Iraq’s prized rice crop threatened by drought

Men work in a rice mill in Iraq’s central province, on May 1. Drought is threatening the Iraqi tradition of growing amber rice, the aromatic basis of rich lamb and other dishes, and an important sector in a struggling economy. AFP
Men work in a rice mill in Iraq’s central province, on May 1. Drought is threatening the Iraqi tradition of growing amber rice, the aromatic basis of rich lamb and other dishes, and an important sector in a struggling economy. AFP
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Updated 15 May 2022

Iraq’s prized rice crop threatened by drought

Iraq’s prized rice crop threatened by drought

AL-ABASSIYA, IRAQ: Drought is threatening the Iraqi tradition of growing amber rice, the aromatic basis of rich lamb and other dishes, and a key element in a struggling economy.

The long-grained variety of rice takes its name from its distinctive scent, which is similar to that of amber resin. It is used in Iraqi meals including sumptuous lamb qouzi, mansaf and stuffed vegetables.

But after three years of drought and declining rainfall, Iraq's amber rice production will be only symbolic in 2022, forcing consumers to seek out imported varieties and leaving farmers pondering their future.

“We live off this land,” Abu Rassul says, standing near a small canal that in normal times irrigates his two hectares (five acres) near Al-Abassiya village in the central province of Najaf.

“Since I was a child I have planted amber rice,” says the farmer in his 70s, his face wrinkled and unshaven, dressed in a dazzling white dishdasha robe. “Water enables us to plant every year.”

Except for this one.

Water shortage

Normally, rice fields planted in mid-May should stay submerged all summer until October — but that is a luxury Iraq can no longer allow.

The country’s available water reserves “are well below our critical level of 18 billion cubic meters,” Shaker Fayez Kadhim, Najaf’s water resources manager, told AFP.

Rice drains between 10 and 12 billion cubic meters during its cultivation period of about five months, so it is “difficult to grow rice in Najaf or other provinces because of the high level of water it needs,” Kadhim said.

Previously, more than 70 percent of the amber crop was grown in Diwaniyah and neighboring Najaf provinces.

In early May, officials limited total rice crop areas to 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres), in Najaf and Diwaniyah only, according to the Agriculture Ministry.

The normal quota is 35 times that.

Water shortages have also led to reduced quotas for wheat farmers.

The country’s annual rice production had been 300,000 tons, according to Mohammed Chasseb, a senior official in the ministry’s planning department.

Climate change

Iraq is known in Arabic as the “country of the two rivers” — the Tigris and the Euphrates. But despite those two legendary water sources, the supply of water has been declining for years and the country is classified as one of five most vulnerable to climate change effects and desertification.

The consequences are dire: Depleted rivers, more intense sandstorms, declining crop yields — all of which add to the multiple challenges the country faces after decades of war and insurgency.

The Tigris and Euphrates, and their tributaries, originate in Turkey and Syria as well as Iran, which dams them upstream. This reduces the flow as they enter Iraq.

Call for action

Kadhim says the Euphrates has dropped to about one-third of its normal level. He wants “political action” to get more water flowing.

Ahmed Hassoun, 51, president of the Najaf farmers’ association, fears the worst.

“There is a risk of seeing rice cultivation disappear for lack of water," he said, blaming authorities.

“We know Iraq will have a shortage of rain in the coming years,” said Hassoun, an agricultural engineer. Despite that, nothing has been done to “modernize the irrigation system,” he complains.


Crypto Moves – Bitcoin and Ethereum fall; 10X SPAC and Prime Blockchain complete $1.25bn merger deal

Crypto Moves – Bitcoin and Ethereum fall; 10X SPAC and Prime Blockchain complete $1.25bn merger deal
Updated 13 sec ago

Crypto Moves – Bitcoin and Ethereum fall; 10X SPAC and Prime Blockchain complete $1.25bn merger deal

Crypto Moves – Bitcoin and Ethereum fall; 10X SPAC and Prime Blockchain complete $1.25bn merger deal

RIYADH: Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency internationally, traded lower on Tuesday, falling by 3.44 percent to $24,008 as of 7:57 a.m. Riyadh time.

Ethereum, the second most traded cryptocurrency, was priced at $1,874 falling by 5.51 percent, according to data from Coindesk.

10X SPAC and Prime Blockchain complete $1.25bn merger deal

Prime Blockchain and blank-check vehicle 10X Capital Venture Acquisition Corp. II have ended their $1.25 billion merger deal, Reuters reported.

It demonstrates waning enthusiasm for special purpose acquisition companies that were startups’ preferred route to initial public offerings.

