Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Malaysia conference pinpoints need to address gender gap in agriculture

Women take a break from working on a paddy field on Kathmandu's outskirts. An FAO report says gender equality creates better yields. Photograph: Narendra Shrestha/EPA

Productivity losses due to the agriculture "gender gap" are straining global economies, a conference has heard. This was the consensus of gender scientists and agricultural researchers at a workshop in Malaysia that aimed to develop an agenda for gender transformative research for the agricultural sector.

The conference, held in Penang this month, was convened by the CGIAR Consortium. According to Paula Kantor, a senior gender scientist at the Malaysia-based WorldFish Centre, gender disparities persist in "access to resources, markets and technologies, even after decades of research and interventions on gender".

"Women play a significant role in development," Kantor said. "[But] their abilities to contribute to rural development and family wellbeing are limited by inequalities in choices of occupations, wages and incentives; responsibility for care work; and access to, and control over, productive resources."

A report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has revealed that farm yields increase by up to 30% if women are given the same access to productive resources, markets and technologies as men. "This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5-4%, which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12-17%," said Kantor.

Gareth Johnstone, Cambodia country manager for CGIAR's research programme on aquatic agricultural systems, emphasised that most development policies were addressed with only men in mind. Johnstone said creating situations in which both men and women are engaged in decision-making is one very "basic method" of applying the gender transformative approach to policy. "Such basic actions will promote female empowerment and increase mutual respect between men and women," he said.

Johnstone believes this will not only lead to improvements in farm yields, but will also bring positive benefits for family and community welfare, nutrition and child wellbeing. "Seeing real people making changes inspires others to believe it is OK to do the same," said Kantor.

Johnstone suggested that educating the public would require detailed documentation and the rigorous study of local and regional societal norms. "Unlike structured organisations, such a change would require a bottom-up approach rather than a top-down approach … [based on] ineffective, insufficiently studied governmental intervention and policies," he said. "There must be a vision shared with people on the importance of gender balance in society, and [the development of] a basic understanding of female empowerment."
Original Article Here

Role of agri universities underscored for ensuring women’s right to land

The women’s right to land is key to promoting sustainable agriculture and the agricultural universities in Pakistan have a bigger role to play in terms of initiating research studies on the issues of women farmers who produce more than 60 percent food but they own merely 2 percent of farm land.
While addressing a seminar on “Women’s Right to Land and Sustainable Agriculture: Role of Agricultural Universities” held on Monday at a local hotel by ActionAid Pakistan in collaboration with Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi, the speakers, including academia, the agricultural economists, media, students and development specialists, highlighted the role of women farmers in ensuring food security across the globe particularly in Pakistan. 
They lamented that it was a pure injustice that women farmers were not allowed to own and to have access to land. 
Uzma Tahir, Manager Policy, Advocacy and Research Unit, ActionAid Pakistan, said that students being the future leaders of our nation needed to understand social issues and causes of injustice, discrimination and poverty. She said that more than 44 percent population of our country is dependent on agriculture as a major source of livelihood and women happened to be more than half of that population. “More than 40 percent of rural land is owned by merely 2.5 percent population of the country which informs us how much injustice and discrimination was prevalent in the country,” she added.
“Inequality and injustice toward women start from the household where male members of the family dominate their female counterparts in decision making and ownership of land and livelihood resources,” Uzma said, adding that there was a dire need to acknowledge the role of women farmers in food production and food security and to introduce gender responsive agricultural policies and frameworks. 
Professor Dr Muhammad Azim Malik, Vice Chancellor of Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi, said that women’s education should be treated as a priority to facilitate women in seeking fulfilment of their basic rights particularly the right to land and a dignified source of livelihood. He said that in Arid Agriculture University, more than 34% students were girls who could play a critical role in addressing the issues of women farmers. 
He asked the government to immediately take measures to stop injustice and discrimination against women. He said that our religion, Islam has granted women due share in the inheritance but the social practices and norms stood against it. 
Lok Sanjh Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Shahid Zia said that women’s right to land is linked with the land reform issue in Pakistan. There was absence of pro women agricultural knowledge in the market which added to the worries of poor women farmers. He observed that small farmers in Pakistan were gradually becoming casual farmers as first they did not own land and secondly there was lack of policy framework to address issues being faced by them. 
Nasir Aziz, Food Rights Policy Officer, ActionAid Pakistan said that women right to land and sustainable agriculture were interlinked and they should be treated collectively. To ensure food security, Pakistan will have to focus on promotion of sustainable agriculture which could only be realized fully if women right to land was acknowledged and they were provided easy access to land. He said that it was a pity that small scale agriculture had never been the priority of the government whereas the majority of the rural population particularly women were practicing small scale farming.

ADB Plans to Boost Asia Agriculture Investments

By Surabhi Sahu

Lured by soaring food prices, sector inefficiencies in emerging markets and attractive returns, many private equity players and multilateral agencies are eyeing agricultural investments in Asia.

The Asian Development Bank has embarked on an ambitious plan to more than double its investments in the agriculture sector to $100 million-$200 million a year from 2013, Mr. Martin Lemoine, investment specialist at ADB, told Dow Jones Newswires.

ADB’s interest in agriculture comes close on the heels of International Finance Corp., the investment arm of the World Bank, which plans to double its agri-investments globally to about $10 billion by 2016.

The ADB’s loan to PRAN, a major agribusiness company in Bangladesh, will finance construction of a glucose factory, a flour mill and a frozen food processing facility, which will support local farmers and employ as many as 1,000 factory workers.

“Farmers are also consumers…it’s important to support them,” Mr. Lemoine said.

In China, ADB provided its first-ever logistics-related loan recently.

