Food & Agriculture Update: December 12, 2019

Food & Agriculture Update | December 12, 2019
Authors: Sunita Kapoor, Hai Pham, Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, J-Ren Ong, Aree Tomes
  • January 7, 2020: 2020 Food & Agriculture Committee Planning Call, Invitation with draft workplan will be circulated next week. For more information, please contact Sunita Kapoor at
  • February 4 & 6-7, 2020: U.S. Embassies in Vientiane and Phnom Penh Trade Events in Laos (Feb 4th) and Cambodia (Feb 6-7th), view the attached information packet for more information, or contact David Sequeira at
  • February 24-25, 2020: Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to Indonesia
    For more information, please contact Sunita Kapoor at
  • February 26, 2020: Indonesia Segment of ASEAN Safe, Nutritious PPP Initiative Workshop, in partnership with EU-ASEAN Business Council, and CropLife Asia
  • May 2020: Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to Vietnam
  • July 2020: Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to Philippines
  • 1st Half of 2020: Joint Antimicrobial Resistance Program in ASEAN (inaugural collaboration between Council’s Food & Agriculture and Health & Life Sciences committees)

USDA’s 2020 Agricultural Trade Forecast
According to their 2020 agricultural trade forecast, the US Department of Agriculture predicts US agricultural exports to grow to US$139 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, up US$2 billion from USDA’s August 2019 forecast. US agricultural imports for consumption are also anticipated to increase to US$132 billion, with an increase of US$3 billion on the August forecast. In total, agricultural trade is predicted to produce a trade surplus of US$7 billion for the US economy in FY 2020, due to higher export forecasts of soybean, pork and dairy.

Soybean exports are up US$1.2 billion, to US$18 billion due to higher unit values. Expected pork exports have increased by US$400 million, largely from Chinese demand. Dairy products are also up $300 million projected at US$5.8 billion as volumes and unit prices are expected to strengthen. Overall FY 2020 forecasts for the export of livestock, poultry, and dairy are higher than USDA’s August projections. However, grain and feed forecasts have taken a slump of US$600 million down to US$29.5 billion, due to competition from wheat and corn products.

USDA predicts a slight increase in US exports to ASEAN from US$13.6 billion to US$13.7 billion in 2020. Forecasted exports to the Philippines have experienced an adjusted decrease of US$100 million to US$3 billion, as a result of increased competition from Argentinian soymeal. Malaysia’s forecast is also down by US$200 million to $1.3 billion, because of lower expected demand for bulk commodities like soybeans. Yet the total export forecast for ASEAN is unchanged, as increased exports to Singapore and Myanmar have offset stated decreases.

US Imports from ASEAN are predicted to be down US$100 million to US$13.5 billion from USDA’s August forecast. Nonetheless, US Agri-imports from ASEAN are calculated to increase by US$500 million from US$13 billion. Expectations of Indonesian imports have decreased and as a result, they are down US$100 million to US$3.3 billion. Vietnamese imports are also expected to be down US$100 million to US$2.4 billion. Meanwhile, imports from Malaysia are the same as August predictions at US$1 billion. Thailand, however, is up US$200 million at US$2.8 billion.

Overall, the two-way agricultural goods trade between the US and ASEAN is expected to grow as compared to 2019. Despite the global economic slowdown, agricultural trade ties between the US and ASEAN appear to remain stable.

Free Trade Agreements boost food imports and investment in Vietnam

Vietnam is one of ASEAN’s fastest-growing economies and currently ranks second behind Singapore in terms of economic openness. As of this year, Vietnam has a total of 17 Free Trade Agreements (FTA), with 60 countries. The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the EU-Vietnam FTA (EVFTA), are predicted to increase Vietnam’s GDP by 4.3 and 1.3 percent by 2030 and 2035, respectively. Vietnamese exports to the EU are also expected to increase by 44 percent by 2030, whilst exports to CPTPP-signatory countries is estimated to rise by 14.3 percent by 2035. FTAs have also opened new opportunities for agricultural imports and foreign investment in Vietnam.

FTA’s have enabled products from countries with developed food processing industries, like Japan, the US, Australia and EU Member States to be competitive in the Vietnamese market. For example, Canada’s agricultural and seafood exports to Vietnam have reached a turnover of US$235 million in 2018. Additionally, in the first nine months in 2019, Vietnam’s imports of pork products had increased from US$23.6 million from last year to $29.2 million.

Vietnam’s budding food processing sector is also seeing a surge in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). According to Vietrade’s Investment Promotion Centre for Industry and Trade, FDI in Vietnam’s food processing industry was estimated at US$11.2 billion funding 717 projects across the country. This excluded foreign investors buying company shares or conducting mergers and acquisitions. Most foreign capital flows into Vietnam’s food industry have been from other Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea and China.

However, FDI projects have had little investment in developing raw agricultural materials. As a result, local industries that support the food processing sector like cultivation and husbandry have not been developed to modern standards.

Thailand revises ban on crop protection products

In response to domestic and international opposition to the prohibition of the herbicides paraquat and glyphosate and the insecticide chlorpyrifos, the National Hazardous Substances Committee (NHSC) of Thailand decided to push back the ban’s start date for paraquat and chlorpyrifos and maintain narrow restrictions on glyphosate. The ban for paraquat and chlorpyrifos is now slated to begin on June 1, 2020, while for glyphosate the NHSC reverted to a May 23, 2018, decision that restricts its use to six crops – corn, cassava, sugarcane, rubber, oil palm and fruit. As part of the May 2018 decision, a maximum residue limit (MRL) will be adopted for glyphosate. Other restrictions stemming from the decision include a prohibition on the use of the chemical in watershed areas and the need for farmers to submit documentation proving on which crops they will use glyphosate. The decision to delay the ban came after a public hearing indicated that 75 percent of the population opposed the prohibition, mainly due to the limited amount of time provided to enact it. The NHSC echoed this concern in its decision to delay the ban. The new date for the ban’s implementation is intended to provide the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives enough time to study alternatives to paraquat and chlorpyrifos and present them to the NHSC.

