FAO marks World Pulses Day 2023: February 10: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations marked World Pulses Day 2023 with a virtual global gathering at its headquarters in Rome. Celebrated every February 10, the international day is designed to highlight the importance of pulses and legume species and their crucial contribution to the sustainability of food systems. Pulses are the edible seeds of leguminous plants cultivated for food and feed, such as beans, chickpeas, and peas, which greatly benefit food security, nutrition, climate action, and biodiversity due to their low water footprint and high nutritional value. Providing opening remarks were FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, as well as Saadia Elmubarak Ahmed Daak, Alternate Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Sudan to FAO, and Cindy Brown, President of the Global Pulse Confederation. Source.
Russia mulls restricting seed imports: February 7: The Russian Agricultural Ministry is planning to introduce quotas on seed imports to promote domestic production. The Ministry is concerned that new Western sanctions may cause major turbulence in the Russian agricultural industry, and domestic supplies of seeds fell short of the target set by the Russian Food Security Doctrine. Imported seeds account for an average of 40% of Russian agriculture, but in some segments, the share reaches 95% to 100%. The Ministry proposed import quotas on several seeds in August 2022, but several business unions, including the Russian Grain Union and the Potato Union, warned about the damage the quotas could cause to Russian agriculture. They claimed that it would result in higher production costs and food prices. The minister has not made a final decision on the measures to be taken but did not rule out certain import restrictions in the future. Source.
FAO launches International Year of Millets 2023: On December 6, 2022, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations formally launched the International Year of Millets – 2023 during a ceremony in Rome, Italy. Attending the launch was a delegation of senior government officials from India, which spearheaded the proposal efforts towards the theme, which was accepted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA): Millets are among the first crops to be domesticated in India, and are currently cultivated in 130 countries. More details here, and here.
Brazil NPPO issues new requirements for zucchini seeds: The National Plant Protection Organization of Brazil (Secretariat of Animal and Plant Health and Inspection (SDA) -Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply) on December 21, 2022 notified the Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures of new phytosanitary requirements for the importation of of zucchini (Cucurbita pepo) seeds, “from any origin, except for MERCOSUR countries” – everywhere except Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. According to a new ordinance (ORDINANCE SDA No. 715) issued on December 15, seeds must be packed in first-use packaging and free of soil, and accompanied by a Phytosanitary Certificate, issued by the NPPO of the country of origin, with an Additional Declaration that states:- "The shipment is free of Cucumber fruit mottle mosaic virus, Cucumber green mottle mosaic virus and Tomato black ring virus, according to the result of official laboratory analysis No. ( )". Alternatively, depending on the phytosanitary status in its territory, the country of origin may, “for any of the pests listed in art. 3rd, declare that I - "A/s (pest/s) is/are quarantine pest/s absent/s for (country of origin)."; or II - "The (pest/s) is/are not present in the (country of origin)." Advanced communication and approval by the Brazilian NPPO is also sought while shipments may be subject to inspection at the point of entry, and the importer may also have to bear the costs of collection of samples for phytosanitary analysis in official laboratories or those accredited by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply. See original ordinance here.
Seed Industry Representatives Attend FAO’s Global Conference on Sustainable Plant Production
Taking place in early November 2022 in Rome, the Global Conference on Sustainable Plant Production was organized by the FAO as part of the ISF Midterm Meetings and attended by representatives of the global seed sector.
In his opening speech, FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu highlighted the need for science-based strategies, and the importance of farmers and seed to achieving Sustainable Development Goals. "Tomorrow's agriculture will need to produce more food with a lower environmental footprint - this means producing more with less. We cannot continue 'business as usual' - we need to get on a technology-driven sustainable track." said Qu.
ISF Secretary General Michael Keller thanked the FAO for including the private sector in its actions and workflow. He went on to say "Our journey to sustainability and resilience is based on efficiency and innovation ... We are working with farmers on the ground. We are looking for solutions together - and there is no solution without science and innovation."
ISF Midterm Meetings took place in Rome
The ISF Midterm Meetings, held in Rome, were attended by over 250 delegates from the global seed sector. A key objective of the meetings was to progress the organization's Key Strategic Objectives (KSOs), which included a lively two-day session of the Board of Directors.
Secretaries general from various countries spoke with FAO Deputy Director General Beth Bechdol at the meeting of the Advisory Group of National Seed Association.
FAO Global Conference on Green Development Industries: Report
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has published a report from its FAO Global Conference on Green Development of Seed Industries event held last year. APSA Executive Director Dr. Kanokwan Chodchoey presented during a session dedicated to the theme of "Seed systems" that took place on 4-5 November 2021. Titled "Seed enterprise development and international trade", the session was co-chaired by Keshavulu Kunusoth and Shaun Ferris and supported by the rapporteurs Catherine Langat and Hélène Khan Niazi. The session included seven presentations and concluded with a panel discussion that was facilitated by Niels Louwaars and included Dr. Kanokwan Chodchoey.
The FAO book with the Proceedings of the FAO Global Conference on Green Development of Seed Industries is now available at http://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/cc1220en. The direct link to the PDF is at: http://www.fao.org/3/cc1220en/cc1220en.pdf.
We ask you to kindly spread the word about this new publication through your contacts and networks, using the document DOI: https://doi.org/10.4060/cc1220en
GB9 in October in India Negotiations to resume after GB9 on an enhanced Multilateral System for Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) of genetic resources
October 3: The 9th session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which took place in New Delhi on 19-24 September 2022, concluded with an agreement to restart discussions on enhancing the functioning of the Multilateral System of the Treaty and the implementation of Article 9 of the Treaty which addresses Farmers' Rights.
First Vice President of the International Seed Federation, Santosh Attavar, remarked that: “we need to continue to strengthen our collaboration on food systems towards a healthier, more sustainable, equitable and resilient seed production and food systems. We are convinced that this can be achieved through continued cooperation among the farmers, the private sector and the public seed sector and we are convinced that the International Treaty is the most suitable tool to ensure facilitated access and benefit sharing of genetic resources, which are critical in ensuring food and nutritional security.”
The seed sector remains willing to work with the Parties to find effective solutions for a comprehensive and meaningful enhancement of the Multilateral System, and strongly believes that the Multilateral System of the Treaty is the best means of handling Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) related to plant breeding.
Read full release from International Seed Federation (worldseed.org)
WTO Trade Dialogue on seeds: “Improved Seed Trade; Unlocking Global Food Security”, September 22: A panel of experts joined a WTO Trade Dialogue on Food webinar to discuss the most urgent topics in international food trade and the role of the seed sector in ensuring global food security. Attending the webinar were Marco van Leeuwen, Naomi Stevens, and Michael Keller from the ISF alongside Maximo Torero from FAO, Edwini Kessie, from the WTO, and Alice Ingabire from World Benchmarking Alliance. View webinar on Youtube
Alleged IP infringement with MNCs: August 15: Corteva Agriscience is suing Bayer CropScience LP and Monsanto Company (“Bayer”) for alleged infringement of Intellectual Property (IP) rights. Seed World reported that the lawsuit is regarding a patent for the herbicide resistance technology of the AAD-1 gene, which is used in Enlist Corn. Source.
FAO scales up fertilizer procurement for Ethiopia: August 8: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is utilizing a US$10 million loan from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund to speed up procurement and delivery of crucial agricultural inputs to farmers in Ethiopia through to the end of August 2022, specifically 19 000 tonnes of fertilizer were procured with plans to provide a total 60,000 tonnes to Tigray. Source.
FAO Food Index on the ‘rebound’ in July: August 5: The FAO Food Price Index averaged 140.9 points in July, representing a 8.6 percent drop from June. Nonetheless, food prices as indicated by the Index, were still 13.1 percent higher than in July 2021. Source.
Canada, Japan inject millions into FAO grain storage relief: August 2: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has launched a US$ 40 million (CA$ 52 million) Canada-funded project to further address grain storage shortages in Ukraine.
The initiative will allow storage of an additional 2.4 million tonnes of grain, and complements $17 million recently provided by Japan to cover 1 million tonnes of grain storage. Source
ISTA’s first Asian president: Dr. Keshavulu Kunusoth, India is the first person from the Asian region elected as President of the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA), which is based in Switzerland Dr Keshavulu Kunusoth, India took over as the President of ISTA on May 11, 2022 at the 33rd ISTA Congress -2022 held in the historical Egyptian city of Cairo.
Dr Keshavulu will be ISTA President for the period 2022-25 It is a significant mark in the history of ISTA as he is the first person from the Asian region to be elected as President of the ISTA.
Dr Keshavulu holds a Master’s degree (Agriculture) and Ph.D. in Seed Science & Technology from India and undertook post-doctoral research at the University of California, Davis, USA. He has over 25 years of professional experience and expertise in management, seed sector development, strategy, seed business and quality assurances, research management, policy support and regulations for agricultural development and building capacities and capabilities for agricultural food production.
At present, Dr Keshavulu is serving in the government in the position of stewardship leadership for Telangana State Seed and Organic Authority with additional responsibility for Telangana State Seeds Development Corporation Ltd (Public Seed Company). Dr Keshavulu is also a Designated Authority for implementation of International (OECD) Seed Certification in India. He has contributed to the Telangana State becoming known as the Seed Capital of India and the focus on Telangana State as a Global Seed Hub by providing a strategic and scientific vision that enables access of quality seeds to the farmers with well adopted improved crop varieties. This is being facilitated through quality seed production and certification of seeds supplied to Indian states besides facilitating exports to other countries. In addition, Dr Keshavulu has been supporting private/public partnerships to ensure the establishment of robust seed industries delivering quality affordable seeds of preferred staple and commercial crops that are fit for purpose in the farming systems and providing enabling policies for diverse seed systems in India. These are helping to mainstream cross-sectoral and multidisciplinary approaches to scale up results in order to deliver context-specific solutions to small-scale farmers.
ISTA is an intergovernmental organization founded in 1924 and based in Zurich, Switzerland. The vision of ISTA is “uniformity in seed testing worldwide’ and with the objectives of developing, adopting and publishing standard procedures for sampling and testing of seeds; promoting uniform application of these procedures for evaluation of seeds moving in international trade besides supporting domestic trade; and promotion of seed science research and
education across the globe thereby making a valuable contribution to global food security towards achieving Zero Hunger by 2030 (SDG Goal #2 of UN).
ISTA is having a global network of more than 243 member laboratories and more than 400 technologists and scientists working around the globe on updating and developing rules for international seed sampling and testing. These are a competent and energetic group of seed scientists and analysts from 83 countries/distinct economies. The ISTA membership is a diverse collaboration of seed scientists and analysts from universities, research centers and seed testing laboratories in the public sector as well as from the private seed industry around the world.
It is a matter of pride and honor that Dr Keshavulu is the first person from the Asia region to become the President of an internationally reputed seed organization i.e., ISTA with a mission to disseminate seed knowledge through modern technologies and innovative approaches to seed quality assurance towards sustainable seed as well as food production systems.
Dr Keshavulu is a globally esteemed seed scientist, known for his distinct services towards the development of sustainable seed systems, Seed sector development and international seed trade and food security. He had worked in various capacities in Public Agriculture Universities, Government and has been associated with national and international organizations through which he has made significant contributions to international seed cooperation and also policy framework for agriculture development at the government level.
Dr. Keshavulu as a Professor and University Head at the State Agricultural University made significant contributions in the areas of seed biology, plant genetic resources, production, variety identification and certification, DUS testing and seed storage besides teaching various courses on seed science and technology.
He has provided strategic vision and leadership to the Telangana State Seed Certification Authority for domestic and OECD seed certification and Telangana State Seeds Corporation, both the organizations resulted in exemplary growth in seed supply chain and marketing and supplying for more than 10 states of India and also seed exports. He was instrumental in initiating the International OECD Seed Certification for the first time in India. He facilitated the export of seeds under OECD seed schemes to different countries from India, notable progress in the history of the Indian Seed Industry.
Dr. Keshavulu was one of the strategic members of USAID projects on seed systems in Southeast Asian and East African Countries. He has been associated with several international organizations such as International Seed Testing
Association (ISTA), FAO, OECD Seed Schemes, International Seed Federation (ISF), and Indo-German Bilateral Project on Seed Sector Development, European Equivalence on seeds, UPOV etc. for seed sector development. He has also represented the Government of India in the OECD Seed Schemes as well as ISTA.
Dr Keshavulu has organized several national and international capacity-building programs, for several national and international seed committees and has provided advisory services on seed policy-related aspects. He has published more than 100 research articles and abstracts, books, technical bulletins/ descriptors and reports, and training manuals in nationally and internationally reputed publications.
Keshavulu has been recognized as a successful seed scientist and received several awards including the Global CEO Award for the year 2018, Seed Policy Leadership Award in 2020 and Dr M. S. Swaminathan Award for Environment Protection in 2022 in recognition of his outstanding contributions to agriculture development in general and seed sector development in particular.
Dr Keshavulu has been associated with ISTA since 2007 and actively involved ISTA activities, organized and attended several ISTA workshops/meetings, Dr Keshavulu was a member at large in the ISTA Executive Committee from 2016-19 and the Vice-President from 2019-22. He led the successful organization of the 32nd ISTA Congress-2019 in Hyderabad, India. The first ISTA Congress to be held in Asia.
