New Articles

DESPITE TRADE TENSIONS FIREWORKS EXPORTS FROM CHINA ARE BOOMING

fireworks

DESPITE TRADE TENSIONS FIREWORKS EXPORTS FROM CHINA ARE BOOMING

Liuyang, China: Birthplace and Epicenter of Fireworks Production

Many historians credit the Chinese in ancient Liuyang with creating the first natural firecracker around 200 B.C. Roasting bamboo caused it to explode due to its hollow air pockets. The noise it generated was said to ward off evil spirits. Some 800 to 1,000 years later, Chinese alchemists mixed saltpeter, charcoal, sulfur and other ingredients to discover an early form of gunpowder. When they stuffed that mixture into bamboo shoots and threw them into a fire, boom – the first “modern” fireworks were born.

Capitalizing on its pedigree of two centuries of fireworks production, Liuyang has focused its economy on becoming the undisputed fireworks capital of the world. Overall, China produces some 90 percent of the world’s fireworks. Around 60 percent of those are made in Liuyang.

Global Fireworks Exports in 2017

Potential Powder Keg: Mr. Ding’s Dynasty

Whether you bought a multipack of screamers, bottle rockets, and roman candles from a roadside stand, or plan to watch a professionally-designed community display this Fourth of July, chances are the fireworks themselves were produced in China. In 2016, the United States imported $307.8 million worth of fireworks. Nearly all, $296.2 million worth, came from China. U.S. consumers purchase about half of the pyrotechnics China exports globally.

That may not be very surprising when you consider the abundant use of pyrotechnics at American events and celebrations. “Thunder Over Louisville” is an annual event that blasts through 60 tons of fireworks in 30 minutes.

What might be concerning, however, is the discovery by a Washington Post investigative team that around 70 percent of all Chinese fireworks entering the United States are produced, warehoused, transported, and ultimately imported under the control of companies owned by just one Chinese businessman, Ding Yan Zhong. The reporters estimate that Mr. Ding’s companies have imported 7,400 containers, 241 million pounds, of fireworks so far this year. Of the 108 containers that arrive on average every day, 72 are controlled by Mr. Ding.

Another Example of China on the Smile Curve?

There is a brighter side for the American fireworks industry. While there’s practically no firework manufacturing left in the United States, jobs in and around the fireworks industry follow a familiar pattern where the lower-skilled work is performed in China and other, higher value-added jobs can be found occupied by Americans. Here are some examples.

Pyrotechnic engineers are trained chemists who deploy their knowledge of how certain compounds react with other inputs to create bigger, brighter, and more exciting pyrotechnics. We love the classic chrysanthemum, peonies, and willow fireworks that send bright stars scattering into arcing trails. But we also await each Fourth of July the new patterns and colors these engineers have dreamed up.

The mean salary for a U.S.-based chemical engineer in 2015 was $103,960. Contrast this job with a firework maker in Liuyang, China, where most fireworks are still made by hand, by women for a mere $80-285 a month depending on skill level. It’s not just low paying; it’s dangerous work. According to a Slate article, Wang Haoshui, chief engineer with China’s State Administration of Workplace Safety, told a Chinese newspaper that only coal mining was considered a more dangerous occupation in China.

Today China produces 90% of the world’s fireworks.

In more desirable parts of the fireworks ecosystem, American show producers spend their days “choreographing” pyrotechnic displays for large scale events in sports arenas (Super Bowl halftime show and the Olympics) and concert venues (Kiss and Mötley Crüe). Winco Fireworks in Prairie Village, Kansas, imports and distributes fireworks but also innovates electrical firing systems. The company just launched the FireFly firing system that allows backyard enthusiasts to sync their music using Bluetooth® technology while detonating their fireworks wirelessly. Enthusiasts turned entrepreneurs are also common in the American fireworks industry. Scott Smith is one such example. He’s an electrical and computer systems engineer from Ganesvoort in upstate New York and founded COBRA, a company that creates software for designing fireworks shows.

Growth is Explosive in China

As with so many other consumer products, demand for fireworks is growing so rapidly in China that Liuyang manufacturers are turning their attention inward. China’s Spring Festival and lunar New Year celebrations offer healthy competition to demand for fireworks at American Fourth of July parties.

Chinese manufacturers also say it’s getting harder to export due to strict U.S. requirements. The U.S. American Tobacco and Firearms agency (ATF) requires “anyone in the business of importing, manufacturing, dealing in, or otherwise receiving display fireworks” to first obtain a Federal explosives license or permit from ATF for the specific activity. Firecrackers sold to the American public can only have 50 milligrams or less of pyrotechnic composition per firecracker.

China’s regulations are more permissive, not simply as they pertain to manufacturing, but also with respect to the power consumer fireworks can pack. Fireworks available for purchase can be several times more potent than fireworks that have been banned in the United States.

US fireworks consumption

Trade Ensures the Continuation of an American Tradition

The first American fireworks display is said to have taken place in Jamestown in 1608. According to historians, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife on July 3, 1776 in which he predicted that the Fourth of July, the day on which the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, would be “the most memorable in the history of America… celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.”

He went on to suggest the commemorations “be solemnized with pomp and parade…and illuminations [fireworks]…from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.” Wherever and with whomever you enjoy those colorful bursts in the night sky, celebrate this symbol of American independence and also the economic dynamism we currently enjoy thanks to our role in the global economy.

_________________________________________________________________

Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught international trade policy and negotiations for the last fifteen years as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

risk

How to Get a Handle on Risk in Uncertain Times: 10 Important Considerations

Risk: It’s the operative word on everyone’s mind right now. Whether it’s COVID-19 or oil prices, supply chain impacts or financial market concerns, understanding the impact of macro and micro-events, assessing their impact and putting in place the right action plans to mitigate that risk as best as possible is the priority task at hand.

Here we’ll examine ten steps to consider to ensure you’re being as thoughtful and rigorous as possible in your response to risk.

1. Take Care of Your PeopleHopefully, this has already been priority number one for your business after the past few weeks. How do we safeguard our people? How do we handle work from home – voluntary versus mandatory? What other flexible resourcing options do we provide – from sick leave to absenteeism considerations? What are the IT implications and subsequent human resource and capacity management concerns we need to consider and fully factor in? Err on the side of caution. Better to be safe than sorry.

2. Analyze Internal Risks – Before you can do that, you need to galvanize the right teams to be able to understand, assess and action against those risks. It’s critical to build the right cross-functional teams to be able to look at, and understand, the relevant issues to consider. This will involve finance, R&D (depending on your business) and marketing and sales. It will also involve teams like quality and sustainability leaders, as there will be implications and follow on ramifications despite your very best efforts.

3. Conduct Scenario Analyses – For critical categories, it’s important to get a handle on what alternative demand/supply options are. What are the pessimistic versus expected versus optimistic cases depending on what happens with the current situation, both in terms of the pandemic but also in terms of current and expected economic conditions? As part of any such assessment, you’ll need to score, assign probabilities and weights and adjust your thinking and actions accordingly.

4. Talk to Customers –This doesn’t tend to be the first thing people think about when it comes to procurement, but understanding the demand side implications for your business will be essential. How will demand be disrupted? Will there be specific products in your portfolio that will be more directly or severely impacted? Will this result in demand cutbacks or surges? Where will you source supply from? Can you cut back supply needs for others? How will buying patterns change – will there be channel shifts from offline to online? How does that play out in terms of critical suppliers and critical buys and requirements in the near to medium terms? Maintaining a dialogue with customers to understand their needs and issues and where all of this plays through for your team is essential.

5. Develop Plans for Strategic Categories –You’ll need to revisit your plans and the related risks around your most critical categories during a time of crisis. Make sure that these plans have been reviewed, the pressure points tested, the risk points analyzed and alternative plans considered. This could mean enhancing inventory levels (and rethinking inventory buffers based on the scenario planning we talked about earlier), assessing implications for delivery performance, gaining a view of multi-tiered supplier performance, increased inbound category visibility and more.

6. Examine Logistics Implications – By the same token, businesses must assess the logistics implications both inbound and outbound, either to make products or to ensure delivery. This has cost and timeline implications. All modes of transportation can be seen to be impacted, not least of which is shipping impacts – especially to and from China, but elsewhere, as well – whether these impacts are halts on movements, ramp downs, or the subsequently phased ramp back up. Or bypassing some of these options and going to airfreight which presents another level of cost to timeline tradeoffs.

