Russia, Ukraine Seal Landmark Grain Deal To Ease Shortages

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attend the signing ceremony for the deal. Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP

 

 

Ukraine and Russia on Friday signed a landmark deal aimed at relieving a global food crisis caused by blocked Black Sea grain deliveries, ending months of negotiations and sending wheat prices tumbling to levels last seen before Moscow’s invasion.

The first major deal between the warring parties since the February invasion of Ukraine should help ease the “acute hunger” that the United Nations says faces an additional 47 million people because of the war.

The hostility between Moscow and Kyiv spilled over into the signing ceremony — delayed briefly by disputes about the display of flags around the table and Ukraine’s refusal to put its name on the same document as the Russians.

The two sides eventually inked separate but identical agreements in the presence of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Istanbul’s lavish Dolmabahce Palace.

“Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea — a beacon of hope, a beacon of possibility, a beacon of relief,” Guterres said moments before the signing.

Erdogan — a key player in the negotiations who has good relations with both Moscow and Kyiv — said the deal would “hopefully revive the path to peace”.

But Ukraine entered the ceremony by bluntly warning that it would conduct “an immediate military response” should Russia violate the agreement and attack its ships or stage an incursion around its ports.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later said the responsibility for enforcing the deal would fall to the UN, which along with Turkey is a co-guarantor of the agreement.

20 million tonnes of wheat

The agreement includes points on running Ukrainian grain ships along safe corridors that avoid known mines in the Black Sea.

Huge quantities of wheat and other grain have been blocked in Ukrainian ports by Russian warships and landmines Kyiv has laid to avert a feared amphibious assault.

Zelensky said that around 20 million tonnes of produce from last year’s harvest and the current crop would be exported under the agreement, estimating the value of Ukraine’s grain stocks at around $10 billion.

Following the deal, wheat prices tumbled to levels last seen before Russia’s invasion — even as some analysts expressed skepticism about the accord.

In Chicago, the price of wheat for delivery in September dropped 5.9 percent to $7.59 per bushel, equivalent to about 27 kilograms. Prices in Europe fell by a similar amount.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Kremlin state media after attending the signing ceremony that he expected the deal to start working “in the next few days”.

He pointed out that Russia had managed to secure a separate pledge from Washington and Brussels to lift all restrictions on its own grain and other agricultural exports.

The United States, Britain and the European Union hailed the Istanbul agreement while urging Moscow to abide by its rules.

The African Union also lauded the deal, and reiterated a call for “an immediate ceasefire” on Saturday.

Guarded hope

Diplomats expect grain to only start fully flowing by mid-August.

The four sides must first set up a joint command and control centre in Istanbul that monitors the ships’ passage and addresses disputes.

They have yet to finalise how the ships will be checked for weapons before returning empty to Ukrainian ports.

Ukrainian farmers who have been watching their silos fill up with grain that they cannot sell met the Istanbul deal with guarded hope.

“It gives some hope but you can’t believe what the Russians say,” said farmer Mykola Zaverukha.

His silos were already filled with 13,000 tonnes of grain and in danger of overflowing because this year’s harvest was beginning to come in.

“Russia is unreliable, they have shown themselves to be year after year,” he told AFP in the southern Mykolaiv region.

Global alarm about that grain has been accompanied by European fears that Russia is starting to use its stranglehold on energy exports as a geopolitical weapon in its standoff with the West.

The grain deal was signed one day after Russia’s restart of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline eased concerns in Europe of a permanent shut-off after a 10-day maintenance suspension.

Analysts say that the partial resumption of gas supplies was insufficient to ward off energy shortages in Europe this winter.

More US military aid

The ornate halls of Istanbul’s Dolmabahce Palace felt far removed from east Ukraine’s Donbas war zone on another day of relentless shelling across the front.

Russia is trying to fight deeper into the war zone’s Donetsk region after securing full control of neighbouring Lugansk.

On Friday, the United States signed off on another $270 million in military aid to Ukraine, including rocket systems, artillery ammunition, and armoured command posts.

Russian missile strikes on railway infrastructure and a military airfield in the central area of Kirovograd on Saturday killed at least three people and wounded nine, regional governor Andriy Raikovych said.

The Ukrainian presidency said five people were killed and 10 wounded in Russian attacks around Donetsk a day earlier.

In the Donetsk village of Chasiv Yar — hit by a strike on July 10 that killed more than 45 people — 64-year-old Lyudmila was gathering apricots near the wreckage.

