Rice crops are being threatened by El Nino after grain supplies were disrupted by the war in Ukraine

Rice crops are being threatened by El Nino after grain supplies were disrupted by the war in Ukraine
1 / 3
Villagers plant rice in a paddy field on the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday, June 8, 2023. Experts are warning that rice production across South and Southeast Asia is likely to suffer with the world heading into an El Nino. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
Rice crops are being threatened by El Nino after grain supplies were disrupted by the war in Ukraine
2 / 3
A farmer harvests rice crop in a paddy field on the outskirts of Guwahati, India, on June 6, 2023. Experts are warning that rice production across South and Southeast Asia is likely to suffer with the world heading into an El Nino. (AP)
Rice crops are being threatened by El Nino after grain supplies were disrupted by the war in Ukraine
3 / 3
Farmers work in a paddy field on the outskirts of Guwahati, India, on June 6, 2023. Experts are warning that rice production across South and Southeast Asia is likely to suffer with the world heading into an El Nino. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Short Url
Updated 14 July 2023
Follow

Rice crops are being threatened by El Nino after grain supplies were disrupted by the war in Ukraine

Rice crops are being threatened by El Nino after grain supplies were disrupted by the war in Ukraine
  • An El Nino is a natural and occasional warming of part of the Pacific that shifts global weather patterns, and climate change is making them stronger

NEW DELHI: Warmer, drier weather because of an earlier than usual El Nino is expected to hamper rice production across Asia, hitting global food security in a world still reeling from the impacts of the war in Ukraine.

An El Nino is a natural, temporary and occasional warming of part of the Pacific that shifts global weather patterns, and climate change is making them stronger. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this one in June, a month or two earlier than it usually does. This gives it time to grow. Scientists say there’s a one in four chance it will expand to supersized levels.
That’s bad news for rice farmers, particularly in Asia where 90 percent of the world’s rice is grown and eaten, since a strong El Nino typically means less rainfall for the thirsty crop.
Past El Ninos have resulted in extreme weather, ranging from drought to floods.
There are already “alarm bells,” said Abdullah Mamun, a research analyst at the International Food Policy Research Institute or IFPRI, pointing to rising rice prices due to shortfalls in production. The average price of 5 percent broken white rice in June in Thailand was about 16 percent higher than last year’s average.
Global stocks have run low since last year, in part due to devastating floods in Pakistan, a major rice exporter. This year’s El Nino may amplify other woes for rice-producing countries, such as reduced availability of fertilizer due to the war and some countries’ export restrictions on rice. Myanmar, Cambodia and Nepal are particularly vulnerable, warned a recent report by research firm BMI.
“There is uncertainty over the horizon,” Mamun said.
Recently, global average temperatures have hit record highs. Monsoon rains over India were lighter than usual by the end of June. Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Monday asked his ministers to anticipate a long dry season. And in the Philippines, authorities are carefully managing water to protect vulnerable areas.
Some countries are bracing for food shortages. Indonesia was among the worst hit by India’s decision to restrict rice exports last year after less rain fell than expected and a historic heat wave scorched wheat, raising worries that domestic food prices would surge.
Last month, India said it would send over 1 million metric tons (1.1 million US tons) to Indonesia, Senegal and Gambia to help them meet “their food security needs.”
Fertilizer is another crucial variable. Last year China, a major producer, restricted exports to keep domestic prices in check after fertilizers were among exports affected by sanctions on Russian ally Belarus for human rights violations. Sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine don’t specifically target fertilizers but the war has disrupted shipments of the three main chemical fertilizers: potash, phosphorus, and nitrogen.
Bangladesh found suppliers in Canada to make up for lost potash shipments from Belarus, but many countries are still scrambling to find new sources.
Farmers like Abu Bakar Siddique, who cultivates 1.2 hectares (3 acres) in northern Bangladesh, had enough fertilizer to keep his yields steady last year. But less rainfall meant he had to rely more on electric pumps for his winter harvest at a time of power shortages due to war-related shortfalls of diesel and coal.
“This increased my costs,” he said.
Each El Nino is different, but historical trends suggest scarce rainfall in South and Southeast Asia will parch the soil, causing cascading effects in coming years, said Beau Damen, a natural resources officer with the Food and Agriculture Organization based in Bangkok, Thailand. Some countries, like Indonesia, may be more vulnerable in the early stages of the phenomenon, he said.
Kusnan, a farmer in Indonesia’s East Java, said rice farmers there have tried to anticipate that by planting earlier so that when the El Nino hits, the rice might be ready for harvest and not needing so much water. Kusnan, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, said he hoped high yields last year would help offset any losses this year.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has stressed the need to manage water well in the coming weeks, warning that various factors including export restrictions and fertilizer shortages could combine with the El Nino to “make this a particularly damaging event.”
Baldev Singh, a 52-year-old farmer in northern India’s Punjab state, is already worried. He typically sows rice from late June until mid-July, but then needs the monsoon rains to flood the paddies. Less than a tenth of the usual rainfall had come by early this month, and then floods ravaged northern India, battering young crops that had just been planted.
The government has encouraged Punjab farmers to grow rice along with their traditional wheat crops since the 1960s to improve India’s food security, even though farmers like Singh don’t typically eat rice and irrigation of rice fields has drained the area’s aquifers. But he keeps growing it, counting on the certainty of government purchases at fixed prices.
With rain scarce, Singh may need to dig wells. Last year, he dug down 200 feet (60 meters) to find water.
“Rice has been our ruin ... I don’t know what will happen in the future,” he said.


