Monthly Archives: February 2017

Rice prices soar as millers capitalise on little imports

The retail prices of rice went up as high as 23 per cent in the last six months as millers were allegedly taking advantage of almost no import of the coarse varieties that majority people consume.

Importers said they were not importing the coarse varieties of rice due to 25 per cent duty that has made imports costlier than local rice.

The price hike of different varieties of rice ranged between 6 to 23 per cent during the period, according to official figures, showing higher rate of hike for the mostly consumed varieties and lower rate of increase for the less consumed varieties.

Market observers, however, said that the import restriction should have little impact on the price hike as imports meet very insignificant percentage of the country’s demand, which is also much lower than local production.

The country produced 34.57 million tonnes of rice against a 31.0 million tonnes of demand in FY’16, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and Directorate General of Food (DGoF).

But the prices went up even in the peak harvesting season, said the observers.

Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) Secretary Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan said millers were pocketing hefty profits, depriving both the farmers and consumers.

He said the millers’ cost for Jeerashail or Miniket, Boro season variety, was maximum Tk 33-Tk 34 a kg as paddy price was highest Tk 750 a maund.

“But they are selling the variety at Tk 44-Tk 54 a kg,” he added.

Md Sarwar Alam Kajol, a Naogaon based importer, said the import of daily edible rice remained almost halted, following the imposition of the duty.

He said the import cost of Indian Swarna now stands at Tk 36-Tk 37 a kg as compared to Tk 32-Tk 33 a kg at the local mills.

The import declined sharply to only 41,000 tonnes worth around US $ 20 million in the first seven months of the current fiscal year (FY’17), which was much lower than 0.19 million tonnes worth $ 61 million in the corresponding period of last FY, according to the Food Ministry data.

The period’s import was lowest in last four financial years. The period’s decade low was recorded at 0.04 million tonnes in FY’13.

Market observers viewed that the imposition of the duties might have discouraged the private imports this fiscal year, apparently affecting the supply side to some extent if not much.

Under this situation, many millers are believed to have taken the advantage of seeking higher prices although the farmers were also getting some dividends.

Rice were now selling at Tk 32 (coarse) per kg to Tk 48 (finer) at village level as against Tk 26 to Tk 44 in 2015-16, according to the Department of Agricultural Marketing (DAM).

However, Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) said rice prices increased by Tk 4 – Tk 6 a kg in Dhaka in the last six months.

The prices of finer varieties like Miniket, Jeerashail, Najirshail increased by Tk 4 a kg; medium quality Brridhan-28, Lata and coarse variety of Swarna by Tk 6 a kg in the country, according to the TCB and DAM.

The TCB data also revealed the prices increased even in peak Aman harvesting season (November-January, FY’17).

However, having a zero duty facility, the private sector had imported a huge quantity of rice during the period from FY’14 to FY’16.

Rice import hit an all time-high of 1.49 million tonnes worth $ 350 million in FY’15.

“The outcome was a price debacle during the harvesting seasons as local production was also an all-time high of 34.7 million tones,” additional secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture Md Mosharaf Hossain said.

He said the low prices of paddy persisted during all the harvesting seasons from 2014 and 2016 (Boro season).

“And the consequence was that many of the farmers shifted to other crops which caused decline in production of rice to 34.57 million tonnes in FY’16,” he said.

“Boro cropping area reduced by above 0.12 million hectares in the last FY,” he added.

He said higher import duty should be continued to help farmers getting fare prices, which is necessary to keep them in rice cultivation.

Asked, President of Bangladesh Auto Major Husking Mills Association Md Abdur Rashid said traders can store paddy or rice for maximum 60 days.

“We are buying finer paddy from the local market now at Tk 1050-Tk 1150 a maund,” he said.

However, to help farmers and to maintain higher production, the government removed zero duty facility on rice import from middle of FY’16, which was increased to 25 per cent from FY’17.

Paddy was selling at Tk 760-Tk 820 (coarse variety) and Tk 800 -Tk 950 (aromatic) a maund (40 kg) during the Aman harvest season that ended last month, said DAM assistant director T M Rashed Khan.

He said the paddy price was only Tk 450 to Tk 750 a maund in last seven harvesting seasons from 2014 to 2016 against a production cost of Tk 740 to Tk 800.

Executive director of the local think tank Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr Fahmida Khatun said that a dilemma always persisted over initiating the rice import policy as the policy makers take into account fair price for farmers in one hand and interest of consumers on the other.

“The import policy should have checks and balances. Import restriction could be lessened for a period of time to reduce the consumers’ woes,” she added.

But the price trend of rice and the rate of inflation of last few years should also be taken into consideration to see whether real price of the staple increased or not, said Dr Fahmida.

“The national statistical agencies will have to provide authentic data on local demand and supply on quick and regular basis,” she added.

