Friday, 19 April 2013

Stagnant agriculture production, population increase: food import bill rises to Rs 460 billion during last 5 years

Due to stagnant agriculture production and nearly 15 percent increase in population, the annual food import bill has increased to Rs 460 billion from Rs 250 billion during the last five years, agriculture experts and agronomists toldBusiness Recorder here Thursday.

Chairman Agri Forum Pakistan Dr Ibrahim Mughal said that despite being a agriculture country, Pakistan was importing edible oil worth Rs 240 billion, tea Rs 40 billion, pulses Rs 18 billion, fruits, vegetables Rs 80 to Rs 90 billion, miscellaneous items like Massalajaat, olive oil, honey, dry milk and other eatables amounting to Rs 70 billion.

Dr, Mughal said though there were 20 million more population to feed yet the Federal and provincial governments neither took measures to increase the agriculture production nor did anything to control the population explosion at the rate of 2.6 percent. He said agriculture sector suffered a huge loss of Rs 750 billion from 2008 to 2013 due to production losses of cash crops including cotton, wheat, rice, grams, pulses, oil seeds, vegetables etc which increased the trade gap from $12 billion to $24 billion in five years.

Terming the year 2012 as bleakest year for Agriculture, he claimed that the sector suffered Rs 219 billion losses this year in shape of failure in attaining the production targets set for major and minor crops leading the country towards food insecurity, pushing the rural population further into poverty, price hike of agricultural commodities and unemployment.

He argued performance of the Punjab province remained the weakest in this regard which registered decline in three big crops including wheat, rice and cotton due to least interest of the government and inefficiency of the agriculture department and research institutes. Punjab produced 2 million less cotton bales as compared to last year, he added.

Pakistan produces food crops worth Rs 1050 billion per annum including wheat, rice, barley, maize and others. The production of sugarcane, cotton and tobacco crops is estimated at Rs 750 billion per annum. Similarly, pulses are produced of Rs 50 billion per annum, oilseed crops of Rs 90 billion, vegetables of Rs 103 billion, fruits worth Rs 213 billion, milk of Rs 1104 billion, beef of Rs 513 billion, mutton worth Rs 338 billion, poultry worth Rs 126 billion and eggs worth Rs 131 billion per annum. Total production of agriculture and livestock is Rs 4468 billion per annum which constitutes 22.34 percent of the national GDP.

Dr Mughal said that production of pulses has come down to 2,50,000 tons from 8,5000 tons though this an important food which stabilises the food prices in the country. Another agronomist said that Pakistan can overcome its multiple socio-economic problems by using full agriculture potential. Pakistan has a rich and vast natural resource base, covering various ecological and climatic zones; hence the country has great potential for producing all types of food commodities. Agriculture has an important direct and indirect role in generating economic growth. The importance of agriculture to the economy is seen in three ways: first, it provides food to consumers and fibres for domestic industry; second, it is a source of scarce foreign exchange earnings; and third, it provides a market for industrial goods.
Original Article Here

Agriculture important to Iowa culturally, Northey says

Northey spoke at the recent "Partnering for Iowa's Agricultural Future" in the Dairy Center just south of the Northeast Iowa Community College at Calmar.

"We have some of the most productive land in the world, and sometimes we take that for granted," Northey said.

Iowa's agricultural stature is known throughout the world, Northey said. Consumers across the glove buy
Iowa corn, soybeans, hogs and other commodities and seek the state's technology that provides genetics, facilities and production systems.

Iowa's 14 million corn acres produce more tons of grain than Canada's 30 million acres of corn, barley and wheat, Northey said. If Iowa were a country, it would be the fourth-largest corn, the fifth-largest soybean and the fifth- or sixth-largest pork producing country in the world.

"Our world impact is amazing," Northey said.

Cash receipts for sales of Iowa crops and livestock grew from $12 billion in 2002 to $30 billion last year, second only to California.

"As important as agriculture is to Iowa's economy, it is important culturally, too," Northey said. "The kinds of folks involved in agriculture, the families, the roots we have here are so important to who we are. It's investing in new facilities, having community colleges, volunteering to work at schools, people who are on school boards and foundation boards. Agriculture involves a lot of hard work, investing long before we know what the results will be."

Agriculture is what fueled settlement in Calmar and Winneshiek County, Northey said. Winneshiek County's population grew from a few hundred in the 1850s and 1860s to 26,000 people in 1870 compared to 22,000 today. Calmar was a railroad hub with 36 trains coming through town each day.

"People came here from everywhere, Norway and New York City and Quebec, and they built churches and roads and schools. They wanted their kids to be educated."

Iowans know that they can't be content with today's knowledge.

"Thank you for your support of this institution and all the other institutions we have in the state," Northey said. "This is such a critical part of what we do, the development of our universities and community colleges. We need to make sure we're doing the kind of things you're doing here."

Northey said his favorite day is when he awards Century and Heritage Farm awards at the Iowa State Fair.

One elderly man trained at the Y so he would be able to walk across stage and get his award, and he died not long after receiving the recognition. A mother and daughter carried a photo of the mother's mother who wanted to be there but died before the ceremony. Another elderly man Northey described as "big, burly and in charge," came on stage with a walker.

"He said he'd waited 15 years for the award, and with damp eyes, he told me that the fifth generation is coming into the farming operation," Northey said. "We don't have many conversations about what family, farm and community mean, but that is part of who we are. You sense that there is something different about Iowans, and I'll argue that part of that is agriculture."
Original Article Here

MSU Extension seeks applicants for agriculture and natural resource leadership program

BOZEMAN - Montana State University Extension is offering a new, two-year leadership program for
professionals in agriculture and natural resource industries.

The Resource Education and Agriculture Leadership (REAL) Montana training will include participant classes, tours, networking opportunities and travel.

The two-year program features eight in-state seminars, a five-day national study tour in Washington, D.C. and a two-week international trip.

Seminars will include: training in agriculture institutions and agencies, natural resource development, public speaking/media, economics, state and federal policy, international trade, urban/rural relationships, water issues, transportation, labor and production costs, entrepreneurship, and other current industry topics.

REAL Montana is limiting the inaugural class to approximately 20 participants who earn a substantial percentage of their livelihoods from Montana agriculture and/or natural resources, who have the willingness and aptitude to develop long-term leadership skills.

No age restrictions apply. Program cost will be shared by participants and private industry sponsors. Applications are due by May 31.
Original Article Here

Sustainable Agriculture, What Does it Mean?

Almost everything we do in life must focus on sustainability in order to guarantee the possibilities of continuing those practices in the future. However, lately it seems the term sustainability has become more of a buzz word that implies something better, thus opening the doors for advertising and marketers to take advantage of certain elements of their products that seem more sustainable than their competitors.

Sustainability is not a buzz word to farmers, as agriculture has always focused on producing food for our communities while caring the environment in which we live. Still, history has proven that sustainability in any measure is a task that is hard to achieve.

As we talk about sustainable agriculture there are several key elements that seem to get left out of different perspectives. In order to better understand how farmers work to overcome social, political and environmental issues surrounding the sustainability of their farms its important we address all aspects of sustainability in our discussions around agriculture.

To start with here are some key areas around sustainable agriculture:
Economic – In my mind economic sustainability has to be achieved on all sizes and shapes of farms. Farmers must be able to produce enough from their land to cover the cost of living for their families from year to year, if they fail to achieve this they have no opportunity to look at the other areas of sustainability.
Animal Welfare / Plant Health – The health and well being of a farmers crops and livestock ultimately determine how successful he/she becomes. When farm animals are not properly cared for they can become ill, depressed or injured and can even die. Poorly managed crops will also suffer from increased pressure from competition for natures available nutrients. In essence lack of care of results in fewer products and/or damaged, unmarketable goods. To dig into this aspect of sustainability check out Marcus Hollmann’s article on animal welfare in sustainable food production.
Demand – Even if all other aspects of sustainability are achieved if there is not demand for ones goods the farmers, like any other business would ultimately fail and seek other avenues for revenue to support their family. Demand is always changing based off of price, nutrition, food safety or emotional issues that can easily change public perception. Farmers must always be looking for the future to determine what goods are demanded in the marketplace and what can sustainably supply their farm.
Personal Fulfillment – Everyone seeks personal fulfillment in their life and careers. If one is not personally
satisfied with their job they will quickly abandon it when a better opportunity arises. The same goes true for the opposite and several other components of sustainability can be trumped when personal fulfillment is achieved. For instance it is not uncommon for a farmer to take a part time job to supplement their income or in some cases even make up for losses from their farm activities.
Environmental – Most farms have been operating for generations, this is only possible when farmers properly manage the scarce resources that are available to them with minimum impact to their environment. If a proper equilibrium is not maintained on a farm and the community in which it operates it ultimately will not be able to be sustainable in the future.

