Archive for the ‘Rice’ Category

Vietnam Needs to Increase Rice Exports to Africa, Tuoi Tre Says

November 26, 2008

Vietnam needs to increase rice shipments to Africa as there is strong demand for the country’s exports, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported, citing three officials from the continent.

African nations buy about 20 percent of Vietnam’s rice exports and have become the third-largest market after Asia and the Middle East, the report said, citing government data released yesterday at a conference in Ho Chi Minh City.

The Southeast Asian nation shipped about 1 million metric tons of rice to Africa this year, Tuoi Tre said, without giving figures for earlier years.

The officials named in the report included Macaria Baira, vice chairwoman of International Cooperation and Integration for South Africa and Jules Touka from Cameroon’s Chamber of Commerce.

From Bloomberg,
By Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen

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Food, Crops, Subsidies and Hunger in the Global Economy

November 17, 2008

This spring, disaster loomed in the global food market. Precipitous increases in the prices of staples like rice (up more than a hundred and fifty per cent in a few months) and maize provoked food riots, toppled governments, and threatened the lives of tens of millions. But the bursting of the commodity bubble eased those pressures, and food prices, while still high, have come well off the astronomical levels they hit in April. For Americans, the drop in commodity prices has put a few more bucks in people’s pockets; in much of the developing world, it may have saved many from actually starving. So did the global financial crisis solve the global food crisis?

By James Surowiecki
The New Yorker

Temporarily, perhaps. But the recent price drop doesn’t provide any long-term respite from the threat of food shortages or future price spikes. Nor has it reassured anyone about the health of the global agricultural system, which the crisis revealed as dangerously unstable. Four decades after the Green Revolution, and after waves of market reforms intended to transform agricultural production, we’re still having a hard time insuring that people simply get enough to eat, and we seem to be more vulnerable to supply shocks than ever.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Over the past two decades, countries around the world have moved away from their focus on “food security” and handed market forces a greater role in shaping agricultural policy. Before the nineteen-eighties, developing countries had so-called “agricultural marketing boards,” which would buy commodities from farmers at fixed prices (prices high enough to keep farmers farming), and then store them in strategic reserves that could be used in the event of bad harvests or soaring import prices. But in the eighties and nineties, often as part of structural-adjustment programs imposed by the I.M.F. or the World Bank, many marketing boards were eliminated or cut back, and grain reserves, deemed inefficient and unnecessary, were sold off. In the same way, structural-adjustment programs often did away with government investment in and subsidies to agriculture—most notably, subsidies for things like fertilizers and high-yield seeds.

People try to catch fish at flooded rice fields in Me Linh district ... 
People try to catch fish at flooded rice fields in Me Linh district in Hanoi, Vietnam, Monday, Nov. 10, 2008. The floods have ruined many of the area’s crops.(AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)

The logic behind these reforms was simple: the market would allocate resources more efficiently than government, leading to greater productivity. Farmers, instead of growing subsidized maize and wheat at high cost, could concentrate on cash crops, like cashews and chocolate, and use the money they made to buy staple foods. If a country couldn’t compete in the global economy, production would migrate to countries that could. It was also assumed that, once governments stepped out of the way, private investment would flood into agriculture, boosting performance. And international aid seemed a more efficient way of relieving food crises than relying on countries to maintain surpluses and food-security programs, which are wasteful and costly.

This “marketization” of agriculture has not, to be sure, been fully carried through. Subsidies are still endemic in rich countries and poor, while developing countries often place tariffs on imported food, which benefit their farmers but drive up prices for consumers. And in extreme circumstances countries restrict exports, hoarding food for their own citizens.

Related:
Vietnam to grow genetically modified crops

Read the rest:
http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2008/11/2
4/081124ta_talk_surowiecki

Vietnam to grow genetically modified crops

November 13, 2008

Vietnam plans to test genetically modified (GM) agricultural crops from now until 2010 and then grow them on a large scale, media reports in the communist country said on Thursday.

Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat announced the plan in a National Assembly session this week, said the state-run Vietnam News Agency.