The government experienced strong resistance to the ban from Thai farmers and agricultural industry stakeholders, including the Thai Crop Protection Association and the Thai Agro Business Association. Additional pressure from the U.S. government, a Thai animal-feed producer, and a group of herbicide producers contributed to the ban’s postponement. Opponents to the ban argued that outlawing the chemicals could cost Thailand’s industrial, agricultural, and food sectors up to 1.7 trillion THB (US$5.6 billion). With the agriculture sector accounting for more than 2 percent of the country’s GDP – Thailand is the world’s second-largest exporter of rice, trailing only India – any decision to ban chemicals would have to take into account the 12 million Thais employed in the sector.

Members of the Bhumjaithai Party, including Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and Deputy Agriculture Minister Manaya Thaiseth, expressed disappointment with the decision to postpone the ban of paraquat and chlorpyrifos and indefinitely delay the ban on glyphosate. Following criticism of the how the NHSC meeting was run, Anutin said that legal specialist might need to be consulted on how the vote was taken. The incident has underscored how the priorities of parties in the expansive ruling coalition can run counter to each other at times. In this instance, the ban was a priority for the Bhumjaithai Party, the third-largest party in the coalition, while Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit of the Prime Minister's Palang Pracharath Party indicated in early November that he planned to review the ban once he became chairman of the NHSC. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he prioritizes citizens’ health but doesn’t have an issue with the NHSC’s decision.

Indonesia using Drones to Protect Palm Oil Plantations
With palm oil plantations being responsible for 11 to 16 percent of Indonesia’s forest lost in the last few decades, the call for an adoption of “smart” farming techniques to protect farmland is becoming increasingly prevalent. Indonesian palm oil accounts for 50% of the world’s consumed palm oil and 56% of oil palm tree expansion in the country between 1990 and 2005 came at the cost of natural forests. In efforts to prevent deforestation and protect plantations from flooding and loss of biodiversity, Indonesian agricultural workers are tapping into the drone market.

Local farming businesses are looking to the surveillance features of commercial drones to mitigate some of the challenges in cultivating palm oil. Drones can fly 1,300 feet above ground while simultaneously capturing images of up to 6,100 acres of land. These images are then analyzed using artificial intelligence-based systems and the gathered information serves as a tool for spotting concerns in remote areas. It is common for workers to navigate the land themselves and monitor plantations by sight, but the magnitude of plantations leads to a higher probability for human error and unreliable data. A single drone’s capability to take pictures spanning 25,000 acres and electronically reviewing them in 4 hours surpasses previous practices of 20 workers taking two weeks to assess the land without the use of technology.

Due to increased awareness about sustainable farming and precision agricultural, drones are showing great potential in the modernization of the agricultural industry. During the Council’s presentation at the 41st ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture & Forestry (AMAF), we proposed a stewardship program that will leverage drone application technology to promote responsible use of crop protection products in agriculture. Spraying crop protection products by drones has proven safer and faster than manual application due to lower levels of product use. Field tests by US agriculture companies, in partnership with local governments and companies in Asia, have so far been successful (e.g. China, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines).


US-ABC Position Paper on Philippines Senate Bill No. 2068 on “Pet Food Additive Information Act”
Members of the F&A Committee and representatives from the Council’s Philippines Office attended a public hearing held by Philippine Senate to discuss the Pet Food Additive Information Act (Senate Bill No.2068), on the morning of December 2019. Attached is the position paper presented to the Philippine Senate, outlining the Council's stance on the proposed Pet Food Additive Information Act.

The Council is scheduling meetings with key Senators and government officials from the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) for December 2019, as a direct outcome of the hearing. If interested please contact Sunita Kapoor (

Recommendations to Vietnam’s Drafting Committee of Decree Providing Guidelines to Implement Animal Husbandry Law
On November 19 2018, Vietnam's National Assembly passed the Law on Animal Husbandry which will be effective from January 1st 2020. Together with the Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development (MARD), the Council has co-organized two consultative workshops (in June and October 2019) for the draft Decree providing guidelines to implement this Law focusing on the provisions on management of animal feed. Following the 16 October 2019 workshop on best practices and international regulations on the use of antibiotics in livestock production, the Council has submitted a letter to MARD highlighting concerns around the removal of non-medically important antimicrobials for prevention use by the end of 2025. Please contact Sunita Kapoor (, if you have any questions, comments or further recommendations.

USDA tariff requests to the Vietnam MOF
US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has submitted a tariff request to the Vietnam Ministry of Finance (MOF) as part of USTR's Trade & Investment Agreements (TIFA) discussions. The submission was a short list that included some dairy products, ethanol, poultry, pork, almonds, grapes, dried grapes (raisins), apples, potatoes, walnuts and wheat. On Friday, 6 December 2019, MOF published this request and detailed their counter-proposal which will go to line Ministries for their comments. In their counter proposal, MOF has suggested reducing its tariffs on ethanol from 20 percent to 15 percent, instead of the industry recommended 5 percent. This is part of the annual review of Decree 125 that will be finalized and approved by Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc before the end of the year. The Council is supportive of this initiative which is a positive step towards reducing the U.S. goods trade deficit with Vietnam ($39.5 billion in 2018). If you are interested in this issue and would like more information, please contact Sunita Kapoor (

Food & Agriculture Statistics in ASEAN Project
The Council’s Food & Agriculture Team is working on an internal project, collating key statistics for the Food & Agriculture sector in ASEAN. This will be useful for the Council’s leaders and mission delegates during our various food & agriculture related industry missions, workshops, roundtables, and position papers during missions. Please review the current work in progress, and let us know if there are any other key indicators and/or sources/references that should be included.Attached is a copy of the statistical data that the council has collated.

Please contact Sunita Kapoor ( for a discussion.

