ASIA PACIFIC: Following are several highlights relevant to the seed and agriculture industry of Asia Pacific countries, including news from Indonesia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, China, India, Thailand, North Korea, China , Vietnam, New Zealand, Malaysia Iran, Japan and Taiwan, including volcanoes, hemp, feces fertilizer, corporate mergers and snow storms. News highlights will be added throughout the month, so please be sure to bookmark this page for more updates.
Tens of thousands evacuated after volcanoes erupt in Philippines, Indonesia and PNG
Several volcanoes in Southeast Asia have prompted emergency evacuations with increased activity lately. Near the popular tourist destination of Bali in Indonesia, more than 140,000 people have been evacuated from the area near Mount Agung, which began erupting early December, 2017, continuing to erupt periodically through to January, 2018, spewing thick ash plumes as high as 2.5km high. The last time this volcano experienced a major eruption was in 1963, when more than 1,500 were killed.
Also in Indonesia, thousands have been displaced as Mount Sinabung continues to spew ash and dust into the sky over Sumatra. Its latest eruption, which started in December, 2017 and continued into the new year, has already been cited for crop damages, spewing volcanic particulate clouds as much as 4.6km away, causing ash to blanket exposed solanaceous crops.
More than 12,000 people have been evacuated from the area around Mount Mayon in the Philippines province of Albay, on the island of Luzon, as lava began oozing out of the country’s most active volcano on Monday (January 15), with an ash plume reportedly spewing 2.5km into the sky. Authorities warn that a full-scale violent eruption could be triggered. The Mayon Volcano has erupted more than 50 times in the past four centuries.The nearby city of Legazpi has a population of about 200,000 and the surrounding area is a key agriculture producing region.
Meanwhile, some 1,500 were evacuated from the Papua New Guinea volcano island of Kadovar after it erupted on January 12, following of week of ash venting. The volcano was previously thought to be dormant. Though volcano eruptions are deadly, particulate from volcanic ash is known to be a source for superior fertilizer. As reported in Asian Seed & Planting Material, scientists have found links between cosmic ray flux and increased volcanic during solar minima. We are currently entering into a solar minimum.
Price of popular herbacide from China, India rises
Brazil FOB quotations for the popular herbicide “2-4-D” (2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) – sourced from China and India – reportedly rose between 29 and 61% in 2016, depending on the season. Citing reduced production linked to regulatory factors in China, the increasing price of the agrichemical was reported by AgroPages. Commercialized since the 1940s, 2-4-D is popular for pasture and grass farmers, used to control broad-leaf weeds, and is also formulated with other herbicides such as glyphosate and picloran. According to AgroPages, there are a total of 66 2-4-D registered trademarks held by 19 registrants. Among them, DowDupont is the market leader.
Seed-chemical corporate consolidation continues
With three out of four BigAg mergers finalized in 2017, the seed and agriculture world is standing by for official confirmation of a fourth mega-merger closing – between Bayer and Monsanto – with an update expected to be announced in the first part of this year. The deal, worth $66 billion, was still being vetted by the EU at time of press. Likewise, antitrust concerns proved a significant-but-not-restricting hurdle for the $43 billion acquisition of Syngenta by ChinaChem, which was finalized early in 2017 after getting approval from US and EU authortizes. The latest development in the merger is Syngenta formally delisting from the NYSE as well as SIX Swiss exchange. The ChemChina-Syngenta deal was followed late last year by the closing in September of an even bigger merger – to the tune of $62 billion – between two American chemical giants Dow and Dupont. The combined chemical giant will continue to be a major player in the global seed industry through Dupont Pioneer, which is being combined into a single agriculture entity along with Dupont Crop Protection and Dow AgroSciences. Chemical, crop protection and seed stakeholders are also standing by this year for confirmation about a rumour of a potential merger between ChinaChem and SinoChem, which would reportedly be worth more than $120 billion, and could make the emerging Chinese conglomerate even larger than BASF, the current world leader.
China moon seeds mission to launch midyear
China’s ambitious plans to land on the dark side of the moon and grow plants, is expected to be put into action by June this year. According to the IB Times, the world’s most populous country
will first launch a relay satelite, which will be a necesarry precursor to establish communications that will enable a second launch of a lander and rover. Planned to be included on the lander is a special automated container that will house potato seed, silkworm eggs and seeds of Arabidopsis (genus of the Brassicaceae family). Known collectively as the Chang’e 4 mission, the mission will be the first of its kind, for not only landing on the dark side of the moon, but for automating plant growth and photosynthesis there.
