Taliban Ink Deal To Procure Russian Petroleum Products, Wheat

Members of Taliban listen to Bashar Noorzai (not pictured), a warlord and Taliban associate, at a press event at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul on September 19, 2022. – An American navy veteran detained in Afghanistan for more than two years was released by the Taliban on September 19 in exchange for a key ally, Afghanistan’s foreign minister said. (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP)

 

 

Afghanistan has entered an agreement with Russia to procure millions of tonnes of petroleum products and wheat, Taliban officials said Wednesday.

Russia has been hit hard by unprecedented Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, causing Moscow to push exports to Asian countries to support its economy.

“The contract was agreed upon last month when the minister of industry and trade visited Russia,” Abdul Salam Jawad, spokesman for the ministry, told AFP.

He would not comment on any financial details.

The deal includes supplying Kabul with one million tonnes of gasoline, a million tonnes of diesel, 500,000 tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and two million tonnes of wheat.

The ministry of economy, in a separate statement, said the supplies from Russia are expected to arrive “in the next few weeks”.

An economic crisis in Afghanistan has only worsened since the Taliban returned to power following a hasty withdrawal of US-led foreign forces last August.

The country’s banking sector has nearly collapsed after Washington froze $7 billion of Afghanistan’s assets held in the United States.

Billions of dollars in foreign aid that had helped prop up Afghanistan’s economy for 20 years during the US military intervention has also vastly reduced, further deepening the crisis.

A two-year drought has affected the country’s food production.

Taliban officials have maintained that they are looking to strike trade deals with the international community, and have so far received oil and gas from neighbouring Iran.

The government has not yet been recognised by any country, but Russia has maintained bilateral ties with the hardline Islamists since before they seized power last year.

Russia was one of the few countries to keep its embassy open in Kabul during the Taliban’s chaotic return to power.

UN Ship Arrives In Africa With Grain For Ethiopia

This hand out photo taken and released by the World Food Programme (WFP) on August 30, 2022 in Djibouti shows the MV Brave Commander that reached the port of Djibouti with 30,000 MT wheat grain for the Ethiopia operation. Photo by Claire Nevill / WFP / AFP
This hand out photo taken and released by the World Food Programme (WFP) on August 30, 2022 in Djibouti shows the MV Brave Commander that reached the port of Djibouti with 30,000 MT wheat grain for the Ethiopia operation. Photo by Claire Nevill / WFP / AFP

 

A UN-chartered ship loaded with 23,000 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat destined for millions of hungry people in Ethiopia docked in neighbouring Djibouti on Tuesday.

The bulk carrier MV Brave Commander arrived in the Horn of Africa port city two weeks after leaving a Black Sea port in Ukraine, the UN’s World Food Programme said.

“The food on the Brave Commander will feed 1.5 million people for one month in Ethiopia,” WFP’s regional director for East Africa, Mike Dunford, said in video footage provided by the agency from the port.

“So this makes a very big impact for those people who currently have nothing. And now WFP will be able to provide them with their basic needs.”

Ethiopia, along with Kenya and Somalia, is in the grip of a devastating drought that has left 22 million people at risk of starvation across the Horn of Africa, the WFP said earlier this month.

The WFP said the wheat from the Brave Commander was being transported to its operations in Ethiopia.

It was not immediately clear whether the delivery would be affected by a resumption of fighting between government forces and Tigrayan rebels in the north of the country.

Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters, was forced to halt almost all deliveries after Russia’s invasion in February, raising fears of a global food crisis.

But exports of grain, food and fertilisers from three Black Sea ports resumed at the start of this month under a deal between Kyiv and Moscow, brokered by the UN and Turkey in July.

The agreement lifted a Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports and set terms for millions of tonnes of wheat and other grain to start flowing from silos and ports.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, welcoming the ship’s arrival and Djibouti’s role, said the United States will be “closely monitoring Russia’s adherence” to the deal.

“We call on Russia to immediately cease its war on Ukraine, which would do much to address the recent spike in global food insecurity,” Blinken said in a statement.

According to figures late last week from the Joint Coordination Centre which manages the sea corridor, more than 720,000 tonnes of grain have already left Ukraine.

The WFP said the Djibouti port is one of the main corridors it uses for its operations across Eastern and Central Africa, handling 960,000 tonnes of food commodities in 2021.

‘No end in sight’

The Horn of Africa is experiencing its worst drought in 40 years and the UN’s World Meteorological Organization warned last week that the situation is set to get even worse with a fifth consecutive failed rainy season.

