May 2017
(20 April - 20 May)
policy updates
Thailand: Ministry of Agriculture to expand area-based agriculture (27 April)

Thailand's Ministry of Agriculture has expanded area-based agriculture from 425 plots in 2016 to 750 plots in 2017 by implementing an agricultural zoning programme. The programme's success was due to the combined efforts of the public and private sectors. Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chutima Bunyaprapat recommended that agriculturists form their own groups to produce organic rice based on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), and suggested that rice producers maintain Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and provide farmers with the necessary guidance. 

Thai Agri Ministry aims to increase one million rai of organic farmland in five years (9 May)

There is an increasing demand for organic farm produce in Thailand, both in local and foreign markets. The Ministry of Agriculture aims to increase the number of organic farmers by 400,000 within the next four years and to add another 600,000 rai of organic farm within the same period. Rice farmers who join the programme will be given subsidies for the first three years, which will be used to make preparations to transition towards organic farming.

Cambodia: digital technology for agriculture census (18 May)

Cambodia will implement a digital version of next year's agriculture census that will replace the current paper-based system, which is time consuming and labour intensive. The plan is to have a fast and cost-effective census for 2018 by posting the questionnaires online where farmers could respond directly to servers collating the data. The goal of the census is to collect up-to-date information on specific topics of interest for the agriculture sector, to update structural data collected during the agriculture census of 2013 and to inform policymakers as well as decision makers who are guiding the development sector.

Myanmar: Weather index-based insurance project to cover crop damage (3 May)

Farmers in Myanmar suffer from crop damage every year as more floods hit the country due to climate change. Myanmar's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation introduced a weather index-based crop insurance scheme to protect farmers against crop damage. Paddy farmers will begin using the scheme first, while future plans for the scheme will include flood insurance and insurance for culling animals as a result of disease control.

China: Call to make manure fertilizer of choice (11 May)

Manure is a useful resource to improve soil fertility and to produce green energy. China's Ministry of Agriculture will encourage the use of manure and discourage the use of chemical fertilizers in order to make its agricultural industry more environmentally friendly and cost-efficient. The government's target is to see 75 per cent of the livestock manure nationwide reused, and 95 per cent of intensive livestock farms to be equipped with manure treatment facilities. The government plans to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers by 50 per cent in key agriculture areas by 2020.

China: Agriculture insurance for disasters to be promoted in 200 counties (28 April)

China will launch a new type of agriculture insurance programme to compensate farmers for crop yield losses due to natural disasters. This programme will be promoted in 200 counties chosen from China's 13 major grain production provinces, including Hebei, Heilongjiang, Anhui and Henan. The central government has called for more comprehensive and diversified insurance plans for new types of agricultural businesses, and local governments will be encouraged to develop their own insurance products. These measures are believed to promote the stable development of disaster agriculture insurance.  

Pakistan to achieve food security and safety via biotechnology (27 Apr)

During the inauguration of the 3rd International Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Biotechnology, Sikandar Hayat Bosan, Pakistan's Minister of Food Security and Research, pledged to make Pakistan an economy with sustainable food security. The minister stressed that it is time for Pakistan to encourage and support smart agricultural practices. Other speakers at the event were from the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), FC College Lahore, and the Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS). Each speaker raised similar points about the role of biotechnology in improving agricultural production and in solving malnutrition and starvation. 

India: Government planning 'one nation, one market' in agriculture sector (2 May)

The government releases a model law for agricultural reforms to create a one-nation, one-market model. This model law is proposing a fundamental reset in the way agricultural markets operate and is designed to replace the existing fragmented and over-regulated markets. The plan is to free up trade in agricultural produce by giving farmers a wider choice of markets beyond the local mandi or wholesale markets. This was followed by a model law on land leasing for tenant farmers so that they can access credit and insurance easier, as well as another law on agriculture marketing. 

Sri Lanka expands crop insurance to five other crops (2 May)

The government of Sri Lanka had launched a two-year National Food Production Programme to ensure self-sufficiency in potatoes, big onions, chilies, maize and soya beans in addition to paddy. Farmers of these crops will receive crop insurance and will be paid compensation of up to a maximum of 10,000 rupees per acre for damages to crops in times of a calamity. Another 500 million rupees has been allocated to the Agricultural and Agrarian Insurance Board to provide relief to farmers under the National Loan Protection Scheme.

