Indonesian festival promotes spices, snacks in Jeddah to boost exports

Indonesian festival promotes spices, snacks in Jeddah to boost exports
Indonesian Consul-General Eko Hartono, right, cuts cake to mark opening of the Indonesian Week Festival in Jeddah, which ran until Aug. 17, 2023. (Indonesian Consulate General in Jeddah)
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Updated 17 August 2023
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Indonesian festival promotes spices, snacks in Jeddah to boost exports

Indonesian Consul-General Eko Hartono, right, cuts cake to mark opening of the Indonesian Week Festival in Jeddah.
  • Indonesian mission hopes to promote products to catering companies, hotels in Red Sea city
  • Indonesia-Saudi trade increased by about 45 percent to $7 billion between Jan-Nov last year

JAKARTA: Indonesia has been promoting spices and snacks in Jeddah in a bid to boost exports to Saudi Arabia, as the Indonesian Week festival held in the port city wrapped up on Thursday. 

Indonesia, which has been working to diversify its exports to non-traditional markets, has rolled out various efforts to increase trade and commerce with Saudi Arabia, including the visit of a special trade delegation to Riyadh this year.  

Trade between the two countries has been on the rise, with bilateral trade increasing by about 45 percent to $7 billion between January and November last year, compared to the same period in the previous year. 

The festival, which began July 27, was organized by Indonesia’s Consulate General in Jeddah and featured nearly 150 Indonesian products. It concluded on the Southeast Asian nation’s Independence Day, which falls on Aug. 17. 

“This is one of our efforts to increase exports to Saudi Arabia, by way of promoting Indonesian products, especially food and beverages,” Siti Nizamiyah, consul for economic affairs at the Indonesian Consulate General in Jeddah, told Arab News in a phone interview. 

A preliminary report suggested there has been a “significant increase” in sales, Nizamiyah added, compared to the other two times the event has been held. Most of the products promoted in Jeddah are spices and snacks, such as candlenut, coriander and different types of peanuts. 

The festival aims to introduce various Indonesian products to potential buyers in Jeddah, including catering companies, hotels, and also residents of the city. 

“What I’ve been seeing in my observations is that many people like Indonesian products, possibly because of the price, as our prices are quite competitive with local goods too,” Nizamiyah said, adding that customers are not limited to Indonesians in the Kingdom, but also people of other nationalities. 

“We are hoping to promote not only to Indonesians, but also to other nationals here in Jeddah,” she added. 

In an interview with Arab News earlier this month, Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia Faisal Abdullah Amodi said there were many avenues that could further strengthen ties between the Southeast Asian nation and the Kingdom, which has traditionally focused on Hajj and Umrah as Indonesia, a country of 270 million people, sends the largest contingents of pilgrims to the Kingdom each year. 

“I believe this period is a historical period for both countries to enhance relations, especially with regard to the economy and investment,” Amodi said.


UK announces new Russia sanctions to mark Ukraine invasion anniversary

UK announces new Russia sanctions to mark Ukraine invasion anniversary
Updated 6 sec ago
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UK announces new Russia sanctions to mark Ukraine invasion anniversary

UK announces new Russia sanctions to mark Ukraine invasion anniversary
LONDON: Britain announced a new package of sanctions against Russia on Thursday, saying it was seeking to diminish President Vladimir Putin’s weapons arsenal and war chest two years after the invasion of Ukraine.
The package, covering more than 50 individuals and entities, was announced two days before Saturday’s second anniversary of the full-scale invasion and is part of a coordinated Western effort to restrict the Russian economy.
“Our international economic pressure means Russia cannot afford this illegal invasion. Our sanctions are starving Putin of the resources he desperately needs to fund his struggling war,” Foreign Secretary David Cameron said in a statement.
The European Union on Wednesday approved its own package of sweeping sanctions, banning nearly 200 entities and individuals accused of helping Moscow procure weapons or of involvement in kidnapping Ukrainian children.
Britain sanctioned companies linked to the Russian ammunition industry, including what it said was the largest, the Sverdlov State Owned Enterprise, and targeted sources of revenue in the metals, diamonds and energy industries.
That included a Turkish company Britain said was supplying electronics to Russia, three electronics companies in China and executives at Russian diamond producer Alrosa. It also added managers of copper producer UMMC to the list.
Alrosa did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The foreign office also imposed sanctions on what it said were key Russian importers and manufacturers of machine tools used to manufacture defense systems and components ranging from missiles and engines to tanks and fighter jets.
The government also said it was preparing to strengthen its powers to target “malign Russian shipping activity and individual ‘shadow fleet’ vessels used by Russia to soften the blow of oil-related sanctions.”
Britain this week imposed sanctions on six individuals in charge of the Arctic penal colony where Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died.
There are more than 2,000 Russian individuals, companies and groups on Britain’s sanctions list.

