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Islamic Finance
Turkish Lira rout imperils one of the best bets in emerging bond markets

Published 19 Oct,2021 via Bloomberg Markets - The lira’s slump this month threatens to derail a rally in Turkish corporate bonds that’s handed investors some of the richest returns in emerging markets.

The debt, which handed investors returns of 4.4%, in 2021, was the second-worst performer in developing nations, after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sacked three central bankers last week. As the lira tumbled, the average yield on Turkish company bonds surged to a more than five-month high of 4.82%.

Before then, Turkish corporate borrowing costs had largely resisted the impact of China’s Evergrande Group crisis and rising concern about tapering by the U.S Federal Reserve, which curbed appetite more broadly for riskier emerging-market assets.

The $40 billion Turkish corporate market has rewarded risk-takers this year amid optimism over booming exports, returning tourists and the reopening of European markets. Emerging-market credit, meanwhile, lost 2.5% in total returns in the period.

Now, bondholders say the lira’s depreciation is too extreme to leave corporate debt untouched.

“The larger the magnitude and the faster it occurs, the more it can hurt the corporates,” said Omotunde Lawal, head of emerging-market corporate debt at Barings, referring to the Turkish lira’s fall. While some companies have hedged their currency risks, none foresaw the lira at 9 per dollar, she added. “It will take a while for the corporates to be able to increase prices to recoup the impact of the depreciation.”

Cuts Coming?

The central bank is expected to cut rates on Thursday after the firing of deputy governors Semih Tumen and Ugur Namik Kucuk, along with Monetary Policy Committee member Abdullah Yavas, who were seen as opponents of looser policy. The ouster followed a meeting between the Turkish president and central bank chief Sahap Kavcioglu on Wednesday evening.

The lira plunged to record lows, extending this year’s depreciation to over 20%, the worst among EM currencies. Erdogan -- whose ruling AK Party has for decades based its electoral success on rapid levels of economic growth -- argues that higher interest rates actually push up prices rather than the orthodox view that they contain them.

Borrowers and international lenders have sought to adapt to Turkish market shocks in the past.

Lenders like Akbank TAS and Ziraat Bankasi AS, who tap the market at least twice every year for refinancing, sweetened pricing on their foreign borrowings in March as the lira tumbled after the shock dismissal of the previous central bank chief.

Akbank and Turkiye Ihracat Kredi Bankasi AS (Turk Eximbank) are currently in the market to refinance, and at least three more issuers are expected to replace their previous borrowings. Akbank declined to comment and Turk Eximbank did not return a telephone call and an email seeking comment.

“An extreme depreciation would hurt confidence and Turkey could face an FX liquidity crunch,” said Okan Akin, a credit analyst at AllianceBernstein in London. “This is a very important risk when Fed tapering is a real possibility. A large devaluation would weaken banks’ capital ratios and spur a selloff in bank bonds.”

Mobile operator Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri AS’s $500 million of debt maturing in April 2028 jumped five basis points to 4.84% on Thursday, the highest level in five months. Similarly, $700 million bonds of glass maker Turkiye Sise ve Cam Fabrikalari and $650 million bonds of biscuits, chocolate and sweets manufacturer Ulker Biskuvi Sanayi AS maturing Oct. 2025 jumped to their highest in almost six months.


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AOC awarded to MENA Aerospace Enterprises’ new cargo division

Published 19 Oct,2021 via bizbahrain - The turnkey solutions provider of comprehensive airport and aviation services in Bahrain, MENA Aerospace Enterprises, is launching a new division – MENA Cargo.

The Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications’ Civil Aviation Affairs (CAA) department has officially awarded an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) to MENA Cargo, which sits under the MAE Aircraft Management WLL branch of MENA Aerospace Enterprises WLL.

This means that MENA Cargo is now officially open for business, as its personnel, assets and systems have been approved to begin commercial operations.

MENA Cargo is the newest dedicated full-service cargo airline to enter the MENA region, and the third freighter operator in The Kingdom of Bahrain.

The timing is opportune; demand for air cargo is surging, mainly due to increasing global e-commerce, and there is a simultaneous capacity shortage, partly because so many passenger planes remain grounded.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), international operations experienced 8.6% growth in air cargo demand this August, compared to August 2019 levels. Middle Eastern carriers alone saw international cargo volumes rise by 15.4%. Meanwhile, international capacity shrunk by 5.1%.