Death toll rises to 54 in Indian tainted liquor tragedy

Death toll rises to 54 in Indian tainted liquor tragedy
Updated 15 sec ago
Follow

Death toll rises to 54 in Indian tainted liquor tragedy

Death toll rises to 54 in Indian tainted liquor tragedy
  • Those who died has consumed liquor spiked with methanol in Indian state of Tamil Nadu
  • Nearly 200 people treated since Wednesday for vomiting, stomach aches, diarrhea

NEW DELHI: The death toll has climbed to 54 from consumption of tainted liquor in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu, with more than 100 people still in hospital, a government official said on Saturday.
Nearly 200 people have been treated since Wednesday for vomiting, stomach aches and diarrhea, after drinking liquor spiked with methanol in the district of Kallakurichi, about 250 km (150 miles) from Chennai, the state capital.
Law enforcement officials investigating the incident have arrested seven people, said M.S. Prasanth, a senior district official, adding that follow-up action was being taken against liquor sellers and brewers in the district.
Deaths from illegally produced alcohol, often called country liquor, are a regular occurrence in India, where few can afford branded spirits, despite public demands for a crackdown on the vendors.
The state government said it was taking steps to identify those involved in production of methanol, a toxic chemical normally used for industrial purposes.


Trump endorses Ten Commandments in schools, implores evangelical Christians to vote in November

Trump endorses Ten Commandments in schools, implores evangelical Christians to vote in November
Updated 23 June 2024
Follow

Trump endorses Ten Commandments in schools, implores evangelical Christians to vote in November

Trump endorses Ten Commandments in schools, implores evangelical Christians to vote in November
  • “Has anyone read the ‘Thou shalt not steal’? ... It’s just incredible,” said Trump, who was convicted of a felony last month
  • According to AP VoteCast, about 8 in 10 white evangelical Christian voters supported Trump in 2020

