Key revisions and updates compared to the 2nd Access to Seeds Index methodology include:
UN drug body reclassifies cannabis: DECEMBER 2020:
A simple, narrow majority of 53 Member State representatives on the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) voted on December 2 to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drug, which includes substances that the CND considers “particularly liable to abuse and to produce ill effects, and such liability is not offset by substantial therapeutic advantages”. As reported by the UN here, and in this note, the historic vote resulted in 27 members in favour of removing cannabis from the category against 25 against, and one abstention. The CND Members also voted to have cannabis and its extracts to remain on Schedule 1, which make it possible for governments to formally recognize the medicinal and therapeutic potential of cannabis, and thus regulate it. Only four Asia-Pacific countries were among the 27 voting in favor of the removal of cannabis from the ‘risky drug’ schedule. They were Thailand, India, Nepal and Australia. The other 10 Asia-Pacific reps on the CND -- Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Bahrain, Japan and China -- all voted against. Nonetheless, most of these countries have movements to decriminalize or legalize the plant and its material, including the seeds. Click here for our report on the Asia-Pacific cannabis seed industry.
Solomon Islands expands seeds program: December 2020:
The government (The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock) of Solomon Islands is extending a program to distribute vegetable seeds and farming tools across its provinces. As of December 1, a total of 12,933 packets of seeds had been distributed. The program, which was initiated in June as part of a Covid-19 Livelihood Sector Support scheme, with support from the Australian Government and in partnership with the UN's Development Programme, aims to encourage households to plant gardens in order to subsidise food costs. Read more from Radio New Zealand.
FAO Food Price Index rises sharply: November 2020:
Global food commodity prices rose to a nearly six-year high in November, according to a December 3 press release from the The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The monthly increase was the sharpest since July 2012, putting the index at its highest level since December 2014. The Index tracks changes in the international prices of the most globally traded food commodities. Among its sub indices, the Oil Price Index spiked 14.5 in November, which was linked to an ongoing rally in palm oil prices. The Cereal Price Index rose 2.5% from October, from rising wheat export prices linked to reduced harvest prospects in Argentina, and rising maize prices tied to lower output expectations in the US, Ukraine, as well as large purchases by China.The Sugar Price Index rose 3.3 % month-on-month “amid growing expectations of a global production shortfall in the upcoming marketing season as unfavorable weather conditions drove weaker crop prospects in the European Union, the Russian Federation and Thailand.” The Dairy Price and Meat Price Indices both rose 0.9 percent from October. Click here to read the full report.
New IYPH 2020 Postage Stamps
Japan, United Arab Emirates, Korea and Kyrgyzstan are among the 15 countries to issue IYPH postage stamps. Japan and the UAE recently announced their new designs earlier in August while Korea and Kyrgystan had issued stamps earlier this year. The other 11 countries include Finland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Poland, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, the Vatican, Sierra Leone and Togo. Stay tuned for the full story in Asian Seed Q3 issue in September.
APSA members offered 20% discount for Virtual Seed Industry Course
Sathguru Management Consultants is offering APSA members a special 20% discount off registration for Cornell Sathguru Executive Education programs, namely for the upcoming Virtual Live Seed Industry Program (SIP2020), which will be held 2-6 November. The regular fee, including tax is $472 per participant, but with the special concession, APSA members can register for only $378, which includes tax. For more information about the SIP2020, see this video here, and download the brochure here.
ICARDA publishes Seed Info issue number 59 & Annual Report
The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) has published the 59th edition of Seed Info … Contents include a “Seed Security Response to COVID-19” document, which presents critical responses needed in the immediate and midterm to mitigate negative impacts on farmers, in addition to news updates from ISTA, UPOV and the World Seed Partnership. Seed Info aims to stimulate information exchange and regular communication between seed staff in the Central and West Asia and North Africa (CWANA) region and beyond, strengthening national seed programs and thus improving the supply of high-quality seed to farmers. Download latest issue here. In other ICARDA news, the center in early Auggust announced the publication of its 2019 Annual Report, which can be accessed here.
ISTA announces latest pest list reference, technical committee program
The International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) on August 5 announced the release of the latest version of its Reference Pest List, which ncludes 56 new scientific articles, links to EPPO Global database, countries requesting phytosanitary status for pests in seeds and much more. The list can be accessed here. In other ISTA news, the association has announced its Technical Committees’s Working Programme for the 2019-2022, which can be accessed here.
APEC Ag Biotech something
APSA Executive Director Dr. Kanokwan Chodchoey was featured as a speaker at the APEC High-level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology (HLPDAB) recent Webinar Series, which was held online between 17-19 August. The theme of the sessions was “Benefits, Sustainability, and Promise of Precision in Agricultural Biotechnology” More details to be shared.
