Archive for May, 2009

EU to boost food production in Africa, Asia

Africa-news May 28, 2009

Nairobi – 28/05/2009

Pana

Small-scale farmers in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sierra Leone are soon to receive a productivity boost, through the innovative projects of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), funded with a 39-million euro donation from the European Union (EU).

“Thanks to this generosity from EU, millions of people will have access to food and nutrition who otherwise would not have,” said WFP Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, citing the importance of the Food Facility launched by the EU to help people in developing countries overcome growing food insecurity.

The UN agency said in a press statement from its headquarters in Rome, the projects are aimed at helping poor farmers – most of them women – more efficiently produce food through programmes such as group farming.

It also entails crop diversification and kitchen gardens.

In some communities, WFP will provide food in exchange for work on projects aimed at improving irrigation and flood resistance, or planting trees.

These WFP food security projects come under the first allocation from the new one-billion euro EU Food Facility, to respond to the growing food security problems faced by many developing countries.

About 1.5 million people will benefit from the first four WFP programmes.

Sheeran said EU’s commitment to the world’s poorest farmers was an important signal that at a time of financial crisis in the industrialised world, the organisation had not forgotten the needs of the most vulnerable people in developing countries.

The allocations include the following: Bangladesh, 20 million euro to provide food and cash in exchange for work on flood control, irrigation projects and raised seed beds, training in on-farm entrepreneurship such as group farming and crop diversification and other income generation projects.

Pakistan, 14 million euro to increase crop production, plant kitchen gardens, provide food in exchange for work on water & sanitation projects, the production of 35 million tree saplings and the planting of 10 million trees.

Sierra Leone, 5.4 million euro to provide food in exchange for work on rehabilitation of inland valley swamps and smallholder plantations and improvement of feeder roads to help farmers bring their produce to market.

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Fresh fall in prices of wheat and sugar

Dawn Economic & Business Review, May 25 – 31, 2009

UNLIKE previous weeks, active trading was witnessed on the Karachi wholesale commodity markets during the last week, although dealers played on both sides of the fence rolling positions from one side to the other.

Floor brokers said steady arrivals from upcountry trading centres seemed to have brought all relevant quarters back in the trading arena amid swift price changes, which ensured a fair amount of profits within a session.

They said general consumers welcomed fresh fall in prices of some essential items, mainly wheat and sugar, as commercial houses and speculators, anticipating further increase in prices, sold in haste owing to steady arrivals from interior.

The fall in wheat prices was attributed to a bumper crop plus a considerable decline in speculative hoarding by leading speculators to sell it at higher rates later, they said.

“But what seems to have put a brake on the recent price flare-up was reports of ban on wheat export as sought by some quarters linked to its trade”, said a leading dealer. He hoped fresh fall in prices in coming sessions.

Although rice sector did not react bullish to reports of steady increase in its physical shipment to various destinations after a relative quiet for the last couple of weeks as prices generally remained stable around previous levels.

An idea of active physical shipment of the commodity may well be had from the fact that over 10,000 tons IRRI types of rice was shipped against forward deals signed previously.

Much of the ready business remained confined to pulses and cereal sectors where prices showed divergent trend based on supply and ready demand.

While some type of pulses, mainly imported ones, rose again under the lead of masoor and urad followed by reports of pressure on ready supplies, other were firmly held despite active ready demand, dealers said.

Among cereals, prices of those new crops fell whose arrival has gathered momentum, while some others rose under the lead of bajra.

The steep decline of well over Rs200 per bag was in the new crop of maize. However, it failed to cause sympathetic fall in prices of other cereals, which were quoted unchanged.

The market advance was led by pulses sector under the lead of peas, urad and masoor, which were quoted higher by Rs50-250 followed by reports of short supply.

After an initial fall, sugar prices again rose by Rs30 but on the other hand gur and desi sugar were quoted sharply higher by Rs200-300 on renewed support.

Other essential items showed divergent trend and while wheat was marked down by Rs50 per bag of 100kg, IRRI-6 was quoted higher by same amount, with other varieties remaining unchanged from previous levels amid slow ready off-take.

Cereal sector also showed mixed trend amid alternate bouts of buying and selling. While maize was quoted sharply lower by Rs225-250 per bag, bajra rose by Rs100 with barley and jowar remaining unchanged at the last levels.

Among major industrial items, guar seed was quoted sharply higher by Rs300 per bag on reports of short supply and active demand from processors.

Oilseed sector, however, did not show much change as prices of major seeds including rapeseed, cottonseed and castor seeds were firmly held unchanged at previous level amid active ready off-take by crushers.

Til was an exception which rose by Rs300 per 40kg on covering purchases by exporters after revival of foreign demands.

