World Bulletin/News Desk
Mali, Niger and Ivory Coast have slashed or removed taxes on a range of imported basic foods as they try to contain rising food prices, which led to protests in a number of countries when they last spiked five years ago.
Grain prices hit record highs on international markets in July as drought scorched crops in the U.S. midwest and Russia, prompting the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization to warn that it was concerned about prices although it did not yet see a repeat of the 2007/08 crisis.
Russia's heatwave has fuelled speculation about export restrictions in the Black Sea producer, while U.S. corn and wheat prices at times rose by 50 percent in the last six weeks and remain close to highs.
High food prices sparked riots in countries such as Egypt, Cameroon and Haiti five years ago, although the UN has pointed out supplies of staple rice are more comfortable this time.
Global food price pressures come as many in West Africa celebrate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which traditionally drives up prices, and as a food crisis affecting some 18 million people across the Sahel peaks with the onset of annual rains.
"I know we are in a period of rising prices, especially when it comes to basic foods like sugar. But I call on businesses to respect promises that they made with the ministry of trade," Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou said in a speech late on Thursday, referring to meetings between the government and traders last month.
Niger has removed all taxes on imported cereals but figures produced by the country's SIMA agricultural information index showed the price of cereals was 45 percent higher in July than during the same month last year.
In markets in the dusty capital, 100 kg of millet now costs 30,000 CFA francs ($55.61), up from 25,000 CFA the month before and 19,000 at the same time last year.
The same amount of maize cost 25,000 CFA francs in July, up from 19,000 CFA the month before, according to SIMA.
Saley Saidou, the land-locked nation's trade minister, blamed failed rains in Niger and the high cost of transport from ports in nations to the south, as well as world prices for the increases.
Alarm is growing that an expected fall in U.S. grain exports could cause shortages and further jumps in prices worldwide.
Niger, a uranium-producing nation that straddles the south of the Sahara, saw street protests against the cost of living during the 2007-8 food price spike.
Neighbouring Mali, which is gripped by a political crisis in the south and whose northern desert zone is occupied by a range of Islamist forces, has slashed taxes on imported rice and sugar as it too seeks to keep prices under control.
Customs and value added tax on imported rice were reduced in May to a combined 2.5 percent, down from 31.28 percent. Meanwhile, the tax bill for sugar importers has been brought down from 105 percent to 2.5 percent.
The move is a welcome relief for a country seeking stability after a March coup precipitated the fall of the north to a mix of rebel forces.
"This year I was surprised to buy a kilogramme of sugar even cheaper than the price fixed by the authorities," said Moussa Doumbia, a stonemason. "Long may it continue."
Even top cocoa grower Ivory Coast, which with its ports is spared the same costs of transporting goods hundreds of kilometres north towards the Sahara but is still recovering from months of post-election violence last year, has been forced to act.
The government this week temporarily suspended all taxes on rice imports, estimated at some 900,000 tonnes a year, denying the government some 7 billion CFA in revenues.
"This decision was taken as the government wants to maintain the price of rice at a level that corresponds to the purchasing power of the Ivorian population," government spokesman Bruno Kone said after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
Hamas said Peres' visit to Morocco would only make Israel look better in front of the rest of the world
Speaking to local Echorouk TV, the diplomat added that Algeria was considering an official response to the Mauritanian declaration.
Russian president says annexation of peninsula was a result of the 'will of the people', and shrugs off western sanctions.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev won 97.7 percent of the vote in Sunday's election, securing a new five-year term at the helm of the oil-rich nation, the Central Election Commission announced on Monday, citing early data.
With nearly all ballots counted, Akinci took 60.38 percent of vote, followed by incumbent President Dervis Eroglu with 39.62 percent.
PM Aleksandar Vucic says the project will put Belgrade on the map as unofficial 'capital' of the Balkans. It expects up to 20,000 workers to be employed in the construction, set to begin in September.
Hundreds of armed people from the Boko Haram group aboard motorised canoes attacked the island of Karamga at dawn on Saturday, army and government sources said.
Mauritania has reportedly expelled an Algerian diplomat for attempting to trouble the relations between Rabat and Nouakchott.
On Saturday, Hamas said that the Palestinian Authority's (PA) security forces detained Gehad Selim, a student activist who represents the group's bloc in the West Bank's Birzeit University.
South Africa says committed to good relations with Nigeria after diplomats recalled
Israel occupies Palestinian funerals after occupied Palestine land and detained Palestinian youths.. The Israeli authorities said only 70 people are allowed to receive the body..
The demonstrators were trying to move towards the center of the capital from the surrounding municipalities of Musaga, Nyakabiga, Mutakura and Cibitoke.
Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge wins men's race in London Marathon
Kenya's Mary Keitany finished second with Ethopia's Tirfi Tsegaye third.
Burundi police and two government ministers forcefully entered a radio station on Sunday
NGOs say parliamentary motion on ‘genocide’ claims aims at slandering Turkey, not reconciliation between Turks and Armenians.