The price of sugar has been rising for weeks on concerns that poor weather conditions in Brazil will squeeze supply. In Europe, shortages have already disrupted food manufacturing. Recently, the price of sugar per pound was over US$25.00; two years ago it was about $15.00. The European Union is expected to import an additional 1-million tonnes to stem shortages. So far, production by Brazilian sugar mills is down by six per cent over last year.


Italian wine exports reached a record US$5.75-billion last year with the biggest markets in the United States, Britain and Germany. Exports by value grew 12 per cent last year compared with 2010 and exports by volume grew by nine per cent to 24-million hectolitres. Italy's share of the global wine market was 22 per cent. Increasingly, smaller producers are finding an export market alongside bigger winemakers.


In yet another sign of the growing dominance of the digital publishing market, the oldest English-language encyclopedia still in print is moving solely into the digital age. The Encyclopedia Britannica, which has been in continuous print since it was fist published in Scotland in 1768, is ending publication of its printed editions and will continue with digital versions available online. The company will keep selling print editions until the current stock of around 4,000 sets run out. The number of articles in the 2009 Britannica was about 65,000 with 120,000 articles available in the online edition. The number of articles in Wikipedia was 3.59-million.


As Somali pirates rain terror along Africa's eastern seaboard, capturing trade ships and holding crews for ransom, a remarkable development is taking place under water. Tuna and marlin populations are surging. It turns out that the pirates have scared away commercial fishing trawlers as well as tankers dumping toxic waste, both of which formerly devastated the coastal fisheries.


Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are no longer the prerogative of the armed forces and were recently used by environmental activists to track down Japanese whaling vessels. Police around the world are keen to use the small pilotless aircraft that help nab fleeing criminals. The price tags are a little more, and sometimes less, than the US$40,000 for a patrol car. A new generation of microUAVs is being recruited to replace police helicopters costing $1.7-million and up. Earlier this year, estate agents in Los Angeles were banned from using drones to take aerial photos of properties they were selling.


Only 13.7 of board members of large firms in the European Union are women, up from 8.5 per cent in 2003. Female presidents and chairwomen are even rarer: just 3.2 per cent of the total now compared with 1.6 per cent in 2003. Women account for 60 per cent of new graduates in the EU and enter many occupations in roughly equal numbers with men. Plenty of research suggests that companies with lots of women in senior positions are more successful than those without. Some European countries have now introduced quotas for women on boards.


The price of cocoa reached US$2,376 a tonne earlier this year, an increase of 13 per cent. This increase has been caused by the political turmoil in the Ivory Coast, the world's biggest grower. It is estimated that the Ivory Coast will produce 1.39-million tonnes of cocoa this season. There are 2,300 calories in 454 grams of chocolate, including 140 grams of fat. The record price for cocoa was $3,775 a tonne in April of 2011.


A collection of comics, including some of the most prized issues ever published, recently sold in New York for about US$3.5-million. The owner died in 1994 but relatives found the 345 well-preserved comics while cleaning out his wife's home. The most recent sale price of Action Comics No 1 from 1938 when Superman first appeared was $299,000 and Detective Comics issue No 27 of 1939 when Batman first appeared sold for $523,000.


Banks are foreclosing on America's churches in record numbers as lenders increasingly lose patience with religious facilities that have defaulted on their mortgages. Since 2010, 270 US churches have been sold after defaulting on their loans. In 2011, 138 churches were sold by banks. This compares to just 24 sales in 2008, before the economic downturn. The foreclosures have hit all denominations across the U.S., black and white, but with small to medium size houses of worship affected the most. The hardest hit areas are in California, Georgia, Florida and Michigan.


Strong demand for British Columbia's premium food products at home and abroad is expected to propel the annual value of the province's agricultural output from C$10.5-billion to $14-billion over the next five years. Fruits, seafood, niche products such as grass-fed beef and value added products such as wine have strong growth potential. The value of packaged and processed food and beverages produced in B.C. has grown by more than 30 per cent over the last decade. B.C. now exports about $1-billion worth of seafood each year, a figure growing by $10-million annually.


About half of the world's seabird populations are thought to be in decline, with 28 per cent of species considered to be in the highest categories of risk. Though seabirds make up just a small proportion (just 3.5 per cent) of the world's bird species, they are considered to be an important indicator of the health of the oceans. Conservationists are particularly concerned about the albatross family. Threats to birds include commercial fishing and damage to breeding colonies caused by rats and other invasive species. Of 346 species, 47 per cent are known to be in decline.


