Monthly Archives: December 2015

Cuba thanks Pakistan’s support for snuffing out US embargo

On the occasion of 57the anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, Cuban Ambassador to Pakistan Gabriel Tiel Capote has thanked Pakistan for voting in favour of Cuban Resolution demanding end of US embargo.

“ It is a great honour for me to address the people and government of Pakistan on this very day,” he said. Every January 1st, Cuban people celebrate the anniversary of its revolution. “In this day of great significance and happiness, we remember the conclusion of our struggle for independence – a unique process that started on October 10th, 1868. It was aimed first to get freedom from 400 years Spanish colonialism – and second, to rescue the interrupted independence from the US dominium that lasted 59 years. The triumph of the popular insurrection on January 1st, 1959 paved the way to the complete exercise of sovereignty and independence by the people of Cuba,” he mentioned.

In half of a century on independent history, Cuba has been able to raise its people to his own stature. Its achievements in education, health system, social security, cultural, sport and scientific development and other are recognised all over the world. Faithful of its historic tradition and the path marked by its founding fathers, Cuba has put at the disposition of the humankind its modest advancements, he said.

“Our work during these years was carried out in the midst of constant threats, media campaigns, terrorist and military attacks and the economic war of imperialism and its allies, all of which forced Cuba to invest huge human and material resources,” he added.

As a result of this and the global economic crisis, which Cuba has not escaped, deficiencies persist, but difficulties must be faced with the intelligent effort of all, he stated.

“In spite of the fact that the Cuban economy continued its progress within the current year, the gross domestic product grew four percent. Huge interest has attracted the creation of the Special Development Area of Mariel – destined to become an important pole of attraction for foreign investment and at the same time in testing ground in modern technologies and new forms and methods of business management, in harmony with the preservation of the environment,” he maintained.

The gradual progress continues not only in education, public health and social security, but also in all areas to maintain the sovereign nation status, dignity and independence, he asserted.

Also Cuba and Pakistan celebrated this year the 60th anniversary of the establishment diplomatic relationship. The 10th anniversary of the presence of Medical Brigade “Henry Revee” after the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan and the successful graduation of 900 Pakistanis students as doctors in Cuba is a good example in this regard.

“Our nations are enjoying a very good momentous and I want to highlight the gesture of the Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif, and also the Pakistanis people to donate 15,000 tonnes of basmati rice to our country,” he said.

These aforementioned facts show that, despite the geographical distance, Cuba and Pakistan have ties based on friendship and mutual aid, which is an example to the nations of the world, he mentioned.

“Finally, we would like to extend our most sincere congratulations to all the peoples of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, with the hope that progress can be made for the achievement of peace and may God grant them greater happiness and prosperity in the new year of 2016.

Thai Cabinet gives green light to increased compensation for rice traders

The Cabinet on Tuesday approved an increase in compensation for rice traders in 2016 by 204 million baht. It also decided to extend the Village Fund program to 3 March next year or until the program’s budget is depleted.

Government Spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha instructed all ministries to follow up on their projects and set periodic targets. They were also told to try to make the public see the results of their works clearly.

The PM asked national security units to ensure the public’s confidence in transportation, travel, economy and safety during the New Year holiday.

As for the drought situation, Gen.Prayut acknowledged the country’s water information compiled by units in the district level. According to them, Thailand now has 21 billion cubic meters of water, of which 18 – 19 billion cubic meters are expected to be used by August – September next year. The 21 billion cubic meters are therefore considered as sufficient for the next dry season.

The Cabinet stressed that a water use plan was necessary after the number of farmers who planted second-season rice did not decrease as expected.

The Cabinet gave nods to the 204-million-baht increase in compensation for rice traders due to the speculation that next year’s rice price will be lower than 8,000 baht/ton.

The Village Fund program will be extended to 31 March 2016 or until the 60-billion-baht budget is all used up so that potential villages will receive funding from the program.

