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Archive for March 2011

China’s coming grain dependence

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Xinjiang street food vendor. Photo: China Daily/Lin Dihuan

How much grain will China import? How will it compare with their soybean imports? No one knows for sure, the Earth Policy Institute’s Lester Brown has said. “But if China were to import only 20 percent of its grain, it would need 80 million tons, an amount only slightly less than the 90 million tons of grain the United States exports to all countries each year.” This would put heavy additional pressure on scarce exportable supplies of wheat and corn, said Brown.

For China, the handwriting is on the wall, the Earth Policy briefing has stated, in ‘Can the United States feed China’. It will almost certainly have to turn to the outside world for grain to avoid politically destabilizing food price rises. To import massive quantities of grain, China will necessarily draw heavily on the United States, far and away the world’s largest grain exporter. To be dependent on imported grain, much of it from the United States, will be China’s worst nightmare come true.

“For US consumers, China’s worst nightmare could become ours. If China enters the US grain market big time, as now seems inevitable, American consumers will find themselves competing with 1.4 billion Chinese consumers with fast-rising incomes for the US grain harvest, driving up food prices.”

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Written by makanaka

March 23, 2011 at 23:33

So, why did the powers now attacking Libya easily tolerate Gaddafi for the last 10 years?

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A Gadhafi supporter waves a regime flag on Green Square in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Photo: Spiegel/Reuters

Right from the first, Muammar Gaddafi made no secret of his hatred for the Tunisian and Egyptian rebellions against Ben Ali’s and Mubarak’s dictatorial rule, this comment in l’Humanité in English has explained. In his own idiosyncratic way he has just hit upon the safest way to put the great post-colonial powers back into the saddle by providing the Tunisian and Egyptian former dictators’ accomplices with a pretext for bombing his territory. Paris, London or Washington are thus once more taking over the controls.

Des insurgés fêtent la destruction d'un tank des forces pro-Kadhafi après une attaque des avions français à 25 kmde Benghazi. Photo: Ouest-France/Epa

A smell of oil gives the neo-colonial powers’ real objectives away. Protection of the civilians is not among them. And this fuels criticism. Since resolution 1973 was voted by the Security Council last Friday despite the abstention and reservation of several states, French Rafale or British Tornado planes can drop their bombs on the tyrant’s hideouts. There are and will be major collateral damages, more civilian victims. As was the case twenty years ago, during the first Gulf war led by an international coalition where the US then played the most prominent part, France being content with playing the part of first-rank participant.

This time the French president Nicolas Sarkozy stands on the Western armada’s front line. Last Friday he was saying before the cameras that the aim is “to protect defenceless civilians” and to support the emergence of democracy. UNO’s resolution stipulates that the war objective pursued is only to protect “the populations and civilian zones under the threat of attacks in Lybia’s Arab Jamhiriya.” But these verbal precautions are meant to rally the countries that balk at approving the Security Council’s resolution, or at least to persuade them to abstain. They ill conceal the Western powers’ war-prone strategies.

Today Libya is the next biggest producer of oil in Africa after Nigeria. And it sits on huge reserves. Enough to stir limitless greed, even as, Japan’s nuclear catastrophe aiding, oil seems to be a most highly coveted fuel. The great capitalist powers easily came to terms with the Gaddafi regime during the last decade. Libya’s oil thus represents nearly 20% of Italy’s supply and at least 10% of France’s.

Pro-Gadhafi forces reportedly reached the outskirts of the rebel-held city of Benghazi on Tuesday. This image shows rebels retreating under fire from Gadhafi's troops. Photo: Spiegel/AP

The great Western capitals consider that part of the Libyan elite who have broken off with the guide might grab all or part of the oil and constitute an even more “pliant” partner than the present regime. Especially as they would stand indebted to the West for its military intervention and as the social question, which is incontrovertible in Tunisia or in Egypt, does not figure so prominently in Libya, whose population was somehow driven into exile: its migrants (4,5 million out of 10 million inhabitants) being caught between two fires, had no demands to formulate other than the right to save their skin by fleeing the country.

[Original French article is ‘L’aubaine pour reprendre la main sur le monde arabe’ by Bruno Odent, ‘Libya: A Golden Opportunity for Western Powers to Regain Control over the Arab World’]

“A puzzling question preoccupied commentators in the aftermath of the Obama administration’s apparent about-face sometime around March 16, the day before passage of UNSC 1973. Prior to that day, conventional wisdom held that the White House opposed military intercession, even in the shape of a no-fly zone, and despite the increasingly impassioned pleas of Britain, France and the Libyan National Council in rebel-controlled Benghazi.” This editorial statement, titled ‘Of Principle and Peril’, has been made by the editors of Middle East Research and Information Project (Merip).

Sur la route entre Benghazi et Ajdabiyah, un char des forces pro-khadafistes a été abandonné, touché par les bombardements de la coalition. Photo: Reuters

The objections to a no-fly zone, given voice before Congress by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, were pragmatic rather than principled. Among their number: Libya is a huge country, much larger in area than the twin swathes of Iraq the US and Britain policed in the 1990s; the necessary military assets, such as aircraft carriers, were not in theater; and Qaddafi’s helicopter gunships and tanks would be undeterred by an aerial exclusion zone, just as Saddam’s forces were in 1991, when they crushed the uprising in southern Iraq despite US mastery of the skies. Gates underlined for the legislators that imposing this measure would be, in essence, an act of war. “Let’s call a spade a spade,” he said on March 2. “A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses.”

