Rice News

Pakistan exports 3.025 million tons of rice: REAP chief – April 18, 2012

Pakistan has exported 3.025 million tons of rice: 0.725 million tons Basmati and 2.3 million Irri-6 and other varieties.

This was revealed by Javed Aslam Agha Chairman Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) while talking exclusively to Business Recorder here on Monday.He said that Pakistani rice exporters have exported almost the same quantity of the commodity this year as last year.

Agha said that export of Basmati rice declined by 10 percent as compared to the exports of the same period of last year but exports of Irri-6 and other varieties increased by 15 percent against the exports of last year.”We have set 4 million tons of rice export target for the ongoing year and up-to June we will achieve this target.

Pakistani Basmati rice is being sold in the international market at $1,100 to 1,200 per ton and non-Basmati rice at $400 per ton” he said.He further said that current total exports of Basmati rice are around $800 million while non-Basmati rice exports stand at around $920 million.Agha maintained that by the end of June 2012 another 1 million tons of rice would be exported and larger quantity would be basmati so the country would earn an estimated $3 billion through rice export.

Total production of rice during the current year is 6.9 million tons while total consumption is 2.8 million tons.Therefore, Pakistan has 3.5 million tons surplus rice for exports that would net the country $3 billion.

The official added that out of total production of 6.9 million tons of rice, production of Basmati is around 4.3 million tons while the remaining 2.5 million tons is Irri-6.

News By Business Recorder

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Rice exports increase following sluggish months – April, 10 2012

HCM CITY — Viet Nam targets 2 million tonnes of rice exports in the second quarter of the year, with 650,000 tonnes to be exported this month, according to the Viet Nam Food Association.

Speaking to the press in HCM City yesterday, Pham Van Bay, VFA deputy chairman, said that businesses had exported 1.08 million tonnes of rice for a free-on-board (FOB) value of US$529.8 million in the first quarter of the year.

This was a fall of 41.19 per cent in volume and 40.15 per cent in value compared to the same period last year.

The number of export contracts in the first two months of the year had fallen considerably compared to the same period last year.

However, exports picked up in March, with export contracts increasing by 12 per cent compared to March last year.

Asian countries have been the main buyers of Vietnamese rice during this period.

An increase in rice imports from China in the past few months has helped local exporters, with the figure expected to remain high until the end of the year, due to high demand.

Exports to Africa in the first three months accounted for 20 per cent of the country’s total rice exports, as stock fell in a number of countries there.

In addition, the price and quality of Vietnamese rice has been more competitive than other exporters, including India and Pakistan.

Contrary to last year, when the market mostly imported low-grade rice, African countries are demanding a higher quality of rice.

That is true for other traditional markets for Vietnamese rice as well, according to Bay.

He said that Vietnamese farmers should limit growing low-grade paddy IR50404 because demand had dropped for this kind of rice.

However, the market for fragrant rice is still good, and farmers have been urged to grow more rice for the autumn-winter crop.

Bay said fragrant rice should not be planted for the summer-autumn crop because the weather is unfavourable.

As for the national programme to stockpile one million tonnes of rice, he said enterprises had bought 693,894 tonnes of rice as of April 6. The programme is expected to end on April 15 instead of April 30 as previously scheduled.— VNS

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Rice prices: Holding ground – April 09, 2012

The FAOs rice price update for March shows that after a declining trend in export prices of Pakistani rice over the past few months, a mild recovery was seen in export prices of the Pakistani variety in March this year.

In fact, global rice prices also showed a marginal improvement in March after declining for the last few months, owing primarily to a slight increase in rice prices from Thailand and Pakistan, although prices of other exporting countries continued the declining trend.

For Pakistan, export prices have risen in March for only the Irri-Pak variety, while those of Basmati rice have remained at the same levels.

FAO attributes this improvement in prices of Pakistani rice to increased demand from China, which has beefed up rice imports to contain its domestic prices.

However, with the exception of March, rice export prices have been declining globally for most of FY11.

This is plausibly due to an improved global rice production outlook.

According to the latest estimates of the USDA, global rice production for 2011-12 will be higher by three percent to 465 million tons relative to the previous year.

In the case of Pakistan, rice production this year is expected to be over 30 percent higher than what it was last year, with an estimated 6.5 million tons to be produced this year.

At the same time, rice exports from Pakistan are also expected to be higher at 3.75 million tons this year in contrast to the three million tons exported last year.

Worth mentioning are exports of the Basmati Rice variety, which have not only decreased in volumetric terms this year, but export prices of the variety have also sunk relative to what they were in the previous period (see graph).

Initially in FY12, export prices of Pakistani rice had been higher relative to the previous year, owing to floods in Thailand in the former few months of FY12 that helped keep up international prices.

However, going forward, not much of an up thrust is expected in export prices going forward, as a continuation of exports to China appears unlikely and global production and ending stocks appear to be sitting at comfortable levels. News By Business Recorder

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Rice exporters, farmers face challenges in 2012 - Sunday, Apr 01, 2012

A conference has been held in Dong Thap Province in the heart of the Mekong Delta to discuss ways to increase and improve production in the country’s largest rice growing region.

Although the Mekong delta produces over 90 per cent of the rice exported from the country, lives of people in this region have not improved much over the years.   Participants at the conference pointed out that one of the reasons was lack of communication between farmers, scientists and export companies. Therefore much needs to be done to develop long-term strategies for Vietnamese rice and also help build a brand in the world market.

At the conference, Dr. Pham Van Du, deputy chief of the Department of Cultivation, said there should be better cooperation between farmers, scientists and export companies as this was one way to improve rice exports. The farmers should be able to predict the market for production and consumption.  However, Pham Van Bay, deputy chairman of the Vietnam Food Association, said despite warnings from the association and scientists, farmers continue to grow low-quality rice on 15 to 20 per cent of the area, and high-quality and fragrant varieties on the rest. Farmers still grow low-quality IR 50404, which does not have many buyers.

With the winter-spring rice crop being harvested in the Mekong Delta, high-grade varieties of paddy are much in demand while low-quality IR 50404 has few takers.  Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Thanh Bien said rice export in the first quarter of 2012 failed to achieve the target. The country exported over 1 million tonnes of rice in the period, year-on-year decrease of 42 percent in volume and 29.5 percent in value.

Vietnamese rice is competing with low-quality varieties from India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Cambodia, hence it is difficult to maintain its traditional markets, said Bien.  Bay stressed that the current competitor is India who is offering lower prices. In addition, Vietnamese enterprises are short of containers and traditional markets order goods by containers, which raises costs by US$4 per tonne.  Price of rice in the world tends to go down as recently many customers proposed a decrease of $5-10 per tonne, said Bay. Low quality rice h

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Fresh demand keeps rice on the boil – April 2, 2012

Karnal. The rice market continued to be on the uptrend on Monday, with the prices of few aromatic and non-basmati varieties rising by Rs 70-400 a quintal.  The uptrend was anticipated as traders have been getting fresh orders for both aromatic and non-basmati varieties, market sources said.