“There is nothing anymore. The officials have left. We have to fend for ourselves to stay alive,” she said, giving only her first name.

AFP

US Promises $1.2bn To Feed Horn of Africa, Urges Others To Help

File photo of United States President Joe Biden
Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

 

United States aid chief Samantha Power on Monday promised $1.18 billion to help avert famine in the Horn of Africa and urged other nations including China to do more to fight a food crisis aggravated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Power voiced alarm that the war, as well as climate change, were worsening hunger around the world, just after a decade of progress had been “obliterated” by the Covid pandemic.

“Today we are confronting something even more devastating as not only are tens of millions more people facing that grave hunger, many of them are at risk of outright starvation,” she said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Power, administrator of the US Agency for International Development, said the situation was especially dire in turbulent Somalia, conflict-hit Ethiopia and Kenya, the so-called Horn of Africa which is forecast to experience its fifth straight drought later this year.

Announcing a visit to the Horn of Africa this weekend, Power said that at least 1,103 children there are known to have died and some seven million other children are severely malnourished.

Power said the $1.18 billion in US aid would include emergency food — notably sorghum, a locally used grain more readily available than wheat — as well as a peanut-based supplement for malnourished children and veterinary services for dying livestock.

“Now we need others to do more, before a famine strikes, before millions more children find themselves on the knife’s edge,” she said.

Global prices of food have skyrocketed due to the war in Ukraine, a leading wheat exporter, with Russian warships blocking ports as Kyiv lays mines to avert a feared amphibious assault.

Power criticized the “sinister” policies of Russia but also pinned blame on China — seen by the United States as a leading global competitor — over its trade restrictions on fertilizer and “hoarding” of grain.

If China released fertilizer or grain to the global market or World Food Programme, it would “significantly relieve pressure on food and fertilizer prices and powerfully demonstrate the country’s desire to be a global leader and a friend to the world’s least developed economies,” she said.

She also issued a tacit criticism of India, which is seen by Washington as an emerging ally but has declined to shun historic partner Russia and has imposed its own export ban on wheat.

Praising Indonesia for lifting restrictions on palm oil, Power said, “We encourage other nations to make similar moves, especially since several of the countries instituting such bans have been unwilling to criticize the Russian government’s belligerence.”

“Countries that have sat out this war must not sit out this global food crisis,” she said.

AFP

Ukraine War: Buhari Calls For Global Cooperation To Avert Looming Food Crisis

A file photo of President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

As the war between Russia and Ukraine rages, President Muhammadu Buhari has called for global cooperation to avert a looming food crisis.

He made the call on  Wednesday in Madrid, Spain at the Royal Palace during an audience with his Royal Majesty King Felipe VI in continuation of his visit to the country.

“The two leaders canvassed a global action to stem the food problem, especially in wheat production occasioned by the ongoing war in Ukraine, urging world leaders to take concrete actions to avert the crisis,” a statement by presidential spokesman Femi Adesina said.

READ ALSO: Buhari Hails Pope’s Appointment Of Bishop Okpaleke As Cardinal

In a separate meeting with President Pedro Sanchez, President Buhari said Nigeria looked forward to increasing bilateral relations between both nations.

This is even as he commended his Spanish counterpart for his leadership qualities and contributions in the war against terror in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially in Mali, and looked forward to cooperation in the area.

The two leaders discussed areas of cooperation in which Agreements and Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) were signed.

In his remarks, President Sanchez stressed that as a major partner of Spain in Africa, Nigeria was a country that his people really wanted to have a stronger partnership with going forward.

He hailed President Buhari for his leadership roles in Africa, especially in the area of strengthening democratic ideals. Currently, Spain is the largest importer of Nigerian gas and the third-largest importer of Nigerian crude, and with the visit, the two leaders hoped for bigger trade relations.

At the end of the visit, nine Agreements and Memoranda of Understanding were signed, namely: Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters; Transfer of Sentenced Persons; Extradition; Economic and Commercial Cooperation; Tourism. Others were on Sports; Health; the Fight Against COVID-19; and Science and Innovation.

Burger King Apologises Over Expired Food Sold In China

A delivery man wearing a face mask walks past a Burger King restaurant in a mall in Beijing on July 17, 2020. - Burger King has apologised to customers in China after state media reported that two of its restaurants sold expired food in the country, causing an uproad on social media. (Photo by WANG Zhao / AFP)
A delivery man wearing a face mask walks past a Burger King restaurant in a mall in Beijing on July 17, 2020.  (Photo by WANG Zhao / AFP)

 

 

Burger King has apologised to customers in China after state media reported that two of the US fast-food chain’s outlets sold expired food in the country, causing an uproar on social media.