ASEAN to take immediate steps to combat drought in SE Asia
ASEAN’s children are still hungry 
Vietnamese, Lao, Cambodian farmers talk agriculture, rural development
Organic farming in Southeast Asia

Brunei-Oman joint venture acquires 50% stake in Golden Corporation
CM: State govt committed to working with BIMP-EAGA countries on realising socio-economic devt objectives

Zoomlion's Strategic Cooperation with Cambodia Brings Modern Agricultural Equipment and Technologies
Japanese firm seeks investment in Kingdom’s silk production
Cambodia joins Vietnamese programme for agri cooperation
Gov’t tells farmers to plant one rice crop in dry season
ADB to Help Improve Irrigation Systems of Four Provinces in Cambodia 

SOEs in agriculture, various industries on brink of bankruptcy: Sri Mulyani
Companies cofinance sustainable agriculture to keep forests green
Drones are transforming palm oil plantations
22 million Indonesians endured chronic starvation in Jokowi's first term: ADB report

Laos gets US$22mil soft loan to tackle rural poverty

Malaysia’s lagging agriculture sector
Malaysia defers new fruit, vegetable export rules after complaints from traders who supply to Singapore

Myanmar urges ASEAN cooperation in rural development
Mon State throws open doors for investors in six sectors
Firms use technology to optimise agriculture yields in Shan

Corruption pulls down PHL in food security list
CONFED forwards proposals to address sugar industry challenges
Palay production crisis: A battle of development frameworks
Senate urges gov't not to pursue sugar liberalization
Philippines eyes more galunggong imports
Villar says P3 billion realignment in 2020 national budget to assist local rice farmers
Rethinking the sugar industry direction
PH tightens rules on rice imports

Creative solutions key to growing agri-food sector
More than 100 farms benefit from productivity fund as Singapore tackles food security
New campaign to encourage Singaporeans to grow and eat local produce on the cards

Suriya threatens countersuit on relaxed farm chemicals ban
New committee countermands ban on toxic farm chemicals
Thai aquaculture to stay soft in 2020: Report
Chemicals ban derailed by '4 forces'
Thailand postpones Dec 1 ban on two toxic farming chemicals following protests
Demonstrators Call on Thai Government to Delay Pesticides Ban
Rally against ban on 3 farm chemicals
Thailand to use blockchain technology for production-to-export traceability of organic rice
Farmers to be given tractors at highly subsidised rate to compensate for chemical ban 

Vietnam considers tariff cuts on American agriculture products
FTAs boost food imports, investments in Vietnam
Vietnam’s agricultural sector at a crossroads

ASEAN to take immediate steps to combat drought in SE Asia vietnamnews 10th Dec 2019
ASEAN-member countries have vowed to take immediate action to resolve problems caused by worsening drought in Southeast Asia. A declaration on drought would be adopted by leaders at the ASEAN Summit to be held in Việt Nam in November next year. ASEAN has worked closely with relevant sectors to help the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management draft the declaration and drought-related activities need to be integrated into the future action plan of ASEAN. To mitigate the impact, drought risk assessment and early-warning services should be improved through the sharing of data from space-based technologies. Risk-financing instruments as well as improvement of people’s awareness of the effects of drought are also needed. According to the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2019, annual economic losses in Asia Pacific more than quadruple when slow-onset disasters, most notably drought, are added to the region’s disaster risk landscape. The average annual loss for the region is $675 billion, of which $405 billion, or 60 per cent, is drought-related agricultural losses. In Southeast Asia, the average annual loss is higher than the Asia-Pacific regional average, reaching $86.5 billion or 3 per cent of the regional GDP. The average annual loss is highest in Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Việt Nam, and the Philippines.

ASEAN’s children are still hungry  The ASEAN Post 9th Dec 2019
When the Global Hunger Organisation (GHO) revealed its 2019 results for the Global Hunger Index (GHI) it was painfully obvious that ASEAN member states are still relatively hungry. Perhaps with the exception of countries like Brunei and Singapore (which were not included in the survey), even the bloc’s top performer – Thailand – only came in 46th spot out of the 113 countries surveyed. While remarks for the rest of the world ranged from “low” to “extremely hungry”, only Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam got away with a “moderate” while the GHI index shows that the state of hunger in Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Lao PDR is still “serious”. The GHI uses four indicators: undernourishment, which is the share of the population that is undernourished or whose caloric intake is insufficient; child wasting, which is the share of children under the age of five who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition; child stunting, the share of children under the age of five who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition; and child mortality, which is the mortality rate of children under the age of five (in part, a reflection of the fatal mix of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments). Looking at Southeast Asia, the results are unfortunately, not too surprising. 25.8 percent of children under five are stunted, while 8.4 percent and 7.2 percent of children under five are wasting and overweight, respectively. Much like the GHI 2017, the 2019 report finds that stunting prevalence is highest in Cambodia and Lao PDR, as well as in parts of Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar.

Vietnamese, Lao, Cambodian farmers talk agriculture, rural development VietnamPlus 2nd Dec 2019
seminar was held in Da Lat city, the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, on December 2 to share experience in agriculture, farmers and rural development, within the framework of a friendship exchange between Vietnamese, Lao and Cambodian farmers. Participants discussed orientations to agriculture, farmers and rural development in the three countries, the role of farmers’ unions in the effort, smart agriculture 4.0 and approaches in Vietnam. A specific action plan was suggested to increase cooperation between the three countries’ farmers for each year and period, regularly sharing experience towards green, clean and organic production, popularising each country’s achievements in science-technology, digital industry, artificial intelligence, and helping firms access local markets. The VFU was assigned to partner with Vietnamese, Lao and Cambodian ministries, agencies and localities to devise a plan to intensify coordination between their farmers, as well as hold annual and periodic meetings for farmers in Vietnamese, Lao and Cambodian bordering provinces.

Organic farming in Southeast Asia The ASEAN Post 25th Nov 2019
There is a growing interest in organic produce in Southeast Asia. In reaction to rapidly changing farming practices, organic farming is an alternative agricultural system that strives for sustainability, the enhancement of soil fertility and biological diversity. The farming method of rotating crops and applying mulch to empty fields can stabilise soils and improve water retention. 


