February 2017 
policy updates
Berlin G20 agriculture ministers declaration (23 Jan) 

After the meeting held on 22 January 2017 in Berlin, the G20 Agriculture Ministers declared several key notes to renew commitment to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement (2015) to cope with the challenges face from an increased population, climate change, urbanization, conflict, and the limited availability of energy and natural resources as well as their degradation.

China steps up farmland protection (24 Jan)

A document released by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, states that China will make efforts to stabilize farmland area and improve its quality to ensure grain self-sufficiency and food security. The move came as China's grain output fell 0.8 percent year on year to 616.2 million tonnes in 2016 after 12 years of consecutive growth. Further, the document also demanded more efforts to restore as much arable land currently occupied by non-agricultural construction.

Philippines - Department of Agriculture-Bicol starts the post-typhoon rehabilitation effort (3 Feb)

The Department of Agriculture (DA) of Bicol Region, Northern Philippines, has started distributing palay, corn and assorted vegetable seeds and seedling of various fruit trees in the post-typhoon rehabilitation effort. The assistance program is expected to reach over 86,000 affected farmers in three provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur and Catanduanes. According to DA-Bicol regional executive director Dr. Elena B. delos Santos, the rehabilitation effort of DA-Bicol is only the start of a greater assistance program that the DA will provide.  

Government of Nepal requests India to supply fertilizer (9 Feb) 

As an effort to prevent a possible shortage of the farm input for winter crops, the Government of Nepal has requested India's Ministry of External Affairs to provide 30,000 tonnes of urea.  State-subsidized fertilizers only fulfill 25-30 per cent of the total demand, and the rest is supplied from informal imports or smuggled products through Nepal-India border. Urea is mostly used for winter crops like vegetables, wheat, maize and spring paddy ( chaite dhan).   

Self-sufficiency in rice achieved, Indonesia to become rice exporter? (10 Feb)

Indonesia is ready to become a rice exporter after the country managed to become self-sufficient in rice in 2016. This was stated by Andi Amran Sulaiman, Indonesia's Agriculture Minister who further added that export destinations have been determined although discussion is still underway in central and regional governments. Indonesia has the largest per capita rice consumption in the world with Indonesians consuming around 140 kilogram of rice per person per year. 

Sri Lanka Government prioritises achieving zero hunger and zero undernutrition (14 Feb)

The Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin attended the launch of the National Strategic Review on Food Security and Nutrition - Towards Zero Hunger to conclude her three-day mission to Sri Lanka. The Strategic Review offers concrete short and long term recommendations for achieving zero hunger in Sri Lanka. Cousin praised the efforts of the Government to place food and nutrition security at the core of the country's development agenda.

Nepal: Unit set up to improve orange production (16 Feb)

To improve the orange farming sector and raise its production, the Government of Nepal has established an Orange Zone Implementation Unit in the western district of Syangja. It was established as part of the Prime Minister Agriculture Modernization Project worth Rs130-billion to adopt modern farming techniques and making the country self-reliant in food. For the next 10 years, the Unit aims to improve the quality of oranges grown and ready for global export. 

trends and statistics
The FAO Food Price at near two-year high in January (2 Feb)

The FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) averaged 173.8 points in January 2017, up 3.7 points (2.1 percent) from the revised December value, the highest value since February 2015. The cereal, sugar and vegetable oil price index also show increasing trends, while dairy and meat were unchanged. The FAO Food Price Index is a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities.

India market robust on African demand; Vietnam prices could fall (3 Feb)

India's rice price showed an increasing trend this week due to robust exports demand from African buyers. As for Vietnam rice, after stayed flat it is expected to ease shortly as farmers start harvesting Winter-Spring paddy later this month. India is the world's biggest rice exporter that mainly exports non-basmati rice to African countries and premier basmati rice to the Middle East.

Cambodia: Cassava export prices down sharply (8 Feb)

The price of dried and wet cassava has dropped this season due to low demand in local and international markets as well as lack of processing centers in the country. Most of cassava yield is exported to Thailand and the rest is for local factories. To ensure a fair price of cassava for farmers, the Ministry of Agriculture will establish cassava communities and farming contracts between traders and farmers.

technological innovations
Viet Nam Prime Minister pledges to introduce the country's clean farm produce to the world (2 Feb)

The Government of Viet Nam aims to create favourable conditions for businesses and cooperatives to develop high-tech farming, stated the Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc during the launching of the high-tech agricultural production at a VinEco farm in northern Ha Nam province. PM Phuc further pledged to introduce Viet Nam's high-tech, high-quality and clean farm produce to the world with Japan recently agreed to consume an additional Vietnamese farm product, red flesh dragon fruit. 

Nanoparticles that help crops absorb fertilizers (7 Feb)

According to a recent study published in ACS Nano, applying nanoparticle-based slow-release fertilizer could help reduce the amount of fertilizer used while improving food production in developing nations. A team of researchers led by Dr. Nilwala Kottegoda from the Sri Lanka Institute of Nano Technology wanted to find a way to slow the breakdown of urea and make one application of fertilizer last longer. To do this, the researchers developed a simple and scalable method for coating hydroxyapatite (HA) nanoparticles with urea molecules which could lower the need for fertilizer by one-half. 

