'The agricultural seed and pesticide market is already extremely concentrated. Three impending mergers between six of these corporate giants (Bayer/Monsanto, Dow/DuPont, and ChemChina/Syngenta) will further consolidate market and political power, leading to even greater corporate control of our farms and plates'.
These mergers will harm farmers and ranchers.
Consumers will see increases in food prices.
Workers will suffer.
Environmental damage from industrial agriculture will increase.
The “lock-in” of industrial agriculture will prevent the expansion of food systems that work for people, pollinators, and planet.
Limits'More than 200 organisations have today raised their objections to the planned mergers of six giant agriculture corporations.
The farmer, farmworker, beekeeper, religious, international development, and environmental groups claim that the three resulting companies will concentrate market power and “exacerbate the problems caused by industrial farming – with negative consequences for the public, farmers and farm workers, consumers, the environment, and food security” in an open letter to the European Commission and Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.
The European and national organisations – together representing millions of members – state that the proposed mergers of Dow Chemical with DuPont, Monsanto with Bayer AG, and Syngenta with ChemChina will lead to an unacceptable monopoly, with three companies controlling around 70% of the world’s agro-chemicals and more than 60% of commercial seeds.'
Cambodia Daily (Mar. 29):'An important strategy to reduce reliance on chemical pesticides in Cambodia is steadily moving through a project that encourages the use of environment-friendly biological control agents (BCA).Over the last decade, Cambodian rice farmers have mainly relied on chemical pesticides as a major method for controlling pests and diseases. Experts warn that the rampant use of toxic chemicals is likely to lead to numerous long-term effects on the health of farmers and the environment. Integrated pest management (IPM) and BCA provide an alternative to chemical pesticides. BCAs include insects, fungi, and other natural products to manage pests'.
'The government has ordered a nationwide recall of the fungicide tricyclazole to keep its rice exports eligible for the important E.U. market, but said it might not get the chemical out of its supplies in time to meet the bloc’s July deadline.
The E.U.’s new threshold is 0.01 milligrams of tricyclazole residue per kilogram of rice paddy, down from the current cutoff of 1 milligram.
Phou Puy, a member of the Cambodia Rice Federation, was more optimistic [than the government]. Mr. Puy said most of Cambodia’s rice farmers were still chemical-free and so would not be hit by the new limits on tricyclazole.
“I am not worried about this because our country does not use a lot of chemicals. Most of our rice farmers remain organic,” he said'.
Qualified'Cambodia had exported 46,387 tons of milled rice to China in the first two months of 2017, up 127 percent over the same period last year, according to a government report released on Friday.China is the top buyer of Cambodian rice, followed by France, Poland, Britain and the Netherlands, said the report compiled by the Secretariat of One Window Service for Rice Export'.
'Việt Nam exported an estimated 1.28 million tonnes of rice in the first three months of the year, earning US$570 million. But the exports were 18 per cent lower in volume and 17.3 per cent lower in value compared to the same period last year. This was reported last week by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development'.From Thailand news on how to get rid of rice. Bangkok Post (Mar. 11):
'The government has imposed strict criteria for bidders interested in participating in the state's first auction of 3.66 million tonnes of rice unfit for human consumption to ensure the grains are not sold on the normal rice market. According to the terms of reference revealed yesterday, qualified bidders are required to be juristic persons with an industrial factory licence, explain the purpose the rice will be used for, and guarantee it will only be used for industrial purposes'.
'The government is expected to decide on the venue for a central market for milled rice as a distribution channel for traders and farmers by mid-year, at a cost of 300-400 million baht....Although Thailand is a leading producer and exporter of rice, averaging 20 million tonnes of milled rice a year, it has no central market for trading milled rice thus far. Such a marketplace would enable importers, wholesalers and retailers to shop for different grains'.
A wrap up of off topic, but nonetheless interesting articles on agriculture and rural development in the region.
Starting off with the less exciting news from the Phnom Penh Post (Mar. 22) on agricultural waste:
More waste issues. The Cambodia Daily (Mar. 30) reports on more fish deaths, this time attributed to sugar waste.'Villagers in Pailin province’s O’Tavao commune say they filed a complaint to the provincial environmental department last week about the alleged dumping of cassava waste by agricultural company Khmer Viniyok Kasekam, prompting a cleanup effort by the company.Improperly processed cassava can be toxic, and locals yesterday said runoff from the company had killed animals and caused skin irritation among children who had swam in the river, though the firm denied it had intentionally released the waste into the waterway....When contacted yesterday, company manager Ok Samphors, 39, denied villagers’ allegations of dumping waste. He said that his company, acknowledging the environmental risks, had constructed two ponds in which to deposit the waste.“However, it has rained continuously for a week, so the ponds became full and the waste spilled into the river. The company did not dump it [into the river],” Samphors said.He added that the company retrieved the waste from the riverbank on Monday after receiving advice from authorities.Pailin provincial environment department director Kem Sokha corroborated Samphors’s account, agreeing that the incident was unintentional'.
