Brazil, Argentina drop dollar for bilateral trade

BRASILIA, Brazil: Brazil and Argentina are ready to stop using U.S. dollars to trade goods between them.

Brazil’s president tells the Buenos Aires-based Clarin newspaper that exports and imports between the two nations will be bought and sold in local currency – reals and pesos.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva did not say when the measure would take effect.

Silva says the move will boost bilateral trade, which reached $US17.6 billion so far this year through July.

During that time, Brazil sold more to Argentina than it bought, building a US$3 billion trade surplus.

Silva and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez plan to sign the deal in Brasilia on Monday. It was first proposed two years ago.

Published: September 7, 2008

Source: Herald Tribune

South America considers common currency

BRASILIA: South America is thinking of creating a common currency and a central bank along the lines of those in the European Union’s eurozone, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said yesterday.

The idea is a logical next step following the signing last Friday of a treaty creating a Union of South American States that aims to promote joint regional customs and defense policies, Lula said during his weekly radio broadcast.

“Many things still haven’t been realised. We are now going to create a Bank of South America. We are going to move forward so in the future we’ll have a single central bank, a common currency,” he said.

But, he added: “This is a process. It won’t be something that happens quickly.”
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela all signed up to the Unasur treaty creating the regional union during a ceremony in Brasilia last Friday.

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Global free market for food and energy faces biggest threat in decades

The global free market for food and energy is facing its biggest threat in decades as a host of countries push through draconian measures to hold down prices, raising fears of a new “resource nationalism” that could endanger world food security.


Somali’s demonstrate against high food prices in the capital Mogadishu. At least two people were killed in clashes

India shocked the markets yesterday by suspending trading in futures contracts for a range of farm products in a bid to clamp down on alleged speculators and curb inflation, now running at 7.6pc.

The country’s Forward Markets Commission said contracts for soybean oil, chana (chickpeas), potatoes, and rubber had been banned for four months, even though a report by the Indian parliament last month concluded that soaring food costs had almost nothing to do with the futures contracts. Traders in Mumbai slammed the ban as an act of brazen political populism.

The move has been seen as a concession to India’s Communist MPs – key allies of premier Manmohan Singh – who want a full-fledged ban on futures trading in sugar, cooking oil, and grains.

As food and fuel riots spread across the world, a string of governments have resorted to steps that menace the free flow of food and key commodities. Argentina has banned beef exports, while Egypt and India have stopped shipments of rice.

Kazakhstan has prohibited wheat exports. Russia has slapped a 40pc export duty on shipments, and Pakistan a 35pc duty.

China, Cambodia, Malaysia, Philipines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam have all imposed export controls or forms of rationing to ease the crisis.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned that this lurch towards national controls is becoming a threat to the open global system we all take for granted. “If not handled properly, this crisis could result in a cascade of others and affect political security around the world,” he said.

A new report by UBS says the scramble for scarce raw materials is turning ever more political, with ominous implications for ill-endowed societies that rely on imports.

“The bottom line is that countries with resources, particularly in food and energy are becoming more protective of these resources,” it said.

(I know I am repeating myself and I know that many are already well prepared. This is for the ones that are not:
Store food and water “NOW”. Do this in a relaxed manner because your brain shuts down when you are under stress and in survival mode. – The Infinite Unknown)

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Chile volcano blasts ash 20 miles high, forcing evacuations

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — The long-dormant Chaiten volcano blasted ash some 20 miles (30 kilometers) into the Andean sky on Tuesday, forcing the last of thousands to evacuate and fouling a huge stretch of the South American continent.

A thick column of ash climbed into the stratosphere and blew eastward for hundreds of miles (kilometers) over Patagonia to the Atlantic Ocean, closing schools and a regional airport. Chilean and Argentine citizens were advised to wear masks to avoid breathing the dangerous fallout.

Chilean officials ordered the total evacuation of Chaiten, a small provincial capital in an area of lakes and glacier-carved fjords just six miles (10 kilometers) from the roiling cloud.

Interior Minister Edmundo Perez said anyone still in the area should “urgently head to ships in the bay to be evacuated.”

More than 4,000 people were evacuated over the weekend and 350 more headed out Tuesday.

Also emptied was the soot-coated border town of Futaleufu, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) from the volcano.

The five-day-old eruption is the first in 9,370 years, said Charles Stern, a volcanologist at the University of Colorado-Boulder who has studied Chaiten.

