July 2019 Asia Seed, Agriculture Industry News

ASIA SEED INDUSTRY NEWS, JULY 2019: A compilation of  news summaries covering developments, breakthroughs and commentary from the seed, agriculture and farming industries across the Asia Pacific region.  News summarized here is from Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India,  Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Korea,  Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand,  Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Syria, Thailand, and Vietnam.  Click to expand the respective section.  [caption id="attachment_14333" align="alignright" width="1024"] ISTA gets a new Asian Vice President. Click 'Inter-regional' section to find out more. [/caption] [expand title="Inter-regional"] First Indian and Asian elected ISTA VP: The International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) has elected K. Keshavulu as its new Vice President, a three-year tenure effective immediately through to 2022. K. Keshavulu, who is the  Director of Telangana State Seed and Organic Certification Authority (TSSOCA),  was elected at the recent 32nd ISTA Congress, held in Hyderabad, India from 26 June to 3 July. He is the first Indian and Asian person to hold a high-level executive post with ISTA, and will become ISTA President by 2022 in accordance with the organization’s governance protocol. Until then, previous ISTA VP, Steve Jones of Canada will serve as the association’s new president. ISTA’s Executive Committee also welcomed another Asian -- Ruel Gesmundo (Philippines). More details will be published in the Q3 edition of Asian Seed & Planting Material, published in September. Extreme climate events are impacting lives and livelihoods across the region, from Japan to Siberia, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and India, to Thailand, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea, there have been several extreme weather, climatic events that are dominating headlines. Regarding devestating floods in South Asia, reports suggest that hundreds have been killed, and more than 6 million have been displaced, impacted in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh in July. This is in stark contrast to drought-induced hardship farmers in Thailand and Cambodia have been dealing with this past month. (more details below)
  • Ulawun volcano eruption shoots ash plumes 63,000 feet over Papua New Guinea: No less than 15,000 people have been displaced and evacuated  after the Ulawun volcano erupted on June 26, sending ash plumes nearly 20km into the atmosphere. The eruption, which lasted over a 24-hour period, is being categorized as subplinian, and at least a 4 on the 8-point Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI), which means the event could have global cooling implications in the coming months to years due to significant amounts of particulate injected into the stratosphere, which may contribute to albedo affect
Evacuations, deaths, lost crops from storms, flooding in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Japan and Siberia: 
  • Dozens die, dozens more missing: Flash flooding caused by intense torrential rains in mid-July has caused extreme distress in Pakistan’s Neelum Valley, where no less than 23 have died, and dozens more have been reported missing or rescued, reports Pakistan Today.  …. 200 feet breach washes away standing crops ... Punjab Ag Dept says drain out excessive rainwater.
  • Intense rainfall, flooding in northeast India. No less than 32 have been killed in and around Mumbai as the result of what has been dubbed the worst flood in a decade, reported the New York Times early in July.   According to Xinhua.net, floods in the first week of July have also affected more than 62,000 people in the northeastern Indian state of Assam. 
  • No less than 78 confirmed dead in Nepal as a result of flooding in July, reports ABC News, citing relief efforts by Nepal's National Emergency Operation Center to distribute emergency shelter, food and medicine to affected villages after overflowing rivers wiped out crops and swept away villagers.  A July 23 assessment published by Relief Web said that the flooding has impacted 212,000 citizens in 39,300 households in Nepal. 
  • July floodwaters have destroyed a total of 677,000 hectares of cropland in Bangladesh, with no less than 114 lives lost as a result of related drowning, landslides, lightning, snakebites and water-borne diseases, reports UCANews
  • Million affected in SW Japanese floods, mudslides: Thousands were evacuated in Japan’s Kagoshima Prefecture after record rainfall and flooding prompted Japan’s Meteorological Agency to issue an evacuation advisory affecting more than 1.21 million people in 550,000 households in three SW Japanese prefectures -- Miyazaki, Kumamoto and Kagoshima. Japan Times and Washington Post report. 
  • Torrential rains were cited for the bursting of Lake Baikal and the Angara River banks in the Irkutsk region of Siberia. The flooding led to the death of several and injury of hundreds, reports dw.com https://www.dw.com/en/putin-travels-to-siberia-as-floods-turn-deadly/a-49416679
Drought conditions persisting in parts of SE Asia
  • 8 provinces at ‘brink of water crisis’: The Nation on July 23 reports that 17 major dams -- North, Northeast and Central Thailand -- were in a crisis situation, with reserves at less than 30% capacity. The most affected provinces include Nakhon Ratchasima, Ubon Ratchathani, Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai, Phichit, Kamphaeng Phet, Phitsanulok and Nan. According to the report, paddy and maize crops were at great risk of water stress. 
