STDF ePhyto Webinar: Solutions on safe trade in plants and plant products
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, many countries have adopted measures to facilitate trade and keep goods moving across global supply chains and businesses active across borders. Electronic and digital solutions – including e-Certification – are playing a key role. The ePhyto solution – driving the exchange of electronic phytosanitary certificates – is being led by IPPC under an STDF project, backed by international organisations, donors and industry associations. As a result of ePhyto, many governments around the world, including those of Ghana, Samoa and Sri Lanka together with their private sector – including small businesses – are benefiting from improved transparency, reduced trade costs and quicker trade flows. Over 80 countries are currently using the ePhyto system and 11,000 certificates are now being exchanged every month. It is envisaged that the system could handle up to 100,000 certificates each day.
On 23 September 2020 at 15:00 CET, join a virtual discussion to learn how countries are using ePhyto to safely facilitate trade in plants and plant products across borders, and how to get more involved in the global collaboration driving the future of e-Certification. Register here.
International Banana Convention 2020 goes online
New and existing challenges faced by the global banana industry will be the overarching theme addressed by the XVII International Banana Convention 2020, which is being organised by the Association of Ecuadorian Banana Exporters (AEBE) in a virtual format for the first time this year on 5–8 October (Fresh Plaza, 14 September). Next month’s event, titled ‘Banana Time,’ features a comprehensive digital agenda that aims to strengthen the production capacities of banana growers and exporters worldwide in order to improve the overall competitiveness of the global banana industry. The four-day online convention is open to all those involved in the international banana supply chain, from producers and exporters to buyers, consultants, packaging and logistics operators. Topics will cover: financing investment for sustainable development, smart technologies, blockchain strategies, responding to the coronavirus health emergency, plans and prospects for commercial investment, and international trade developments.
WTO – “Covid-19 and agriculture: a story of resilience”
The World Trade Organization Secretariat has published a new information note examining the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on world agricultural trade. It notes that agricultural trade has fared better than other sectors, and that initial measures to guarantee the immediate availability of food have been followed by a second phase of policies seeking to mend broken supply chains and help producers to cope with the new situation. While overall merchandise trade fell sharply in the first half of 2020, agricultural and food exports increased by 2.5% during the first quarter, compared to the same period in 2019, with further increases in March and April. But the crisis has exerted further downward pressure on food prices, and therefore on producer revenues. And while world food stocks and production levels for the most widely consumed staples — rice, wheat and maize — are at or near all-time highs, the pandemic’s impact on jobs and incomes has increased the number of hungry people worldwide. The overall picture conceals the fact that demand for certain agricultural products (e.g. non-food agricultural products including flowers) dropped dramatically, while increasing for others (e.g. staple foods, processed fruits and vegetables) reflecting initial panic buying and increased home-based consumption. The paper warns that the pandemic, and the repercussions for food supply chains, are still unfolding.
ITC: Effects of Covid-19 on small businesses and global value chains
An op-ed by Dorothy Tembo, Executive Director ad interim of the International Trade Centre, analyses the effects on these vital businesses and the measures taken to support them (20 August). She points out that MSMEs provide 70% of all jobs, but had fewer resources to ride out the storm of the pandemic, making them particularly vulnerable to the crisis, with the severity increased for those in the least developed countries and small island states. Afreximbank and ITC have launched a joint training programme: How to Export within the AfCFTA, designed to give small-business owners and young entrepreneurs the knowledge and skills they need to take advantage of the trading opportunities soon to be unleashed by the African continent’s free-trade area and to fully engage with the developing regional value chains. A recent ITC publication, Covid-19: The Great Lockdown and its Impact on Small Business, gives insight into the realities and business impact of the pandemic based on analysis of survey responses from almost 4,500 businesses in 132 countries. The survey revealed that the pandemic has strongly affected nearly two-thirds of MSMEs, compared with about 40% of large companies. Two-thirds of African businesses reported being strongly affected; of these, service companies, particularly in food and accommodation, have been particularly hard hit, and it is notable that many women-led firms operate in this sector, as well as in retail and wholesale. Alarmingly, over half of survey respondents reported that they found it hard to access information and benefits from their government’s Covid-19 related assistance packages, calling into question the effectiveness of communication. As the lockdowns have lifted globally, attention has shifted to how businesses, support organisations and governments need to adapt to post-Covid realities. The ITC report suggests that SMEs should increase their resilience by diversifying, connecting with business support organisations and increasing their financial reserves during the good times. For those that have not already done so it is essential to fully embrace digital technologies with technical support, skill building and infrastructure support.
China launches agricultural cooperation centre in Africa
China’s Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has announced the creation of a centre for China–Africa agricultural development and cooperation in the city of Changsha, capital of Hunan province (Commodafrica, 28 August). The centre is part of the Faculty of Economics at Hunan Agricultural University. It is also affiliated to the Research Institute of China–Africa Economic and Trade Cooperation. Research at the centre will focus on agricultural production technologies, agricultural management systems and international trade in agricultural products, with a focus on cocoa, cashew nuts, coffee, cotton and rubber, and the creation of an African Cocoa Marketing Centre.
World Vegetable Center Conference – “Power on your plate”
Scheduled for 25–28 January 2021, the All-Africa Summit on Diversifying Food Systems with African Traditional Vegetables to Increase Health, Nutrition and Wealth will explore the role of traditional vegetables in strengthening and diversifying food systems, reducing poverty, energising industry, and improving health and incomes for all citizens. The Summit is still set to take place in Arusha, Tanzania, but WorldVeg states that “While we hope the pandemic will be under control by January 2021, it is too soon to predict. As the time draws closer we may find it necessary to make further adjustments or shift to a virtual summit.” Learn more and register here.
An African Director-General for WTO?
The third and final phase of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General selection process has commenced, with eight candidates for the post (from Egypt, Kenya, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Moldova, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and the UK). The nomination period for the 2020 DG selection process ended on 8 July, and the second phase of the process, in which the candidates “made themselves known to members”, ended on 7 September. The third phase, now under way, involves consultion with all WTO members to assess their preferences, and lasts no more than two months. The candidates’ statements can be seen here. Commentators are focusing on the likelihood of an African DG, perhaps an African woman, with the “frontrunners” including Ms Amina C. Mohamed of Kenya and Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria.
UNCTAD report on economic and social impacts of Covid-19
Covid-19 is “not only a health crisis, but also a job and livelihoods crisis” that affects progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. This recent UNCTAD report emphasises that realisation of the gender-related aspects of the 2030 Agenda is “are at risk”, while citing “observable positive effects” on levels of carbon dioxide emissions and the quality of air, soil, and water. Government interventions and significant reform of the multilateral trading system offer opportunities to pivot towards long-term growth and sustainable development. Macroeconomic income shocks from Covid-19 are predicted to affect food security. The report recommends encouraging domestic food production and shorter regional food value chains to ensure that food security is not overly dependent on international markets in the future, and to reduce the carbon footprint of global food value chains.