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Five traders charged with theft of rice Sh7.1 million :: Kenya

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VOI, KENYA: Five traders were Monday charged in connection with the theft of 1125 bags of rice worth over Sh 7.1 million stolen along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway in Taita-Taveta County.

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The accused Martin Njuguna, Peter Muthee, Antony Mbugua, Alipanda Mbeta and Charles Mwachira denied the charge before the Voi Senior Resident Magistrate Benard Mogire Onkoba who released them on a bond of Sh 500,000 or cash bail of Sh 300,000 and a surety of a similar amount.

The third accused Antony Mbugua was remanded at the Voi GK Prisons after failing to raise the bond and cash bail respectively.

The accused were charged that on the night of 11th and early of 12th February this year at unknown time at Shell Petrol Station along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway in Voi, jointly with others not before court, stole 625 bags of red rose rice and 500 bags of fine grade rice, which were being conveyed in a truck, all valued at Sh 7,119,400 the property of Busbull Trading Company Limited.

The magistrate who directed the prosecution to supply the accused with all statements of the witnesses fixed the hearing of the case on April 30 this year.

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Comcast demonstrates Sky-high ambition in global media shake-up

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LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. cable giant Comcast scored a big win in the scramble for media assets by beating Rupert Murdoch, and his backer Disney, in the battle for Sky with an eye-watering $40 billion bid.

FILE PHOTO: The NBC and Comcast logos are displayed on 30 Rockefeller Plaza in midtown Manhattan in New York, U.S., February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

It was a “great day” for Comcast (CMCSA.O), Chairman and Chief Executive Brian L. Roberts said of Saturday’s auction victory. The U.S. group has had its sights set on Sky (SKYB.L), Europe’s biggest pay-TV company, ever since Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) beat it to most of Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox (FOXA.O) assets in July.

Some analysts, however, said that Comcast’s bid of 17.28 pounds per share in the rare blind auction was driven by an urgent need to build scale to defend against the threat posed by streaming services Netflix (NFLX.O) and Amazon (AMZN.O).

“The price being paid for Sky is shocking, but it is a clear sign that legacy media companies are desperate for scale in a world dominated by tech platform giants,” said Richard Greenfield, technology and media analyst at research firm BTIG.

Explaining the basis of big media’s rush to merge, Greenfield likened it to the opening scene in the documentary “March of the Penguins”.

‘WINTER IS COMING’

“The penguins huddle to survive winter. With Disney/Fox and Comcast/Sky, it’s penguins huddling. Winter is still coming,” he said, referring to the advance of tech players such as Amazon.

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Sky would reduce Comcast’s reliance on its mature U.S. market by opening the door to Europe, where pay-TV penetration is at about 30 percent and rising.

The deal would also transform Comcast into the world’s largest pay-TV operator with 52 million customers and lift the proportion of its non-U.S. revenue to about 20 percent from about 9 percent, based on 2017 full-year figures.

Comcast is paying a high price – more than double Sky’s share price before Fox made its approach in December 2016. But analysts said that a favorable result in the English Premier League soccer rights auction – Sky’s biggest expense – during the takeover saga had made the business more valuable.

Sky also gives Comcast an immediate beachhead in online video streaming with its Now TV business, which has about 2 million customers.

Analysts see Comcast super-charging Now TV to combat Netflix across the globe. And Sky’s exclusive relationships to distribute HBO entertainment content and Premier League soccer further insulate Comcast over the next few years.

CLOUDS AND SILVER LININGS

Critics of the deal, however, argue that such relationships are sure to come under threat in the longer term, as content producers launch their own services and competition for sports broadcasting rights intensifies as deep-pocketed tech companies join the fray.

On the upside, however, Sky’s product range – including broadband connections that complement its satellite offer in state-of-the-art platforms such as Sky Q – and its brand make it more than a content aggregator, said Alice Enders, head of research at Enders Analysis,

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“Sky has an extraordinarily well established brand; it is a destination, and that is very valuable in the world of fragmented media,” she said.

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Munyes says Kenya to aid Uganda finalise jetties

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Petroleum Cabinet Secretary John Munyes. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenya has committed to support Ugandan authorities to complete their oil jetties in Entebbe and Jinja to enhance the viability of Sh1.7 billion Kisumu’s new oil terminal.

Petroleum Cabinet Secretary John Munyes termed as unfortunate that the billion-investment remains idle due to the delays by the neighbouring country to finish construction of its facility.

Due to the delay, official launch of the Kisumu project, which was completed over five months ago, remains uncertain as Kampala continues to work on their oil jetties and storage terminals.

While he did not indicate the kind of assistance the Kenyan government will offer, Mr Munyes expressed optimism that the investment will pay back in three years.

“Through the jetty, Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) is expected to ferry 4.7 million litres of petroleum products, which is equivalent to over 100 trucks on the road per day and greatly reduce accidents and traffic,” said Munyes.

Mr Munyes announced that a government delegation will visit Uganda in a fortnight to check on the progress and challenges that their counterparts could be facing.

“We appreciate that different countries are operating under different circumstances and we want to establish what problems they could be facing,” the CS said after visiting KPC depot in Kisumu last week.

“I can assure Kenyans that this is not going to be a white elephant and they stand to benefit a great deal from the initiative which is projected to spur East Africa’s oil transport,” he said.

