July 2017
(20 June - 20 July)
policy updates
Asian countries sign agreement on seed-sharing (13 Jul)

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) organized a workshop on seed policy in Siem Reap, Cambodia that was attended by representatives from nine South and South East Asian countries. During the workshop, representatives signed a multi-country seed policy agreement that will speed up the distribution of modern rice varieties across countries in these regions. Moreover, the participants identified a need to establish clarity on intellectual property rights, boost quarantine and seed certification standards, improve engagement with the private sector and expand crop variety in the regional seed agreement.

New Delhi committed to revamp state's agriculture sector (5 Jul)

India is committed to revamping its agriculture sector and doubling farmers' income by 2022 through providing more financial supports to farmers. The country's Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has said that farmers' welfare will be a priority and that he will collaborate with relevant ministries and institutions for implementation. Rs 449.26 crore was allocated to the farmer welfare scheme during 2016-17.

Pakistan: Food security policy document finalized (12 Jul)

Pakistan's Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research (MNFS&R) Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan stated that Pakistan's national food security policy document has been finalized with valuable inputs from relevant national and international partners. The supreme goal for all activities of the policy is to make food system inclusive and resilient. The policy is expected to help promote value-added food production while creating a new group of agricultural entrepreneurs. The policy document will be presented to the federal cabinet for approval after further refinement.

Bhutan: Ministry launches guideline for sustainable management of agricultural land (19 Jun)

Bhutan's Agriculture and Forest Ministry launched the Agriculture Land Development Guidelines (ALDG) on June 17 as a guide to planners and policymakers to establish a common sustainable agriculture approach and practice. ALDG aims to enable farm mechanization through proper land development, to bring more land under cultivation, and to reduce land degradation. It also aims to address many environmental and social issues related to improper land management. The guideline is in line with the Ministry's priority to scale-up farm mechanization and to respond to the current farm labor shortage to enhance national food and nutritional security.

Thailand: Agriculture Ministry successful in reclaiming land misused for corn farming (5 Jul)

Thailand's Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has been successful at reclaiming 34,000 rai of land that has been misused for corn farming. The Ministry is also working on improving the management of farmland by providing suitable farming land in alternative areas. So far, the ministry has reclaimed 70,000 rai from a targeted 1.6 million rai. This year a total of 15,000 rai has been used to convert the alternative areas into farmland, and further assistance will be provided to farmers to help them diversify and increase their incomes. The Ministry has also provided support to make sure that there is no shortage of corn in the market.

Viet Nam: Funds needed for hi-tech agriculture (29 Jun)

A seminar focusing on high-tech agriculture was held during the Viet Nam Economic Forum 2017, which was jointly organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and the Party Central Committee's Economic Commission. During the seminar, experts stated that agricultural productivity and quality should be increased by investing more in innovation and strengthening links between all stakeholders - including farmers, enterprises and research institutes. According to MARD, firms invested more than VNĐ 21.2 trillion in 25 high-tech agricultural projects from June 2016 to February 2017. While till March the State had provided VNĐ156.3 billion (US$6.79 million) for 15 hi-tech projects in agriculture.. 

Cambodia: Taskforce to monitor commodity prices (20 Jun)

The Cambodian Ministry of Commerce established a taskforce to monitor commodity prices including agricultural products and boost the competitiveness of products in the market. The working group, comprising of officials from relevant departments in the ministry, will study and collect data related to production, cost and supply chain capacity, and will also regularly update the prioritized commodity list. The working group will observe, check and monitor changes in production and products on offer to support the market and stabilize prices..

Philippines: Negros Occidental farmers to get P700,000 in certified rice seeds (5 Jul)

To improve rice productivity, the Department of Agriculture in the Negros Island Region (DA-NIR) is assisting farmers in their farm input requirements by distributing 500 bags of certified rice worth PHP 700,000. This is also part of the DA's strategy to encourage farmers to engage in organic agriculture. Currently, at least 15,000 hectares of the region's agricultural area is devoted to organic agriculture and engages almost 11,400 farmers. Through their support services for farmers, the DA-NIR is optimistic that the region can achieve their rice productivity targets - including 100 percent rice self-sufficiency - by 2019.

Azerbaijan Government simplifies financing of agriculture (11 Jul)

At the latest meeting of the Financial Stability Council of Azerbaijan, attendees discussed a broad action plan that includes improving the mechanisms for financing agriculture. The government also plans to establish an agricultural insurance fund in 2018 under the framework of the strategic road map implementation for increasing the production and processing of agricultural products. They plan to refer to international experience in this field and prepare an analysis of the potential impact of creating an insurance fund to encourage development of the agricultural sector.

