Monthly Archives: January 2015

Cambodia’s rice export up 2 pct last year

Cambodia exported 387,061 tons of milled rice in 2014, a 2 percent increase from 378,856 tons in a year earlier, an official report said Thursday.

Cambodian rice has been sold to 57 countries and regions around the world, said the data compiled by the Secretariat of One Window Service for Rice Export.

Five main buyers are France, Poland, Malaysia, China, and the Netherlands.

Kim Savuth, Vice President of the Federation of Cambodian Rice Exporters, said a sluggish growth in rice export was due to fierce competitions with other countries’ rice, especially Vietnam and Thailand.

Cambodia is an agrarian country with some 80 percent of the population being farmers. In 2010, the Southeast Asian country set a goal of exporting 1 million tons of milled rice by 2015. However, Prime Minister Hun Sen admitted last month that the country was unlikely to achieve the self-imposed target due to a lack of milling capacity and funding.

He said the rice export figure in 2014 clearly proved that achieving the 1 million tons target in 2015 is unlikely.

Basmati rice eases on adequate supply

Prices of basmati rice eased at wholesale market here today following adequate supplies against subdued demand.

However, other grains including wheat moved in a narrow range in limited deals and settled around previous levels.

Traders said adequate stocks position on increased supplies from producing belts against sluggish demand mainly kept pressure on rice basmati prices.

In the national capital, rice basmati common and Pusa 1121 variety eased to Rs 5,300-5,800 and Rs 4,600-5,700 against last close of Rs 5,400-6,000 and Rs 4,750-5,800 per quintal respectively.

Following are today’s quotations (in Rs per quintal):

Wheat MP (deshi) 2,270-2,670, Wheat dara (for mills) 1,675-1,680, Chakki atta (delivery) 1,680-1,685, Atta Rajdhani (10 kg) 220, Shakti bhog (10 kg) 220, Roller flour mill Rs 890-900 (50 kg), Maida 960-965 (50 kg) and Sooji 1000-1010 (50 kg).

Basmati rice (Lal Quila) 10,400, Shri Lal Mahal 10,000, Super Basmati Rice 9,500, Basmati common new 5,300-5,800, Rice Pusa (1121) 4,600-5,700, Permal raw 1,750-1,800, Permal wand 1,875-1,900, Sela 2,450-2,500 and Rice IR-8 1,575-1,625, Bajra 1,220-1,225, Jowar yellow 1,470-1,500,white 2,500-2,600, Maize 1,405-1,410, Barley 1,650-1,660.

Vietnam Exports About 6.04 Million Tons Rice During January 1 – December 26, 2014

Vietnam exported around 6.036 million tons of rice during January 1 – December 26, 2014, down about 10% from around 6.71 million tons of rice exported in full year of 2013, according to data from the Vietnam Food Association (VFA). Average rice export price so far in this year stands at around $440 per ton (FOB), up about 1.6% per ton from about $433 per ton recorded same time last year.

During December 1- 26, 2014, Vietnam exported around 195,747 tons of rice, down about 64% from around 540,378 tons rice exported in full month of December 2013, and down about 60% from around 484,513 tons rice exported in full month of November 2014. Average export prices in so far in December stand at around $478 per ton, up about 5% from a year ago, and up about 3% per ton from a month ago.

What it’s like to be a rice farmer

The world turned blue and green as my sickle swept through rice stalks. Our gang was silent and sweating in the sultry afternoon. The only sound was the crackle of breaking stalks and the slop of feet in monsoon-fed water. An old lady, in baggy pajamas (acceptable daywear in Cambodia), stopped and whirled an armful of stalks into a binding sheaf.

The Southeast Asian landscape is dominated by emerald rice paddies, dotted with workers, bent like apostrophes. From the windows of buses and trains, foreigners gaze at these postcard vistas, and dream about a simpler, more bucolic life.

While some people long to escape rice paddy labor, for many Cambodians, their fields are labors of love that provide sustenance and income. Indeed, the loss of their fields (sometimes through forced eviction) is one of the main reasons people take work at remote factories, and even sometimes fall into prostitution.

I wondered, what is it like to actually work in those fields?

So I joined a family of farmers to harvest one of their fields in Takeo — a province that borders Vietnam. Rice fields fanned out in all directions. Different plots were marked by sticks bearing plastic bags that fluttered like flags. Sown at different different times of the year, some fields were still bright with young plants while others were brown and heavy with grain.

About 75 percent of Cambodia’s 10 million people are farmers. A family typically farms just a few hectares, each of which brings in up to $1,000.

