Food & Agriculture Update: March 20, 2020

Food & Agriculture Update | March 20, 2020
Authors: Sunita Kapoor, Hai Pham, Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao and Jacob Corfman
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

The US-ASEAN Business Council had planned the below F&A Committee programs over the next few months. Unfortunately due to growing concerns resulting from the rapid spread of Covid-19 around the world, in addition to responses from ASEAN governments, the planning of the programs will be re-assessed internally. More updates will be shared with F&A members when available. If you have any questions, please contact Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao at tnguyen@usasean.org

  • April 2020: Food & Agriculture Committee Quarterly Call. Date TBA.
  • 2nd Half of 2020: Joint Antimicrobial Resistance Program in ASEAN (collaboration between F&A and HLS committees)
  • 2nd Half of 2020: Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to Vietnam
  • 2nd Half of 2020: Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to Philippines
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Indonesian Government Stimulus Packages to Help Farmers

In the Indonesian Government’s first virtual Cabinet meeting on March 16, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced that budgets of RP40 trillion (US$2.66 billion) which were previously designated for business trips and gatherings should be allocated to farmers, fisherman, and even Indonesian Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs), as these events are cancelled due to growing concerns over the spread of Covid-19. In the meeting he also assured that Indonesia’s food supply will not fall short. In a separate press conference held to discuss the development of stimulus packages to combat the Covid-19 outbreak, Trade Minister Agus Suparmento said that “food stocks are adequate until August.”

Several days earlier on March 13, President Jokowi stated that under the microloan (KUR) scheme, RP50 trillion (US$2.62 billion) is being planned to be allocated to farmers in order to help them modernize their practices. He hoped that farmers will use it the most efficiently way they can, citing application of seeding as an example. He also suggested that farmers grouped in the Indonesian Farmers Association (HKTI), can create clusters to enhance its management.

Thailand Faces Most Severe Drought in Decades

Thailand is currently facing what many may consider to be its worst drought in 40 years. All of the Lower Mekong Basin countries are facing issues with water scarcity, but according to NASA, Thailand is anticipated to be hit the hardest. A shorter monsoon season led to below average rainfall in this year’s rainy season coupled with El Niño conditions driving up temperatures has led to the scarcity water resources for the country. It has been reported that river levels have gotten so low that salt water from the seas have made their way upstream.

Coinciding with the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak which has caused tourism from China to drop by 80 percent, the drought adds even more pressure to the Thai economy, with 11 million people working in farming and crop production. According to the Bank of Ayudhya Pcl’s Chief Economist, Somprawin Manprasert, if the drought lasts until July, it could cost the economy up to 57.6 billion baht (US$1.9bn), or 0.34 percent of Thailand’s GDP.

Among the most affected crops are the ones the country produces the most such as rice, rubber and sugar. Rice exports are expected to have its worst year since 2013 according to the Thai Rice Exporters association. Forecasts predict that total rubber output will produce half a million ton under the annual average, a 9 percent decrease, as the hot and dry weather has threatened many rubber trees as parts of the country are battling a fungus blight. The most affected is expected to be sugar cane production, as forecasts by the Thai Sugar Miller Corp predict up to a 30 percent drop in output, falling below 90 million tons compared to the previous season’s 130 million tons. In response, raw-sugar futures have jumped more than 12 percent in 2020 as the conditions in Thailand have led to an unexpected deficit in the world supply due to Thailand being the world’s second largest sugar producer.

The Thai Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has promised to ensure a sufficient supply of clean water is available to citizens throughout the dry season. Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Thammanat Prompow, said the Royal Irrigation Department has assured farmers and people that enough water will be ensured for daily use, with the exception of out-of-season rice cultivation. In addition, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha has announced that several new water management projects are in development in order to help mitigate the impact of the drought.

Malaysian Palm Oil Plantations Remain Open

The Malaysian Government has exempted palm oil plantations from closing following an appeal by palm oil plantations and the Malaysian Palm Oil Association to the Malaysian Cabinet, allowing the industry to immediately resume operations. Palm plantations were originally included in the order by the Malaysian government to contain the spread of Covid-19, which would have stopped operations until March 31 and in response prices for the product jumped by 5 percent. The country is the second largest producer of palm oil in the world, accounting for around 65 percent of global edible oil exports, and top importers such as India expressed concern that the closing would greatly affect its economy. Additionally, prices have been on the decline for palm oil. In order to combat this, the government previously lowered import tax from 6 percent in March to 5 percent in April with the intention of bringing prices back up.

Vietnamese Government Adamant About Discarding Sugar Import Tariffs

On February 18, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc rejected demands of the sugar industry and the Vietnam Sugarcane and Sugar Association (VSSA) to delay the discarding of sugar import tariffs. He stated that “The sugar industry needs to restructure to have higher productivity amid global integration.” He added that factories with outdated technologies and low productivity should be replaced with ones that can better compete on the global market. Although, he agreed on VSSA’s proposal to assign authorized agencies to carry out trade remedies which are in line with international rules as a countermeasure to illegal sugar product dumping as well as sugar smuggling and trade fraud. This came while Vietnamese sugar stocks rose due to rising global prices, much of which can be attributed to the anticipated fluctuations in Thailand’s sugar exports. An estimated 35,000 farmers in Vietnam grow sugar cane and in the last two years production localities have dwindled due to lower regional prices. Prime Minister Phuc postulated if the world’s sugar industry contracts while sugar demand and prices increase, this presents a unique opportunity for Vietnam to restructure their production chain for the crop.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 