  • The El Nino ‘klling fields’: The El Nino phenomenon is being pinned as the main reason for an extended drought causing grave difficulties for fishermen and rice farmers in Cambodia dependent on water reserves from the great Tonlé Sap  river, especially in Battamang province, according to a July 19 report from Relief Web.   Further upstream the Mekong River, there are water supply shortages causing destress for farmers in Laos and Thailand, which many media reports are linking to the controversial Xayaburi dam.
(See also, drought, and winter frost impacts on agriculture in Australia, as well as cloudy and cool weather impacting agriculture in Japan sections below) IPPC projects gain steam with Chinese and Japanese support:  The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) recently held its mid-year meeting to review progress on various initiatives. Among four projects reviewed at the meeting were two made possible by funding from China and Japan.  Namely, there is the IPPC-China South South Cooperation project on capacity development, and an ePhyto project supported by Japan. The former includes  a four-year project to strengthen phytosanitary capacity among developing countries around the world, especially in countries affiliated with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.   More details about IPPC and China cooperation in the past decade can be found in a recent FAO publication here.  As for the Generic ePhyto National System, the IPPC has announced that the project will go live on July 15, noting that “All countries without a national [digital phytosanitary / quarantine] system will now be able to connect and exchange ePhytos through the Hub” More details here. South Asian Ag ministers, stakeholders meet in Bhutan: The 4th SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation)  Agriculture Ministers Meeting was held 27 June in Thimphu Bhutan. According to Bhutan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, delegates “reaffirmed the commitment to regional integration to promote agriculture and rural development in the SAARC region..” The meeting also adopted the Thimphu Statement on Agriculture and Rural Development. Prior to the meeting were several other SAARC meetings, including the The 3rd SAARC Multi-stakeholder Meeting (MSHM) on 24 June and the 9th Meeting of the SAARC Technical Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development on 25th June. The MSHM focused on Theme of Seed sharing and Cross-cutting issues of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSMEs)  WorldVeg & ICAR partner in tomato line development: The World Vegetable Centre (WorldVeg) on July 3 published on its Facebook page details about collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) - Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR).  WorldVeg said it had shared two top-performing dual-purpose (fresh market and processing) tomato breeding lines with ICAR-IIHR on 24 June 2019 at GIC-India headquarters in Bengaluru.  Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Australia"] AI imagery analysis tech sheds light on Australia’s vineyards: Food Navigator Asia reports on a breakthrough with the application of a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) analysis software to survey Australia’s 75,961 vineyard blocks. Using the Geospatial Artificial Intelligence for Agriculture (GAIA) analysis algorithm, the software scans images taken by Maxar’s WorldView-2 satellite to determine various key parameters, including pricese planting locations and planting densities -- data of which can be used for emergency biosecurity response. The new surveying tool, which will replace paper-based sector survey used previously, was trialled initially on vineyards due to high level of industry interest, and is also being considered for survey of other key horticulture/orchard crops.  Drought blamed for fall in grain output: Straits Times reports that Australia this year is having to import wheat due to lower than usual farm output this past year, citing drought as the main reason.  In related news, Grain Central reports that Australia’s largest canola crusher, Grain Corp in eastern Australia is considering importing canola seed  from other states to maintain capacity in the face of a shortage of the grain used for processing meal.  Record, unusual frosts threaten horticulture crops in S Australia: Avocado and citrus farmers in South Australia are having to get creative to protect their crops from sub-zero temperatures in what has been described in some towns as one of the coldest winters on record. Among the creative solutions highlighted in an article by ABC Australia is coating trees with molasses to slow down or inhibit freezing.  The Guardian reported that winter weather advisories on July 10 had been issued for parts of Victoria, NSW, and South Australia, warning citizens of strong winds, frost and blizzards. Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Bangladesh"] Scientists appeal for rapid distribution of blast-resistant wheat seeds: Scientists from the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) in collaboration with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) have appealed for funds to speed up the distribution of BARI Gom 33 seeds. BARI Gom 33 is a new blast-resistant, high-yielding, zinc-fortified wheat variety that was approved for dissemination by Bangladesh’s national seed board in 2017, but scientists argue that the extended process for multiplying and distributing the seeds nationwide could require up to five years. Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Brunei"] Growers cultivating, exporting expensive Japanese muskmelons: BizBrunei.com reports that a local company, Superfish, have exported their first commercial harvest of Japanese Arus muskmelons, which are described in the article as the “world’s most expensive melon”. 15 tonnes of melons were reportedly exported at a wholesale price of US$20 per kg, to Japan, China, Malaysia and Singapore. The melons, which have an average weight of about 1.5kg per, can reportedly fetch more than $100 at retail stores.   Return to top [/expand] [expand title="China"] Growing China fir forests in Guangxi: In Rong'an County of Guangxi Province, there is a state-owned forest farm and seedling tissue culture center that has China fir (cunninghamia lanceolata) seedling and sapling breeding and cultivation spanning more than 5,000 acres. As reported in Chinese by Xinhua.net, the Xishan Forest Farm was opened in 1954 and is one of the first national forest breeding bases in China, with commerial tree multiplication efforts formally beginning in 1978. Since 2010, a comprehensive breeding project has been carried out there, with the current annual output of 6 million high-quality cedar seedlings and saplings, which have characteristics of fast-growing, high-yield, high-efficiency and strong pest and disease resistance. The trees are not only distributed in Guangxi, but also to forest farmers in Fujian and Guangdong. Subsidized by the government, low income households at the farm cultivate saplings according to scientific procedures. The trees can be sold in 10 to 12 years, which is much shorter than traditional Chinese fir. Farmers can earn no less than 10,000 yuan per mu. Moreover, there is a Xishan Forest Farm Tissue Culture Center, which was established in collaboration with the Liuzhou Forestry Technology Promotion Station.  The center has yielded over one million seedlings, and current expansion will see the annual capacity of 30 million seedlings. Henan summer seed expo: More than 300 varieties were exhibited, and more than 400 seed and agriculture companies interacted with ‘tens of thousands’ visitors at the “2019 Henan Summer Seed Information Exchange & Products Fair” on July 3 and 4. The fair is especially popular among wheat seed companies and farmers in Henan.  Guangdong Customs intercepts quarantine pest seeds in Australian barley shipment: As reported by Sina.com and ChinaNews.com, customs officials based at Guangdong’s Huangpu Xingang early in July confirmed the detection of mustard weed  (Sisymbrium orientale) seeds in a bulk shipment of barley from Australia. The shipment was reported to be 30,740 tonnes. The shipment is currently undergoing treatment at an undisclosed warehouse.  CSA fresh corn group meeting: China Seed Association's technical committee for sweet and waxy corn had a meeting on July 4 at Wuqing, Tianjin. Meeting members elected new leaders of the group, which consists of nearly 100 members who represent enterprises involved in production, breeding, distribution and processing of fresh corn products, in addition to , scientific research units and seed management departments from all over the country, reports ChinaSeed114.com .   Ulan Qab seed potato firm links up with local govt: Fresh Plaza reports on an integrated potato production and marketing project agreement between Huasong Seeds and the Ulan Qab City. The contract stipulates that the company will provide seed potatoes for planting across 50,000 mu (3,333.3 hectares) this year, and 200,000 mu (13,3333 ha) next year.  Lijiang City seed inspections: Chinaseed114.com reports that from June 25-28, technicians from the Lijiang City Seed Management Station carried out field inspections in Ninglang County, as part of supervision measures for potato, maize and apple cultivation.  Mischievous macaques of Taitung County: Focustaiwan.tw reports that farmers near the township of Yanping in Taitung County of Chinese Taipei, are struggling to deal with monkeys who have been raiding and pillaging farms for food, causing considerable losses to pineapple, orange, peach, papaya and corn yields. A proposed control measure is to hire “monkey chasers”.  Yulan City spot seed inspections: Chindaseed114.com reports that the Yulin City Seed Management Station and law enforcement officers will be continuing spot inspections on seed producers and distributors, especially with regard to rice and corn seed. As of July 3, inspections had been carried out on 50 rice seed samples, and at retail shops throughout the locale.  