The Asia-Pacific region has the fastest-growing seed market in the world which amounted to about USD 22.91 billion in 2021 and is estimated to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.10 % or 35.41 billion USD by 2026. The seed industry in the region is developing at a significant rate due to the growing demand for food and feed, and as farmers begins to purchase seed because of all year-round availability and more consistent quality, in addition to using farmer-saved seed. The driving factors of seed trade in the region are favorable climatic conditions, increased demand for seeds from other countries, the presence of major players, and adaptation of the latest technologies.
In this connection, Dr Keshavulu's leading role in ISTA is a great opportunity for the Asian region for further development of the regional seed sector in terms of improving timely access of quality seeds to the farmers, strengthening the capacities of seed quality assurance systems, enhancing the seed trade, opportunities for seed exports and global networking of regional seed industries through OECD, ISF, UPOV, FAO, SAARC etc.
As a President of ISTA, Dr Keshavulu wishes to accomplish the mission of ISTA and spread the knowledge of ISTA across the world in general and Asia-Pacific in
particular. His vision for further strengthening the seed industry in the region in terms of harmonizing seed policies, developing adequate infrastructure for seed multiplication and testing, reinforcing seed quality assurance systems and increasing smallholder farmer income and meeting the challenge of food security and fighting for #ZeroHunger (SDG Goal 2)
Indonesia hosted 15th EAPVP Annual Meeting online: The Centre for Plant Variety Protection & Agricultural Permit Ministry of Agriculture of Indonesia on July 14 hosted the 15th annual meeting of the East Asia Plant Variety Protection Forum (EAPVPF) – International Seminar on PVP System. The meeting, held virtually, was attended by delegates from the ASEAN Plus Three countries; namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Viet Nam plus China, Korea and Japan. Representatives from UPOV, SEMAE, Naktuinbouw, CIOPORA, APSA also attended as well as invitees from related Indonesian government organizations, research institutes, universities, seed companies and consultants. The meeting’s agenda including two main sessions: the first focused on Benefits of the UPOV PVP system for farmers (UPOV) and the Importance of PVP in Indonesia (Center for Plant Variety Protection and Agricultural Permit, Indonesia), which was followed by a Panel Discussion on the benefits of PVP for farmers, covering perspectives from farmer representatives and MAFF Japan. The second session focused on the: UPOV EDV (Essentially Derived Varieties) concept, which featured discussions on CIOPORAS Viewpoint on EDV (CIOPORA); the Concept of EDV in UPOV (UPOV); the Importance of EDV Concept in Indonesia (PVP Commission, Indonesia) and APSA’s perspective on EDV (APSA). For documents and more details, see: Ministry of Agriculture of Indonesia held EAPVPF International Seminar on PVP System | Report of the Forum Activities | The East Asia Plant Variety Protection Forum
Rising temperatures ‘overestimated’, lower snow loss rate forecast for Asia: July 16: Chinese researchers published in Nature have concluded that future temperature and total evaporation growth rates in Asia are overestimated by 3.4–11.6% and −2.1–13.0%, respectively. Read study here.
WorldVeg’s online nutrition portal: July 12: The World Vegetable Center’s Nutrition portal “allows you to search for the phytonutrient content of common and indigenous vegetables or learn more about nutrition in vegetables and meal planning with interactive games.” Check it out here.
ISTA updates seed-borne pest list: July 11: The International Seed Testing Association Reference Pest List (ISTA-RPL) has been updated (version 9; release 2022-07-11) with seven fruit trees of the Rosaceae family (almond, apple, Apricot, cherry, peach, pear, plum).The ISTA-RPL summarizes scientific knowledge on the possible dissemination of pests through seeds in non-vegetable plant species, and is centered on seed-borne and seed-contaminating pests (bacteria, fungi, oomycetes, viruses, nematodes). The project covers more than 50 non-vegetable species from 25 botanical families, including cereals, legumes, oilseeds, forest trees, and fruit trees. The ISTA-RPL will be updated regularly as soon as a list is finalized. Click here.
IPPC update on contaminated containers, phyto risks: July 8: The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations has published a report by the Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Commission (IPPC) providing a summary of the activities undertaken by the Sea Containers Task Force over the past five years. It includes targeted measures to address specific issues related to pest contamination of sea containers, as well as recommendations to reduce phytosanitary risk in the sea containers pathway. You can download the report here: https://doi.org/10.4060/cb9533en
OECD moves forward with hemp standards: During the 2022 Annual Meeting of the OECD Seed Schemes, which took place 13–17 June 2022 in Tallinn, Estonia, it was agreed to move forward with OECD hemp seed certification standards as proposed by an Ad-Hoc Working Group on Hemp. Delegates agreed to integrate the minimum standards into the text of the Crucifer Seed and other Oil and Fibre Species Scheme. Delegates also discussed ongoing efforts to determine appropriate isolation distances appropriate for monoecious, and dioecious as well as to continue to work on standards for hybrid as well as feminized hemp seed. Asian Seed will follow up when the specific standards have been finalized and published formally.
OECD & FAO publish Agricultural Outlook 2022-31 report: June 29: The OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2022-2031 underscores the crucial role of additional public spending and private investment in production, information technology and infrastructure as well as human capital to raise agricultural productivity. The report notes that “Prices of agricultural products have been driven upward by “. . . COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting supply and trade disruptions, poor weather in key suppliers, and rising production and transportation costs, which have been further exacerbated recently by uncertainties regarding agricultural exports from Ukraine and Russia . . .” suggesting “These rising prices of food, fertilizer, feed and fuel, as well as tightening financial conditions are spreading human suffering across the world,” More information on the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook is available here
‘Wild ride’ but ‘back to the new normal’ says outgoing ASTA Chair: June 28: A wild ride is exactly how Brad May, chair of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), described his year on the board,” reports Seed World on their coverage of ASTA’s annual Leadership Conference in Washington D.C at the end of June.. “We’re getting back to the new normal,” said May in his address to the conference, which he also talked about Covid-19, Ukraine, and various initiatives and advocacy priorities of ASTA.. During the conference, three positions on ASTA’s board in the coming year were confirmed: Jim Schweigert is ASTA Chair; David Armstrong, 1st Vice-Chair, and Dan Foor, 2nd Vice-Chair.
Read full report here. ASTA on June 29 tweeted words of gratitude: “Thank you for your service, Brad May! We appreciate your dedication and volunteerism to ASTA! You will be missed. . .” The new chair, Jim Schweigert, a third-generation seedsman, is President of Gro Alliance, “the largest independently-owned contract corn and soybean seed production company in North America.” Jim has previously served as the regional vice president to Canada for the executive board ASTA and Canadian Seed Trade Association, and as chair of non-profit, Seed Programs International. Details here.
APPARI led agri-biotech working group established: The Agricultural Innovation Forum for Asia-Pacific 2022 Working Group on Agri-biotechnology has been set up as part of efforts to contribute towards food systems transformation in the Asia-Pacific The group will incorporate and synergize on both low-tech (tissue culture, biofertilizers, biopesticides, fermentation, artificial insemination, etc.) and high-tech (DNA-based methodologies, including genetic modification of organisms, genomics and gene editing) agri-biotechnology solutions . The Working Group will focus on issues related to capacity development, partnership and enabling environment, linking to the following specific objectives, and discuss main challenges and opportunities biotechnology presents to smallholders in Asia and Pacific. The Working Group , whose members include experts/stakeholders of APAARI, APIRAS and other relevant partners working in agri-biotechnology, met 25 May 2022 and second on 17 June 2022.
Impact of CPVR on EU: April 29: A new European study highlighting the impact of the Community Plant Variety Rights system (CPVR) on the EU economy and the environment was presented on 28 April 2022 in Angers, France, where the Community plant variety Office (CPVO) has its seat.
Key findings of the study include:
The CPVR system contributes to lower annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture and horticulture by 62 million tons per year. Furthermore, water use in agriculture and horticulture is reduced by more than 14 billion m3.
The public release of the study took place at the CPVO policy conference called “Plant Variety Protection: the path towards more sustainability, innovation and growth in the European Union”.
At the launch event, Mr. Christian Archambeau, Executive Director of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) said: “Community Plant Variety Rights, managed by the CPVO, are one of the three unitary IP rights we have at this moment in the European Union. The other two are EU trademarks and Registered Community Designs, which are managed by the EUIPO. All three are important tools to improve sustainability, foster innovation and encourage growth. This new European study, jointly published by the EUIPO and the CPVO, shows how the CPVR system not only contributes to the EU economy, but also to the EU´s environmental objectives.”
Mr. Francesco Mattina, President of the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO), added: “Today’s study shows that innovation in the breeding sector, combined with plant variety protection, is extremely important for the European society as a whole. It confirms that the Community Plant Variety Rights system acts as a virtuous circle, providing the right incentive for investments in R&I from companies of all sizes, including an extremely large number of Breeding SMEs.”
“The study also shows that the CPVR system, by guaranteeing a fair level of intellectual property protection to plant breeders, allows breeders to reap the benefits of their work and encourages them to keep innovating in order to address key societal challenges in the fields of sustainability, food production, growth and employment”, he concluded.
The launch event that took place during the CPVO policy conference, labeled as an official event of the French Presidency of the Council of the EU, was also web-streamed live on the website of the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) and followed by several hundreds of online participants from all over Europe. The recordings will be made available in the coming days on the CPVO website.
The video recordings of the policy seminar and the study are available on a dedicated CPVO webpage. The study in English and the executive summary in French and English can be downloaded from here.
SAA Congress registration: Early bird registration for the Seed Association of Americas 2022 Congress ends on May 31. The event, which is held every two years, is scheduled to take place this year on September 26-28, in Punta del Este, Uruguay, and will gather regional seed professionals, seed leaders, breeders, researchers, policy makers, government officials and students to discuss trade regulations, seed business, and the latest novelties. Click for more details.
2022 AOSA SCST Annual Meeting registration update: The Association of Official Seed Analysts (AOSA) and Society of Commercial Seed Technologists (SCST) in the US will be having their annual meeting in person from 5–9 June in Skokie, Illinois. Though it was announced in May that online registration was closed, the organizations said they would allow for in-person registration to attend some of their meetings, as well as registration for some virtual meetings taking place prior to and concurrent with the in-person meeting, which will be hosted virtually via Zoom: These include for the Purity Committee Meeting pre-meeting on June 1; 10am MT: Vigor Testing Committee on June 2; Germination Committee Meeting on June 6; Long Range Planning Meeting and Open Rules Discssion, both taking place on June 8. For registration links and exact times, click here.
2022 AOSCA Annual Meeting set for Washington: To be held June 19–22, 2022 at the Wenatchee Convention Center at the Stanley Civic Center in Wenatchee, Washington, the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies, (AOSCA) Annual Meeting will be held as an in-person event after a two-year hiatus. The event’s hosts are Washington State Crop Improvement Association and Washington State Department of Agriculture. More details here.
Access to Seeds Round Table event: May 24: The World Benchmarking Alliance’s Acces to Seeds Index team hosted an insightful roundtable forum online, which specifically focused on how Governance and Strategy The event, which brought together dozens of leading seed sector stakeholders from throughout the Global South, follows the publication on April 7 of the Access to Seeds Index insights report, which provides more depth to the 2021 Access to Seeds Index results, including cross regional analysis, case study and next steps. The report also provides country profiles of 55 index countries summarizing country enabling environment, company presence and activities. I can be found here. More details about the insight report and recent Round Table will be covered in upcoming issue of Asian Seed & Planting Material.
73rd World Seed Congress held in Spain: The International Seed Federation (ISF) with the Spanish seed associations ANOVE and APROSE from 16-18 May co-organised. the World Seed Congress 2022 in Barcelona, which was attended by more than 1,400 seed sector professionals, in addition to another 1,000 who attended virtually. Attendees represented about 400 companies from 60 countries. During the Congress, Marco Van Leeuwen stepped up as ISF's new president, while Donald Cole assumed his role as their Immediate Past President. A major emphasis of the Congress was on the plant breeding sector, which was credited for 67% of the annual growth in agricultural productivity in the EU, having an annual turnover of €7 billion and employing 50,000 people on the continent. The Spanish seed market, with a turnover of €750 million, is the third largest in Europe and the thirteenth largest in the world. The theme was “seed as the starting point of the food chain” Read more here.
FAO calls on G7 to address food shortages: May 13: The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has called on G7 nations to help anticipate future food shortages, citing the war in Ukraine squeezing supplies, pushing prices to record highs across Africa and Asia. Addressing G7 Agriculture Ministers meeting in Stuttgart, Germany, FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu noted that already in 2021, approximately 193 million people were acutely food insecure and in need of urgent assistance, and that in March, the “FAO Food Price Index reached its highest level (160 points) since its inception in 1990 and only dipped slightly in April.” Read full news here.
New EC elected at ISTA annual Congress: May 11: The International Seed Testing Association held its 33rd Congress in Cairo, Egypt, from 8–11 May. The event opened on May 8 with a Seminar titled “Advancements and innovation in seed testing: from science to robust test” and was followed on May 9 with presentations of ISTA technical work; followed on May 10 with meetings of ISTA’s Technical Committees in joint and parallel working sessions. ISTA’s Oridnary General Meeting was held on May 11, in which a new Executive Committee was confirmed to commence: It consists of President Keshavulu Kunusoth from India; Vice-President Ernest Allen from the US; Immediate Past President Steve Jones from Canada; Members Berta Killermann from Germany; Claid Mujaju from Zimbabwe; Craig McGill from New Zealand and Ignacio Aranciaga from Argentina. See tweet here and profile of ISTA EC here.