Investments in India and Kazakhstan are likely early next year, Mr. Lemoine said.

“In India, the fruit and vegetable sector is interesting [for investment],” he said, adding that about 40% of the country’s fruit and vegetable output gets wasted each year post-harvest. Such inefficiencies create opportunities to invest in companies with warehousing, cold storage and packing facilities, Mr. Lemoine said, noting that the bank is studying a proposal to lend to a provider of fresh produce.

In Kazakhstan, the ADB may lend to a local food and beverage company that sells fruit juices, he said.

The ADB could lend as much as $60 million for the two projects, Mr. Lemoine added.

“We like countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam, where about half the population is less than 30 years of age,” said Victor Lean, managing partner of Singapore-based Caudex Asia, noting that favorable demographics support domestic consumption.

The pattern of production is also changing, reflecting demand for better quality food and lifestyles, Mr. Lean said. Some mills in Myanmar are getting farmers to grow long grain rice instead of short grain fragrant rice to meet rising demand for the former grade, which also commands a higher sales premium, he said.

The average return for a 10 year-old fund with a holding period of about five years is usually 2-3 times on a cash-to-cash basis, but this figure can even reach 4-5 times, said Yap Kian Woon, partner at CMIA Capital Partners. “So it’s pretty good,” Mr. Woon said.

CMIA has invested over $500 million in different sectors including agriculture since 2003, he added.

– Sameer Mohindru contributed to this article.
Original Article Here

Friday, 12 October 2012

Agriculture to replace mining – Chenda

From JERRY MUNTHALI in Tokyo, Japan
MINISTER of Agriculture and Livestock Emmanuel Chenda says Government is stepping up efforts to have the agriculture sector replace mining as the main vehicle of economic growth.
Mr Chenda made the pronouncement when he addressed a breakfast meeting hosted by the Japanese-African Union Parliamentary Friendship League at the prestigious Hotel New Otani in Tokyo yesterday.
“Right now, we have been concentrating on maize production but we want to diversify into livestock farming and aquaculture. We are looking to attract investment into Zambia to help us to develop these two sectors,” Mr Chenda said.
He added: “Our country is blessed with a lot of land and we are only using 14 percent of the land on agriculture, which means that there is a lot of potential that is yet to be tapped. From the 75 million hectares of land we have, 58 percent of arable land is available for agriculture purposes.”
He also said Government appreciates the gesture by the Japanese government to set up a veterinary school at the University Of Zambia (UNZA).
“Since the setting up of the school, we have trained many doctors and this has not only resulted in the development of the livestock sector but also an increase in production,” Mr Chenda said.
And Minister of Tourism and Arts Sylvia Masebo said Government is on a diversification programme and has put tourism on top of its agenda, to develop the sector and create employment among the youths.
“We have high unemployment among the youths and our government is working hard to improve the tourism sector to create employment for the youth,”she said.
Ms Masebo said Government in the past concentrated on wildlife tourism but has now started exploiting culture and arts.
She also invited Japanese parliamentarians to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly to be co-hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe next year.
And Mr Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is a member of the House of Representatives and delegation leader, said his country values the relations between Zambia and Japan.
Original Article Here

The bright future of agriculture


Within Waikato University's halls of learning, with laptops, notebooks and inquiring minds at the ready, future leaders of our primary industries are being primed to contribute to New Zealand, Ali Tocker reports. 

Energy, drive, intelligence - if that's what you want on your farm or in your business, look no further than the bright young minds studying agribusiness at Waikato University.

Future entrepreneurs, rural managers, consultants and bankers are being trained to think and act locally and globally, to help sustainably grow the economic powerhouse that is our primary sector.

Waikato Times Farmer wanted to see what goes on behind lecture-room doors and how our young people are shaping up, so we paid an impromptu visit to a class studying sustainable agriculture.

The class is led by agribusiness professor Dr Jacqueline Rowarth, who has become something of a lightning rod for the importance of agribusiness for the future, with a worsening global shortage of food needing to be addressed.

Rowarth is an outspoken champion of the need for more young people in New Zealand to study agribusiness at tertiary level, not least because it enables them to have rewarding careers.

"Careers in agribusiness bring rewards from doing something that matters, being well paid and having great variety in the job. Security is also something the Y generation wants and, with global demand for great people in agri-food, they get choices," she says.

The presence of a reporter and photographer in class did not faze these students, all aged between 18 and 23.

Unlike many of our modern-day politicians and captains of industry, they did not need media training, press secretaries or pre-prepared questions. They handled a round of agribusiness questions with intelligence and grace, proving they not only know who they are and why they are studying, but also what they want to give to their country.

They have an appreciation of the importance of primary industries to driving this nation's economy, an awareness of the importance of the environment and sustainability, and a world view.

They know that competitive advantage is important for our primary industries, and that societal, environmental and regulatory challenges abound

They believe the only way forward for farmers is to farm both profitably and sustainably. It's dollars and sense.

Sustainable agriculture is a second-year paper, covering the economic and social aspects of agribusiness. It can be studied as part of a degree, including a Bachelor of Management Studies.

Agribusiness is a relatively new major. It can also be taken as a second major or supporting subject within most degrees.

With Rowarth as the university's relatively new chair of agribusiness comes extra confirmation of the university's commitment to the primary sector.

The academic definition of sustainability reflects real-world realities, and would sit well with most farmers.

It's about agribusiness being economically viable, increasing or maintaining production, reducing risks, protecting natural resources from land degradation for future generations and being socially acceptable.

It's clear Rowarth loves teaching.

"The enthusiasm being shown by the students is really terrific, and bodes well for the future," she says.