7. Assess Liquidity – This will be critical and will call for a stronger partnership and alliance with finance. Looking at cash positions, assessing payables, and of course extending that into receivables, etc. will be essential. Add to this, talk of tightening credit markets and this makes it all the more important. Cash as always will be king if we need to endure near term instabilities, revenue disruptions, supply chain impacts, sourcing problems, and more

8. Assess Supplier Health – Part and parcel to all of this is assessing supplier health and evaluating who will be the most impacted. A clear view of your supplier segments – strategic versus mid-tier versus everyone else – is essential so you can focus your time and analysis accordingly.

For the most strategic suppliers, it’s critical to have a multi-tiered view of their supply base and related dependencies so you can adequately assess their performance and supply chain bottlenecks. This will involve structured risk analyses – looking across multiple variables beyond financials, to operational performance, to industry performance factors, to geographic and locational concerns and more. You’ll also need to identify alternate supply sources to shift production as and where needed, and as quickly as possible. Not all of this can be done at a moment’s notice. Some of it should have been done as part of a prior risk assessment exercise.

9. Think Ahead – Businesses can’t afford to simply think about today. Consider what the next three to six months look like. This is where scenario planning comes into play. It is critical to assess not only how you can react now but also how to prepare for eventualities later, when things are either fully back to normal or in some altered state based on longer-lasting ramifications from the events of today.

10. Work With Facts and Manage Emotion – Fundamentally, the most important thing you can do is to continuously monitor changes in a structured fashion. Have a programmed information collection and analysis mechanism. If we accept that the crisis is still unfolding and that the true impacts from a supply chain disruption perspective may not reveal themselves for months, we need to take tangible steps.  This can be done by establishing a process to monitor other regions outside the infected areas that could be impacted. Are ports outside the infected areas being impacted through disruption or through new regulations to protect against transmission of the virus?  Are suppliers struggling financially without access to the Chinese markets, jeopardizing their viability? Data will be important but data converted to relevant insight for your specific supply chain situation will be essential.

_____________________________________________________________

Omer Abdullah is Co-founder and Managing Director of The Smart Cube and is responsible for managing the company’s Americas business.Omer has more than 25 years of management consulting, global corporate and industry experience across North America, Europe and Asia.

Prior roles include A.T. Kearney (North America), Warner Lambert (USA) and The Perrier Group (Asia-Pacific). Omer has an MBA from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, USA and a BBA from the University of East Asia.

ASEAN

Global Trade Talk: Navigating Geopolitical Currents in a Changing Southeast Asia

Global Trade Talk is part of an ongoing series highlighting international business, trade, investment, and site location issues and opportunities. This article focuses on the conversation between Simon Tay, Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs and Keith Rabin, President, KWR International, Inc.

Hello Simon. How have you been? Before we begin can you tell our readers about your background and current activities?

I am Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA). We focus on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional organization comprised of ten countries in Southeast Asia, as well as the wider Asia Pacific and Singapore’s role as a hub for trade and investment and greater integration in the region. This includes a range of geopolitical issues including the rise of China, the role of the US, and most recently the coronavirus pandemic, which is serving as an accelerator for changes that have been occurring over the last decade.

Professionally, I am an attorney and was a member of Parliament from 1997-2001, serving during the Asian financial crisis. Then during the 2008 global financial crisis, I was stationed in New York at the Asia Society where we first met. These experiences have given me a unique perspective on the impact of globalization and other trends we have experienced over the past two decades.

While ASEAN currently possesses the third-largest economy in the Indo-Pacific and fifth largest in the world, many foreigners have never even heard of the regional group nor do they recognize its potential. Can you talk about how ASEAN evolved, what it represents as a commercial market and investment destination, and in terms of security and its global importance? What opportunities and obstacles and investment themes are of particular importance to foreign companies and investors in the coming years?

I don’t blame people for not knowing ASEAN. When one looks to Asia, one’s eyes are first drawn to the giants. China in particular has done very well over the past twenty years and no country has grown faster during that time. As it developed and labor costs and standards of living rose, Southeast Asia began to capture the attention of businesses, and deservedly so. ASEAN now has growing appeal, because of greater integration as we create an ASEAN Community with increased consumption and growth. That is why many people refer to us as the fifth largest economy in the world.

The reality, however, is a bit short of that – as we are not really one country or one system. We are, however, working to realize the “ASEAN 2025 Vision.” This is a roadmap adopted in 2015 to articulate regional goals to create a more cohesive ASEAN Community. SIIA is currently working on the ASEAN mid-term review, which is examining our progress, and how crises such as the pandemic can strengthen our will to more fully integrate. While an unfinished project, given the diversity in the region, it is — in some ways — every bit as ambitious as the establishment of the European Union (EU). The trend is toward closer integration.

Before the Asian financial crisis, which began in the summer of 1997, the region was mostly viewed, at least in the US, through the lens of the Vietnam War. Over the last twenty+ years we have advanced, however, and growth in ASEAN has been reinforced. This is true both in developed countries such as Singapore and Thailand, developing nations such as Vietnam and Myanmar, and those in between. Before the pandemic, ASEAN as a whole was growing at a faster rate than China. While the pandemic is hitting our people and economies hard, the region should still outperform the world.

The fundamentals are real. ASEAN is ascending from a lower base, leaving substantial room for further growth. There are many opportunities as countries raise consumption and leapfrog using software, digital innovation, and a greater online presence. Diverse sectors can do well, including labor-intensive manufacturing, infrastructure, services, consumer markets, and others that are part of the new economy.

As you note many people view ASEAN as being similar to the EU, a vehicle grouping together a group of countries into a more integrated market, though without a common currency. Is that fair and can you talk about both the diversity of ASEAN as well as the steps being taken to link these ten nations into a more cohesive entity? Is it possible for companies to have an “ASEAN strategy” or should they be looking at individual markets?

Given what I said about ASEAN, and how it is not yet a cohesive union, that is a very good question. The answer is yes and yes. Movement toward greater integration is very clear but we are not like China or the EU where you can put up one office and that’s it for the region. In a way, this is an economic strength as well as a political challenge.

In ASEAN you have an opportunity to link supply chains from a hub like Singapore, which offers first-class amenities, to less developed markets with eager and driven populations rising out of poverty and looking for jobs in factories and a more modern lifestyle. Myanmar for example is a sizable country with a pool of young people looking for jobs and a government seeking to develop. Myanmar also has a sizable expatriate population that has lived and worked in countries such as Singapore and Thailand, as well as Australia, Europe and the US, where they received education and training. Now their economies are opening – and they are returning with capacity, experience and ideas to implement change. So these countries are not starting from zero.

In between, you have countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Labor there remains hungry for work, the land is relatively cheap and demand is growing. Today, a lot of attention is focused on Vietnam in particular. This is a country of almost 100 million young, dynamic, and hard-working people, which is well on its way to becoming a competitive supply base for many products.

ASEAN also benefits from not being China. Our diversity offers a decentralized model that adds diversification to global supply chains. It can be more complex to work across ASEAN — there is no one President or government to go to – but it is also less risky for those who can manage across borders – as it is not a case where if one government or economy fails, then the investor also fails. Moreover, ASEAN is not a threat to anyone politically. Vietnam for example has a trade surplus with the US whereas Singapore has a deficit.

Those who invest in ASEAN benefit from having an alternative to China, though are still located in this growing region. This allows synergies with production clusters based there. Being in ASEAN allows companies and investors to benefit and participate in this growing regional economy without putting more eggs into the China basket.

You mentioned the US has enjoyed strong ties with ASEAN since its birth in 1967. This was a time when the US sought to develop regional allies in the face of the Vietnam and Cold Wars. Today, however, despite a move to initiate an “Asian Pivot” under the Obama administration and talk of the “Indo-Pacific” under President Trump, some question US commitment to the region. How do you view the US presence and role within ASEAN? What should US companies and leaders know about ASEAN and how does their presence compare to other nations including Japan, Korea, Australia, and the EU?

The US remains an important partner and market for ASEAN and when looking at its involvement in the region, there are three strands we can talk about. The first is like an underlying current in the ocean, the second is the waves on top, and third like a bright object on the surface. If you look at the current, the destiny of the US remains very much an outward one. It is the country that created the modern world and global trading system you and I have grown up in. It was built to America’s advantage and I think this strong current of the US having shaped and benefitted from this world is ever-present despite current tensions. So we have not seen, whichever President, a lack of interest from US business, its military or security establishment. So whether you call it an Asian Pivot, Indo-Pacific region or before that the War on Terrorism, we believe this current can and should have reasons to continue.

At the same time, there are waves on the surface. These are more noticeable, as it is hard to see the underlying current unless you put your hand deep below. The waves do matter and I would say right now they are choppy and we are now going through a period where Americans are questioning globalization and retreating from multilateralism and international engagement. I was in Seattle during the 1999 WTO protests. At the time President Clinton had the political savvy to suggest we let these voices in to assuage concerns – even as he was the president who signed and implemented the NAFTA agreement. As a result, after a time, things calmed down and the situation became less tense for the moment.