In threat to food security, Bangladesh moves to burn grain for fuel (1 May)

Bangladesh plans to go for greener and more varied fuels in the future by turning some of the grain it produces into ethanol. However, in a densely populated country that produces relatively little grain and that already relies on imports of maize and other grains, the result could be rising food prices, especially for the poor. A study by Bangladesh's energy ministry warned that if the government scales up ethanol production beyond 3.5 per cent of the country's total broken rice production, or 2.8 per cent of the total maize production, it will raise demand for grain to the point that it could affect food security. 

First-ever regional meeting on food security in the Pacific Islands (8 May)

FAO and WFP hosted a Regional Pacific Food Security Cluster Forum in Nadi, Fiji, from April 26 to 28. Around 50 representatives from governments, non-governmental and UN organizations attended the forum, including representatives of six regional pacific countries: Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. The three-day event was aimed at fostering collaboration and at facilitating the sharing of ideas and experiences amongst cluster members about preparing for and responding to natural disasters.

Australian PM Praises PNG cocoa (26 April)

The Australian Government, through the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program (PHAMA), has provided a range of support to the cocoa industry in PNG. PHAMA has completed a market study to explore export opportunities for cocoa and outline clear export pathways for suppliers. PNG has about 3 million cocoa producers consisting of smallholders or family units relying on cocoa as their only source of income. The country exports approximately 41,000 metric tonnes of cocoa a year.

trends and statistics 
FAO Food Price Index dips again in April, led by sugar and vegetable oils (4 May)

The FAO Food Price Index averaged 168 points in April, which is 1.8 per cent lower than  March's price score, although 10 per cent higher than the price index a year ago. Food commodity prices fell in April, along with expectations of ongoing robust supplies of wheat and maize. International trade in both wheat and coarse grains is forecast to decline in volume, while trade in rice is increasing, driven by strong demand in the Near East and in Africa.

India: Agriculture Ministry forecast record food grain production (10 May)

India's agriculture ministry said the country has witnessed record highs in food grain production in the current year. India's food grain production for 2016-17, as per third advance estimate, is 273.38 million tonnes, which is 0.51 per cent higher than the second advance estimate on February 15, 2017. Good monsoons and various policy initiatives of the government has led to record production. Production of rice, wheat, coarse cereals and pulses is expected to hit a record. 

Bangladesh: Rice crisis imminent after poor harvest (16 May)

According to Bangladesh's Ministry of Agriculture, Boro rice production constitutes the largest portion of cereal production in Bangladesh, with an average production of 4 tonnes per hectare. Out of around 35 million tonnes of rice produced in the 2015-16 fiscal year, 19 million tonnes came from Boro rice production. The nation's food supply is facing a threat from the loss of Boro production, which has been caused by early flash-floods in the Haor wetlands as well as pest attacks on paddy crops across the country. To make the reserve sufficient, the government has imported 100,000 tonnes of rice. 

Positive growth prospects for Malaysia's agriculture sector (15 May)

Malaysia's agriculture sector is forecasted to expand by 4 per cent this year, contributing to a GDP growth of 0.3 percentage points. Palm oil made up 46.9 per cent of the sector's contribution. Stable global demand for palm oil and improved weather conditions ending last year's drought should help Malaysia's agriculture sector recover from a decline in production in 2016, boosting returns for growers and processors and helping to ease inflation. According to the forecast, the palm oil segment will continue improve in yield and productivity  through to the end of the year, driving palm oil output up to 19.85 m tonnes, a 13 per cent increase from 2016

Cambodian farmers cash in on high cashew prices (4 May)

Cambodian cashew production has constantly declined year-to-year, with a 15 per cent decline in production in 2016. As much as 125,000 to 150,000 tonnes of cashews were missing from the Cambodian and Vietnamese market, which triggered an increase in international commodity prices for cashew nuts. The Financial Express reported that prices had reached historic highs of nearly $5 a pound ($11 a kilo). Chhiv Ngy, director of the Cashew Nut Association of Kampong Thom, encouraged their farmers to grow cashew to meet this great demand that is coming from China and South Korea in particular.

case stories
Public-private partnerships in agriculture: do they work? On the ground experience in Indonesia (27April)

The Partnership for Indonesia's Sustainable Agriculture (PISAgro) is a good example of public-private partnerships in agriculture. It shows how a partnership can simultaneously lift agricultural productivity and farmers' income while also lowering the environmental footprint of farmers. To measure success, it is vital that field results are measured and recorded. Accurate measurement establishes the credibility of partners and can positively influence engagement and policy.