Sustainable rice production

Last time the world witnessed a phenomenal growth in agricultural productivity was back in the 60s. What American biologist Norman Borlaug initiated in Mexican wheat fields during the mid-20th century, the first breeder of then newly established International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Dr Peter Jennings, did the same for rice. Together, these two men brought a phenomenal change in rice and wheat production thereby ushering in a Green Revolution, long being credited for averting a billion deaths.

Dwarfing of wheat and rice plants, thereby turning the world’s two of the most consumed staples highly yielding, was a game changer. It saw Mexico becoming a net wheat exporter by 1963, India and Pakistan literally doubling their wheat baskets between 1965 and 1970, Borlaug winning a deserving Nobel in peace in 1970 and nations across Asia, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere benefiting from semi-dwarf ‘Miracle Rice’ IR8.

IRRI’s hand in helping the rice-eating world through breeding better varieties of rice began shortly after the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations established the Institute with the help of the Philippine government in 1960. IRRI scientists sought to replicate in rice what had been done in wheat in Mexico, and successfully bred IR8—a semi-dwarf variety that journalists dubbed ‘Miracle Rice’ because it could produce twice the amount of rice grains that tall varieties produced. IR8 has been credited with averting a humanitarian crisis that would have otherwise plunged the world’s poor into abject hunger. Since then, more than 900 IRRI varieties have been released in 78 countries, across five continents. Some of these were bred to be resistant to insects or diseases, and they can withstand poor soils.

In November 2016, IRRI celebrated the 50th anniversary of the official release of the semi-dwarf rice variety IR8 to Asia and the world. It became popular with farmers because it had short growth duration and a high-yield capacity related to its response to nitrogen fertiliser.

Since that time (the mid-20th century) the world has seen its population grow from 2.5 billion (1950) to 7.4 billion (2016) and its per capita arable land nearly halve from 0.37 hectares (1961) to 0.197 (2013).

Half of today’s world population depends on rice for survival, and, owing to predicted population increases and a general trend towards urbanisation, per hectare of land that currently provides enough rice to feed 27 people will need to support 43 by 2050.

In December 2021, Bangladesh will celebrate 50 years of independence. Keeping that timeframe in consideration, Bangladesh’s Vision 2021 rightly set goals: a) to become a participatory democracy; b) to have an efficient, accountable, transparent and decentralised system of governance; c) to become a poverty-free middle-income country; d) to have a nation of healthy citizens; to develop a skilled and creative human resource; e) to become a globally integrated regional economic and commercial hub; and f) to be environmentally sustainable; and to be a more inclusive and equitable society.

In 1971, we had a population of 75 million and our food production was a little over 10 million metric tonnes. Thanks to adoption of modern farm technologies, policy support, better breeds and inputs and above all a hard working farming community, today we grow over 35 million metric tonnes of cereal crops.

So it’s true that since the Borlaug and Jennings days, the world’s food production grew dramatically keeping pace with an alarmingly faster rate of population growth. To cite a country-specific example, we can easily refer to the Bangladesh scenario. Over the past four decades, Bangladesh succeeded outpacing the population growth rate with its growth in rice output. The country has more than tripled the production of its staple in the space of 45 odd years.

But questions arise whether we have reached a plateau – where any further growth in farm outputs would be too hard to achieve. We have a large population base and despite a falling population growth rate, it’ll take a few more years before we get stabilised by the time farmlands continue to get scarcer thanks to rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and infrastructure developments.

Achieving self-sufficiency in rice at this point of time is no way perpetual. History shows we have reached such points in a few occasions in the past when output matched the demands but again we did slip back – not because of any production decrease rather, because of population increase.

More importantly, attaining autarky in rice, the staple, is not enough to proclaim ourselves food self-sufficient. We need a reality check here. After rice, maize emerges as the second most important cereal crop relegating wheat into third position in Bangladesh. We’re still not able to meet the total domestic requirements of maize thanks to a huge feed demand triggered by a burgeoning fish and poultry industry. And over 75 percent of our annual wheat demands are met by imports.

Currently, more than 790 million people in the world do not have enough to eat, and over 280 million, in other words, nearly a third of food-starved people, live in our part of the world (South Asia). Producing enough food does not necessarily guarantee people’s right to food. To make sure people have rightful access to food all the time, ensuring its availability, stability, accessibility, sustainability and adequacy is equally important.

Standing at this crossroads, we need to revisit the whole range of farming issues – how sustainable the heavily input-driven production system is, how prudent it is to overexploit our fast depleting groundwater table and what would be our coping mechanisms to face impacts of climate change in the farm sector.

Prior to Green Revolution we had rain-fed rice like Aman and Aus but thanks to introduction or irrigated dry season rice Boro during the winter there has been phenomenal growth in the staple output. But for that to happen we started sinking millions of shallow and deep-set pumps to draw water from underground and irrigate the Boro rice. At the same time we started using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. We had also advanced in farm mechanisation thereby dwindling the numbers of our draft animals, which were also a big source of dung, the natural manure.

