ASIA PACIFIC: The month of July 2017 has been a busy month for seed, agriculture and climate stakeholders. So much is going on that Asian Seed’s editorial team has struggled to keep up. Perhaps the biggest “ elephant in the room” so to speak is in respect to unprecedented amounts of rainfall and subsequent flooding that has particularly impacted parts of the Philippines, South China, Australia, New Zealand Taiwan, Japan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. Below are only a few news highlights, recent headlines to highlight the weather and other seed news reported in the region.
Do you have any leads of relevant news stories you think we should be covering, prioritizing, please get in touch.
THAILAND: The front pages of local newspapers late in July were plastered with images of hundreds of vehicles completely submerged in floodwaters after the tropical storm Sonca swept through the Northeastern Thai province of Sakhon Nakhon, before going on to cause havoc for the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands – if not millions more downstream in three Thai regions, namely Isan (Northeastern), North and Central Thailand. Some 10,000 rai (1,600 hectares) of farmland in Nakhon Ratchasima province was reported inundated as overflowing rivers and waterways prompted emergency discharge measures in hundreds of districts throughout. Though nationwide damages were still being accessed into August, one estimate put the damage in Sakon Nakhon province alone at 100 million baht (about US$ 3 million ). The Thai Public Broadcasting Service said that the flood was the “worst flood in a decade” for the landlocked province that is within 50km of the Mekong River.
VIETNAM: No less than eight persons in central Vietnam have been confirmed dead in the wake of a powerful tropical storm that caused much economic and infrastructural damage earlier this week. Residential damages reported from Tropical Storm Talas include hundreds of collapsed houses, with rooftops being ripped off thousands more houses. Meanwhile dozens of fishing ships and boats have been confirmed sunk, while severe damages to roads and bridges has also been reported by the Central Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control. According to VNE Express, the natural disaster has destroyed more than 1,400 acres of rice crops in nine provinces. Relentless rains caused havoc in the northern part of the country early in July, when floodwaters and resevoir discharged resulted in land slides causing residential property damage and evacuations.
CAMBODIA: Villagers in Stung Treng Province were forced to flee their homes and villages as floodwaters overflowed from the southern banks of the Sesan River, near where a controversial hydroelectric dam is being constructed. The site of the dam is situated downstream from the confluence where the Sesan and Sre Pok rivers meet, about 25km before the Se Kong river meets the Mekong River, reports the Khmer Times. Villagers in Preaj Vojear Province were also forced to evacuate due to floodwaters from the rising Stung Sen River, as reported by The Cambodia Daily
MYANMAR: The World Bank Group’s private sector investment arm, International Finance Corporation (IFC) is looking to inject much-needed financing into Myanmar’s budding agriculture sector. According to Deal Street Asia, the IFC has recently made accumulative investments in the Southeast Asian country worth between US$566 million and $1.13 billion, benefiting 18 private companies, a majority representing the telecom, tourism and energy sectors. Aside from agriculture, the IFC is also looking to finance the educational sector.
INDONESIA: Prices of rice in the most populous Southeast Asian nation are reportedly more than double world averages, and far exceed quotes in neighboring countries, reports Indonesia Expat Dot Biz. Citing FAO statistics, the average price per kg of rice in Indonesia in March this year, was at around 79 cents US. This is compared to much lower prices in Cambodia (42 cents), Thailand (33 cents), Vietnam (31 cents) and Myanmar (28 cents). A reason cited for the high prices in the island nation is the excessive use of fertilizer due to misconceptions of farmers.
SRI LANKA & BANGLADESH: Rice traders in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are urgently seeking to each import 200,000 tonnes of rice from public and private sources in Thailand, reports the Bangkok Post. Citing low stocks linked to crop losses from unfavorable weather, the countries are looking to take advantage of government-to-government supply contracts with Vietnam, India, Pakistan and Thailand to secure its needs. Strong torrential monsoon rains this month and last have brought much hardship to both countries. The heavy rains associated with early arriving southwesterly monsoon in June were responsible for floods that reportedly claimed 200 lives, displacing more than 600,000 and inundated valuable cash crops such as tea, affecting hundreds of thousands of farmers. Flooding in June and July in Bangladesh have resulted in the the river basins of the Brahmaputra-Jamuna, Surma and Ganges-Padma and Kushiara systems overflowing and waterlogged .