Food safety issues have long been a concern in China, where quality-control scandals have fuelled fears over the safety of food and anger at regulatory lapses.

The problems at the two restaurants were highlighted on Thursday in an influential consumer affairs programme on state television CCTV that has previously shamed McDonald’s in China.

 

People have their food at a Burger King restaurant in a mall in Beijing on July 17, 2020. – Burger King has apologised to customers in China after state media reported that two of its restaurants sold expired food in the country, causing an uproad on social media. (Photo by WANG Zhao / AFP)

A Burger King in Nanchang, in central Jiangxi province, had used expired ingredients to make its burgers, according to the programme.

Video footage also showed staff tearing off the shelf time label from a package of expired bread and replacing them with new ones upon instructions of the restaurant manager.

A second Burger King restaurant in Nanchang changed the date of expired chicken.

Other problems found at the restaurants included selling burgers with fewer ingredients.

Burger King responded immediately after the programme aired, releasing a statement on social media saying it “attaches great importance” to the issue and had closed the relevant outlets for “investigation and rectification”.

“Our mismanagement has betrayed the trust of consumers to Burger King and we express our deepest apology for this,” the statement said.

 

This picture shows a Burger King restaurant in a mall in Beijing on July 17, 2020. – Burger King has apologised to customers in China after state media reported that two of its restaurants sold expired food in the country, causing an uproad on social media. (Photo by WANG Zhao / AFP)

 

Eaters disgusted by the news vented on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform.

“I am so disappointed. I will never eat at Burger King again,” one user wrote.

“They need a thorough rectification. If not, they should be closed for good,” wrote another.

In 2012, the CCTV programme reported that McDonald’s was selling expired food and using beef patties that had fallen on the ground.

 

 

-AFP

Government Policies Are Responsible For Food Crisis- Anogwi Anyanwu

Food Crisis, Anogwi AnyanwuEconomic Consultant, Anogwi Anyanwu, has attributed the hike in food prices in Nigeria to weak government policies.

According to him, the issue of food price hike has nothing to do with a 5% interest rate in the agriculture sector, rather it has so much to do with government policies.

“What is causing food crisis is government policies and the inability of the government to have a unified plan on how to manage the increasing prices of food stuff.

He stated this while speaking on Channels Television’s Breakfast show, Sunrise Daily.

Anyanwu, who is also the Former Executive Director of Spring Bank, however commended the Federal Government over the mandate given to the food task force which was set up Wednesday.

The committee, set up to reduce food prices in the country, is expected to report their findings to the council within the next one week.

“I want to commend the Federal Executive Council for talking about the rising prices of foodstuff; at least that shows that they are feeling what the people are feeling.”

He, however said he hopes that the move is not just a political action, intended to make the people feel like the government cares whereas, they end up not really doing anything.

According to him. “What they have set out to do, is not something you can do in one week”.

Recalling the increase in food prices between the year 2007 and 2008, he said because Nigeria was a net importer of food, commodity prices including oil prices went up significantly.

Furthermore, he stated that: “the government at that time was scared that there was going to be a food crisis and several hearings were held by the Senate as well as the Federal House of Representatives.

“The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources at that time, held several seminars, the President at that time, had meetings with the 36 state governors and all of them were talking about how to avert a food crisis.”

According to him, in 2009, “the government came up with a strategy document of food security. That document was dusted up in 2011 when the last administration came in.

“The Minister of Agriculture at that time, came up with the Agric Transformation Agenda which had several components including the growth enhancement scheme, including the seed scheme that gave farmers improved seedlings, including the plans to build rice mills and silos all over the country.

“I don’t know the impact of this, I don’t know whether they had been continued or those programmes had been abandoned.

This led him to speak about long term plans as regards the new task force.

“When speaking of food security, there are long term, medium and short term measures.

“The government cannot legislate the prices of food or any commodity for that matter. Government can only take action that makes the forces of demand and supply to have an appropriate pricing for anything including foodstuff.”

Certificate of Occupancy

Debunking comments that the financial world is making it difficult for farmers to survive, Mr Anyanwu said that the issue is not the fault of the financial world.

