Sunday, 30 September 2012

No truth in Punjab's charge on drought package: Ramesh

Chandigarh: The Centre on Sunday rejected Punjab's charge that it was "deliberately denying" the state drought package in the wake of deficient monsoon rains. 

"There is no such thing. There is no truth in this," Union rural development minister, Jairam Ramesh told a news agency in Mohali on the sidelines of a function. 

Ramesh also denied that Centre was apathetic towards genuine demands raised by Punjab from time to time. 

"I don't think it is fair (on Punjab's part) to say this," he said. 

The Union Minister admitted that though there was shortfall of rains in Punjab this year, "it was not as bad as it was in the beginning (June-July period)." 

Punjab received bulk rains in August and from June 1 to September 26, Punjab had received 266 mm of rains as against normal of 488.2, a deficiency of 46 percent, according to Chandigarh's Meteorological Department. 

Speaking at a public meeting in Bathinda earlier this week, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had alleged the "deliberate" denial of drought package to Punjab was a testimony towards Centre's step motherly treatment to the state, saying other states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Odisha had been allowed this package. 

"Punjab has been deliberately kept out on the pretext that the state government had not requested the Centre to send a special team to assess the damage," Badal had said. 

Badal had also said that Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar accompanied by Jairam Ramesh had recently held detailed parleys with the senior officers of the Punjab government here over the deficient rains issue. 

Punjab has demanded a special financial package of Rs 5,112 crore to bail out the beleaguered farmers as well as state government for incurring extra expenditure to save paddy "in the wake of drought like conditions across the state." 

Original Article Here

Industrialisation, agriculture pushed need for water, Bansal

Rising population, growing industrialisation and expanding agriculture have pushed up the demand for water, Union minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Water Resources Pawan Kumar Bansal today said.

He emphasised on the need to raise awareness for minimising wastage of water.

"It has become imperative that we must judiciously use every single drop of water," Bansal, who is also Congress MP from Chandigarh said.

He was speaking on the occasion of International Youth Peace Festival organised by an NGO, Yuvsatta and SD College, Chandigarh with support from the Union Ministry of Culture.

Stressing on the need for judicious use of water, he said the demand for water was ever increasing and is bound to increase due to population growth and mobility.

"Judicious use of water is more than ever essential for water management," Bansal said, adding there was a need to raise awareness for minimising wastage of water.

Appreciating the NGO's initiative, Bansal said the unique Peace fest organised by Yuvsatta annually in the city, had grown over the past seven years, with youth from over 35 countries participating in the fest this year.

Pramod Sharma, coordinator, Yuvsatta, said the fest was an endeavour of uniting young people beyond barriers of race, religion and nationality.
Original Article Here

'I really hope people will support our beef industry': Agriculture Minister amid beef recall

Linda Hoang, CTV Edmonton 

More beef products and stores have been added to a growing nation-wide beef recall over concerns of E. coli contamination from products by Alberta-based XL Foods Inc. But on Saturday, Alberta’s Agriculture Minister pleaded with consumers to continue to support the beef industry.

Co-op stores are the latest in a growing list of retailers that may be carrying beef products containing E. coli.

In an effort to restore consumer confidence, Alberta’s Agriculture Minister on Saturday bought beef at a Co-op store in Camrose, Alta.

“We have a serious problem with one plant. It’s a big plant, but there are many other plants and there all kinds of safe beef everywhere around the province and I really hope people will support our beef industry,” said Verlyn Olson, the province’s agriculture minister.

On Saturday, XL Food Inc. issued a voluntary recall of “whole muscle cuts” of beef, including steaks and roasts and more store names carrying the recalled products was also released including Co-op, Wal-Mart, Metro, Food Basics, Steakhouse Angus Select and a number of stores in Quebec.

It was the latest in at least eight recalls over that have been issued since Sept. 16 and more than 250 products have been recalled, a number that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says will likely grow.

So far there have been nine reported cases of E. coli-poisoning in Alberta – four of which are linked to steaks sold at a north east Edmonton Costco. The meat came from XL Foods in Brooks, Alta., but health officials are still not sure whether the bacteria was picked up at that plant, or at the Costco store.

The CFIA says tracking the source of the bacteria can be very difficult – and that meat isn’t the only source of E. coli.

“We have had recalls associated with E. coli in leafy greens, we’ve seen it in apple juice, we’ve seen it in a number of different products, dairy and meat,” said Dr. Brian Evans with the CFIA.

On Thursday the agency suspended XL Food’s operating license that will remain in effect untilt he company meets requirements set out by the CFIA.