Asia-Pacific seed industry addresses unsolicited seed packages
In response to reports of mysterious, illegal and/or unsolicited packages of seeds mailed to recipients in several countries in July and August (see below), the Asia and Pacific Seed Association (APSA) encourages all of its members, stakeholders and associates to uphold best industry practices, and to fully comply with established rules and standards for international seed movements and phytosanitary measures. See full story here.
Space breeding taking off with seeds sent to space
Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Japan, Australia, Thailand, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the US plan to send plant seeds into earth’s orbit this October. According to this article in the Taipei Times, citing the National Space Organization (NSPO), the seeds will be sent as part of the Space Seeds for Asian Future program, developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and involving several other nations. A total of 16 kinds of seeds are planned to be sent to the International Space Station (ISS), where they would stay for about four months. Most of the seeds selected are endemic plants but some are crop seeds. For the Taiwanese seeds, the NSPO collaborated with National Chung Hsing University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute, which is overseen by the Council of Agriculture, to choose the seeds, which include seeds of Formosa lambsquarters, Phalaenopsis equestris (a kind of “butterfly orchid, sunflowers and chili pepper seeds, The weight of the seeds to be sent are 10g, 1g, 20g and 16g respectively. The seeds have already been sent to Japan and will be forwarded to the US next month, to be returned to Taiwan in February next year. Other participating nations include Thailand and Australia, who will send the seeds of their national flowers, the ratchaphruek and the golden wattle; New Zealand will send seeds of the pohutukawa, an endemic plant; Indonesia will send celery and onion seeds; and Malaysia will send the seed of holy basil. More details here.
In related news in China, a "Sakura Space Breeding" update was revealed at a press conference on the morning of August 7 in Guangzhou. Cherry blossom seeds of four selected varieties that were displayed will be sent into orbit with other seeds, seedlings, microorganisms, and fungi for space breeding experiments, in which they will be subject to mutagenesis, a technique that could yield superior new sakura varieties with different flower colors, rich flower types, different flowering periods, and stronger resistance to disease and pests, and better tolerance to extreme temperatures. After this batch of cherry blossom seeds returns to earth, the space-exposed seeds with certain mutations will be germinated in Conghua, Guangzhou. More details here
JUNE AND JULY 2020
United Nations Chief urges secure food systems in face of hunger crisis
The United Nations’ Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that as much as 820 million people would go hungry, including 144 million children. Quoted in an article published by the Manila Times in June, Guterres estimated that some 49 million additional people would fall into extreme poverty this year due to the Covid-19 crisis, which would thus increase the number of people at risk of acute food or nutrition insecurity.
ISF urges governments to continue to facilitate international seed movements
The Secretary-General of the International Seed Federation, Michael Keller on 6 July, released a new statement asking governments “to continue facilitating the international movement of seed and not to impose restrictive measures.” The letter cites the position of the World Health Organization’s guidelines for food business that state: “It is highly unlikely that people can contract COVID-19 from food or food packaging …” Mr Keller goes on to stress that “ Seed companies have and will continue to take all necessary measures to guarantee the health and safety of workers who are involved in the shipment of seed.” Read full statement here
ISF, CSA & CNSTA: ‘3rd Round Table Meeting on Plant Breeding Innovation’ online
The International Seed Federation(ISF) joined with the China Seed Association(CSA) and the China National Seed Trade Association(CNSTA) to organize the online session on June 23. In addition to reps from the three organization, the session was also attended by some 300 representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Seed Industry Associations, Research Units, Seed Companies in China and seed associations and stakeholders from Japan, the United States and Australia. A report from the session will be published in Asian Seed Magazine, Q3 edition.
FAO names new assistant to DG & regional rep for Asia and the Pacific
South Korean national Mr Jong-Jin Kim has been named the Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific. Effective since 1st July 2020, Mr. Jong-Jin succeeds Dr. Kundhavi Kadiresan, who held the positions since 2015 until December 2019, when she completed her tenure. Mr Kim, a national of the Republic of Korea, has a long and distinguished career in public service. He joined FAO in 2013 as Director of South-South Cooperation and Resource Mobilization Division (TCS) and immediately prior to his present appointment, he had been serving as FAO’s Deputy Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific (RAP) in Bangkok, Thailand. Read more details on the FAO’s website here.
FAO issues Asia-Pacific policy recommendations to cope with Covid-19 impacts on food
To address serious threats of the COVID-19 pandemic on food and nutrition security in Asia and the Pacific, the FAO on June 5 published a report highlighting food supply chain trends in 11 countries. These include Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam. The report includes several general policy recommendations for governments, including: controlling the spread of the virus through physical distancing and management of fear among labourers working in food supply chains; expanding social protections through “more-inclusive” economic stimulus measures, “more generous” benefits to ensure food access for all, and reduction of administrative burdens for funds access; governments working with the private sector to solve disruptions in food supply chains; avoiding export restrictions in international trade and building resilience into food systems. Read full report here.