Climate-induced stresses are becoming all the more challenging. Extreme weather conditions like prolonged flood, shorter winter, drought and salinity pose huge challenges. Too much mining of groundwater in the north (greater Rajshahi, Rangpur-Dinajpur region) for irrigating rice lands creates vacuums underneath, giving more inroads for the southern saline water to seep in. To some count a tenth of our cultivable lands are saline-prone to varied levels.

To address these challenges scientists have taken up an uphill task of developing various crop varieties that can withheld stress conditions and are genetically better bred giving extra vigour and higher productivity.

Growing rice with less water

It takes 14 million litres of irrigation water to produce six tonnes of Boro rice on one hectare of typical farmland in Bangladesh. A farmer has to burn 250 litres of diesel to run a shallow pump, owned or hired, to irrigate this single hectare of paddy field. If translated into minuscule unit, each kilogram of rice reaches our plates from the farm at the expense of 3,500 litres of immensely valuable fresh water.

One Bangladeshi agronomist took it upon himself to see what difference he could make in terms of water conservation and save the country from an ecological disaster. Irrigated-rice Boro contributes 55 percent of Bangladesh’s nearly 35 million tonnes of yearly rice output and heavily sucks on a rapidly depleting groundwater.

Professor Moshiur Rahman, who teaches agronomy at Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) in Mymensingh, negated the notion that rice in dry season has to grow in puddle condition, soaked field and in standing water. Rahman wanted to challenge the notion and began with an on-campus experiment back in 2006-07. In the last 10 years, Rahman reached out to plots of many farmers in six rice-rich districts, and reached a conclusion—rice can be grown using less than half the irrigation water in Boro season.

Rahman and his team conserved water by not growing seedlings in the nursery. They, rather, directly sowed in the dry field by plowing furrows and did not puddle or soak the field with water, thereby saving some water as well. They didn’t keep standing water in the paddy field during the period between panicle initiation and grain-filling. In the direct-seeded Boro rice technology, Professor Rahman said, what farmers are required to do is keep the seeds soaked in water for 24 hours and then incubate the soaked seeds for another 30 to 40 hours prior to sowing in the paddy field. From the results of his experiments with the direct-seeded rice technology in Rajshahi, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Tangail, Netrokona and Mymensingh over the last 10 years, Rahman showed statistical evidence that in the most conservative estimate, 50 percent less water was required for growing rice with equally productive yield.

If further tweaking makes the water-conserving rice production system work fine, then it will definitely be a great relief for rice-rich northern region of Bangladesh that has long over-exploited groundwater in irrigation. Around 88 percent of total fresh water is used for agriculture in the country and rice production accounts for 73 percent of that water. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stated in a report, “In some parts of the country, particularly the Barind Tracts in the northwest region, there are already symptoms of deterioration in the natural hydrological regime. Declining groundwater levels have affected water quality causing it to affect soils, the growth of agricultural crops, flora and fauna and to increase health hazards.”

Rice going southbound

It couldn’t have been better timed for rice breeders in Bangladesh to come up with more solutions for southern farmers when the government is all out in its efforts to make rice southbound giving relief to the north that has long been over mined for groundwater to irrigate winter rice Boro. Scientists have come up with a solution for southern farmers who have long been deprived of the benefits of high-yield modern rice varieties (MVs) that cannot grow on tidal wetlands. After 12 years of arduous breeding process, they succeeded in developing two modern varieties suitable for cultivation in the tidal floodplain ecosystem of the southern delta region, with the promise of an additional yield of one million tonnes a year.

Against 2.5 to 3 tonnes of rice per hectare, which farmers reap from traditional varieties, the new modern varieties – BRRI dhan77 and BRRI dhan78 – will bring about 4 tonnes of crops a hectare during the Aman season in July-December, according to Helal Uddin Ahmed, a chief scientific officer at Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI). While farmers elsewhere have already switched to MVs from low-yield traditional varieties, rice growers in over a million hectares of tidal wetlands have had to remain satisfied with homegrown varieties.

For so long indigenous varieties have performed better than modern varieties on tidal floodplains because seedlings of the former are taller than the latter. As the region is at the proximity of the sea and inland estuaries, shorter seedlings often fail to survive the water flowing in and out with high tide and low tide twice a day.

BRRI dhan77 and BRRI dhan78 are bred in a way in which their seedlings would be tall in size and survive the tidal wetland condition. The newly developed breeding lines will meet southern farmers’ aspiration for higher yields in the Aman season.

Nationwide modern varieties coverage in rice cultivation has increased from 25 percent in 1972 to over 80 percent now, but their penetration in the tidal regions of Barisal, Patuakhali, Jhalakathi, Pirojpur, Bhola, Bagerhat and Gopalganj has remained at 15 percent for all these years. The new MVs come as a breakthrough offering the southern farmers a good choice to shift from low-yield homegrown varieties like Sadamota, Lalmota, Moulata, and Dudhkalom.

