Current Trade News

A trailblazing sustainable agriculture project has helped hundreds of farmers move away from the harmful practice of growing tobacco, in favour of a healthier alternative, the UN has said.
The initiative, supported by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), in cooperation with the Kenyan authorities, is helping to "move the needle" on ending the global tobacco epidemic, according to WHO.
Kenya is the first country to participate in the scheme, which offers training to tobacco farmers so that they can switch to alternative crops that are easier to harvest, such as beans.
So far, growers have sold 135 tonnes of beans to the World Food Programme (WFP), delivering them significantly more income, than they earned from tobacco farming.
Growing beans has the added advantage that they are full of iron, which helps to counter numerous heath and development problems among children and pregnant women.
More than 6,000 Kenyans die of tobacco-related diseases every year; 79 men and 37 women die per week.
An estimated 220,000 children and 2.7 million adults use tobacco each day in the country. It kills more than eight million people around the world every year, and 1.2 million of these deaths are attributed to second-hand smoke exposure, reports UN News.
Source: Allafrica news
COMESA in collaboration with IGAD, EAC, SADC, IOC, Lake Tanganyika Authority (LTA) and the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO) have renewed their partnership of working together in implementing a programme on sustainable development of Fisheries commonly known as ECOFISH in the Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean Region.
The partnership, started three years ago after a 28 million Euros finance agreement was signed by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), on behalf of COMESA, EAC, IGAD and SADC, with the European Union (EU).
Over the years, the implementing partners have been steadily implementing the agreed programs amid the challenges brought about by COVID-19.
In view of this, COMESA Secretariat hosted the 3rd Steering Committee Meeting in Lusaka during which the teams could track the progress and performance of the program and make recommendations for implementation. Apart from COMESA Secretariat, fish experts from IGAD, EAC, SADC, IOC, LTA and LVFO participated in the meeting which was held both physically and virtually.
Assistant Secretary General for Programs Dr Kipyego Cheluget officially opened the meeting and urged the team to make recommendations that will help the fish and fish industry sector to grow and be sustainable. He pointed out that majority of fisheries value chain actors are small-scale and live primarily in coastal and inland lake areas in the region.
He lamented that despite the significant importance of fisheries as a sector especially the small scale and the potential to contribute significantly to global poverty alleviation, many small-scale fisheries in the EA, SA and IO region are not in a good state, and people dependent on these remain impoverished and most vulnerable to climate change impacts.
He added that, the development of the blue economy may also have detrimental consequences on small-scale fisheries that have to compete with other sectors for the use of coastal areas, inland lakes and rivers. The ECOFISH program is designed to create awareness and tackle some of these challenges.
The meeting was informed that COMESA supports its Member States to implement their Blue Economy Strategy in such a way that it does not affect the lives and livelihoods of small-scale fisheries.
“We are therefore optimistic that the present Steering Committee meeting will guide ECOFISH program to have special attention to small-scale fisheries and create an understanding of the concept of sustainable development and its implications to the sustainable management of the inland and marine fisheries in EA-SA and the Indian Ocean region,” Dr Cheluget said.
The meeting commended the development of the blue economy satellite account which was recently validated that it would play major role in complementing efforts in capturing the required data. Capturing of the data on ecosystem and fisheries habitat is expected to support evidence-based policymaking and monitoring of the marine as well as inland fisheries of the EA-SA-IO region.
COMESA, EAC, IOC, IGAD, SADC, LTA and LVFO are also collaborating in harmonizing of Monitoring Control Surveillance which is expected to strengthen capacities in the sustainable development of the fisheries resources.
Speaking from Mauritius, Head of Cooperation at the EU to the Republic of Mauritius and the Republic of Seychelles, Mr Milko Van Gool reiterated the EU’s support for both inland and marine sustainable fisheries in the Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region.
He mentioned that recently during a regional Indo-Pacific forum, ECOFISH was yet again cited for its contribution to fighting illegal fishing in the Indian Ocean region. Therefore, expectations were high on this programme and the management team needed to deliver and show results.
IOC Secretary General Prof. Vêlayoudom Marimoutou urged the team to focus on successes recorded so far and make recommendations on how best to implement the remaining activities for the benefit of the region and partners.
Source: www.comesa.int
To analyze the dynamics of agricultural commercialization and agrarian change across East, West and Southern Africa, an e-dialogue was recently convened by the Agricultural Policy Research Programme (APRA) in partnership with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and Foresight4Food (F4F).
The event began with participants engaging in three parallel regional presentations and discussions for East, West and Southern Africa, and culminated in a continental-level panel involving expert commentators and audience questions.
The Southern Africa session began with four presentations, highlighting key regional concerns. Mirriam Matita, APRA Malawi Country Lead and Economics PhD Student at the University of Malawi, commenced proceedings by analyzing lessons learned regarding groundnut commercialization and livelihood trajectories in Malawi, and was followed by Loveness Msofi, Lecturer at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who spoke on gender and social dynamics in commercialization in Malawi. Toendepi Shonhe, Agricultural Political Economist at the University of South Africa, then looked at agricultural commercialization, changing labour regimes, and rural transformation in Zimbabwe, before Chrispen Sukume, APRA Zimbabwe Country Lead and Co-Administrator at Zimbabwe’s Livestock and Meat Advisory Council, examined the impact of smallholder tobacco commercialization on food security in the region.
