Monthly Archives: January 2017

Malaysia does not import fake rice as alleged

The Health Ministry said today Malaysia does not import fake rice as alleged in a recent viral social media report.

Director-General of Health Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said this was verified by Padiberas Nasional Berhad (Bernas).

Furthermore, monitoring by the ministry found that three brands of rice said to have been produced from plastic were not sold in the country, he said in a statement.

“As notified via a Health Ministry press statement dated May 21, 2015, the rice Malaysia imports is usually from Vietnam, Thailand and Pakistan as disclosed by Bernas.

“According to Bernas, the rice is imported in bulk and packed in this country in various sizes,” he said.

The statement said it was needless for the people to worry because food safety monitoring and enforcement were conducted constantly to ensure that food in the market was safe for consumption.

Consumers can lodge complaints with the ministry if they have doubts about the safety status of any food in the market. Their complaints can be sent through the district health offices or state health departments.

They can also register their complaints on the website http://moh.spab.gov.my or Facebook of the Food Safety and Quality Division at www.facebook.com/bkkmhq.

Pakistan comes to Brussels for trade and human rights

As soon as Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of the USA from the Trans-Pacific free trade agreement known known as TPP, the Pakistani Minister of Commerce Khurram Dastgir Khan rushed to Brussels in order to assess his country’s trade relations with the European Union.

This comes at a time when uncertainty also reigns over the other treaty being negotiated by the US with the EU, known as . Pakistan now expects being able to take advantage of these uncertainties and to expand markets. New Europe asked the Minister of Commerce Khurram Dastgir Khan whether his country, Pakistan, will try to take advantage of the weakening trade relations between the US and the EU.

Khurram Dastgir Khan: The USA has traditionally been Pakistan’s single largest export market. There will be no extraordinary changes now.

At the moment, we are analysing the situation we would like to be engaged in. Particularly, Pakistan is exporting many goods that are no longer produced in the US, particularly textiles. Still, since 2014 the EU became a major partner and gave us the GSP+ status. We wanted the Americans to give us the same status, but apparently both Bush and Obama’s administrations thought that Congress and the Senate would not agree to such concessions.

However, what is alarming us is the kind of “protectionism” Trump is promoting. If different countries start to go down that way, parts of the global economic regime will be upset. That’s why we are now in very close cooperation with the EU and with the World Trade Organisation. We are trying to support each other against protectionism. We can see that in the last 30 years, trade, particularly in China, has been the single and the greatest instrument that brought out hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Pakistan wants to use this tool to reduce poverty and bring prosperity to its citizens.

New Europe: To reach a constant growth in the textile sector, or in any other industrial sector, the main thing Pakistan needs is power. For generating that power, Pakistan has been relying on Chinese investments. How far in that respect are you now in trying to be more independent?

Khurram Dastgir Khan: Chinese investment is coming to us in different areas, including in solar and green energy. But it is not just the Chinese who invest in our country. Pakistan is also financing from its own resources three major natural gas fields.

The equipment is manufactured in the US. The Chinese have been major investors, and we expect by the middle of next year to bring in some additional ten thousand megawatts into the system, which will be more than sufficient to cover our shortages.

New Europe: China is also exporting a lot of textiles, competing with you. How can you compete with China without keeping the wages very low? What is the benefit for your population?

Khurram Dastgir Khan: China is very competitive indeed, but in Pakistan we have the whole chain of production, including cultivating cotton and sending it up to the cloth factories. We produce clothes and textiles without relying on outside aid. We export across the whole region.

New Europe: So does India.

Khurram Dastgir Khan: That’s true. So does India. Interestingly, in the last 5 years India has become our major competitor, although 5 years ago that was not the case. India also has the whole chain of production. Similarly, Bangladesh is very competitive. But Bangladesh has had this status for a long time and it doesn’t need any concession from our side.

New Europe: The textile industry is not just very dependent on the market and vulnerable economically, but it is also vulnerable in terms of climate. You need water, you need certain climate circumstances. So, how vulnerable is this sector which is so crucial for you?

Khurram Dastgir Khan: That is a challenge, indeed. In the last two seasons we had some problems. We are also vulnerable to the world prices.

New Europe: How worried are you, economically speaking, regarding the Indian PM Modi’s threat to use water as a kind of weapon in the ongoing conflict with Pakistan?

Khurram Dastgir Khan: We are not worried, but we take the threat very seriously. We will ensure that it will not happen, because water is a life and death matter, and restricting access to it would have very serious consequences. We would like India to respect our Indus Water 1960 agreement. There were a few serious issues recently that we would like to resolve by negotiations. However, any threat to violate this treaty will be taken very seriously and retaliated.

New Europe: In which way?