First IDPH marked by ISF, IPPC and FAO: May 12: The International Seed Federation (ISF) together with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) celebrated the first International Day of Plant Health (IDPH) on May 12. The international day was unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly to raise global awareness on plant health, including seed health, as the foundation for all life on earth. The seed industry has been supportive of this initiative as a member of the steering committee of the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) celebrated in 2020 until the first half of 2021. The implementation of the International Day of Plant Health will carry on the message from IYPH and continue to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment and boost economic development, for years to come. More details here.
Significant gene-editing policy changes in Europe: May 10: IHS Markit reports on how the Ukraine-Russia conflict has demonstrated fragility and vulnerability of global and European food supply chains: “Around the world, governments in leading agricultural-producing countries are now catching up with the United States, both to better legislate gene-edited (GE) products, as well as differentiate them from the older Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) technology, and its negative connotations to some consumers, commentators, farmers, retailers, politicians and lawmakers.
This is both impacting and influencing government policy, and the in turn the regulatory landscape in various countries is changing, as well as how companies and new technology are developing and evolving in response for future growth opportunities.
Significant gene-editing policy changes seen in Europe | IHS Markit
Ukraine-Russia coverage: There has been much reporting commentary and analysis on the Ukraine-Russia situation, and particularly its impact on regional and global seed, feed and food supply chains. Following are some recent articles from various sources:
April 25: Ukrainian Agriculture Faces Logistics Issues in Planting: An interview about planting matters in the war-torn country with Seed Association of Ukraine Executive Director, Siuzana Grygorenko, who said. “ “All around us, there is the war . . . In the agricultural sphere, the situation is also not good. . . ” Read more on Ukrainian Agriculture Faces Logistics Issues in Planting (seedworld.com). See also, article in Germination published on April 21: The Seed Business in Ukraine Goes on Despite Invasion - Germination
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations on April 19, reported on a drive to “appeal to bolster agriculture and provide urgent support to vulnerable rural households”, seeking more than “$115 million urgently needed to assist Ukrainian farmers and rural households through December 2022” See FAO article here.
And, providing insight on grains, oilseed and inputs supply factors and impacts is a March 8 blog from IHS Markit, titled “Ukraine seeds sector keeps a watchful eye on security and supply chain issues”, which notes that Russia and Ukraine “collectively account for some 25% of global wheat supplies.” Read more here.
Fall Armyworm Control extended with broader scope: April 22: To further combat the spread of fall armyworm, which continues to cause billions of dollars of damage to crops globally, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control has announced that it will be extending the timeline for the Global Action to the end of 2023 as well as and increasing measures across Africa, the Near East, and Asia that will complement ongoing FAO activities to control fall armyworm. Measures include Integrated Pest Management (IPM) tactics, hybrids tolerant to fall armyworm such as a Maize hybrid strain that has begun testing prior to release in Africa, and training for local farmers. The measures have begun to make an impact in countries such as Burkina Faso where biological control and biopesticides have kept yield losses under 5% since 2020. FAO launched the Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control in December 2019 as an urgent response to the rapid spread of fall armyworm, which enables dialogue for science-based solutions, helping to establish National Task Forces, and mobilizing resources for applied research and technical outreach. Original story here
FAO report on the ‘Wild Dozen’ plant species: April 22: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has published a new report, titled Wild Check: Assessing risks and opportunities of trade in wild plant ingredients, which sheds light on twelve important wild plants. The report, which was developed in collaboration with TRAFFIC, a non-governmental organisation, aims to raise awareness about the sustainable use of wild-harvested plants. The 12 wild plants covered in the report include:
See FAO article for more details here.
FAO presses for import financing facility amid rising prices: April 20: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has called for a global Food Import Financing Facility (FIFF) to help countries struggling with rising food costs due to the war in Ukraine, with Russia and Ukraine responsible for 30% of the wheat imports of almost 50 countries. High food prices affect low and lower-middle income countries the most, and rising fertilizer prices are putting future harvests at risk with implications for global food security. The FAO has stress-tested the FIFF for its impact on global markets and believes it would be convenient to administrate and scale-up. Original story here
APSA EC, ITQ co-chair vacant: April 19: Abigail Struxness has stepped down as Senior Director of International Programs & Policy, a position which she held since September 2018. This means Abigail will no longer serve as APSA EC member and as a co-chair of APSA’s Standing Committee on International Trade and Quarantine. The co-chair position is expected to be filled by June. Stand by for announcement from the APSA Secretariat, Executive Director.
Access to Seeds Insights report published: April 7: The World Benchmarking Alliance has published its Access to Seeds Index Insights report, which provides more depth to its 2021 Access to Seeds Index results, including cross regional analysis, case study and next steps. This report also provides country profiles of 55 index countries summarizing country enabling environment, company presence and activities. On May 24, 2022, WBC will host its first in a series of planned roundtable discussions focused on governance and strategy. The goal of the roundtable is to share learnings from company leading practices and drive more accountability for leadership on their access to seeds strategies for smallholder farmers. Stand by for further updates on this.
Africa Seed Profiles 2021 Special Report: IHS Markit: Food and nutritional insecurity are a significant concern in developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where some 57% of the population cannot afford a healthy diet. Food insecurity is aggravated by micronutrient deficiencies, also known as "hidden hunger," a major impediment to social and economic development. In addition, the consumption of fruits and vegetables in sub-Saharan Africa is far below the recommended amount of 400 g/capita/day. Fostering better access to more nutritious foods across sub-Saharan Africa will be critical to ending hunger and malnutrition. The seed sectors in Northern and Southern Africa are considerably further advanced than is the case in SSA. The Mediterranean vegetable seed sectors (Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt) are closely linked to the EU markets they serve and receive hands-on assistance in establishing and developing their operational guidelines and business undertakings. However, the vegetable seed sector in sub-Saharan Africa has been slow to develop and has heretofore received little attention in the development agenda. Find out more: Africa Seed Profiles 2021 | IHS Markit
CPM holds 16th session virtually: April 21: The Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM) held its 16th Session of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM-16), which was organized in six virtual sessions on 5, 7 and 21 April 2022. The meeting marked the first under the tenure of Osama El-Lissy as the Secretary of the International Plant Protection Commission – which the CPM Governs Secretary. With a total of 184 contracting parties, the IPPC is celebrating its 70th anniversary. More details here. See also, all six sessions of CPM-16 here.
USDA releases ‘2022 Farmers Planting Intentions’: March 31: The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA NASS) has released a report on U.S. farmers’ planting intentions for 2022. According to the report, producers surveyed reported an intention to plant 91 million acres of soybeans, which would be up 4% from last year, and a record planting if realized. Other key findings are:
For more information, read the report here.
USDA accepting public comment on seed competition until May 16: Seed World reported that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on March 11 ”initiated a public inquiry urging the public to reach out with their comments regarding seeds, fertilizer and retail markets. This 60-day comment period is a result of the July 9, 2021 Executive Order on “Promoting Competition in the American Economy where President Biden put into action 72 initiatives aimed to combat what he called competition issues in the economy. The agency is specifically seeking information on fertilizer, seed and agricultural inputs, in particular as they relate to the intellectual property system; and retail, including access to retail through wholesale and distribution markets.” For more details on how to participate, see Seed World report here.
ISF Secretariat welcomes two new team members: The International Seed Federation (ISF) Secretariat recently welcomed two new professionals to its team in Switzerland: Ben Rivoire as Sustainability & Crop Manager, and Ludivine Thomas as the new Technical Lead for The International Seed Health Initiative for Vegetable Crops (ISHI-Veg). Ludivine Thomas is based in France, and holds a PhD in Plant Biology, from Massey University, and spent the last six years working as the Seed Health Quality Control manager in HM.Clause. See more information about her on Information | ISF Members Area (worldseed.org). Benjamin (Ben) Rivoire was most recently the Head of Seed Sector Cooperation and Regional Development (Africa + Arab Countries) at UPOV and has many years of seed policy and industry experience. Before spending 10 years at UPOV, Ben worked eight years at Syngenta Seeds. More details about Ben here: A fresh and engaging start of the new year | by International Seed Federation | Medium
Record levels marked in latest FAO Food Price Index: March 4: According to the latest report on the FAO Food Price Index (FFPI), released March 4, 2021, surging price of vegetable oils and dairy products contributed to record levels, with strong prospects for maize and wheat anticipated in the year ahead. The latest FFPI “averaged 140.7 points in February 2022, up 5.3 points (3.9 percent) from January and as much as 24.1 points (20.7 percent) above its level a year ago. This represents a new all-time high, exceeding the previous top of February 2011 by 3.1 points. The February rise was led by large increases in vegetable oil and dairy price sub-indices. Cereals and meat prices were also up, while the sugar price sub-index fell for the third consecutive month.” On the FAO’s latest Cereal Supply and Demand Brief, global wheat production was forecast to increase to 790 million tonnes, “with anticipated high yields and extensive planting in North America and Asia, offsetting a likely slight decrease in the European Union and the adverse impact of drought conditions on crops in some of the North African countries.” However, the reports “only partly incorporates market effects stemming from the conflict in Ukraine”. See full report details here: FAO Food Price Index | World Food Situation | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
IHIS Markit’s latest report on global seed trait trends: The seed sector is one of the critical agricultural inputs required by growers to produce crops for food, animal feed and non-food use. With the global population expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050, changing climate and constraints on available land areas for cultivation, the need for cost-effective seed technology is increasingly essential in sustainable agricultural production strategies. Future developments in the seed market, driven by GM traits, new breeding technologies or new non-GM technologies, are crucial in delivering the necessary improvements in yield, nutritional value, tolerance to drought and stress to support the increased pressures on production. The IHS Markit Crop Science Market Analysis and Data team has released the Seed Market Overview and Trait Overview 2020. These reports present our most recent analysis of the performance of the global commercial seed market in 2020.
The report contains:
Get the report here: Seed Market Analysis and Data | IHS Markit
ISF condemns war, weighs in on Ukraine seed supply: The International Seed Federation on 8 March issued a statement calling for continued seed supply to Ukraine in light of the ongoing conflict there. “We are deeply saddened by the unacceptable situation in Ukraine today, and we condemn this war. Our thoughts are especially with our colleagues in the seed and farming sector and the whole Ukrainian population, who are facing an unimaginable situation. We need immediate ceasefire and peace! Peace and food security are inextricably linked; one cannot exist without the other,” the statement opens. “Only through peace and cooperation will we be able to ensure that people will not starve. ISF’s vision is to make the best quality seed accessible to all and everywhere, supporting sustainable agriculture and food security – also and especially in times of crises like war and armed conflict. Ukraine is a key player in global agriculture, with more than 40 million hectares of agricultural land and with major exports to Eastern Africa. Ukraine accounts on a global level for 30% of sunflower, 19% of rapeseed, 12% of wheat and 16% of corn production. The continuation of this war will be catastrophic for Ukraine and for the entire world, where already 850 million people are facing hunger. . . “ Read full statement here.
Bayer threatens to halt Russian seed supply: March 14: German agricultural giant Bayer AG issued a statement warning that it would seed shipments to Russia next year if the war in Ukraine continues. The company said it had already provided “essential agricultural inputs” to Russian farmers for this year’s planting but would “closely monitor the political situation and decide about supplies for 2023 and beyond at a later stage.” See full details here.
FAO weighs in on Ukraine-Russia conflict impacts, policy: In an Information Note published in March by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), titled “The importance of Ukraine and the Russian Federation for global agricultural markets and the risks associated with the current conflict” a number of policy recommendations were outlined, in addition to providing an in-depth analysis and market assessment, structure and risks, as well as an in-depth analysis of the possible impacts of the ongoing conflict. See full report here: Info-Note-Ukraine-Russian-Federation.pdf (fao.org)
FAO DG reiterates policy recommendations: Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Qu Dongyu on March 1 via China Daily reiterated key points outlined in the FAO’s information note above. Among those were the following five Policy Recommendations
1. Keep global food and fertilizer trade open. Every effort should be made to protect the production and marketing activities needed to meet domestic and global demands. Supply chains should keep moving, which means protecting standing crops, livestock, food processing infrastructure, and all logistical systems.
2. Find new and more diverse food suppliers. Countries dependent on food imports from Russia and Ukraine should look for alternative suppliers to absorb the shock. They should also rely on existing food stocks and diversify their domestic production to ensure people’s access to healthy diets.
3. Support vulnerable groups, including internally displaced people. Governments must expand social safety nets to protect vulnerable people. In Ukraine, international organizations must step in to help reach people in need. Across the globe, many more people would be pushed into poverty and hunger because of the conflict, and we must provide timely and well-targeted social protection programs to them.
4. Avoid ad hoc policy reactions. Before enacting any measures to secure food supply, governments must consider their potential effects on international markets. Reductions in import tariffs or the use of export restrictions could help to resolve individual country food security challenges in the short term, but they would drive up prices on global markets.
5. Strengthen market transparency and dialogue. More transparency and information on global market conditions can help governments and investors make informed decisions when agricultural commodity markets are volatile. Initiatives like the G-20’s Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) increases such transparency by providing objective and timely market assessments.
