June 2017
(20 May - 20 June)
policy updates
Myanmar drafting new development strategy for agriculture sector (30 May)

Myanmar's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation (MALI) plans to overhaul the country's agriculture sector by drafting a development strategy aimed at increasing productivity and returns. The strategy was developed with input from the Asian Development Bank, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization, the Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT) as well as extensive consultations with stakeholders. The Myanmar Investment Commission has also identified agriculture as one of 20 key sectors for investment prioritization, with a new investment law introduced in April aimed at encouraging foreign investment in the agricultural sector.

Lao to protect crop biodiversity with gene banks (6 Jun)

Lao, a mountainous, landlocked country, has a population of approximately 6.5 million with three quarters of households engaged in agriculture. The country plans to set up a gene bank for biodiversity conservation to protect its farm products. Lao is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, particularly drought, floods and typhoons - all of which drive food insecurity in the country. Another result of climate change are locusts, which have become a particularly large problem in northern Lao. The goal of the gene bank project is to preserve genetic lines while expanding production, and to use "smart technologies" to improve farming and combat the effects of climate change.

Organic farming gets a big boost in Cambodia (1 Jun)

The Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture launched a media campaign to raise awareness about organic food and to promote a scheme for small-scale farmers known as Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS), which addresses the certification and marketing issues faced by farmers. Thirteen PGS groups have been formed so far involving 177 farmers, of whom 89 are women. The ministry also finalized the draft law on National Organic Standards in March to establish an official law on organic vegetables in the country. Awareness of organic products in Cambodia has been rising, and there has been a shift among Cambodians to consume more organic produce.

Cambodia: Government favours fewer farmers (16 Jun)

A recent report published by the Cambodian government proposes policies to absorb agricultural workers while shifting focus to manufacturing and infrastructural improvements. The report also suggests establishing economic land concessions (ELCs) for companies that can hire large numbers of people to work on industrial-scale plantations. Although analysts disagree on the proposal's benefits and costs, all analysts fear that the ministry's plan for ELCs will trigger deforestation.

Philippines' Department of Agriculture to promote agro-forestry projects for watershed, job generation (1 Jun)

The Philippines' Department of Agriculture (DA) will propose the Bantay Kagubatan program, a collaborative project involving the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that promotes agro-forestry farming to speed up reforestation and provide employment for poor families in rural areas. The DA is targeting watershed areas for this program. Under Bantay Kagubatan, the national government plans to engage poor families in the targeted lands with reforestation efforts and will urge them to plant at least 500 tree seedlings of both harvestable and indigenous tree species.

Philippines: National Food Authority (NFA) Council revamps rice importation program (13 Jun)

To promote transparency and improve the efficiency of the rice importation program, the Philippines' National Food Authority (NFA) has implemented comprehensive reforms. The NFA Council has agreed that reforms for the private sector-led importation or the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) program will arrive in tranches. The NFA Council also adopted a schedule of activities for the rice imports. Potential participating countries and international companies have been urged to support the reforms. 

Bangladesh to speed up rice imports in wake of flooding (25 May)

Bangladesh, the world's fourth-biggest rice producer, produces around 34 million tonnes of rice annually. However, it uses almost all its production to feed the country's population of 160 million.  To cope with current rice shortages caused by natural disasters like floods and droughts, as well as the resulting record-high price of rice, Bangladesh will expedite plans to import rice to boost state reserves.

Sri Lanka to cooperate with Bangladesh to increase seed production (8 Jun)

The Department of Agriculture (DA) of Sri Lanka will execute a joint project with Lal Teer Seed Limited, the first and largest research-based seed company in Bangladesh. The project will be funded by the Field Crops Research and Development Institute (FCRDI) and the DA will provide the land. The Cabinet of Sri Lanka has also approved a proposal to improve the Seed Conservation Unit of the Plant Genetic Resources Centre, which currently conserves about 14,500 seed samples.

China to encourage private capital in agriculture development (8 Jun)

With the goal of diversifying funding for the country's agriculture industry, China's Ministry of Finance released a guideline on public-private partnerships (PPP) in agriculture. China has explored funding infrastructure and public works through the PPP model since 2013 as concerns over local government debt continues to grow. The number of signed PPP projects in China has increased, with private enterprises participating in many regions. This momentum has continued into the first quarter of 2017.

Iran's agro outsourcing target: 10,000 hectares in Kazakhstan (14 Jun)

Iran aims to increase the agro outsourcing of Kazakhstan's farmland area to 10,000 hectares. Agro outsourcing involves one country purchasing or renting arable land in another country for the cultivation of agricultural products. Iranian Cabinet officially approved the "Farming Beyond Border" program in April 2016 even though the activity started three years previously. Shrinking water resources, soil degradation and low agriculture productivity are the main reasons for Iran to embark on this program. Iran currently practices agro outsourcing in several countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. 

