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Economic Digest

Economic Digest – June 2015


JUNE 2015


Record harvests last year have meant a glut of grains and oilseeds on world markets and a slump in prices. Wheat, maize and soybeans have dropped by a quarter in a year. Demand for American wheat has dropped as a result and exports are expected to fall by 24 per cent this year to their lowest level for 12 years.  Global soybean stocks have risen by 55 per cent from last season. The exception is rice where world stocks are the lowest for five years due to increased Asian demand.


Statistics Canada reports that in the April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014 year, there were 1,519 long-term care facilities in Canada serving 149,488 residents. During this time, the industry generated revenues of C$10.9-billion and expenses of $10.8-billion of which $7.2-billion were wages and salaries.


The US President is getting closer to signing one of the biggest trade deals in American history. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would link 11 economies of the Pacific Rim, including Japan and Singapore with the US. These 12 countries together account for 40 per cent of world GDP and one-third of trade. As well as dismantling tariff barriers, the TPP is meant to tackle tough issues such as intellectual property, labour and environmental standards. American trade negotiators predict that by 2025 the TPP will make the world US$220-billion richer.


A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that more than 3.5-million visitors to Yellowstone National Park in 2014 spent US$421-million in communities near the park. That spending supported 6,662 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $$543.7-milion. The report also shows $15.7-billion of direct spending by 292.8-million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 277,000 jobs nationally giving a cumulative benefit to the US economy of $29.7-billion.


China has become the second-largest wine growing area in the world after Spain, pushing France into third place. China now has 799,000 hectares (1.97-million acres) of land devoted to wine growing. That compares to 1.02-million for the biggest wine-growing area of Spain. But France remains the biggest producer of wine, producing 46.7-million hectolitres (mhl). France also made the most from selling wine abroad taking in US8.6-billion. The US remains the biggest consumer of wine at 13 per cent of all global wine produced, followed by France and Italy.


The total wealth of the richest 1,000 individuals and families in Britain has more than doubled in the last ten years to US$832-billion. The Queen who topped the first list in 1989 has dropped out of the top 300 for the first time.  There are now 117 billionaires on the list, up from 104 in 2014, with 80 of them living in London. A personal fortune of at least US$150-billion is now required to become one of the 1,000 richest people in the country.


In its push to expand beyond an online store for books and merchandise, Inc is entering the travel-reservation business. It is going to provide maps, lodging deals and information about restaurants at popular weekend getaways near Los Angeles, New York and Seattle. The world’s biggest online retailer by revenue will now be competing with others for a piece of the hotel-booking market.


The value of imports of Canadian shrimp into the US grew nearly 20 per cent to more than US30.5-million from 2013 to 2014.  Deliveries of cold-water shrimp to Maine alone more than doubled to nearly 100 tonnes in that time. Regulators have closed down the Gulf of Maine fishery, which was dominated by Maine fishermen and also included some from New Hampshire and Massachusetts over concerns about the low the shrimp population. Scientists have cited rising temperatures in the Gulf of Maine as a threat to the species, which many Maine fishermen rely on. The Canadian fishery for the shrimp is much larger and more stable than New England’s. Canadian fishermen’s shrimp catch averaged about 150,000 tonnes a year from 2009 to 2013. New England’s catch averaged about 3,300 tonnes including a low year of 300 tonnes in 2013.


Old kitchen, bathroom and laundry equipment made up 60 per cent of the 41.8-million tonnes of electronic waste thrown away in 2014 according to a UN report. Old microwaves, washing machines, dishwashers and other household items made up the bulk of the waste. Only 16 per cent of the items discarded found their way into proper recycling and re-use schemes. The report found that the US, with 7.072-kilotonnes generated was the nation which disposed of most electronic waste, China was second and Japan was third. In Norway, each inhabitant did away with about 28.4kg of electronic waste. In Africa the figure was 1.7kg per person.


The global demand for rubber tyres is threatening protected forests in Southeast Asia. The forests are being cleared for rubber plantations putting endangered birds, bats and primates at risk. By 2024, up to 8.5-million hectares of new rubber plantations will be needed to meet demand. The tyre industry consumes 70 per cent of all natural rubber grown and rising demand for vehicle and aircraft tyres is behind the recent expansion of plantations. Rubber is the most rapidly expanding tree crop within mainland Southeast Asia.


The genteel pastime of fly fishing is set to enter the smartphone age. A Dutch team is developing clever waders that enthusiasts can wear to find not only the ideal location to fish, but to collect key hydrological data for scientists. Of most use to both groups will be waders that sense water temperature. The data would be collected by simple temperature probes in the wader boot which would travel up a wire to a Bluetooth device above the waist to be passed to a phone in a dry pocket. The angler could use the information to decide where to fish and scientists would receive the details over a cell network for later analysis.