Meanwhile, as saline water continues to creep in, scientists are also continuing their efforts to develop rice varieties that can withstand a certain degree of salinity. In recent years, Bangladeshi scientists developed four transgenic rice varieties capable of production in high soil salinity, far better than the ones derived through conventional breeding.

A particular pea gene – helicase – was infused into four high yielding rice varieties (HYVs) that helped rice plants have higher salt tolerance and higher yield potential. A team led by Dhaka University’s Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Professor Zeba Islam Seraj made it possible after a decade of research. In lab and net house, the transgenic varieties had shown potential to yield up to 50 percent more than the available salt-tolerant HYVs in saline-stressed soil.

In Bangladesh, one million hectares out of a total nine million hectares of cultivable land are salinity affected, and the vulnerability is more profound during the dry season. That’s why the scientists chose the dry season Boro rice varieties first for the gene transfusion.

Climate change is a reality and so is the farming sector’s resilience to it in Bangladesh. With limited resources at hand and a rapidly increasing population to feed, some 18 million farming households in Bangladesh have shown fortitude against all odds. Farmers never called it quits in their constant fight against natural calamities, shrinkage of farmland, market irregularities, and all sorts of resource limitations.

From Green Revolution to Gene Revolution

Given the fact that world population would continue to increase for many more years to come and farm resources – land, water, etc. – would continue to get scarcer, the global food regime would definitely require a big push to the scale of mid-20th century.

Green Revolution was to some extent chemical-driven – the increased productivity was gained largely by use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. While it was widely recognised that Green Revolution came as a blessing for mankind when fear of famine was haunting a large part of developing economies, there is no denial that injudicious applications of chemicals had long-term bearings on environment and ecology.

Currently, a lot of the efforts of scientists are centred on biological maneuvering so that better breeds can be derived which are more productive and less susceptive to stresses like cold, drought, submergence, salinity, etc.

What scientists and journalists sometimes tout as Gene Revolution has to come through scientific advancement, better understanding of genetic structures and functioning of different plant species and sub-species. In recent months, genomes of 186 Bangladeshi rice varieties have been sequenced in Beijing Genomics Institute, China as part of a global collaborative project, opening up new opportunities for varietal developments. These include rice germplasms, high yielding varieties (HYVs) and advanced lines. Germplasm is the living genetic resources such as seeds or tissue that is maintained for the purpose of animal and plant breeding, preservation and other research uses.

C4 – The next big thing

An IRRI literature reads, “Only 29 percent of the earth’s surface is land and only a little over a third of that is suitable for agriculture; the rest is ice, desert, forest or mountain and is unsuitable for farming. More simply stated, only 10 percent of the surface of the earth has topographical and climatic conditions suitable for producing the food requirements of human beings.” It further reads, “Sixty percent of the world’s population lives in Asia, where each hectare of land used for rice production currently provides food for 27 people, but by 2050 that land will have to support at least 43 people. Nonetheless, the area for rice cultivation is continually being reduced by expansion of cities and industries, to say nothing of soil degradation.”

For the past few year scientists have embarked upon an uphill task of changing the biophysical structure of the rice plant, making it a much more efficient user of solar energy. Solar energy captured in photosynthesis over the duration of a crop gives it the capacity to grow. Rice has what is known as a C3 photosynthetic pathway, less efficient than that of maize, which has a C4 pathway.

A galaxy of scientists drawn from IRRI to Oxford University, from Chinese Academy of Sciences to Cambridge University, is now working on an ambitious project so that rice can be converted into a C4 plant from a C3 plant. An Oxford University release said, “If rice could be ‘switched’ to use C4 photosynthesis, it would theoretically increase productivity by 50 percent.” As well as an increase in photosynthetic efficiency, introduction of C4 traits into rice is predicted to improve nitrogen use efficiency, double water use efficiency, and increase tolerance to high temperatures, according to Oxford University, as the C4 rice project entered, what the scientists say into third phase in December 2015.

Thailand Seals 1st Iran Rice Deal in 10 Yrs.

Thailand has secured a deal to sell rice to Iran for the first time in 10 years, with delivery of 50,000-100,000 tons of white rice due over the next 1-2 months.

Sombat Chalermwutinan, president of Asia Golden Rice Company, said the company has already reached an agreement to sell rice to the Iranian government after Iran’s Health and Medical Education Ministry inspected Asia Golden Rice’s factory late last year, Bangkok Post reported.

The company is in the process of asking for cooperation from the Export-Import Bank of Thailand to help handle the payment and settlement system, which is expected to take about one month. Delivery is likely over the next 1-2 months or before June this year.

“The purchase order is considered good news for Thailand after a close partnership between the government and private sector to resume Thai rice shipments to Iran after 10 years as a result of United Nations sanctions,” he said.

In the past, Iran used to import 700,000 to 1 million tons from foreign countries, about 300,000-500,000 tons of which came from Thailand.