Although coronavirus pandemic shutdowns diminished many aviation companies, MENA Aerospace Enterprises’ Leadership made the decision to expand the Group’s services by establishing the new cargo airline in late 2020.

Overheads were kept lean during the startup phase, and the team still met training and compliance goals ahead of schedule.

Dr. Mohammed Juman, MENA Aerospace Enterprises founder and managing director, comments:

“As a group we have been well-positioned to pivot our strategy in the face of many challenges, in order to take advantage of new opportunities.

We have also been fortunate to attract top talent to shape and lead MENA Cargo; Brian Hogan and Peter Hewett are well-known in the cargo aviation world, and especially within the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia.”

MENA Cargo is set to offer both scheduled operations and opportunities for ad hoc charters.

Initially, it will operate within the GCC and India, with plans to soon expand into North and Eastern Africa. Assets and operations are structured to offer maximum flexibility for adding international markets according to clients’ needs.

Air Cargo is a premium service. IATA data shows that airlines transport more than 35% of global trade by value, but less than 1% of trade by volume. WorldACD reports a 10% hike in the worldwide average USD rate in the five weeks ending September 19th.

Nevertheless, delivering cost savings to customers – by streamlining processes, using the latest technologies, and optimising the fleet and network – is a priority.

The operating cost within the logistics sector is 45% lower in Bahrain compared to neighbouring markets, according to the KPMG 2019 report ‘Cost of Doing Business in Logistics.’

Brian Hogan, accountable manager for MENA Cargo, states: “Our goal is to support the markets within the Middle East, as well as the evolving niche markets in the African region and beyond, by working together with local and global partners.

We aim to be the most efficient operation in the region, with the added benefit of facilitating broader economic growth.

This will be achieved by offering key strategic routes that are currently underserved by other carriers, and also through our ability to provide charter solutions.”

MENA Cargo will enable the swift delivery of products across a range of categories: from industrial shipments such as vehicles and oversized machinery; to time-sensitive shipments like pharmaceuticals, fresh flowers and live animals; and high-security shipments involving high value or dangerous goods.

It is not just investors and customers who will benefit from MENA Cargo’s launch. The increased capacity and flexibility that MENA Cargo brings should give a boost to manufacturers and traders in Bahrain and beyond.

This development aligns with the priorities laid out in Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030. The nation has been capitalising on its geographic proximity to multiple continents by positioning itself as a global logistics nexus.

The Bahrain Global Sea-Air Logistics Hub was launched last month. It is the fastest regional multi-modal logistics hub in the Middle East, saving customers time and cost.

Thus, MENA Cargo both benefits from and contributes to Bahrain’s sophisticated logistics ecosystem.

Peter Hewett, MENA Cargo director of ground operations and procurement, says:

“The MENA Cargo team comprises an experienced aviation management cadre supported by an enthusiastic staff, all of whom embody the core principles of having a can-do attitude and paying attention to details.”

MENA Cargo currently has one Boeing 737-300 converted freighter, with a payload capacity of up to 17,000kgs, in its fleet. It is in final discussions to secure a second. Furthermore, negotiations have begun for an additional Boeing 737 NG cargo aircraft, which would offer an increased payload with an extended operating range.

The MENA Aerospace Group will be participating in the upcoming Dubai Airshow from the 14th to the 18th of November.

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Bahrain's TRA to launch .bh domain name registry

Published 19 Oct,2021 via bizbahrain - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the Kingdom of Bahrain has launched its promotional campaign aimed at introducing the mechanisms for registering new domain names for Bahrain (.bh), demonstrating the importance and benefits of using the domain name for Bahrain, and clarifying the next stages that TRA will follow to make domain names available to businesses and the public in an easy and accessible manner.

A domain name is a name in English or Arabic letters chosen to be the address and the identity of the website and its services. It is worth noting that the TRA is managing and regulating the domain name registration services of Bahrain in both languages.