There are no gumboots in the classroom. "This is the new era of agribusiness," but the students have opportunities to visit and work with local agribusinesses.

Two of them, Thomas Macdonald and Stephanie Wilson, already have solid work experience with local agribusinesses, Macdonald with stock nutrition company Seales Winslow and Wilson at Waikato Innovation Park. Both will work with Rowarth as research students this summer, signalling their potential as future agribusiness leaders.

Macdonald thrived on his experience at Seales Winslow, saying he got a lot out of it and that such opportunities can open doors.

He has a long-term, big-picture view.

"Everyone agrees we have to have sustainability - it's how we achieve it that is causing debate. The face of farming is changing. We're not looking at the traditional family farm any more. Agri-innovation is the way of the future."

Wilson says everything in agribusiness needs to be done efficiently to maximise wealth, while also protecting the environment. "We already have a huge gap between rural and urban communities and that gap has to be bridged."

Studying in Waikato is "phenomenally" helpful, she says.

"The business community is really supportive of the University of Waikato, and really getting behind the emphasis on the agribusiness major.

"It's really helpful to apply everything we learn in class on our back doorstep. It's only a two-minute trip to AgResearch or Waikato Innovation Park. There are cows literally in our backyard."


As part of their study, the students research and write a report on a key issue impacting sustainable agriculture.

Because sustainable agriculture is a second-year paper, the research is literature-based. At third-year level, real businesses are involved.

The students explain here what they are looking for from their study.

Layla Croker

Croker is studying environmental planning with an interest in sustainable soil management and ecology. She wants to work in conservation, saying agriculture is very important to New Zealand.

She grew up at the beach, in Papamoa near Tauranga.

Research report

"I'm researching biosecurity, looking at the border management processes and what went wrong with the kiwifruit vine disease Psa and how they're going to manage it.

"The cost to the Government of Psa is about $800 million over 15 years and about $400m for the next five years.

"There's a lot of miscommunication between the industry and government authorities. A lot went wrong with Psa, with people not informing each other what was happening.

"I find it interesting such a small thing could have such a huge effect in New Zealand.

"The Government definitely needs to do more. I don't think people are educated enough to understand the real effects."

Bryce Fausett

Fausett is studying for a Bachelor of Management Studies degree, majoring in agribusiness. He grew up in Morrinsville and wants to be part of the agribusiness sector when he graduates.

He wants to encourage other young people to consider a career in agribusiness.

"I think it's extremely important more people get involved in agriculture and study agribusiness in New Zealand, especially the younger generation."

Research report

"My report is on biofuels, looking at it as an alternative to fossil fuels. In particular, I'm looking at it from a New Zealand perspective and in terms of sustainability and competitive land use.

"If you use land to make crops for biofuels, you lose that land for food production, so have you the tradeoff effect.

"I think a balance needs to be found, and it all depends on what the future holds in terms of crop yields for biofuels, what other methods there are of creating fuel and how much fossil fuels are left."

Daniel Jaques

Jaques is in his fifth year at university, studying for a Bachelor of Management Studies, with an accounting major and agribusiness specialisation. He is also doing a graduate diploma in strategic management.

He wants to go into rural banking, accounting or consultancy.

He grew up in a small rural town in Wairarapa, with farmer parents.

"My background at university is in accounting, so the sustainable agriculture paper has been great for me to learn about the science side of things.

"I have knowledge from working on farms and living on farms that I'm using in my study."

Research report

"My project is based around erosion and its impact on sustainability.

"Erosion is a fairly natural process, mostly involving water. My research is not so much about stopping it from happening It's more about preventing or minimising the damage once it is happening.

"I am looking at what councils and farmers have investigated."

Steven Law

Law is in his third year of study, after cross-crediting his first two years at Waiariki Institute of Technology towards a Waikato University degree in management studies. He finds the workload a bit more intense at university but, other than that, finds the learning similar.

"I love this class because it is a small group," he says.

Law grew up in the Bay of Plenty.

Research report

"I'm studying nutrient management, including the application of fertiliser, effluent and issues surrounding that. I'm looking at nutrient runoff and how it's degrading waterways.

"I'm looking at the management side of it, including how you much runoff can be reduced by effective management, for example, with fertiliser management plans, investing in different infrastructure, stand-off pads, building herd shelters.

"Herd shelters will be one of the ways we can help reduce and control animal effluent.

"I've done a couple of cost-benefit analyses. I'm looking at the management plans that have no or minimal cost associated with them, and a bonus of being socially acceptable in the community.

"We want to find a sustainable method to go ahead into the future."

Thomas Macdonald

Macdonald is in his second year of a Bachelor of Business Analysis degree, majoring in agribusiness and finance. His goal is to work in rural finance.

He grew up in Gordonton.

Research report

"I'm looking at the implications of water allocation and water quality, including Waikato Regional Council's Variation 6 and Horizon's One Plan.

"What's that going to cost our dairy farmers? How do they get their opinion across? I'm looking at any economic or environmental implications it inflicts on our farmers and what's it going to mean for them.

"Both plans are blanket policy. I don't think that works for farmers. Obviously, both covered a whole region and farmers don't really agree with lots of it.

"I'm hoping in writing the report to bring out a lot of the facts. There have been a lot of emotive-based arguments."

Taylor Spence

Spence is studying for a business management degree, majoring in human resource management, with agribusiness as a second major.

She grew up on a dairy farm on the Hauraki Plans.

Research report

"I'm looking at whether New Zealand is doing enough to protect against foot-and-mouth disease entering the country, and the implications if it did hit New Zealand and whether it could be managed.

"Most of my research has been looking at Ministry of Primary Industries information, and a Reserve Bank simulation of potential effects if foot-and-mouth entered New Zealand, including its effects on gross domestic product.