See also QU’s presentation given during the recent Extraordinary-Meeting-G7-Agriculture-Ministers.pdf (fao.org)
Also related to food security and the Ukraine-Russia conflict, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has published several insightful pieces describing how the conflict is threatening global food security, with disruptions in agricultural supply chains and food prices rising around the world. These include The Russia-Ukraine crisis poses a serious food security threat for Egypt published by IFPRI on February 24, 2022, Overcoming the Threats to Global Food Systems from Russia's Invasion of Ukraine , first published by IFPRI on March 11, 2022, and How will Russia’s invasion of Ukraine affect global food security? published by IFPRI on February 24, 2022.
Historic FAO Regional Conference concludes in Asia and the Pacific: March 11: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) from 8-11 March held its “largest-ever regional conference in Asia and the Pacific,” bringing together more than 1,100 participants from 42 Member nations: Hosted by the Government of Bangladesh from 8 – 11 March, in Dhaka, the 36th Session of the FAO Asia and the Pacific Regional Conference featured a combination of in-person and virtual participation, and was described by organizers as a historic affair in which “record-breaking participation underscored the concerns Member Nations have in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic and other existing and emerging threats such as the impact on food production from the climate crisis and the spread of animal and plant diseases across the region.” During the conference, participants discussed FAO’s main agendas, including the Hand in Hand Initiative, the One Country, One Priority Product (OCOP) and the 1000 Digital Villages Initiative, while a Special Event on innovation, science and digitalization was also held, which focused on agrifood systems in the Asia-Pacific region. The conference also included to high-level Ministerial discussions: The first was a Round Table on “greener and better agrifood systems after COVID-19” to review examples from four countries – China, Japan, Philippines and Samoa – about their experiences in battling through Covid-19. The second was a Ministerial Round Table discussion focused on “climate actions for resilience and sustainability”. While the Asia and Pacific Regional Conference is convened every two years to seek the views and direction of the governments of FAO Member Nations in the region, it has expanded to become more inclusive of other actors, such as civil society organizations and the private sector, both of which participated in #APRC36.
See report here as well as here
APSA Director intervenes at APRC36: March 8: Speaking on behalf of the private seed sector during the historic 36th Session of the FAO Asia and the Pacific Regional Conference. APSA Director, Dr Kanokwan Chodchoey read a statement in which she emphasized the importance of seeds in achieving sustainable development: as follows:
“Seeds are the primary basis of the food and agriculture supply chain system. Smooth seed trade and the accessibility of quality seeds for farmers in the region are crucial to sustaining the region’s food and nutrition security and economic prosperity. We have surveyed 132 companies from 20 countries/territories in APAC and 21 countries/territories outside APAC, in the past 2 years to monitor the impact of the pandemic on the overall operations of seeds and agricultural inputs companies. The report is published by the OECD Seed Scheme. The result has shown a strong negative impact on trade followed by labor shortage though there were gradual recovery by the late 2020. Still many challenges and difficulties persisted, especially in the international seed trade. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digitalization and innovation in many areas of the agricultural inputs and food supply chain. In countries where digital tools were implemented, the impact of disruptions was less severe. Limitations on the adoption and implementation of digital tools especially in plant and plant products supply chain may hinder the ability to achieve food security and improve nutrition as part of SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) 2 “Zero Hunger”.
To streamline and facilitate international trade, and thus address many of the aforementioned challenges, a strong framework for public private partnerships and private-private partnerships is key, as is strong international cooperation and framework for human resource development. Governments should recognize agricultural inputs as essential commodities, and thereby formulate policies that enable ease of doing business for the domestic inputs industry, as well as facilitate and incentivize foreign direct investment. we urge that the harmonization of phytosanitary requirements concerning the international movement of seed be based on scientific basis, in accordance with ISPM38. This approach will be conducive to predictable international seed movements, which is crucial for food security and economic prosperity of all our countries. It is also important that governments communicate clearly, and in advance when there is a change in rules, or when new measures will come into force. This will enable seed producers to have adequate time to prepare their quality management systems and adapt to changes in time, and thus ensuring farmers will have access to quality seeds without any disruptions to their sowing schedules, which is critical to sustaining sustainable agri-food systems, on the local, regional and global levels.
AFSTA gets new President: Dr Kulani Machaba of Corteva - South Africa was formally transitioned as the new president of the African Seed Trade Association. during the regional seed association’s annual Annual Congress, held 2 and 3 March at the Royal Garden Palace in Djerba, Tunisia. Nearly 180 delegates representing seed traders and producers from various regions of the world attended the event, which was presided over by Guest of Honour, Prof Mohamed Habib Ben Jamaa, Director General of Plant Health and Control of Agricultural Inputs. Dr Kulani Machaba from South Africa takes the reins of AFSTA from outgoing president, Azariah Soi from Kenya. AFSTA was started in March 2000 in Pretoria, South Africa and it meets annually around the first week of March. It has 120 members of which 27 are African national seed trade associations.
The next AFSTA Congress is planned to be held in Dakar, Senegal, 6 to 9 March 2023. See full press release.
Swiss government extends GMO moratorium, but… A moratorium in Switzerland on genetically modified organisms (GMOs)has been extended until 2025, and for the time being all plants from genome editing are considered gmos. However, the “Bundesrat” (Swiss government) has been charged to come up with solutions/proposals until 2024 how a risk-based authorization for certain (non-transgenic) plants from genome editing could look like with the goal to exempt them from the gmo-moratorium and thus treat them outside the legislation. In addition, there is reportedly a precondition for exempting certain plants from genome editing from the gmo-moratorium if determined that such plants/methods can provide benefits for agriculture, the environment and consumers compared to conventional breeding methods.More details in Swiss here: 21.049 | Gentechnikgesetz. Änderung | Geschäft | Das Schweizer Parlament
Ukraine invasion poses ‘dire consequences’ for regional food security: February 24: The trade of grains and seeds to, through and from Eurasia has been compromised by the invasion by Russia of Ukraine in late February. Reuters reported that an ocean vessel operated by Cargill Inc was hit by a projectile in the Black Sea, though crew were reported to be safe, while commercial port shipping had been suspended as the invasion ensued. Estimates put Ukraine’s monthly grain exports at about 5 million to 6 million tonnes, including about 4.5 million tonnes of corn, 1 million tonnes and the rest being mostly barley. Various countries in the immediate region depend on Ukrainian grain, including China, Turkey, Russia, Egypt and the European Union. European Seed also reported that East and Southeast Asia and the Middle East are major markets for Ukrainian grain, while “the main buyers of Ukrainian seeds are Belarus (35%), and EU (31%), as well as Serbia (5%), Egypt (4%), Georgia (4%).” According to a Q&A published on February 3 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), “A disruption to exports would have dire consequences for food insecurity in already-fragile countries dependent on Ukrainian grain. For example, Lebanon imports 50 percent of its total wheat consumption from Ukraine, followed by Libya at 43 percent, Yemen at 22 percent, and Bangladesh at 21 percent” See full article here. On February 24, the World Farmers’ Organization published a statement that read: “We are concerned, in particular, by the economic consequences of production and trade disruption, being Ukraine one of the top 10 world producers of wheat, corn, sunflower seeds, barley, rapeseed and soybeans. Energy and inputs costs are also deeply impacted by the ongoing situation, overall affecting food security. WFO hopes for a rapid resolution of the conflict, in the interest of all.”
Q&A on EU’s new laws for microorganisms in plant protection products: February 14: European Seed has published a comprehensive Question and Answer piece covering four legal acts which aim to simplify the process of approval and authorisation of biological plant protection products that contain micro-organisms. Pending scrutiny by the European Parliament and the Council the acts are expected to be adopted by the fourth quarter of this year. Read more on Farm to Fork: New Rules for Micro-Organisms Used in Plant Protection Products - European Seed (european-seed.com)
World Pulses Day marked: February 10: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) staged a virtual event to mark World Pulses Day, which seeks to raise awareness of the role of pulses in addressing food security challenges and their contribution to achieving a healthy and balanced diet. The theme for this year’s celebration was “Pulses to empower youth in achieving sustainable agrifood systems”. The event was presided over by FAO Director-Genera Qu Dongyu, who noted: “Pulses contribute to creating livelihood opportunities and equity, which are essential for sustainable agrifood systems. FAO strongly supports the youth to become drivers of positive change.” Also speaking at the event were Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO); Naoko Yamamoto, Assistant Director-General for Healthy Population at the World Health Organization (WHO); Nevzat Birişik, Director-General of Agricultural Research and Policies at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of the Republic of Turkey and Cindy Brown, President of the Global Pulse Confederation (GPC). The United Nations General Assembly designated 10 February as World Pulses Day after the success of the International Year of Pulses in 2016, which was implemented by FAO. The initiative has since been supported by many Member countries. See more details here: World Pulses Day leverages the power of youth to transform agrifood systems (fao.org)
Study highlights up to 9pc of plants in EU threatened: February 7: Between seven to nine percent of all vascular plant species that occur in Europe are globally threatened, according to a recent study published in the journal Plants, People, Planet by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and Leipzig University. The researchers combined Red Lists of endangered plant species in Europe with data on their global distribution. It helps assess the overall level of threat to plant species and thus supports the basis of international nature conservation activities. Read more here: 7 to 9 percent of all European vascular plants are globally threatened (idiv.de)
IYFV formally draws to close: February 4: The UN International Year of Fruits and Vegetables 2021 drew to a close today with a global ceremony staged from Rome. During the ceremony, which was presided over by Qu Dongyu, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), participants recognized the increased awareness of the critical role of fruits and vegetables to improve farmer incomes, create decent jobs, and attain food and nutrition security through transformation of agrifood systems. Also attending were Chile’s Vice Minister of Agriculture, Jose Ignacio Pinoche. Read more about The UN’s International Year of Fruits and Vegetables ends with global ceremony (fao.org)
Global food prices rise in January as vegetable oils reach all-time high: February 3: Global food prices rises in January were “largely catalysed by supply-side constraints for vegetable oils,” according to the latest Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Food Price Index report, which averaged 135.7 points in January 2022, representing a 1.1% rise from December. The Index tracks monthly changes in the international prices of commonly-traded food commodities. Driving this increase was a 4.2% month-on-month rise in the FAO Vegetable Oils Price sub-Index, reaching an all-time high. “Palm oil prices were largely underpinned by concerns over a possible reduction in export availabilities from Indonesia, the world’s leading exporter, while soy oil prices were supported by robust import purchases, particularly from India, rapeseed oil prices were pushed up by lingering supply tightness, and sunflowerseed oil quotations were impacted by supply tightness and surging global import demand” In January, the FAO Dairy Price Index increased by 2.4 %, the FAO Cereal Price and Meat Price Indices increased marginally, while the the FAO Sugar Price Index was the only subindex to post a decrease in January, down 3.1 %from the previous month. See also FAO’s latest Cereal Supply and Demand Brief, , which forecasts cereal utilization in 2021/22 to increase by 1.6 percent year-on-year, and for world trade in cereals in 2021/22 to stand at 481 million tonnes.
PBR Infringement yields hefty penalties in Italy case: The Court of Ragusa sentenced Gaetano Senia and Bartolomeo Bernini, legal representatives of a nursery in Vittoria, in the province of Ragusa, where a PBR protected tomato variety was being cultivated without the required authorization. This is the second ruling of its type in Italy.
The process began with a complaint filed by the AIB (Anti-Infringement Bureau for Intellectual Property Rights in Plant Material), an international association established under Belgian law whose objective is to fight against illegal activity in the seed sector. Read more in Presse-release-AIB.pdf (plantum.nl)
Technical Coordinator wanted at APSA: Attention all qualified Thai nationals and/or Thai residents, APSA is seeking to fill the position of Technical Coordinator, who will work closely with APSA’s Technical Coordination Manager, Executive Director and Technical Committees in planning and carrying out various meetings, projects and activities essential to promoting seed sector R&D, production, trade and technology in the Asia Pacific and beyond. Read full details here.
Vegetable Agronomist at WorldVeg: World Vegetable Centre (WorldVeg) is seeking a Vegetable Agronomist / Agro-ecologist to contribute to “technologies and approaches that will enhance farmer incomes, reduce losses and waste, increase food safety, improve food and nutrition security and have positive outcomes in terms of human, plant and environmental health.” The position will be based at WorldVeg’s headquarters in Shanhua, Tainan, Taiwan and within the Safe and Sustainable Value. Initial application deadline was 28 February. More details here.