Since then, however, the waves have gotten more turbulent, and it is important to recognize the tensions that brought Trump into office are not singular to him. Remember that Hillary Clinton responded to those choppy waves in her election bid. She supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement while Secretary of State, and yet as a candidate against Trump, she too expressed doubts about the TPP. So it is not just the Trump administration and we can see a wave of US constituencies questioning and expressing concerns.

The concern is rising to the point where now even the underlying current of outward movement that I mentioned is less visible. Companies are now being judged by how many jobs they are reshoring and their loyalty to America and American jobs. This is now seen as more important than an overall win-win growing the global economic pie paradigm, which has guided the thinking of policymakers and companies for decades.

And then there is the ball or float which can be seen in tweets and incendiary rhetoric. These attract a lot of attention and concern but they are not necessarily consistent. You mentioned the Indo-Pacific strategy and frankly, I haven’t really seen one. I have seen Indo-Pacific statements and senior US officials talking about issues, but I haven’t seen an overall strategy tying things together. I have to say I view this from an ASEAN perspective and generally, ASEAN is the final stop after a comprehensive strategy dealing with other parts of Asia is finalized.

There is also much less US involvement in multilateral institutions. This is important given the nature of the problems the world faces today. I also think the State Department itself has less access and the whole US establishment which has guided foreign policy and economic engagement, has been weakened.

At the same time other countries – and China in particular – have upped their game. They engage us, not only at the top level – but very thoroughly on an ongoing basis.  Ambassadors of these countries, whether you agree with them or not, are out all the time engaging people, and are much more present. The US is still here but less than in the past. Take something as simple as Ambassadors. How many ASEAN countries have sitting US Ambassadors? And if you talk with the ones that are here, how much access do they have into Washington and White House decision-making at a high level? Stove-piping is always a problem in big countries, but it is now becoming a more serious issue.

Since the early days of ASEAN, China has developed rapidly and has now become the world’s second-largest economy. It is also a major driver of economic growth and seeks greater regional and global influence through vehicles such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), at a time when the US is backing away from multilateral institutions and its traditional role as a global leader on a range of important issues. As tensions rise between China and the US, both in terms of trade as well as influence and security, how is the region affected, and what are the challenges ASEAN countries face in navigating this changing environment?

The pandemic makes a vast difference. We are trying to figure out in a post-pandemic world whether China or the US will recover faster and at the moment the answer seems to be China. It is still early, however, and of course, there is now an outbreak in Beijing so we will have to see. At the same time within China, there seems to be a growing understanding they need to remain engaged with the outside world. They also did not have this pre-pandemic spirit of isolationism and questioning of whether it is good for China to export and invest abroad. So unlike the US, they did not come into this with a globalization backlash, strengthened further by the pandemic.

Singapore recently entered into a “green lane” agreement with China for business travel and Singapore-based businesses of all nationalities can now travel to six cities and regions of China with minimal testing as a first step toward reopening our borders. This is not political but an effort to restore supply chain links and our ability to operate as a hub while maintaining decent safety levels. We are also trying to open Australia and New Zealand, and other countries in ASEAN, but those discussions are not yet concluded.

Also, if you look back to the global financial crisis of 2008, it is notable that Asia and China kept growing. While the US did not shrink, in relative terms its global market share declined. That caused an adjustment similar to when an elevator goes up and suddenly stops. I feel if the US does not respond correctly to the current situation, we may experience another of those adjustments; it doesn’t mean the US will fade and fall down the elevator shaft, but there will be another jerky moment and perceptions in this part of the world will shift further as they did after the onset of the global financial crisis.

That said, people in ASEAN want more US involvement and encourage US investment and more participation by US firms. We think of the market and technology as rational and neutral, but it is beginning to get colored. Meaning if people think the winner will be China there is a tendency to go more in that direction – even though we are still fighting to keep things as neutral, rational, and as inclusive as possible. You can see that in the struggle over the decision this week to award Singapore’s 5G network to Ericsson and Nokia, though it still maintained a smaller role for Huawei.

In the past, there was a belief in the west that China’s development would lead it toward a more democratic form of government and integration within the global trading system that arose following the Second World War. In recent years it has become apparent this is not the case and China is embarking on its own path. This has led to growing concerns about China’s aspirations and efforts to exert global leadership and establish standards in new technologies as seen its “Made in China 2025 initiative”, its policy toward Hong Kong and Taiwan, cybersecurity and privacy, social credit scoring and other policies, practices, and beliefs. Do you share these concerns? How does China’s model translate to ASEAN and do you see a new “Cold War” developing in which countries will be asked to choose sides?

I have studied, lived in, and like the US, but never assumed China would become more democratic. I believe the Party will have to evolve and change in response to China’s development but never assumed this would necessarily be in a democratic direction. When I look at the region beyond China, I would also say most in Asia are not a democracy in the US-style. Even look at Japan, which you Keith know well. It is not a one-party system like China but it is not a US-style democracy. Neither is Singapore. We will have an election here in less than two weeks, yet there is almost no doubt which party will win. So I am not sure you as an American would describe such systems as democracy.

So I do not look at China through an ideological lens of democracy and have always thought China would do what made sense for China. As neighbors, we do have to figure out whether what is good for China will be a threat to us, rather than win-win. This applies when we look at Chinese investment; we tend to look at it through pragmatic calculations. I do not begin with the assumption that it is an attempt to politically suborn every place where they invest. There are of course risks that remain but they can be managed. For example, with BRI we have talked to Myanmar and others about the risks of unproven projects that burden them with high debt. That is Singapore’s style. We initiate projects incrementally. We start with one terminal and gradually expand to five, or one chemical factory into a large complex as demand is proven. We have an idea of where we want to go – but build incrementally rather than start with grand projects.

That is why you now see a number of Singapore industrial parks in Vietnam. These parks are not just physical spaces. Some provide training, education, and skills development for local workers so they can better serve companies based there. This helps our neighbors while developing our role as a hub. Singapore companies are also involved in BRI. For example, Surbana Jurong provides consultancy services to some Chinese investors in ASEAN countries, as well as acting for the hosts on other occasions. The Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) is also pushing out into the region and beyond; recently opening a joint port in Greece with Cosco, a Chinese shipping line. So Singaporean efforts are to seek cooperation and commercial deals that look non-ideologically to support globalization and free trade around the world.

The bigger question is the “new Cold War” between the USA and China. We do feel it. We try to make rational decisions based on market principles but increasingly everything is reduced to whether “you are for or against China or the US.” For the AIIB, Singapore participated from the start because infrastructure is a big issue in the region. We are in the Asian Development Bank (ADB) too and the World Bank. We think there is no reason we can’t be in more than one, and I do not see why the US objected to the AIIB or what was the alternative they were offering. On the other hand, when American’s spoke about the Indo-Pacific we were happy to work with our ASEAN colleagues to develop an ASEAN understanding and response.

The view of the Indo-Pacific that ASEAN has developed is slightly different than the US, as our goal was to make it more inclusive and not just for democracies. But we do agree a larger framework for the region is necessary. For Singapore, as close friends with India, we have no problems working with them as well and continue to hope they will become more and more integrated with the region.

Even before the coronavirus and heightened US-China trade tensions, corporations were beginning to reevaluate global supply chains to lessen their reliance on Chinese production. Many view ASEAN as a natural beneficiary, offering cost and diversification benefits. As a result, we see many clients giving the region more consideration given its strategic location, strong infrastructure and its ability to bridge operations that had been based in China and still rely on inputs from there. How do you view ASEAN’s potential as the region rises in importance as a hub within the global supply chain? What are the prospects for developing and more developed countries in ASEAN– as well as integration between the two, for example, the relationship between Singapore and Batam/Bintan and the Riau Islands, where we have been active for many years, located in Indonesia only 12 miles away?

Our greatest fear is not a splintering of global supply chains but rather the idea of bringing everything back home in response to growing nationalism. Big countries sometimes think they can do that – whether it is the US, China, India, or even Indonesia. They believe they can produce everything for themselves and capture their own market. We used to see this in the “import substitution” and “beggar thy neighbor” days. That is something we need to work together to avoid. Post-pandemic there will be exceptions and a degree of self-supply is important, for example with masks and ventilators, to prevent a cut-off of supply. Similarly, markets such as Singapore which imports almost 100% of its food supply, need to rethink being completely reliant on offshore sourcing. But we need to make sure that tilt does not go too far.

