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November 2013 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting

 

November 2013 Edition

LEGO

Denmark's Lego has become the world's second-biggest toy maker after reporting a 13 per cent increase in sales. It generated sales of US$1.8-billion in the first half of this year, overtaking US-based Hasbro. The world's biggest toy maker is Mattel with annual sales of $2.3-billion. On average, each person on earth owns 86 Lego blocks and ten lego sets are sold each second. 400-million Lego figures were sold last year. Lego recently introduced a series of building blocks designed for girls.

JOBS

Older Canadians who can't find higher paying jobs are pushing out students in the low-wage part-time work force. The jobless rate among students 15- to 18- looking for part-time work has soared to more than 20 per cent, the highest on record, as older workers are forced into part-time jobs. Since 2007, employment in the 15-to-18 age group has plummeted dramatically by 22 per cent, well above the 4-per cent drop in that group's population.

SWISS MADE

Switzerland's parliament has taken steps to tighten rules governing how Swiss-made products are labelled. The government has approved a threshold of 60 per cent of the value of manufactured goods in order for them to carry the coveted Swiss Made label. The threshold for most food products has been set at 80 per cent of the product's weight. The new requirements are expected to become law next year.

GENETICS

In 2012, the global dairy-genetics business was worth C$1.5-billion, up 155 per cent since 2006. Canadian exports of dairy animal genetics (bovine embryos, semen and live cattle) totaled $110.3-million and went to more than 100 countries. The Canadian dairy industry generated total net farm receipts of $45.9-billion in 2012.

FISHING

It is a good time to be a fisherman. The global fish-price index of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization hit a record high earlier this year. Changing consumer diets, particularly in China, explains much of the sustained upwards movement. High oil prices, which increase the cost of fishing and transportation, also add to the price of putting fish on the table. The FAO's price for wild fish nearly doubled between 1990 and 2012 while that of farmed fish only rose a fifth. The amount of wild fish captured globally has barely changed in two decades with a ceiling of about 90-million tons a year.

COMPETITIVENESS

Switzerland and Singapore top the list of the most competitive countries in the world in a global ranking that puts Canada in a distant 14th place. Finland, Germany and the United States round out the top five of this years most competitive countries. In 2009, Canada sat in ninth position. However, Canada fares well in education, efficient financial and labour markets and its strong institutions. Innovation and business sophistication is where Canada has tumbled in the rankings.

BUYING

In 2008, 11.8-billion pieces of mail were sent, in 2012, that figure was 9.8-billion. In 2012, e-commerce spending in Canada was C$21.45-billion, up from C$15.3-billion in 2010. By 2016, e-commerce spending in Canada is projected to be $35-billion. Based on a survey of 4,000 Canadians who shop on line, 37% bought apparel; 35% books and music; 23% consumer electronics; 19% computer hardware and 16% other general merchandise.

BUMPING

Passengers who are denied a seat on overbooked Air Canada flights within Canada may be able to get larger refunds. The Canadian Transportation Agency has upheld an earlier ruling that previous compensation for passengers involuntarily bumped from domestic flights was inadequate. Air Canada passengers who are delayed less that two hours should be compensated C$200. Between two and six hours the compensation rises to $400 and at more than six hours the amount jumps to $800.

STYLE

Japanese apparel stores are testing a new way to attract shoppers: digital mannequins that model the piece of clothing you have just picked off the rack. The system uses an innovative hanger that signals a computer when it is picked up. The computer then displays the clothing on a model on a nearby screen. This technology is part of a trend among bricks-and-mortar retailers who are trying to match the personalized shopping experience provided online.

SERVICE

The upsurge in popularity of food trucks among consumers in the US is threatening the quick service restaurant (QSR). New research shows that about half the respondents in a survey would have ordered from a fast food restaurant had they not obtained a meal or a snack from a food truck. The top reasons consumers gave for using food trucks related to availability of "interesting" foods and convenience, which are the traditional strengths of QSR outlets. 

DEVICES

It is estimated that the market for smartwatches will reach US$9-billion with unit sales of 90-million by 2018. And by the end of this year, global tablet shipments are expected to reach 227-million units. Chinese app users spend 64 per cent of their time on apps developed locally, if more foreign app developers can make apps that catch on in China, there is a great potential there.

HEIGHT 

The average height of European men grew by a surprising 11 centimetres from the early 1870s to 1980, reflecting significant improvements in health across the region. The swift advance may have been due to people deciding to have fewer children in this period as smaller family size has previously been found to be linked to increasing average height. The study analyzed data on height in 15 European countries.

CALLS

The average monthly complaints in the US from consumers who signed up for the Do Not Call List but still are getting telemarketing calls have jumped 63 per cent from 2011. Much of the blame is on a proliferation of computerized robocalls. Illegal robocall operations are taking advantage of increasingly sophisticated technology that has made it much easier to simultaneously send thousands of robocalls costing less than one cent a minute.

RADIO

Despite pressure from online listening services, radio in Canada continues to churn out consistent profits. Last year, Canada's 675 commercial radio stations saw their revenues increase, reaching C$1.62-billion. Profit before interest and taxes increased almost four per cent to $323-million. In 2012, these stations employed 10,050 people and paid $681-million in salaries. FM stations bought in the most money. Eleven stations were started last year bringing the total to 546.

LABELS

Eight meat and livestock groups from the United States and Canada have asked a US court to strike down stricter US meat labelling rules that they say have hurt US processors and Canadian farmers. The suit seeks to undo recent revisions to rules that required retail outlets to label meat according to where it came from. The country of origin labelling rules have led to lower US imports of Canadian cattle and pigs which has hurt Canadian farmers and US processing plants that relied on imported livestock.

HIGHWAYS

The Durango-Mazatlan Highway is one of Mexico's greatest engineering feats. It has 115 bridges and 61 tunnels and is designed to bring people, cargo and legitimate commerce through a mountain range known until now for marijuana, opium poppies and an accident-prone road called the Devil's Backbone. The 230-km highway will link port cities on the Gulf of Mexico with the Pacific and will eventually move five million vehicles a year, more than four times the number on the old road plus more goods and produce from Asia to the Mexican interior. 

HAIR

Venezuela is calling on the police to act against gangs that are stealing women's hair. The thieves sell the hair, sometime stolen at gunpoint, to salons where it is used for extensions and wigs.

ADVERTISEMENTS

A British online broadcaster, along with a German advertising agency, wants to turn bus and train windows into talking advertisements. The company is using technology that beams high-frequency oscillations, or vibrations, through the glass. When a commuter rests their head against a train window, the oscillations are converted into sound through a process called bone conduction, they will hear the message while other passengers remain oblivious. In recent tests, some commuters were annoyed that they could not rest their heads and sleep.

TIME

In 1979 the United Auto Workers (UAW) had more than 1.5-million members and nine of the country's best selling cars were American brands. The Toyota Corolla came eighth, the first time a foreign brand had cracked the top ten. Today, the UAW's membership is around 400,000, and not all are car workers. And of the top selling cars last year, seven were foreign badged. Americans are not only buying foreign cars, they are also making them. Seven of America's 15 most productive assembly plants were foreign owned. 

CARS

Americans are paying record prices for new cars and trucks. The average price of a vehicle in the US hit US$31,252 recently, up almost $1,000 over last year. The sharp increase has been driven by consumers loading cars up with high-end stereos, navigation systems, leather seats and safety gadgets. This buying pattern began about two years ago with low interest rates that let buyers choose pricier cars while keeping monthly payments in check. Add in booming sales of expensive pickup trucks and you get record high prices.

CROPS

Researchers in the key corn-growing state of Illinois are finding significant damage from rootworms in farm fields planted in a rotation with genetically modified corn, a combination of measures that are supposed to protect the crop from pests. Evidence from two Illinois counties suggests that pest problems are mounting as the rootworms grow ever more resistant to efforts to fight them. The Western corn rootworm is one of the most devastating corn rootworm species in North America.

DEBT

An anonymous half-million pound bequest to Britain has mushroomed to 350 million pounds (US$546-million) since it was made 85 years ago. The donor left the money in 1928 but said it should be handed over once Britain had amassed enough funds to pay off its entire national debt, which now totals 1.2-trillion pounds.

POWER

South Korea has switched on a road which can recharge electric vehicles as they drive over it. The project's developer says the 12km route is the first of its kind in the world. Vehicles fitted with compatible equipment do not need to stop to recharge and can also be fitted with smaller than normal batteries. Two public buses are already using the technology.

CENSORSHIP

A man using the British Library's wi-fi network was denied an online version of Shakespeare's Hamlet because the text contained "violent content."

Thank you for reading the A & A Economic News Digest. For more information visit our website www.aacb.com or contact A & A Contract Customs Brokers Ltd. at strehler@aacb.com.

Past issues of the A&A Economic News Digest can be found at http://www.aacb.com/publications/ed/index.asp

October 2013 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting

 

October 2013 Edition

 METHANE

Scientists say that the release of large amounts of methane from thawing permafrost in the Arctic could have huge economic impacts for the world. Researchers estimate that the climate effects of the release of this gas could cost US$60-trillion, roughly the size of the global economy in 2012. The impacts are most likely to be felt in developing countries and would include flooding, sea level rise and damage to agriculture and human health. However, it is also estimated that 30 per cent of the world's undiscovered gas and 13 per cent of undiscovered oil lie in Arctic waters.

METRO

The Saudi government has announced it will spend US$22-billion on a metro system for the capital Riyadh. The project is said to be the largest public transport initiative in the world. It will have six lines with over 180km of track and will help to boost the economy. Construction will begin next year, with trains running by 2019. Saudi has a lot of spare cash and needs to spend it.

ROYALTIES

China has not paid Hollywood its share of the profits from some of this year's big box office films because of a dispute over a new two per cent tax on foreign films. China's box office revenues increased by 36 per cent to US$2.7-billion in 2012, making it the second-biggest movie market in the world, underscoring its importance as a key market for Hollywood's moviemakers.

NUTRITION

Driven by 77-million consumers of sports drinks and 28-million consumers of nutrition bars in the US, the sports nutrition market has experienced significant growth in recent years. Women dominate the market for nutrition bars, as only 45 per cent of those eating at least one bar in the last 30 days are men, while 55 per cent are women. In contrast, men account for 64 per cent of high-volume users of sports drinks.

CONCRETE

One of the biggest drawbacks of concrete is that it is not as weatherproof as the stone it often substitutes for. Salt and ice routinely turn microscopic fractures in its fabric into gaping holes which let in water. Scientists have now shown that it is possible to mix special bacteria, which releases crack-sealing chemicals into concrete before it is poured, in effect creating self-healing concrete. Another approach is using a protective waterproof polymer that sticks readily to the concrete and forms a seal.

ICE CREAM

Despite the vast array of ice cream flavour varieties available in the US, it turns out that vanilla has staked its claim as the most popular among consumers, followed by chocolate and butter pecan in second and third place with Neapolitan and Rocky Road tied for fourth. However, there is an increasing trend towards frozen yogurt.

GLUTEN

The US Food and Drug Administration has now set a standard for gluten-free claims on food labels, a step that will help the three million Americans with celiac disease and bring uniformity to the US$4-billion market for gluten-free products. Gluten is a composite of starch and proteins found in certain grassy grains like wheat, barley and rye which, when eaten by people, can trigger the production of antibodies that damage the lining of the small intestine.