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump told a group of evangelicals they “cannot afford to sit on the sidelines” of the 2024 election, imploring them at one point to “go and vote, Christians, please!“
Trump also endorsed displaying the Ten Commandments in schools and elsewhere while speaking to a group of politically influential evangelical Christians in Washington on Saturday. He drew cheers as he invoked a new law signed in Louisiana this week requiring the Ten Commandments to be displayed in every public school classroom.
“Has anyone read the ‘Thou shalt not steal’? I mean, has anybody read this incredible stuff? It’s just incredible,” Trump said at the gathering of the Faith & Freedom Coalition. “They don’t want it to go up. It’s a crazy world.’’
Trump a day earlier posted an endorsement of the new law on his social media network, saying: “I LOVE THE TEN COMMANDMENTS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, PRIVATE SCHOOLS, AND MANY OTHER PLACES, FOR THAT MATTER. READ IT — HOW CAN WE, AS A NATION, GO WRONG???”
The former president and presumptive Republican presidential nominee backed the move as he seeks to galvanize his supporters on the religious right, which has fiercely backed him after initially being suspicious of the twice-divorced New York City tabloid celebrity when he first ran for president in 2016.
That support has continued despite his conviction in the first of four criminal cases he faces, in which a jury last month found him guilty of falsifying business records for what prosecutors said was an attempt to cover up a hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election. Daniels claims she had a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier, which he denies.
Trump’s stated opposition to signing a nationwide ban on abortion and his reluctance to detail some of his views on the issue are at odds with many members of the evangelical movement, a key part of Trump’s base that’s expected to help him turn out voters in his November rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.
But while many members of the movement would like to see him do more to restrict abortion, they cheer him as the greatest champion for the cause because of his role in appointing US Supreme Court justices who overturned national abortion rights in 2022.
Trump highlighted that Saturday, saying, “We did something that was amazing,” but the issue would be left to people to decide in the states.
“Every voter has to go with your heart and do what’s right, but we also have to get elected,” he said.
While he still takes credit for the reversal of Roe v. Wade, Trump has also warned abortion can be tricky politically for Republicans. For months, he deferred questions about his position on a national ban.
Last year, when Trump addressed the Faith & Freedom Coalition, he said there was “a vital role for the federal government in protecting unborn life” but didn’t offer any details beyond that.
In April of this year, Trump said he believed the issue should now be left to the states. He later stated in an interview that he would not sign a nationwide ban on abortion if it was passed by Congress. He has still declined to detail his position on women’s access to the abortion pill mifepristone.
About two-thirds of Americans say abortion should generally be legal, according to polling last year by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Attendees at the evangelical gathering on Saturday said that while they’d like to see a national abortion ban, Trump isn’t losing any of their deep support.
“I would prefer if he would sign a national ban,” said Jerri Dickinson, a 78-year-old retired social worker and Faith & Freedom member from New Jersey. “I understand though, that as in accordance with the Constitution, that decision should be left up to the states.”
Dickinson said she can’t stand the abortion law in her state, which does not set limits on the procedure based on gestational age. But she said outside of preferring a national ban, leaving the issue to the state “is the best alternative.”
According to AP VoteCast, a wide-ranging survey of the electorate, about 8 in 10 white evangelical Christian voters supported Trump in 2020, and nearly 4 in 10 Trump voters identified as white evangelical Christians. White evangelical Christians made up about 20 percent of the overall electorate that year.
Beyond just offering their own support in the general election, the Faith & Freedom Coalition plans to help get out the vote for Trump and other Republicans, aiming to use volunteers and paid workers to knock on millions of doors in battleground states.
Trump also rallied voters in Philadelphia on Saturday with a speech heavily focused on violent crime, telling supporters at an arena that he would grant police officers immunity from prosecution.
“Under Crooked Joe, the City of Brotherly Love is being ravaged by bloodshed and crime,” he said. “We will surge federal law enforcement resources to the places that need them most.”
Statistics from the Philadelphia city controller say there were 410 homicides in 2023, a 20 percent drop compared to 2022.
Tyler Cecconi, 25, of Richmond, Virginia, said he was glad that Trump is stepping out of his comfort zone and going to places that may not be red. At the venue, a digital banner read “Philadelphia is Trump Country.”
“He’s showing the people that regardless if you vote for him or not, or if it’s a blue county or a red county, it doesn’t matter to him,” Cecconi said. “A president is for everybody in this country.”
The GOP Senate candidate of Pennsylvania, Dave McCormick, attended the rally and appeared on stage to talk to voters about the economy and immigration.
“This economy is not working for most Pennsylvanians, and it’s not working for most Americans,” McCormick said.
At both events, Trump returned several times to the subject of the US-Mexico border and when describing migrants crossing it as “tough,” he said that he told his friend Dana White, the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, to enlist them in a new version of the sport.
“’Why don’t you set up a migrant league and have your regular league of fighters. And then you have the champion of your league, these are the greatest fighters in the world, fighting the champion of the migrants,’” Trump described saying to White. “I think the migrant guy might win, that’s how tough they are. He didn’t like that idea too much.”
Biden’s campaign responded to Trump’s remarks by saying it was “fitting” that Trump, convicted of a felony, spent time at a religious conference making threats about immigration and “bragging about ripping away Americans’ freedoms.”
“Trump’s incoherent, unhinged tirade showed voters in his own words that he is a threat to our freedoms and is too dangerous to be let anywhere near the White House again,” campaign spokesperson Sarafina Chitika said in a statement.
 


Ukraine launches tens of drones on Russian territory, Russian officials say

Ukraine launches tens of drones on Russian territory, Russian officials say
Updated 23 June 2024
Follow

Ukraine launches tens of drones on Russian territory, Russian officials say

Ukraine launches tens of drones on Russian territory, Russian officials say
  • According to preliminary information, there were no casualties or destruction in either region, the governors said

KYIV: Ukraine launched tens of drones overnight targeting several Russian regions but with no reported damage, Russian officials said on Sunday.
At least 23 drones were destroyed over Russia’s western region of Bryansk, which borders Ukraine, the governor of the region, Alexander Bogomaz, said on the Telegram messaging app.
Russia’s air defense systems also destroyed drones over the Smolensk region, Vasily Anokhin, governor of the region in Russia’s west, said on Telegram. It was not immediately clear how many drones were downed.
According to preliminary information, there were no casualties or destruction in either region, the governors said.
An air raid alert was announced for the Lipetsk region several hundred kilometers south of Moscow, the region’s governor said on Telegram.
Reuters could not independently verify the reports. There was no immediate comment from Ukraine.
Kyiv has often said its strikes inside Russia territory are meant to undermine Moscow’s war effort and are in response to Russia’s relentless air attacks on Ukraine’s energy, military and transport infrastructure.