Cracking counterfeit corn seed case: This Chinese language report published on July 4 reviews details of a high-profile counterfeit maize seed case investigation that recently wrapped up in Hebei. The case involved the seizure of 300 tonnes of high-quality counterfeit seeds, and an investigation that covered many thousands of miles and months of evidence collection and examination before suspects finally were jailed and fined Return to top [/expand] [expand title="India"] ‘No cause for concern’ about delayed monsoon season planting says Ag Minister: The Indian Express quotes Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on July 2 saying there was “no cause of concern” about widely reported delay in kharif season planting, citing projections from the Indian Meteorological Department that plenty of rain would be coming soon. The report follows various media reporting on extended hot and dry conditions that have been blamed for the delaying of rainy season planting in various parts of the country, as also reported in last month’s Asian Seed news summaries. (See also flooding news in inter-regional news section above) New MSPs announced for 14 kharif crops: The Indian Cabinet has announced new Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) for 14 rainy season crops, reports Indian Express.com. The crops include paddy, jowar, bajra, ragi, maize, tur, moong urad, cotton, groundnut, sunflower seed, soyabean, sesamum and nigerseed. Overall, the new MSPs are higher than the previous year.  Govt to distribute seeds to AP tribal farmers at 90pc subsidy: The New Indian Express late in June reported that Agriculture Minister K Kannababu has said the government has prepared an adequate stock of seed supplies intended for tribal farmers in Andhra Pradesh, which will be subsidized by up to 90%. The type of seeds was not disclosed in the article. Water-resilient rice varieties for UP farmers under trial: Indiawest.com reports that scientists at the Narendra Dev University of Agriculture and Technology (NDUAT) are optimistic about results in ongoing trials of both drought- and flood-tolerant rice varieties. According to the article, NDUAT scientists have been working in close collaboration with counterparts from the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, where the germplasm for the climate-resilient varieties was sourced.   Conserving, reviving indigenous desi rice seeds: The News Minute Dot Com reports on efforts by Indian farmers in Tamil Nadu to conserve and revive indigenous Indian rice varieties through seed sharing and mutual multiplication efforts. According to the article, the “Savve Our Rice” Campaign has resulted in the revival of 1,500 indigenous Indian rice varieties from throughout India. Efforts have gained momentum thanks to the annual Nel Thiruvizha paddy festival, which farmers attend to share and exchange rice seeds. First held in 2007, the festival facilitates the exchange of 2 kg of selected rice seeds on the agreement that farmers multiply and double the seeds to be returned the following year.  Indian public, private entities develop chocolate products from jackfruit seeds: The Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR) and the Central Arecanut and Cocoa Marketing and Processing Cooperative (Campco) in India are both separately reporting success in trials to produce chocolate products from the seeds of jackfruit, which had previously been discovered to contain chemical compounds and aromas similar to chocolate. As reported by Confectionery News Dot Com, Camco has been experimenting with jackfruit a an ingredient in chocoloate, while IIHR has mastered technology to “prepare chocolate from jackfruit seed powder:” Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Indonesia"] High-yielding, pest-resistant white rice variety mulled for nationwide cultivation: Indonesia’s Ministry of Agriculture has carried out trials of a promising new variety of white rice that is reportedly is resistant to brown planthopper pests and blast disease, while being able to yield 7.28 tonnes per hectare. The variety was named Padang Pariaman Anai, or Papanai for short -- after Padang Pariaman regency, where it was cultivated, and after the Anai reservoir, which supplies irrigation water for farmers in the region, reports Antara News. It is hoped the Ministry will approve the variety for cultivation across Indonesia following the successful trials in late June.  FAO distributes seeds, fertilizer and assistance to tsunami-impacted farmers in Central Sulawesi: Relief Web on July 2 reported that the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations has been acknowledged by the Central Sulawesi government for relief assistance measures benefiting farmers who were impacted by a tsunami in September 2018. The Fao’s relief measures include the distribution of seven tonnes of seeds (maize, tomato and pepper) as well as 450 tons of fertilizer and more than 500,000 meters of plastic mulch. The report also notes that FAO in June distributed cash assistance to about 4,000 households.  