OVER 50 RUSSIAN COMPANIES MULLING INVESTING IN PAKISTAN: TRADE REPRESENTATIVE

More than 50 Russian Companies are exploring opportunities for direct investment in Pakistan after the inking of $2 billion gas pipeline project from Karachi to Lahore, said Yury M Kozlov Trade Representative of the Russian Federation. Addressing the business community at Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI) here on Tuesday, he said the governments of the two countries are already making positive efforts to strengthen bilateral trade relations and in this connection Karachi Lahore Gas Pipeline project is most recent development.

He hoped that it will play an important role in attracting other Russian companies to invest in other projects in addition to launching joint ventures with their Pakistani counterparts. He also termed Karachi Steel Mills as the hallmark of Pak-Russia economic relations and said that Russia has already constructed Muzaffargarh and Gaddu power stations and was thus playing its role in resolving the energy related problems of Pakistan.

He said that many Russian firms are also interested in large, medium and small ventures. No doubt the major projects will be launched with the understanding of the two governments while private investors could start small and medium projects in collaboration with local businessmen. He said that many Russian firms are also interested in oil and gas exploration projects in Pakistan while he will also encourage the Russian investors.

Quoting economic sanctions imposed by Russian Federation on some countries, he said that Pakistani exporters should come forward and fill up this gap by exploring particularly textile goods to the Russian markets. He also responded to the various questions raised by the FCCI members and said there are some financial and banking issues which would be resolved very soon at the government level.

Earlier, in his welcome address, President FCCI Chaudhry Muhammad Nawaz said that Pakistan and Russian Federation enjoy good economic relations and diplomatic ties since 1948. The trade volume of US $155.31 million in 2014 showed that Pakistan exports were US $135.40 million against imports from Russian Federation of US $20.91 million, thus balance of trade is in favour of Pakistan. He said that the share of Pakistan exports is very small as against the total imports of Russian Federation which are around 286 billion dollars. He said that the point of worry is that there was negative growth of 11% per annum from 2010-2014. He said that there are vast prospects of expansion of bilateral trade including joint ventures in Textiles, agro-based industry, live stock industry, leather goods, oil and gas, Information Technology and Tourism.

He said that Pakistan is known worldwide for all types of leather & leather products, organic as well as inorganic agro-based products & food items, sports goods & surgical instruments. “Pakistan could supply all types of textile goods such as ready-made garments, home textiles and knitwear (hosiery) items to Russian markets”, he added.

Continuing, he said that power & gas sectors, where Pakistan is facing serious problems and needs Joint Ventures for IPPs and Russia being rich in oil and gas resources may come forward for joint ventures in hydel power projects including the run of the river type projects to resolve the energy crisis of our country.

He further said that it seems that there exists lack of communication which can be bridged through sector wise B2B meetings and sector specific information. He also suggested progressive banking channels between Pakistan and Russia to improve the trade volume particularly exports from Pakistan,

He said that Pakistan has 3rd largest reserves of coal and 5thlargest reserves of gold, mines and coppers in the world. “We are keen to invite the Russian investors to come here and exploit the vast untapped potential of Punjab particularly in the close vicinity of Faisalabad”, he added. He said that there is also need of creating linkage between Moscow Chambers of Trade & Commerce with FCCI so that direct access is made available to both sides. He also underlined the need to proceed for signing of Free Trade Agreements between both the countries, which may prove one of the best ways to enhance volume of bilateral trade.

Senior Vice President FCCI Syed Zia Alamdar Hussain said that Russian Federation is importing food items worth 43Billion dollars and after economic sanctions, it could import textile goods in addition to potato, rice and Kinno from Pakistan. Similarly, Russian federation could also help Pakistan in the manufacturing of cheap and effective agricultural appliances to encourage and promote mechanized farming in the country.

Ukraine reduced imports of rice

Since the beginning of the current season Ukraine has imported 21.7 KMT of rice. This is 19% less than during the same time period last year (26.8 KMT).

This trend was triggered by increasing rice production in Ukraine in the 2015/16 season due to expansion of the planted area. In 2015 gross crop of rice was 34% higher than last year (58.9 KMT compared with 43.9 KMT in 2014).

India and Pakistan still remain the major suppliers of rice to Ukraine. In July-November of the 2015/16 season their share in the total imports of rice to Ukraine equaled 72.5%.

