Monthly Archives: August 2015

Rice federation draws up emergency plans for imports

The Myanmar Rice Federation is drawing up contingency plans to import rice in response to widespread flooding, officials said.

Heavy rains and rising waters in 11 out of Myanmar’s 14 regions and states have raised fears of a shortage of the staple food.

The Myanmar Rice Federation had previously announced a temporary ban of exports until mid-September, and is now preparing other measures if rice stocks run too low.

Myanmar Rice Federation president U Chit Khaing said there are still buffet stocks of rice in hand, which will be replenished starting in October with the harvest.

“To stop an increase in the rice price, we have decided to halt exports and have begun selling rice bags directly to the flooded area,” he said at an August 6 press conference on the issue.

“If there are unexpectedly severe weather conditions in the coming months, we will arrange to import, so there will be no concerns with rice.”

Myanmar has consistently been a net exporter of rice, with volumes increasing markedly in recent years. Official statistics show Myanmar produces about 14 million tonnes of rice, of which 12 million is for local consumption.

Market uncertainty over the effect of the floods on rice production has been evident in local prices.

A bag of 25 percent broken rice now fetching K22,000 at some shops in Yangon and Mandalay, from K17,000 before.

However, the areas hardest-hit by the floods have seen significant price spikes, with some reporting prices of up to K100,000 per 108-pound bag in places such as Hakha, Sagaing Region.

The rice federation is opening wholesale counters in the affected areas in an effort to help lower prices, with plans for Hinthada township in Ayeyarwady Region, Nattalin township and Pyay in Bago Region, Monywa and Shwebo in Sagaing Region, Magwe in Magwe Region, and Mandalay, as well as at Yangon’s main commodity exchange centres.

It has also sent 40,000 bags to Sittwe in Rakhin State for sale.

Myanmar Rice Federation officials also said that those contravening the ban on exports will face action, possibly supported by the government.

“In the past, rice could be exported freely. But now that the country is suffering from natural disasters, we decided to control the situation, with 100 percent agreement from members,” said an official.

Federation vice president U Aung Than Oo said that more than 170,000 bags of rice will be collected by Myanmar Agribusiness Public Corporation for use as a buffer stock.

With about 16 million acres under cultivation, 1.5 million acres has been damaged due to the heavy rain, said Myanmar Rice Federation secretary general U Ye Min Aung.

“Though the area is flooded, we can’t say all is totally destroyed,” he said. “Right now, about 200,000 acres are damaged beyond recovery, but we will try to get higher yields from non-flooded lands and from coming crops.”

Pakistan has been overlooked by Minsk for far too long

Not long ago the Belarusian mass media reported on the first ever official visit of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko to Pakistan. The visit took place on 28-29 May this year. Not much time passed and Belarus is hosting Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who is in Belarus on an official visit on 10-12 August. Obviously, such dynamics of contacts shows that there is a mutual interest and that the current bilateral agenda includes a list of long-term plans on development of the cooperation. In fact, this is Belarus’ strategy to strengthen relations with the countries of the so-called ‘distant arc’ in action. Pakistan is one of the key states of Southeast Asia with a population of almost 200 million people. In an interview to BelTA Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Pakistan Andrei Yermolovich talks about the opportunities and plans for the development of the Belarusian-Pakistani interaction.

What has been done in the Belarusian-Pakistani relations since the opening of the Belarusian Embassy in Islamabad in November 2014?

In short, we have formalized, in the shortest time possible, the new intentions of Minsk and Islamabad to move towards each other.

Pakistan organically takes a certain niche in the structure of our foreign policy interests. A nuclear power, with a nearly 200-million strong population, with the heroic history, ambitious plans to revitalize the domestic economic potential, rich human resources, Pakistan was undeservedly overlooked by Minsk for far too long.

On the other hand, Belarus, a state strategically located in the heart of Europe, an active participant in the economic processes in the post-Soviet and European spaces, undeservedly remained beyond the scope of Islamabad “direct action”.

Belarus and Pakistan have already adjusted their policies, and I think that we can expect good results.

The recent events in the 12-month bilateral relations includes one round of the political consultations at the level of Ministries of Foreign Affairs, the sessions of the economic and scientific-technical commissions, a session of the working group on agriculture, two business and investment forums, the first session of the Belarusian-Pakistani Business Council, and finally the exchange of visits at the highest level and the signing of more than 30 bilateral documents.

We needed to pass this stage of extensive growth and we did it in an extremely short span of time.

At the same time we should understand that putting this boat afloat we should maintain its movement gradually adding momentum to our mutual relations. We will need a lot of effort, efficient management, and nonstandard solutions to fill the bilateral cooperation with concrete content.