Khurram Dastgir Khan: I can’t say now, but we take it very seriously. As an example, a few years ago they built a new dam on our river. When they were filling it, the water did not flow to us, which hurt our agricultural sector directly.

New Europe: Especially the Punjab province.

Khurram Dastgir Khan: That’s true. The more so since Pakistan produces not only cotton, but both rice and sugar. The treaty says that you have to ensure a ‘no leverage’ flow. The Indians said that they are going to maintain it and they did it finally.

But we are very sensitive not only to the fact that they have to abide by the treaty but also that we have to be confident that it will not hurt us seasonally. Pakistan is committed to reach peace and we do not want the water issue to be used as a threat to us. We want to reach mutual prosperity through economic connectivity with India, because the shortest way to reach prosperity is through trade with your neighbours.

New Europe: It was a bit surprising to hear that you as a Minister of Trade handed over a report on human rights violations in a neighbouring country, India, which is not usually what Trade Ministers do. They try to bypass human rights issues and to connect economy and trade. What was your motivation?

Khurram Dastgir Khan: First of all, I did not give the report to my distinguished partner trade commissioner Malmstrom, but gave it to the new President of the EU Parliament, Tajani, who has to deal with these issues. The reason I gave the dossier is to remove the label of “India-Pakistan” from the Kashmir and see it as an issue of human suffering. People are suffering there, they are blinded, and they are killed. Europe is a standard bearer of human rights, of the rights of minorities. Europe must see the Kashmir situation purely as an issue of human suffering and try to do whatever it can to protect those people.

Iranian Government Amends Rice Import Tariffs

The government has amended tariffs for importing rice by reducing it from the previous 40% to 26%, Trade Promotion Organization of Iran announced.

It was announced on January 21 that the rate would stand at 5% following a series of tariff cuts on a list of agro-food products.

Based on the new regulation, tariffs on butter, meat and bananas will be trimmed to 5% from 20%, 26% and 26% respectively. Tariffs for pulses have also been cut drastically. Split peas will be subject to a 10% tariff, down from the current 15%. Rates on various other types of beans have been reduced to 5%.

The legislation describes these commodities as “basic, essential and urgent”, adding that the new tariffs are currently in effect.

The move is aimed at keeping food prices in check in the runup to the new Iranian year (starting March 21, 2017). Meat and agricultural products have witnessed a hike in the past few weeks.

However, Shamsali Hajizadeh, the head of Agricultural Commission at Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, believes the reduction in tariffs is unlikely to lead to lower prices.

“Manipulating tariff rates benefits neither the producer nor the consumer. Only the intermediaries stand to gain from it,” he told the Persian daily Shahrvand.

Hajizadeh criticized the government for its “flawed” agricultural policies over the past few years.

Instead of manipulating tariff rates, Hajizadeh believes that the government should focus on enhancing productivity to minimize costs and reduce prices.

The Iranian government has a history of placing periodic bans on the import of rice and sugar, among other commodities, in support of domestic producers.

There is an all-out ban on rice imports during harvest seasons, for example. This year the measure was in place from July 21 to November 21.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Iranians consume more than 3 million tons of rice every year, of which almost 2.2 million tons are supplied by domestic farmers.

“This [domestic supply] does not suffice demand. We need imports, but imports that are limited and controlled,” Agriculture Minister Mahmoud Hojjati said in November.

Nonetheless, figures show rice imports have been on the rise, despite all the restrictive measures.

Importers shipped more than 630,000 tons of rice valued at $527 million into the country during the nine months to December 20, 2016, which registered a 22% and 4% growth in volume and value respectively compared with the corresponding period of a year ago, according to the latest data released by the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration.

Sugar, chocolate and candy industries have been complaining in the past few months that the commodity was scarce due to restrictive regulations regarding imports. The government has dismissed the claim though.

Temporary bans on sugar imports are imposed mostly to prevent oversupply and support local manufacturers.

According to Iran Sugar Association, Iran is currently 70% self-sufficient in sugar production and a complete self-sufficiency is possible within the next four years.

Sugar production is estimated to exceed 1.52 million tons by the end of the current fiscal year (March 20, 2017). Domestic demand for sugar stands at 2.2 million tons annually. Therefore, the import of close to 700,000 tons is needed, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

The government also imports a few hundred thousand tons for its strategic reserves every year.

Stakeholders alarmed over rice export slump

A sharp fall in the rice exports, during the first half of the current financial year, has steeped the stakeholders yet deeper in uncertainty over the future of their business, which has been stuck in the desperate straits for over last two years, an industry handout said on Saturday.

“It is a matter of serious concern as the rice exports have slumped by no less than 18 percent in July-December 2016-17,” Chairman Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) Mahmood Moulvi said in the statement. “A tough competition in the international market has weighed on the local rice exports big time.”

