Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Nigeria’s biggest tomato plant is counting on the government’s restriction of food imports to sustain operations after going idle again six months after it resumed operations from an almost three-year shut down.

When Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, decided to set up the plant, it was with the clear goal of supplanting imports of tomato paste mostly from China but that has suffered setbacks.

Currently, the 1,200-ton-a-day tomato-processing factory near the West African nation’s northern city of Kano is closed, unable to get its required feed stock as farmers have switched to other crops at the beginning of the rainy season in May.

The plant was idle for more than two years until March this year over a supply disruption partly caused by a price dispute with farmers. Even after the disagreement was resolved, the factory was unable to ramp up production beyond 20% of its capacity due to inadequate supply of tomatoes, as most of the farmers lacked the needed credit to expand production.

The company is losing at least 30 million naira every month with employees idle, according to the managing director of Dangote Farms, Abdulkareem Kaita.

Nigeria consume an average of 2.3 million tons of tomatoes a year and produce just about the same amount, according to a 2017 report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Without adequate storage facilities and an efficient means of transporting them to the markets, about 45% of harvested tomatoes go to waste. Africa’s most populous country imports about 1.3 million tons of the red vegetable to fill the gap, mostly from China and other parts of Asia. Nigeria is the third largest importer of the commodity in Africa.

“We knew tomato is a seasonal crop before we started as it’s the case in China and Europe,” Kaita said. “What we set out to do was reduce the post harvest loss yearly to feed the factory.”

Unfazed by the problems, Dangote Farms is pushing ahead with its original objective of replacing tomato-paste imports. With President Muhammadu Buhari making the reduction of food imports a key objective of his administration, the Nigerian central bank is implementing a new credit plan intended to help the farmers grow tomatoes all year round.

Dangote Farms has also acquired a 5,000-hectare farm to grow a high-yield variety of tomatoes to meet its factory’s requirements, while introducing the same strain to other farms to increase their productivity.

“With this, the output of the farmers would tremendously improve and the processing factory would record ample supply,” Kaita said.

Kaita also wants the government to enforce its decision to curtail tomato-paste imports to reduce incidents of dumping of subsidized paste on the Nigerian market.

“The effective implementation of the government’s policy in restricting tomato paste importation will guarantee more investment in the tomato value chain, which will eventually lead to self-sufficiency in few years to come,” Kaita said.

 

Credit: Bloomberg

Published in Agriculture

South Africa's main opposition parthy The Democratic Alliance (DA) can reveal that almost 70% of PRASA controlled train stations do not have CCTV cameras.

A response to a DA Parliamentary Question has revealed that of the 585 train stations under PRASA’s control, only 181 stations have at least one CCTV camera. This means that only 30.9% of stations in the country have at least one CCTV cameras.

In the Western Cape, where rail safety has been particularly out of hand, only 42 out of 122 stations in the province have CCTV cameras. This means only 34.4% of the province’s stations have at least one CCTV camera.

These are alarming figures considering the fact that crime is on the increase. In 2018 alone, an estimated 495 people lost their lives while making use of our trains and 2079 were injured. Clearly the ANC government cannot be trusted to keep commuters safe.

To make matters worse, around 26.8% of all the cameras installed nationally are not working.

How can we have effective policing at train stations when most stations do not have cameras, and those that do are not guaranteed to have operational ones?

PRASA’s old, outdated and stoic infrastructure places many commuters across the country under constant threat of being attacked by criminals, due to the state of lawlessness and lack of law enforcement at PRASA stations.

The table below shows a total of installed CCTV cameras at PRASA managed railway stations per region:

The DA is of the view that policing and train services should be handed over to competent provinces such as the Western Cape, as the national government is incapable and clearly unwilling to keep our people safe.

Unlike the ANC, the DA has a rail plan that will create a safe and well-managed railway system which put commuters first and will ensure job security. The plan is based on four aspects:

Stabilising and modernising the current rail system;
Merging Transnet and PRASA under the Department of Transport;
Ceding control of Metrorail services to Metros; and,
Diversifying Ownership.

Poor railway infrastructure and mismanagement makes it hard for South Africans to reliably depend on trains to deliver them to their destinations safely and on time.

Published in Travel & Tourism
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a battle for political survival in a closely fought election on Tuesday that could end his 10-year domination of national politics.
 
Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT) and will close at 10 p.m. when Israeli media will publish exit polls giving a first indication of the outcome.
 
Opinion polls put former armed forces chief Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party neck-and-neck with Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, and suggest the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party could emerge as kingmaker in coalition talks.
 
The two main parties’ campaigns in Israel’s second parliamentary election in five months point to only narrow differences on many important issues: the regional struggle against Iran, ties with the Palestinians and the United States, and the stable economy.
 
An end to the Netanyahu era would be unlikely to lead to a big change in policy on hotly disputed issues in the peace process with the Palestinians that collapsed five years ago.
 