"Foot-and-mouth affects all cloven-hooved animals - beef, dairy, sheep, deer and pigs. The national animal identification and tracing (Nait) scheme will help, as animals will be more easily managed if there is a disease outbreak."

Monique van Heuven

Van Heuven is studying for a Bachelor of Science degree. She chose to study sustainable agriculture, as she wants to understand how the world will address the global shortage of food and how farming practices need to be more sustainable.

"We need to produce higher crop yields and better pasture to support demand."

Proving she has her feet firmly in the real world of farming, van Heuven can often be found looking after her own farm animals, including pigs.

Research report

"I'm looking at a report on conversion from forestry to dairy farmland and whether or not it's sustainable for New Zealand. We have a conversion in Tokoroa, where 29 farms were converted - more than 29,000 hectares - and a new community has been produced.

"I'm looking at an economic view of whether there is more money to be made in forestry or dairy conversions and the environmental impacts. You plant a tree and you have to wait 30 years before it can be cropped. The forestry industry isn't going as well as the dairy industry."

Stephanie Wilson

Wilson is in her third year of a Bachelor of Management Studies, with a double major in agribusiness and supply chain management. She aims to work with farmers in implementing innovative ideas on their farms to improve their production capacity, and help bring middle-sector farms up to be top-level farms.

She came from an orchard enterprise in Hawke's Bay.

Research report

"My project is in land use and how to grow Hamilton without using all the agricultural land. It's about striking a balance between being a productive city but also having a cool city centre.

"I'm looking at urbanisation, the spread of suburbs and the cost of converting land into housing developments. I'm also looking at the implications of losing the productive capacity of that land."

Agriculture Struggles With Election Politics

by Troy Marshall

Historically, agriculture doesn’t play a big role in election politics. The obvious reason is that we lack two very important factors to be a significant player – money and votes. But, perhaps more importantly, agriculture’s issues have tended not to be overtly partisan.

Agriculture has had great supporters wearing both a “D” or an “R “behind their name. Sadly, things have changed in the Washington Beltway over time, and within the industry as well. The farming community has always been somewhat divided along ideological lines, with the Farm Bureau and the Farmer’s Union tending to line up on different ends of the spectrum.

A Closer Look: Flinchbaugh, Stenholm Assess Current State Of Politics

And the cattle industry used to have its debates internally and speak with one voice in public. But a couple of issues caused some irreconcilable differences and now we have the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and R-CALF formed up against each other along ideological lines. The differences, however, truly are not that significant. While the groups involved would be loath to admit it, they agree on probably 95% of the issues, and probably even higher on issues truly important to the bottom lines of producers in the long term.

It should be simple to support those who support agriculture and keep absolutely everyone in the camp regardless of political affiliation; after all, agricultural interests are always going to be severely outnumbered. The problem is that while we don’t necessarily divide along party lines, the level of partisanship in Washington and even at the state level has become so deeply entrenched that it dominates everything that occurs in D.C. And we are dealing with far more issues and regulatory oversight than those that are controlled by USDA.

There is very little compromise or statesmanship anymore. The party in control controls the agenda and the minority party is essentially irrelevant, except to obstruct or position itself for the next election. This means that policy is no longer set by individual representatives and senators as much as by political parties.

The good news is that neither political party has strong views on agricultural issues; that serves to keep agriculture somewhat out of partisan squabbles. But there is no more moderation in today’s political arena; it’s just extremes and party politics that tend to be dictated by the relative power of large special interest groups, whether they be environmental, animal welfare, food safety or nutrition. 

Election 2012 Resource: Obama & Romney Outline Positions on Farm Issues

So, in essence, agriculture is being forced to abandon its non-partisan and long-standing positions, to adapt to the reality of a deeply divided partisan world. It’s sad, but policy and even regulatory environments are now described most accurately by which party is in the majority, instead of what is best for agriculture.

How one exerts influence or control in this environment becomes less about finding good solutions with a broad consensus, and more about who can deliver more partisan political victories since it’s the majority that dictates the agenda. That means you’re either effectively eliminated from the process half the time, or you have very little influence all the time.

The result is that agricultural interests will likely have to align themselves with larger interests in order to be part of a viable coalition. Either that or continue to see our influence erode. I doubt this is what our founding fathers envisioned from the two-party system.
Original Article Here

Former Combatants to Get Agricultural Machines

Luanda — About 450 former combatants who are members of farming co-operatives countrywide will receive still this year several machines for agricultural work, in the ambit of a programme of the Agriculture Ministry.

This move is aimed at helping the beneficiaries in their socioeconomic reintegration efforts, ANGOP has learnt.

According to the secretary-general of the Ministry of Former Combatants and Veterans of the Homeland, Feliciano Salomão Himulova, who received the donation on behalf of the incumbent minister, Kundi Paihama, this offer is only intended to benefit those ex-combatants who are members of a farming co-operative.

"This process of upgrading (ex-combatants) and supplying them with certain goods is a project that is estimated at 10 million US dollars, with the beneficiaries being free from any reimbursement, aimed at contributing to the self-sustenance of the co-operatives members and their families, as well as to the increase of national productivity", he explained.

On his turn, António Coutinho, director of MultiAuto, the firm that donated the machines, revealed that in face of the request of the Former Combatants Ministry, the company decided to provide theoretical and practical training of the beneficiaries, so that they can master and take good care of the machinery.
Original Article Here

SA's agriculture sector key to sustainable food supply

By: Gareth Lloyd-Jones
Agriculture and food-production activities represent the future of our country's development. They hold the key to poverty alleviation and job creation. They create the platform for rural development and the provision of basic needs. More importantly, they are the essence of having an economically, environmentally and sociably sustainable food supply in the future.
Significantly higher food prices are on the way in the next 18 months. Consumers have already seen high price increases in key food staple items, such as: chicken, lamb, maize meal, vegetables and fruits, and local producers, who are also bearing the brunt of high costs, have started retrenching workers.