How will Belarusian-Pakistani relations develop in the near-term and distant prospect?

The bilateral legal framework allows the two countries to develop bilateral relations in every area, i.e. politics, economy, science, education, and culture. The main principles of the political dialogue laid down in the Islamabad Declaration of Belarus-Pakistan Partnership signed on 29 May 2015 will be further developed in the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the Republic of Belarus and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The document will be signed during the forthcoming visit. Similar views on bilateral political relations and the international agenda allow the two countries to make advances in other vital areas as well.

What are the prospects for trade and economic cooperation between Belarus and Pakistan?

The only possible alternative here is an active trade with a gradual shift to mutual investment and cooperation projects.

Belarus and Pakistan should make the maximum advantage of its naturally developed economic formula of bilateral relations which centers on the complementarity of the two economies. Belarus traditionally imports Pakistani textile products, rice, vegetables and fruit. Mango, a high-quality product and pride of Pakistan, is very popular on the Belarusian market. In turn, Pakistan buys Belarusian tractors, tires, and petrochemical products. Today it is important to turn the existing cooperation formula into a system, increase and diversify mutual trade.

There are big prospects for Belarus on the Pakistani market in what concerns the supplies of heavy-duty dump trucks, road construction, utilities and agricultural vehicles, petrochemical products. The parties will also look into possible cooperation in gas and oil production, participation of Belarusian design and construction organizations in Pakistan’s infrastructure projects.

Belarus has been selling tractors to Pakistan for dozens of years. Our national brand does not need special advertising as it is already ‘embedded into the unconscious’ of Pakistani consumers. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the word ‘Belarus’ in Pakistan is first of all associated with our tractors and only after that with the country. This is a great example of effective economic diplomacy. As for our export of tractors, our main task here is to bolster it and prevent a slowdown.

Apart from the bilateral trade, we should also work hard to develop our cooperation in other areas. For this purpose, Belarus and Pakistan signed agreements in May 2015 to set up two commissions, one for industrial cooperation and the other for cooperation in agriculture. Our economic results during the next two to three years will depend on the bilateral cooperation in these fields.

In Pakistan there are many well-off people ready to share their experience, technologies, and capital with Belarus. The picture is mostly the same in Belarus, a country with great industrial, agricultural, and intellectual potential. The main thing here is to create an effective negotiation platform for the enterprises of the two countries. Such a platform will be created.

What can we expect from the development of Belarus-Pakistan humanitarian cooperation?

Taking into account the potential of Belarus and Pakistan in science, technologies, culture, and education, the prospects and very promising. We organized an exchange of delegations of our national academies of sciences this year. A number of agreements on scientific and technical cooperation were concluded. The agreements are mostly related to construction of farm vehicles, geodesy, biotechnologies, and other fields.

The heads of the Education Ministries of Belarus and Pakistan held a series of negotiations in May-July 2015. We are much willing to tap into the potential of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, an institution with an annual budget of $700 million, in order to organize training of Pakistani citizens at Belarusian universities and vocational schools.

Asia Rice Quotes Mostly Unchanged Today

Myanmar rice sellers increased their quotes for 5% broken rice by about $5 per ton to around $405-$415 per ton today. Other Asia rice sellers kept their quotes mostly unchanged today.

5% Broken Rice

Thailand 5% rice is indicated at around $365 – $375 per ton, about $25 per ton premium on Vietnam 5% rice shown at around $340 – $350 per ton. India 5% rice is indicated at around $385 – $395 per ton, about $45 per ton premium on Pakistan 5% rice shown at around $340 – $350 per ton.

25% Broken Rice

Thailand 25% rice is shown at around $350 – $360 per ton, about $25 per ton premium on Vietnam 25% rice shown at around $325- $335 per ton. India 25% rice is indicated at around $350 – $360, about $40 per ton premium on Pakistan 25% rice shown at around $310 – $320 per ton.

Parboiled Rice

Thailand parboiled rice is indicated at around $380 – $390 per ton. India parboiled rice is indicated at around $375- $385 per ton, about $40 per ton discount to Pakistan parboiled rice was last shown at around $415 – $425 per ton.

100% Broken Rice

Thailand broken rice, A1 Super, is indicated at around $320 – $330 per ton, about $10 per ton from premium on Vietnam 100% broken rice shown at around $310 – $320 per ton. India’s 100% broken rice is shown at around $305 – $315 per ton, about $25 per ton premium on Pakistan broken sortexed rice shown at around $280 – $290 per ton.