So why, in UNSC 1973, did the US push for and attain an authorization of force that not only includes a no-fly zone but also goes beyond it? Mainstream accounts, since they are molded by White House media outreach, have predictably emphasized the administration’s mounting worries about massacres as Qaddafi’s legions regained ground, as well as President Barack Obama’s desire to be on the right side of the struggle between peoples and autocrats in the Arab world. UNSC 1973 is portrayed as a victory for the humanitarian interventionist element of Obama’s foreign policy team, among them UN Ambassador Susan Rice and adviser Samantha Power, who are eager to expiate the sins of the Clinton administration in ignoring Rwanda. The resolution is depicted simultaneously as belated, but determined fulfillment of Obama’s pledge in his Cairo speech of June 2009 to revise the list of US priorities in the Middle East, bringing US interests into greater harmony with the aspirations of the region’s populace.

The more plausible explanation for the confused signals from the White House is that official circles were engaged in debate over whether Qaddafi would win. If, as it appeared in the second week of March, the Libyan strongman would rapidly quell the rebellion and reestablish his dominion across the country, there would be little point to Western intervention.

Written by makanaka

March 23, 2011 at 21:54

Is the resolution on Libya legal under international law?

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Is the UN Security Council decision concerning the Libya ‘no fly zone’ in alignment with the Charter it is governed by?

A brief examination of this and related questions concerning the UN Security Council decision:

Under the United Nations Charter, the functions and powers of the Security Council are:

* to maintain international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations;
* to investigate any dispute or situation which might lead to international friction;
* to recommend methods of adjusting such disputes or the terms of settlement;
* to formulate plans for the establishment of a system to regulate armaments;
* to determine the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression and to recommend what action should be taken;
* to call on Members to apply economic sanctions and other measures not involving the use of force to prevent or stop aggression;
* to take military action against an aggressor;
* to recommend the admission of new Members;
* to exercise the trusteeship functions of the United Nations in “strategic areas”;
* to recommend to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and, together with the Assembly, to elect the Judges of the International Court of Justice.

When adopting resolution 1973(2011) did the Security Council members exhaust all the steps listed under their functions and powers, before the step “to take military action”?

How does authorizing the enforcement of a ‘no fly zone’ by military means “maintain international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations”? What investigation of a dispute in Libya or the situation in Libya was done by the UN Security Council in the weeks before 2011 March 17? Did the UNSC recommend dispute resolutions or settlement methods prior to 2011 March 17 – if so what were they and who were they reported to? Did the UNSC call on UN Members to apply “measures not involving the use of force” such as economic sanctions? If the UNSC members did none of the above – where are their reports to the UN General Assembly and to their national governments? – why did they move directly to taking military action?

This what was done on 2011 March 17:

Adopting resolution 1973 (2011) by a vote of 10 in favour to none against, with 5 abstentions…

Who are the members of the UN Security Council?

The Council is composed of five permanent members: China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States. There are ten (10) non-permanent members (with year of term’s end): Bosnia and Herzegovina (2011), Germany (2012), Portugal (2012), Brazil (2011), India (2012), South Africa (2012), Colombia (2012), Lebanon (2011), Gabon (2011), Nigeria (2011).

How did they vote on the Libya ‘no fly zone’ resolution?

The five abstentions were Brazil, China, Germany, India, Russian Federation – that is, two permanent members of the Security Council abstained.

Why did these members abstain?

[This text is from the UN press release] “The representative of the United States said that today, the Council had responded to the Libyan peoples’ cry for help.  The Council’s purpose was clear: to protect Libyan civilians.  The Security Council had authorized the use of force, including enforcement of a no-fly zone, to protect civilians and civilian areas targeted by Colonel Muammar Al-Qadhafi, his allied forces and mercenaries.”

“The representatives of China and the Russian Federation, explaining their abstentions, prioritized peaceful means of resolving the conflict and said that many questions had not been answered in regard to provisions of the resolution, including, as the Russian representative put it, how and by whom the measures would be enforced and what the limits of the engagement would be.  He said the resolution included a sorely needed ceasefire, which he had called for earlier.  China had not blocked the action with a negative vote in consideration of the wishes of the Arab League and the African Union, its representative said.”

“The delegations of India, Germany and Brazil, having also abstained, equally stressed the need for peaceful resolution of the conflict and warned against unintended consequences of armed intervention.”

With reference to the US representative’s explanation, what exactly was the “cry for help”, who voiced it, how is it representative of the people of Libya, and in what way did this “cry for help” reach the UN General Assembly?

The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations. Comprising all 192 Members of the United Nations,

The Libyan Arab Jamahiriya is a member of the UN General Assembly and was admitted on 14-12-1955.

How do Members of the UNSC vote?