Domain names will be available for assignment with mainly IT companies, including telecommunications companies licensed by TRA wishing to assign domain names on behalf of TRA so that assignment is available for local and international customers. The new process of registration is fast, simple, and secure cutting the time of registration from days to minutes. Being able to register your .bh domain in such a quick manner is a boost to Bahrain’s digital presence in key sectors such as tourism, culture, and the economy. The move is aimed at accelerating the kingdoms drive to deliver an increasing number of its services online.

“TRA has launched an advanced and globally accredited online system for registering domain names, which will contribute to the development of an important aspect of the future vision of digital transformation at the public and private levels.” Says Director of Cyber Security &Technical Affairs, Eng. Mohamed Abdulla Alnoaimi.

“The registration of the domain name of Bahrain gives a Bahraini identity to local trademarks in particular or to individuals in general who are interested in the technology field, which distinguishes them from the rest of the names of other websites in the Internet world. Registration of names will become accessible to everyone and in an easy way compared to the previous situation.” He continued

This campaign will also clarify the various options for registering domain names for websites, including global domain name registration websites, introducing the process of moving from one registrar to another in the event the domain name owner wants to move, and clarifying mechanisms for filing complaints and resolving disputes in the event of a dispute over the right to use between domain name owners etc.

In addition to .bh domain name, an International Top Level Domain Name in Arabic (.البحرين) has been assigned for those wishing to use the names of their websites in Arabic. Priority will be granted to those with a .bh digital presence and local extensions (i.e edu.bh) to book Arabic extensions for six months from the launch of the service, after which it will be made available to the general public.

TRA would like to note that during the quarter 4 of 2021, registration will be open for trademark & CR holders initially, followed by locally based entities and institutions and individuals, and then registration will be open to the international public.

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Halal Industry
Pakistan halves GST, customs duty to reduce edible oil price

Published 19 Oct,2021 via Dawn - After a gap of almost one month, the government on Monday again decided to cut general sales tax and customs duty by half and abolish two per cent additional customs duty on edible oil to reduce its price by Rs45-50 per kg and introduce a major targeted subsidy programme in a couple of days.

“We have decided to reduce its [edible oil] price by Rs45-50 per kg by reducing GST from 17 to 8.5pc, customs duty from Rs10,000 per tonne to Rs5,000 and abolish 2pc additional customs duty to provide relief [to the people],” Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar said at a hurriedly called news conference.

He said the relief in overall inflationary trend was not imminent over the next three to four months, adding that there were different forecasts about a decline in prices, but “this may not be visible in one-two months”.

Minister sees no relief in overall inflationary trend over next three-four months; PM to announce major targeted subsidy programme in a couple of days

Prices would come down over the next few months, between April and June next year, he added.

Likewise, Mr Umar said, the prime minister would announce a major targeted subsidy scheme for the majority people in a couple of days. Asked about the timing of reduction in taxes and duties on edible oil, he said it would be notified soon after the return of Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Shaukat Tarin from his visit abroad.

Mr Umar is the third cabinet member to have announced measures for reduction in edible oil price without actual relief. On Sept 21, Shaukat Tarin had also announced Rs45-50 per litre reduction in edible oil price through adjustments in tax rates. When asked when the prices would drop, PM’s special assistant Iqbal Cheema had said the same day that prices would immediately come down as orders had already been issued.

Responding to a question as to why wheat prices were not going down despite record production, Asad Umar said not only wheat output was the highest ever but maize also had a record production and rice production was the second highest ever, but it had to be kept in mind that the government decided to increase wheat price by Rs400 to Rs1,800 per 40kg to support farmers.

He said the prime minister had two choices — either to pay higher prices to farmers in Ukraine or any other country — and he decided to support the local farmers. This added about Rs1 trillion to the income of the farming community which also had positive spillover impact on other fast-moving capital goods.

Mr Umar said the prime minister would be announcing in a day or two a targeted subsidy scheme for the people whose household budgets had been impacted by the unprecedented global price hike. He said there was no doubt inflationary pressures were impacting people but the entire world was passing through an unprecedented and extraordinary period of extremely high commodity prices.

The minister claimed that the prices of petroleum products and other commodities were still low in Pakistan compared to other regional countries as the government kept on reducing taxes as the prices went up. Responding to a comment that petroleum price comparison with regional countries should be made on the basis of their higher per capita income, he said the poverty rate in India and Bangladesh was far higher than Pakistan and this meant purchasing power in Pakistan was better.