There were six of us. Three generations working together. The youngest was a girl of 10. While drinking with the family the previous night the girl had slapped my shoulder and said, “He is Supheap”. Having received my Cambodian name I reciprocated and named her Daisy. Everyone marveled at such an exotic moniker. Daisy waded purposefully through the paddy.

For the rest of us, too focused on cutting every last stalk to worry about the possibility of catching a water-born parasite, it was a slow, meditative slop through knee-deep sludge. Back-ache would be a concern if the farmers had the luxury of health care and leisure time to worry about such things. But the only person surfacing from the green swathes rubbing his back and complaining was me.

Daisy followed our rushing sickles with a large plastic sheet. Piling the fallen ranks on top, she dragged them to her older brother who waited by a rattling tractor.

It was sensual work. Silky mud filled the space between each toe. I sopped forward grabbing handfuls of sinewy stalks and slashing them with a flick of the wrist. Broken bunches lay in my wake. The technique wasn’t difficult and within the hour I was slashing with confidence followed only by a tutting grandfather plucking at the many stalks I missed.

Time dilated. The only clock was the hot, vaulting sun. Had it been half an hour or two? Freed from the sound of landing emails and Facebook’s siren call, stress evaporated. The work was like a meditation: grab and cut, grab and cut.

The process was broken only to take photos. I had my camera and Supon, the head of the family, had his white iPhone. With each photo we attempted to catch the ocean in a cup.

Supon was proud of his iPhone. When I took a welcome break from the labor in order to snap shots Supon produced his white gadget and took his own. Supon is a Facebook fiend. He uploaded his pictures before me using Cambodia’s cheap mobile internet. He included captions in broken English like, “Foreigner help my family today, very happy, who like?” (An app that renders Khmer script into Facebook has yet to be written). With over three acres of rice fields to his name Supon is wealthier then his peers who content themselves with cheaper brands of Smartphone that retail around $120.

Each acre produces 8000 pounds of rice in two annual harvests. Most of it feeds Supon’s extended family who, like most Cambodians, eats rice for every meal. Anything left will be sold to buy meat, vegetables and livestock.

Sometimes Supon hires a thundering harvester to do the job, but that day we were cutting by hand. The price of the hire is not so much more than the cost of professional harvesters most families hire to help. They are usually poorer members of the community who have no land. “The harvester strips the grains from the rice but leaves the stalks in the water,” Supon said. “So we also harvest by hand so we can save the stalks to feed to our cows.”

Harvesting is followed by threshing, usually within a day or so. The grains are stripped from the plant by foot and the collected husks are spread in the sun to dry. During harvest season every house is bearded by plastic sheets covered in brown grains. During the final stage of the process the rice is put through a mill to remove the husk.

“I estimate we grow at least 300 varieties of rice in Cambodia,” said Ouk Makara, director of the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute. “We have different strains depending on whether the rice is grown in the dry season or the wet season.”

The most popular strain grown in the wet season is Cambodian jasmine rice, or Phka Romdoul. In November it was named the world’s best rice for the third year running.

After half a day bent double and sweating, we sliced at the last scraps of the field. A thousand stubs poked out of the water. The afternoon sun shone a net between them. I clasped my smarting back and arched backwards. Supon’s father-in-law stood and smiled with his two remaining teeth. He rubbed his back too.

“Everyone’s back hurts after a while,” said Supon. “Yours will hurt more because you’re not used to it.” A Cambodian proverb posits, “Do not plan to study with the desire to become a government minister… you must study to become a farmer in order to have wealth in the future.”

This points to the reality that for many, cultivating rice is the most available route to financial stability. Its tough work. In Cambodia planting, tending and harvesting is done almost exclusively by hand — it’s not uncommon to see elderly people bent double with arthritis by the end of their lives.

When we finished, we trudged back to Supon’s wooden house. There, Supon’s smiling wife, Supea laid out rice, deep fried eggs, pork and vegetables. We devastated the spread in minutes.

Their toddler and nephew had eaten already. They tottered around pealing their first phrase, “hop bai” which means “eat rice” but is used to describe all kinds of food. Indeed, rice is so enmeshed in the culture that phatic conversation revolves around it. “Hello, have you eaten rice yet?” is a common greeting.

As evening fell, I reclined in a hammock trying to keep my eyes open. Supon lent over and kissed his wife. His parents-in-law sat on a wooden platform swinging their legs, saying nothing. Every night all three generations sleep on the floor of the single upstairs room.