This is covered in Chapter VII of the UN Charter

[Rule 40] Voting in the Security Council shall be in accordance with the relevant Articles of the Charter and of the Statute of the International Court of Justice

What does the UN Charter say about the Security Council?

This is covered in Chapter V of the Charter. The composition of the Council is covered by Article 23, which also says: “…due regard being specially paid, in the first instance to the contribution of Members of the United Nations to the maintenance of international peace and security …”

The functions and powers of the Security Council are covered in Article 24 of the Charter which also says: “In order to ensure prompt and effective action by the United Nations, its Members confer on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security…”

What is the significance of the 10 votes for the Libya resolution?

Voting is covered in Article 27 of the UN Charter:

“1. Each member of the Security Council shall have one vote.

2. Decisions of the Security Council on procedural matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members.”

This brief background raises questions that must be asked by the representative of the Government of India in the UN. Most important, the UN Charter insists first on the maintenance of international peace and security. This principle has been ignored by the 10 members who voted for the resolution. The functions and powers of the UNSC place military action as following several others – resolution, settlement, economic. The 10 members who voted have violated the procedure. All 15 members have not explained why other measures – including an objective analysis (see India’s member’s explanation in Annex) – were not followed up by them before agreeing to take up the Libya resolution 1973(2011).

Referencess:

Security Council Approves ‘No-Fly Zone’ over Libya, Authorizing ‘All Necessary Measures’ to Protect Civilians, by Vote of 10 in Favour with 5 Abstentions (2011 March 17)

Charter of the United Nations

Annexure:

India’s Explanation of Vote after the vote on Libyan Resolution in the UN Security Council delivered by Ambassador Manjeev Singh Puri, Deputy Permanent Representative, on 17 March 2011

1. India has been following with serious concern the developments in Libya, which have led to loss of numerous lives and injuries to many more. We are very concerned with the welfare of the civilian population and foreigners in Libya. We deplore the use of force, which is totally unacceptable, and must not be resorted to.

2. The UN Secretary-General has appointed a Special Envoy, who has just visited Libya. We support his appointment and welcome his mission. We have not had the benefit of his report or even a report from the Secretariat on his assessment as yet. This would have given us an objective analysis of the situation on ground. The African Union is also sending a High Level Panel to Libya to make serious efforts for a peaceful end to the crisis there. We must stress the importance of political efforts, including those of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, to address the situation.

3. The resolution that the Council has adopted today authorizes far reaching measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter with relatively little credible information on the situation on the ground in Libya. We also do not have clarity about details of enforcement measures, including who and with what assets will participate and how these measures will be exactly carried out. It is, of course, very important that there is full respect for sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Libya.

4. Mr President, the financial measures that are proposed in the resolution could impact, directly or through indirect routes, ongoing trade and investment activities of a number of member-states thereby adversely affecting the economic interests of the Libyan people and others dependent on these trade and economic ties. Moreover, we had to ensure that the measures will mitigate and not exacerbate an already difficult situation for the people of Libya. Clarity in the resolution on any spill-over affects of these measures would have been very important.

5. Mr President, we have abstained on the resolution in view of the above. I would like to re-emphasize that India continues to be gravely concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya and calls on the Libyan authorities to cease fire, protect the civilian population and address the legitimate demands of the Libyan people.

I thank you.

Written by makanaka

March 21, 2011 at 18:56

The West’s Libya campaign has begun

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De la fumée s'élève au-dessus de Benghazi où s'écrase un avion, le 19 mars 2011. Photo: Libération/AFP-Patrick Baz

French military jets have begun enforcing the UN backed no-fly zone over Libya, Russia Today has reported, as international forces prepare to carry out possible air strikes. At an emergency meeting in Paris, attended by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN chief Ban Ki-moon and representatives of the Arab League, it was decided to resort to military action to enforce the no-fly zone.

RT quoted news reports as having said that the operation is expected to involve British, Arab, Canadian and Danish jets, as well as French. ­Italy, France and Spain will provide airbases for support in the region. Arab states – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates – said they do back the no-fly zone over Libyan airspace. There is a report in the French news site Libération titled ‘Sarkozy annonce le début d’une action militaire en Libye’.

The UN news service has said that the UN Security Council “today effectively authorised the use of force in Libya to protect civilians from attack”, specifically in the eastern city of Benghazi, which Colonel Muammar Al-Qadhafi has reportedly said he will storm tonight to end a revolt against his regime.

Acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which provides for the use of force if needed, the Council adopted a resolution by 10 votes to zero, with five abstentions, authorizing Member States “to take all necessary measures… to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamhariya, including Benghazi, while excluding an occupation force.” The abstentions included China and Russia, which have the power of veto, as well as Brazil, Germany and India.

The full text of the UN Security Council resolution is here.

What is the ‘no fly’ zone about, and why are the Western powers committing fighter jets to maintaining it? Aijaz Ahmad has been interviewed on MR Zine. He said: “A no-fly zone is not about flying aircrafts. It’s about laying the groundwork for occupying at least certain parts of the country and for destroying the garrisons and fighting capacity on the ground. Robert Gates and others in charge of the American defense establishment have said that a no-fly zone really means a ground attack on the country. So that’s what a no-fly zone really is about. It’s not about some great air force that Gaddafi has because he doesn’t. Part of this council that has been set up in Benghazi has called for a no-fly zone.” It is about Libyan oil and gas, after all.