In order to remain economically viable, globally and locally competitive, and socially stable, South Africa's agriculture industry needs to prepare for the short and long term, as the challenges it is currently facing will be here for a long time. These challenges include: rising input costs, food safety, water, and the lack of support from authorities, all of which will be further exacerbated with the volatility of the rand.

Fuel price increase

This month's 93c per litre petrol increase, which is linked to the oil price and to the rand/dollar exchange rate, will impact on South African farmers greatly, especially on the running of farm machinery as well as the transport of agricultural produce, as the bulk of food in SA is transported by road. 

The price of electricity is also rising, with the proposed increase by Eskom to reach a high of 14.6 percent over the next five years. In October 2009, AgriSA released figures suggesting that Eskom's proposed electricity price hike will cost agriculture R600 million. As input costs such as these continue to rise, it is evident that farmers will remain under pressure as they battle to keep costs low. 

In the USA, 62 percent of farms have been affected by the recent drought. US maize and soy accounted for more than 40 percent of total world exports and the subsequent shortage has driven maize prices in SA to historic highs.

Forty percent drop in SA-produced wheat

South Africa is producing half the wheat it consumes, down from the 90 percent that it used to produce. This clearly indicates that South Africa's agricultural industry is shifting towards a nation that depends on other countries for produce, rather than being self-sustainable. 

As global food safety becomes paramount, South African producers will need to show their compliance to remain a legitimate player in the global food supply framework. Grains such as maize, soy beans and wheat are the most critical items for the domestic food supply chain as part of these must be used in the feeding of livestock. Therefore, producing less locally, coupled with the tough drought conditions experienced by the US, has pushed up prices of goods. Local farmers are being forced to import more expensive grains to feed their livestock.

Further to this, in order to address the food security crisis in South Africa, as was experienced globally in 2007 and 2008 due to a direct result of a sharp increase in food prices, the government and the private sector must establish a self-sustainable local food production and agriculture industry through the implementation of a development programme. By creating a self-sustainable local agriculture and food production industry we will reduce hunger and poverty, and increase agricultural development. This will subsequently contribute towards skills development in the country and improve inclusive economy growth and job creation.

A structured, integrated and co-ordinated effort

The key initiative to achieving this is a structured, integrated and co-ordinated effort to develop the full ambit of the food supply chain from farm to fork. This will create a food supply chain that is not only economically viable, but also sustainable on an environmental and social level in the future. 

The ultimate aim should be to turn South Africa's food supply industry into a nett exporter as opposed to a nett importer of food, without compromising the full spectrum of food supply locally and the inherent threat of this industrialised approach on the environment. 

In this difficult time, farmers will have to try to strike the balance between food safety compliance and rising costs. Industry players will need to ensure food safety is not compromised in order to maintain financial performance. Companies, therefore, need to enforce due diligence when maintaining food safety standards and move from a "tick the box" approach, whereby farmers simply do the bare minimum to pass hygiene and safety tests to satisfy health inspectors, to create a more practical verification system. This should become part of a company's culture and fostered on a continuous basis. 

Water reserves dry by 2050

According to Water Affairs Deputy Minister, Rejoice Mabudafhasi - who recently spoke at South Africa's fourth Youth Water Summit - South Africa's water reserves will run dry by 2050, should no action be taken to conserve water. 

Industry players need to implement strict water saving measures in order to address the country's impending water deficit that is threatening food security and produce all around the country. Farmers should implement strict water saving control measurements to recycle water and prevent water wastage caused by pipe bursts, water leaks and unscheduled use of water. 

Cost-effective water-saving measures including having a water-recycling system in place, whereby used water is drained through a filtration process to rid all solids and then put through a chemical intervention to make it suitable and fit to use back into plant facilities. This water can then be used to wash larger areas, such as driveways or equipment.

Lack of support from the government

Furthermore, so far in 2012, a lot of frustration has been brewing from players in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries, due to lack of support from the government and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). They have been dissatisfied with how they have been handled regarding import and export quotas. Cheap, low-quality meats are currently being imported without rigourous inspections or policing, as no government intervention exists and this is a necessary gatekeeper in enforcing stringent food-security protocols at our borders.

There are several possible interventions that should be considered to improve the situation for local producers. These include improved farming legislations and international regulations. A food-control agency, independent meat inspectorates and bio-security are needed in order to address food-safety issues at our borders.

We have also seen the protein sector struggling with a lack of aid from the authorities. The outbreak of Avian bird flu brought many ostrich farmers' businesses to a standstill between 2010 and 2012. Although the government has compensated farmers for the culling of the birds, the compensation does not adequately cover the financial loss experienced by the farmers. As a result of the bird flu epidemic, an indefinite export ban has been placed on the ostrich industry. 

Poultry industry in dire need of support

Moreover, the South African poultry industry is in dire need of support from the government in order to avoid a collapse of the industry as incidences of chicken dumping are likely to increase over the next few months as suppliers in struggling EU economies look for ways to dispose of surplus product. This will place severe pressure on the already struggling local chicken industry. The local market is already oversupplied with poultry products, putting local producers under pressure. The rise of costs, such as electricity and fuel, makes it extremely difficult for local producers to keep costs low, in order to compete with cheaper imported products. 

