Dec 2, 2008

EMPRES Plant Pest and Disease – managing new transboundary threats

FAO, December 1, 2008

New migratory plant pests are raising concerns about their potential impact on livelihoods, food security and global markets. EMPRES has started to address other invasive plant pests, adopting the successful Desert Locust management model to mitigate these other transboundary threats.

Following a decision of FAO Governing Bodies, the Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES) was established in 1994 with the goal of enhancing world food security and fighting transboundary animal and plant pests and diseases, in particular Desert Locust and Rinderpest.

The plant health component of EMPRES has focused primarily on the Desert Locust, strengthening the preventive Desert Locust management capacity of 18 locust-affected countries in Africa and the Near East to minimize the risk of Desert Locust plagues. The EMPRES Desert Locust programme is reinforced by FAO’s Desert Locust Information Service, which monitors locust and environmental conditions on a daily basis and provides forecasts, alerts and early warning to member countries.

The core principles of the EMPRES programme are: early warning, early detection, contingency planning, early reaction, promotion of environmentally sound control technologies and close collaboration and partnership with affected countries, national and international agricultural research centres and other international institutions.

Although the Desert Locust is the best known migratory pest - because of its fast movement, large swarms and potential for devastating crops - new and re-emerging migratory plant pests have raised concerns about their potential impact on livelihoods, food security and global markets. EMPRES is starting to address other invasive plant pests, adopting the successful Desert Locust management model to mitigate these other transboundary threats.

Recent locust outbreaks in Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and Central and Southern Africa involved other locust species such as Migratory Locust, Moroccan Locust, Italian Locust and the Red Locust. In the Caucasus and Central Asian countries, outbreaks are compounded by other threats such as water shortage that affects the region’s ability to feed itself. Some areas suffer from recurring locust infestations as a result of abandoned agricultural land favouring locust breeding. Uncoordinated locust management among the affected countries can also worsen the problem. A particular problem is indiscriminate used of chemical pesticides using outdated control techniques, contributing to considerable ecological damage. In Uzbekistan for example more than 1.5 million ha were treated against the locusts in the past five years with chemical pesticides and in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, more than 300,000 ha of land were treated.

To address the root causes and avert food crises in this region, EMPRES is introducing a preventive pest management approach, to stimulate regional cooperation, and to develop less environmentally-harmful locust management systems.

Wheat Stem rust
Another cross-border plant threat emerged in 1999 when a new virulent strain of a fungal disease, wheat stem rust (Ug99) was first characterised in East Africa. This strain is virulent to over 80% of all wheat varieties grown globally and could cause devastating crop losses if its spread is not prevented. Since its emergence, it has been reported in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Yemen, and in late 2007, in main wheat growing areas of Iran. The rust spores are wind-borne and are affected by climatic conditions that are similar to those that influence locust outbreaks and migration. Therefore, similar monitoring mechanisms can be applied to Ug99. The regions of Eastern Africa, the Near East, and Central and South Asia at immediate risk account for some 37% of global wheat production.

Through its Wheat Rust Disease Global Programme (WRDGP) initiated in 2008, FAO is promoting global action to reduce the world’s vulnerability to emerging wheat rust diseases and facilitate a sustainable international system to reduce the threat of these diseases.

The Programme reinforces and compliments the activities of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, a research and partnership programme lead by Cornell University with ICARDA, CIMMYT and FAO. Through this programme, the Organisation is taking the lead in supporting national governments and the international community in their preparedness to manage Ug99 and for mitigation of potential future threats.

The WRDGP covers 29 countries in East and North Africa, the Near East, and Central and South Asia. The Programme is focusing on supporting national policy for preparedness and contingency planning, surveillance and early warning, improved national wheat registration programmes for release of resistant varieties, seed multiplication and distribution systems of resistant varieties, and on improved wheat rust management at the field level through farmers’ training.

Other transboundary threats
FAO is currently helping countries respond to other transboundary plant pest and disease emergencies in a number of situations in Africa. Staple crops in East Africa are threatened by serious banana and cassava diseases, spread by farming practices, movement of planting materials, and in some cases insect vectors.

A banana bacterial banana wilt (BBW or BXW) has threatened production in Uganda and neighbouring countries from 2002 onwards. Real progress has been made in understanding the transmission and management of the disease, and farmer field schools have greatly contributed to the control of disease spread and the rehabilitation of banana plantations in many areas of the country.