Fukushima nuclear emergency, Japan

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08 February 2017: A month short of six years after the 11 March Fukushima disaster began unfolding, the situation at the nuclear power plant has entered a new phase of danger, one which modern industrial civilisation has no experience with and very little knowledge about.

The highest radiation level at Fukushima is now much higher than the highest ever measured at Chernobyl, which was 300 sieverts per hour, an inconceivably high dose which can kill a person almost instantly. Radiation is usually measured in thousandths of a sievert, called millisieverts. For example, most people receive around 2.4 millisieverts per year from background radiation, or only 0.0002739726 per hour.

But a radiation level of 530 sieverts per hour has just been measured at Fukushima’s number 2 reactor. This new record at Fukushima is 70% higher than that of Chernobyl. (The highest level previously measured at Fukushima was 73 sieverts per hour, in March 2012.) The leakage of highly radioactive water has been continuing every day, a daily flow of radioactively contaminated groundwater into the ocean. The estimates are of about 300,000 litres per day of relatively low-level radioactive waste water. But there are storage tanks with 800,000 tons of highly radioactive water, as every day about 100 tons of water are poured on the three melted down cores.

18 December 2011: You will find the Updates archive, info links, video clips and pictures on the Japan emergency page.

Street lights shine in the abandoned town of Iitate, outside the 20 kilometre exclusion zone around the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, in northeast Japan. Residents were forced to evacuate the town after radiation levels from the leaking plant exceeded those inside the exclusion zone. Nov. 20, 2011. Photo: Mainichi Daily News / AP Photo / Greg Baker

More than nine months have passed since the 11 March earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan and triggered a still-unresolved disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. This set of news reports, news features and editorial in the Mainichi Daily News reveals the chronic deception and criminal corporate irresponsibility that continue to hinder all meaningful effort to mitigate the meltdown, and to obstruct at all costs the truth.

Mainichi Daily News has said that the government has declared a stable “cold shutdown” at the plant, representing a major milestone in its handling of the disaster. The public has keenly waited for the nuclear reactors to be brought under stable control, but Japan is still standing on thin ice and is miles away from a situation where it can really declare that the crisis is under control.

In the meantime, rebuilding the lives of residents near the crippled plants has been an urgent critical challenge. On the occasion of its latest political declaration, the government needs to renew its resolve to settle the crisis and achieve regional recovery. The disaster-hit reactors are certainly now in a more stable condition. However, the phrase “cold shutdown” usually refers to suspension of a sound reactor. The fact that the government is attempting to apply this term in a severe accident in which three reactors have suffered core meltdowns should be called into question. The government should rather explain in detail the possibility of any additional explosions and whether a recriticality accident has been ruled out.

Police on duty at a roadblock at the edge of the 20 kilometre exclusion zone around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, at Namie, in northeast Japan. Nov. 20, 2011. Photo: Mainichi Daily News / AP Photo / Greg Baker

Simulations suggest that nuclear fuel has melted inside the reactor containment vessels, eroding their concrete floors. Although Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the stricken nuclear plant, has indicated that melted fuel has also been cooled down by water, this is nothing but speculation. We urge the utility and the government to find a way to ascertain the precise condition of the fuel.

Mainichi Daily News has reported that conditions at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant are far worse than its operator or the government has admitted, according to freelance journalist Tomohiko Suzuki, who spent more than a month working undercover at the power station. “Absolutely no progress is being made” towards the final resolution of the crisis, Suzuki told reporters at a Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan news conference on Dec. 15. Suzuki, 55, worked for a Toshiba Corp. subsidiary as a general laborer there from July 13 to Aug. 22, documenting sloppy repair work, companies including plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) playing fast and loose with their workers’ radiation doses, and a marked concern for appearances over the safety of employees or the public.

An earthquake-damaged grave is seen at a cemetery in the abandoned town of Katsurao, outside the 20 kilometre exclusion zone around the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, in northeast Japan. The town was abandoned when radiation levels became unsafe for long term exposure. Nov. 20, 2011. Photo: Mainichi Daily News / AP Photo / Greg Baker

For example, the no-entry zones around the plant – the 20-kilometer radius exclusion zone and the extension covering most of the village of Iitate and other municipalities – have more to do with convenience that actual safety, Suzuki says. The situation at the plant itself is no better, where he says much of the work is simply “for show,” fraught with corporate jealousies and secretiveness and “completely different” from the “all-Japan” cooperative effort being presented by the government.

“Reactor makers Toshiba and Hitachi (brought in to help resolve the crisis) each have their own technology, and they don’t talk to each other. Toshiba doesn’t tell Hitachi what it’s doing, and Hitachi doesn’t tell Toshiba what it’s doing.” Meanwhile, despite there being no concrete data on the state of the reactor cores, claims by the government and TEPCO that the disaster is under control and that the reactors are on-schedule for a cold shutdown by the year’s end have promoted a breakneck work schedule, leading to shoddy repairs and habitual disregard for worker safety, he said. “Working at Fukushima is equivalent to being given an order to die,” Suzuki quoted one nuclear-related company source as saying.