Mr Umar said that according to the World Bank, crude oil prices went up by 81pc in one year since September 2020, while petrol price in Pakistan increased by only 17pc. Similarly, the price of liquefied natural gas (LNG) increased by 135pc, while it increased by only 64pc in Pakistan during that period.

He said that since Pakistan’s gas mix comprised two-third domestic contribution, its prices remained unchanged, hence the average gas price increased by only 16pc.

Similarly, the minister said cooking oil price rose by 48pc in the international market and 38pc in Pakistan, sugar price surged by 53pc internationally and 15pc in Pakistan, urea fertiliser price increased by 67pc in the international market and 28pc in Pakistan.

He conceded that the prices of essential commodities were comparatively low in Pakistan but still a significant hike had been witnessed that badly impacted the purchasing power of the common man.

Replying to a question, the minister said the government had taken action against various mafias and cartels, but since cases were pending in court, the government was helpless in punishing the culprits till the conclusion of cases.

He declined to comment on the government’s talks with the International Monetary Fund, saying he was not directly or indirectly involved in the process. He said he was not aware as to how much windfall would be earned by oil companies after the recent major increase in prices of petroleum products.Copyright

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Islamic Lifestyle
Indonesia prepares Garuda backup plan if debt talks fall apart

Published 19 Oct,2021 via Bloomberg Markets - Indonesia is preparing a backup plan for flag carrier PT Garuda Indonesia if it fails to reach a deal with creditors, including the option of upgrading air charter PT Pelita Air Service to a scheduled airline.

The course of Garuda’s current talks with creditors hinges on a court decision on a debt petition against the airline, with the ruling set to be announced Thursday, Kartika Wirjoatmodjo, a deputy minister at the State-Owned Enterprises Ministry, said by text message on Tuesday.

While the government still expects Garuda to be able to reach a settlement with creditors, there needs to be a backup plan in case of a deadlock, Wirjoatmodjo said. Garuda is struggling with about $5 billion of liabilities and needs to halve its fleet to keep the business afloat.

Pelita, a unit of Indonesia’s state energy company PT Pertamina, filed an application this month to upgrade its permit to be able to offer scheduled flights, in addition to chartered ones it currently offers. The new permit would allow Pelita to operate at the same capacity as existing airlines, such as Garuda and PT Lion Mentari Airlines.

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Islamic Finance
Al Salam Bank unveils a refreshed logo

Published 19 Oct,2021 via bizbahrain - Al Salam Bank recently unveiled a refreshed logo, in line with its new human-centered Brand DNA, which prides itself on an ethos of forming deep relationships with clients by curating tailored and personal financial solutions. The Bank took a bold step by engaging the public for the design process wherein starting from inception, the logo was a result of a collective local effort and created by a Bahraini graphic designer, Masooma Dhaif, who was selected as the finalist as part of a design challenge launched on Al Salam Bank’s Social Media in February earlier this year, which called upon artists, creatives, and professional designers across the Kingdom to take part in developing a new logo for the Bank.

The refreshed logo is a reflection of the Bank’s strong market presence and promise of nurturing relationships by creating enriching and transformative client experiences, in keeping with the Bank’s journey of embodying its newly formed Brand DNA. The DNA comprises revived Brand Values that support the Bank’s collaborative work culture and vision, as well as the following Guiding Principles; We Enchant our Clients, We Inspire Our People, We are Digitally Native, We Do the Right Thing, and finally, We Act with Empathy.

An art piece featuring the refreshed logo, was unraveled on the face of Al Salam Bank’s new headquarters on October 19. The art piece was curated as a result of month-long community-led art activations as part of the Bank’s newly launched Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) platform, Al Salam Helping Hands, which seeks to support the social and financial wellbeing of the local community. Launched in partnership with the artist Abbas Al-Mosawi, who conceptualized the art piece to celebrate the Bank’s human-centered values, and incorporate the inspiration behind the logo creation. The first art activation started with the Bank’s employees at the Bank’s internal Brand DNA Launch event. Art pop-ups were then extended to the community at large, across key Al Salam branches, followed by the Avenues Mall and City Center. For every participation, the Bank donated BD1 to the Royal Humanitarian Foundation.

