December 2017
(20 Nov - 20 Dec)
policy updates
WTO: India resolute on food security (22 Nov)
Food security and protection of low-income and resource-poor farmers are most prominent issues for India at the WTO meet, and the country will not agree to strict restrictions on its right to give price subsidies to farmers through the Minimum Support Price (MSP). Currently, an interim mechanism called the 'Peace Clause' is available to developing nations, including India, until a permanent solution is found to public stockholding for food security purposes. 

Bangladesh agriculture minister hopes for 'new era of collaboration' for rice sector (29 Nov)
Bangladesh Agriculture Minister H.E. Begum Matia Chowdhury paid a visit to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquarters to enhance practical farmer knowledge, climate change mitigation strategies, and improving farm productivity for the Bangladesh rice sector. IRRI Director General Dr. Matthew Morell said that the institute will continue to work with the Bangladesh government to ensure collaborative and responsive programs for the rice sector particularly for the vulnerable farmers and consumers.

New ASEAN project to facilitate trade of fruits and vegetables on borders kicked off. Experts say equipping border officers is the urgent priority (13 Dec)
Within ASEAN countries, Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam trade heavily among each other in agricultural goods. Senior government representatives of the three countries recently met at the launching of the project "Facilitating Trade for Agricultural Goods in ASEAN or FTAG" in Bangkok, Thailand where the first Steering Committee Meeting was also conducted.  The aim of the two-day meeting was to create common understanding of the project, define roles and responsibilities of parties concerned and project implementation procedures, and identify potential fruits and vegetables to be the focus of the project.

Indonesian Government plans for 1 million fishermen and farmers to go online by 2019 (23 Nov)
Indonesian Government through its Ministry of Communications and Informatics (KOMINFO) has set a target of getting 1 million fishermen and farmers to go online by 2019 to improve their market access and increase their income levels. The KOMINFO is working with the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry and start-ups to achieve the target. To get farmers online the Ministry has also been collaborating with agriculture-focused e-commerce platforms such as TaniHub and Eragano.

Myanmar tackles food safety in bid to boost agricultural exports (23 Nov)
The Government of Myanmar has decided to improve its food safety standards after a recent report by World Health Organization showed that Myanmar ranked the lowest in the region. This effort is also to boost agricultural products which made up 23 per cent of Myanmar's export volume. For this, The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation plans to involve private sectors and collaborate with international organizations. Further, the country needs a comprehensive policy and concerted public-private sector strategy to address this emerging food safety challenges. 

Myanmar's Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Protocol launched (7 Dec)
Myanmar's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation (MoALI) supported by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, launched Myanmar's Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Protocol and Guidelines to boost the productivity of farmers through sustainable farming. The GAP Protocol and Guidelines will help farmers to produce safe and quality products for the local and international markets, as well as improve access to quality agricultural inputs, and help farmers develop the basic skills for sustainable farming through training and knowledge transfer.

Viet Nam: Prime Minister approves agricultural restructuring plan in 2017-2020 (30 Nov) 
Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has approved a plan to restructure the agriculture sector in 2017-2020 to utilize the utmost advantages of the sector in each region and district. The plan targets various aspects, such as the GDP growth, access to clean water, cultivation, applications of science and technology, as well as livestock and seafood sectors. 

Viet Nam: Nation zeroes in on hunger elimination (14 Dec)
Zero Hunger Action Programme of Viet Nam was established by the Prime Minister in 2014 in response to the "Zero Hunger Challenge" of the United Nations, a major initiative to eradicate hunger worldwide. The action programme targets ensuring enough food and nutrition for all citizens towards improved physical and intellectual health; and towards fulfilling sustainable development goals (SDGs) of food security and sustainable agricultural development. Relevant ministries and agencies are urged to implement tasks proactively to help improve the effectiveness of the action programme.

Viet Nam: VietGap standards to merit national rice brand (18 Dec)
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), even though Viet Nam export five to seven million tonnes of rice per year, the country's revenue remains lower comparing to other rice exporting countries like Thailand and India. Promoting national brand for Vietnamese rice (Vietnam Rice) is one of the urgent solutions to help increase the product's added value as well as export revenue.

Cambodia: Collaborate with China in research for new rice variety (6 Dec)
Cambodia and China will sign an agreement to support research on growing a new variety of rice known as oryza sativa japonica. The new variety will be grown in Cambodia and will be exported to China where the demand is high. Other markets are Japan, South Korea and some of EU countries. Demand for Japonica rice accounts for 20 per cent of the total global demand for rice because of its high quality and is often sold at a high price.