Nepal: An unnamed Chinese national was recently arrested in the Kathmandu neighborhood of Thamel and is being prosecuted for unauthorized possession of sacred seeds used to make Buddhist prayer beeds. According to a July 1 report by The Himalyan Times the seeds of the Bodhichitta tree (Ziziphus budhensis), which have high religious and cultural value in both Nepal and China, are protected and closely regulated in Nepal under the Forest Act. The detained suspect reportedly was found to possess 48.5 kilograms of the seeds, which were valued at 10 million Nepalese Ruppees ($97,000) according to local market rates.
PAKISTAN: Rice has been planted on over 342,000 acres (about 138,400 hectares) in Punjab province, reports The Nation Pakistan. Citing APP and Agriculture Department Sources, the news brief highlights the the main tehsil, or administrative sub-divisions where the paddy will be cultivated, including in Sialkot, Daska, Pasrur and Sambrial. The Agriculture Department is training farmers in the district to optimize the use of inputs – fertilizer, water and seeds – in a concerted effort to improve productivity, and thus food security potential.
JAPAN: Evacuation orders and advisories were mandated late in July for some 120,000 residents in Akita Prefecture to mitigate the imminent threat of flooding and landslides as a record rainfall was reported in Akita and in Tohoku region. Evacuations were subsequently ordered in the cities of Senboku, Daisen, Yurihonjo and Misato as stormy weather reaked wrath on the coast of the Sea of Japan, causing parts of the Omono River and other local waterways to flood as more wet weather is being forecast in the coming weeks.
CHINA: A new potato research facility has been formally launched in Beijing. Launched as part of a collaboration between the Chinese government and the International Potato Center (CIP), the new CIP China Center for Asia Pacific (CCCAP) was announced publicly during an official signing ceremony held at the facility’s planned location in Yanqing was held in Beijing on 11 July, reports China’s Ministry of Agriculture. To facilitate R&D at the new center, China will contribute laboratory instruments and equipment worth RMB 19.5 million ($2.8 million). The year 2018 will mark the 40th anniversary of China-CIP cooperation, which has included the exchange of germplasms technical and personnel resources and capacity building
CHINA-USA: Agriculture produce importers in China are set to import more than 12.5 million tons of soybeans and 371 tons of pork and beef from suppliers in the US. The figures were revealed by China’s State Council News, reporting on agricultural transaction contracts signed 13 July. The deals are the latest developments resulting from the “100-Day Action Plan” signed by officials from both countries in April, which is part of the US-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue (CED)
Oceania & South Pacific
AUSTRALIA: The weather Down Under is up in the air with mixed expectations. The Bureau of Meteorology in late June forecast “below average” rainfall over the southwestern part of Western Australia and southeastern part of New South Wales for the third quarter of the year (July-September period). Moreover, the forecast, as reported by Farming Ahead , pits July to a drier-than-usual month for the southwestern part of WA and eastern part of NSW. Citing a “persistent synoptic pattern, dominated by stronger than usual high pressure systems” the article states that rainfall has been particularly limited in WA’s wheatbelt and that of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia this past autumn and early winter (coinciding with the spring and summer in the Northern Hemisphere). The drier than usual first half of the year in South Australia and Tasmania is speculated to have had a chain reaction, affecting meat prices as the result of losses to the fodder crop industry. Despite the dry outlook being reported, other meteorological sources early in July have warned residents in South Australia to brace for more severe, “dousing” type weather systems.
AUSTRALIA: In the not so distant past, few would have thought it practical to grow sweet potatoes in the relatively cooler clime of Melbourne. But horticulture experiment revelations from the “Novel Crops” project at Melabourne University’s Burnley Campus are yielding promising results in light of climate change and the urban heat island effect, reports ABC Australia.
AUSTRALIA & TASMANIA: Following the landmark decision in April to amend the Australian Food Code to finally allow hemp food products to marketed as safe for human consumption, one Sydney-listed firm is particularly lined up to reap in profits. Citing a “unique Australian based Cannabis hemp seed bank developed over many years” an article by ABC News Wire Dot Net underlines convincing factors for strong growth potential of Queensland Bauxite Limited, who has recently confirmed the successful germination and early growth stages of its first winter Cannabis crop, for which harvest of its protein-rich seeds is expected to coincide with the commercial enforcement of the new amended law, or by November.
AUSTRALIA & SOUTH PACIFIC: Concerned lime industry stakeholders in the world’s largest island country have until August 7 to submit comments on a draft report being considered by the Department of Agriculture to review phytosanitary import requirements to essentially allow imports of limes from five Pacific nations: Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu. The revisions to the restrictions would ensure inspections on consignments at source by supplying NPPOs, and at destination by Australian biosecurity officials. However, some stakeholders are concerned that the safety measures will not be adequate to address the spread of pests, and would cause there to be a surplus in the market, thus reducing prices, reports ABC Australia.