August 15, 2013

15/08/2013: Rice focus

GM rice is inching closer to becomining a reality as scientists in the Philippines are about to submit 'golden rice' to the authorities for biosafety evaluations.

The crops could be in fields within a year though this is dependant on what the regulators say.

Supporters of the rice say it will help the 1.7 million Filipino children who suffer vitamin A deficiency - which reduces immunity and can cause blindness.

However, critics argue is a dangerous way to tackle hunger and could threaten the Philippines' staple crop.

Two rice mills in Punjab, India have been accused of paddy fraud worth more than 3 crore rupees. 

The millers failed to account for government paddy provided for custom milling. The Punjab State Warehousing Corporation (PSWC) found 11380.25 quintal of rice missing from Gill and General Mill and 8241.45 quintal missing from Joga Agro Industry.

The PSWC had allotted 1,52,304 bags and 99,575.8 quintal of paddy to the two mills for custom milling on behalf of the Food Corporation of India.

According to a new report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), cheap rice may well be a thing of the past. The institute has revealed that increasing wages amongst Asian agricultural workers have helped drive higher prices, and may yet have a game-changing effect on global poverty rates.

Early 2013 saw prices top $550 a tonne, double the level in 2000, singling out rice as the only cereal not to see prices fall back to pre-2008 spike levels.  The sustained higher prices are the consequence of a ‘triple squeeze’ on the cost of producing rice: increased stockholding by Asian rice producers such as Thailand and Vietnam, high fuel and fertiliser costs and increased wages amongst agricultural workers in Asia.

Until recently rising populations across Asia have meant that there has been a reserve army of labour in rural areas willing to work for low wages. Urbanisation and industrial growth, however, are beginning to provide alternatives to low-paid farm work. Rural wages for Indian farm labourers have risen by around a third in the last five years.

“This report should cause people to sit up and take note. The drift towards higher prices for one of the world’s basic food staples has far-reaching implications. Millions of agricultural labourers stand to gain from higher wages, with potentially huge benefits for poverty reduction. But many poor households will also face higher food bills – and countries in Africa will face higher food import costs,” said Kevin Watkins, ODI director.
High prices are a cause for concern in parts of Africa, particularly in coastal West Africa where urban consumers have grown accustomed to relatively low-cost rice imports from Asia and now face a threat to their food security. 

“This is a story of winners and losers. It is good news in the long run as a step towards the end of global poverty, but it might not be such good news in the short run those who rely on rice for a large part of their daily diet,” said Steve Wiggins, report author and ODI research fellow.

Ifugao Rice
Ifugao Rice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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