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.
More than 50 people have died so far in the violence that has deepened fears post-war Libya is slipping into lawlessness
Khamenei called repeatedly over the years for an end to the Jewish state, including through a referendum in the region, where Palestinians are in the majority.
The Brazzaville talks have involved dozens of members of armed groups, the transitional government and civil society members
Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon is due to put forward 700 men to the force in the latest effort to improve the regional response to the militants
A Caracas court heard accusations against him of inciting crime and being the intellectual author of damages and arson.
An Arizona Republic journalist who witnessed the execution said he counted the inmate gasping for breath about 660 times.
China has long mooted this plan, but the difficulty and expense of building in such a rugged and remote region has slowed efforts.
"I do not see a ceasefire in the coming days where the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) leave," Science Minister Yaakov Peri, a former security chief said
U.S. State Secretary John Kerry said that there had been progress in the ceasefire talks.
A huge attack on a prisoner convoy in Iraq has reportedly killed at least 60 people.
Three more Gazans, including two children, were killed by Israeli strikes early on Thursday.
Militants in eastern Damascus province lay down their arms amid a rebel operation, opposition forces claimed.
Jodan's army's command says the arms would have been smuggled to a second neighboring country later through Jordan.
Hadi said all parties had agreed to withdraw fighters from Amran province. He also pledged 5 billion rials ($23.3 million) to rebuild property damaged in the fighting
The protestors chanted, “David Cameron shame on you”, and demanded to see a minister so that they could voice their objections to the UK's support of Israel.
Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of the Vostok Battalion, acknowledged for the first time since the airliner was brought down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday that the rebels did possess the BUK missile system.