TUNNELLING

The world's largest tunnelling machine has started drilling under the city of Seattle. The machine is 326 feet long, weighs 7,000 tons and will leave a tunnel nearly 58 feet in diameter. It will take about 14 months to complete the two-mile tunnel which will drill beneath 200 downtown Seattle buildings. The machine was built in Japan, arrived in 41 pieces and is worth US$80-million.

RESEARCH

Spending on research and development (R&D) in Canada's higher education sector increased over the past year to C$11.6-billion. This sector comprises universities and affiliated research hospitals, experimental stations and clinics. Provincially, R&D spending by higher education institutions increased in every province except Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan. Ontario and Quebec continue to report about two-thirds of R&D spending.

HOUSING

America's housing market is in recovery but home-ownership rates, at 65.1 per cent, are at their lowest since 1995. In the second quarter of this year America's total inventory was 132.8-million units of which over 30 per cent are now renter-occupied. The rental vacancy rate has fallen from 11.1 per cent in 2009 to 8.2 per cent now. This has pushed rents up which could make home-ownership more attractive.

FERRARI

Britain has now overtaken Germany to become Ferrari's biggest market in Europe. The manufacturer delivered 415 cars in the first half of the year, a rise of six per cent, overtaking Germany where 388 cars were sold in the same period. A total of 3,767 vehicles were delivered to dealerships in this period, a rise of 2.8 per cent. Sales in US and Canada were 1,048, a growth of 9 per cent.

BREWING

Non-alcoholic beer is growing in popularity around the world. Last year, 2.2-billion litres was downed, 80 per cent more than five years ago. In the rich world it is mainly consumed by a health-conscious minority, but in the Middle East it now accounts for almost a third of worldwide sales. In 2012, Iranians drank nearly four times as much as in 2007 and consumers in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have a growing taste for it.

FRUIT

Georgia is famous as a major producer of the peach whose image appears on state license plates. But now the state actually makes more money from the sale of blueberries. The value of blueberry production in Georgia beat the peach crop in 2005 and the gap has grown bigger since then. Blueberries generated an estimated US$94-million for Georgia growers in 2012 making it more than three times as valuable as the $30-million peach crop.

TRASH

Sweden has run out of trash. The country of more than 9.5-million is so big on recycling that only four per cent of all waste generated in the country goes to landfill, an amazing figure when compared to the US where half the garbage goes into landfill. However, this creates a dilemma as the country relies on waste to heat and provide electricity to a quarter of a million homes. Sweden is now importing trash from neighbouring countries including Norway and has considered importing it from the US.

BUILDINGS

Competition to build the country's skyline higher is continuing even as China's economy has slowed and the government reins in credit. The Shanghai Tower will be China's tallest building when completed in 2015 at 632-meters. China completed 22 buildings higher than 200 metres last year, accounting for 33 per cent of the global number, more than any other country. However, the 660-meter Ping An Finance Centre will become China's tallest building when completed in 2016. The tallest building currently is the 492-meter Shanghai Financial Centre.

DINNERS

Surveys indicate that the restaurant supper occasion (as they are called in the trade) lost over 650-million consumer visits since 2006 but will gain 795-million visits over the next decade. Restaurant supper visits have steadily declined since 2006, while supper meals eaten in-home have increased. Per capita annual supper meals eaten in-home increased from 235 in 2006 to 250 in 2012. Conversely, per capita supper meals eaten away from home fell from 67 in 2006 to 61 in 2012.

FREIGHT

Europeans have long pitied Americans for the quality of their passenger trains, but when it comes to moving goods, the US has a well-kept freight network that is the most cost effective in the world. In 2011, the seven largest freight railways had revenues of US$67-billion (up from $47.8-billion in 2009). Net income was $11-billion. By 2035 the demand for rail freight is expected to double with new business coming from moving consumer goods. Truckers are battling high fuel and labour costs, shortages of drivers and congestion.

TRENDS

Falling TVs sent nearly 200,000 US children to the emergency room over 20 years and the injury rate has climbed substantially for these sometimes deadly accidents. Safety experts say better awareness is needed about the dangers, especially the risks of putting heavier, older model TVs on top of dressers and other furniture young children may try to climb on. Most injuries are in children under 5; head and neck injuries, including concussions are the most common.

POLLUTION

Air pollution in Los Angeles has declined due to California's strict vehicle emission controls according to scientists. Despite a three-fold increase in the number of vehicles on southern California roads since 1960, pollution there has declined. In addition, ozone levels have improved though ozone pollution in Los Angeles remains the worst of any American city.

HAY

In some parts of the US, bales of hay have become the focus of a crime spree. Long periods of severe drought and grass fires across much of the western US have forced the price of hay and other livestock feeds to record highs. Some US auctions have reported 800lb-hay bales, enough to feed the average cow for about 20 days, fetching close to US$350 each. Many thieves are stealing one bale at a time hoping farmers won't notice but the more brazen are stealing truckloads.

RACE

Britain is on course to become one of the most diverse countries in the world. Within half a century half the people in the UK will be foreign or from an ethnic minority. This would mean the UK could overtake the US as the world's melting pot with fewer people describing themselves as British or white. One in three babies in England now has a parent who was born abroad. By 2050, non-whites and foreigners could account for 38 per cent of people in the UK.

SNAILS

South Florida is battling a growing infestation of the giant African land snail. The snail is considered one of the most destructive invasive species, feeding voraciously on more than 500 plant species. They can also eat through plaster walls which provides the calcium content they need for their shells. More than 1,000 are being caught each week in Dade County and 117,000 in total since the first one was spotted in 2011.

LOBSTER

In the early days, residents in the Massachusetts Bay Colony found them to be so abundant that they washed up on the beach in two-foot-high piles and people thought of them as trash food, fit only for the poor or to be served to servants or prisoners. Lobster shells around a house were considered to be a sign of poverty and degradation. In the 19th century consumers could buy Boston baked beans for 53 cents a pound, canned lobster sold for 11 cents a pound and it was fed to cats.

RECORDS

A retired pig consultant in the UK has logged every mind-numbing detail in the world's biggest personal diary. It spans 66 years, contains four million words on 21,000 pages in 51 volumes and includes 33,000 photos and weighs half a ton.

Thank you for reading the A & A Economic News Digest. For more information visit our website www.aacb.com or contact A & A Contract Customs Brokers Ltd. at strehler@aacb.com.

Past issues of the A&A Economic News Digest can be found at http://www.aacb.com/publications/ed/index.asp

September 2013 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting

 

September 2013 Edition

COFFEE

Farmers in Brazil are upset by falling prices. Their beans now fetch around US$106 a 60kg bag, a four-year low and less than half they got two years ago. A reversal soon looks to be unlikely. A third of the world's coffee is grown in Brazil. There are two problems. First, the traditional markets for their wares are saturated. Growth in Europe, America and Japan which between them drink over half the world's coffee is flat. Second, in the parts of the world where demand is growing like China, Indonesia and Brazil itself, drinkers are filling their pots with cheaper beans.

BANKS

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), with assets of US$160-trillion has now displaced the Bank of America to become the world's biggest bank. China now boasts four of the world's ten biggest banks, (the same number as the United States), whereas Europe and Japan have only one each.

SEAFOOD

Total retail sales of fish and seafood products in the U.S. exceeded US$14.7-billion in 2012, up from $13.3-billion in 2008. However, the industry is at a crossroads. As of 2011, the per capita consumption by Americans was about 15-pounds of fish and shellfish per year. That figure represents a decrease from 15.8-pounds per capita in 2010 which itself was a drop from 16-pounds per capita in 2009.

HEADPHONES

A Glasgow engineer has designed a prototype pair of headphones which can harness solar power to keep mobile devices charged. The headphone band is fitted with a flexible solar cell and the energy generated is stored in two small lithium batteries. The inventor is hoping to raise US$300,000 to get the headphones into production.

COMPOST

Over half of Canadian households (61%) participated in some form of composting activity in 2011, more than double the rate in 1994. Overall, 45% of all households reported composting kitchen waste and 68% of households with a lawn or garden reported composting yard waste. Households in Prince Edward Island (96%) and Nova Scotia (94%) were most likely to have composted.

CHOCOLATE

According to the latest research, just more than half (51%) of adult consumers say that their favourite type of plain chocolate is milk chocolate, followed by 35 per cent who favour dark chocolate and 8 per cent prefer white chocolate. In the last survey in 2011, 57% favoured milk and 33 per cent preferred the dark variety. The better understood health benefits of dark chocolate may be increasing its popularity as more consumers are looking for snack foods that can serve a nutritional function. The chocolate confectionary market has grown 19 per cent from 2007 to 2012 in the U.S.

RICHES

Last year, 12-million people in the world had $1-million or more in investible assets. This is a million more than in 2011. After falling in two of the last five years, their wealth increased by 10 per cent in 2012 to a record $46.2-trillion. America is home to 3.4-million of the rich, Japan (1.9-million), and Germany over one million and account for more than half of the world's wealthy. Canada has about 600,000 of the super rich.

SEEDS

The destruction of tropical rainforests is having an even greater impact on the environment than was previously thought. Scientists have found that deforestation in Brazil is causing trees to produce smaller, weaker seeds that are less likely to regenerate. It is believed that this has been triggered by the loss of large birds from the forests, which have beaks big enough to feed on and disperse the seeds. Brazil's Atlantic rainforest was once home to a vibrant array of plants and animals. With the arrival of sugar and coffee plantations, the forest has been reduced to just 12 per cent of its original size.

TAXES

Taxes on property go back a long way. Ancient civilizations from Greece to China had levies on land. In the U.S. local governments have raised money from property taxes since the colonial eraand in the States they still account for 17% of all government revenue: in Britain and Canada the figure is around 12%. Only 2% of revenue from property taxes is assessed in Germany and Italy and in Switzerland it is just 0.4%.

BEES

A higher than expected loss of honey bees over the winter is causing Canada to reassess whether to open the U.S. border to the importation of packaged bees. Meanwhile, in Ontario, there have been several cases reported of both bees and whole hives being stolen. The same occurred last year both in B.C. and Alberta. In Ontario, honey production contributes C$25-million to the provincial economy.

HOMES

Britons now live in the smallest homes in western Europe with the average one-bed new-build the same size as a Tube carriage. Developers bent on making more profit are now cramming a lounge, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom into just 46 square metres. Overall, the average UK house is 76 square metres, 10 per cent smaller than 30 years ago. The average house in the Netherlands is 115.5 square metres, 53 per cent bigger. British architects are claiming that the lack of space and light in new British homes is causing marriage break-ups, health problems and hold children back at school.

PLASTER

U.S. scientists have designed a super-grip plaster covered with microscopic needles to heal surgical wounds. The "bed-of-needles" patch was inspired by a parasitic worm that lives in the guts of fish and clings on using cactus-like spikes which fixes skin grafts firmly in place without the need for staples. The patch is three times stronger than the materials currently used for burns patients.

CARS

The Royal Automobile Club in the UK has launched a device that will warn motorists about faults in their cars before they break down. The match-box sized device transmits data about the car before and after every journey by slotting it into a cars' computer. The automated system means that drivers then get a phone call, text or email telling them there is a fault with their car.