Despite the problems Cambodia is well-known for, there, in Supon’s house, I didn’t see poor people. Nor did I see denizens of a society struggling towards the promised land of “development.” Supon had attended university in Phnom Penh, his fees met by a wealthy friend, but he dropped out, preferring a traditional lifestyle.

Indeed, if you speak to the migrant workers in the garment factories or on plantations, most long to return to the rural idyll of rice farming and small-holder cultivation. The reasons many don’t are complex — some don’t have enough land to support their large families, others have no land at all and sink to the bottom of society. But there are plenty like Supon, those who have chosen the farmer’s life and who go about its hardships successfully with hearts that brim with happiness.

Export of rice

Last Saturday’s shipment of the first export consignment of 12,500 tonnes of rice to Sri Lanka marks a notable feat of accomplishment by the agricultural sector of Bangladesh. A total of 50,000 tonnes of rice is to be exported by Bangladesh to Sri Lanka. Rice is a new addition to the otherwise skinny list of the country’s export basket. This also bears testimony to the strenuous efforts by millions of its farmers who toiled hard to produce exportable surplus of rice. The country is set to earn US$22.5 million from this particular rice export deal, notwithstanding the fact that the letters of credit worth $25.27 million were, according to the Bangladesh Bank figures, opened until July this year for its imports of rice from the international market. The export to Sri Lanka would create no problems immediately as Bangladesh has over 1.3 million tonnes of rice in its stocks, at least 3,00,000 tonnes more than that of the last year.

The export of rice has disproved sceptics who questioned the rationale behind exporting the cereal by Bangladesh, the fourth biggest rice producer. It is due to a bumper yield and good stocks at home that the government has taken the decision to export rice to the island nation. The country started exporting aromatic before but not the common variteies. It is set to produce more than 34 million tonnes of rice this year. On the other hand, its reserve has risen to more than 1.2 million tonnes from nearly 1.0 million tonnes a year earlier. Although export of rice to Sri Lanka follows the nature of ‘goodwill’, it is now imperative for the country’s policymakers to weigh interests of rice growers and consumers at home first. Its prices both at growers and consumers’ levels are politically sensitive. One has to consider the subsidies the government pays to enable farmers grow rice for domestic consumption. The country’s rice production cost is higher here than those of Thailand and Vietnam, both major rice exporters. India exports parboiled non-basmati rice for $400 per tonne, or less by $10-15 than the rice price of Thailand. In the white rice export category, India offers a competitive price of $360-370 per tonne that can be favourably compared to those of Pakistan and Vietnam.

The actual export price of rice per tonne would come down to $435 in case of Sri Lanka if the cost of shipment is considered. Each kg of rice export would fetch Bangladesh around Tk 33 that is lower than even the price of coarse rice at Tk 35 to Tk 37 in the domestic market. Here the country makes no worthy gains out of its rice export. This makes rice export not a viable proposition for Bangladesh at this stage, in view of its rising production cost and the large amount of subsidies that are involved in growing the staple. Rice exports could be profitable for Bangladesh only if it could sell to countries where the price is much higher. The government should also pay its attention to maintaining an adequate level of domestic rice stocks year-round, in order to meet exigencies in case of any occurrence of floods and other natural calamities.

Vietnam’s top farm exports in 2014

Vietnam’s agricultural sector is estimated to earn 30.86 billion U.S. dollars from farm exports this year, a year-on-year increase of 11.2 percent, reported the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on its website on Sunday.

Wood and timber exports top the list of farm products earning high export value, with 6.54 billion dollars, an increase of 12.7 percent over last year. The United States, China and Japan are the three largest importers of Vietnamese wood.

Shrimp exports ranked second with 4 billion dollars, a growth of 28 percent against last year and the highest value that the sector has ever recorded so far. The United States remained the biggest importer of Vietnamese shrimp.

With an export value of 3.6 billion dollars, a rise of 33.2 percent over last year, coffee exports were placed third in the list of Vietnamese farm products having high export value. Germany and the United States remained the largest consumers of Vietnamese coffee in 2014.

Other farm exports had high export earnings included rice with 3.04 billion dollars, cashew nuts with 2 billion dollars, tra fish with 1.8 billion dollars, rubber with 1.8 billion dollars, and pepper with 1.2 billion dollars, reported the ministry.

Vietnamese farmers’ overuse of pesticide harms fertile soil

VietNamNet Bridge – In the 1950s, Vietnamese used about 100 tons of pesticide in agricultural production a year. The figure soared by 150 times 40 years later.