“To date the company has not properly implemented agreed upon corrective actions and has not presented an accepted plan to address long term issues,” Evans said.

Products at the plant are under CFIA “detention and control” and will be released after being tested for E. coli.

Earlier in the week, the U.S. had banned imports from XL and pulled the company’s beef from stores in 30 states.

E. coli fears have local cattle ranchers worried. Cattle prices have already dropped considerably – with cows now selling for hundreds less than they were just a few days ago.

“They’re falling, falling fast,” said Ivan Potts with Sekura Auctions. “And it’s going to fall faster for the cattle industry across the province.”

The CFIA says if you have concerns about the beef you've bought - throw it out or take it back to the store, use a meat thermometer to cook your beef to a safe temperature - for ground beef that's 71 C, 160 F - and avoid cross-contamination with food.

With files from Amanda Anderson
Original Article Here

Cheap imports sting local agriculture producers

Foreign ownership, foreign food, foreign politics, foreign drought, foreign control.

There is a not a corner of ag that is untouched by a foreign issue.

And that is a concern for everyone - consumers especially.

The alarm bells have been ringing for some time, but it was the boss of Australia's oldest and largest agribusiness to last week sound the alarm.

Elders chief executive Malcolm Jackman declared we are facing a crisis of food manufacturing in Australia, with very few food processors operating in this country.

Even fewer of those are Australian owned.

In the past two years, more than 660 processing jobs have been lost after Heinz, SPC Ardmona, McCain and National Foods closed six factories nationwide.

And that doesn't count many back-room jobs and those in support industries that have quietly disappeared.

"If we're not careful, MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules will all be made with produce produced overseas," Mr Jackman said.

It's a succinct message that goes to the heart of our problems.

Do we want to live in a country that doesn't own or control the manufacturing process for that most basic of items - food?

Mr Jackman's warning has come on the back of a warning of "agflation" from a major bank, which has said 2013 looks likely to be the most expensive for food on record. The northern hemisphere drought will send grain prices skyrocketing, which will cause all food to rise.

The decline of the local food manufacturing sector has been masked by the high Australian dollar of the past two years.

Anything imported is cheaper, particularly food.

And when that food is flooding the market below the cost of production because of unfair subsidies, Australian food manufacturers simply cannot compete.

Look at a can of Italian tomatoes next time you are in the supermarket. The price of home-brand Italian tomatoes can hover at about half the price of locally canned tomatoes because of the high dollar and the crazy subsidies the Italian Government gives to its farmers.

Those subsidies mean farmers can sell their tomatoes for less than the cost to grow them. Figure that out.

But what happens when the Australian dollar drops to half its current level, to about US55c, and the Italians actually bite the bullet and stops propping up farmers who shouldn't be in business?

That $1 tin of Italian tomatoes suddenly becomes a $5 tin.

And if the local Australian manufacturer of tinned tomatoes has packed up by then, there is no local option.

That's why we should all be concerned.

Governments have made much of saying Australia can be the food bowl of the world.

It is a claim farmers find impossible to believe.

And that's because those same governments do next to no fighting on the international market to get rid of corrupt subsidies.

This weekend, the Farm Bill that pays wealthy American farmers money to produce uneconomical food (part of Mitt Romney's 47 per cent of dependents, I presume) comes to an end.

Food is caught in a vicious cycle of cheap - consumers demand cheap, so supermarkets source cheap. And that is usually from overseas.

So that sends our processors out of business.

It just may mean we are sowing the seeds of more expensive food.
Original Article Here

Agriculture: 2012 African Green Revolution Forum

African Green Revolution Forum 2012 inspires action to scale up partnerships in African agriculture - Though African governments are often blamed by donor countries for failure to achieve expected returns from investments in the agriculture sector, the underlying cause of this situation is the inability of farmers to absorb and make use of appropriate technologies. Participants of the 2012 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) rose from their seats late Friday convinced that the limited capacity of the predominantly smallholder farming communities is not an eternal feature.

In their view, more and better investments in research and development, coupled with training of more agricultural scientists and extension agents will help enhance the farmers’ capacity for Africa to achieve optimum agricultural transformation.

The Forum, held 26-28 October 2012 at a secluded mountain resort in the midst of coffee plantations of Ngurdoto, about 30 km east of Arusha city in northern Tanzania, was a record event, according to its organisers.