 


UK minister compares election betting scandal to Partygate

UK minister compares election betting scandal to Partygate
Updated 23 June 2024
Follow

UK minister compares election betting scandal to Partygate

UK minister compares election betting scandal to Partygate
  • Political bets are allowed in the UK, including on the date of elections, but using insider knowledge to do so is against the law

LONDON: A senior British minister compared the latest scandal involving Tory candidates accused of betting on the election date to Partygate, a series of Covid-era parties that brought down Boris Johnson.
Housing minister Michael Gove compared the betting allegations to the Partygate scandal in an interview with the Times newspaper on Saturday.
“It looks like one rule for them and one rule for us... That’s the most potentially damaging thing,” said Gove, who is standing down this election after 14 years as an MP.
“That was damaging at the time of Partygate and is damaging here,” he added.
Prime minister Johnson was forced from office in 2022 following public anger at the revelations of parties held in Downing Street when the rest of the country was under lockdown during the pandemic.
Now another senior Conservative Party figure has been caught up in the latest scandal.
The party’s chief data officer, Nick Mason, has taken a leave of absence, following claims he placed bets on the timing of the election, the PA news agency reported Saturday.
Mason is being investigated by betting regulators, accused of placing dozens of bets on the election date according to the Times. He is the fourth Tory figure to be implicated in the affair.
The party’s campaign director stepped aside following reports on Thursday that he and his wife, a Tory candidate in the July 4 election, were under investigation by the Gambling Commission.
The scandal broke a week earlier, when Tory candidate and Sunak’s ministerial aide Craig Williams said he was being probed for staking a bet on the snap election date before it was called.
On Wednesday, London police said one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s security detail had been arrested for allegedly placing a bet on the date.
Sunak has said he is “incredibly angry” over the revelations.
“If anyone is found to have broken the rules, not only should they face the full consequences of the law, I will make sure that they are booted out of the Conservative Party,” he said earlier this week.
Political bets are allowed in the UK, including on the date of elections, but using insider knowledge to do so is against the law.
The inquiries heap further misery on Sunak, whose party has trailed Labour by about 20 points in the polls for nearly two years, making it odds-on to be dumped out of office after 14 years.
Gove said that those involved in the betting scandal were “sucking the oxygen out of the campaign.”
Comparing it to Partygate again, he added: “A few individuals end up creating an incredibly damaging atmosphere for the party.
“So it’s both bad in itself, but also destructive to the efforts of all of those good people who are currently fighting hard for the Conservative vote.”


France charges two Moldovans over coffin graffiti in Paris

France charges two Moldovans over coffin graffiti in Paris
Updated 23 June 2024
Follow

France charges two Moldovans over coffin graffiti in Paris

France charges two Moldovans over coffin graffiti in Paris
  • A source close to the case said the two Moldovans claimed to have been paid around 100 euros to paint the graffiti

PARIS: French prosecutors on Saturday charged two Moldovans suspected of painting coffins and a slogan urging an end to Ukraine war on the facade of a prominent Paris newspaper, a judicial source said.
It was just the latest in a series of such acts in the capital in recent weeks.
French officials have repeatedly warned of the risks of disinformation and other attacks by Russia over France’s support for Kyiv.
Tension between Paris and Moscow has increased since President Emmanuel Macron said earlier this year he had not ruled out sending troops to Ukraine.
The two men, who carried Moldovan passports, were arrested overnight Thursday-Friday after six red coffins and the phrase “Stop the Death, Mriya, Ukraine” were painted on the building of right-wing daily Le Figaro.
Mriya means “dream” in Ukrainian.
They are being held on charges of destruction of property and participating in “an effort to demoralize the army to harm national defense in peacetime,” the source said.
Six similar coffins were found early Thursday on the facade of the Agence France-Presse headquarters in central Paris, not far from the Figaro offices.
A source close to the case said the two Moldovans claimed to have been paid around 100 euros to paint the graffiti.
A separate investigations has been opened after graffiti showing French Mirage fighter jets in the form of coffins were found last Tuesday in three districts of Paris. They included the phrase “Mirages for Ukraine.”
Similar graffiti was discovered on the walls of the AFP building Monday.
Macron announced in early June that France would send Mirage-2000 fighter jets to Ukraine and train their Ukrainian pilots as part of a new military cooperation with Kyiv.
On June 8, French police said they were holding three young Moldovans suspected of being behind inscriptions of coffins in Paris with the slogan “French soldiers in Ukraine.”
They were later charged with property damage and released.
Moldova’s Foreign Minister Mihai Popsoi posted on X, formerly Twitter: “We regret and firmly condemn the incident.”
He said the “vandalism” was “part of hybrid tactics to harm our international image.”
Popsoi reiterated his comment on Saturday, denouncing an “instigation to hate.”
“We call on Moldovan citizens to be vigilant and not to allow themselves to be manipulated to the detriment of our country.”