phú Commune, Yên Mỹ District, the northern province of Hưng Yên, is going through hard times, with farmers forced to cull hundreds of pigs infected with African swine fever every day. There are 50 households with some 10,000 pigs in the locality. On Wednesday – the second day after the epidemic was found in Yên Phú Commune – local authorities mobilised forces from the commune veterinary service and police to monitor the destruction of Dương Văn Tâm’s herd, including three sows, 18 cubs and 42 pigs that tested positive for the virus. Tâm told Thanh niên (Young people) newspaper that when the neighbouring ward of Yên Hoà found an outbreak of the diease, each household contributed VNĐ1 million (US$43) to buy lime powder, spray disinfectant and set up five 24-hour quarantine checkpoints around the ward to prevent vehicles from transporting sick pigs to the area.

More investment in processing key to boost fruit and vegetable exports Voice of Vietnam 14th Mar 2019
More investment in processing and post-harvest preservation is needed to create added value for the export of fruit and vegetable products, experts said at a forum on the fruit and vegetable industry in HCM City on March 13. General Secretary of the Vietnam Fruit and Vegetable Association Dang Phuc Nguyen said the main problem of the sector is the slow pace of mechanisation and lack of technologies in post harvest preservation and processing, resulting in huge post-harvest losses and the degradation of product quality during the distribution process. He noted that there are just nearly 150 firms operating in fruit and vegetable processing in the country. Besides raising the added value for products, cutting production and transport costs is a solution to enhance the competitiveness of domestic fruit and vegetable. Le Van Duc, deputy director of the Department of Cultivation under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, pointed to the small scale of production, which he said is the cause of uneven quality of products.

Vietnam affirms commitment to contributing to IFAD activities Voice of Vietnam 13th Mar 2019
Ambassador Nguyen Thi Bich Hue, Vietnamese Permanent Representative to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), has lauded the fund’s support to Vietnam over the years and affirmed the Vietnamese Government wants to strengthen cooperation with and contribute more to the fund’s activities. At a meeting with IFAD President Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo at the fund’s headquarters in Rome, Italy on March 12, Ambassador Hue said that although Vietnam became ineligible for IFAD’s official development assistance (ODA) in 2018, it has faced many challenges. Climate change has seriously affected the production of many farmers, while their access to credit is limited, she noted. She proposed the IFAD help Vietnam by creating favourable conditions for the country to continue borrowing soft loans in the future, and expanding cooperation projects across Vietnam. For his part, the IFAD President lauded Vietnam’s collaboration over the years, holding that the affiliation has helped ensure the efficiency of IFAD-funded projects in the country and the region, including those to upgrade the representative office of the fund in Hanoi into the IFAD Mekong Hub.

Logistics in Mekong Delta yet to meet expectations Voice of Vietnam 11th Mar 2019
The Mekong Delta is a large agricultural exporter as well as goods and machinery importer, but logistics in the region has been insufficient to promote agricultural production and exports. “Import and export activities in the Mekong Delta have been increasing thanks to international integration. The region needs a modern logistics system to reduce transport fees and increase competitive ability,” Nguyen Minh Toai, director of the Can Tho City’s Industry and Trade Department recently told the Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) newspaper. Most of the delta’s exports must transit through the Southeastern region including HCM City and Ba Ria – Vung Tau province, leading to an additional US$10 increase for each tonne of goods.

Central Highlands province opens coffee festival, calls for investment Vietnam News 10th Mar 2019
Deputy Prime Minister Trương Hoà Bình has urged the Central Highlands region to build a Vietnamese coffee brand capable of competing with rivals at home and abroad. Speaking at the opening ceremony of the seventh Buôn Ma Thuột Coffee Festival on Saturday night, Bình said the region should aim to become a “world famous coffee destination”. The area is known for its basaltic land with huge rubber and coffee plantations, he noted. “The Central Highlands region has great advantages and potential for coffee plantations and exports.” Đắk Lắk Province’s coffee products, with the geographical indication “Buôn Ma Thuột Coffee”, are sold in some 65 countries and territories worldwide, making the largest contribution to Việt Nam’s coffee exports. Bình said that Đắk Lắk and other provinces with coffee growing areas should ensure sustainable production by promoting biodiversity, organic agriculture and cultural values.

Farming products face difficulties in export this year Vietnam News 6th Mar 2019
The consumption of farming products is expected to face difficulties this year, with increased competition in the global market. Minister of agriculture and rural development, Nguyễn Xuân Cường, made the statement at the Việt Nam Agricultural Production and Consumption Promotion Forum 2019 held in Hà Nội on March 5 by the ministry and the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT). Cường said the challenges include a forecast reduction in world economic growth this year, while many countries would focus on agricultural development. Therefore, Việt Nam’s exports of agricultural products might face fierce competition. Large importers such as the US, EU, China, Japan and South Korea have promoted the protection of agricultural products by setting standards on quality and food hygiene and safety, while requiring traceability, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD). The trade war between the US and China, Brexit and geopolitical instability will also affect the export of Vietnamese agricultural products.

