Posts tagged ‘United States Department of Agriculture’

08/10/2016

How India’s Taste for Soy Oil Has Fueled a Surge in Imports – India Real Time – WSJ

Indians are acquiring a strong taste for soybean oil thanks to lower prices, fueling a surge in imports at a helpful time for a global market struggling with a glut of the commodity.

India’s imports of soybean oil have quadrupled in the last five years to more than 4 million metric tons this year, according to data compiled by the country’s vegetable oils industry body. India’s soybean oil imports are expected to rise over the next 10 years by as much as 40%, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated in May.

Soybean oil, produced by crushing soybeans, is used in everything from cooking oil to cookies and lipstick.

In India, they are favored for cooking samosas, dosas and curries, but the relatively high price of soy oil was a deterrent for many consumers in the country. India’s gross domestic product per capita grew 6.9% from a year earlier to $6,200 in 2015, but remained much lower than the U.S. with GDP per capita of $55,800, according to U.S. estimates.

India dethroned China two years ago as the world’s largest importer of soy oil. Some Indian consumers who have switched to soy oil cited the steep drop in prices—35% since 2012. Prices of palm oil, its main rival used widely in restaurants and by poorer Indians, have mostly been moving sideways.

“Demand from India will certainly play a role in absorbing excess soy-oil supplies,” said Vamsi Krishna Kona, a trader at Inditrade Derivatives & Commodities.

Source: How India’s Taste for Soy Oil Has Fueled a Surge in Imports – India Real Time – WSJ

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18/02/2016

Is India’s Freedom 251, a $4 Smartphone, Too Good to Be True? – India Real Time – WSJ

A little-known Indian company has announced grand plans to sell millions of made-in-India smartphones for less than $4 a piece, despite the fact that it has only been in the smartphone business for five months and has yet to build a factory.

Ringing Bells Pvt. started taking orders for its Freedom 251 phone on Thursday for 251 rupees ($3.67) each, or less than the price of a McDonald’s Big Mac in the U.S. The company has promised to deliver the phones by June 30–after it builds two manufacturing plants.

Social media lit up with discussion about the device–which the company says will have a four-inch display, 3.2-megapixel camera and 8 gigabytes of storage–after ads for the phone with the tagline “dreams will come true,” appeared in newspapers. Ringing Bells said its phones will have apps that help farmers check soil conditions and fishermen get weather reports.

The company’s website crashed Thursday and it stopped accepting orders for the device as it worked to upgrade its servers, the website said.

At a launch event in a public park Wednesday, thousands turned out to see company President Ashok Chadha unveil a poster-sized image of a phone under a shower of pyrotechnics and confetti. It was an impressive turnout considering only days earlier almost no one had even heard of him, his company or its phone.

Phones given to journalists to try looked as if the branding from another manufacturer had been covered up with white-out on the phone’s front. Indian flag stickers covered the rear. The phones used an Android operating system.

Mr. Chadha said the phone he was sharing was a “beta device.”

Ringing Bells said it would spend 5 billion rupees, or about $73 million, to build the factories. Mr. Chadha said the money will come from the family of Mohit Goel, one of the founders and directors of the company. Mr. Goel’s family owns a farming business, Mr. Chadha said. Attempts to reach Mr. Goel were unsuccessful.

Analysts said they couldn’t see how Ringing Bells could ever make money selling phones for $4.

If Ringing Bells follows through with its plans, the difficulties of setting up manufacturing operations in India could mean it runs into delays that could cause it to miss its June deadline, a spokeswoman for another Indian phone manufacturer said. She said setting up a new factory often takes up to a year.

The company aims produce hundreds of thousands of phones a month and take around 30% of the smartphone market within a year, Mr. Chadha said. Over 100 million smartphones were shipped by manufacturers to retailers in India last year, according to International Data Corp., a research company.

Despite the low price, Mr. Chadha said the company expects to make money on the phones. He said that making the phone using components imported from China would cost about 2,500 rupees per phone. India doesn’t make many components used in phones and other phone sellers in the country import their phones and components from elsewhere.

But Mr. Chadha said he expected to reduce costs through through “economies of scale,” tax breaks for local manufacturing, and other cost-cutting measures. “We are technocrats and have some understanding of international economics,” he said.

Ringing Bells says it will offer a smartphone with a 4-inch display, 3.2 megapixel camera and 8 gigabytes of memory for less than $4. The $33 smartphones powered by Mozilla Corp.’s Firefox operating system have a 3.5 inch display, 2 megapixel camera and 256 megabytes of storage.