The market is expected to remain at current levels for the next few days.  In the physical market, Pusa-1121 (steam) rose by Rs 100 to Rs 5,000 a quintal, while Pusa-1121 (sela) sold at Rs 4,300-4,400, up Rs 150 from the previous level.

Pure basmati rice (raw) increased by Rs 300 to Rs 5,000 a quintal, while pure basmati (sela) sold at Rs 4,600, up Rs 400 from the previous level.  Duplicate basmati ruled firm at Rs 3,800-4,000.  For the brokens of Pusa-1121, Tibar rose by Rs 100 to Rs 3,500, Dubar by Rs 70 to Rs 2,650-2,870, and Mongra by Rs 100 to Rs 1,900-2,300 a quintal.  Permal (raw) sold at Rs 1,800-2,050, Permal (sela) at Rs 1,800-2,050, PR-11 (sela) at Rs 2,200-2,400 and PR-11 (raw) at Rs 2,150-2,300.  Sharbati (steam) rose by Rs 100 to Rs 3,000-3,100, while Sharbati (sela) improved by Rs 200 to Rs 2,950-3,100.  Sugandha (steam) remained at Rs 3,550-3,700 a quintal, while PR-14 (steam) sold at Rs 2,300-2,450.

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We’re in need of a padi cure - Friday March 30, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR: Almost 100,000ha of padi land in the peninsula – the equivalent of 50,000 football fields – have given way to industrial and housing development over the last 15 years.  In Sabah and Sarawak, padi fields decreased by about 6,000ha in the same period.  With the increasing population, Malaysia will have to spend billions of ringgit more on rice imports – unless yield from existing padi fields can be boosted.

According to the Agriculture and Agro-based Indus­tries Ministry, padi land in the peninsula decreased from 372,542ha in 1997 to 284,441ha last year.  The ministry, in a statement to The Star, said the padi fields were converted into housing estates and commercial land.  Some were planted with oil palm, pineapple and vegetables.  Mardi is concerned with at least maintaining the current level of self-sufficiency.  Its Rice Research Centre deputy director Dr Marzukhi Hashim said: “With the increasing population, our 72% rate of self-sufficiency will decline unless strategic measures are taken to increase rice production on existing padi land.”  One way is to increase production of hybrid rice, he told The Star.

Now, only about 200ha of land in the country is planted with the hybrid variety developed with technology from China.  “But the uptake of hybrid seeds among farmers is slow. Farmers are not familiar with how to plant the seeds.  “They have to understand that although the seeds are more expensive, you need less of them for a higher yield,” Dr Marzukhi said.  “Use of hybrid rice can increase yield by between 20% and 30%. So the challenge now is to get more farmers to use the seeds.”  He also said that Mardi was expected to come up with its own variety of hybrid rice by next year.  According to the Statistics Depart­ment, the population grew an average of 2% a year between 2000 and 2010, from 23.3 million to 28.3 million.

Malaysia now imports between one million and 1.2 million tonnes of rice a year from Vietnam (49%), Thailand (33%), Pakistan (16%) and other countries (2%). Malaysians consume 180,000 tonnes of rice a month.  Accordiing to a source from Bernas, the rice distributor and industry regulator, Malaysia spent RM1.85bil on rice imports last year.  Dr Marzukhi said: “If we continue at the present level of production, we will soon have to spend billions more in rice imports.”

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Asian rice prices stay firm on likely purchases from Nigeria, China – March 25, 2012

Asian rice prices stayed firm this week, supported by larger than expected purchases from Nigeria and China which are likely to continue in the next few months, traders said on Wednesday.

Asian producers Thailand and Vietnam are the world’s top rice exporters.Shipping delays of Indian rice to Nigeria prompted buyers there to turn to Thailand, increasing prices of Thai parboiled rice 1 percent to $620 per tonne from last week’s $612 a tonne.

The gains helped keep the benchmark 100 percent B grade Thai white rice steady at $560 per tonne despite thin demand.”We expect Thai rice prices to stay firm for a few months as it seems like Nigeria will continue to buy more,” said trader Kiattisak Kalayasirivat of Novel Agritrade.

“Demand for loading to Nigeria could last for a few months and after that prices could ease again,” said another Bangkok-based trader.Nigeria is Thailand’s biggest buyer of parboiled rice, importing some 1 million to 1.5 million tonnes annually, but purchases have tailed off since last September when India resumed exports of the grain.

Thai rice prices, however, are unlikely to fall sharply due to a government intervention scheme, traders said, but export volumes are lower because prices are now at uncompetitively high levels.Thai rice exports in the first quarter of this year stood at 1.2 million tonnes, half the 2.5 million tonnes exported in the same year-ago period largely due to the higher prices.

Vietnam appears set to overtake Thailand as the world’s top exporter.

This week, prices for 5 percent broken rice rose to $440-$445 a tonne, free-on-board Saigon Port, from $425-$430 last week due to strong demand from China.

The 25 percent broken rice narrowed to $390-$395 a tonne from $380-$400 a tonne last Wednesday.”The loading demand for China is strong, pushing up prices, but China’s buying pace is not stable,” a trader in Ho Chi Minh City said.

China could see a three-fold jump in rice imports from Vietnam this year, industry officials said on Monday, as the world’s biggest consumer steps up purchases to contain domestic prices.A government stockpiling scheme is also supporting prices.

Rice export companies began last Thursday buying 2 million tonnes of winter-spring paddy until April 30, and will keep the grain off the market until June 15 under the scheme.

“Even though the winter-spring crop harvest is peaking, prices still go up thanks to these purchases,” said another trader in Ho Chi Minh City. News by B Recorder

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Egypt’s rice export ban only benefits smugglers - 20 March 2012

Smugglers in the Middle East are enjoying an unlikely moneyspinner – illegal medium grain rice.
Shoppers across the Gulf, mostly unaware of the smuggling, depend on Egyptian rice to make popular Middle Eastern recipes such as Mahshi, a stuffed vegetable dish, since Cairo refused to lift a ban on exports.

Contraband Egyptian rice is displayed in shops across the Gulf including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, filling demand from shoppers like Ghada in Abu Dhabi who argue there is no replacement for the high quality medium grain rice, Reuters reports.

“How can you make Mahshi with basmati rice?” asked Ghada, doing her weekly supermarket shop in Abu Dhabi where she and her family have been living for eight years.

But while Ghada and other shoppers in the Gulf are able to cover their needs through the growing trade in illegal Egyptian rice, Egypt has been forced to import rice to cover shortages in its subsidy programme, introduced to fight rising food prices.