2020 World Food Laureate is an Indian American Soil Scientist
Congratulations to Dr. Rattan Lal, a native of India and citizen of the United States, who has been awarded the 2020 #WorldFoodPrize. Dr. Lal, a soil scientist and distinguished professor at Ohio State University, is recognized for promoting ” innovative soil-saving techniques benefiting the livelihoods of more than 500 million smallholder farmers, improving the food and nutritional security of more than two billion people and saving hundreds of millions of hectares of natural tropical ecosystems.” See biography here as well as this news on Ohio State website.
East-West Seed names two new members to its Supervisory Board.
Mary Sue Rogers and Maaike Groot have been appointed as the newest members of East-West Seed’s Supervisory Board. The news, whicch was announced by the leading vegetable seed firm on 1 July, follows Simon Groot, Dietrich Schmidt and Johnny Santos formally retiring from the Supervisory Board. Mary Sue Rogers previously held various executive and non-executive positions in the areas of Human Resources and Talent Development, while Maaike Groot joined East-West Seed in 2014, helping to externally position the company and building partnerships, and will continue in her present Public Affairs role at the company.
ISTA revises procedures for Orange & Blue certificates & other updates
The International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) recently revised the procedure for ‘How to complete ISTA certificates’, specifically on how to complete the ISTA Orange International Seed Lot Certificate (OIC) and ISTA Blue International Seed Sample Certificate (BIC). The revised procedures can be downloaded here. In other ISTA news, the association has published high quality photos from a recent round of Proficiency Tests (PT) and Other Seed Determination (OSD) on its website, which can be downloaded here, and the association also has made public an ISTA Information Session, which was recorded on 28 May 2020 in the form of a virtual meeting. Click here to watch.
UPOV update on PLUTO plant variety database
UPOV on July 3 held a webinar to provide updates on its PLUTO Plant Variety database, which will be introduced from November 2020. The online session also was an opportunity to provide users to provide feedback on the design and new features. From November, the PLUTO database will provide two levels of service including free and premium services. See full webinar on Youtube here.
Meet new Chair of ASTA
John Latham, the President of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds in Iowa, USA, has commenced his tenure as the Chair of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), taking over from Wayne Gale of Stokes Seeds. John has a long history of service with ASTA, having previously held positions as Vice Chair, North Central Region Vice President, and Chairman of Seed First Political Action Committee. He also has served as chairman of the ASTA’s Corn & Sorghum Division and Legislative and Legal Affairs Committee. John also follows his father Bill Latham who was President of ASTA in 1998. More info can be found here on ASTA’s website, as well as in this video introductory video, in which Mr. Latham says he will prioritize innovation and gene editing
Grow Asia webinar on eCommerce & social media opportunities
During its second Grow Asia Digital Learning Series session in 2020, a GrowAsia webinar on June 30 explored opportunities in using chat and social media platforms to reach farmers. The session featured findings from a study GrowAsia conducted with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and talks from a number of interesting experts, including Elizabeth Hernandez from Corteva Agriscience, Kim Huat Low from Yara International, Phatthanai Suwanvongkij from East-West Seed and Christina Lee from The Goat Agency. More details, as well as full list of speakers and webinar video here.
Argentina adds new requirements to regulated pest list for chili and tomato seeds
From June 16, 2020, Argentina added new requirements to its list of regulated pests for Capsicum annuum and Solanum lycopersicum originating in countries in which the pest is present. The notified text provides for the inclusion of the pests Columnea latent viroid, Pepper chat fruit viroid, Tomato apical stunt viroid, Xanthomonas euvesicatoria pv. perforans, Xanthomonas cynarae pv. gardneri and Xanthomonas euvesicatoria pv. euvesicatoria on the list of regulated pests and phytosanitary requirements governing the importation of Capsicum annuum and Solanum lycopersicum seeds for propagation from countries in which the pest is present. The requirements were initially notified to the WTO in January here
CRISPRcon returns virtually September and October
CRISPRcon, “a unique forum bringing diverse voices together to discuss the future of CRISPR and related gene editing technologies across applications in agriculture, health, conservation” will be conducted virtually this year “with a series of discussions exploring gene editing’s role in COVID-19 testing and treatment, racial disparities and inequities, strategies to address climate change, and other pressing issues.. The 10 webinars under five themes will be held online. More info here. Stand by for more updates.