The CS pointed out that the roll out of the project will massively bring down the cost of transporting petroleum products, which is estimated to drop by between 40 percent and 50 percent.

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KPC managing director Joe Sang’ said the jetty will re-position the firm and enable the company to regain the market share it lost to neighbouring Tanzania, mainly due to the unavailability of petroleum products in western Kenya.

The Kisumu oil terminal is expected to increase petroleum supply to landlocked Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“This is a big milestone for the country and we hope to launch it soon and save the country the heavy burden of trucking crude oil,” he said. He confirmed that a test run has been conducted at the Kisumu facility which was found to be in good shape.

At the same time, the KPC boss revealed that they will install a leak detection system (LDS) and the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems to prevent pilferage of fuel on their lines.

“The implementation of the modern techniques will put an end to siphoning of petroleum products as the sophisticated system can detect up to one per cent leak,” he said.

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Good times for pyrethrum farmers as State to issue 60m seedlings

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Farmers harvest pyrethrum flowers in Molo, Nakuru. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

In efforts to revive the pyrethrum industry, the government plans to distribute 60 million seedlings to farmers in 19 counties starting next year.

This is after the government established market in United States and Asia.

The Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Mwangi Kiunjuri said over four investors have approached the ministry seeking to buy dried pyrethrum flowers.

“We are not ready to let such an opportunity fade away and it is in this regard that we have decided to provide farmers with certified and subsidised seedlings by the start of the longs rains next year,” he told the Sunday Nation.

For a farmer to put an acre under pyrethrum, he said, one requires more than Sh40 million to buy seedlings. This is prohibitive and many cannot afford, said the CS, adding that it is because of this reason that they have decided to distribute the certified and subsidised seedlings.

The CS said buyers are willing to purchase a kilogram of dried pyrethrum flowers from Sh200-Sh250 but Kenya is pushing for more.

Among the 19 counties that the ministry has already tested their soils and found them fit for growing of the crop are Nakuru, Kiambu, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Laikipia, Meru, Embu, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot, Trans Nzoia, Bungoma (Mt Elgon), Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Kericho, Bomet, Narok, Nyamira and Kisii.

In the next one year and in collaboration with the county governments, he said they want to make sure 15,000-20,000 acres are under pyrethrum.

“I am encouraging women and youth to join groups and acquire clonal splits from the ministry and grow them to earn a living and help in seeds multiplication,” he stated.

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Kenya has the potential to produce and process 20,000 metric tonnes (MT) of pyrethrum flowers to earn Sh7.5 billion for farmers per year and Sh5.8 billion in foreign exchange from refined extract alone.

With direct or indirect linkage to the crop that best grows at an altitude of 1,700 to 2,900 metres above sea level, it can provide a livelihood to three million people.

In the 90s, Kenya was controlling over 90 percent of the world market compared to the current share of only 2 percent.

Over time, production declined and Kenya lost the market to Australia which took over with the island state of Tasmania later taking over the growing and processing in early 2000.

By 2010, Tasmania controlled 65 percent of the world’s pyrethrum production. Other countries producing the crop are China, Rwanda and Tanzania, which now control world market.

Production of pyrethrum in the country declined from a high of 18,000 metric tonnes in 1992 to the current national production of about 500 metric tonnes.

The current acreage under the crop is about 3,000 acres and the number of growers has also drastically reduced to 8,000 from 40,000.

In 1990s, pyrethrum was a major foreign earner that brought in over Sh2.1 billion at its peak in 1996 compared to current Sh120 million. The crop also saw over 200,000 small-scale growers benefit directly in 1980s-1990s.

According to a pyrethrum report from the Ministry of Agriculture, the crop started declining in 2004-2005.

The main reason for the drop was inconsistent payment to growers, unmatched market demand and production and unfavourable industry legal framework.

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Pyrethrum is a crop that has been grown in Kenya since 1928 and produces pyrethrins used as natural insecticides and pesticide for agricultural, pharmaceutical and domestic use.

However, Mr Kiunjuri said they have conducted several reforms in the sector which will now see the industry bounce back to its lost glory.

After enactment of the Crops Act 2013, and in line with the agriculture sector reforms, he said the industry was reorganised through separation of the regulatory and commercial functions of the former Pyrethrum Board of Kenya (PBK).

In the arrangement, he went on, the regulatory functions have been ceded to the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) through the miraa, pyrethrum and other industrial crops directorate whose functions are to develop and promote the Kenya pyrethrum industry.

Mr Kiunjuri noted that commercial and processing functions are being played by Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya.

The role of the company is collection, payment and processing of growers’ dry flowers, marketing pyrethrum and pyrethrum products and provision of technical and scientific services relating to the crop.

Currently, the PBK processing plant in Nakuru operates at 10 percent of its capacity due to lack of flowers. Nevertheless, the company has one of the leading refining plants globally and is able to produce high quality extracts that are preferred by the market.

However, the Agriculture minister affirmed the industry is currently recovering and has attracted four processing companies in the country.

He stated, “Currently, six new companies have applied for licensing as processor and are at various stages of licensing.”

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They include Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya (capacity of 25MT per day operating at 50MT per day. This firm is, however, yet to be commissioned.

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