Thailand says to sell 1 million tonnes of rice to China

China will buy 1 million tonnes of rice from Thailand, the Thai commerce minister said on Monday, easing pressure on a military government struggling to shift stockpiles of the grain accumulated under a previous farm-subsidy programme.

Thai Commerce Minister Chatchai Sirikalya, following a visit to China last week, said the country agreed to buy 1 million tonnes of rice to be delivered at year-end.

Thailand, the world’s second-largest rice exporter, has about 14.5 million tonnes of rice in stockpiles built up under a generous rice subsidy scheme run by a government that was overthrown by the military in May 2014.

The rice will be sold to China at market prices, said Chatchai, adding that the sale involved Hom Mali, or Thai jasmine rice, and Thai 5-percent broken white rice.

“In the past week the commerce ministry travelled to China and agreed with the Chinese government to do a government-to- government sale and agreed to officially sell rice (to China),” Chatchai told reporters.

Chinese government officials did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.

In December, Thailand said China would buy 2 million tonnes of rice after the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding during a two-day regional summit in Bangkok.

The deal announced on Monday was part of that agreement, said Chatchai, adding that negotiations for the sale of a further 1 million tonnes would begin in September.

He said Thai government officials would travel to Iran at the end of August to try to strike similar deals.

“Iran has expressed interest in buying rice at the end of August,” said Chatchai.

Fake Rice? Chromatography Searches for a Grain of Truth

Food adulteration and labelling issues is a problem for consumers all over the world — but surely rice is safe from disreputable practices. Unfortunately not. Read on as we first visit Davao in the Philippines and find out about fake rice and chromatography’s role in finding out the truth — and then look a little closer to home at rice fraud in the UK. What is rice and why fake it? The grains of rice that we eat are the seeds from grass species’ and are thought to have been cultivated in China around 10,000 years ago, before spreading around the world. China and India are biggest rice producers and consumers of rice — and rice provides over 20% of the world’s dietary energy supply, which is more than either wheat or maize. With the volumes being consumed, there are significant sums of money changing hands — so someone, somewhere will want to increase their profits by any means necessary. Davao tests reveal plasticizer A report in the Sun-Star, a Filipino newspaper, states that a consumer submitted a sample of suspicious rice to the National Food Agency (NFA) in Taguig City, and that they performed tests on the rice including gas chromatography in tandem with mass spectrometry (GC-MS), tests for heavy metals and starch, and several visual checks. The tests revealed that the rice was made from potato, sweet potato and a toxic plasticizer. GC-MS revealed the presence of Dibutyl Phthalate, an organic plasticizer and solvent used in the plastic and cosmetics industries. Its use in the European Union is banned in cosmetics and its use in plastic toys is regulated by certain EU directives. The testing of toys for phthalates using chromatography is discussed in this article, Optimising Analysis of Phthalates in Plastic Toys Using the Agilent 1290 Infinity Method Development Solution from Chromatography Today. Closer to home Unfortunately you don’t have to travel very far to find samples of adulterated rice. Basmati rice is considered to be one of the premium varieties of rice — grown in India and Pakistan. It is a long-grained rice and contains an aroma compound — 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline —at elevated levels compared to other rice varieties. It is this compound that gives basmati rice its special taste and aroma — allowing it to sell for a premium price. It is difficult to visually distinguish different types of rice from each other — and this led to some traders adulterating basmati rice with other varieties. The Food Standards Agency in the UK conducted tests which found some basmati rice had been adulterated with cross-bred basmati varieties and other types of long-grain rice — one sample had no basmati rice in it. This led to a code of practice for the rice industry to ensure consumers get genuine basmati. Curry anyone? – See more at: http://www.chromatographytoday.com/news/gc-mdgc-gc-ms/32/breaking_news/fake_rice_chromatography_searches_for_a_grain_of_truth/35561/#sthash.wRSzax9p.dpuf

Belarus, Pakistan mull over joint ventures

Belarus and Pakistan are in talks to set up joint ventures in mechanical engineering, petrochemistry and woodworking, Industry Minister of Belarus Vitally Vovk said at a meeting of the Belarusian-Pakistani intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation on 7 August, BelTA informs.

It is expected that joint companies will be opened both in Belarus and Pakistan. “We are interested not only in the supply of goods but also in setting up new companies, creating jobs and exchanging technologies,” stressed Vitaly Vovk.

“We have built the right foundation for our further partnership in order to increase the trade between the two countries multifold in the next few years. I am confident that the visit of the Prime Minister of Pakistan which is due to take place next week will make the next step in strengthening our cooperation,” he added.

