News Digest: Agri-food Markets, Production and Trade



Egypt establishes model farms in nine African countries
As Egypt is seeking new agriculture and food security cooperation across the continent, this nation has established ten joint model farms in nine African countries. Egypt’s Minister of Agriculture, El-Sayed El-Quseir, confirmed the development. He stated that his country had established joint model farms in South Sudan, Zambia, Zanzibar, Niger, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mali, Togo, Uganda and Eritrea. According to El-Quseir, Egypt’s idea of establishing joint model farms in Africa dated back to 1995 when the project was launched by the Egyptian Fund for Technical Cooperation with Africa, an organisation affiliated to the Foreign Affairs Ministry. The first farm was established in Niger, in 1998. (Fresh Plaza, 1 November 2022)

West Africa’s mango industry in battle against the fruit fly
The concern of West African mango exporting countries was palpable last week at the review and programming workshop of the Regional Fruit Fly Management and Control Plan for West Africa (RFMP). It took place all last week in Abidjan as part of the EU-FDA project entitled “Innovative Regional Fruit Fly Management System in West Africa” (Syrimao), which will be launched in 2021. And for good reason… Most ECOWAS member countries have had their mango shipments intercepted on arrival on the European market due to sanitary issues related to the fruit fly of the Tephritidae family. Originating in Asia, Kenya first detected it in 2003 and it has since spread to the rest of the continent, particularly in West Africa. (Commodafrica, 15 November 2022)

Namibia: Fresh produce smuggling frustrates Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency
Namibia’s Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA) is concerned about certain individuals who have been accused of smuggling fresh produce into Namibia via unchecked entry points from neighbouring countries such as Zambia and Angola. This smuggled fresh produce includes fresh tomatoes, potatoes, beans, onions, avocados and paw paws. According to the AMTA, these illegal activities hamper and rob local farmers of an opportunity to supply fresh produce. “It is sad to note that during these trying times post Covid-19, when the country is striving to grow and stabilize its economy, some citizens allegedly resort to such syndicates of smuggling in fresh produce,” said AMTA spokesperson Pasval Elijah. (Fresh Plaza, 24 October 2022)

Ghana orange growers losing cash to black spot disease
Despite the Ghanaian government’s crucial interventions to avoid the collapse of the economy, huge sums of money are being lost to black spot disease which has affected acres of orange farms in the country. The Orange Growers Association was instituted with the sole objective of assisting farmers with technical knowledge and up-to-date farming techniques to ensure rich yields and direct access to off-takers to purchase quality organic oranges at competitive prices to prevent post-harvest losses. Orange growers are being hard-hit by the airborne fungal black spot disease. “Almost 50% of our oranges here at Aprade are affected by black spot disease. It affects the whole fruit. Since it is airborne it spreads fast and nearby farms are at risk if we don’t periodically remedy the situation. Mancozeb and Bendazid are the fungicides we use to fight black spot disease but they are very expensive,” farm manager Sam Dokyi lamented. (Graphic News, 28 November 2022)

Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture wants 16% VAT on veg seeds abolished
The Ministry of Agriculture says it will initiate talks with the Treasury with the view to having the 16% VAT levied on vegetable seed abolished to make Kenya’s produce competitive in the market amid cheap imports. Agriculture and Livestock Principal Secretary Harry Kimtai said the tax has made it expensive for farmers to engage in profitable business, especially in the wake of cheap imports from countries such as Tanzania. He said they have engaged the Seed Trade Association of Kenya (STAK) on how the issue can be addressed and have agreed to have a meeting that will give recommendations. Mr Kimtai said the high cost of seed locally has seen some farmers source the commodity from neighbouring countries even as they are not sure whether they meet the required standards. Earlier this year, STAK spokespersons denounced the lack of competitiveness of local products, particularly against Tanzanian products which are not subject to this VAT. (Fresh Plaza, 30 November 2022 and 6 December 2022)