Egyptian rice is meant to be sold to the domestic market at subsidised prices – sometimes as little as $250 a tonne – in a government programme to avoid any repeat of protests over food inflation that rocked the country in 2008. In 1997, President Anwar Sadat’s attempt to raise bread prices led to riots.

But the artificially low price has produced hefty premiums on the export market. With Egyptian rice fetching as much as $900 a tonne abroad, some traders are willing to risk being fined by transporting the rice out of the country mainly to the Gulf.

“The only thing that has changed since the ban is that instead of dealing with rice traders, now I have to deal with smugglers, who basically look and operate like gangsters,” said a Gulf-based trader, who declined to be identified.

The smuggling business is so large that a January report by the embassy attache for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates Egypt will export up to 600,000 tonnes of contraband rice in the marketing year 2011/2012, which runs from October to September. That would total around half of the 1.1 million tonnes it needs ever year for its subsidy programme.

FORCED IMPORTER
Egypt banned rice exports in 2008, regularly renewing it to try to protect its domestic market and ensure low prices. It last renewed the ban in October.

Egypt should cover its needs easily; farmers cultivated 1.7 million feddans (714,000 hectares) of white rice this season and should produce around 4 million tonnes, covering 3.34 million tonnes of domestic demand including 1.1 million tonnes needed for the subsidy programme.

But with large quantities diverted to smuggling, Egypt has been forced to turn to imports of cheaper long grain rice to feed its population.

“We have opened the door for imported rice because the quantity of Egyptian rice offered in tenders does not meet the needs of the subsidy programme,” said Nomani Nomani, vice chairman of the state’s main grain buyer, the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC).

Egypt first imported rice in December, buying 234,000 tonnes mostly of Indian origin. The USDA estimates it will bring in a total of 500,000 tonnes in 2011/2012.

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Export of rice under barter system to Iran suggested – Mar 20, 2012

The MOC should pursue the CSA with Iran as due to sanctions the commercial banks are not issuing Form E for shipments to Iran although there is no sanction on food and medicines, said Zulfiqar Thaver. – File photo Karachi: The Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (Unisame) appreciated the permission to export wheat to Iran under barter system and urged the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) to allow barter trade for the export of rice and other commodities as well. Unisame also urged the MOC to expedite the procedure for barter for wheat to enable commencement of business. Unisame has drawn the attention of federal commerce minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim to the increase in smuggling between Iran and Pakistan due to absence of currency swap agreement (CSA) or barter for export of rice and other commodities and in return import of plastic granules of different grades and petroleum chemicals. Pesident Unisame Zulfikar Thaver said despite the several request of the rice exporters to the MOC to arrange currency swap agreement with Iran the MOC has failed to conclude the CSA resulting in increase of smuggling of plastic granules from Iran which have flooded the markets. The government is losing on sales tax, import duties and valuable foreign exchange which could have been saved by virtue of the CSA. He urged the MOC to immediately first allow barter trade agreements between trade houses of Pakistan and Iran to enable the exporters and importers in both the countries enter into mini barters with the blessing of both the governments to promote and encourage healthy trade. Secondly the MOC should pursue the CSA with Iran as due to sanctions the commercial banks are not issuing Form E for shipments to Iran although there is no sanction on food and medicines.

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White rice isn’t best option – Mar. 19, 2012

People who eat white rice on a regular basis have a significantly increased risk of type 2 diabetes, a new international analysis contends.

Harvard School of Public Health researchers reviewed the findings of four previous studies conducted in the United States, Australia, China and Japan. None of the participants had diabetes at the start of the studies. Overall, the trials included more than 350,000 participants tracked anywhere from four to 22 years.

Researchers led by Qi Sun found a strong association between eating white rice and type 2 diabetes, and the link was stronger in women than in men, according to the study published online March 15 in the British Medical Journal.

The more white rice a person ate, the greater his or her risk for diabetes. For example, for each serving of white rice (assuming 6 ounces per serving) there was a 10 percent increased risk of diabetes, the Harvard team estimated.

Compared with brown rice, the white variety has lower levels of nutrients such as fiber, magnesium and vitamins, the team noted. Intake of some of these nutrients also are associated with lowering a person’s risk of diabetes, the researchers said.

White rice — the main type of rice eaten worldwide — also scores high on the glycemic index, a measure of how foods affect blood sugar levels. High GI diets are associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, the research team said.

“These findings are very significant,” said registered dietitian Karen Congro, director of The Wellness for Life Program at The Brooklyn Hospital Center, in New York City. She agreed with the researchers that, “because it is a simple carbohydrate, white rice is also a high glycemic food and can be responsible for high spikes in blood sugar, even for people without diabetes.”

Another expert said lifestyle changes, including food choices, are key to warding off diabetes.

“In our developed societies, we are exercising less and eating more, causing the profound increases in obesity and diabetes that are associated with increased morbidity and mortality,” said Dr. Spyros Mezitis, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. “Our research should focus on how to eat less, consume foods of lower glycemic index and exercise more to prevent diabetes and obesity,” he said.

According to Congro, there are healthier alternatives to white rice.

“When you eat white rice often, you are missing an opportunity to have fiber in your diet,” she said. “You are also missing a variety of vitamins that are stripped away in the process of making white rice.”

Whole grains, including barley or quinoa, might be healthier options. “Buckwheat is (also) delicious and high in antioxidants, including Rutin, which is linked to improved circulation and prevention of blood vessel blockage due to LDL cholesterol,” Congro said. “There is a whole world of whole grains that people should consider exploring.”

The study found a link between white rice consumption and diabetes, but it did not prove that the food causes the blood-sugar disease.

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Thailand to sell 1 Mn tonnes of rice annually to Bangladesh - March 15, 2012

Thailand signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the South Asian country of Bangladesh to sell about one million tonnes of Thai parboiled rice annually, according to the Thai Commerce Ministry.

Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom, on behalf of the Thai government, inked the MoU on selling no more than one million tonnes of parboiled rice a year to the Bangladeshi government.

For 2012 to 2013, total rice exports to the South Asian country are targeted at some US$500 million (Bt16 billion), depending on the rice production of each country and the global rice price.

The MoU enhanced bilateral cooperation, aiming to boost food security in Bangladesh, as its own annual production has been unable to meet demand for domestic consumption and  had to import approximately one million tonnes of rice per year.

The agreement is a good sign for Thai rice sales, Mr Boonsong explained. In spite of fierce sales competition among rice exporting countries and the higher price of Thai rice, compared to India and Vietnam, Thai rice is still in demand thanks to its quality standard.

In 2011, Thailand exported 736,000 tonnes of rice to Bangladesh.
Apart from the agreement with Bangladesh, Thailand also signed MoUs on the rice trade with ASEAN member countries Indonesia and the Philippines for a total of two million tonnes. According to the three MoUs, the country annually sells about three million tonnes of rice in the form of state-to-state trade.

