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LUMBER

While Japan remains a weak market for B.C. lumber and the U.S. housing market is stalled, the bright spot is the Chinese market which saw exports from B.C. double in 2010 to US$668-million. B.C., in a joint effort by industry and government has scored success in China in wooden roof trusses for concrete apartment buildings as well as early signs of momentum for small wood-framed apartment buildings The country builds primarily with concrete and steel and had previously only imported cheap low-grade wood for concrete construction and manufacturing, including furniture.

ORGANICS

The U.K government has been criticized in a new report for not doing enough to support and promote organic food and farming. The Soil Association has said that sales continue to grow in other European nations during the recession while U.K sales fell by 13.6 per cent. Many European countries see organic farming as crucial for rural development, biodiversity and also for combatting climate change. Austria has already reached 20 per cent of their land area in organic farming and Switzerland is not far behind.

ETHANOL

Switchgrass, the prairie plant that once fuelled the buffalo herds of the American Great Plains, may one day fill automobile tanks in a bioengineered form that's cheaper and yields more ethanol than the original variety. Researchers have showed that by manipulating lignin, a compound that stiffens plants, they were able to produce a variety that resulted in 38 per cent more biofuel with lower pretreatment costs. The U.S. will produce 14- billion gallons of ethanol in 2011. Modified switchgrass required 4 to 5 times less cellulase, an enzyme used to break down fibre. Nearly half of U.S. gasoline contains up to 10 per cent ethanol to boost octane or meet air quality requirements.

DIAMONDS

A 78-carat diamond, described as the finest ever found in Canada and dubbed the Etaki Spirit, sold recently in Antwerp for US$6.1-million to an anonymous bidder. The diamond is potentially the most valuable stone to come from the Etaki mine in the Northwest Territories over its 13-year history. Diamonds were first discovered in the region in 1991, sparking the largest staking rush in North American history. There have been larger stones dug from the mine but of lesser quality.

CANALS

Columbia has announced that it is negotiating with China to build an alternative to the Panama Canal. The proposed transport route is intended to promote the flow of goods between Asia and Latin America. The plan is to create a "dry canal" where the Pacific port of Buenaventura would be linked by rail, across Columbia to the Atlantic Coast. Trade between Columbia and China increased from US$10-million in 1980 to more than $5-billion last year. China has been increasing its involvement across Latin America to feed a growing need for raw materials and commodities.

FORESTS

The Food and Agriculture Organization, a UN body, estimates that although the world as a whole continues to lose forests, the annual rate of deforestation over the past decade was about half that between 1990 and 2000. Some large countries, including China and India, increased their forest cover between 2000 and 2010. Norway and Sweden have also added forests over the past decade. Nigeria has been chopping its forests down at a rate of 3.7 per cent a year and by last year only one-tenth of its land remained forested.

SOCCER

In 2009-10, for the sixth year, Real Madrid headed the Football Money League a ranking of football clubs' revenues. Real's revenues rose by 9.3 per cent to US$537-million with earnings just short of $400-million. Barcelona was again in second place followed by Manchester United, Munich, Arsenal and Chelsea. The top ten clubs earned a combined $3.7-billion.

COAL

The biggest floods in years in Queensland, Australia, are turning into a windfall for U.S. coal mining companies anticipating record profits and the highest exports in 15 years. Shipments from the U.S. are poised to rise 8.8 per cent this year to about 86.5-million tons, the most since 1986. Demand for American coal is increasing after floods devastated an area of Australia twice the size of Texas. Queensland's combined output of steelmaking and thermal coal may be reduced by 23-million metric tons. The biggest challenge for the U.S mining industry will be getting coal from the mines to the trains and moving it to the ports as railroads struggle to meet increased demand.

IMMIGRATION

The Canadian government intends to reduce the overall number of visas it grants to overseas immigrants by five per cent this year, mainly by cutting back on family reunification visas. The government will issue about 11,000 family reunification visas for parents and grandparents overseas, down from more than 16,000 last year. There are already 140,000 applications in the queue meaning a parent could wait 13 years for a visa if he or she were to apply today.

WELLS

China is launching a massive well drilling operation to save the crucial wheat crop stricken by the worst drought in decades. The plan is to drill 1,350 wells across eight northeastern provinces at a cost of about US$1-billion. China is the world's largest wheat growing nation and expected shortages of the crop in China have already pushed up prices for the commodity. 17 million acres of crops have been affected by the drought and nearly three million people are short of drinking water.

STORAGE

Mankind's capacity to store the colossal amount of information in the world has been measured by scientists. The study, in the journal Science, calculates the amount of data stored in the world as 295 exabytes; that is equivalent to 1.2-billion average hard drives. Computer storage has traditionally been measured in kilobytes, then megabytes, and now usually gigabytes. After that comes, terabytes, petabytes, then exabytes. One exabyte is a billion gigabytes.

