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Cotton Should be Seen as National Asset, Says Achimogu

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  • Cotton Should be Seen as National Asset

President of the National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN), Mr. Anibe Achimogu, spoke on the dwindling fortune of cotton, poor mobilisation of farmers and lack of commitment by stakeholders, which has allowed neighbouring countries to dominate the market to the detriment of Nigeria.

Nigeria was one of the top cotton producing countries, but it has over the years lost its place. What is responsible for the backward slide of the sector today?

There are many factors responsible for that. Mainly, it has to do with lack of research and investment. One of the most important things to keep cotton production going in our country is planting seeds. Unfortunately, we have not invested in that over the years. The institute mandated by the Federal Government to produce breeder foundation seeds is the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) in Zaria. Unfortunately, that Institute is not funded enough. They don’t have enough breeders; they don’t have the right equipment and so on. But I would like to say that the planting seed priority that they have, their intrinsic values per quality is quite good and if they are supported, I am sure they can produce and the impact will be felt in terms of yields. I think that is the first challenge.

The second challenge is inability to meet the needs of farmers. When I say the needs, I am talking specifically about the inputs. The point is that Agriculture is time bound generally. You see, cotton particularly has specific windows for planting. So, if they don’t have the right inputs at the right time, definitely that will affect the cotton yields expectation. In fact, this is the reason why cotton production is dwindling in the country today. There are other challenges in the sector, which we believe, once addressed will lead to higher demand of cotton in the country.

The cotton producing states cannot meet the local demand for the product, not to talk about meeting export needs. How bad is this?

That is exactly what I am saying. It has to do with the planting seeds. For instance, in the last planting season of 2016, we as an association mobilised 68,000 farmers that will be engaged, but we still didn’t have enough planting seeds that will go round the farmers. Even the existing or current states that are producing cotton were not able to reach their optimal capacity to produce cotton because not all the farmers are cultivating the produce. Those that even have the seeds have poor quality seeds, so the yields are low and also like I said if you don’t support these farmers at the right time, give them the inputs to prepare their farmlands and also produce, there wont be any result. All these affect cotton production in Nigeria, in terms of quantity and quality.

Yes, we have 25 cotton producing states; perhaps in this season we only had 10 or 16 that only planted. Even then, like Zamfara State and others states that have maybe 14,000 farmers for instance, perhaps only 1,000 or 3,000 farmers were mobilised to farm. So, this is a direct negative effect on cotton production in the country.

In what ways can government ensure massive production of cotton?

You see, I am now pushing government to recognise the activities of National Cotton Association of Nigeria, which is primarily set up to promote cotton production, to support the farmers and all that. Now, we have a plan we have put forward. Like I said, and what I want government to do for us as cotton farmers is to link us, and perhaps give us a special status as they’ve done to rice farmers under the Anchor Borrowers programme. I think it is still the best programme for Agriculture. Like I said, if you go under the anchor-borrowers programme, for instance, they are faced with two major issues concerning the farmers. The first is market, because you have an anchor company that must be on stand-by that will obtain all that the farmers produce.

Then, the second major problem for farmers again is the price that is determined by the anchor companies and even Central Bank Nigeria (CBN) is involved and the participating banks. So, on that price issue, the farmers know what is involved and even before they plant the cotton. Anchor-borrower programme is a good programme, in the past when you give inputs to farmers and sometimes they start selling and engage in diversion and so on, but now that has ceased. Right now, if I as a Ginner get my raw material as real cotton, I process it, obviously there would be raw materials for textiles companies and that would be available for them, which is the cotton needs. For me, I want government to see cotton, first and foremost or treat cotton as an essential product for the nation.

You see, anywhere cotton is produced in the world, it is taken as a national asset. That is why in neighbouring countries, their governments control the production and supply of cotton jealously. They don’t joke with it. They take cotton as we take oil in this country. So, it needs to be seen as a national asset and given a special status it deserves, such as what they gave rice under the anchor-borrower’s programme. After all, cotton is still part of the aims and objectives of the anchor-borrowers programme. And we that are in the Association and stakeholders in the industry need to be guided and supported in order to grow the industry, if we do what government wants us to do in terms of positioning our farmers, grouping them and all that. We are ready to do that, and once we come to government and those funds needed are made available for us, the sky will be the limit for the increase in production of cotton in our country.

The problem we are facing is the delay in payment and inputs supply. If you don’t release the funds that we all agreed on to be released to farmers, stage by stage and you don’t release it on time, then indirectly it will affect the work on the farms. That is why we are saying that the Association is in the best position to guide the anchor-borrower’s programme for cotton production.

To what extent do cotton farmers access funds presently from government?