But I would emphasize we are not going to exclude China either. The interesting question is whether we still believe in global supply chains. I think the answer is that we do, provided that security and other key concerns can still be addressed. If that is the case, countries that can provide that, who can reliably manage increasing supply chain complexity with good governance and rule of law, with an ability to deliver will be rewarded. ASEAN and Singapore are well-positioned in that regard.

The larger danger is that countries retreat back completely to a reliance on national production and protectionism. It is a lesser danger for supply chains to split into two, one being the US and the other a Chinese supply chain. Sometimes it is important for other countries to have guts and stand up against that and bullying from either side. This is especially important during the pandemic when some powerful countries were trying to grab masks and other medical supplies for themselves when these had been contracted to others. For Singapore, and for me as an attorney and international lawyer, I emphasize the importance of fulfilling contracts. This does not always work to our advantage in Singapore. Sometimes in the pandemic, neighbors cut off supply but we still try our best to observe our commitments. The rule of law is important. The bottom line is – trust is something you can’t ditch in a crisis.

You ask about Batam and Bintan as part of our strategy to expand across the region. These islands are part of Indonesia but stand just a small distance from Singapore. Back in the early 1990s, there was a lot of excitement in Singapore about their development as an early step in regionalization and cross border cooperation. They are still significant; proximity still matters, but not quite as much as before. Other opportunities arise, and regionalization has deepened. One newer aspect is whether that proximity is connected to another market.

For example, a major Singaporean company now has an industrial park operating in central Java that caters to Indonesia, rather than offshore markets like Batam and Bintan. Singapore also has more than seven industrial parks in Vietnam – and we do more there than in these Indonesian islands nearest us. Why? It is not because we do not like Batam and Bintan; they also have a role to play. But they do not enjoy any special preferences or contiguous market, have no natural workforce so workers there are imported from other parts of Indonesia. In the end, they remain useful, allow easy commuting, but do not provide a definitive advantage in an environment characterized by deeper and more complex regional integration.

ASEAN has been severely affected by the coronavirus – and by most measures handled the pandemic relatively well. Can you talk about how the virus has been handled in Singapore and other countries in ASEAN, the nature of regional cooperation, and how the pandemic is likely to affect economic and other aspects of integration moving forward? What lessons should the US take from the ASEAN experience dealing with the virus?

There are differences in how ASEAN countries have handled this and from what we can see, Vietnam has come out on top in terms of controlling the pandemic. In Singapore, the overall national numbers may look scary, but it is under control for most of the community though the problem is acute within the foreign work dormitories which account for the bulk of numbers.

Singapore has a strong health system and has ramped up testing and treatment facilities; our medical system has coped and there has been a very low mortality rate. Malaysia and Thailand are also doing relatively well. For Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar the numbers seem ok but it is really hard to know for sure, given low levels of testing. In Southeast Asia, I think the biggest worry is Indonesia where numbers are beginning to rise while the country faces strong economic pressure to reopen.

A key question is transparency. The more you test the more you find cases. So we look at testing rates as an indicator. In Singapore, we have good testing for a small population. As testing increased in dorms for migrant workers, this caused our numbers to really jump. It was just last week that Indonesia overtook us as having the most cases – and we have to ask why did it take that long? Basically, many countries are not testing enough. When they do test, it is for confirmed cases and not more generally – and the number of tests per million is very low. So from the reported numbers, the situation may look acceptable, but no one can be quite sure.

The current question is how to ease up the restrictions to restart the economy and allow travel across borders. There are worries about importing cases and all countries have at least temporarily closed off tourism, which are important parts of their economies. In the pipeline, I think green lanes for business are possible. But there will continue to be concerns about large numbers of tourists unless easy and reliable testing and (ideally) vaccines are ready. So we will have to figure out how to manage borders – allowing transport of workers as well as goods and services – to restart our economies and manage our integration and supply chains in an increasingly interdependent region.

One of the things we have learned is we have to be open to help from outside and cooperation is critical. In early February we first had a China-ASEAN meeting on how to deal with the virus and it was just China, but then we had an ASEAN Summit and this was notable in bringing in Japan and Korea – two countries that have the industry and technology needed to help. Now some of us are advocating Australia and New Zealand also need to be added as well. If we address the pandemic together – we have a much better chance of containing and dealing with it. Harmonizing our approaches to treatment and travel is important. Multilateral dialogue and cooperation are essential and world leaders should encourage talk rather than just closing borders.

India also represents a major economy that borders ASEAN and has traditionally had a major impact though often gets overlooked given the attention paid to China. What is your view on India as a regional and global player and how important is its economy to the development of ASEAN and how should companies be approaching this important market? Additionally, any thoughts on current tensions between India and China?

Last year before the pandemic we had the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) discussions which could potentially not only open up India but bring India more into the region as a major global manufacturer and supplier – much as China embarked on that path decades ago. RCEP’s importance rose after the US withdrew from TPP negotiations, and aimed to bring together all ASEAN members and our key trading partners — including India, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea. But it seems the Indians didn’t like that vision or thought the costs of opening up their market were too high and walked away.

They thought they could scupper the whole initiative, but ASEAN has decided to go ahead without them. That was not our hope and it would have been much better to include them, but we were not going to let India veto RCEP, and it will now proceed, aiming to conclude by the end of 2020. I always tell my Indian friends we have to move – particularly now with the pandemic – and they would be advised to jump on board.

India has tremendous potential and their size and promise will always be there – but it is a bit like a giant universe operating by itself – cut off from the outside. That is sad as there are some really top-class Indian companies that can more than compete in the region. But India as a whole has not really been fully engaged. The politics are complicated – and while Singapore remains great friends of India – it remains to be seen if a path forward can be found. If Prime Minister Modi with all the support he enjoys is not willing to open up, how and when will it happen? Compound that with the pandemic and a lack of desire to integrate, and my fear is India will miss the boat.

For Indonesia, the largest country in ASEAN, it’s different. They know investors are questioning reliance on China because of costs and Sino-American conflict and are working to catch the attention to join global chains and attract more investment to create more and better paying industrial jobs. They are trying but it won’t be easy. China has retained many supply chains, and many that moved decided to go to Vietnam.  One Indonesian minister I know quite well is working hard to attract jobs and promote innovation and some companies are moving to base there. The minister told me his scorecard is based on an ability to attract foreign investors and industry. It will be difficult, but it is good they are trying. India, however, has mostly been sitting on the sidelines and it may only get harder over time.

Singapore is one of the world’s great success stories and has become a preferred destination to establish businesses and operate for companies in a wide range of sectors, including as a world financial center. For many years we operated our own company there as a base for activities in Myanmar, Indonesia and other ASEAN markets which lacked the same level of infrastructure, governance and services. Does the Singapore model hold, and what changes need to be made, as neighboring countries develop? Can you tell us about current Singapore initiatives, the upcoming election and the “bubbles” that are being created for business, travel and trade?

Singapore understands we serve as a hub for the region and if we cut ourselves off due to the pandemic and health reasons, we will find ourselves in a bubble that does not have enough air for all of us. You can live your life that way if you need to, but resources become scarce and it will not be much of a life. So we have to reopen, and all small economies face similar issues. New Zealand for example is further away but faces similar decisions.

That is why we talk about green lanes and bubbles. We need to start but in a controlled way with trusted partners. In the past, we were wide open. When you entered Changi Airport, even before you got to the doors, they opened wide. There was seldom a line and often no one even checked your luggage. Now, while I have not been there in five months, I imagine the scanners are working overtime. You need to show a health certificate and the process is much more cautious and guarded.

My analogy is that we have gone from an automatic door and seamless travel to a situation that requires a special pass and perhaps a key before you will be able to pass. Safety concerns are a priority. But for Singapore, the important thing is the doors need to remain open even if there are more checks and verifications to ensure adequate safety and easy passage. Singapore is committed to that. The government just formed a new public-private partnership called the “Emerging Stronger Task Force”. This will gather ideas on how to develop new processes and procedures to get better ideas on Singapore’s economic strengths, and how to move forward into the “new normal” in the wake of the pandemic.

It won’t be easy. But when I look back, there is reason to believe we can rise to the challenges. Singapore came out stronger from the Asian financial crisis and we are determined to do that again. That was true after the global financial crisis as well. If we get it right, Singapore can come out stronger this time as well. Of course, we could get it wrong and have made mistakes along the way;  two recoveries do not automatically translate into a third so we have to be careful not to have hubris and to work hard and innovate to succeed.

As you know we have been active and involved with Myanmar’s development for many decades, and one of the more interesting developments – at least in terms of Singapore – are long term plans to develop deep seaports in Kyauphyu, which would provide a land route into China. This initiative would allow shippers to bypass the Straits of Malacca and the Port of Singapore which has long dominated trade in the region. How do you view Myanmar’s prospects and the potential of these projects?