“There is still no end in sight to this drought crisis, so we must get the resources needed to save lives and stop people plunging into catastrophic levels of hunger and starvation,” WFP executive director David Beasley said earlier this month.

The WFP has warned that famine is a “serious risk,” particularly in Somalia where nearly half the population of 15 million is seriously hungry.

The WFP says food insecurity and malnutrition are a major concern across Ethiopia, with an estimated 20.4 million people in need of food support, including those forced from their homes by the conflict in the north as well as the severe drought in the south and southeast.

Northern Ethiopia has been wracked by war since November 2020 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray to topple the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) after what he said were attacks by the rebels on federal army camps.

AFP

Argentina Becomes First Country To Approve Genetically Modified Wheat

This file photo taken on October 15, 2015 shows a wheat field in Ramallo, Buenos Aires Province. Argentina, the fourth largest wheat exporter in the world, became the first country to approve the commercialization of a variety of transgenic wheat, a development carried out in the South American country, which now awaits the approval of Brazil, its largest buyer.
Eitan ABRAMOVICH / AFP

 

Argentina has become the first country to approve genetically modified wheat, the country’s national scientific commission announced Thursday.

The commission said in a statement released in Buenos Aires that it had approved a drought-resistant variety of wheat in the world’s fourth-largest exporter of the crop.

“This is the first approval in the world for drought-tolerant genetic transformation in wheat,” the National Commission for Science and Technology (CONICET) said in a statement.

“In order to be marketed in Argentina, the genetic transformation of the wheat must be approved in Brazil, Argentina’s main historical wheat market,” CONICET said.

Some 45 percent of Argentina’s wheat exports in 2019 went to Brazil. Other key markets are Indonesia, Chile and Kenya.

The formal government approval is due to be published on Thursday or Friday.

The drought-resistant HB4 wheat variety was developed by Argentine biotechnology company Bioceres, working with the National University and CONICET.

“Now we must go out into the world and convince people that this is super good and be able to generate markets for this wheat, which represents an evolutionary leap,” said Bioceres chief Federico Trucco.

Trucco admitted that winning approval from Brazil may be difficult.

“The first country we have to convince is Brazil, and it may be hard work,” he said.

AFP

Scientists Detail Full Genome Of Wheat For The First Time

In a breakthrough that experts say will help feed the growing global population in the coming decades, scientists Thursday revealed they have cracked the full genome of wheat for the first time.

Wheat feeds more than a third of the global human population, providing more protein than meat in the human diet and making about one-fifth of calories consumed by people.

But it is harder to grow in hot, dry weather, and these challenging conditions are expected to intensify as the planet warms due to climate change.

Experts say the world needs more disease-resistant varieties and breeds that can grow with less water in a warmer environment.

“This will greatly speed up our efforts on identification of agriculturally important wheat genes, including those that would help to combat major fungal diseases,” said Kostya Kanyuka a functional genomics scientist at Rothamsted Research.

“This will also be hugely and immediately beneficial for wheat breeders, accelerating development of new elite varieties.”

Mapping a comprehensive wheat genome was an “immense challenge” that took 13 years, because bread wheat contains five times more genes than a human, said the report in the journal Science.

The type of wheat detailed by 200 scientists from 20 countries is Chinese Spring (Triticum aestivum) a variety of bread wheat which is the world’s most widely cultivated crop, said the study led by the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC).

“Wheat productivity needs to increase by 1.6 percent a year to meet the demands of a projected world population of 9.6 billion by 2050,” said the report.

The wheat genome contains 107,891 genes, and its complex genome contains 16 billion base pairs, which are the building blocks of DNA.

Humans, by contrast, have about 20,000 genes and three billion base pairs.

Yobe Commences Irrigation Plans To Boost Rice, Wheat Production

Obiano Commissions Josan Rice Farm And Mills In Anambra StateYobe State has commenced preparation for a full scale irrigation farming in four different locations across the state in a bid to commence all year round farming.

Under the programme, the state government through a special task force on irrigation has commenced construction of canals and dykes as a strategy for harvesting and storing the abundant rainfall to be use during the dry season.

Governor Gaidam visited three separate potential irrigation sites where he reiterated the state’s determined to become a major producer of rice and wheat among other vegetable gardening.

“With what I have seen in these three locations and the intensive efforts of the Special Task Force on the scheme, I am confident that we will soon become a major player especially in rice and wheat production.