As a result of sky-high inflation and recession fears this year, several companies have canceled their SPAC mergers, which were announced in April.

Despite some hope last week, analysts have cautioned against over-optimism, arguing that before slowing rate hikes, the Federal Reserve will seek more solid evidence that inflation is declining.

Hodlnaut seeks judicial management for reorganization

As part of its efforts to restructure its business, Hodlnaut, a Singapore-based crypto currency lender and borrower, filed an application to be placed under judicial management on Tuesday, Reuters said.

In a petition filed with the Singapore High Court, the crypto company said it suspended withdrawals, swaps, and deposits last week.

The collapse of two paired tokens, Luna and TerraUSD, in May sparked a selloff in crypto assets.

Dragonfly Ventures buys hedge fund and rebrands
 
Venture capital firm Dragonfly announced it acquired cryptocurrency fund MetaStable Capital and rebranded, according to Bloomberg.

Haseeb Qureshi, the managing partner at Dragonfly, said the acquisition coincides with consolidation in the digital asset industry, Bloomberg added.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Under a new logo, Bloomberg said that Dragonfly has dropped “Capital” from its name.

Qureshi, a former partner at MetaStable, said in a Telegram message: “The bear market has caused a lot of traditional funds and crossover funds to exit the crypto market.”

“We’re the opposite: we’re going deeper, and committing to our crypto-native roots,” he added.

With tightening monetary policy, the crypto market suffered a painful rout resulting in spectacular leveraged losses., Bloomberg added. This shakeout is resulting in a rise in mergers and acquisitions.

Leon Li, the founder of crypto exchange Huobi, is interested in selling his majority stake. Crypto.com, a digital currency platform, also announced acquisitions in South Korea recently.

As of July 31, MetaStable had over $400 million in assets under management, co-founded by Naval Ravikant, according to Bloomberg. Many well-known digital-asset projects, such as Ethereum, were invested in by the fund early on. Venture capital firms including Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia, Union Square Ventures, and Founders Fund backed the company.

“Dragonfly has grown a lot since it launched, and so has the crypto industry," Qureshi said.

He added: “The traditional VCs will be back eventually, but the space will have moved on even further by then, and so will we.” 

According to public records, Dragonfly manages regulatory assets worth more than $3 billion, said Bloomberg. In a statement, general partner Tom Schmidt said the new brand represents the firm’s “cyberpunk, hacker-first roots.”

(With inputs from Reuters)


Saudi Arabia’s Dar Al Arkan plans residential project in Abu Dhabi

Saudi Arabia’s Dar Al Arkan plans residential project in Abu Dhabi
Updated 13 min 29 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s Dar Al Arkan plans residential project in Abu Dhabi

Saudi Arabia’s Dar Al Arkan plans residential project in Abu Dhabi

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s property developer Dar Al Arkan is planning a new residential project in Abu Dhabi as the property market in the UAE is steadily rebounding after the pandemic, a local newspaper of the UAE reported quoting the firm’s vice chairman Ziad El Chaar. 

El Chaar revealed that the new project will be Dar Al Arkan’s fourth in the UAE and the first in Abu Dhabi. Currently, the property developer has three ongoing projects in Dubai. 

“Abu Dhabi is a promising market. We are in discussions with many parties to acquire some key plots to enter the market soon,” said El Chaar. 

The development work on the new residential project is expected to begin by the first quarter of 2023. 

El Chaar, however, did not reveal the total cost of the Abu Dhabi project but said the company’s projects are “sizeable,” with each project valuing about $262 million. 


India In-Focus — Shares rise; India buys discounted Venezuelan petcoke; Volkswagen, Mahindra deepen EV cooperation 

India In-Focus — Shares rise; India buys discounted Venezuelan petcoke; Volkswagen, Mahindra deepen EV cooperation 
Updated 17 min 9 sec ago

India In-Focus — Shares rise; India buys discounted Venezuelan petcoke; Volkswagen, Mahindra deepen EV cooperation 

India In-Focus — Shares rise; India buys discounted Venezuelan petcoke; Volkswagen, Mahindra deepen EV cooperation 

RIYADH: Indian shares traded higher on Tuesday, with the NSE Nifty 50 index trading above 17,800 for the first time since April 8, helped by softening consumer inflation that eased for a third straight month in July.

The NSE Nifty 50 index was up 0.7 percent at 17,827.25, as of 0500 GMT, while the S&P BSE Sensex was 0.7 percent higher at 59,888.24. Indian markets were closed on Monday for a holiday.