Mr Boonsong said that Thailand had exported 985,700 tonnes of rice in the first two months of this year, valued at $677 million (some Bt21 billion).

He projected that the country’s rice exports will likely have bright prospects because most rice exporters still faced the climate change which affected their cultivation and production amid the ongoing high demand of rice importing countries.

As a result, the ministry forecast 2012 Thai rice exports of at least nine million tonnes.

In a related development, the commerce minister was scheduled to visit Vietnam, one of the world’s top rice exporters, in order to discuss with relevant agencies boosting cooperation and determining the direction of rice prices between the two countries. (MCOT online news)

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Vietnam Aims for 7.2m Tons in Rice Exports - March 15, 2012

Hanoi. Vietnam will aim for rice exports in 2012 of 7.2 million tons, matching last year’s record figure, the country’s agriculture minister said on Thursday, ahead of the official forecast of 6.5 million tons.
“In our assessment we can maintain and will strive to reach the level of last year,” Minister Cao Duc Phat told reporters.

The increased figure came despite a government forecast earlier this month that rice exports could fall 44.4 percent in the three months ending March from a year earlier to 1 million tons, as foreign buyers wait for prices to bottom.

Vietnam, the world’s second-largest rice exporter after Thailand, set a 2012 target of 6.5 million tons, but Phat said the actual export volume could be higher due to a good outlook for domestic production and demand in importing nations.

“As of now the winter-spring rice crop is going very well, the output could rise from 2011,” Phat said on the sidelines of a regional conference held jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organization.

The initial 6.5-million-ton target laid out by Vietnam, had been made to help farmers and exporters prepare crop plantings and other logistics issues, Phat said. Earlier this month, the Agriculture Ministry forecast that Vietnam’s annual rice shipment this year would fall to 6.6 million tons.

Phat noted that rice exports in the first two months have slowed due to thin demand. Rice export volume in the January-February period dropped 46 percent from a year earlier to 556,000 tons, the government has said.
“But we would like to reaffirm that we do not have policies to limit rice exports this year,” he said.

Traders said foreign buyers, including major traditional importers of Vietnamese rice such as the Philippines and Indonesia, were still waiting for the Mekong Delta harvest to peak and prices to fall before making their purchases.

Indonesia, which said it would import 2 million tons this year, has yet to make any move while demand from Africa, another major buyer of Vietnamese grain, has fallen by two thirds so far this year from a year earlier.

The Philippines on Wednesday cut rice imports by the private sector 380,000 tons this year but may consider more government imports to cover its planned 500,000 tons purchase, farm officials said.         Reuters

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MFN regime to test Rice ExportersMarch 09, 2012

KARACHI – As the cabinet has approved the negative list of trade of over 1,200 items with India, along with the phase out deadline of December 2012, the rice exporters of the country are going to hire foreign consultants/layers to avoid negative impacts of the trade liberalisation.

According to sources, rice exporters who perturbed over the ministry of commerce’s move to exclude rice from the proposed negative list and phase out of the list this year, have decided to prepare a comprehensive suggestion/proposal to the government to minimise the impacts of rice imports from New Delhi in post Most Favoured Nation (MFN) regime.
“Though this was the duty of the government to evaluate/examine the impacts of trade liberalisation with India after over 60 years, the exporters were doing the job by themselves to save the domestic market,” an official of Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP)who did not want to be named, told Profit.
The reputed international layers/consultant would prepare a detailed proposal on the part of the exporters to ministry of commerce, he added.

“Despite the proposal made by REAP to give enough time to examine the negative impacts of normalisation trade with the neighbouring country, the list was finalised by the ministry posting a risk over the important rice industry of the country,” he added.
In reply to a query, he said the ministry should announce the safeguarding measures prior to normalisation of trade with India to remove concerns of the industry/exporters/growers of rice.

REAP, earlier, has recommended the government to include all kinds of rice in the proposed negative list of trade with India, the exporters have shown their serious concerns over the recent developments of importing the commodity from the neighbouring country and phase out plan. The imports of cheaper commodity from outside the border would not only cause us loss of domestic, but also international markets including Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asian states.

It is worth mentioning here that REAP in a recent statement has claimed that traditionally the price of Indian basmati and other rice varieties used to be at least $100-300/MT higher than Pakistani rice varieties, but after the arrival of a new crop in Oct-Nov 2011; India taking advantage of its huge stocks, bumper crop and devaluation of its rupee by 15-20 per cent reduced their prices by 20-30 per cent and now they are selling $100-300/MT cheaper than Pakistani basmati rice and other varieties, such as Kianat (1121). Recently, the government of India has reduced MEP on basmati rice from $900-700/MT, which is far below the Pakistani basmati rice prices of $900-1,100/MT. Earlier, Indian government had lifted the ban on export of non-basmati rice and allowed export of two million tonnes of non-basmati rice. Consequently, Pakistan has lost its brown rice market of EU of nearly 170,000 tonnes to India and is facing great difficulties for export of its basmati rice to Middle East and other countries of the world.

The prices of long grain Pakistan irri had gone down drastically, which is hitting the farmers of Sindh who are demanding compensation for their losses. Secondly, the free import of cheaper Indian parboiled Pusa/1121 will reach the market of Afghanistan by land route and ruin whatever little export Pakistan is doing to Afghanistan and bring all the parboiling plants imported from India to a standstill. Once basmati and 1121 sales are affected, it will indirectly hit the farmers who will not grow basmati rice in future and go for cheaper hybrid varieties threatening to close down the $2.0 billion rice export of Pakistan.
If the government allows the import of Indian rice into Pakistan, then our farmer should also be given the facilities of matching with the subsidies being given to Indian farmers, so that our farmers are able to protect their livelihoods. Indian government was giving about $30 billion in subsidies to its farmers. The cost of urea and DAP was also less than 50 per cent of the Pakistani prices and Indian farmers were also getting cheaper electricity and fuel. (News by Pakistan Today)

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Thai rice exports drop during first two months of 2012 – March 05, 2012

BANGKOK, March 2 – Thai rice shipments in January through Feb 23  were recorded at 465,000 tonnes, a 41 per cent drop year-on-year, according to Thai Rice Exporters Association President Korbsuk Iamsuree.

January’s rice exports in all rice categories dropped in quantity year-on-year because buyers shifted to parboiled rice from Pakistan Rice, India and Vietnam, which offer cheaper prices than rice from Thailand. Thai rice prices, now guaranteed under the government’s rice mortgage scheme, are less competitive, Ms Korbsuk said.

Vietnam’s five per cent white rice is the world’s lowest price at US$415 per tonne and its price is likely to fall even lower when more yields from new harvests hit the market.