Coca-Cola and Pepsi are reported to be changing the recipes for their drinks to avoid being legally obliged to put a cancer warning label on the bottle. The new recipe for caramel colouring in the drinks has less than 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI)- a chemical which California has added to its list of carcinogens. The change to the recipe has already been introduced in California but will be rolled out across the US.


Last December a 30-story hotel in Changsha, China was erected in two weeks. A time-lapse video shows the prefabricated building being assembled on site which has been visited by more than five-million viewers and has left Western architects speechless. The speed of the construction is a startling illustration of the building boom in China where an exodus from the countryside to the cities has swelled the urban population by almost 400-million since 1990.


The average cash bonuses paid by Wall Street firms to their employees in the city of New York, has fallen by 13 per cent to US$121,050 according to the state comptroller. Slightly fewer employees shared the cash bonus pool in 2011, but the total pool was also 14 per cent smaller, at $19.7-billion. The decline corresponds with the fall in profits of broker-dealer firms on the New York Stock Exchange. The average pay for Wall Street workers in 2010 was still 5.5 times greater than for other private-sector workers in New York.


The maker of the legendary Fender guitars, used by the likes of Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, has filed papers for a US$200-million initial public offering. Founded in 1946 by Leo Fender the company created the iconic Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars in the 1950s. The Fender brand is closely associated with the birth of rock 'n roll. With sales in 85 countries, Fender believes revenue will get a boost from growing interest in guitar-based music in emerging markets such as China, India and Indonesia. Fenders profits were $19-million in fiscal 2011.


Swiss watch exports hit a record of US$21-billion in 2011, growing 19.2 per cent from a year earlier. Watches in the $2500 price range make a strong showing. All this at a time when the Swiss franc was making a particulary strong showing. Except for a major downturn in 2010, growth in the past 20 years has been consistently high.


Australia plans to target China's rapidly growing second-tier cities to boost tourism revenue. China is already Australia's fastest growing tourism market, worth more than US$2.6-billion in 2011. A record 558,600 Chinese visited Australia in 2011. Attractions such as the Sydney Opera House and the Great Barrier Reef were listed as the most desired places to visit in a recent survey


The Swiss, concerned about endangering their economy have turned down a minimum six-week paid vacation a year. It is presently four weeks annually, the standard used in Germany, Russia, Italy and some other European nations. One Swiss union which represents about 300,000 Swiss businesses estimated that the increased holidays would have added about US$6.5-billion a year in labour costs to the economy. Two-thirds of voters in the national referendums rejected the holiday proposal.


Acceding to the United Nations, the Millennium Development Goal for access to clean water has been reached, ahead of the target date of 2015. Now, 89 per cent of the world have access to improved water supplies, up from 76 per cent in the base year of 1990. Access to clean water has not been even however, 40 per cent of those still without access to improved drinking water live in sub-Saharan Africa. Worldwide, 800-million still drink dirty water, but in the past 20 years, two billion people have gained access to improved drinking water.


America still leads the world in credit card fraud. The U.S. accounts for 47 per cent of global credit and debit card fraud, even though it is responsible for only 27 per cent of the total volume of purchases. Though accurate figures are hard to come by, the amount of fraud based on stolen card numbers in the U.S. is around US$14-billion a year. While the rest of the world is embracing more secure "smart cards", the U.S remains the only major country that still relies on antiquated payment cards that encode their sensitive data in a magnetic stripe on the back.


The Scotch industry is enjoying a tremendous period of growth around the world to meet surging demand from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The value of Scotch exports over the first nine months of 2011 totalled close to US$4.7-billion, up 23 per cent year-to-year. While the U.S. and France remain the largest market for Scotch whisky, tiny Singapore recently became the third-largest with export values jumping 51 per cent in the first nine months of 2011 to $347-million.


As the Greek economy continues to dominate the headlines, another story has emerged, the rise of Greek yogurt. It has risen from a niche dairy curiosity to a triumph of marketing. The product, which is strained through cheesecloth to produce a thicker, cream yogurt has been around for centuries, but in just three years, Greek yogurt has captured 13 per cent of the U.S market.


According to the latest census in India, due to the rise in cellphone ownership, 63 per cent of households had telephones. However, only 53 per cent of households have access to a toilet in their own home.

Log in to comment