At a Tokyo market, a smartphone shows radiation test results by the grower of a package of Maitake mushrooms, showing them as free of radioactive contamination. Many consumers worry about the safety of food from Fukushima and surrounding prefectures, although produce and fish found to be above government-set limits for contamination are barred from the market. Mushrooms, for example, harvested in and around Fukushima are frequently found to be contaminated and barred from the market. Sept. 12, 2011. Photo: Mainichi Daily News / AP Photo / Shizuo Kambayashi

Kenichi Oshima is currently a professor at Ritsumeikan University. After long years of nuclear power research, he had learned that the actual cost of maintaining nuclear power in Japan was twice as high as what government and electric power companies had publicly announced, the Mainichi Daily News has reported. In March 2010, published his findings in a book, but found himself under fire at a time when pro-nuclear energy was becoming even stronger. In September the same year, during a meeting of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, his comments were rejected and even mocked. “Do you call this research?” he was told and few even cared to look at his findings.

Following the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Oshima’s situation drastically changed. He was selected as a member of two expert governmental committees to serve as a critical analyst of Japan’s current nuclear power stance. The group will openly release all internal debates and documents, Oshima says. He is now more optimistic than ever that the time to destroy the “cheap and safe” nuclear power myth will eventually come.

Workers in protective suits and masks wait to enter the emergency operation center at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in Okuma, Japan. Nov. 12, 2011. Photo: Mainichi Daily News / AP Photo / David Guttenfelder, Pool

A sober and critical editorial in the Mainichi Daily News has said that Britain has already abandoned developing fast-breeder nuclear reactors, and is set to give up nuclear fuel reprocessing as well. Moreover, its planned construction of a facility to dispose of radioactive waste including plutonium is likely to materialize even though it is still at a planning phase.

In contrast, there are no prospects that Japan can build a disposal facility. However, for Japan to call for operations at the Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor in Fukui Prefecture and the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the Aomori Prefecture village of Rokkasho to be carried out as planned, would be like putting the cart before the horse as it appears the country is incapable of building a disposal facility.

Plutonium is directly related to security issues. The U.K. possesses nuclear weapons but Japan does not. One may wonder whether Japan’s independence will be threatened if it abandons nuclear fuel recycling and loses its ability to produce plutonium. Even though it is an important point of contention the issue should not be used as a reason to underestimate the harm of plutonium.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano who is in charge of energy policy, Goshi Hosono, state minister for handling the nuclear crisis, and Yoshito Sengoku, second-in-command in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s Policy Research Committee, have been hearing the views of experts on the issue. It is not enough for the government to talk only about the dream of “prosperity” built on dependence on nuclear power. Japan’s ability to overcome the mess that follows such prosperity is now being tested.

More updates, info links, video clips and pictures on the Japan emergency page.

Written by makanaka

March 17, 2011 at 22:20

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Foodgrain outlook, 2011 March – the prices effect now visible

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FAO, The Second Report on the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and AgricultureThe World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE), the monthly forecast of the United States Department of Agriculture (Farm Service Agency, Economic Research Service, Foreign Agricultural Service) was released on 2011 March 10.

Highlights and main points for the major crop groups are:

WheatGlobal 2010-11 wheat supplies are projected 1.9 million tons higher reflecting higher production. Argentina production is raised 1.0 million tons based on higher reported yields. Australia production is raised 1.0 million tons with higher yields in Western Australia where wheat quality was not hurt by harvest rains as in the east. Other production changes include a 0.5-million-ton reduction for EU-27 with a smaller crop reported for Denmark and a 0.6-million-ton increase for Saudi Arabia on an upward revision to area.

Global wheat trade is projected lower partly reflecting reduced import prospects for a number of smaller markets as high prices trim demand. The largest import reduction, however, is for Russia where imports are lowered 1.5 million tons. Despite last year’s drought, Russia appears to be meeting its wheat needs as the government’s export ban helps maintain supplies for domestic users. With lower imports by Russia, Ukraine exports are lowered 1.5 million tons. Ukraine’s export restrictions have also disrupted trade with non-FSU countries. Exports are lowered 0.5 million tons for EU-27 on tighter supplies and the rising value of the Euro. Although exports are unchanged for the Australia October-September marketing year, exports are raised 1.0 million tons for the 2010-11 July-June international trade year increasing expected competition for U.S. wheat exports over the next few months.

FAO, The Second Report on the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and AgricultureGlobal 2010-11 wheat consumption is projected lower with the biggest change being a 1.5-million-ton reduction in expected wheat feeding for Russia. With increased global production and reduced usage, world ending stocks for 2010-11 are projected 4.1 million tons higher.

RiceGlobal 2010-11 projections of rice production, consumption, and exports are lowered from a month ago, and ending stocks are raised. The decrease in the global production forecast, still a record at 451.5 million tons, is due entirely to a decrease in the rice crop in India, which is partially offset by increases for Argentina and Brazil. India’s rice crop is forecast at 94.5 million tons, down 500,000 tons from last month due to an expected decrease in average yield. Drier than normal weather in the eastern and northern rice growing regions is expected to lower Rabi yields. The increases in Argentina and Brazil are due to an expected increase in harvested area.

