Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Sierra Leone pirates attack Chinese vessel

November 27, 2008

Sierra Leone police say pirates attacked a Chinese fishing vessel in a rare attack off West Africa that ended with four suspects dead.

The pirates forced the crew to hand over their cargo of fish before being caught by security forces.

Police spokesman Mohamed Samura says four of the eight pirates were killed early Wednesday in a clash with the Sierra Leone navy. Two were shot and two drowned. The other pirates were arrested.

Samura said the pirates are from neighboring Guinea.

Piracy has become increasingly common off the coast of Somalia in East Africa. But it is relatively uncommon in West Africa.

–AP

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Vietnam Needs to Increase Rice Exports to Africa, Tuoi Tre Says

November 26, 2008

Vietnam needs to increase rice shipments to Africa as there is strong demand for the country’s exports, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported, citing three officials from the continent.

African nations buy about 20 percent of Vietnam’s rice exports and have become the third-largest market after Asia and the Middle East, the report said, citing government data released yesterday at a conference in Ho Chi Minh City.

The Southeast Asian nation shipped about 1 million metric tons of rice to Africa this year, Tuoi Tre said, without giving figures for earlier years.

The officials named in the report included Macaria Baira, vice chairwoman of International Cooperation and Integration for South Africa and Jules Touka from Cameroon’s Chamber of Commerce.

From Bloomberg,
By Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen

Food, Crops, Subsidies and Hunger in the Global Economy

November 17, 2008

This spring, disaster loomed in the global food market. Precipitous increases in the prices of staples like rice (up more than a hundred and fifty per cent in a few months) and maize provoked food riots, toppled governments, and threatened the lives of tens of millions. But the bursting of the commodity bubble eased those pressures, and food prices, while still high, have come well off the astronomical levels they hit in April. For Americans, the drop in commodity prices has put a few more bucks in people’s pockets; in much of the developing world, it may have saved many from actually starving. So did the global financial crisis solve the global food crisis?

By James Surowiecki
The New Yorker

Temporarily, perhaps. But the recent price drop doesn’t provide any long-term respite from the threat of food shortages or future price spikes. Nor has it reassured anyone about the health of the global agricultural system, which the crisis revealed as dangerously unstable. Four decades after the Green Revolution, and after waves of market reforms intended to transform agricultural production, we’re still having a hard time insuring that people simply get enough to eat, and we seem to be more vulnerable to supply shocks than ever.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Over the past two decades, countries around the world have moved away from their focus on “food security” and handed market forces a greater role in shaping agricultural policy. Before the nineteen-eighties, developing countries had so-called “agricultural marketing boards,” which would buy commodities from farmers at fixed prices (prices high enough to keep farmers farming), and then store them in strategic reserves that could be used in the event of bad harvests or soaring import prices. But in the eighties and nineties, often as part of structural-adjustment programs imposed by the I.M.F. or the World Bank, many marketing boards were eliminated or cut back, and grain reserves, deemed inefficient and unnecessary, were sold off. In the same way, structural-adjustment programs often did away with government investment in and subsidies to agriculture—most notably, subsidies for things like fertilizers and high-yield seeds.

People try to catch fish at flooded rice fields in Me Linh district ... 
People try to catch fish at flooded rice fields in Me Linh district in Hanoi, Vietnam, Monday, Nov. 10, 2008. The floods have ruined many of the area’s crops.(AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)

The logic behind these reforms was simple: the market would allocate resources more efficiently than government, leading to greater productivity. Farmers, instead of growing subsidized maize and wheat at high cost, could concentrate on cash crops, like cashews and chocolate, and use the money they made to buy staple foods. If a country couldn’t compete in the global economy, production would migrate to countries that could. It was also assumed that, once governments stepped out of the way, private investment would flood into agriculture, boosting performance. And international aid seemed a more efficient way of relieving food crises than relying on countries to maintain surpluses and food-security programs, which are wasteful and costly.

