10 Oct 2012

SEAP Quarterly Newsletter 2012-04

In this IssueYear End Greetings to Friends, Partners & Supporters of IPNI Southeast Asia
IPNI Program Updates
Year End Greetings to Friends, Partners & Supporters of IPNI Southeast Asia

New IPNI SEAP Publication: Specialty Coffee - Managing Quality

2012 Scholar Award Recipients Announced by IPNI

News From the Region

Genting Plantation collaborates with DuPont to increase oil palm yield

Typhoon Pablo hit bananas hardest in the Philippines

Palm oil producers look to diversify crops

Agribusiness groups in the Philippines, Thailand, and Myanmar form rice consortium

Oil palm planters call for flexible foreign worker intake system

Indonesia could plant 14.5 million ha of oil palm in Borneo without further deforestation

Palm oil prices set for a volatile 2013 in oversupplied market

Fertilizer to increase cocoa yields sustainably

Upcoming Events
Surely, you know the feeling of amazement that always overcomes us in December: How come that the year is already over? It seems we only started it. And what a year it has been for us, filled with exciting work, challenges, surprises and some significant achievements. The last 12 months have shown how much reliable partnerships matter for us. Implementing sustainable intensification for productive agriculture that improves food security and income generation is not a trivial task that can be accomplished by an individual organization. We want to use this moment to thank you for your ongoing support, for your interest to work with the IPNI Southeast Asia Program. It is a privilege, which we value highly.

In 2012 we worked on consolidating and expanding the analyses of oil palm production information that we generated between 2006 and 2011 in our Best Management Practices (BMP) project for Mature Plantations. To do so, we have worked with existing partners to present results at industry venues in our region and beyond, and we developed new partnerships with universities and plantation companies that will lead to more results in 2013.
Our oil palm work has seen a steady growth in 2012 through new conceptual developments and on the ground activities. The project on BMP for All Palm Growth Stages has been confronted with the realities of labor shortages that currently put the whole industry under pressure. The strong relationships with our plantation partners enabled us to find solutions to continue the implementation of this project in Sabah (Malaysia) and Sumatra (Indonesia). We thank our partners for the ongoing efforts to realize these activities, which will identify further opportunities to decrease the gaps between actual and potential crop yields. The project on developing Nutrition BMP for Marginal Lands, which we implement in Kalimantan (Indonesia), has seen challenges that are commonplace when research is realized within commercial production processes. However, a dialogue between all involved enabled us to adapt the implementation processes accordingly. We already see tangible and promising results on yield improvement in this project. In 2012, we have started the implementation of the Plantation Intelligence initiative that supports the intensification process with innovative analyses of production information that is routinely collected in oil palm plantations. In 2013, this initiative will grow into a dynamic project driven by multiple partnerships between the plantation and the fertilizer industry, and academic institutions. Finally, we are proud to report that the 2013 start up of a BMP project in West Africa was successfully prepared with IPNI Africa and with the support of our industry.

The last year has also seen significant achievements by the Nutrient Expert (NE) Cross Regional Program that is hosted by us and driven by a strong partnership between IPNI headquarters and regional IPNI programs in India, China, East Africa and Southeast Asia. This program develops the innovative NE decision support software that enables maize and wheat growers to reliably identify location specific fertilizer recommendations that support environmentally sustainable and economically profitable intensification of these cropping systems.

During 2012 we have continued an ample dialogue and negotiations with regional institutions to expand the portfolio of commodities we work on. We currently develop partnership and business models that will permit us to contribute to the intensification of coffee, rice and cassava production systems. Look for further news in the coming year.

Kindly accept our appreciation of your ongoing support. We look forward to another year of collaboration that will improve the performance of agricultural production systems through better crop nutrition. Kind regards and all the best to you for 2013.

Thomas Oberthür, Director of the IPNI Southeast Asia Program
New IPNI SEAP Publication: Specialty Coffee - Managing Quality
Over the years, we have found that there is a great deal of published information on how to produce more coffee, but relatively little on how to produce a fine high quality coffee that creates an excellent cup. This has stimulated us to produce this book, which was successfully launched at the recently concluded 24th ASIC International Conference on Coffee Science in Costa Rica. The book brought together 36 specialists to assemble and share knowledge on a broad range of topics spanning the whole supply chain.