Defending his claim, he said: “There are several progammes such as the Agric Credit Guarantee Scheme, the Growth Enhancement Scheme and the fertilizer scheme, whereby government ensured that the fertiliser subsidy was going directly to farmers.

“I do not think that the banks would frustrate any programme that is meant to improve the economy of this country.”

According to him, “the banks play leading roles and the even in the growth enhancement scheme, the banks came together and provided 200bn Naira for lending to farmers.

He however added that “the bank will not lend to the small scale farmer – the bank would lend to a farmer that is properly structured, that has documents that he can present as collateral.

“If you own a farm and you don’t have a Certificate of Occupancy (CoO), what are you going to present to the bank to loan you money,” he questioned.

“The small scale farmers are supposed to be taken care of by the government. If the small scale farmers have cooperatives and they come together, then the bank can deal with them as a cooperative not individuals.”

Benue Foodstuff Dealers Shut Down Supply

food crisis, Federated Foodstuff Dealers Association, BenueA state-wide food crisis looms in Benue as one of the largest foodstuff dealers’ association in Nigeria has shut down sales.

The Federated Foodstuff Dealers Association in Zaki-Biam yam market in Benue state accounts for 30% national food supply.

The association has refused to call off the two weeks’ old strike it embarked on to protest alleged arbitrary taxes by the Benue State Board of Internal Revenue.

The union, at a peace meeting with officials of the revenue service and the state government, appealed to the state government to intervene by harmonizing taxes collected on all farm produce instead of charging different rates.

The Commissioner for Trade, Commerce and Investment, Tersoo Kpelai, who chaired the meeting, said that a bill to harmonize all taxes was being proposed to the state assembly.

He appealed to the union to show understanding pending when the bill comes into effect in 2017.

Other market associations were also part of the meeting.

MSF Accuses UN Of Negligence Regarding Food Crisis In Northeast Nigeria

MSF, Food Crisis, Northeast NigeriaThe United Nations has been accused of failing to act quickly enough to save hundreds of thousands of lives in north east Nigeria where a food crisis already killing hundreds of people a day is poised to become the most devastating in decades.

The head of Médecins Sans Frontières operations in Nigeria, Isabelle Mouniaman, said that MSF has been raising the alarm in northern Nigeria for two years and U.N organisations have failed to respond.

She also accused the federal government of deliberate negligence and attempting to conceal the scale of the crisis.

International aid agencies have focused on Maiduguri’s overstretched camps, but more than 80% of displaced people in the city, around 1.9 million people, are living among the community, the vast majority without access to food aid or medical support.

Cameroon Says It Has 4,000 Refugees From Boko Haram’s Conflict

Cameroon claims it has received 4,000 refugees fleeing the Nigerian military offensive against Islamists in the northeastern part of the country, the governor of the affected region said on Wednesday, bringing total refugee numbers from the conflict to at least 10,000.

“There are 4,000 refugees who have come in from Nigeria and we are working out a programme with the International Red Cross to set up a refugee camp for them near the town of Mokolo,” Cameroon’s Far-North region governor Fonka Awa said.

The Nigerian Army was not available for comment. The local Red Cross said it was still investigating.

Since the state of emergency was declared in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, military forces have been engaged in a concerted crackdown against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, bombing their bases, raiding neighborhoods where they are suspected to be hiding and cutting phone lines.

The figure was much lower than that given by Senator Hamed Jaha from Borno state, who said on Monday that 20,000 had fled from the Nigerian border towns of Ashigashiya and Ngoshe into Cameroon after army raids.

Last month the U.N. refugee agency said it had registered 6,000 refugees from Nigeria in neighbouring Niger.

Rights groups and aid agencies have warned of fears that the longer the offensive against the Islamists goes on, the more the local population will suffer.

The National Human Rights Commission said this week that violence since President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in May had forced thousands of farmers to flee their land. It warned that the exodus could trigger a food crisis.

The group said it had credible reports of killings, torture, rape and arbitrary detention by security forces.

Professor of Agriculture says population is outgrowing food production in Nigeria

A professor of Agricultural in the Federal Univeristy of Agriculture Abeokuta, Bola Okuneye and Wale Oyekoya, the MD/CEO of Bama farms on Friday said Nigeria population is already outgrowing food production.

Misters Okuneye and Oyekoya were our guests on Channels Television’s programme, Business Morning.

Mr Okuneye said the rate of production is so low compared with the rate of population growth which is put at 3.5% because the various governments have not done much to aid the situation.