Fiji: Agriculture Ministry assist farmers through Demand Driven Approach program (7 Jul)

The Ministry of Agriculture in Fiji implements a Demand Driven Approach program that empowers farmers to think about ways to ensure the future sustainability of their farms and encourages them to develop successful agribusiness enterprises. A major focus of the program is to increase market opportunities for farmers. There are five programs under this larger initiative, namely Rural and Outer Island, Food Security, Export Promotion, Dairy Industry Support and the Sigatoka Valley Development Program. The programs are open for individual, farmer groups or agribusiness operators who meet certain requirements.

Pacific Community collaborates with WFP on emergency preparedness in the areas of food security, logistics and emergency telecommunications (29 Jun)

The Pacific Community (SPC) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have signed an agreement that aims to increase the effectiveness of their programs and services assisting Pacific Island countries increase resilience and achieve development targets. This new partnership promotes better collaboration on emergency preparedness in the areas of food security, logistics and emergency telecommunications. It includes supporting the development of an online platform for mapping of emergency relief items, as well as for exchanging information and experience. The platform will also facilitate collaboration on communication upgrades and assessment activities that both organizations undertake in the Pacific region.

China: Ministry of Agriculture pushes for drug inspection in livestock industry (27 Jun)

A national plan released by the Ministry of Agriculture in China will regulate the use of antibiotics in the poultry and livestock industries. The plan will also take measures to research, develop and promote more than 100 types of new drugs for animal use that are safer, more effective and with little residue. Furthermore, the Ministry will collaborate with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations to control the spread of drug-resistance bacteria among countries. 

trends and statistics 
OECD and FAO see slower growth in demand keeping world food prices low (10 Jul)

According to the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2017-2026, global food commodity prices are projected to remain relatively low over the next decade as demand growth in several emerging economies is expected to slow down and biofuel policies have a reduced impact on markets. This year's Outlook contains a special feature on Southeast Asia. According to the report, a greater focus on sustainable development in this region will slow the growth of palm oil production. And across the agricultural sector, yields will continue to increase, but cropland is projected to expand by only 10 per cent over the next 10 years, compared to 70 per cent over the previous decade.

Fortification growing globally (29 Jun)
The Flour Fortification Initiative (FFI) is an international partnership working to improve world health through fortification of industrially milled grain products - specifically wheat flour, maize flour and rice. As wheat has become an increasingly important component of people's diet, FFI aims to fortify flour with essential vitamins and minerals to improve public health. In Asia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Philippines, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Viet Nam have legislation for mandating fortification of wheat flour. While in the Pacific region, only Australia, Fiji, Kiribati and Solomon Islands mandates fortification of wheat flour. Wheat flour fortification programs could be an effective way to achieve public health globally if mandated at the national level.

Agribusiness potential for Cambodia, Mongolia and Myanmar (26 Jun)

Cambodia, Mongolia and Myanmar are considered new emerging markets with huge potential for agribusiness and feed production. Commercial livestock production in Cambodia has increased over the years, demonstrating a professionalization of the livestock business. Strategically located near China, Mongolia can export beef to China, where demand for beef is growing rapidly. And in Myanmar, the consumption of animal protein is growing and the country is positioning itself as a source of livestock in Southeast Asia. 

Myanmar: Agricultural exports still rely on neighbouring markets (21 Jun)

Myanmar has been trying to expand the export of its agricultural products to the international market, but the country still relies on neighbouring markets like China, Thailand and India. Risks may arise when weather pattern changes occur and when there is market instability in those countries. To achieve stable overseas markets, Myanmar's Ministry of Commerce has been implementing a mid-term trade development plan. Under this plan, cooperation between farmers and exporters will be strengthened. And with foreign financial assistance like a loan from Japan, the Ministry is also trying to support farmers in producing high-value products, instead of only raw products.

Cambodia: Cassava prices hit a new low (27 Jun)

In Cambodia, cassava is an export product and not for local consumption. Recently, cassava prices experienced a sharp drop of $0.026 per kg earlier this month, leading to heavy losses for smallholder farmers unable to quickly switch to more profitable crops. A spokesperson for Cambodia's Ministry of Commerce said that the Ministry of Agriculture and farmers need to work together to collect and share information. That way, farmers can better understand price trends in foreign markets and can time cassava cultivation to meet external demand. According to the same spokesperson, Cambodia also needs higher quality standards and more technical expertise for processing cassava in factories. 