AFP

Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat talks to media in 2006. Vietnam ... 
Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat talks to media in 2006. Vietnam plans to test genetically modified (GM) agricultural crops from now until 2010 and then grow them on a large scale, media reports in the communist country said on Thursday.(AFP/File/Hoang Dinh Nam)

Under the government plan, Vietnam would from 2011 plant GM species of maize, cotton and soybean, said the news site Vietnamnet quoting experts attending a recent biotechnology workshop.

The Ho Chi Minh City Biotechnology Centre plans to grow a GM maize variety from the Philippines on a trial basis, the report said.

GM technology has been highly controversial, praised by some for increasing yields and improving varieties, and condemned by others for creating “frankenfoods” that pose dangers to the environment and people’s health.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081113/sc_afp/vietnambio
techagriculturegm_081113171333

Vietnam Urges Rice Exporters to Buy, Ship Stockpiles

November 7, 2008

BVietnam, the world’s second-biggest rice exporter [after Thailand], is calling on companies to buy up stockpiles from farmers for shipment overseas before the harvest this month, according to a statement on the government’s Web site.

By Van Nguyen and Rattaphol Onsanit, Bloomberg

State-run Vietnam Southern Food Corp. and Vietnam Northern Food Corp. will have to buy 300,000 metric tons that meet export standards, said the statement, citing Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai. The ministries of trade and foreign affairs together with the Vietnam Food Association will seek overseas customers.

The Southeast Asian nation is facing a rice glut after restricting exports earlier this year amid concerns there may be a shortage. Increased exports may further depress global rice prices, which have slumped about 40 percent in Chicago since reaching a record in April.

“Vietnam’s rice production has been rising, and its government is encouraging traders to get this supply out,” said Visut Tanprasatprinya, vice president of Bangkok-based Siam Rice Trading (Thailand) Ltd., which ships around 200,000 tons a year. “That’s why we see prices tanking.”

The price of Thailand’s 100 percent grade B white rice, a benchmark for the commodity across Asia, was set at $595 a metric ton this week by the Thai Rice Exporters Association. That’s the lowest price since March.

Higher rice shipments may help Vietnam to sustain economic growth after the government pared back targets for expansion this year because of surging inflation, a widening trade deficit and the global financial crisis.

Debt Payments

Deputy Prime Minister Hai asked Vietnam’s commercial banks to extend companies’ overdue debt payments and grant more loans at the “lowest possible lending rate,” allowing them to purchase more rice, said the statement, which was issued yesterday.

Exporters borrowed more than 18.8 trillion dong ($1.1 billion) in the first nine months to buy 3.2 million tons of rice, the central bank reported, according to the statement.

The total amount of rice available for export this year may be 5.3 millions tons, instead of an August projection of 4.6 million tons, the Lao Dong newspaper reported on Nov. 1., citing the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Between January and October, the country shipped about 4 million tons….

Above: Vietnamese farmers harvest rice…

Read the rest:
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/new
s?pid=20601013&sid=a83GZC6EPFgU

Food Security: Investment Needed to Make Africa Self-Sufficient in Rice

November 3, 2008

Greater investment to double rice production in Africa is needed to reduce food insecurity as well as improve livelihoods, specialists urged.

 

Consumption of rice in Africa is growing faster than any crop and, according to the Africa Rice Center has done so at an average of five percent per year since 1960.

Reuters

 

“We believe that rice can help move people out of poverty, not just food insecurity,” said Namanga Ngongi, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an African-led partnership that helps small farmers boost productivity and income.

 

“Rice has a high potential for development in Africa as it is a tropical crop,” Ngongi said. He was speaking at a regional meeting, which is bringing together specialists to consider how to double production to 28 million tonnes by 2017/2018.

 

“We know what we can and should do with rice. Doubling production will be difficult but it is possible,” according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The agency plans to scale up grants, loans and technical cooperation to improve output.

 

Supply versus demand

 

Despite an increase in production in sub-Saharan Africa to 14.2 million tonnes (of paddy) in 2006 from 8.6 million tonnes in 1980, demand still outstrips supply.