Singapore's Call for Feedback on Proposed Amendments to Food Regulatory Rules

The Council would like to bring to members’ attention that the Ministry of Health (MOH), Health Promotion Board (HPB), and Singapore Food Agency (SFA) are seeking feedback from stakeholders on proposed amendments to the Food Regulations to introduce a ban on the use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) as an ingredient in all fats, oils and pre-packaged foods sold in Singapore from June 2021.The consultation period is open from March 13, 2020 until May 12, 2020. It may be recalled that MOH announced on 6 June 2019 its decision to introduce a ban on PHOs, the key source of artificial trans fat in diets, as part of the Singapore’s Government ongoing efforts to create a healthier environment for Singaporeans. This will apply to all foods sold in Singapore, including fats, oils, and pre-packaged foods, whether locally manufactured or imported from overseas; and will replace the existing 2% limit on trans fat content in fats and oils sold in Singapore. To give effect to the ban, MOH, HPB, and SFA propose, among others, to insert regulation 36A which bans the import and/or use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) as an ingredient or as an ingredient in the manufacture of any other edible fats or oils or any prepacked food. Please click here for the full text of the proposed regulation and more information on the public consultation. For members who are interested to give input through a Council submission, please email Lilibeth Almonte-Arbez at lalmonte@usasean.org or Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao at tnguyen@usasean.org. Members could also opt to send submissions directly to moh-ncd@moh.gov.sg.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
ASEAN
Domestic and export prices of sugar fall due to COVID-19 scare

Cambodia
ADB to expand aid to agriculture
Cambodia, Indonesia offer financial support to SMEs, people
IMF, CRF to cooperate on rice research and studies
Cambodian mangoes have ready market in South Korea
Drought hits agricultural production in Cambodia

Indonesia
Deforestation-free supply chains: lessons from Indonesia
Sugar barter: Indonesia reduces rules for Indian imports to sweeten palm oil trade
North Sumatra urges businesses to develop more swallow's nest products, increase exports
Government allocates Rp50 trillion for technology-based farming - ANTARA News
Indonesia allocates 3.4 billion USD for technology-based farming
Indonesia, Netherlands agree to boost cooperation in various economic sectors
Where the logging ends in Indonesian Borneo, the forest clearing begins
Indonesia’s point man for palm oil says no more plantations in Papua

Laos
Lao agro firms raise challenges
Going bananas! ... This fruit tops Laos' agricultural export

Malaysia
UPDATE 2-Coronavirus prompts Malaysia palm plantation closures, world vegoil supply concerns
Malaysian palm oil prices rise on lockdown announcement despite confusion
Malaysia lowers export tax on Crude Palm Oil as prices tumble
GRAINS-Soybeans climb 1.6% on edible oil supply concerns
Coronavirus: Malaysia announces additional RM620 million aid for economy
CPO futures nearly three-month low on COVID-19 pandemic declaration
Nine new COVID-19 cases in Malaysia, 'ijtimak tabligh' session participants asked to go for tests
Tesco sells businesses in Thailand, Malaysia for US$10.6b
Kiandee vows to uplift agriculture sector
Sino Hua develops smart modeling farming project with partners

Myanmar
Myanmar has enough food despite coronavirus fears
Myanmar launches aquaculture roadmap
Domestic investments touch K1,084 bln, $233.47 mln in current fiscal year
Fisheries exports not as badly hit as agriculture by virus
Myanmar lost 60% of mangrove forests in 20 years

Philippines
Bird flu detected in Nueva Ecija quail farm, can affect humans
DTI orders nationwide price freeze amid coronavirus emergency
Agencies to implement price controls as Philippines enters state of calamity over COVID-19
Gov’t to open fast lanes for food, agricultural products to Metro Manila
Philippines detects bird flu outbreak in quail farm
Averting an agricultural and ecological crisis in the Philippines’ salad bowl
Rice inventory grows 10.9% as of February 1–PSA
Landbank extends P229.8 billion loans to agriculture sector in January
Philippines has enough food supply amid COVID
How the Philippines is empowering farmers with tech
Gov't assures stable pork supply as hog raisers reel over P80B swine fever losses
Officials: RTL to deliver free farm equipment this month

Singapore
Measures for safe distancing rolled out at retail, F&B sectors to prevent COVID-19 spread
Singapore 'not facing any immediate risks of running out of food': Chan Chun Sing on Malaysia's restricted movement order

Thailand
Somkid asks Jetro to back smart farming initiative
Medical Cannabis: Thailand leads worldwide healthcare promotion
Excise Department offers tax benefits for alcohol used to make hand sanitizers
PM Prayut observes anti-rabies activity, exhibition on supermarket cooperatives
RPT-Asia Rice-Thai drought raises supply jitters, Vietnam rates at over 1-yr high
World Bank says Thai poverty rate increases, farm income slides

Vietnam
Challenges compels restructuring in agriculture
Vietnam considers wildlife trade ban in response to coronavirus pandemic
Vietnam for ensuring food security under any situation
Vietnam 2020 inflation seen at 4.22% if pork prices can be cut - government
MoIT extends safeguard measure application on imposed fertiliser
Minister urges provinces to boost fight against IUU fishing
Vietnam Buying $3 Billion in U.S. Farm Goods to Ease Trump Tariff Threats
Việt Nam needs more trees: experts
US remains Vietnam’s largest export market in first two months
Agricultural land market still an obstacle for enterprises
Việt Nam develops modern supply system for farm products
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
ASEAN

Domestic and export prices of sugar fall due to COVID-19 scare The Economic Times 18th Mar 2020
Sugar industry is afraid of a significant fall in sugar consumption due to COVID-19 as there is curb in social gatherings, weddings and celebrations have been postponed and people are staying away from ice creams and cold drinks to avoid falling sick leading to fall of domestic as well as international sugar prices. The pandemic is also likely to impact India's ongoing sugar exports even as a fresh demand for Indonesia gives hope to the sugar industry.