India’s consumer inflation dipped to 6.71 percent in July, aided by a slower increase in food and fuel prices and adding to expectations that the central bank may rein in the pace of its policy rate hikes from next month.

Auto stocks were up, and the Nifty Auto index hit a record high with its 1.8 percent gain.

Shares of Hero MotoCorp. rose as much as 3 percent after strong June-quarter results.

Life Insurance Corporation of India rose 2.5 percent after the country’s biggest insurer posted a 20 percent jump in June-quarter premium income on Friday.

India buys discounted Venezuelan petcoke to replace coal

Indian companies are importing significant volumes of petroleum coke from Venezuela for the first time, trade sources and shipping data showed.

India’s growing appetite for Venezuela’s petcoke – a byproduct from oil upgrading and an alternative to coal — is being driven by a scramble for inexpensive fuel to power industries as global coal prices have surged.

This could boost cash flow for the South American producer, where state and private companies have increased exports of petrochemicals and oil byproducts, and the more competitively-priced Venezuelan supplies could displace cargoes from traditional suppliers.

Indian cement companies imported at least four cargoes carrying 160,000 tons of petroleum coke from April to June, according to three trade sources, Refinitiv ship-tracking data and Venezuelan shipping schedules.

Another 50,000-ton cargo is expected to reach the port of Mangalore on India’s southwestern coast in the coming days while a 30,000-ton shipment is scheduled to depart later in August, the data showed.

Volkswagen, Mahindra deepen electric vehicle component cooperation

Volkswagen and Mahindra & Mahindra on Monday expanded their cooperation and signed a term sheet under which the German carmaker will supply electric components to its Indian peer.

The agreement covers components of Volkswagen’s open platform for electric vehicles, called MEB, to be supplied to Mahindra’s new electric platform INGLO, the companies said.

The INGLO platform, which will power all of Mahindra’s EVs, offers options ranging from 60-80 kilowatt-hour battery capacity and fast-charging of up to 80 percent in less than 30 minutes, Mahindra said, without specifying the range of the EVs.

The cooperation aims for a volume of more than 1 million vehicles by 2030 and includes the equipment of five electric sports utility vehicles based on INGLO, the companies said.

“The partnership not only demonstrates that our platform business is highly competitive, but also that the MEB is well on track to become one of the leading open platforms for e-mobility,” Volkswagen management board member Thomas Schmall said.

(With input from Reuters) 


KPMG joins Saudi Arabia’s Digital Cooperation Organization as observer

KPMG joins Saudi Arabia’s Digital Cooperation Organization as observer
Updated 26 min 37 sec ago

KPMG joins Saudi Arabia’s Digital Cooperation Organization as observer

KPMG joins Saudi Arabia’s Digital Cooperation Organization as observer

RIYADH: KPMG has become the first professional services organization to join Saudi Arabia’s Digital Cooperation Organization as an official observer.

DCO is an intergovernmental organization established to enable digital prosperity. In a tweet, DCO wrote that KPMG will work together with the organization to inclusive digital economy growth and ensure digital prosperity for all.

A report published in ITP noted that KPMG’s association with DCO will involve operations in digital taxation, cross-border data flows, digital transformation and e-governance.

“KPMG is the first professional services observer of the DCO, with international expertise and a vital knowledge partner as we continue our mission to enable digital prosperity for all,” said Hassan Nasser, DCO vice president of international affairs.

 


AMAALA megaproject receives 3 bids for multi-utilities infrastructure contract: MEED

AMAALA megaproject receives 3 bids for multi-utilities infrastructure contract: MEED
Updated 57 min 13 sec ago

AMAALA megaproject receives 3 bids for multi-utilities infrastructure contract: MEED

AMAALA megaproject receives 3 bids for multi-utilities infrastructure contract: MEED

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s AMAALA megaproject has received three bids for a contract to develop multi-utilities infrastructure for its 4,155 square kilometers tourism scheme, MEED reported, citing industry sources. 

The companies which submitted the bids are ACWA Power, Alfanar, and the UAE-French consortium Masdar/EDF, the report added. 

The scope of the project includes a 146-megawatt solar power plant, and a seawater reverse osmosis plant with a peak capacity of 58,000 cubic meters a day, along with a sewage treatment plant with a capacity of 7,250 cm/d and power and water transmission networks. 

The energy component of the package comprises multiple substations and a centralized battery energy storage system. It will also have a solar photovoltaic power plant. 

AMAALA issued the tender for the contract in January, and it was extended multiple times. 

The complete package is expected to enter commercial operations by June 2024, the report further noted.