Meanwhile, the same variety of rice from India and Pakistan costs $445 per tonne while Thai rice is more expensive at $525 per tonne. However, Ms Korbsuk said Thai rice exports through February were expected to exceed 500,000 tonnes, supported by orders for Jasmine fragrant rice from regular markets in Asia.

Moreover, some parboiled rice buyers shifted their order to Thailand after exports of parboiled rice from India to their customers were delayed. As Nigeria plans to raise its rice tariff, importers are hastening to import more rice before the tax measure is put in place.

She viewed that Thai rice exports in the first half of this year will slow down owing to impacts from rice exporting policies of its rivals such as India, which have increased its export target from two million tonnes to four million tonnes.

Vietnam is penetrating Thailand’s customary jasmine fragrant rice market and could gain added Asian market share at Thailand’s expense.  Vietnam has targeted exporting 400,000 tonnes of parboiled rice and 800,000 tonnes of jasmine fragrant rice annually.  Cambodia, Myanmar, Brazil, Uruguay and Pakistan also plan to expand their rice exports markets and to increase export volumes.

Thailand has targeted exporting at least 6.5 million tonnes of rice this year. If there are positive signs, the targeted figure could be revised at the end of the first quarter. (MCOT online news)

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Bangladeshi rice production rises over 3 percent in 2011 – March 05, 2012

Bangladesh produced a record 34.25 million tonnes of rice in 2011, 3.16 percent more than the previous year, helped by favourable weather and continued government support for the farming sector, a senior agriculture official said on Sunday.”Bangladesh has now almost achieved self sufficiency in food grains (rice and wheat), with most farmers using high-yielding seeds,” said the official, who requested not to be named.Besides, the government offers hefty subsidies to the agriculture sector to ensure food security and supplies fertiliser and diesel (for running irrigation pumps) at affordable prices, officials and farmers have said.The south Asian country produced 33.2 million tonnes of rice, the main staple for its more than 150 million people, in 2010, according to data available with the Department of Agriculture Extension and Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.
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Rice Exports drop under new scheme – March 05, 2012

Rice exports have declined this year as a result of the rice mortgage scheme implemented by the Pheu Thai Party-led government, a seminar organised by the Democrat Party was told yesterday.  The opposition party organised the seminar to discuss the government’s rice programme, which replaced the Democrat Party’s price guarantee scheme.  Between Jan 1 and Feb 23, Thailand exported 465,000 tonnes of rice, a drop of 41% from the same period in 2011, according to the Thai Rice Exporters Association.  Chukiat Opaswong, honorary president of the association, said this was because the mortgage price offered by the government’s rice pledging scheme is higher than the market price.

The government is paying 15,000 baht a tonne for its rice paddy mortgage scheme while the market price is around 10,000 baht per tonne.  Mr Chukiat said even if Thailand is the world’s top rice exporters, shipping 10 million tonnes or about a third of all rice exported globally every year, the country is still in no position to set rice prices in the world market.  He said the export price of Thai rice is now US$130 (3,974 baht) per tonne higher than that of rice from Vietnam.  Foreign competitors are also catching up with the quality of Thai rice because they are putting 10 times as much money into the research and development of rice strains as Thailand is doing, Mr Chukiat said.  Nipon Wongtrangan, a former president of the Thai rice Millers Association, predicted Thailand would lose its status as the world’s top rice export this year as Vietnam is expected to export as much as 8 million tonnes while it appears Thailand is not capable of achieving such a feat.  He said that generally there was nothing wrong with a rice pledging scheme, but the government had botched its version.

The suitable guarantee price should not exceed 80% of the selling price, Mr Nipon said.  Democrat MP for Phitsanulok Warong Dejkijwikrom said the pledging scheme is open to abuse and irregularities.  Mr Warong said he has received complaints about farmers being exploited by rice millers.  Farmers do not have much of a choice when it is time to sell and some agreed to sell below the set price to buyers who show up at their farms so they do not have to pay transportation costs, he said.  Mr Warong also said some millers pledged their own paddy under farmers’ names. They pay to use farmers’ rights to mortgage their output, he said.

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REAP demands govt to put all rice varieties in negative list with India – Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rice Exports Association of Pakistan (REAP) on Saturday demanded the government to place all varieties of rice in the negative list during trade with India in the larger interest of rice industry and farmers in general. “The import of rice from India would badly hit local production, causing huge losses to both exporters/traders and farmers because cheaper import of agri-products from India will ruin agricultural production potential of the country”, said Javed Islam Agha, Chairman REAP. He said a letter in this regard was already sent to federal government on behalf of REAP as according to the reports the Pakistani buyers have placed the first order for at least 2,500 tonnes of rice and 100 tonnes of rice has already reached in the local markets of Punjab. Traditionally the price of Indian basmati and other rice varieties used to be at least $100-300 per metric tonne higher than Pakistani rice varieties but after the arrival of new crop in Oct-Nov 2011, India was taking advantage of its huge stocks, bumper crop and devaluation of its rupee by 15-20 percent and reduced their prices by 20-30 percent and now they were selling $100-300 per tonne cheaper than Pakistani Basmati and other varieties such as Kianat (1121). Recently the government of India has reduced the MEP on basmati rice from $900 to $700/metric tonne which was far below the Pakistani Basmati rice prices of $900-1100 metric tonne. Earlier the Indian government had lifted the ban on export of non-basmati rice and allowed export of 2 million tonnes of non-basmati rice. Pakistan has lost its brown rice market of EU of nearly 170,000 tonnes to India and was facing great difficulties for export of its basmati rice to Middle East and other countries. The prices of long grain rice Pakistan Irri had gone down drastically which was hitting the farmers of Sindh who were demanding compensation for their losses. Secondly, the free import of cheaper Indian parboiled Pusa/1121 will reach the market of Afghanistan by land route and ruin whatever little export Pakistani is doing to Afghanistan. Once basmati and 1121 sales are affected it will indirectly hit the farmers who will not grow basmati rice in future and go for cheaper hybrid varieties threatening to close down the $2.0 billion rice export of Pakistan. Our farmer should be given the facilities matching with the subsidies being given to Indian farmers, so our farmers would able to protect his livelihood. Indian government is giving about $30 billion in subsidies to its farmers. The cost of urea and DAP is less than 50 percent of the Pakistani prices and Indian farmers are also getting cheaper electricity and fuel. REAP strongly recommended Ministry of Commerce to include all varieties of rice in negative list as requested earlier by REAP to avoid dumping of Indian rice in Pakistani market.
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REAP for improving Rice Exports – Friday, February 24, 2012

Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) Vice Chairman Safdar Mehkri highlighted the potential of Pakistani export surplus of rice and identified the hurdles faced by exporters while doing business with their Iranian counterparts and requested the removal of requirement of Mujawaz and preferential treatment to Pakistani rice by extending a zero import duty regime under already signed Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with any future change to it only after mutual agreement. The trade suggested to allow rice imports from Pakistan as a fellow Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) member country by issuing import permit to all interested rice importers in Iran without any restrictions and supported Pakistan Iran currency swap for better trade relations between two countries. Wheat Traders Association of Pakistan Senior Vice Chairman Abdul Kaleem Baakza informed the wheat was surplus in the country and requested the Iranian government to facilitate wheat exporters of Pakistan by removing administrative hurdles confronted by the sectors. staff report
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India topped Thailand in rice exports last year – 21 Feb, 2012

NEW DELHI: India and Thailand  are caught in a race for the top slot in farm exports from southeast Asia. India has pipped Thailand to become the top rice exporter but the latter has won the day in sugar exports.

