January 2017 
(20 Dec 2016 - 20 Jan 2017)
policy updates
China to improve farmers' income, agricultural product quality (21 Dec)

China will seek new growth engines in agriculture and rural areas to improve productivity and competitiveness. A central rural work conference held from 19-20 Dec 2016 in Beijing has stressed the need for better quality and efficiency in agriculture, focused on farmers' incomes and produce quality. The two-day meeting stressed product mix, management and regional planning as top priorities in supply-side agricultural structural reform. Efforts will be made to develop technological solutions to agricultural productivity and to reform rural property rights, creating new entities in production and services.

China to further promote farm product processing industry (28 Dec) 

The State Council of China released a circular on 28 Dec 2016 to further promote the development of the agricultural product processing industry. Farmers' cooperatives are encouraged to join the processing industry development, and a unified business mode combining farm product drying, storage, processing and sales should be explored. Farm products processing enterprises should be guided to expand their reach covering both raw material bases and sales also services networks in efforts to form a complete industry chain.

Philippines proposes 900-M Japanese yen loan for farm modernization (4 Jan) 

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is proposing a 900-million Japanese yen loan with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).  The loan intended for the full mechanization of farming in a first batch of 10,000 hectares of selected rice farms under a program to modernize Philippine agriculture and help realize the Government's goals of producing and making available affordable food to Filipinos. The DA hopes to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with JICA during the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Manila during the third week of January this year.

Philippines: Government considers corn exports (20 Jan)

Corn is Philippine's second staple after rice. The Department of Agriculture through a press release mentioned that for the first time in history, the Philippines is ready to export corn to neighboring countries in the region as corn harvests this year will breach the 5.6 million tons domestic requirement. According to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol, with the use of hybrid corn seeds, sufficient fertilizer, solar-powered irrigation systems and efficient post-harvest facilities, the country's corn production could double in the next five years. The export of corn to countries like Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea could improve yellow corn prices, in turn, encouraging farmers to plant more.

Nepal: Government urged to bring private sector into fertilizer trade (11 Jan)

Lawmakers have urged the government to boost the supply of subsidized chemical fertilizers so that more farmers can benefit and bring private firms into the fertilizer trade in order to prevent recurring shortages of the vital farm input. This article presents some of the findings of the report produced by a sub-committee of the parliamentary Water and Agricultural Resources Committee, formed in June 2016 to study problems in chemical fertilizer imports, distribution, quality, farmers' access to fertilizers and the government's current policy.

Indonesia, Japan to enhance cooperation in agriculture sector (12 Jan)

Indonesia and Japan agreed to enhance cooperation in several economic areas, including fishing and agricultural sectors, to be developed in Sabang, Aceh, and Morotai, North Maluku, stated the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister, Susi Pudjiastuti. The minister said that the cooperation will be implemented by Indonesian state-owned enterprise Perum Perikanan and a Japanese private company. In addition, Indonesia will invite Japan to cooperate to improve access for Indonesian agricultural and fishery products in the Japanese market.

Myanmar: Department of Agriculture to open call centre (18 Jan)

The Department of Agriculture has plans to open a call centre with the aim to respond to agricultural questions from farmers throughout Myanmar promptly. Around 50 employees are trained to respond to any situation farmers are facing. During the training, employees, who have graduated with a Bachelor in Agricultural Science and hold masters and PhD degrees, were given a range of knowledge and hands-on experience, including field work and educational programming with farmers. Going forward, trained staff will travel to each region and state, conduct field inspections and communicate with farmers.

trends and statistics
Food commodity prices fall for fifth year in a row in 2016 (12 Jan) 

Prices of major food commodities declined for the fifth year in a row in 2016, averaging 161.6 points for the year as a whole, some 1.5 per cent below their 2015 levels. Bumper harvests and prospects for staple cereals offset upward pressure on FAO's Food Price Index from tropical commodities such as sugar and palm oil, where production was impacted by El Nino. In December, the Index averaged nearly 172 points, unchanged from November.

Nepal: Record-high paddy production this fiscal (27 Dec) 

According to the yet-to-be-released data of Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD), paddy production has gone up by 21 per cent this year compared to fiscal year 2015-16 when total production stood at 4.3 million metric tonnes. Increase in paddy production means that the country will import less rice in the ongoing fiscal year. As per government statistics, Nepal is importing rice worth more than Rs 20 billion every year.

Cambodia's rice exports fall sharply (6 Jan) 

Cambodia's milled rice exports only grew by a dismal 0.7 per cent last year compared with 2015 and this was the lowest since 2014, according to government figures released in early January 2017. In the first quarter of last year, a severe drought affected rice production and through the year rice millers had been complaining of the flow of low-grade cheaper rice into the country from Viet Nam. In late September, the government responded by making out a $27 million loan to rice millers to purchase paddy rice from farmers, in a bid to prevent rice prices from falling further. 