Students wanted by ASTA: The American Seed Trade Association is accepting applications for its Student Connections program. This is an exciting opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to pursue professional development, networking and career prospects in the seed industry. Program participants will travel to ASTA’s Leadership Summit in Indianapolis, IN in June 2022, and applications are due by March 11. Find out more details on ASTA’s website here: #JustGrowIt - ASTA - (betterseed.org)
UPOV Hiring Senior Technical/Regional Officer (Africa and Europe): The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) is seeking to fill this position for a two-year contract duration based in Geneva, Switzerland. The incumbent will raise awareness of UPOV and plant variety protection (PVP) and provides guidance to States and organizations on the process of becoming a UPOV member and on the implementation of the UPOV system in Africa and Europe, and provide guidance on technical matters concerning PVP and UPOV; and promotes UPOV services. The application deadline is 16 March. More details:
Job Description - Senior Technical/Regional Officer (Africa and Europe) (22055-FT) (taleo.net)
New PRISMA edition released: January 26: UPOV is pleased to announce the release of UPOV PRISMA, Version 2.7. UPOV PRISMA is an on-line tool to assist in making plant variety protection (PVP) applications to PVP Offices of participating UPOV members. The release was revealed in a press release, which also announced as the newest participating authority, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Saint Vincent. Find out more at www.upov.int/upovprisma
South African Seed Growers Appeal for NBT Not to be Regulated as GMOs: January 19: South African seed industry organizations led by the South African National Seed Organization (SANSOR) released a joint statement after the National Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) announced that products derived from new breeding technologies will be evaluated under the risk assessment framework used for genetically modified organisms. In the statement, the seed industry organizations highlighted the possible detrimental effects of the decision on the nation's agricultural industry.. For more details see full report on ISAAA here as well as original statement on SANSOR website here.
$10M project aims for more pest-resilient food options in Bangladesh, Philippines: January 13: A new Cornell-led project will accelerate the application of biotechnology to enhance food and nutritional security in Bangladesh and the Philippines. The Feed the Future Insect-Resistant Eggplant Partnership is funded by a five-year, $10 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. The new award will continue efforts to introduce genetically engineered (GE) eggplant varieties that are resistant to devastating insect infestations and can reduce or eliminate the need for harmful pesticides. Full details on Cornell website here.
APHIS to accept only original phytosanitary certificates: 29 December: From March 31 the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will accept only original phytosanitary certificates and forms for plant commodity imports. They will continue accepting electronic phytosanitary certificates (via ePhyto, which shares certificates between governments; see list of participating ePhyto countries). Hence, acceptable phytosanitary certificates include: A) Certificates created through a participating country’s ePhyto system, or signed paper forms, and B) Acceptable foreign site certificates of inspection or treatment including: signed paper forms; signed copies of the master PPQ Form 203; and digitally signed electronic PPQ Form 203s Previously, plant commodity importers could upload phytosanitary certificate and form copies. More details here.
Registration for ISF World Seed Congress 2022 open: The International Seed Federation has opened registration for its 2022 World Seed Congress, which is scheduled to take place 14-18 May in Barcelona Spain. Details about registration were relayed in a tweet by ISF Secretary-General Michael Keller. The event is “a unique business-centered event in the Palau de Congressos de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain. . .” and “is the perfect opportunity to reconnect with colleagues and partners in the global seed sector, to feature an exhibition, trading floor, meetings and panel discussions on a host of important topics relevant to the seed sector and beyond. Some parts of the program will be offered virtually. Find out more on the event website.
Registration for AFSTA Congress 2022 open: The African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA) has opened registration for its 2022 annual meeting, which is planned to be held in Djerba, Tunisia from 28 February to 3 March. According to an email blast sent out by the AFSTA Secretariat, “maximum precautions will be observed and all the directives of the Tunisian Government related to the health measures will be applied . . .” The Royal Garden Palace has been chosen as the Congress venue. Prospective participants can take advantage of the Early Bird Registration discount until 31 January, while AFSTA members are eligible for member discounted rates. To register, please visit the AFSTA website
Sustainable ag policy brief in SE Asia: The World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) and its Ally Center for Indonesian Policy Studies (CIPS) have published a Policy Action Brief addressing challenges, opportunities and recommendations for policymakers, private sector, civil society, and industry associations in the region, concerning issues related to sustainable agriculture among small scale farmers and nutrition in Southeast Asia. The brief was prepared following two sessions of the ASEAN Food Systems Policy CoLAB, which took place online on 29 July and 14 September, bringing together stakeholders from the private sector, research institutions and international organizations. Discussions also explored existing policy gaps within relevant regional policy frameworks, including the ASEAN Integrated Food Security Framework (AIFS) and Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security in the ASEAN Region (SPA-FS) 2021-2025; ASEAN Regional Guidelines on Food Security and Nutrition Policy. The policy brief can be downloaded here.
WorldVeg Breeder among awardees recognized as Most Influential: APSA and the World Vegetable Centre (WorldVeg) congratulate Dr. Peter Hanson, WorldVeg Global Plant Breeder and Lead Scientist, who received the Most Influential Plant Breeding Researcher (Public Sector) Recognition Award from APSA. The announcement was made on 4 November 21021 by APSA President Mr. Wichai Laocharoenpornkul, and Executive Director, Dr. Kanokwan Chodchoey. Throughout his 28-year career of public sector plant breeding research, Peter has emphasized the benefits improved vegetable varieties can bring to vegetable seed producers and their customers in Asia and Africa. Read full story on WorldVeg website here and see also announcement of Recognition Award on APSA website here.
Farmer choice emphasized at FAO Seed Systems Summit: On 4-5 November, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) organized The Global Conference on Green Development of Seed Industries. The online forum brought together private and public sector opinion leaders and industry stakeholders to discuss “how to make quality seeds of preferred productive, nutritious and resilient crop varieties available to farmers.” Full story here.
OECD paper on Asia-Pacific seed industry impacts: OECD Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Papers on October 14 published a paper titled “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global and Asian seed supply chains”. Prepared by Annelies Deuss (OECD), Csaba Gaspar (OECD) and Marcel Bruins (externalconsultant) in close cooperation with the International Seed Federation (ISF), the Asia and Pacific Seed Association (APSA), and the World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg), the report looked at the impact of COVID-19 from the perspective of seed companies and the formal seed sector in the Asia Pacific region, which were found to be more negatively affected than their counterparts in other regions during the focus period. Click here to download full paper.
Euroseeds successfully concludes 2021 physical Congress: October 20: The Euroseeds annual Congress was successfully organized as a physical conference in Prague from October 18 to 20. Following the closing of the event, Euroseeds - the regional seed association in Europe posted on social media: “#Euroseeds2021 Congress is over! We hope you enjoyed the event and managed to reconnect with your partners, colleagues and friends of the seed sector in the wonderful city of Prague Flag of Czech Republic.See you next year in Berlin for the #Euroseeds2022 Congress SeedlingFlag of Germany! Information source https://euroseedscongress.com. See original tweet here:
APSA nods EU regulatory initiative to enable new NGTs in Plant Breeding: APSA has submitted comments in support of an initiative by the EU Commission to gather feedback to propose legislation that would enable the application of certain new genomic techniques (NGTs) in plant breeding.
The initiative, which “will propose a legal framework for plants obtained by targeted mutagenesis and cisgenesis and for their food and feed products,” is based on the findings of a recent study by the European Commission that concluded such NBTs could enable development of more plant varieties that have higher nutrient-profiles, are more climate-resilient, disease resistant, and have an overall lower carbon footprint.
In an October 22 letter submitted to the EU Commission on behalf of APSA’s Standing Committee on International Trade and Quarantine and the Asia-Pacific seed industry, APSA APSA Executive Director, Dr. Kanokwan Chodchoey expressed agreement with the initiative, which “would bring the EU’s regulatory approach in line with those of a growing number of countries around the world.”
“We concur that enabling and facilitating their adoption would support various domestic, regional and international commitments towards creating a more sustainable agri-food system in the EU, and globally.
“Furthermore, APSA endorses the Commission’s statement that certain NGTs can be used to produce alterations of the genetic material that can also be obtained by natural mutations or conventional breeding techniques, and therefore concurs with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) conclusion that plants obtained by targeted mutagenesis and cisgenesis have the same risk profile as plants produced with conventional breeding, and thus should not be subject to the same regulatory oversight and processes as GMOs.
“Therefore, we support the Commission’s initiative to enact legislation that is consistent with this principle,” the letter stated, before referencing APSA’s position on new plant breeding innovation, which covers both NBTs and NGTs, and is aligned with that of the International Seed Federation, Euroseeds, the American Seed Trade Association, Seed Association of the Americas and the African Seed Trade Association.
“In principle, we believe that the underlying principle for determining the regulation of the latest plant breeding methods should be that plant varieties developed through the latest plant breeding methods should not be differentially regulated if they are similar or indistinguishable from varieties that could have been produced through earlier (conventional) plant breeding methods.
“Furthermore, we believe that regulations should be formed on sound scientific principles, and that disproportionate regulations and associated costs will impede the utilization of innovative breeding methods. Therefore, policies should facilitate innovation and utilization of advanced breeding tools by public and private plant breeders both in developed and developing countries,” the letter concluded. (Read full letter here.)
The one-month feedback period, which commenced on 24 September, represented the initial stage for proposing a new regulation in the EU.
As of October 22, the EU Commission Feedback web page had registered a total of 70,894 comments submitted, including those from APSA and other international seed trade organizations.
The process will be followed up with public consultations within the second quarter of 2022, while expected adoption of the new legal framework is anticipated to take place by the second quarter of 2023.
APSA’s Standing Committee on International Trade and Quarantine will be following the regulatory proceedings closely and keep members updated on important developments.
FAO publishes IYPH final report: October 19: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has published the final report for the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). Titled ‘Protecting plants, protecting life”, the report summarizes various activities and initiatives carried out across the world in the past year. The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2020 as the #IYPH “to raise global awareness on how protecting plants from pests and diseases can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development. The IYPH final report presents the key outcomes and achievements of the Year, and highlights its main legacies. The International Seed Federation ISF was one of two organizations listed as contracting parties,along with the United States’ North American Plant Protection Organization (NAPPO), in addition to the governments of Australia, China, Finland, France, Ireland, Kenya, Republic of Korea, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland -- who together contributed just over $1.2 million for related activities and promotion. ISF Secretary-General, Michael Keller, who was a member of the IYPH Steering Committee, said“The private seed sector organized a number of virtual events bringing the message of a sustainable world with sustainable and resilient food systems. the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) is not possible without the clear inclusion of plant health. Download full report here.
Eastern and Southern Africa Access to Seeds Index launched October 15: The World Benchmarking Alliance has launched the 2021 Access to Seeds Index with a focus on companies in Eastern and Southern Africa. The latest dataset (download here) assesses the 32 global and regional seed companies on their efforts to reach smallholder farmers with quality seeds of improved varieties, and was launched coinciding with the celebration of 2021 World Food Day. “We aim to shine a light on the level of company’s ambition, showcasing leading practices alongside areas of improvement. We will explore the role of stakeholders in influencing the enabling environment to deliver local seed infrastructure and highlight the key actions to deliver on achieving SDG2 Zero Hunger by 2030,” reads the Index website. The index assesses seed companies on their efforts to make quality seeds accessible to smallholder farmers, using the 2021 Access to Seeds Index methodology, which includes 32 indicators across six measurement areas. The data sheet contains information on the scores of each of these companies. This launch follows the publication of the 2021 Access to Seeds Index for Western and Central Africa on 21 September (download here) and precedes the South and South-East Asian Index, which will launch on 22 November 2021 during the annual technical sessions of the Asia and Paciic Seed Alliance. According to the latest findings, in Western and Central Africa, 32 companies report a presence in almost all 22 index countries, with one or more companies in each country except Guinea-Bissau, while the 32 companies assessed for Eastern and Southern African are present in all 19 countries, while 31 companies are present in all 14 South and South-east Asia countries. Read more here and here.
ISF adds maize to public Pest List database: October 7: The International Seed Federation has made available online the crop specific maize (Zea mays) pest list via the ISF Regulated Pest List (See database here). In an email to colleagues, ISF Seed Health Manager Dr. Rose Souza Richards explained that the “ISF Regulated Pest List Initiative develops crop specific pest lists for seed - regulated species that are traded internationally with the aim of establishing meaningful, science- based and relevant crop specific pest lists to support scientifically based phytosanitary requirements.”
ISF, ASTA and CLI publish gene-editing fact sheets: The International Seed Federation has published six gene-editing facts sheets, which were compiled and provided by ISF, the American Seed Trade Assocation (ASTA) and Crop Life International. The main webpage, where all the fact sheets are downloadable, explains that: To achieve our vision of “a world where the best quality seed is accessible to all, supporting sustainable agriculture and food security”, ISF believes that science and innovation must continue to flourish. The latest plant breeding methods can accelerate the improvement of seed varieties for the benefit of agriculture and consumers globally.” The fact sheets are also linked, and listed as follows:
Webinar raises PVP awareness amongst Thai and Filipino seed associations: APSA, in collaboration with Naktuinbouw & UPOV, on October 8 organized a PVP Toolbox workshop-webinar for members of the Thai Seed Trade Association (THASTA) and the Philippine Seed Industry Association (PSIA). The objective of the workshop was to raise awareness on the plant variety protection, and specifically plant breeders‘ rights under the UPOV1991 convention, as well as on the commercialization of new developed plant varieties for all value chain actors (breeders, seed producers, sales, and regulatory affairs) related to PVP application and commercialization of the new developed variety. The workshop was attended by 25 participants from the two associations participating directly, in addition to about 200 viewers watching live. To see recordings of the webinar/workshop click here.
FAO video on Systems Approach: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on September 27 published a video titled “Understanding systems approach” on its Youtube channel. According to the description, the video was developed for National Plant Protection Organizations who are aware of and interested in Systems Approach and want to find out more about how they can implement the International Standard on Phytosanitary Measure n. 14 on the use of integrated measures in a systems approach for pest risk management. Click here to watch the video.
