Briefly: 7 foreign sailors kidnapped off coast

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LAGOS — Gunmen attacked a ship operated by a French oil and gas services company off the coast of Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta, kidnapping six Russian sailors and an Estonian in the assault, the firm said Wednesday.

Paris-based Bourbon SA offered only a tersely worded statement on its website about the attack Monday near the Niger Delta, where the company works closely with oil companies such as French firm Total SA.

Gunmen apparently attacked the Bourbon Liberty 249, an anchor handling vessel, and seized the sailors before escaping, the company said.

Another nine sailors on the vessel sailed safely away to the company’s port in Onne in Nigeria’s Rivers state, the company said.

Foreign oil companies have pumped oil out of the Niger Delta, a region of mangroves and swamps the size of Portugal, for more than 50 years.

Despite the billions of dollars flowing into Nigeria’s government, many in the delta remain desperately poor, living in polluted waters without access to proper medical care, education or work.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Food group says Africa should grow wheat

DEBRE ZEIT, Ethiopia — The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center says demand for wheat is growing faster than for any other food crop in sub-Saharan Africa, where corn has long been considered the most important cereal crop.

As the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization marked World Food Day on Tuesday, experts were re-examining what crops are best produced in Africa, for Africans.

Ethiopia last week hosted a conference to look at ways to increase the amount of wheat African farmers grow. Only 44 percent of the wheat consumed in Africa is produced locally.

The corn and wheat center says African countries in 2012 will spend $12 billion to import 40 million tons of wheat — money that could be used for other pressing needs.

Wheat production in sub-Saharan Africa dropped sharply in the 1980s after an influx of food aid made the crop unprofitable, said the maize and wheat improvement center.

At the same time, the focus of international development shifted to corn and cassava. A growing demand for wheat has led agricultural experts to rethink the crop in Africa, the group said.

SUDAN

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