Bringing coconut farmers into the 21st century through mobile agriculture (6 Feb)

Coconut farmers go mobile in the Philippines through a FarmerLink program, a digitally connected program to help rural coconut farmers increase productivity, deal with crop pests and diseases, and increase the sustainability of their farms. The program, initiated by Grameen Foundation, combines satellite data and farm data collected by mobile-equipped field agents. It also links to an Early Warning system for extreme weather, bringing both predictive and real-time weather information to formerly isolated farmers.

Innovation hub opens for agri-tech entrepreneurs (13 Feb)

A new innovation Hub (iHub) was recently inaugurated at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). It is a space where agricultural tech entrepreneurs, scientists and technology experts can collaborate to innovate cutting edge ideas across the whole agriculture value chain for smallholder farmers. The iHub includes a spread over 10,000 sq. ft., located at ICRISAT, India and will include a 40-seater accelerator facility.

case stories
Is warming behind India's depleting groundwater?  (25 Jan)

India relies heavily on groundwater for irrigation particularly in the dry northern regions where precipitation is scarce. According to a new study changes in rainfall patterns may be responsible for groundwater depletion more than withdrawals for agricultural irrigation. The Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar advised that India should avoid growing water-intensive crops in water-stressed regions such as Punjab, adopt technologies for efficient groundwater use and improve recharge during the monsoons. 

Drought could cost Sri Lanka billions (25 Jan)

Drought is a reoccurring phenomenon in Sri Lanka and is heading into one of its worst drought in recent history and with catastrophic impacts. Of 800,000 acres, only a little above 300,000 was planted with the staple rice crops during the last harvesting season due to lack of water. Apart from the short-term impacts, experts also worry about the long term implications. One of the long-term consequences that is rarely highlighted is the impact of droughts on land degradation which has serious impact on Sri Lanka's economy. Land degradation may be costing Sri Lanka up to about 300 million US dollars every year.

China's farmers go green (8 Feb)

China has been promoting sustainable farming to reform the agriculture industry in recent years. Many farmers have switched to organic farming which is becoming increasingly popular in the world's most populous nation amid growing concerns for food safety. Long-time reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides has resulted in severe problems, such as pollution and soil degradation. A dead-end in old farming and a shift in consumption habits have encouraged more farmers to engage in green agriculture.

India's women farmers take charge battling traditional gender roles (13 Feb)

Gender roles in tradition-bound rural India are slowly changing with women taking the lead on farms. With the growing role of women in agricultural sector, state governments, farming groups, and private industry are starting to train women to lead farms, teaching them about crops, irrigation, and finance. A set of United Nations global goals agreed in 2015 and aiming for gender equality by 2030 could help elevate women's role in rural India with a commitment to give women equal access to decent work, education, and healthcare.

Thai rice worries Viet Nam exporters (13 Feb)

Viet Nam rice traders and exporters are struggling to compete with Thai rice as Thailand plans to sell all of its rice stockpiles. Viet Nam previously exported a lot of white rice to Africa, but now firms are only exporting fragrant rice to the market. Viet Nam's export rice prices are predicted to drop further this year. It can only recover when Thailand's rice stockpiles are sold out.

voices and views 
Agri-chains and Sustainable Development: working with each and every stakeholder to support change (23 Jan)

Achieving the ambitions set out in the sustainable development goals (SDGs) requires a radical change in agri-chains. This was stated by the participants of the international conference on Agri-Chains & Sustainable Development (AC&SD), organized with  the initiative of CIRAD and its partners from 12 to 14 December 2016. They debated the role of agri-chains in relation to the new global framework resulting from the SDGs and confirmed that agri-chains are changing, on an economic, environmental and social level.

Philippines: Agri insurance not focused on marginalized farmers - PIDS (7 Feb)

Findings from the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) show that the penetration rate of the Government's Agricultural Insurance Program (AIP) remains low compared to other countries. It was also found that the program mostly covered farmers with large farms while marginalized rice farmers were paid low claims. PIDS recommended the government to prioritize the marginalized subsistence farmers in its insurance coverage, product lines and premiums.

The rise of unregulated livestock production in East and Southeast Asia prompts health concerns (6 Feb)

More than 70 per cent of all transmittable human diseases are contracted from animals (zoonosis). The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is warning that increasing demand for, and consumption of, meat and other products of animal origin in East and Southeast Asia are threatening the health of millions of people and livestock. In the Asia-Pacific region, FAO operates the Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) and is actively working with FAO member countries to prevent the spread of new and old diseases and mitigate risks.

FAO Director-General urges more support to help small farmers adapt to a changing climate (13 Feb)

The FAO Director-General Graziano da Silva, during the World Government Summit in Dubai stressed the need to support smallholder farmers in the developing world adapt to climate change. Failure to act now will seriously compromise food production in many regions and could fail international efforts to end hunger and extreme poverty by 2030. Water management is also a critical front for action. Small-scale farmers are already wrestling with water scarcity, which will likely intensify as a result of climate change, he said.

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