Project launched to prevent spread of Fusarium wilt in bananas
The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) has launched a project to protect small-scale banana growers in Mozambique and Tanzania against Fusarium wilt tropical race 4 (TR4). The invasive soil-borne fungus causes plant disease and can devastate banana plantations – a top staple food in Africa and a vital economic crop in several African countries. Led by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the initiative will investigate banana farming systems, the cultivars grown, and production practices in the two countries. The project also seeks to work with country partners and landholders to identify practical bio-security measures to reduce risks and mitigate potential damage from the disease on small farms. (Farmers Review Africa, 28 November 2022)



Jamaican agricultural sector sees 17.4% growth for third quarter
Jamaica’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is reporting growth of 17.4% for the third quarter of the year, from July to September. Minister Pearnel Charles Jr. said that the out-turn represents six consecutive quarters of growth since the second quarter of 2021. “Our agriculture sector has been achieving unprecedented numbers since the start of the year, with the third quarter reflecting one of the best-performing quarters on record,” he said. The Minister noted that recent heavy rains associated with the passage of Tropical Storm Ian in late September did not significantly impact the overall output for the third quarter: “Gross output for the subsector for the third quarter of 2022 amounted to 214,599.2 tons, in comparison to 182,750 tons reaped in the similar period of 2021.” (Fresh Plaza, 24 November 2022)

Caribbean growers face heavy losses due to excessive rainfall
Heavy rainfall from an active hurricane season has been unfortunate for some farmers in St Vincent and the Grenadines, as it has resulted in crop losses and unemployment. Most likely, it will also lead to price increases for vegetables. A vegetable damage assessment survey was conducted by the Extension and Advisory Services Division of the Ministry of Agriculture during the first week of October 2022. The findings showed the monetary losses to farmers in these areas, as a result of excessive rainfall, and a high rate of unemployment was also reported. The survey also showed that the heavy rains caused increased incidences of pests and diseases, resulting in the total destruction of carrot, cucumber, watermelon and peanut crops, and up to 70% damage in tomato, cabbage and sweet pepper crops. (Fresh Plaza, 13 October 2022)

Impressive revenue expectations from agriculture production in the Caribbean
Speaking at the recent Caribbean Investment Forum, Ralph Birkhoff (Alquimi Renewables, LLC) knows first hand that this region is ripe for investment in sustainable development, particularly climate-resilient protected agriculture and integrated renewable energy systems based on his experiences. Birkhoff realised that many of the types of imported produce sold across the island supermarkets simply could not be grown by traditional means in the region. This gap in the market prompted Birkhoff and his partners at Alquimi Renewables to focus on developing a climate smart greenhouse prototype; one that was adaptable to the unique context of Caribbean islands and resistant to the deadly Category 5 hurricanes that frequent the region, as well as being energy and water efficient. Alquimi’s greenhouses are designed for sub-tropical zones using various integrated hydroponic systems that can grow these types of produce locally, reducing the need for imports. (Carib-Export, 17 October 2022)

St Lucia increases its production capacity to overcome dependency on food imports
In response to the global food crisis, St Lucia has rolled out a number of government programmes to increase food security, boosting its agricultural production and minimising its reliance on imports. Under the direction of Alfred Prospere, St Lucia’s Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, the government has launched several initiatives to strengthen the country’s production. These efforts include the government’s “Seven Crops” project which aims to grow and strengthen supply chains in the fruit and vegetable sector. The Ministry of Agriculture reported that since the introduction of the project, the island has significantly increased production for a number of crops targeted by the programme – these include papaya, broccoli, cucumber, pumpkin, cauliflower, eggplant, corn, dragon fruit and sugar apples. (Fresh Plaza, 10 November 2022)