He said the nearby town could end up buried, much like the Roman city of Pompeii following Mount Vesuvius’ eruption in 79 A.D. Volcanic material from Chaiten’s last eruption measured up to 5 feet in places.

“What happens after today is anybody’s guess,” Stern said.

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Japan’s Hunger Becomes a Dire Warning for Other Nations

MARIKO Watanabe admits she could have chosen a better time to take up baking. This week, when the Tokyo housewife visited her local Ito-Yokado supermarket to buy butter to make a cake, she found the shelves bare.

“I went to another supermarket, and then another, and there was no butter at those either. Everywhere I went there were notices saying Japan has run out of butter. I couldn’t believe it – this is the first time in my life I’ve wanted to try baking cakes and I can’t get any butter,” said the frustrated cook.

Japan’s acute butter shortage, which has confounded bakeries, restaurants and now families across the country, is the latest unforeseen result of the global agricultural commodities crisis.

A sharp increase in the cost of imported cattle feed and a decline in milk imports, both of which are typically provided in large part by Australia, have prevented dairy farmers from keeping pace with demand.

While soaring food prices have triggered rioting among the starving millions of the third world, in wealthy Japan they have forced a pampered population to contemplate the shocking possibility of a long-term – perhaps permanent – reduction in the quality and quantity of its food.

A 130% rise in the global cost of wheat in the past year, caused partly by surging demand from China and India and a huge injection of speculative funds into wheat futures, has forced the Government to hit flour millers with three rounds of stiff mark-ups. The latest – a 30% increase this month – has given rise to speculation that Japan, which relies on imports for 90% of its annual wheat consumption, is no longer on the brink of a food crisis, but has fallen off the cliff.

According to one government poll, 80% of Japanese are frightened about what the future holds for their food supply.

Last week, as the prices of wheat and barley continued their relentless climb, the Japanese Government discovered it had exhausted its ¥230 billion ($A2.37 billion) budget for the grains with two months remaining. It was forced to call on an emergency ¥55 billion reserve to ensure it could continue feeding the nation.

“This was the first time the Government has had to take such drastic action since the war,” said Akio Shibata, an expert on food imports, who warned the Agriculture Ministry two years ago that Japan would have to cut back drastically on its sophisticated diet if it did not become more self-sufficient.In the wake of the decision this week by Kazakhstan, the world’s fifth biggest wheat exporter, to join Russia, Ukraine and Argentina in stopping exports to satisfy domestic demand, the situation in Japan is expected to worsen.

Read moreJapan’s Hunger Becomes a Dire Warning for Other Nations

In lean times, biotech grains are less taboo

A farmer harvests soy beans on the outskirts of Gualeguaychu, north of Buenos Aires.(Andres Stapff/Reuters)

Soaring food prices and global grain shortages are bringing new pressures on governments, food companies and consumers to relax their longstanding resistance to genetically engineered crops.

In Japan and South Korea, some manufacturers for the first time have begun buying genetically engineered corn for use in soft drinks, snacks and other foods. Until now, to avoid consumer backlash, the companies have paid extra to buy conventionally grown corn. But with prices having tripled in two years, it has become too expensive to be so finicky.

“We cannot afford it,” said a corn buyer at Kato Kagaku, a Japanese maker of corn starch and corn syrup.

In the United States, wheat growers and marketers, once hesitant about adopting biotechnology because they feared losing export sales, are now warming to it as a way to bolster supplies. Genetically modified crops contain genes from other organisms to make the plants resistance to insects, herbicides or disease. Opponents continue to worry that such crops have not been studied enough and that they might pose risks to health and the environment.

(Genetically modified crops have been studied long enough to know that GM food weakens the immune system within days, increases the cancer risk dramatically etc. – The Infinite Unknown)

Read moreIn lean times, biotech grains are less taboo

Rush to restrict trade in basic foods

Governments across the developing world are scrambling to boost farm imports and restrict exports in an attempt to forestall rising food prices and social unrest.

Saudi Arabia cut import taxes across a range of food products on Tuesday, slashing its wheat tariff from 25 per cent to zero and reducing tariffs on poultry, dairy produce and vegetable oils.

On Monday, India scrapped tariffs on edible oil and maize and banned exports of all rice except the high-value basmati variety, while Vietnam, the world’s third biggest rice exporter, said it would cut rice exports by 11 per cent this year.

The moves mark a rapid shift away from protecting farmers, who are generally the beneficiaries of food import tariffs, towards cushioning consumers from food shortages and rising prices.

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