Do we see other ports in the region as a direct threat to Singapore? The answer is no. We think win-win. Our ports are busy and before the pandemic operated almost at full capacity. If Asia continues to grow, the volume of traffic will grow even more. The PSA has been expanding internationally to places in the region and beyond. Moreover, within Singapore land is very valuable and there is a plan to create a new mega port named Tuas in the north of the island. The current site of one port is very close to the city and is such valuable land that, rather than stacking containers, far more value can be realized if it is used for real estate and infrastructure development. So while we do want Singapore to continue as a major port, this means that we welcome and want to participate in growth across the region.

As for Myanmar more generally, we are very encouraged and remain positive. We would love to see them come up like Vietnam. As mentioned, there are several Singaporean industrial parks there and while there are none are as yet in Myanmar – we have very good relationships there and see lots of potential. Many people from Myanmar received their education and training in Singapore and many Myanmar companies rely on Singapore for banking, legal and financial services. So there are extensive people-people relationships and we want to help and be part of their development. Also, two of the most active banks in Myanmar, UOB and OCBC are from Singapore and as Myanmar opens up and liberalizes they are seeking to increase their presence.

Thank you Simon for your time and attention. Look forward to speaking again soon!

_______________________________________________________________

Keith Rabin serves as President at KWR International, Inc., a global consulting firm specializing in international market entry; trade, business, investment and economic development; site location, as well as research and public relations/ public affairs services for a wide range of corporate and government clients.

egg

Despite Ranking only Fifth in Terms of Market Size, the Netherlands Leads European Chicken Egg Exports

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘EU – Hen Eggs – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

In 2019, the EU chicken egg market decreased by -2.1% to $12.7B for the first time since 2016, thus ending a two-year rising trend. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2017 with an increase of 8.7% against the previous year. The level of consumption peaked at $15.8B in 2007; however, from 2008 to 2019, consumption failed to regain the momentum.

In physical terms, the volume of consumption amounted to 6.3M tonnes which remained relatively stable against the previous year; over the last decade, it increased gradually with some slight fluctuations in certain years.

Consumption by Country

The countries with the highest volumes of chicken egg consumption in 2019 were Germany (1.1M tonnes), France (881K tonnes) and Spain (761K tonnes), together accounting for 44% of total consumption. Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Belgium, Austria, Portugal, Hungary and Sweden lagged somewhat behind, together comprising a further 44%.

From 2007 to 2019, the most notable rate of growth in terms of chicken egg consumption, amongst the key consuming countries, was attained by Belgium, while chicken egg consumption for the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, the largest chicken egg markets in the European Union were Germany ($2.3B), France ($2B) and Spain ($1.4B), together comprising 45% of the total market. These countries were followed by Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Hungary, Sweden, Romania, Austria, Portugal and Belgium, which together accounted for a further 40%.

The countries with the highest levels of chicken egg per capita consumption in 2019 were the Netherlands (31 kg per person), Austria (17 kg per person) and Spain (16 kg per person).

Market Forecast to 2030

Driven by increasing demand for chicken egg in the European Union, the market is expected to continue an upward consumption trend over the next decade. Market performance is forecast to retain its current trend pattern, expanding with an anticipated CAGR of +1.0% for the period from 2019 to 2030, which is projected to bring the market volume to 7M tonnes by the end of 2030.

Production in the EU

Chicken egg production reached 6.4M tonnes in 2019, stabilizing at 2018 figures. Over the period under review, production, however, showed a relatively flat trend pattern. The growth pace was the most rapid in 2013 when the production volume increased by 9.2% y-o-y. As a result, production reached the peak volume of 6.6M tonnes. From 2014 to 2019, production growth remained at a somewhat lower figure.

Production by Country

The countries with the highest volumes of chicken egg production in 2019 were Germany (852K tonnes), France (845K tonnes) and Spain (841K tonnes), with a combined 39% share of total production. Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Belgium, Portugal, Hungary, Austria and Sweden lagged somewhat behind, together comprising a further 48%.

From 2007 to 2019, the most notable rate of growth in terms of chicken egg production, amongst the leading producing countries, was attained by Austria, while chicken egg production for the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

Producing Animals in the EU

The total number of hens for egg production stood at 458M heads in 2019, approximately equating 2018 figures. Over the period under review, the number of producing animals continues to indicate a relatively flat trend pattern. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2010 with an increase of 5.5% y-o-y. As a result, the number of producing animals attained the peak level of 461M heads. From 2011 to 2019, the growth of this number failed to regain the momentum.

Yield in the EU

The average chicken egg yield dropped slightly to 14 kg per head in 2019, approximately equating the year before. Over the period under review, the yield saw a relatively flat trend pattern. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2013 when the yield increased by 7.2% against the previous year. Over the period under review, the chicken egg yield reached the peak level at 15 kg per head in 2007; however, from 2008 to 2019, the yield failed to regain the momentum.

Exports in the EU

In 2019, the amount of chicken eggs exported in the European Union fell modestly to 1.1M tonnes, declining by -2% against the year before. Overall, exports saw a abrupt curtailment. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2018 with an increase of 2.4% year-to-year.

In value terms, chicken egg exports dropped modestly to $2.1B (IndexBox estimates) in 2019. Over the period under review, exports saw a relatively flat trend pattern. The growth pace was the most rapid in 2013 with an increase of 17% year-to-year. The level of export peaked at $2.3B in 2014; however, from 2015 to 2019, exports failed to regain the momentum.

Exports by Country

The Netherlands was the largest exporting country with an export of around 396K tonnes, which accounted for 34% of total exports. It was distantly followed by Poland (214K tonnes), Germany (130K tonnes), Spain (87K tonnes) and Belgium (85K tonnes), together mixing up a 45% share of total exports. France (34K tonnes), Latvia (22K tonnes), Italy (19K tonnes), Bulgaria (18K tonnes) and the Czech Republic (18K tonnes) followed a long way behind the leaders.

From 2007 to 2019, the biggest increases were in Spain, while shipments for the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, the Netherlands ($743M) remains the largest chicken egg supplier in the European Union, comprising 35% of total exports. The second position in the ranking was occupied by Poland ($284M), with a 13% share of total exports. It was followed by Germany, with a 13% share.

In the Netherlands, chicken egg exports plunged by an average annual rate of -3.0% over the period from 2007-2019. In the other countries, the average annual rates were as follows: Poland (+13.0% per year) and Germany (-1.6% per year).

Export Prices by Country

The chicken egg export price in the European Union stood at $1,845 per tonne in 2019, approximately mirroring the previous year. In general, the export price recorded strong growth. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2013 when the export price increased by 28% against the previous year. Over the period under review, export prices reached the maximum at $1,875 per tonne in 2014; however, from 2015 to 2019, export prices stood at a somewhat lower figure.

There were significant differences in the average prices amongst the major exporting countries. In 2019, the country with the highest price was the Czech Republic ($2,582 per tonne), while Latvia ($1,259 per tonne) was amongst the lowest.

From 2007 to 2019, the most notable rate of growth in terms of prices was attained by Belgium, while the other leaders experienced mixed trends in the export price figures.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform

knowledge management

Why Knowledge Management is Important to the Success of Your Company

Executives today are more focused on strategic management decision making due to the hypercompetitive global environment and the public and private sector evaluation and opinion. Executes still wonder where is knowledge and how can it be captured, utilized, and enhanced when it comes to decision-making. Executives found that within organizations, knowledge resides in various areas such as management, employees, culture, structure, systems, processes, and relationships, and its role is to enhance organizational functions.

Executives across the globe have found that knowledge is critical to business success. Knowledge, in of itself, is not enough to satisfy the vast array of changes in today’s organization. Therefore, knowledge management is only a necessary precursor to effectively managing knowledge within the organization.

First executives must understand the concept of organizational knowledge itself. Organizational knowledge cannot merely be described as the sum of individual knowledge, but as a systematic combination of knowledge based on social interactions shared among organizational members. Executives can categorize followers based on their human knowledge which focuses on individual knowledge and manifests itself in an individual’s competencies and skills. Executives, being more conceptual, agree with Haridimos Tsoukas who determines organizational knowledge as a collective mind, and Kiku Jones and Lori Leonard who explain organizational knowledge as the knowledge that exists in the organization as a whole. Most importantly, organizational knowledge is owned and disseminated by the organization.

The key take-away for executives is that knowledge is a resource that enables organizations to solve problems and create value through improved performance and it is this point that will narrow the gaps of success and failure leading to more successful decision-making. The key is for executives to convert individual knowledge into valuable resources to ensure that the knowledge is actually helping the organization grow both professionally for individuals and profitably for all stakeholders.