More decisive action, therefore, needs to be taken to curb poultry dumping. There are several possible interventions that the government should consider looking into to improve the situation for local producers. A blanket import duty could be placed on all products entering the market or, alternatively, support to local producers in the form of subsidies, for example water, maize and veterinary, could be implemented.

Indirectly, the government can impose stricter regulations in terms of licences and import legislation, thereby creating a bigger barrier to entry. Regulation can also be introduced to stipulate a certain proportion of retail stock to be local produce.
Original Article Here

Thursday, 4 October 2012

World food prices rise, stay close to crisis levels

World food prices rose in September and are seen remaining close to levels reached during the 2008 food crisis, the United Nations’ food agency said on Thursday, while cutting its forecast for global cereal output.

The worst drought in more than 50 years in the United States sent corn and soybean prices to record highs over the summer, and, coupled with drought in Russia and other Black Sea exporting countries, raised fears of a renewed crisis.

Grains prices have retreated in recent weeks due to rapid harvest progress and concerns about weak demand in a slowing global economy. But the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) price index, which measures monthly price changes for a food basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, rose 1.4 percent to an average of 216 points in September after remaining stable at 213 points in August.

The rise reflected mainly higher dairy and meat prices, with more contained increases for cereals, it said. “Prices are remaining high... prices are sustained, it’s highly unlikely we will see a normalisation of prices anytime soon,” FAO senior economist Abdolreza Abbassian told Reuters in a telephone interview.

He added however that it was not clear whether the small increase in September meant prices were now on an upward trend, but he expected volatility in markets could intensify in coming months. Parmjit Singh, head of the food and drink sector at law firm Eversheds, said higher prices would place further pressure on squeezed international food supply chains.

“Manufacturers and producers will naturally want to pass on increased costs to their clients but they will meet with stiff resistance from retailers who are reluctant to increase checkout prices for increasingly value-conscious customers,” Singh said. FAO’s index is below a peak of 238 points hit in February 2011, when high food prices helped drive the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, but current levels are very close to those seen in 2008 which sparked riots in poor countries.

October meeting: The Rome-based agency said it had cut its 2012 world cereals output forecast by 0.4 percent to 2.286 billion tonnes from a previous estimate of 2.295 billion tonnes, mainly due to a smaller maize crop in central and southeastern parts of Europe, where yields have been hit by prolonged dry conditions. It also decreased its forecast for world cereal stocks at the end of the 2013 season to 499 million tonnes, down 4 million tonnes from its projection last month.

Despite the rise in food prices, the United States Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome said on Thursday it had agreed with other countries that a meeting of the emergency Rapid Response Forum to discuss food prices under the G20 agriculture body AMIS was not necessary. “Agricultural commodity markets are functioning,” the mission said.

Abbassian said a ministerial meeting on the food market situation was still planned for Oct 16. Aid agency Oxfam called on governments to tackle the root causes of food price volatility at the meeting. “They need to boost food reserves and strengthen social protection programmes for populations that are at risk of hunger,” Oxfam spokesman Colin Roche said in a statement. “We cannot afford to sleepwalk into the next food crisis.” reuters

B.C. agriculture minister mulls new meat regulations

British Columbia’s new agriculture minister wants to change the province’s meat regulations so more smaller operators can slaughter, process and sell their own products.

“I know there is a burning desire in parts of the province to see closer-to-home meat processing,” Norm Letnick said in an interview Thursday, adding he is leading a review to see what changes can be made.

Letnick said strict rules were introduced in B.C. after the 2004 bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow) scare, adding those rules restricted the slaughter and processing of meat to larger operations, known as either Class A or Class B facilities.

The rules were relaxed somewhat in 2010, he said, allowing some smaller operators to obtain licenses.

“(Class D was) on-farm slaughter for consumers and the restaurant meat shops, but limited to 25 animal units per year and only in certain areas of B.C.,” he said.

“Class E is limited to 10 animal units per year, and that’s local customers only, so not the retail outlets.”

Now, Letnick said, he wants to see if those rules can be changed once more.

“We have an opportunity here to one more time review our systems and try to achieve three goals,” he said.

Letnick said his highest priority will be to “always protect health and safety of British Columbians.”

“Aim number two,” he continued, “is to see if there’s another opportunity since 2010 to give local consumers choice in their local area, and that of course would be good for agriculture. It would put more meat back onto our farmland.”

Letnick said the third aim is to protect the producers who have invested significant amounts of money to construct large-scale Class A and B facilities, so they could operate under the initial system established in 2004.

Letnick’s review comes as the country grapples with a massive recall after an E. coli outbreak linked to an Alberta slaughterhouse operated by XL Foods.

Letnick stressed that B.C.’s review began long before the recall, though he agreed the nationwide scare “highlights the need for us to continue to protect the health and safety of British Columbians.”

The province has also been reviewing its meat regulations because it will take over inspection services from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency beginning in 2014. This means B.C. will need to operate its own system.

On Thursday, Letnick said he is meeting with industry stakeholders across the province, and that he has asked his staff to provide him with a complete range of options by the end of the fall. He said he hopes to make a decision early next year.

New Democratic Party Agriculture critic Lana Popham said Thursday she believes changes to the province’s meat regulations are long overdue.

“This has been on everybody’s radar for eight years because it was so messed up when [the rules] first came in and it threw the industry into turmoil,” she said.

“My input has always been that we need to look at regional solutions for this problem, and if that means some areas would support smaller scale processing, then that’s what you have to look at,” Popham continued, adding the process will be almost as important as the outcome.

“I’m encouraging the minister to do everything he can to fix this, but it needs to be transparent,” she said. “The process needs to be completely public.”