Brunei-Oman joint venture acquires 50% stake in Golden Corporation The Scoop 28th Nov 2019
The Oman Brunei Investment Company (OBIC) has acquired a 50 percent share of aquaculture company Golden Corporation. The two companies signed an agreement at the Oman embassy in Brunei on Wednesday, marking the first OBIC investment in Brunei Darussalam since its establishment in 2009. OBIC is a joint venture between the State General Reserve Fund of Oman and Brunei Investment Agency, while Golden Corporation is a foreign direct investment (FDI) company from Taiwan that produces blue shrimp. Golden Corporation Managing Director Richard Chuang said OBIC’s investment will enable the company to utilise local marine resources and increase their aquaculture products for more export opportunities. He said the company, which established the first integrated seafood processing plant in Brunei in 2012, plans to expand the production of blue shrimp. The blue shrimp is exported to countries including South Korea, Japan, China and the United States.

CM: State govt committed to working with BIMP-EAGA countries on realising socio-economic devt objectives Borneo Post Online 24th Nov 2019
KUCHING: The state government is committed to working with the member countries in BIMP-EAGA on realising socio-economic development objectives, said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg. One such example, Abang Johari said, was the BIMP-EAGA’s (Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area) proposed Trans Borneo Interconnection Power Grid. “The power sector is one of the strengths of Sarawak, and we are in a good position to complement the BIMP-EAGA’s proposed Trans Borneo Interconnection Power Grid. “We will continue with the Sarawak-West Kalimantan Interconnection Project, and at the same discuss with Brunei Darussalam on the Sarawak-Brunei Interconnection Project,” Abang Johari said in his speech during the BIMP-EAGA Budayaw Festival Gala ‪Dinner on Saturday night‬. His text-of-speech was read by Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department (Law, State-Federal Relations and Project Monitoring) Datuk Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali. Abang Johari also noted BIMP-EAGA’s aspiration to be the food basket in Asean and the rest of the world, adding that the state was implementing specific strategies for modernising and commercialising agriculture.


Zoomlion's Strategic Cooperation with Cambodia Brings Modern Agricultural Equipment and Technologies AsiaOne 9th Dec 2019
Zoomlion Agricultural Machinery Co, a subsidiary of Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science and Technology Co, (01157.HK), has signed an MoU with the Cambodia Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on promoting mechanization of agriculture and application of intelligent agricultural technologies on November 19 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. At the signing ceremony, Zoomlion also announced a donation of high-end agricultural equipment including fully mechanized corn production equipment and intelligent dryers to support the transformation and development of Cambodia's modern agriculture. Founded in 1992, Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science & Technology Co., Ltd. (01157.HK) is a high-end equipment manufacturing enterprise that integrates engineering machinery, agricultural machinery and financial services. The company now sells more than 460 cutting-edge products from 55 product lines covering ten significant categories.

Japanese firm seeks investment in Kingdom’s silk production Khmer Times 8th Dec 2019
Japanese firm Nippon Koei has announced its intention to invest in Cambodia’s silk industry. The plan was unveiled during a meeting last week between Cambodia’s Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon and Tamura Tsutomu, general manager of Nippon Koei. Mr Tsutomu said his company is interested in investing in silk production in the Kingdom having learned that Cambodian silk is in high demand. The Khmer Silk Center, an institution dedicated to research in the silk industry and to revitalising the weaving sector, launched in June inside the Royal University of Phnom Penh. The facility was initiated by RUPP with contributions from the Japanese government and United Nations Development Program.

Cambodia joins Vietnamese programme for agri cooperation Khmer Times 1st Dec 2019
Cambodia joins Vietnamese programme for agri cooperation The agriculture sector in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos still lag when it comes to the adoption of modern technology. The agriculture sector in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos still lag when it comes to the adoption of modern technology. Cambodia has sent representatives to attend a Vietnamese programme that seeks to strengthen the relationship between them and the agricultural sectors of Vietnam and Laos, Vietnamese media reported. The programme, which also includes a green agricultural fair, kicked off Saturday and concludes today in the Vietnamese city of Da Lat in the Central Highlands. The Cambodian delegation to the Friendship Meeting Programme includes Agriculture Ministry officials, agricultural experts and farmers.

Gov’t tells farmers to plant one rice crop in dry season Phnom Penh Post 25th Nov 2019
The 2019-2020 paddy output across the country may decline by 10.7 million tonnes, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries secretary-general Srey Vuthy said on Sunday. Heng Chivoan Gov’t tells farmers to plant one rice crop in dry season The upcoming drought will affect Cambodia’s dry-season rice production, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has said on Sunday. The Mekong River Commission announced last week that Cambodia and the other Lower Mekong River Basin countries – Thailand, Laos and Vietnam – would suffer severe drought from now until January. The government issued a circular calling on rice farmers to only plant one crop of rice during the 2019-2020 dry season to avert water shortages.

ADB to Help Improve Irrigation Systems of Four Provinces in Cambodia - Cambodia ReliefWeb 5th Dec 2019
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $119.16 million financing package to help modernize and improve the climate and disaster resilience of irrigation systems in four provinces in Cambodia, which will help supply water to 43,500 hectares (ha) of farm land benefiting 290,000 people, half of whom women. The irrigation systems covered by ADB’s assistance, which is comprised of a $117 million loan and a $2.16 million grant from the Asian Development Fund, are Kamping Pouy in Battambang province, Prek Po in Kampong Cham province, Stung Chinit South in Kampong Thom province, and Canal 15 in Takeo province. This will help improve the provinces’ agricultural productivity and contribute to the reduction of rural poverty across the country.


SOEs in agriculture, various industries on brink of bankruptcy: Sri Mulyani The Jakarta Post 2nd Dec 2019
State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the sectors of agriculture and aircraft and ship manufacturing, among other sectors, are on the brink of bankruptcy, according to Finance Ministry data. Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said the SOEs, some of which have received state capital injections (PMN), were considered "distressed" based on the Altman Z-score, a formula used to predict the likelihood of a business going bankrupt. The former World Bank managing director said SOEs in the agriculture sector recorded a -0.4 z-score, while SOEs in the various industries category recorded a z-score of 0.0, below the safe threshold of 1.1 to 1.3. State-owned agriculture enterprises PT Sang Hyang Seri and PT Perkebunan Nusantara III each recorded the lowest z-scores of -14.02 and 0.35, respectively.