The global art market is booming. Last year, sales reached a record US$68-billion, nearly double the level of 2009 and slightly above the previous peak of $60-billion in 2007. Recently, an anonymous buyer paid $300-million for a Paul Gauguin picture, the highest price ever paid for a work of art. A few days later another record was broken when an American paid $45-million for a painting by Gerhard Richter, a record for a living European artist. On average, prices for contemporary and post-war art have risen by 19 per cent in the past year.


Crowdfunding platforms, on which individuals club together to fund projects, raised US$16.2-billion last year. Regulatory reform, international expansion and cross-border deals have helped boost the industry, as has a tide of investors seeking rewards or equity in return for their cash.  Growth was highest in Asia where there was a 320 per cent increase in funding, with $3.4-million raised, propelling the continent past Europe to become the second-largest crowdfunding source. North America retained first place last year but its lead is being eroded. In 2015 Asian crowdfunding is forecast to grow by more than double the rate in North America.   


Apple has said some functions of the new smartwatch may not work properly when it is worn over tattoos. Darker-coloured artwork and even changes in darker-coloured skin types can fool the light sensors on the back of the watch. The problem is not exclusive to the Apple Watch which performed well in independent tests, but it does show the manufacturer has not solved the sensor problem.


New research based on retirement and age shows that Scots in fact enjoy longer retirement than people in England and Wales. Pensioners who live north of the border on average spend 17.9 years in retirement, more than those in England (17.7 years) and Wales (15 year). An actuarial study found that despite the Scots having the lowest life expectancy in Britain, its pensioners retire the earliest.


A Japanese magnetic levitation train has broken its own world speed record, hitting 603km/h (374mph) in a test run near Mount Fuji. The train beat the 590km/h speed it had set previously. Maglev trains use electrically charged magnets to lift and move carriages above the tracks. If it was in service, a 280km journey could take only 40 minutes, less than half the current time. The second fastest maglev train is in China with a speed of 430km/h. The Eurostar travels at 300km/h. By 2045, maglev trains are expected to link Tokyo and Osaka in just one hour.


Under new European Commission rules, British organic farmers are being forced to treat their livestock with homeopathic remedies first. The regulation means that animals could be left diseased or in pain for far longer than necessary and organic meat could end up containing higher levels of bacteria.


British Columbia’s seafood and agriculture exports rose for the fifth year in a row in 2014 to nearly C$3-billion. Farmed Atlantic salmon, wild sockeye and crabs are the top three seafood exports while blueberries, baked goods and processed ingredients for food manufacturing led agricultural exports. Overall, food exports rose by 11 per cent, or $285-million. Industry leaders credit BC’s commitment to promoting products through government-led trade missions and a network of 13 permanent trade offices across Asia for opening the door for BC’s exports. In just two years China has emerged as BC’s biggest export market for fresh cherries. Blueberry exports rose to $169-million in 2014


For the first time, there are more black Uber cars on the streets of New York City than traditional yellow taxis. At last count, there were 14,088 registered Uber cars compared with 13,587 yellow cabs. However, the number of trips taken in yellow cabs far outpaces Uber rides because so many Uber drivers work part time whereas taxis often operate all day. Uber has been expanding rapidly across the globe and recently announced plans to hire one million female drivers by 2020.


Architects claim to have devised a “no shadow” skyscraper that may solve the problem of tall buildings blotting out the sun.  A London-based firm has produced designs for a pair of precisely aligned towers with curved and angled facades which reflect light down on to the street below. In theory one of the towers would reflect sunlight into the shadow of its sister tower, reducing the area of shade caused by the project as a whole. Skyscrapers often face problems securing planning permission because of their impact on the surrounding cityscape.


Scientists have found evidence of wheat in the UK 8,000 years ago. Fragments of wheat DNA recovered from an ancient peat bog suggest the grain was traded or exchanged long before it was grown by the first British farmers.  Farming of plants and animals first appeared in the Near East with the technology spreading along two main routes into Europe.  Scientists think traders arrived in Britain possibly via land bridges that connected the south east coast of Britain to the European mainland. The grain was found at what is now a submerged cliff off the Isle of Wight.


Police from seven European countries have detained people in a crackdown on a horsemeat trafficking ring. The arrests come two years after horsemeat was found being passed off as beef in burgers and other cheap meat products sold across Europe. Millions of meatballs, sausages, burgers and ready meats were pulled from supermarket shelves making it one of Europe’s biggest food scandals. Horsemeat is still popular in several European countries including France and Belgium.


They are used by almost a tenth of the world’s population. They give people a buzz equivalent to six cups of coffee and they are used variously as a symbol of love, marriage and a cure for indigestion and impotence. But it is also leading tens of thousands to an early grave. Found across Asia, the humble betel nut is harvested from the Areca palm and is chewed for the warming glow and stimulating properties. Alongside nicotine, alcohol and caffeine, betel nuts are one of the most popular mind-altering substances, but at a terrible cost. High rates of oral cancer are destroying the lives of many who buy betel nuts.


A man in the US city of Colorado faces police action after becoming so frustrated with his computer that he took it outside and shot it eight times.

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