Current Trade News

Agriculture and Irrigation minister Lobin Lowe has assured Malawians not to panic about food shortage in the country as there is enough food reserves to feed the South-eastern impoverished nation.
The ministry says the updated Malawi food balance sheet indicate that Malawi has 1,693,997 Metric tonnes (MT) of maize.
Speaking during a press briefing in Malawi's capital, Lilongwe Monday Lowe said Malawi maize requirement for the next three months (January to March) is projected at 861 868 Metric tonnes of maize.
Lowe said: "As a country, there is 915, 998 metric tonnes of maize surplus and he updated national Food Balance Sheet (FBS) compilation as of 31st December 2021 shows that the country has a total supply of 1,693,997 metric tonnes.
"The total maize requirement for the three months, from annually to March 2022, is projected at 861, 868 metric tonnes."
The minister said that the reported maize surplus is not only the stock under the custody of government; it also comprises of stocks held by different stakeholders including farmers and private traders.
"Out of this estimated maize surplus, official maize stocks held by government institutions, the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) and ADMARC Limited, stood at 265,253 metric tonnes as of December 31, 2021."
Lowe said the food balance sheet projection, the country remains stable in terms of maize availability.
"This is further supported by the prevailing market prices which have remained stable during the past three months and even as the country is in the lean period during which so far ADMARC sales stand at only 37 metric tonnes since opening their selling season," he said.
On maize price Lowe said the Ministry of Agriculture's maize price surveillance system shows the current maize national
average price for the month of December 2021 was MK152.99 per kilogram as compared to MK200 per kilogram in December 2020.
Lowe said this shows that the prices remain stable over the period when demand for maize traditionally increases.
"On the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) 2021 Annual Assessment report, which projected over 1.6 million to be food insecure during the 2021/2022 consumption year," Lowe said.
Government has already released about 17,000 metric tons of maize to be distributed to the affected households as humanitarian food while on the other hand, ADMARC markets are open for those who need to access the affordable maize.
"I would like to assure the country that we have enough maize stocks for every Malawian and that the country is food secure,” said Lowe.
In his remarks ADMARC Chief Executive Officer Rhino Chiphiko said the maize available at the moment is within the area where they were bought.
Chiphiko assured Malawians not to worry about food shortage as they the country has food surplus in stock.
Source Nyasa Times
Nairobi — Kenya's tea has continued to perform dismally in the international market with the earnings of the commodity dropping by 9.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2021 compared to a similar period in 2020, Kenya Nation Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data shows.
According to the Q3 2021 Balance of Payments report prepared by KNBS, earnings from the export of tea deteriorated from Sh30.5 billion in the third quarter of 2020 to Sh27.7 billion in the review period.
"The decline was largely attributable to the decline in the export quantities that fell from 138.6 thousand metric tonnes to 124.5 thousand metric tonnes," said KNBS.
The earnings have also been dropping when compared to the other quarters of 2021 where in Q2(April to June) the country got Sh32.2billion from tea exports, while in Q1(January to March) the country earned Sh35.8billion from the commodity.
The declining value of one of Kenya's leading exports was so alarming that the Ministry of Agriculture had to intervene and set a minimum selling price to save farmers who were incurring losses as the price was lower than the cost of production.
The minimum reserve price of $2 was introduced by the Ministry of Agriculture in August 2021 after the cost of the commodity hit a decade low of Sh186.
The price rallied for two months after the introduction of the minimum price that buyers were supposed to pay for Kenya Tea Development Agency teas, peaking to a five-year high of Sh256 before it started dipping again in October.
Tea farmers in the country are poised for better returns this year as government reforms enter the second half of the 2021/22 financial year.
Despite the dismal performance of the country's tea in the quarter under review, domestic exports were valued at Sh160.2 billion representing a 10.6 percent increase from the corresponding quarter of 2020 where they were valued at Sh144.8billion.
The growth was largely on account of an increase in domestic exports of horticulture, articles of apparel and clothing accessories, edible products and preparations, and titanium ores and concentrates.
Under the Broad Economic Category, significant increases were exhibited in the domestic exports of non-food industrial supplies and consumer goods which rose by 20.5 percent and 16.3 percent, respectively.
On the other hand, revenue from domestic exports of food and beverage commodities continued to account for the largest share of the total export earnings, valued at KSh 65.1 billion in the quarter under review.
Source: Capital FM
Harare, Zimbabwe — In her wildest dreams, smallholder farmer Sarudzai Sithole never imagined that her pineapples could someday stock the produce section of Europe's finest supermarkets.
Now, the 34-year-old mother of five is part of a group of 45 farmers in Rusitu Valley in Chipinge, a district in Zimbabwean eastern province of Manicaland, who from December 2021 would be exporting nearly 50 tonnes of their pineapples to the Netherlands.