Rice HQ

An expert commented the way of using plant protection chemicals is special, because there is no common rule to follow. Vietnamese farmers use chemicals and spray pesticide any time they think they have to do this.

“They don’t care how the pesticide overuse will affect plants, soil, water sources and humans, because they believe this is the management agencies’ and scientists’ business,” he noted.

The expert went on to say that Vietnam is leading the world in rice, coffee and tea exports, but it is also among the countries with a high use of pesticide.

He cited a recent report as saying that 85 percent of vegetable growers “use pesticide based on their own experience”, while 43 percent of them use pesticide with a concentration twice as much as recommended.

The report also said farmers spray pesticide any time when they discover insects and they sell vegetable products whenever they need money.

The unplanned use of pesticide has caused worrying problems. Up to 51.24 percent of vegetable samples have been found to have pesticide and heavy metal residues higher than the permitted levels.

A report by the Ministry of Health showed that there are 15-20 million people in the country regularly exposed to pesticides, and 70 percent of them show symptoms of poisoning. This is one of the 10 biggest causes of mortality at hospitals, and this is one of the reasons causing cancer.

The other surveys conducted by many agencies have also found alarming figures. Vietnam spends VND20-24 trillion every year on plant protection chemicals. It has to import 100 percent of active elements, 90 percent of additives and 50 percent of plant protection products, mostly from China.

According to the Plant Protection Agency, it discovered during a recent inspection tour that 0.6-0.8 percent of import consignments of plant protection chemicals could not meet the standards, which were then forced to be re-exported, and 3-10 percent of products made domestically could not satisfy the requirements.

There are 20,000 plant protection chemical sales agents throughout the country, but it is very difficult to control the quality of the products distributed by them.

Analysts noted that the benefits Vietnam gets are not adequate to the money it spends. Tuoi Tre quoted its source as saying that Vietnam spent $700 million on plant protection in 2013, while the money it gained from tea exports was just 1/3 of that amount.

10 farm products with export value of over US$1 billion

en agricultural products each has an export value of more than US$1 billion include rice, coffee, rubber, cashew nut, pepper, cassava, vegetables and fruits, tra fish and forestry products.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) reports that the agricultural sector earned US$30.86 billion from exports this year, a year-on-year increase of 11.2%.

Wood and timber products: US$6.54 billion

Wood and timber products top the list with an export value of US$6.54 billion, an increase of 12.7% against last year.

The US, China and Japan are the three largest importers of Vietnamese wood.

Shrimp: US$4 billion

Shrimp exports are estimated to grow 28% against last year to US$4 billion, the highest value so far.

The US remains the biggest importer of Vietnamese shrimp although exports to the market in late months slightly reduced. Shrimp exports obtained the highest growth among Vietnam’s key seafood products.

Coffee: US$3.6 billion

Coffee exports grossed US$3.62 billion, up 33.4% in volume and 33.2% in value against last year.

The average export price is US$2,096 per tonne which is the same as last year’s. Germany and the US remained the largest consumers of Vietnamese coffee.

Rice: US$3 billion

Vietnam rice export this year is estimated at 6.52 million tonnes which, earns US$3.04 billion, up 1.9% in value.

Average price in the first 11 months is US$463 per tonne, up 5% against the same period last year.

China ranks first among consumers of Vietnamese rice, accounting for 31.1%.

Cashew nuts: US$2 billion

Vietnam exports around 306,000 tonnes of cashew nut this year, grossing US$2 billion, up 17.4% in volume and 21.9% in value against last year.

The average price in the first 11 months is US$6,553 per tonne, an increase of 3.81% compared to the same period last year.

The US, China and the Netherlands remain top importers of Vietnamese cashew nut.

Tra fish: US$1.8 billion

This year, tra fish contributed around US$1.8 billion to the country’s total export value, a rise of 5.8% against a year earlier. It also makes up 21.8% of total seafood exports.

The EU and the US are still leading importers of the product.

Rubber: US$1.8 billion

Rubber exports this year are estimated to reach 1.07 million tonnes, yielding US$1.8 billion, up 0.2% in volume but down 27.7% in value.

Export price in the first 11 months is US$1,695 per tonne, down 27.3%.

Pepper: US$1.2 billion

Around 158,000 tonnes of pepper was shipped this year, worth US$1.2 billion, up 19.3% in volume and 35.9% in value.

Five biggest consumers of Vietnamese pepper are the US, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), India and the Netherlands.

Cassava: US$1.12 billion

Vietnam exports 3.3 million tonnes of cassava this year, fetching US$1.12 billion, up 5.4% in volume and 2.6% in value.