As so often occurs when personal preferences and tastes are involved in defining quality, the process of producing magnificent coffees is as much an art as a science. Consequently, as we developed this book, we tried to combine hard science with art and put it into a business context: the result is a book with a wide range of styles. This book is neither a blueprint nor a recipe for specialty coffee production. Our intention is to provide information and ideas that stimulate and support creative thinking that can provide the basis for developing and adjusting the myriad processes and details of the specialty coffee supply chains that produce a multitude of coffees with distinctive traits from a diverse range of origins. Read more

Click here to order the book.
2012 Scholar Award Recipients Announced by IPNI
The 2012 winners of the Scholar Award sponsored by the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) have been selected.

“We are very pleased at the growing interest for our Scholar Award competition, which has once again attracted many high quality applicants from a diverse mix of agricultural research centers—this year located in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, and the United States,” said Dr. Terry L. Roberts, IPNI President. “Being selected from this group is a great accomplishment that each student should be proud of, as should their advisers, professors, and supporting institutions. Our selection committee adheres to rigorous guidelines in considering important aspects of each applicant’s academic achievements.”

The individual awards of USD 2,000 are available to graduate students in sciences relevant to plant nutrition and management of crop nutrients. Mr.Choon Cheak Sim, a Ph.D student in Plant Nutrition and Soil Science at the Universiti Putra Malaysia, was selected to receive the IPNI Scholar Award for the Southeast Asia region. His research is focused on identifying K-efficient oil palm genotypes and studying the physiological mechanisms of K uptake and utilization efficiencies in oil palm genotypes. Information gained from the study will eventually lead to lower dependency on potash fertilizer for palm oil production. Mr. Sim's career goal is to apply his plant nutrition and soil fertility knowledge for sustainable crop production and optimal use of resources.

Funding for the scholar award program is provided through support of IPNI member companies, primary producers of N, P, K, and other fertilizers. The recipients of the IPNI Scholar Award are selected by regional committees of IPNI scientific staff. The awards are presented directly to the students at a preferred location and no specific duties are required of them. Graduate students in the disciplines of soil and plant sciences including agronomy, horticulture, ecology, soil fertility, soil chemistry, crop physiology, and other areas related to plant nutrition are encouraged to apply. Graduate students attending a degree-granting institution located in any country with an IPNI program region are eligible. More information is available from IPNI staff, from individual universities, or from the IPNI website: www.ipni.net/awards.
News from the Region
Genting Plantation collaborates with DuPont to increase oil palm yield
Genting Plantation Bhd, via unit, ACGT Sdn Bhd, is collaborating with DuPont, a global innovation and science company, to increase oil palm yield and unlock the natural potentials of the crop.

According to ACGT chief executive officer, Derrik Khoo Sin Huat, the collaboration will accelerate the use of genes and biomarkers to identify superior oil palm breeds. The marker-assisted selection would shorten the time for an oil palm breed research to six years from 11 using the traditional selection system. Through this collaboration, DuPont would transfer its technology to ACGT within the next 30 months and provide guidance, expertise, system as well as processes applied in corn and soybean for applications in oil palm. DuPont would also provide a range of interactions with ACGT, including working in one another's laboratories to develop skills, tools and techniques aimed at increasing oil palm yield.

Source: Daily Express, Dec. 4, 2012, http://www.dailyexpress.com.my
Typhoon Pablo hit bananas hardest in the Philippines
Reports by the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) place damage to agriculture due to Typhoon “Pablo” at P11.23 billion (US$273.5 million) as of Dec. 10, 2012. DA data showed that crop damage alone reached P10.04 billion, with the banana sub-sector suffering the biggest losses in the order of about P7.4 billion. Losses for other crops were estimated at P407.4 million for paddy rice; P19.7 million for rice stored in government warehouses; P955.3 million for corn; P87.2 million for high value crops; P766.8 million for coconuts; P28.7 million for fisheries; and P409.8 million for livestock. Losses due to agricultural infrastructure reached more than P1.19 billion with damaged irrigation facilities valued at almost P1.17 billion.

Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley provinces, which are major banana producing areas, were hard hit by typhoon Pablo. There are also concerns that the floods might spread diseases that would hamper fruiting, kill banana shrubs, and render the affected areas unsuitable for replanting.

Bananas are the Philippines' second major agricultural export next to coconut oil. In 2011, bananas led the list of the country’s major crops by volume of production, with a total of 9.2 million metric tons, estimated at P106.5 billion (US$2.6 billion). The Davao Region produced the bulk of the country’s bananas with 3.9 million metric tons or around 42% of the nation’s total banana harvest. Around a fifth of the country’s banana plantations are located in the Davao Region with 88,739 hectares. The country’s banana export industry earns up to P34 billion annually, according to industry estimates.

Source: The Philippine Daily Inquirer, Dec. 12, 2012, http://business.inquirer.net
Palm oil producers look to diversify crops
Publicly listed crude palm oil (CPO) producers look to crop diversification as part of their business plans next year, as prices of palm oil decline due to oversupply in two of the largest palm producers, Indonesia and Malaysia.

PT Sampoerna Agro (SGRO), part of Sampoerna Group, will be increasing the area of its sago and rubber plantations in 2013. The company currently has 21,600 hectares of land on Meranti Islands regency, Riau province, for its sago plantations. Of the total area, Sampoerna has planted around 8,000 hectares since 2009 and will be planting another 2,000 hectares next year. Planting is expected to finish by 2015.

In the rubber sector, Sampoerna has planted 150 hectares out of the 100,000 hectares of industrial forest concession (HTI) land that it operates in Ketapang regency, West Kalimantan. Unlike oil palm, rubber is a new business for Sampoerna as it only began venturing into the business this year.

Meanwhile, PT PP London Sumatra Indonesia (LSIP) plans to expand its cacao plantations and cooperate with parent company PT Indofood Sukses Makmur to develop its cacao business. According to London Sumatra vice president director Sonny Lianto, it will be easier for London Sumatra’s cocoa products to enter the consumer goods industry since its parent company already operates in the industry.

Source: The Jakarta Post, Dec. 4, 2012, http://www.thejakartapost.com
Agribusiness groups in the Philippines, Thailand, and Myanmar form rice consortium
Key agribusiness groups from the Philippines, Myanmar and Thailand have formed a consortium to develop a formidable Southeast Asian rice supply chain using the proprietary hybrid and premium rice technology of local firm SL Agritech Corp.

According to Henry Lim Bon Liong, chairman and chief executive of SL Agritech, which is part of the Sterling Paper group of companies, his group has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the IBTC group of Myanmar and Capital Rice Co. Ltd. of Thailand to set up the three-country private sector partnership. He said the vision of the collaboration was “to become the biggest rice consortium” in the region. SL Agritech will contribute its rice technology and varieties to the venture while the Myanmar partner will provide the land for production. The Thai partner will handle global marketing. Production is expected to commence in 2013.

The consortium is set to have its production base in Myanmar, where cost is very low and the government provides a lot of tax incentives. It will also be in Myanmar where a company to be owned by the consortium will be incorporated. Partner IBTC group is Myanmar’s leading manufacturer, marketer and distributor of alcoholic beverages. Capital Rice, which is part of the STC group, is one of Thailand’s top rice exporters. Lim estimated the Thai partner’s exports at 2.2 million metric tons in 2011 while the annual average was about 1.8 million MT. SL Agritech will initially contribute its high-yielding SL-8H hybrid rice variety to the venture but Lim said this might also be a springboard for the premium Doña Maria rice variety.

SL Agritech started in 1998 as an unincorporated entity performing research work on hybrid rice, inspired by the success of China in becoming a surplus producer and exporter of rice despite its limited arable land. The Lim family sought and obtained the assistance of notable Chinese scientist Yuan Long Ping to develop hybrid rice varieties suitable to tropical conditions prevalent in the Philippines.

