ASIA & THE PACIFIC: Following are briefs and leads to news and events of interest to the seed industry, with an emphasis on APSA member countries in East, South and Southeast Asia as well as in Oceania: Stories come from numerous reputable sources in China, India, Australia, New Zealand, Myanmar, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Singapore.
Asia & International
New enhanced security measures for ISTA Blue and Orange certificates
The Secretariat of the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) has announced new enhanced security protection measures for its Orange and Blue International Seed Analysis Certificates. Effective immediately, the new ISTA Certificates will possess an ISTA water mark, a unique registration number, bar-code system corresponding to the unique registration number and an ISTA holographic sticker on the bottom right portion of the certificate. An email blast sent out from the ISTA Secretariat in February noted that “Scanning, photocopying (other than to archive a copy of a used certificate) or imitation of the certificates is illegal and may be prosecuted.” The message also noted that previous certificates may still be used and that new protection measures would not increase the cost of ISTA Certificates, which can be ordered from the ISTA Secretariat (go to ISTA website here) by ISTA Accredited Laboratories only. For more information and developments from ISTA, look out for updates in Asian Seed.
APSA members represented at Fruit Logistica
Vegetable seed companies from Asia and throughout the world showcased their latest products at this year’s Fruit Logistica in Berlin. Among the highlights, APSA member HM Clause won a silver Innovation Award with their entry of ADORA, a nutrient-rich Marmande tomato variety, which was pitted against nine other entries vying for what is said to be the “most important award in the industry”. More than 75,000 buyers from 80 countries joined this year’s event. Of the total 3,220 companies showcased, about 80 came from China. Vendors and visitors who missed their chance to take part in this year’s event can look forward to Fruit Logistica Asia, which will be held in Hong Kong in September.
Punjab seeks Australian international expertise to market crops
The Times of India and Hindustan Times report that Punjab cabinet minister, Navjot Singh Dishu has sought the advice from the Australian high commissioner in India, Harinder Didhu, on how to best market the state’s crops internationally. The development came during a state visit by the latter, who toured Punjab Agricultural University, among other places to boost bilateral ties in sports, tourism and agriculture.
Deal opens up Australian seed potato potential in Indonesia market
Seed potato growers in Victoria and South Australia have concluded a trade deal worth up to A$100 million a year to supply as many as 85,000 tonnes of the commodity to Indonesia. The export protocol deal was finalized during a meeting on February 19 in Melbourne between an Indonesian delegation and their prospective partners in Australia following nine years of negotiations and bilateral visits. Weekly Times Now Dot Com in Australia reports that the industry is already worth $A520 million, with Thailand and Vietnam already as key export markets in Southeast Asia for Australian potato seed.
Bulk shipment of Chinese perishables on way to Russia, via train
160 tonnes of fresh Chinese produce are making a 10,000 kilometer journey to Russia via block freight train. Operated by DB Schenker, the unprecidented block train shipment comprises 11 refrigerator containers, which left Chengdu Gingbaijiang International Railway Port earlier in February, and will take 16 days to reach Moscow, where the fresh vegetables will be ready for market.
Japan govt funds greenhouse, gardening initiative in war-torn Iraq
The Japanese Government has earmarked $1.5 million to fun an FAO vegetable production project to benefit about 3,000 people in conflict-affected areas of Iraq. Families in Anbar, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Alah al-Din will receive inputs, equipment and training for backyard gardening and greenhouse horticulture: 1,260 will be trained and granted backyard gardening kits, which include planting containers vegetable seeds, fertilizers and hand tools; another 1,740 will be trained and supplied with greenhouse vegetable growing kits, including seeds, tools and fertilizer.
China distributes rice to displaced Nigerians
The Government of China is donating 135,500 bags of rice to displaced persons in northeastern Nigeria, which has been impacted by insurgency. The Eagle Online reports that nearly 7,000 tonnes of rice had been distributed already, with the remainder expected to be handed out within the end of February.