Commenting on the occasion, Group Chief Executive Officer of Al Salam Bank, Rafik Nayed, revealed, “Ultimately, our logo encapsulates a new era for the Bank underlined by our brand promise which revolves around nurturing relationships by enriching experiences. It was inspired by our connections with our people, with our clients, and with the community. For this reason, with the help of the talented local Bahraini artist, Abbas Al-Mosawi, we wanted to involve the public as part of this journey, all while giving back to the community. The final piece includes the contributions of our very own employees at the Bank, of our clients and of the Bahraini community at large – which all went towards a good cause.”

Mahmood Qannati, Head of Marketing and Communications at Al Salam Bank, added, “Our logo is a representation of who we are at Al Salam Bank: elegant, timeless and innovative. The outer edges of our former logo were maintained to represent our commitment to preserving the heritage and Islamic values of the Bank, all while illustrating the refined service that we provide to our valued clients. It is a reinforcement of our co-existence with the community, and our desire at Al Salam Bank to bring positive change from the inside out.”

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Bangladesh’s flood losses to be $2.2 bn per year

Published 18 Oct,2021 via The Financial Express - A noteworthy victim of climate change, Bangladesh is likely to incur losses worth US$ 2.2 billion on average per year, which is equivalent to 1.5 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP), due to floods, according to a keynote presentation.

Besides, global warming will also cause economic losses for the country, as with the current rate, annual average temperature in Bangladesh will increase by 0.94 per cent within 2030.

In such circumstances, the upcoming COP26 conference is important for Bangladesh along with other climate vulnerable countries to raise their voice, the keynote said.

The paper was presented at CPD-ICCCAD Virtual Dialogue on 'Bangladesh's Expectations from COP26' jointly organised by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) on Sunday.

Special Envoy, Climate Vulnerable Forum Presidency of Bangladesh Md Abul Kalam Azad joined as the special guest, Ambassador and Head to the Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh Charles Whiteley joined as the guest of honour.

The CPD Chairman Professor Rehman Sobhan chaired the dialogue while Development Director, FCDO Bangladesh, British High Commission Judith Herbertson, the ICCCAD Director Dr Saleemul Huq and CPD Trustees Khushi Kabir spoke at the virtual setting, among others.

Dr Fahmida Khatun, the CPD executive director and Professor Mizan R Khan, deputy director of the ICCCAD presented the keynote. Professor Rehman Sobhan said Bangladesh is a notable victim of global warming for which the country is not liable, rather many developed countries are.

The initiatives taken by Bangladesh alone cannot help improve its climate change impact, he said.

Dr Saleemul Huq said what Bangladesh is going to get from COP26 is a burning question.

He also said, "The global leaders participating in the imminent COP26 will decide whether they will leave a liveable planet for the future generation".

He mentioned along with the government, the country's private sector has a huge role to play for the sake of the environment. According to the keynote, in Bangladesh, annual average temperatures increased by 0.64 per cent in 2018, which was 10.20 times faster than the annual average temperature increase of 0.06 per cent in 1961.

"If the trend of increase in annual average temperature continues, then by 2030 annual average temperature in Bangladesh will increase by 0.94 per cent."

The paper said Bangladesh along with other climate vulnerable countries has specific agendas that reflect the active interests for the climate vulnerable countries.

These countries would try to ensure commitments of major carbon emitting countries to limit carbon emission, and scale up climate funds urgently to support climate vulnerable countries. They will also look to ensure the bigger share of climate funds towards adaptation, finalise the 'Paris Rulebook' to ensure accountability, and establish the mechanism for loss and damage.

The 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will begin on October 31 in Scotland's Glasgow.

The outcome of the COP26 is critically important for climate vulnerable countries like Bangladesh.

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Salaam Gateway
Nature conservation a must to attain economic goals

Published 18 Oct,2021 via The Financial Express - Conservation of nature is a must to achieve the country's desired economic goals, including Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Vision-2041, speakers at a programme on Sunday said.

To this effect, clear concept about the climate-change impacts and optimum use of global support like the Green Climate Fund (GCF) are also essential for stakeholders, they added.