India: Climate-smart agriculture to ensure a food secure future (16 May)

To help Indian farmers combat the challenges linked to climate change, it is crucial to provide them with relevant information at the right time and to develop climate-smart agriculture technologies. The ClimaAdapt project has been designed to improve the adaptive capacity of the farming communities and water sectors in the three Indian provinces of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu. The project was initiated in 2012 and had its final meeting in May 2017. Because of this project, 90,000 Indian smallholders now better understand how they can adapt their agricultural practices to a changing climate.

The Pacific: Establishing seeds as the key element in climate-smart responses to food security (18 May)

Through its Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT), the Pacific Community (SPC) leads an effective seed systems programme as a mechanism to adapt to climate change. CePaCT stores the largest collection of taro in the world, together with other roots and tubers, with the ability to provide suitable varieties to countries both in the Pacific and across the world. Over the past 12 years, CePaCT has distributed over 70,000 plantlets of 13 crops to 51 countries worldwide, including all 26 members of SPC.  Not only has CePaCT laid a strong foundation for an effective seed systems programme in the region, but also for sustainable, climate-smart agriculture and resilient markets. 

Traceability and food labeling of rice in Japan (8 May)

The government of Japan is adopting a modern system on rice traceability and food labeling. It has a unique system of tracing and labeling rice to ensure that when consumers are purchasing rice or foods containing rice from a retailer or at a restaurant, they can access information about the variety of rice, as well as its origin and when it was harvested. In 2015, the government implemented a food labeling guideline for retailers called the Food Labeling Standard. Currently, retailers must observe regulations contained in the Rice Traceability Act and the Food Labeling Standard guidelines.

technological innovations
Big Data Platform: transforming rural livelihoods with the power of information (16 May)

The CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture was launched during the ninth annual ICT4D Conference on May 15, 2017. The platform will provide global leadership in organizing open data, convening partners to develop innovative ideas, and demonstrating the power of big data analytics through inspiring projects. Every year, 180,000 smallholders are surveyed by CGIAR in 78 countries worldwide. Applying 'big data' approaches to agriculture could help reduce risks such as climate change as well as pest and disease outbreaks that farmers in developing countries regularly face. 

Index insurance as an instrument for managing risk and modernizing agricultural production (2 May)

A recent IFPRI Discussion Paper presents results from a trial designed to assess both the demand for and effectiveness of an index insurance product in rural Bangladesh. The insurance product was designed to help smallholder farmers manage risks related to droughts during the aman (monsoon) rice-growing season. The results from this study have important policy implications for promoting agricultural risk management as a means to a more productive and profitable end for agricultural development in Bangladesh.

Guidance for national- and activity-level reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation in the livestock sector (9 May)

A new report was published by CGIAR discussing the opportunities to improve monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) systems to enable developing countries to meet their mitigation goals in the livestock sector. The Paris Agreement requires countries to submit national greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory reports and other information relate to the implementation and achievement of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Many developing countries need to improve systems to track mitigation in the livestock sector to meet the standards of completeness, consistency, accuracy and transparency. A comprehensive, peer-reviewed report will be published later this year. Countries have the opportunity to develop MRV systems appropriate to their contexts and objectives. 
voices and views
Q&A: What will food systems look like in Southeast Asia in 2030? (10 May)

Grow Asia in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, hosted a Forum to explore critical issues facing the agriculture sector, and  strategic decisions that will help to ensure the sustainability of food systems in the Southeast Asian region. In this article, three Grow Asia partners and sector leaders share their perspectives on the role of multi-stakeholder partnerships in ensuring the sustainability of food production. 

India: Farm loan waivers spell trouble for Uttar Pradesh (25 April)

Uttar Pradesh's newly elected cabinet under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath plans to apply their first policy on loan waiver for small farmers, which is expected to benefit about 18.3 million farming households. The first waiver policy of this kind was first announced in 2008 and its aims were entirely political. These waivers bring only temporary relief to poor farmers, who then find themselves in absolute poverty immediately after. The fiscal impact of the farm loan waiver will be significant and will increase the state's already-large budget deficit.

Focus on agriculture is key to ensure that Belt and Road initiative promotes sustainable development (15 May)

Leaders from 29 countries participated in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held on 14-15 May under the initiative called 'One Belt, One Road'. The Forum focuses on expanding development and trade links between Asia, Africa, South America and Europe. As agriculture is a crucial sector in the countries involved, the initiative could address the needs of millions who rely on farming or fishing to make a living. The Chinese Government has taken on a leading role in a programme that has allegedly benefited over 30 countries and produced strong impacts in developing countries.

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