“This phenomenal event attracted over 1,000 delegates, though the expected number was 600, and we had to turn away 600 people who wanted to take part,” said Jane Karuku, co-chair of AGRA 2012 and president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

Summing the general feeling of the delegates, Karuku said: “We have started a good ball of fire, but the mission is not yet accomplished. AGRF has developed very positively and the mission will be accomplished in some years to come.

“We are all motivated and we are in for the marathon,” she said, urging the participants, who included government ministers responsible for agriculture and related sectors, commercial farmers, African finance institutions, agricultural scientists, parliamentarians and global development advisers, to quickly identify their respective national target areas, lest they end up with good intentions without real action.

“The momentum is building up for everybody around the world to be part of the green revolution in Africa,” Karuku said.

Noting that there was a sense of shared goals among the delegates, she cautioned the gathering by invoking a Nigerian saying: ‘Fine words do not provide food.’

Concerted action is vital in every part of Africa to eliminate the need for food handouts from donors and eradicate poverty. The twin goals are achievable, provided the productivity and profitability of smallholder farms are enhanced through adoption of scientific production practices.

Countries which had good policies and regulatory measures, have seen investments in the agricultural sector rising, AGRA Chairman and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the meeting.

“We can’t increase food production at the speed and scale we need without mobilising the continent’s all-too-often neglected army of small-holders. Their needs and realising their potential must remain at heart of all our discussions,” he said.

According to Tanzanian Minister of Agriculture, Food and Cooperatives, Christopher Chiza, small farmers always feel sidelined in initiatives taken to improve agriculture.

“Agriculture being a business and small farmers being partners, we should think of them as farm managers. Unless the farmer understands the terms of partnership, the whole thing will flop,” said Chiza, underlining the need to put farmers at the centre of every action leading to sustained productivity and growth.

In practice, African countries tackle agriculture business differently, but there is need for all to comprehend issues of small farm businesses and develop a sense of trust between producers, crop buyers, input suppliers and policymakers in general.

Though every partner would claim to have the interests of smallholder farmers at heart, observers of the industry are of the opinion that lines should be correctly drawn to show who does what for the farmer.

There is still room for more dialogue between farmers and other stakeholders, including business enterprises, local and international private sector as well as governments in order to get rid of bottlenecks in policy interventions and partnerships for transforming agriculture in Africa.

For private sector partnerships with smallholder farmers to make a difference, they should be broadly based on the idea of helping the latter to become 'business-ready' by developing supply chains or directly linking them to markets.

The enthusiasm and shared optimism arising from the 2012 AGRF should stimulate the necessary action to scale up investments from the public and private sectors to further develop competitive agricultural systems in Africa.
Original Article Here

Saudi Agriculture 2012 attracts 24,000 visitors and more than 400 exhibitors from 23 countries

Saudi Agriculture 2012 and Saudi Agro-Food 2012, the biggest business-to-business agriculture and agro-food events in the Middle East held recently at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Centre, have jointly attracted over 24,000 visitors from all over the world and generated SAR billions worth of projects and business deals in Saudi Arabia.
Held under the patronage of H.E. Dr. Fahd Abdulrahman Balghunaim, Saudi Minister of Agriculture, the concurrent exhibitions also included the Saudi Food-Pack 2012, the International Exhibition for Food Processing and Packaging.

The trade exhibitions also collectively gathered over 400 local and international exhibitors from 23 countries that showcased their latest products, technologies and innovations. Riyadh Exhibitions Company, organizer of the concurrent exhibitions, disclosed that the success of the event reaffirmed the strategic importance of such trade exhibitions in facilitating trade activities in the agriculture and agro-food sectors of Saudi Arabia. 

Saudi Agriculture 2012 covered all aspects of agriculture and food industries from cultivation, to management, production, packaging and distribution, in addition to a dedicated section for organic farming. In its 31st year as one of the fastest growing industry events in the region, Saudi Agriculture was held concurrently with Saudi Agro-Food and Saudi Food-Pack to feature the latest products, technologies and services in areas ranging from frozen and chilled foods, confectionery, chocolates, health and natural foods, to presentation, processing and packaging equipment.

Accredited by UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, the show has a wide scope and includes animal health and production, agricultural financing, agricultural products and services, chemicals and fertilizers, cold storage, dairy farming products and equipment, fish farming, greenhouses, handling and transport systems, irrigation and landscaping equipment, organic farming, packaging systems and products, pesticides, pumps and pipe systems, seeds and soil nutrition products, spraying machinery, water treatment, water management systems, and warehousing, among others.
Original Article Here

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Zimbabwe: Will Govt Deliver On Agricultural Plan?