Companies cofinance sustainable agriculture to keep forests green The Jakarta Post 29th Nov 2019
Businesses are working hand-in-hand with local farmers in capacity-building programs to promote good agricultural practices in a bid to ensure sustainability in the production of various commodities ranging from palm oil and coffee to cacao and spices. The Sustainable Trade Initiative Indonesia (IDH) has been working with companies, including French tire manufacturer Michelin and agribusiness company Wilmar, to train producers of rubber and palm oil, among other commodities, to adopt good agricultural practices. The cofinancing projects are not only useful for the farmers, who are mostly smallholders, but also provide benefits for the companies, said the foundation’s Indonesia country director, Fitrian Ardiansyah. “They [the projects] can increase farmers’ productivity, which will support [the companies’] supply chain. The cooperation with farmers will also increase their mutual trust and simultaneously reduce the risk of social conflict,” he wrote in an email correspondence with The Jakarta Post on Nov. 22. In bridging the gap between the corporate and farmers’ needs, the IDH offers practical solutions that will allow companies, the government and other parties in public-private partnerships to finance and create sustainable agricultural projects.

Drones are transforming palm oil plantations Finance & Commerce 28th Nov 2019
As haze blanketed large tracts of Southeast Asia last month, office workers with Genting Plantations Bhd. in Jakarta were investigating the source of the choking smoke more than a thousand kilometers away. Images collected from drones flying up to 1,300 feet above Genting’s oil palms help the company spot fires in remote and inaccessible areas. It’s part of a technology drive catapulting palm oil, the world’s most-consumed vegetable oil, from dependence on manual labor to becoming one of the fastest-growing markets for commercial unmanned aircraft.

22 million Indonesians endured chronic starvation in Jokowi's first term: ADB report AsiaOne 25th Nov 2019
The latest assessment conducted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Food Research Institute (IFPRI) with support from the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) has found that 22 million people in the country suffered from chronic starvation between 2016 and 2018. The report, titled "Policies to Support Investment Requirements of Indonesia's Food and Agriculture During 2020-2045" and published in October, highlighted strong growth in the Indonesian agricultural sector and overall economy over the past several decades.


Laos gets US$22mil soft loan to tackle rural poverty New Straits Times 7th Dec 2019
The World Bank has approved an additional funding of US$22.5 million for Laos to address rural poverty. The sum will be channeled to the Poverty Reduction Fund, which is one of the Lao government’s main vehicles to handle poverty in the nation. The World Bank said it would continue its support of agriculture-related activities under the government’s National Nutrition Strategy. The World Bank’s financing comes from the International Development Association, meant for the poorest countries. The focus of the Nutrition Strategy will be on upgrading agricultural infrastructure for improving livelihoods and nutritional intake, and broadening the access for seed grants to self-help groups. The additional funding will also contribute to a government multi-sectoral nutrition initiative to reduce child growth stunting in some of the poorest districts of the country.


Malaysia’s lagging agriculture sector The Malay Mail 3rd Dec 2019
Malaysia, whose agriculture sector led the economy for decades into the 1970s, is falling behind Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and other regional players like China, Taiwan, and Korea in terms of innovation, technology, knowhow and methodology and product and value chain development. The country’s long neglect of the sector and narrow focus on plantation crops at the cost of encouraging crop diversity has left the country with serious issues and challenges. Despite the fact that the sector contributes 7.3 per cent to national GDP, it employs 1.5 million workers, fully 10 per cent of the workforce. Agriculture’s dominance of the economy ended in 1981, when then-Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed’s massive push towards industrialisation. While the sector was rejuvenated somewhat by Dr Mahathir’s successor, Datuk SeriAbdullah Ahmad Badawi, through massive fund increases, it has never really recovered.

Malaysia defers new fruit, vegetable export rules after complaints from traders who supply to Singapore The Straits Times 28th Nov 2019
KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's plan to revise its export permit scheme for fruits and vegetables has been deferred to April, amid complaints from suppliers who export fresh produce to Singapore that the new rules will raise their costs considerably. On Nov 21, Johor's vegetable and fruit traders cried foul over new rules imposed by enforcement agency Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Service (Maqis), which reduced the number of item categories that can be declared in an export permit from 50 to 10, thereby requiring them to apply and pay for multiple permits for each truckload of produce that crosses the border.


Myanmar urges ASEAN cooperation in rural development Mizzima Myanmar News and Insight 25th Nov 2019
Myanmar has urged ASEAN to intensify cooperation in rural development and poverty eradication efforts, according to the News Straits Times. Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, U Aung Thu, said that total poverty eradication is necessary for the sustainable development of a nation; and urged all ASEAN members to work together in lifting their people out of poverty. He attributed the current success of the 10-member group in reducing poverty to exchanging experiences and finding new approaches in efforts to fight the problem. U Tun Lwin, deputy permanent secretary of the ministry, said that the Myanmar government is implementing people-centred projects using a World Bank loan, among others.

Mon State throws open doors for investors in six sectors The Myanmar Times 2nd Dec 2019
The Mon State government is inviting investors to participate in six sectors to help boost the state’s economy. This was announced during the Mon State Investment Fair held last Friday and Saturday. The six sectors that the state government has decided to focus on are agriculture, fisheries, tourism, trade and logistics, manufacturing and infrastructure.

Firms use technology to optimise agriculture yields in Shan The Myanmar Times 27th Nov 2019
Using its smart precision systems, HydroPlant will provide vital information on the weather, soil conditions and other necessary details vital for cultivation to AEG Agriculture. The smart precision systems offer information that farmers need via a smartphone, including an automatic control system. For example, a machine measures the required temperature and humidity of a crop, which can be monitored via a smartphone.  This agreement to use technology in agriculture is the first of its kind in Shan State, said U Htet Aung Hlaing, CEO of HydroPlant. AEG Agriculture cultivates maize across about 5,000 acres of land in Shan State. With help from Hydro Plant, the company will be able to better manage its crops to ensure efficiency. 