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
Original Article Here

Changing agriculture’s image

Saskatchewan has become the first province to sign on to Farm Credit Canada’s new initiative to raise the profile of agriculture in this country.

Greg Stewart, president and CEO of the federal Crown corporation, said “not all Canadians are hearing the true story of agriculture; we intend to change that by telling the facts and getting the real story out”.

Thirty-five Canadian agriculture groups, ranging from 4-H to the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, have already signed on to help, and Stewart is looking for others.

Making the case for the initiative, called “Agriculture More Than Ever,” Stewart said the agriculture sector and the businesses around it employ one of every eight Canadian workers and contribute about $130 billion annually to the national economy. Yet Canadians too often “see pictures of outdated 1930s and ’40s equipment that just doesn’t portray producers as they are today,” he told reporters after the signing ceremony in the Legislative Building.

“The technology involved is unbelievable. With what’s going on out there, I just don’t think people really understand the sophistication and the skills and the talent of all the people who we have in the agricultural industry — and how broad the industry is and how many opportunities there are.”

With global population growing rapidly and needing food, Canada “is one of the handful of countries that will fill that need”.

Signing for the province was Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart who noted a high demand for well-trained graduates and entrepreneurs to work in agriculture.

The minister rattled off a long list of superlatives around agriculture in Saskatchewan, which just pulled past Ontario as the largest farm-export province and leads the country in exporting canary seed, lentils, canola meal and oil, oats, flax seed and rye.

Want an example of how attitudes can change?

How about the MC for Thursday’s ceremony, Cherilyn Nagel, who came home and became a self-described “farm policy wonk” and president of the Western Canada Wheat Growers.

But in high school, she was preoccupied by the next dance contest in her hometown of Mossbank until she began dating a guy — a young farmer — who’s now her husband.

Over the years, she noticed that news coverage of agriculture focused on the rising age of farmers and low prices for what they grew.

But times changed and she soon found herself “talking about what an awesome industry this was.”

Now the mother of two girls, she promised to “teach my daughters that ‘princesses’ too, can drive tractors.”
© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix
Original Article Here

Coconuts for everyone

The Cayman Islands Agriculture Society and Market at the Grounds will be hosting “Coconut Festival/Our Traditions” on Saturday, 6 October.

The event takes place at the Stacy Walter Agriculture Pavilion in Lower Valley between 9am and noon.

There will be sampling of traditional Cayman coconut dinners, such as conch stew and beans with pie, as well as coconut ice cream, coconut candy, drops, tarts and, of course, coconut water.

Local chefs taking part in the festival include Alvin McLaughlin, Eulene McLaughlin, Ivy Thomas and Ms Zelma Lee Ebanks, to name a few.

The event is free and the public is invited to visit the Office of the Information Commissioner’s booth to meet Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert and agency staff, who will be available to discuss and answer questions.

Heath Services Authority dietician Bethany Smith will also be on hand to discuss the many benefits of coconuts, as well as to distribute handouts on healthy eating.

“Coconut water is rich in potassium, has moderate sugar levels and is a good alternative to soft drinks and fruit juices,” Ms Smith said.

Original Article Here

Students battles it out on the tractors

NEW agriculture students at Duchy College Rosewarne got competitive this week as they tested their tractor-driving skills in the first ploughing match of the term.

Diploma and apprenticeship students got to drive two of the college's tractors, both fitted with different type ploughs – a New Holland T 5070 and a John Deere 6630.

Each student was assigned a plot and tried their hand at ploughing ready to be judged by lecturer Roger Talling.

Phil Pengelly, course manager, said: "During the course students have to undertake their tractor proficiency test so a ploughing match is a good way for them to improve their driving technique.

"It requires a lot of skill – you have to take your time, make careful alterations to the plough and drive steadily to gain clear furrow definition.

"There were quite a few novices in the group but they all had a go and enjoyed it."

Ian Rowe, from Truro, said: "I like driving tractors so I really enjoyed it and it's good practise. I like the John Deere the best as it's bigger and we don't have one at home."

Winner Nathan Collins, from Newquay, said: "I'm glad I won, I enjoyed it, it's great to get out and drive the tractors."
Original Article Here