Global consumption is lowered 5.3 million tons to 447.0 million, still a record, primarily due to reductions in India (-4.0 million) and China (-0.5 million). Conversely, global ending stocks are raised 4.9 million tons to 98.8 million attributed mostly to increases for India, China, Bangladesh, and Burma. India’s 2010-11 ending stocks are raised 3.6 million tons to 21.6 million based on recently received information on government-held stocks. China’s 2010-11 ending stocks are raised nearly 1.0 million tons based on information from the Agricultural Counselor in Beijing. Global 2010-11 exports are lowered nearly 0.5 million tons, due mostly to reductions in Burma, China, and India.

FAO, The Second Report on the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and AgricultureCoarse GrainsGlobal coarse grain supplies for 2010-11 are projected 2.5 million tons lower this month with lower corn beginning stocks and reduced corn, barley, sorghum, and oats production. Global corn beginning stocks are lowered 0.6 million tons with upward revisions to Brazil exports and India feeding in 2009-10.

Global 2010-11 corn production is reduced 0.5 million tons as lower production in Mexico and India is partially offset by higher production in Brazil. Brazil corn production for 2010-11 is raised 2.0 million tons reflecting higher reported area and yields in the summer crop and expectations for increased area for the winter crop with government planting dates extended for crop insurance and loan programs. Mexico corn production is reduced 2.0 million tons as the unusual early February freeze destroyed standing corn crops across much of the northwest winter corn region, which normally accounts for about one-fourth of the country’s total corn production. Replanting is expected to offset some of the loss, but seasonally high temperatures in the coming months limit the growing season window.

Global 2010-11 sorghum and barley production are each lowered 0.5 million tons and oats production is lowered 0.3 million tons. Lower sorghum output for India more than offsets an increase for Australia. Lower barley and oats output for Australia account for most of the reduction in world production for these coarse grains.

Global 2010-11 coarse grain imports are raised this month as increases for corn and sorghum more than offset a reduction for barley. Corn imports are raised 1.1 million tons for Mexico with the lower production outlook. Corn imports are raised 1.0 million tons for EU-27 on stronger expected feeding. A 0.5-million-ton reduction for Russia corn imports is partly offsetting. Sorghum imports are raised for EU-27 and barley imports are lowered for Russia, Saudi Arabia, and China. Increased corn feeding in EU-27 is more than offset by reductions in feeding in Russia and lower food, seed, and industrial use in India and Mexico. Projected global corn ending stocks are raised slightly.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and USA – and Iran

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An image grab taken from Bahrain TV shows 'vanguard' of a contingent of Gulf troops arriving in the unrest-wracked Kingdom of Bahrain across a causeway from Saudi Arabia, March 14, 2011: Photo: VOA/AP

[Update: 16:15:00 UTC-GMT] The Voice of America has reported that Bahrain’s king has declared a three month state of emergency in response to weeks of anti-government protests by majority Shi’ites against the Gulf state’s Sunni rulers.

Thousands of protesters marched to the Saudi embassy on Tuesday, Reuters has reported, protesting against the arrival of Saudi troops to help restore calm in the Sunni-ruled kingdom after weeks of protests by the Shi’ite majority.

Carrying Bahraini flags, some 5,000 people marched from Pearl roundabout, the focal point of protests, to the embassy in an upscale area of the capital where streets were otherwise deserted.

Armed vigilantes roamed Manama’s streets and blocked Bahraini villages Tuesday as Iran condemned a military intervention by Gulf troops to help subdue unrest in the Shiite-majority, Sunni-ruled kingdom. According to Zawya, the financial district of Manama was deserted, shops and malls were shuttered and Sunni and Shiite vigilantes armed with metal pipes and clubs were seen in the streets of the capital after hundreds of Saudi-led armoured troops rolled into Bahrain from Saudi Arabia.

Television footage showed Saudi troops entering Bahrain in armoured vehicles. Photo: Al Jazeera/Reuters

Witnesses said vigilante groups also blocked access to a number of villages across the kingdom. Women have been told to leave central Manama and activists were distributing surgical masks and eye protectors to defend against tear gas. There were rumours of a march against the Saudi embassy near the financial district later Tuesday. The troops arrived in Bahrain on Monday to help the Manama government deal with pro-democracy protests which have shaken the strategic Gulf kingdom for the past month. Saudi Arabia’s staunchly Sunni government said it had responded to a call for help from its neighbour under a mutual defence pact of the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Hundreds of Saudi troops have entered Bahrain to help protect government facilities there amid escalating protests against the government, Al Jazeera has reported. Bahrain television on Monday broadcast images of troops in armoured cars entering the Gulf state via the 26km causeway that connects the kingdom to Saudi Arabia. The arrival of the troops follows a request to members of the Gulf Co-Operation Council (GCC) from Bahrain, whose Sunni rulers have faced weeks of protests and growing pressure from a majority Shia population to institute political reforms.

