- Oryza.com reports that the Mississippi Congressional Delegation joined with U.S. rice farmers in urging the Secretary of State to negotiate with Iraq over the recent decline in Iraqi purchases of U.S. rice. The Iraqi Grain Board has been overlooking U.S. bids in recent rice tenders despite competitive bids, choosing to pay higher prices to source from other countries. One Mississippi representative made the statement that “The State Department has a responsibility to ensure our farmers are not shut out of important markets for their products.”
- Ritsuko Ando reports for Reuters that Japan has offered to increase its quota of tariff-free imports of U.S. rice by some “tens of thousands” of tonnes as part of a compromise for the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership discussions. Japan would maintain its existing rice tariffs outside of the increased quota.
- FoodSafetyNews.com reports that China is importing more rice, specifically from Japan, as consumer fears rise of contamination of domestically grown rice. Recent studies have shown that a large percentage of China’s agricultural land is contaminated with cadmium and other pollutants which rice plants can absorb, generating health concerns. Many Chinese consumers are now paying heavy premiums to buy safer rice from Japan and other countries. China is estimated to have imported 2.2 million tons of rice in 2014.
- Oryza.com reports that Portugal’s rice production has suffered a severe blow from rice blast, with one the country’s key growing regions losing 30-70% of its crop to the disease. The area normally produce 25% of the country’s rice. Farmers are also suffering from low prices, with production costs $50 to $70 per ton higher than current market prices.
- Oryza.com reports that armyworms are a growing problem for Australia rice farmers, reducing yields as much as 50%. Agronomists are working at helping farmers to manage the pests, but say the most important factor is proper identification.
- Oryza.com reports that the International Rice Research Institute has begun construction of a new research facility that will be aimed at discovering the impacts of climate change on rice production. Funded by the Australian Center for Ag Research, the lab will be located at the IRRI headquarters in the Philippines and will study the effect of climactic changes in rice plants’ growth and output under highly controlled environmental conditions. The research will help with the development of improved varieties and management practices that will improve production across the globe. The lab is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
- Oryza.com reports that a new Chinese study shows that genetically modified rice can reduce pesticide use by as much as 66%, or 196,000 tons annually in China. Reduced pesticides would not only benefit the environment but would also improve farmers’ health in developing countries. According to the study, and estimated 16 million farmers suffer from pesticide-related illnesses every year, with pesticide poisoning causing adverse effects on farmers’ neurological, hematological, and electrolyte systems.
- Tim Johnson reports for the CalRice.org blog on the impacts of the ongoing drought on California’s ag sector and environment. According to Johnson, 2014 saw a decrease in California’s rice plantings of 131,000 acres, 23% below the previous year, and while per acre yields were up the decline in acreage resulted in a decline in production of one billion pounds.”In total, current USDA estimates show over half a million acres of grain, feed and cotton crops were left out of production in the state last year,” with a statewide loss of $2.2 billion affecting 17,000 jobs. Additionally, the lack of water reduced the available flooded rice fields and natural wetlands available for waterfowl. With the driest January in over 200 years, farmers are facing another year of drought if precipitation doesn’t arrive between now and March. And as Johnson says, “drought in rural California looks like fallowed acres, unemployment and skies empty of migrating waterfowl.”