Dutch PM Rutte in strong position to become NATO chief after getting US, UK backing

Dutch PM Rutte in strong position to become NATO chief after getting US, UK backing
Updated 51 min 31 sec ago
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Dutch PM Rutte in strong position to become NATO chief after getting US, UK backing

Dutch PM Rutte in strong position to become NATO chief after getting US, UK backing
  • Stoltenberg’s successor when he steps down in October will take office at a crucial juncture
  • “President Biden strongly endorses PM Rutte’s candidacy to be the next Secretary General of NATO,” a US official said

BRUSSELS/LONDON: The United States and Britain backed outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Thursday to succeed Jens Stoltenberg as the next secretary general of NATO, putting him in a strong position to clinch the post.
Stoltenberg’s successor when he steps down in October will take office at a crucial juncture, tasked with sustaining NATO members’ support for Ukraine’s costly defense against Russia’s invasion while guarding against any escalation that would draw the alliance directly into a war with Russia.
“President Biden strongly endorses PM Rutte’s candidacy to be the next Secretary General of NATO,” a US official said.
“PM Rutte has a deep understanding of the importance of the Alliance, is a natural leader and communicator, and his leadership would serve the Alliance well at this critical time.”
Depending on the outcome of November’s US presidential election, the next NATO boss may have to deal with a second term for Donald Trump, who recently once again called into question his commitment to defending NATO allies.
NATO leaders are appointed by consensus requiring the support — or at the least no opposition — from all its 31 members. Two diplomats said Rutte has the backing of about 20 NATO members so far.
Sweden is currently set to become the Western alliance’s 32nd member — a move precipitated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Rutte, who was already considered the favorite to fill the role, signaled his interest in the top job at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization last year.
The British Foreign Office said Rutte was a well-respected figure across NATO with serious defense and security credentials, and someone who would ensure it remained strong and prepared for any need to defend itself.
The Netherlands’ longest-serving leader, Rutte unexpectedly announced his departure from Dutch politics in July, but remains in post as a caretaker leader while coalition negotiations continue following a Nov. 22 election.
Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, has served as NATO chief since 2014. His term was extended in July last year for a fourth time as the alliance opted to stick with an experienced leader rather than try to agree on a successor with Russia’s war in Ukraine raging on NATO’s doorstep.
Diplomats say Rutte is currently the only official candidate for the post. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Latvian Foreign Minister Krisjanis Karins have also signaled interest but not been presented formally as candidates, diplomats say.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark, whom some had mentioned as a possible successor, ruled it out on Thursday, saying she would turn down the job if it were offered to her.


Ukraine claims strike on Russian army range near Dnipro river

Ukraine claims strike on Russian army range near Dnipro river
Updated 59 min 45 sec ago
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Ukraine claims strike on Russian army range near Dnipro river

Ukraine claims strike on Russian army range near Dnipro river
  • Military spokeswoman Natalia Gumeniuk said on television the attack took place Wednesday, striking a range where Russian storm troops were training
  • “The work was carried out quite effectively: at least 60 invaders will definitely not return to combat positions”