“We will give the task force every support it needs to grow these fields and empower our farmers to become commercial farmers,” the governor said.

Chairman of the special task force Mr Gambomi Goni, revealed that for a start, government will provide the farm and other imputes to attract the farmers into the profession but subsequently as they get used to it, they would be left alone to carry on with their businesses.

“We are currently working on 200 hectares each in Nguru and Muguram in Nguru and we are constructing a 1500 meters main canal as well as numerous intake channels.

“We will grow throughout the year and we envisage three cropping seasons with wheat around October-March, rice around March-July and then early variety of maize around July September,” Goni said.

Furthermore, he appreciated the strong backing the committee is receiving from government and assured to do its best in ensuring the success of the programme.

 

The governor, therefore, called on farmers to make the best use of the programme to improve their economy and that of the state.

We’re sorry for increasing the price of bread – Bakers

The President of the Association of Master Bakers and Caterers, Lagos State Chapter, Jacob Adejorin, on Monday, appealed to the public over the hike in the price of bread.

Mr. Adejorin said in Lagos that the increase is unavoidable because bakers can no longer run the business at a loss.

“It is not our desire to make life uncomfortable for members of the public. We have seriously considered them before increasing the price of our products,” he said.

He said that ingredients used in the production of bread have become too expensive for bakers.

The master baker said that a bag of wheat is now being sold for N7, 100 as against the previous price of N5, 750; while a bag of sugar is now N9, 000 from N5, 000.

“Many of our members have gone out of business. Some of them have been forced to return to their villages, while others have taken to other businesses,” he said.

Bread vendors said a loaf of Val-U bread and UTC bread, which used to cost N180 no sells for N220 while loaves that used to cost N100 and N120 now cost N120 and N150 respectively, and the N150 loaf now sells for N200.

World Bank says rising food prices a concern, ready to help

The World Bank on Monday said it stood ready to help governments respond to a broad-based run-up in grain prices that has again put the world’s poorest people at risk and could have lingering detrimental impacts for years.

People shop inside Nakumatt"s supermarket in Nairobi January 5, 2011.

“We cannot allow short-term food-price spikes to have damaging long-term consequences for the world’s most poor and vulnerable,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said in statement.

“The World Bank and our partners are monitoring this situation closely so we can help governments put policies in place to help people better cope,” said Kim, a public health expert facing his biggest challenge in two months on the job.

A severe drought in the U.S. Midwest has cut projected grain yields dramatically, reviving memories of 2008 when a sharp increase in food prices caused riots in some countries and raised questions about the use of crops to make biofuels.

Wheat prices have jumped more than 50 percent and corn prices more than 45 percent since mid-June, with dry conditions in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, excessively wet weather in Europe and a below average start to the Indian monsoon season adding to global crop worries.

Prices for soybeans, a critical food and animal feed crop, also have risen almost 30 percent over the past two months and nearly 60 percent since the end of last year.

“When food prices rise, families cope by pulling their kids out of school and eating cheaper, less nutritious food, which can have catastrophic life-long effects on the social, physical, and mental well being of millions of young people,” Kim said.

Kim said the bank has a number of programs to help governments should the situation worsen.

Those include policy advice, increased agriculture and agriculture-related investment, fast-track financing, risk management products and work with the United Nations and private voluntary groups to help governments make more informed responses to global food price spikes.

“In the short-term, measures such as school feeding programs, conditional cash transfers, and food-for-work programs can help to ease pressure on the poor,” Kim said. “In the medium- to long-term, the world needs strong and stable policies and sustained investments in agriculture in poor countries.”

World Bank officials stressed there is no indication, based on current crop forecasts, of any major grain shortages resulting from the reduced harvests this year.

In addition, lower prices for oil, fertilizer and shipping than in 2008 will ease the cost of importing food and planting next year’s crop, the bank said.

But Marc Sadler, head of agriculture risk management at the World Bank, said the situation is also “more complicated” than in 2008, when rice and wheat prices rose the most and then fell sharply the next year when plantings increased.

“The difference now is, if you look across the board, all prices are up,” making it tougher for farmers to decide how to allocate their acreage, Sadler said.

“When corn prices are up, bean prices are up and wheat prices are up, which one, as a farmer, do you go for?”g he said.

Sadler underscored Kim’s point about the threat food shortages pose to a country’s long-term vitality.

“One of the most pernicious facts out there is that in the first thousand days of a child’s life, they develop 80 percent of their brains. So, malnutrition in those first thousand days has a long-lasting impact,” he said.

REUTERS