"This is the best experience I have heard in the fourteen years that I have been growing pineapples. I have been selling my pineapples locally to buyers from Mutare, Harare and Bulawayo during this period, but it has been for a small profit.
"I will be selling two tonnes, and at the price of 70 cents that we have been promised, the exported crop will greatly improve my life and that of my family," an excited Sithole tells IPS.
She says pineapple farming has enabled her to build a house, buy various household goods and send children to school. She is increasing her crop hectarage, hoping that the rewards from the exported crop will empower her to electrify the family home, among other major home improvements.
When growing the pineapples, Sithole says they do not apply fertilizers or chemicals but manure only.
Dudzai Ndiadzo, the Rusitu Fruit Growers and Marketing Trust administrator, says the farmers' dream to export their produce to Europe became a reality in August (2021). Their pineapples got organic certification from Ecocert Organic Standard, a French quality control body whose certification allows the farmers to send their organic products to international markets. The 45 villagers belong to the trust.
Farmers in Chipinge and most of Zimbabwe's prime farming areas incur heavy post-harvest losses because their produce often rots by the roadside as they struggle to secure markets or transport their produce to the markets.
Chipinge farmers formed Rusitu Fruit Growers and Marketing Trust to market their crops. It represents over 1 300 farmers.
The farmers were victims of Cyclone Idai. This tropical cyclone hit their home area of Chipinge and Chimanimani in 2019, killing over 180 people, destroying 7,000 households and infrastructure and leaving 4,000 people food insecure, but their pineapple crop was not destroyed.
Ndiadzo said most farmers have been growing pineapples but not on a commercial scale because the market for pineapples wasn't that good.
"We are excited to be exporting because the local market for pineapples is poor. The money from the export market is better - it is double or more what we would have gotten here," he tells IPS.
Confronted with market access challenges, Rusitu Fruit Growers and Marketing Trust engaged the country's export promotion body, Zimtrade, which offered training and technical expertise to the farmers on how to grow pineapples organically.
In 2017, the farmers started working with Zimtrade to get organic certification and have been supported in the certification and export quest by organisations such as COLEACP, Embassy of Netherlands in Zimbabwe, and Netherlands based PUM and RVO International.
Zimtrade has a long-standing partnership with PUM, where experts offer technical interventions to Zimbabwean exporters in different sectors to improve their quality and production processes for export. Through the collaboration with PUM, Zimtrade developed links with food companies in the Netherlands that have made it possible for smallholders to export their crops.
Admire Jongwe, Zimtrade's manager for Eastern Region, says the organic certification is a critical milestone in reaching the lucrative organic fruit market, especially in the United States of America, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany and other emerging markets such as the United Arab Emirates.
"The organic certification will enable the farmers to fetch as much as 30 percent premium on their produce in most supermarkets in Europe. This will improve their returns as well as boost their livelihoods from producing the pineapple," he tells IPS.
Jongwe says with organic standards, the smallholder pineapple farmers will access the global pineapple market, which has grown from US$2,3 billion in 2011 to US$2,5 billion in 2020, according to Trade Map.
Zimbabwe averages US$18 million per year in the total trade value of fruit and vegetable exports. Figures from Zimtrade shows that during the first half of 2021, Zimbabwe's horticulture exports topped US$30 million with tea, macadamia nuts, fresh flowers, leguminous vegetables, largely contributing to the revenue.
The country used to be one of Africa's biggest exporters of horticulture, but horticulture exports have been tumbling over the years. Europe is currently the largest export market for the Zimbabwean horticulture sector, with the Netherlands and the United Kingdom leading the pack.
Africa is a continent full of opportunities for growth. One of the vehicles to propel development in Africa is a robust manufacturing sector. An industry widely viewed as a path to economic growth on the continent. That’s why the African Continental Free Trade Area was launched in 2018. Manufacturing holds potential as Africa navigates the path to recovery post-pandemic. Experts project that the sector could hit 666.4 billion dollars by 2030. That’s over $200 billion more than it did in 2015.
On Business Africa, we speak exclusively to the President of MeTL Group to understand the opportunities within the sector in 2021 and beyond. Mohammed Dewji is Africa’s youngest billionaire. He said: ‘’ We need to do value addition. And by doing value addition, you don't use as much as foreign currency that you would otherwise use and also you would employ a lot of people. So I think manufacturing is the core, I mean, of importance for the African continent.’’
Trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area has kicked off. And Africa’s largest economy is planning a leading role in this $3.4 trillion market. Nigeria took a while to sign up to the agreement. But when it finally did, the most populous nation on the continent says it cannot afford to be left out.