Locusts swarms devour swathes of Asian farmland
Locust infestations continue to spread across Asia. As reported widely thus far in 2020, desert locusts (Schistocerca gregaria) have eaten their way through crops in India, Pakistan, Iran and Saudia Arabia, with Nepal being the latest South Asian country to report detection. As reported here, officials in Nepal are initially encouraging people to catch the insects instead of using pesticides. Farmers have been offered up to 25 rupees (21 US cents) for every kg of the locusts, which can be fed to chickens and other livestock. Mosquito nets are reportedly effective to catch the pests. Meanwhile a different crop-hungry locust species is feeding on farms in China, Laos and Vietnam. According to this report, a swarm of the yellow-spined bamboo locusts (Ceracris kiangsu) has destroyed at least 277ha of bamboo forests and corn fields in eight provinces across Vietnam, including Son La, Dien Bien, Bac Kan, Cao Bang, Lang Son, Phu Tho, Quang Ninh and Thanh Hoa. The swarms reportedly came to Vietnam from China via Laos, reaching Thanh Hoa province by early June and Dien Bien Province by July 20.
Floodwaters engulf crops, homes and livelihoods across region
Bad weather has caused extreme hardship for farmers in East and South Asia in June and July. By July 19, in India’s Assam and neighbouring Nepal, nearly four million people had been displaced by heavy flooding with a death toll of at least 189, according to this report, noting that the Brahmaputra River, which flows through China’s Tibet, India and Bangladesh, has flooded crops and triggered mudslides, displacing millions. According to this report, thousands of hectares of farmland were destroyed in northern Bangladesh, with floodwaters drowning out paddy fields, vegetable farms and seedbeds, affecting some four million people in 30 districts, especially in Lalmonirhat, Kurigram, Tangail, Thakurgaon, Gaibandha, Nilphamari, Sirajganj, Bogura, Manikganj, Sunamganj and Sylhet, among others. Aside from paddy, jute, maize, green chillies, and other vegetables have become submerged. In Pakistan, it was reported that ‘Glacier floods’ were estroying crops in Chitral. According to Xinhua, the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) feared that the country would face flash floods triggered by a glacier lake outburst flooding in the country’s northwest district of Chitral. The fear of glaciers bursting was linked to a prevailing heatwave.
China has especially been affected by excess rain, flooding and overflowing rivers. At a briefing by the State Council on July 13, it was revealed that, since June, a total of 433 rivers across the country had reached or breached peak levels. The Yangtze River, the upper reaches of the Yellow River, the Xijiang River and Beijiang River in the Pearl River Basin, and the Taihu Lake were all at historical flood levels. The briefing was also told that since the beginning of this year, more than 2.24 million people have been displaced by disaster, with floods affecting 27 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities across the country. By official count, there were 141 dead or missing, 29,000 houses destroyed, and direct economic losses of 86.16 billion yuan ($12.3 billion), and some 516,000 hectares of cropland destroyed. According to another report by Sina.com floods this year have especially affected Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Chongqing, Sichuan, and Guizhou and the crop area affected was more than 2.67 million hectares. Flooding and/or drought has also affected Australia, India and Thailand during this time
Origin of seed packets a mystery
China Seed Association has issued a statement China authorities have are looking into allegations whether mysterious seed packets, reportedly sent to random addresses in the US, originated in China. According to Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin, “Plant seeds are articles prohibited as imports (or in transit) or admitted conditionally for UPU member countries. China Post strictly follows the UPU provisions and prohibits seeds from conveyance by post. USPS recently found some packages of seeds with address labels suggesting they were sent from China. After verification with China Post, those address labels turned out to be fake ones with erroneous layouts and entries. China Post has contacted US Postal Service, asking it to send those fake packages to China for investigation.” News of the packets had circulated onlinee in July, prompting the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) and the United States Department of Agriculture’s (APHIS) to issue statements on the matter.
APSA, CNSTA unite seed industry voice in webinar on Covid19 Impacts
APSA and the China National Seed Trade Association (CNSTA) successfully organized a three-session, two-day online seminar (May 26 and 27), which featured dozens of seed industry experts and executives representing national and regional seed associations, as well as leading seed enterprises. The aim of the webinar was not only to highlight the “Impacts of COVID-19 on the Seed Trade” but to lay out the stakes for the path and trends moving forward. Seed industry speakers and panelists represented 13 countries inside and outside the Asia-Pacific region, including China, India, Pakistan, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Chile and the USA. All in the webinar was joined by more than 50,000 participants from across the world, who tuned in via Zoom, Youtube, Wechat and Tencent broadcasting platforms. Making mass broadcasting possible in mainland China — where a majority of participants joined from — was technical support from Southern Rural News Agriculture Wealth. A summary report of the webinar is being prepared and will be shared via APSA website and included ash part of comprehensive coverage of COVID19 impats in the upcoming Q2 of Asian Seed Magazine. Meanwhile, videos and all presentations from the three sessions can be accessed here.