The views came at the inaugural ceremony of a workshop on 'Green Climate Fund- Modalities and Procedures' organised by Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) at the NILG Auditorium in city's Agargaon area.

Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Public Administration K M Ali Azam attended the inaugural session as the chief guest while Secretary of Economic Relations Division (ERD) Fatima Yasmin as the special guest, a statement said.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Ali Azam said the participants at the workshop will get coherent knowledge about administering the GCF projects in a bid to tackle the climate change impacts on Bangladesh.

He also expressed the hope that the participants will play a vital role in preparing GCF projects, accessing the funds and implementing the allied programmes.

The ERD secretary said the government has taken a wide range of programmes for the sake of the country's people especially the marginal ones to protect them against climate change impacts.

By dint of own efforts and finance, the government established Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF) in 2009 to help increase the capacity and adaptability of marginalized people to cope with the climate change impacts.

PKSF Managing Director Dr Nomita Halder who presided over the programme said PKSF has been implementing a wide range of programmes since its establishment in 1990 to alleviate poverty through employment generation.

PKSF is the National Implementing Entity (NIE) of 'Adaptation Fund' in addition to Green Climate Fund (GCF).

Adaptation Fund is another global financing mechanism to help the developing economies cope with the climate change impacts. GCF is a global financial mechanism to assist the developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.

Twenty-five representatives from 16 ministries, departments and agencies are taking part in the workshop which is scheduled to conclude on October 28.

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Halal Industry
Nigerians seek Fed Govt’s intervention over rising food, cooking gas prices

Published 18 Oct,2021 via The Nation - Nigerians have sought Federal Government’s intervention in the increasing cost of food items and cooking gas.

They said government should stem the rising cost of the items through proper economic recovery plan and implementation.

The respondents noted that Nigerians need to assist government in minimising the excesses of middlemen and market associations in hiking the prices of commodities.

Residents of the Southsouth, in particular, identified the major factors contributing to cooking gas price hike to include lack of functional refineries and off-takers for gas distribution.

On prices of food items, they identified market forces, insecurity, farmer/headers clashes, insurgency, banditry, poor storage facilities and COVID-19 outbreak as causes of food price hike in the country.

Although the analysts expressed appreciation for the current government’s efforts at solving the problem, they advised that the intervention should be urgent as food is one of the basic necessities of life.

A civil servant in Asaba, the Delta State capital, Mr. Vincent Adeoye, said: “Our challenge has become double in the sense that the cost of food items is high, likewise that of cooking gas.”

Also, Mrs. Deborah Diai, a civil servant, said she had resorted to using charcoal for cooking since “the price of domestic gas is now within the reach of the rich”.

The Chairman of Ika Liquified Petroleum Gas Dealers Association, Mr. Onyeka Eze, said a kilogramme of gas sold for between N300 and N320 had gone up to N650.

In Rivers State, Mr. Livingston Wechie, a civil rights crusader, urged the government to tackle the situation.

President of Etche Farmers’ Cooperative Union, Mr. Godwin Akandu, urged government to reinvigorate the economy by ensuring direct funding of farmers and strengthening security.

Also, a Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) mini-tank farm operator, Mr. Sunil Umar, attributed the current hike in prices of cooking gas to lack of functional refineries.

Operations Controller of the Department Petroleum Resources (DPR) in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, Mr. Victor Ohwodiasa, attributed the increase to deregulation of the sector and market forces.

A housewife in Uyo, Mrs. Glory Inyang, said the high cost of cooking gas had affected the feeding allowance given to her by her husband.

Another housewife, Mrs. Margaret Joseph, regretted that both the cooking gas and food items had become exorbitant at the same time, causing lot a lot of hardship to Nigerians.

The Edo State Chairman of the Grassroots Farmers Association of Niger Delta, Chief Emmanuel Odigie, identified insecurity, activities of market associations and bad roads as reasons for high cost of foodstuffs.

Agricultural Extension Officer at the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI) in Sapele, Delta State, Dr. Samuel Agoda, attributed the hike in prices of food to post harvest losses experienced by farmers.

Also, some residents in the Northeast have decried the soaring prices of food items and LPG in the region.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that prices of food items and LPG otherwise called cooking gas have shot up by 30 per cent in the past few weeks in markets across the region.