In an ideal world, all aspects of civilization would work in equilibrium with each other to balance the use of our resources. Unfortunately the world is not ideal, therefore we must continue to improve by doing more while using less of the finite resources available to us: in essence become more sustainable. Despite what some headlines may lead one to believe, agriculture as an industry has one of the best track records at improving its management of resources and continues to look for ways to improve.

All of these elements could easily be expanded on in detail, and they affect each individual farm uniquely. It’s interesting to me that all the factors intertwine with each other, and in several cases even contradict one another, making true sustainability an even more complex task to accomplish.

What areas of agricultural sustainability are most important to your household or farm and should be prioritized over the other? This is a complex topic and surely deserves more discussion than a marketing slogan so I am interested in expanding the thoughts in this post with the discussion below.
Original Article Here

IT Dept confirms imposition on wealth tax on agriculture land

The income tax department confirmed on Friday that wealth tax will be imposed on agriculture land falling within eight km of municipal corporation limits across the country.
Reacting to the levy, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal termed it a "very harsh" measure and claimed

that he would oppose it.Yes, wealth tax will be imposed on agriculture land too, which falls within eight km of municipal corporation limits. We are conducting a survey before issuing notices to farmers, liable to pay the tax," commissioner (income tax), Jalandhar-1, Rakesh Suri told Hindustan Times.

"It is a policy decision taken by law makers. We are bound to implement the decision," Suri said.

Meanwhile, the chief minister added: "Farmers in the country, especially from Punjab, will not be able to take the additional financial burden. THe state's farmers are already under acute financial distress due to low rate of return from their land.

"The centre takes decision without thinking about the consequences. If farmers are forced to pay wealth tax, they will have no option other than to commit suicide," Badal said.

He added that the state government would hold consultations with eminent parliamentarians on the issue and engage top income tax lawyers to oppose the imposition of wealth tax.

The farmers that are found liable to pay the wealth tax would have to pay 1% of the total market value of the agricultural land, within eight km of the municipal corporation limits.

Notably, there is no income tax on agriculture income. However, this wealth tax is being levied around agriculture land under Wealth Tax, Act 1957.

Under the definition tax would be levied on urban land inside the city and land within eight km from municipal corporation limits and 1-2 km from municipal committees (in crow fly distance calculation), which covers 80% of the state.

A chartered accountant, Punit Oberoi, when contacted by HT on the issue said "The Chelliah Committee report, formed to study the issue, had clearly suggested that wealth tax should be levied only on the non-productive assets".

"Another important point to note is that under the definition of Urban Land, a piece of land in an urban area on which the construction of building is not permissible under any law is excluded. This thus means that unless change of land use is changed to non-agricultural purpose, the construction of building is not allowable and hence levy of wealth tax on agriculture land is not justified," Oberoi added.
Original Article Here

SBA Disaster Loans Available in Florida Following Secretary of Agriculture Disaster Declaration for Drought

This SBA disaster declaration includes the following counties: Alachua, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Levy,Marion, Putnam, Saint Johns, Union and Volusia.

"When the Secretary of Agriculture issues a disaster declaration to help farmers recover from damages and losses to crops, the Small Business Administration issues a declaration to assist eligible entities affected by the same disaster," said Frank Skaggs , director of SBA's Field Operations Center East in Atlanta.

Under this declaration, the SBA's Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is available to eligible farm-related and nonfarm-related entities that suffered financial losses as a direct result of this disaster. With the exception of aquaculture enterprises, SBA cannot provide disaster loans to agricultural producers, farmers, or ranchers. Nurseries are eligible to apply for economic injury disaster loans for losses caused by drought conditions.

Loan amounts can be up to $2 million, with interest rates of 2.875 percent for non-profit organizations and 4 percent for small businesses. Terms can be up to 30 years. The SBA determines eligibility based on the size of the applicant, type of activity and its financial resources. The agency sets loan amounts and terms based on each applicant's financial condition. These working capital loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that could have been paid had the disaster not occurred. The loans are not intended to replace lost sales or profits.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA's secure website at

Disaster loan information and application forms may also be obtained by calling the SBA's Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by sending an e-mail to Loan applications can be downloaded from the SBA's website at Completed applications should be mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

Completed loan applications must be returned to SBA no later than December 17, 2013.
Original Article Here

Food Sovereignty: Sustainable Urban Agriculture in Cuba

The agricultural revolution in Cuba has ignited the imaginations of people all over the world. Cuba’s model serves as a foundation for self-sufficiency, resistance to neocolonialist development projects, innovations in agroecology, alternatives to monoculture, and a more environmentally sustainable society. Instead of turning towards austerity measures and making concessions to large international powers during a severe economic downturn, Cubans reorganized food production and worked to gain food sovereignty as a means of subsistence, environmental protection, and national security.1 While these efforts may have been born of economic necessity, they are impressive as they have been developed in opposition to a corporate global food regime.

In Sustainable Urban Agriculture in Cuba, Sinan Koont indicates that most of the global South has lost any semblance of food sovereignty—the ability to be self-sufficient, to practice a more sustainable form of agriculture, and to direct farming toward meeting the needs of people within a country, rather than producing cash crops for export (187). The World Bank and International Monetary Fund imposed structural adjustment programs and free trade agreements on the so-called third world. These policies increased the influence of multinational corporations, such as Monsanto and Cargill, in global food production. They also encouraged large-scale monocultures, whereby food production is specialized by region for international trade. These policies threatened the national food security of countries in several interrelated ways.2

First, economically vulnerable countries are subject to the vagaries of the international marketplace, fluctuating food prices, and heavily subsidized produce from the global North that undermine the ability of the former to compete. Second, in a for-profit economic system, certain crops, like sugarcane, potato, and corn, are planted to produce biofuels, primarily ethanol, instead of food for poor populations. Rich nations that can afford to buy crops for biofuels inflate market prices for food, and when droughts or floods destroy whole harvests, then scarce food still goes to the highest bidder. Third, nations that specialize in cash crops for export must import food, increasing overall insecurity and dependency on trade networks. These nations are more vulnerable to changes in the costs of petroleum, as it influences expenses associated with transportation, fertilizers, pesticides, and the overall price of food. In countries with higher per capita incomes, increasing food costs are an annoyance for many people but not necessarily life threatening. In countries with high rates of poverty, price increases can be devastating. All of the above problems converged during the 2007–2008 food crisis that resulted in riots in Egypt, Haiti, Indonesia, Mexico, and Bangladesh, just to name a few.

People worldwide have been affected by these policies and have fought back. Some nations have taken to task corporations like Monsanto, as in the case of India’s response to genetically modified eggplant, which involved a boycott of Monsanto’s products and demands for the eradication of genetically modified foods.3 There are burgeoning local food movements, even in the United States, that despite numerous challenges attempt to produce food outside the current large-scale agricultural paradigm.4 There are also international movements that are working to change agricultural policies and practices. For example, La Vía Campesina is an international movement comprised of peasants, small-scale farmers, and their allies. Their primary goals are to stop neoliberal policies that promote oligopolistic corporate control over agriculture and to promote food sovereignty.

