COMESA portal for digital trading
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has developed an online portal for use by Member States to facilitate electronic trading in light of the COVID-19 pandemic (New Times, 20 July). The trading bloc says that the e-trading platform has been developed to assist the region in exchanging information on availability of essential products to support regional trade during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is hoped the focal points will coordinate with the private sector in populating the platform with information on essential supplies. This is expected to boost local production and address shortages in supply from outside the region. The COMESA Secretariat conducted a training programme as part of the roll out of the platform, which needs a multiple stakeholder use to make it versatile, functional and sustainable. The platform will also help small-scale cross-border traders and SMEs to have access to market information, linking producers, sellers and buyers.
EAC: Drop in intra-regional trade in the context of COVID 19
A study by TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) reports that restrictions on movement of people also cut off operations of informal cross-border traders, who contribute significantly to regional trade and are mostly women (New Vision, 22 July).Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, intra-regional trade had been projected to grow 5%, driven by enforcement of joint policies, reduction of non-tariff barriers and exploitation of individual competitive advantages. According to the East African Community (EAC) Trade and Investment Report, the drop in intra-regional trade followed 9.4% growth recorded in 2018. On average, EAC countries source 6% of their total imports from the region and supply 20% of their total exports to the region. The report showed that Uganda had been the region’s most consistent trade partner, surpassing Tanzania in 2017, as its trade jumped to $800 million in 2017 from $780 million the previous year.
Jane Nalunga, Executive Director of the Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI)-Uganda, said that although in current times partner states would normally first adopt inward-looking mechanisms, it is important for countries in the region to recognise each other’s interdependence. “The EAC largely depends on agriculture and its products for its 150 million people, therefore, we must depend on each other to maintain a steady supply of the same in this period,” she said.
Avocado Society of Kenya: Past, present and future
The Avocado Society of Kenya held a webinar 21–23 July on “Avocado growing in Kenya for the world: The past, present & future”. If you missed it, you can catch up on the speakers and their main themes here. The Society has announced that the major international Africa avocado congress – Avocado Africa 2021 – will be held in Nairobi on 24–26 June 2021. The congress, held jointly in collaboration with other regional and international organisations in the avocado value chain in Africa and beyond, will have the theme “Avocado Africa: A convergence of technology and business for increased competitiveness and trade”.
Horticulture lobby seeks Kenya Airways subsidy to cut freight costs
Fresh produce exporters want the KSh1.5 billion horticulture stimulus released by the government given to Kenya Airways as a subsidy to help cut high freight charges (Business Daily, 20 July). The Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya (FPC) says the current freight charges make Kenya’s products expensive and uncompetitive on international markets. The cost of ferrying a kilo of cargo from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Europe currently averages Sh500, compared with a low of KSh200 during the same time last year. Ojepat Okisegere, chief executive officer of FPC, also said the government should support the national carrier in acquiring high capacity aircraft to help more cargo reach the world market.
How Kenya’s horticulture sector plans to recover from COVID-19 shocks
According to the World Bank, Kenya faces an infrastructure financing gap of approximately $2.1 billion annually. Public–private partnerships are considered crucial in closing in this gap, and the government plans to raise $2 billion in the financial year 2020/2021 through PPPs to fund key infrastructure projects. In a video from CNBC Africa (22 July), Isaac Otolo, Director Advisory Transactions at PwC, discusses the issues.
Kenya: Opportunities and concerns for Hass avocado farmers
Hass avocado has become a popular crop in Kenya, replacing traditional cash crops in some areas (Kenyan Government News, 15 July). Boniface Fundi, a farmer who has planted 2,800 avocado seedlings on 14 acres at Nyangati, Mwea East sub county terms the fruit as “gold”. Last year, he sold Sh.145, 000 worth of avocados from only 15 trees with one piece going for Sh.10. Fundi started as a coffee farmer but later realized that the avocado project is more profitable. The windfall is fueled by international demand for the fruit after avocado exports to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates grew significantly in the recent past, besides the European market. The vast Chinese market is also coming up after Kenya signed a pact that will see the fruit exported to the populous Asian nation. According to 2019 statistics, Kenya is the largest exporter of avocado in Africa, producing 191,000 tonnes of avocados per year with exports estimated at 51,507 tonnes. South Africa comes second with annual exports of 43,492 tonnes. However, farmers say they fear exporters are exploiting them, because they do not know how the fruit is graded and how much each grade fetches in the market. The Avocado Association of Kenya (ASK) has accused some exporters of harvesting immature fruits and wants the Horticultural Crops Development Authority (HCDA) to check this trend, saying the quality of the fruits from the country will be affected if nothing is done on the matter.