Nepal: Drought, diseases, pests on the rise (21 Jun)

The National Climate Change Impact Assessment Survey report noted that incidents of drought, landslide, avalanche, diseases and presence of pests have increased in Nepal. According to the report, some 64 per cent of households in the sub-tropical region said that incidents of fire have increased over the time. Likewise, around 70 per cent of respondents observed new crop diseases, while 66 per cent of respondents said new pest epidemics have arisen within the past 25 years.

DPR Korea's food production hit by the worst drought since 2001 (20 Jul)

A new FAO update stated that crop production in the Democratic People's Republic (DPR) of Korea, including staple rice, maize, potatoes and soybean, has been severely damaged by prolonged drought this year. The severe dry spell also affected the 2016/17 early season crops which were harvested in June. FAO estimates that production of 2017 early season crops has dropped by over 30 per cent, from the previous year's level of 450 000 tonnes to 310 000 tonnes. FAO recommended to promote drought-tolerant crops and varieties and the diversification of livelihoods to increase the resilience of farmers and households to natural disasters and climate change.

case stories
A new initiative to assure food security for South Asian farmers (21 Jun)

The first review and planning meeting of an International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) initiative highlighted the need for the project to cultivate an extra crop in fallow lands, and thereby linking it with other similar projects in Bangladesh, India and Nepal. Key activities of the project, which are aimed at ensuring food and nutritional security as well as stable income for farmers, include the supply of improved varieties, cluster demonstrations, the establishment of small-scale village seed hubs, and capacity development for farmers. 

Indian climate-resilient farming model wins Equator Prize (12 Jul)

Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP), a Pune-based non-profit is among the 15 winners who have been selected for this year's Equator Prize by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The initiative started in 2009 to promote a climate-resilient agro-ecological farming model and entrepreneurship, and since then, has empowered over 20,000 women farmers to act as decision makers in the area. Under the model, low-input sustainable farming techniques, including efficient water use, organic farming, mixed cropping and increased crop cycles, are adopted to enable women to improve food security, increase climate resilience, enhance agro-biodiversity and reduce stress on water resources in their communities.

Vietnam's rice granary endangered by water shortage (20 Jun)

Farmers and scientists in Viet Nam are concerned about developments occurring in the Mekong Delta, the rice granary of the country, amid attempts to change the river's current. As upstream countries such as Thailand, Laos and Cambodia try to expand water use, the weaker water flow downstream of the Mekong River has caused drought in the Mekong Delta, affecting the livelihood of millions of people in the area. Researchers say that the Mekong Delta needs to take the initiative in storing water for reasonable use during the dry season.

Farming rice and fish together is helping to reduce rural poverty in Asia-Pacific (19 Jun)

Farming practices in the Honghe County of China's Yunnan Province has shown how a rice-fish farming system can play a significant role in poverty reduction and improve food and nutrition security. A group of agro-aquaculture experts from seven Asian countries visited this county to observe the farming system, where fish is integrated in rice paddy to achieve higher yield and better quality of rice, and with fish as an additional commodity. The group recommended that the UN's FAO set up a rice-fish farming demonstration village in Honghe to showcase the county's experiences and good practices.

Fiji: Surveys bring new hope for drought stricken communities (19 Jul)

The hydrogeological surveys, conducted by a Water Resources team from the Pacific Community's Geoscience Division have mapped new sources of underground water in Qerelevu (Ba) and Nanuku-Wailevu (Ra) in Fiji's main island. The initiative has helped people residing in two drought-prone sugarcane areas a step closer to accessing more reliable water supplies. Identifying the sources of new water supplies provides valuable information to develop future water supply systems that is helping the disaster-prone communities to become more resilient.

Fiji: Seaweed farming empowers women (19 Jul)

The seaweed project meeting, held recently in Fiji, highlighted the strengths of seaweed agriculture as an industry and opportunities for the industry in developing local markets. Seaweed cultivation was first introduced in Fiji in 1976 with Kappaphycus seed stocks from Philippines. Seaweed farming has empowered women, boosting their income level and livelihood. The government of Fiji supports this farming industry through the provision of farming materials, which includes boats and engines, as well as via monitoring and evaluation efforts.

technological innovations
Tools for measuring and monitoring the efficiency of water use in agricultural systems worldwide (21 Jun)

A new project entitled "VirtualWaterValues" at Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) of Munich is developing new models for the quantification of water consumption in the agricultural sector, with a view to lessening wastage. The LMU researchers will combine data from remote-sensing satellites with climate data, and analyze them using Munich's supercomputer SuperMUC. The LMU team and their partners intend to expose the entire process of food production and distribution to an economic analysis that composes the actual volumes of water consumed from the primary producer to the consumer.