Legal hemp cultivation commences in six Thai provinces
As of January 1, an undisclosed number of private-public cooperative farms in select districts of six Thai provinces – Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Nan, Tak, Phetchabun – have begun cultivating legal hemp. Technically, hemp – which refers to the tropical plant, Cannabis Sativa, but which has specifically been cultivated for its non-psychoactive fibers, seeds and leaves – is still classified as a Category Five narcotic in Thailand, along with marijuana, referring to the resin-rich flowers of the same plant, which have well documented medicinal and psychoactive properties. However, a new ministerial regulation that was announced late in 2016, and promulgated January 2017, has opened the way for public-private partnerships to cultivate the (hemp) plant in designated districts under specific conditions for the coming three years. According to the government’s plan – being engaged by a number of agencies including the Ministry of Public Health, Thailand Food and Drug Administration and the Office of Narcotics Control Board – select private-public partnerships will be able to cultivate cultivars of the plant which have levels of the psychoactive substance Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) not exceeding 1%. During the pilot three year period, said partnerships will look to develop products and material from the plant ranging from medicine, food, clothing and building materials. After the three year period expires, the government will decide whether or not to allow for commercial cultivation among the private sector. According to inside sources of Asian Seed, among the leading patrons include the Thai military and the Thai Tobacco Monopoly. More than 50,000 derivative products from hemp have been identified, while hundreds of commercial patents have been filed in recent years, attesting to the enormous commercial potential. Indeed, Thailand is among a number of countries in the Asia and Pacific looking to tap into the budding market, alongside Australia, India, Philippines, Korea, and even Japan and China — the world’s largest supplier of cannabis sativa seeds. While medical marijuana is now legal in Australia, and tolerated in much of India, private cultivation and consumption of the plant – hemp and marijuana – is still strictly prohibited elsewhere in the region.
Fighting North Korean famine with good seeds, machinery and new farming methods
The North Korean government will continue to develop its agriculture sector in response to looming drought, famine and international sanctions. According to NK News Dot Org, the country is suffering from a long-term drought, with domestic grain production dropping last year by 100,000 tonnes or 2%, to 4.71 million tons, down from 4.81mn tons the previous year. According to figures cited in the report, the country requires 5.68mn tonnes of food per year, but is only able to supply 5.15 million tons, equating to a shortage of nearly half a million tons. The government’s push for agriculture comes ahead of the latest round of UN sanctions issued on December 22 which prohibit the country from transferring or selling food and agricultural products. “We must widely accept the good seeds and the scientific farming methods that have proved superior in reality and increase the amount of area that can be farmed twice a year,” leader Kim Jong Un is quoted as saying. The country is reportedly trialling high-yielding wheat and barley seeds and newly developed mechanized farming methods. In related news, a North Korean defector is quoted as saying that human feces is a popular fertilizer choice in his native country, despite its health risks.
China blizzards decimate horticulture, field and fruit crops
Tens of thousands of hectares of crops have been destroyed by extreme winter weather that has had grave impacts to agriculture in Jiangsu, Anhui, Hubei, Henan, Shanxi, Hunan and Chongqing. According to APSA sources, no less than 233.1k hectares of crops have been impacted, with indirect economic losses of 5.55 billion RMB. According to one report, 10,000 ha of greenhouses were damaged, while 16,000 ha of open field crops were damaged. According to another report, more than 45,000 hectares of agriculture land — spanning fruit, tea and vegetable farms — was damaged by the winter weather, which has plagued the central and north part of the country since the New Year.
Vietnam farmers brace for harsh winter weather
Learning hard lessons from previous winters, authorities warned farmers in northern Vietnam to brace for more freezing weather this winter.
In January 2016, nearly 9,000 farm animals froze to death after freezing weather swept over the north of the country —
A cold front that also brought snow to Central Vietnam for the first time in recorded history.
Korea: Man dies in pepper greenhouse inferno as temperatures plummet
Police suspect that an electric boiler used for heating a greenhouse in Korea’s South Jeolla Province on Wednesday (January 17) overheated before igniting, killing a man, and causing 44 million won in property damages. With temperatures dropping as low as minus 22 degrees in some parts of the country this past week, Korean agriculture officials have issued a number of alerts in local media advising horticulturalists and farmers to take extra precautions to protect their crops from extreme cold weather. In Gyonggi homes, greenhouses, a compost plant and 30 hectares of farmland were damaged, assessed at more than 300 million won. The spate of cold weather has also reportedly caused agriculture hardship in China, Japan, Malaysia and northern Vietnam (see below).
Malaysia Cold Spell has knock-on effect at Singapore Grocery Stores
Prices of tomatoes, Japanese cucumber, iceberg lettuce, lemongrass in Singapore grocery stores are rising in the face of shortages blamed on cool and cloudy weather in Malaysia.