LAST week cabinet added yet another measure to its growing list of high-sounding policies gathering dust in its offices by approving a new agriculture plan aimed at providing much-needed cheap lines of credit for farmers and ensuring suppliers distribute inputs countrywide well ahead of the farming season.

Farmers are currently being charged steep interest rates ranging from 11 to 28% per annum, which the policy seeks to tackle through the provision of cheap credit. Zimbabwe's new black farmers, who took over formerly white-owned land courtesy of the controversial and often-violent land reform programme beginning in 2000, perennially complain about unsustainable production costs caused mainly by high costs of fertilisers, chemicals, labour, water and fuel.

Finance minister Tendai Biti said under the new policy farmers would buy inputs directly from suppliers instead of waiting for government to buy on their behalf as this disturbed their plans due to late delivery of supplies. He said he is negotiating with donors to ensure vulnerable farming communities get necessary assistance to ensure improved production and food security.

Biti's assurances came against the backdrop of widespread complaints from farmers' unions over delays in payment for produce delivered to the state-run Grain Marketing Board.

But farmers -- in the past promised assistance only for government to fail to deliver leaving them hopelessly stranded -- will at best welcome the policy with guarded optimism. Government has a long record of policy formulation only matched by its inaction when it comes to implementation.

The three-year old coalition government has not fared any better, drafting and launching several ambitious policy frameworks which have been hardly implemented.

The Industrial Development Policy, Short-Term Emergency Recovery Programme and the Medium-Term Economic Development Plan are among the major policies drafted and adopted by the unity government, over and above numerous other policy blueprints crafted by the previous Zanu PF regime.

This has created the belief that some of the policies are only produced to give the false impression government is doing something to address multifaceted socio-economic problems facing the nation.

Critics thus say it is highly unlikely government would deliver on its agricultural promise and it would be folly for farmers to base their preparations on government promises. This is despite the fact that agriculture contributes between 15-18% to the Gross Domestic Product as well as 40% of national export earnings and 60% of raw materials to the agro-industry.

More than 70% of the country's population relies on agriculture for survival, but lack of a comprehensive enabling policy has adversely affected general productivity, resulting in the country importing grains it used to be self-sufficient in prior to the disastrous land reform programme. Zimbabwe Farmers' Union spokesman Tinashe Kairiza said while the new policy framework was progressive, farmers were anxiously waiting for government to implement the measures to boost productivity.

"Government is facing a serious liquidity crisis, so provision of cheap lines of credit and subsidised inputs is highly unlikely although it would boost agricultural output," he said.

Economist John Robertson said farmers' demands would not be addressed by the new policy because government was well known for failing to deliver on its promises. He also said government had repeatedly promised to pay farmers on time but has consistently failed to do so.

Robertson further pointed out government was cash-strapped and it would be almost impossible for it to fund farming from its resources, unless it relied on borrowed money despite its onerous debt. Zimbabwe's total debt is about US$10,7 billion.

However, Zimbabwe appears set to secure US$100 million in budgetary support from neighbouring South Africa, part of which would be used to finance agriculture and boost productivity. South Africa has previously helped Zimbabwe with funds for inputs.

"The new government scheme to assist farmers is difficult to implement because government owes a lot of money to seed producers and fertiliser manufacturers," said Robertson. "Government has promised farmers money before but they failed to access the funds. The fact is government simply doesn't have the money. Even if it borrows from South Africa, the money has to be paid back and that will depend on how local farmers service the loans."

Robertson said only a handful of farmers with collateral were likely to secure lines of credit. Most new farmers do not have title deeds for collateral against bank loans.

Since most of the new farmers got farms through political connections and by virtue of being war veterans, they did not have title deeds and hence could not borrow money from banks, he said.

However, economic analyst Eric Bloch said although government's coffers are empty, it could divert funds from other sectors to boost agriculture since the majority of Zimbabweans rely on farming. He said the new agriculture policy was likely to be implemented fast given forthcoming elections next year.

"Politicians are aware agriculture is an important sector of the economy hence they will seek mileage by approving and implementing relevant policies," said Bloch.

While farming preparations have often been scuttled by an acute shortage of farming inputs resulting in poor harvests, Biti said the new policy would resuscitate the virtually dead agricultural sector -- the economic mainstay -- and restore Zimbabwe's breadbasket status in the region.

Biti said the new policy is meant to help farmers end the unproductive dependence syndrome, while security of tenure on land would assist them to borrow.

AgriExpert economist and consultant Peter Gambara wrote in the Zimbabwe Independent recently that government should invest in input schemes targeted at the small-scale farmers and provide more resources to extension agents.

