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Perfect weather and a bumper wheat crop – impact on the market

Sunday, September 07, 2014

A great example to start you off looking at how economists understand markets: after a run of rain-wrecked years, British farmers are bringing in the last of what looks like a bumper cereals harvest. 2014 could be the biggest yield ever for wheat. Good news. But for whom?

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Unit 1 Micro: Producer and Consumer Subsidies

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Here is a revision presentation on the economics of producer and consumer subsidies as forms of government intervention in markets. There are a number of up to date examples highlighted together with an evaluation of the benefits and costs of subsidy payments. This is designed as a revision aid for unit 1 students taking their microeconomics papers.

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Unit 1 Micro: CAP Reforms Are Watered Down

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The struggle to achieve meaningful and significant reform of Europe's controversial and hugely expensive farm support system will probably go on for many years. The latest attempt at changing the basis for payments made by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) appears to have fallen foul of intensive lobbying by farm groups in some of Europe's largest and wealthiest countries.

In this BBC news video Roger Harribin reports on the watering down of reform proposals. The CAP began in 1962 as a way to increase food production. It costs around $75bn (£48.7bn) per year in subsidies to farmers, funded by taxpayers. The Commission wants farmers to earn some of their subsidies, for example by protecting the environment, but farm ministers are fighting back. The subsidies available to some of the largest farm businesses can top Euro 1 million each year and they seem set to stay.

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European Union Economy Study Companion 2012

Thursday, June 06, 2013

An updated version of my EU economy study companion is being researched and written at the moment - but in case this might be useful as a revision resource, here is a stream version of the January 2012 document.

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Sweden issues international garlic smuggling warrant

Saturday, January 19, 2013


This has to be my new favourite story, and it will work particularly well for A2 but for AS too, with elements of micro as well as macro.......

Did you know that China produces 80% of the world's supply of garlic?

Did you know that in 2001 the EU introduced a 9.6% duty on imported garlic in order to protect European growers?

Did you know that police in Britain, Ireland, Austria and Poland arrested smugglers for illegally importing at least €3m worth of garlic into the EU last year alone?

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Unit 1 Micro: Difficult Times for UK Farmers

Wednesday, September 05, 2012
The British farming industry faces a number of challenges including an ongoing battle with the supermarkets to achieve better prices for their products. They are also engaged in negotiations with the European Union about reforms to the CAP that might take farm land out of production. And there is the long-term threat of adapting to and coping with extreme weather linked to the impact of climate change. read more...»

Unit 1 Micro: Revision on Producer Subsidies

Monday, April 02, 2012

Here is a planned answer to an exam question on producer subsidies

“Discuss the likely effects of a EU beef subsidy on the market for beef production in Wales”

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The 21st IEA Hayek Memorial Lecture

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Last week I attended the IEA Hayek Memorial lecture, given by Elinor Ostrom, Nobel laureate, on common resources and looking beyond government regulation.

The lecture took two parts: a presentation from Professor Ostrom, which was mainly focused on the research methodology, and a Q&A session, where anecdotal research evidence was more forthcoming.

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European Economics: Resources on the CAP

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

CAP Reform

This blog entry will provide a regularly updated set of links to resources to the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy and attempts to reform this contentious and complex system of farm support.

Check below for suggested links

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Unit 3 Micro: Oligopsony - Dairy Losses Drive Farmers from the Fields

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hats off to the herd! Milk production in the UK is expanding yet many dairy farmers have or are likely to leave the industry over the next five years unless raw milk production becomes more economically viable. Can the stakeholders in the sector reach fresh agreement on sustainable contracts for the near 40 million litres of milk produced every day?

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AS Micro: Fears over a century of hunger

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nigel Cassidy reports in this video from BBC news on fears that the world faces “a century of hunger” if the international community cannot agree on new rules regarding food prices. Food security is a hugely important global economic, political and social issue and one of the best resources for keeping up to speed on this is the Guardian’s dedicated page of articles. Here is the link. Check the links at the bottom of the blog for past articles on this topic.

Oceans at grave risk

Monday, June 20, 2011

The tragedy of the commons and the grave consequences for the state of marine ecology are highlighted in this new report. Covered with passion in this blog. Climate change, pollution and over-fishing are two fundamental problems for the oceans. More details here from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) website.

The report identifies a number of important policy approaches to tackle the problems - The scientists say that the ‘precautionary principle’ must be used in terms of oceanic impacts, in other society shouldn’t don’t proceed with activities unless they are proven to be largely safe for marine ecosystems.  And they argue for much stringer use of property rights by widening the size of international marines of the sea.