Cambodia

ADB to expand aid to agriculture Phnom Penh Post 18th Mar 2020
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has committed to continue its financial and technical support for the government’s Agricultural Development Plan 2012-2023. The goal of the plan is to modernise the agriculture sector and increase yields to meet rising demand in the local market.

Cambodia, Indonesia offer financial support to SMEs, people The Cambodia Daily 18th Mar 2020
Cambodia’s State-run Rural Development Bank has approved a 50 million USD credit package for local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are operating in agriculture. Speaking at a ceremony to announce the credit support package, Kao Thach, the bank’s Director General said more than 500,000 local SMEs could benefit from the fund to increase their productivity and improve their competitiveness.

IMF, CRF to cooperate on rice research and studies Khmer Times 14th Mar 2020
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) to Cambodia and Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) have agreed to cooperate to undertake research and studies on the rice sector in the Kingdom. The agreement was made in a meeting between Mr. Chan Sokkheang, Acting President of CRF and Mr. Yasuhisa Ojima, newly-appointed IMF Resident Representative for Cambodia. In the meeting, the two sides shared views on a wide range of issues such as the contribution of the rice sector to the Gross Domestic Product of Cambodia, the CRF’s role in rice sector development, and the impacts of ongoing COVID-19 outbreak on the current and future situation which could affect Cambodia’s economy and rice sector.

Cambodian mangoes have ready market in South Korea The Star Online 12th Mar 2020
Cambodian mangoes are proving popular among South Korean consumers, the Korean Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra) said, encouraging more local firms to export the fruit to the East Asian country. Speaking with Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon on Tuesday (March 10), Kotra director-general Jongsoo Shin said Koreans greatly enjoy Cambodian mangoes.

Drought hits agricultural production in Cambodia VietnamPlus 11th Mar 2020
People in rural areas in the Cambodian northwestern provinces of Pursat and Battambang have been suffering from water shortage for more than four months, reported the Cambodia’s Khmer Times. The article said agriculture is a driving factor for Cambodia’s economy, but despite having land and natural water sources, irrigation system development is lacking.

Indonesia

Deforestation-free supply chains: lessons from Indonesia World Economic Forum 18th Mar 2020
As pressure steadily rachets up on companies to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, addressing forest risk in supply chains is proving a hard nut to crack. More than 1,000 companies have set targets to reduce emissions from their operations and energy use. But many overlook their supply chains, where the largest share of emissions is often hiding. Commercial agriculture is responsible for a staggering 70% of tropical forest destruction – a significant source of emissions.

Sugar barter: Indonesia reduces rules for Indian imports to sweeten palm oil trade foodnavigator-asia.com 16th Mar 2020
Indonesia is known to be the biggest sugar importer in the world, but the Indonesian government tightly controls and regulates the local sugar industry, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). However, a harsh drought season and ageing local sugar mills have seen dwindling local supplies of raw sugar, leading to a likely gap between supply and demand in the country.

North Sumatra urges businesses to develop more swallow's nest products, increase exports The Jakarta Post 12th Mar 2020
The North Sumatra administration has urged small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the region to develop the downstream sector of the swallow’s nest industry to increase the commodity’s value and provide employment to the people. 

Government allocates Rp50 trillion for technology-based farming - ANTARA News Antara News 12th Mar 2020
Jakarta (ANTARA) - President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) spoke of the government’s allotment of Rp50 trillion of special funding under the micro loan (KUR) scheme for farmers to develop technology-based farming. "We prepare a special funding of Rp50 trillion under the KUR scheme for agriculture. We can utilize this. Prepare a business proposal," Jokowi stated at the opening of the 2nd Asian Agriculture & Food Forum at the State Palace here on Thursday. The special funding is expected to encourage farmers to apply modern farming practices with better management, he pointed out.

Indonesia allocates 3.4 billion USD for technology-based farming VietnamPlus 12th Mar 2020
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo spoke of the government’s allotment of 50 trillion Rp of special funding under the micro loan (KUR) scheme for farmers to develop technology-based farming, Antara news agency reported. The special funding is expected to encourage farmers to apply modern farming practices with better management, Widodo said at the opening of the 2nd Asian Agriculture & Food Forum at the State Palace on March 12.

Indonesia, Netherlands agree to boost cooperation in various economic sectors The Jakarta Post 11th Mar 2020
Indonesia and the Netherlands have signed business deals worth €1.5 billion ($US 1.7 billion) as the countries pledge to boost their bilateral economic relations. Indonesian Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto expressed hope the business deals, which cover agriculture, life science and health, water management, maritime affairs and energy, among other sectors, could come to fruition within the next six to nine months.