In conjunction with these movements, Cuba has made remarkable strides toward establishing a system of food sovereignty. One of their most notable projects in this regard is their institutionalized and organized
effort to expand agroecological practices, or a system of agriculture that is based on ecological principles and environmental concerns. Cuba has largely transformed food production in order to pursue a more sustainable path. These practices are not limited to the countryside.

Cuba is the recognized leader of urban agriculture.5 As Koont highlights, the Cuban National Group for Urban Agriculture defines urban agriculture as the production of food within the urban and peri-urban perimeter, using intensive methods, paying attention to the human-crop-animal-environment interrelationships, and taking advantage of the urban infrastructure with its stable labor force. This results in diversified production of crops and animals throughout the year, based on sustainable practices which allow the recycling of waste materials (29). In 2007, urban agriculture comprised approximately 14.6 percent of agriculture in Cuba. Almost all of urban agriculture is organic.

Cuba’s environmental protections and agricultural innovations have gained considerable recognition. The 2006 Sustainability Index Report, put together by the World Wildlife Fund by combining the United Nations Human Development Index and Ecological Footprint measures (or natural resource use per capita), contends that the only nation in the world that is living sustainably is Cuba.6 The island nation is particularly lauded for its strides in urban food production.7 Sustainable Urban Agriculture in Cuba is the first book to take a comprehensive look at this practice around the entire island.

Koont indicates that the significance of urban agriculture in Cuba is that although Cuba is not completely food self-sufficient, it is the only example the world has of a country that produces most of its food locally, employing agroecological techniques for production. Furthermore, most of the food produced is for local consumption. As a result, Cuba has one of the shortest producer-to-consumer chains in the world. In this book, Koont documents the impressive transformations that have taken place within this nation.

While Cuba imports the majority of its calories and protein, urban agriculture has increased food security and sovereignty in the area of vegetable production. In 2005, Cuba was “importing 60 percent to 70 percent of what it consumes [mostly so-called bulk foods] at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion to $2 billion annually.”8 However, urban agriculture within and around Havana accounts for 60–90 percent of the produce consumed in the city and utilizes about 87,000 acres of land.9 Cubans employ various forms of urban agriculture, including gardens, reforestation projects, and small-scale livestock operations. In 2010, 75 percent of the Cuban population lived in cities—a city is defined as such if the population is in excess of 1,000 persons.10 Thus, urban food production is the most practical and efficient means to supply the population with food.

These transformations did not suddenly materialize. Koont provides a useful overview of the historical circumstances that contributed to changes in food production in Cuba. After the 1959 revolution and the subsequent imposition of the U.S. embargo, Cuba became reliant on the Soviet Union. Cubans used large-scale, industrial, monoculture to produce sugar, which was exchanged for Soviet petroleum and currency. The economy was largely tied to high-yield sugar production. In a vicious cycle, this type of agriculture required importing agrochemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and oil to run heavy machinery. In 1989, three times more arable land in Cuba was utilized to produce sugar for export than food for national consumption. Most of the Cuban diet came from imported food.11

When the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, Cubans and their economy suffered greatly. Cubans no longer had access to the inputs required to maintain large-scale agriculture, given how dependent such agriculture is on oil. To make matters worse, the end of trade between the Soviet Bloc and Cuba resulted in a loss of access to food, which reduced Cubans’ protein intake by 30 percent.12 The system of agriculture that was in place was not sustainable or organized for self-sufficiency. Cubans refer to the ensuing period of resource scarcity as the Special Period in Peace Time. This period included shortages of food, fuel, and medicine. Faced with food scarcity and malnutrition, Cubans had to revamp their food production systems, which included collectively producing a variety of crops in the most efficient manner possible. Additionally, the necessary mission of Cuban politicians, ecologists, farmers, scientists, biologists, and farm workers was to mend the ecological cycles of interdependence that large-scale, exploitative agriculture destroyed.13

In spite of these hardships, Cuban society was equipped to contend with the ensuing crisis, given the country’s specific commitments and agroecological projects that were already in operation. The Cuban government and leadership worked to provide institutional support to re-direct food production and to enable the development of an extensive urban agricultural project. Governmental policies, following the 1959 revolution, that prioritized extending education, science, and technology served as a springboard for these new agricultural projects. First, the revolutionary government established organizations to address social problems and concerns. These organizations served as supply and distribution networks for food and centers for research that examined farmers’ traditional knowledge, continuing education programs that taught agroecological practices, distribution of technological innovations, and evaluation of existing programs and operations. Second, the government prioritized human resources and capabilities. Thus, the Cuban government invested in human capital by making education more widely available and accessible at all levels. Making use of the organizational infrastructure and investing in the Cuban people made the agroecological transition possible during the economic crisis in the early 1990s.

Koont examines how the early agroecological projects, prior to the Special Period, served as a basis for future development and expansion of the revolutionary transformation of agriculture in Cuba. Science is publicly owned and directed toward furthering human development, rather than capital accumulation. Cuba had the human resources to address food scarcity, given that they had 11 percent of the scientists in Latin America. Scientists were already experimenting with agroecology, in order to take advantage of ecological synergisms, utilizing biodiversity and biological pest control. These efforts were focused on diminishing the need for inputs such as artificial fertilizers and pesticides. Other projects included integrating animals into rotational grazing systems with crops and diversifying with polycultures. Cubans also began recycling sugarcane waste as cattle feed; the cows, in turn, excrete waste that is applied to soil as fertilizer, thereby restoring ecological interdependence. By combining manure with worm castings, Cubans were able to fertilize most of their crops organically without having to import fertilizer from long distances. Their experimentation also included creating urban organopónicos, which were constructed four years before the Soviet collapse. Organopónicos are raised beds of organic materials confined in rectangular walls where plants are grown in areas with poor soil quality. Additionally, personal household plots had long existed within urban areas.14 Altogether these experiments and projects served as the foundation to pursue greater self-sufficiency, a system of urban agriculture, and a more sustainable form of food production.

The pursuit of food sovereignty has yielded many benefits. Urban agriculture has increased food production, employment, environmental recovery and protection, and community building. Perhaps the most impressive strides are in the area of food security. In the early 1990s, during the Special Period, Cubans’ caloric intake decreased to approximately 1,863 calories a day. In the midst of food scarcity, Cuba ramped up food production. Between 1994 and 2006, Cubans increased urban output by a thousand fold, with an annual growth rate of 78 percent a year. In 2001, Cubans cultivated 18,591 hectares of urban land; in 2006, 52,389 hectares were cultivated. As a result of these efforts, the caloric intake for the population averaged 3,356 calories a day in 2005. During the economic crisis, unemployment sharply increased. However, the creation of extensive urban agricultural programs, which included centers of information and education, provided new jobs that subsumed 7 percent of the workforce and provided good wages.

Urban agriculture and reforestation projects also constituted important gains for the environment. Shifting food production away from reliance on fossil fuels and petrochemicals is better for human health and reduces the carbon dioxide emissions associated with food production. Urban reforestation projects provide sinks for air pollution and help beautify cities. Finally, local production of food decreases food miles. It also requires both local producers and consumers. Therefore, community members get to know each other and are responsible for each other through the production and consumption of food.

Sustainable Urban Agriculture in Cuba is a detailed documentation of the agroecological transformation in Cuba. Koont delivers a significant amount of information regarding the mechanics of urban agriculture. He highlights the enabling factors of urban agriculture in Cuba, which are the government’s creation of the organizational infrastructure and their investment in human capital. He also provides an assessment of the results from urban agriculture. The results he discusses are gains made in food production, increased employment, environmental recovery and protection, and community building.

However, the majority of the book reads like a dry technical manual or guide to urban agriculture, something akin to official Cuban government documents. There are many bulleted lists throughout each chapter that outline types of crops grown, strategies, key features of urban agriculture in Cuba, collaborating organizations, evaluation criteria, tons of produce in each province, program objectives, and the lists go on. While the book contains a significant amount of information regarding process, extent, technology, education, and evaluation surrounding urban agriculture in Cuba, it does little in the way of setting up a theoretical framework and thoroughly exploring the significance of Cuba’s model of urban agriculture for the world. The introduction and the final chapter of the book are the two chapters that touch on Cuba’s relevance and implications. In addition, Koont offers minimal critical analysis of the challenges that Cubans still face in their quest for food sovereignty.