Business Africa talks to a local Chief Economic Strategist on the West African nation’s preparedness to harness the dividends of this free trade zone. Professor Ken Ife at the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) Nigeria said that: ''We are still the 8th largest producers of oil in the world and the biggest in Africa. There are 90 million SMEs (Small and Medium Scale Enterprises) in Africa, forty-five (45) of those are in Nigeria. If Nigeria could have 50% of SMEs in Africa even though our population is just 18% and GDP is 18% of the whole of Africa’s GDP, it does tell you that entrepreneurship is a comparative advantage for Nigeria''.
And in the Republic of Congo, some relief for those who rely on electronic products to do business. Importation of computer equipment will now be free of taxes and duties. This means local students can purchase laptops at lower prices for example. It’s part of a move that Brazzaville hopes will boost its digital economy. But according to our Congolese correspondent, Cédric Sehossolo, importers say old stocks that were previously taxed, would first have to run out before this new law can impact on new imports.
"To be honest with you, I think it's a bit difficult at the moment as we're stocking up for three months, customers won't feel the difference at the moment, but within two months they will see the change and therefore prices will be lower on everything from laptops, tablets and smartphones especially'', an importer, Attieh Jaafar said.
''While the law on the importation of electronic items into the Republic of Congo is an exception in sub-Saharan Africa, the lack of basic infrastructure such as the provision of electricity, is still a problem in a country where only 9.7 percent of the population has access to the Internet'', Sehossolo reports.
Source: Business Africa.
Building on the gains for inclusive and harmonized agricultural trade
Some described it as a global game-changer. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), one of the world's largest international free trade areas, started trading under preferential arrangements on 1 January 2021.
With the COVID-induced recession subsiding as vaccination rates increase, there was great hope for the AfCFTA to show that it could live up to its hype. So, what has worked?
Since trading began on 1 January, some intra-African trade under AfCFTA arrangements based on anecdotal evidence has taken place, including alcoholic beverages and cosmetic products (recent data on trade flows are not yet fully available).
Although intra-African agricultural trade remains below 20 percent compared to more than 60 percent for Europe and Asia, trade is projected to grow once negotiations have come to an end and trade barriers are progressively rolled back.
To date, 42 out of 55 African countries have ratified the agreement, and 88 percent of the negotiations on product-specific rules of origin have been concluded, covering more than 70 percent of intra-African trade according to the AfCFTA Secretariat in 2021.
However, a significant shortcoming of the agreement is that many nutrition-sensitive goods may not be fully liberalized or progressively liberalized over longer periods, as indicated by ongoing negotiations on tariff offers. Examples of protected goods include live animals, meat, fish, milk and dairy products, fruit and vegetables, coffee, tea, spices, oilseeds and sugars.
Africa's agricultural commodities and raw materials have traditionally dominated trade with the rest of the world (cocoa, coffee, cotton, tobacco and spices) with a mix of processed goods (cane and beet sugar, prepared or preserved tunas, wine and other food preparations).
For the AfCFTA to reach its full potential by exploiting the full range of the agri-food value chain, including agro-processing, governments and development partners need to step up efforts to scale up intra-African trade by providing policy and capacity-building support to the private sector, programme development, knowledge management, and data collection and analysis.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) provides just such support to governments, the private sector, and smallholder farmers to take full advantage of what the agreement and pan-African trade have to offer.
In support of AfCFTA implementation, FAO, in collaboration with the African Union Commission, launched the Framework for Boosting Intra-African Trade in Agricultural Commodities and Services in April 2021 to guide policymakers, the private sector, and civil society to develop and expand sustainable, inclusive and resilient intra-African trade. This framework and other knowledge products produced by the Organization also serve as tools for advocacy, dialogue, analysis and policy implementation.
In the future, enhancing food control systems is a crucial part of growing and sustaining the expansion of intra-African agricultural trade. In this respect, FAO provides the necessary support to strengthen the capacity of countries to comply with food safety standards and facilitate trade.
The Organization also promotes inclusive agribusiness value chains to expand intra-African trade and improve food security and livelihoods, especially among vulnerable groups such as women and youth. Finally, an essential component to the success of the AfCFTA is readily accessible data. Market and trade data must be democratized and digitized to allow micro, small and medium enterprises to grow and maximize their trade potential.
FAO is working to build and integrate trade and market information systems at all levels of the agricultural value chain to ensure inclusive agri-food systems.
There's still work to be done, but with a year under its belt under less-than-ideal circumstances due to COVID-19, the AfCFTA has shown positive signs that give hope for a future where African trade rises as the global game-changer it is promised to be.
It is more important than ever that countries come together with development partners to consolidate the gains made in 2021 by building productive capacity, supporting investments in critical input and output market infrastructure, putting in place harmonized food controls, trade and market information systems, and ensuring inclusive markets that can lift the most vulnerable out of poverty.