Agriculture financing has always favoured large-scale commercial farmers who can use title deeds to access funding from banks, while communal farmers with user rights struggle to get funding.

Erratic power supplies and high tariffs have also contributed to poor production, with farmers calling for subsidised electricity supplies. Farmers say government should revert to the preferential rate of 55% of the electricity tariffs in place before 2009.

While farmers and stakeholders are justifiably sceptical government's new policy will be fully implemented, politicians are likely to pull out all stops to deliver, given the looming crucial elections.
Original Article Here

Cuba to increase biofertilizer production

Havana, Sep 29 (IANS) Cuba has approved an investment programme to build several plants to produce biofertilizers and biopesticides, as part of its efforts to revitalize the depressed agricultural sector, a senior official said.

Attending an international forum "Labiofam 2012" which closed here Friday, Minister of Agriculture Gustavo Rodriguez said they would establish the new plants in a three-year period, reported Xinhua.

Labiofam is Cuba's most important group devoted to the production of biotechnological products for agriculture and medicine.

Besides providing farmers with biofertilizers and biopesticides, the project aims to maintain yields, import substitutes and protect the environment.

Rodriguez said scientists were seeking nutritional alternatives for the soil to reduce the use of high doses of mineral fertilizers.

Cuba has some 350,000 farmers engaged in food production for a population of 11.2 million.

Cuba imports each year 80 percent of its food, with a bill fluctuating between $1.5 billion and $2 billion.

The revival of agriculture to increase food production on the island is considered an "urgent challenge" and a matter of "national security", Rodriguez said.

Original Article Here

Ban sought on sale of agricultural land in Goa

Panaji: Former union minister of state Ramakant Khalap has asked Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to ban the sale of agricultural land to non-agriculturists so that the state's "vast agricultural heritage and evergreen ecosystem" is not tampered.

Greedy investors and speculators from other parts of country are threatening to corner voluminous chunks of agricultural land in Goa, destroying the state's "vast agricultural heritage and evergreen ecosystem", Khalap said in a letter addressed to Parrikar on Saturday.

"I am constrained to bring to your kind attention repeated newspaper reports about largescale sale of Goa's agricultural properties to non-agriculturists, investors and speculators both of Indian and foreign origins," the Congress leader said.

Goa's land revenue code should be altered to accommodate the ban, he said. Khalap said that vast tracts of agricultural land was often bought and then clandestinely converted for commercial purposes for dubious eco-tourism projects.

Booming real estate prices have resulted in undeveloped land as well as developed properties being sold like hot cake in the coastal state, known for its easy lifestyle and tourism prowess. 

The lure of investment for return on land resources has, however, proved to be detrimental for several hundred foreigners, who had purchased properties by violating the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) norms. The transactions are now being probed by the Enforcement Directorate.


Original Article Here

Farmers feel early effects of changes in climate

By MARK SCHAPIRO - Center for Investigative Reporting

Ten miles outside of Modesto, in the farming town of Hughson off Highway 99, the Duarte Nursery is at the front line of dramatic changes under way in California's immense agriculture industry.

The family-run nursery, founded in 1976, is one of the largest in the United States, and there's a good chance the berries, nuts and citrus fruits eaten across the West began their journey to market as seedlings in Duarte's 30 acres of greenhouses, labs and breeding stations.

The nursery's owners have built a thriving business using state-of-the-art techniques to develop varieties adapted to the particular conditions and pests that California farmers face.

These days, according to John Duarte, president of the nursery, that means breeding for elevated levels of heat and salt, which researchers say are symptoms of climate change, even if Duarte doesn't necessarily see it that way.

"Whether it's carbon built up in the atmosphere or just friggin' bad luck," he said, "the conditions are straining us."

The cause of Duarte's woes might be in dispute among farmers in California's $31 billion agriculture industry, but the symptoms are clear. From the vast fields of fruits and nuts in the Central Valley to the wineries of Napa and Sonoma, increasingly volatile weather is altering the fundamental conditions for growing food, California's largest industry.

Farmers are in many ways at the front line of climate change. They conjure food from soil, sunlight and water, which are profoundly affected, scientists say, by climate change. Stresses have emerged across the state as water supplies tighten. Rain is coming at unexpected times. Winters aren't getting cold enough. And salt from the rising ocean is making its way into Central Valley water.

Climate change already has cost farmers money. In the Central Valley, some growers are paying more for seeds designed to withstand the new extremes.