Despite these shortcomings, Koont provides a much-needed detailed account of the strides made in Cuban urban agriculture. Cuba’s example has clear implications for food sovereignty and security for the rest of the world. With the very real threat of climate change, potential energy crises, market fluctuations, worldwide droughts, or other economic and environmental problems that may force nations to relocalize food production, this example can serve as a template for future food sovereignty. We can continue to learn from Cuba as they generate new technologies and innovations in organic urban agriculture into the future. In addition, the Cuban example serves as a testament to the potential for a society’s resilience and is worth investigating not just for their innovations, but for inspiration.
Original Article Here

The Best Way To Play The Agriculture Revolution With ETFs

Yesterday’s most-fashionable sector resides in today’s dog house. But you can take some comfort that one of mankind’s oldest commercial activities is churning out plenty of present-day profit opportunities.

Right now, it’s a troubling time for the tech sector, especially as some of its hottest names are cooling off amid lackluster earnings and less-than-gangbusters demand for the new Windows 8 platform.

And tech darling Apple (AAPL), which has done wonders for the move away from PCs and to more mobile devices, has borne the brunt of the tech selling.Apple dipped below $400 a share this week amid iPhone chipmaker Cirrus Logic’s (CRUS) disappointing outlook and buzz about a cheaper iPhone 6. (Even though the iPhone 5S still hasn’t come out!)

Beyond our quest for the newest gadgets and the fastest connectivity methods that fuel our tech addictions and cravings for their high-profit-potential stocks, there lies an industry as old as time that can offer a steady stream of timely returns, for perhaps generations to come.

Here’s how you can make potentially big bucks from a sector that might seem a bit old-fashioned, but the profits it continues to produce never seem to go out of style!

Here’s Something to Chew On

Some of the earliest endeavors of civilized humanity — growing things to eat and wear — fit nicely into one of the most-powerful global investing themes for 2013, the commodity super-cycle.

In other words, people all over the world are gobbling up an exploding amount of natural resources. Not just grains like soybeans and corn, or just the “soft” commodities like coffee and sugar, but also chicken, beef, pork and other related foodstuffs.

Last week I gave you eight stocks that can help you “bring home the bacon” while the citizens of the world make more money and spend an increasing chunk of it on eating better.

It’s a pretty safe assumption to make that food demand will always be on the rise. This makes the stocks we discussed very attractive, both as a way to diversify your trading account and to do so with names that serve a broad and growing global audience.

However, I know that many of you prefer to trade ETFs, and there are plenty of food-related funds that can give you exposure to juicy returns in this sector without having to bet the farm on a bunch of food stocks.

6 ETFs for the Agriculture Revolution

(Click here to view full-size image)

Source: Morningstar

This table lists six stock ETFs (identified by distinctly descriptive ticker symbols as ag-industry portfolios), with portfolio holdings for the most part tangentially related to actual farming — e.g., ag chemicals, seeds, farm machinery and food processors.

If you prefer investments more correlated with the output of agriculture — in other words, those that invest directly in commodity securities such as forward contracts — take a look at the chart below.

Even More ETFs for the Ag Revolution

(Click here to view full-size image)

Source: Morningstar

One thing you’ve got to admire about some of these funds — with tickers like COW (livestock) and NIB (cocoa) and JO (coffee), and you can easily tell which ag products they cover!

Which is the Better Way to Invest In the Agriculture Revolution?

There are a few key differences between buying ETFs that invest in stocks, and ETFs that hold commodity contracts. But the most important question here is, which can provide a better return?

A quick comparison of these two charts indicates an inherent advantage of corporate stocks over commodities.

While most of the commodity-price-based Exchange-Traded Products lost ground over the past 12 months and for the year to date, the stock ETFs in the first table have generally produced positive results.

Of course, past results don’t always indicate future performance. But the nice thing about investing in food is that the chance of people giving it up and choosing starvation instead is, well, slim.

So, outside of the unlikely event that human beings give up on food, the trend of higher demand — and, along with it, higher prices for foodstuffs, stocks and ETFs — is higher.Written By Rudy Martin From Uncommon Wisdom Daily

Uncommon Wisdom (UWD) is published by Weiss Research, Inc. and written by Sean Brodrick, Larry Edelson, and Tony Sagami. To avoid conflicts of interest, Weiss Research and its staff do not hold positions in companies recommended in UWD, nor do we accept any compensation for such recommendations. The comments, graphs, forecasts, and indices published in UWD are based upon data whose accuracy is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Performance returns cited are derived from our best estimates but must be considered hypothetical in as much as we do not track the actual prices investors pay or receive. Regular contributors and staff include Andrea Baumwald,John Burke, Marci Campbell, Selene Ceballo, Amber Dakar, Roberto McGrath, Maryellen Murphy, Jennifer Newman-Amos, Adam Shafer, Marty Sleva, Julie Trudeau, Jill Umiker, Leslie Underwood and Michelle Zausnig.
Original Article Here

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Namibia: Ministry of Agriculture Cautions Farmers Against Veld Fires

THE Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry has cautioned members of the public to desist from “irresponsible” acts which may result in the outbreak of veld fires in the country, and warned that those who are responsible for starting such fires will be prosecuted and punished.

Agriculture Minister John Mutorwa yesterday issued a statement in which he called on all Namibians to take necessary measures to prevent veld fires which are prevalent during autumn and winter when the veld is dry.

Mutorwa also called on the nation to prevent veld fires by being extraordinarily cautious and not to do anything “irresponsible” that may result in the destruction of scarce pastures by such fires which have a negative impact on the livestock sector.

“Any irresponsible acts, that may result in the outbreak of veld fires, anywhere in Namibia, will and must be regarded as a criminal offence - and those responsible will and must be prosecuted and punished,” Mutorwa stressed.

He added that no effort must be spared to pro-actively prevent the outbreak of uncontrolled veld fires, which should include community awareness campaigns in all regions of the country.

In 2012, about 70 million hectares of grazing was lost to veld fires. The Kavango and Otjozondjupa regions were the worst affected. A total of 21 627 hectares were lost in the Kavango region between April and November last year, with more than 13,000 hectares destroyed in September alone.

In the Otjozondjupa region veld fires destroyed more than 9 000 hectares in August last year, while another 5 679 hectares burned down in September that same year. During that same period almost 8 000 hectares were destroyed in the Omaheke Region.

In the Omusati Region a total of 2 475 hectares were destroyed in June last year and a senior forester within the ministry told The Namibian that incidents of veld fires increased during the winter months in some regions.

“During these cold months the people make fires to warm themselves up and if they are left unattended, and a strong wind blows, these fires can easily get out of hand,” said senior forester Paulus Shikongo.

The only region where there was a decrease in veld fires over the last 10 months was the Caprivi, where 3 284 hectares of grazing were destroyed.

The regions that were least affected by veld fires are Karas (67 hectares), Ohangwena (116 hectares), Hardap (501 hectares), Erongo (616 hectares) and Khomas (747 hectares).

According to Shikongo, other causes of veld fires are lightning during the rainy season and motorists throwing burning cigarette butts out of their moving cars.
Original Article Here

Glencore, Bunge See M&A in Agriculture Industry to Diversify

Glencore International Plc (BG) and Bunge Ltd. expect more agriculture mergers and acquisitions in coming years as companies need to broaden geographic reach.

“Even the large companies are too small,” Alberto Weisser, Bunge chief executive officer, said today at the FT Global Commodities Summit. “We will see more consolidation.” Bunge is the second-largest publicly traded sugar processor.

The only viable models for agriculture trading are global companies exploiting arbitrage and market dislocation in food supply, and small regional players such as Ukraine’s Kernel Holding SA, according to Chris Mahoney, Glencore’s head of agriculture. “There’s no middle ground,” he said in Lausanne.