Starting modestly with land provided by the provincial government of Laguna in 1999, the company initiated the development of several hybrid rice parental lines, which were later transferred to a 40-hectare farm in Sta. Cruz, Laguna, which now houses the research and breeding complex of the company. Its proprietary hybrid rice SL-8H, which was initially released during the dry season in 2002-2003, marked the start of the company’s expansion and the development of its marketing organization.

Source: The Philippine Daily Inquirer, 30 September 2012, http://business.inquirer.net
Oil palm planters call for flexible foreign worker intake system
Oil palm planters want the government to reactivate the fast-track system for foreign worker intake approval or allow agents to bring in the extra hands to harvest some five million tonnes of oil palm fruits rotting in the fields. Malaysian Estate Owners Association (MEOA) president Boon Weng Siew said the industry, which has been over-dependent on Indonesian workers to harvest the oil palm fruits, now find it increasingly difficult to recruit workers from the republic because of competition from plantation expansion there.

Recruitment from Bangadesh has recently been allowed, but on a government-to-government basis. With negotiations with Bangladesh taking too long, many Malaysian estates continue to face acute labor shortage to harvest the oil palm fruits. An estimated five million tonnes of oil palm fruits, equivalent to a million tonnes of crude palm oil, are left rotting in the field. At current pricing of RM2,500 per tonne, that translates to RM2.5 billion in opportunity loss of export earnings.

Foreign workers, which used to make up half of the 600,000 workforce in the estates, have now been severely reduced. Boon urges that foreign worker intake not be confined to government-to-government negotiation with Bangladesh and that agents should be allowed to bring in foreign workers from any country.

"Otherwise, the government should reactivate the foreign worker intake approval fast-track system under the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry. This is almost equivalent to a one-stop centre. Planters prefer this option rather than having to deal with three or four ministries," he added.

IOI Corp Bhd executive chairman Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng concurred with Boon and reiterated the call for the government to be more flexible in foreign worker intakes. According to Lee, the industry has been finding ways to mechanize for the last 40 years, but find it difficult to do so. Plantation companies fully support the government policy to employ more locals and enhance mechanized harvesting on the estates. However, many young locals entering the labour market are not interested in menial jobs like the harvesting of oil palm fruits.

Source: Business Times, Oct. 30, 2012, http://www.btimes.com.my
Indonesia could plant 14.5m ha of oil palm in Borneo without further deforestation
Indonesia could establish some 14.5 million hectares of oil palm plantations in Borneo without needing to clear rainforest or high-carbon peatlands according to the finding of a new interactive mapping tool developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI).

The tool, unveiled at the opening of the 10th meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), aims to highlight specific areas in Indonesian Borneo — also known as Kalimantan — where oil palm developers could potentially establish "sustainable" oil palm plantations. These exclude forests, wetlands, and places that have been deforested since 2005 — the cut-off for date for plantations to qualify for RSPO certification.

WRI also launched a “Forest Cover Analyzer” that provides maps of deforestation that has occurred on an annual basis in Kalimantan since 2001. The WRI, in a statement, said that the 'Suitability Mapper' can help companies and government planners find potential sites for sustainable palm oil production and plan field assessments for further investigation. The 'Forest Cover Analyzer' meanwhile provides a unique set of tools to help buyers, investors, and governments strengthen incentives for avoiding deforestation when developing new plantations.

The tools allow users to set parameters to find sites with specific characteristics, a function that WRI's Beth Gingold says will help growers "identify potentially suitable sites for sustainable palm oil production" and the government "assess where deforestation has occurred in the past." She adds that investors can determine whether proposed concessions are located in at-risk areas, including rainforests and peatlands.

While the tools are presently available only for Kalimantan, WRI intends to expand coverage to other parts of Indonesia where oil palm is fast-expanding at the expense of forests. WRI is also developing advanced mapping tools on land use, tenure, concessions, and forest cover.

Source: mongabay.com, October 31, 2012, http://news.mongabay.com
Palm oil prices set for a volatile 2013 in oversupplied market
Palm oil prices are set to start 2013 on a sour note as record high stocks and rising output in Southeast Asia overwhelm already weak demand, while regulatory uncertainty in top buyers India and China adds to the gloomy outlook.