BHUTAN

This small Himalayan country of 1.2-million people plans to become the first country in the world to turn its agriculture completely organic. It will ban the sales of pesticides and herbicides and rely on its own animals and farm waste for fertilisers. The government expects farmers to be able to grow more, and to export increasing amounts of high quality niche foods to neighbouring India, China and other countries.

GLASS

Murano is a small island near the centre of Venice that attracts five million visitors a year and has been home to glass factories for over 700 years. Recently there has been a shift in taste from elaborate, heavy glass to inexpensive, contemporary designs that go in the dishwasher which has hurt local artisans. More than a third have closed in the past decade. At the bottom end of the market, Chinese glass now does the job more cheaply.

SHRIMP

Thailand is fighting a new disease that has reduced its shrimp output as much as 40 per cent, driving prices as much as 20 per cent higher in major markets and pressuring Western restaurants and retailers. Early mortality syndrome appeared in Thailand, the world's largest shrimp exporter last year after ravaging stocks in China in 2009 and then in Vietnam.

CHERRIES

Okanagan cherry growers in B.C. are looking ahead with an anticipated extra C$20-million in sales annually to China. Some growers have been converting acres of apple tree land into cherry orchards. It costs $30,000 an acre to replant new apple varieties and as little as $15,000 per acre for cherry trees. It is predicted that sales of cherries will be worth $10-million in 2014, increasing to $20-million annually over the next five years. The fruit is considered a luxury item in China where ripe cherries with green stems represent good luck.

THEATRE

Broadway, America's theatre district had a record breaking 2011-12 season with takings of US$1.14-billion.. However, the boost was largely down to rising ticket prices as admissions were down from 12.53-million to 12.33-million. Tourists accounted for 63.4 per cent of tickets sold while international tourists made up 18.4 per cent of all admissions. 67 per cent of audiences were female. Musicals attracted the biggest audiences accounting for $933-million of overall takings. The average price for a musical was $94.85 and $79.54 for a play.

PENSIONS

A giant mountain of 20-million kilos of maturing cheddar is to be used in the UK as security for a pension fund. In the event of the fund running into financial trouble, the trustees will be able to sell blocks of cheddar to make up the shortfall.

WASTE

An American company has developed a technique that it says can make bread stay mould-free for 60 days. The company says it could significantly reduce the amount of wasted bread, in the UK, almost a third of the loaves purchased. Food waste is a massive problem in most developed countries. In the U.S., figures released this year suggest that the average American family throws away 40 per cent of the food they purchase, which adds up to US$165-billion annually.

TIN

Exports of tin by Indonesia, the world's biggest supplier, may exceed earlier estimates by as much as 33 per cent after the government eased a quality rule. Sales will probably total 100,000 metric tons as the amended regulation will allow smelters to boost shipments.

DELAYS

China's major airports have the worst flight delays in the world. According to figures from around the world, Beijing and Shanghai came bottom for on-time flights. Eight of the 10 worst-performing Asian airlines in terms of delays were Chinese carriers. A flight is considered on-time if it arrives or departs within 15 minutes of the scheduled take-off or landing time. Tokyo's Haneda airport topped the list with an on-time performance of 95.04 per cent.

JETS

Demand for bigger, longer-range business jets is increasing again after a fall from grace during the recession. As farflung destinations in Africa and Asia, such as Angola and Mongolia attract more business travellers, corporate jets become more fuel-efficient. As a result, companies are in the market for big-cabin, corporate aircraft for long, intercontinental trips. They also find it cheaper to send larger teams by private jets when so many commercial flights are fully booked and expensive. The industry delivered 129 business jets worldwide in the first quarter of this year.

WINE

A year ago, Canadian law was changed to permit individual purchases of wine across provincial borders. So far, just two provinces, British Columbia and Manitoba, have authorized interprovincial internet and phone sales to individuals.

PROFIT

Two men in Essex, England, were sent to jail for stealing a Henry Moore sculpture which they sold for scrap for US$90. The sculpture was valued at $750,000.

Thank you for reading the A & A Economic News Digest. For more information visit our website www.aacb.com or contact A & A Contract Customs Brokers Ltd. at strehler@aacb.com.

Past issues of the A&A Economic News Digest can be found at http://www.aacb.com/publications/ed/index.asp

August 2013 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting

 

August 2013 Edition

MORE SIZE

Denmark's Maersk Line has unveiled the world's biggest container ship, hoping a new fleet of super-size vessels will deliver savings and return it to profit in an industry suffering from overcapacity, weak economies and cut-throat competition. The 55,000-tonne ship with the length of four football fields is worth US$185-million and is the first of twenty to be delivered to Maersk Line. It will have the capacity to transport 18,270 20-foot containers and will consume approximately 35 per cent less fuel per 20-foot container. Maersk moves 20 per cent of all containers from Asia to Europe and 18 per cent the other way.

TRADE

The UK has announced plans for what could be the biggest bilateral trade deal in history between the European Union and the U.S. worth hundreds of billions of dollars. A successful agreement aimed at boosting exports and driving growth could have a greater impact than all the other world trade deals put together. It is estimated that such a deal could be worth US$150-billion to the EU economy, $120-billion to the U.S. and $127-billion to the rest of the world. The deal will focus on bringing down remaining tariffs and other barriers to trade. Agriculture is expected to be a significant bone of contention.

INVESTMENT

The World Bank is calling on Canadian companies to help reduce extreme poverty by making more investments in the developing world, as development assistance alone cannot do the job of wiping out chronic poverty and that the private sector has much to gain from boosting its presence in struggling countries. About 60 per cent of total mining investment in Latin America comes from Canadian firms. The total annual spending on development assistance is US$125-billion, a pittance compared with the $200-billion per year infrastructure deficit over the next five years in India alone. Ninety per cent of all the jobs created in the world come from the private sector.

CALORIES

Lower-calorie foods and beverages dramatically boosted revenue at 16 US food and beverage companies that account for nearly US$100-billion in annual sales. Between 2006 and 2011, sales of low-calorie products increased more than $1.25-billion, over four times the growth of higher calorie products. These companies had committed to reduce 1.5-trillion calories in food and beverage sales in the U.S. and have achieved the target three years earlier than planned.

RECORDS

In 2006 23 per cent of Canadian doctors were using electronic medical records (EMRs). Now, 56 per cent of family physicians are using them, with an average savings of 3.8 hours per week. 15.6 minutes are saved on average managing a lab report. Last year it is estimated that 4.4-million hours were saved by doctor using EMRs.

WASTE

Tossing out food is a waste of money and water, according to the World Resources Institute, an environmental think-tank. Inside the 1.3-billion tons of food wasted every year worldwide is 45-trillion gallons of water. This represents a staggering 24 per cent of all water used for agriculture.

CONFECTIONARY

In 2011, the global confectionary industry reached almost US$185.5-billion, representing growth of five per cent year over year. The Asia-Pacific region led the market in sales volume with over 3,000 tons of confectionary products and chocolate accounting for more than 55 per cent of total confectionary sales. The US, UK, Brazil, Germany and Russia made up the top five markets in terms of value. This market is expected to be worth $208-billion by 2017.

TECHNOLOGY

Canadian enterprises sold almost C$122-billion of goods and services over the Internet in 2012, double that value of online sales in 2007. Three sectors, manufacturing, wholesale trade and retail trade, accounted for more than 61 per cent of the total value. Overall, 11 per cent of Canadian enterprises made sales of goods or services online in 2012. Volume was highest in the wholesale trade sector at $44.6-billion and the percentage of firms online was highest in the information and cultural industries sector at 35 per cent.

CANALS

Nicaragua is reported to have signed a 100-year concession with a Chinese company to build an alternative to the Panama Canal, a step that could have profound geopolitical ramifications. The US$40-billion project will reinforce Beijing's growing influence on global trade and weaken U.S. dominance over the key shipping route between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

BREADWINNERS

Mothers are now the main breadwinners in 40 per cent of American households according to Pew Research. Most of those are single parents, but the big rise is in the share of households in which the wife earns more than her husband, which is now the case in 15 per cent of all households with children. The median family income in such homes is US$80,000, compared with a national median of $57,000 and $23,000 for single mother households. Women's participation in the workforce has been rising for decades but that number has shot up since the 2007 recession.

DRONES

Anti-hunting groups in Britain, conservationists on African game reserves and U.S. animal welfare groups have started using drones to combat poaching and to monitor suspected illegal activities. The cost of unmanned aerial vehicles has dropped so fast in the last year that it has now become cost effective for civilians, rather than only the military, to use them widely. The Sea Shepherd conservation society pioneered the use of UAVs in 2011 to locate the Japanese whaling fleet heading for the Arctic. UAVs can film anything and go anywhere and what cost US$30,000 a few years ago can now be got for $5,000.

POPULATION

India looks set to overtake China as the world's most populous nation from 2028. At that point, both nations will number 1.45-billion people. Subsequently India's population will continue to grow until the middle of the century, while China's slowly declines. The UN estimates that the current global population of 7.2-billion will reach 9.6-billion by 2050. Nigeria's population is expected to exceed that of the U.S. by the middle of the century and could rival that of China by 2100.

PROFITS

The world's 40 largest mining companies saw profits fall 49 per cent last year to US$68-billion during a slump that has stretched into 2013. Weak commodity prices have dragged down the sector which saw volumes rise by six per cent but revenues remain flat.

DAMS

Ethiopia has started diverting a stretch of the Blue Nile to make way for a US$4.7-billion hydroelectric dam that is causing a dispute with countries downstream. The Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is currently under construction, is part of a $12-billion investment project to boost power exports. The Blue Nile is one of two major tributaries of the Nile, one of the world's longest rivers. Both Egypt and Sudan are objecting to the dam which they say violates a colonial-era agreement which gives them rights to 90 per cent of the Nile's water.

TRENDS

A German cafe is charging customers for the amount of time they spend in the facility instead of charging them for the items they order. Customers are given time-marked wristbands when they enter the cafe. Clocks around the establishment are purposely set to different times to help customers stop thinking about time.

PESTICIDES

Insecticide sales are surging in the U.S. after years of decline as American farmers plant more of their acreage to corn and a genetic modification designed to protect the crop from pests has started to lose its effectiveness. This is a boon for big pesticide makers but it has sparked fresh concerns that one of the most widely touted benefits of genetically modified crops, that they reduce the need for chemical pest control, is unravelling. At the same time, the resurgence of insecticides could expose both farmers and beneficial insects to potential harm.

MENUS

The Angus burger is going away and it may not be the only McDonald's dish on the chopping block. The world's largest restaurant chain has also considered axing Caesar salads, the McSkillet Burrito, the Southers Style Biscuit and steak bagels. The culling is an effort by McDonalds to streamline a menu that has expanded 70 per cent to about 145 items since 2007.

EGYPT

Two years of political upheaval have battered tourism, a motor of Egypt's economy, and lingering uncertainty over the future means it may be years before Egypt regains its place in the sun. In 2010, the last year before Egypt's revolution, a record 14-million tourists arrived and the industry was 13 per cent of GDP and directly or indirectly employed one in seven workers. Arrivals plummeted to 9.5-million in 2011. Hotel occupancy rates are barely 15 per cent in Cairo and below five per cent in Luxor.