Farmer livelihood worries as govt mulls kratom ban: An Indonesian news report in late June highlighted concerns of farmers about a proposed ban on the cultivation of kratom (Mitragyna speciosa), a tropical evergreen tree in the coffee family. Endemic to Southeast Asia, kratom is primarily cultivated for its leaves, which are processed and consumed as a mild stimulant, as well as for therapeutic purposes. Though the plant is illegal in only a handful of countries -- including Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand -- it has widely been cultivated in Indonesia for export to the US, where there is a huge legal market generating demand despite sustained efforts to ramp up regulation on its trade and consumption. According to the Indonesian article, farmers can earn between 5,000 and 7,000 IDR (US$0.35 to 0.5) per kg, which is similar if not  better than the prospective income of rubber tapping. Fungal disease, cited for declining rubber productivity: Reuters reports that a fungal disease threatening rubber crops in Indonesia may be the result of a reduction in the use of fertilizer linked to falling rubber prices. The report outline also notes that Malaysia and Thailand are reducing exports of the commodity in an effort to drive up prices. Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Iraq"]  Burnt crops blamed on arson and/or faulty electrics: No less than 40,000 donums (10,000 hectares) of wheat and barley fields were destroyed by fires across Iraq in recent months. According to coverage by Reuters, crop fires since April, which have raged across Diyala, Kirkuk, Nineveh and Salahuddin provinces, are alleged to be started by arsonists linked with IS terrorist groups; however, the Iraqi government suggests that such claims have been blown out of proportion, with Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi quoted as saying that only “about a 10th of the fires were the result of sabotage, with the rest caused by electrical faults, cigarette butts or faulty agricultural machinery.” Economic stability concerns in the face of sanctions: Al Jazeera reports that Iraqi nationals are concerned that the cost of vegetables and other essential commodities could rise steeply if imports from Iran due to anticipated US sanctions. Iraqi markets are heavily dependent on cheap Iranian imports; however, a waiver on existing sanctions against Iranian exports that has enabled the flow of Iranian goods into Iraqi markets, is anticipated to expire soon.  Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Israel"] Seed-saving, farming evidence unearthed at ancient city: Archaeologists have discovered evidence of some of the earliest known seed savers and grain farmers, reports Science Alert on the excavation of an ancient city thought to date back a millennium. According to the report, certain places in the 40-hectare city -- which still has not been named -- are thought to have been used to store seeds, chickpeas and lentils. In other parts, evidence of wheat, barley and bean farming were discovered.  Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Japan"] Cucumbers 70% more expensive than usual due to cool, cloudy weather: Japan Times reports that unseasonably cool and cloudy weather this summer are linked to vegetable price inflation in Japanese markets. The report cites the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Meteorological Agency for the phenomena.  Solar powered robot could replace ducks, pesticides for weed & pest control: A Nissan engineer has built a robot whose program is to control pests and weeds in rice paddies. Tech Explorist reports on the development, which was inspired by the practice of employing ducks to eat pests and weed seeds in paddy field. The GPS and Wifi enabled robot will was reportedly undergoing trials in June in Yamagata prefecture.   Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Korea"] Korean chemical-turned-seed company CEO tells all: Youngnong Korea published an extensive interview in Korean language with Gyu Seol Choi, the President & CEO of The Kiban, a Korean seed company, which also has R&D facilities in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The interview covers a wide variety of topics, spanning the origins and evolution of the company and domestic and international market strategies to an overview of the Korean seed market and R&D plans.   Microscoped seeds of  Dokdo exhibition on now till September: On July 5, an interesting seed exhibition was opened by Kyungpook National University Natural History Museum, the Kyungpook National University Ulleungdo and Dokdo Research Institute. Held until  to September 29 at Gyeongbuk National Museum of Natural History, Hyori-myeon, Gyeongbuk, this special exhibition showcases photographs of 20 types of seeds of wild plants found in Dokdo. The seeds have been magnified by a electron microscope from between 20 to 3500 times, revealing fine details of the seeds’ surfaces.  Details in Korean here, as well as here. Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Malaysia"] MARDI hosted Seaveg 2019:  The Southeast Asia Vegetable Symposium was held  9 to11 July in Melaka, Malaysia. Organized by the Malaysian Agricultural Research & Development Institute (MARDI) and VEGINET, with several organizations named as co-organizers (Malaysia DOA, LPP, CABI, APAARI, IRRI), the theme for this year’s symposium was “Advancing Vegetable Technologies for High Productivity and Better Human Health”. According to the event website, key topics included: Hybrid seed, tissue culture, fingerprinting and seed coating; Underutilized vegetables for nutrition and bio-prospection;  Biofortified crops, genetically modified crops, gene-editing and mutation breeding; Nutrient fortification, precision nutrient management and smart fertilizers; Precision farming, mechanization and sensors; Advances in organic vegetable farming; Plant factory, urban farming and indoor cultivation; Biocontrol, bioremediation and biosensors; Climate-smart vegetable technologies; Advanced post-harvest management; Innovative vegetable products; as well as Socio-economics and marketing in vegetable production, processing, packaging and consumption. Plenary and keynote speakers hailed from Malaysia, Philippines, India, Germany, Portugal, Singapore and Belgium.  