Netanyahu has announced his intention to annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank, where the Palestinians seek statehood. But Blue and White has also said it would strengthen Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank, with the Jordan Valley as Israel’s “eastern security border”.
 
The election was called after Netanyahu failed to form a coalition following an April election in which Likud and Blue and White were tied, each taking 35 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, or parliament.
 
Netanyahu, 69, has cast himself as indispensable and blighted by voter complacency over his tenure – the longest of any Israeli prime minister. He was prime minister from June 1996 until July 1999 and has held the post since March 2009.
 
Warning he may be replaced by “leftists” who would weaken Israel in the eyes of both foes and friends, Netanyahu has flooded the airwaves and social media with calls on his Likud faithful to turn out in force.
 
“It’s up to you! The (Likud) lead is very small,” he appealed hoarsely in a video message posted on Twitter.
 
Both Netanyahu and Gantz, 60, have tried to energize their bases, and poach votes from smaller parties.
 
Netanyahu portrays Gantz as inexperienced and incapable of commanding respect from world leaders such as Trump. Gantz accuses Netanyahu of trying to deflect attention from his possible indictment on corruption charges that the prime minister has dismissed as baseless.
 
Hagit Cohen, a 43-year-old social worker, said she would back Blue and White rather than her former favorite, the now fringe Labour party: “I don’t want my vote to be wasted. Gantz may not be perfect, but enough is enough with Bibi (Netanyahu).”
 
Gantz also worries about public apathy. Interviewed by Army Radio, he urged Tel Aviv residents to “put down their espressos for an hour” and vote – a nod to the secular, middle-class constituency he hopes to mobilize against pro-Netanyahu religious-nationalists.
 
“There is a definite sense of fatigue. Many Israelis are fed up with the politicians, or expect more of the same,” said Amotz Asa-El, research fellow at Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute.
 
Netanyahu, Asa-El said, “has always divided the electorate into ‘theirs’ and ‘ours’. This time he’s reading the political map even more closely and knows that he needs every extra vote.”
Published in World
Tuesday, 17 September 2019 07:00

FG to increase VAT from 5% to 7.2%

The Federal Government of Nigeria Wednesday proposed an increment of the Valued Added Tax.

The increment will see the VAT rising from 5% to 7.2%.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, revealed this while briefing State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The minister said that the increase would commence after the amendment of the VAT Act by the National Assembly, and after consultations with the state and local government areas, as well as the Nigerian populace.

According to her, “Our projection is to finish consultations early enough so that it takes effect in 2020.”

She also said that the FEC approved the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategic Paper, MTEF/FSP for 2020 to 2022, which would guide the 2020 Budget.

Published in Bank & Finance
Tuesday, 17 September 2019 06:27

Trump says no rush for war with Iran

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that although it looked like Iran was behind attacks on oil plants in Saudi Arabia, he did not want to rush into war.
 
The attacks on Saturday sent oil prices soaring and raised fears of a new Middle East conflict.
 
Iran has rejected U.S. charges it was behind the strikes that damaged the world’s biggest crude-processing plant and triggered the largest jump in crude prices in decades.
 
Relations between the United States and Iran have deteriorated since Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear accord last year and reimposed sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear and ballistic programs. Washington also wants to pressure Tehran to end its support of regional proxy forces, including in Yemen where Saudi forces have been fighting Iran-backed Houthis for four years.
 
The United States was still investigating if Iran was behind the Saudi strikes, Trump said, but “it’s certainly looking that way at this moment.”
 
Trump, who has spent much of his presidency trying to disentangle the United States from wars he inherited, made clear, however, he was not going to rush into a new conflict on behalf of Saudi Arabia.
 
“I’m somebody that would like not to have war,” Trump said.
 
Several U.S. Cabinet members, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, have blamed Tehran for the strikes. Pompeo and others will travel to Saudi Arabia soon, Trump said.
 
A day after saying the United States was “locked and loaded” to respond to the incident, Trump said on Monday there was “no rush” to do so.
 
“We have a lot of options but I’m not looking at options right now. We want to find definitively who did this,” he said.
 
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the strikes were carried out by “Yemeni people” retaliating for attacks by a Saudi-led military coalition in a war with the Houthi movement.
 
“Yemeni people are exercising their legitimate right of defense,” Rouhani told reporters during a visit to Ankara.
 
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi called the allegations “unacceptable and entirely baseless.”
 
The attacks cut 5% of world crude oil production.
 
Oil prices surged by as much as 19% after the incidents but later came off their peaks. The intraday jump was the biggest since the 1990-91 Gulf crisis over Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
 
The market eased from its peak after Trump said he would release U.S. emergency supplies and producers said there were enough stocks stored up worldwide to make up for the shortfall. Prices were around 12% higher by afternoon in the United States.
 
SAUDI SUSPICIONS
 
Saudi Arabia said the attacks were carried out with Iranian weapons, adding that it was capable of responding forcefully and urging U.N. experts to help investigate the raid.
 