Asia-Pacific bids farewell to two devoted seedsmen: September 20: It is with sadness to relay the passing of two active APSA members and respected seed industry professionals, Kelly Grant Keithly of Kiethly-Williams Seeds in the US, and Hardeep Grewal of Syngenta Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd. in Singapore, who both passed away on September 20.
An active member of APSA’s Special Interest Group on Field Crops, Hardeep was the Head of Field Crops APAC at Syngenta Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd. and a member of the Syngenta Global Seeds Leadership Team, having joined the company in 2010. He had over 30 years of agribusiness, seeds and biotech experience in global, regional and country roles across Asia. Hardeep is survived by his wife and three children. Read more, pay tribute via link here.
Kelly Grant Keithly, 76, of Keithly-Williams Seeds in Yuma, Arizona in 1981 established Keithly-Williams Seeds, a vegetable seed distribution operation which has become recognized as one of the largest in the world. Kelly Keithly is survived by his wife of 56 years, Cheryl; his children, Kirin (Pat) Cooley of Yuma, AZ; Karla (Jason) Auringer of Wentzville, MO; Ernie (Erica) Keithly of Spring Hills, TN and SueAnn (Jimmy) Harbolt of Yuma, AZ. He is also survived by 13 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. Read more here.
First Food Systems Summit garners global transformation commitment: September 24: The first-ever UN Food Systems Summit, held in New York City on September 23, facilitated nearly 300 commitments on behalf of hundreds of thousands of people from around the world as part of coordinated global efforts to transform the world’s food systems. So far, 148 commitments have been registered, according to a UN news release, include collective or institutional commitments aligned to the Summit’s Action Areas, following “an 18-month inclusive and engaging process with diverse stakeholders.” See also, Asian Seed’s feature on the Sustainable Development, and Food Systems transformation agendas, and specifically where the seed sector fits in, starting on page 30 of this issue.
ISF launches sustainable seed systems initiatives: September 22: On the occasion of the UN Food Systems Summit, the International Seed Federation (ISF) launched four new initiatives to advance seed resilience in order to contribute to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. “The seed sector, which is at the beginning of the food system, defines Seed Resilience as “the adaptability and capacity to contribute to food and nutrition security by making accessible sufficient, diverse, locally adapted, improved, high quality varieties to all farmers taking into account environmental, health, social and economic Aspects,” read an ISF statement to announce the four initiatives of the private seed sector, which include:
• Initiating and contributing through partnerships a "Network of Experience and Knowledge" on Seed Resilience
• Setting up a renewed dialogue based on data collection on sustainable seed systems and their contribution to
Sustainable Development Goals
• Building a flagship project with partners for a sustainable seed system based on inclusiveness in a country
• Publishing a best practice guide on access to improved varieties and sustainable crop management
Click here to download, read full statement.
2021 Access to Seeds Index report launch: September 21: The World Benchmarking's Access to Seeds Index has published its latest report on 32 seed companies evaluated in Western and Central Africa as part of the third iteration of the Access to Seeds Index, which has recently been finalized. The 2021 index compares the efforts of 67 leading seed companies to make their products available to smallholder farmers in three regions: In addition to Western and Central Africa, reports will also be published soon for South and South-east Asia, and Eastern and Southern Africa. The World Benchmarking Alliance, ultimately aims to benchmark the efforts and contributions of the seed industry to achieve Sustainable Development Goals with the Access to Seeds Index focusing on SDG 2: Zero Hunger.
According to the latest findings, more companies are investing in good agronomic practices or extension services to enable smallholders to increase crop yields, and rely more on ICT tools to communicate with smallholders in remote areas as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, “training programs targeting the next generation of farmers, especially women, are lacking." Key findings of the 2021 Index for South and Sout-east Asia will be presented at APSA’s Standing Committee for International Trade & Quarantine virtual technical session, scheduled 22 November, 2021. Meanwhile, the latest findings have been published on the World Benchmarking Alliance here.
Meet the WFF Champions of agrifood transformation: September 16: The World Food Forum (WFF) has launched its ‘Champions Programme’ as part of an initiative to “mobilize young, influential change-makers to raise global awareness about issues and events related to agri-food systems transformation.” The launch comes ahead of the WFF’s #WorldFoodForum, which will be held 1 to 5 October. The program aims to “engage and empower youth worldwide to find new, actionable, innovative, and inclusive solutions to current and future agri-food challenges,” by identifying “young leaders and influencers from regions and countries around the world who have a passion for creating a better food future and who will leverage their respective platforms and influence to bring positive change.” The list includes nine ‘champions’ so far, including a vegan fashion model from Malaysia (Natalie Prabha), the co-founder and CEO of SOCHAI in Nepal (Bonita Sharma) and Good Food Fund policy officer/Act4Youth leader in China (Huiyu Ouyang). Find out more on the WFF website here.
Food price index up 33% year-on-year: September 2: Averaging 127.4 points, the FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) in August 2021 was up 31.5 points (32.9%) from the same period last year, and up 3.9 points (3.1 %) from the previous month. The increase was mainly attributed to “strong gains in the sugar, vegetable oils, and cereal sub-indices” Namely, the FAO Cereal Price Index rose to an average of 129.8 points, an increase of 4.3 points (3.4%) from July, and 30.8 points (31.1%) jump year-on-year. This was underlined by reduced wheat harvests adversely impacting wheat prices by 8.8% month-on-month, and 43.5% y-o-y. Likewise, lower barley production outlooks caused this price indice to jump by 9% m-o-m, and 35.6% y-o-y. Maize and sorghum prices were down on the month, though up overall when compared to a year ago. In contrast, rice prices are down, citing record stocks and output of this staple grain, even as sowing area reductions were reported in the US, Japan and Iran. Vegetable oil prices rose to 6.7% m-o-m on the back of a five-month low in July, reflecting higher palm, rapeseed and sunflowerseed oil prices. For full report, click here, and here for the FAO’s latest FAO Cereal Supply and Demand Brief.
Shipping slows as bunker fuel price surges: August 12: Shipowners are taking losses in order to keep their ships afloat in the face of surging prices for very-low sulfur bunker, which peaked over US$550 per metric tonne, about 50% higher than a year ago. The effects caused freight rates on the benchmark route from the Middle East to Asia to slip coinciding with “weak hiring rates”, coulding demand in Asia, the main market for Middle Eastern crude. This has resulted in supertankers sail without cargoes and at slower speeds to cut fuel consumption. More details here.
Wanted: Papers, experts on seed testing for ‘Quality Seed for Sustainable Agriculture’: The International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) is calling for paper submissions ahead of its next Seed Symposium, which will be held in conjunction with the 33rd ISTA Congress , scheduled 4-6 May, 2022 in Christchurch, New Zealand . The theme for the event is: Quality Seed for Sustainable Agriculture. The Symposium will “discuss all aspects of seed quality. . . the latest advances in seed science and technology, as well as an opportunity to exchange ideas and information,” bringing together “seed analysts, technologists, researchers and managers from universities, research institutes, government and the seed trade. The deadline for the submission of papers is 1 October, 22. More details on ISTA website here.
APAC-focused gene editing webinar series on demand: August 18: The Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI) in association with Korea Biosafety Clearing House (KBCH) and Biotech Consortium India Limited (BCIL)recently organized a webinar series on “Applications of Gene Editing in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security in Asia-Pacific Region” to address “a need for science-based, predictable and proportionate regulations. . . “ as well as “harmonization of approaches within the Asia-Pacific region. The series featured three webinars as follows:
Ramping up ToBRFV monitoring: Plant protection authorities across Europe have increased surveillance for Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus or ToBRFV, coinciding with detection in various countries in recent months. The virus, which mainly affects pepper (Capsicum sp.) and tomato, was confirmed in August in Slovenia by the country’s National Institute of Biology. According to the Slovenia Times, the virus was previously detected this past spring in pepper seeds imported from Czech Republic (the report says the seeds originated in China). This follows ToBRFV detection at a totato farm in the Swiss canton of Thurgau, also in August, and at a farm in Sainte Livrade, France on July 29, adding to recent detections in Bulgaria, Norway, Hungary and Italy, as outlined in this July 1 report, in addition to Austria at the end of June, and Poland in February. Such reports have prompted tighter surveillance of tomato and pepper seed imports to, from and within the region. According to a circular issued on July 13, “The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) asks seed companies to prepare for the consequences of EU rules for tomato and pepper seeds. The method for import testing for Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV) will be tightened from 15 July.” The measures refer to emergency measure (EU) 2020/1191 which prompted stricter monitoring (sampling and testing) of tomato and pepper seeds imported into the EU. The latest circular from the NVWA states that from 15 July 2021, all batches of tomato seed that fall under the sampled phytosanitary certificate for a sample that tests positive, “must be returned, destroyed or separately tested.” (See also Phyto measures news in China, Turkey below)
BSPB launches new website, payment portal: The British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB) has chosen to “breathe new life into the visual identity of organisation” with the launch of a refreshed logo and website. In their own words, “The aim is to help farmers recognise the importance of plant breeding and to better educate the agricultural industry on how members are working to help feed the growing population. The new website has been designed to offer more information in one place.” In addition, the BSPS has announced a new payment portal to simplify farm saved seed payments, which the organization hopes will increase the percentage of declarations Find out more in recent newsletter here.
EWS welcomes new R&D chief: East-West Seed is pleased to introduce Katalin Pákozdi, who from August 16 started as the company’s new Chief R&D Officer, and Managing Board member. Katalin replaces Simon Jan de Hoop, who will continue to support Katalin and the R&D leadership team under his new role as Innovation Counsel. Previously based in the UK as Driscoll's Plant Breeding Director for EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), Katalin has extensive breeding experience in peppers and strawberries. She did her postgraduate studies in Japan and the United States, and will be based in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, where she has relocated with her family. Find out more here.
Food Price Index up 31% year-on-year: Though the Food Price Index (FFPI) of the Food and Agriculture Organization saw a slight month-on-month drop of 1.5 points (1.2%) its average of 123 points still represents a 29.1 point (31$) increase from July 2020. According to the latest FAO FFPI monthly news release (August 5) the drop in July “reflected declines in prices of cereals, dairy products and vegetable oils which more than offset increases in meat and sugar quotations for the second consecutive month. The report goes on to cite various factors affecting grain prices around the globe, including “cancelled orders of old crop maize by China, falling import demand for barley and sorghum, which contrast to rising wheat quotations linked to concerns over unfavorable output in North America, Europe and Russia, but more favorable in Argentina and Australia. International rice prices also hit two-year lows which were linked to high freight costs and logistical hurdles.The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index fell by 1.4 percent to 155.4 points, representing a five-month low, and “reflected lower prices for soy, rape and sunflowerseed oils, more than offsetting rising palm oil values.” See full report for complete insights on cereal, vegetable oil, meat, diary and sugar indices here. The next FAO FFPI monthly report is set to be published on September 2.
Pandemic increases global hunger: report : July: The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021 (SOFI 2021) report highlights that 811 million people, or nearly one-tenth of the world population went hungry in 2020. The report is referenced as “an indication of what hunger and malnutrition would look like by 2030, in a scenario further complicated by the enduring effects of the pandemic.” The pandemic was blamed for increasing hunger, especially among children. According to the report, child malnutrition “persists at an alarming rate –an estimated 149 million children were stunted, 45 million were wasted and 39 million were overweight in 2020.” and it projects that an “additional 22 million children in low- and middle-income countries will be stunted, an additional 40 million will be wasted between 2020 and 2030 due to the pandemic. Find out more here.
ISF Sec-gen re-affirms seed sector commitment to Sustainable Development: The International Seed Federation, represented by its Secretary General Michael Keller, was among private sector representatives who attended the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit in Rome on 26-28 Jul. "As I left the FAO headquarters after the closing of the pre-summit, I came away with a strong feeling that there are less boundaries now in our capacity to move forward. The UN Food Systems Summit is an innovative process by being inclusive and breaking silos. Perhaps our perspectives are different, but don't we all have food security and the SDGs as shared goals? Whether traditional knowledge or latest innovations, don't we need as much capacity and know-how as possible in order to progress? Let's be open and have trust in each other.” Read more here.
ISF elects Second Vice President: APSA would like to congratulate Arthur Santosh Attavar, who was formally elected as ISF Second Vice President during the ISF General Assembly on 8 July. Attavar is the Chairman & Managing Director of Indo-American Hybrid Seeds, India, Pvt Ltd, a family-owned seed company established in 1965 that pioneered the first hybrid vegetable seeds in India in 1973. He is active in seed associations at both national, regional and international levels, and has been an active APSA member over the years. We look forward to what his leadership will bring to the region and global seed industries in the coming years.
Surging freight, food inflation persists: July 9: Rising freight costs are fuelling concerns of food inflation in import-dependent markets. The cost to ship grains and oilseeds in bulk from production areas in the Americas and Black Sea have reportedly doubled this year. An article by Channel News Asia reported that the cost of shipping grains to Southeast Asia from Australia, which went from US$15 a tonne to US$30, and more than doubling if from the US Pacific Northwest to Asia, from $25 a year ago to $55 now. Ships carrying wheat from the Black Sea to Asia reportedly cost $65 a tonne compared to $35 last year. Reasons cited include the rising cost of bunker fuel, tighter vessel supply and longer port turnaround times due to COVID-19 requirements. The article also notes a double whammy with rising food inflation, citing Chicago futures quotes, including a 90% year on year jump for corn futures; 50% spike for soybeans, and 30% jump for wheat. This is especially problematic for food importers in Asia, the top crop consuming region. An example highlighted the plight of Indonesia, which now pays more $4 million more than it did a year ago for a 50,000-tonne cargo of food-grade wheat from the Black Sea, with the freight cost alone rising by US$1.5 million.