 

In Kenya, annual production has halved to 45,000MT since 2006 due to drought, new diseases and limited access to good quality seeds and fertiliser, said Agriculture Minister William Ruto. The national demand is 300,000MT.

 

“Kenya does not have an active rice-breeding programme,” he said. “There is an urgent need to streamline rice research to take advantage of new technologies for boosting rice productivity.”

Read the rest:
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/7c78c4a9
50f8176639487a7be3ba9817.htm

Six Months after Myanmar Cyclone, Rebuilding Lags Due To Government Hastles

November 2, 2008

After the cyclone devestated Myanmar last May, the military junta governing the former Burma was so uncooperative and unhelpful that even international aid groups were delayed and hastled….

From the Associated Press

YANGON, Myanmar – Six months after Cyclone Nargis smashed into Myanmar‘s coastline, killing tens of thousands of people, aid groups say once-lagging relief efforts have picked up pace but the task of rebuilding and recovery is far from finished.

Foreign aid staffers were initially barred from cyclone-affected areas and the ruling military junta was criticized for its ineffective response to the May 2-3 disaster. During a visit by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in late May, it agreed to allow in some foreign aid workers and formed a “Tripartite Core Group” made up of the government, the U.N. and Southeast Asian countries to facilitate the flow of international assistance.

A Buddhist monk walks over the remains of his cyclone-destroyed ... 
A Buddhist monk walks over the remains of his cyclone-destroyed monastery in Kaunt Chaung. Six months since Cyclone Nargis lashed the secretive state of Myanmar – killing 138,000 people – the initial despair over the ruling junta’s inaction has been replaced by cautious optimism that more aid is reaching the country’s needy, the UN has said.(AFP/File/Lisandru)

Despite the slow initial response, “the relief effort for the first six months has been successful,” said Ramesh Shrestha, the representative in Myanmar for UNICEF, which has coordinated aid to women and children. “However, we cannot stop now.”

The U.N. said in a statement issued Sunday on behalf of the Tripartite Core Group that “there is a continued need for emergency relief, as well as support for early and long-term recovery efforts.”

Only 53.3 percent of the $484 million in relief money sought by a U.N.-coordinated appeal has been raised, it said.

The official death toll is 84,537, with 53,836 others listed as missing. Some 2.4 million people were severely affected by the storm, with the total damage estimated as high as $4 billion.

A major pressing issue is how survivors will be able to support themselves.

Recent visitors to the Irrawaddy Delta, the area worst hit by the storm, report that most cyclone victims have cooking utensils, mosquito nets and other basic necessities. But they express concern about opportunities to earn enough money to buy food.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081102/ap_on_re_as/as_myanmar_cyclone_
recovery;_ylt=AoBSM67gxcYSKm3mpGUipeCs0NUE

Vietnam seeks diversified export

October 18, 2008

By Han Qiao Xinhua
Manila Sunday Times

HANOI: Vietnam, depending on the U.S. and European Union (EU) markets for more than one third of its exports, is beginning to tap more potential markets in the wake of the U.S. financial crisis and possible economic downturn in the United States and some European countries.

A farmer works on a paddy field in Vietnam's northern Bac ... 
A farmer works on a paddy field in Vietnam’s northern Bac Ninh province, 40 km (25 miles) north of Hanoi October 11, 2008.REUTERS/Kham (VIETNAM)

The export turnover of Vietnam is expected to reach 65 billion U.S. dollars this year, a leap of 33.9 percent over 2007 and the biggest increase in the past decade, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told a National Assembly session this week.

The impressive figure, on one hand, was thanks to rising international prices, especially in the first seven months of this year, of Vietnam’s major export items, like crude oil, coal, rice and coffee, said experts here. On the other hand, it was an achievement of the Vietnamese government’s huge efforts to boost exports.

But experts also warned that some Vietnamese export items, like coffee and garments, were depending too much on the U.S. and EU market, and it is likely to be hurt badly if no changes on export strategy is made.