BORDER

A new poll shows that Canadians overwhelmingly favour co-operating with the U.S. to increase border security while easing obstacles to cross-border trade. 86 per cent of those surveyed supported shared intelligence gathering. 84 per cent of respondents supported harmonizing food safety regulations while 70 per cent favoured creation of a bilateral agency to oversee the building of a new border infrastructure.

SIM CARDS

Some 400 high-tech South African traffic lights are out of action after thieves in Johannesburg stole the mobile phone Sim cards that some contained. The thieves ran up bills amounting to thousands of dollars by using the stolen cards to make calls. The cards were fitted to let the government know when the traffic lights were faulty.

CASSAVA

This plant is also known as tapioca or manioc and is the world's fourth-largest calorie provider and is Africa's second most important crop in terms of calories. It grows in hot, arid regions where other crops will not thrive. It resists drought and climate change better than cereal crops like rice. Cassava has one amazing advantage, it can keep in the ground for years making it a perfect security crop. Presently, two diseases are devastating cassava crops in Africa. In areas of Africa where the diseases are prevalent, farmers get about 8.5-tonnes a hectare. In Vietnam the yield is 17 tonnes and in India 26 tonnes.

CRICKET

Last February, 14 teams, including Canada competed in the International Cricket Council's World Cup in India. Broadcast rights earned by the Council for an eight year stretch, including the 2011 World Cup, exceeded US$1.2-billion. It is estimated that there are 100,000 cricket fans in Canada, one million in the U.S. and 100-million in India. The five best-paid players in the Indian Premier League, the world's richest league, all earn in excess of US$1-million annually. It is estimated that $300-million was wagered during the England-Australia test matches in 2010.

WEALTH

With a population of only 33,000 the GDP per capita of Monaco, the two-kilometre square sovereign principality surrounded on three sides by France, is US$210,000. With no income tax, a glitzy casino, and 300 days of sunshine each year, Monaco is the wealthiest place in the world. The average price of a 400-square foot apartment is $2.3-million. 18,857 companies use a single address in the Cayman Islands, a five story building called Ugland House. The Cayman Islands is the current king of offshore banking, with an estimated $1.8-trillion in assets booked through its 262 banks.

DEPORTATION

The cost to arrest, detain and deport a person from the United States is US$12,500. Immigration and Customs deported almost 393,000 people from the U.S. in 2010 at a cost of almost $5-billion. An estimated 11-million people are in the U.S. without proper documentation.

AQUAFARMING

The UN estimates that in 2009 the world produced over 145-million tonnes of fish. About 38 per cent of this came from aquaculture, or fish farming, the rest consisted of fish caught in the wild, mostly at sea. In 2008, over three-fifths of the farmed fish came from China. India was the second largest producer but its output was just a tenth of China's. Myanmar produced only 7,000 tonnes of farmed fish in 1990; by 2008, its output was 675,000 tonnes, making it the world's twelfth largest aquafarming producer and ahead of the U.S.

CARGO

Global air cargo traffic surged by over a fifth in 2010 from the previous year, driven by a rebound in international trade. The regional variation in growth rates remained particularly marked, with Latin America posting the biggest increase while Europe grew the slowest. Latin American carriers increased traffic by 29 per cent in 2010, followed by Middle East airlines at 27 per cent. Asia-Pacific carriers, which have a 45 per cent world market share, grew cargo traffic by 24 per cent while American carriers grew 22 per cent.

PRESCRIPTIONS

Changes to Canada's drug patent system being proposed by the European Union as part of a Canada-EU trade deal being negotiated, would add about C$2.8-billion a year in costs to the country's prescription drug bill. The EU has tabled proposals that would lengthen the period of market exclusivity for brand-name drugs in Canada. That deal would result in the most extensive structural protection for innovative drugs of any country in the world. It is projected that this would add $1.2-billion to Ontario's annual prescription drug bill and $249-million in B.C.

CHILE

In 2010, Chile achieved a record year for exports which were valued to be US$69.6-billion, up nearly 30 per cent from the 2009 figure. The jump in exports is attributed to the rising price of copper as well as the global economic recovery. The value of copper exports increased 43 per cent to $11.8-billion. Chile's forest industry maintains its place as the second-largest export industry earning $5.6-billion. Salmon and trout fisheries are the third most valuable export at $2.2-billion.

TASTE

A Tucson taco restaurant that has already served up python, alligator, elk, kangaroo, rattlesnake and turtle tacos is now accepting orders for African lion tacos.

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