HCM City to ensure pork supply Vietnam News 6th Mar 2019
HCM City authorities have developed plans to ensure pork supply for city residents after swine fever was detected in pigs in the northern city of Hải Phòng in late February. Huỳnh Phương Trang, deputy director of the HCM City Department of Trade and Industry, said the department was working with major pork suppliers in the city to ensure supply of clean pork to city residents in case swine fever affects the southern region. Pork sales at Vissan shops have slightly increased, said Nguyễn Ngọc An, CEO of Vissan (Vietnam Joint Stock Company), one of the nationally recognised food manufacturers in processing and trading of fresh meat, processed foods and meat-related products in the country. In addition to Vissan, other pig producers and pork processors in HCM City, such as C.P. and Sagri Agriculture Incorp, have also announced plans to cope with African swine fever. Trang said live pigs were selling for VNĐ51,000 – VNĐ51,500 per kg, a drop of VN3,000 to VNĐ4,000 after Tết.

Lào Cai to set up agricultural speciality areas Vietnam News 5th Mar 2019
Lào Cai Province should work with enterprises to establish large agricultural speciality zones and upgrade its infrastructure to enhance product value, according to a farming expert. Thào Xuân Sùng, chairman of the Việt Nam Central Farmers’ Association, made the statement during a recent trip to the northwest. The northern mountainous province has different kinds of agricultural products including fish, cinnamon trees, bananas, pineapples and tea. Lưu Văn Quang, a farmer in Dền Sáng Commune, Bát Xát District, said that thanks to the clean water from the mountain, local farmers set up fish raising ponds and produced high quality products. On average, Quang’s family sells 50 tonnes of fish per year and makes profits of dozens of billions of đồng (VNĐ10 billion equals US$434,700). Quang’s farm is Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practices (VietGAP) certified.

Cassava exports fall sharply in first two months Vietnam News 5th Mar 2019
Việt Nam’s cassava exports dropped sharply in terms of volume and value during the first two months of this year, mainly due to falling demand in China. According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Việt Nam exported 457,000 tonnes of cassava, earning US$166 million. Those figures were down 20.1 per cent in volume and 5.4 per cent in value year on year. China was still the largest export market for Vietnamese cassava, accounting for 93.1 per cent, followed by the Philippines with 2.6 per cent and Malaysia with 1.3 per cent. However, cassava exports decreased by 31.9 per cent in volume and 18.6 per cent in value to China, and by 9.6 per cent in volume and 4.3 per cent in value to Malaysia. Exports to the Philippines increased by 7.7 per cent in volume and 23.2 per cent in value. Since last year, China has been maintaining a policy of holding low corn stock, plus it has increased imports from Thailand.

Cashew price to recover this year Vietnam News 5th Mar 2019
Cashew prices are expected to recover this year on the global market and producers should promote cooperation to remain stable. Experts spoke at an international conference on the cashew industry held in Huế from March 1-3 to promote close and long-term relationships between cashew companies and create a basis for establishing trade between parties this year. R K Dhoodes, chairman of the Cashew Export Promotion Council of India (CEPC) said annual consumption of cashew nuts has increased sharply, meaning good news for the global cashew industry. He predicted demand will continue to rise so prices will also surge. The CEPC chairman said in the future there should be a common institution for controlling trade activities to ensure parties respect contracts. Prices must be fair to ensure all parties benefit in the value chain. During the conference, the Việt Nam Cashew Association (Vinacas) and the CEPC held talks about promoting cooperation in stabilising cashew prices this year.

Export of marine products to reach $3.5 billion this year Vietnam News 4th Mar 2019
Despite likely hurdles, export of marine products is expected to rise by 17 per cent to US$3.5 billion this year, according to the Việt Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (Vasep). According to Nguyễn Thị Thu Sắc, VASEP’s deputy chairwoman and chairwoman of its marine products committee, tuna exports still have room to grow thanks to imported raw fish and Việt Nam’s trade agreements with a number of countries. Tuna exports are forecast to top $1 billion this year, $350 million higher than last year, she said. Exports of other fish, squid, octopus and other seafood products are likely to be steady or increase slightly, she said. Referring to markets, she said shipments to Japan are expected to jump by 27 per cent to $900 million, with exporters focusing on marine fish, surimi and value-added products.

Banks promise loans to struggling rice exporters Vietnam News 4th Mar 2019
The State Bank of Việt Nam (SBV) has urged credit institutions to ensure adequate funds to meet the capital demands of rice exporters for the winter-spring crop this year. Since the Lunar New Year (Tết) holiday, the rice export market has seen prices dropping due to oversupply. The SBV directed commercial banks to focus on timely lending to enterprises so they can buy rice from farmers. At a meeting held late last week in Đồng Tháp Province, commercial banks, including Agribank, Vietcombank and Sacombank, committed to providing loans worth trillions of Vietnamese đồng with an interest rate of 6 per cent per year to rice enterprises. Nghiêm Xuân Thành, chairman of Vietcombank, said the bank committed to provide low-interest loans worth VNĐ9 trillion (US$387.82 million) to rice enterprises that have feasible plans.

Int’l exhibition on processing food to be held Vietnam News 2nd Mar 2019
The largest specialised event on processing, packaging and preserving food and agricultural products in Việt Nam will take place on July 24-27 in HCM City. The organiser announced the upcoming International Exhibition on Processing, Packaging and Preserving Food and Agricultural Products yesterday. It will be held under the patronage of Ministry of Industry and Trade, and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Covering an area of 5,000sq.m with 300 booths from domestic and international enterprises, the exhibition is expected to receive 35,000 visitors, according to Trần Thanh Mai from CIS Vietnam Company, organiser of the event. The four-day event will include exhibitions of typical agricultural and food products; packaging, preserving and processing technology; and preservatives and materials used in the food processing industry.