Figures from the General Statistics Office of Vietnam showed that in the first nine months this year, the United States remained the biggest export market for Vietnam. Export value to the U.S. market stood at 8.5 billion U.S. dollars, accounting for 17.4 percent of the total. It was followed by export to the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) with 17.2 percent, EU 16 percent, Australia 7.2 percent, and China 6.7 percent.

Exports to the United States and EU, however, have already showed….

Read the rest:
http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2008/oct/19/yehey/opinion/20081019opi6.html

Severe economic crisis threatens Pakistan’s stability

October 14, 2008

By Saeed Shah, McClatchy Newspapers

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A worsening economic crisis in Pakistan is pushing millions more people into poverty, and experts fear that it could help Islamic extremists recruit new converts.
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A Pakistani money-changer counts US dollars in Islamabad on ... 
A Pakistani money-changer counts US dollars in Islamabad on October 8, 2008. Already nearly broke when the global financial crisis took hold, Pakistan now faces further woes that could take the nuclear-armed nation’s security situation closer to the edge, experts said.(AFP/File/Aamir Qureshi)
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The crisis began early this year, as democracy was restored after more than eight years of military rule. Now Pakistan’s hard currency reserves have shrunk to $3.5 billion , and without an international rescue package, America’s key ally in the fight against al Qaida is likely to default on foreign debt repayments in the next two months, economic experts said.

Inflation is running at 25 percent, according to official figures, electricity is in short supply, and Pakistan’s currency, the rupee, has been devalued 25 percent against the dollar. Investor confidence has fallen so low that on Monday, police had to surround the Karachi Stock Exchange to protect it from angry investors. The Exchange already had lobbied the government unsuccessfully to be allowed to close for two weeks.

Terrorist acts by Islamist insurgents have accelerated capital flight and discouraged foreign direct investment. Depositors are lined up at banks to withdraw their money or to send it abroad.

“The canvas of terrorism is expanding by the minute,” said Faisal Saleh Hayat , a member of parliament and a former interior minister under Pervez Musharraf , the U.S.-backed former president. “It’s not only ideological motivation. Put that together with economic deprivation and you have a ready-made force of Taliban , al Qaida , whatever you want to call them. You will see suicide bombers churned out by the hundred.”

“In Pakistan , there are a huge proportion of people just above the poverty line. A slight shock in their income can push them below the poverty line,” said Sadia Malik , director of the Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Center in Islamabad , the capital. “This is the kind of shock that would have pushed a huge number of people into the poverty trap,”

The prices of wheat, rice and milk have more than doubled in the last year. The price of flour used to make roti bread, the food staple, has jumped from 12 rupees ( 15 cents ) a kilo last year to 28 rupees ( 35 cents ). Economists warn that prices would spiral even higher if Pakistan defaulted on its foreign debt.

Before the crisis, an estimated that 56 million Pakistanis, around a third of the population, already were living below the poverty line….

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/mcclatchy/20081013/
wl_mcclatchy/3071426_1

Top State Department Official Baffled N. Korea Off Terror List

October 13, 2008

Reuters — The U.S. State Department’s chief verifier says she wasn’t consulted when North Korea was removed from the list of nations sponsoring terrorism.

The axis of evil lost a charter member this weekend, when the U.S. took North Korea off the State Department’s list of terror-sponsoring states. In return, Pyongyang promised to let international inspectors look everywhere except where its nuclear materials might actually be hidden.
Seal of the United States Department of State

North Korea restores access to UN inspectors and says it will re-start the dismantling of its plutonium-producing nuclear plant. Courtesy Reuters.
(Oct. 13)
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Kim Jong Il, despite having broken every disarmament promise he’s ever made,  has thus managed to persuade another U.S. President that he’s serious about  giving up his nuclear program. President Bush’s agreement sends this message  to Iran and other rogue states: Go nuclear and your political leverage  increases.

The U.S. had vowed not to remove North Korea from the terror blacklist until Kim’s government had agreed to a “strong verification regime.” But then North Korea started calling the U.S. bluff — most recently on Thursday, when it told the inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to start packing their bags — and the U.S. caved. Tehran will get the point.

