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Plunging commodity prices reignite discussion of primary product dependency

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

As world commodity prices plunge, who gains and who loses?

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Growth vrs the environment: deforestation

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The growth vrs the environment debate is great for opening a thoughtful discussion about the net benefits of economic growth. Some participants take what might be described as a Kuznets Curve approach to the issue. That might be simply summarised as things get worse to begin with, but after a while they start to improve (OK, I’m simplifying a bit here). In environmental terms, you might illustrate this with the Peak Stuff idea. For several years now, the UK economy’s total consumption of physical resources has been falling. In the past, growth made our economy more and more damaging to the environment. But future growth might have far less of an impact, and even contribute to significant environmental improvements.

What about tropical forests, which observers in the last decades of the 20th century noted were under severe threat? The Economist newspaper seems to take an optimistic view. Future growth may have far less worrying consequences for tropical forests.

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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 4 Macro: Livestock insurance in Kenya

Friday, April 25, 2014

This video from the Economist is relevant to students of development economics. Severe droughts can cost Kenyan farmers their livelihoods. A new insurance scheme aims to protect them from the whims of the environment.

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Unit 4 Macro: Food imports set to rise in China

Saturday, April 12, 2014

This is a revealing perspective on the challenges facing China in producing enough food to feed the hundreds of millions of Chinese squeezed into their ever growing cities. 

China's policy makers are trying to increase the size of farms to exploit economies of scale and get their farmers to focus on cash crops. But the reality is that China will have to import a huge amount of food in the years to come - this creates big opportunities for farmers in China's trading partners.

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What’s that got to do with the price of ... almonds?!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A great case study on the BBC about what has been driving up the price of almonds. Plenty of topics to explore in here: agricultural supply, determinants of demand, derived demand (almond milk), monopoly power, capital intensive production and maybe more.

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Strategies to promote development - the coffee industry in Vietnam

Sunday, January 26, 2014

BBC2 are showing a documentary about the massive growth of the coffee industry in Vietnam at 8.00pm tonight - if you miss it, it will be repeated on Monday 3 Feb at 23.30, and also available on i-player. It looks as if it will provide some excellent examples of agricultural strategies to promote development, as well as constraints on that development. 

I have asked my students to read this article from the BBC News Magazine which summarises some of the programme, and to look at this summary of the World Bank's development report produced last summer

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Unit 4 Macro: Vertical Farming - Growing Food without Soil and Water

Monday, December 30, 2013

This is a really interesting short video from the World Bank on how a Kenyan entrepreneur is using the concept of vertical farming to grow food and fodder using 80% less water. In the classroom, show the video and get the students to find ten ways in which this innovation can have a development impact - there is so much in this clip!

A Kenyan entrepreneur has adapted Hydroponics, a technique that allows to grow plants without soil, to African climate. The technique that traditionally needs an energy intensive climate control, now allows to grow plants in simple sheds without the use of electricity

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Unit 1 Micro: Mexico’s Water Farms

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"The market will define our future" - the words of an organic farmer growing produce in Mexico City's water farms and which - according to this excellent video report from the Financial Times - have the potential to feed huge numbers of people living in the metropolis. Careful husbandry of the canals and surrounding farm land creates the opportunity for farmers to complete between seven and nine harvests a year, an interesting link to the concept of price elasticity of supply. The video reinforces the importance of human capital - detailed, specific knowledge of the growing conditions and calendar of crops that is handed down from one generation to another.

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Unit 4 Macro:Apps to Help Farmers in Ghana

Sunday, November 17, 2013

This BBC news report is superb background for students who want a mini case study of the potential of mobile technology in improving farm yields and incomes for farmers in developing countries. A 29-year-old developer from Ghana has created a mobile app that he hopes will transform the livelihoods of farmers and help address food shortages

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Unit 4 Macro: Mobile Technology and Growth in Africa

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Suyash Raj Bhandari considers some of the ways in which the rapid expansion and adoption of mobile technology in Africa can act as a spur to growth and development on the continent. We link also to some useful background video resources on this issue.

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Unit 1 Micro: Cocoa Prices Surging Again!