International Seed Federation to hold Virtual Congress 8 – 10 June
ISF Secretary General Michael Keller says, “The International Seed Federation, as the voice of the private seed sector, is not staying silent,” despite postponement of the ISF’s World Seed Congress 2020 in South Africa: to fill the gap, his organization invites all to the ISF’s interactive, no-cost Virtual Congress, streaming live 8 – 10 June and accessible through 17 June. Register free via this link
Seed movement under COVID-19: ISF engages region reps
ISF has engaged leaders from regional and national seed associations in a series of video Q&As to get insights on how the COVID-19 crisis has impacted the industry. Special thanks to: AFSTA, APSA, Euroseeds, SAA, SANSOR, Tunisian Seed Association, China Seed Association, Australian Seed Federation, Plantum, ANOVE, ASTA and ANPROS. The interviews can be viewed via the following links:
ISTA holds first ever ISTA Rules Meeting
The International Seed Testing Association’s 2020 Rules Session meeting was held in the virtual format for the first time. Held on May 19, the meeting, which is part of the process of updating ISTA Rules provided a glance over the 2021 edition changes proposed by ISTA members. The two-hour meeting can be watched in its entirety on Youtube via this link.
EPSA Exec. Director interviewed by Germination
APSA Executive Director, Dr. Kanokwan Chodchoey (May) was featured in an interview with Canada-based Germination magazine, in which she shared her ideas, thoughts and experiences about the direction and priorities of the Asia-Pacific seed industry, especially with regards to Intellectual Property Rights. Read the full interview here.
Global Cotton Industry Freefalls with Reduced Asian Demand
Seed World Magazine published an article 12 May on plummeting cotton demand arising from COVID-19, with severe effect on the global cotton supply chain: “Unexpected reduction in cotton mill use data is observed across all of the major cotton spinning countries, including
China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey and Vietnam.” Full article here.
Amphan Ravages Eastern India and Bangladesh
The worst cyclone in 100 years swept through India and Bangladesh 20th May killing at least 102 people. Damage to built-up areas and farms was estimated at US$13 billion in India; US$130 million in Bangladesh. The U.N. children’s fund (UNICEF) said the storm and its after-effects put 19 million children at risk. In Kolkata, home to nearly 15 million people, Cyclone Amphan tore roofs off buildings, smashed windows, pulled down trees and pylons and overturned cars. 2.4 million people were evacuated before Amphan made landfall from
Bangladesh’s low-lying coastal district of Bhola, and 650,000 from the states of Odisha and West Bengal in Eastern India. In Bangladesh, the threat to standing crops and fertile land led officials to help farmers move produce and hundreds of thousands of animals to higher ground. Luckily, the rice harvest was mostly complete. In India’s West Bengal, two districts in the Ganges delta were hit hard, with homes and crops destroyed, communications snapped, power cut and bridges unusable. The West Bengal coastal villages of Dhinkia, Nuagaon, Gadakujanga, Ambiki, Gadaharishpur and Padmapur in Jagatsinghpur District’s Erasama block were the worst hit. Harvested crops were damaged in storage by the downpours, along with 1,500 betel vines. 25,000 people were evacuated: 16,840 to 299 cyclone shelters; 5,000 shifted to private buildings and educational institutions on their own. The cyclone affected more than 13 million people and damaged over 1.5 million houses.
Voracious locust swarms prey on Pakistan, India and Iran
A devastating pest is rapidly eating its way through farmland in West and South Asia, and the damage mounting. As if the threat of Fall Armyworm weren’t worrying enough, now agriculture officers in Pakistan, India and Iran are rallying to fight swarms of hungry, migratory locusts. Believed to have originated in Africa and the Middle East, the pests since last year have caused sleepless nights for farmers in the three countries, and the situation appears to have escalated in April and May as farmers harvest spring crops, and prepare to sow for the coming season. A comprehensive report will be featured in Asian Seed Magazine Q2, out in June.
SA’s Klein Karoo ISTA Accredited
ISTA, via LinkedIn, on May 22 announced accreditation of APSA-member Klein Karoo Seed Quality Service Laboratory in Oudtshoorn, South Africa. The certificate is valid till 29 January, 2023 and covers sampling, purity, germination, and weight tests for cereals, small legumes, pulses, vegetables and other agricultural crops.
APSA – FAO Seed Legislation Study Published
The APSA – FAO study “Status of Seed Legislation and Policies in the Asia-Pacific Region” reviewing seed legislation in the Asia-Pacific and offering recommendations for future development is now available as an eBook for several platforms. Download it from
ISF Response to Covid-19 Crisis
The ISF has issued a number of responses over the last month outlining the organization’s position on matters related to seed and the world virus shutdown, including the “ISF Response to the Call to Action by the Food and Land Use Coalition”, “Contribution by FSII members towards COVID19 relief measures”, the “Joint letter from ISTA and ISF on the extension of accreditation certificates for seed health testing laboratories”, and “Safeguarding the food chain and International Seed Movement under the COVID-19 Crisis”. More details on ISF website
World Economic Forum Says Covid-19 Shutdown Could Worsen Hunger Crisis
The WEF notes that Covid-19 measures closing schools means many children miss their only hot meal of the day; that quarantine regulations disrupt supply chains; and that the crisis could plunge half a billion people into poverty while world trade reduces by up to a third. Meanwhile, quarantine regulations and partial port closures cause slowdowns in the shipping industry and border restrictions interdict trucking.