The Causeway linking Bahrain with Saudi Arabia

The United Arab Emirates has also sent about 500 police to Bahrain, according to Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the Emirati foreign minister. Iran, meanwhile, has warned against “foreign interferences”. “The peaceful demonstrations in Bahrain are among the domestic issues of this country, and creating an atmosphere of fear and using other countries’ military forces to oppress these demands is not the solution,” Hossein Amir Abdollahian, an official from the Iranian foriegn ministry, was reported by Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency as saying.

Debka has reported that the Saudi force that went into Bahrain Monday, March 14, along with UAE and Kuwaiti units, to stabilize the royal regime is larger than reported, consisting of a National Guard brigade, a mechanized brigade of the Saudi army and a tank battalion – altogether 3,500 men. Until recently close American allies, the two Gulf rulers flouted President Obama’s policy of supporting popular uprisings, encouraged by Qaddafi gaining the upper hand against Libya’s rebels and Washington’s constraints against military intervention.

What led the Saudi-led GCC army units to jump unhesitatingly into Bahrain while the US and Europe dithered over Libya? Tehran won’t take this lying down, said Debka Weekly, which (to subscribers only) outlines the potential military showdown between Iran and Saudi Arabia, explores US-Israeli intelligence blindness on Egypt, and reveals how the Libyan conflict is enriching both sides – Muammar Qaddafi and his opponents – as well as global arms traffickers.

Written by makanaka

March 15, 2011 at 16:45

Japan quake tsunami links and notes

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Japan's quake more powerful than first estimate

New estimates by the US Geological Survey suggest that the earthquake that struck Japan on 2011 March 11 was magnitude 9.0. Grpahic from New Scientist.

The Mainichi Daily News has reported that the strongest recorded earthquake to hit Japan rocked the northeastern coast Friday, triggering a series of tsunami including a 10-meter wall of water that submerged residential areas and farms with muddy streams and washed away scores of people, vehicles, boats and a storage tank on fields and ports in northeastern Japan.

The 10-meter tsunami was observed at Sendai port in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture at around 3:55 p.m. after the quake with a magnitude of 8.8 rocked the region, local police said. A tsunami expert at the government-affiliated Port and Airport Research Institute described the tsunami following the 2:46 p.m. quake as “one of the highest and widest in terms of areas of devastation in the nation’s history.” Shigeo Takahashi, senior researcher at the institute, said, “It’s a tsunami of a once-in-a-century scale.”

The New Scientist noted that the Japanese earthquake has triggered a series of tsunami waves that are now moving east across the Pacific. How will the countries they hit be affected? The shape of each landmass is a major factor determining how the tsunami behaves. Tsunamis are most dangerous when they run over a large area of shallow water. This causes the first wavefront to slow down, so successive waves pile up to form one tremendous wave.

As a result small Pacific islands, especially ones that lie in otherwise deep water, should be largely unaffected. Wave height here might reach 30 centimetres at most. “A little atoll presents a pencil in the water, and the wave just goes right past,” says Robert Cessaro, a senior geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) in Hawaii. Because most of the islands in the tsunami’s path are fairly small, they should see waves 10 to 30 centimetres high at most.

Written by makanaka

March 11, 2011 at 23:33

Dear scientists and donors, what part of ‘agro-ecology’ don’t you understand?

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“Resource-conserving, low-external-input techniques have a proven potential to significantly improve yields,” Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, has told the UN Human Rights Council at its Sixteenth session.

“In what may be the most systematic study of the potential of such techniques to date, Jules Pretty et al. compared the impacts of 286 recent sustainable agriculture projects in 57 poor countries covering 37 million hectares (3 per cent of the cultivated area in developing countries). They found that such interventions increased productivity on 12.6 millions farms, with an average crop increase of 79 per cent, while improving the supply of critical environmental services.”

“Disaggregated data from this research showed that average food production per household rose by 1.7 tonnes per year (up by 73 per cent) for 4.42 million small farmers growing cereals and roots on 3.6 million hectares, and that increase in food production was 17 tonnes per year (up 150 per cent) for 146,000 farmers on 542,000 hectares cultivating roots (potato, sweet potato, cassava). After UNCTAD and UNEP reanalyzed the database to produce a summary of the impacts in Africa, it was found that the average crop yield increase was even higher for these projects than the global average of 79 per cent at 116 per cent increase for all African projects and 128 per cent increase for projects in East Africa.”

Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

The most recent large-scale study points to the same conclusions, De Schutter has said. Research commissioned by the Foresight Global Food and Farming Futures project of the UK Government reviewed 40 projects in 20 African countries where sustainable intensification was developed during the 2000s. The projects included crop improvements (particularly improvements through participatory plant breeding on hitherto neglected orphan crops), integrated pest management, soil conservation and agro-forestry. By early 2010, these projects had documented benefits for 10.39 million farmers and their families and improvements on approximately 12.75 million hectares. Crop yields more than doubled on average (increasing 2.13-fold) over a period of 3-10 years, resulting in an increase in aggregate food production of 5.79 million tonnes per year, equivalent to 557 kg per farming household.