Right now, it is zero percent. Access to finance by farmers is difficult today. If you go to the commercial banks, everybody is talking about collateral. That is why again, I will go back to say that the anchor-borrowers programme is the best, because that gives farmers access to funds. In this sense, finance and assistance will be given directly to them. The only difference is that the only cash that comes to the farmers, which he needs as his own labour is estimated, but every other thing is disbursed as inputs. For instance, if the farmer needs fertilizers and tractors, as the case may be for his farm, the companies would be paid directly.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Energy

African Energy Developments Demand Sustained Investment With New Projects in Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Senegal

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In the past twelve months, the African energy sector has seen several encouraging developments – in the form of both Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and strategic partnerships – that have advanced the sustainable development of its natural resources. In fact, despite a global downturn in investment in 2020, FDI flows to developing economies accounted for 72% of global FDI, the highest share to date. Given the magnitude of Africa’s oil and gas reserves – not to mention its abundant renewable resource wealth – the continent remains a highly attractive market for inbound investment, which is vital for its growth.

Take Uganda, for instance, which is home to one of the largest onshore discoveries in sub-Saharan Africa. Following multiple petroleum discoveries in Uganda’s Albertine Graben – estimated to contain 6.5 billion barrels of oil, of which 1.4 billion are considered recoverable – foreign investments into the country are expected to reach nearly $20 billion. Last April, Total E&P Uganda B.V. signed a Sale and Purchase Agreement with Tullow Oil PC, through which Total will acquire Tullow’s entire 33.34% interests in Uganda’s Lake Albert development project and the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). Five months later, the Ugandan Government and Total signed a host government agreement for EACOP, representing a significant step toward reaching a final investment decision. The deal pushes along an extended development process – slowed by infrastructure issues, tax complications, then COVID-19 – that not only promises to bring first oil by 2022, but also provides a pathway to monetization via associated transport infrastructure.

In addition to developments at Lake Albert, the Ugandan Government has proven its commitment to attracting FDI to its hydrocarbon sector through its second licensing round held last year, as well as its invitation to local and foreign entities to forge joint-venture partnerships with the Government. By prioritizing the establishment of mutually beneficial partnerships, the emerging East African producer aims to facilitate the successful transfer of skills, knowledge and technology, initiating an influx of technical expertise and working capital into the country.

“Those who have been locked out from access to opportunity want the same from the energy sector that the energy sectors want from governments.  We must not forget local content, local jobs, local opportunities especially for young people and women” Stated NJ Ayuk Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber.

Meanwhile, in West Africa, Senegal has been reaping the rewards of a long-standing partnership with Germany, which has resulted in more than one billion Euros in funding, including significant support for small-scale power plants and renewable energy projects. Holding sizeable potential for solar and wind energy development, Senegal serves as a regional leader in renewable deployment as a means of rural electrification. Indeed, energy is a central component of poverty alleviation across Africa, with electricity access enabling greater independence, clean cooking and potable water, as well as dramatically improving the well-being of individuals, businesses and communities alike.  Rural populations are cognizant of the challenges posed by a lack of stable electricity supply – increased urban migration, lack of access to basic services, low economic competitiveness, to name a few – and distributed renewables can represent the fastest and least expensive path to electrification.

European interest in Senegal has shed light on and served as a model for co-operation opportunities between renewable-rich African countries and developed partners, which offer cutting-edge technologies and technical expertise to transform raw resources into viable off-grid and mini-grid solutions.

Furthermore, while the cost of deploying renewable technology has never been lower, the availability of renewable-focused capital has never been higher. Investment in commercial and industrial solar has demonstrated resilience against the pandemic, continuing to be seen as a safe investment in light of rising utility costs and increasing distribution of both solar and financial technologies. Yet resource potential and low costs of equipment are not enough; Senegal and other resource-rich African nations require active investor interest and strong government support to unlock diversified energy mixes. In turn, a lack of investment represents a pointed threat to the achievement of long-term energy security.

“Young people and women have shown their great resilience, and it is our hope we close these deals in the renewable energy sector, Africans can have a sense of some hope that they will be included in the industry contracts and opportunities. It is no longer correct for the African to be the last hired and the first fired” Concluded Ayuk.

Moreover, without sustained levels of FDI continuing to move the needle on oil, gas and renewable developments, energy export revenues run the risk of being stranded and resources left undeveloped. For emerging producers like Uganda – as well as Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, among several others – this would mean foregoing critical government revenues that could aid in a much-needed, post-COVID-19 economic recovery. FDI is vital to Africa’s growth, and while it may be challenging to procure capital in a tepid global economy, it is even more difficult not to. Yes, COVID-19 has put emerging producers in a tough spot: new exploration is seen as risky, and new producers lack existing assets or low-cost development of marginal fields on which to fall back. However, it is not an option to slow or postpone time-sensitive developments that promise to harness natural resource wealth and make sustainable improvements in standards of living across the continent. Africa requires a sustained flow of investment and has proven time and again that it offers the scope of projects and magnitude of resources that are worthy of foreign capital.