FAO assists Iran to boost oil seed production (14 Jun)

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) launched a new project to improve sustainable oilseed crop production in Iran. This project aims to show how to use technology and innovation to sustainably cultivate oil seeds, as well as explore ways to streamline and improve the value chain. The objective of the project is also to reduce Iran's dependency on foreign countries by having the production partially in Iran.

trends and statistics 
Agriculture, CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) to raise Pakistan's growth to 5.5 percent in 2017/18: World Bank (6 Jun)

According to the World Bank's flagship report Global economic prospects: A fragile recovery, in Pakistan, favourable weather and increased cotton prices are supporting agricultural production, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure project and a stable macroeconomic environment have contributed to an increase in private investment. These factors are expected to lead to a 5.5 per cent growth in Pakistan's economy during the fiscal year 2017-18, and the country's GDP is expected to grow 5.8 per cent in FY19 and in the subsequent fiscal year.

Pakistan: Agriculture sector meets full-year growth target (26 May)
According to Pakistan's Economic Survey, the country's agriculture sector grew 3.46 per cent during fiscal year 2016-17. All major crops including wheat, rice, sugar cane, cotton and maize recorded growth in outputs, which corresponds with the increasing availability of agriculture inputs like water, agriculture credit and intensive fertilizers. Other sub sectors of agriculture like livestock, forestry and fishing showed growth of 3.43 per cent, 14.49 per cent and 1.23 per cent respectively.

Nepal: Contribution of agriculture in GDP plummeting constantly (1 Jun)

The Economic Survey Report of the Nepalese government estimated that agriculture's contribution to the national GDP has been declining every year since 2010-11. The sector's contribution to GDP in 2016-2017 was 28.9 per cent, compared with the sector's 31 per cent contribution to GDP in 2015-16. Seven years back (in 2010-11), the sector accounted for 35.02 per cent of Nepal's GDP. An official of the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD) stated that the annual turnover of the agriculture sector this year reached a total of nearly Rs $750 billion, compared with approximately Rs $600 billion a couple of years before. This should not become a major concern for Nepal, since overall agricultural output has been increasing in recent years compared to previous years.

Viet Nam: Pepper farmers urged to keep calm and carry on (29 May)

The price of pepper in Viet Nam has reached the lowest point in seven years due to unplanned farming and poor quality crops. The low price threatens sustainable development of the domestic pepper industry, in particular its export potential. High non-tariff barriers are another challenge for Vietnamese pepper, which must compete with exports from Indonesia, Malaysia and India. To ensure market stability as well as sustained profits, farmers should be encouraged to focus on improving their produce while the Vietnamese government is responsible for quality control.

case stories
Embracing the benefits of "green" tea: Farmers call time on unsustainable practices (12 Jun)

Tea farmers in China, India, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam are discovering that using less herbicides and adopting more sustainable farming practices has benefited their tea production and reduced costs. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is helping to fund the "Sustainable Tea Landscapes project" in these countries to support the farmers in adopting these practices. This "herbicide-free weed management" maintains adequate natural vegetation in and around farms, and protects water sources.

China: Overseas cooperation grows at leading agricultural center (2 Jun)

More than 30 students from Mongolia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, South Sudan, Tanzania and Thailand learned about water-saving irrigation technology in the China-Kazakhstan Friendship Orchard. The orchard is in the Yangling Agricultural High-Tech Industries Demonstration Zone, 80 km from Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi province. The orchard produced 4,000-5,000 kilograms of apples annually, and half of them are exported to countries such as Russia and Kazakhstan. Because of its high-quality products, the orchard also serves as an education centre that offers training and guidance on various subjects ranging from farm to pest management to overseas agricultural technicians.

Conundrum continues as ministers deliberate over rice brand name (8 Jun)

The Cambodian Commerce Minister and the Agriculture Minister are in the process of trademarking a Cambodian rice brand to boost global trade. Two potential names, Angkor Malis and Cambodia Phka Malis, have been proposed for a single Cambodian rice brand that will be sold to the world. Another benefit of the trademark registration is that it will also prevent any legal disputes with neighbouring countries. 

Indonesian farmers befriend soil to protect harvests from climate stress (5 Jun)

Farmers in Lombok, in Indonesia's West Nusa Tenggara province practised conservation agriculture, which is more resilient to the effects of El Nino. Farmers can harvest 70 per cent more using conservation agriculture, and the conservation methods renew the life of soil and stabilize yield so that when shocks occur, the farmers are not as affected. The FAO partnered with the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development (IAARD), and used demonstration plots to show farmers this new approach.

Partnership to benefit farming communities (7 Jun)

The Australia-Pacific Technical College (APTC) and Habitat for Humanity (HFH) Fiji are working together to execute the Build Back Safer (BBS) program by constructing 20 safe, low-cost houses in sugar cane growing regions. The program commenced in May and the construction of the houses are expected to be completed by July. Under the partnership, HFH Fiji will identify suitable construction sites and housing types in the sugar belt, and APTC will provide training and administrative support.