With the easing situation in Iran, Thailand and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding in early 2016 to resume sales of 300,000 tons of rice worth 4.3 billion baht ($120 million).

Thailand and Iran agreed in October last year to a preferential trade agreement, a move intended to rev up bilateral commerce to 104.7 billion baht ($3 billion) by 2021.

Both sides have agreed to cut import tariffs on 100 goods.

The PTA differs from a free trade agreement, as the pact will be much easier to conclude and does not require the need to completely eliminate tariffs. Generally, tariffs will be cut to 10% or less, depending on the outcome of negotiations.

An FTA generally requires that talks cover not only access to goods, but also for investment and services.

Iran is Thailand’s ninth largest trading partner in the Middle East. In 2016, two-way trade totaled $421 million, up 36.1% from a year before. Exports from Thailand reached $267 million, up 23.1% from 2015.

Thailand’s Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn said good signs have appeared since early this year for Thai rice export prospects, both through government-to-government and private-to-private deals.

The Commerce Ministry expects Thailand to ship 10 million tons of milled rice this year, but the Thai Rice Exporters Association said shipments would amount to 9.5 million tons.

Meanwhile, India, Thailand’s major rival in the Iranian rice import market, seems to be missing out.

Basmati export market of India was expecting a good time this year, as Iran had decided to resume rice imports from the country. But the higher price of Basmati rice made the situation hard, as Iran has fixed its import price at $850 per ton, Indian news portal Commodity Online reported earlier this month.

Indian exporters have to fix the price at least $900 per ton for the trade to be economical, which has made the hopes of Indian exporters fade, the report added.

Iran annually imports about 1 million tons of rice to supplement its domestic production of about 2 million tons.

The Iranian government has recently amended tariffs for importing rice by reducing it from the previous 40% to 26%. It was announced on January 21 that the rate would stand at 5%, following a series of tariff cuts on a list of agrofood products.

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

Presidency wrong again; Nigeria not world’s second-largest rice producer

Nigeria not world’s second largest rice producer

Nigeria is not the world’s second-largest producer of rice as recently claimed by the Buhari administration.
Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, made the claim on February 18 while addressing university students in Abuja.
“As I speak to you now, Nigeria just achieved the record of the second largest producer of rice in the world. The rice revolution just started a year ago,” Mr. Shehu, senior special assistant on media to President Muhammadu Buhari was quoted by The Cable as saying.
Mr. Shehu later defended his claim on Twitter, and cited CNN as his source.
Coming at a time of severe economic crisis, the comment appeared aimed at reassuring an increasingly disenchanted public.
But that claim is entirely false, as Nigeria is not even amongst the world’s top 10 producers of rice, a PREMIUM TIMES examination shows.
In November 2016, the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, said Nigeria’s rice production level stood at 3.5 million metric tonnes, while the country’s consumption stood at seven million metric tons.
In calculating Nigeria’s production output, PREMIUM TIMES will rely on statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organisation, an agency of the United Nations that tackles hunger around the world.

In addition, PREMIUM TIMES obtained an unpublished data for rice production from the National Bureau of Statistics.
This assessment will also rely on data provided by the United States Department of Agriculture, which tracks rice production outputs across the world. The USDA ranking is updated monthly.
Global data
In its 2016 estimates, the Food and Agriculture Organisation projected that Nigeria will produce 2.9 million metric tonnes, which it described as being “up slightly” from 2015 figures.
The FAO data from 2015 showed that Nigeria produced 4.8 million metric tonnes of rice paddy. This placed Nigeria at number 17 in the top 20 producers’ ranking.

Nigeria not world’s second-largest rice producer

The NBS data exclusively seen by this newspaper showed that Nigeria produced 7.8 million metric tonnes of rice paddy in 2016, up slightly from 7.5 million in 2015.
The 2016 data produced by the USDA ranks 78 countries, according to IndexMundi, a website that collates, ranks and republishes statistical data from original sources.
Nigeria is missing from the list’s top 10 rice-producing countries of 2016. This category has China, with 146.5 million metric tonnes, at the top, and Japan —with estimated 7.8 million metric tonnes— at the bottom.
The second position is occupied by India, which produced 106. 5 million metric tonnes that year. Other Asian countries that dominate the list include Indonesia: 36.6 million; Bangladesh: 34,5 million; Vietnam: 27.8 million; Thailand: 18,6 million; Myanmar: 12.5 million and the Philippines: 12.5 million.
Brazil, at number nine, is the only country outside Asia in the top 10 rice producing countries.
On this list, Nigeria stands at number 18, with a production output of 2.7 million metric tonnes for 2016.
Although this is lower, the bureau of statistics figure—7.8 million metric tonnes – is still a far cry from what is needed to surpass the Asian countries.
Even where the 7.8 million metric tonnes is used for this ranking, Nigeria would at best rank 10th.