Viet Nam: Coffee export reaches 1.79 million tonnes in 2016 (10 Jan) 

Viet Nam exported 1.79 million tonnes of coffee in 2016, earning 3.36 billion USD, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The figures represented increases of 33.6 per cent in volume and 25.6 per cent in value on a yearly basis. In 2016, Viet Nam's total coffee tree area increased by 0.3 per  cent from 2015, to 645,400 hectares, producing 1.47 million tonnes, up one per cent from 2015 in spite of a year-on-year drop of 0.4 percent in productivity due to droughts in the Central Highlands.

Bangladesh: Vegetable output grows fast (10 Jan)

Vegetable production has more than doubled in just over a decade, making Bangladesh one of the fastest-growing vegetable producers in the world. The growth in recent years stems from better seeds and technologies as opposed to the growths in the 80s and early 90s when more agro land was dedicated to vegetable farming. Another reason for this boom is that farmers get a higher return from vegetable farming than that from the low-incentive rice production.

Iran: Progress in reducing malnutrition, food poverty (28 Dec) 

The malnutrition rate in Iran dropped to 3.2 per cent by mid-2016 from 5.1 per cent in 1990, and Iran's score in the 2016 Global Hunger Index (GHI) report is 6.7 per cent, a 0.1 per cent improvement over its previous score in 2015. Although it may look like a tiny fraction, the overall performance of the country since it began fighting food poverty in 1990 (and had a score of 18.5 per cent) has been rather noteworthy. Iran ranks 23rd in the world, in terms of measures taken and status achieved in fighting food poverty. Over the years 1990-2015 malnourishment rate dropped to 3.2 from 4.2 per cent, while prevalence of stunting in children under five years was reduced to 6.8 from 23.9 per cent. The under-five mortality rate also decreased from 5.2 to 1.6 per cent.

Sri Lanka unemployment spikes in 2Q but non-farm jobs up (27 Dec) 

Sri Lanka's unemployment rate spiked to 4.6 per cent in the third quarter of 2016 from 4.2 per cent a quarter earlier, amid falling agricultural workers, despite the creation of new non-farm jobs, official data showed. Agricultural workers fell 1.961 million from 2.275 million a year earlier. It was not clear whether current drought conditions contributed to lower farm employment. For incomes in agriculture to grow (labour productivity to increase) the total workforce has to reduce.

technological innovations
Testing of remote sensing technologies for crop insurance in India (26 Dec) 

Remote sensing technologies have created vast prospects for crop growth and yield assessments at small administrative level through assimilation of these datasets in the crop simulation models. The agricultural insurance sector has created some huge opportunities for these technologies. The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) South Asia is testing these technologies for yield loss assessment in four soybean growing districts of Maharashtra state in India. The experiment is being done in different agro-climatological setup in 2016 and 2017. Through these experiments, technologies will be assessed individually and in conjunction with simulation and modeling techniques to develop methodology to estimate yield loss at smallest administrative unit.

IAEA impact: Myanmar's dairy farmers benefit from cattle breeding programme using nuclear-based techniques (4 Jan)

Nuclear and isotopic techniques contribute to the production of high quality semen worldwide, including in many developing countries. Nuclear and nuclear derived technologies have also been used to detect viruses like foot and mouth disease and to improve native cattle breeds through genetic selection in such a way that they produce more milk but still retain their adaptability to the local environment and their tolerance to local diseases. IAEA, FAO and their partners have jointly supported Myanmar's Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department in perfecting and rolling out these techniques across the country.

Lankan develops special barn automation system for tobacco drying (5 Jan) 

Sri Lanka entrepreneur and inventor H. J. Weerasinghe from Dambulla has designed a special barn automation system powered by electricity and paddy husks to dry tobacco leaves. This is the first time such a system has been introduced to the world tobacco industry. The inventor designed an automated system which automatically takes in the paddy husk and heats up tobacco leaves to the required temperature. With this system environmental pollution can be minimized as well. Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Michael Koest will promote this invention overseas where traditional methods are still being used to dry tobacco.

case stories
PNG: Seeds of hope after the drought (21 Dec)  

When El Nino phenomenon hit the Highlands Region of Papua New Guinea (PNG), it unleashed an unsympathetic weather change, bringing droughts and frosts to the country. Many were unprepared to lose subsistence farming, the 'backbone' of New Guinean societies, as a major source of income. Through distribution of seeds for crops, such as rice, cassava and corn,  and targeted water, sanitation and hygiene, the IOM's project has resulted in many women now are able to view changes in the climate through a more optimistic lens. 