Caribbean, Africa: FAO’s Global Action on One Country One Priority Product (OCOP) country projects launched
A key initiative by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to help countries promote their distinctive food and agricultural products took a major step forward today [3 November] with the first five demonstration countries named – Bangladesh, Egypt, Malawi, Trinidad and Tobago and Uzbekistan. The Global Action on One Country One Priority Product (OCOP) aims to build more sustainable food value chains, support family and smallholder farmers to be profitable and improve their livelihoods, minimise the use of chemical inputs and natural resources, reduce food loss and waste, and limit the negative impacts on the environment. The first-round demonstration project countries identified for implementation of OCOP include: Malawi, representing the African Region, which will promote banana; Trinidad and Tobago, representing the Latin American and the Caribbean Region, which will promote cocoa. (FAO, 3 November 2022)



Asparagus farming has potential in Papua New Guinea
An asparagus specialist based in Goroka, in the Eastern Highlands Province, is seeking the help of the authorities to establish his crop. Heriso Gahekave, who leads asparagus research and farming at the University of Goroka says the province has potential to export asparagus overseas. Under Gahekave’s guidance, the University of Goroka has been growing asparagus for 5 years now. Although Papua New Guinea imports most of her asparagus, Gahekave hopes the University of Goroka can turn that around. China is the main country exporting asparagus, followed by Mexico, Peru, Thailand, USA, Spain and the Netherlands. (Fresh Plaza, 7 November 2022)



Westfalia creates a buzz by using insects for natural pest control in orchards
In a large-scale demonstration scheme to show that a shift to more sustainable production management is possible, Westfalia Fruit Chile is targeting biological control as the preferred method of crop management. The company hopes using insects and other natural control methods will contribute to its global target to enhance tree health and minimise the use of pesticides. Westfalia has an insect rearing facility producing beetle predators such as Rhyzobius lophanthae and Coccidophillus citricola for the control of white scale in avocado and red Scale in citrus, as well as Cryptolaemus montrouzieri for the control of mealybugs in citrus, avocados and blueberries. The ground-breaking project is initially being rolled-out on the company’s farms in Chile. (Fruitnet, 19 October 2022)

New study confirms greater resilience of Fairtrade farmers in times of crisis
A new report recently published by Fairtrade International has confirmed that access to better prices, credit and financial stability significantly increased the resilience of Fairtrade-certified organisations amid the Covid-19 pandemic, enabling them to better withstand the global crisis and reduce its impact on their farmer members and workers. The study, titled “Fairtrade certification and producer resilience in times of crises” and conducted by Scio Network and Athena Infonomics, examined the experiences of Fairtrade and non-Fairtrade coffee, banana and flower producers in Indonesia, Peru and Kenya, finding that households belonging to Fairtrade-certified producer organisations were 12 percentage points less likely to report “a high or very high impact” from Covid-19, as compared to non-Fairtrade households. (Fairtrade Foundation, 18 October 2022)

The State of Food and Agriculture 2022: Leveraging automation to transform agrifood systems
The 2022 edition of The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA), one of the flagship reports produced each year by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), looks at how automation in our agrifood systems can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and offers recommendations to policy makers on how to maximise the benefits and minimise the risks. From hire-a-tractor services in Ghana to shrimp boxes that use machine learning and robotics in Mexico, the report looks at 27 case studies from all over the world, representing technologies at different stages of readiness and appropriate to agricultural producers of different scales and levels of income. (FAO, 2 November 2022)




Cameroon banana exports in September 2022 down 21.3% year on year
Banana exporters in Cameroon sold 16,109 tons of fruit in September 2022. Compared to the 20,471 tons sold in September 2021, this makes a decrease of 21.3% YoY. According to the national banana association Assobacam, Plantations du Haut Penja sold 13,791 tons in September 2022; 21.6% less than the 17,597 tons in September 2021. The second-largest exporter CDC ended the month with 1,246 tons of bananas, against 1,580 tons in the same period last year (-21.1%). The third market operator, Boh Plantations (BPL), exported 1,072 tons of bananas in September 2022, down 17.15% compared to 1,294 tons a year ago. This drop in performance is a real setback considering the upward trend observed since 2020, when CDC returned to the market after a hiatus due to insecurity in the southwest. (Fresh Plaza, 7 October 2022)