Rice exports down in first 11 months

Rice HQ

Thai rice exports to the end of November this year were down 9.6% year-on-year to 8.6 million tonnes and the value down by 10.2% to US$4.1 billion, the Thai Rice Exporters Association said.

The association expected Thailand would export about 1 million tonnes of rice in December, lifting the total for the year to about 9.6 million tonnes, Thai media reported.

The association said foreign customers continued to order new and old rice, with continued demand for new rice for the Chinese New Year festival.

Exporters were delivering rice to China, Indonesia and the Philippines under government-to-government deals.

The association also said Thai rice should become more competitive because the huge supply had cut its price and the baht was weaker.

Rice miller urges campaign to cut food waste

Rice HQ

Rice miller Herculano “Joji” Co has urged the government, and the private sector, to address the issue of food waste nationwide, “starting with cutting post-harvest losses to curbing the vice of leaving 30 percent of the food unconsumed on the table.”

Co, longtime president of the Philippine Confederation of Grains Associations (Philcongrains), said that, by reducing post-harvest losses in rice farms, which is conservatively estimated at 10 percent annually, the country need not import rice from Vietnam and Thailand.

He pointed out that the cereal is a perishable commodity and it can lose its good eating quality in six months.

Co explained that it takes about two months for imports from Thailand and Vietnam to be collected, shipped and then delivered to the National Food Authority (NFA), so this means that the grains agency only has four months with which to turn over the stock to consumers.

Beyond six months, rice deteriorates, particularly grain that has been bombarded with herbicides, pesticides and nematicides, and which could even be heavy with arsenic.

Aside from losing 10 percent during post-harvest, government estimates the rice wastage to be anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent, Co noted. “This might look better compared to the 33.3 percent in food waste at the dinner tables, but is still significant, considering the fact that more than 23% of the Philippine population is dirt-poor.

“While the poor used to eat rice with their hands, they now have to use spoons since the rice they consume is actually porridge,” Co stressed.

One option to reduce rice wastage at the dinner table is to cut back on rice consumption and increase the share of vegetables, fish and meat that can be produced in rice farms nationwide, he argued.

This option was proposed by former Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) executive director Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco during a lecture at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) in November.

Co said the Rasco system involves the use of rice paddies as fish ponds, where ducks could also be raised, along with the cultivation of mongo, sweet potato, cabbage, pechay and lentils to provide a more rounded selection of nutrients to the diet.

“What we now see is the heavy consumption of rice by a huge segment of the population, with people adding soy sauce of patis and salt as substitute to the viand. This, of course, is unhealthy,” Co rued.

While the poor are making do with unhealthy meals, Co said, those who can afford to spend also tend to throw more kitchen waste into the garbage bin.

The turnover in wasted food alone, Co stressed, accounts for 7% of annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions based on an estimate made by the World Resources Institute (WRI).

Wasted food, studies by the University of the Philippines at Los Baños (UPLB) revealed, accounts for the loss of 25 percent of calories and 25 percent of the water used in food production.

Co said that Filipino food chains, restaurants and food processors, along with supermarkets, wet markets and other institutions, would do well “to promote a diet that is ethical, healthy and ecologically-sustainable.”