At the nurseries and colleges in what Duarte calls "the Silicon Valley of agricultural innovation," these changing conditions have forced botanists to look for varieties of almond, pepper, citrus, cherry and other crops resistant to drought and salt.

Other interests also are bracing for dramatic change. The crop insurance industry is calculating potential billion-dollar losses from extreme weather conditions, as well as floods and fires that occur in their wake. Climate change could join the ranks of earthquake and hurricane insurance as a special -- and expensive -- problem for insurers.

Over 20 years, there has been more than $500 million in crop losses from heat waves, floods and ill-timed rainstorms in the agricultural counties of San Joaquin, Merced, Kings, Kern, Napa and Sonoma, according to a study last year by Stanford University researchers.

"Compared to 20 or 30 years ago, farmers are recognizing a lot more risk factors in climate events," said Jeff Yasui, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency office in California, which handles crop insurance in the state.

Climate and agriculture scientists predicted much of this. Charles Kolstad, an environmental economist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, said California agriculture is being hit by converging forces prompted by climate change: longer seasons of extreme heat, shorter cold seasons and dwindling water supplies.

Climate scientists believe Earth's average temperature will rise at least 2 degrees in the next four dec-ades, their most conservative estimate. Along the way, the yields of citrus crops in the San Joaquin Valley are expected to drop about 18 percent, grapes about 6 percent, and cherries and other orchard crops about 9 percent.
Original Article Here

Gaza Farmers Find Canadian Support

Mohammed Al-Bakri from Gaza’s Union of Agricultural Work Committees points out the "no-go" zones for Palestinian fishers and farmers. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS.

GAZA CITY, Sep 29 2012 (IPS) - “From the coast to eight miles out, the sea is like a desert: it’s sandy and there are no fish.” Mohammed Al-Bakri traces a thick line on the wall map before him, following the lines of Gaza’s eastern and northern borders, continuing south from three miles off the coast.

General manager of Gaza’s Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Bakri is well-versed in the woes of the Strip’s fishers and farmers. He explains the insufficient fishing waters Palestinians are limited to, and the consequences of being on the sea at all.

“The Israeli navy attacks the fishermen, arrests them and takes their boats, even within three miles,” he says, referring to the three-mile limit the Israeli authorities have unilaterally imposed on Palestinian fishers.

Under the Oslo accords, Palestinian fishers are authorised to fish 20 nautical miles into Gaza’s sea. The Israeli authorities have illegally downsized Palestinian fishing waters, using lethal violence to enforce new fishing limitations. On a given day, Palestinian fishers are subject to Israeli navy machine gun fire, shelling, water cannoning, and abductions.

“When the fishers are arrested, they just have a boat and a net,” says Bakri. “No weapons, they are just trying to catch to sell at the market, to earn money for their families.

“More than 500 fishers have been arrested and at least 12 killed by the Israeli navy,” says Mohammed Al-Bakri.

With over 3,600 fishermen and 70,000 people dependent on income from the sea, Gaza’s fishing has been decimated by such Israeli tactics and policies. “When there is no income, fishers must depend on food aid from the United Nations (UN),” says Bakri. “But there are a lot of other needs, like housing, clothing, medical care, education.”

“If the situation continues like this, we won’t see any fishers on the sea in the future.”

Nor farmers.

Bakri refers back to the red line on the UN map of Gaza marked ‘Areas restricted for Palestinian access’. Imposed unilaterally by Israeli authorities, the “buffer zone” officially bans Palestinian farmers and civilians from the 300 metres of land flanking Gaza’s eastern and northern borders.

In reality, the UN, international NGOs, and Palestinian organisations have documented Israeli soldiers’ targeting of Palestinians even as far as nearly two kilometres from the border.

“Shooting at people accessing restricted areas is often carried out from remotely-controlled weapon stations…every several hundred metres along the fence, each containing machine guns protected by retractable armoured covers, whose fire can reach targets up to 1.5 km,” reads a 2010 UN report.

Via machine gun fire, shelling, flechette (dart) bombs, drone attacks, land razing and setting crops on fire, the Israeli army has rendered one-third of Gaza’s agricultural land deadly and inaccessible.

Palestinian farmers continue to face Israeli attacks as they attempt to farm their land, for the majority their sole source of income and food for their families.

“We need political support internationally, to pressure Israel into allowing farmers to work their land and fishers to access their sea,” says Bakri.

Heeding his call, and hoping to build “connections of mutual solidarity between Canada and Palestinian farmers and fishers,” a Vancouver-based group aims to broaden political support via their Sep. 30 ‘Day of Action For the Fishers and Farmers of Gaza, Palestine’.