Where the logging ends in Indonesian Borneo, the forest clearing begins Mongabay Environmental News 4th Mar 2020
Logging for timber by definition reduces tree cover. But what happens when logging stops? A new study has found that in concessions where timber firms have stopped operating, deforestation actually appears to increase, thanks to illegal clearing for agriculture and industrial plantations.

Indonesia’s point man for palm oil says no more plantations in Papua Mongabay Environmental News 2nd Mar 2020
A top Indonesian official has declared a halt to new oil palm plantations in the country’s heavily forested Papua region in favor of other, “greener,” crops, apparently contradicting his vigorous earlier defenses of the industry. The remarks by Luhut Pandjaitan, the chief minister in charge of investments, including in the palm oil industry, come in the wake of a court verdict ordering the government to publish maps and concession-holder details for plantations in Papua.

Laos

Lao agro firms raise challenges Phnom Penh Post 18th Mar 2020
Lao agribusiness representatives have held talks with officials of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI) to try to find solutions to various challenges and barriers. Companies from different fields are also looking to the 2020 Lao Business Forum (LBF), to be held in the near future, as a golden opportunity to use the business platform to inform the government about the problems they face.

Going bananas! ... This fruit tops Laos' agricultural export The Star Online 1st Mar 2020
This is a fact. Bananas resume a top earner among all agricultural products, earning revenue for local development in Laos. The export value of bananas to neighbouring countries, mainly China and Thailand, increased to about US$198mil in 2019, which is higher than in previous years, according to the Lao Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

Malaysia

UPDATE 2-Coronavirus prompts Malaysia palm plantation closures, world vegoil supply concerns Successful Farming 18th Mar 2020
Malaysia's palm oil plantations will stop operations for the next two weeks to comply with government orders to contain the spread of the coronavirus, a producer group said on Wednesday, raising concerns over global edible oil supplies. Malaysia is the world's second-largest producer of palm oil, which is used in everything from cosmetics to cookies and accounts for around 65% of global edible oil exports.

Malaysian palm oil prices rise on lockdown announcement despite confusion S&P Global Platts 18th Mar 2020
Palm oil futures on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange rallied on news the government was imposing a two-week lockdown in Malaysia from Wednesday despite confusion about how this would apply to the industry. At the midday close, the April contract was up MR42 ($9.66) on the day at MR 2,318/mt, with May up MR34 at MR 2,282/mt and June up MR22 at MR 2,242/mt.

Malaysia lowers export tax on Crude Palm Oil as prices tumble S&P Global Platts 18th Mar 2020
The Malaysian government has lowered the tax on crude palm oil exports in April to 5% from 6% in March. This move came after the reference price for Malaysian palm oil in April was calculated at MR 2,631.07/mt, down from MR 2,982.63/mt for March. The export tax of 5% applies to a CPO price range of MR 2,551-2,700/mt, while 6% is applicable on a price range of MR 2,851-3,000/mt.

GRAINS-Soybeans climb 1.6% on edible oil supply concerns Successful Farming 17th Mar 2020
Chicago soybean futures jumped 1.6% on Wednesday as Malaysia's move to shut down businesses to contain the rapidly spreading caronavirus raised concerns over production of rival palm oil. Corn ticked higher after dropping to its lowest since June 2018 earlier in the session, while wheat gained on bargain-buying.

Coronavirus: Malaysia announces additional RM620 million aid for economy The Straits Times 16th Mar 2020
Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Monday (March 16) announced that an additional RM620 million (S$205 million) will be spent to help the economy withstand the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. This adds to the RM20 billion economic stimulus package unveiled by the previous government in late February to deal with the outbreak. The additional expenditure will cover a RM500 million provision for a 2 per cent discount on electricity tariffs for commercial, industrial and agriculture sectors and domestic users from April 1 to Sept 30.

CPO futures nearly three-month low on COVID-19 pandemic declaration The Edge Markets 12th Mar 2020
The crude palm oil (CPO) futures contract on Bursa Malaysia Derivatives fell below RM2,300 per ton at Thursday's close after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 a global pandemic. The third-month benchmark CPO futures contract for May 2020 delivery declined by RM82 or 3.48 percent to close at RM2,277 per ton from RM2,359 on March 11 — the weakest level since Oct 17, 2019 when the benchmark contract for January 2020 finished at RM2,259 per ton. Singapore-based Palm Oil Analytics’ owner and co-founder Dr Sathia Varqa said the accelerating number of COVID-19 cases in Europe and the United States saw the Governments taking drastic measures to contain the spread of the virus. "The measures, however, have set the alarm bells ringing and triggered a global rout on the equity, commodities and foreign exchange markets. And the palm oil market was not spared," he told Bernama. At the close, the CPO futures contract for March 2020 and April 2020 lost RM68 each to RM2,302 and RM2,316 per ton, respectively, May 2020 erased RM82 to RM2,277 per ton and June 2020 was RM85 lower at RM2,271 per ton. Volume, however, jumped to 85,713 lots from 53,235 lots on Wednesday, and open interest widened to 319,185 contracts from 291,570 contracts yesterday. On the physical market, March South was unchanged at RM2,400. per tonne.