Tomato sector in crisis in Cameroon
Due to coronavirus restrictions, the price of tomatoes was cut by a factor of four, with the usual price per crate being between 8,000 and 10,000 CFA francs (Fresh Plaza, 22 July). The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Gabriel Mbairobe, has presented a rescue plan for the tomato industry. This includes the purchase of 500 motor-pumps for farmers worth 300 million CFA francs, 1,000 Class A sprayers at 75 million CFA francs, plant protection products for 1,000 ha of cultivation at 425 million CFA francs and hybrid seeds for 1,000 ha at over 1 billion CFA francs; for an estimated total of 2 billion CFA francs. He also wants “the rehabilitation of the Société des Conserveries Agricoles du Noun (SCAN), which has closed for lack of raw materials, or the creation of other structures of lesser importance in production basins or consumption centres”. Similarly, he recommends “the setting up of mini-processing units in cooperatives and the increase of national tomato production within the framework of the project for the development of market gardening crops to feed agro-industries (Elena Tomato and Neima tomato)”.
Tanzania seizes eight flower farms abandoned by defaulters
The Tanzanian government is seeking new investors for eight premium horticultural farms in Arusha that it has repossessed (East African, 21 July. According to Deputy Agriculture Minister Hussein Bashe, the farms, located on the southern slopes of Mount Meru, were once pioneer producers of barley, wheat, flowers and vegetables, but have been lying idle after being abandoned for over a decade now. The farm owners are said to have fled the country after defaulting on government-insured loans. Horticulture is the fastest growing subsector in Tanzania’s agricultural industry and an important source of foreign exchange revenues through exports. According to Tanzania Horticultural Association (Taha) chief executive Jacqueline Mkindi, horticulture in Tanzania is considered as an export-oriented business because of the inclusion of flowers alongside vegetables. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has since been declared over in Tanzania, put the country’s multimillion-dollar green industry under pressure after a lull of nearly 12 years. According to a Taha report, about 80 percent of Tanzania’s estimated four million horticulture workers could lose their jobs if the pandemic persists. At the height of the pandemic in Tanzania in April, Taha tried to cushion the industry from adverse effects by commissioning Ethiopian Airlines to airlift perishable high-value horticultural crops to overseas markets twice a week.
Nigeria launches zero interest loans for farmers and small agribusinesses
The Central Bank of Nigeria has unveiled its new policy on Non-Interest Financial Institutions (NIFIs) aimed at agribusinesses as well as MSMEs (Commodafrica, 16 July). The new scheme should also benefit start-ups as well as companies that want to develop or that are weakened. Among the 10 guidelines is the Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS). Eligible activities under this scheme will cover the entire agricultural value chain from production, inputs, storage, processing, logistics and marketing. According to the Bank, this is expected to benefit 370,000 young people between the ages of 18 and 35 who want to enter agriculture by 2023.
In-depth overview of Zimbabwean fruit and vegetable sector
A recent study from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, “The Zimbabwean fruit and vegetables sector: Standards for export and agro-processing”, describes the value chain in terms of structure, actors and their position in the value chain (Fresh Plaza, 17 July). Based on the analysis, bottlenecks of the industry are identified in order to uncover opportunities for further development. The report outlines strategies and a roadmap on how Dutch experts and businesses can engage in the implementation of international food safety and quality management standards in the fruit and vegetable value chain in Zimbabwe.
Ghana: New reefer vans for vegetable dealers
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture on Thursday handed over four Reefer (Refrigerated) Vans to vegetable dealers under the Ghana Commercial Agricultural Project (GCAP) to improve sustainable supply of vegetable produce all year round (Peace FM, 16 July). The vans form part of packages under the Peri-Urban Vegetable Value Chain project of the GCAP to facilitate easy access to market as well as stabilize vegetable prices. The vans are intended to support the operations of the vegetable dealers and ultimately help farmers to get their produce to the market on time and to avoid postharvest losses.