Companies are increasingly investing in knowledge management projects. But knowledge management in companies is still quite limited. Knowledge management can help companies identify their inefficiencies in organizational processes, and subsequently recover them on an instantaneous basis which enables executives to prevent further operational risk. The question remains. How does knowledge management impact executive success?

Executive success is tantamount to organizational performance and in many cases, their salary is concurrently determined on organizational success. By combining knowledge management and executive success, executives are able to answer the questions necessary to apply knowledge management without having to delve through all the models and theories to find what works well for them and what does not. Knowledge is firstly accumulated by creating new knowledge from organizational intellectual capital and acquiring knowledge from external environments.

This knowledge exchange with external business partners develops innovative environments that can enable executives to create a more innovative climate in companies. The knowledge management process enhances the capabilities of executives to play the role of inspirational motivation, which enables executives to directly set highly desired expectations to recognize possible opportunities in the business environment. The knowledge exchange also positively contributes to executives to develop a more effective vision, including a more comprehensive array of information and insights about external environments.

Executives then integrate knowledge internally to enhance the effectiveness and efficiencies in various systems and processes, as well as to be more responsive to market changes. Knowledge integration focuses on monitoring and evaluating knowledge management practices, coordinating experts, sharing knowledge, and scanning the changes of knowledge requirements to keep the quality of their products or services in-line with market demand. It is apparent that knowledge integration activities can help executives assessing the required changes to keep the quality of both products and services at maximum levels. Furthermore, a systematic process of coordinating company-wide experts enables executives to propel the role of intellectual stimulation, which creates a more innovative environment within companies.

Executives must also curtail knowledge within organizations. The knowledge within organizations needs to be reconfigured to meet environmental changes and new challenges today. What worked yesterday or a few years ago is changing rapidly as technology has increased in a prolific way. Knowledge is globally shared with other organizations through domestic and global rewards such as the Malcolm Baldridge Award in the United States and the Deming Award in Japan. However, past studies have posited that companies might lack the required capabilities or decide to decline from interacting acting with other companies or even suffer the distrust to share their knowledge. Therefore, expert groups may not have sufficient diversity in order to comprehend knowledge acquired from external sources.

Based upon these limitations whether natural or caused, networking with business partners is a key activity for companies to enhance knowledge exchange and it should not take an award to be the impetus to initiate interaction. Ergo, networking with external business partners may enhance executive success, thereby empowering executives to better develop strategic insights to develop a more effective vision incorporating various concerns and values of external business partners.

The knowledge transference among companies itself improves the effectiveness of learning, which in turn enables executives to empower human resources by creating new knowledge and solutions. Thus, I suggest that networking takes place among companies in both domestic and international markets which may lead to enhance the effective use of leadership. Therefore, if executives in senior positions effectively use knowledge management then they may be able to improve executive success through increased learning opportunities.

In conclusion, this article actually investigates the crossover potential of scholarly research and how it can be applied in the organizational boardroom. I offer practical contributions to managers at all levels of the organization. This article introduces a new and dynamic perspective of knowledge management within organizations, and adds to a relatively small body of literature but pays homage to the scholarly contributions. I stress that knowledge is a strategic resource for organizational portfolios.

This article suggests that knowledge management constitutes the foundation of a supportive workplace to improve executive success and reduce operational risk. The key here is that there are positive effects of knowledge management on executive success. I highlight the direct impact of knowledge management on executive success by facilitating important components of performance. When business leaders ensure executive success they increase control and lesson operational risk. In fact, I suggest that if knowledge management initiatives are not completely in favor of supporting organizational processes, companies may become obsolete, taken over, or acquired.

_______________________________________________________________

Mostafa Sayyadi works with senior business leaders to effectively develop innovation in companies and helps companies—from start-ups to the Fortune 100—succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders. He is a business book author and a long-time contributor to business publications and his work has been featured in top-flight business publications.

businesses

Five Ways Businesses Changed Their Daily Operations for Good

The future is arriving quickly. There’s already been talk about how COVID-19 has accelerated automation, and some jobs will be changed if they come back at all. There’s no doubt the recent pandemic is shaping how we do business, from restaurants and retail spaces to even how we manufacture goods. And with many states reopening in phases, or just outright reopening, what does “getting back to business” look like as we forge ahead?

The supply chain gets a wakeup call

During the pandemic, shortages of masks and hand sanitizer rocked many supermarkets like Walmart and Costco. With such a quick spike, and having such a large gap to fill in the supply chain, distilleries stepped in with safe, alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Clothing companies engineered their manufacturing process to make masks out of spare materials. Auto manufacturers teamed up to help produce ventilators. The list goes on.

One of the biggest attributes many companies needed to stay successful and stay in business? Flexibility. When stay-at-home orders went into effect, businesses had to figure things out overnight. That included a new way to make goods that people desperately needed.

The upside? Now you can see hand sanitizer in repurposed liquor bottles at many grocery stores across the U.S.

But all of this was a symptom of a larger issue.

“Early on, much of the economic impact that companies in the U.S. experienced were related to supply-side disruption due to shutdowns in other countries,” said Thomas Hartland-Mackie, President & CEO of City Electric Supply. “This pandemic has highlighted the danger of over-relying on a single manufacturing hub as well as a need to diversify sources to include local or domestic suppliers.”

With global trade, a smooth-functioning supply chain doesn’t exactly impact manufacturing. That is, until it gets rocky.

As a few supplies, like masks and hand sanitizers, reached mass critical demand all around the world, they plunged in availability. Hospitals, frontline workers, and more were left without protective gear required to safely do their jobs.

At the time, when these supplies were almost impossible to locate, domestic-made products were a necessity. They were easier to source and easier to ship when time was more important than ever. This could be the wakeup call manufacturing needs to move a little closer to home instead of relying on centralized factories on the other side of the world to fill gaps in the supply chain.

With this catastrophe still fresh in the minds of many businesses and governments, various shock scenarios will have to be considered more heavily to help rebuild the supply chain for a more resilient future.

Staying connected

The businesses that figured out how to stay connected with their customers, whether they were operating in a limited capacity or having to put business on hold completely, were the ones that added to their digital currency. But for most small businesses, digital currency could only take them so far. That meant developing alternative revenue streams to help them stay afloat, even if they were designated as essential businesses.

Restaurants and bars regularly teamed up with delivery services to help them maintain some cash flow during the lean months, including online ordering and curbside pickup. Personal trainers and fitness studios went digital with their classes to help keep their clients working out and to help keep their brand top of mind.

Other companies went a step further and identified gaps in the supply chain to fulfill in meaningful ways. As we mentioned before, distilleries helped make safe, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and clothing companies reengineered their manufacturing process to make masks out of spare materials.

All of this helped these businesses either keep cash flowing into the business, or at the very least, kept them in the minds of their customers long enough until they could reopen. From creative online solutions that let them continue operating to doubling down on marketing efforts to keep in touch virtually, the ones that stayed flexible and stayed connected weathered the pandemic better than others.

But also, what about the flood of statements from companies preaching togetherness in the first few weeks of the pandemic? Did that help customers feel more connected to their favorite businesses? Hartland-Mackie certainly thinks so.

“We’ve all heard those jokes about how people are receiving too many long emails from businesses explaining what they’re doing in response to COVID-19, but the reality is that customers appreciate it,” said Hartland-Mackie. “Customers want to hear from the companies they are loyal to and be reassured – as long as it is authentic – that businesses have their customers in mind as they make decisions.”

Remote work is not remote

Working in offices could be a thing of the past. Already high-profile companies like Twitter have announced indefinite work-from-home plans for their employees, and more will probably follow their lead. In an age of digital nomads, this could be a huge selling point for attracting talented workers.

When the pandemic first started, many companies had to figure out how to work 100% digitally practically overnight. This involved utilizing web-based communication programs like Skype, Zoom, and Slack to ensure teams were in constant communication with each other when it mattered most. Now, with some offices opening back up, some employees could be receiving more lenient work from home policies, or, at the very least, there may be less face-to-face meetings in the workplace.

Another huge benefit to remote working becoming more commonplace? (Aside from less meetings, of course.) Embracing the all-digital transformation can boost productivity. Now with a lot of the same information freely available for employees to do their job, there should be less presentations sharing known information across the company. Now, only vital information can be created and shared, freeing up more resources to resolve the most critical issues at hand along with more focused daily agendas.

It’s not delivery, it’s curbside pickup

Well, it’s a little bit of both. For essential businesses that couldn’t take advantage of “contactless” delivery, the next best bet was curbside pickup.

“As a federally designated essential business, City Electric Supply branches have stayed open, but we needed to provide ways to keep customers and employees as safe as possible. We began offering curbside pickup and it’s been so successful that we’ve received feedback from customers asking us to continue it as an ongoing service,” Hartland-Mackie said.