TED Talk: Jeremy Jackson: How we wrecked the ocean


AQA A2 Economics - European Context

Monday, May 23, 2011

Each of the AQA a2 economics papers contains data response questions where understanding and awareness of the context of the economics of the European Union comes into play. We have a EU Economy in Focus study companion which is published in updated form each year. Details are available here. One area for revision focuses on the analysis diagrams that might be used to support your answers to EU context questions, I have put together a listing of topic areas where a diagrammatic approach might pay dividends - it is not exhaustive of course, merely some suggestions that might be useful. It appears below:

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EU Economics - Video Resources for Teaching

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I will keep this blog updated with a selection of video clips relevant to the study of the EU - please check below for some links and embedded videos

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Economics Q&A: Should the CAP be scrapped?

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Common Agricultural Policy is a system of farm support that was set up by the EU to assist the agricultural sectors of its member states. The CAP accounts for nearly half of the EU’s budget, at approximately £48bn, and combines direct subsidy payments and price support schemes. Economic welfare is concerned with levels of human well-being, and can be achieved through an efficient allocation of resources, thereby maximising consumer and producer surplus.

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5 Fresh Links: Reforming the EU Common Agricultural Policy

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The economic, environmental and social issues arising from farm support in developed and developing countries often figure in final year teaching for A2 economics. We are looking at this at the moment as part of our teaching of the economics of the EU. Here are five fresh links on the vexed question of how best to reform the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU - including two recent videos from BBC news.

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Economics Q&A: Can economics provide answers to the crisis of collapsing stocks in global fishing?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The UK is one of many countries that now face a dilemma when it comes to fish stocks and their sustainability. In the UK we now consume over 385,000 tons of fish per year whilst on a global scale only 10% of large fish stocks that existed in the 1950s are still present today; this include both cod and tuna. Stock depletion has become a larger issue because of the increases in fishing technology – especially in long-line fishing which is the main technique used in Japan.

As a result many of the once inaccessible fish reserves have become economically viable to fish as boats are more fuel efficient and require less labour. In a fully functioning market the decline in supply of the product would cause an increase in price and act as a disincentive for consumers to purchase the product meaning that the industry would reach a sustainable equilibrium. In this case however there has been a deep market failure resulting from the tragedy of the commons. The sea, and its fish, is a common resource either on a global scale or on a national scale within a country’s own territorial waters. There are very few established property rights over the sea meaning that rational economic agents have an incentive to plunder the seas resources causing the falling fish stock levels.

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Economics Q&A: What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of a period of rising world food prices

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A sustained rise in the global prices of foodstuffs is called agflation. As our chart below shows, the Economist’s index of global food prices has shown high volatility in recent years, there have been two sizeable and steep increases in food prices and a downturn in the wake of the 2009 global recession. And now the United Nations Index of Food Prices has now risen back above levels last seen in 2008 at a record high.

A period of rising food prices affects both the demand and supply-side of an economy. And the impact will depend on many factors including:

(i) The patterns of trade for one or more countries e.g. whether a country is a net exporter or importer of food
(ii) The importance of food production and exports in economic activity e.g. the share of value added contributed by farming, food processing and other food-related industries
(iii) Average incomes for a given country / region and the percentage of incomes that must be spent on food to ensure a modest but adequate lifestyle
(iv) Possible effects of rising food prices on variables such as inflation, interest rates and the exchange rate

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Links to articles on the EU Economy

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I have put together a listing of suggested reading / articles on different aspects of the economics of the EU. This is available for download below as a pdf file.

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On the first day of Christmas -

Friday, December 03, 2010

There are lots of aspects of economics in this little story from the Independent on Wednesday 1st December. The final section of the report into the effects of the early snow falls is about Christmas tree shortages, and links to this BBC story about Nordmann fir trees, and the two together contain several references to the A level syllabus:

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Cutting up cotton subsidies?

Monday, November 15, 2010

It’s that time of year again when we’re looking at different markets in AS Microeconomics, and once more trade-distorting subsidies are back in the news- this time in the cotton markets

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Successors to Roosevelt and Kruger - Marine Parks of the Sea

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Charles Clover, author of The End of the Line - the inspiration behind the award-winning documentary film of the same name, was on splendid form in a talk to the school Geography Society tonight. After showing an abridged version of the powerful film he led a discussion on issues raised by the End of the Line. What is clear is the immediacy of the global fishing crisis. One way or another this will be resolved in our life time and the consequences of measures designed to protect and rebuild fish stocks and aqua-diversity will impact on billions of people around the world.