Cassava Mosaic and Brown Streak virus diseases threaten this key food security crop throughout the Great Lakes region of East Africa. Emergency programmes have attempted to multiply planting materials of disease-tolerant cassava varieties, but the combination of the diseases together is still proving problematic. EMPRES geo-spatial analytical tools and approaches again make a major contribution, while the partnership with local agricultural research systems and large NGO partners (such as Catholic Relief Services and the Great Lakes Cassava Initiative) is also key.
In both the cases - of banana and cassava diseases - work is ongoing to learn lessons and improve early warning and risk assessment, develop monitoring and surveillance programmes at community level, and build rapid response capacity. The aim is to ensure that the production system for these staple crops is more resilient and able to respond to the next pest or disease threat.

CMC-Food Chain
In the effort to address the challenges of large-scale emergencies emanating from transboundary pests and diseases more effectively and to provide better coordinated and more timely assistance to affected countries, FAO created a new Crisis Management Centre along the Food Chain (CMC-FC). EMPRES Plant Pest and Disease will have a primary role in emergency prevention, early warning and risk assessment, and in stimulating synergy with the other EMPRES components.

UN to Invest $50m in Cassava Processing

THISDAY - Apapa,Lagos,Nigeria
From Chinwe Ochu in Abuja, November 30, 2008

International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) has revealed plans to invest $50 million to improve the processing of cassava in the country and increase market accessibility of the product.

Furthermore, plans are underway to diversify the huge focus on cassava and spotlight other crops that would better the lives and livelihood of small scale rural farmers.

The body is a specialized financial agency of the United Nation (UN) focusing exclusively on poor farmers and rural communities with the aim of reducing poverty in the rural areas.

Perin Saint Ange, Regional Portfolio Adviser for IFAD in Nigeria, who made the disclosure at an interactive session in Abuja, was responding to criticisms directed at the agency for over emphasizing on cassava production to the neglect of market accessibility and other crops.

The IFAD official said that after a lot of propaganda to increase the cultivation of cassava in the country last year, farmers were left with enormous harvests of the produce with no market to dispose them, off adding that this led to the farmers incurring huge losses of which many are yet to recover from.

Ange acknowledged that the group had indeed focused all of its energy in improving the production capacity and quality of the cassava crop to the neglect of the processing system and marketing of the crop, noting that the huge emphasis being laid on cassava is because it is the bread basket of a large part of the country with about 26 states of the nation cultivating the product.

He however explained that so far a little over $200 million had been devoted to complete the yet-to-be implemented programmes in Nigeria of which $100million is still left, adding, "About $50 million is still in the envelope to address as a priority the processing and marketing of cassava in particular and others which could be yams that would add value."

IFAD is hailed for its role in the 70's when the nation's cassava production sector was challenged by cassava mosaic and is also credited for revolutionalising the cassava production industry.

The agency would today begin a national roundtable workshop of Nigeria's Country Programme Evaluation (CPE) in Abuja. The workshop is geared towards discussing the key issues and conclusions emerging from the CPE, one of which is for IFAD and Nigeria to intensify efforts in the agriculture sector, aiding small farmers to access markets for their produce.

IFAD boost agric with $200m

Vanguard - Apapa,Lagos,Nigeria

Written by Chinyere Amalu
Thursday, 27 November 2008

The International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) has earmarked the sum of $200 million to strengthen and step up agricultural sector in Nigeria.Of this amount over $100 million has been disbursed for on-going projects on agriculture between the Federal Government and IFAD, while $50 million would be invested in improving and processing cassava in the country.

IFAD is a specialized financial agency of the United Nations (UN) focusing exclusively on poor farmers and rural communities with the aim to reduce poverty in the rural areas.

Vice President and Programme Management Divison IFAD, Mr. Kelvin Cleaver, who is in Abuja with other principal officers of IFAD, for a 2-day National Round Table workshop on evaluation of the development activities in Nigeria , disclosed this to journalists yesterday in Abuja at a pre-press briefing for the workshop.

According to him, the grants is for IFAD and government of Nigeria to intensify development of agricultural sector in the country, suggesting that there should be future collaboration between the two parties to assist small farmers in processing, production and marketing of their products and have access to loan facilities.

“IFAD is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN). We have budgeted $3.5 billion grant for disbursement worldwide, but $6.50 million grant is earmarked for this year. Out of this Nigeria got $200 million.