Analysts and traders at an industry meeting in Bali expect the world's biggest palm oil producers, Indonesia and Malaysia, to boost supplies next year, barring any weather disruptions. An increase in the amount of edible oil on the global market is likely to further weigh on benchmark Malaysian futures, which are set to post their worst annual performance this year since the 2008 financial crisis. The profits of big palm oil firms, such as Singapore's Wilmar and Malaysia's Sime Darby, are also likely to be eroded.

While lower prices will attract food demand, appetite could be curbed by possible regulations by China and India. India, the world's biggest buyer, may set higher taxes on edible oil imports to protect oilseed farmers, and China launches strict quality curbs for imports on Jan 1.

Palm oil futures are expected to trade between RM2,300 and RM2,600 between now and February 2013, as high stocks more than make up for strong Asian demand growth. Analysts and traders saw palm oil prices averaging RM2,500 next year, or 17 % off this year's average of RM3,016. Palm oil is now trading at above RM2,350, sharply lower than year-ago levels of above RM3,000.

Source: The Star Online, Dec. 1, 2012, http://biz.thestar.com.my
Fertilizer to increase cocoa yields sustainably
Cocoa producing regions throughout Côte d’Ivoire are battling declining yields and increased tree mortality, but affordable fertilizer production and distribution is one of the most effective tools to help reverse this trend.

With this in mind, Mars and the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) recently announced that the first shipment of a new fertilizer blend had arrived in the famous cocoa belt of Soubre, a region where local farmers have been struggling to revitalize declining cocoa farms.

Using fertilizer on cocoa farms is not a new concept, but as high quality fertilizer was very expensive and difficult to get, farmers would rarely use it. Until recently little was known about its actual impact and what type of return on investment farmers could expect. Important details, such as how much fertilizer would be needed, and the cost, were also unknown.

A new study by CIRAD, the French agriculture research organization, has some promising new answers and results. The study, funded by IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative, Mars Chocoloate, and Yara, shows that already after one year of application, degraded cocoa foliage is improving, and farmers are talking about the impact on their farms - cocoa trees are doing so much better that in some instances the can no longer see the sky.

Fertilizer use has also slowed the rate of tree mortality and resulted in higher yields and better, higher-quality pods.

Although there was considerable variability based on several factors including rainfall and maintenance, the study is showing a significant positive impact on cocoa production.

Farmers will have to consider a number of good farming practices to enhance the region's cocoa production, but the WCF thinks fertilizer is one of the most crucial - and has the potential to produce prompt returns. "Introducing it on the ground in Soubre is a win for farmers, consumers, and entrepreneurs, and it brings us closer to our goal of making our cocoa production as sustainable and profitable for local farmers as possible," said the WCF.

Reprinted from Cocoa World C&CI November 2012, www.coffeeandcocoa.net
Upcoming Events
Asia Choco Congress
26-28 March 2013
Jakarta, Indonesia

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5th Annual SCAA Symposium
10-11 April 2013
Boston, Massachusetts, USA

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25th Annual SCAA Exposition
11-14 April 2013
Boston, Massachusetts, USA

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10th ISP National Seminar 2013 (NATSEM 2013)
24-26 June 2013
Kingwood Hotel, Sibu, Sarawak, Malaysia
Theme: Confronting Management Challenges in the Oil Palm Industry

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International Palm Oil Congress (PIPOC 2013)
19-21 November 2013
Kuala Lumpur Convention Center, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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Disclaimer: News from the Region is a selection of regional agriculture-related articles extracted from internet sources. IPNI does not verify, endorse, or take responsibility for the accuracy, currency, completeness or quality of the content in these sites. Due to the nature of this service, IPNI cannot always verify every single news item. Be sure to check with the official websites of the companies, universities, research centers, and government agencies before using any information in the SEAP newsletters or webpages, as IPNI cannot vouch for news items submitted by the public. Links to external websites are included for the sole purpose of providing easy access to the source. The inclusion of external hyperlinks does not constitute IPNI’s endorsement of the views expressed by these websites. IPNI shall not be responsible for any damages caused directly or indirectly by the use of any information or content from within linked websites.

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