This “marketization” of agriculture has not, to be sure, been fully carried through. Subsidies are still endemic in rich countries and poor, while developing countries often place tariffs on imported food, which benefit their farmers but drive up prices for consumers. And in extreme circumstances countries restrict exports, hoarding food for their own citizens.

Related:
Vietnam to grow genetically modified crops

Read the rest:
http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2008/11/2
4/081124ta_talk_surowiecki

Food Security: Investment Needed to Make Africa Self-Sufficient in Rice

November 3, 2008

Greater investment to double rice production in Africa is needed to reduce food insecurity as well as improve livelihoods, specialists urged.

 

Consumption of rice in Africa is growing faster than any crop and, according to the Africa Rice Center has done so at an average of five percent per year since 1960.

Reuters

 

“We believe that rice can help move people out of poverty, not just food insecurity,” said Namanga Ngongi, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an African-led partnership that helps small farmers boost productivity and income.

 

“Rice has a high potential for development in Africa as it is a tropical crop,” Ngongi said. He was speaking at a regional meeting, which is bringing together specialists to consider how to double production to 28 million tonnes by 2017/2018.

 

“We know what we can and should do with rice. Doubling production will be difficult but it is possible,” according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The agency plans to scale up grants, loans and technical cooperation to improve output.

 

Supply versus demand

 

Despite an increase in production in sub-Saharan Africa to 14.2 million tonnes (of paddy) in 2006 from 8.6 million tonnes in 1980, demand still outstrips supply.

 

In Kenya, annual production has halved to 45,000MT since 2006 due to drought, new diseases and limited access to good quality seeds and fertiliser, said Agriculture Minister William Ruto. The national demand is 300,000MT.

 

“Kenya does not have an active rice-breeding programme,” he said. “There is an urgent need to streamline rice research to take advantage of new technologies for boosting rice productivity.”

Read the rest:
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/7c78c4a9
50f8176639487a7be3ba9817.htm

France Boosts Spending on Military

October 30, 2008

By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, October 30, 2008; Page A18

PARIS, Oct. 29 — The French government decided Wednesday to increase military spending by an average of $1.8 billion a year as part of an effort to field a trimmer but better-equipped army to safeguard France’s role in world affairs.

The five-year program, which has been under study since President Nicolas Sarkozy took power in May 2007, was maintained despite a financial crisis that has undermined the already sluggish French economy and led to predictions of budget cutbacks across the government. Defense Minister Hervé Morin said the decision illustrated Sarkozy’s determination, even amid financial turmoil, to conduct activist policies in Afghanistan, Africa and other trouble spots around the globe.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy gestures as he delivers a speech ...
France’s President sarkozy will embrace more defense spending.
(AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)

Sarkozy proposed Wednesday, for instance, that European countries, including France, dispatch a military force to Congo to work alongside U.N. peacekeepers trying to end the spiraling conflict there.

“In spite of the crisis, we will not touch defense funds,” Morin said in an interview with the Figaro newspaper. “France wants to maintain a strong foreign policy. For its voice to be heard, it must be a credible military power.”

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/
article/2008/10/29/AR2008102902589.html

Bono: World has a stake in upcoming US election

October 30, 2008

U2 frontman and activist Bono said Wednesday that next week’s presidential election provides a great opportunity to “relaunch Brand USA” amid worldwide scrutiny.

By BECKY BOHRER, Associated Press Writer

The whole world has a stake in how things turn out,” the Ireland native told thousands of Starbucks Corp. employees in New Orleans for a leadership conference. The coffee company and Bono’s (RED) label, which helps raise money for the Global Fund that pays for AIDS programs in Africa, also announced a partnership Wednesday.

The singer talked about brands and what they stand for. In Starbucks’ case, he said some might see it as a place to hang out and get coffee — but that brand can also signify social responsibility.

The way the U.S. is perceived — “Brand USA” — also means something, he said. And it’s never been so closely watched, said Bono, who didn’t endorse either candidate for president.

