Southeast Asia Seed Industry: News Highlights January 2017

SOUTHEAST ASIA: Here are various news highlights from the agriculture and seed trade industries in January 2017, including Thailand’s ‘bioeconomy’ scheme; new biomass plant and bottoming beans in Myanmar; Indonesian palm oil; Malaysia smallholder crop subsidies and drone trials; nut pest threat and mass GMO corn planting in Vietnam; tropical strawberries and steady rubber in Cambodia; Laos’ delayed planting and broken irrigation woes and optimistic seed and corn program in the Philippines. [caption id="attachment_3493" align="alignright" width="500"] Value added product chain of sugarcane and cassava. Image: Bank of Thailand[/caption] THAILAND: Govt announces ‘Bioeconomy’ biotechnology based economy scheme The govt of Thailand has formally announced a 10-year, 400-billion-baht ($11.3bn) investment scheme that aims to exploit and expand the country’s agro-base value chain potential, starting this year with 20 projects worth 51bn baht ($1.4bn). Revealed at a press conference on January 23, the scheme will rely on investment from both the private and public sectors to develop bio refineries to process raw agricultural products to be developed into biofuel, bioenergy, biochemicals, animal feed, food ingredients and pharmaceuticals. As part of the first phase (2017-2018) projects in Khon Kaen Nakhon Sawan, Kamphaeng Phet, Udon Thani, Nonthaburi, Rayong and Samut Sakhon provinces will involve the production of biofuels (ethanol, biodiesel from cassava and sugarcane) food ingredients (yeasts, starches, probiotics) animal feed and pharmaceuticals (monoclonal antibodies, advanced vaccines and nutraceuticals). MYANMAR: Phase 1 of paddy biomass plant to open in March The Myanmar Agribusiness Public Cooperation (MAPCO) is planning to open the initial phase of a 440-volt, 2.2-megawatt capacity paddy husk fired power plant in Nay Pyi Taw by March. The plant, which will employ 4th Generation Wast-to-energy technology from Japan will be the largest biomass fired waste-to-energy power plant of its kind in the country when complete. MYANMAR: Pea and bean farmers suffer from declined Indian interest The price for a bucket of pigeon peas in the Magway region of Myanmar this year is less than half of what it was last year, down to just 24,000 kyats ($17), leaving many producers concerned about whether they will be able to cover their base production costs, nevermind outstanding loans. The previous year’s higher prices of pigeon peas and beans was cited to be from stronger demand from India, but declining demand last year forced many suppliers to sell to Chinese buyers for sub-market prices. INDONESIA: Palm oil exports, production falls in 2016 Last year Indonesia, the world's top supplier of crude palm oil, exported 25.7 million metric tons of the commodity, down from 26.2mmt in 2015. The drop was linked to a reduction in production. In 2016, Indonesia suffered from many floods throughout the country. INDONESIA to donate 10,000 metric tonnes of rice to drought-stricken Sri Lanka, which will also plan to import rice from other countries due to a severe shortage in production in 2016 due to extremely dry conditions. MALAYSIA: Govt announces crop diversity subsidies for smallholder farmers A total of RM27 million ($5.8mn) has been allocated by the Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority to boost smallholder farmers income earning potential. The nationwide scheme will provide assistance of RM9,230 ($2,000) per hectare of rubber, and RM7,000 ($1,576) /ha for oil palm smallholdings, with an aim of encouraging farmers to invest in other complementary cash crops, including pineapple, kelulut honey, oyster mushrooms and bananas to supplement earnings from palm oil and rubber. MALAYSIA: Govt mulls drones for increasing paddy productivity The Ministry of the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry is considering using drones to cut costs and increase productivity in paddy production. The idea follows a recent state visit by Deputy Minister Datuk Seri Tajuddin to China, where drones are already being used for said purpose. Tajuddin revealed that the Malaysian government has a target of increasing paddy productivity up to 10 metric tonnes per hectare by 2020, with only about 10% of farmers currently capable of meeting this target. VIETNAM: Farmers eyeing bigger profits, yields eagerly plant more GMO