KYIV: Ukraine said Thursday that its forces had struck a Russian training ground on the Russia-occupied bank of the Dnipro River in the southern Kherson region, killing or wounding dozens of troops.
Military spokeswoman Natalia Gumeniuk said on television the attack took place Wednesday, striking a range where Russian storm troops were training.
“The work was carried out quite effectively: at least 60 invaders will definitely not return to combat positions,” said Gumeniuk, spokesperson for Ukraine’s Operational Command South.
She later told AFP that three strikes hit a training ground near the village of Podo-Kalynivka, with around 60 Russian troops “killed or seriously wounded.”
The Telegram channel of southern defense forces posted aerial video footage showing explosions and soldiers lying on the ground.
The attack came after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that Moscow forces had reclaimed a Ukrainian bridgehead around the village of Krynky on the Moscow-occupied bank of the Dnipro River.
The Ukrainian army denied the claim.
Gumeniuk said the training ground hit by the strike Wednesday was being used by soldiers deployed to attack the bridgehead.
One of the largest Russian Telegram blogs writing about the war, Rybar, said Thursday that there were three strikes on a training ground in a national park area of sand dunes called Oleshkivski Pisky, around 15 kilometers (nine miles) from Krynky.
Rybar said fighting was also continuing in Krynky, where small numbers of Ukrainian troops remain, with Ukraine sending artillery and drones from the opposite bank of the river under its control.
Ukraine reportedly carried out a similar strike on a training ground near the Russian-controlled eastern town of Volnovakha in the Donetsk region on Tuesday, with numerous casualties.
The BBC Russian Service reported that troops from Russia’s 36th motorized rifle brigade based in Siberia were lined up on the training ground waiting for a commander to arrive, and at least 60 may have been killed.
Rybar said the attack was carried out using US-made HIMARS rocket systems.
The governor of the region where the brigade was from called the information “spurious” but promised help to the soldiers’ families.
Ukrainian authorities have not commented.
Russian war bloggers criticized the military leadership, saying such gatherings of large numbers of troops on open ground made easy targets.


India’s Modi says committed to farmers’ welfare, protesting leaders to expand campaign

India’s Modi says committed to farmers’ welfare, protesting leaders to expand campaign
Updated 22 February 2024
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India’s Modi says committed to farmers’ welfare, protesting leaders to expand campaign

India’s Modi says committed to farmers’ welfare, protesting leaders to expand campaign
  • Farmers mostly from northern India have been attempting to march to New Delhi
  • Protesting farmers are demanding legally binding higher prices for their crops

SHAMBHU, India: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday his government is committed to the welfare of farmers and is on a mission to make them entrepreneurs and exporters, amid a protest by thousands of farmers seeking higher prices for their produce.

Modi’s comments on farmers were his first since the protests began last week and come months before general elections in which he is seeking a rare third term.

Farmers, mostly from the northern state of Punjab, have been attempting to march to the capital for more than a week as part of their ‘Delhi Chalo’ (Let’s Go to Delhi) campaign demanding legally binding higher prices for their crops, among other things.

They have been stopped 200 km (125 miles) away by police who have used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon, with talks between farmers’ leaders and federal ministers failing to produce a breakthrough.

The farmer leaders said on Wednesday they were pausing their march for two days following the death of a young protester, with authorities telling local media that the man had suffered a head injury and the cause was yet to be determined.

After a meeting on Thursday, farmers’ leaders said they had decided to launch other “mega programs” across the country starting on Friday.

Friday would be observed as a Black Day and effigies of federal Interior Minister Amit Shah and some state leaders would be burnt across the country, farmers’ leader Avik Saha told reporters.

A tractor rally would be held on highways on Feb. 26 and a farm workers’ public meeting would be held in Delhi on March 14, he added.

POLITICAL RISK

“Our government is committed to fulfill every resolve related to the welfare of our farmer brothers and sisters across the country,” Modi posted on X earlier on Thursday, and referred to a cabinet decision on Wednesday to raise the floor price that mills must pay for sugar cane by 8 percent.

The move does not benefit the protesting farmers who mostly grow rice and wheat but will help cane farmers in two other states that send the most lawmakers to parliament.

