NZ 58 – Namibia 14


The scoreboard showed the All Blacks won but given the difference between the teams, Namibia who were very much expected to be the underdogs, didn’t lose.

The 58 – 14 score gives the All Blacks a bonus. But it wasn’t the walk-over many had expected and will also give them lots to work on.

It’s good for rugby, and the World Cup competition, that some of the lower-ranked teams are more competitive, although Japan didn’t manage to follow up from its win over South Africa with a second upset yesterday.

While a little bit of me was backing the Cherry Blossoms, my tartan genes were happy when Scotland won 45 – 10.



Rice market reforms big step towards free trade


Agriculture has been a large stumbling block in free trade deals with Japan but that is about to change:

NOT even the most ardent reformers around Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, believed that he would dare to scrap the policy, known as gentan, under which the government has paid farmers to reduce rice crops since 1971. But on November 26th the agriculture ministry said the system would be phased out by 2018. Rice growers, said Mr Abe, will be able to produce crops “based on their own management decisions”.

Allowing a free market for rice, the country’s sacred staple food, will not by itself transform Japan’s inefficient agricultural sector, which has declined precipitously in recent years. But it is an unavoidable and welcome first step. The gentan system was originally designed to shield the country’s cosseted farmers from short-term fluctuations in prices. By 2010 the policy kept roughly a third of Japan’s paddy fields out of rice production, costing vast sums each year in compensation to farmers for lost income. . .

Subsidies almost always start with good intentions but they have unexpected consequences, distorting markets at great cost to consumers, producers and tax payers.

The country’s millions of small rice-growers have thrived on the handout for decades, along with Japan Agriculture (JA), a giant network of local farm co-operatives. Many landowners pocket the government’s money while growing nothing at all. About two-fifths of the land taken out of rice production is left entirely idle. Unused land prompts regular public hand-wringing about the abandonment of the life-giving soil to weeds and rubbish.

Japanese agriculture’s biggest problem is that all but 2% of farms are smaller than five hectares and many comprise just a few fields, a fragmentation preserved by the gentan system and by other regulations. Tiny, often part-time farmers, with few economies of scale, antiquated methods and old equipment hobble the industry. The sticky rice favoured by Japanese consumers ends up costing twice or more what rice does in other countries.

To protect its wildly uncompetitive farmers, Japan has erected one of the world’s highest tariffs: the duty on imported polished rice is 777.7%. Mr Abe’s surprise decision in March to bring Japan into talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free-trade grouping, has brought these duties under pressure. Even though a final deal on TPP is far from certain, the talks are still a powerful force for change. . .

This is a significant move and an important step towards free trade.

It will involve some short term pain but Japanese producers and consumers, and exporters in other countries, including New Zealand, which want to trade there will have a lot to gain in the medium to longer term.

We’re not going to be trying to sell the Japanese rice, but will benefit from the reduction in tariffs on other products we do sell there.

C’mon Black


Russia scored first in their first Rugby World Cup game last night but my pick the USA finished ahead.

Tonight of course I’m backing black though if Japan was playing anyone else but New Zealand I’d be tempted to opt for them.

Blokes who are men enough to call themselves the Blossoms deserve support.

8.9 earthquake and tsunami in Japan


Japan was quick to respond with help when the earthquake hit Christchurch.

What can we do to help Japan in the wake of an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami?

NZ tops Global Peace Index


 New Zealand has topped the  Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Peace Index .

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The Institute is an Australian think tank dedicated to developing the inter-relationships between business, peace and economic development.
The results of the 2009 survey  suggest:
that the world has become slightly less peaceful in the past year, which appears to reflect the intensification of violent conflict in some countries and the effects of both the rapidly rising food and fuel prices early in 2008 and the dramatic global economic downturn in the final quarter of the year. Rapidly rising unemployment, pay freezes and falls in the value of house prices, savings and pensions is causing popular resentment in many countries, with political repercussions that have been registered by the GPI through various indicators measuring safety and security in society.
The GPI uses 23 indicators  of the existence or absence of peace, divided into three broad categories:  measures of ongoing domestic and international conflict, measures of safety and security in society and measures of militarization.
The Top 10 countries were: New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Austria, Sweden, Japan, Canada, Finland and Slovenia.
At the bottom were: Georgia, Zimbabwe, Russia, Pakistan, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Israel, Somalia, Afghaanistan and Iraq.
The full list is here.

Keeping abreast of pillow trends


Strange but true, The New Zealand Week reports that Japan has come up with the bossum pillow.

Soft, rounded and oh, so touchable … the billowy, bosomy Oppai (‘breasts’ in Japanese) Pillow is the stuff young boys might dream of. 

If you follow the link  above you’ll see a picture of it.

I’m not sure whether to be amused or affronted, but women who find this offensive might have the last laugh because TNZW also highlights a story on Amazonian ants:

Like the warrior women of legend, one breed of Amazonian ant has rid itself entirely of males and is now a completely female species.  . . These ants are the first to be shown to reproduce entirely without sex and the females sexual organs have degraded to the point they are physically incapable of mating.

If ants can do it will people be far behind? 

TNZW is a web-based news digest, published every Friday which covers serious issues as well as the froth I’ve mentioned.

Carmageddon squashes grapefruit trade


There’s nothing new about backloading, it’s been going on for centuries because it reduces the costs of transport.

Once shipping started, backloading also provided ballast which is why the interiors of the beautiful old stone buildings in Oamaru’s historic precinct feature imported timber. It came back as ballast on the sailing ships which carried grain to the USA and Britain.

However, backloading requires willing buyers at both ends of the journey. If the market for produce going one way dries up it interferes with the transport of the backload which is what’s happened with The Grapefruits of Wrath .

Some 60% of the grapefruits consumed in Japan are grown in Florida. Floridian grapefruits account for almost all the grapefruits sold in Japan around this time of year.

But grapefruit are the backload in ships which take Japanese vehicles to the USA. Now the market for cars has soured, vehicle shipments have reduced and grapefruit are stuck in the USA.

Consumers in Japan will face rising prices as the supply of grapefruit drops and grapefruit growers in Florida are left with falling demand and a subsequent fall in their returns because of carmageddon – the drop in demand for vehicles.

Hat Tip: Frenemy

More melamine contamination


The Wall Street Journal reports that 31 more batches of Chinese milk powder were found to be conaminated with melamine.

The new batches were mostly milk-powder products for adults. A previous round of tests found melamine in 69 batches of infant milk powder.

The new figure brings to at least 100 the number of tested batches of milk powder found to contain melamine. Dozens of brands sold by more than a score of dairy firms, including some of China’s biggest names, have been among those tested.

A Japanese company is recalling custard tarts imported from China which contain tiny amounts of melamine.

The level of contamination posed no risk to health “if (an average adult) keeps eating 428 of them every day for life,” the company said in a statement. The company said it has received no reports of health problems.

And tests in Hong Kong cleared sweets produced by several Western brands and manufactured in China, including Mars, Cadbury and Kraft.

Hat Tip: Inquiring Mind.

Poisoned milk troubles spread


Problems with products contaminated by melamine in the wake of the poisoned milk scandal have spread beyond China’s borders.

Baby cereal in Hong Kong and snack foods in Japan which contain Chinese milk have been found to contain melamine.

And baby animals  at the Hangzhou Wild Animal Park near Shanghai have kidney stones after being fed milk powder.

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