In turn, Pakistani Minister of Commerce Khurram Dastgir Khan who chairs the Pakistani part of the intergovernmental commission believes that the two countries will soon enter a new level of cooperation. “Since the visit of the President of Belarus to Pakistan we have done a lot to intensify cooperation. Cooperation with Belarus in the production of agricultural equipment is of utmost importance for Pakistan. Apart from that, we would like to develop cooperation in the textile industry, the production of pharmaceutical products, sportswear and food products,” Khurram Dastgir Khan said adding that the intergovernmental commission is busy with creating favorable conditions for cooperation between Belarusian and Pakistani companies in these sectors.

According to the Pakistani Minister of Commerce, the intensification of the trade and economic cooperation will promote the development of the two countries. “I hope that our cooperation will open doors to the European region for Pakistan the same as open doors for Belarus to South Asia and the Middle East,” Khurram Dastgir Khan said.

In the last eight years the Belarus-Pakistan trade has been between $50 and $120 million a year. Belarus’ main exports to Pakistan include tractors, potash fertilizers, synthetic fiber, tires. Belarus mainly imports Pakistani rice, styrole polymers, fruit, food products, leather goods, fabric and textile.

In 2014 the bilateral trade totaled $58.2 million. Belarus’ exports to Pakistan made up $42.6 million (100.3% to 2013), the import was $15.5 million (98.5%). Last year Belarus’ exports of potash fertilizers to Pakistan increased two times, that of truck and tractor parts by 30%.

In January-May 2015 the Belarusian export to Pakistan totaled $15.3 million (117.8% to the same period last year).

Thai rice prices ease, Vietnam steady

Thai rice prices eased this week as sellers struggling to break even tried to shift stockpiles left over from the previous government’s troubled rice pledging scheme, while Vietnamese prices stood unchanged amid thin buying demand. Benchmark 5 percent broken rice of Thailand, the second-biggest exporter of the grain after India, edged down to $380-$385 a tonne, free-on-board (FOB) Bangkok, from $380-$390 a week ago.

The intervention scheme, which paid farmers well above market rates for their produce, has incurred significant losses and large debts for a country already caught in an economic mire. Thailand currently holds 14.5 million tonnes of unsold inventory and has reduced prices. “This has been the worst situation we have seen recently,” a Thai trader said, stating that exporters have received no orders in three weeks.

Exporters are willing to sell rice at break-even cost to keep rice trading activity going rather than keep stocks in warehouses, said an exporter in Thailand. In Vietnam, the world’s third-biggest rice exporter, demand for rice was thin due to prices and grain quality that were uncompetitive compared with those of Thailand and India.

Vietnam’s 5-percent broken summer-autumn rice prices remained flat at $340-$345 a tonne, FOB basis, while the 25 percent broken rice prices widened to $322-$340 a tonne from $322.5-$332.5 last month. “Many people called to check on prices but no orders were placed,” said a trader in Ho Chi Minh City, adding buyers may be waiting for Vietnamese prices to drop further before making purchases. Vietnam is estimated to have exported 3.7 million tonnes of rice in the first seven months of 2015, down 3.5 percent from a year earlier, government data showed.

Thailand aims for rice exporter champ this year

Thailand is hopeful to become the number one rice exporter of the world this year despite the decline in exports due to the global economic situation, says the deputy government spokesman.

The Deputy Government Spokesman, Sansern Kaewkamnerd, has said that Thailand is positive to remain as the number one rice exporter to the world in terms of quantity and trade value despite the decline in global economic growth and negative export values in several countries.

According to the Thai Rice Exporters Association, Thailand was the number one rice exporter in the first half of this year with an amount of exported rice at 4.46 million tons valued at 72.142 billion baht, while the runner up for rice exports was India with an export of 4.25 million tons.

It is expected that the amount of exports in the second half of this year will increase as many countries have expedited imports of rice from Thailand due to concerns regarding the current drought situation. The weakened Thai baht currency also contributes to an increased pricing competitiveness of Thai export products to other countries, the Deputy Government Spokesman has said.

The Thai government is still confident in Thai entrepreneurs as the country is among those with lower declines in export value when compared to other countries. Thailand has seen a decrease by 4.8 percent in its export, 79 percent in import, and 3.47 percent surplus in trade balance.

Many Thai export products have also shown positive growth, reflecting their growth potential despite the global recession and the capability of Thai products to penetrate the global market.

The Deputy Government Spokesman has revealed the export products that have shown positive growth in the first six months of this year. Among these were electric transformers and parts, which have grown by 10.66 percent, condensers by 28.3 percent, cement by 8.81 percent, motorcycles and its parts by 6.75 percent, other vehicles and parts by 38.27 percent, and tapioca products with 18.10 percent. The overall export value was at 2.05 billion US dollars.