China comes first among importers with market shares of 84.27%.

Vegetables and fruits: US$1.47 billion

It is the first time that the export of vegetables and fruits post a turnover of US$1.47 billion with three largest importers of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

Rice Importers To Pay 60% Levy In 2015 – FG

The minister of agriculture and rural development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has said that as the drive to ensure that Nigeria becomes self-sufficient in rice production gains momentum, a new policy has been approved to ensure that rice importers pay a tariff of 10 – 60 per cent.

“The new policy,” according to an end of year report by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development made available to LEADERSHIP, yesterday, “is aimed at discouraging smuggling while leading to a quantum leap in the Backward Integration Programme (BIP),” Adesina said.

He added that the policy has attracted more than $1.6 billion of private sector investments and it is expected that Nigeria will become a net exporter of rice just like Thailand or India within the next three years.

The minister said, “The new policy has an inbuilt tariff/levy differential deliberately skewed in favour of investors with verifiable BIP. These investors are allowed to temporarily import brown or finished rice to bridge the present gap in supply and demand and enjoy 10 per cent tariff and 20 per cent levy. On the other hand, mere rice traders will import at 10 per cent tariff and 60 per cent levy.”

The Nigerian local rice industry was, hitherto, comprised of entirely small-scale mills until 2008 when the first large integrated mill commenced operation.

“By 2010 the small millers were producing about 60 per cent of parboiled milled rice in Nigeria, estimated at about 3-3.5 million metric tonnes with an estimated total consumption of about 5.5 million metric tonnes,” said the minister.

He noted that initially the small mills could not generate products that could match the quality of imported rice because their products were deficient in critical quality attributes, including a lack of uniformity, flavour, odour, high content of broken grains, presence of stones and other extraneous materials, which limited consumer acceptance of locally processed rice.

However, the situation, he emphasised, has changed as clusters of small mills have acquired destoners and polishers, and have greatly improved the quality of their product.

Speaking on the rice productions trends in Nigerian, Adesina said, “Nigeria rice sector had struggled to keep pace with post-civil war rising demands and driven by the oil boom of the early 1970s, the doors were left open for free import of rice. There was a positive reversal of the negative rice productions trends.”

He added that Nigerian farmers have shown positive responsiveness to favourable government policy initiated by the current administration.

Supply chain the new battleground

VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnamese farmers need support to create product value chains, Nguyen Do Anh Tuan, director of the Centre for Agriculture Policy tells the newspaper Cong Thuong (Trade and Industry).

Rice HQ

Some argue that in the near future, competition will not be between enterprises, but between supply chains of agro-products. How do you respond to that?

In the near future, the level of international integration will become wider and wider. As a result, consumers – be they Vietnamese or foreigners – will seek out products with good brand names and clear countries of origin. This factor will make companies compete on the basis of their supply chains. Of course, each company’s supply chain has its own strengths. The winners will be the supply chains that generate new value-added products of better quality.

Export is often considered the most important link in the product value chain. Do you agree?

Consider rice, for example. For our rice sector, various distribution networks have been set up. One distribution network focuses on the domestic market while the other focuses on foreign markets. However, I have to concede that from the inputs to the outputs, the system is not good. It is fragmented from production to collection. There are tens of thousands of distributors, millions of farming households and tens of thousands of sellers providing inputs for production. The driving motivation for these activities is price, not quality.

The performance of some firms, particularly those at the end of the supply chain, is better than that of others. These firms collect products from various small suppliers for export. However, throughout the process, the companies’ owners care very much about product quality because they have to meet international buyers’ requirements.

If these companies started managing the entire supply chain, they would add more value to products and would no doubt be winners in the international market. However, not many such companies operate in Viet Nam.

Vietnamese companies compete with each other in terms of price and have to bear pressure from foreign importers. This is a key reason why the value of Viet Nam’s rice exports is always lower than that of other countries, even though Viet Nam is one of the world’s major rice exporters. As a result, those who suffer the most are the farmers!

Will forming agro-product value chains benefit farmers and the ongoing restructuring process of our primary industry?

In the proposal to restructure the agriculture sector, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung emphasised the importance of improving the value of our agro-products alongside sustainable production.

I’m confident that when our agro-product quality improves, we will able to export more for higher prices. Thus, our farmers’ lives will improve.

When we can improve the quality of our rice, we’ll also come up with better means of production in the context of climate change and sustainability.

In each stage of the production chain, it is very important to think of giving new value to products and to create new products from the original product that improve on its quality.