FARMS

Equity in Canada's farm sector totalled C$341.4-billion at the end of 2012, up 7.7 per cent from a year earlier. Strong gains in the value of assets outpaced a rise in liabilities. Manitoba recorded the largest percentage increase, up 13.7 per cent to $22.3-billion. Total value of farm assets rose to $408.1-billion while liabilities rose to $66.7-billion. The largest dollar increase was in the value of farm real estate. Growth in the value of crop inventories outweighed a decline in the value of livestock and poultry inventories.

SIZE

Sharp has released what it says is the largest TV ever to go on sale in Europe. The Aquos features a 96-inch screen, trumping the 84-inch screen from LG. Sharp has offered the size in the U.S since 2012, the world's biggest market for jumbo-TVs but believes that there is significant demand in the UK and the rest of Europe for such a set. Eight per cent of all TVs sold in the U.S are sixty inches or larger. In the UK, six per cent of all units sold are over fifty inches.

ICELAND

It may not be the prospect of cheap fish that has prompted China to sign its first free trade deal with a European nation. The pact will waive most tariffs in the two countries' bilateral trade, which Iceland says was more than US$400-million in 2012. With the Icelandic population a mere 320,000 and no low-tariff entry to other European markets included in the deal, many believe that China's real goal is better access to shipping routes through the Arctic.

PHONES

New research shows that the average smartphone user looks at their phone 143 times per day, which works out to nine times every waking hour, or once every 6.7 minutes.

CHOCOLATE

The maker of Cadbury chocolate is close to introducing heat-resistant bars it can sell at market stalls in Africa and some of the world's hottest places. Mondelez International the maker of Cadburys products, which also makes Oreo cookies, has spent ten years on research and is close to introducing the new snacks to consumers. The product was patented last year and can withstand 40 degrees and not turn to liquid.

Thank you for reading the A & A Economic News Digest. For more information visit our website www.aacb.com or contact A & A Contract Customs Brokers Ltd. at strehler@aacb.com.

Past issues of the A&A Economic News Digest can be found at http://www.aacb.com/publications/ed/index.asp

July 2013 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting

 

July 2013 Edition

 

HEALTH

 

New data shows that Canadians consume, on average C$220,000 in publicly funded health-care over a lifetime. Spending is fairly consistent across income groups, despite significant differences in the health status of rich and poor. People in the lowest income group have $237,000 in lifetime health costs compared with $206,000 for the highest income group. The wealthy live an average of five years longer than the poor. But the wealthy also tend to be healthier, so their lifetime cost to the health-care system tends to be less.

 

FUNGUS

 

The orange-coloured fungus called roya, or coffee-leaf rust, continues to wreak economic havoc in Latin America. The fungus is hurting production and is expected to cause crop losses of US$500-million and cost 374,000 jobs in Central America alone. Roya is making some of the world's most desired coffee beans scarcer and driving up their prices. Some varieties of Guatemalan coffees now cost about 70 cents more a pound. The fungus has swept through coffee fields from Mexico to Panama, where some of the world's rarest and most expensive beans are grown.

 

ACCIDENTS

 

Each year, 1.3-million people die in car accidents and 10 countries are responsible for nearly half these deaths. Over all, India is responsible for the highest number of road deaths, followed by China and the United States. Meanwhile Eritria is home to the highest concentration of road deaths (48.4 per 100,000 people) followed by the Cook Islands, Egypt and Libya. The World Health Organization estimates that road traffic deaths will be the fifth leading cause of death by 2030.

 

WINE

 

Researchers are predicting a two-thirds fall in production in the world's premier wine regions because of climate change. The study forecasts sharp declines in wine production from Bordeaux and Rhone regions in France, Tuscany in Italy, in the Napa Valley in California and Chile by 2050, as a warming climate makes it harder to grow grapes in traditional wine country. But is also anticipates a big push into areas once considered unsuitable. This could mean more grape varieties from Northern Europe, including Britain, the U.S. Northwest and the hills of central China. Wine grapes are one of the most sensitive crops to subtle shifts in temperatures, rain and sunshine.

 

REFUGE

 

Last year, 32.4-million people around the world were forced to flee their homes by disasters such as floods, storms and earthquakes. While Asia and west and central Africa bore the brunt, 1.3-million were displaced in rich countries, with the United States particularly affected. Ninety-eight per cent of all displacement was prompted by climate and weather-related events, with flood disasters in India and Nigeria accounting for 41 per cent of global displacement in 2012. In India, monsoon floods affected 6.9-million people and in Nigeria, 6.1-million.

 

CUBA

 

Five decades after Fidel Castro ordered golf courses to be closed in Cuba because he considered them to be elitist, the island's Communist government has approved the construction of a luxury golf resort, complete with an 18-hole golf course. The US$350-million resort is the start of a new policy to increase the presence of golf in Cuba according to the Ministry of Tourism. A second golf project with Chinese investment is expected to be approved by the end of the year. Other resorts will then be developed gradually across the island with Spanish, Vietnamese and Russian funding.

 

NIGERIA

 

Some 60 per cent of Nigeria's 167-million people are farmers and farming accounts for 41 per cent of the GDP of Nigeria according to the Central Bank. Nigeria's governments talk grandly about the potential of large scale agri-business but the country still awaits its green revolution. Nigeria should be able to feed itself but fails to do so. It spends about US$11-billion a year importing food and is the world's largest buyer of rice. Before the discovery of oil in the 1970s, Nigeria was the world's biggest exporter of peanuts and palm oil but since then farming has been neglected and less than half of Nigeria's arable land is used.

 

PAINT

 

Houses could be painted with a super-material that generates electricity from sunlight and can even change colour on request, according to new research. Manchester University scientists used wafers of grapheme with thin layers of other materials to produce solar-powered surfaces. The resulting surfaces, which are paper-thin and flexible are able to absorb sunlight to produce electricity at a level that would rival existing solar panels. These could be used to create a "coat" on the outside of buildings to generate power needed to run appliances inside while also carrying out other functions too, such as being able to change colour.

 

DEBT

 

Danes are the most indebted people in the world with personal debt that is equal to almost three times income. Denmark is the Scandinavian economy hardest hit by the global financial crisis. Households there saw their personal wealth drop by US$69,900 on average since the property market peaked in 2007 when house prices dropped by 20 per cent, wiping out more than 12 banks.

 

MARKETS

 

Between 2000 and 2010 Latino buying power in the U.S. has more than doubled. But wooing Latino consumers is easier said than done. And as they grow richer and more numerous, their tastes are changing too. One sign of the shift is language. When Latino advertising was born in the 1980s, a largely immigrant audience could safely be addressed in Spanish. Today, most Hispanics were born in the U.S. and only 23 per cent of the young ones prefer Spanish to English. 62 per cent reside in California, Florida, Texas or New York. Marketing to Latinos was once a niche affair, Now it can be at the heart of a campaign.

 

AIRPORTS

 

It is estimated that Canadians are cross-border shopping for cheaper air fares which cost the country's airline business an estimated 70 flights a day. A recent Senate committee report recommends giving the carriers a fee break that could help them fight back by ending rental charges for the use of the country's 26 busiest airports as a means of making Canadian airlines more competitive. It is estimated that the leakage of Canadian airline passengers to the U.S. in 2010 cost the GDP C$1.1-billion, 8,890 jobs and $190-million in tax revenues.

 

TRENDS

 

A Swedish start-up is selling a stamp-sized wearable camera called Momento that you can pin on your clothes which takes a photograph every thirty seconds ensuring that no experience, however mundane, will go undocumented. The device also has an app and cloud-storage, so your pictorial record of commuting, shopping or cooking can be searched and shared. Something must have appealed as when Momento tried to raise US$50,000 on a crowdfunding platform, it raked in more than $500,000. It will sell for $279 and will offer support services such as storage for a subscription fee.

 

SHORTAGES

 

First it was milk, then butter, coffee and cornmeal ran short, now Venezuela is running out of the most basic of necessities, toilet paper. The embattled government has had to import 50-million rolls recently as state-controlled prices have led to shortages of basic consumer goods. Economists say that Venezuela's shortages stem from price controls meant to make basic goods available to the poorest parts of society and the government controls on foreign currency.

 

LUMBER

 

Canada's lumber producers ought to be enjoying the fruits of a U.S. housing recovery but they cannot take advantage of it. The forestry companies say that a shortage of rail cars is causing them to lose sales and market share, just as American demand for their products returns after a long, severe slump. The problems the companies face include irate customers threatening to impose penalties for late delivery; empty ships sitting uselessly in port for lack of timber to move; and idled shipments that have to be stored under tents.

 

COAL

 

The coal mining industry in British Columbia contributes C$3.2-billion in value added GDP to the provincial economy. It also pays $715-million in total tax payments by the coal industry to all levels of government. There are 10 operating mines in BC which contribute 40 per cent to the national coal production. The industry contributes 21.8 per cent of B.C.'s total exports. 26,000 jobs in BC are attributable to the coal industry with estimated annual earnings of $95,174 for workers directly employed by coal companies.

 

DRUGSTORES

 

Canada's major drugstores say they can help save provinces up to C$11-billion over three years if pharmacists were to get the green light to treat minor illnesses, administer vaccines and manage chronic conditions. While provinces have moved to varying degrees in these areas, more can be done that would result in better health outcomes for patients and urgently needed government savings, the stores say.

 

POVERTY

 

The OECD reports that the gap between rich and poor widened more in the three years to 2010 than in the previous 12 years. It says the richest 10 per cent of society in the 33 OECD countries received 9.5 times that of the poorest in terms of income. Those with the biggest gap included the U.S., Turkey, Mexico and Chile. The OECD says that this gap will grow wider if governments do not stop cutting back on welfare programs which they have been doing to reduce debt and balance government books as tax revenues have fallen because of weak growth.

 

CROPS

 

British scientists have developed a new type of wheat which could increase productivity by 30 per cent. The group has combined an ancient ancestor of wheat with a modern variety to produce a new strain. In early trials the resulting crop seemed bigger and stronger than the current modern wheat varieties but it will take at least five years of tests and regulatory approval before it can be harvested by farmers. One in five of all the calories consumed around the world come from wheat.

 

TAXES

 

The U.S. Senate has passed a bill that would impose sales taxes on online retailers. The vote to enable States to collect the taxes now has to go to the House of Representatives where some Republicans oppose it as a new tax. States lost US$12-billion last year in sales on online purchases. The law would not apply to retailers with less than $1-million in online sales.

 

COMPUTERS

 

China has overtaken the U.S. as the world's biggest market for personal computers. Shipments to the country rose to 69-million units in 2012. The U.S. was the biggest market up until 2011. Last year, it had orders for 66-million units. China is also the world's biggest market with more than 500-million users. Laptops are the fastest growing sector in developed markets and have overtaken PCs, but in China, sales of desktops and laptops is evenly split.

 

TATTOOS

 

A New York real estate company is allegedly offering a 15-per cent raise to employees who get the company's logo tattooed on their bodies. A total of 40 employees have now been tattooed.

 

Thank you for reading the A & A Economic News Digest. For more information visit our website www.aacb.com or contact A & A Contract Customs Brokers Ltd. at strehler@aacb.com.

 

Past issues of the A&A Economic News Digest can be found at http://www.aacb.com/publications/ed/index.asp

June 2013 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting

 
June 2013 Edition
BOOKS

The book industry has felt more pain than pleasure in the past few years, largely thanks to technology. But in only three years, things have changed for electronic books. American publishers generated US$2.1-billion in revenue from them in 2012, up more than 3,200 per cent since 2008. In theory e-books offer better margins because they are cheaper to produce but publishers worry that customers will soon expect to pay less for all books which will impact profits. However, if piracy hits publishing as it did music, profits could evaporate anyway.