Accoding to Clover, the EU continues to be a black hole when it comes to successfully managing fish resources - if ever there is an example of government failure this is it. To save the Blue Fin tuna we need to set aside 20% of the Mediterranean and in some areas of the North Sea, replenishing haddock and cod stocks will require upwards of 50% of fishing grounds to be closed and the process of large-scale decommissioning of fishing capacity must continue. There is a stark paradox that fishing fleets can now make more money by fishing less because we are already way beyond the point of maximum sustainable yields. The “economic effort” required to catch one single fish in the North Sea has risen by 97 per cent over the last hundred years.

Investment in marine reserves offers much hope for the future and British money is leading the way in this. Charles Clover is President of the newly established Blue Marine Foundation and they have already had a major success. The Marine Protected Area (MPA) around the British-owned Chagos Islands will cover some quarter of a million square miles of sea around the archipelago in the Indian Ocean and include a “no-take” reserve banning commercial fishing. It appears to have been secured with a major investment from the Bertarelli Foundation.

Video introduction to the Common Agricultural Policy

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

I remember my geography teacher describing the CAP as ‘the most boring topic to cover in the whole A-Level’, and I do sympathise with that point of view, so in an attempt to liven it up- and to save me from having to explain it, I’ve made a 7 minute video which should provide a good enough introduction to the basics of the CAP.

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Falling in love with a fish

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chef Dan Barber argues for a radically different approach to food quality and sustainability with this impassioned and inspirational talk at TED - his love story revolves around a revolutionary farming method in Spain. Superb as part of any course on the economics of farming and fishing and approaches to the erosion of ecological capital. He argues that intensive agri-businesses that are reliant on capital and chemicals have never produced good food.

EU Economics Common Terms and Acronyms

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A selection of key terms and acronyms that students may find useful when studying the economics of the EU

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Revision Download - European Economy 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Here is a free revision download for teachers and students who wish to update their understanding of key topics and issues in the European Union…

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Olive Oil Producers Suffer from Falling Prices

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

For the olive oil growers of Spain falling prices are threatening their very existence. They claim that the supermarkets - who sell 9 out of every 10 bottles - have used their market muscle to drive down the retail price and the growers are barely able to justify continuing production. This is a good short video on the workings of the price mechanism.

Imbalance between supply and demand drives sugar prices to 28 year high

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

There is plenty of coverage today of the news that the global price of raw sugar has increased to its highest level since March 1981 on the back of a widening imbalance between world supply and demand.

The hike in sugar prices is a classic market response to a rise in demand for sugar - especially in countries such as Brazil where a growing volume is being used as a (subsidised) source of ethanol - combined with supply shortages caused by low rainfall during the monsoon season in India and China and hail and drought affecting supplies from Russia.

Sugar output in India has contracted by more than 45% over the last year and the country is on the point of moving from being a net exporter to a net importer of sugar if measures are taken to limit existing exports to maintain sufficient supplies for the home economy. Global sugar demand will exceed output by as much as 5 million tons in the year through September 2010, according to the International Sugar Organization in London.

When demand exceeds supply, existing stocks fall and this is a key factor driving prices higher. Speculators can cause the price movements to be exaggerated as they trade in the forward markets to buy up available stocks in the expectation of further price increases.

Independent: Chasing a sugar rush: global deficit drives price rises

Telegraph: Sugar price hits 28-year high

Europe Revision: Fishing

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Revision notes on aspects of the common fisheries policy of the EU and the crisis in the industry

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Europe Revision: Farm Reform

Revision notes on aspects of farm reform in the European Union

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Icelandic fishing industry in deep water

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Icelandic fishing industry is often cited as one that has successfully managed to replenish rapidly dwindling stocks of haddock and cod through the use of tradable fishing quotas. This is in stark contrast to the government failure embodied into the failed quota system of the EU common fisheries policy. But as this report in the Guardian suggests, the Icelandic fishing sector is also facing problems - namely high levels of debt and a fall in demand for salt cod from recession-hit Southern European countries.

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The Tragedy of the Commons on film

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The fishing industry is regularly under investigation, and not just in the EU, in an endless attempt to avoid the Tragedy of the Commons and maintain a sustainable level of production. The links below to previous blog items show that this topic is under constant review, and it is now being strengthened by a new film release. ‘The End of the Line’ is a film about the global fishing industry which will open in the UK cinemas next Monday, having previewed at the Sundance Festival in Utah earlier this year.