“How to better the life of the small farmer is our focus,” Modi later told a public meeting in his home state of Gujarat, without referring to the protests on the border of Punjab and Haryana states.

“We have given modern seeds to farmers...we are giving solar pumps to farmers...our effort is to get small farmers in villages to meet modern technology,” Modi said. 

“Besides making them producers, this is a mission to make small farmers entrepreneurs and exporters.”

Although the protesting farmers mostly belong to Punjab state, which has a limited footprint in parliament, analysts say Modi’s party cannot risk the campaign spreading to other states and angering more farmers, who are an influential bloc of voters, so close to the polls.

Similar protests two years ago, when farmers camped for months at the border of New Delhi, forced Modi to repeal a set of farm reform laws in what was seen as the biggest political defeat of the strongman leader.

At the main protest site of Shambhu, on the border between Haryana and Punjab states, dozens of farmers milled on and around the highway, sipping tea, cooking and collecting tear gas shells fired on Wednesday, as police kept watch.

Earlier on Thursday, social media platform X said it took down certain accounts and posts following an order by the Indian government, which local media reports say are linked to the farmers protests.
 


Indian village’s ‘book nests’ foster culture of reading

Indian village’s ‘book nests’ foster culture of reading
Updated 22 February 2024
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Indian village’s ‘book nests’ foster culture of reading

Indian village’s ‘book nests’ foster culture of reading
  • Village of 5,000 has 14 spots where residents exchange and borrow books
  • Perukulam was named the ‘first book village’ of Kerala in 2021

NEW DELHI: Dotted with outdoor bookcases, Perukulam village in India’s southwest is building its community around reading — an initiative its residents hope will help them learn and grow.

Everything started in 2017, when the village’s public library, Bappuji Smaraka Vayanasala, placed a shelf with books on one of the streets to see how people would respond.

“The inspiration came from the US-based Little Free Library, a book-sharing movement that places bookcases in public places and the Bappuji Smaraka Vayanasala library is a member of the Little Free Library,” V. Vijesh, a schoolteacher and the library’s secretary, told Arab News.

The idea was to test the village’s reading habits, which proved to be better than expected and soon more bookshelves, or “book nests,” as residents refer to them, popped up in Perukulam.

The village in Kollam district of Kerala, India’s only state with a literacy rate nearing 100 percent, has only 5,000 inhabitants and over a dozen mini-libraries.

“Today there are 14 ‘book nests’ in the village and the villagers are the stakeholders because it’s them who contribute to running the library and the library in turn maintains the nest,” Vijesh said.

The books are in the local Malayalam language, Hindi and English. Besides fiction, the volumes also cover politics and science.

The bookcases are usually located in public spaces where people can sit, meet, and talk. They can either read the books outdoors or take them home.

“It works on the concept of bring one, take one. There is a notebook, and the villagers have to make an entry while returning or borrowing a book,” Vijesh said.

The initiative has won Perukulam the attention of authorities. Kerala’s chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan declared it the state’s “first book village” in 2021.

It was also noticed in the literary world, with celebrated Malayalam writer Maniyambath Mukundan calling it a “unique experiment” that needed to be promoted and emulated.

“The Perumkulam village is doing remarkable work and you have committed youngsters in the village who are keen to encourage others to read,” Mukundan told Arab News.

Collections in Perumkulam’s book nests are chosen to appeal not only to the young but also older readers.

“We take special care in maintaining and running all the bookshelves,” said Akhila Mohanan, a member of the village council.

“It’s not only youngsters but elderly people also can be seen sitting on the bench reading either a newspaper or a book. Through books you evolve, and we feel as a village we are evolving each passing day.”

For Pwijitha Kalyani, a 20-year-old youth volunteer, fostering the culture of reading in her village makes her and her peers proud.

“This is the first of its kind village where books are celebrated, and everyone fancies himself or herself as a reader. This culture of book reading is important because youngsters these days try to find knowledge only through the internet and Google search,” she said.

“If you read a book, you remember its content but if you read the stuff online, you tend to forget it. So, holding a book is a magical experience.”