What was once seen as an added-value service was the main way for many businesses to maintain cash flow when customers were no longer allowed inside. And with the latest reopening efforts, some customers are still opting for curbside pickup in lieu of shopping themselves.

With how convenient curbside pickup is for keeping in-store capacity low — and for saving the time of customers who no longer have to spend time shopping or even getting out of their vehicles — this could soon be the new normal for many businesses.

Temperature checks

Whether or not customers should receive temperature checks has been up for some debate, but temperature checks of employees are being implemented in almost all states in various industries, including food service and healthcare. Even though workers could be asymptomatic, it still helps cut down on cases progressing to severe stages and worsening infection rates.

This has also had a snowball effect on various other issues related to work policies, from sick leave to hazard pay. Most employers are erring on the side of caution, allowing employees to stay home if they or someone they come into regular contact with have health issues that put them at risk of infection.

With daily operations coming under such a heavy microscope, this means that even employers are examining how existing sick policies have hurt more than helped. If more lenient and flexible policies have not already been put in place, expect it to happen as phased reopening progresses.

_________________________________________________________

Brad McElory is a Copywriter at City Electric Supply

latin america

The Latin American Melon Market To Pursue Temperate Growth

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘Latin America and the Caribbean – Melons – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

The Latin American melon market reached $1.4B in 2019, with an increase of 6.4% against the previous year. This figure reflects the total revenues of producers and importers (excluding logistics costs, retail marketing costs, and retailers’ margins, which will be included in the final consumer price). The market value increased at an average annual rate of +1.8% over the period from 2007 to 2019; the trend pattern remained relatively stable, with somewhat noticeable fluctuations being recorded in certain years. The level of consumption peaked in 2019 and is likely to see gradual growth in the immediate term.

Consumption by Country

The countries with the highest volumes of melon consumption in 2019 were Mexico (516K tonnes), Brazil (338K tonnes) and Guatemala (327K tonnes), with a combined 63% share of total consumption. These countries were followed by Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Costa Rica, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Paraguay, which together accounted for a further 33%.

From 2007 to 2019, the biggest increases were in Colombia, while melon consumption for the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, Mexico ($404M), Brazil ($217M) and Colombia ($159M) appeared to be the countries with the highest levels of market value in 2019, with a combined 54% share of the total market.

In 2019, the highest levels of melon per capita consumption was registered in Guatemala (19 kg per person), followed by Costa Rica (8.20 kg per person), Venezuela (6.23 kg per person) and Paraguay (4.59 kg per person), while the world average per capita consumption of melon was estimated at 2.82 kg per person.

Market Forecast 2019-2030

Driven by increasing demand for melon in Latin America and the Caribbean, the market is expected to continue an upward consumption trend over the next decade. Market performance is forecast to retain its current trend pattern, expanding with an anticipated CAGR of +0.9% for the period from 2019 to 2030, which is projected to bring the market volume to 2.1M tonnes by the end of 2030.

Production in Latin America and the Caribbean

In 2019, approx. 2.9M tonnes of melons were produced in Latin America and the Caribbean; stabilizing at 2018. In general, production continues to indicate a relatively flat trend pattern. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2018 when the production volume increased by 5.5% y-o-y. Over the period under review, production hit record highs in 2019 and is likely to see gradual growth in the immediate term. The general positive trend in terms output was largely conditioned by a relatively flat trend pattern of the harvested area and a relatively flat trend pattern in yield figures.

Production by Country

The countries with the highest volumes of melon production in 2019 were Guatemala (633K tonnes), Mexico (600K tonnes) and Brazil (590K tonnes), together accounting for 63% of total production. Honduras, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Argentina lagged somewhat behind, together comprising a further 26%.

From 2007 to 2019, the biggest increases were in Honduras, while melon production for the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

Harvested Area in Latin America and the Caribbean

The melon harvested area reached 130K ha in 2019, approximately mirroring 2018 figures. Over the period under review, the harvested area, however, continues to indicate a relatively flat trend pattern. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2010 when the harvested area increased by 5.7% y-o-y. Over the period under review, the harvested area dedicated to melon production reached the peak figure at 136K ha in 2007; however, from 2008 to 2019, the harvested area failed to regain the momentum.

Yield in Latin America and the Caribbean

In 2019, the average melon yield in Latin America and the Caribbean amounted to 22 tonne per ha, approximately reflecting 2018 figures. Overall, the yield recorded a relatively flat trend pattern. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2009 when the yield increased by 7.8% year-to-year. The level of yield peaked at 23 tonne per ha in 2016; however, from 2017 to 2019, the yield remained at a lower figure.

Exports in Latin America and the Caribbean

In 2019, the amount of melons exported in Latin America and the Caribbean dropped to 1.1M tonnes, which is down by -5.2% compared with the year before. In general, exports continue to indicate a mild downturn. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2018 when exports increased by 17% year-to-year. The volume of export peaked at 1.3M tonnes in 2007; however, from 2008 to 2019, exports failed to regain the momentum.

In value terms, melon exports declined to $692M (IndexBox estimates) in 2019. Overall, exports continue to indicate a relatively flat trend pattern. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2011 with an increase of 17% against the previous year. The level of export peaked at $811M in 2017; however, from 2018 to 2019, exports remained at a lower figure.

Exports by Country

Guatemala (306K tonnes), Honduras (264K tonnes) and Brazil (252K tonnes) represented roughly 77% of total exports of melons in 2019. Costa Rica (126K tonnes) ranks next in terms of the total exports with a 12% share, followed by Mexico (10%).

From 2007 to 2019, the biggest increases were in Honduras, while shipments for the other leaders experienced mixed trends in the exports figures.

In value terms, the largest melon supplying countries in Latin America and the Caribbean were Honduras ($206M), Brazil ($160M) and Guatemala ($131M), with a combined 72% share of total exports.

Honduras saw the highest growth rate of the value of exports, among the main exporting countries over the period under review, while shipments for the other leaders experienced mixed trends in the exports figures.

Export Prices by Country

In 2019, the melon export price in Latin America and the Caribbean amounted to $652 per tonne, declining by -2.9% against the previous year. Over the period from 2007 to 2019, it increased at an average annual rate of +1.1%. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2017 when the export price increased by 26% year-to-year. As a result, export price attained the peak level of $848 per tonne. From 2018 to 2019, the growth in terms of the export prices remained at a somewhat lower figure.

Prices varied noticeably by the country of origin; the country with the highest price was Mexico ($810 per tonne), while Guatemala ($428 per tonne) was amongst the lowest.

From 2007 to 2019, the most notable rate of growth in terms of prices was attained by Honduras, while the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform

post-pandemic

Four Post-Pandemic Technology Solutions for the New Normal

Currently, organizations around the world are strategizing ways to return their workforces to being back in-office and other places of work, as the world begins to re-open post-pandemic. Guidelines and protocols issued by federal, state, and local agencies will be key drivers of what the new normal looks like in a corporate setting. From staggered groups of employees allowed in the office each day, to thermal screenings and the end of communal or high-touch areas, businesses will need to have flexible return to work plans in place that allow for social distancing and reduce the risk spreading COVID-19.

The new reality is that workplace environments will be anything but “normal.” Organizations will operate with reduced in-office staff, manage both remote and in-office team members and combat economic slowdown by reducing spending and optimizing resources. The democratization of technology is essential to accommodating this new post-COVID business environment. While overall budgets will decrease, technology spending will increase.

Here are four technology solutions that will help enterprises navigate and operate in a new reality:

1. Automation Solutions

Business process automation has become a strategic enabler of business agility for present-day organizations, from helping to speed up business processes and reduce errors, to eliminating repetitive work. Specifically, robotic process automation (RPA) has quickly become an essential tool that an increasing number of CIOs are utilizing across their organizations. Through RPA, mid- to large-sized enterprises can configure a “robot” to deal with various interrelated processes, to unify and streamline day-to-day work internally. The right RPA tools can not only save reduce staffing costs and human error, but also streamline communication, improve management and retain customers.

2. Chatbots

As social distancing and a global remote workforce are the new normal during these unprecedented times, it’s helpful to boost collaboration and productive engagement across an organization’s remote teams through chatbots. Chatbots help reduce the load on the technical support team and cut operational costs. Furthermore, they offer a progressive avenue for marketing and sales departments to streamline customer and client communications, ultimately improving sales and customer services. In a time of a pandemic, combined with the increasing number of remote workers, the adoption and implementation of chatbots will only continue to grow.

