Video guest: Josephine Mwangi

January 2018
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EDITO
Monday, 22 January 2018

The African continent has the potential to feed itself and even have surplus food to export to other parts of the world. But instead, the continent imports $35 billion worth of food and agricultural products every year, and if the current predictions hold, the import bill will rise to $110 billion annually by 2025. So the question is: if the African continent has vast agricultural potential as we have been led to believe, why are we facing an astronomical food import bill? To say nothing of, I'm not the first or last person to ask this question. Indeed, a few days ago, the President of the African Development Bank (ADB), Akinwumi Adesina, made the following remarks while speaking at the Centre for Global Development in Washing DC: "Africa's annual food import bill of $35 billion, estimated to rise to $110 billion by 2025, weakens African economies, decimates its agriculture and exports jobs from the continent. Africa's annual food import bill of $35 billion is just about the same amount it needs to close its power deficit."

The National Agricultural Marketing Council of South Africa, together with tralac, an NGO studying trade law, has released a study on African agricultural trade as it plays out on the world stage. The conclusion of ‘WTO: Agricultural issues for Africa’ by Prof Ron Sandrey and his fellow authors, is that there are few agricultural sectors where Africa would benefit from WTO intervention and that the continent couldn’t do better than its current preferential access to the European Union. For South Africa, which is designated a developed nation under WTO rules (apparently a self-selected designation), the situation is more complex.

Research institutes are proving to be the weak link in Nigeria’s drive to diversify into agriculture and make exponential gains by way of earnings, employment and other spin-offs, experts say. The institutes are mandated to develop technologies and practices to improve farmers’ yields per hectare and ensure food security in Africa’s most populous nation. The institutes are however falling grossly short in this direction and lagging behind smaller peer nations, where agriculture is less of a priority. Experts say the key causes of this are underfunding, obsolete equipment and a failure to upgrade human capacity. “Less than five percent of the yearly budgetary allocation for agric research institutes goes into core research, while 70 percent goes into salaries and emoluments, with the remaining going into procurements, renovation and overheads,” Baba Yusuf Abubakar, professor of Animal Science, Federal University of Abuja told BusinessDay, in a telephone interview.

Today in each EU nation, most people wear genetically modified (GM) cotton, and farm animals massively feed on imported GM soy. Yet many countries vote against import authorizations of the very same GM crops they depend upon: We import more than 60kg of GM soya for each of the EU’s 500 million citizens each year; on the other hand, most European farmers are banned from growing GM crops. The European Academies of Science have said: “There is compelling evidence that GM crops can contribute to sustainable development goals with benefits to farmers, consumers, the environment and the economy.”A recent Food and Agriculture Organization report confirms that agricultural biotechnologies can help small producers to be more resilient and adapt to climate change. Like safety authorities around the world, the European Food Safety Authority regularly confirms that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are as safe as conventionally bred crops

Tuesday, 02 May 2017

Zimbabwe expects to receive 80 centre pivots worth over $6 million from Spain to aid irrigation under Command Agriculture, as Government moves to adopt new technologies and strengthen infrastructural development in support of the successful import-substitution programme. Negotiations are under way for another facility worth $60 million for bigger equipment from the same country, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said yesterday. The 80 centre pivots will come in batches of 20 and the first batch has now been prepared for shipment, with installation of the units expected to start next month. The centre pivots will range in size from those which can irrigate 20 hectares to those for 80 hectares.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The first South African avocados have started arriving in Europe to find quite empty markets because recent floods have disrupted the Peruvian avocado industry, causing a delay in ripening and loading their fruit. “We normally receive good prices this time of the year due to an empty market. Because of the lack of supply from Peru, prices might even be higher than in previous years,” says Rouxan Jansen van Rensburg of Corefruit. Their first consignment of Fuerte and Maluma Hass arrived late last week in the EU. “At opening levels of €15 to €16 for 4kg Hass it looks very promising.”

A deeper UK engagement with African trade is sensible and beneficial, however, negotiators will need to wake up to complexities of hashing out any deals on the continent. When The Times reported that some Whitehall officials had been using the term ‘Empire 2.0’ to describe post-Brexit UK’s campaign to cosy up to its former colonies, there was a significant backlash among some members of the 52-state Commonwealth. Yet despite the unofficial branding, the official line is one of reciprocal trade deals and closer foreign policy – both of which will be welcome to the UK and its allies.

South Africa''s Government''s priority is to ensure that there is certainty and continuity in the trade and investment relationship with the United Kingdom as a result of Brexit, says Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies. Minister Davies told the British Chamber of Business that the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) provides a good basis to facilitate trade between South Africa and the UK going forward, SA News reports Monday. 'Our priority now is that we do not want any interruption in our trade relations with the UK. The UK government has given an indication that it will roll-over existing trade arrangements to provide continuity and predictability,' said the official. This, as the UK is set to leave the European Union (EU) through a term known as Brexit, the official information agency points out.

The Gambia and the European Union on Wednesday handed over their funded women’s garden project in Kumbaney village, Niamina West in the Central River Region. The project, which cost two million dalasi, was part of EU project to promote women’s socio-economic rights. The 2 hectare site was fenced and housed a shed, 2 toilets and has 8 concrete lined wells. Speaking at the handing over ceremony, Pansaw Nyassi, Project Manager at Actionaid International-The Gambia, explained that they conducted various assessments across a number of villages in the district and Kumnaney merited its naming as beneficiary of the project. He said, apart from the garden project, they have also supported the women of the region with poultry and tie and dye projects.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with regional trade facilitator TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) to improve cross border trade and enhance trade links between the country and East Africa Community (EAC) member states. The government of the Netherlands has committed $6.7 million to kick-start the projects. TMEA will invest in projects involving already available resources such as water transport, simplifying trade processes through training and facilitating adoption of ICT around Eastern DRC. They will comprise dredging and rehabilitation of Kalundu Port on Lake Tanganyika; capacity building and implementation of Integrated Border Management Systems on the border crossings in Rusizi between Rwanda and Bukavu; rehalibitation of the Ports of Kasenyi on the DRC side and Ntoroko in Uganda; as well as infrastructure work at the border crossing at Goli, Uganda and Mahagi, DRC.