“Our main collaborator is Government, but we can partner with private sectors whose fundamentals are to assist small farmers, but a large grant goes to the Federal Government for now”, he explained.

Buttressing more on the grants budgeted for Nigeria , the Regional Portfolio Adviser and CPM Nigeria, Perin Saint Ange, explained $200 million $100 million has been disbursed, $50 million earmarked for processing of agriculture, while million is still awaiting further projects.

On why IFAD is more into cassava production, he said about 26 states in Nigeria especially from the East is into cassava farming, adding that this gives a fair coverage and needed concentration to achieve a meaningful development.

“Majority of people from this area have indeed focused all of its energy in improving the production capacity and quality of the cassava crop to the neglect of the processing system and marketing of the crop.

“About $50 million is still in the envelope to address as a priority the processing and marketing of cassava in particular and others which could be yams that would add value.

“IFAD is hailed for the huge part played in the 70’s when the nation’s cassava production sector was challenged by cassava mosaic and is also credited for revolutionalizing the cassava production industry”, he explained.

He pointed out that apart from cassava produce that has dominated their scope; IFAD has concentrated in artisan fisheries, which according to him would bring benefits to small farmers.

On why IFAD is not directly into business with private sectors, he explained that all the small handlers they work with are private sectors, adding that 75% of all IFAD resources go to private sectors who work with disadvantaged groups the rural communities.

On the objective of the workshop, he said it is aimed at discussing key issues emerging from Country Programme Evaluation (CPE) and to provide inputs for the preparation of CPE’s agreement at completion points.

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From ship to chips: Snacks replacing banana exports at Jamaica Producers

Jamaica Gleaner - Kingston,Jamaica

Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer, November 30, 2008

Jamaica Producers (JP) Group says it is already seeing weekly sales of 900,000 bags of banana chips locally and is looking to build out similar markets for its cassava chips, launched on Wednesday. (photo by Carl Gilchrist)

The company, just months ago, decided to make a strategic shift from exporting bananas, on which its business was originally built, to tropical snacks.

The cassava chips are being marketed under the 'St Mary's' brand. JP says it will be adding new lines for plantain, breadfruit and sweet potato chips as it expands its snack business.

competitively priced

"We expect it (cassava chips) to perform very well. We're satisfied the pro-duct is competitively priced. It is consistent with the taste profile that the Jamaican consumer loves," chief executive officer Jeffrey Hall told Sunday Business following the product launch at the company's Agualta Vale office in St Mary.

The company's banana crops were wiped out by five hurricanes over a four-year period between 2004 and 2008. The results are stark on the company's bottom line, with its most recent earnings report indicating losses of $1.5 billion over three quarters of this year.

Government, for now, has lost the battle to keep JP in banana export, but evidence that there were no hard feelings has come from agriculture minister Christopher Tufton.

Tufton, who participated in the launch, congratulated JP on its new plans, saying it was a good example of an investor willing to change with the times.

JP decided in September to refocus its business, giving rise to JP Tropical Foods, which was also launched Wednesday.

"It's a new name for a division that handles the combined banana production, other tropical production, the snack-food business and the produce selling to the local market," said Hall.

"The emphasis of Jamaica Producers has shifted from commodity banana export to value-added tropical snacks and domestic banana production, and so, Jamaica Producers Tropical Foods, we think, correctly represents our current focus."

recognised brand

He said the St Mary's brand is already recognised because of the banana chips, a product, he said, that was doing well on the market, based on its sales.

Hall was quite upbeat about the prospects for cassava chips on the local market, saying the product is high on calcium and vitamin C and contains no cholesterol or trans fats.

The product is already on the market and available in regular and barbecue flavours.

Hall said over the years, JP had not spent any money on advertising and promotion of the St Mary's brand, launched over six years ago, but that this would change.

"I think you're going to see a significant transformation. We have on board a team that has deep experience in the marketing side of the snack-food business," he said.

"JP has started to focus on the production side of business and now what we're trying to do is to integrate our strength in production with market opportunities that exist for our products. We're also exporting now into the United States and we see that as a growth opportunity for us."

Hall shied away from disclosing how much money the company had pumped into the snack side of its operations, saying only that it was significant.

"The way we are doing our business now is we see it as a vertically integrated agro-business, and by that we mean we're investing in growing, manufacturing and in selling, and the total investment in that is quite significant," he explained.

Cassava - Google News