Glencore bought Viterra Inc., Canada’s largest grain handler, for C$6.1 billion ($5.9 billion) last year and Marubeni Corp. agreed to pay $5.6 billion for Gavilon Group LLC. Sydney- based GrainCorp Ltd. rebuffed a A$2.8 billion ($2.9 billion) takeover bid from Archer-Daniels-Midland Co.

Asset-rich agriculture traders “will always be a target for consolidation,” Mahoney said. Cooperatives are obvious candidates, while consolidation among major players such as ADM, Bunge and Cargill Inc. is unlikely, he said.

Medium-sized companies are likely targets, said Claudio Scarrozza, Europe CEO at CHS Inc., the largest cooperative in the U.S., marketing 2 billion bushels of grains and oilseeds a year. Bunge redirected 6 million tons of grains to importers within three days when Russia banned wheat exports in 2010, Weisser said. “Only big companies could do that,” he said.
Original Article Here 

Employ jobless agriculture extension officers

THE Patriotic Front (PF) government has created thousands of jobs in the 18 months it has been in power.
The jobs that have been created are quality and pensionable jobs, which will also entail more money in the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA)’s coffers through pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) tax.
However, our listening government should equally think of employing agricultural extension officers, who were trained but not employed by the then MMD government.
Employing these men and women will be a booster to the agriculture sector, especially in rural areas.
We are very optimistic that the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Robert Sichinga, will look into this matter.
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Farmer groups fan agriculture bad rep, says Tim Hornibrook

Tim Hornibrook, the joint chief executive of Macquarie Agricultural Funds Management, said most institutional investment in agriculture was coming from foreign investors who took a different view of the local industry from that taken by Australian farmers and their interest groups.

But Mr Hornibrook said there was also a lot of misinformation about foreign investment in Australia.

He said the collapse of the managed investment schemes in the wake of the global financial crisis and the recent decision to privatise listed farm and water rights investor PrimeAg had not helped perceptions of the industry.

"The real issues is that we have done such a poor job as an industry in promoting ourselves to sources of capital," he said."Ours is an industry that has almost as many representative bodies as it has farmers and many of them choose to promote the views of their members in a very negative way.

"When you talk to institutional investors in Australia about th merits of investing into agriculture, their response is that you are the same people that have been telling us for so long what a terrible sector it is.

"It is hard to argue with them."

Mr Hornibrook said that of the $1 trillion in funds available from the superannuation industry (excluding self-managed super funds), between $10 billion and $15bn should be finding its way into agriculture based on its contribution to the economy.

Yet of the 350 major super funds, just 10 had made investments in agriculture.

"So until such time as institutions in Australia change their view about agriculture, our source of capital is going to be from offshore and the competition for capital offshore is immense," Mr Hornibrook said.

"Pension funds (offshore) views are not clouded by our own negative perceptions but focused in which sector to invest in and which country.

"Australia has a stable political system, export-focused industry and productivity measures up well as far as these investors are concerned.

"These are the investors that we should be attracting - they are long-term investors, highly regulated.

"Rather than taking a xenophobic approach to foreign investment in this sector, we should try to understand who these institutions are and why they want to invest into this sector and particularly into Australia."
Original Article Here

Parties urged to focus on agriculture

The political parties have mentioned agriculture in their election manifestoes 2013 but no practical action was seen to protect it ignoring the fact that this sector guaranteed the national food security.

These views were expressed by the discussants in Jang Economic Session on ‘how agriculture sector sees the election slogans of the political parties’, here on Wednesday. The panellists were Chairman Economics Department Punjab University Dr Hafeez-ur-Rehman, Jamshed Cheema, Hamid Malhi, Rukhsana Zafar and Akthar Mayo while hosted by Sikandar Hameed Lodhi and Intikhab Tariq.

Dr Hafeez-ur-Rehman said that the agriculture sector was providing highest employment and supplying raw material to industries.

He believed that the policies should be made while keeping the importance of agriculture sector in sight but political parties tried to run the affairs with ad hoc policies. He said developed countries people happily pay taxes due to the facilities given to them while in Pakistan public consider the taxes a burden due to missing facilities.

Jamshed Cheema said that agriculture ensure food security and provide cheap food to public so that government should not deal it as business. He said agriculture sector was facing substandard seeds, taxes, value addition and non-subsidised agri inputs issues. He said China was making huge money by value addition of agriculture sector produce but in Pakistan agriculture sector was ignored again by political parties. He said that the PTI also focused on energy, education and health sector.

Hamid Malhi said that 16 per cent GST was imposed on agriculture sector while political parties did not give importance to agriculture sector in their manifestos. He said PTI had voiced to construct Kalabagh Dam but did not discuss it in its manifesto while PML-N has mentioned to grant MFN status to India but did not give plan to compete with strong Indian agriculture sector.

Rukhsana Zafar said that 80 to 90 per cent of rural women were attached with agriculture sector but political parties ignored them again. She said India has limited land holding size to 12 acres but their agriculture sector was growing. She said the political parties should announce agriculture reforms in their manifestos.

Akthar Mayo said industrial sector was given preference on agriculture sector since after creation of Pakistan which badly hit the latter. He said agriculture sector subsidy was limited to few people while political parties just make promises for agriculture sector growth. He said if agriculture sector would be given attention Punjab could become house of food. He said agriculture sector save the country of economic restriction after atomic blasts.
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Not overly worried about bad monsoon: Agriculture Secretary

NEW DELHI: Amid states like Maharasthra and Gujarat facing drought, the Agriculture Ministry today said it was not "overly worried" about a bad monsoon affecting crop production as the country has become resilient to the vagaries of nature.

"Weather plays a role but over time we have become slightly resilient to weather. So, I am not overly worried about bad weather (monsoon)," Agriculture Secretary Ashish Bahuguna told reporters here.

India Meteorological Department (IMD) is expected to release the monsoon forecast for this year by the next week. Meanwhile, weather analytics firm Skymet has projected south- west monsoon to be adequate and well distributed.

On the progress of sugarcane sowing, Bahuguna said that acreage in Maharasthra, the country's second biggest sugarcane growing state, is expected to be lower because of drought.

"Drought situation in Maharashtra is really bad. Area under sugarcane in Maharasthra is obviously going to be down. Cane area is mainly irrigated. Dams in some parts of the state are dry and sowing will all depend on monsoon," he said.

He said there should be some shift in area under sugarcane to other short-duration and drought-resistant crops.

On cotton sowing, he said the planting has been delayed due to late harvest. "Sowing will start in next two weeks in north India, especially Punjab and Haryana," he added.

Sugarcane and cotton sowing begins before monsoon, while planting of other kharif crops like paddy starts with the onset of south-west monsoon in June.
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Prime Minister must be secular, not just popular: Sharad Pawar, Agriculture Minister

NEW DELHI: Union Agriculture MinisterSharad Pawar has said a person aspiring to be prime minister should be secular, open-minded and liberal, and being popular is not the only criterion for the job, implicitly questioning the suitability of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for the nation's top executive position.

"I might be popular, but that is not sufficient in a parliamentary democracy set-up. One has to assess every chief minister, his success and rating in terms of how far he has succeeded in developing his colleagues. If you feel there is a galaxy of capable leaders he (Modi) has developed for Gujarat and you can name them, that will be a good addition to my political knowledge," said Pawar, in his first substantive comments on the issue.

During the course of an exclusive two-hour interview with ET, the NCP leader also questioned the so-called Gujarat model of development that has been often held up by Modi as his calling card for the top job, saying the state was historically better off on the development front than others primarily because its previous leaders such as Chimanbhai Patel and Madhav Singh Solanki were "development oriented". He said credit should instead be given to leaders of states such as Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh (both BJP-ruled) that were once categorised as sick, but have since pulled themselves up by the bootstraps.

"I would give more marks to the model (of development) which has has improved the overall situation in the state," said Pawar.