Source: Africa Renewal
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (Rome)
Agriculture offers innovative solutions to the climate crisis ... for the globe and its own survival!
When we see the news reports on climate change, it often includes footage of factory chimneys and traffic jams. We may or may not realize that agriculture is also a key contributor. In fact, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agri-food sectors - the systems by which our food is grown, produced and distributed - represent around 34 percent of total GHG emissions. But in hearing this, do we ever reflect on the fact that agriculture is also one of the areas most affected by climate change? Being both a source and a victim, the agricultural sector is in a unique position to offer solutions to this massive challenge.
With rising temperatures and unpredictable, extreme weather events, climate change is already threatening food security in many parts of the world.
In response, FAO is ramping up its work to help transform our agri-food systems to better respond to the climate crisis. One way of doing this is by spreading the use of green and climate-resilient agricultural techniques, which can help to reduce the negative impacts from the way our food is produced and reaches our plates.
Here are four examples of how FAO is helping farmers and food producers around the world to implement green and climate-resilient, innovative solutions:
1- Climate smart farming techniques in Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka, the impact of climate change and environmental factors on agriculture is already quite clear. Fields are becoming unproductive due to heavy rains, excessive soil tillage and lack of nutrients. Reservoirs are silting up, affecting irrigation systems and hampering efficient use of water. All this leaves smallholders struggling to make a profit and often resorting to environmentally unsustainable farming methods to eke out a living from the land
Through the Save and Grow project, supported by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, FAO trained over 1 130 farmers to optimize the use of water, agricultural inputs and labour. The training has helped smallholders who grow the island's main crops use 10 to 20 percent less water for irrigation, so they can store more for the next cropping season.
By preparing their land early instead of waiting for reservoirs to fill up, they can irrigate 15 percent more land in the dry season. Saving water during the growing season, planting early and making better use of rainwater means they have more water left after the dry season. They also learned how to apply fertilizer more precisely, reducing the amount used by 27 percent.
2- Reforestation in Paraguay
In areas of eastern Paraguay, deforestation and forest degradation are widespread, and climate change makes communities who are dependent on family farming for food production and livelihoods increasingly vulnerable.
FAO is responding to the needs of these communities as the lead agency implementing an ongoing Green Climate Fund (GCF) project in the area, which focuses on 87 000 people, many from indigenous communities. Farmers will receive Environmental Conditional Cash Transfers in exchange for undertaking climate-sensitive, agroforestry projects.
These initiatives include growing trees such as eucalyptus, citrus fruits and yerba mate plants and abandoning the practice of chopping down native forests for fuel. The cultivation will help provide shade, conserve soil, store CO2 and regulate water flows, helping small-scale farmers adapt to more frequent droughts and floods by diversifying from their traditional mainstays of cotton, beans, cassava, sesame and sugarcane.
3- Climate-resilient fishing in Malawi
In Malawi, the fisheries sector directly employs nearly 60 000 fishers and indirectly supports more than 500 000 people. The FAO project "Building Climate Change Resilience in the Fisheries Sector" especially focuses on the communities living on the shores of Malawi's heavily overfished Lake Malombe.
This Global Environment Facility (GEF)-supported project helps communities to make fish-farming less vulnerable to climate change through the promotion of deep pond technology. Deeper ponds are less at risk of drying out in times of drought, while the higher walls help to prevent fish escaping in floods. Fast-growing fish are also promoted so that they can be harvested before shallower ponds dry out.
4 - Climate-smart livestock rearing in Ecuador
In Ecuador, cattle production is one of the mainstays of the country's economy and social and economic structure. But its environmental impacts are causing concern, with emissions from livestock farming a major source of GHG.
Under a climate-smart livestock project funded by the GEF, FAO has worked with technicians from Ecuador's Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock to help promote climate-smart livestock management techniques among the country's farmers. These practices include better management of pastures and manure, paddock irrigation, fodder banks and rotational grazing, as well as improved techniques for milking and ensuring animals' health.
So far under the project, more than 1 000 farmers have adopted new, more climate-smart ways of livestock management. Not only has that helped bring GHG emissions down by more than 26 percent, but it has also helped them improve productivity and earn 17 percent more income.
Reversing biodiversity loss, reducing GHG emissions, enhancing agricultural adaptation and strengthening farmers' resilience are essential both to addressing climate change and combating poverty and hunger. FAO is working to deploy innovative solutions to these challenges by promoting greener and more climate-resilient ways of producing our food and reinventing agri-food systems to be more inclusive and sustainable.
In November 2021, FAO is raising awareness on this and promoting a "green and climate resilient agriculture" debate at COP26 in collaboration with key partners including the United States, China, the GCF and GEF. Green and climate-resilient agriculture is an important part of the solutions to providing nutritious food while preserving healthy ecosystems for future generations.
Source: FAO