Small businesses hit by Botswana government’s vegetable imports ban
A vegetable import ban implemented by the government of Botswana has thrown supply and demand off balance. The nation’s small businesses are bearing the brunt of it. The ban is expected to protect local vegetable farmers, improve Botswana’s food security and reduce the country’s import bill and grow local production. However, according to small scale traders, the big chains have sown up the limited vegetable supply market, shutting out small green grocers. With most vegetable farmers having signed up their produce to big supermarkets, small businesses are facing up to this harsh new reality. A number of traders and representatives of the small-scale traders who have petitioned the Office of the President noting that their colleagues have gone out of business as a result of the policy. They further claimed that the Office of the President and the Ministry of Agriculture are turning a deaf ear to their complaints.

Zimbabwe targets increase in high-value horticulture exports
Zimbabwe is seeing an increase in high-value horticultural exports driven by growth in macadamia nuts, pecan nuts, blueberries, citrus and vegetables. Dr John Basera, permanent secretary of Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development said they are targeting these export crops to benefit 2.3 million households. (Fresh Plaza, 11 October 2022)



St Lucia growers react to suspension of banana exports to the UK
The announcement by Minister of Agriculture Alfred Prospere, a few weeks ago, that the UK had suspended the importation of bananas from St Lucia, has further convinced growers that were right to plant cash crops to compliment the banana crop. According to a grower, since 2007, she has been selling bananas to National Fair Trade Organization (NFTO) and in 2021, to a local exporter of bananas to the regional market, she was making more money from her bananas when they were sold to the UK market than she is making from selling other agricultural produce, but is satisfied with what she is making from other crops. She lamented that both administrations kept blaming each other for the state of the banana industry. According to her, the biggest problem banana farmers are experiencing is the high cost of inputs, which has made banana farming unprofitable for many farmers. (Fresh Plaza, 15 November 2022)

St Lucia begins shipping bananas to Trinidad after UK suspends trade
St Lucia’s Agriculture Minister Alfred Prospere announced on 14 November that St Lucia is now exporting bananas to Trinidad and Tobago, following the suspension of commerce with the United Kingdom earlier this month. Speaking to the media before the weekly Cabinet meeting, Prospere rejected claims that the Phillip Pierre administration was responsible for the demise of the industry. “However, they never included the most crucial aspect of my remark, which was that immediately after this decision was made, the exact same quantity of bananas was diverted to Trinidad and Tobago,” Prospere said, adding that the UK trade suspension had no negative effect on local growers. “We are still shipping those 1,000 boxes to Trinidad,” Prospere said, adding that the local authorities are working with a Trinidad and Tobago supplier to supply an extra 3,000 boxes of local bananas to the Republic of the twin-island nation. (Fresh Plaza, 16 November 2022)



Freshfel Europe calls for action against soaring energy prices and its impact on fresh produce
In light of the unprecedented soar in energy prices, Freshfel Europe is calling authorities for action to mitigate the far-reaching impact on the fruit and vegetable sector. Fresh produce businesses are at risk of serious economic hardship, and even bankruptcy, because of high electricity and gas prices combined with other rising prices of production inputs, services and logistics. These increases can hardly be absorbed in the chain anymore due to short margins and have so far not been passed down to consumers. As consumer purchasing power declines because of their own higher energy bills, Freshfel Europe is also noting a sharp decline of fresh produce consumption by 10% in past months. This is further exacerbating profitability challenges of the fresh produce sector. Economic hardship or even bankruptcy of operators is likely if remedies are not found rapidly. (Freshfel, 17 October 2022)



Farmers overseas and consumers at home could carry the cost of a weaker pound, warns Fairtrade Foundation
After the pound hit a record low against the US dollar this week, the Fairtrade Foundation is warning of the potential impact of the market volatility, both on farmers in low-income countries and the UK shoppers who buy the food they grow. With Sterling remaining weak, the Fairtrade Foundation is concerned that the sharp currency devaluation will “set back” efforts to intensify action on the climate crisis, human rights and decent pay for farmers and workers who produce food for UK markets. (Fairtrade Foundation, 29 September 2022)