The documentary claims to be to the marine environment what An Inconvenient Truth was to global warming, exposing the huge over-capacity of the fishing industry and inefficient, poorly enforced regulation. There are some extreme statistics: the industry has capacity which would allow it to catch four times the current annual output. The world’s long-lining industry sets 1.4 billion hooks every year. These are estimated to be set on enough line to encircle the entire globe more than 550 times. The mouth of the largest trawling net is big enough to accommodate 13 747 jets.

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European Economy - Fishing Quotas Under Review

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A brief video clip on the forthcoming review of the use of fishing quotas in the European Union.  Can the 27 member states come up with an agreement on the appropriate use of fishing quotas and tackling issues such as fish discarding?

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European Economy - Free Revision Update for 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Here is a free revision update guide for students preparing for A2 Economics exams this summer….

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Fishing for a problem for the tragedy of the commons

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A new report from the European Commission finds that further sizeable reductions are needed in the size of the EU fishing fleet in order to bring about a more sustainable future for the deep sea fishing industry. The long term and possibly permanent and irreversible decline in fish stocks is an example of the tragedy of the commons - a form of market failure. The Common Fisheries Policy has been wildy condemned for failing to address the issue of over-fishing - not least the stupidity of fishing quotas that prompt many fishing vessels to dump unwanted fish overboard before reaching port. This new report argues that the capacity of the industry needs to be culled and this raises important issues about resource allocation andjobs and living standards in regions dependent on fishing.

“Across the EU, fleet capacity has come down, the commission says, but only about 2-3% per year. Meanwhile, technological improvements are making boats 2-3% more efficient every year - so the capacity reductions are having little effect.”

More here from the BBC web site

Mud Sweat and Tractors

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A programme due for screening on BBC 4 this coming Wednesday could be a really useful teaching resource on the economics of farming.

This is a new documentary series looking at the history of 20th century farming in Britain opens by focusing on milk. In the early years of the century, 150,000 dairy farmers milked by hand and sold milk door to door. By the end of the century the 15,000 that were left were breeding cows that increased yields by 400 per cent and milk was sold through supermarkets.

More details here

Spanish Economy - After the Fiesta

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Spanish economy is in trouble after out-performing the rest of the Euro Zone for the last decade.  Download this special feature on the Spanish Economy…

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Is this how EU grants should be allocated?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The European Commission for Agriculture and Rural Development has made grants of up to £5,000 available to farmers in Northern Ireland to help modernise their farms, improving animal welfare and farm efficiency. But with just £6m available, many farmers are set to lose out. The farmers whose grant applications are successful will be able to buy from a government-approved list of items such as cow mattresses, creep feeders and computerised livestock identification systems, and must add to the amount of money they are allocated from their own funds. Michelle Gildernew, the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, says that this is an “important boost to the economy”, because many of the items on the approved list have been made in Northern Ireland.

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Economics of fishing

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The BBC today has two stories on the economics of fishing. Firstly the government has announced a £5m plan to fund the de-commissioning of some of the UK’s in-shore fishing fleet in a bid t oreduce what the government regards as fundamental excess capacity in the industry.

£5m fund to scrap fishing boats

This BBC video looks at the background

Secondly the rising stocks of cod in the north sea has led in part oa rise in the size of the annual cod quota given to scottish fishermen by the European Union as part of their common fisheries policy. But the thorny issue of discarding excess fish remains unsettled. The quotas refer to landed cod which encourages fishing vessels to dump much of the fish they have caught before they reach home in order to avoid fines for over-fishing. The result is a deadweight loss of scarce resources in an industry already suffering from the long term decline in fish stocks.

Fishermen land cod deal at talks

See also “Scots anger over discarded fish”


Price mechanism in action - something fishy is going on

Thursday, October 23, 2008


The output from the BBC local news teams often produces some superb Economics materials.  Take this video clip for example.  For those of you who are not in the Grimsby area, you may have missed this great example of supply and demand in action.  Plenty of scope for teacher puns too, but I’ll pass on that opportunity - I know my plaice…

Launch video clip from BBC site

Proposed reforms to the EU CAP

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Good coverage of the proposed reforms to the European Union farm support policy in the Independent today - the brief details are below

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Fishing and the Tragedy of the Commons

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Observer ran a special feature at the weekend about the global fishing crisis that results from over-fishing and the permanent reduction in fish stocks

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