For the first time in four years, India has overtaken Thailand in rice exports. According to industry estimates, India exported 2.3 million tonne of rice including basmati between October 2011 and January 2012 while Thailand could export around 2 million tonne during the period.

But Thailand, the second largest exporter after Brazil, shipped 6.68 million tonne sugar in 2011 while Indian sugar exporters have been allowed to export only 2 million tonne till now.

India has always had a price advantage over Thailand, which sells at a premium in the world market. Last year, the export price of Thai rice ranged between $525 and $575 per tonne. But this year, the price swelled to $660 tonne on the back of the Thai government’s high support price to farmers. The government paid farmers 15,000 baht a tonne for 100% white paddy and 20,000 baht for fragrant paddy to fulfill its election promise. This raised the export price of Thai rice, making it non-competitive in global markets. India recently raised its export quota of non-basmati rice from 2 million tonne to 4 million tonne to boost exports further.

“Rice-importing countries got a good alternative in India to expensive Thai varieties. While Indian rice costs $500-$530 per tonne, Thai rice costs $660 per tonne. This has led a surge in demand from countries like Indonesia and other African countries,” said Om Prakash Arora, president Punjab-Haryana Rice Broker Association.

The rise in exports is supported by the expected bumper production of rice this year. The estimated record output of 102 million tonne allows the government to shed worries on food security. Besides, high inventories of more than 30 million tonne paves the way for smooth exports. The economical Indian rice is making inroads into major Thai markets such as Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Nepal.

“We are getting good demand from overseas markets. We will cross the 3.5-million tonne mark this year. We expect to gain momentum in basmati rice once a formal order is issued on lowering the floor price from $900 to $700,” said Vijay Setia, president, All-India Rice Exporters Association. However, India is way behind Thailand in sugar shipment. A good crop and a buoyant overseas demand keep Thai sugar steady in the global market.

According to media reports, about 33 million tonne of cane have been crushed since the season started in mid-November in Thailand, with around 2.3 million tonne of raw sugar and around 913,000 tonne of white sugar produced till now.

India is struggling to export one million tonne even as the government has further allowed the export of an additional one million tonne. Indian millers expect to produce 26 million tonne of sugar in 2011-12 while sugarcane production is likely to stand at 347.87 million tonne – higher by 5.09 million tonne over the previous year.

“We have given a release order for over 9.9 lakh tonne. But we are not sure about their physical delivery. The release orders have to be consumed within 60 days. Given the capacity of our ports, we don’t think we will able to export more than 3 lakh sugar a month. This poses a big question mark over the second tranche of 1 million tonne,” said a sugar directorate official. (Rice News From India Times)

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Sanctions set to hurt Basmati Rice Exports to Iran

- Feb 21, 2012

The depreciation of the Iranian currency over the last few months, coupled with increasing pressure of sanctions by Western countries on trade with Iran, might affect basmati exports from India. Iran is the largest importer of basmati rice from India. India had exported 2.2 million tonnes of basmati rice in the last fiscal, of which around one million tonnes was shipped to Iran through Dubai.

However, the exact quantum of current exports to Iran could not be ascertained as country-wise data is filed annually. Rice exporters say the current situation is likely to hurt basmati exports to Iran.

Speaking to Business Standard, Kohinoor Foods Ltd Joint Managing Director, Gurnam Arora, said, “This year we were expecting total exports from India to touch three million tonnes on account of bumper production. Out of total exports, Iran contributes a significant proportion of almost 50 per cent.

However, the current sanctions on Iran by the Western countries might affect exports, as the exporters are not getting letter of credit (LC) from Dubai-based banks, which are dealing with Iranian banks.”

The US government has imposed sanctions on all financial institutions dealing with Iran’s central bank. This has affected the dealings of Dubai-based banks with Iranian banks, delay payments in the process.

Echoing similar sentiments, All India Rice Exporters Association,President Vijay Setia, said, “Indian exporters are exporting basmati to Iran on credit for 90-100 days. There have been payment defaults from Iran as the Iranian currency has depreciated sharply in the last few months, making imports costlier for them. So, a significantportion of the exporters’ money is blocked, which may affect exports. If tension escalates between Iran and Israel, export of basmati rice can be affected.”

If matters don’t get resolved soon it may hurt exports in the next fiscal as well.

According to data from the Agriculture Produce Export Development Authority (APEDA), actual export of basmati during April-October 2011 was 16.41 lakh tonnes, compared to 11.55 lakh tonnes during the corresponding period of the previous year. However, for the period April-January 2012, 25.80 lakh tonnes of basmati was registered with APEDA for export. (The quantity registered with APEDA could differ from the actual quantum of exports).

Arora said the higher minimum export price (MEP) of $900 per tonnes has also affected exports during November, December and January. “If the government had notified lower MEP three months back, exports would have grown by leaps and bounds. The government should notify $700 per tonne for all varieties of basmati as MEP as soon as possible as agreed in a meeting held this month,” he added.

Exporters were insisting the government should lower MEP from $900 per tonne to $700 tonne in order to compete in the global markets. Although the Centre agreed to this suggestion in a meeting held on February 7, a formal notification is yet to be made in this regard.

The advisor to APEDA, A K Gupta said during the current year exports may go up 10 per cent, if the government notifies the MEP of $700 per tonne for all varieties.

According to reports there has been a bumper crop of basmati rice in the major producing belt – Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh – which has put pressure on prices.

Punjab and Haryana account for 60-70 per cent of total basmati output. Punjab has witnessed an increase in area under basmati cultivation by three to five per cent. Of the total production, 60 per cent is of the PUSA 1121 variety. According to rough estimates, there has been 10 per cent increase in total output this year, compared to 6.5 million tonnes last year. (Rice News From Business Standard)

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Basmati rice export to restart this week after a year’s gap

- Feb 20, 2012

The author has posted comments on this articleSanjay Sharma, TNN | Feb 20, 2012, 08.22PM IST
CHANDIGARH: Export of Basmati rice from India is likely to re-start in couple of days as the government is learnt to have agreed to lower the minimum export price (MEP) from 940 dollars per tonne to 700 dollars per tonne.