Oilcakes remained in strong demand and posted fresh gains ranging from Rs10-80 for rapeseed and cottonseed cakes respectively followed by reports of short supply.—M.A

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Banks refuse to encash receipts of farmers

Thursday, May 28, 2009
By Aftab Maken (The News International)

ISLAMABAD: Banks have refused to provide cash to farmers in Punjab against receipts received by them on sale of wheat to government departments.

Earlier, the wheat farmers sold their produce to middlemen at throwaway prices and now cheques have not been entertained since May 18, it is learnt.

“Scheduled banks are not entertaining farmers who have deposited receipts from procurement agencies like PASSCO and the Punjab Food Department, saying we (banks) are short of liquidity for wheat operation,” reveals a farmer from Pindi Bhatian, the home town of the federal food minister.

“There are hundreds of thousands of farmers, who are constantly visiting designated banks for clearance of their cheques issued by Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Supplies Corporation (PASSCO) and the Punjab Food Dept, but there are some districts, particularly in southern Punjab, where the designated banks were not provided extra liquidity for enhanced wheat procurement,” an official at the Ministry of Food & Agriculture confirmed to The News.

Actually, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) had sanctioned credit line against the original procurement target of 6.5 million tonnes for PASSCO and the food department. Both the agencies revised the procurement target to 10 million tonnes, but did not arrange funds for that, the official said.

Though high-ups of PASSCO and the Punjab Food Department partly admitted the unavailability of liquidity with scheduled banks, they said they had arranged funds and all those farmers, who were not paid in the last two weeks, had received their payments against the procured commodity.

Secretary Food Punjab, Irfan Elahi, denied the problem of unavailability of liquidity with designated banks, which the Food Department nominated for procurement, by saying that the food department had still Rs30 billion to procure more wheat and all the payments against the procured wheat had been cleared.

Unlike Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Supplies Corporation (PASSCO), the secretary food Punjab by telephone from Lahore made it clear that the department would not enhance its target of six million tonnes.

However, he said that tradable surplus was not more than five per cent.

General Manager (Field) PASSCO, Ch Abdul Majeed when asked for comments told this correspondent, “Yes, there was liquidity problem with the corporation till last week but now the PASSCO had arranged finances for its ongoing and remaining procurement.

“The corporation is in negotiations with a consortium, led by Askari Commercial Bank, for arranging Rs3 billion for wheat procurement and the deal would be finalised in a couple of days,” said Ch Majeed.

The corporation needed Rs1.75 billion for the procured wheat till May 25, he added. The PASSCO has already arranged Rs6 billion from a consortium of five scheduled banks for the revised wheat target from 1.5 million tonnes to two million tonnes, GM Passco said.

To a question about the third time revised wheat procurement target, Ch Majeed replied that the Corporation has requested the ministry of food & agriculture for a further Rs14 billion.

News Post from Urdu Newspaper (Daily Express)

May 28, 2009 (Daily Express Lahore)

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Wheat Price Sliding So many ‘last grains’ yet to be bought

May 28, 2009 by Staff Reporter Dawn

LAHORE, May 27: Wheat price has started sliding in the open market after the Food Department squeezed procurement, restricting itself to 30,000 ton a day, and giving millers an open field to take advantage of the situation.

On Tuesday, the wheat price, what millers were offering to farmers, in Lahore slid by another Rs10 per 40kg, bringing it down to Rs885 per 40kg.Their calculation is that the government has lost steam and a tradable surplus of 500,000 to 700,000 ton is now their pound of flesh.

Farmers from central Punjab, still left with a part of their crop, have criticised the Food Department for stopping procurement, claiming the provincial government was not ready to procure even the promised quantity of six million ton.

“In the last one week, the department was only inching towards its target at a rate of 30,000 ton a day,” Muhammad Malik, a farmer from Sahiwal, said. In the last six days, the department bought only 156,000 tons of wheat, which clarified its preferences and strategy, he said.

He said the Revenue Department, which was involved in the procurement to help farmers, was now turning out to be the biggest hindrance for farmers. “It (Revenue Department) is now applying tough verification methods to deny farmers access to procurement centres,” he said.

“Farmers still have substantial quantity of wheat, without any ready buyers. The local procurement centre manager is asking for tough documentation from farmers and delaying procurement on one pretext or another even from those who have completed the formalities. It may be true that middlemen might still have some share of wheat, but farmers have it too, which must be bought by the Food Department as per claim by the Punjab government.” The department is now defending its procurement strategy of restricting itself to farmers by saying that it was never obliged to buy wheat from the middleman, says Abdur Razaq, of Vehari. Rather, it has always been trying to drive the middleman out of the procurement.

“Practically speaking,food officials cannot differentiate, with a measure of credible certainty, between the wheat from a middleman and a farmer,” he said.