A NAN survey in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Dutse and Gombe states showed that prices of grain, such as rice, maize and beans, indicated galloping increase, a trend which exposed residents to hardship while most families resorted to firewood and charcoal due to exorbitant gas prices.

A check at Yola (Adamawa) and Wunti Market in Bauchi, showed that a 100 kilogramme bag of local variety rice was sold at N47,500; maize N22,000, beans N41,500 wheat N35,500, as against its old prices of N32,500; N18,000, N35,500 and 26,500, respectively.

A five litre gallon of vegetable oil was selling at N6,000 as against its old price of N4,500, while the same quantity of palm oil sold for N5,000 as against N3,000.

Beef also indicated similar increase in prices as one kilogramme sold for N2,500 as against its old price of N1,500.

Similarly, checks at various LPG sale outlets showed the product was selling at different prices ranging between N600 and N650 per kg while 12 kg cylinder of the product costs N7,200 as against its previous prices of N350 and N4,200, respectively.

Some of the residents told NAN in separate interviews that the hikes were caused by the activities of middlemen and advocated price controls to regulate prices to protect consumers from exploitation.

Alhaji Musa Arab, a rice farmer in Gombe, blamed the hike in prices of food items to the activities of middlemen, dry spell and poor harvest occasioned by the climate change.

Arab identified activities of the middlemen as the major obstacle in the agricultural value chain, adding that a lot of panic buying was ongoing in farming communities in the region

“The middlemen wait for the farmers to cultivate their crops, they buy it and hoard. They are now buying grains massively.

“Middlemen are the richest persons in the agriculture value chain, government should re-introduce marketing board else they would continue to inflict pains on Nigerians.’’

Abubakar Sadiq, a resident of Gombe, decried the high cost of food items, adding that the trend was making it difficult to most husbands to meet their household responsibilities.

Sadiq, a smallholder farmer, said that the cost of farming also resulted to the hike in grain prices, adding that fertilisers and chemicals were expensive.

More so, Alhaji Audu Sabo, Chairman, Maize Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (MGPMAN), Bauchi State chapter, attributed the hike in prices of grain to security challenges and effects of COVID-19 pandemic.

“The security challenge is affecting food production with negative consequence on prices, and also the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy compounded the problem.

“Another problem is the structural imbalance in ensuring proper implementation of the agricultural interventions to mitigate the impact of the pandemic in the sector.

“This affected prices of food commodities in a bad way,” Sabo said.

Dr. Salihu Jahun, Agricultural Economist, College of Agriculture, Bauchi, who corroborated earlier opinion urged government at all levels to adopt proactive measures to ensure steady supply of food items to the markets.

“The hike in prices raised a major concern that calls for urgent regulatory measures to enhance food security.

“Government at all levels should create more enabling environment to encourage food production to meet the demand of the growing population,” he said.

Mr. Iliya Abarshi, Coordinator, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, (FMARD) in Bauchi State, said that the ministry had implemented various interventions to encourage food production.

Abarshi said that the ministry distributed inputs to smallholder farmers during the 2021 cropping season under its farmer support service scheme.

“The ministry is working to avoid losses at harvest so as to have a backup storage to avert food scarcity.” he said.

According to him, the Federal Government is providing loans and agricultural subsidy to assist farmers and encourage productivity.

On cooking gas, Alhaji Ibrahim Jada and Ishaq Adamu, some of the LPG dealers in Adamawa and Bauchi, attributed the hike in prices of the product to high Foreign Exchange, increased in the Value Added Tax (VAT) and 7.5 import charges.

They said LPG prices are pegged on depot prices, adding that about 90 per cent of the product were being imported into the country.

“Between 80 and 90 per cent of LNG products are imported into the country and the price is determine by FOREX.

“The situation drastically reduced patronage and the number of LPG consumers,” Jada said.

Adamu said that he spent about N12 million on procurement of LPG, adding that a one kilogramme of the product costs between n450 and N500.

However, Adamu Shitu, the Proprietor, Amana Gas Plant in Dutse, Jigawa, attributed the hike in gas prices to high cost of transportation.

Also, Iliyasu Abdullahi, the Operation Controller, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Bauchi, attributed the high cost of the product to the removal of subsidy on petroleum products and the new VAT policy.

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