Heavy rains have been blamed for damages to crops and livestock in Taman Fikri, Chukai , Malaysia, prompting the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Ministry to consider giving some form of assistance to farmers and livestock breeders who incurred losses after their crops and livestock were destroyed in recent floods. Aside from the flooding, prolonged cold and cloudy weather is causing concern among vegetable farmers, especialy those who produce leafy greens, bok choy, chai sim and spinach, who fear that the rain and lack of sunshine may reduce production by 10 to 15 percent. Temperatures across the country have dipped below the norm in January. In Johor, farmers are reporting a 30% drop in yields, which has caused prices of some vegetables to rise by as much as 100%. Meanwhiile, in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, the price of pork is also on the rise in the face of shortages linked to increased demand from tourists in the Muslim country.
Cold Front Brings Huge Vegetable, Fisheries Losses to Taiwan, Japan
Vegetable cultivation has taken a hit across Chinese Taipei, especially for tomatoes, pears, lotus and bitter gourd. Millions in damages have been assessed, In Kaohsiung City, losses were accounted for 36% of the total, followed by Tainan (19%); Hsinchu County loss 16%) Nantou County (10% and Pingtung County, accounting for 7%. Moreover, fisheries have been damaged in Tainan, Yunlin, Changhua and Chiayi, and mostly involved clam pond polyculture and milkfish. Meanwhile, losses have also been reported in Motegi district, Nagasaki City of Japan, where record snow and low temperatures damaged loquat crop.
Heavy Rains, Storms Continue to Cause Havoc in Philippines, Vietnam, New Zealand
Due to continued heavy rains, winter rice planting in the Mekong Delta had declined to 764,500 hectares, down 14.4% from the same period last year . Meanwhile heavy rain in Vietnam’s northern provinces has adversely affected planting area of peanut, soya, maize and sweet potato as farmers hesitate to plant following the devistation brought on by typhoons Pakhar and Mawar in late August and early September The areas of maize, sweet potato and soya fell by 15.6%, 34% and 29.8 %, respectively. The Philippines continues to get battered storm after storm. The latest bout started in December when Tropical Depression Urduja decemated rice, vegetables, corn and cassava crops, resulting in P1 billion damages. Next up was Typhoon Vinta (Tembin) which rocked the Philippines: Regions 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula), 11 (Davao Region), 12 (SOCCSKSARGEN) and 13 (National Capital Region) contributing to some P237.13 million worth of field crops and livestock losses across 19,273 hectares of agricultural land. Then, early in the New Year, Bago City, Cadiz City, Escalante City, Manapla and Sipalay City in Negros province suffered the wrath of Typhoon Agaton. The resulting heavy rainfall and flooding washed away rice, cash crops and fisheries, causing an estimated 16.7 million pesos in damage. The wrath of the rain was also blamed for delayed harvesting of avocadoes and kiwis in New Zealand’s Paengaroa and Houhora, where prolonged heavy rains, heavy winds in December reduced the export crop down to approximately 2.2m trays down from over 5m in the previous year, causing prices abroad to rise.
Pakistan faces water shortage in face of wasted, reduced outflows
Agriculture officials in Pakistan anticipate 30-35% water shortage ahead of the 2017-2018 Rabi (winter-spring) harvesting and Khariff (rainy season) planting come March-May. Though dry weather was partially blamed for reduced river outflows, another key factor for the shortage is that many millions of liters that had flowed in the river systems was unable to be harvested, stored and diverted to the Tarbela and Mangla dams in a timely manner due to inadequate storage and re-distribution infrastructure.
Meanwhile, breached canals in Khaipur district caused flooding damage to hundreds of acres of wheat & vegetable crops.
Avian Influenza Outbreak in Korea and Iran
16,500 ducks were culled following the detection of the H5 avian influenza by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs at a farm in Naju, 355 kilometers south of Seoul. The incident follows the culling of 16 million chickens in Iran in December, 2017, when officials there discovered the virus in chickens in Qazvin, Tehran, Alborz and East Azarbaijan. Egg prices have reportedly risen sharply as a result, while the outbreak is said to have caused losses worth over 20 trillion rials ($477.44 million).
Iranian Phytosanitary Officials Diligently Mitigating Pest, Rodent Threats on multiple fronts
Iranian officials have diligently been managing and mitigating a number of emerging and persisting pest and phytosanitary threats. Namely, in Yazd, Taft, Meybod, Mehriz Ardakan and Takzar, fruit flies have wreaked havoc for cultivators of pomegranate: plums, peaches, shaflowo, apricots, some citrus fruits and pomegranate. In Fars Province, citrus, grapes, dates and fig crops have suffered from a number of pest, fungal and bacterial threats, including mosaic virus disease. In related news, Iran officials met to implement rodent control strategy ahead of wheat harvest.
Last Updated on January 19, 2018. Do you have a seed industry news lead? Email Steven [at] apsaseed.org