No verification regime is 100% certain — and searching for nuclear
materials in North Korea, with a history of lying and cheating, poses
special challenges foreven the most rigorous inspections. But our sources tell us the U.S. has the technical expertise to get up to 98% accuracy providing it can do snap, on-demand inspections anywhere in the country.

Instead, Pyongyang will permit the verifiers to have unfettered access only to its declared nuclear sites — all of which the IAEA has already combed over again and again. Access to any other location will be by “mutual consent.” Inspectors will be welcome to search the Yongbyon complex and a few other known nuclear sites, such as universities. If they want to inspect anywhere else, they’ll need Kim’s assent. If they request access, and Pyongyang agrees, it’s sure the offending materials will be long gone before the inspectors arrive. This is trust but pretend to verify.

Meanwhile, the State Department didn’t trust its own verification experts to take part in the disarmament process. Late Thursday, less than two days before the agreement was announced, we asked Paula DeSutter, head of the Bureau of Verification, Compliance and Implementation, what she knew about  the pending deal: “I have no clue,” she said. “I know zero, zip, nada, nothing. . . . That’s on the record. Zero, zip, nada, nothing.”

Ms. DeSutter says that no one from her bureau accompanied State Department  negotiator Christopher Hill on his trip to Pyongyang two weeks ago. Nor did  anyone from her bureau take part in the interagency process that evaluated  the deal. “I was not consulted,” she said. The fact that the verification  bureau was left out of the loop is further cause to suspect that Mr. Hill and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cared above all about declaring a diplomatic success. (For the record, Ms. DeSutter said over the weekend that she supports the deal.)

Since the disarmament deal was struck in February 2007, the North has refused to give a complete accounting of its plutonium program, disclose how  many nuclear weapons it has and where they are, or come clean on its suspected uranium program. Now it has managed to wriggle out of its commitments on verification — all without having to wait for an Obama Administration.
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Long Range Reprcussions of Letting North Korea “Off the Hook”

By John Bolton
The Wall Street Journal

North Korea has now achieved one of its most-prized objectives: removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. In exchange, the U.S. has received “promises” on verification that are vague and amount to an agreement to negotiate the critical points later.
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John R. Bolton
Above: John Bolton
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In the Bush administration’s waning days, this is what passes for diplomatic “success.” It is in fact the final crash and burn of a once-inspiring global effort to confront and reverse nuclear proliferation, thereby protecting America and its friends. Delisting the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) as a terrorist sponsor represents a classic case of prizing the negotiation process over substance, where the benefits of “diplomatic progress” can be trumpeted in the media while the specifics of the actual agreement, and their manifest inadequacies, fade into the shadows.
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In the weeks before being delisted, North Korea expelled international inspectors, first from its Yongbyon plutonium-reprocessing facility and then from the entire complex. It moved to reactivate Yongbyon and to conduct a possible second nuclear-weapons test, and prepared for an extensive salvo of antiship and other missile capabilities. All of this the Bush administration dismissed as North Korea’s typical negotiation style.
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The irony is that the DPRK need not have gone to the trouble. President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were apparently ready to cave in without the show of force, and rushed to announce the terrorism delisting during a three-day weekend. Thus, while the North’s macho display was irrelevant, the conclusion Pyongyang will draw is that bluff and bluster worked.
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So now Pyongyang has what it wants, and Washington has a vague, inadequate invitation to more verification palavering. In any complex negotiation, implementation is the real test, and nowhere is this more painfully evident than in arms-control agreements.
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North Korea is the world’s most accomplished serial violator of international agreements, beginning with the Korean War Armistice Agreement it signed in 1953 and including every other significant subsequent DPRK commitment. Most pertinent here, these breaches include repeated promises to give up its nuclear capabilities, beginning with the 1992 Joint North-South Declaration and the ill-fated 1994 Agreed Framework.

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The only upside is that the Bush administration may not have time to concede anything more to Pyongyang before it limps into history. It is hard to see how Barack Obama could do worse. John McCain penetratingly observed on Friday that the U.S. must “avoid reaching for agreement for its own sake.”

