What is Grow Asia?
'Grow Asia is a multi-stakeholder partnership platform that catalyzes action on inclusive and sustainable agricultural development in South East Asia....Established by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the ASEAN Secretariat, Grow Asia brings together companies, governments, NGOs and other stakeholders to help smallholder farmers improve their production and livelihood through access to information, knowledge, markets and finance'.
Despite the lofty goals Grow has come under recent criticism from GRAIN (Dec. 15):
'The world's largest agribusiness corporations are rolling out a public-private partnership programme to take control of food and farming in the Global South'.
On a personal note, I'm now reading Robert Reich's Saving Capitalism and I see the parallels between what he writes and what GRAIN is reporting on.'It is important to see this programme for what it is: a mechanism for corporate control. For farmers and civil society, the challenge is to recognise and reject these kinds of schemes that do nothing to tackle hunger, poverty or climate change. The solution lies with the communities and movements putting forward a vision of food sovereignty based in local markets, agro-biodiversity and agroecology'.
Less and less is the playing field of economics, companies and you and me fair, even or equal. Less government has meant more large corporations who are using all their powers to distort the playing field to their own convenience. Grow seems simply another ploy to extend influence by and gain markets with little opportunity for alternatives.
As said little news. The Khmer Times (Dec. 12) reports:
Sharing the blame. Phnom Penh Post (Dec. 20):'Rice producers and exporters to the European Union must use a new kind of certificate of origin beginning January 1.
“Producers or exporters who have been exporting rice to the EU are required to use a new type of Certificate of Origin for exports as the new online request has not been inserted into the ministry’s system,” a notice from the Commerce Ministry said'.
Fit'Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon yesterday defended his ministry amid complaints by farmers of low yields during dry season, rising costs of production and a lack of markets to sell their produce, saying that other ministries and sectors also shared responsibility'.
Cambodia's neighbours also have little to note.
Despite all the hoopla in recent times about rice buy schemes, press attention has moved elsewhere with little tidbits to mention.
Bangkok Post (Dec. 14):
'The government is considering setting up a central market for milled rice as another distribution channel for rice traders and farmers'.And though increased opportunities mean a better performing market, it by no means addresses prices dropping.
'THAILAND is expected to export between 9.5 million and 10 million tonnes of rice next year, the same or slightly more than this year’s total of about 9.5 million tonnes, according to the Thai Rice Exporters Association'.
'The government is committed to disposing all 8 million tonnes of state rice stocks next year. According to Duangporn Rodphaya, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, most of the existing 8 million tonnes of rice stocks are white rice, and 5 million tonnes of the total is poor-quality grain unfit for human consumption'.
New strategies? Vietnamnet (15 Dec):
'The country should halve its rice exports from the normal 7-8 million tonnes until 2020 because of difficulties exporters face and falling production due to climate change, according to the Viet Nam Food Association'.Though in all honesty, the association seeks ways to halve the volume, but increase the returns. Not many new aspects though increasing salination of the Mekong delta is mentioned as a serious threat to maintaining current export volumes.
'What should be done to solve the impact of banana plantations on people's health and the environment?'
It did run a day later after this article (Vientiane Times, Dec. 12) which supposedly refers to a ban on banana growing:
'Chinese farms in Laos' provinces have been suspended due to their ongoing use of hazardous chemicals which are having negative impacts on people's health and the environment.Whether or not this will mean a real end to Chinese managed banana plantations remains to be seen. For instance a ban on the export of logs has been in place for nearly 6 months, though it's hardly effective with lower authorities continuing their own export operations nonetheless (RFA, Dec. 7).
The Prime Minister's Office's ordered the farms which are preparing to cultivate banana trees to cease their efforts while thousands of hectares of banana plantations which have already planted the trees will not be allowed to plant any more suckers after harvesting their crops'.
Rubber and Lao. The Vientiane Times (Dec. 10) notes:
'There haven't been widespread reports of farmers cutting down their rubber trees in Luang Namtha province, relevant officials have said, whereas two years ago the phenomenon did arise'.
Finally the Bangkok Post (Dec. 8) with in depth coverage of their important sugar section:
So better news for consumers, less so for farmers ...'Unfavourable weather has delayed Thailand's sugar crushing season, threatening a reduction in sugar output for the 2016/17 crop.The drop will prevent Thailand, the world's second largest sugar exporter, from capitalising on rising global sugar prices at a time it is being challenged by Brazil over subsidies to the Thai sugar industry, said industry officials.
...In another development, Thailand is to overhaul its sugar production and distribution systems for the first time in more than three decades in order to avoid being challenged by Brazil, the world's biggest sugar producer, at the World Trade Organization.
...Thailand will have to revoke its current 70:30 profit-sharing system, in place since 1984, which will require cancelling its quota system and floating domestic sugar prices. Brazil is challenging Thailand over subsidies for sugar producers that it says have dragged down global prices and allow Thailand to win a larger market share at the expense of Brazilian producers, conduct that is not in line with international with international trade agreements. The 70:30 profit sharing system between sugar millers and cane growers provides monetary support from the Cane and Sugar Fund to sugar cane producers. The fund raises the money itself, largely from yearly sugar sales. When the fund does not have enough money, it seeks loans from the state-owned Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives'.