Corruption pulls down PHL in food security list BusinessMirror 10th Dec 2019
Corruption and low investment in agriculture research and development caused the Philippines to rank low in The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and Corteva Agriscience Global Food Security Index (GFSI) 2019. The Philippines also lagged behind at least five of its ASEAN peers —Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. It ranked 64th out of 113 countries, way below these five ASEAN peers. The country’s score was at 61, a 1.7-point increase from 2018. However, if the country’s natural resources and resilience is taken into consideration, the Philippines’s ranking further declines to 72nd out of 113 countries. The country’s ranking in natural resources and resilience was 108th out of 113. Based on the GFSI, the country posted very weak scores in corruption where it got zero; public expenditure on agricultural R&D, 2.9; GDP percapita (US$ PPP), 6.5; and protein quality, 19.2. The country was ranked very good in terms of nutritional standards where it scored 100; change in average food costs, 98.3; volatility of agricultural production, 96.2; and urban absorption capacity, 94.1.

CONFED forwards proposals to address sugar industry challenges  Business World 9th Dec 2019
THE CONFEDERATION of Sugar Producers Association, Inc. (CONFED) has sent proposals to government officials to address industry challenges and prevent threats from import liberalization. To increase productivity in the industry, CONFED said that the block farm program — or the consolidation of smaller farms to take advantage of economies of scale — must be expanded. They added that there should be mechanization through funds from SIDA or through access to affordable loans from the government’s financial institutions. CONFED also proposed upgrading and standardizing mills and mobilizing “progressive sugarcane farmers” to become farm consolidators, service providers, or peer mentors. The confederation is also urging government to review the implementing rules and regulations of the SIDA law. They are pushing for streamlined application processes, quicker fund utilization, fast-tracked program implementation, and an adjusted fund allocation formula based on industry priorities. SIDA, or Republic Act 10659, is intended to update industry competitiveness, maximize resources, and boost farmer and farm worker income through improved productivity, product diversification, increased jobs, and sugar mill efficiency.

Palay production crisis: A battle of development frameworks BusinessMirror 5th Dec 2019
A national day of protest against the Rice Tariffication Law was held on November 20 by a huge coalition of peasant unions, Party-List groups, civil society organizations and sympathetic cause-oriented formations. Their unified demand: suspend and repeal RTL to stop the downward spiral of palay farm-gate prices below production cost. Their collective warning: The domestic rice industry is collapsing and exacerbating mass poverty and hunger in the countryside.In response, President Duterte immediately announced the government’s intention to suspend the RTL, dubbed by the farmer organizations as rice trade liberalization law. Affected palay farmers shall instead receive credit, seed, mechanization and other forms of assistance, including conditional cash transfer. The administration also asked the National Food Authority and select LGUs to increase domestic palay procurement, which, ironically, is the exact opposite of what the RTL is trying to promote, that is, for the NFA to get out of the market and do nothing else but simple “buffer stocking.”

Senate urges gov't not to pursue sugar liberalization Rappler 25th Nov 2019
MANILA, Philippines – The Senate adopted on Monday, November 11 the resolution urging the the executive branch not to pursue the planned sugar liberalization to safeguard the welfare of sugar farmers and industry workers in the country. Signed by 22 senators, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri sponsored Senate Resolution 213, saying the liberalizing imports would be the “nail that would seal the coffin of the sugar industry.” The resolution was swiftly adopted, as no senators interpellated nor proposed amendments to the measure.

Philippines eyes more galunggong imports 9th Dec 2019
The Philippines will increase the imports of the poor man’s fish or galunggong as prices of the commodity have significantly jumped amid low supply. Last week, Agriculture Secretary William Dar gave the green light to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to proceed with the importation program of 45,000 metric tons (MT) of small pelagic fish, including galunggong. Just a few days later, DA is already mulling to increase fish imports to 100,000 MT. “This is the effect of Typhoon Tisoy, affected areas are fish producing regions like Eastern Visayas and Mimaropa. Plus the season right now has little harvest that’s why we approve the 45,000 MT small pelagic fish imports,” Dar said.

Villar says P3 billion realignment in 2020 national budget to assist local rice farmers Manila Bulletin News 3rd Dec 2019
Senator Cynthia Villar clarified on Monday that the transfer of the P3-billion fund from the National Food Authority’s (NFA) proposed 2020 budget to the Land Bank of the Philippines will also be used to assist local rice farmers affected by the Rice Tariffication Law (Republic Act 11203). Villar defended her suggested amendment to the P4.1-trillion proposed 2020 national budget after Albay Representative Joey Salceda questioned it as among the Senate’s supposed “dagdag-bawas” or realignments in the government’s spending plan. In a phone interview with the Manila Bulletin, the senator said her proposed P3 billion fund transfer was adopted by the Upper Chamber to make sure that local rice farmers will benefit from the funds appropriated for them.

Rethinking the sugar industry direction 3rd Dec 2019
Two sectors in the country’s agricultural landscape rice and sugar had presented almost similarly compelling cases for liberalization, and yet received totally opposite responses from the country’s lawmakers. What gives? In 2018, with higher prices of rice pushing inflation to stay at elevated levels for the most parts of the year, Duterte’s economic team urged Congress to open up rice importation subject to a table of tariffs. Early this year, the Rice Tariffication Act was passed. To protect farmers who would be affected by the unimpeded importation of rice, the law set aside an initial P5 billion that would be used during the first year, and P10 billion yearly for six years under a newly established Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.