Smart apps to alleviate Myanmar farmer poverty
An article in the ASEAN post has outlined two apps that are gaining popularity in rural Myanmar, where farmers earn as little as US$2 a day. Despite such economic disparities, the article highlights, most people have access to smartphones. The “Green Way” and “Golden Paddy” apps provide an ideal platform for farmers in the country to gather and exchange farming intel and advice, covering everything from seeds and fertilizer to weather, planting and pest management.
Myanmar bank invests in fiance for female farmers
Kanbawza (KBZ) Bank, Myanmar’s largest privately-owned bank has partnered with NGO Action Aid Myanmar to earmark about 100 million kyats ($75,000) to be allocated as loans to about 120 female farmers and traders in Pakokku of the country’s Magway region. According to an article by Mizzima Dot Com, the 12-month pilot program, which started in November last year, will provide fixed-term loans to female smallholder farmers who can provide proof of land ownership. Previously, poor women farmers only had access to high-interest loans through unregulated channels.
Israeli firm to invest in post-harvest seed warehouses in Mandalay
Oz Agribusiness Projects and Investments will invest with an undisclosed Myanmar partner between $10 million and $20mn to build post-harvest warehouses in the Mandalay region, which will be benefit sesame seed traders, Myanmar Times reports. The project is part of bilateral cooperation to protect investments between the two countries.
Singapore veg farming plots awarded in fixed tender
The Hortidaily reports that 10 land parcels were awarded at a fixed-tender to eight vegetable farming companies in Singapore. The tender, which was held between August and October, last year, was structured so that all bids were fixed at a set price and were differentiated only by concept proposals, which were assessed by specific criteria, including production capability, production track record, relevant experience and qualification, as well as innovation and sustainability.
Agency hopes to procure GM seeds from India to revive Philippine cotton industry
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) variety cotton seeds from India are in the process of being procured by an agency in the Philippines to revive the latter’s cotton industry. According to an article by the Business Mirror Philippines, the Philippine Fiber Development Authority is standing by for the country’s Bureau of Plant Industry to issue import permits to procure the transgenic desi seeds, which would be used to plant cotton on 660 hectares of land, including 150 ha in Tarlac, 160 ha in Ilocos and 350 ha in Mindanao, working with a 96-million-peso budget allocated by a senator. In the event that import permits for the GM-seeds could not be obtained, the agency would instead use local varieties, which would be expected to have inferior yields.
Mount Sinabung Blows Lid, Spews Ash 7km high
One of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes, Mount Sinabung on Sumatra on February 19 literally blew its top in its latest explosion, which sent ash plumes more than seven kilometers into the air, blanketing crops in the vicinity and sending ash as far as 260 kilometers away. Indonesia’s Disaster Agency warned its citizenry to stay out of a seven-kilometer exclusion zone as the 2,460-meter-high volcano has been upgraded to the highest red alert by the Volcano Observatory Notice for Aviation (VONA).
8th Indian Seed Congress a Wrap, Hyderabad to host 2019 ISTA Congress
The 8th edition of the Indian Seed Congress was successfully organized 5-6 February. Held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, it was the first time the annual event was staged outside of India. Organized by the National Seed Association of India (NSAI) and inaugurated in 2010 in Bengaluru, the event has also been held in Hyderabad, Pune, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Agra and Kolkata. This year’s theme was “Seeds Beyond Boundaries”. For more information, visit NSAI’s website. In related news, it has been announced that the 32nd International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) Congress will be held in Hyderabad, India 26 June — 3 July, next year. Look out for more coverage of Indian seed industry in Asian Seed magazine.
Indian Supreme Court Issues Verdict on Cauvery Water Dispute
In the latest development of a decades-old river water share dispute between several states in Southern India, the Indian Supreme Court on February 16 decided to award an increase in water allocation for Karnataka, while reducing that of Tamil Nadu, The Wire India reports. The latest tribunal was formed following appeals filed by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala against a 2007 tribunal decision. Water allocation from the river and releases from the inter-state Biligundlu dam have been in dispute among agricultural, industrial and residential interests for at least four decades.
