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Regional Trade

Video guest: Josephine Mwangi

September 2018
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Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Dynamar recently launched a review of container trades in the region of East and Southern Africa. According to the report, the area has produced a significant growth, despite challenging conditions in many ports, in terms of infrastructure and other various bottlenecks, mainly associated with inland transportation. In the mind of many, this study’s part of Africa forms an altogether insignificant trade. That may be true if comparing it with a high volume area such as the Far East. Yet, this region’s combined port throughput is approaching 8 million TEU, which is technically more than the whole of the Australian continent. And then, there is so much scope for growth of these 23 different African countries with their 437 million inhabitants.

Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss will lead a five-day trade mission aimed at increasing this island’s exports to three neighbouring Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states. Inniss, who is to be accompanied by his Permanent Secretary Philmore Best and five other officials, is scheduled to visit St Lucia, Grenada and Guyana on the mission, which also seeks to enhance the development of trade relations, joint ventures and other investments. Organized by the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC), the mission includes three BIDC export and business development officers, along with a representative from the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association and Foreign Service Officer Corey Archer.

PACER Plus, or the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus negotiation is comprised of countries including Australia, Cooks Islands, Federates States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. Negotiations on the PACER Plus were first launched at the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum in 2009 and its conclusions are yet to be made come mid 2016. While conclusions are still pending, Fiji and Papua New Guinea have raised concerns on the current form of PACER Plus with concerns on each country’s benefits on a larger perspective economically, socially and politically.

Crop production prospects in Southern Africa have been weakened by the El Niño weather phenomenon that has lowered rains and increased temperatures, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said. A reduced agricultural output would follow on last year's disappointing season, which has already contributed to higher food prices and "could acutely impact the food security situation in 2016," according to a special alert released on Dec. 22 by FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).

New developments within the agricultural sector, which include new bilateral, regional and multi-lateral agreements as well as the current and expected impacts of climate change and agricultural land reform have prompted the revision of the National Agricultural Policy which has been in existence since 1995. The new policy was launched last year in December by the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa. At the launch the minister said that the document has been revised to provide a broad guideline to Government, its agencies and all stakeholder in the agriculture sector to work in uniform and collective efforts.

Ugandan farmers are increasingly inter-planting coffee, the country's primary export, and banana, a staple food, as a way of coping with the effects of climate change. In densely populated Elgon and Rwenzori Mountains, the two crops have been planted together on smallholder farms despite recommendations under the colonial agricultural extension system to separate these in Central and Western Uganda where land was believed to be plentiful. With growing population pressure and climate change, this is no longer possible. But studies by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and partner organizations show that a Ugandan farmer gets 50 per cent more income from inter cropping coffee and banana than from growing either crop alone

At the close of 2015 there were concerns coming out of the rice industry as local farmers were anxious that the containers of Guyanese rice sitting at the Big Creek Port in southern Belize would have been allowed on the shelves for consumers to purchase, thus giving them, the local farmers, a disadvantage particularly because of the difference in price.  The containers of imported rice are still at the port and it seems that now they will either be discarded or sent back to Guyana as Justice Sonia Young did not grant leave for the application on judicial review, submitted on behalf of importer, Jack Charles.

A tripartite free trade agreement signed in June by three African regional blocs was urged to be ratified quickly, according to the outcome of a meeting of Council of Ministers of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) received on Monday. The tripartite free trade agreement was launched in June this year by COMESA, the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Egypt. But the COMESA Council of Ministers has expressed misgivings that a number of countries have not even signed the agreement while those that signed it have not ratified.

Lillian Malambo, 36, is an HIV- positive woman in Zambia’s Southern Province. She tested positive to the virus that causes AIDS during her last pregnancy in 2010. Ms Malambo’s HIV positive status meant that she had to make changes to her lifestyle and this included improving her nutrition. But she could not manage to do so due to lack of funds. She as such ventured into agriculture with the intention of growing enough crops for consumption and the surplus for sale. “I did venture into farming but my yields were usually low. Nature was mostly to blame. Most times, the rains were erratic and sometimes we experienced drought. And this had an impact on my health as well as providing for my family’s dietary needs,” Ms Malambo said.

The past year has been a wakeup call for southern Africa as crop output has collapsed in nearly all States except South Africa and Zambia which will have small surpluses from the past season. The combined deficit of all SADC States this year for maize will be about 6 million tonnes and all of this will have to be sourced from abroad at a landed cost of about US$1,8 billion. The reasons for this failure during the past season are difficult to tie down to any single factor but it would seem that to some extent it can be linked to climate change.