The lowering of the rate to prevalent international price around at 700 dollars per tonne will make the Indian produce cheaper as the earlier Indian rice was out-priced, an Indian exporter Jitender Dhingra told The Times of India. Notification of the new MEP is likely anytime from Monday and export will start within a day of the notification, he said.

Another big rice exporter Kailash Bhagat said the notification is likely to reach ports in couple of days.

Exports were virtually halted as the government of India did not adjust to the international price despite the rate crashing both in the international and the domestic market allowing Pakistani Rice (Basmati) to capture the market in the Gulf.

The three consecutive bumper crops, coupled with slackening demand in economic crisis-hit Europe and America had adversely affected Indian exports with the high price becoming a barrier. Prices are unlikely to go up this year as the crop has been bumper this year also.

One of a peculiar developments taking place this year is that Pakistan is preparing to import Indian Basmati rice for the first time ever for domestic consumption as floods had damaged crops in the neighbouring country. Sources said exporters to Pakistan based in Dubai have made inquiries for importing rice from India as Pakistan is facing a shortage.

Exports will also help relieve the situation in Punjab and Haryana as they are already facing a crisis of storage.

In fact, India has so much of supply of rice (non-Basmati varieties) that it has not stopped export of this variety for lack of hardening of prices in this segment despite continued exports beyond a fixed quantity. Generally, the government discourages export of non-Basmati variety to keep prices down for domestic consumers. (Rice News From Times of India)
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Pakistan imports rice from India for the first time

- Friday, 17 Feb 2012
Karachi – In the post MFN regime, Pakistan for the first time has started importing rice from India. In an interesting development, Pakistan, which is already a rice exporting country, has imported basmati rice from India soon after the liberalisation of trade between the two South Asian neighbours.

The rice exporters and farmers are very concerned about the development, as the cheaper products from the neighbouring country would badly hit the local production, causing huge losses to both exporters and farmers. According to sources, Pakistani rice traders have given the first import order for at least 2,500 tonnes rice, while almost 100 tonnes have reached the markets in the Punjab area, sources told Profit. It was feared that the traders would further place orders for imports as the commodity in Indian market was available at cheaper rates than Vietnam, Thailand and other countries. The development took place soon after the announcement of 636 negative items prepared by the Ministry of Commerce, while replacing the already existing positive list for trade with India. Rice, interestingly, has not been included in the 16 items short listed by the ministry, as part of the negative list of imports from New Delhi. Though the exporters of rice in the country could not confirm the arrival of rice from the neighbouring country through Wagha border, the commodity, sources claimed was imported via the land route from Muzaffarabad. “This was a major development in the history as the Indian commodity was coming to Pakistan, despite of already having a huge stock in the country,” sources said adding that this was because of the major difference in price as India has reduced the bench mark price of rice drastically; affecting not only Pakistan, but also the global market.

Sources in Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) said though the rumour was there that the traders have started importing rice from the neighbouring country, but the association was yet to have confirmed reports of the development. “Though the development would badly hit the exporters and growers, the imports of cheaper rice especially basmati from outside the border would discourage the growers in the country,” they said adding as the exporters could re-export the imported items, the major losses would be borne by the growers.

Besides that the development was also because of the miscalculation of the high ups in REAP which was expecting that the country’s products especially basmati rice would be exported to India, to be re-exported from Delhi to other markets, sources claimed. But, the huge differences in price, along with the diversified qualities of rice in India, like original basmati, duplicate basmati and others available at comparatively cheaper rates. It is worth mentioning here that despite of the bumper crop in the country this year, the record decline in export price of non-basmati rice from India was already creating tough competition for the country’s products in the international market. Beside the decline in price, the Indian commodity, over four per cent devaluation of its currency against the dollar in the first six months of current fiscal year has also created problems for Pakistani rice.

The rice export was expected to be enhanced after the flood in Thailand, the biggest exporter of rice; the ever declining export price of rice in Delhi was also creating acute uncertainty in the international market. The Indian government had reduced the minimum export price of non-basmati rice after exports failed to pick up. The government had allowed limited exports of non-basmati rice after a bumper crop in 2010-11. Earlier, India had banned exports of rice, except the costlier basmati variety, to beef up supplies in the domestic market and cool down soaring prices in April 2008. Presently, the increased domestic production and lower export of basmati, last year had resulted in abundant availability in the Indian domestic market. These factors brought down prices of this elite variety.
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Pakistani traders shy from Iran as sanctions hurt – 09 Feb 2012

Feb 8 (Reuters) – Payment problems are making Pakistani traders increasingly reluctant to do business with Iran  as Western sanctions pile pressure, a Pakistani government official and the country’s rice exporters association said on Wednesday.

While earlier restrictions have made it difficult to trade with Iran, fresh sanctions earlier this year — including U.S. ones against Iranian financial institutions and European Union sanctions on crude imports — have tightened the noose further.

Iranian importers are now finding it much more difficult to settle payments for critical imports, including food items, officials and traders said.

“They are facing a foreign reserves issue because of sanctions. They don’t want to import too much and reduce their reserves,” Shoaib Anwar, an assistant director at the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan told Reuters.

“This is the outcome of the sanctions, that’s the reason for these issues.”

Iran’s rial has plunged as the sanctions take effect, raising the price of imports for the economy and making it difficult to find Dubai-based middlemen who can process payments to keep the country’s trade flowing.

“We use lines of credit opened through agents in Dubai, but that too has become difficult because of sanctions and the resulting currency fluctuations,” said Javed Agha, chairman of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan.

Rice is Pakistan’s biggest export to Iran, almost 60 percent of a total of $161.94 million in the 2010-11 financial year.

Other Pakistani food exports to Iran, like fruits and vegetables, have also been hit by sanctions, Anwar said.

In the first quarter of the current financial year (July to September 2011), Pakistan exported rice worth $17.03 million, down from $22.16 million in the same quarter of the previous year.

Bread and rice dominate the diet of most Iranians, many of whom can no longer afford to buy meat, which now sells for about $30 a kilogram in Tehran.

Bread prices have tripled since December, while rice costs about $5 per kg (2.2 lbs). Iranians earn about $350 a month on average, while officials put the poverty line at $800.

Iran imported 62 percent of its maize, 45 percent of its rice and 59 percent of its sugar in 2010-11, but only 3 percent of its wheat, data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows.

Indian exporters said on Tuesday that Iranian buyers had defaulted on $144 million in payments for rice imports, and the All India Rice Exporters’ Association called on members to cease exports to Iran on credit terms.