World Food Program Director Warns of ‘Biblical’ Famine
The United Nations World Food Program Director David Beasley warned the UN Security Council of “a hunger pandemic” owing to the Covid-19 crisis, with “multiple famines of biblical proportions” coming soon. “We could be looking at famine in about three dozen countries,” he said, adding “more people could die from the economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself.”
FAO Recommendations for Food Industry Workers
In “COVID-19 and the Risk to Food Supply Chains: How to Respond?”, the FAO advises food industry employers on measures to consider in order to keep the supply chain alive: keep all workers healthy and safe; maintain movement of food along the food chain; and have Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) based on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles in place. Read the full document here.
Advanta Seeds Covid-19 Crisis Video
Advanta Seeds has released a video on Twitter, with the accompanying tweet: “#Farmers worldwide are feeling the effects of #Covid19. This pandemic only reinforces our commitment…” which is linked and updated on APSA’s Covid-19 Resources page.
Channel News Asia Commentary by Dr May and CLA Director Dr Siang Hee Tan
APSA Executive Director Dr Kanokwan Chodchoey and CropLife Asia Executive Director Dr Siang Hee Tan wrote in Channel News Asia recently about challenges arising from the Covid-19 crisis. Their recommendations: ASEAN economic ministers must ensure food security endangered by the economic shutdown via cross-ministerial coordination while acting on farmers’ feedback. Read the full article here.
CLA Webinar with APO on Supply Chain Effects
In the latest Asian Productivity Organization’s Productivity Talk Webinar (Thursday, 23 April 2020), CLA Executive Director Dr Siang Hee Tan discusses COVID-19 and the agriculture industry, spotlighting the crisis-spawned labor shortages, supply, environmental and pest pressures to be overcome. See the webinar stream here.
Shipping Down 11%, Fruit Rots in Myanmar and Kenya, Thai Bodybuilders Sell Durian and Malaysian Fruit Demand Skyrockets
Global shipping is off 11% (among the majors up to 17%) for the first half of 2020, while container shipping availability disappears — both attributed to the Covid-19 crisis by maritime intelligence company eeSea. Meanwhile, Kenyan banana farmers let thousands of ha rot after markets and hotels closed in Mombasa; in Myanmar, fruit traders can’t get their product across the border to China in time, owing to Covid-19 entry restrictions; and in Thailand out-of-work bodybuilders flex their muscles selling durians, while demand for fruits high in Vitamin C skyrockets in Malaysia as a hedge against the virus. Read the full reports on Fresh Plaza.
ISF Calls for information on seed supply impacts
The International Seed Federation will be partnering with other international organizations who represent various agricultural input sectors in an effort to keep agriculture high on the agenda of policy makers even in these difficult times; to reiterate that there is currently no evidence that food is a likely route of transmission of the virus. See more on ISF statement on March 23 for seed supply information gathering
IPCC Sec Gen issues statement on coronavirus, IYPH
“Obviously, this situation has altered the characteristics of the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) in 2020, but if anything, it raises even more the need to ensure that plants are protected from the ravages of plant pests. Ensuring a supply of fresh and wholesome food is more important than ever. With the challenges of limited travel, access to a safe and stable supply of food is compromised.” Secretary-General of the International Plant Protection Commision, Jingyuan Xia said
EU TO FUND BIOSECURITY PROJECT IN SE ASIA
The European Union launched a €3.5 million regional project to support increased biosecurity in Southeast Asia. The project will help governments to better respond to highly communicable diseases or global biological events, such as pandemics, according to an EU press release.
SEED COMPANIES CONFIRM COMMITMENTS
APSA IPR& Biodiversity report on seed legislation published
The report has now been published on the FAO website here.
FAO engages Asian agri-stakeholders during DG visits to Pakistan, Thailand and Laos
Dr. Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in February made his first visit to several countries in South and Southeast Asia since beginning his term in August 2019.
Last year, Dr. Qu became the first Chinese, and second Asian DG of the FAO, which was covered in Asian Seed Volume 25, Q3 issue (see page 13 here)
His visit to the three Asian countries created engagement opportunities for various agriculture stakeholders, including APSA’s Executive Director, Dr. Kanokwan Chodchoey, who on 17 February joined an informal consultation with FAO representatives and various reps from more than a dozen private sector, academia and civil society organizations in Thailand.