Nine new COVID-19 cases in Malaysia, 'ijtimak tabligh' session participants asked to go for tests The Edge Markets 12th Mar 2020
On March 12, the Ministry of Health (MoH) announced nine new cases of COVID-19, raising to 158 the total number of cases in Malaysia so far. One of the new cases was a participant who attended the 'ijtimak tabligh' session at the Seri Petaling Jamek Mosque in Kuala Lumpur. Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah called on participants of the event, held between Feb 27 and March 3, to go to their nearest district health clinics to get tested for COVID-19. “We ask those who were involved in the gathering to cooperate and adhere to the advice given, to ensure there is no further transmission of infections among the general public,” he said in a statement. So far, out of the 158 COVID-19 patients, 26 cases were detected among Patient-Under-Investigation (PUI), 127 cases contracted the disease through close contact with infected person, while two others were infected while performing humanitarian missions to fend off the disease. Separately, there were two patients suffering from severe acute respiratory infection (SARI), while another patient was showing influenza-like-illness (ILI) symptoms while going through medical screenings. The three severe cases are being treated at Intensive Care Unit (ICU), with the support of respiratory aids equipment. However, they are all in stable condition.

Tesco sells businesses in Thailand, Malaysia for US$10.6b NST Online 9th Mar 2020
Britain's biggest retailer Tesco said on March 9 it will return US$6.6 billion (5 billion pounds) to shareholders after agreeing to sell its businesses in Thailand and Malaysia to Charoen Pokphand Group for an enterprise value of US$10.6 billion. The UK supermarket group kicked off a review of its Asian businesses in December after receiving interest in the assets, signaling a further retreat from its once lofty global ambitions. Following completion of the disposal to the Thai group controlled by Dhanin Chearavanont, Tesco intends to return cash to shareholders via a special dividend with an associated share consolidation. Tesco said the deal is conditional on the approval of its shareholders and regulatory approvals in Thailand and Malaysia, which is expected during the second half of 2020. The deal's completion would mean Tesco's only overseas operations, apart from Ireland, would be its central European division, consisting of stores in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia."This sale releases material value and allows us to further simplify and focus the business, as well as to return significant value to shareholders," said Tesco Chief Executive Dave Lewis.

Kiandee vows to uplift agriculture sector NST Online 9th Mar 2020
The new Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ronald Kiandee has pledged to work hard and take the local agriculture sector to greater heights. He said as one of the most important sectors in the country, he would ensure agriculture plays a more significant role like other sectors. Kiandee, who is from Sabah's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, said his appointment into the Cabinet is a great honour to the people of Sabah. "Of course, this is a huge responsibility which I must shoulder, in line with the aspiration of the prime minister (Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin) and the federal government. “I will carry out my duties the best I can, with dedication and honour," he said when contacted today. Kiandee began his political career as Angkatan Keadilan Rakyat’s secretary general from 1991 to 1998, prior to joining Umno from 1999 to 2018. He served as the Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker from 2008 to 2018, and was also the Public Accounts Committee chairman for the 14th Parliament.

Sino Hua develops smart modeling farming project with partners NST Online 4th Mar 2020
Sino Hua An International Bhd’s subsidiary, Wavetree Technologies Sdn Bhd has collaborated with Top Fruits Sdn Bhd and Mybeecop Sdn Bhd to develop the smart modeling farming project. In an exchange filing on March 4, Sino Hua said the tri-party collaboration has created a digitalized model for the agriculture markets, riding on artificial intelligence-enabled operating models, data analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) to drive efficiency. “This is Malaysia’s first fully digitalised, large-scale smart plantation for durian farming with end-to-end traceability,” it added. The company said there were over 300,000 acres of planted durian farms in Malaysia and the number would grow. This in turn would provide a potential market value of about RM750 million per year for the smart modeling farming project. “The agriculture industry is one of the fastest growing segments for IoT and together with Top Fruits and Mybeecop will open up opportunities for Hua An to tap into the robust agriculture export industry,” said Sino head of technology Vince Ng. He said the project involves the new models and systems will first be deployed at Top Fruits’s over 500 acres of durian farms in Johor, Pahang and Kuching, as well as other plantations under its management.

Myanmar

Myanmar has enough food despite coronavirus fears Mizzima Myanmar News and Insight 18th Mar 2020
President Office spokesman Zaw Htay has said that Myanmar has enough food despite the fears over the coronavirus. Myanmar is one of the few countries in the world that has yet to register a case of the coronavirus that originated in China back in November 2019. Some travelers have been tested but no case has been registered yet.

Myanmar launches aquaculture roadmap The Myanmar Times 17th Mar 2020
The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation launched the National Aquaculture Development Plan 2019-2023 on March 13. The plan aims to provide policy and institutional framework for sustainable development of Myanmar’s aquaculture sector. 

Domestic investments touch K1,084 bln, $233.47 mln in current fiscal year Global New Light Of Myanmar 15th Mar 2020
Domestic investments by Myanmar citizens, including expansion of capital by existing enterprises, reached K1,084 billion and US$233.47 million as of 6 March in the 2019-2020 financial year, according to a press statement issued by the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC). Domestic investments flowed into the real estate, manufacturing, hotels and tourism, construction, industrial estate, energy, mining, livestock and fisheries, agriculture, and other services sectors, according to the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA). To simplify the verification of investment projects, the Myanmar Investment Law allows the region and state Investment Committees to endorse local and foreign proposals, where the initial investment does not exceed K6 billion, or $5 million.