ICT based agro-advisory services in Climate-Smart Villages in Nepal (29 Dec) 

CCAFS in Nepal, in partnership with the Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD) has collaborated with SMILES, an ICT provider to offer mobile and web based agro advisory services in Dang and Nawalparasi districts. Farmers who have subscribed for the services receive messages for market price of vegetables twice a week, and for weather-related information three times a week, through a push system. They are also trained to access detailed information on market price through a pull system. Group discussions with farmers revealed greater usefulness of market related information compared to climate.

Queen bees: how honey co-ops help Afghan women take control (29 Dec)  

In the mountainous central province of Bamiyan, one of the country's least developed but most liberal regions, beekeeping complements its only other commercial crop, potatoes, and gives rural women the chance to become entrepreneurs. Four beekeeping cooperatives have been set up here in recent years, backed by NGOs and foreign aid. Starting from scratch, they now employ around 400 people, half of them women, and produce 14 tonnes of honey a year.

Women-friendly agriculture (2 Jan) 

In recent times more and more women have involved themselves in agriculture. Women's participation in agriculture labour force in Nepal had increased from 36 per cent in 1981 to 45 per cent in 1991 and, by 2016, it had reached over 50 per cent. This suggests that agriculture is being feminized in Nepal. This is mainly due to the decade-long armed conflict and poverty which resulted in high out-migration of rural men in search of well-paid jobs. In fact, women are now main producers of food and livestock and they also help with natural resources and bio-diversity conservation.

Planting for purpose in Fiji (5 Jan) 

Planting trees to safeguard water catchments and natural forest reserves is an important initiative undertaken by the Pacific Community (SPC) in Dogoru, Fiji. Dogoru is the major source of fresh water for the greater Labasa area and large numbers of rural people in these areas depend on agriculture and forestry for their livelihoods. However, current land use practices are not always productive and in some cases are harming water catchments. In April 2016, 24 local farmers took part in theoretical and practical training to learn plant propagation techniques, raising seedlings in nurseries and establishing pine and sandalwood woodlots. Some 3,000 pine trees and 100 sandalwood were planted as part of the training, to rehabilitate degraded land in Dogoru and to safeguard precious water catchments.

Sustainable rice projects get financial boost (11 Jan)

Several research projects that ensure the long-term sustainable production of rice, received financial support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).  The projects cover a wide range of important issues including rice quality; resource use and photosynthetic efficiency; resilience to pests, diseases, and environmental stresses; and novel research tool and technology development. The 13 projects, led by top UK bioscience researchers and institutions in collaboration with research teams in China, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam, were announced at the grant-holders kick-off meeting at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on 9-11 January.

Empowering small-scale farmers through peer-review certification (17 Jan)

ADB has recently started promoting organic farming as a means to sustainable development and real economic-inclusive growth in the sub-region. ADB is a partner of the Promoting Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) for small-scale organic farming in Thailand, a project which aims to empower organic farmers through peer-review certification. PGS replaces expensive third-party audits, making organic-farming certification possible for small-scale and marginal farmers. It relies inherently on the trust and transparency of community members certify each other and is in use all over the world, including in New Zealand, USA and Brazil.

voices and views
Removal of import duty on wheat will destroy North Indian Farmers: warns Bharatiya Kisan Union (21 Dec)

Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), organization fighting for rights of farmers, organized a meeting in New Delhi attended by farm leaders from several States in India to raise their concerns about crumbling rural agriculture and their immediate demands to address this. The most recent decision to remove import duty on wheat is just an example of complete disregard for India's small farmers. BKU opposes the removal of import duty on wheat and is instead demanding the government to hike it to 40 per cent.

BIMSTEC must produce more food (29 Dec) 

Experts from the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) member countries gathered in Thimphu, Bhutan to discuss ways to boost food production and work on a long term plan to achieve food security in the region. BIMSTEC is an international organization involving a group of countries in South and South-East Asia (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal). With 12 per cent of the region's population or 490 million people being undernourished, most of them located in South Asia, the region is faced with an alarming situation. BIMSTEC secretary general, Sumith Nakandala said: "Asia's importance for food markets is becoming amplified by higher economic growth in Asian economies, which will have an impact on both the composition and the level of food consumption."

Dialogue with Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR):
Agriculture and food security - where are we headed in 2017? (11 Jan)

In December 2016, agriculture and food security researchers visited Canberra for high-level discussions on development matters with the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. And as 2017 will be an important year for establishing long-term goals and making important inroads into advances within the sector, this article provides findings based on dialogues with the attendees to better understand where we are headed. According to Andrew Campbell, CEO of ACIAR, the sector want to be involved more widely in development discussions and a focus in 2017 is establishing greater ties across all development 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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