agriculture

Scientists are looking to a tiny variety of killer wasp to spare Indonesia from the ravages of a bug that is threatening the key cassava crop in south-east Asia’s biggest economy.

Since it arrived in Indonesia in 2010, the cassava mealybug – a small white insect that feeds on plants – had spread to the country’s main growing regions for cassava, which is a staple for tens of millions of people and generates around $1bn a year from industrial production. 

Jignesh Shah, chairman of Financial Technologies, a financial services group, was arrested as part of an investigation into fraud at a commodity exchange owned by the group, the National Spot Exchange Limited (NSEL).

Shah has been under police investigation since August after NSEL abruptly suspended trade in most of its commodities contracts on July 31. Investigations by commodities regulator, the Forward Markets Commission, showed what it said was a Rs55bn fraud, as the exchange defaulted on obligations to market participants because it did not have enough collateral. 

In India, summer, when the temperatures soar, is mango season. And no mango variety is as prized as the luscious Alphonso mango, often referred to as the king of fruits.

Alphonso mangoes usually sell at prices out of reach of the Indian common man, as most of the annual crop is exported to Europe, where deep-pocketed consumers are willing, and can afford, to pay more for rare tropical treats. 

The FT’s Ben Marino travels to Hebei province to visit a rural community that is opening online shops selling Inner Mongolian cashmere to fashion-conscious internet shoppers across China.

“Made in Mongolia” trolleybuses bump along Peace Avenue, Ulan Bator’s main east-west axis, alternating lousy braking with sudden acceleration. Most of their major components have been imported from abroad and the buses are only assembled locally. Still, they embody the ambition of local authorities to develop Mongolian industry.

“Before, we were thinking of importing everything. But things have been changing and today Mongolians can produce themselves, even buses,” said president Tsakhia Elbegdorj during the inauguration of a new bus assembly line in Ulan Bator few weeks ago. 

The recent devastation in Syria has had one less expected outcome far away on the shores of India.

Exports of cumin, a popular spice used in curry powder and medicines, have shot up to compensate for the disruption to supplies in the Middle East. But prices aren’t spiking as you might expect. 

The slaughter of cows is banned in many states in India and the export of cow meat is prohibited across the country.

But go to any major Indian city and you will find steaks and beef burgers on the menu in high-end restaurants, a new phenomenon that has has led to confusion and protest alike. 

Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian president ousted at October’s elections after a decade of liberal market reform, had mixed results in his attempt to make his country a great place to do business. Georgia’s comparative advantages in the global economy are few.

At this time of year, however, Georgia does have one lesser-known, natural advantage: Christmas trees. But while its native Caucasian Fir is admired as one of the best Christmas trees in the world, Georgia is struggling to cash in. 

Chandon

“A bright and fresh fruit bouquet of citrus blossom, green apple with hints of tropical fruits and vanilla.”

It’s the sort of “tasting note” you would expect of wines from the luxury French brand Moët Hennessy – except that this one is made in India.

This week, the label launched its first products made specifically for the Indian market: its Chandon Brut and Chandon Brut Rosé sparkling wines. 

Contrary to a flurry of Monday news reports, China has not inked a massive agriculture investment giving it ownership of some 5 per cent of land in Ukraine, itself home to some of the world’s richest soil. As reported, it would have handed China a chunk of Ukrainian land the size of Belgium.

Yet it’s only a matter of time before China, with its surging population and consumption, completes a major farming deal in Ukraine. Just not this one. 

Ripe for replacement

Agco, one of the biggest farm machinery makers in the US, has teamed up with a strong local partner as it follows its US rivals into the competitive Russian market. A deal signed with Oleg Deripaska’s Russian Machines group this week will see the companies join forces to build tractors and combine harvesters at a plant near Moscow as well as teach local farmers about the wonders of agro high tech. 

When we think of Groupon, the US-based daily deals website, it’s usually for cut-price getaways, budget fine dining or an affordable day of paragliding – and the sacking of its 32-year-old founder.

But what about onions? 

Can jobs and exports be weighed against the right of animals to a quick and clean death? That was the debate in the Polish parliament on Friday and in the end MPs decided for the animals, voting down a government bill that would have reopened ritual slaughter, banned since the beginning of the year. 

By Vladislav Baumgertner of Uralkali

Just last week US President Barack Obama spoke in Senegal about private sector commitments to tackle food security issues in Africa. Indeed the problem of food security is one of the most pressing global issues. Around 925m people, including over 200m children under five, are going hungry. The food riots we witnessed in 2008 and 2011 in more than 20 countries highlight how food vulnerability is a serious destabilising factor for economies. 

By Andrey Oleinik, managing director of Basic Element Agribusiness

The world’s agricultural industry needs a radical shake up. Falling food production and rising demand means it is vital that the sector improves production efficiency and increases the amount of land under cultivation.

But the world’s largest producers have little, if any, land to open up and are already operating close to maximum efficiency. With 40m hectares of uncultivated tillable land, Russia has the potential to become the world’s number one cereal producer and provide the global bridge between food supply and demand.