'Across the U.S. Farm Belt, top grain handlers have banned genetically modified crops that are not approved in all major overseas markets, shaking up a decades-old system that used the world's biggest exporting country as a launchpad for new seeds from companies like Monsanto Co.
The United States is the biggest producer of GMO crops and has long been at the forefront of technology aiming to protect crops against insects or allow them to resist herbicides.
That innovation is now seen as a risk to trade because it is hard to segregate crops containing unapproved traits from the billions of identical-looking bushels exported every year'.
The GMO lobbys' pitch is for more production (for farmers, but at lower prices ...) and lower prices (for the public, but also poorer quality); the lobbys' only real motivation is profit.
'Officials from China will arrive in Cambodia soon to audit and evaluate rice producing companies and to check warehouses.
In December last year, China asked Cambodia to evaluate its rice exporters to determine whether they adhered to hygiene laws in China, because officials in the world’s second largest economy did not trust all of the 71 rice exporters registered with the Ministry of Commerce. They sent them the final registration list of rice producers and processors by the end of December last year and they will come to Cambodia to re-check and re-audit'.
'Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday asked China to consider Cambodia’s rice stocks as part of its effort to distribute food relief to other countries'.
'More than a month has elapsed since the government vowed to strengthen its borders to halt illegal imports of rice, yet little has been done to stem the flow of illicit rice shipments flooding into Cambodia from its foreign neighbours and undermining the export efforts of local producers'.Not such a high priority?
Meanwhile the short term sees Philippines struggling to cope with drought. the Bangkok Post (May 4):
'The Philippines said on Wednesday that drought had caused the country's rice output to drop by about 300,000 tonnes, or a third higher than its estimate last month, and there was a risk heavy rains later in the year could inflict more crop damage'.
'The government is considering a plan which will make it compulsory for rice farmers to insure their rice crops with insurance companies which, in the long run, will ease the government’s burden in helping farmers'.Just passing on the contentious bone. Eventually farmers would be compensating themselves, with insurance companies doing the admin and charging a hefty sum for the effort, no doubt.
'The world is expected to suffer a major rice shortage after global production was hit by extreme weather patterns - potentially fuelling an international price crisis.
Dr Samarendu Mohanty from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) told The Independent: “There is no doubt that the supply situation is very tight, and this will inevitably cause a spiral in demand.
“The extent of this crisis all depends on what happens during the upcoming monsoon season. If it goes badly in India and Indonesia and the crops don’t get the rain, there could be real trouble ahead.”
Hurrah for the junta, which has hushed their own policies for Thai rice farmers?'Benchmark Thai rice prices hit a two-year high on Tuesday as drought cut output from Asia's top rice growers and stoked demand for Thai exports, rice traders and exporters said.Prices are at their highest level since the Thai military seized power two years ago and ended generous subsidies that caused a glut in supply and a massive build-up in rice stockpiles in Thailand'.
The Bangkok Post (May 24) believes that prices will also rise in Thailand:
'Consumers are warned of a possible rise in the price of packaged rice as a dip in white rice output may lead packers to push for the increase over the next few months'.The article emphasizes how the packaged product will become more expensive, not necessarily the price farmers will receive ....
'The Philippines, the world's No. 3 rice buyer, regularly imports more than a million tonnes a year of the food staple to meet demand from its growing population'.
The IRRI (May 27) has another take on this road plan. According to trade agreements, the Philippines will need to take the opposite road: no import restrictions meaning more exports to the Philippines. Or lower prices for farmers.
In the meantime there's Thailands great sell-off to contend with. Vietnam is not so fond of the Thai auction (Thanhnien, May 9):
'Thailand’s plan to sell off its rice stockpile within two months has sparked concerns for Vietnamese rice exporters, many of whom have been already hitting bumps.They said Thailand’s clearance of 11.4 million tons, more than the country’s annual average export, in such a short period will push prices down significantly and hurt consumption of rice from Vietnam'.
There don't seem to be any apparent remedies for Vietnam, other than seeking new markets.'Luong Anh Tuan, director of Thinh Phat Food, also said that loyal markets had stopped negotiating to buy Vietnam’s rice. They are waiting to see the moves to be taken by Thailand before making a decision.
“Meanwhile, other partners of Vietnam from China and Africa will haggle with Vietnamese exporters about the prices and try to force the prices down,” Tuan said'.
Maybe it would be better to ride out the oncoming storm?
'Agencies in Cambodia announced on Wednesday that the country's rice exports have increased more than fivefold over the past five years.A joint statement released by the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, and the Cambodia Rice Federation, said "Cambodia's formal milled rice exports have significantly increased in the last five years, from approximately 100,000 metric tonnes in 2010 to 530,000 metric tonnes in 2015."
The trials and tribulations with growing other crops, starting off with rubber from which the appeal has long ago waned. That's not so nice especially for northern Laos which bet heavily on this crop. The Vientiane Times (May 17):
'Many villagers in Phongsaly province have declined to plant rubber trees on their land following the continuing slump in the price of rubber on the world market.
A forestry expert from Phongsaly province, Mr Thongsavan Thammavong, told Vientiane Times yesterday that villagers quickly lost interest when they learnt what the sale price of rubber was.
“Many people here have wasted their time and lost opportunities by growing rubber as they can earn more by growing other crops,” Mr Thongsavan said.
Thousands of farmers in the province switched to planting cardamom after earning a good income from this crop, which they sold to Chinese traders'.
Then the Nation (May 25) also reports on Chinese own, grow and export banana plantations in Lao PDR. The conclusions of the article:
'In Laos and Thailand, communities on both banks of the Mekong are now terrified about the adverse effects of Chinese agribusiness. People's health and the integrity of the natural environment are the first, often forgotten, casualties of this type of investment.
There has still been no official explanation by state authorities, in Thailand or in Laos, how these plantations will be regulated. Local people have been left behind to cope with this trans-border problem on their own, which is unfortunately business as usual'.
'Mong Reththy Group, the largest agro-industrial company in Cambodia, has sent 13 shipments of mangoes to Europe this year totalling 54,000 kilograms, the owner said yesterday'.Laos is discovering Geographical Identification. The Nation (May 7):
'Laos is preparing to certify its home-grown coffee with geographical indication (GI) and as a member of the International Coffee Organisation'.
The Bangkok Post (May 5) notes how research by Thai-PAN shows that much of what constitutes Thai organic fruit and vegetables is in fact non-organic:
'The release of the findings Wednesday by Thai-PAN or the Thailand Pesticide Action Network which randomly collected and sent to labs samples of veggies from our markets showed most contain farm chemical residues higher than acceptable standards.
One-quarter of organic veggies that cost consumers a lot more than conventionally-grown types were found to be tainted with higher-than-acceptable levels of chemical residues.
More importantly, it showed that some farm chemicals that are legally banned, including carbofuran and methomyl, are still available.
In all, the entire saga indicates that the state's efforts to promote food safety are just lip service'.
'A fruit and vegetable survey, released by the Thai-Pesticide Alert Network (Thai-Pan) late last week to widespread public concern, is questionable, says the National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards (ACFS)'.