Video guest: Josephine Mwangi

May 2017
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EDITO
Saturday, 27 May 2017

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.

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.