Monday, October 21, 2013

After more than a year of relatively low prices, rising global demand for cocoa is a key factor behind a surge in the international price of cocoa beans, prompting fears that the traditional consumer splurge on chocolate treats during the Festive season will be noticeably more expensive this year! In this short BBC news video, some of the background to the rise in cocoa prices is explored. You can download the cocoa price chart below.

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Natural Resource Curse - Updated Presentation

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Here is an updated revision presentation on aspects of the natural resource trap or natural resource curse issue facing low (and also high) income countries

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The problems of measuring GDP: India’s informal economy

Saturday, October 05, 2013

The issue of measuring economic activity - and hence GDP - is a really great topic to dig into. Here’s an extra link from the Economist, which notes that if activity in informal industries and rural areas were properly measured, India’s GDP would look bigger and more stable, and the present slump less severe.

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Conflict: Growth vrs the Environment

Monday, September 23, 2013

As soon as students encounter the idea of GDP they are guided towards thinking about the possible drawbacks to growth, especially for the environment.

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More ways to estimate the level of economic activity

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The race seems to be on (Penny got ahead of me on this) to find ways to gauge the level of economic activity. The most obvious start point is to use a tool like the BBC's Economy tracker which includes the clear favourite of GDP, inflation and unemployment. But as the graph I've used to illustrate this blog shows, there are plenty more beside.

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Economics at the Movies - The Moo Man

Friday, August 23, 2013

In a world dominated by hyper-productive (but often loss-marking) industrial milk farming here is a heart-warming, touching and rewarding documentary that has swept critics off their feet at film festivals during 2013. The Moo Man is a remarkable story of a maverick farmer and his unruly cows, filmed over four years on the marshes of the Pevensey Levels. In an attempt to save his family farm, Stephen Hook decides to turn his back on the cost cutting dairies and supermarkets, and instead stay small and keep his close relationship with the herd. How can a milk farmer operating on such a small scale compete and survive in today's world? The Moo Man provides some revealing answers!

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GM foods will be vital in feeding the future world

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Prince Charles and eco-warriors rail against them, but genetically modified crops are becoming the superheroes of agriculture, and they have special powers. Some are being developed to be pest-resistant, potentially saving the 50 percent of crops destroyed each year by pests. This means less pesticides, less run-off and less river pollution; this limits soil erosion, pertinent in developing countries where over-farming poses a greater problem. GM crops have avoided 200,000 tonnes of insecticide and the multiple sprays of fungicide that potatoes need. One promising development is of crops that will host nitrogen-fixing bacteria instead of needing vast quantities of nitrate fertilizers.

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Unit 1 Micro: Coffee Prices and Profits Fall for Growers

Sunday, July 28, 2013

We are now into the 3rd year of falling coffee prices in the world economy and the combination of weaker revenues and rising costs are causing big problems for some of the coffee suppliers in the poorest countries. This Financial Times news video provides some background on the industry. The price has fallen 60 per cent from its peak and the market seems saturated.

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Unit 1 Micro: China Warms to Coffee Production

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Changing tastes and preferences drive resource allocation in a market economy. Coffee consumption in China has been growing steadily as the country's middle class tries new drinks and the result is that new coffee cash crops are being grown China to help satisfy growing demand from the domestic market. The Chinese Coffee Federation is also hoping that Chinese coffee will establish itself as a major coffee exporting nation.

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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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Unit 4 Macro: Kal Draws Dumping

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Another great short animated video from the Economist - highly relevant to students looking at the economics of protectionism / import controls. KAL, The Economist's resident cartoonist and animator, explains what dumping means and why companines do it.

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Unit 1 Micro: Occupational Mobility from Mines to ..... Mines

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Miners made redundant from Maltby Colliery in Yorkshire many of whom with decades of experience faced years on the unemployment register when the mine closed earlier in 2013. But some have been thrown a lifeline with the rising demand for miners in the UK potash industry.

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Unit 1 Micro: Buffer Stocks (Revision)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A revision presentation on buffer stocks as a form of intervention in markets where prices, revenues and producer profits are volatile

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Unit 4 Macro: India’s Rice Revolution

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Raising productivity and sustainable yields in the farm industry is a crucial component of the development/growth agenda in India. Here is a case study from Guardian Global Development of progress in achieving this aim.

econoMAX - White Gold

Saturday, January 19, 2013

In this article, Mark Johnston examines features of the New Zealand dairy industry. 