Fisheries exports not as badly hit as agriculture by virus The Myanmar Times 12th Mar 2020
“As the number of coronavirus cases started rising in China in January, exports of Myanmar’s fisheries products declined slightly in early February. Unlike with agricultural products, sales of fisheries products have not been as severely impacted,” said U Myint Than, head of the Fisheries Department, on Tuesday.

Myanmar lost 60% of mangrove forests in 20 years Futurity 5th Mar 2020
While many countries have established legal protection for mangroves, their value for sustainable ecosystem services face strong competition from converting the land to other more lucrative uses, particularly for agriculture. The team’s estimates revealed that in 1996, Myanmar had substantially more mangroves than previously estimated. However, over the 20-year period, more than 60% of all mangroves in Myanmar had been permanently or temporarily converted to other uses. These include the growing of rice, oil palm, and rubber, and for urbanization.

Philippines

Bird flu detected in Nueva Ecija quail farm, can affect humans cnn 18th Mar 2020
The highly-pathogenic H5N6 avian influenza or bird flu has reemerged in the Philippines more than two years after a similar strain affected poultry in the country, Agriculture Secretary William Dar announced on Monday. He said bird flu was detected in a quail farm in Jaen, Nueva Ecija. Testing for avian influenza was done on March 13 after 1,500 out of 15,000 quails died in a farm in Barangay Ulanin-Pitak, he said, adding that samples from 30 live quails from the said farm tested positive for the disease.

DTI orders nationwide price freeze amid coronavirus emergency Rappler 18th Mar 2020
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on Thursday, March 12, imposed a nationwide price freeze on basic necessities amid the spread of the novel coronavirus. Basic goods that are under the jurisdiction of the DTI include canned fish and other marine products, locally manufactured instant noodles, bottled water, bread, processed milk, coffee, candles, laundry soap and detergent, and salt.

Agencies to implement price controls as Philippines enters state of calamity over COVID-19 philstar.com 17th Mar 2020
Malacañang ordered agencies and local governments to ensure compliance with price controls on essential medicines and supplies and selected agriculture products to prevent traders from taking advantage of the panic over the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The directive is contained in Memorandum Circular No. 77 signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Tuesday.

Gov’t to open fast lanes for food, agricultural products to Metro Manila UNTV News 16th Mar 2020
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Tuesday said it is rolling out financial assistance program for workers affected by the enhanced community quarantine being enforced in Luzon amid the threat of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). In a statement, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that under the P1.3-billion COVID Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP), each worker in private establishments will receive P5,000 in cash assistance to be processed through the beneficiary’s payroll accounts.

Philippines detects bird flu outbreak in quail farm Reuters 16th Mar 2020
The Philippines has detected an outbreak of avian flu in a northern province after tests showed presence of the highly infectious H5N6 subtype of the influenza A virus in a quail farm, the country’s farm minister said on Monday. Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the bird flu virus, the same strain that hit some local poultry farms in 2017, was detected in Jaen municipality in Nueva Ecija province, where about 1,500 quails had died on one farm alone.

Averting an agricultural and ecological crisis in the Philippines’ salad bowl Mongabay Environmental News 13th Mar 2020
Every day, at least 1,500 metric tons of semi-temperate vegetables are trucked down from Benguet, a mountainous province in the northern Philippines, to depots called bagsakan in the country’s capital, Manila. The volume of deliveries can triple around holidays like Christmas and Easter, when demand surges. From Manila, crops are shipped across the archipelago, meeting 80 percent of the country’s demand for semi-temperate vegetables like potato, cabbage, radish, chayote, carrot, lettuce, and broccoli.

Rice inventory grows 10.9% as of February 1–PSA BusinessMirror 12th Mar 2020
THE country’s rice inventory as of February 1 grew 10.9 percent to 2.375 milion metric tons from 2.141 MMT recorded in the same period of last year, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said. However, the volume was 11.2 percent lower than the 2.675 MMT recorded in January, according to PSA’s latest monthly rice and corns stocks inventory report. “Of this month’s total rice stocks inventory, 44 percent were from households, 35.4 percent from commercial warehouses and 20.6 percent from NFA depositories,” the PSA said in its report released on Wednesday.

Landbank extends P229.8 billion loans to agriculture sector in January philstar.com 11th Mar 2020
State-run Land Bank of the Philippines has extended P229.83 billion in loans to the agriculture sector in January, already meeting 86.5 percent of its target for the whole year, the Department of Finance (DOF) said Monday. The DOF, citing a report from Landbank president and chief executive officer Cecilia Borromeo, said the bank has assisted 17,681 small farmers and fishers in January, bringing the total number of clients in the sector to 1.05 million as of end-January.

Philippines has enough food supply amid COVID philstar.com 11th Mar 2020
The Philippines has enough food supply to meet demand, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said as it appealed to consumers not to engage in panic buying amid the increasing cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country. Agriculture Secretary William Dar assured the people yesterday that there is sufficient supply of rice and other prime commodities in the market with the public expected to stock up on supplies.

How the Philippines is empowering farmers with tech Tech Wire Asia 9th Mar 2020
As consumer demands elevate, populations rise, and climate change affects yields, food supplies are increasingly reliant on technological innovations to optimize and augment production and supply chains. Given our reliance on the sector, in many cases, the government will support and foster innovation efforts for agriculture businesses; often the industry members — the fishermen and farmers — are not always able to do so on their own. The Philippines’ Department of Agriculture (DA) understands this very well and is aware of the need to empower their farmers and fishers to be more digitally enabled.