Food Department officials, however, hold opposite views, and defend themselves, saying the department has undertaken the biggest ever procurement campaign in fiscal terms.They say the amount spent on the procurement will be more than that of the Annual Development Plan of the province.

“As the department has already bought 5.65 million ton, why it should distort government’s image at the tale-end of such a huge drive? It has already spent Rs131 billion on the procurement and still has Rs35 billion in ready cash with it,” said one of the official.

TCP not to enter rice market

Wednesday, 27 May, 2009 (DAWN)

A seasonal worker harvests rice in Sheikhupura - APP photo.

A seasonal worker harvests rice in Sheikhupura - APP photo.

KARACHI: The Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) does not have any intention to purchase rice or intervene in any way in the market.

This was stated by the TCP chairman, Saeed Ahmad Khan, while addressing members of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan here on Tuesday.

 

‘We are trying to dispose of 3,000 metric tons of rice which we had procured against the contracts of 50,000. Give us suggestions so that we can easily dispose it of. This was done on the instructions of the government in a bid to stabilise prices and ensure a fair return to growers,’ he added.

 

He made it clear that the TCP was not at all rival of rice exporters.

 

‘We enter the market on the instructions of the government. We respect our exporters who earn a precious foreign exchange for the country. However, we have to enter the market when there is a crop shortage or surplus to stabilise prices,’ he noted. Replying to a demand, Khan said that TCP’s godowns on over 600 acres cannot be sold out-rightly, but there is a possibility of leasing these facilities to rice exporters.

 

‘We are currently in a process of repairing these godowns and ensure water proofing of ceiling. We have issued tenders for the repair work which involves millions of rupees. We are also interested in disposing of rice plants. You give us technical advice on the condition of plants and also tell us what price these plants can fetch,’ he said.

 

Referring to the suggestion of REAP, he said that the TCP would be pleased if REAP can develop a rice zone on godown facility at Bin Qasim. He said that the TCP can undertake repair work in accordance with the requirements of REAP members.

 

He urged the REAP members to also consider the interests of growers because they will not get surplus rice if he is not going to get better price for his crop.

 

Khan said that the TCP had a stock of 250,000 MT of sugar and selling it to Utility Stores Corporation at Rs38 per kg against the imported cost of Rs 50 a kg.Earlier, REAP chairman Rahim Janoo said that rice exports would cross $2 billion mark despite price fall in the international market. He thanked Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim for stopping TCP from rice procurement which was affecting prices.

 

He pointed out that REAP had already organised two successful delegations to Saudi Arabia and South Africa to explore potential markets and said that more delegations would be organised to potential markets.

 

Janoo said that two delegations of rice exporters would visit European Union and Qatar next month while three more similar delegations will be organised for Kuwait, Iran and Senegal to introduce Pakistani rice to these markets. He urged the TCP chairman to either sell TCP godowns to REAP members or hand over this facility on rental or lease basis. —APP

Payment to Passco stopped pending investigation

It has been alleged that Passco had been assigned to buy rain-damaged paddy for 30 days from the rain-affected areas, but it stopped buying within six days. - APP/File photo

It has been alleged that Passco had been assigned to buy rain-damaged paddy for 30 days from the rain-affected areas, but it stopped buying within six days. - APP/File photo

By M.B. Kalhoro (DAWN)

 Tuesday, 05 May, 2009

LARKANA: The federal government has stopped payment to the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Service Corporation (Passco) till the inquiry is completed for not observing transparency into the procurement of rain-damaged paddy from Sindh and Balochistan.

Sindh Additional Secretary (agriculture) Aslam Ali confirmed to Dawn on Monday that the Sindh government, after receiving certain complaints, had approached the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock (MINFAL). Sindh advised the federal government to stop payment.

The federal secretary of MINFAL had ordered an inquiry into the paddy procurement and tasked the Passco managing director, Lahore, to initiate a probe and complete it as soon as possible for submitting a report to the prime minister.

Larkana DCO Muhammed Jaffer Abbasi, who had earlier expressed dissatisfaction over the procurement policy, wrote to the Sindh agriculture secretary alleging that Passco in contravention of the set policy had ignored the genuine growers in purchasing rain-damaged paddy.

He told Dawn on Monday that the secretary had asked all the district coordination officers in the rice belt for conducting an inquiry and completing it soon.

The DCO said he had already submitted his findings and now it was up to the ministry to further investigate the matter.

He said Passco had been assigned to buy rain-damaged paddy for 30 days from the rain-affected areas, but it stopped buying within six days.

The Sindh Balochistan Rice Millers Association had already expressed its concern over the abrupt closure of procurement centres in Sindh and Balochistan.

They said Passco had to pay Rs600 million on account of fare to the millers. And the new development would compound the problem, they said.