India’s first Rice Research Institute turns 100 in August
The Regional Agricultural Research Station in Karjat, just outside Mumbai, will celebrate its 100th anniversery this August. Founded by the Government of Bombay Province in 1918, the station was established to develop and improve rice strainis in modern day Thane, Palghar and Raigad districts. Over the years a number of noteworthy high-yielding, pest and disease tolerant/resistant varieties have been developed, reports The Better India dot com.
India warms up to hemp industry investment
As many countries and states around the world realize rapid progress in the reform of outdated hemp and cannabis laws, India is no exception, reports the Indian Express. Investment in research to standardize seed quality and mass production capacity is underway in at least two states.
Erotic poster used to deter vegetable thieves
Scarecrows may work for deterring birds from stealing crops, but when the crop culprit is human, sometimes you have to get a little more creative. One farmer in Andhra Pradesh reports that a poster of an ex-erotic star did the trick, reports the Daily Mail.
Rainy season crops could get generous govt support
The Indian Finance Minister proposes to fix minimum support prices for khariff or rainy season crops at 1.5 times the production cost, the Indian Express reports. The proposal, which was announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, was dubbed Operation Greens and is part of the govt’s 2018-2019 Budget proposal.
New food processing facility in Andhra Pradesh
Linde India, a global leader in cryogenic freezing and chilling technologies for the food industry, on February 20, inaugurated its first food laboratory and training centre at Mangalagiri in Guntur district in Andhra Pradesh. The development reinforces the Indian government’s strategy to increase farmers’ incomes.
Longer winter, untimely rains cited for production dip, export boost for grapes, pomegranates
Indian grape and pomegranate harvests have suffered production dips due to cooler-than-usual weather as well as untimely rains. Grape production in particular has dipped by 40, reports the Indian Express. At the same time, improved crop management was cited as a reason for improved exports of the crops.
Unseasonable rain, hail storms wreak havoc for Indian Rabi crops
Reports in Marathwada and Vidarbha underline losses in wheat, chana, jowar, bajra, tur,, gramand and high-value horticulture crops such as mangoes, grapes, oranges, bananas and mangoes, citrus fruits. According to a Gubba Group report, crops were affected across 1.24 lakh hectares across 11 districts of Maharashtra. Likewise, the Times of India reports that in Telangana: Nirmal, Adilabad and Nizamabad districts, unseasonal rain and hailstorms damaged Bengal gram and sesamum crops, paddy, maize and Jowar crops spread over 8,977 hectares and affecting a total of 12,432 farmers. Another report from the same news agency highlights similar losses in Madhya Pradesh: in Dewas, Khandwa and Burhanpur districts, where untimely rain decimated wheat and chana crops sown in about 13,000 hectares.
Spinach Latent Virus among 28 pests, pathogens on revised Korean Quarantine List
Consignments of spinach seeds imported into South Korea will no longer be screened for Spinach Latent Virus (SpLV). Speaking to APSA, the Korean Seed Association (KOSA) confirmed the news after the Plant and Animal Quarantine Agency, which is the National Plant Protection Office (NPPO) of South Korea, on 9 February published a revised list of 28 “Non-Quarantine Pests” to its website. According to KOSA, SpLV in spinach seeds had been on the NPPO’s radar in recent years; however after consultation with KOSA and concerned companies, the list was reviewed last year with recent data and scientific evidence, prompting the NPPO to revise the list. A full list of the 28 pests and pathogens, will be published in an upcoming issue of Asian Seed.
Japanese Researchers reverse-engineer gene inhibitor
Safety and environment tests are underway for a potentially-powerful agrochemical that can potentially improve fruiting crop yields significantly by reversing the process of “shoot branching” in plants. As reported in Science Daily Dot Com, the researchers identified a compound (DL1) that could actively inhibit the regulator gene, D14, which limits branching of a plant. By inhibiting the inhibitor, the compound has promise to enable spurring of branching in flowering plants and rice, for example.