Fiji: Guidelines to help organic farmers manage crop tests (2 Jun)

The Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprise and Development (FRIEND), a Fiji-based NGO, has developed the country's first comprehensive guides on naturally managing crop tests to reduce the use of harmful chemicals in farming. The two booklets, Growing Organics Booklet and the FRIEND Participatory Guarantee System Guidelines, contain various tested methods that farmers can easily apply and support the growth of the organic agriculture movement.

Fiji: Sugarcane farmers to benefit from additional road upgrading works (26 May)

Fiji's Rural Access Roads and Associated Infrastructure (RARAI) project has benefitted over 200 sugarcane farmers and their families in the Drasa sector of Fiji's sugarcane belt region. This four-year project is a partnership between the European Union (EU) and the Pacific Community (SPC). The project tackles a key logistical challenge for farmers in remote areas of Fiji through road rehabilitation work that will ease the farmers' transport of sugar to the mills. 

technological innovations
Pigeonpea breakthrough could ease global food security (25 May)

Pigeonpea is the sixth most important crop in the world and is grown on more than five million hectares of land by smallholder farmers in Asia and Africa. It is a major source of protein, fibre, minerals, vitamins and resistant starch in the developing world. Scientists from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, the University of Western Australia and seven institutions globally have re-sequenced 300 lines of pigeonpea DNA in a breakthrough that could provide food and nutritional security in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. This invention will lead to the development of superior varieties of the important grain legume crops.

New, high-yielding oil palm planting material developed in Indonesia (25 May)

Following two decades of joint research between the two institutions, SMART Research Institute and SMART's Biotechnology Centre, high-yielding oil palm planting materials - Eka 1 and Eka 2 - were successfully developed. This kind of breakthrough is essential to ensure that palm oil is produced in a sustainable manner and can meet a growing global demand. The company will continue to identify new technologies and accelerate the adoption of the latest techniques to enhance not only their own sustainable agricultural practices, but the agriculture industry's as a whole.

PNG: Stakeholders collaborate to advance agriculture through ICT (30 May)

The PNG government and its stakeholders are working together to advance its agriculture sector through information and communication technology (ICT).  The Secretary for the Department of Communication and Information in PNG, Paulias Korni, lauded the Department of Agriculture & Livestock (DAL) for recognizing ICT as a tool for improving food security, nutrition and income earning opportunities. Furthermore, Korni said that PNG can learn lessons from other countries that use ICT for the agriculture sector. 

voices and views
India: When women have land rights, the tide begins to turn (12 Jun)

Researchers state that when women own land and decide what is grown on it or what is conserved, the state gains not only a strong, climate-resistant food system, but also an increase in rarest edible and medicinal plants. Moreover, several studies have established that women are differently and disproportionately affected by community-level shocks such as climate change, natural disasters, conflict and large-scale land acquisitions. The importance of protecting the full spectrum of women's property rights becomes even more urgent as the number of women-led households in rural areas around the world continues to grow.

India: Loan waiver necessary, but alternative farm practices the need of the hour (14 Jun)

Indian economist H.M. Desarda suggests implementing a radical form of land distribution and a system called "low external input sustainable agriculture," or LEISA system, as an alternative to the country's farm loan waiver. Desarda also critiqued the mono-cropping system in India that the Green Revolution put into place, as well as the fossil fuel-based path of agricultural growth that has become unsustainable in the face of global warming and climate change. 

Viet Nam's agriculture needs sustainable solutions (25 May)

Experts provided updated forecasts on Viet Nam's agriculture sector over the next three years during an agricultural outlook conference in Ha Noi held by the country's Economic Department of the National Assembly Office and the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development (IPSARD). Discussion on feasible solutions to develop major farming products such as rice, seafood, vegetables and fruits exposed the need to improve both productivity and quality of products, as well as define the market structure for each farming product. 

Joint assessment in Viet Nam to inform future climate-smart agriculture investments (7 Jun)

The South Central Coast (SCC) is the driest area of Viet Nam and the area continues to experiences the increasing negative impacts of climate change. CGIAR centers and partners in Viet Nam have done a  joint assessment concerning the issue to promote innovation and investments in climate-smart agriculture. As a result, the assessment team recommended actions to enhance drought mapping, water-resource infrastructure, nutrient and water productivity, users groups capacity, drought resilient agricultural diversification, watershed and agroforestry area management, and integrated planning and policymaking.

Bangladesh: Farmers' budget key to development (1 Jun)

The agriculture sector has always had a significant impact on the national budget, but in earlier times, the allocation was set without farmers' participation. Since 2005, farmers have been involved in the national budget process through a pre-budget discussion event called Krishi Budget Krishoker Budget (KBKB), where farmers of different classes, as well as ministers, administrative officers, researchers, academicians, intellectuals and economists take part. This event has allowed farmers' voices to reach policymakers and the government. To meet the future challenges facing farmers, policies will have to provide stronger support for farmers, encourage transparency, and include climate smart plan and social safety net programmes.

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