FISH

The international organization of fishing countries has decided to follow scientific recommendations and maintain strict quotas on the fishing of endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna resisting the call for a major increase in quotas. The quota will rise from 12,900 tonnes a year to 13,500, within the limits recommended by scientists. Lax quotas resulted in stocks of bluefin falling by 60 per cent from 1997 to 2007.

LIGHT

A group of University of Toronto graduates claim to have built the most energy-efficient light bulb in the world. At about 200 per cent more efficiency than the current wave of energy-saving LED technology, the Nanolight doesn't even look like a regular bulb.The 10-or 12-watt bulbs which cost C$30 and $40 respectively, pump out the equivalent of 75 or 100 watts, and pay for themselves over their lifespan, about 20 years at three hours per day. The first bulbs will be shipped by September. It is not a bad time to revolutionize the LED business which is estimated to be worth $1-billion by 2014.

COMPUTERS

The number of personal computers shipped in the first three months of this year decreased by almost 14 per cent, the largest drop since worldwide sales began to be tracked by International Data Corp. in 1984. The drop highlights a generational shift among users who have turned to the convenience and portability of tablets and smartphones for most of their computing needs.

BUILDING

China is building a high eco-city where no one will need to drive. Outside Chengdu in central China, a 78-million square foot site has been allocated for an unconventional construction project: It will be a city built from scratch for 80,000 people, none of whom will need a car to get around.The ambitious urban centre is designed to limit its residents environmental impact by producing clean energy, reducing waste and promoting public transportation over individual car use. The project expects to reduce energy use by 48 per cent, water use by 58 per cent and produce 89 per cent less waste compared to a conventional development.

EUROPE

Households in Europe's fragile southern countries have far higher paper wealth than in Germany. A report compiled through a survey of over 60,000 households across the euro zone between 2009 and 2010 shows a dichotomy between cash strapped governments and wealth citizens. Households in Cyprus, whose government recently agreed to a 10-billion euro (US$13-billion) rescue from the European Union and the IMF, are the second wealthiest in the euro zone with an average net wealth of 670,000 euros, trailing only Luxembourg whose households had accumulated net wealth of more than 700,000 euros. German households had just under 200,000 euros in net wealth.

PORTS

Until recently, Duqm was a dusty fishing village and little else. Home to Bedouin tribes it lies 450km south of Muscat, Oman's capital. But in the next decade it is to be turned into a vast port and international business hub. A dry dock, the second biggest in the Middle East, has already been built at a cost of US$1.5-billion. Its quays stretch for 4km and a special economic zone is to be ringed with a petro chemical factory, a refinery, an airport, beach front hotels, and housing for more than 100,000 people. The project is to use this export hub to make Oman's economy less reliant on dwindling reserves of oil.

RIVERS

More than half the rivers previously thought to have existed in China appear to be missing, according to 80,000 surveyors who compiled the first national water census. Only 22,909 rivers were located, compared with the more than 50,000 in the 1990s. Officials are blaming the apparent loss on climate change, arguing it has caused waterways to vanish and on mistakes by earlier cartographers. Environmental experts though say the disappearance of the rivers is real and a result of headlong, ill-conceived development where projects are often imposed without public consultation.

PAY

Australia, Norway and Canada lead the world with the highest salaries in the oil and natural gas industry, according to a new survey. Average annual salaries for locally employed professionals in the industry are highest in Australia at the equivalent of US$163,600, while Norwegians earned $152,600. Average salaries in the U.S. were $121,400 ranking below Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands. The average global annual salary was $87,300, an 8.5 per cent increase from the previous year.Local workers in the Sudan earned the least at $31,100.

LAND

Between 2001 and 2011, corporations bought or leased an estimated 227-million hectares of property around the world, a land grab that's about equal to Quebec and Alberta combined. The top countries where land was purchased were: Indonesia, Malaysia and India for agriculture and forestry and Brazil and the Philippines for agriculture and resources extraction. An Alberta based corporation purchased 2,500 square kilometres of forestry land in Australia for C$412-million in 2011 and a Toronto company bought $28.7-million of agricultural landholdings in Uruguay.

CASH

Moody's Investor Service estimates that at the end of 2012 non-financial companies in America had amassed a record cash pile of US$1.45-trillion, much of it because of the swelling coffers at tech companies. Apple had by far the most cash , with $137-billion in hand which is facing investor pressure to return more of its money mountain to shareholders. The next cash-rich companies were Microsoft, Google, Pfizer and Cisco Systems.

E-COMMERCE

As China is set to become the world's biggest economy, it's e-commerce market is overtaking America's. One giant company dominates the market: Alibaba, by some measures already the world's largest e-commerce company. Last year, two of Alibaba's portals together handled US$170-billion in sales, more than eBay and Amazon combined. Alibaba is on track to become the world's first e-commerce firm to handle $1-trillion a year in sales. Alibaba's sites account for over 60 per cent of parcels delivered in China. The company is expected to go public shortly and estimates for the initial public offering range from $55-billion to $120-billion.

TRENDS

In 1980, more than half French adults were consuming wine on a near-daily basis. Today that figure has fallen to 17 per cent. Meanwhile, the proportion of French who never drink wine has doubled to 38 per cent.

BEES

The mysterious malady that has been killing honey bees for several years appears to have expanded drastically last year. U.S. commercial beekeepers say it has wiped out 40- to 50-per cent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation's fruits and vegetables. A conclusive explanation has so far eluded scientists studying the ailment since it surfaced in 2005. A quarter of the American diet, from apples to cherries, to watermelons to onions depends on pollination by honeybees. Fewer bees mean smaller harvests and higher food prices.

NEWS

Canadians are increasingly choosing pixels over paper and ink when it comes to getting their news. A new survey found that while fewer people are reading traditional newspapers, they are still turning to established publications when looking for their news online. The Globe and Mail leads all publications in terms of national readership, with a national audience of 3.5-million in print and online. Online readership is 1.7-million readers weekly and is steadily gaining on print readership of 2.5-million. Numbers add up to more than 3.5-million because many readers consume both print and online versions.

E-CIGARETTES

Electronic cigarettes are now posing a serious threat to the large tobacco companies. In 2012, sales of e-cigarettes in America were between $300- and $500-million. This is paltry compared with the $80-billion-plus market for conventional cigarettes in the country. But e-cigarette sales doubled last year and are expected to double again in 2013 and it is believed that sales of e-cigarettes could overtake sales of normal cigarettes within a decade. E-cigarettes work by turning nicotine-infused liquid into vapour, which is then inhaled. A user is said to be "vaping," not smoking. Last year, one large U.S. tobacco company bought an e-cigarette maker for $135-million.

COUPONS

Ninety-five per cent of Americans use coupons when shopping and 73 per cent say they use them at least a couple of times a month. While 78 per cent of respondents named the Sunday paper as the source for their coupons, 61 per cent also use online sites for coupons and promotion codes. Age is a factor with 85 per cent of those 45 or older clipping coupons from the Sunday paper. When shopping 67 per cent of respondents say they check their smart phones to see if there is a better deal elsewhere.

TRAVEL

The UN World Tourism Organization reports that the Chinese have now become the single biggest source of global tourism after spending US$102-billion on travelling abroad in 2012. Higher incomes, looser travel restrictions and a strengthening economy are behind the surge which is 45 per cent higher than the year before and puts China well above the next two highest spending countries, Germany and the U.S. The Russian Federation also saw spending rise by 32 per cent to $43-billion.

APPLIANCES

The real estate boom is being credited with the boom in the sales of small appliances in Canada. Sales of products such as blenders, mixers, deep fryers and coffee makers grew to C$122-million in 2012, from $22-million in 2009. In the same period, sales of consumer electronics, excluding smartphones and tablets were down 17 per cent. Sales of traditional drip coffee makers dropped to $52-million from $59-million in 2009.

FISH

Global consumption of fish and seafood per person is rising steeply, but research also shows that much of what gets sold turns out to be not as described on the packaging. Cheap fish is being substituted for expensive fish and new varieties, never being consumed are being detected in fish dishes. Researchers believe there is large-scale deception going on. For example, scientists found that seven per cent of cod and haddock, the staples of British fish and chips are actually cheaper fish substituted to save costs.

SPENDING

The City of Waterloo, Ont, plans to spend as much as C$90,000 studying whether to erect a wind turbine despite a report saying the city wasn't windy enough. Ottawa is giving another $63,000 to keep studying the project.

Thank you for reading the A & A Economic News Digest. For more information visit our website www.aacb.com or contact A & A Contract Customs Brokers Ltd. at strehler@aacb.com.

Past issues of the A&A Economic News Digest can be found at http://www.aacb.com/publications/ed/index.asp

May 2013 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting

 
May 2013 Edition
LOBSTER

Last year, C$4.1-billion worth of Canadian seafood landed on tables in more than 100 countries. with lobster remaining the most valuable export. More than 60 per cent of Canada's seafood exports were shipped to the U.S. last year at a value of $2.6-billion but China and the European Union remain major markets, each taking in hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Canadian seafood products last year. Canada has a significant opportunity to gain preferential access to the European Union, a 500-million consumer market and the world's largest importer of fish and seafood, importing an average of $25-billion annually.

OIL

China overtook America last December as the world's biggest oil importer for the first time. America's net oil imports slid to 5.98-million barrels a day, the lowest since February 1992, while China's rose to 6.12-million. America's reliance on oil imports has fallen as domestic production has surged to 7-million barrels a day, mostly because of the boom in shale oil.

PAINT

A German food company has invented an edible spray paint for people wanting to give meals a splash of colour. The cans, called Food Finish, come in gold, silver, red and blue. The spray paint has no taste by itself and can be applied to any item of food to offer a quirky alternative to regular meals. Cooking enthusiasts must spray the paint layer by layer and wait for it to dry to enjoy the perfect finish.

LOANS

There are disturbing signs that the number of Canadian students defaulting on their loans is rising. Recently, the government announced it was writing off more than 44,000 student loans that were in default, totalling C$231-million. That represents loans that the government has been trying to collect for more than six years, after which it is barred from going after debtors under the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act. The default amount has more than doubled since 2010 when the government wrote off $89-million. In total, $540-million has been written off over the last three years.

TRAFFIC

Global internet traffic continues to grow. Over the past five years the amount of active capacity on subsea cables has grown threefold, the fastest spurt since the internet went mainstream more than a decade ago. Then, the majority of traffic flowed between the U.S. and Europe. Now, trans-Atlantic bandwidth accounts for only a quarter of the capacity in use. The fastest growing region for traffic is Asia. Intra-Asian connections have overtaken the trans-Pacific ones. New undersea cable links for sub-Sahara Africa have given the continent more connectivity at lower cost.

TREES

The scourge has come from Asia and has destroyed tens of millions of trees in America. Now Massachusetts has become the latest state to impose a quarantine on ash-wood in an effort to halt its spread. The emerald ash borer has already wrought havoc in 17 other states and in Canada, depleting stocks of a valuable hardwood used to make baseball bats, flooring, tool handles and kitchen cabinets, among other things. The metallic green beetle was discovered in Michigan in 2002 but probably arrived years earlier in wooden packing material aboard a ship that docked near Detroit.

