From Volume 7, Issue 29 of EIR Online, Published July 15, 2008
Asia News Digest

Vietnamese Farmers Show the Way

July 7 (EIRNS)—Led by Prof. Vo Tong Xuan, Vietnamese farming experts, who went to Sierra Leone one year ago to try out 50 high-productivity Mekong Delta rice breeds in a town called Mange Bureh, in order to determine which breeds will grow best on a 100-hectare project sponsored by the Sierra Leone government, have met with huge success. The experts have successfully grown two paddy crops a year, with a yield of four tons per hectare for each crop, he said. Farmers in Sierra Leone usually only grow one crop each year, with a productivity of one ton per hectare.

The biggest achievement gained in the project is to help farmers overcome the shortage of machinery and a poor irrigation system, as well as to reserve three tons of rice seeds for large-scale farming in the upcoming crop. It is a dream that has never come true for international experts, despite their huge investments. With three tons of seed rice, harvested from the most recent crops, and in store for the next crop, Dr. Vo Tong Xuan expects a significant improvement in productivity of the next crop.

In a recent interview with Vietnam's Lao Dong newspaper, Professor Vo said that during his visit to Japan in 2006, he met with the Sierra Leone agriculture minister, who asked him to cooperate with his country's agriculture sector. "I saw that Sierra Leone's climactic conditions were the same as Vietnam's, and accepted the proposal because I believed that the cultivation techniques of Vietnamese farmers in the Cuu Long Delta region could be applied in Sierra Leone."

When asked why he undertook this challenge, the professor, trained at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, said: "First of all, I want to improve the hard lives of farmers." He also pointed out that in the past, European countries and the U.S. sent experts to Africa to help eradicate hunger and poverty. "Many projects costing billions of U.S. dollars failed. The reasons were many. But I think the major reason was that the transfer of technology was mismanaged."

Vo told the interviewer that Vietnam will send more farmers to Sierra Leone and other parts of Africa where the conditions are similar to that of Vietnam, to raise rice productivity.

India Opens Up New Land To Generate Rice Surplus

July 9 (EIRNS)—Aided by a favorable weather forecast, which indicated that the country will receive normal rains this year, and the growing demand for rice worldwide, New Delhi has set about to increase the area for rice cultivation. Reports indicate that land under rice cultivation for the primary rice season was 56.0 million hectares as of July 7, up 18.9% from 47.1 million hectares a year ago. Much of the additional land was carved out from sugarcane- and cotton-growing areas.

In India, the sowing of rice takes place in June and July, and the harvest is in October.

In the crop year that ended in June, India has produced an all-time high of 95.68 million metric tons (mmt) of rice. According to reports received from various parts of the country, India will produce over 3 mmt more rice in the next crop season, due to the increase in cultivated acreage.

The consumption of rice in India rose to 88.25 mmt in 2006-07 from 87.01 mmt in 2005-06, while overall rice production in the country declined to 92.76 mmt in 2006-07 from 93.34 mmt in 2001-02. If the 2007-08 production meets the expectations, India will have a surplus of about 9 mmt before the beginning of the next crop season.

In light of the country's estimated rice requirements to rise to 105 mmt by 2020, plans are afoot to reach that amount well before that year and, thus, develop a steady surplus each year. India's 11th Five Year Plan (2007-11) calls for the addition of 4 mmt of rice each year to reach 114.86 mmt in 2011-12. In that year, according to estimates, India will consume as much as 94 mmt.

Indonesia, Philippines To Expand Rice Cultivation

July 7 (EIRNS)—Indonesia has announced plans to develop 1.6 million hectares of undeveloped land in the far southern tip of Papua for rice cultivation, aimed at making Indonesia self-sufficient and a net exporter of rice. The program includes building roads and irrigation systems, and three ports in the area of the city of Merauke. Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono said that Indonesia is "set to place itself in the ranks of major rice suppliers of the world."

A consortium of Saudi investors is going to invest about $65 million in the Papua project. Each investor will open about 5-10,000 hectares. The plan was worked out on the sidelines of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization conference in June.