IoT is accelerating the globalization of food production and processing (6 Jul)

A new study from Inmarsat reveals that the use of Internet of Things (IoT) for environmental monitoring is helping many food producers to meet increasingly strict import requirements by monitoring production, food hygiene, and sustainability through the use of Internet of Things (IoT). This global satellite communications company is working with a variety of agritech companies globally to improve supply-chain efficiencies, particularly in locations where satellite plays a key part in the connectivity mix. Besides to enrich developing economies, technology could increase competition and lower prices in developed markets as well as conserve natural resources.

Cambodian researchers use isotopic technique to help farmers increase yields and revenues (10 Jul)

Agriculture accounts for 27 per cent of Cambodia's economy, and provides the livelihood of 60 per cent of the population. Many of the country's poor are subsistence farmers working on small plots of land. Cambodia's agricultural researchers have recommended the use of nuclear-related method to measure fertilizer and water uptake by rice and other crops. Cambodia is among a growing number of countries using such techniques to increase crop yields and manage the best use of fertilizers. The results demonstrate that even poorer farmers, who cannot afford to buy much fertilizer, can increase yields.

Marshall Islands: Making farming on an atoll simple with ICTs (3 July)

Farming for atoll communities like in Marshall Islands, a country of 33 atolls and 1,200 islands, needs resilient techniques for good yields. One such technique is pit planting, a method to plant a tree by digging pits filled with rich organic matter, to give one plant a chance to grow healthy and bear fruits. This method is easy to replicate and suitable for all types of fruit trees and crops. By capturing the method in video and in print, the activity also engages young farmers to do organic farming and get certification. Information Communications Technology (ICT) tools like portable drives and CDs could store best practices information such as how to compost, intercrop, mulch and weather the drought.

Starving the foes: new ways to protect rice against diseases (20 Jul)

Bacterial blight has been a problem for the last decades in most tropical and subtropical rice-growing areas of Asia. The outbreaks are a common enemy during the rainy season and can easily spread across large cultivated areas, causing high economic losses. Planting varieties resistant to this disease is probably the most effective way to control it. Scientists have found how to block the pathogen's access to nutrients to starve the pathogen. and have been looking for alternative ways to increase plant resistance without relying only on the plant's immunity system. A so-called starvation phenotype can limit the growth of a broad population of bacterial blight pathogens..

voices and views
Climate change reverses development gains (19 Jul)

A report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research reveals that climate change could devastate Asian countries, influence future growth, reverse development gains, and reduce quality of life. Drastic changes might occur in terms of the region's weather system, agriculture and fisheries, biodiversity, regional security, trade, urban development, migration, and health. To mitigate the impact of climate change, the report highlights the importance of implementing the commitments laid out in the Paris Agreement: public and private investments in rapid decarbonization of Asian economies, as well as adaptation measures.

Sustainable agriculture can mitigate climate change and involuntary migration (6 Jul)

FAO and International Organization for Migration (IOM) called for explicit recognition of migration - both its causes and its potential - in national climate change and rural development policies. Agricultural and rural development must be an integral part of solutions to weather and climate-related challenges, especially as they link with distress migration; bolstering sustainable agriculture should be an essential part of an effective policy response. Global Migration Group - an inter-agency group of 22 UN organizations - are collaborating on ways to tackle the root causes of migration, an increasingly pressing issue for the international community. 

Sustainable rice straw practices and market prospects increases farmers' income (14 Jul)

A workshop on building potential business models for the rice straw supply chain, held recently in Cambodia. Enhancing sustainable rice straw management practices in the country by using the byproduct could increase farmers' income significantly. Participants assessed current end-markets for rice straw and identified the actors, service providers, and institutions involved in rice straw value chains in Cambodia. The workshop was concluded by planning the next steps to facilitate linkages between potential rice straw market actors in Viet Nam with the existing and potential new rice straw collectors and processors in Cambodia.

Bright prospect of mushroom farming (29 Jun)

Mushroom has been cultivated for three decades in Bangladesh. It is one of the most valuable agricultural products and there is great demand for mushrooms in the global market. Azizul Haque is one of the many mushroom producers in Bangladesh who has found success in mushroom production. Bangladesh today needs fully export-oriented mushroom growing, processing and freezing plants. Mushroom farming, if done in the proper manner and with maximum care, can become an established and profitable business.

Fiji: Call for supporting policies on organic market (30 Jun)

Karen Mapusua, a Pacific Community (SPC) representative who has been actively involved in Fiji's organic movement, stated that the Fiji government needs to develop national policies to support the active organic movement in Fiji. Furthermore, Mapusua emphasizes that a policy framework should be put in place to identify gaps and areas of focus. In addition, further work should be done around market development to help farmers and producers identify the right markets and to help them access these markets.

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