Mr. Shehu did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ request for clarification. But he said on Twitter on Monday that he based his assertion on a report by CNN.

To buttress his point, Mr. Shehu said Nigeria had recently become a major exporter of grains to other African countries.
“Don’t forget that since October last year, Nigeria has been feeding many parts of West Africa, North and Central Africa,” Mr. Shehu said. “Many of these countries have been shopping in Nigeria for rice, sorghum, sesame and millet.”
He said the government had started collating figures to establish Nigeria’s rice production output and will make its conclusion public.
It is not clear whether the figure he was referring to is the NBS’ 7.8 million metric tonnes PREMIUM TIMES obtained.
Nigerians react
Mr. Shehu’s claim was roundly rejected on social media, with many users pointing at the irony of Nigerians paying more for a product that should be abundantly available.
From a maximum N10,000 barely three years ago, a 50 kilogram bag of rice now sells for above N20,000 across the country, according to Only in January 2016, the rice retailer sold the same quantity for N12,500 or less across the country.
At Jumia, a 50 kilogram bag of rice retails for as high as N25,000.
Richard-Mark Mbaram, an agricultural economics expert, said Mr. Shehu’s “claim cannot be substantiated in actual fact.”
Mr. Mbaram, editor of Agro Nigeria, an online-based platform with primary focus on activities in the agricultural sector, also agreed that Nigeria is yet to meet its consumption demands.

“We’re not even producing enough to feed ourselves,” Mr. Mbaram said. “Saying we’re number two is dangerous as it could make those tasked with addressing the challenges become complacent.”
He said the focus should be on improving Nigeria’s average output per hectare rather than making “claims that will only distract us from addressing challenges in the agricultural sector.”
For example, Mr. Mbaram said budget estimates for agriculture stood at N92 billion, an amount he said could not even fund research in other climes.
“We’re saying we want to diversify from oil because its prices are dwindling, yet we budgeted N92 billion for agriculture which is the sector that everybody agrees the focus must shift to,” he said.


Social media users also circulated a screengrab that depicted the CNN broadcast Mr. Shehu was probably alluding to. In the broadcast, the station showed Nigeria’s production output at 2.7 million metric tonnes; consumption placed at five million metric tonnes; import stood at two million. The data was also sourced from USDA/IndexMundi.
The USDA/IndexMundi ranking showed Nigeria as the second-largest importer of rice in the world. In 2016, the country imported two million metric tonnes, behind China at five million metric tonnes.
It is also unclear whether the presidential spokesperson mistook Nigeria’s import ranking for production output.


Mr. Shehu said: “Nigeria just achieved the record of the second largest producer of rice in the world.”
Available figures show this claim to be incorrect.

World loses its appetite for pricey Vietnamese rice

Rice exports are likely to wilt into the fields this year unless global tastes change.
Slowing overseas demand is putting the brakes on Vietnam’s rice exports this year, industry players say.

Indonesia, one of the country’s key export markets, has said it has no plans to import any of the grain from Vietnam this year, and a government agreement with the Philippines to supply three million tons is unlikely to remedy the situation.

The agreement with the Philippines is not a contract, and can be subject to negotiations with importers. Last year, Vietnam shipped only 396,000 tons of rice to the Philippines, a plunge of 65 percent from 2015, based on government data.

The Philippines is forecast to import 1.4 million tons of rice in 2017, a jump of 75 percent from last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in a February report.

“Vietnamese rice prices are very high now, making the grain uncompetitive against Thai rice,” a Vietnamese trader with a European firm based in Ho Chi Minh City said.

Vietnam’s 5-percent broken rice stands this week at $350-$355 a ton, free-on-board Saigon Port basis, up nearly 4 percent since the end of 2016, while Thailand offers a similar grade for $353-$355 a ton.

Buyers, mostly in Asia, followed by Africa and the Middle East, would only consider the grain if it is offered about $10 a ton below Thai rice of the same variety, traders said.

Indonesia, Vietnam’s fourth-biggest rice market last year, will not import rice this year given an expected surplus and efforts to stabilize rice prices by increasing local procurement, the Jakarta Post reported.

Indonesia is projected to produce 80 million tons of paddy, or unhusked rice, this year, above its demand of 60 million tons, the newspaper cited Indonesia’s Agriculture Ministry as saying.

But Indonesia’s decision not to import rice this year remains questionable. The USDA still projects Indonesia will import 1 million tons of rice this year, down from 1.1 million tons in 2016.

“Even if Indonesia does decide to import rice this year, it will not focus on Vietnam,” a Ho Chi Minh City-based trader said.

Rice exporters say they are facing problems with mounting stockpiles, while the Mekong Delta’s winter-spring crop harvest is expected to peak from next month. The crop is the largest of three crops planted in the delta every year, with grain mostly used for exports due to its high quality.

Rice export firms had nearly 1 million tons in stock at the end of January, while sales abroad were slowing, the Vietnam Food Association said.