FAO DG calls for transformation of agri-food systems to achieve SDGs. July 27: Addressing world leaders at the opening of the Pre-Summit of the UN Food Systems Summit, Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said that in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, there would need to be transformational changes to policies, mind-sets, and business models. The Chinese national stressed that a holistic and coordinated approach is urgently needed to transform agri-food systems, which he said were not efficient, inclusive and sustainable in many parts of the world. The FAO Director-General also took the opportunity to announce the launch of the World Food Forum (WFF), which is scheduled 1 to 6 October 2021. See full coverage of the DG’s speech on Seed World here. Also, see tweet here.
Answer to climate change, food security challenges in Asia: July 26: Dr Ravi Khetarpal, the Executive Secretary, Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI) has penned an informative and timely editorial advocating for innovative and practical solutions to a number of looming challenges. In the article, titled “Gene editing – A tool to tackle climate change and to achieve food security in Asia Pacific”, Dr. Khetarpal notes “There are about 688 million people undernourished in the world, of which 351 million – more than half — live in the Asia- Pacific region. Further, there are growing concerns that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic may have undone whatever gains were achieved towards food security in the region. The agriculture sector is facing the most negative consequences of unpredictable and severe climatic conditions; therefore, we need to have innovative and scientific solutions to ensure higher, diseases-free and nutrient-rich crop production. Asia Pacific region, which is home to 12 out of 46 Least Developed Countries, achieving food and nutrition security is very critical . . . . Read the full article here.
CDC to withdraw EUA for Real Time RT-PCR COVID diagnostics: July 21: The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on 21 Jul issued a “Laboratory Alert” notifying that from December 31, 2021, it “will withdraw the request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the CDC 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel, the assay first introduced in February 2020 for detection of SARS-CoV-2 only. CDC is providing this advance notice for clinical laboratories to have adequate time to select and implement one of the many FDA-authorized alternatives . . . In preparation for this change, CDC recommends clinical laboratories and testing sites that have been using the CDC 2019-nCoV RT-PCR assay select and begin their transition to another FDA-authorized COVID-19 test.” The notice went on to “encourage” laboratories to consider adoption of a multiplexed method that can facilitate detection and differentiation of SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses.” Meanwhile, demand for, and use of the RT-PCR tests to confirm COVID-19 cases continues to rise in most Asian countries.
Lockdowns spreading: July 2021: Covid case numbers continue to surge throughout the region as governments double down on mass-testing and the imposing of new or renewed restrictions on business activity, movement, vaccination mandates. Some specific Covid-19 highlights in July 2021 are covered on the respective country pages for Australia, Israel, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam. See also, the latest lockdown updates and maps on stay-at-home orders, travel restrictions, school and workplace closures, and The government response stringency index. Also on stringency trends internationally, see this Oxford animated map
Monsoon, summer storms sweep through China Seas: Jul 27: Several major storm systems have swept through swathes of the Philippines, Japan and China bringing devastation to livelihoods, crops, infrastructure and public safety in the final week of July. See China, Japan and the Philippines news below.
BPBS launches new website, weighs in on National Food Strategy: The British Society of Plant Breeders Ltd. (BPBS) has launched its new website, and plans to launch a new newsletter to share updates on plant breeding and the seed industry. In related news, the BPBS joined several leading crop improvement organizations in the United Kingdom to issue a joint statement responding to the UK’s recently announced National Food Strategy. Distributed through a news release, the joint-statement was issued on behalf of BPBS, the John Innes Centre, Rothamsted Research, The Sainsbury Laboratory and the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), along with leading plant scientists at Britain’s top universities, who welcomed the UK’s recently announced National Food Strategy, which recognizes “the importance of crop genetics in delivering the productivity, resource use efficiency and nutritional quality gains needed to support a healthier, more resilient food system.” Specifically, the National Food Strategy highlighted the need to invest in the latest science – including new breeding techniques – “to improve productivity without polluting the land,” and discussed the potential to increase crop yields by up to 30% through advances in crop breeding.
The joint call is for Government to ensure these innovations can take place by providing a proportionate and enabling regulatory framework for genetic innovation, alongside a more coherent R&D strategy for crop genetic improvement. More details here.
ISF Virtual Seed Congress rallies global seed sector on key issues: July 7: The International Seed Federation from 5-7 July held its annual Congress event online for the second year in a row. The event attracted more than 1,000 participants from 80 countries around the world, and featured 11.5 hours of live broadcasts. This year’s Virtual Congress was themed the “UN Food Systems Summit and the many roles of seed” to reiterate and emphasize the importance of seed in food supply chains and sustainable development. The program featured sessions facilitating presentations and discussions, including on the role of improved seed varieties and how to build the conditions to create crop diversification; engagement of the seed sector through the Declaration; a review of the current state of farmers' access to innovation and technology and the opportunities for public-private collaboration; seed supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19; possible consequences of a disrupted seed production chain to the global seed and food supply chain; the key benefits of a global seed production and supply chain and positive impacts on resilient food systems; Policy considerations - what kind of responses could be given from governments to ensure the seamless seed supply chain even in times of crisis; perspectives from seed industry, government, and research; impact of emerging pests and how emerging diseases play a part on the current challenges facing the seed industry; current challenges facing the seed industry due to restrictive regulation on the movement of seeds in the international arena; vision of seed business leaders on the engagement of their company related to sustainability and resilience in a changing business environment; engagement with all the stakeholders to increase the development of a sustainable value chain and the exchange on the role of the seed sector in the international discussions related to climate change. The sessions were broadcast to ISF members and other stakeholders via an interactive platform. For more information, see virtual congress webpage. See also, article about the event published on LinkedIn by ISF Communication Manager, Francine Sayoc.
ISF, seed industry observes IYPH close: June 24: The International Seed Federation (ISF) together with the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and other seed sector stakeholders celebrated the closing of the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH), which was marked during a ceremony 1 July. Though the IYPH was designated by the UN in 2020, it was extended through the first six months of 2021 due to disruptions last year linked to the pandemic. “Plants are the foundation of life on earth and we are proud to have been part of this once in a lifetime opportunity to build engagement around protecting the world’s plant resources from pests. We will continue strengthening our engagement to garner support to highlight the importance of healthy seed to plant health and to support the adoption of the International Day of Plant Health (IDPH),” said Michael Keller, Secretary General of ISF. The seed industry has been supportive of this initiative from the very beginning. Joining forces, various National Seed Associations (NSAs) and seed companies across the globe have organized different events in support of plant health. ISF also organized a number of events from virtual roundtables to a session with the IPPC. APSA continues to promote plant health, including through our social media campaign to recognize outstanding plant health professionals in the region.
FTAs beyond TRIPS: July 2021: GRAIN has published an update of its dataset that tracks Free Trade Agreements, and specifically those with stipulations related to the commercialization of seeds and biodiversity, which GRAIN claims go beyond Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) minimal standards. The dataset, which summarizes details from FTAs since 1999, is found here.
ISS microgravity plant experiments: July 26: Seed World reports on two plant experiments from North Carolina State University (NC State) researchers returned to Earth after weeks on the International Space Station. Citing a release from NASA, Seed World notes that two researchers from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, had sent their two projects to space in early June. With their return the researcher will now study how the plants had reacted to extreme environments. See story here.
Space plants to spice up astronauts’ diet: Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) may soon be firing up their taste buds with green chili-peppers germinated and grown in the Earth’s orbit. are adding something spicy to their diet: red and green chile peppers. The chile peppers, which came from from Hatch, New Mexico, were brought to the ISS in June. According to a news report “a team with the Kennedy Space Center’s Exploration Research and Technology programs planted the seeds in a science carrier that slots into a plant growth chamber, the Advanced Plant Habitat, on the orbiting laboratory where astronauts raise crops. . . “ Expected cultivation time is about four months, and one key challenge to overcome is flower pollination. Previous experiments that have yielded success include the growing of zinnias in 2015 and romaine lettuce in 2016.
APSA and CSA cancel 2021 Asian Seed Congress: May 24: APSA and the China Seed Association have decided to cancel the 2021 Asian Seed Congress, which was scheduled to be held in Shenzhen in December 2021. The decision was made in light of the sustained uncertainties about the ongoing Covid-19 situation. Announcing to decision in a letter to APSA members , the regional association’s President, Mr. Wichai Laocharoenpornkul explained: “We feel that a cautious approach is necessary due to stringent public health measures, advisories and policies persisting in many countries throughout the region, where mobility and the
capacity to organize large, physical gatherings are anticipated to be limited for the foreseeable future. Though we are optimistic about the situation improving, the health and safety of our
members are our highest priority.” Mr Wichai added that APSA will hold this year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Technical Sessions virtually, with more details to be announced by September.
Dialogue on Food Systems ‘transformation’ gaining momentum: International food, agricultural and germplasm organizations are amplifying advocacy efforts and engagements aiming for ‘stronger’ and ‘better’ food and nutritional security in the coming years: A number of online forums have been held and briefs issued ahead of the United Nation’s Food Systems Pre- Summit 26-28 July in Rome, which will be a primer to the larger United Nations Food Systems Summit, planned in September. One such brief was entitled ‘Fruits and Vegetables for Healthy Diets: Priorities for Food System Research and Action’, which was prepared by scientists working for member organisations of AIRCA, who argue it necessary to address the issue of low fruit and vegetable consumption through a set of ‘push’, ‘pull’ and ‘policy’ actions. Brief here. In another brief released in April, entitled “Safeguarding and using Fruit and Vegetable
Biodiversity”, the authors from various organizations and who identify as “Research Partners of the Scientific Group for the Food Systems Summit April 2021”, advocate for a “global awareness campaign to safeguard and sustainably use fruit and vegetable biodiversity and a 10-year global rescue plan to reduce and reverse the decline in this biodiversity.” Such an effort, the authors suggest, would require an investment of at least 250 million USD. Brief here. The UN Food Systems main website is here. On one page, it notes that “107 initial propositions will undergo between May and June, a wide range of stakeholder consultations” in “close coordination with Food Systems Summit Dialogues and the work of the Scientific Committee”. That page also highlights five key ‘Action Tracks’: 1) Access to safe nutritious food for all; 2) Sustainable consumption; 3) Nature positive production; 4) Livelihood and equality and 5) Resilience -- each with a sub-set of specific action areas.
Registration for ISF Virtual Congress opens: May 26: Highlighting the important role of seed to build resilient food systems in anticipation of the UN Food Systems Summit later this year will be the main focus of International Seed Federation (ISF) led engagement this coming 5-7 July forr the global seed trade organization’s virtual congress, which will bring together industry stakeholders for online discussions to be streamed on ISF’s Channel World Seed. Registration opened on May 26 via congress.worldseed.org which also includes updated details on program and speakers.
ISF postpones Barcelona World Seed Congress: May 6: The International Seed Federation has announced the postponement of hosting the ISF World Seed Congress in Barcelona, Spain. This year’s Congress, which was being organized by ISF and ANOVE -- the Spanish Association of Vegetable Breeders -- had initially planned to be held from 5-7 July, 2021 in the popular Spanish city, but according to an announcement, “We believe that resetting the scene for Barcelona next year would be a wise choice, as the city remains one of the most attractive business and tourism centres in Europe. Our Spanish NOC has been incredibly supportive, and we trust that our partnership will carry us through to next year. We are determined to provide you an onsite congress that serves as the quintessential global business and trading platform for the seed sector.” The announcement adds that “we will shift to a fully virtual congress setup, which will be accessible to everyone for free on 5-7 July 2021.” More details in announcement here.
Asian lady scientist named 2021 Word Food Prize Laureate: Dr. Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted, a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago and Denmark whose parents descended from Indian agriculture migrant workers, has been named by the World Food Prize Foundation the 2021 World Food Prize Laureate. "Dr. Thilsted is the seventh woman to be awarded the World Food Prize and the first woman of Asian heritage. She is at the helm of our global progress in the UN Decade of Action and continues to stand at the forefront of innovation," said Barbara Stinson, President, WFPF. Dr. Shakuntala is being recognized for her groundbreaking research, critical insights and landmark innovations in developing holistic, nutrition-sensitive approaches to aquaculture and food systems, including through research on small native fish species in Bangladesh, which went on to benefit millions in Cambodia, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Malawi, Sierra Leone and Zambia. The 2021 Laureate Award Ceremony is scheduled to be held in October 2021. More details here.