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econoMAX - Banana Wars are finally over!

Andy Reeve explains that a 20 year trade dispute between the European Union and 11 Latin American countries has finally ended, with a historic trade agreement. The agreement was signed in front of Pascal Lamy, the Director General of the World Trade Organisation. The agreement was originally made in 2009, but has taken three years for all nations to ratify.

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Sweden issues international garlic smuggling warrant


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 4 Macro: Land Grabs and Development

Friday, January 18, 2013

Land Grabs have become an important and controversial issue in development economics in recent years.

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Unit 4 Macro: Fair Trade and Development

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Fair Trade movement now covers over 650 producer organisations in more than 60 countries

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Demand & Supply in Action- Potato Harvest

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The BBC have just put on their website an excellent video for AS Microeconomics. It's looking at the poor potato harvest and how the bad weather  has caused prices to start rising significantly. Read on for the video.

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The Nutella Tax - a tax on negative externalities

Those of you who felt angry or let down by the recent proposals for a  Pasty Tax, or those that have been imposed on static caravans or toasties (turning the mighty Subway in to a new lobbying organisation) in the UK should spare a thought for the poor French citizens who are potentially about to have a new surcharge placed upon Nutella - that famous hazelnut and chocolate spread.

Unlike the previously mentioned British taxes, which were imposed or proposed to generate revenue or close apparent loopholes, this tax has been put forward for market failure reasons.  The tax, of course, is not directly on the brand but upon one of its main ingredients - palm oil.  The proposed increase by the French government is nearly 300%.  The French are arguing that palm oil is a product with negative externalities - poor for the health of its consumers and a large burden on the health system.  There is also a claim that the high production of palm oil in South East Asia has resulted in large-scale deforestation.

Read a short article on the issue at the Huffington Post.  The cost of your morning crepe in Brittany may be about to increase!

Unit 4 Macro: Lewis Turning Points

Monday, October 08, 2012

Lewis turning points are the defining feature of Arthur Lewis’ Dual-Sector Model, devised in 1954. 

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Unit 4 Macro: Agri-Chemicals and Infant Mortality in India

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Using agrichemicals is directly correlated to infant mortality in India.  This is the central finding of research presented by Nidhiya Menon (Associate Professor of Economics, Brandeis University) at the International Growth Centre’s Growth Week 2012.

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Unit 4 Macro: What Is a Natural Resource Curse?

Sunday, September 16, 2012
As Geoff’s earlier blog entry on the Kwale Mineral Sands Project in Kenya  used the term natural resource curse, I thought it apposite to develop the idea with application to both high income countries (HICs) and low income countries (LICs). In both cases, it would seem, the idea that 'all that glitters is not gold' is a persuasive one. read more...»

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...»

Environmental Economics: Water Scarcity

Monday, August 06, 2012

By 2050, the world’s growing population will use 55% more water in their homes, to grow food, and to produce electricity and manufactured goods. To ensure enough water to meet this demand, we will need to stop wasting it and find new ways to make sure there’s enough to go around.

The world’s demand for water will continue to grow in the years ahead because of a rising global population and changing lifetsyles and wealth. More people using more and increasingly polluted water represents one of the most severe environmental, economic and humanitarian challenges facing the world. Here are some video resources on the issue of water scarcity.

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Environmental Economics: Natural Capital

Friday, July 06, 2012

There is growing interest among policy makers about the importance of protecting and enhancing natural capital to support sustainable growth and development. I have put together a selection of recent news video resources on natural capital that might be useful for students and teachers who are new to the idea and who might want to look at it as part of their study of environmental and development economics.

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Unit 4 Macro: Erratic Energy Supplies Threatens Indian Growth

Thursday, July 05, 2012

This news video report from the Wall Street Journal is superb in highlighting the economic consequences of the chronic shortages of energy and fuel in the fast-growing Indian economy. The focus is on a newly opened coal-fired power station (note the investment in it from Hong Kong and China) which has already had to close dow production twice because it has run out of coal supplies.