MUSIC

Sales of recorded music grew in 2012 for the first time since 1999, albeit by only 0.3 per cent. The internet sank the music industry but is now helping it to resurface. Digital sales rose 9 per cent last year; a third of the industry's revenue now comes through digital channels. Download stores represents roughly 70 per cent of digital revenues. Over 100 countries now host digital music services for download and streaming, compared with only 23 in January 2011.

BONUSES

The bonus pool for people working in the securities industry in the city of New York rose by 8 per cent last year, to US$20-billion. And with fewer workers to divide the spoils, the average bonus increased to $121,800. The industry employed 1,000 fewer workers last year and has only regained 30 per cent of the jobs lost during the financial crisis. Business and personal income tax from Wall Street used to make up around 20 per cent of the state's tax revenues: last year it was only 14 per cent. The average pay for someone on Wall Street, including bonuses, has risen to almost $362,900, over five times more than New York's other private-sector workers.

ENERGY

General Electric became the world's biggest manufacturer of wind turbines in 2012. Vestas, a Danish company, had held the top spot since 2000. It has struggled recently, partly because the European push for wind power has been curtailed by the debt crisis. GE on the other hand, benefitted from activity in the U.S. to install turbines ahead of the expiration of a tax break, which was subsequently extended.

ATTENDANCE

When Pele signed a contract for US$4.7-million with the New York Cosmos in 1975, the great Brazilian was said to be the highest paid athlete in the world. Football in America is in a very different state now. More high-schoolers play soccer than baseball. One recent ESPN poll showed that Americans between the ages of 12 and 24 ranked professional soccer as their second favourite sport, behind only American football. Attendance at Major League Soccer matches is now higher than at National Hockey League and National Basketball Association games.

SPAM

A recent study in the Netherlands has found that about 50 per cent of all junk e-mail emerges from 20 internet service providers. A survey of more than 42,000 ISPs tried to map the nets "bad neighbourhoods" to help pinpoint sources of malicious mail. Of the 42,201 ISPs studied, about 50 per cent of all junk mail came from just 20 networks. Many of these were concentrated in India, Vietnam and Brazil. On the net's most crime-ridden network, Spectranet in Nigeria, 62 per cent of all the addresses controlled by that ISP were seen to be sending out spam.

COSMETICS

A complete ban on the sale of cosmetics developed through animal testing has taken effect in the EU. The ban applies to all new cosmetics and their ingredients sold in the EU, regardless of where in the world testing on animals was carried out. The 27 EU countries have had a ban on such tests in place since 2009, but the EU is now asking the EU's trading partners to do the same.

WATER

In 2011, about 22 per cent of Canadian households reported that they drank primarily bottled water at home, down from 24 per cent in 2009 and 30 per cent in 2007. In contrast, 68 per cent reported that they drank primarily tap water, an increase from 66 per cent in 2009. Households are increasingly using water conservation devices in the home. About 63 per cent reported using low-flow shower heads, more than twice the proportion of 28 per cent in 1991. 47 per cent of households have low-volume toilets, a five fold increase from 9 per cent in 1990 and more than twice the proportion of 28 per cent in 1991.

HERITAGE

According to the Census, there are 34.5-million Americans who list their heritage as either primarily or partially Irish. That number is seven times larger than the population of Ireland itself (4.68-million). Irish is the second-most common ancestry among Americans, falling just behind German. New York has the most concentrated Irish population, 12.9 per cent of its residents claim Irish ancestry, followed by Boston. Miami is the least Irish city along with Southern Texas.

COMPETITION

U.S. Federal agencies awarded US$115.2-billion in no-bid contracts in fiscal year 2012, an 8.9 per cent increase from $105.8-billion from 2009. In 2009, contracts awarded without competition made up about 20 per cent of total dollars awarded, compared with 23 per cent in 2012. Lockheed Martin the Number one U.S. contractor, captured the greatest share of no-bid contracts with about $17.4-billion. Boeing received the second largest amount, about $17.1-billion and Raytheon was third with about $7.04-billion.

KENYA

The Great Rift Valley in Kenya is a 700-kilometre volcanic trench ripped open by shifting tectonic plates, known as the cradle of mankind for the million-old remains of human forebears discovered there. Oil drillers say the area also holds a string of fields that could make East Africa's largest economy, a major energy producer. It is estimated that the valley could yield 10-billion barrels, enough to supply Kenya for three centuries, or the U.S. for about 18-months.

SEEDING

Chile's government will carry out a record cloud-seeding program in 2013 to alleviate a fourth year of drought that's hurting the country's fruit and wine industries.Seeding in other regions of Chile helped reduce a shortage in rainfall by 10 per cent. The government pumped US$152-million last year into its irrigation program that includes artificial dams and cloud seeding.

DIESEL

Demand for diesel fuel has long been a signal of financial health as trucks surge onto the roads in good times and stay parked when the economy slows. But amid broader shifts in the transportation industry such as tightening fuel economy standards, cargo diversion onto more efficient trains and conversion to natural gas powered trucks, diesel has become disconnected from economic growth. U.S. diesel demand has steadily fallen since mid-2011 and in January was down nearly 9 per cent. At the same time, trucking activity grew some 2.5 per cent in 2012.

FISH

Scientist have warned that a fishing rethink is needed after finding that catches of fish trigger a rapid change in the gene pool of fish stocks. Over-harvesting larger fish leads to a population of smaller fish that are less fertile and these changes happen within just a few generations. These findings could have a massive impact for the future of global fishing policies.

ABSINTHE

A vote by the European Parliament has left the EU divided over how to define absinthe, the intensely alcoholic drink nicknamed "the green fairy." After its heyday in the 19th Century it was the subject of a long ban in much of Europe, only lifted in recent years. Today it is produced across Europe, from Italy to the Czech Republic. The drink comes in a variety of flavours and colours and at issue is whether absinthe needs to contain minimum levels of two substances, anethole and the chemical thujone, a toxin extracted from wormwood, which reputedly has mind-altering effects.

CAMEL MILK

Once the sole preserve of nomadic Somali and Middle East communities, camel milk, which is semi-skimmed, three times as rich in vitamin C as cows' milk and packed with antibodies is increasingly being recognised for its health benefits by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and health conscious consumers. In Nairobi, camel milk is now available in restaurants and supermarkets. Camels can produce milk during the dry season and in times of drought.

TECHNOLOGY

A Brazilian doctor faces charges of fraud after being caught on camera using silicon fingers to sign in for work for absent colleagues. The prosthetic fingers were used to fool the biometric attendance device.

Thank you for reading the A & A Economic News Digest. For more information visit our website www.aacb.com or contact A & A Contract Customs Brokers Ltd. at strehler@aacb.com.

Past issues of the A&A Economic News Digest can be found at http://www.aacb.com/publications/ed/index.asp

April 2013 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting

 

April 2013 Edition

 

TRADE

According to the World Bank, the value of exports from developing countries to other developing countries (South-South trade) now exceeds exports from poor countries to rich ones (South-North trade). In 2002, developing countries bought only 40 per cent of total developing country exports, the rest went to rich nations. In 2010 the share was split evenly, now the developing country share is larger. Developing countries have been increasing their role in everything, such as world output and bank loans, and their share of world trade has doubled from 16 per cent in 1991 to 32 per cent in 2011. 

WINE

Consumption of wine in Canada is growing three times faster than globally and Canada is projected to be the fifth fastest-growing wine market in the next five years. Between 2007 and 2011, Canadian wine consumption increased by 14.55 per cent, hitting 43.21-million cases in 2011; one case represents 12 bottles. Most of the wine is imported but Canada is now strong on the production side and domestic wines are getting more popular. 

WATER

Cotton with a special coating that collects water from fog is a potential solution to providing water in desert regions. Dutch researchers have developed a special polymer treatment for cotton fabric that allows the cotton to absorb exceptional amounts of water from misty air, as much as 240 per cent of its own weight compared with only 18 per cent without the coating. The coated cotton then releases the collected water as it gets warmer. The water is pure and the cycle can be repeated many times. 

COFFEE

Changing climate threatens to reduce the flow of coffee which presently fills 1.6-billion cups each day according to the New Scientist. It may not be long before an espresso costs more than a glass of wine. There are some 26-million farmers who depend on coffee to feed their families. The apparently insatiable demand has made coffee the second most traded commodity after oil, with exports worth US$15-billion each year. All that is under threat because the coffee industry is built on a plant that is peculiarly vulnerable to our changing climate. 

ADVERTISING

The unique "Find Yourself Here" tourism campaign for Newfoundland has racked up 173 awards so far but is now facing many competitors. Since the campaign began, non-resident visits to the province have risen by 22 per cent and visitor spending is up by 37 per cent. Tourism in the province is set to become a billion-dollar business. 

CARS

Honda officials report that the only Chinese-made car on sale in Canada has been a success so far after importing the Fit subcompact from a Honda plant in China for a year. Fit sales grew to 4,736 in 2012 from 2,835 in 2011 helped by the greater availability of the car from China, though Honda could sell more of the cars in Canada if it could get them. 

LANGUAGE

Data from the 2011 census reveals that Polish is now the second language in England. The survey of 54.1-million residents of England and Wales shows 546,000 speak Polish making it England's second main language. There are still slightly more Welsh speakers in Wales at 562,000. The next biggest main languages are the south Asian languages of Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali and Gujarati followed by Arabic, French, Chinese and Portuguese. 

RICE 

A gene that raises rice yields by enhancing root growth and nutrient absorption in low quality soils has been identified in a species of rice in India and successfully introduced into other rice varieties. Scientists and rice breeders have known for years that Kasalath rice is unusually efficient at nutrient absorption but have only just identified the gene responsible. Using conventional breeding methods they introduced the gene into a few rice types in Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan and found that it raised yield by up to 20 per cent. 

ACCESS

According to the United Nations, the world now has nearly as many cellphone subscriptions as inhabitants. At the end of 2011, there were about six billion subscriptions, roughly one for 86 of every 100 people. China alone accounted for 1-billion subscriptions and India should hit the 1-billion mark this year. 2.3-billion people, or about one in three of the world's 7-billion inhabitants, were Internet users by the end of 2011, but there is a strong disparity between rich and developing countries.

CARDS

A credit card with an LCD display and built-in keyboard has been launched in Singapore by Mastercard. The card has touch-sensitive buttons and the ability to create a "one-time password" doing away with the need for a separate device sometimes needed to log in to online banking. Eventually the card will be rolled out globally and could display information such as loyalty or reward points or recent transaction history. 

WATER

Mexico and the U.S. have agreed new rules on sharing water from the Colorado River, which serves some 30-million people in the two nations. Under the deal, the US will send less water to Mexico during a drought, while Mexico will be able to store water north of the border during wet years. The Colorado River flows 2,230km from the Rockies into the Gulf of California. The US and Mexico signed a treaty in 1944 governing the allocation of resources from the Colorado River, which supplies seven US and two Mexican states. Mexico will also get US$10-million to repair irrigation channels damaged during a 2010 earthquake.

PATENTS

Last year, 14,205 patent applications for computer-related products and technologies were filed. In 2011 that figure was 11,974 showing an increase of 19 per cent in 2012. Graphene has been a particularly popular patent subject in 2012. It is an ultra-thin carbon layer that can be used to make flexible screens and the potential for graphene in the next generation of devices is huge.