3. Communication and Collaboration Platforms

Communication and collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams, Basecamp, and others help bridge the gap between physical presence and remote collaboration. With the new social distancing guidelines and protocols, a combination of virtual and in-person work environments will be essential to ensuring business continuity across an enterprise. Whether an employee is in-office or remote, a robust communication and collaboration platform ensures they can take and access their work anywhere. It enables employees to give optimal output, while also minimizing the physical disruptions caused by COVID-19.

4. Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure

Hybrid cloud infrastructures have changed the way enterprises store, access and exchange data. In the wake of the global pandemic, it will tremendously alter the landscape of corporate environments. Hybrid cloud is a computing environment that uses a combination of private cloud and public cloud services. Organizations can achieve the perfect equilibrium between private and public clouds by leveraging both platforms to run critical workloads. This architecture provides businesses greater flexibility and more data deployment options when working with a reduced workforce.

As a result of the business impacts that COVID-19 has had on the business world, a new wave of technological innovation is sweeping across the industry to help transform various aspects of business. As organizations look to combat an economic depression, they will need to implement technology solutions to “get the job done” with the limited staff they have on hand. Therefore, tools and platforms that allow employees to perform tasks without any high-level coding or professional development skills will be high in demand. Automation solutions, chatbots, communication platforms, and hybrid cloud infrastructures will provide the businesses of tomorrow the ability and flexibility to operate successfully and competitively in a post-pandemic “new normal.”

___________________________________________________________

Ajay Kaul is a visionary leader and a trendsetter. As managing partner of AgreeYa Solutions, he has been instrumental in leading the company through solid growth and international expansion for the past 20 years. Kaul has three decades of experience in building powerful and innovative solutions for businesses across various industries and verticals. His expertise and knowledge expand across enterprise sales management, marketing and strategy, global delivery, and mergers and acquisitions.

honey

HONEY BEES POLLINATE TRADE OPPORTUNITIES

Harvesting season in the Central Valley

Stretched across some 500 miles throughout California’s Central Valley, almond hulls are splitting open, signaling the beginning of harvesting season.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is forecasting that California’s almond growers are set to produce a bumper crop this year of about 2.5 billion pounds, about 70 percent of which will be exported around the world.

It’s an industry that drives about one-quarter of California’s farm exports and generates about $21.5 billion in economic output for the region including growing, processing and manufacturing activities.

A productive crop must be nourished

California is blessed with the perfect climate for almond production, but it must import one of its most important ingredients: pollinators for the almond blooms.

Every February, two out of every three commercial bee hives in the United States are transported to California, their bee residents pressed into service of the almond bloom.

In fact, it’s just the start of an annual food pollinating bee tour. Anywhere from 60 to 75 percent of the bee population kept as livestock crisscross the United States foraging on the blooms of crops that will eventually make their way into our grocery stores and into overseas markets.

Pollinated crop acreage

First stop, almond orchards

For most commercial bees, the pollinating season begins with almonds, California’s largest crop. To provide a sense of scale, Scientific American estimates it takes some two million hives – more than 31 billion honeybees – to pollinate the Central Valley’s 90 million almond trees during their two-week bloom. It’s a symbiotic relationship: the bees gather nectar and pollen to feed their colonies, enabling them to triple their population.

Once almonds bloom in January, hives are moved to other spring-blooming orchards such as cherries and plums in California or apples in the Pacific Northwest. Some head to Texas to pollinate squashes, others to citrus fruit orchards in Florida, and others are dispatched to pollinate cranberries in Wisconsin and cherries in Michigan.

In all, these busy bee travelers pollinate over 90 different crops and then sweeten the deal by shifting into delicious honey production by the end of summer, which they will nourish themselves on over winter while we get to consume the rest. Americans consume a staggering 1.6 pounds of honey per person every year. Even though U.S. beekeepers produced 148 million pounds of honey in 2017 and exported 9.9 million pounds, we imported 447.5 million pounds to keep up with demand from consumers and food producers.

Mobile beehive on trucks
Millions of bees are “exported” state to state to pollinate 90 different American crops.

One in every three bites of food

From cucumbers and citrus fruits to watermelon, kiwis, berries, cherries, apples, melons, peaches, figs, tomatoes, pumpkins and almonds, one-third of the U.S. food supply relies on pollination by the hard-working honey bee.

And, of course, since the United States is a major exporter of agricultural crops, we could say that honey bees help pollinate our trade opportunities. That’s true globally for hundreds of billions worth of crop production and internationally traded food that depends on pollinators.

$15 billion in value for 90 crops

Healthy bees, healthy trade in food

When bees get sick, the health of the U.S. agriculture economy and agricultural exports is imperiled.

Although honey bees are not the only pollinators supporting U.S. agriculture, they are the most important, adding more than $15 billion in value to U.S. agricultural crops each year according to the U.S. Pollinator Health Task Force.

Colony collapse disorder over the last few years drew widespread attention, but the decline in North American honey bees is a long-term trend. In 1947, there were about six million colonies but today we are down to about 2.5 million.

Sharp declines were seen following the introduction in 1987 of an external parasitic mite, aptly named Varroa destructor, that feeds on the blood of honey bees. Loss rates over the winter have been averaging around 31 percent since 2006, far exceeding the 15-17 percent that commercial bee keepers say is economically sustainable.

The rise of monoculture agriculture with increased reliance on pesticides and reduced use of cover crops is thought to add stress on bee health. The bees are struggling to maintain a varied and high-quality diet – they need protein from pollen and carbohydrates from the nectar of flowering plants. Without adequate nutrition, they are also more vulnerable to viruses.

1 in 3 bites

Experts have organized into research consortia, working groups and task forces to try to determine what can be done. The factors negatively impacting bee health are multiple, complex, and interacting, requiring a similarly comprehensive approach to combat them, including restoration of habitats, dissemination of best practices in hive management, and investments in research to better understand how to prevent colony loss.

We are all invested in their success, and when you see honey bees buzzing around your garden this summer, think about the humble but essential role their busywork plays in U.S. food production and agricultural exports.

This article is adapted from “Honey Bee Health is Serious Business” by Andrea Durkin for Progressive Economy.

_________________________________________________________________

Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught international trade policy and negotiations for the last fifteen years as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

comcast

Supreme Court Declines Comcast’s Challenge to the ITC’s Jurisdiction, Thus Confirming the Broad Reach of Section 337

Entering October Term 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court had never reviewed a Section 337 investigation. However, some court-watchers thought that Comcast Corporation v. International Trade Commission might have the right ingredients to break that 90-year streak: a former U.S. Solicitor General representing the petitioners; allegations that Chevron deference had led to regulatory overreach; and a handful of sophisticated amici curiae supporting cert. But the Court denied the petition without even a relist, leaving intact the U.S. International Trade Commission’s assertion of broad authority over patent infringement that occurs wholly within the United States after importation.

Comcast’s cert petition arose out of ITC Investigation No. 337-TA-1001. The complainant, Rovi, argued that certain set-top boxes (“STBs”) used in Comcast’s cable-television system infringed two patents involving “an interactive television program guide system for remote access to television programs.” The Commission found that when Comcast customers use the STBs in a particular way, in conjunction with Comcast’s system, those customers infringe the asserted patents. The Commission further found that Comcast induced that infringement by instructing customers how to use the system. Thus, the Commission found that the STBs constitute infringing articles under Section 337 and issued a limited exclusion order and cease and desist order.

Before the Federal Circuit and in its cert petition, Comcast argued that the Commission had overstepped its jurisdiction. Comcast explained that all of the infringing conduct—both the customers’ direct infringement using the STBs, and also Comcast’s inducement by providing instructions to its customers—occurred within the United States. In Comcast’s view, then, the STBs were not “articles that . . . infringe” a patent at the time of importation and thus fall outside the scope of Section 337.

Siding with the Commission, the unanimous Federal Circuit panel rejected this argument. The court noted that Section 337 expressly defines unfair trade practices to include “sale within the United States after importation” of infringing articles. The court concluded that so long as the articles are imported and they infringe a patent, they fall within the scope of Section 337, regardless of whether the articles were infringing at the time they entered the United States.

The denial of cert in Comcast solidifies the Commission’s broad assertion of authority over all infringement by imported products, regardless of the nature of that infringement and regardless of when it occurs. Even before this development, the Commission had become a preferred forum for many patent holders given its powerful remedies, fast pace, and patent-savvy personnel. This trend is likely to accelerate now that the courts have passed on the opportunity to curtail the Commission’s broad view of its jurisdiction.

______________________________________________________________

Beau Jackson is a Kansas City-based partner with the law firm Husch Blackwell LLP. He leads the firm’s Section 337 practice.

Michael Martinich-Sauter is an attorney in Husch Blackwell LLP’s St. Louis office.