Gov't assures stable pork supply as hog raisers reel over P80B swine fever losses ABS-CBN News 9th Mar 2020
The country has sufficient supplies of pork despite the impact of African swine fever (ASF) on the Philippines' hog raising industry, the Agriculture Department said on Monday. Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan said the country has 12.8 million hogs, of which only around 237,000 infected pigs have been culled as of March 2 this year.

Officials: RTL to deliver free farm equipment this month BusinessMirror 4th Mar 2020
THE rice trade liberalization (RTL) law was able to hit its target of cutting the retail prices of the staple, but the distribution of free equipment to planters has yet to be implemented, government officials said on Wednesday. National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Assistant Secretary Mercedita A. Sombilla noted that the average retail price of rice is now at P36 per kilogram, the lowest in six years. Retail prices fell despite the partial implementation of some provisions of the RTL law, particularly initiatives that should be bankrolled by the Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF). Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said the government has yet to use the RCEF to distribute equipment to planters. The Department of Agriculture (DA) has only validated the 944 farmers’ cooperatives that will benefit from the mechanization program.

Singapore

Measures for safe distancing rolled out at retail, F&B sectors to prevent COVID-19 spread CNA 20th Mar 2020
Retailers and food and beverage (F&B) outlets should ensure there is enough space in between customers lining up in queues, encourage them to use self-checkouts and limit the number of shoppers within stores.  These are some of the new safe distancing measures announced on Friday (Mar 20) to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Singapore 'not facing any immediate risks of running out of food': Chan Chun Sing on Malaysia's restricted movement order CNA 16th Mar 2020
Singapore is not facing immediate risks of running out of food or essential supplies, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Monday (Mar 16), shortly after Malaysia announced travel restrictions into and out of the country. He also urged people to "purchase in a responsible manner and to purchase only what you need". In addition to building up the inventory of food and essential supplies, Singapore also has a robust multi-pronged strategy that ensures the country does not run out of essentials, Mr Chan said. 

Thailand

Somkid asks Jetro to back smart farming initiative Bangkok Post 18th Mar 2020
The Japan External Trade Organization (Jetro) is being asked to help support Thailand's agricultural restructuring, as the government through the state-owned Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) is offering as much as 20 billion baht in loans to support smart farming. Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak met Jetro chairman Sasaki Nobuhiko in Tokyo on Monday. Mr Somkid asked Jetro to offer technical support and coordinate with large Japanese firms to provide farm-related technology and machinery to the Thai farm sector.

Medical Cannabis: Thailand leads worldwide healthcare promotion Bangkok Post 18th Mar 2020
Thailand was the first Asian country to amend its laws to allow for medical cannabis. The amendment is narrow, essentially allowing only research and development activities under license with public institutions and consumption with a medical certificate. Companies are positioning for the eventual commercialisation and expecting similar liberalisation throughout Asia. In the “green rush” to develop markets, companies must not ignore the answer to that core business question.

Excise Department offers tax benefits for alcohol used to make hand sanitizers National News Bureau of Thailand 16th Mar 2020
The Excise Department has offered a tax exemption program for the processing of liqueur with 80% or more alcohol content to make hand sanitizers. A relaxation of ethanol sales regulations will be for 6 months to facilitate a capacity increase in the production of hand sanitizers amid the epidemic of COVID-19. The Excise Department Director General Patchara Anuatasilpa said the department announced on 6 March a special guideline for companies to file 0% excise tax for liqueur with 80% or more alcohol content that has been processed into an ingredient to make hand sanitizers. This special guideline allows liqueur companies to donate their alcohol for the making of hand sanitizers. The department is in the process of relaxing ethanol sale regulations, which will be valid until 30 September, specifically to help the production of hand sanitizing products.

PM Prayut observes anti-rabies activity, exhibition on supermarket cooperatives National News Bureau of Thailand 16th Mar 2020
The Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, took part in an activity to promote the "Disease-free Animals, Save Humans from Rabies" project. The Prime Minister attended the activity to promote the project, organized by Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. He warned the general public not to buy pets, particularly dogs, at stores without proper permits. The pets may be of inferior quality and may have health problems, and the owners may have to abandon them due to high medical costs. He instructed relevant units to enforce the law to prevent the issue of stray dogs strictly, because they can cause problems, such as diseases, for communities, tourist destinations and temples. The Prime Minister also urged supermarket cooperatives to sell more organic vegetables, fruit and meat. He instructed relevant agencies to help manage them, teach farmers about organic farming and market demand, and promote beef cattle farming. He also would like supermarket cooperatives to expand to all provinces nationwide.

RPT-Asia Rice-Thai drought raises supply jitters, Vietnam rates at over 1-yr high Successful Farming 12th Mar 2020
Drought conditions in Thailand stoked concerns of a supply shortage and lifted rice export prices to a more than 6-1/2 year high this week, while strong domestic demand amid a coronavirus outbreak pushed Vietnamese rates to more than a one-year peak. Thailand's benchmark 5% broken rice prices rose to $470-$495 per tonne on Thursday, their highest since August 2013, versus last week's $460-$467 range.