APSA WIC holds its fourth annual Midterm Meeting: On Thursday, 8 April, APSA's Working Group of Integrated Vegetable Seed Companies (WIC) held its 2021 midterm meeting. This was the committee's first meeting of the year, and its fourth annual midterm meeting since April, 2018. Usually a physical meeting in Bangkok, it was held virtually for the second consecutive year due to ongoing international travel restrictions and advisories. This year, the WIC welcomed four new members from Bangladesh Pakistan, Vietnam and China, who joined as observers. Highlights are as follows: On the WIC’s Train the Trainers initiative, there was a review of its initial module in 2020 that focused on plant breeders rights, as well as plans for the next module this year to address germplasms security practices for seed production. In addition to updates from the Seed Innovation and Protection Initiative (#SIPI) and Disease Resistance Terminology (DRT) project, there was an educational presentation on Digital Sequencing Initiative (DSI) and Plant Genetic Resources given by the Dutch Seed Association (Plantum), as well as presentations from the International Seed Federation on the Systems Approach initiative and regional phytosanitary update. Other initiatives discussed include a new University Connects project, as well as a report on COVID-19 2021 survey responses collected from WIC members, which will be shared to members in the near future. The next WIC meeting is scheduled for Q4 of 2021. APSA will keep its members updated. Meanwhile, a more detailed meeting summary is being prepared and will be circulated to members.
APSA launched Seed Tech Webinar series: APSA’s Standing Committee on Seed Technology on April 1 held its first in a new series of webinars for APSA members. It featured three presentations: the first was an ‘Overview of Seed Health Testing for Pathogenic Plant Viruses’ (Reverse Transcriptase Conventional and Real-Time PCR, ELISA and Bioassay) by Thomas Baldwin, Head of Molecular Detection at the French Group for the Study and Control of Varieties and Seeds (GEVES); followed by a presentation on the ‘Method Validation for Virus Pathogens Testing’ by Daniel Bakker, Senior Researcher, R&D Department, the Netherlands Inspection Service for Horticulture (Naktuinbouw); and wrapped up with an ‘Overview of Phytosanitary Regulation’ by Michael Leader, the chair of APSA’s Standing Committee on International Trade & Quarantine. Active APSA members are invited to log in and watch all three presentations, download the presentation slides via this link: Stand by for details about the next webinar.
Global supply chains glitch from shipping incidents: March-April: Agitating an already-stressed global supply chain have been recent noteworthy shipping-lane incidents, which highlight just how vulnerable international cargo transport is. Namely, from 23-29 March, the blockage of the Suez Canal by the giant Ever Given ship, had delayed the delivery of various types of cargo on some 450 ships, incurring losses of some US$10 billion, as highlighted here. Also of note, one recent article highlights the alarming trend of thousands of shipping containers being lost at sea annually: in 2020, some 3,000 containers were lost, and so far in 2021, it’s estimated that 1,000 containers, valued at $54.5 million dollars, have been lost in accidents pinned to both human error and natural diasters. The article notes that some 226 million containers are shipped annually.
Sustainable production, plant breeding book from US, EU seed sector stakeholders: 26 March: A new book, released by the Institute on Science for Global Policy and organized with support from the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) and Euroseeds, has been published. The 105-page book, titled, “Sustainable Agriculture: the Role of Plant Breeding Innovation”, summarizes the outcomes of a conference held on 17-18 November 2020, which “engaged major scientific, technological, private sector, governmental, and public advocacy communities involved in food and agricultural systems from the EU and the U.S.” At the conference -- and summarized in the book -- “The wide range of stakeholders reached consensus on some key priority issues and areas of action that will be essential going forward. These include “Joint acknowledgement of the need for a systematic approach to sustainable production that is responsive and adaptable to local conditions; Shared vision of the importance of achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the need for consensus on the effective use of PBI in that effort; Common recognition to continue science-based open discussion and dialogue with a broad range of stakeholders; and Collective desire to optimize the role of plant breeding to efficiently and expeditiously provide new products to support long-term sustainability in achieving SDGs. For more details, and download link, see ASTA news here.
ISHI-Veg updates tomato seed Pepino mosaic virus detection method: The International Seed Health Initiative for Vegetable Crops (ISHI-Veg) -- a technical committee of the International Seed Federation or ISF -- has published the latest revised edition for ‘Detection of Pepino mosaic virus in Tomato Seed’. Available here on the ISF website, it is the fifth version since 2007; changes noted include “Protocol presented in accordance with ISHI-Veg’s protocol guidance; Crop name Lycopersicon esculentum removed; and a table with the controls added to the ELISA section. ISHI-Veg’s methods for seed health testing are internationally recognized as reference methods and accepted as industry standards.
ToBRFV: first trial results confirm high resistance level: Enza Zaden has published details about one of its tomato varieties that has shown “High Resistance” or HR to tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV). The news follows the company claiming to have discovered the ToBRFV HR gene. Commenting on the latest trials in Mexico, Oscar Lara, Senior Tomato Product Specialist said, “We see no symptoms at all in the plants, while the disease pressure is very high. More details here.
Global seed sector commits to UN goals, declares engagement to deliver sustainable food systems: March 16. Representatives of seed companies and associations representing all regions of the world have signed a declaration committing to actively support achievement of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and proactively demonstrate their extensive and diverse contributions towards sustainable food systems, while calling for more urgent public private cooperation. The “Seed Sector Declaration”, an initiative of the International Seed Federation, was signed as a part of engagement efforts ahead of the UN’s Food Systems Summit, scheduled for September 2021. To view the full text of the Declaration and its signatories, visit ISF website here.
UN adopts resolution for 2023 Intl Year of Millets: The United Nations General Assembly on March 3 adopted a resolution to formally declare 2023 as the International Year of Millets. The adoption was announced as part of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly. See resolution here. According to a media report, the resolution, which was “initiated by India with Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Russia and Senegal and was co-sponsored by over 70 nations” is “... aimed at raising awareness about the health benefits of the grain and their suitability for cultivation under changing climatic conditions.
Smart Food system conference videos released: Coinciding with the the UN adoption of a resolution to declare 2023 as the International Year of Millets, organizers of a recent South Asia and Africa focused FoodTec conference have announced releasing all presentations and panel discussions from the two day conference, held at the end of last year on, via the Youtube platform. The conference, which was themed on “Food Trends, Opportunities and Driving Markets for Smart Food”, was organized as part of the “Smart Food” initiative, which has a key objective “to diversify staples across Africa and Asia…” with a “focus on small holder farmers across Africa and Asia, to ensure that rural communities benefit from the increased demand, and from the health and nutritional benefits of Smart Foods.” ” Following are respective presentation links:
Syngenta Foundation’s variety commercialization guideline: The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture recently finalized its Seeds2B variety commercialization guidelines. Created to help strengthen the seed supply chain, the guidelines are organized into a set of tools covering all the necessary steps and activities “that will ensure that only relevant varieties are developed and that seeds are delivered successfully.” More details about the guidelines and commercial model will be featured in an upcoming issue of Asian Seed Magazine.
Access to Seeds Index 2021 methodology finalized: The World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) on 2 March launched the final methodology for the 2021 Access to Seeds Index. Thee methodology was finalized over a 6-week period of stakeholder consultations from mid-December, 2020 to the end of January, 2021. “We were pleased to receive a high level of feedback from both companies and associated stakeholders and would like to thank all of you that were involved. We look forward to the next part of the journey with you, looking beyond our next period of data collection and company engagement to the launch of the third edition of the Access to Seeds Index at the UN Food System Summit. This is when we can use the results to collectively take action towards our shared mission of incentivising business impact towards a sustainable future that works for everyone. “ Click here to download the methodology.
ISF appeals for recognition, implementation of IPPC standards for seed: In response to increasingly restrictive phytosanitary measures being implemented on seed imports in many countries, the International Seed Federation (ISF) is calling on governments “to recognize and implement international standards drafted by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), including ISPM 38 and 11, in order to facilitate international agricultural trade and deliver food security.” The appeal, expressed in a statement on February 15, asks that “when assessing pest risk and determining appropriate phytosanitary measures to apply, governments should always consider the intended use of the seeds and the adoption of multiple equivalent options so as not to create additional barriers to international trade. Governments should also refrain from introducing prescriptive seed testing protocols that have not been validated internationally. In some instances, phytosanitary measures that are being imposed are not even necessary, as seed is not a pathway for the entry, establishment or spread of the pest in question. Related headlines include:
Pest screening for seed imports ramps up: January 2021: From April 1, all phytosanitary certificates issued for EU-bound seeds of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), as well as peppers (Capsicum spp.) must be based on a PCR lab report certifying the seed as free of Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV). This is in addition to other strict declarations and requirements related to seed production, inspection, origin and traceability, as initially mandated in an EU regulation announced last August. Seed industry reps were informed about the new EU seed import requirements through a memo circulated in January, which linked to details of amendments to the regulation, “Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/1191 on measures to prevent the introduction into and the spread within the Union of Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV)” Previously-accepted ELISA test results will no longer be sufficient to meet import requirements. In related news, new testing and declaration requirements for the import of seeds of solanaceous and other economically important crop species have recently been announced through WTO Notifications from Thailand, Turkey, Japan and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan, China). See the respective news sections of the former three countries below for more details, and for Thailand, go to Thailand news industry page for original announcement news, published by APSA in January.
International Plant Health conference in Helsinki cancelled: 9 February 2021. A decision was made on 2 February to cancel the International Plant Health (IYPH) Conference, previously scheduled to be held in Helsinki from 28 June to 1 July 2021. Citing ongoing Covid-19 travel restrictions, the decision was made by IYPH International Steering Committee, including representatives of member countries of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), contracting parties to the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), representatives of plant health stakeholder groups and FAO officials, who had met to discuss the action plan for the remainder of the IYPH, which will formally conclude with a closing ceremony, planned on 1 July 2021, “given the extension agreed by FAO to continue gaining momentum for plant health despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” See IPPC announcement here, as well as list and links of all related IYPH events here.
Registration open for 2021 World Seed Congress: February 2021: The International Seed Federation (ISF) is partnering with ANOVE -- the Spanish Association of Vegetable Breeders -- to co-organize the 2021 World Seed Congress in Barcelona, Spain, which is scheduled to be held from 5-7 July, 2021. Registration for the in-person cum virtual meeting was launched 2 February, and will be open until 15.00 CEST on 28 June. For more information, visit the Congress website.
Four hemp varieties pass AOSCA variety certification review: February 2021: Four varieties of hemp -- low-THC cultivars of the species Cannabis Sativa -- have passed rigorous standards of the national Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) variety review board. The varieties, developed by Arcadia Biosciences Inc, will thus be eligible for certified seed production in accordance with requirements as stipulated by the US Seed Act for new varieties to be verified as distinct, uniform and stable (DUS). According to a news release, as reported in several outlets, including by Seed World here, hemp varieties that have successfully passed through the AOSCA variety review process are eligible for the production of certified hemp seed, transplants or clones… AOSCA certification signifies to the industry that GoodHemp seed is produced to the highest standards for genetic purity, uniformity, high germination and feminization rates, and varietal identity. The four AOSCA-certified GoodHemp varieties are described as follows:
ISF Launches ‘Channel World Seed’: January 2021: The International Seed Federation has launched a new online platform to disseminate timely information about the global seed sector, as well as exclusive content for its members. The channel, hosted on ISF’s Youtube Channel here was launched formally on January 25 via an introductory video here.
Access to seeds new methodology feedback:
egardig the publication of the draft methodology for the 2021 Access to Seeds Index. This draft methodology, including the already released scope of the Index is still open for public consultation until January 31st. The methodology has been thoroughly reviewed based on stakeholders' feedback and addresses new developments in the industry. The 2021 Access to Seeds Index methodology has been simplified by reducing the number of indicators, and it has been aligned with the World Benchmarking Alliance's food system transformation approaches.
Key revisions and updates compared to the 2nd Access to Seeds Index methodology include:
Feedback can be provided by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org and/or by registering to one or all of our public consultation webinars (see below for registration links). We are seeking input from all stakeholders so please feel free to share this opportunity within your network.
UPOV contributions on smallholders open till 1 February:
As a first step towards the possible development of guidance regarding the implementation of the exception of acts done privately and for non-commercial purposes in relation to smallholder farmers, the UPOV Council has sent a circular to members of the Union and observers requesting contributions on their experience and on their views on the implementation of the exception of acts done privately and for non-commercial purposes in relation to smallholder farmers. Contributions an be submitted to the Office of the Union untill February 1, 2021 via email (email@example.com) and should cover the following:
(a) experience on the implementation of the exception of acts done privately and for non-commercial purposes in relation to smallholder farmers; and/or
(b) views on the implementation of the exception of acts done privately and for non-commercial purposes in relation to smallholder farmers.
The Office of the Union will draft guidance text taking into consideration the findings of the “Report and Recommendations of the project ‘Options to interpret the notion of private and non-commercial use as included in Article 15. 1. I of the UPOV 1991 Convention’” and its flowchart, in conjunction with the contributions in reply to this Circular. A first draft of the guidance to the Consultative Committee will then be circulated for comments by correspondence in conjunction with a compendium of the contributions received in reply to this Circular.
Based on the comments received on the first draft of the guidance, an updated version of the draft guidance will be prepared for consideration of the Consultative Committee at its session in 2021, together with consideration of the status (e.g. explanatory note, guidance document, FAQ) that any agreed guidance should have.
Food insecure Asians doubled in 2020: January 2021:
According to a United Nations report, as reported in Nikkei, and tweeted by the FAO, the number of “food insecure” Asians last year doubled to 265 million. The report cites the pandemic as pushing an estimated 140 million people in the Asia-Pacific region into extreme poverty. Read report here.
Key revisions and updates compared to the 2nd Access to Seeds Index methodology include:
Stakeholders are invited to provide feedback by filling in the downloadable feedback form provided on the website and sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.