“This particular aspect of the siege is quite compelling because when a society is deprived of the ability to fish and to farm, it is deprived of its ability to sustain itself. It’s part of the ongoing Nakba, and part of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine,” says Charlotte Kates, a lawyer and one of the Day of Action coordinators.

Kates and a delegation traveled to the Gaza Strip earlier this year, meeting with Palestinian fishers and farmers.

“We want to make it clear what is happening at the hands of the occupation, and how it is denying people’s right to live, to exist,” Kates says. “One of our translators could not attend our meetings: a cousin, in the ‘buffer zone’ had been murdered the same day by the Israeli military.”

Noting the close alliance of the Canadian government with Israel, Kates says “the government of (Canadian prime minister) Stephen Harper has nothing but praise for the Israeli state that enforces this siege on Gaza. On March 29, 2006, Canada became the first country in the world to impose a siege on the Palestinian people living in Gaza and the West Bank, declaring cancellation of aid to Palestine.”

Building cross-Canada and international alliances with Palestinian farmers, fishers and civil society is the Vancouver group’s focus with its Day of Action. No less important is changing Canadian policies regarding the siege of the Gaza Strip.

“We want to build a movement that can challenge the Canadian government on these policies, policies which predate the Harper government,” Kates says.

Canada is not alone in endorsing the illegal siege on Gaza – what Desmond Tutu and UN special rapporteurs John Dugard and Richard Falk, among many others, have called collective punishment.

“Last month, the European Union decided to increase their support with Israel,” says Mohammed Al-Bakri.

The Sep. 30 Day of Action will take place in cities across Canada, with “rallies, vigils, the launching of the book ‘Freedom Sailors’, and leafletting,” says Charlotte Kates.

The day of solidarity with Palestinian farmers and fishers has the backing of, among others, Independent Jewish Voices, the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG), and former Vancouver city councillor Tim Louis.

“The UN is quite aware of the inhuman condition that Palestinians are subjected to and yet there is no concrete action, except allowing humanitarian aid,” says Louis, calling for “the Canadian government stop its indiscriminate support for Israel until such a time when Israel complies with international law.”
Original Article Here

We must help farmers over CAP reforms

The Government has the chance to show leadership and to ensure that CAP reform does not lead to serious disadvantages for our farmers, NFU President Peter Kendall has said.

Speaking to delegates at Food Security 2012, Mr Kendall expressed his continued concerns that the European Commission proposals to reform the CAP would do very little if anything to ensure European farmers contributed to the global food security challenge.

Mr Kendall, however, said it was not too late for the Government to revert the course of CAP reform – and in doing so, showing leadership to other member states and influential MEPs.

“Under previous reforms, we had very clear direction of travel in favour of a policy that eliminates distorting support, brings decoupling, supports competitiveness and sensibly delivers targeted support to deliver environmental goods. There is a real danger that those positive steps will be lost in this round,” said Mr Kendall.

“Being positive about CAP reform might sit uneasily with some British politicians. But it’s essential if the UK government wants to achieve its ends of downsizing the CAP.

“It needs to set out a pragmatic, relevant policy vision that can command support amongst a sizeable proportion of your allies. This can only be achieved through diplomacy, guile and sound ideas. It means dropping some of the hectoring on the CAP.

"And it also means the UK moving away from a purely narrow approach to reform based solely on the delivery of public goods to a much more rounded, vision based on helping farmers to become more competitive through use of decoupled payments, targeted investment support and exploiting the future Horizon 2020 research programme to deliver more applied R&D.

“To me, this is a much more progressive approach that has the potential not only to serve the ends of food security, but also meeting the serious financial challenges ahead in Europe through growth.”

Original Article Here

Farmers have a passion for peppers

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City Herald

Spicy or sweet, oblong or round, chili peppers fill the passionate hearts of a few Columbia Basin farmers.

At Alvarez Organic Farms of Mabton, chili peppers are Hilario Alvarez's specialty.

"That is what he really loves growing," said Eddie Alvarez, Hilario's son.

Alvarez Organic Farms has more than 150 varieties of chili peppers covering about 30 acres, he said. And his dad continues to create new varieties each year by cross-pollinating chili pepper plants to meet the demand he sees.

For Rudy Pea, his passion for chili peppers took him from growing peppers in his Kennewick backyard to filling a half-acre on a Pasco field with more than 5,000 plants.