Sustainability in inclusivity
Following these insights, expert commentator Kezia Batisai, Associate Professor at the University of Johannesburg, highlighted key shifts required to support agricultural transformation in the region. These include addressing the informality of the sector’s development due to poor implementation of policy, ensuring any change to agricultural commercialization is inclusive, sustainable and permanent, and directing resources to those who have historically been marginalized because of a lack of political power and connections.
Batisai also noted the need for gendered responses, as women landowners are currently grappling with gendered intergenerational land transfer biased towards male inheritance, often pushing women to the margins. During the discussion, she also emphasised the need to address patriarchal structures and cultural practices to reduce gender inequality and amplify the voices of women. “There’s a narrative that women are an add-on. There’s no deliberate effort to incorporate them more,” she said. “We need to pay more attention to marginality and put women at the forefront.” Patience Mutopo, Founding Chair and Professor of the Centre for Development Studies at the Chinhoyi University of Technology, agreed that the gender imbalance – something which is “rooted in social, cultural and religious attitudes” – needs to be challenged, but noted that “agriculture is becoming more of a balanced domain.”
Addressing the labour question
Next, Mutopo moved on to address another critical question: that of labour. She presented several myths that exist in Zimbabwe, including that there is a shortage of farm labour (when, in reality, unemployment is very high in many African countries), and that people working on farms solely do just that – when, in fact, most people are engaged in a number of diversified, income-generating activities.
During the general discussion, Matita also argued for the need to tailor solutions to different kinds of farmers; for example, smallholders versus those with large-scale operations. “We should not be treating smallholders the same as others,” she stated. “Smallholder farmers are participating in markets but barely surviving. They need greater support.”
To finish, Ian Scoones, Co-Director of the ESRC STEPS Centre of the Institute of Development Studies, emphasized the importance of having access to land, and how this is linked to opportunities for commercialization, gender equality, labour, and more. He highlighted that commercialization is a complex process with no single trajectory, and that there is a need for wider and more agile policies to promote and enable commercialization. “Commercialization is non-linear and related to a variety of circumstances,” he stated. “Policies need to reflect this.”
A wider perspective
Following the regional discussions, participants and speakers from each region came together to share key points and draw conclusions on a continental scale. Many focused on the issue of gender, with Mutopo calling on the group to consider the ‘missing women’, and the need to engage them rather than consider them as victims. Janice Olawoye, Professor at the University of Ibadan, noted that when the incomes of women farmers rise, health and educational outcomes improve. Batisai added that women need to be put into policymaking positions at all levels so they can become agents of change.
Meanwhile, Charles Abugre, Executive Director of the International Development Economics Associates, called for a systems approach which would also address land grabbing, the overuse of chemicals and other inputs, and a broader set of goals to be achieved by agriculture, such as human and planetary health. Soji Adelaja, Distinguished Professor in Land Policy at Michigan State University, added increasing populations, shrinking farm seizes, and climate shocks to this list, and stressed that Africa needs to become and remain self-reliant in terms of food production despite these challenges.
However, Isaac Minde, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Associate Director of the Alliance for African Partnership at Michigan State University, emphasized the need to be realistic in terms of goal setting, policymaking, and monitoring, calling for achievable goals, implementable programmes, and prioritization of areas of investment. This sentiment of looking to the future and ensuring sustainable progress was echoed by Dr. Mary Mutembei, Head of the Rice Promotion Program at the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, who asserted the need to assess the impact and long-term benefits of transformational food systems on rural areas and disadvantaged groups.
Looking to the future
Closing remarks came from Ken Giller, Professor of Plant Production Systems at Wageningen University. He highlighted several key action points, including the need to raise awareness of these issues among governments and policymakers, and the necessity of finding solutions that are flexible and can be adapted to a wide diversity of contexts. He particularly highlighted the persistent challenge that the poorest in Africa’s supply chains are greatly left behind and that they need more than commercialization; they need policies to reduce inequality.
Source: www.future-agricultures.or
Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera has said in New York, before the first part of the fifth UN Least Development Countries (LDC) meeting, that "the economies of LDC nations are at risk from climate change events that are happening in quicker succession than before." The suffocating onslaught is happening while LDCs, already choking from the unsustainable debt burden, is racing toward the U.S.$1 trillion mark.
Chakwera described how his country suffered deep wounds in 2019 at the hands of Cyclones Idai and Kenneth and while those wounds are still fresh, it was attacked again by tropical storms Ana and Gombe in the last seven weeks leaving a trail of destruction and death. Chakwera said that the Covid-19 pandemic has increased poverty levels in Least Developed Countries by 35% in the past two years.
Source: Nyasatimes

Listening to Lusaka Avocado Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society (LAMCS) board chairperson Bernard Chiwala discuss the potential of Zambia agriculture sector and the ready market last Sunday, underscored the long-held thought.