Export turnabout still elusive in November

Exports plunged for an 11th straight month in November, prompting the Commerce Ministry to warn that full-year shipments may fall by 5.5% instead of the 3% contraction projected earlier.
The ministry yesterday said exports fell by 7.42% year-on-year last month to a value of US$17.2 billion.
For the first 11 months, shipment value fell by 5.51% year-on-year to $197 billion.
November exports of agricultural and agribusiness products fell by 7% year-on-year to $2.58 billion, driven by lower shipments of rubber (-12.7%), rice (-7.9%), frozen, processed and canned seafood (-14.9%) and sugar (-32.5%).
Exports of industrial products fell by 6.8% to $13.6 billion, led by weakness in oil-related products such as finished oil, chemicals and plastic pellets.
Exports to China fell by 6.1%, while those to Japan were off 4.7%. Shipments to Europe fell by 6.7% and those to the US by 6.3%.
Imports fell by 9.5% year-on-year last month to $16.9 billion after tumbling 18.2% in October.
November imports of capital goods fell by 1.7% and raw material imports by 10.1%, while those of consumer goods rose by 3.3%. Imports of auto parts jumped 23.5% from a year earlier.
For the first 11 months, imports fell by 11.2% to $187 billion. Thailand recorded a trade surplus of $299 million last month, bringing the 11-month surplus to $10.2 billion.
Somkiat Triratpan, director of the Office of Trade Policy and Strategy, said Thailand’s lower exports were due mainly to the slow pace of the global economic recovery and low oil prices.
He said Thai exports still fared better than other countries with contractions such as Australia (-21.5%), Singapore (-14.3%), France (-13.5%), Japan (-9.2%), South Korea (-7.7%) and the US (-6.5%).
The Commerce Ministry said border trade between Thailand and the four neighbouring countries of Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia rose by 10.9% to 998 billion baht in the first 11 months.
But based on 11-month performance, Mr Somkiat confirmed full-year exports could be subject to a 5.5% contraction against a backdrop of falling prices for farm products and oil.
The Bank of Thailand last week cut its export forecast to a 5.5% contraction from 5%, citing weaker demand from China and low global oil prices.
The central bank expects a flat reading for exports in 2016, but Mr Somkiat said his ministry was targeting 5% growth, boosted by the global recovery, state stimulus measures and development of special economic zones.
He acknowledged that low oil prices would pose a key challenge to export value in 2016, noting that crude prices had dropped to $36 a barrel from the $50 predicted by the International Monetary Fund.
Sompop Manarungsan, president of the Panyapiwat Institute of Management, said Thai exports could see flat growth next year with the global economy remaining fragile.
Foreign exchange rates are expected to be volatile, given the prospect of the US Federal Reserve raising interest rates further in the new year.
“Exchange rates will become the key variables next year, putting more pressure on international trade and raising costs for exporters and importers in handling foreign exchange,” Mr Sompop said.

Slight Decline in Rice Production in 2015

Rice production declined slightly in 2015 due to drought in some areas, according to estimates from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, but officials say this will not affect domestic supply or exports.

Cambodia produced 9.2 million tons of rice this year compared with 9.3 million tons of rice in 2014, according to preliminary data.

Hean Vanhan, deputy general director of general department of agriculture, said rice production declined slightly because of drought in some areas. However, there remains about 3 million tons of rice in stock, he added.

“It does not affect food security or exports,” Mr. Vanhan said. “In the first six months the ministry of water resource predicts that it will be raining less next year, so the ministry has alerted farmers to keep water to grow their crops, and not to waste water.”

Hun Lak, vice president of Cambodia Rice Federation, said that a lack of water had taken its toll on this year’s crop.

“The Mekong River water level did not reach some irrigation systems, so the production declined a little bit if compared with 2014. Overall the impact is from climate change, and it affected not only Cambodia, but also Vietnam and Thailand,” Mr. Lak said. “However, it does not affect exports because we produced a surplus of rice.”

Var Saroeun, a farmer who is a member of the Mongkol Agriculture Development Community in Battambang province, said that yields this year would be less than last year due to drought. “Rice yields are low this year, but we are continuing to grow rice for the dry season,” Mr. Saroeun said. “Yields are not only low but the price is lower than last year,” he said. Last year farmers received about $300 per ton and this year they are getting $250 per ton.

There will be little relief in sight for rice farmers next year, as El Nino is expected to again reduce rainfall over the first six months of the year.

“Cambodia was caught in between El Nino and La Nina for three months in 2015, but was not much effected by the drought. El Nino happened once in 2010, but did not result in as much harm as we expect in 2016,” ministry spokesman Chan Yutha told Khmer Times last week.

He said working groups were now starting to reserve water in 14 provinces along the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers into pools, to maintain a supply for farming across about 420,000 hectares in case of emergency.

Thailand seen struggling to move rice mountains by 2017 deadline

Thailand’s military government will struggle to offload by a 2017 deadline some 14 million tonnes of rice in state warehouses left over from a policy of the civilian government it ousted, traders and exporters said.

The government inherited 18.7 million tonnes of rice built up under the previous government’s rice subsidy scheme and has since held 12 auctions, offloading about 5 million tonnes of rice worth $1.39 billion.