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But the damage done by the administration’s latest surrender extends far beyond failing to rein in North Korea. Key allies like Japan and South Korea were not adequately consulted, thus eliminating the veneer of “multilateralism” the administration so valued. Japan has been humiliated, objecting as it did not only to the verification agreement’s inadequacy, but also to the complete disregard for the numerous Japanese citizens abducted over the years by Pyongyang and never accounted for. The abduction issue is enormously important in Japan, as it would be in the U.S. if North Korea had kidnapped our citizens.

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Sidelining Japan is a manifestation of the State Department’s Sinocentric obsession. The consequences could well be detrimental to both Washington and Beijing, however, if Japanese sentiment for developing its own independent nuclear-weapons capability continues to rise. This could occur as Tokyo sees the North Korean nuclear threat persisting, and as China continues to upgrade and expand its strategic nuclear forces and blue-water navy. Fears that the U.S. nuclear umbrella is no longer reliable will only add to Japan’s concerns. Japan may have been frog-marched into acquiescing, but there will likely be a widening of the split between the U.S. and its closest ally in Asia.

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The negative ramifications are not confined to Northeast Asia. In Tehran and the capitals of other terrorist states and aspiring nuclear proliferators, policy makers are doubtless ecstatic that Pyongyang has out-negotiated Washington once more, and they are considering ways to apply the North Korea model to their own situations.

The North was nearly able to complete a nuclear reactor in Syria, and possibly other, related facilities, and suffered no penalty for it. Perhaps Iran will conclude it should do the same. What does it have to lose? In Tripoli, Moammar Gadhafi must be wondering why Libya’s nuclear-weapons program now resides in Oak Ridge, Tenn., whereas the full extent of the DPRK’s program remains unknown and now unknowable.

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Having bent the knee to North Korea, Secretary Rice appears primed to do the same with Iran, despite that regime’s egregious and extensive involvement in terrorism and the acceleration of its nuclear program. Watch for the opening of a U.S. diplomatic post in Tehran within days after our Nov. 4 election, and other concessions on the nuclear front. Hard as it is to believe, there may be worse yet to come.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations” (Simon & Schuster, 2007)

Global Food Crisis: Hungry in Egypt

April 21, 2008

By Jackson Diehl
The Washington Post
Monday, April 21, 2008; Page A15

….For more than half a century, the Arab world’s most populous country has been run by a military-backed dictatorship that has supplied its millions of poor with subsidized bread. Consequently, Egypt consumes more bread per capita than France, and the only time the regime’s power was seriously challenged came in 1977, when Anwar Sadat‘s attempt to cut bread subsidies provoked bloody riots.

Thirty years later, Egypt still has subsidized bread but also a free market, which siphons much of the bread away through corruption. As global prices have soared in the past year, cheap bread has been disappearing from Egyptian shops, and free-market prices have risen 48 percent. The predictable result came on April 6, when workers at the country’s largest textile factory, in the city of Mahalla el-Kubra, attempted to strike, only to be blocked by a massive deployment of security forces. Angry crowds took to the streets for two days. Schools and shops were burned, a huge billboard of President Hosni Mubarak was torn down and at least two people were killed when police opened fire.

Mubarak responded to the trouble the way the regime always has. His prime minister and a host of other officials rushed to the smoldering city to purchase peace. The textile workers were promised a month’s bonus pay and new health-care facilities for their town. Mubarak ordered the army to begin baking and distributing more bread and lifted tariffs on some food imports. Meanwhile, his prosecutors brought charges against some 150 people blamed for the unrest….

Egyptians buy government subsidized bread from a bakery in Cairo, ...
Egyptians buy government subsidized bread from a bakery in Cairo, Egypt Wednesday, April 16, 2008. Egypt’s government is struggling to contain a political crisis sparked by rising world food prices. Violent clashes have broken out at long lines for subsidized bread, and the president, worried about unrest, has ordered the army to step in to provide more.(AP Photo/Hossam Ali)

Read it all:
 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/20/
AR2008042001752.html

Rice Grain Could Change Your Life by Badong
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RICE!