Vanilla exporters in Madagascar experience changes
Many agricultural commodity chains in Africa are undergoing profound changes. In Madagascar, for the first time since 2009, the world’s leading producer and exporter of vanilla set a fixed FOB export price of $350 per kilo for all qualities of vanilla at the end of February, thus trying to stem the impact of the fall in market prices (–50% since 2018) following a drop in demand and a sustained supply worldwide (Commodafrica, 29 July). A National Vanilla Council has been created to regulate the industry and maintain Madagascar in its position as world leader in vanilla.
Dominican Republic is the main exporter of cocoa and organic bananas to Europe
The Dominican Republic has become the main exporter of organic bananas and cocoa to the European Union, with 324,000 tons exported in 2019, according to a report by the European Commission on the import of organic products from third countries published in June (Dominican Today, 10 July). The Dominican ambassador to the European Union, Aníbal de Castro, stated that “European consumption of organic fruits and vegetables has experienced sustained growth in recent years consistent with European policies to support sustainability and protect human health and environment.” According to the embassy’s commercial department, the positioning of Dominican organic products in the coming years will depend on the ability of agricultural cooperatives and associations to adapt both to the new “Farm to Fork” strategy of the European bloc, and to the new European organic law.
Vanuatu leading Pacific in digitising customs and biosecurity clearance
Vanuatu is the first Pacific island country to take its customs and biosecurity processes online (Trade for Development News, 22 July). The country’s Electronic Single Window system enables businesses to submit and pay for import and export certificates, licenses and permits online.“It has significantly reduced the amount of paperwork and time required to process approvals and also has made it possible for the government to track and collect data on these processes in real time,” said Luisa Letlet from Vanuatu’s Ministry of Trade, Tourism, Commerce and Ni-Vanuatu Business. With financial support from the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), in 2019 the Vanuatu government approached the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to adapt their Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), which is used in more than 95 countries. Together with UNCTAD experts, they first began working on a module to enable traders to obtain Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) permits and certificates online. Speedier approval of applications has proved important, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country. “When the biosecurity module went live on the 24th of March, it was when the government was enforcing all these rules and directives of social gatherings. It was timely that we went into an online system, as it enabled us to continue to process permits while achieving physical distancing,” said Stanley Trief, Vanuatu National Single Window project manager. Despite the closure of borders, 760 SPS applications had been processed as of 1 July.
Fiji Crop & Livestock Council expands
Three new commodity associations – spices, mushrooms, and tavioka (cassava) – have joined the Fiji Crop & Livestock Council (FCLC) (Fiji Times). CEO Jiu Daunivalu says FCLC’s role is especially important now in confronting the damage caused by COVID-19, and in helping to strengthen food security. Mrs Daunivalu believes it is of major importance to help commercial farmers to better understand that farming is a business, and FCLC’s efforts are to provide a window on how business and farming must work together. “Our focus is on improving farmers’ incomes, improve their livelihood, and helping to ensure that their business is profitable.” She says that while food security and improving livelihood is of great importance, the continued health of all of us is the number one priority. “So please practice physical distancing, wash your hands regularly, keep your home and workplace clean, and stay safe.”
Papua New Guinea: Cocoa and vanilla farmers benefit from new traceability system
A new system will open up opportunities for close to 1500 Papua New Guinean farming families to earn more for their high quality cocoa and vanilla exports (Papua New Guinea Today, 9 July). The Australian-supported Market Development Facility (MDF) has signed a partnership with a leading cocoa and vanilla exporter, Elliven Limited, to support the development of a traceability mechanism for quality cocoa and vanilla supply chains and markets from the Morobe, Madang and East Sepik Provinces. MDF PNG Country Director Matthew Kanua says, “Exporters are able to work with producers to identify and fix gaps in their supply chain when there is a good traceability system in place, resulting in supply chain improvement and quality products.” This transparency will reinforce the integrity of PNG’s cocoa and vanilla among international buyers and consumers. It will also encourage smallholders to produce quality, traceable cocoa and vanilla so that they can earn a better price.