Dr Qu (second right) during the stakeholders consultation in Bangkok. Photo: Asian Seed
Participants discussed ways, ideas and channels to strengthen cooperation in working towards the mandates of the UN’s FAO, especially with respect to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
During the consultation, APSA’s Dr. Chodchoey briefed Dr. Qu, FAO reps and other participants on priorities and activities of APSA members and the greater Asia-Pacific seed industry, including those related to Intellectual Property Rights, Plant Variety Protection, the Systems Approach, Phytosanitary Measures and promoting the UN’s International Year of Plant Health.
In wrapping up the meeting, Dr. Qu stated, “These partnerships are an opportunity to work together in a new way. Working together with you, through our FAO Hand in Hand initiative – an FAO matchmaking initiative – is in all our interests, and most importantly it will help lead us to defeating hunger and poverty by the 2030 deadline.”
During his visit to Thailand, Dr. Qu also met with the Thai Prime Minister, H.E. Prayuth Chan-O-Cha. The FAO DG thanked the Prime Minister and people of Thailand for their long standing support for FAO’s work and, in particular, for hosting the decades-old FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in the capital Bangkok.
Also in Thailand, Dr. Qu also visited a “”smart tomato farm” in Suphanburi province, which was described as a pilot project of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives that employs Precision Agriculture (PA) techniques to grow high yielding tomato crops efficiently and effectively.
Prior to coming to Thailand, Dr. Qu visited Pakistan, where he met with President, H.E. Arif Alv to discuss ways to promote agricultural modernization and rural development with the aim of transforming the country’s agri-food systems and accelerating progress towards the SDGs.
Dr. Qu also visited Laos, where he met with Lao PDR Prime Minister, H.E. Thongloun Sisoulith. According to FAO’s DG news update, the two discussed strategies for sustainable development, and in particular ambitions to enable the landlocked country to graduate from its “Least Developed Country” status by 2024.
APAARI publishes gene-editing consultation recommendations
The Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI) has published Proceedings and Recommendations of Expert Consultation on Gene Editing and its Regulation” following the consultation, which was held 10-11 October at the International Crops Research Institute (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India. The consultation was attended by APSA Execcutive Director, and covered in Asian Seed magazine, the report of which can be found via this link. (See page 15)
The proceedings and recommendations publication can be downloaded from APAARI’s website via this link.
FAO rallies experts, mobilizes resources to address locust infestation
Attention all seasoned entomologists, especially desert locust experts: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is recruiting international consultants to work for an 11-month period with a “Locusts and Transboundary Plant Pests and Diseases” team, in collaboration with its Resilience Team, to address the spread of the desert locust, which has been causing cropping havoc in various countries in East Africa as well as Central and South Asia. Full job description here.
In related news reported by dunyanews.tv reports that the FAO is already offering been coordinating support for several Asian countries affected by the locust infestation, including Pakistan, India, Iran and Afghanistan.
Standing crops were reported to be badly damaged in Pakistan’s Lakki Marwat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, according to this report.
The Nation Pakistan also reports that China will offer support to its ally in South Asia by setting up an “emergency project to help Pakistan prepare pesticide and spraying equipment.”
Record cold, snow in Kuwait Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran
Thousands of dinars in damage was inflicted in February for farmers whose crops were destroyed by sub-zero temperatures in Abdali and Wafra of Kuwait. The crop losses affected exposed potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and pepper, reports Al-Anba daily.
Likewise, harsh and record cold and snow during the month has caused havoc for farmers and locals in several countries across the region.
Record low temperatures ranging between minus 20 to minus 40 degrees Celsius have been reported along with a number of snow and cold-weather related deaths and incidents reported in Turkey — in Göle, Aşkale, Kars and Ardaha.
Fresh Plaza reports that more than 70% of horticulture companies in the Adana region — where some 30,000 hectares are used to cultivate citrus crops — have suffered heavy damages due to minus 15 degree temperatures early in February.
Likewise, fields in Northwest Syria, around the town of al-Malikiyah (Derik) near the Turkish border, were photographed to be blanketed in snow that would have certainly frozen any exposed crops.
In northwest Iran, snow totals of as much as six meters were responsible for cutting off water and electricity to many regions, especially Qarah Bolagh district. The “first snow in a century” was also reported in southern Iraq.
To better understand the scientific and geological implications of such cold-weather”Climate Change” trends, and implications for the seed industry, see also Asian Seed comprehensive report conducted on the subject in 2017.
