Tuesday, August 25, 2009
The West Nile virus has been found in B.C. for the first time, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
Mosquitoes collected in a trap in B.C's south Okanagan have tested positive for the virus, officials said. The centre is also investigating possible cases of the virus in two Kelowna residents who had traveled in the south Okanagan region.
"These cases are unusual. We have had 40 people in B.C. so far who have tested positive for the West Nile virus, but all of them had traveled outside the province, so this is the first time that we have confirmed activity actually in B.C." said Dr. Bonnie Henry.
The people undergoing testing are members of the same family and both are in their 40s. Officials expect final test results early next week.
The people did not require hospitalization and are both recovering.
Officials say they have been anticipating the arrival of West Nile virus in B.C. for several years and have good surveillance system to monitor the spread of the virus.
The public is asked to protect themselves from mosquito bites and to clean up any pools of standing water, which can act as breeding grounds for the insects.
India may ban corn exports for a second season to boost local supplies as the crop wilts under the driest monsoon in seven years, the U.S. Grains Council said.
"A ban is a real possibility if prices rise further," Amit Sachdev, India representative of the U.S. Grains Council, said in a telephone interview from Gurgaon, near New Delhi.
A halt in corn shipments from the South Asian country may boost sales for U.S. and Latin American suppliers, supporting prices that have fallen 45 percent in the past year. A drought in 40 percent of India's 626 districts may lower output in the world's second-biggest producer of rice, sugar and wheat.
"The crop has been hit by lack of rains and it's bound to affect productivity," Sachdev said. "It's a bit too early to say how much the output will decline."
India sells corn mostly to animal feed makers in countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. Shipments have totaled 1 million tons since the four-month ban on exports was lifted on Oct. 15.
Overseas sales were banned in July last year after prices surged. Curbs ended after output reached a record 19.3 million metric tons, including a summer crop of 13.9 million tons.
"It's quite possible the government becomes cautious about the overall supplies and bans corn exports," said Vijay Iyengar, managing director at Agrocorp International Pte. from Singapore. "We have reasonable stockpiles of rice and wheat, but not for many other commodities."
The government has purchased a record 30 million tons of rice and 25.1 million tons of wheat from farmers this year.
Farmers planted corn to 6.75 million hectares as of Aug. 12 compared with 6.59 million hectares a year earlier, according to the farm ministry. Prices have jumped 20 percent on the National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange Ltd. in Mumbai in the past six months on speculation below average rains will reduce production.
In Chicago, corn for December delivery dropped 1.3 percent to $3.3125 a bushel at 10:23 a.m. Mumbai time. In India, futures for September delivery declined as much as 1 percent to 982.50 rupees ($20) per 100 kilograms on the National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange Ltd.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government halted exports of rice under so-called government-to-government accords last month to meet shortages caused by inadequate rains. Last week, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the country may import food items such as edible oils and lentils to meet any deficit.
To be sure, rains have returned, narrowing the deficit to 2 percent in the week ended Aug. 19 compared with 56 percent in the previous week, the weather office said Aug. 20.
"Rains in the past few days have considerably improved moisture levels, and the winter crop should be fairly good," Atul Chaturvedi, president at Adani Enterprises Ltd., India's biggest trader of farm goods, said by telephone from Ahmedabad. "I don't see any reason for the government to panic."
Trade Secretary Rahul Khullar wasn't immediately available for comment. The government isn't considering a ban on exports of corn and soybean meal, NDTV Profit television reported Aug. 18, citing Khullar
India will import lentils, edible oil and other staples to cope with any shortfalls caused by a widespread drought that has badly hurt crops, the finance minister said Friday.
The statement by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee came as the country of nearly 1.2 billion people faces its weakest monsoon in at least seven years.
"We shall go for imports" of "whichever commodity will be in short supply," Mukherjee told a state farm ministers' meeting in the Indian capital.
He noted supplies of pulses and edible oil were already running short. India is the world's largest consumer and importer of pulses.
But Mukherjee said India has enough grain stocks to tide it through for the moment.
"We are starting the drought year with good buffer stocks," Mukherjee said.
"The government has the experience to deal with such situations and we need not lose confidence in ourselves," he added.
The government would not announce the timing of any imports so as to avoid market prices being automatically jacked up, he said.
Consumers are already experiencing soaring food prices due to the weak rains.
Of India's 626 districts, 246 have been declared drought-hit with the annual monsoon running at 26 percent below average since the start of the rains in June, according to the latest meteorological report.
Mukherjee warned the poor rains would have "a cascading effect," hurting crop planting, hydro-electric generation, groundwater levels and recharging of reservoirs.
He appealed to farmers to start sowing their winter wheat crops as early as possible in order to ensure a good harvest and make up for losses suffered in the summer-growing season.
The winter wheat crop is normally sown in November and harvested in March while rice and sugar are key summer crops.
The rains during the June-September monsoon are expected to be 87 percent of the 50-year average, the weather office has forecast.
With only 40 percent of arable land under irrigation, India's 235 million farmers rely on the rains to grow their crops.
India is one of the world's leading producers of rice, wheat and sugar