The Philippines has recently announced the development of 1 million hectares of government land for rice and corn, to be implemented by San Miguel of the Philippines and the Kuok Group of Malaysia.

Pakistan Won't Allow Foreign Troops Inside Says Foreign Minister

July 11 (EIRNS)—Addressing the UN Security Council on July 10, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that his country will not permit its territory to be used for operations against other countries, nor will it allow foreign troops to operate inside its territory, rejecting a standing U.S. offer of military assistance also intended to help Afghanistan. "We can assure greater success in containing terrorism and insurgency on both sides of the border through more effective cooperation and matching military measures," he said. This is a joint responsibility, he said, as the 15-member Council debated the situation in Afghanistan.

The New York Times reported on the same day that U.S. intelligence and military sources in Baghdad had told the newspaper that dozens or more Uzbeks, North Africans, and Arabs from Persian Gulf states had moved into Pakistan in recent months, strengthening the al-Qaeda forces which are allegedly backing the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

The flow may reflect a change that is making Pakistan, not Iraq, the preferred destination for some extremists from the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, who are seeking to take up arms against the West, the Times wrote, citing its sources.

Meanwhile, Agence France-Presse pointed out that a private U.S. intelligence firm, Stratfor, predicted in a report this week that it was only a matter of time before Washington escalated its unilateral military operations deeper into Pakistani territory, a move experts warned could worsen collateral damage and fuel anti-Americanism.

China Takes Security Measures in Xinjiang

July 11 (EIRNS)—Chinese authorities have replaced high-level police and security officials in Xinjiang region, as well as closing down 41 illegal "places of worship" which were allegedly being used for training Muslim separatists for a "holy war" at the time of the Olympics, Chinese media report. Over the past six months, the authorities have arrested 82 people for involvement in separatist operations. The announcements were made by Chen Zhuangwei, police chief of Urumqi, Xinhua reported July 9. Those arrested belong to five groups that "allegedly plotted sabotage against the Beijing Olympics," Chen said.

Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region borders on eastern Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Kazakstan, and has been the target of a long-term Muslim separatist movement, one of British imperialist operations against Eurasia. There was a surge in Uygur separatist operations this Spring, at the height of the Tibetan separatist riots and demonstrations against China.

Yesterday, the Times of India reported from Beijing that the central government has announced the replacement of three deputy corps commanders, political commissars, and the head of the Communist Party organization department in the Army, in Xinjiang. "From now, all police officers must act urgently, get involved once more in Olympic security, to make sure large and small incidents alike do not happen," Chen told the press. The new Army organization department head is Liu Xiang Song, and one of the three new corps commanders is Hanabati Sabukhaya, an ethnic Kazak Chinese.

On July 8, police shot five persons in a raid in Urumqi, Xinhua reported. The raid, provoked by a stabbing incident, uncovered a group which, one member later told police, had been in training for a "holy war" for an independent Uygur state.

Economic Crisis Brings Power Blackouts in Southeast Asia

July 10 (EIRNS)—In the Philippines, foreign direct investments dropped 43.5% in the first four months of the year, according to the central bank. In Singapore, economic growth slowed to a tepid 1.9% in the second quarter, from the hot 6.9% rate recorded in the first quarter. This is even slower than the 2.3% forecast by financial newswire "experts."

But in Indonesia, the economic crisis has cut to the bone, affecting vital city services in the huge capital city of Jakarta. The city barely gets by on its energy infrastructure, which is so inadequate that "routine maintenance" of a natural gas central flow station located in offshore West Java will cause two of the city's electric power stations to go offline for two weeks, starting July 11, thus causing blackouts.

The blackouts scheduled for Jakarta and the surrounding area July 11-25 may put traffic lights out of order, the state electricity firm PT PLN has warned. But, said PLN Jakarta general distribution manager Purnomo Willy, "we'll maintain the power supply to public service facilities, such as trains, hospitals, schools and government offices, as well as [the] Airport."

PLN "will try" not to cut the power supply to busway facilities, he said, "but there will be no guarantee, as the electricity management for those facilities is complicated." Gas stations also will have to cope with the blackouts, he said.

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