The Special Rapporteur’s recommendations:
As part of their obligation to devote the maximum of their available resources to the progressive realization of the right to food, States should implement public policies supporting the adoption of agroecological practices by:
• making reference to agroecology and sustainable agriculture in national strategies for the realisation of the right to food and by including measures adopted in the agricultural sector in national adaptation plans of action (NAPAs) and in the list of nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) adopted by countries in their efforts to mitigate climate change;
• reorienting public spending in agriculture by prioritizing the provision of public goods, such as extension services, rural infrastructures and agricultural research, and by building on the complementary strengths of seeds-and-breeds and agroecological methods, allocating resources to both, and exploring the synergies, such as linking fertilizer subsidies directly to agroecological investments on the farm (“subsidy to sustainability”);
• supporting decentralized participatory research and the dissemination of knowledge about the best sustainable agricultural practices by relying on existing farmers’ organisations and networks, and including schemes designed specifically for women;
• improving the ability of producers practicing sustainable agriculture to access markets, using instruments such as public procurement, credit, farmers’ markets, and creating a supportive trade and macroeconomic framework.

The research community, including centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and the Global Forum on Agricultural Research, should:
• increase the budget for agroecological research at the field level (design of sustainable and resilient agroecological systems), farm and community levels (impacts of various practices on incomes and livelihoods), and national and sub-national levels (impact on socio-economic development, participatory scaling-up strategies, and impacts of public policies), and develop research with the intended beneficiaries according to the principles of participation and coconstruction;
• train scientists in the design of agroecological approaches, participatory research methods, and processes of co-inquiry with farmers, and ensure that their organizational culture is supportive of agroecological innovations and participatory research;
• assess projects on the basis of a comprehensive set of performance criteria (impacts on incomes, resource efficiency, impacts on hunger and malnutrition, empowerment of beneficiaries, etc.) with indicators appropriately disaggregated by population to allow monitoring improvements in the status of vulnerable populations, taking into account the requirements of the right to food, in addition to classical agronomical measures.

Magnitude 8.9 Quake Shakes Japan, Tsunami Hits Northeast Coast

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A message from the Asahi Shimbun: Editor’s note: We will update our earthquake news as frequently as possible on AJW’s Facebook page. Please check to keep informed on what’s happening. / Toshio Jo, managing editor at International Division, The Asahi Shimbun.

Smoke rises from a building near Tokyo Bay in this photo taken from the waterfront district of Tokyo's Chuo Ward on Friday. (Mitsuyoshi Amata)

Smoke rises from a building near Tokyo Bay in this photo taken from the waterfront district of Tokyo's Chuo Ward on Friday. (Mitsuyoshi Amata)

Nikkei has reported that a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 8.9 struck Japan Friday afternoon, causing damage in Tokyo, many reported injuries in the north where the quake was centered and sending a tsunami hurtling toward the country’s northeastern coast.

The quake, originally reported at a magnitude of 7.9 but later upgraded to 8.9 apparently exceeding the 8.9 quake that struck off Chile in February 2010.

Yomiuri Shimbun has coverage of the quake here.

Local television reported smoke rising from a Tokyo port building, and fire in the capital’s waterfront Odaiba district. There were reports of “numerous” injuries in Miyagi Prefecture, in northeastern Japan where the quake was centered, as a tsunami measured at anywhere from one meter to 4.2 meters hit at various places along the coast.

See NHK TV for video and reports here, here and here.

The US Geological Survey page for the quake is here. Key data:

Location    38.322°N, 142.369°E
Depth    24.4 km (15.2 miles) set by location program
Region    NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
Distances    130 km (80 miles) E of Sendai, Honshu, Japan
178 km (110 miles) E of Yamagata, Honshu, Japan
178 km (110 miles) ENE of Fukushima, Honshu, Japan
373 km (231 miles) NE of TOKYO, Japan

A tsunami warning included Japan, Russia, Taiwan, Guam, the Northern Marianas, the Marcus Islands and the Wake Islands, while 15 nations and territories were covered by a tsunami watch.

In Tokyo, hundreds of concerned office workers tried in vain to make calls on jammed cellphone networks, some wearing hard hats and other protective headgear. Many of them streamed out of buildings in the business district, gathering in open areas. The crowd appeared spooked by the sound of glass windows rattling in tall buildings.

Services on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line, as well as on the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen lines, were suspended. All services on the Tokyo Metro subway systems in the Tokyo metropolitan area were stopped.

Aftershocks were continuing, with one hitting magnitude 7.1, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Tall buildings swayed violently in central Tokyo as the aftershocks hit.

NHK Television reported that water could be seen rising over cars and pouring into warehouses at Onahama port in Fukushima Prefecture; in Iwate Prefecture a building was washed away, with boats and cars swirling around in the rising waters.

Location 38.322°N, 142.369°E
Depth 24.4 km (15.2 miles) set by location program
Region NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
Distances 130 km (80 miles) E of Sendai, Honshu, Japan
178 km (110 miles) E of Yamagata, Honshu, Japan
178 km (110 miles) ENE of Fukushima, Honshu, Japan
373 km (231 miles) NE of TOKYO, Japan

Written by makanaka

March 11, 2011 at 13:04