The junta earlier this year set a target to offload the remaining 13.7 million tonnes by 2017, including 6 million tonnes of spoiled rice that the commerce ministry says is no longer fit for human consumption.

The disposals have been a headache for the government, which is also trying to appease rice farmers accustomed to government subsidies and minimum prices that were sometimes double the market rate.

The rice in Thai state warehouses is more than three times the amount imported in 2014 by top consumer China, according to USDA statistics, and rice traders and exporters doubt it can be cleared by 2017.

“I don’t think it’s possible, but even if it is, offloading that much rice within a short time will have a negative effect on market prices,” said Supachai Vorraapinyaporn, president of Tanasan Rice Group, Thailand’s third-biggest rice exporter.

“It will also encourage bidders to delay bids and wait to purchase rice at even lower prices in the next auctions.”

One rice trader, who declined to be named because he did not want to be seen as critical of the state, said the government’s goal was “unrealistic”.

At its last auction, the government sold 37,400 tonnes of rice worth $5.50 million for industrial uses such as ethanol production.

Supachai said the government should change its strategy and sell according to demand.

The government says, however, that it is prudent about when it holds auctions.

“We’re trying to be careful with timings to not affect market prices”, Duangporn Rodphaya, chief of the foreign trade department at the commerce ministry, told reporters on Tuesday.

The commerce ministry’s permanent secretary, Chutima Bunyapraphasara, said the government will meet its deadline.

“We’re still on track,” she said.

In January, a military-appointed legislature impeached ousted former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for negligence over a government rice scheme that distorted markets and built up massive stockpiles. ($1 = 36.0300 baht)

Rice farmers looking at dry spell

Farmers and exporters have expressed concerns over an Agriculture Ministry notice issued on Wednesday asking farmers to have only one harvest this upcoming dry season because of water shortages across the country, given that this could affect the paddy output next year.

The ministry notice cited a prolonged El Niño period going into next year and suggested that farmers refrain from planting a second rice crop, even if they had access to sufficient water. Instead, the ministry said farmers could plant other less water-intensive crops.

“Farmers should not plant rice for a second time this dry season, because it will consume more water,” said Eang Sophallet, spokesman of Ministry of Agriculture. “They should keep water for daily usage and start farming crops that do not need much water.”

Given the drought conditions in certain parts of the country, Sophallet said the ministry will cooperate with farmers on conserving water and help them with planting other crops.

“It will impact slightly the livelihood of farmers and the rice industry. Based on the estimates the impact will be only 1 per cent on exports,” Sophallet said.

Som Song, director of Chamroeurn Phal Raingkesey agriculture community in Battambang, said farmers were aware of the low water levels and drought-like conditions, but were worried if they could not plant a second rice crop.

“The water channel and ponds in the commune are drying, and it will dry up by February,” he said, “I hope that the government will dig the deep well for us, but I am still worried.”

According to Song, 90 per cent of the people, which was around 2,000 families, in his commune were dependent on rice farming and restrictions on planting a second crop could affect their incomes. He added that planting a new type of crop was easier said than done.

“We do not have the experience to grow other crops and it is not in our interests to do it because it will be difficult to payback our loans,” he said, “Most young farmers will have to leave and work outside the province again.”

Song Saran, CEO of rice exporter Amru Rice, said the reduction in production will affect the output of white rice, which is expected to be harvested in the next two weeks.

He added that this could also impact the price of white rice in the market – a product which is already facing intense competition from Myanmar rice exports.

“The drought will impact exports because we will have the shortage of white rice, which is in high demand in the market and the price will increase,” Saran said.

He added that farmers normally have more paddy than can be bought by rice millers, which they stored and then sold to neighbouring countries.

This additional income, he said, will become more difficult to earn if farmers are unable to grow and store enough rice.

Srey Chanthy, an independent economist specialising in agriculture, said that with almost 80 per cent of the workforce dependent on rice farming, there was a greater need for better irrigational facilities, which could lessen the effects of the El Niño.

“Farmers have no choice but to do rice farming, because they do not know the technicalities of other crops and the land conditions may not be conducive as well,” he said, adding that in such a situation farming communities will see more people moving to the cities to work in garment factories.