World in brief

Kenya aims to double coffee output

NYERI, Kenya, (Reuters) — Kenya aims to double its annual coffee production by 2020 to 92,000 tonnes by increasing the area under cultivation and raising yields, helping bolster a major foreign exchange revenue earner.

Kenya, which relies heavily on coffee export earnings, is a small producer that accounts for just one percent of the global crop but is renowned for its high quality arabica beans that are sought after for blending with other varieties.

Since production peaked at 129,000 tonnes in 1988-89 it has dropped steadily due to poor management and global price swings that prompted farmers to switch crops or sell land. Output was just 41,000 tonnes in the year to September.

To boost production, farmers will receive training and be encouraged to plant higher-yielding plants, said Alfred Busolo, acting head of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority, which regulates the industry.

Authorities also aim to open new farming areas in the Rift Valley and western Kenya, by training farmers, offering seedlings and funding at low interest rates of 2.5 to five percent per year, he said. Commercial rates normally available to farmers are usually in double digits.

Bayer crop chemical business not for sale

FRANKFURT, Germany (Reuters) — German drugs and pesticides maker Bayer has reaffirmed it will hold on to its crop chemicals business amid talk of consolidation in the industry.

Asked for a comment on remarks by Monsanto Co. executives that the U.S. seeds giant was in internal discussions about mergers in the industry, a Bayer spokesperson said the CropScience unit was an “integral part” of Bayer.

“We have just recently announced our focus on life science businesses. That includes both HealthCare and CropScience,” he said.

Bayer is the world’s second-largest farming pesticides maker after Syngenta.

Australia to restart talks with Indonesia

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia (Reuters) — Australia and Indonesia will restart trade talks early next year in the hopes of reaching an agreement within 12 months, Australian trade minister Andrew Robb said.

Talks started in 2012 but stalled a year later due to rising diplomatic tensions.

The minister is leading Australia’s largest business delegation of more than 300 people to Indonesia, just days after Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull met Indonesian president Joko Widodo in Jakarta to mend ties.

“I’d like to put a time on it… I can’t see why we won’t deal with this one in 12 months,” Robb told reporters.

Indonesia is Australia’s 10th largest overall trading partner and is the largest export market for Australian wheat worth C$1.2 billion in 2014, as well as a major destination for live cattle and sugar.

Turnbull inherited ties strained by rows over spying, the execution of Australian citizens in Indonesia and Abbott’s tough asylum seeker policies.

Pension fund under pressure on land deals

TORONTO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — A U.S. investment firm that manages U.S., Canadian and Swedish pension funds has come under pressure to reveal its land investments in Brazil as a coalition of campaign groups voiced concerns about the impact on local farmers.

TIAA-CREF Global Agriculture LLC, a fund managed by the New York-based Teachers Insurance and Annuity, has invested about US$8 billion in international farmland assets since 2007, when world food prices spiked, the company reported in August.

Partnering with local investors, the company’s land investment in Brazil more than doubled between 2012 and the end of 2014 to reach 633,392 acres, up from 257,877 acres two years earlier, TIAA-CREF documents show.

But the fund does not disclose the specific locations of its Brazilian properties, citing commercial confidentiality. Buying farmland is often seen by investors as a way to diversify portfolios.

A report from GRAIN, the Brazilian Social Network for Justice, Inter Pares and Solidarity Sweden said some land bought with help of a local partner had forced farmers off their land although it did not provide figures.

Much of the land is now used for to grow sugar cane, soybeans and other cash crops.

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