MARDI releases biocontrol agents with aim to reduce pesticide use: The Malaysian Agricultural Research & Development Institute (MARDI) has propagated large quantities of three types of parasitoids to be distributed to farmers for use as pest control agents in the Cameron Highlands. The agents include two types of wasps (Diadegma and Cotesia) which are predators of caterpillars and moths belonging to the plutella genus; and the tiger fly, which will be used to control a leaf caterpillar pest. According to MARDI, using the biocontrol agents instead of insecticides will enable farmers to save 2,000 ringgits (about $485) per season. Farmers have been given six months to reduce the use of pesticides through alternative methods before authorities will employ more strict enforcement measures.   Win-win for community-mosque chilli peppers: Kosmo Malaysia reports on an effective and positive utilization of a fence parameter of the Masjid Jamek Pengkalan Hulu mosque in Perak, where faithful Muslims have been cultivating large chili peppers that are offered to locals at prices cheaper than local markets, while providing a source of extra funds for the upkeep of facilities and support of community activities.  All about Malaysia’s ‘Durian King’: 35 years ago Tan Eow Chong from Penang tasted a durian fruit that he says melted in his mouth; later in the night, with the help of a hired gun he stole a branch of the durian tree from an orchard so he could graft it on his own farm; the eventual result of his breeding and marketing is Malaysia’s famed Musang King variety of the fruit, which is now in high demand in China, reports the LA Times Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Myanmar"] Loads of illegal pesticides seized in first half of 2019: Myanmar’s Department of Agriculture has confirmed that large quantities of unregistered pesticides were seized and destroyed in the first six months of the year. Namely, 1,179 liters of liquid pesticide and 4,986 kg of pesticide powder, reports Myanmar Times Return to top [/expand] [expand title="New Zealand"] Kiwifruit growers group celebrates 25: Members of the New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. (NZKGI) gathered in Tauranga early in July to celebrate the group’s 25th anniversary as an incorporated society. Reports Fresh Plaza,  the celebration was honored by the attendance of NZ Agriculture Minister, Honorary Damien O’Conner, and other industry reps. Though the kiwifruit is synonymous with New Zealand thanks to extensive breeding and marketing efforts in the South Pacific country over the years, the fruit is actually endemic to China.  Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Pakistan"] Freeze on GM corn seeds, field trials: Pakistan’s Environmental Protection Agency of Ministry of Climate Change earlier in July reportedly issued a notification that effectively imposes a ban on field trials and imports of genetically-modified maize seeds. The News International Pakistan reports that the notification, entitled “Suspension of GM Corn/Miaze Activities in the Country” was issued following a meeting of the National Biosafety Committee.  Stay tuned for more coverage on this.  309-billion-rupee plan to boost ag productivity announced: Pakistan Today reports on joint plans by Pakistan’s Federal and Provincial governments to increase self-sufficiency by boosting agricultural productivity through a ‘Agriculture Emergency Programme’ that has been allocated some 309 rupees (US$ 1.954 billion). The plans include funds for developing water resource conservation infrastructure (building dams and watercourses) as well as initiatives and projects to boost productivity for the country’s main economic crops, including wheat, rice, and sugarcane, in addition to expanding cultivation of strategic oilseeds such as canola and sunflower. More details of the plans here.  In related news, the Punjab government has earmarked 40 billion rupees (US$251 million) for agriculture development, Urdu Point reports, Of this amount, about 7bn rupees ($44.3 mn) will specifically be allocated for the “provision of Crop Insurance Programme, e-credit, subsidy on seeds and fertilizer...” In more related news, a UNIDO $5.2 million project, which will commence in August, will contribute to Agro-Food and Agro-Industry Development. Urdu Point reports that the project will benefit the development of agriculture, livestock, dairy and fisher value chain, and initiated via a colutative process to address “issues of value chain for dried and fresh fruit vegetables, oil and oilseed, livestock, dairy, fisheries trout farming with piloting of new interventions with the involvement of relevant department at