FARMING

Sales of fruits and vegetables by Canadian farmers reached C$1.7-billion in 2012, up 9.2 per cent from 2011. Fruit sales increased 13 per cent to $872-million while vegetable sales rose 5.4 per cent to $874-million. The largest contributors to vegetable sales were carrots with $92-million in sales, tomatoes ($82-million), sweet corn ($72-million) and cabbage ($63-million). Among fruits, sales of cranberries rose 43 per cent and sales of blueberries were up 22 per cent. Unseasonable spring weather caused a drop in apple sales of 32 per cent. Farmers in Quebec, Ontario and B.C. account for more than 88 per cent of Canadian fruit and vegetable sales.

CONNECTIVITY

Cuba has been connected to the global Internet for the first time with a high-speed cable. The US$70-million cable arrived from Venezuela last year but tests on the line have only just begun. Cubans currently rely on expensive and slow satellite links to go online. Government and research institutions are expected to be the first beneficiaries of the new connection.

MELTING

Glaciers in the tropical Andes have shrunk by 30-50 per cent since the 1970s. The glaciers, which provide fresh water for tens of millions in South America, are retreating at their fastest rate in 300 years. The Santa River valley in Peru could be the most affected, its hundreds of thousands of inhabitants rely heavily on glacier water for agriculture, domestic consumption and hydropower. Also, La Paz in Bolivia gets 15 per cent of its water from glaciers, increasing to 27 per cent in the dry season.

CARTELS

After talks in Colombo between Sri Lanka, India, Kenya, Indonesia, Malawi and Rwanda, which account for more than 50 per cent of global tea production, the nations announced the formation of the International Tea Producers' Forum. Efforts will initially focus on sharing knowledge and boosting demand for tea to raise prices, but more sophisticated and controversial methods such as supply controls could be raised in the future. A tea cartel was proposed in 1994 but there was no unity among producing nations at the time.

SPACE

A U.S company is looking to asteroids for precious metals. It hopes to land spacecrafts on asteroids and have them scrape up material for return to Earth for sale. The company has unveiled plans to hunt for small asteroids that pass close to Earth which might one day be mined for their precious resources. It is intended that a series of low cost prospecting satellites will be launched in 2015 on missions of two to six months, with larger spaceships embarking on round-trips to collect materials a year later.

GERMANY

Britain has now become Germany's biggest trading partner. The Anglo-German trade in goods and services in the first nine months of 2012 was US$207-billion with both exports and imports going at double digit rates with British exports to Germany rising 20 per cent. The surge was led by medical equipment, drugs, car components and petroleum goods. It is one of the fastest growing trade relationships in the developed world.

GOLD

India has raised its gold import tax to tackle its trade deficit. The import tax is rising from 4 per cent to six per cent a year, after doubling from 2 to 4 per cent. The government wants to curb imports of gold. India is the biggest importer of gold in the world. Many Indians buy gold jewellery and coins to protect the value of their money in the face of inflation.

TVs

More than 13,000 households across the UK are still using black-and-white television sets according to the TV Licensing authority. London has the biggest number of monochrome licences at 2,715, followed by Birmingham and Manchester. The number of licences issued has dwindled from 212,000 in 2000. A total of 13,202 monochrome licences were in force at the beginning of 2013. Black-and white licenses cost US$77.50 a year and colour $230.

MOVIES

Attendance at movies in the U.S. has risen for the first time in three years, bucking a trend of declining audiences. Takings were a record US$10.8-billion, this growth can largely be attributed to inflation and rising ticket prices. Ticket sales hit their modern peak in 2002 when 1.6-billion tickets were sold. International box office takings for 2013 are predicted to be $23-billion.

MEALS

Newcastle University researchers say that recipes by prominent TV chefs are less healthy than supermarket ready meals. The meals in TV chefs' cookbooks contained more calories, fat, saturated fat and sugar, but less salt. The study, published in the British Medical Journal compared 100 main meals from four TV chefs, who had books at the top of the bestsellers charts to 100 supermarket ready meals. These were then compared to nutritional guidelines set by the World Health Organization. However, it was widely agreed that cooking from scratch was healthier than buying prepared meals.

NOTES

Botanists have pointed out that the maple leaves featured on Canada's new C$20, $50 and $100 notes are Norway maple leaves, not Canadian ones.

Thank you for reading the A & A Economic News Digest. For more information visit our website www.aacb.com or contact A & A Contract Customs Brokers Ltd. at strehler@aacb.com.

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March 2013 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting

 

March 2013 Edition

 

GARLIC

Trade in illegal garlic in Europe has become so serious that inspectors have had to resort to forensic data analysis, mobile X-ray machines, DNA labs and a whistleblowing website. Contraband garlic in the EU has been depriving authorities of tens of millions of euros in lost taxes. China produced 18,560,000 tons of garlic in 2010, 82 per cent of the world's output, according to the United Nations. Growers from other countries complain they cannot compete against the cheap, abundant Chinese crop. Garlic smuggling cases are, after meat and sugar, the most common type of agricultural investigations probed in Europe.

THREATS

According to the World Economic Forum, a major systemic financial failure, extreme weather patterns, a water-supply crisis, weapons of mass destruction, cyber attacks and stark income disparity, are just a few of the major risks to the global economy this year. The single most likely risk in the next decade is severe income disparity, according to a study, based on a survey of more than 1,000 experts in industry, government and academia who were asked to assess 50 global risks. This is the second year in a row the widening gaps between the world's richest and poorest citizens was flagged as the most likely global risk.

ADVERTISING

Operating revenues for the Canadian advertising and related services industry rose 2.1 per cent between 2010 and 2011 to C$6.9-billion. The strongest increase was in Alberta with 11.2 per cent and the lowest in New Brunswick with a 16.5 per cent decrease. Among the different industries, the strongest growth was posted by direct mail advertising. As in previous years, firms in Ontario accounted for most of the revenue generated by the industry with 59.9 per cent, followed by Quebec, 23.4 per cent and British Columbia with 8.4 per cent.

CARS

Canadians ignored the anaemic economic recovery and warnings about mushrooming household debt to drive 1,676-million cars off dealers' lots in 2012, with favourable financing conditions propelling the industry to the second-highest sales year on record. The best year was in 2002 with sales of 1,707-million vehicles sold. The strong Canadian dollar helped but over the past decade, new auto prices have dropped an average of one per cent each year.

DIET

Researchers in the Netherlands say that the wriggly beetle larvae known as mealworms could one day dominate supermarket shelves as a more sustainable alternative to chicken, beef, pork and milk. Currently, livestock use about 70 per cent of all farmland. In addition, the demand for animal protein continues to rise globally, and is expected to grow by up to 80 per cent between 2012 and 2050. The researchers found that growing mealworms released less greenhouse gases than producing cow milk, chicken, pork and beef. Growing mealworms takes up only about ten per cent of land used to produce beef, 30 per cent for pork and 40 per cent of the land used to produce chicken to generate similar amounts of protein.

GERMS

According to scientists, brass door knobs, handles and handrails should be brought back into common use in public places to help combat superbugs. Researchers have discovered that copper and alloys made from the metal, including brass, can prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Plastic and stainless steel surfaces, which are now widely used in hospitals and public settings, allow bacteria to survive and spread when people touch them, Even if the bacteria die, DNA that gives them resistance to antibiotics and survive can be passed on to other bacteria on these surfaces. Copper and brass however, can kill the bacteria and destroy this DNA.

HOUSING

With a surge in record-setting trophy sales to billionaires, the Manhattan apartment market had its strongest year in 2012 since the peak of the real-estate boom in 2008. The number of sales rose by 10.5 per cent compared with a year earlier, even for lower priced apartments and median prices continued to rebound. Five of the 10 most-expensive residential sales on record in Manhattan closed in 2012, including the three most expensive. There were 11 sales at more than US$30-million each, more than double the number in 2011. The record sale was a condominium on West 62nd Street which sold for $88-million.

SAFETY

A smart test road with glow-in-the-dark pavement and weather indicators will be installed by the middle of the year in the Netherlands. The inventor has developed a photo-luminescing powder that will replace road markings, charging up in sunlight to provide up to 10 hours of glow-in-the-dark time once darkness falls. Special paint will also be used to paint markers like snowflakes across the road's surface, images which will become visible when temperatures drop to a certain level, warning drivers that the surface will likely be slippery.

RICE

Thailand is trying to put together a cartel of rice-producing countries. But unlike oil, rice rots. The alliance, which could include Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos may be announced soon with a view to raising rice prices in global markets. The five Asian nations are expected to export 15-million tons of milled rice this year, about 40 per cent of the total global trade in the staple.

PATENTS

China's patent office received more applications than any other country's in 2011, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization, a body that follows 126 patent offices. China received 526,412 applications, exceeding those for America and Japan. Globally, filings rose by 7.8 per cent, breaking the two million mark. China has accounted for 72 per cent of the world's patent-filing growth between 2009 and 2011. The U.S. contributed 16 per cent. Almost one million patents were granted in 2011; Japan has approved the most, but the U.S. has the most patents in force, more than 2.1-million out of an estimated 7.9-million worldwide.

HEMP

Canada's small hemp industry is growing, but still faces hurdles because of its illegal and potent cousin marijuana. Production of hemp is forecast to almost double by 2015, which will translate to about C$100-million to the Canadian economy. About 200 growers across the country have been licensed by Health Canada and can only plant seeds that have been approved by the federal government. Hemp is filled with nutritious Omega 3 and 6 and is used to make breakfast cereals, pretzels, protein powders, salad dressings and lactose-free milk. Fibres from the hearty plant is made into building products, paper and clothes. Hemp oil is used to make cosmetics.

GOLD

Scientists in Southampton, UK., are now able to change the colour of gold, which could have implications for jewellery-making and security features. The technique used by the scientists involves embossing tiny raised or indented patterns on the metal's surface, altering the way that it absorbs or reflects light, thus changing its colour to the naked eye. The gold can now be made red or green, or a multitude of other hues.

METALS

The U.S. Department of Energy is giving US$120-million to set up a new research centre charged with developing new methods of rare earth production. Rare earths are 17 chemically similar elements crucial to making many hightech products, such as phones and PCs. They are also used in wind turbines, solar panels and electric cars. The U.S. wants to reduce its dependency on China, which produces more than 85 per cent of the world's rare earth elements. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates there may be deposits of rare earths in 14 US states.

FOOTBALL

The U.K. Office for National Statistics reports that nearly one million tourists attended a Premier League football match last year, helping to boost the British economy by spending US$1.12-billion. Over 900,000 visitors spent an average of $1,256, an increase from 2010, when 750,000 visitors attended football games. The most popular teams to visit were Manchester United,and Liverpool. London clubs Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham were the next most popular.

WINDOWS

There was a lot of interest in the Winbot 7 at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It automatically moves along the surface of a window while cleaning and squeegeeing the glass. What makes this robot better than some others is that it uses a vacuum seal to stick onto the window instead of a separate magnet. To clean a window, you plug it into a power port, spray the cleaning pads with a solution, place it against a window and turn it on.

PCs

PC makers sold 89.8-million units worldwide in the fourth quarter of last year, down 6.4 per cent from the same quarter in 2011. For all of 2012, 352-million PCs were sold, down 3.2 per cent from 2011. That was the first annual decline since 2001. A 2.8 per cent growth is forecast for 2013. Analysts now say that people are waiting up to ten years to replace computers rather than five in the past.