Chinese mandarins in short supply as demand, prices rise
Production of mandarin oranges in China has been slumping in recent months, resulting in rising prices in markets abroad and greater demand for imports in China. This Spring Festival, which coincides with Chinese New Year, shortages were cited in Borneo, where traders were cushioned from higher prices by a favorable exchange rate at the same time being cautious of importing produce due to declining domestic spending power. A production shortage of the popular festive citrus fruit was also reported in North America back in December. A mandarin market overview published by Fresh Plaza last September also underlined rising demand in light of stagnant mandarin production in China, which has not necessarily been bad for growers in Australia, Pakistan and Turkey.
Asia Seed signs MOU to produce vegetable hybrids for cosmetics industry
South Korean vegetable seed company and APSA member, Asia Seed, has inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with US cosmetics firm, Venn Skincare, which stipulates that the former will develop hybrid vegetables and vegetable seeds, specifically engineered to produce high concentrations of more potent skincare ingredients, Cosmetics Design Asia reports.
Importing cabbage seeds to produce Korean-bound Kimchi in China
Not all the kimchi consumed in South Korea comes from the Korean peninsula; some of its produced in Qingdao, China, where cabbage farmers utilize imported cabbage and turnip seeds to produce the essential ingredients needed to make the Korean national dish. China Dot Org Dot CN reports:
New Zealand bill to require country of origin label on imported food items
The Consumers’ Right to Know or Country of Origin of Food Bill is being considered by lawmakers in New Zealand, who have so far been favorable of the motion. If passed later this year, the law would require all food items imported to the island nation to carry a label denoting the country of origin, which is currently not required for food items, in contrast to clothes and footwear which does require country of origin labeling, reports Gisborne Herald New Zealand.
Cyclone Gita leaves costly path of destruction for Tonga agriculturalist
At least NZ$1 million losses in profit were reported by one horticulturalist in Tonga, who suffered the wrath of Cyclone Gita, which decimated citrus, watermelon, breadfruit and root crops (cassava, taro, yams) on his farm when it swept through mid February, reports Stuff New Zealand
NZ growers sweet pea garden contest creates bloom buzz
Renowned New Zealand sweet pea breeder, Dr Keith Hammett last year distributed more than 3,000 packets of free sweet pea seeds to gardeners across the country to grow the colorful plant for a magazine contest. Though no special prize was offered, the Great Sweet Pea Challenge prompted hundreds of submissions of photos of the colorful flowers yielded from Dr. Hammett’s seeds, Stuff New Zealand reports.
More grains in national diet could save millions, claims reports
A report commissioned by Kellogg’s concluded that consuming more “roughage” from grains could save New Zealand as much as NZ$600 million a year. The estimates, which were based on $204mn in anticipated saved healthcare costs and increased economic output of $403mn, were greeted with caution by some health experts, who said that eating fiber was not the most important way to reduce heart disease and diabetes, New Zealand Herald reports.
Australia ships its largest deposit of seeds to Norway Doomsday Vault
Two of Australia’s national seed banks ar contributing to the country’s largest ever deposit of seeds to be delivered to the isolated seed vault on the Norweigion island of Svalbard. The shipment of 30 crates includes 34,000 different types of grain and pasture seeds, reports ABC Australia. More than 900,000 different types of seeds are kept at the Norwegian vault, which can maintain seed vitality for up to 100 years due to sub-arctic conditions.
Speed breeding promises six harvests per year of wheat
Researchers at the University of Queensland are replicating space-growing techniques used by Nasa to significantly speed up breeding cycles using artificial light and controlled conditions. A video report by Reuters highlights that by exposing wheat plants to LED lighting for up to 22 hours a day, wheat growers can go from seed-to-seed in as little as six weeks.