The NCP leader said Modi's socalled development model was a case of outsized projections, and Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, who in Pawar's view is a better performer, may not "desire" to project himself in the same manner as Modi. He said Modi's projection as PM could work in favour of Congress, and the party would get a "definite advantage" in that case "Some sections that have drifted away fromCongress would come (back) to it."

According to Pawar, voters in northern and central India, particularly Uttar Pradesh and Bihar that account for 120 seats in Parliament, tend to vote not to elect someone but to defeat those they do not favour. "So in these elections, the public at large comes to this conclusion that XYZ should not come, they will find who can defeat XYZ and Congress will benefit from that," said Pawar.

The veteran leader from Maharashtra, who does not plan to contest the next elections nor serve as a minister, dismissed the possibility of a Third Front and said his party would go along with Congress, whose "Gandhi and Nehru" thinking it associated with.

But he appeared puzzled at repeated attacks by some Congress ministers, notably Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma, on Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, stating that such attacks only create obstructions in running the government. He cautioned that such attacks could lead to a "fatal accident" with the government collapsing.
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What the UAE needs from Africa in order to invest in agriculture

One of the economies that is eyeing Africa’s agricultural potential is the United Arab Emirates (UAE). According to H.E. Hisham Abdullah Al Shirawi, chairman of Economic Zones World in Dubai, Africa has the solution to the UAE’s limited food production capacity.

“Food security is a major issue for us in the UAE and in the region in general. As you know we are part of the desert region of the world with water scarcity and scarcity of fertile soil. So any agriculture activity here in this part of the world is a challenging affair, and a costly one.”

However, Africa has fertile soil and water resources for agriculture. “As a matter of fact, one of the sayings that we have is that in Sudan, if you are eating a fruit and you are walking and you spit [out] one of the seeds, you can come back after a year and find a tree that has grown, without any effort,” he said. “For us to do anything [like that] we have to allocate a lot of effort, management, time, money…”

According to 2011 statistics, South Africa was the 13th largest supplier of Dubai’s food imports, but was the only African country to make this top 20 list. However, Al Shirawi envisions establishing huge farms in countries across Africa to provide agricultural produce to the UAE economy. He said that the overall farming potential in Africa is endless. “I mean, you name it. What is it that people in the world want that is not available in agriculture in Africa? Probably nothing.”

For this reason, Al Shirawi believes that the UAE should invest in the continent’s agricultural sector.

“So these things are available in Africa in abundance and it is to our benefit to enter into a certain strategic partnership where we can create jobs and economic development for African countries, not just South Africa, but many other African countries, and at the same time attain our food security requirements.”

African bureaucracy a deterrent

Al Shirawi said that one of the reasons that this strategic partnership does not currently exist between the UAE and Africa is due to past experiences with bureaucratic governments.

“Once you start the whole project and get the approval of the government, after about a month or two from that process certain other departments started to interfere and say you have got the approval from other departments but not from this department, and not from a third or a fourth and a fifth,” explained Al Shirawi.
Original Article Here

Precision agriculture helps farmers save time, money, the land

The popular image of agriculture is the farmer standing out in his field with his bib overalls, straw hat, a rusty old tractor and a piece of wheat straw popped in his mouth at a rakish angle.

Modern agriculture, however, is more “Star Wars” than “Grapes of Wrath.”

Just like all other areas of modern culture that have fallen sway to the inexorable march of technology, so too agriculture has kept pace with cutting-edge applications that have helped boost productivity and efficacy – while allowing producers to become better stewards of the environment while saving themselves money.

Precision agriculture is the word of the day.

Precision agriculture is being driven by two forces – as the price of agricultural inputs has skyrocketed, the days of being able to simply “apply when in doubt” have long passed. The ability to purchase and apply exactly the right amount of herbicide, fungicide, fertilizer, etc., helps producers spend their money efficiently.

This also prevents producers from causing long-term damage to their fields, adjacent surface water, groundwater supplies and the environment as a whole.

Steve Compton of Circle C Farms in Scott City has been an early adopter of these time- and money-saving techniques and technologies.

“It’s just part of being responsible,” Compton said. “Not only as someone who is producing for the rest of the country, but also as a steward of the environment.”

In the past, traditional agronomy would dictate that you pull one or two samples per field and then make application recommendations off of the test results of that soil. Precision agriculture takes a much closer look at a larger area.

The grid sampling system allows a producer to apply inputs only where needed. That portion of the field that doesn’t need inputs doesn’t receive any.

“All of our land is gridded on 2.5-acre grids,” Compton said. “That means you go out in that 2.5-acre square, you pull 10 soil samples, mix that together.”

Those samples are then analyzed at the laboratory, which reports each of the individual nutrient levels from that piece of land. The data are then imported into software that allows the different nutrient levels to be laid over an image of the field. The resulting map resembles an infrared photo.

This allows producers to get a much more accurate look at what nutrients the soil lacks, or already has reserves of.

“The variability you see from quarter to quarter is astounding,” Compton said. “You’re going to find the soil variability being affected by how it was farmed in the past, what was planted, etc.”

Compton said he understands that a lot of producers are reluctant to adopt the technology. The initial investment can be daunting – after all, when a modern piece of equipment can cost over $100,000, the decision to upgrade doesn’t come lightly.

“It is pricey,” he said.

However, Compton said that the investment does pay for itself.

Traditionally, Circle C Farms would put down a 15- to 20-gallon blanket of top-dress fertilizer on dryland wheat fields. The first year they grid sampled, Compton said he discovered they only needed to be using half of what they had been applying.

“When you cut your fertilizer consumption in two across several thousand acres of wheat, that’s pretty substantial,” he said.

Compton was quick to point out that savings of that magnitude are not guaranteed.

“I’m not going to tell you that’s the case all the time,” he said. “It could be that you find out you haven’t been putting on enough.”

The point is, Compton said, that the ability of precision agriculture to pinpoint that ideal area of not too much and not too little is where the investment pays off.

Not only that, it ensures that modern and future producers will be able to help meet an increasing demand for safe and reliable food while taking good care of the environment.

As such, Compton expressed optimism that an increasing number of producers were beginning to adopt the technology, particularly in drought-stricken areas.

“After all,” he said, “Aren’t we supposed to be responsible stewards of the environment?”
Original Article Here

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

United Nations: plant gene pool key to advancing agriculture

The United Nations honored the 30th anniversary of its Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture yesterday, placing a special emphasis on genetic resources as a tool to face climate change.Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) deputy director-general Dan Gustafson, said agricultural adaptation and genetic resources would be key to human survival as food demand grew with the global population.

“Climate change impacts are expected to reduce agricultural productivity, stability and incomes in many areas that already experience high levels of food insecurity,” Gustafson said.

“Yet world agricultural production must increase 60 percent by the middle of this century … to keep pace with the food requirements of the world’s growing population.

“Genetic resources for food and agriculture play a crucial role in food security, secure livelihoods and environmental services. They also play a crucial role in enabling crops, livestock, aquatic organisms and forest trees to withstand climate change-related conditions.”

The commission is the only intergovernmental body dedicated to the world’s food and agriculture gene pool. As farmers increasingly switch to genetically uniform crop varieties, the commission offers a resource to remember potentially useful, yet often forgotten local varieties.

The FAO estimates that 75% of crop genetic diversity has been lost to such variety changes. It offers the example of Turkish wheat to show the value of looking to “lost” crops to advance modern agriculcuture.

“A variety of Turkish wheat, collected and stored in a seed gene bank in 1948, was rediscovered in the 1980s, when it was found to carry genes resistant to many types of disease-causing fungi. Plant breeders now use those genes to develop wheat varieties that are resistant to a range of diseases,” the FAO reported.

With climate change adding new challenges to agriculture, commission secretary Linda Collette explained the importance of looking back at plant genetic history, as was the case in Turkey.

“We are constantly adding to the long inventories of known land and aquatic animals, plants, trees, invertebrates such as pollinating insects and even microscopic organisms – and their genes – and some hold the key to climate change adaptation,” she explained.

“Not only must we conserve that genetic diversity, but we must also ensure access to them and ensure we equitably and fairly share the benefits derived from their use.”