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Unit 4 Macro: Climate Change threatens South African tea exports

Production and export of a caffeine-free tea produced in a tiny part of South Africa is threatened by the impact of climate change which is causing increased variability in rainfall. This short news piece illustrates the challenge of climate change and the importance of the crop of a unique tea called Rooibos which has helped create a multi-million dollar a year industry in the Western Cape of South Africa

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Unit 4 Macro: Drought Resistant Seeds and Farm Output

Sunday, July 01, 2012

This news report from drought-stricken Eastern Kenya looks at the potential of drought-resistant seeds in maintaining farm yields in a region afflicted by extreme poverty and malnutrition. The seed has been locally produced and distributed to farmers across lower Eastern Kenya at a reasonable price and promises good yield, early maturity and resistance to common diseases. But farmers still face many challenges in making it work.

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Unit 4 Macro: African Human Development Report 2012

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The African Human Development Report 2012 is a key reference point for students and teachers who are passionate about their development economics. The issue of focus in the report this year is food security.

“Sub-Saharan Africa cannot sustain its present economic resurgence unless it eliminates the hunger that affects nearly a quarter of its people, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) argues. More than one in four Africans - close to 218 million people - is undernourished, African governments spend between 5-10% of their budgets on agriculture, well below the 20% average that Asian governments devoted to the sector during the green revolution there.”


African Human Development Report 2012

Guardian: Sub-Saharan Africa can only grow if it solves hunger crisis – UNDP

The Plant Stat African Human Development Map is superb for students to use - it includes the facility to export your own charts for inclusion in assignments and classnotes - click here to access it 

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Unit 1 Micro: Revision on Price Elasticity of Supply

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Here is a planned answer to an exam question

“Discuss how the price elasticity of supply of coffee might differ in the short run and long run.”

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Unit 1 Micro: Revision on Elasticity of Demand (for Rice)

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Here is a planned answer to an exam question

“Assess whether the demand for rice is likely to be price elastic or price inelastic”

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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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Unit 1 Micro: Winning the War on Deforestation

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Justin Rowlatt from the BBC has been investigating some of the remarkable progress being made in controlling deforestation in Brazil. The battle focuses on an area known as the “arc of destruction” and the video reports here show the impact of a government making a clear commitment to tackling the issue and backing it up with force and with incentives.

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Unit 1 Micro: Illegal logging and the human cost

Monday, January 23, 2012

This news report looks at the human cost of an example of the tragedy of the commons - illegal logging in the south Philippines which contributed to tens of deaths from the effects of flash flooding. Ecosystems and economic prospects are damaged at the same time because of failures in environmental management.

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China’s newest 5 year plan - and how it could change the world!

Friday, January 13, 2012

5 year plans are synonymous with the command economies of the 20th century and although the Chinese economy bares little resemblance to what it did 30 years ago, the government still uses these plans as part of their oversight of a mostly market economy. Their latest “Weather Intervention” plan seeks to intervene in the economy on a grand scale, although not in the usual sense!

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Unit 4 Macro: Natural Disasters and their Economic Impact

Saturday, January 07, 2012

From tsunamis to tornadoes, from droughts to floods, 2011 was a particularly nasty year for natural disasters in many parts of the world. These natural disasters inevitably have demand and supply side effects affecting not just those countries affected but ripple impact across regions and in the broader global economy.

The Al Jazeera news video report below provides a clear overview of some of the major natural climatic shocks of 2011 and could easily be used as an introductory resource to discuss what are some of the micro and macroeconomic effects in both the short and medium term.

These include:

* Effects on the stock of physical capital / infrastructure
* Impact on a country’s human capital
* Effects on commodity prices, export revenues
* Effects on agricultural output, profits, investment, productivity
* Ripple effects on manufacturing industries and energy supply/cost
* Impact on state tax revenues and the costs of re-building and providing emergency financial support
* Effect on the movement of population following extreme climatic events
* Natural disasters and changes in the distribution of income / risk of poverty

This Economist graphic (published in Jan 2012) looks at the human cost of natural disasters and claims that “the world has succeeded in making natural disasters less deadly.”

read more...»

Unit 1 Micro: Supply Shortages Drive Peanut Prices Higher

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Supply shortages in key growing regions have caused the price of peanuts to surge to record highs. Peanut prices in Europe are 60% higher than a year ago and the cost of peanuts in the USA has more than doubled in the last twelve months. The price spike is the result of lower production from India, Argentina and the United States.

read more...»

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