Deploring the nonchalance of the government, he held that despite being the country’s second largest earner of foreign exchange, rice export sector was not getting the attention it deserved. “In order to cover their losses and make them more competitive in the international market, the rice exporters must be granted rebates without delay,” said he.

Moulvi stressed the sector has been facing hardship and challenges for the last 2-3 years and needed to be bailed out urgently. “We are appealing to the government to announce a relief package for the survival of this important sector,” he said, suggesting a 2-5 percent rebate scheme on higher exports would be a good booster for the sector.

Continuing his statement, the REAP chief added the 2016 was a very challenging year for the rice trade due to tame prices and looming competition in the world market.

“Even a low domestic commodity market failed to help Pakistani exporters compete with their counterparts from the neighbouring country, where prices offered were much lower,” he said.

Talking on trade with Iran, a good buyer of Pakistani Basmati rice, he said despite lifting of international sanctions, Pakistani exporters were still unable to initiate official exports with Iran in the absence of a banking channel. “The government of Pakistan and State Bank of Pakistan are requested resolve the issue on priority basis,” Moulvi said .

Fall of rice export

Rice production in Pakistan holds an extremely key position in agriculture and the national economy. Pakistan is the world’s 4th largest producer of rice. It is the second largest export commodity after textile and placing Pakistan in the top five rice exporting countries of the world. Rice is the third largest crop after wheat and cotton which is grown over 10 percent of the total cropped area. Rice is highly valued cash crop and it accounts for 6.7 percent in value added in agriculture and 1.6 percent in GDP. Pakistan grows enough high quality rice to meet both domestic demand and allow for exports of around one million ton per annum.
Regrettably, rice export industry has been facing severe suffering since last couple of years and unable to compete in the world market due to which its exports were on drop. The present PML (N) government has taken many good measures regarding strengthen the economy of country including successfully completion of IMF program, relief package for textile sector and Kisan package for agriculture. There is a dire need in the current scenario for making arrangements to enhance the rice export. By increasing the export of rice not only more foreign exchange would come but also domestic rice industry would overcome the crisis.

No fake rice in Malaysia, says Health Ministry

The Health Ministry has clarified that several brands of rice, which are said to be fake and made from plastic, had not been imported into the country.

The brands are Kokeshi Rice, Kohinoor Basmati Rice dan NICR.

In a statement today, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the ministry had been monitoring the types of rice available in the local market and can confirm that the fake rice are not sold in the country.

“As stated in a press release by the ministry on May 21 in 2015, rice imported into the country are usually from Vietnam, Thailand and Pakistan as confirmed by Bernas (Padi Beras Nasional Bhd).

“Bernas also added that all the rice are imported in bulk and packaged locally in a variety of sizes,” he said.

With the clarification, he said the public need not worry about fake rice as the monitoring and enforcement of food safety are constantly carried out to ensure that food available in the market is safe.

Should consumers have doubt on the safety of a particular food item in the market, Dr Noor Hisham said they can make a complaint to the ministry through the state Health Department or the nearest district Health Office.

Complaints can also be made at ministry’s website, http://moh.spab.gov.my and the Facebook page of the ministry’s Food Safety and Quality Division at www.facebook.com/bkkmhq.

In June last year, the Health Ministry had also clarified allegations on fake rice.

A producing factory in Kedah was alleged to produces fake rice, which was untrue and baseless.

Indonesia to donate 10,000 MT of rice to Sri Lanka

The Government of Indonesia will donate 10,000 metric tons (MT) of rice to Sri Lanka on a request made by President Maithripala Sirisena and it will arrive in Sri Lanka soon, the Government Information Department said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Rural Economic Affairs has taken steps to issue 90,958 MT of paddy of the Paddy Marketing Board at district level to private paddy mill owners and Lanka Sathosa to be processed into rice.

It further considered that though Lanka Sathosa has already processed the paddy and a kilogram of rice is being sold through Sathosa outlets at Rs. 76, private mill owners have still not issued them to the market.

The Cabinet has decided to appoint a Cabinet Subcommittee to issue the rest of the stocks in a suitable method and to take action against mill owners who have omitted the issuing of rice stocks to the market.

Cabinet of ministers also paid attention to the need of importing rice from neighboring countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam unless the price of rice is reduced.

Asia Rice-Gains in India on robust demand; Thai prices drop amid quiet market

Rice prices in India, top global exporter of the grain, advanced this week on robust domestic and international demand, while Thai prices fell in a quiet market.

Prices for India’s 5 percent broken parboiled rice RI-INBKN5-P1 rose this week to $354-$359 per tonne, from $352-$357 last week, as demand for paddy or unmilled rice was robust from both local and overseas buyers.

“Since paddy prices have risen, exporters were forced to raise milled rice prices,” said an exporter based at Kakinada in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

Government agencies were also actively buying paddy for the public distribution system.