Plan for hydroponic farming

The Agriculture Research Centre, Salalah is all set to launch hydroponic system of farming and promote it among the farmers after successful trial run to be held under the supervision of agriculture scientists.
In hydroponic farming, water is used as only medium to supply necessary nutrients to the plants. The infrastructure for the same is ready at the Research Centre compound.
Around 800 foam pots have already been installed in a greenhouse measuring 270 square metres.
In-charge of the project and Vegetable Crop Researcher, Basim Bashir Abiudoon, is beaming with confidence that the project would be successful and would offer a nice and more productive way of farming to the residents of Dhofar.
The farming technique, according to Basim, has great potential in Oman due to its geographical location and climate. Scarce water supplies have also led the Ministry of Agriculture to adopt policies that support the reduction of agriculture practices that require a high use of water or do not make the most efficient use of water.
Part of the ministry’s policy involves either refurbishing and modernising existing operations or relocating both green houses and high water use field crops to other regions of the country.
Basim (pictured) termed this to be a high technique with simple structure. “In hydroponic way of farming we do not have to face problems of soil like fungus, salinity, etc, as in this technique we do not use soil at all. In place of soil we use materials like vermiculate, barite or simple husk. We plant the seedling and all the nutrients needed for the plant are supplied through water,” he said.
Vermiculite is the mineralogical name given to hydrated laminar magnesium-aluminium-iron silicate, which resembles mica in appearance. Vermiculite is ideal for the germination of seeds, because its aeration properties combined with its water holding capacity make it a very suitable medium for direct contact with the seeds.
“When vermiculite is used alone, without compost, seedlings should be fed with a fertilizer solution for week when the first true seeds appear. Large seeds can be mixed with vermiculite in a small polythene bag closed at the neck, and kept in a warm place until the seeds just start to germinate. Then plant them singly in small pots or trays of potting compost. Vermiculite can also be applied to the outdoor seed bed where it will give improved emergence and less risk of capping.”
Barite and husk work as substitute to vermiculite and serve the same purpose of transferring useful nutrients to plants in the hydroponic system of farming.
/> The Salalah Agriculture Research Centre is planning to start this project with lettuce and cucumber.
Commenting on the feasibility of the system, Basim said: “In countries having scarce water and good quality soil, this system is very useful and tested and this has been successfully experimented at our Rumaish centre in Muscat. Due to it being a water efficient technique, it is generally called ‘close system’ in which water is reused many times.
The planning is done in such a manner that the nutrition mixed water runs from a big tank to the pots and then drains out and comes again to the tank. The same water can be used several times in the ‘closed system’ of irrigation.”
Contrary to it, in the open irrigation system, water can be used only once and consumption here is far more than the closed system, said Basim.
In terms of expenditure, the initial expenditure is slightly more in the hydroponic system, but the yield here is far more, said Basim when asked about the advantages of the hydroponic farming over greenhouse farming.
“The infrastructure cost for 270-square metre greenhouse farming comes at RO 3500, while same area in hydroponic system needs an investment of RO 5000. But the benefit lies in output. The product difference between hydroponic and greenhouse varies from 3.5-4 tonnes to 2.5 tonnes respectively in the same area,” said Basim
Plus the hydroponic is labour, soil and water efficient system, he said and added it is likely to suit Salalah and adjoining areas due to some soil related problems being faced by the farmers.
(Source:- Omanet)
Original Article Here

Fly me to the moon, says minister as he remembers childhood dream

When the Americans sent a man to the moon in 1969, the world was hooked. Millions followed Neil Armstrong’s footsteps as he made history.

Those who couldn’t watch this unfold on television read about it. An of course, there was Sputnik (‘travelling companion’ in Russian), which was launched by the USSR nearly a decade earlier in the midst of the Cold War. In 1999, to commemorate the contributions made to exploring space, science and technology, the United Nations decided to celebrate World Space Week around the world from October 4 to October 10.

This year’s space week is all about ‘Space for Human Safety and Security.’ It will be celebrated in 10 cities across the country. The inaugural ceremony was held at the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) in Karachi with Sindh Education Minister Pir Mazharul Haq as chief guest.

According to Qurat-ul-Ain, a Suparco employee, they want to get students interested in the Milky Way, the galaxy and the universe. “It is not something we talk or think about in our daily lives. You won’t see two people just discussing the moons that orbit Jupiter,” she said while talking to The Express Tribune. “For space week, we have organised events such as rocket competitions, to keep the students and young ones interested.”

The minister, who was visiting the space centre for the first time, said it was a dream come true. “I wanted to visit the headquarters of a space agency since I was a child,” he said. “When I was young I used to jump in the air and pretend that I was flying in space.” Even though he wanted to be up-to-date with what was going on in space, his secretary had told him that he would need permission or an invitation to set foot in Suparco.

On Thursday, around 61 public schools participated in a water rocket competition to build them in two hours at the commission. Water rockets are a well-known medium for teaching students about the principles of rocket science. Tanzeelur Rehman, an eighth grade student from Usman Public School, was confident that he would win. “If I get a certificate, it will add to my academic portfolio and when I apply to college, it will work in my favour,” he said while talking about studying engineering in a university abroad.

A quiz was also held for students of public and private schools, more than 50 students participated and made it to the qualifying round. The final competition will be held at PAF Museum during the Space Family Fair on October 7. Among their many events to celebrate space week, Suparco has also set up a Space Education Bus, which will go around the province teaching people about space through multimedia presentations and lectures till October 6.

In Jamshoro, Suparco will celebrate World Space Week by organising events on October 9 and October 10 at the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology. On Tuesday, they will hold a declamation contest and a water rocket competition. On Wednesday, they will hold a mela at the university’s auditorium.

From outer space?

While talking about Suparco, Dr Sajid Mirza, who works for the commission, said that the national space agency was working on a multidisciplinary space science and application programme for students.

“We have worked with the Institute of Tibetan Plateau to measure the impact of climate change in the region, especially in Gilgit-Baltistan,” he said. “The way the glaciers are melting, it can affect our water supply, agriculture, hydroelectric power, transport, tourism and ecological habitats. This is important because our country depends on irrigation and water resources for 90% of its food and crop production.” He added that Suparco’s space application and research wing was also carrying out a satellite-based a crop yield estimation project.

Published in The Express Tribune,

Monday, 1 October 2012

Companion crops with vegetables

Companion crops with vegetables

Summer and winter Vegetables

Summer Vegetables
Tomato, Hot pepper, sweet pepper, Brinjal, Cucumber, Okra, Bottle Gourd, Sponge Gourd, Bitter Gourd, Tinda Gourd, Pumpkin, Arum, Potato, Mint, Turmeric, Ginger, Musk Melon, Water Melon, Sweet Potato & Groundnut are summer crops. The best time of sowing is spring (Feb, March) and they will produce till September, October.

Winter Vegetables
The best sowing time of winter vegetables is September, October and they will produce till Feb, March.
Winter Vegetable includes: Cabbage, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Carrot, Potato, Onion, Lettuce leaf, Radish, Turnip, Peas, Spinach, Fenugreek, Beets, Mustard, Coriander, Mint & Garlic
By Hadi laghari 


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