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Energy

Saudi Aramco’s Profit Halved in Two Years, Market Cap $210B Below Apple’s

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Even before the pandemic, the oil and gas industry was faced with slumping prices. However, with a record collapse in oil demand amid the lockdowns, the COVID-19 crisis has further shaken the market, causing massive revenue and market cap drops for even the largest oil companies.

According to data presented by Finaria.it, the net income of the world’s biggest oil producer and one of the largest publicly listed companies, Saudi Aramco, dropped to $49bn in 2020, a 55% plunge in two years.

The COVID-19 Crisis and Oil Price War Cut Profits by Almost $40B in a Year

In preparation for its IPO, which took place in December 2019, Saudi Aramco had published 2018 profits. With a net income of $111.1bn, Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil giant ranked as the most profitable publicly listed company in the world.

Global macroeconomic concerns like the US-China trade war and the oil overproduction set significant price drops even before the coronavirus outbreak. In 2019, the company reported a profit of $88.2bn, a 20% drop year-over-year.

However, a standoff between Russia and Saudi Arabia in the first months of 2020 sent prices even lower and caused a massive hit for Saudi Aramco’s profits.

After global oil demand plunged in March, Saudi Arabia proposed a cut in oil production, but Russia refused to cooperate. Saudi Arabia responded by increasing production and cutting prices. Shortly Russia followed by doing the same, causing an over 60% drop in crude oil prices at the beginning of 2020. Although OPEC and Russia agreed to cut oil production levels to stabilize prices a few weeks later, the COVID-19 crisis already hit.

In March, Saudi Aramco announced full-year figures for the second time since going public, and the results revealed huge financial losses. In 2020, Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil company reported a net income of $49bn, almost a $40bn drop in a year.

While Saudi Aramco was the most profitable publicly listed company globally in 2019, the current result puts the company behind Apple, which reported a net income of $57.4bn in 2020.

Saudi Aramco’s Market Cap $210B Below Apple’s

In December 2019, Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil giant completed its long-awaited IPO and hit a staggering $2 trillion valuation on the second day of trading, nearly one trillion higher than the world’s next-largest publicly listed companies Microsoft and Apple. The initial public offering was an essential part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 program to transform the Saudi economy.

However, Saudi Aramco’s stocks were outperformed by Apple in 2020. After plunging to $1.61trn in March last year, the market cap of the Dhahran-based company jumped to $2.15trn in September. By the end of the year, this figure slipped to $2.05trn. Statistics show that Saudi Aramco’s market cap floated around this value for the last three months and then dropped to $1.87trn in April after the company revealed the full-year results.

Although valued one trillion less than Saudi Aramco at the time of its IPO, the world’s largest tech company, Apple’s, has seen its market cap surge last year. In January 2020, the combined value of shares of the US tech giant stood close to $1.4trn. After plunging to $1.1trn in March, Apple’s market cap soared to over $2.3trn in December. Although this figure slipped to $2.08trn last week, it still represents almost a 90% increase in a year.

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Crude Oil

Oil Inches Higher But Rangebound as COVID-19 Cases Soar

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Oil prices edged higher in rangebound trade on Monday on optimism about a rebound in the U.S. economy as vaccinations accelerate, but rising COVID-19 cases in other parts of the world kept a lid on prices.

Brent was up 22 cents, or 0.4%, at $63.17 a barrel by 0843 GMT. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) U.S. crude rose 12 cents, or 0.2%, to $59.44 a barrel.

The prices have remained rangebound in the last three weeks, with Brent between $60 and $65 per barrel and WTI at $57 to $62.

“Oil prices are entering a consolidation phase after swinging wildly last month,” Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.

“While there are still plenty of reasons to be bullish, market players have become more cautious as infections have surged in Europe, India and some emerging markets, while vaccine rollouts have proved slower than anticipated,” he added.

India now accounts for one in every six daily infections worldwide, and other parts of Asia are seeing infection rates rise.

Asian oil demand remained weak and some buyers asked for lower volumes in May partly because of refinery maintenance and higher prices.

The United States has fully vaccinated more than 70 million people but U.S. gasoline demand has not picked up as much as expected.

The U.S. economy is at an “inflection point” amid expectations that growth and hiring will accelerate in the months ahead, but faces the risk of reopening too quickly and sparking a resurgence in coronavirus cases, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

“There really are risks out there. And the principal one just is that we will reopen too quickly, people will too quickly return to their old practices, and we’ll see another spike in cases,” Powell said in a CBS interview, recorded on Wednesday.

On the production side, no new oil drilling rigs were started in the United States in the most recent week, a report published by Baker Hughes showed.

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