The thought is that Zambia has not fully capitalized two important markets, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and China.

"Congo is a yawning market: they pay in (United States) dollars. It is an urgent matter because if we continue at this pace, there are other people who will go into the market," Mr Chiwala said during a ZNBC Sunday Interview programme.

Picking it up from there, Zambia stands to benefit by exploiting the Congo market to the fullest, given various factors in that country.

Similarly, countries like Zambia stand to greatly benefit from capitalizing on huge markets like China's for various goods and services and one day this column will demonstrate that but today the focus is on DRC.

In 2019, this forum pieced together a two-article series on that.

That was after the DRC went to the poll on December 30,2018 to elect the successor to Joseph Kabila who was constitutionally-barred from re- contesting the presidency after his 18-year rule.

The series focused on what a DRC's neighbour, like Zambia, can benefit from this vast country by looking at some elements of its economy.

As pointed out then, DRC is a giant mining country which has been Africa's leading copper producers for nearly a decade now.

According to Mining for Zambia, in 2013, for the first time, the DRC surpassed Zambia's copper production level to become Africa's leading copper producer.

It then posted an output of 925 000 tonnes per year.

This could be said to have been a surprising accomplishment, given that barely 10 years earlier, the country was producing copper of as low as 70, 000 tonnes annually.

DRC came off a low base and rapidly increased its copper production.

After catching up with Zambia's production figures in 2013, the francophone neighbour outdid Zambia and a few years later hit the record one million tonnes, which feat has, for about 20 decades, been elusive to Zambia.

According to the World Bank, the largest Francophone country in Africa has more than 1,100 minerals and precious stones.

According to Mining.com, an online resource on mining issues, with the likes of Glencore, Randgold, Zijin, China Moly and Ivanhoe heavily investing in it, DRC has become a force to reckon with as a copper producer.

According to Focus Economics the economy has gained pace on continued strong activity characterized by sharp rise in the overseas sales of copper and cobalt--two of the country's key export commodities.

In terms of economic fundamentals, the DRC Gross Domestic Product (GDP) averaged $12.08 billion from 1960 until 2017, reaching an all-time high of $37.92 billion in 2015 and a record-low of $2.88 billion in 1964.

In fact, DRC, which has a long history of poor economic performance, has recovered and managed to avoid a recession in 2020, unlike most of its neighbours including Zambia.

The International Monetary Fund had predicted comfortable growth that has even been revised upwards, to 5.4 per cent instead of 4.9 per cent for 2021, and 6.2 per cent instead of 5.6 per cent for 2022.

Estimated at 93,957,168 as of Monday, based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data, the DRC population is a strong factor when it comes to providing the market.

DRC, the fourth most populous country in Africa with a small but growing middle class, is an enormous market which can greatly benefit Zambia.

Generally, and for historical reasons, Congolese hold a high opinion of Zambian products and services, particularly in terms of the quality-to-price ratio.

The DRC is undertaking various programmes to rehabilitate various sectors including agriculture, energy, construction, basic infrastructure, and transportation.

In the interim, the DRC turns to its good neighbour, Zambia, for various products like maize, including on government-to-government arrangement.

The DRC Government has created a working group to improve the business climate and is actively seeking to increase foreign trade and investment.

Generally, exporting to the DRC can offer high profit margins as the market is not yet saturated with competition, as Mr Chiwala notes.

That is buoyed by a feeble manufacturing sector, porous borders, the weak capital's links with surrounding citizens and between the regions which renders the DRC an import-based economy.

This is according to the United States (US) International Trade Administration DRC Commerce Guide.

Low-cost consumer goods and foodstuffs smuggled into DRC from Angola and Zambia have undercut local production and resulted in large-scale capital flight which could be formalize by a form trade.

Zambia has, however, not performed well in this area and for instance it imported more than it exported, in value terms.

Zambia exported $326 million worth of goods and services to Congo while that country exported goods and services valued at $1.24 billion according to the US Commerce Department.

Source: The Times of Zambia

All communal farmers will soon be required to venture into sunflower farming as it seeks to substitute U.S.$200 million worth of crude sunflower oil imports. The government has already started providing farmers with inputs to enable them to get involved in sunflower farming. This will ensure the country ceases imports of between 60,000 and 65,000 metric tonnes of crude sunflower oil from South Africa annually.
The sunflower is also useful for studying climate change because of its natural resilience. Already well-equipped to withstand drought, high salinity in soils and vastly variable ecosystems, the plant also requires little fertilizer.
Zimbabwean farmers have, in 2022 increased the planting of traditional crops as farmers diversify to boost food and nutrition security. The increase in production of the traditional grains has been promoted by the increase in demand producer prices.
Source: Allafrica.com