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April 2018
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EDITO
Friday, 20 April 2018

The European Union (EU) is concerned about South Africa’s ability to deal with exposure to prohibited medicines and growth hormones with regard to its poultry and other commodities. Briefing the portfolio committee on trade and industry at Parliament on Tuesday, Dessislava Choumelova, EU counsellor for trade and economics, said there are serious concerns about South Africa’s ability to conduct strict sanitary controls. According to Fin24, the understaffing at state veterinarians and “problems” at South Africa’s laboratories were cited in residue and public health audits conducted in February this year as reasons for health and safety concerns. “We (the EU) need to be convinced and sure of South Africa’s ability to deal with exposure to prohibited medicine and growth hormones,” Ms Choumelova said, “not only for poultry but for all commodities.”

For too long, neoliberal ideas have dominated issues in development economics, and it is easy to see why. When richer countries put their success down to increased trade openness and capital mobility, it is understandable that developing countries would want a taste too. The most famous argument for this line of thinking is that as countries move goods more easily between each other, it encourages the flow of ideas and innovation. The question of how regional trade can promote development in Nigeria is an important one. Over time, regional trade blocs have cropped up across Africa – a response to the argument that Africa's underdevelopment is due to low intraregional trade.

Peter Sotamaruti’s 2-acre farm near Bungoma, a village in western Kenya, is minuscule by the standards of the developed world. But it’s double the acreage he tended five years ago. Sales of surplus corn have allowed the 49-year-old farmer and his family to trade up from a mud hut to a three-room brick house with solar-powered lights. His modest profits also cover school fees for his four high school-age children and pay for health insurance, a luxury among farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. “We now treat our farm as a business,” says Sotamaruti, who plans to expand to 4 acres in the next year.

Vegetable seed specialist Hazera has announced that it has opted to support agricultural development in Africa, providing high quality seeds and expertise to support people improving their living conditions. Hazera utlined several examples of where it has made a difference on the continetn. In Ethiopia, a development project that began with the adoption of one village is expanding now to 13 additional villages, while another project is supported in Holeta, where the Roseland foundation is developing the community through education and agriculture. More broadly, Hazera is training farmers all over Africa and is introducing vegetable varieties that can bring African farms to healthy profit.

Azerbaijan’s agricultural sector has entered a new stage of development thanks to the care and attention President Ilham Aliyev pays to the development of the non-oil sector, said Heydar Asadov, the Agriculture Minister. The minister made the remark while addressing the first Turkey-Africa Business Forum in Antalya, Turkey on February 28. Asadov was invited as an honorary guest by Turkey’s Minister of Food, Agriculture and Livestock Faruk Celik. Asadov went on to say that thanks to the successful reforms carried out in the agro sector Azerbaijan has managed to completely ensure domestic demand in some strategic goods through local production, decrease its dependence on the foreign countries in the food security and develop its regions through increasing the volume of production of export-oriented goods.

The Agriculture Export Council (AEC) is working on the preparation of marketing and consumer studies for the African markets and is expected to finish them in May. The AEC also intends to raise exports of the sector to $2.26bn in 2017, up from $2.146bn in 2016, with an expected growth of 5%. Head of the AEC, Abdel Hamid Demerdash, said that the African market is important and promising for the future of Egyptian crops, where there are many potential large markets. He added that the studies are based on exploiting the joint trade agreements between Egypt and the rest of the African countries, which will contribute to entering these markets with the help of intact economic trade plans.

Cotton farming in Nigeria has received very little attention from various governments over the past two decades. This has however made the commodity to witness continuous decline in production. With its contribution to GDP dropping from 25 per cent to 4 per cent. Lack of improved seeds, access to extension services and low prices of the produce have been noted as the major setback over these years as Nigeria is said to be losing about $6.5 billion export opportunities in cotton annually. It has also been revealed that the country spends $4 billion annually importing textiles and readymade clothing, which could have gone into the pocket of Nigerian farmers if the industry is revived.

Nigeria has been losing billions annually from Cashew nut tree according to data from the National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN), due to lack of value addition and Nigeria’s inability to process cashew nuts in significant quantities for export, the country lost $1.4 billion in 2016. According to the information, Nigeria exported a total of 160,000 metric tonnes of cashew valued at $300 million in 2016. This was far behind what farmers and exporters could have earned assuming there were processing factories that could process cashew nuts to export standards.

Wednesday, 03 May 2017

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.