corn Motivated with the promise of saving up to 3 million dong ($134mn) in pesticide costs and more than doubled market returns, some 800,000 corn farmers are being sold GMO corn seeds from South Africa, having previously been convinced by the results of free trial seeds. To support its growing animal feed industry, Vietnam requires 8-10 million tons of corn a year, half of which is grown domestically. The other half is imported, mostly from South America, and 80% of which is GMO. VIETNAM-INDONESIA: Indonesian seed, nut import ban in face of seed beetle infestation threat Several types of nuts and seeds from Indonesia will be banned for import by Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development due to the threat of infestation from the seed beetle Caryedon serratus. The formal ban follows 5,000 tonnes of infested goods from Indonesia being seized by Vietnam plant quarantine authority. Among the types of seeds and nuts to be banned include peanuts, sickle senna seeds, cocoa seeds and string bean seeds. The ban will take effect 60 days from January 19. Tamarind imports were also banned on January 6 for the same reason. CAMBODIA-VIETNAM: Illegal rice farming suspicions at restricted border farmland Cambodian authorities suspect that about 1,000 hectares of prohibited border farmland is being illegally leased to Vietnamese rice farmers. Suspicions were fueled when officials inspected farmland around border marker 189 near the Tuol Sdei and Chantrea communes of Svay Rieng province – about 180 kilometers southeast of Phanom Penh and 80 kilometers west of Ho Chi Minh City on the Cambodian side of the Vietnamese border – where they found only abandoned rice seeds, suspecting the culprits had been tipped off about the inspection. Vietnamese officials had previously banned Cambodian farmers from farming in the area. CAMBODIA: Domestic strawberries vying for supermarket shelf space A few brave entrepreneurs in southern Cambodia are defying “common sense” that suggests strawberries can’t be grown in warm and arid climes. One technical school principal and his Spanish partner, in addition to another Japanese entrepreneur, have seen some fruit from their courageous tropical strawberry cultivation efforts, with domestically-grown strawberries in Cambodia able to fetch between $13 and $25 per kilogram. CAMBODIA: Rubber exports steady despite price surge last year According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Cambodia’s exports of natural rubber in 2016 increased only marginally from 2015 by 64 metric tonnes to 128,111 tonnes. At its lowest price last year, a kilogram could fetch only $1.20, but that doubled to $2.40 by the year’s end. In order to boost the industry, rubber exporters are asking the government to raise the ceiling price for an export levy on the raw commodity up to $1,500 per tonne, up from $1,000 / tonne currently. LAOS: Irrigation systems in disrepair bode slow start for ag sector As many as 453 irrigation systems throughout Laos are in disrepair, with the cost of needed repairs estimated to be 142.5 billion kip ($17.6 million). Yet to receive any repair budget from the government, dry season planting has been delayed, while farmers fear that they will be unable to meet ambitious planting targets. PHILIPPINES: Seed sector to grow annually by 4% through to 2021 A new report, “Philippines’ Seed Indusrtry Outlook to 2021 - Rising Government Support to Improve Agriculture Sector with Demand for Hybrid Seed to Foster Growth’ estimates that the country’s seed industry with realize an Compounded Annual Growth Rate or CAGR of 4% from 2017 to 2021. The reports cites the anticipated growth to a growing population and growing support by the government of high-yielding crop seed varieties, including hybrids. PHILIPPINES: Corn surplus underline 2017 as a year for exports The Philippines National Corn Program is reporting optimistic results, with the country reportedly producing a total of 7.5 million metric tonnes in 2016, even despite natural disasters that many other crops suffered. Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol anticipates production to reach 8.1 mmt this year, with domestic requirement anticipated at only 5.6mmt. Boosted productivity, represented by a national average of 4.7 tonnes per ha, has been credited to improved hybrid seeds, the adoption of drip irrigation systems and corn’s relative resilience to typhoons.