PH tightens rules on rice imports Panay News 22nd Nov 2019
MANILA – The Philippines will not suspend rice imports but will tighten food safety measures to control the entry of cheap grain that is hurting incomes of local farmers, the agriculture chief said on Thursday. Agriculture secretary William Dar made the announcement after a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte, who had ordered the suspension of rice imports after purchases surged, making Philippines the world’s top buyer this year. Duterte had wanted the suspension implemented during local harvest season, but its legality is unclear because he signed a law in February lifting curbs on importation of the grain.


Creative solutions key to growing agri-food sector The Straits Times 8th Dec 2019
Agriculture may be older than civilisation itself, but it is still largely an alien concept to Singaporeans. However, it may be precisely because only 1 per cent of the island's 720 sq km is given over to growing food, and because 90 per cent of what it eats has to be imported, that Singapore has the ambition to become what Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat last month called "an agri-food node for Asia and the world". Experts say it may well succeed, because of the Government's support and the resources it has committed to backing that up. The sector is booming. At the recently concluded Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Week, Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, launched a report that projected Asian spending on food would double to $10.9 trillion by 2030, with $1.1 trillion in investments needed to meet it. Singapore's investment company, Temasek, one of the report's publishers, is leading the charge. It has been steadily pumping about $7 billion into more than 30 agri-food firms - local and overseas - over the last five years. The Government has not been sitting on its hands either. To make Singapore's "30 by 30" goal - to produce 30 per cent of its total nutritional needs locally by 2030 - a reality, it has set in motion a slew of initiatives. Just last month, for example, it announced that the Agency for Science, Technology and Research would set up the Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation by the middle of next year, to attract international investment and grow more food locally.

More than 100 farms benefit from productivity fund as Singapore tackles food security CNA 28th Nov 2019
More than 100 farms have benefitted from a fund to help them boost productivity as Singapore pushes to enhance its food security. As of Sep 30 this year, the Agriculture Productivity Fund has benefitted 107 farms for produce including vegetables, seafood and eggs, it was announced on Wednesday (Nov 27). The figures come after the Government said in March that the fund would be enhanced. The S$63-million fund helps co-fund systems to control environmental factors and boost production, and also helps farmers fund research and design and technology test-beds.  It is an example of how Singapore is trying to build its agri-food industry as it seeks to enhance food security, said Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor. As a small island nation, Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of its food supply, making the country vulnerable to global food market volatility. As such, the country aims to locally produce 30 per cent of its nutritional needs by 2030 (its "30-by-30" vision), a sharp increase from the current figure of less than 10 per cent.

New campaign to encourage Singaporeans to grow and eat local produce on the cards The Straits Times 4th Dec 2019
Next year, fish, eggs and vegetables grown in Singapore could appear on more menus and in shopping carts here, as a campaign to encourage Singaporeans to grow and eat local produce kicks off. The campaign on the Singapore Food Story was announced on Wednesday (Dec 4) by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli at the Asian Scientist Writing Prize Award Ceremony held at the Science Centre Singapore. "Next year, my ministry will launch a campaign on the Singapore Food Story to encourage Singaporeans to grow and eat local produce," he said, highlighting the importance of the Republic's agricultural sector to buffer it against global food supply shocks.


Suriya threatens countersuit on relaxed farm chemicals ban Bangkok Post 6th Dec 2019
Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit said on Tuesday he would counter-sue any organisations that bring a threatened lawsuit against him over the countermanded farm chemicals ban. Mr Suriya also declared no vote was needed on the resolution to override the previous panel's decision, because the members agreed on the wording. Speaking at Government House, he said would have his lawyers prepare a legal response after a network of organisations supporting the ban on three toxic farm chemicals announced their plan to take legal action against him. Mr Suriya was insistent that the meeting of the new National Hazardous Substances Committee that he chaired last Wednesday actually agreed on a new resolution on the farm chemical ban. The minister announced after the meeting that the committee decided to lift the scheduled ban on the herbicide glyphosate and delay the ban on the herbicide paraquat and pesticide chlorpyrifos for six months. It countermanded the previous committee's resolution on Oct 22 to ban the three chemicals from Dec 1 this year. Senior Health officials who sit on the committee later challenged Mr Suriya's announcement. They said the committee did not have a vote on the issue, and therefore the Oct 22 resolution and ban remained in effect. On Tuesday, Mr Suriya said that the committee's meeting last Wednesday was recorded and the audio  would prove it agreed on a new resolution that day.

New committee countermands ban on toxic farm chemicals Bangkok Post 6th Dec 2019
New committee countermands ban on toxic farm chemicals The new National Committee on Hazardous Substances on Wednesday decided to lift the scheduled ban on the herbicide glyphosate and delay the ban on the herbicide paraquat and pesticide chlorpyrifos for six months. The committee which imposed the Dec 1 ban on all three farm chemicals completed its term on Oct 26. Some members are new, others ex officio.  Industry Minister Suriya Juangroongruangkit, as the new chairman, said 24 of the 29 members of the panel attended the meeting at the ministry offices. After considering the information put before them, they agreed unanimously to lift the prohibition on glyphosate and postpone the ban on chlorpyrifos and paraquat until June 1 next year, he said.

Thai aquaculture to stay soft in 2020: Report The Business Times 5th Dec 2019
Thailand's aquaculture producers could continue to face softness into 2020, as commodity prices stay flattish, a recent report has predicted. Although tuna prices are expected to return to between US$1,400 and US$1,500 per tonne in 2020, after a sharp year-on-year drop amid high supply in 2019, the rebound is expected to come on the back of temporary fishery shutdowns when prices fall to about US$1,000 a tonne. Meanwhile, average shrimp prices have come down year on year on supply from neighbouring countries, and could stay flat in 2020 on higher output from markets such as Vietnam, according to UOB Kay Hian analyst Thunya Sutavepramochanon. This is even as the majority of agri-food companies in Thailand, such as chicken, pork and soya bean dealers, have been tipped to see earnings improve in 2020 on a low base. Demand for meat is expected to rise on higher consumption amid an economic recovery, and Thai suppliers could also pick up the slack from the impact of outbreaks of African swine fever in Vietnam and China, as the analyst believes that “China will need to import more meat - especially chicken - to make up for the shortage in swine supply in the country”.