Regardless of who wins, “it’s a great chance to relaunch Brand USA,” he said.

Bono has been a leading advocate for Africa, drawing attention to issues ranging from poverty and hunger to AIDS.

(RED) aims to partner with private companies to sell products such as coffee drinks, with some proceeds going to the Global Fund. More than $112 million has been raised in the two years since (RED) launched. (RED) helps pay for medication and other services for people in Africa suffering from AIDS and HIV, according to its Web site.

Chinese oil workers kidnapped in Sudan

October 19, 2008

SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press Writer

KHARTOUM, Sudan – Unknown assailants kidnapped nine Chinese oil workers in southern Sudan, a Chinese diplomat in Khartoum said Sunday.

The men were working Saturday when they were abducted in southern Kordofan province, the epicenter of Sudan’s oil industry and next to Darfur where ethnic African rebels are fighting the Arab-dominated government.

A farmer rides past a PetroChina petrol station in Beijing. ... 
A farmer rides past a PetroChina petrol station in Beijing. Nine Chinese oil workers have been kidnapped near Sudan’s disputed central oil district of Abyei, the Chinese embassy has said, with a Sudanese driver also feared missing.(AFP/File/Frederic J. Brown)

A search was under way for the men, the diplomat said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. Several workers were not taken and managed to inform authorities, he added.

The rebels, along with many international rights activists, accuse China of indirectly funding Khartoum’s war effort in Darfur through massive investment in Sudan’s oil industry.

China buys two-thirds of Sudan’s oil exports, and oil sales account for 70 percent of the African country’s export revenue.

Darfur rebels attacked the Chinese-run Defra oil field in Kordofan last October, kidnapped two foreign workers and gave Chinese and other oil companies a week to leave the country.

Two months later, Darfur rebels attacked an army garrison in another Chinese-run oil field in the same province.

Some 140 Chinese engineers and troops are also deployed in Darfur and were among the first reinforcements sent by the United Nations, which took over peacekeeping in the western Sudanese region in January.

The Sudanese government quickly approved the Chinese contingent, even as it vetoed contributions from other countries because they were not African — including a Scandinavian engineering corps.

 

An oil rig in a file photo. (File/Reuters) ...

Can Bill Gates Help Africa Feed Itself?

September 26, 2008

By VIVIENNE WALT / PARIS

The global economy might be reeling from the shakeout on Wall Street, but two of the world’s richest businessmen are vowing to spend tens of millions of dollars more – not on bolstering their own companies, but in helping the world’s poorest. With Congress locked in talks over a mammoth bailout package, Bill Gates and Howard Buffett (Warren’s oldest son) announced at the United Nations on Wednesday that their private foundations will plow more than $75 million into helping small farmers in Africa and Latin America to sell their crops as food aid – a move which could potentially overhaul the decades-old – and often criticized – global food aid system.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/
20080926/wl_time/canbillgateshelpafric
afeeditself;_ylt=ApHUu1wIyx9Gy6HcdK.mNmis0NUE

U.N. agencies weigh response to food crisis

April 28, 2008

GENEVA (Reuters) – Leading figures from the United Nations met in Switzerland on Monday to chart a solution to dramatic food price increases that have caused hunger, riots and hoarding in poor countries around the world.
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Vietnam acted to quell panic over rice supplies on Monday, banning speculation in the market after a “chaotic” buying binge in the Southeast Asian nation highlighted growing global fears about food security. 
A Vietnamese rice paddy worker….

The move by the world’s second-biggest rice exporter came as protests continued in some states in Africa over soaring costs for food and fuel which aid experts say threaten to push 100 million people worldwide into hunger.

Against this backdrop, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gathered together the heads of 27 international agencies including the World Bank, World Food Programme and World Trade Organisation to coordinate a response.

Officials familiar with the closed-door session said the main priority was to ensure that food aid reached those desperately affected by surging prices of wheat, rice, dairy products and other dietary staples.