PNG: Increases in agriculture allocation (29 Nov)
The agriculture sector in PNG will receive the biggest increase in the budget allocation for 2018. The sector will receive a 72 per cent increase from K385.7 million to K665.9 million which will be absorbed mostly by capital component, such as partnership programme, projects, commercialization fund, as well as for small and medium enterprises (SME) lending. Agriculture and Livestock Secretary Dr Vele Ila'ava said that the Ministry will get organized and work with the Government to develop the country's economic growth. 

China to phase out more pesticides in push to improve food safety (5 Dec)
To improve the safety of its farm produce, the Chinese Government plans to eliminate the use of highly toxic pesticides and it will continue the phase out until the year 2022. The Ministry of Agriculture called for more research and development to produce highly-effective alternatives with low toxicity and has been trialing a subsidy system. Two years ago, Beijing has announced to achieve zero growth in pesticides used by 2020, and it has already seen negative growth over the last three years. 

China urges utilization of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) scheme for boost to agriculture sector (14 Dec)
Agriculture is one of five key sectors earmarked by the LMC for development cooperation. Set up in 2015, the LMC comprised of China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Foreign ministers of the six countries would gather in the southwestern city of Dali to review progress and future of their cooperation under the five- year action plan (2018-2022). China who is responsible for agriculture cooperation in the LMC scheme sees an imbalance in the agriculture development among the six countries and would push for utilization of the scheme to unlock its potential. 

Fiji: Farmers' income generation through land clusters project (28 Nov)
Senior agricultural officer of Fiji, Timoci Vakaboro, said that the Ministry of Agriculture has developed a project aimed to improve farmers' income generation through land clusters. The project helps farmers plant the right crops and links them with markets. Getting farmers into associations and cluster groups will help them have a stronger voice when raising issues and most importantly it is easy for farmers to exchange ideas and assist each other. One successfully functioning group is the Siberia Land Care Group where farmers are still sharing ideas on how to sustainably manage their lands.

COP 23 Delegates look to agricultural landscapes for solutions to climate change (21 Nov)
The 2017 global climate talks (COP 23) delegates officially recognized the need to address agricultural adaptation and mitigation challenges, and to put in motion a process to establish an official agricultural work program. This is a major breakthrough in positioning agricultural landscapes as a solution to climate challenges. Political leaders around the world should embrace the efforts of those in agriculture who are working to maximize the use of their landscapes to help fight a changing climate. 

trends and statistics 
Pakistan: Country's area under crop cultivation not increasing - FAO (8 Dec)
Pakistan is facing stagnation in its area under agriculture crops due to declining water resources, as stated by FAO on the occasion of the World Soil Day. Furthermore, soils in Pakistan are low in organic matter and many essential plant nutrients, making iron deficiency in deciduous fruits is also of common occurrence. In addition to the stagnation in copping areas, there is pressure on land in peri-urban areas where agriculture land is being converted into real estate. An integrated approach of soil, water and input management could address the challenges posed by climate change and promote rural development.

Nepal: Yak cheese production on the decline (5 Dec)
Nepal used to produce more than 100s ton of yak cheese annually. But annual production decline to 55 tons in Fiscal Year 2016/17, according to District Development Corporation (DDC). Many farmers have shifted to other easier job since Yak farming is considered as very difficult. The Government plans to provide farmers with grants for the preservation, promotion and production of yak. Yak cheese produced by DDC has received organic certification from Organic Certification Nepal (OCN) and is in the process of getting international certification to aim international markets. 

Asia rice: India prices rise as demand from Bangladesh offsets high supply (8 Dec)
Asia rice prices marked by the rise in Indian rice price due to high demand from Bangladesh which will import 150,000 tonnes of rice from India in a state deal priced at $440 a tonne. Thailand's benchmark 5 per cent broken rice was quoted at $401-405 a tonne, free-on-board (FOB) Bangkok, up from $395-$400 last week. Meanwhile, in Viet Nam, 5 per cent broken rice traded at $395 a tonne, free-on-board (FOB) Saigon, mostly unchanged from last week's $395-$398 range.