provincial level as well as the institutions”  Cotton sowing sees 14% growth year-on-year: Urdu Point reports that cotton had been cultivated over 2.65 million hectares, which is aimed to produce 12.72 million bales of the lint to supply domestic and international demand. According to the article, which cites figures provided by the Cotton Commissioner in the Ministry of National food Security and Research, the sowing target for the current cropping season (2019-20) is 2.78 million hectares, which is mostly for fields in Punjab and Sindh; hence the target was at more than 95.2% land at the beginning of July, representing a 14% increase over the previous year. . World Bank SMART for enhancing crop productivity: The Tribune Pakistan reports on the World Bank's Strengthening Markets for Agriculture and Rural Transformation (SMART), to be implemented in Punjab province, aims to “enhance productivity of crop and livestock farmers”.  In other news, the World Bank recently approved a US$722 million loan for Pakistan, which will be used to develop services and infrastructure in Karachi, as well as improving tourism in Pakistan.  Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Papua New Guinea"] Climate-smart agriculture: The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) will fund a multi-stakeholder five year project in collaboration with the Australian National University and Papua New Guinea’s National Agricultural Research Institute. The focus is on studying, preparing and training farmers in PNG’s highlands to be better plan and mitigate against extreme weather events.  Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Philippines"] Palay prices plummeting: The Philippine Daily Inquirer reports that palay or rice prices have continued to drop for six straight months, citing the Philippine Statistics Authority in a 16.5 percent year-on-year drop in average farm-gate prices, which were reported to now average at 17.8 pesos ($0.35) per kilogram, and as low as P13 ($0.25) / kg in some places.  Milled rice prices were reported to be between P38.5 to 42.9 ($0.75 to 0.84) per kg. As for the reason in dropping prices, the article points to an influx of “the arrival of more affordable imported rice following the passage of the rice tariffication bill.” Phil hybrid rice seed market to see 5% annual growth through to 2024: An industry analysis report being marketed online by Absolute Reports, reveals its projection for the Philippines hybrid rice seed market to continue to experience robust growth in the coming five years. The paid report, which focuses on four key segments, names five key players driving growth of the sector, including Bayer Crop Science Inc., Bioseed Research Philippines Inc., Advanta Limited,  Pioneer Hi-Bred Philippines Inc. and SL Agritech Corporation. The Philippine Association of Agriculturists (PAA) held its 7th National Congress and 2019 Philippine Agriculturists’ Summit on July 7-11, 2019 at the Philippine International Convention Center, City of Pasay, Metro Manila. Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Syria"] Syria Saving the seeds of Syria: Foodtank.com recently documented the courageous work of Dr. Ali Shehadeh who helped to smuggle some 116,000 seed samples out of war-torn Syria in recent years. The seeds were originally being kept at a genebank run by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas or ICARDA in Tal Hadya. Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Thailand"] Great expectations for chemical-spraying drones: CNN reports on the high hopes of one young agri-tech entrepreneur banking on the agriculture drone market’s future prospects. Bug Away is an entity marketing unmanned drones capable of spraying large fields with pesticides and fertilizers, and thus reduce risk, time and costs of using conventional human labor.  Next Commerce Minister should focus on farm price stability, urges outgoing Minister: Bangkok Post on July 4 cited then-acting commerce minister Chutima Bunyapraphasara as urging her near-future appointed replacement to ensure that “guaranteed farmer income policies” -- typically offered to farmers during Thai elections -- take into account fundamental economic factors so as to avoid the mistakes of the past. The article notes that the government this month will auction off the last 900,000 tonnes of some 18 million tonnes of excess stocks that had infamously piled up five years previously as a result of a previous controversial government rice pledging scheme.  New Ag and Commerce Ministers named: The new Thai cabinet was formally endorsed  on July 11, reports the Bangkok Post, with Chalermchai Sri-on being appointed Agriculture Minister and Jurin Laksanavisit the new Commerce Minister. The two new ministers are representatives of the Democrat Party in the multi-party coalition government. The party’s populace campaign policies included state-guaranteed prices for key economic crops -- rice, rubber and palm, as previously reported by The Nation.    Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Vietnam"] Ag trade review in the first six months: Some promising ag trade figures were revealed at a July 3 conference staged by the General Department of State Reserves (DTNN), as reported by Thoi Bao Tai Chi Vietnam. In the first six month months, Vietbamm had exported 59,107 tonnes of rice, with the government supplementing related aid to the tune of 650 billion dong ($27.98 million). Moreover the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has reinforced farmers with key inputs, including fertilizers, chemicals, as well as vegetable, rice and corn seeds through subsidies worth VND 168 billion ($7.23 million)   Chili prices surge, farmers reap returns: Chili farmers in Tay Ninh have been relishing the surging price of chili peppers, which Dan Viet reports to have risen up to 70,000 to 80,000 dong ($3 - 3.44) per kg, and as high as 100,000 VND ($4.31). Such prices are reportedly 2.5 times higher than previously. Reasons cited for the price hike in domestic markets include reduced cultivation linked to adverse weather and increased exports, which resulted in limited supply. Traders fined as rain reveals trademark infringement, impure rice seeds: Two parties have each been fined 750,000 VND ($32.29) for violating a Vietnamese trademark infringement law after it was determined that the paddy seeds they had handled were of inferior varietal purity and traded in counterfeit sacks. According to Dan Viet news, a police investigation in Soc Trang province revealed that one suspect in late 2018 had purchased 2.7 tonnes of a popular brand of aromatic paddy seed from a second suspect. The first suspect reportedly sold 1,090 kg of those seeds to six different households in the Vinh Loc hamlet, Vinh Truong commune -- allegedly for no profit -- while keeping the remaining seeds for himself. While returning home with the remaining seeds, the suspect gave statement that he was caught in a downpour, with rain causing the printed label on the rice seed sacks to fade. Suspicious, an inspection of the rice revealed that only about 70% of the seeds were actually the marketed variety and the sacks were indeed counterfeit. Despite following various leads, the investigation was not able to prosecute a culprit of the counterfeit job but police finally charged both suspects for violating a 2013 law that forbids the selling, transporting, supplying,  storing, or display for sale of stamps, packages, and products bearing fake trademarks or geographical indications, a charge which carries a fine of between VND 500,000 and 1,000,000.  Growing centella makes sense: Dan Viet reports on efforts by keen Vietnamese farmers to grow centella (Centella Asiatica), an aquatic leafy vegetable that grows wildly throughout South and Southeast Asia. Known as Rau má  in Vietnamese, and also known internationally as Asiatic pennywort and Gotu kola, the leafy vegetable is cultivated by many households in Vietnam as a supplemental food source. By growing it in and shrimp farms, one farmer has been able to generate extra income of about 300,000 dong ($12.87) per day.  Khanh Hoa Farmers Association market from 9-12 August: Under the theme "Safe agricultural products - quality - sustainable development", the fair is expected to have 80 vendors who will exhibit and sell agricultural products, including ruits, vegetables, tubers, seeds, seedlings, and biotech products, reports Dan Viet   Initiatives to develop climate resilient ag in Mekong delta: Bao Tin Tuc reports on projects to improve agricultural standards under the VietGAP and GlobalGAP models with support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The article, in Vietnamese discusses details about varietal information on rice, and fruit crops -- mangosteen, nectarines, durians -- as well as the implementation of rootstock propagation, and aquaculture.  Seeding robots, processors save labor, increase productivityKhoahoc Pho Thong Vietnamese news reports on a successful  seed sowing automation model implemented in a rural district of Ho Chi Minh City. The model, developed by the Cu Chi District Agricultural Extension Station, implements automated seeding processor and sowing automation machines to efficiently sow seeds in fields while also applying VietGap standards for vegetable production. In doing so, data shows that the model can save farmer between 100 to 200 grams of seeds per hectare, while also  saving 35.5 working days and 71 workers per ha, and thus boosting productivity by between 25 to 27 times.    'Red Emperor' hybrid corn seed lures farmers: Tieudun Vietnam reports on a popular hybrid variety of red corn, which though can cost as much farmers as much as 500 dong per seed, the resulting cob can fetch as much as 30,000 dong at the market. The article notes  that the variety's seed has a germination rate of between 72 to 90%, and can be harvested in between 58 o 62 days compared to other popular varieties of yellow corn, which require 65 to 68 days, and have germination rates of between 65 to 70%.    'Made in Vietnam' melons: Melon cultivation is growing in popularity reports Nip Cauddautu Vietname, with many growers starting to trial popular foreign varieties from Japan and Thailand, taking advantage of advanced cultivation techniques. Depending on the variety, quality and season, melons can fetch between 10,000 and 35,000 VND  ($0.43 to $1.51) per kg, and can be harvested four to five times per year.    Return to top [/expand]