Rice exports fell 32 percent last month from January 2016 to 325,000 tons, according to data from the agriculture ministry.

The association projects Vietnam’s rice exports this year will reach around 5 million tons. Last year, the volume fell to 4.8 million tons, the lowest level since 2008.

In contrast, the USDA has forecast a rebound in Vietnam’s rice shipments this year to 5.8 million tons, leaving the country in third place behind India and Thailand.

“This is based on improved prospects to Asian markets such as the Philippines, where quantitative restrictions are set to expire later this year,” it said in its February report.

Late last year, the Philippine government said it would not seek a further extension of the so-called quantitative restrictions on rice due to expire in June 2017 and will allow higher rice imports, Reuters reported.

Reports show Nigeria is not second largest producer of rice

peaking at a special interactive session with the youths organised by Citizens Support for Good Governance in Nigeria (SGGN) in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city recently, Shehu further called on Nigerians to be patient with the government of President Buhari as the administration was doing more to shore up the economy.

“But as I speak to you now, Nigeria just achieved the record of the second largest producer of rice in the world.

“The rice revolution just started a year ago. Some of you from Nasarawa know the kind of things going on there.

“A newspaper did an investigation in Kebbi and they found out that there were 48,000 new millionaires in Kebbi state alone last year for growing rice,” he had said later adding that he got the report from the Cable News Network (CNN).

But a private investigation by shows that Nigeria is not even among the first 10 producers of rice in the world.

A report released in September 2016 by World Atlas puts the Asian continent as dominating the list of major rice producers in the world with India topping. Other countries, according to their rating from second to 10 positions respectively include: China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, Phillipines, Cambodian and Pakistan.

Logically, it would be difficult for Nigeria to become the second largest rice producer in the world in just three months by-passing the other nine that have remained tops over the years.

The World Atlas report however agrees that Nigeria, Niger and Tanzania are some of the African countries exhibiting a positive disposition to the consumption of rice and thus maybe expanding its farming.

Thailand seals Iran rice deal

Thailand has secured a deal to sell rice to Iran for the first time in 10 years, with delivery of 50,000-100,000 tonnes of white rice due over the next 1-2 months.
Sombat Chalermwutinan, president of Asia Golden Rice Co, said the company has already reached an agreement to sell rice to the Iranian government after Iran’s Health and Medical Education Ministry inspected Asia Golden Rice’s factory late last year.
Initial purchase demand is 50,000-100,000 tonnes of white rice 5% and 100%.
The company is in the process of asking for cooperation from the Export-Import Bank of Thailand to help handle the payment and settlement system, which is expected to take about one month. Delivery is likely over the next 1-2 months or before June this year.
“The purchase order is considered good news for Thailand after a close partnership between the government and private sector to resume Thai rice shipments to Iran after 10 years as a result of United Nations sanctions,” he said.
In the past, Iran used to import 700,000 to one million tonnes from foreign countries, about 300,000-500,000 tonnes of which came from Thailand.
With the easing situation in Iran, Thailand and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding in early 2016 to resume sales of 300,000 tonnes of rice worth 4.3 billion baht.
Thailand and Iran agreed later in October last year to a preferential trade agreement (PTA), a move intended to rev up bilateral commerce to US$3 billion (104.7 billion baht) by 2021.
Both sides have agreed to cut import tariffs on 100 goods.
The PTA differs from a free trade agreement (FTA), as the pact will be much easier to conclude and does not require the need to completely eliminate tariffs. Generally, tariffs will be cut to 10% or less, depending on the outcome of negotiations.
An FTA generally requires that talks cover not only access to goods, but also for investment and services.
Iran is Thailand’s ninth largest trading partner in the Middle East. In 2016, two-way trade volume totalled $421 million, up 36.1% from a year before. Exports from Thailand came to $267 million, up 23.1% from 2015.
Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn said good signs have appeared since early this year for Thai rice export prospects, both through government-to-government and private-to-private deals.
The Commerce Ministry expects Thailand to ship 10 million tonnes of milled rice this year, but the Thai Rice Exporters Association said shipments would amount to 9.5 million tonnes.

Asia Rice – India down as overseas demand wanes; Vietnam up on thin supply

Indian rice prices fell as overseas demand waned while prices in Vietnam rose with some traders speeding up purchases to complete their signed February export orders amid thin supplies.

India’s 5-percent broken parboiled rice prices edged down by $3 per tonne this week to $373 to $378 per tonne as exports slowed down after weeks of strong demand.

“African buyers are reducing purchases after buying actively in the last few weeks. Prices rose sharply in the last one month compared to prices in Thailand and Vietnam,” said an exporter based at Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh.

India, the world’s biggest rice exporter, is likely to produce a record high 108.86 million tonnes of rice in the 2016/2017 crop year, its farm ministry said on Wednesday.

The country’s 2016 exports of the grain fell 10 percent annually to 10.1 million tonnes, according to a December U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report. India mainly exports non-basmati rice to African countries and premier basmati rice to the Middle East.