Fairtrade banana price increase from January 2023
As in many markets, banana producers continue to face increasing production and export costs and the selling prices of the world’s most consumed fruit do not reflect these increases. Therefore, Fairtrade has decided that from January 2023, minimum prices paid to Fairtrade certified banana producers will be increased by an average of 4.5% at farm level. An additional average increase of 15% has also been agreed for producers who export their bananas directly to cover higher export and packaging costs. According to data collected by Fairtrade, fertiliser prices have risen by 70% since 2021, fuel prices by 39%, and pallet and packaging prices by more than 20%. (Commodafrica, 25 October 2022)




Limited direct cargo flights and cold chain thwart horticultural exports from Uganda
Industry experts claim that a lack of proper cold chain facilities and limited direct cargo flights – among other hindrances – are stalling the growth of Uganda’s horticulture business and exports. Despite Uganda’s ability to produce a wide range of horticultural crops, the export business sector is still small. This, in turn, is largely due to the lack of a reinforced cold chain through the production, storage, and distribution stages. Representatives of various horticulture companies and officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), among other stakeholders, voiced their concerns on 13 October during a European Union-MAAIF engagement that attracted sector players from across the country. (Fresh Plaza, 14 October 2022)

Kenya plans to build East Africa’s first exclusive cargo airport
Kenya, a grower and exporter of avocados, vegetables and other fresh produce to world markets, plans to build East and Central Africa’s first exclusive cargo airport. The Kenya Kwanza government plans to build the cargo airport on land in the Athi River area. This will enable the Kenyan fresh exports of avocados, vegetables and flowers to reach other countries much quicker, while also creating thousands of jobs said Moses Kuria, from the government’s Investments, Trade and Industry department. (Fresh Plaza, 9 November 2022)

Ethiopia: Ethio-Djibouti railway to begin transport of fruit and vegetables
The Ethio-Djibouti Railway has stated that it is carrying out various activities to expand its services. It is currently preparing to start transporting perishable items including fruit and vegetables. In addition, the railway company will also commence deploying wagons which will carry mineral products and envisages providing passenger services to tourists who wish to visit Ethiopia and Djibouti. The company has also been working on enhancing its capacity. Currently, it is capable of transporting 240 vehicles in a single trip. Additional activities are being carried out to align the transportation services of the company with Ethiopia’s priority sectors. (Fresh Plaza, 11 November 2022)

The governments of Rwanda and the UK join IFC to advance Africa cold chain progress
Government representatives from Rwanda and the UK joined the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to sign a Statement of Cooperation at COP27 to help accelerate scaling up of innovative cooling technologies in Africa through the Africa Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold-Chain (ACES). Rwanda’s Minister of Environment Dr Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, whose ministry oversees the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), Minister of State, the Rt. Hon. Lord Richard Benyon from the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and Emmanuel Nyirinkindi, Vice-President, IFC, signed the agreement at COP27. ACES had already announced at COP 27 that it will work with global cold chain provider Carrier to help advance cooling development and training in Africa. The University of Birmingham plays a leading role in ACES, developed with the governments of the UK and Rwanda and UN Environment Programme at the University of Rwanda. (The University of Birmingham, 22 November 2022)




World Food Forum: Exploring how science, technology and innovation can boost Africa’s lagging agricultural productivity
Africa’s agricultural productivity has been stagnating for decades, but science, technology and innovation could offer solutions with measures such as enhancing soil health and irrigation and improving crop varieties, the World Food Forum’s Science and Innovation Forum heard. “Africa is the future food basket” not just for the continent but for the world, Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the FAO, said in remarks at an event titled “Increasing Agricultural Productivity in Africa – Can STI (Science, Technology and Innovation) help Africa to make a quantum leap in agricultural productivity?” “But in order to realise that potential, we have to change the business model and empower science and innovation and establish more enabling policies” in consultation with FAO’s African Members, Qu said. (FAO, 20 October 2022)