Pea's efforts to create a blend from his peppers for wife Michelle's eggs resulted in the Tri-City blend sold by his small business, Rudy's Pepperblends.

Washington doesn't make it on the list of states that produce the most chili peppers -- unlike California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

And Washington's 55 acres are barely a blip in the 22,100 acres grown nationwide. The state may not make the list of top chili growers, but chilies are among the more than 300 crops grown in Washington, making us one of the most agriculturally diverse states.

The national production is valued at $146.8 million, with 4.8 million cwt, or hundredweight, of chilies produced in 2011, according to the USDA.

But that doesn't stop Alvarez Organic Farms from being well known for its chili peppers and its edible chili pepper wreaths, Eddie Alvarez said.

Chili peppers range from sweet to hot and are good for everything from roasting and grilling to creating salsa, he said. They add color and a little kick to practically any dish.

"A lot of people think that peppers are just hot," he said.

But some peppers, like the sugar baby, are so sweet, he said it's almost like eating candy.

The ghost pepper is one of the hottest that both Alvarez and Pea grow. Pea said it's rated 1 million on the Scoville scale that rates the heat of chili peppers, unlike jalapeos, which are about 10,000.

Both Pea and Alvarez are harvesting chili peppers by hand now.

Alvarez said his family and their crew of 15 started harvesting chili peppers in August. He hopes to continue harvesting through the first few weeks of November, but that's all dependent on Mother Nature, he said. They harvest 40 to 50 tons of chilies a year.

It's time intensive to pick chili peppers, especially the tiny ones, Alvarez said. One of the smallest is called bird beak, and while small, it packs a spicy punch.

Once the first frost hits, Alvarez said they will go full throttle to pick everything they can before the first large frost comes.

Pea started picking at the end of August. The first freeze will mark the end of his harvest. If not for the freezes, Pea said the plants would last 20 to 30 years.

Instead, Alvarez and Pea said they tend to start planting pepper plants in greenhouses in February each year.

By May, Alvarez is planting the pepper plants on about a quarter of his 120 acres. He grows about 250 varieties of vegetables, including bell peppers, squash, potatoes, onions, okra, beans and corn.

Water for the plants, Pea said, is critical.

By late July, the green peppers had started to change color, Pea said.

Chili peppers start green, and as they turn color, they become more flavorful and hotter, Alvarez said. While some like to use the green chili peppers, most customers wait for the red ones.

Red tends to be the final color for chili peppers, although they may turn purple or yellow before going to red. And some will become a bright orange or yellow chili pepper, he said.

On some plants at Pea's field, different types of the peppers can be seen. A cross between a Thai dragon and a pequin pepper plant has small, round peppers like the original pequin, and a skinny, stubby version of a Thai dragon and a longer, sweeter version of the normal Thai dragon.

Pea said his varieties have continued to increase in the past six years as his plants have cross-pollinated themselves, creating new ones.

One benefit is that more of his chili peppers will just fall off the stem, instead of having to use fingernails to peel the stem from the top of the pepper, Pea said.

Next year, Pea said he plans to grow fewer plants. This year, he had more than he needed. It's too much for one person, he said.

Pea dries, smokes and grinds them. He uses the Pasco Specialty Kitchen to create his products, including blends of chili peppers, which can be used for cooking, and a dry salsa blend that customers add to a can of diced tomatoes.

Rudy's Pepperblends are available at the Pasco and Richland farmers markets, the Kennewick Red Apple Market, Country Mercantile and Pasco's Knutzen's Meats.

Alvarez said his dad got into chili peppers while he was growing them in Mexico for another farmer.

Once he moved to the United States and started his farm 35 years ago, that's what he started growing.

Pepper wreaths are something his dad came up with. Once they are hung in a cool, dry place for a few weeks, they can be saved all year and used as dried peppers, he said.

Alvarez said he started drying chili peppers about five years ago. He's tried smoking them with mesquite or hickory or drying them to make a nice chipotle pepper.

Alvarez sells his peppers at the Pasco Farmers Market and other farmers markets, including many in the Seattle area. He also sells chili peppers to restaurants, grocery stores and even a chocolatier.

Original Article Here

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Beautiful collection of chilies

Few days ago i visited a nursery in vallo , a small place near koge Denmark , Nursery has a wonderful collection of chilies, few of them are here with my mobile camera.

zoological museum of Copenhagen

 These are pictures taken from zoological museum of Copenhagen , Museum is beautifully designed and have variety of fauna along with their description both in English and danish. Its real feast for eyes to visit this museum. These pics are taken by mobile camera but good enough to present an over view of this place.


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