World Bank says Thai poverty rate increases, farm income slides Reuters 5th Mar 2020
Thailand needs to invest in education and create jobs in higher-income sectors, the World Bank said in a report on Thursday that showed a rising rate of poverty as the country’s economy slowed. Thailand is Southeast Asia’s largest economy after Indonesia but has lagged its regional peers and grew at its weakest pace in five years in 2019.

Vietnam

Challenges compels restructuring in agriculture vietnamnews.vn 18th Mar 2020
Trade conflicts, climate change and epidemics may at first glance appear to be a hindrance to Việt Nam’s agricultural sector. But some see it as an opportunity to speed up the value chain restructuring and innovating the growth model. In the early months of this year, Việt Nam’s agriculture faced many challenges, not only from the spread of COVID-19 pandemic but also trade tensions and worsening climate change.

Vietnam considers wildlife trade ban in response to coronavirus pandemic Mongabay Environmental News 18th Mar 2020
As the coronavirus pandemic continues its deadly onslaught around the world, the Vietnamese government has moved to ban the wildlife trade. Amid scientific theories that the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) began at a market in Wuhan, China, that sold live wild animals and animal parts, a group of conservation organizations sent an open letter to Vietnam’s prime minister on Feb. 16.

Vietnam for ensuring food security under any situation prensa-latina.cu 18th Mar 2020
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc today said that there are no longer any hungry households in Vietnam and called on factors related to production and distribution to ensure food security under all circumstances. In the midst of the difficult circumstances imposed by the new coronavirus we have to be able to defeat the disease and at the same time continue to develop agriculture and the food processing industry, increase food stocks and improve distribution, he said.

Vietnam 2020 inflation seen at 4.22% if pork prices can be cut - government Successful Farming 17th Mar 2020
Vietnam's inflation is seen at 4.22% this year if the country can cut pork prices further, the government said on Tuesday. An outbreak of African swine fever detected in the country last February has forced the culling of around 20% of its hog herd and doubled the price of pork, which accounts for three-quarters of total meat consumption.

MoIT extends safeguard measure application on imposed fertiliser VietnamPlus 9th Mar 2020
The Ministry of Industry and Trade has decided to extend the safeguard measure on imported monoammonium phosphate (MAP) and diammonium phosphate (DAP) fertilisers. The duration for applying this safeguard duty is two years, starting from March 7 this year. The safeguard duty stands at about 1.05 million VND (46 USD) per tonne in a one-year time starting from March 7, and will drop to 1.03 million from March 7 next year.

Minister urges provinces to boost fight against IUU fishing vietnamnews.vn 5th Mar 2020
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyễn Xuân Cường has urged 28 coastal provinces to promote further actions against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. That could help Việt Nam’s fishery sector remove the yellow card this year after the EC's third inspection in mid-2020, he said. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) reported an inspection delegation of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG-Mare) is scheduled to visit Việt Nam from May 25 to June 5 to inspect implementation of the EC recommendations fighting IUU fishing.

Vietnam Buying $3 Billion in U.S. Farm Goods to Ease Trump Tariff Threats vietnamnews.vn 4th Mar 2020
Vietnam, looking to allay the Trump administration’s wrath over its soaring trade surplus with the U.S., is committing to buy $3 billion in farm products from Nebraska. The agricultural shopping spree is part of a campaign to address complaints about the trade surplus and difficulties U.S. companies face in accessing Vietnamese markets.

Việt Nam needs more trees: experts vietnamnews.vn 3rd Mar 2020
The forestry sector has set a target of US$20 billion of annual export turnover for wood and wooden products by 2025, increasing from the current $9.45 billion. According to the Forestry General Department, last year, localities nationwide produced more than 640 million seedlings. Currently, 85 per cent of nation-wide forest area is up to sustainable forest management standards and has certificates of seedling origins. Quality and quantity of wood had increased due to the high-quality seedlings. Local forests meet 70 per cent of domestic production and export demand.

US remains Vietnam’s largest export market in first two months Nhan Dan Online 3rd Mar 2020
The US was the largest export market of Vietnam in the first two months of 2020 with export revenue of US$9.8 billion, an increase of 19.6% over the same period last year, according to the General Statistics Office (GSO). The EU was the runner-up with export revenue of US$5 billion, down 7.7%. China came in third with export revenue of US$4.8 billion, up 3.7% over the same period last year. ASEAN, Japan and the Republic of Korea were also among the leading export markets of Vietnam during the two-month period.

Agricultural land market still an obstacle for enterprises vietnamnews.vn 2nd Mar 2020
A failure to improve the agricultural land market has discouraged the private sector to invest in the sector, experts have said. The Institute for Policy and Strategy of Agricultural and Rural Development (IPSARD)'s vice chairman Hoàng Vũ Quang said the prevailing problem with the country’s agriculture sector was that farmers often owned small land lots instead of large-scale fields. Speaking at a workshop on measures to develop the agricultural land market last week in Hà Nội, Quang said up to 89 per cent of Vietnamese farmers had less than 2ha of arable land, of which 63 per cent owned less than 0.5ha.

Việt Nam develops modern supply system for farm products vietnamnews.vn 2nd Mar 2020
Việt Nam is working to develop a system of modern agricultural product supply centres to promote the consumption of farm produce, enhance food safety and hygiene, and improve the competitive edge of Vietnamese goods. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development aims to restructure the entire chain of production, procession and distribution of agricultural products. The centres will improve connections between production and distribution activities that will enhance efficiency, increase consumption of agricultural products, and ensure quality.