Through 2017, the commission will develop a Roadmap on Climate Change and Genetic Resources. The project will include guideline development on genetic resource integration for adaptation planning and identification of hotspots for climate change.
Original Article Here

Food bowl needs refill

THE impending vote to wind up PrimeAg Australia, and a spate of profit downgrades, underline the problems of a listed agricultural sector facing a capital shortfall of up to $850 billion. Especially if the sector is to meet its potential as the "food bowl of Asia".

However, consolidation among food ­producers – and growing offshore interest –highlight the opportunities for ag companies including AACo, Ruralco and Ridley.

PrimeAg shareholders are expected to support the board's plan to liquidate the company's rural land and water portfolio at the general meeting on Monday.

Share­holders are also likely to approve two capital returns and the sale of around 60 per cent of the company's portfolio to US fund TIAA-CREF, reflecting the fact that the listed rural landholder almost never traded above the book value of its assets.

"The land plays haven't set the market alight. They're quite capital intensive and don't seem to produce a lot of cash. It's a real asset play," Perpetual head of equities Matt Williams said.

"The experience hasn't been great and hasn't made investors keen to put more money in that part of the market. Because it's a long-term land play, these things are much more suited to a sovereign wealth fund or a super fund that has long-term liabilities."

PrimeAg's demise has sparked rumblings that listed beef company AACo, which has traded below its asset value for a long time, may look to privatise.

Equity investors' wariness of agriculture stocks has not been confined to landholders. Commodity price risk, and production at the mercy of the weather, has made the sector too uncertain for many fund managers. The swath of recent profit warnings has highlighted the risks.

In March, feedstock and rendering business Ridley Corp released a woeful trading update that sent its shares tumbling 18 per cent, prompting Commonwealth Bank ­analyst Jordan Rogers to cut his 2013 earnings forecasts by 27 per cent.

Last week, rural services provider Ruralco warned that profits could plunge by up to 70 per cent, smashing the share price by about 15 per cent over two days, while rival Elders announced material downgrades to its rural services division in March.
Original Article Here

Can Tech Solve African Agriculture's Four Big Problems?

A recent BBC article highlighted three of the tech-heavy startups trying to change the game in Africa's agriculture sector, including a franchise that gives farmers access to higher quality products, a crop insurance scheme that makes it easier for farmers to get credit, and an SMS service through which farmers can check market prices and coordinate with other farmers to buy supplies in bulk. As observed in the article, these tech solutions try to leapfrog over basic infrastructure problems – like bad roads and inefficient communications. Considering the fact that 80 percent of the arable land in Africa is not being used, tech has an awful lot to make up for.

Technology directly contributes about 7 percent to Africa's GDP, higher than the worldwide average. A report by the World Bank and the African Development Bank in December 2012 explains that is because mobile phones provide access to services that are easily available in traditional, non-tech forms in the developed world, such as financial services, newspapers and entertainment. The same report identifies four sectors in which technology can make up for other infrastructure failings: market information, agriculture insurance, irrigation efficiency and traceability.

The BBC mentions M-Farm, a SMS program previously covered by techPresident through which farmers can check market prices and even coordinate with other farmers in order to buy supplies in bulk. There is also the mobile information service Esoko, developed by Ghana-based BusyLab. Weekly advisory services from Esoko include market prices, weather, news and tips.

The crop insurance scheme Kilimo Salama, “safe farming” in Swahili, is spreading across Kenya and Rwanda. A Christian Science Monitor article reports they just signed on their 100,000th policyholder. One farmer told the Monitor he signed up after an earlier drought destroyed an entire year of crops and left him nearly broke: “When I lost part of my crop to drought in 2011, I was compensated, which meant I was still able to pay school fees, buy seeds for a new crop, and keep food on the table for my family. . . It has given me peace of mind, so I invest without fear of losing everything to risks that are beyond my control.”
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Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and Transportation Secretary LaHood Renew Agreement to Promote Renewable Fuels in the Aviation Industry

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2013 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA is extending for five years its agreement to work with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other partners to help develop a viable biofuel for the aviation industry. The Secretary signed the agreement with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at the Advanced Biofuels Summit at Gaylord National Harbor in Maryland.

"By continuing to work together to produce American made 'drop-in' aviation fuels from renewable feedstocks, we will create jobs and economic opportunity in rural America, lessen America's reliance on foreign oil and develop a thriving biofuels industry that will benefit commercial and military enterprises," Agriculture Secretary Vilsack said. "USDA is pleased to partner with the FAA in our quest to develop alternatives to fossil-based fuel, which is critical to reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment."

"Through the use of sustainable alternative jet fuels, we are showing the world that we can come together to solve our greatest environmental challenges," said Transportation Secretary LaHood. "In his State of the Union Address, President Obama called on us to work together to reduce carbon emissions - developing these alternative jet fuels will do just that, while creating jobs and helping airlines save money on fuel."

The new agreement, which includes partners from the commercial aviation sector, follows the initial success of the 2010-2012 "Farm to Fly" initiative. It also supports President Obama's commitment to clean energy technology, energy independence and job creation and is part of USDA's efforts to strengthen the rural economy. The federal government and its partners hope to support the annual production of 1 billion gallons of drop in aviation biofuel by 2018.

In July 2010, USDA, Airlines for America, Inc. (A4A) and the Boeing Company (Boeing) signed a resolution formalizing their commitment to work together on the "Farm to Fly" initiative. "Farm to Fly" builds upon the work of USDA's Regional Biomass Research Centers, which are helping to develop a robust, advanced biofuels industry by working with industry partners to produce energy-producing feedstocks within different regions. The renewed agreement focuses on future goals - such as designating personnel, evaluating current and potential feedstock types and systems, developing multiple feedstock supply chains, developing state and local public-private teams, communicating results, and issuing periodic reports.

For a copy of the most recent report on the "Farm to Fly" efforts, see Agriculture and Aviation: Partners in Prosperity, Parts I and II at this link:

In October, 2010 USDA and the FAA jointly announced a three-year agreement to develop aviation fuel from forest and crop residues and other "green" feedstocks in order to reduce dependence on foreign oil. Under this partnership, the agencies have combined their experience in research, policy analysis and air transportation to explore the different kinds of feedstocks that could be processed by bio-refineries to produce jet fuels. Additional accomplishments in developing aviation biofuels include:

Feedstock Readiness Level Tool Developed: The USDA and FAA developed the Feedstock Readiness Tool (FSRL) for the airline industry to track progress on the development and availability of agricultural and forest feedstocks that will be used to produce renewable jet fuels. The FSRL can identify gaps in aviation biofuel supply chains due to delays in the development of the feedstocks to supply a particular conversion process, or the development of a fuel conversion process as a market for a feedstock.

Regional Research Centers: The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is funding six regional integrated Coordinated Agricultural Projects (CAP) targeting enhanced rural prosperity and National energy security through the development of regional systems for the sustainable production of advanced biofuels and biobased products from non-food dedicated biomass feedstocks such as perennial grasses, sorghum, energy cane, oilseed crops, and woody biomass. Three of the projects have a focus on the production of aviation fuel.
System for Advanced Hardwood Biofuels in the Pacific Northwest (AHB-PNW) is led by the University of Washington is using purpose-grown hardwoods as the feedstock for the production of gasoline and aviation fuel.
Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA): A New Vista for Green Fuels, Chemicals, and Environmentally Preferred Products is led by Washington State University and is working with the regions forest products industry to convert waste from logging and thinning operations into butanol, renewable aviation fuel, and other industrial chemicals.
Southeast Partnership for Integrated Biomass Supply Systems (IBSS) led by the University of Tennessee is using switchgrass and woody biomass to produce butanol and aviation fuel.

President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way - strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).
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Is Growth Green Agriculture duping my elderly mother?