“The downside in Indian export prices is limited. Rupee has been appreciating consistently in last few weeks and slashing exporters’ margin,” said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm.

In Vietnam, the world’s third largest rice exporter, the 5-percent broken rice prices rose to $350-$355 a tonne, from $345-$350 a tonne a week earlier, traders said. Local prices have risen even stronger, they added.

“Harvest has started but has been only a little, while some traders are willing to pay a higher price to complete their previously signed Philippine contracts,” said a Ho Chi Minh City-based trader.

Prices rose on expectations of potential orders from the Philippines, but could fall in the next two weeks when Vietnam fully enters the main harvest season which lasts until end-March, said another Vietnamese trader.

Meanwhile, prices in Thailand were stable at around $350-$355 a tonne for the 5-percent broken rice, free-on-board Bangkok, and the best offer could reach $355-$360, traders said.

“As for overseas orders, they are still small, nothing big. As for next week’s prices, it should remain steady and around the current range which is normal for the market at around this time of year,” a Bangkok-based trader said.

“New crops will come into play around March and the government has closed bidding on rice in its stockpile,” the trader added.

Thailand’s Ministry of Commerce has set a target to offload its 8-million tonnes of stockpile by the end of the year. The country exported 1.6 million tonnes of rice during Jan. 1- Feb. 14, up 9.9 percent annually, the ministry said.

Nigeria Targets Seven Million Tonnes of Rice By 2018

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, says the Federal Government is targeting the production of seven million tonnes of rice by 2018.

Briefing journalists in Abuja on Wednesday, Mr. Ogbeh said that the target, which would be achieved by the second quarter of 2018, was to meet the national consumption rate.

“I think we have attained the level of being one of the largest producers of rice, even though many people are still in doubt about that.

“So, for those who say it is not true, I think they need to take another look.

“I have been in Vietnam, the same kind of rice plantation you see there is what you see in Nigeria.

“The only thing we need to add is the milling capacity, which we are increasing,” he said.

The minister, however, attributed the current hike in price of rice to the increase in the people’s demand for the produce.

Mr. Ogbeh said that the country was feeding more than 193 million citizens as well as 100 million others in West and North Africa.

“Nobody argues the fact that trucks come in from Ghana, Burkina Faso, Niger Republic, Chad, Mali, to Funtua in Katsina to load our grains,” he said.

On rice milling, the minister said that the Federal Government recently advertised no fewer than 100 rice mills for sale and distribution to farmers.

Mr. Ogbeh said that this would assist rice farmers to boost their production, while reducing the price of the produce and boosting the food security of the country.

“Our milling capacity is still not up to speed but we want to improve.

“Some of the mills, which will mainly go to cooperatives, will do 10 tonnes a day, some 20 tonnes, some 50 tonnes and some 100 tonnes.

“The terms of sale and distribution of the mills to communities and farmers will be very generous,” he said.

Mr. Ogbeh said that the states that were currently producing rice included Adamawa, Kebbi, Kano, Ebonyi, Katsina, Jigawa, Taraba, Anambra, Enugu and Benue.

Rice production will hit 7million tons next year

THE Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has said the country is aiming to scale up rice production to seven million tons by the middle of next year.
This is just as the Minister said that Nigeria will scale up its milling capacity to compete globally as the largest producers and processors of rice.

Ogbeh who disclosed this while speaking with Tribune Online on whether Nigeria is the second largest producer of rice globally, said “for those who said it is not true, I think they need to have a second look.”

He said the current statement for the Presidency that Nigeria is the second largest producer of rice was true adding that Nigeria has done everything needed to do in rice production to attain that height.

According to him, “We are aiming to hit seven million tons by the middle of next which is our National consumption, we want to go beyond that.

“I have been to Vietnam, there is nothing they have done in rice production that we have not done; the only thing we need to do now is to increase our milling capacity which we are increasing.

“Our milling capacity is still not up to speed, we are going to achieve that, and once we do, we have no argument with anyone about whether we are producing that quantity or not.

“But people may ask why is the price of rice us still N20,000 per bag, we are feeding 193million Nigerians, we are also feeding another 100million in the West and North Africa, nobody argue with the fact that trucks come from Ghana to Funtua and load grains, they come from Burkina Faso and Mali, from Niger Republic, from Chad to our markets, to load grains and they are still loading for two reasons, our devaluation had made it cheaper for them to shop in Nigeria and our production is such that we are able to satisfy those markets.”

Ogbeh said that currently, about a hundred rice mill is ready for distribution across the country. He said some of the mills will be distributed to Cooperatives and communities, and the terms of distribution will be favourable.

His words: “We have a hundred rice mills for distribution, some can mill 10 tons per day, which will mainly go to cooperatives, some will mill 20 tons per day, while some will mill 50 tons per day and 100 tons per day and the terms of sale and distribution to communities will be very generous.”