DECEMBER 2019 & JANUARY 2020
Welcome to 2020: the International Year of Plant Health #IYPH2020
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as much as 40% of global food crop production is lost every year due to plant pests and diseases. To raise awareness about this while highlighting the significance of plant health in global food security, the FAO has declared 2020 the International Year of Plant Health. The official launch event of IYPH 2020 was held December 2 2019 at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy. Inaugurating the event, FAO Director-General, Mr Qu Dongyu said “Plants provide the core basis for life on Earth and are the single most important pillar of human nutrition. But healthy plants are not something that we can take for granted … As we launch this international year, plant health is increasingly under threat. Read more on the website of the International Plant Protection Commission. Also, Asian Seed Magazine Quarter 1, 2020 issue will feature an article with more news about #IYPH2020, including activities and initiatives by NPPOs and governments in the APSA region.
7th ISTA List of Stabilized Plant Names Released
The Nomenclature Committee of the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) has announced the 7th and latest edition of ISTA List of Stabilized Plant Names, which is available on the ISTA website here. The previous six editions were completed and published in 1966, 1983, 1988, 2001, 2007, and 2013. Individual names on the List are to be stabilized for a period of at least six years. The latest edition includes many changes or adjustments in nomenclature for the plants, which have mostly resulted from recent advancements in taxonomic classification or from the nomenclatural actions of an International Botanical Congress, the latter reflected in the 2018 International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (Shenzhen Code) (ICN) adopted by the 2017 Shenzhen Congress (N. J. Turland et al., Regnum Vegetabile 159, Koeltz Botanical Books, 2018). Proposed changes to the List were evaluated individually by Nomenclature Committee members and voted upon. From these results, a document containing the “Proposed Changes to the ISTA List of Stabilized Plant Names” approved by Committee vote was submitted to and approved by the 32nd ISTA Congress in Hyderabad, India, in 2019. At the Congress, ISTA members recommended that codes used by the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) be added to the List. The current list includes UPOV codes and links to their GENIE database.
WBA names 2,000 ‘most influential companies’ for attaining SDGs
The World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) has published a list of 2,000 “most influential companies”, which the organization says is criticial to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The SDG2000 list identifies the 2,000 most influential companies in various sectors, and based in 74 countries around the world, who together represent $43 trillion in revenue. Represented on the list are 350 “Food and Agriculture” companies, including several prominent multinational conglomerates with holdings and investment in the Asia-Pacific seed industry. Among them are Bayer (Monsanto), BASF (Nunhems), Charoen Pokphand (Chiatai), Corteva (DowDupont & Pioneer), China National Chemical Corporation (ChinaChem & Syngenta), Limagrain (HM.Clause, Vilmorin-Mikado and UPL (Advanta /Pacific Seeds), among others.
World Food & Agriculture in Numbers
According to an estimate by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) agriculture in 2017 used an estimated 37 percent of global land area; more than half of that was in Asia. This estimate, and related insights and statistics — related to population, cropping, productivity, supply, demand, hunger, malnutrition and sustainability — are covered in the FAO’s 2019 World Food and Agriculture Statistical Pocketbook, a 242-page digital publication (download here), which includes statistical profiles of all the world’s regions and countries, comparing vital data from 1997, 2007 and 2017.
First phase of US-China trade deal signed
Trade officials from the world’s two largest economies in January signed what has been dubbed by many observers as a historical “first-phase” deal, easing tensions in the so-called “trade war” between the two superpowers. China has pledged to buy American ag goods as US cut tariffs on some Chinese goods. According to one report, China agreed to boost purchases of US goods and services by $200 billion over the next two years, including “$77.7 billion for manufactured goods and $32 billion for agricultural products.” In exchange, the US agreed to “halve 15 percent tariffs on $120 billion of Chinese imports, but leave 25 percent tariffs on an additional $250 billion of imports in place.” The report speculates that the deal could enable US agricultural exports to China to increase by as much as 50%, and thus provide “economic relief to farmers who have lost business … as a result of the trade war.” Indeed, US agricultural exports to China plummeted, estimated by about $21 billion, after trade relations deteriorated in 2018. Prior to that, “China was once the largest market for US agricultural products.” Now, the US is reportedly sitting on a “record number of soybeans in storage”, as China started purchasing more soybeans from Brazil after trade relations have broke down, according to CNN.
Locust swarms still threatening Pakistani and Indian crops
Following last year’s costly infestation of locusts that have devastated standing crops in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, the pest seemed to had been contained in the latter two countries thanks to pest management and pesticide spraying protocal; however, reports in early 2020 suggest that a new wave of the pest is still attacking crops in South Asia. According to ARY News, the pest has “now landed in Sahiwal and surrounding areas … [and has] attacked standing crops of wheat, mustard and potatoes on hundreds of acres farmlands in Kumair, Harappa, Bangla, Cheechawatani and other areas of the region.” Locusts, in addition to mealybugs, were to blame for declining horticulture productivity in Sindh. Likewise the pest was reported to have resurfaced in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district, attacking crops there, invading parts of villages like Mavsar, Kundaliya and Radhanesda close to the border adjoining Pakistan.