Iran is facing similar problems with traders in Malaysia, China and Ukraine. Tehran’s crude oil customers are also cutting back on purchases.  (News By Reuters)

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Long Grain and Aromatic Basmati Rice

BGA warns of declining trend in rice output :( 09th Feb 2012)

LAHORE: The Basmati Growers Association (BGA) has warned of a declining trend in output of extra long grain and aromatic basmati rice if quarters concerned failed to take drastic measures for introduction of high yielding varieties, minimising post-harvest losses, focusing on value-addition as well as removing hurdles in its trademark registration.

At present production level, Pakistan’s basmati export potential stands at $4 billion while we hardly touch $1 billion mark, said BGA President Hamid Malhi while talking to members of Agriculture Journalist Association (AJA) here at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on Wednesday.

Instead of increasing output of basmati rice, Malhi said, its production has seen stagnation for the last several years due to multiple factors and it is feared that it would start reducing gradually if corrective measures are not taken. He added that stagnant prices since 2008 have also resulted in low interest of farmers in its cultivation. He expressed fear that downward trend was also feared in 2012-13.

The BGA president said basmati rice is part and parcel of our heritage and has a potential to become a high value asset for the national economy. However, he lamented, we did nothing for adding value to this produce with a view to harnessing its optimal utilisation. Being the third biggest rice exporter, he observed, we in fact are underutilising our overall basmati rice sector as production ranges between 2-2.6 million tonnes and we export around 1 million tonnes. In comparison, he added, there has been considerable increase in India’s production and export lately.

He said extra long grain super basmati was the only available variety that has been introduced since 1996. He said no other new high yielding, extra long grain rice variety of basmati could be introduced by the public sector institutions. Super basmati rice is being cultivated at over 95 percent area and this variety could be susceptible to diseases and pest attacks. He said major threats in this regard to basmati crop were bacterial leaf blight, aphids, stem borer leaf folder and paddy blast.

Comparing produce of India and Paksitan, Malhi said basmati growing areas in Punjab were comprised of 15 districts where 90 percent basmati was produced. In contrast, he added, only 4 percent basmati is produced in Indian Punjab and rest was produced in what he called non-basmati areas.

Regarding the export front, he termed bulk sales as one of the biggest hurdles in augmenting export volume, saying that retail marketing should be given priority by giving incentives for developing brands of basmati. He said registration of Geographical Indication of Basmati Rice should also be pushed besides its trademark registration. He said Pakistan should enhance trade ties with India but basmati exports should not be allowed as it would be against the interest of Pakistan. We would indirectly contribute in basmati exports of India as it would be re-exported at much higher rates, he warned.

He stressed the need of adding value to basmati crop by focusing on by-products of rice. He said huge revenue could be generated from rice husk, tips and powder. Talking about high cost of inputs, BGA president said urea prices climbed from Rs 850 to Rs 2,000 in just about two years while diesel price climbed to over Rs 100 from Rs 60 per litre in three years. Imposition of general sales tax on inputs and high tariff of electricity have virtually made paddy cultivation infeasible for farmers.

Other production threats include minimum high-yielding non-basmati varieties and imported hybrids seed that could be disease carriers, he observed. Malhi also underlined the need to facilitate farmers in provision of standard harvesting machinery, drying facilities, warehousing and credit. staff report. (News by Daily Times Pakistan)

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LCRA proposes water plan: Cities, power plants would get more, rice farmers less:

Releasing a new proposed model for managing its water, the Lower Colorado River Authority published its draft water plan Tuesday, detailing stricter guidelines for releasing water to rice farmers and nearly doubling water reserves for cities and power plants.

The 226-page plan allows more flexible management of the river basin to meet an expected 48 percent increase in demand from the LCRA’s firm water users, primarily cities and power plants, from 2010 to 2020.

Following an emergency request by the LCRA to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to break from the current water management plan and institute a curtailment policy that will probably cut off water to downstream rice farmers, the LCRA also asks for authority to take similar emergency measures without state approval.

The LCRA staff, which wrote the plan after hearing recommendations from a 16-member advisory committee representing cities, lakeside interests, rice farmers and environmental groups, is expected to present the plan for approval to its board of directors Feb. 22.

“This is a vitally important plan that affects everyone in the region,” LCRA General Manager Becky Motal said in a statement. “We want to encourage everyone to take some time and take a look at what’s being proposed and let us know what you think.” Comments on the plan can be emailed to wmp@lcra.org until Feb. 9.

The plan would also need approval by the environmental commission, which must act within a year of having a complete application from the LCRA.

The LCRA advisory committee spent more than a year trying to reach a plan all members could live with, said Jennifer Walker, a water resources specialist for the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club who was on the committee. Everyone had to make compromises, Walker said, and in the end, 15 of the 16 members were behind the group’s recommendations.

“This is a system that’s heavily allocated, and as needs continue to grow, there’s going to be less and less water to meet the needs,” Walker said.

The plan says it is prioritizing firm water users, both by increasing water reserves for cities and power plants from about 200,000 acre-feet to about 375,000 acre-feet and reducing the availability of dammed water for agricultural users.

The plan ends the long-standing LCRA policy of allowing farmers an “open supply” when lakes are full enough, and sets an annual limit of 273,500 acre-feet of water initially and 249,000 acre-feet by 2020 for downstream rice farmers .

In 2009, farmers used 300,500 acre-feet of water, compared with 110,890 acre-feet in 2010 and 363,650 acre-feet last year. An acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons.

Instituting the restrictions in two phases —the first immediately and the second by 2020 — is a first for 23 years of LCRA water management planning, said LCRA water supply strategist James Kowis, and reduces the burden on farmers.

Advisory committee alternate Ronald Gertson, a rice farmer who is a board member on several regional water planning groups, said the new plan makes severe curtailments to agricultural users and that he hopes the LCRA will develop new supplies to meet increasing needs.

Greg Meszaros, director of the Austin Water Utility, who also was on the committee, said he supports the plan because it prioritizes growing firm water use.

The draft plan also allows for more flexible management of the river basin by the LCRA, setting separate dates, rather than a single date, during the year to determine how much water rice farmers would receive for their first and second crops.

The plan also has similar curtailment process for environmental flows, which will be cut to minimum levels needed for river health once lakes Travis and Buchanan drop below 95 percent full.

Walker said that is too soon and the river cannot remain environmentally healthy with the minimum allowable flows for very long. Water sent downstream for agricultural use, she said, also keeps the river healthy.

“If there’s less and less water available for irrigation in the future, there’s less and less water available for the health of the river,” Walker said.

Janet Caylor, who represented Lake Travis businesses on the committee, said she wants the LCRA board to pass the plan as it is now.

“This is a big step in the right direction, and had this plan been in place this past summer, the rice farmers’ second crop would not have devastated the lakes,” Caylor said.

Friday, February 24, 2012

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