Chemicals ban derailed by '4 forces' Bangkok Post 29th Nov 2019
BioThai, an anti-farm chemical pressure group, has alleged that "four major forces'' were behind the decision to scrap the ban on the herbicide glyphosate and delay the prohibitions against the herbicide paraquat and pesticide chlorpyrifos. BioThai (Biodiversity & Food Sovereignty Action Thailand), which campaigned to have the chemicals banned, published an article titled "Analysis: 36 Days to derail the ban on glyphosate'' on its website on Thursday. The group claimed the decision to derail the ban was the result of a joint effort by a Thai animal-feed producer, a group of herbicide producers, and two political parties in collusion with US entities.

Thailand postpones Dec 1 ban on two toxic farming chemicals following protests The Straits Times 27th Nov 2019
Thailand on Wednesday (Nov 27) postponed a controversial plan to ban two toxic farming chemicals, paraquat and chlorpyrifos, while reversing a planned ban on a third chemical glyphosate and permitting its restricted use. This comes after protests and warnings both at home and abroad of the plan's disastrous effects on the livelihood of farmers and exports to Thailand. Proposed by the Agriculture Ministry over health concerns, the ban on the three chemicals - often found in pesticides and insecticides - was originally to take effect from Dec 1. It was approved by the National Hazardous Substances Committee on Oct 22.

Demonstrators Call on Thai Government to Delay Pesticides Ban Bloomberg 26th Nov 2019
About 2,000 demonstrators marched to Thailand’s Government House on Tuesday to demand a delay in a ban due from Dec. 1 on three pesticides, as a dispute over the plan escalates. The protesters submitted a letter to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha asking for time to assess scientific evidence, the economic impact and whether alternatives are available. Outlawing the chemicals will hurt Thai farmers’ competitiveness and imperil millions of jobs, according to the letter.

Rally against ban on 3 farm chemicals Bangkok Post 26th Nov 2019
Rally against ban on 3 farm chemicals About 1,000 black-clad farmers and chemical suppliers rallied outside Government House on Tuesday against a planned ban on three toxic farm chemicals, demanding a thorough study of the impact on farmers and businesses. The demonstrators were led by representatives of the Thai Agricultural Innovation Trade Association, the Thai Agro Business Association and the Thai Crop Protection Association.

Thailand to use blockchain technology for production-to-export traceability of organic rice TokenPost 25th Nov 2019
Thailand’s Trade Policy and Strategy Office (TPSO) has revealed that it is initiating a project to use blockchain technology to monitor agricultural products, starting with organic rice. The country is well-known as a producer of organic rice. In its announcement, the TPSO said that Thailand exported 16,500 tons of organic rice by 2018 and is expected to be able to produce 247,000 tons by 2021. However, trade of organic rice faces a number of problems including quality and product reliability, which are key factors affecting the product’s demand. The TPSO aims to use blockchain technology for production-to-export traceability in an attempt to boost confidence among buyers, The Nation Thailand reported.

Farmers to be given tractors at highly subsidised rate to compensate for chemical ban  The Nation Thailand 25th Nov 2019
The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry aims to provide tractors and lawnmowers to farmers and cooperative members to minimise the effects of the planned ban on three hazardous chemicals – Paraquat, Chlorpyrifos and Glyphosate, Deputy Minister Mananya Thaiset said. Farmers and cooperative members who want the machines can appeal for 90 per cent of subsidy from the government and 10 per cent from cooperatives to buy the machines and equipment.


Vietnam considers tariff cuts on American agriculture products Reuters 9th Dec 2019
Vietnam is considering cutting tariffs on several American products, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement on Monday, after U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urged Vietnam to reduce its trade surplus during a visit to Hanoi last month. Tariffs on chicken and processed chicken meat, almonds, grapes, wheat, pork, and potatoes are all earmarked for reductions, in order re-balance bilateral trade. Vietnam’s trade surplus with the United States hit $38.4 billion in the first 10 months of 2019, up 33.66% from a year ago, customs data showed. The Southeast Asia country is at risk of being labeled a currency manipulator by the Washington because of its trade surplus with the country, a highly positive current account balance and because its central bank has been quite active in terms of net foreign exchange purchases. The statement said the ministry has proposed reducing the tariff on chicken to 18% from 20% while the United States is expecting to see it cut to 14.5% next year and eliminated in 2028. Import tariffs on fresh apples and grapes from the United States are expected to be cut to 8%, on wheat to 3%, on potatoes to 12%, and on pork to 22%, which are all equivalent to Vietnam’s commitment to tariff cuts in the CPTPP, the ministry added. The United States has suggested tariffs on apples, grapes and wheat should be abolished next year.

FTAs boost food imports, investments in Vietnam The Phnom Penh Post 2nd Dec 2019
Free trade agreements (FTAs) have created ample opportunities for food imports and foreign investment in Vietnam’s food industry, according to experts. Countries with developed food processing industries, such as Japan, the US, Australia and nations in the EU, have promoted exports of their food products to Vietnam. Last week in Ho Chi Minh City, 18 Canadian food companies met with potential partners. Keith Colwell, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, expressed his hope that the trip could provide opportunities for Canadian food companies to export their products to Vietnam thanks to tariff reductions under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Vietnam’s agricultural sector at a crossroads East Asia Forum 28th Nov 2019
In 2018, Vietnam’s agriculture sector witnessed its highest growth rate in recent years — 3.76 per cent. Export revenue from the sector was US$40 billion, with a trade surplus of US$8.72 billion. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc expressed expectations for the sector to fulfil the aspirations of the nation, and suggested that Vietnam should strive to join the group of 15 largest agricultural nations in the world. In the 1980s, Vietnam was a country short of food and hungry. Under pressure from food shortages, the government allocated most of its public investment to the agricultural sector — to agricultural research and extension, agricultural irrigation and infrastructure, and agricultural input production facilities. Since then, agricultural productivity has increased rapidly, contributed significantly to national food security and competed successfully in international markets with cheap and raw foods.