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Iranian threats were not only directed against the kingdom but against the Middle East and the world.
 
While the prince did not directly accuse Tehran, a Foreign Ministry statement reported him as calling on the international community to condemn whoever was behind the strike.
 
“The kingdom is capable of defending its land and people and responding forcefully to those attacks,” the statement added.
 
Saudi Arabia and Iran have been enemies for decades and are fighting a number of proxy wars.
 
Trump said he had not made commitments to protect the Saudis.
 
“No, I haven’t promised Saudis that. We have to sit down with the Saudis and work something out,” he said. “That was an attack on Saudi Arabia, and that wasn’t an attack on us. But we would certainly help them.”
 
Two sources briefed on state oil company Saudi Aramco’s operations told Reuters it might take months for Saudi oil production to return to normal. Earlier estimates had suggested it could take weeks.
 
Saudi Arabia said it would be able to meet oil customers’ demand from its ample storage, although some deliveries had been disrupted. At least 11 supertankers were waiting to load oil cargoes from Saudi ports, ship tracking data showed on Monday.
 
RISING TENSIONS
 
Tension in the oil-producing Gulf region has dramatically escalated this year after Trump imposed severe U.S. sanctions on Iran aimed at halting its oil exports altogether.
 
For months, Iranian officials have issued veiled threats, saying that if Tehran is blocked from exporting oil, other countries will not be able to do so either. But Iran has denied a role in specific attacks, including bombings of tankers in the Gulf and previous strikes claimed by the Houthis.
 
U.S. allies in Europe oppose Trump’s “maximum pressure” strategy, arguing that it provides no clear mechanism to resolve issues, creating a risk the enemies could stumble into war.
 
Trump has said his goal is to force Iran to negotiate a tougher agreement and has left open the possibility of talks with Rouhani at an upcoming U.N. meeting. Iran says there can be no talks until Washington lifts sanctions.
 
U.N. Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths told the U.N. Security Council on Monday it was “not entirely clear” who was behind the strike but he said it had increased the chances of a regional conflict.
 
But the U.S. ambassador to the world body, Kelly Craft, said emerging information on the attacks “indicates that responsibility lies with Iran” and that there is no evidence the attack came from Yemen.
Published in World
Some of the migrants in Lampudesa Italy: they tell stories of woes, abuse, rape, torture in prisoners camps
 
Migrants who landed in Lampudesa, Italy last weekend have narrated a shocking catalogue of abuses, rape, murder and torture by persons who ran prisoner camps in Libya.
 
One of the stories told was that of a Nigerian migrant, who was shot in the leg by his jailer because he attempted to take a piece of bread.
 
Three persons accused of their torture and kidnap have been arrested by Italian police. Surprisingly they were not Libyans.
 
A 27-year old man from Guinea and two Egyptians, aged 24 and 26, were responsible.They were taken into custody in a detention centre in Messina, Sicily, after police gathered testimony against them from other migrants.
 
The arrested men had crossed the Mediterranean themselves, landing in Lampedusa before being transferred to Sicily.
 
Witnesses said the three ran a prisoners’ camp in a former military base in Zawyia in Libya, where those ready to attempt the perilous sea crossing were forcibly held until they could pay a ransom.
 
Those interviewed said they had been “beaten with sticks, rifle butts, rubber pipes, whipped or given electric shocks”, and had seen other prisoners die, police said.
 
They had also been refused water or medical attention for their wounds or for diseases contracted in the camp, they said.
 
Anyone unable to pay up was passed on to other traffickers “for sexual and/or work exploitation”, or was killed.
 
The testimonies were gathered from migrants spread in reception centres across Sicily and on the island of Lampedusa.
 
“All the women who were with us… were systematically and repeatedly raped,” one witness was quoted as saying.
 
“They gave us seawater to drink and, sometimes, hard bread to eat. We men were beaten to get our relatives to pay sums of money in exchange for our release,” he said.
 
“I saw the organisers shoot two migrants who had tried to escape”.
 
Another said he was “whipped by electrical wires. Other times I was beaten, even around the head”.
 
One survivor described how the electric shocks “made you fall to the ground unconscious”, adding that he had “personally witnessed many murders by electric shock”.
 
Libya, despite being wracked by chaos and conflict since the 2011 uprising that killed Muammar Ghadafi has remained a major transit route for migrants, especially from sub-Saharan Africa.
 
According to figures from the International Organization for Migration in July, at least 5,200 people are currently trapped in official detention centres in Libya, often in appalling conditions.
 
There are no figures for the number of people held in illegal centres run by human traffickers, who brutally torture them to try to extort money from their families.
 
Italy’s tough line on migrants arriving from North Africa, and European Union cooperation with the Libyan coastguard, has seen some of those attempting the crossing picked up at sea and returned to the chaos-wracked country.
 
The UN and aid groups have warned those returned face rampant human rights abuses in both official and illegal centres.
Published in Travel & Tourism
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