Source: Is India’s Freedom 251, a $4 Smartphone, Too Good to Be True? – India Real Time – WSJ

08/04/2015

Chinese citizens sue government over transparency on Monsanto herbicide | Reuters

Three Chinese citizens are taking China’s Ministry of Agriculture to court in a bid to make public a toxicology report supporting the approval of Monsanto‘s popular weedkiller, Roundup, 27 years ago.

The case, a rare example of a lawsuit by private citizens against the Chinese government, comes amid renewed attention on glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, after a controversial report by a World Health Organization group last month found it to be “probably carcinogenic to humans” – a claim denied by Monsanto.

It also underlines the deep-seated fears held by some Chinese over genetically modified food.

Beijing No.3 Intermediate People’s Court had accepted the case but a date for a hearing has not yet been set, an official at the court told Reuters.

Roundup is widely used on crops like soybeans that are genetically modified to resist its impact, allowing farmers to kill weeds without killing their crops. China imports about 65 percent of the world’s traded soybeans.

“The government is taking actions to deal with other food safety issues but it is not dealing with the GMO problem,” said Yang Xiaolu, 62, one of the plaintiffs bringing the case and a long-time GMO activist.

Monsanto officials have said glyphosate has been proven safe for decades, and the company has demanded a retraction from the WHO over its recent report.

Yang and the other plaintiffs, Li Xiangzhen and Tian Xiangping, are demanding in the lawsuit that the agriculture ministry make public the animal test that the ministry cited as evidence to support its approval of Roundup in 1988.

The test report by U.S.-based Younger Laboratories in 1985 was provided by Monsanto to the ministry, according to the plaintiffs, who argue that the ministry should allow the public to know how it determined that Roundup was safe.

The ministry has previously declined to show the plaintiffs the report, arguing that it would infringe on Monsanto’s commercial secrets, said Yang.

The agriculture ministry did not respond to a fax seeking comment.

The lawsuit comes at a time when the government is trying to foster positive public opinion of GMO food crops, currently banned for cultivation, but seen as crucial to future food security.

via Chinese citizens sue government over transparency on Monsanto herbicide | Reuters.

28/02/2015

China to spend 26 billion yuan to register rights ahead of rural reforms | South China Morning Post

China will spend about 26 billion yuan (HK$33 billion) to help identify and register the contractual rights over the nation’s arable land to pave the way for rural reforms.

Uygur farmers prepare potato beds in Xinjiang province. Photo: Reuters

More than 200 million rural households around the nation will be interviewed to help prepare the accurate record of farming rights.

Calling the task a “massive systematic project”, the Ministry of Agriculture said on Friday that clarifying land tenure and issuing certificates to farmers would form the basis of a series of expected reforms which aimed to help free up the rural land market.

Nearly 200,000 villages around the country – or one third of the total – have begun with the task, by aerial photography or site measurement, said MOA officials in a press conference.

Zhao Kun, a deputy inspector of the ministry’s rural economic system department, said local governments had appropriated a total of 8 billion yuan to carry out the job.

The central government has promised to provide 10 yuan for each mu of arable land – the Chinese unit of land area, which measures 666 square metres – a total of 18 billion yuan according to official data that states the mainland had 1.82 billion mu of farmland up to the end of 2011.

The Land Administration Law states that the ownership of rural land belongs to village collectives, with farmers given contractual rights to the land they farm for 30 years.

The central authorities decided to increase the security of land tenure in 2008. A directive issued that year said that contractual land management rights for farmers should “remain unchanged for a very long time”.

However, unlike urban home owners, rural residents do not yet hold any certification to prove their legal rights to their homes and farmland.

This makes it hard for them to transfer the land, which is forbidden by existing regulations but now being reformed in order to encourage larger scale farming and improve utilization efficiency of rural land.

Zhang Hongyu, head of the rural economic system department, said when farmers were given contractual rights of farmland in the first round of rural reform a few of decades ago, there were only rough estimates made about the size of their land plots owing to limitations over measuring methods at the time.

“Any related document the farmers previously had – either a contract or some other sort of certificate – showed different figures from what we are now finding,” he said.

Zhao said the project was not only a technical issue of measurement.

“It also involves interviews with each of the more than 200 million rural households [around the nation], which are really important for farmers as they need to know how big their plots are and where they’re located,” he said.

via China to spend 26 billion yuan to register rights ahead of rural reforms | South China Morning Post.

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