TECHNOLOGY

The hotly-anticipated Pebble smartwatch, which was created thanks to US$15-million in crowdsourced funds, is now available. The Pebble has a e-ink display, similar to those found on e-readers, and lasts seven days on one battery charge. The 1.26in screen is able the display a multitude of apps as well as tell the time. On the Pebble website, the cost of the watch is US$149. Wearers can also receive text messages and e-mails through the device.

CHIPS

U.K consumers are going to have to pay more for the 382-million fish-and-chip meals they eat each year after the second wettest year in a century. Most of the country's 10,500 outlets have raised their prices for chips about 10 per cent. A medium portion of chips now costs US$2.42, 30 cents more than a month previously. This may increase again because the new crop won't be ready until summer. The average person in the U.K. eats 104.5-kilograms of potatoes a year, almost twice as many as in the U.S.

CRANES

Four cranes, each 14 stories high and costing US$40-million, have just been unloaded from China in the port of Baltimore and are being prepared for operations. They are part of the city's gamble that when supersize container ships start coming through the expanded Panama Canal in 2015, Baltimore will be one of the few ports on the East Coast ready for their business.

SIZE

San Francisco's building code has been downsized. A pilot program has been approved which will see efficiency units or apartments with reduced square footage requirements. Approval has been given to an ordinance that will change the definition of an efficiency dwelling to include units that are as small as 220 square feet, including the bathroom and closets. The Planning Commission is required to provide an analysis of the smaller living program before it can be expanded. Currently, one bedroom apartments or studios rent for about $3,000 a month.

CONVENIENCE

The idea behind the SwipeTie is simple. a silk necktie with a patch of microfibre fabric (the same stuff used for lens-cleaning cloths) behind the tip of the tie, at the ready to wipe smudges and greasy fingerprints from the screen of a smart phone or tablet.

Thank you for reading the A & A Economic News Digest. For more information visit our website www.aacb.com or contact A & A Contract Customs Brokers Ltd. at strehler@aacb.com.

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February 2013 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting

 
February 2013 Edition

LIGHT

U.S. researchers have developed a new type of lighting that could replace fluorescent bulbs. The new source is made from layers of plastic and is said to be more efficient while producing a better quality of flicker-free light. The new light source is called field-induced polymer electroluminescent technology. It is made from three layers of light-emitting polymers that contain a small volume of nanomaterials that glow when electric current is passed through them. It is believed that the first units will be produced this year. 

CUBA

Communist-run Cuba has legalized non-agricultural co-operatives as the state slowly pulls back from its centrally planned economy in favour of private initiative and market forces. The move is the latest reform under the President, Raul Castro, who wants to transform the country's Soviet-style economy into one more in line with Asian Communism where political control remains absolute, while allowing more space for the private sector. The initial stage calls for the establishment of more than 200 associations in sectors such as transportation, food services, fishing, personal and domestic services, recycling and construction. 

ENERGY

By the end of last year, Canada had about 6,500 megawatts of wind power capacity, enough to power close to two million homes. For the second consecutive year, more than 1,000 MW of power had been added to Canada's grid and there will be around 1,500 MW of new installations on average annually over the next few years. Ontario has the most installations. There are now 159 wind farms across Canada with more than 3,500 turbines. Wind power generates about 3 per cent of the country's power.

MILK

In an age of vitamin waters and energy drinks, the decades-long decline in U.S. milk consumption has accelerated, worrying dairy farmers, milk processors and grocery chains. Per capita U.S. milk consumption, which peaked around the Second World War, has fallen almost 30 per cent since 1975, even as sales of yogurt, cheese and other dairy products have risen. Children, who tend to be heavy milk drinkers, account for a smaller share of the U.S. population than they once did. Americans drank an average of 20 gallons (75 litres) of milk last year, a decline of 3.3 per cent from the previous year, and the biggest slide year-over-year since 1993.

NUMBERS

The U.S. Transportation Department has proposed a regulation imposing criminal penalties and jail time for truck and bus companies that try to evade regulations by changing their names. The rule would let the agency more effectively keep the small number of carriers with the worst safety records off the road. The Department has been criticized for not being aggressive enough in targeting rogue carriers, especially so-called chameleons who repaint their buses and transfer employees and assets to a new company.

NUMBERS

Toronto's Pearson International Airport employs 40,000 workers, creating a C$26-billion annual economic impact including revenues related to direct, indirect and induced activities. In 2011, 33.4 million passengers passed through Toronto which had 448,000 take-offs and landings. Vancouver International Airport has 23,614 direct jobs, creating a $5.3-billion gross domestic product and handles 17-million passengers. 

HACKING

Last October, it was learned that an international computer hacker had stolen from the South Carolina Department of Revenue data base, the tax records of every South Carolinian who has filed a tax return online since 1998, 3.8-million individuals and almost 850,000 businesses. It is believed to be the largest cyber-attack against a state tax agency in America's history. Hijacked information included anything listed on the tax returns, from Social Security numbers and bank account information to details about taxpayers' children. 

R&D

Gross domestic expenditure on research and development (R&D) in Canada amounted to C$30-billion last year, up slightly from 2011. Of this, Business accounted for about $15.5-billion, the higher education sector for about $11.5-billion, the federal government for about $2.5-billion and the balance by provincial governments, provincial research organizations and private non-profit organizations. 

TRAFFIC

There has been an increase in traffic on the Northern Sea Route, the icy passage along Russia's Arctic coast. Global warming has opened a route between Europe and Asia that can cut journey times by three weeks. Last year, some 50 vessels made the voyage. One ship that left Norway last November was the first to carry liquefied natural gas. It sailed for Japan where the Fukushima nuclear disaster has led to an increase in demand. 

CONSUMERS

Millions of Brazilians are leaving poverty and marching into the middle class. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the perfume sector where Brazil has now become the world's largest fragrance market, and third in the US$300-billion-plus global beauty market. Its consumer class, the biggest in the continent, also has a voracious demand appetite for cellphones, flat-screen TVs and tablet computers. According to the World Bank, throughout Latin America, once better known for hyper-inflation, political instability and high poverty, in the past decade, more than 50-million people have joined the middle class.

GROWTH

Rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may have a silver lining: doubling the size of the sweet potato, the fifth most important food crop in the developing world. Many studies of the effects of higher atmospheric carbon dioxide on crops have shown rising yields of rice, wheat and soy. The hardy sweet potato is increasingly becoming a staple in Africa and Asia, producing more edible energy per hectare per day than wheat, rice or cassava.

AUTOS

China's automobile sales and output exceeded 19-million units last year. This figure is a jump from 2011's level of 14-5-million. China hit its target of exporting one million vehicles in 2012.

China Automobiles

TRADE

Canada is reviving its long-stalled free trade talks with South Korea as the federal government shifts its negotiating focus from Europe to fast-growing Asia. South Korea is the world's 15th-largest economy. Reaching a final agreement pits the interests of auto-makers who have long fought duty-free entry of Korean vehicles such as Hyundai and Kia to Canada against the Canadian agri-food exporters who are losing market share to rivals in the U.S. and Europe which already have free trade there.

COFFEE

Record coffee harvests in Brazil, the biggest coffee grower, are compounding a global glut of arabica used by chains like Starbucks Corp. and Dunkin' Donuts Inc. which should lower their costs. Brazilian farmers will reap 50.8-million bags this year, a record for the so-called low season. The harvest reached 55.9-million 60-kilogram bags in 2012, an all time high. Output usually drops in alternate years because of growing cycles. 

THE FUTURE

The Conference Board of Canada forecasts that by 2025, Canada's exports to the U.S. will drop from about three quarters to about two-thirds. By contrast, Canada's share of goods trade with booming China will expand to almost 7 per cent from 3 per cent currently. The share of Canada's exports to India will more than double and will be roughly equal to Canada's trade with Mexico. Trade with Brazil will also double by 2025. 

HOMES

Some 50-million of China's 230-million urban households live in substandard quarters often lacking their own toilet and kitchen. It is estimated that China will need to build 10-million new apartments each year until 2030. Some may be as small as 160 square feet to be affordable. Recently, larger apartments have been the traditional focus of China's developers which can cost as much as 40 years' income. 

TVs

High-definition televisions have rapidly become the norm in U.S. homes. More than three-quarters of American homes now have a high-def TV and nearly 40 per cent have more than one. In 2007, only 11 per cent of homes had a high-def TV. However, there is more of a taste for high definition than a supply of programming. In May of 2011, 61 per cent of all prime-time viewing was done on a high-def set, yet only about 29 per cent of prime-time viewing on networks was in true high definition programming and it was even less for cable networks. Sports and entertainment are the most likely to be seen in high definition. 

GENDER

Canada is losing ground on a key measure of gender equality, sliding out of the world's top twenty list along with the United States. Canada fell three notches in the World Economic Forum's annual list, landing in 21st spot behind the Philippines, Latvia and Nicaragua. The world's most equal societies are still the Nordic ones: Iceland remains in first place followed by Finland, Norway and Sweden. Yemen is in last place in the 135-country list. 

SPEED

A new U.S. study says that setting a speed limit for cargo ships sailing near ports and coast lines could cut their emissions of air pollutants by up to 70 per cent. Such speed-reduction policies would help reduce the impact of marine shipping on Earth's climate and human health. While marine shipping is the most efficient form of transporting goods with more than 100,000 ships carrying 90 per cent of the world's cargo, engines on large cargo vessels burn low-grade oil that produces large amounts of pollution.

LOSS

It is estimated that Canadian retailers lose about C$4-billion a year to theft, accounting errors and damaged products. A Retail Council of Canada report estimates that employee theft has grown to more than 33 per cent of theft-related incidents from 19 per cent in 2008. Theft by external parties, including shoplifters and organized crime dropped to 43 per cent of reported incidents from 65 per cent in 2008. Alcohol, women's apparel, cosmetics and fragrances are among the top stolen items. 

TECHNOLOGY

Lettuce is California's main vegetable crop. The state grew US$1-6-billion worth of the plant in 2010 and accounts for more than 70 per cent of all lettuce grown in the U.S., the world's second-biggest exporter of the plant. Lettuce are fussy to grow needing fertilizing, weeding and thinning so they do not grow too close to each other. Now, an application has been developed for a robotic labourer which can be pulled behind a tractor which takes pictures of the plants and identifies weeds and lettuces that are growing too close to each other and kills them but feeds the remaining crops at the same time.

LIFE

People around the world are living longer but with higher levels of sickness. High blood pressure, smoking and alcohol have become the highest risk factors for ill health replacing child malnourishment which topped the list in 1990. The burden of HIV/AIDS remains high accounting for 1.5-million deaths last year.

TRENDS

The Latino growth has impacted U.S. grocery trends to the extent that it has redefined American cuisine. Overall, the U.S. market for Hispanic food and beverages exceeded US$8-billion in 2012, an increase of three per cent from the previous year and an increase of eight per cent from 2009. This sector is expected to approach $11-billion in 2017, up 31 per cent from present levels. Given the enormous buying power of Latinos this is a trend marketers cannot afford to ignore.

GUM

A fifty per cent federal tax on chewing gum is being proposed in Mexico to help pay for the cleaning of chewing gum that people spit out in public places such as sidewalks, plazas and parks.

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