Cambodia: Cassava farmers ready for promising season (22 Nov)
In Cambodia, cassava production plays a leading role in the government's plans to diversify agricultural output. The price of the commodity is significantly higher than the previous years due to increased demand in foreign markets. The Ministry of Agriculture will provide support in establishing contract farming schemes in key provinces to ensure supply of cassava, attract investors into the sector and guarantee a fair price.

Philippines; Agriculture sector grows 6.27 per cent in Q3, farmers' income by 3.68 per cent (22 Nov)
The Philippines Department Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol reported the growth of agriculture sector in the third quarter this year (6.27 per cent) and the rise in farmers' income (3.68 per cent) compared to the same period last year. The most notable growth was in palay production with 14.17 per cent which contributed to a 7.2 per cent growth for the entire crops subsector for the first nine months of 2017. This indicates the DA is on track to achieving its rice industry productivity target to supply the country's entire rice demand in the year 2020. 

case stories
Pakistan Agricultural Research Council taking initiatives to strengthen agricultural sector, for balanced crop pattern to escape heavy import bill (20 Nov)
The Federal Secretary for National Food Security and Research, Fazal Abbas Mekan appreciated the initiatives and innovations by Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) and other agencies to strengthen agriculture sector in the country. Pakistan needs a balanced cropping pattern to cut its import bill for food items like cooking oil and pulses which were the major agriculture produce import items. PARC was extending its support to the farmers in all provinces through its research and agro-technology inventions and revitalizing coordinated research programme in Sindh, a province known as chili and banana producer.  

USAID empowers Afghan women to access agriculture credits (29 Nov)
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Agricultural Credit Enhancement programme hosted a series of Women's Agricultural Credit Shuras in Herat, Afghanistan to raise women's awareness about agricultural credit. One of the most difficult challenges for female farmers and women operating agriculture-related businesses in Afghanistan is access to credit. The Shura program, conducted throughout the country, has promoted the concept that agricultural loans are ideal opportunities for the agricultural sector and the inclusion of women in agricultural credit and finance ensures continued growth for Afghanistan's agricultural sector.

Japan shares experience in developing food industry (13 Dec)
Many Japanese enterprises are interested to go to Vietnam to explore the food industry. The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) will facilitate the meet between the two countries to
exchange investment information. This was stated at a conference on developing Vietnam's food industry held recently where Japanese companies shared effective business models. Further, Saka Hrumi, a representative from the Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, suggested arranging dialogues to forge Vietnam-Japan agriculture value chains.

voices and views
Climate change, land degradation and the loss of agricultural land (27 Nov)
The article contributed by an FAO Official discusses the land degradation and desertification issues that has become a wide concern as they reinforce the effects of global warming, impacting on soils, vegetation, and the hydrological cycle. Possibly the most significant long-term contribution within a process of combating land degradation and desertification is the identification and enhancement of agriculture's capacity to mitigate climate change. This would include creating a broad coalition of those involved in agricultural land, especially with focus on smallholder farmers in developing countries.

Indonesia: Association calls on government to restore seeds subsidy (12 Dec)
The Indonesian government has revoked seeds subsidy, after it found that only 2 per cent of farmers benefitted from the subsidy in 2015, and has replaced the subsidy with free distribution of seeds, including rice, corn and chili, for farmers across the country. The Indonesian Seeds Association (Asbenindo) urged the government to restore the policy since it has become a disincentive move for the industry, which could disrupt development of national food sector. The association has sent its proposal to the Agriculture Minister, Finance Minister and National Development Planning Minister for this purpose. 

technological innovations
India: Farming needs tech revolution to ensure food security: ICAR chief (20 Dec)
Director of Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) A. Arunachalam stated that to ensure food security India should focus on making villages and farmers smart through technological revolution in agriculture. He said further that knowledge-based agriculture can be achieved if knowledge generation and knowledge disseminating agencies work together. ICAR has created a portal that provides regular information to farmers on weather and water availability through SMS and has been benefitted by around 3.6 crore farmers. 

When technology meets agriculture in Bhutan (19 Dec)
Bhutan needs to develop its commercial agriculture to increase productivity as the country has limited agriculture areas, and its geography and road conditions make logistics and market access costly. Mountain Hazelnuts, a company in eastern Bhutan has developed innovative uses of ICT for its commercial agriculture operations. The company uses voice messaging and video-recording functions of a Social Network Service (SNS) to communicate with farmers and ICT is also used to address supply chain and logistics issues. 

Statements and opinions expressed in the articles/news are solely those of the author(s) and the organizations they represented.
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