Ban, who has described rising food prices as a “global crisis” and urged world leaders to discuss ways to improve food distribution systems and production, will address the press in the Swiss capital Berne on Tuesday.

Ban Ki-moon
반기문/潘基文
Ban Ki-moon

Experts have linked the problems to factors including drought in Australia, higher fuel costs, the use of crops for biofuels and speculation on global commodity markets.

U.S. President George W. Bush is considering “what other aspects need to be taken care of” to help ease the crisis after announcing a $200 million increase in food aid earlier this month, according to White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

“He’s really concerned about the humanitarian condition around the world,” she told reporters on Monday.

Meanwhile world aid groups continue to reel from the jump in food prices. World Vision, one of the globe’s largest humanitarian organizations, said it may have cut 1.5 million people, or 23 percent, from its aid program because of a strained budget.

“Despite our best efforts, more than a million of our beneficiaries are no longer receiving food aid,” said Dean Hirsch, president of World Vision International. “At least a third of these are children who urgently need enough healthy food to thrive.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080428/ts_nm/food_dc;_
ylt=AvuHqABELenB0dee53uVu.is0NUE

Perils in The Price Of Each Grain of Rice

April 3, 2008

By David Ignatius
The Washington Post
Thursday, April 3, 2008; Page A17

You may have missed the front-page article in the New York Times last Saturday, with the one-column headline written in clipped newspaperese: “High Rice Cost Creating Fears of Asia Unrest.” But this little story could be an early warning of another big economic problem that’s sneaking up on us.

The new danger is global inflation — most worryingly in food prices, but also in prices for commodities, raw materials and products that require petroleum energy, which includes almost everything. Prices for these goods have been skyrocketing in international markets — at the same time the Federal Reserve and other central banks have been hosing the world with new money in their efforts to avoid a financial crisis.

That’s an explosive mixture. It risks a kind of inflation that would trigger panic buying, hoarding and fears of mass political protest. Actually, this is already happening in Asia, according to the Times.

The price of rice in global markets has nearly doubled in the last three months, reports the Times’s Keith Bradsher.
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Fearing shortages, some major rice producers — including Vietnam, India, Egypt and Cambodia — have sharply limited their rice exports so they can be sure they can feed their own people.

Bradsher summarizes the evidence that food shortages and inflation are fueling political unrest: “Since January, thousands of troops have been deployed in Pakistan to guard trucks carrying wheat and flour. Protests have erupted in Indonesia over soybean shortage, and China has put price controls on cooking oil, grain, meat, milk and eggs. Food riots have erupted in recent months in Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen.”

World Bank President Robert Zoellick rang the alarm bell in a speech yesterday. He noted that since 2005, the prices of staples have risen 80 percent. The real price of rice rose to a 19-year high last month, he said, while the real price of wheat hit a 28-year high.

Zoellick warned that this inflation is having political repercussions: “The World Bank Group estimates that 33 countries around the world face potential political and social unrest because of the acute hike in food and energy prices.” To cope with the topsy-turvy economy, Zoellick made an innovative proposal that countries running a surplus, such as Saudi Arabia and China, devote 1 percent of their “sovereign wealth” funds to investment in Africa‘s poor countries. That could yield up to $30 billion in development spending.

Now, cut to the Federal Reserve. At a time when global inflation is raging, you might expect that the central bank’s first priority would be to dampen inflationary expectations in the United States. But because of its worries about a financial meltdown, the Fed has been doing the opposite — drastically cutting interest rates in an effort to unclog the financial markets. The cheap money didn’t stop the Wall Street bank run — it was the Fed’s bold plan to absorb subprime debt that did that — but it may well add fuel to the inflation fire.

Related:
Lowly Rice Grain Impacts Global Economy

Vietnam and India move to limit rice exports

Inflation and Food Shortages?

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/02/AR2008040202997.html?hpid=opinionsbox1