'The Environment Ministry is studying water samples from Preah Vihear province to find out what has been killing thousands of fish in the Stung Sen River, where villagers are reportedly blaming a sugarcane plantation.And then the shocker:
A report posted to the National Police website Wednesday’said locals living along the river have accused Rui Feng, one of several Chinese-owned plantations in eastern Preah Vihear growing sugarcane, of dumping chemicals into the waterway and killing the fish. The report said the water had turned black and smelled bad'.
'Rui Feng [Chinese-owned plantation] could not be reached for comment. Though providing jobs for some locals, the company has also attracted its share of critics.Land issues. The Cambodia Daily (Mar. 24):
One of five parent companies investing about $360 million to grow, process and export sugar, it has been locked in a land dispute with hundreds of local families since it started clearing the ground in 2013.
Last month, police said they had started an investigation into allegations that the Chinese managers of another of the five companies, Heng Rui, had severely beaten three workers for stealing oil and fertilizer, one of whom later died of his injuries'.
'A long-running land dispute between 175 Koh Kong farmers and two sugarcane firms accused of stealing their land came a step closer to conclusion on Thursday after 73 of the farming families accepted compensation, a government official said....Phav Nhoeung, a representative of the villagers and one of those seeking compensation, said the remaining 102 families had rejected the offer because the land was too far from their homes.“We reject this option because we are living far away from that area…. It is more than 10 km from our houses,” Ms. Nhoeung said'.
'Cambodia's five major sugar producers exported just 4 percent of the country’s planned refined sugar capacity to the international market last year, equalling only 80,000 tonnes, a sign that government officials said means the sector still has ample room for growth as sugar companies push for higher yields.According to data in the yet-unpublished annual report of the Ministry of Industry and Handicraft, nearly 100,000 hectares has been earmarked for sugarcane plantations with a planned capacity of 1.8 million tonnes of refined sugar per year. However, just a small portion of this land is currently under cultivation by five producers: Rui Feng and its four sister companies, Kamadhenu Ventures (Cambodia) Ltd, Phnom Penh Sugar Co Ltd, Yellow Field International Ltd, and Koh Kong Sugar Industry Co Ltd'.
'Chip Mong Group is the latest conglomerate to invest into local production of animal feed, announcing this week that it will sink $60 million into building a large-scale feed mill and industrial piggery, a move that agricultural experts welcomed but said would still not be able to curtail the Kingdom’s dependence on imported feed.Sen Sovann, director general of the Ministry of Agriculture’s animal production and health department, said Cambodia imported over half of its animal feed last year at a cost of $135 million. It spent another $100 million to import some 400,000 pigs from neighbouring countries to meet local demand for pork meat....Mong Reththy Group, which inaugurated its own $10 million feed mill last December, has the capacity to produce 60,000 tonnes of animal feed a year from locally grown corn and paddy rice. The plant currently supplies the 100,000 pigs on its pig farm in Preah Sihanouk province, as well as 100 nearby family-owned farms'.
'Pepper prices in the Kingdom’s largest pepper producing region have fallen over 30 percent in the last year due to growing international supply that is leading to higher competition in the market, an industry expert said yesterday.Hong San, president of the Dar-Memot Pepper Agricultural Development Cooperative in the Tboung Khmum province, said prices have fluctuated since the harvesting season started earlier this month with pepper selling at 20,000 riel ($5.03) per kilogram yesterday, up from 17,000 riel earlier this week.The volatile prices are far below those seen last year, when pepper was selling at prices ranging from 30,000 riel per kilogram to as high as 40,000 riel....Data from the Ministry of Agriculture shows Cambodia produced a total of 11,819 tonnes of black pepper in 2016, a 20 percent year-on-year increase, with the Tboung Khmum province accounting for 8,566 tonnes of the overall harvest.“Even if the prices are lower than last year, we are not experiencing losses at this point, only decreased profits,” San said. “It is not a big concern for us because our pepper is still of a high quality compared to Vietnam, which is struggling because they rely on chemicals.”Vietnamese news outlets reported this week that pepper prices in the country were at a five-year low, currently standing at around $4.28 per kilogram. The decrease was attributed to a growing supply and stagnant demand.Chhay Sor, a small-scale pepper farmer, explained that local pepper prices were unstable because Cambodian farmers rely on Thai and Vietnamese brokers to sell their products to the wider market'.
'Thai media have blamed investors and local politicians have for using farmers as proxies by which to encroach upon protected land (Mongabay was unable to independently verify these allegations). This practice has been alleged elsewhere in Southeast Asia, where private investors distanced themselves from the process and aftermath of oil palm farming, leaving local farmers responsible for the damage.Bribery and corruption often affect land ownership in Thailand, with the Department of Land ranked the most corrupt in the Thai bureaucracy, according to a survey done by Chulalongkorn University in 2014. Local Land Offices, which come under the Department of Land, are the key agencies for all transactions and documentation involving the sale or purchase of land, and can charge a fee for their services. But the survey revealed that land officials often demand extra money to speed up work or legalize documentation'.