“Supplies have improved, but demand is surpassing supplies,” said a Mumbai based exporter.

The Indian government’s move to scrap high value currency notes in November to crack down on corruption also disrupted supply chains in November and December and many local rice millers couldn’t replenish their inventories.

India mainly exports non-basmati rice to African countries and premier basmati rice to Middle East. Basmati is a long-grained, fragrant rice that is typically grown in the South Asian subcontinent.

In Thailand, the world’s second-biggest rice exporter, prices of 5-percent broken rice RI-THBKN5-P1 fell to $355-$360 a tonne, free-on-board (FOB) Bangkok, from $360-$365 last week.

“It’s quiet. Nothing significant is going on in the market,” said a Bangkok-based trader.

“Prices should remain stable for the next few weeks,” he said.

Vietnam’s 5-percent broken rice RI-VNBKN5-P1 was quoted at $335-$340 a tonne, FOB Saigon, on Wednesday, narrower from $335-$345 a tonne last week.

Vietnam, the world’s third-biggest rice exporter, will ship an estimated 325,000 tonnes of the grain in January, down 32.3 percent from a year earlier, the agriculture ministry said on Thursday.

Revenue from the Vietnamese rice exports, mostly shipped to China, Ghana and the Philippines, will reach an estimated $136 million this month, or 35.1 percent lower than at the same time in 2016, the agriculture ministry said in a monthly report.

Vietnam’s rice market is closed as the country celebrates its Lunar New Year holidays, which begin on Thursday and run through until next Wednesday.

On Tuesday, results from a tender from Iraq’s state grains buyer showed offers were made for 240,000 tonnes of Indian rice, 110,000-120,000 tonnes of Thai rice, and 100,000 tonnes of Vietnamese rice.

The export industry

Rice production in Pakistan holds an important position in agriculture and the national economy. The country is the world’s 4th largest producer of rice. It is the second largest export commodity after textile placing Pakistan in the top five rice exporting countries of the world. Rice is the third largest crop after wheat and cotton which is grown over 10 percent of the total cropped area. Rice is highly valued cash crop and it accounts for 6.7 percent in value added in agriculture and 1.6 percent in the GDP. Pakistan grows enough high quality rice to meet both domestic demand and allow for exports of around one million ton per annum.

Unfortunately, the rice export industry has been facing severe suffering since the last couple of years and unable to compete in the world market due to which its exports were in decline. The present PML-N government has taken many good measures to strengthen the country’s economy including a successful completion of the IMF program, relief packages for the textile sector and the Kisan package for the agriculture sector. In the same way, the government should make some arrangements to enhance rice exports. The export of rice will not only bring more foreign exchange into the country but the domestic rice industry will also overcome the crisis.

Rice exports to rise slightly in 2017: insiders

The Vietnam Food Association (VFA) has forecast that Vietnam’s rice exports in 2017 will reach over 5 million tonnes, a slight rise over 2016.

Rice Export

World husked rice production in the 2016-2017 crop is predicted to reach a record volume of 480 million tonnes, about 1.6 percent increase year on year, said VFA General Secretary Huynh Minh Hue at a conference in Ho Chi Minh City on January 23.

Meanwhile, global rice inventory is also forecast to stand at the highest level since 2001. The inventory is likely to reduce in major exporters but rise in small ones and importers, leading to a fall in import as well as limitation of rice trading contracts.

Hue revealed that in 2016, ASEAN countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia imported only 10 percent of their volumes they bought each year from Vietnam in previous years at 2-3 million tonnes.

He explained the situation to the countries’ new policies in food security, which helped them ensure domestic food and reduce dependence on import. The liberalisation trend in rice trading was also more popular in these countries, affecting their rice contracts, he said, adding the fierce competition from regional exporters as another reason.

In that context, Huynh The Nang, VFA President and General Director of Southern Food Corporation, said that Vietnam will continue facing difficulties in exporting rice in 2017. He predicted that exports to the Chinese market, the largest market of Vietnamese rice, will also not meet expectation as only 22 firms are currently allowed to export rice to the market with strict requirements in food safety and origin regulations.

According to the VFA, rice inventory in 2016 was 443,000 tonnes, while the upcoming Winter-Spring crop is about to be harvested. The association also forecast low price and difficulty in consumption due to abundant supply, and rice exports for 2017 will be over 5 million tonnes.

The association suggested that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development propose the Government to stockpile rice harvested in the Winter-Spring crop to stablise the market and ensure profit for farmers.

Last year, rice export volume reached nearly 4.9 million tonnes worth 2.1 billion USD, a sharp fall of 25.5 percent in volume and 20.5 percent in value over 2015. However, domestic rice price still rise compared to the previous year.