Growth Green Agriculture (GGA) is run by Andre Rafnsson from the 4th floor of 36 Spital Square, London E1. The address is a small office used by scores of other companies, including Ascot Mining, Webroad, TradeCompanion, Prossimo, Bridge Bioresearch and Pensieve Biosciences. We asked GGA if its
operations really were carried out from this address, and it said yes. We can only assume the offices are very cramped.

Rafnsson is a director of a number of other companies, including Giantcode, which also makes calls and sends out brochures to potential investors, in this case about a cure for cancer, from the same address. Its shares were listed on a small German exchange but were delisted due to a "lack of trading".

GGA "intends" to list its shares on something called CXG Markets in London, but initially will not be tradeable, so if your mother did invest it would be very difficult to get any of her money back until then.

As regards how it got your mother's number, GGA said she was on a list it bought from the National Money Savers Survey (NMSS) run by McDowall Media in Watford. It turns out that your mother did indeed answer a question put to her by the NMSS, in which she was asked: "Would you be interested in how you can offset your carbon footprint?" Because she answered yes, McDowall Media sold her details to a company called Eco Global Markets, which has since gone into liquidation. McDowall Media says it never gave GGA authority to use her details.

In our opinion, GGA is an absurdly risky venture entirely inappropriate for an elderly person such as your mother. The best place for the brochure is the bin. And if you are ever asked to fill in a NMSS, beware of the consequences: once you express any sort of interest it enables companies to legally contact you, even if you have registered with the Telephone Preference Service.
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Haiti - Agriculture : Food Outlook (March-June 2013)

The spring agricultural campaign began almost everywhere across the country. However, despite the motivation of farmers, the low availability of seeds tends to compromise the success of the exercise. Access to local foods are becoming rarer and more expensive due to low production in 2012, by con the markets are well stocked with imported products whose prices maintain stability. Food insecurity continues to affect poor households across the country

Current situation (March 2013) :
The current situation is characterized by the start of the spring agricultural campaign. However, according to reports published in March by the NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration], recent rainfall received in some parts of the country as Artibonite, Northwest, North, and Grande Anse, represent less half of normal accumulation. Therefore, the current conditions of soil moisture are unfavorable to the success of agricultural activities. In addition, the Central Plateau, specifically the municipalities of Thomonde, Cerca-Cavajal, Cerca-la-Source, and Thomassique, experiencing persistent drought since November 2012, according to an assessment mission carried out in early March by FEWS NET and the National Food Security Coordination Unit (CNSA). Of communes of the North-East as Mombin Crochu, the Perches, Ste Suzanne, and Mont-Organisé, among others, are facing a drought situation.

The start of the agricultural season is dependent on the availability of seeds. The high cost of the latter, due to their scarcity is likely to cause a reduction in the surface usually grown in this country, therefore causing a decline in agricultural production. This campaign account for about 60% of national agricultural production. Poor households of numerous rural areas, may continue to face a food deficit immediately after harvest in July.
In rice-growing areas of North, North-East and the Artibonite Valley, agricultural activities generate jobs beneficial to the poor. In some communes of the North such as Ranquite, Bahon, Pignon and La Victoire, also hit by drought, the seasonal migration towards the plain of Limonade and Quartier Morin, remains a major source of income for poor households. However, due to drought, the demand for labor in these communities is declining. In Tiburon, Dame Marie, Anse d'Ainault and other, the fishing season has also started but sales are very low compared to normal, resulting in a loss for the fishing community.

Prices of imported food products are usually high, but remain more or less stable compared to January and February 2013. By cons, the price of some local products, more specifically the black bean and corn ground is rising because of demand. In Hinche, beans experienced an increase of 18% in February compared to January, while the ground corn appreciated by 8% for the same period in Jérémie. In Jacmel, in the south-
east, the price of milled maize has increase of 24% during this period. Resulting to a decline in the purchasing power of poor households, whose income tends to decrease due to the low demand for agricultural labor. Dependent of almost 100% of the market as a source of food, poor households in areas affected by the floods in 2012, will have more difficulty to feed until the next harvest in June.

Outlook until June 2013 :
Poor households in the Central Plateau (Cerca-la-Source, Cerca Cavajal, Thomassique and Thomonde) and of North (La Victoire, Bahon, Pignon, and Ranquitte), among others, will depend essentially on the market, and until May and June due to early depletion of their stock due to low agricultural production in 2012.

Due to the scarcity of seeds and their high price on the market, the area sown during the spring campaign will be lower, resulting in a decline in production and income of poor households.

Taking into account of the upward trend of the price curve, the lower incomes of poor households and of the decrease of their livelihoodsn, we can deduce that they will remain in crisis situation (IPC Phase 3). This situation, all things being equal, tends to continue until the beginning of the next harvest, which will be held during the month of June.

The humanitarian assistance provided to households in the Southeast and the Gonâve is likely to pass the food insecurity of the IPC Phase 3 to Phase 2. However, it does not seem to have a significant effect on the municipalities of Thomassique, Thomonde, Cerca-Cavajal, et Cerca-la-Source which will be in crisis until June.

Learn more about the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC)
Phase 1 :
Usually adequate and stable food access with moderate to low risk of sliding into Phase 3, 4, or 5.

Phase 2 : Moderately / Borderline Food Insecure
Borderline adequate food access with recurrent high risk (due to probable hazard events and high vulnerability) of sliding into Phase 3, 4, or 5.

Phase 3 : Acute Food and Livelihood Crisis
Highly stressed and critical lack of food access with high and above usual malnutrition and accelerated depletion of livelihood assets that, if continued, will slide the population into Phase 4 or 5 and / or likely result in chronic poverty.

Phase 4 : Humanitarian Emergency
Severe lack of food access with excess mortality, very high and increasing malnutrition, and irreversible livelihood asset stripping.

Phase 5 : Famine / Humanitarian Catastrophe
Extreme social upheaval with complete lack of food access and / or other basic needs where mass starvation, death, and displacement are evident
Original Article Here

State, World Bank sign $29.8m for agriculture

GOVERNMENT has signed a US$29.8 million (KR150 million) loan agreement with the World Bank for boosting the agriculture sector in the country.
Speaking at the signing ceremony in Lusaka yesterday, Minister of Finance Alexander Chikwanda said the US$29.8 million which is a long-term loan agreement to be repaid in 50 years, will improve the country’s agriculture sector.
He said the loan will also support the effective implementation of the Agricultural Productivity Programme for Southern Africa (APPSA) project.
Mr Chikwanda said Government has placed the agriculture sector on its development agenda because it has become the most promising prospects for Zambia’s sustainable development and poverty reduction.
“The agreement we have signed today [yesterday] of US$29.8 is an essential prelude to improved agriculture. The World Bank sponsored APPSA has a correct thrust.
“The country already has a measure of food security and we have some exportable surpluses. With these
funds, small scale farmers can now deliver prosperity but there is compelling need for these farmers to improve,” he said.
Mr Chikwanda said the APPSA project will be implemented by the Zambia Agricultural Research Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.
He said the project activities will focus on research stations and farmers’ fields.
“Research will focus on food legumes such as beans, cowpeas, soya beans and groundnuts. Some research will also be conducted on maize, rice and sorghum.
“Research stations in Zambia that are expected to be involved will include Kabwe, Mount Makulu, Misamfu in Kasama, Msekera in Chipata, Mochipapa in Choma, Mongu and the Golden Valley Research Trust,” Mr Chikwanda said.
He hoped that the APPSA project will greatly contribute to the strides Government is making to develop the country’s agriculture sector.
And World Bank country director for Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe Kundhavi Kadiresan pledged the financial institution’s continued support to Government’s programmes aimed at enhancing food security in the country.
Ms Kadiresan said the World Bank has decided to support Zambia with US$29.8 million because agriculture is an important sector that has potential to not only reduce poverty and vulnerability for the rural population, but also to create wealth.
“Agriculture provides Zambia with the best opportunity to diversify its economy. In addition, it employs more than 70 percent of the population and contributes about 14 percent to the gross domestic product,” she said.
Ms Kadiresan called on small-scale farmers to improve their farming practices to enhance food security in the country.
Original Article Here


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