Bangladesh Urged to Maximize Use of Rice Bran for Edible Oil Production

The Bangladesh Tariff Commission (BTC) urged the government to maximize the use of rice bran in order to increase the edible oil production in the country, according to Financial Express.

A study titled ‘Rice Bran Oil and its Prospect in Bangladesh’ by the BTC found that only 500,000 tons, or less than a quarter of around 2.5 million tons of rice bran produced in the country is used by local oil companies to produce edible oil.

It noted that local edible oil companies produce hardly 100,000 tons of rice bran oil annually while the country has the potential to produce nearly 700,000 tons yearly.

The study noted that currently only 70% of rice mills are automatic or semi-automatic while the remaining are yet to be modernized. BTC member and the team leader of the study noted that Bangladesh produces nearly 51 million tons of paddy yearly and if all the mills are automated, the production of rice bran could reach over 3.6 million tons.

He states that by 2021, demand for edible oil is expected to increase to around 2.47 million tons from the current 1.5 million tons. If all rice mills in the country are automated and use of rice bran in maximized by 2021, rice bran oil could cater to about 30% of the total edible oil demand.

However, the study found that the export of rice bran has been declining over the past few years. Bangladesh exporters shipped around 27,076 tons of rice bran in FY 2013-14 compared to around 90,781 tons in FY 2012-13.

The study also recommended that the awareness about the use of rice bran oil should be increased among the consumers.

The President of the Bangladesh Auto Major and Husking Mills Owners Association expressed optimism that demand for rice bran would increase in the country over the next five years.

Drought Leaves No Choice but to Import Rice

While President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo had repetitively expressed his resoluteness to stop rice imports, his government is facing a stark reality in which it may be forced to import the staple food.

Following reports about wide-spreading droughts in the country, government officials will decide this week whether to import rice. The government had carefully monitored and studied the impacts of the current drought, said Coordinating Minister for the Economy Sofyan Djalil.

“Until today we still have enough stocks. But, we will carry out further study next week before deciding whether or not we import rice. Until today, no,” Sofyan told reporters after a limited cabinet meeting at the State Palace last Friday (31/7) as reported by Detik.com.

The minister had shared that until year end, the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) must have minimum rice stock of 1.5 million tons. Lower stock may only force Bulog to import rice, he noted.

“If we have got less, we import. It is not ‘haram’ (forbidden) because it goes with our need. We need (imports) because of El Nino,” Sofyan said.

Sofyan’s remarks clearly echoed President Jokowi’s ambitious plan of stopping rice imports. Since last year’s presidential campaign and even after his election as president, Jokowi had declared his resoluteness to make Indonesia self-sufficient in rice.

Minister Sofyan said last Friday the government had allocated Rp 3.5 trillion for this year’s reserve fund for food stock.

Meanwhile, Vice President Jusuf Kalla had in May informed about possible rice imports this year due to significant drop in domestic rice production. He mentioned drought and low quality rice seeds as the main factor behind low production.

Also in May, as shared by Minister of Trade Rachmat Gobel, the government already prepared a permit for Bulog to import rice, notably in anticipation of this year’s Eid al-Fitr holidays, which fell on July 17. The permit, however, had not yet been finalized, according to Rachmat Gobel.

Yet, on the day Minister Rachmat disclosed about rice import permit, President Jokowi said Indonesia no longer needed rice imports. “We need not import rice any more. We have to be able to fulfill our need for rice (with local product). How come we keep importing rice, corn … How come we import everything?” Jokowi said during his visit to Maluku as reported by CNN Indonesia.

Thailand and Vietnam were Indonesia’s largest rice suppliers in the past years.

Kompas daily reported that prolonged drought had hit about 111,000 hectares of rice fields across the country from January to July of this year. The 111,000 hectares were below the 200,000 hectares in the same period of last year, the newspaper quoted Minister of Agriculture Andi Amran Sulaiman as saying. He had shared this during a visit to Sidoarjo in East Java last Thursday (30/7).

According to Amran, the government had taken more serious anticipatory measures so that only 111,000 hectares of rice fields had been affected as compared with last year. The measures included the reparation of irrigation ditches and the distribution of water pumps to farmers.

Still, there are fears that El Nino will continue until December 2015, which means more rice fields will be hit. Clean water scarcity in many regions will pose another serious problem.

A prolonged drought will pose a big challenge to the government’s program of holding this December simultaneous regional elections (Pilkada) across the 9 provinces, 269 districts and 36 cities. These simultaneous elections will be the first of the total seven rounds until 2017. They aim to ensure more effective and more efficient democratic life in Indonesia.