Concerns grow as Sudan wheat harvest ‘waits to rot’

Concerns grow as Sudan wheat harvest ‘waits to rot’
Wheat farmer fears that the grain will soon rot, after the government backed out of promises to purchase it at incentivising prices. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 19 June 2022

Concerns grow as Sudan wheat harvest ‘waits to rot’

Concerns grow as Sudan wheat harvest ‘waits to rot’
  • Impoverished Sudan has for years been grappling with a grinding economic crisis, which deepened after last year’s military coup prompted Western governments to cut crucial aid

Al-LAOTA, Sudan:  Looking at the sacks of wheat stacked in Imad Abdullah’s small home, no one would guess that Sudan’s food security is hanging by a thread after an October coup and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But the wheat farmer fears that the grain will soon rot, after his country’s cash-strapped government backed out of promises to purchase it at incentivising prices.

“It has been two months since I harvested the wheat and I can’t store it in the house anymore,” said Abdullah, pointing to the large sacks filled with ripened wheat crammed into his small house in Al-Laota, in Gezira state, south of Sudan’s capital.

He is one of the thousands of farmers who have cultivated the grain as part of Sudan’s largest agricultural scheme, named Al-Gezira.

When Abdullah harvested in March, he was promised 43,000 Sudanese pounds ($75) per sack — a price set by the government to encourage farmers to cultivate the grain.

“We used to sell the government our entire harvest. We never had to bring it home. We don’t even have adequate storage places.”

Sudanese officials have however declared in recent weeks that they will not be able to buy this season’s entire harvest due to lack of funds.

Impoverished Sudan has for years been grappling with a grinding economic crisis, which deepened after last year’s military coup prompted Western governments to cut crucial aid.

Over 18 million people, nearly half the Sudanese population, are expected to be pushed into extreme hunger by September, according to UN estimates.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, both key grain suppliers, threatens to compound Sudan’s existing food security troubles.

Wheat imports from both nations make up between 70 and 80 percent of Sudan’s local market needs, according to a 2021 UN report.

Last month, dozens of wheat farmers from Sudan’s Northern State staged a protest outside the agricultural bank after it refused to take their harvest.

“I grew 16 acres of wheat this season, filling some 120 sacks amounting to a total of 12 tons,” farmer Modawi Ahmed said.

He said the bank only agreed to buy less than half of his harvest, and he now fears the rest will spoil.

Farmers working the fields as part of the Al-Gezira scheme have over the years contributed only a small portion of Sudan’s annual wheat needs of 2.2 million tons.

This year, local wheat production was forecast to cover only a quarter of the country’s needs, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

The Finance Ministry earlier this month said it was committed to building a strategic wheat reserve of up to 300,000 tons.

But the government “does not have the money to buy the harvest,” said an official with Sudan’s agricultural bank, which procures the wheat from farmers.

“We have asked the Finance Ministry and the central bank for funds but we got no response,” the official said.

An official with Sudan’s Finance Ministry confirmed the lack of funds.

Properly stored wheat can last up to a year and a half in silos with controlled temperature and humidity levels, according to agricultural expert Abdulkarim Omar.

But it “could spoil within as little as three months” in inadequate storage, he said.

Traders have offered to buy the farmers’ wheat, but at far lower prices that barely cover the cost of production, according to Omar Marzouk, the governor of the Al-Gezira scheme.

As a result, he predicted that “farmers will opt against cultivating the grain next season.”


15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials

15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials
Updated 55 min 49 sec ago

15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials

15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials
  • The agency said nine other migrants survived while two remain missing in the desert

CAIRO: Libyan authorities said Saturday they found at least 15 migrants dead in the desert on the borders with Sudan, the latest tragedy involving migrants seeking a better life in Europe via perilous journeys through the conflict-wrecked nation.
The Department for Combating Irregular Migration in the southeastern city of Kufra said the migrants were on their way from Sudan to Libya when their vehicle broke down due to lack of fuel.
The agency said nine other migrants survived while two remain missing in the desert. There were women and children among the migrants, but the agency did not elaborate on how many. It also did not reveal causes of the migrants’ death, but said they did not have enough food and water.
It said the migrants were all Sudanese — from a country in turmoil for years. The migrants likely attempted to reach western Libya in efforts to board trafficking boats to Europe.
The agency posted images on Facebook showing bodies purportedly of the dead migrants who were later burned in the desert.
The tragedy was the latest in Libya’s sprawling desert. In June, authorities in Kufra said they found the bodies of 20 migrants who they said died of thirst in the desert after their vehicle broke down close to the border with Chad.
Libya has in recent years emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. The oil-rich country plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime autocrat Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Human traffickers in recent years have benefited from the chaos in Libya, smuggling in migrants across the country’s lengthy borders with six nations. The migrants are then packed into ill-equipped rubber boats and set off on risky sea voyages.


Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle
Updated 13 August 2022

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle
  • Secretary-General of the House of Representatives Ahmed Manaa invited Parliament’s 596 MPs to attend the meeting without disclosing further information

CAIRO: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt announced a Cabinet reshuffle Saturday to improve his administration's performance as it faces towering economic challenges stemming largely from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Cabinet shake-up, which was approved by parliament in an emergency session, affected 13 portfolios, including health, education, culture, local development and irrigation ministries.
Also included in the reshuffle was the tourism portfolio, a key job at a time when Egypt is struggling to revive the lucrative sector decimated by years of turmoil, the pandemic and most recently the war in Europe.
The changes, however, didn’t affect key ministries including foreign, finance, defense and the interior, which is responsible for the police force.
El-Sisi said the shake-up came in consultation with Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly. He said in a Facebook post that the changes aimed at “developing the governmental performance in some important files ... which contribute to protecting the state’s interests and capabilities.”
The new ministers are expected to be sworn in before el-Sissi later Saturday or early Sunday.
Egypt’s economy has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine, which rattled global markets and hiked oil and food prices across the world.


Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18
Updated 13 August 2022

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

CAIRO: A vehicle accident involving an overturned microbus in southern Egypt killed at least nine people and injured eight, authorities said Saturday.
The crash took place Friday when the passenger vehicle overturned following a tire blowout on a highway in Minya province 273 kilometers (170 miles) south of the capital Cairo, provincial authorities said in a statement.
The microbus, a sort of mass transit minivan, was transporting people from Sohag province to Cairo, the statement said.
Ambulances rushed to the site and moved the injured to hospitals in Minya, the statement added.
Deadly traffic accidents claim thousands of lives every year in Egypt, which has a poor transportation safety record. The crashes and collisions are mostly caused by speeding, bad roads or poor enforcement of traffic laws.
Earlier this month, a microbus collided with a truck in Sohag, killing at least 17 people and injuring four others. In July, a passenger bus slammed into a parked trailer truck in Minya, leaving 23 dead and a least 30 wounded.


UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations
Updated 13 August 2022

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

DUBAI: The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, discussed on Friday with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, bilateral relations between their countries, the prospects for cooperation and ways to enhance them.

Both officials also reviewed the latest developments in the Ukraine, in addition to a number of regional and international issues of common interest, UAE state news agency WAM reported. 

During the phone call, Sheikh Abdullah praised the United Nations-backed agreement recently signed in Istanbul between Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, which provides for the safe export of grain through the Black Sea to global markets.

He reiterated the UAE's commitment to support all efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine and reach a political settlement of the crisis.


Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 
Updated 13 August 2022

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 
  • Mohammad Marandi: ‘I wont be shedding tears for a writer who spouts endless hatred and contempt for Muslims and Islam’

Iran’s advisor to the nuclear negotiating team, Mohammad Marandi, said he will not be “shedding tears” over Salman Rushdie who was fatally stabbed on Friday at a literary event in New York state. 

“I wont be shedding tears for a writer who spouts endless hatred and contempt for Muslims and Islam,” Marandi said in a tweet following the incident. 

Salman Rushdie, who spent years in hiding after an Iranian fatwa ordered his killing, was on a ventilator and could lose an eye following the attack. The British author of “The Satanic Verses,” which sparked fury among some Muslims, had to be airlifted to hospital for emergency surgery following the attack.

Marandi also expressed his surprise at the timing of the attack on Rushdie, which followed Washington’s thwarting of an assassination attempt targeting the former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, calling it “odd.”

The Department of Justice charged an Iranian military operative on Wednesday with plotting to assassinate Bolton.