Archive for December, 2009

Commentary: Worst cocoa shortage for 40 years fuels chocolate price rise fears

Daily Mail Reporter: Click Here

This article reports a shortage of cocoa, the worst for 40 years. Ivory Coast, the major exporter of cocoa, has experience the worst harvest in years due to El Nino phenomenon. As a result, “the price of cocoa in London rose to 2,055 pounds a ton this week, the highest since 1985.” The major chocolate bar producers will have inevitable choice of raising the price of their product. In addition, the demand from a new market such as China and India has increased by 3 percent. Also putting the upward pressure or price, the price mechanism explains this.

The surge in price of cocoa is due to the theory of price mechanism. There are several factors that affect demand and supply. Natural disaster affects supply curve to shift leftward. As illustrated in the diagram, there has been a sharp decrease in the supply of cocoa (S1 to S2). The price of cocoa has surged significantly. To make matter worse, the demand has increased 3 percent (D1 to D2) due to China and India’s high demand. This increased price even higher (P1 to P2). China and India’s change in taste has affected the demand curve to shift rightward. The consumer’s change in preference also affects the demand curve. Also, the increase in demand by China and India could be said that the market size for cocoa has increased.

Notice the steepness of demand curves. They are steep compared to other demand curves such as those of luxury goods. As cocoa do not occupy a large portion in people’s income, this sudden surge in price do not affect people’s consumption of cocoa to decrease significantly. In other words, these demand curves have income inelastic quality. There is another factor making chocolate to have inelastic quality. It is its addictiveness. Many chocolate lovers will have difficult time cutting off their chocolate consumption just because of the increase in price. The elasticity theory states that higher the addictiveness of the product, there will be low elasticity of the product.

The supply will not be able to react fast as demand to sudden increase in price. The theory for supply states that when the price of a product goes up, the suppliers are willing to supply more of the product to make high profit. However, the supplier will not be able to increase the number of their product supplied in the market. There are several obstacles preventing suppliers to supply more in short period of time. As there has been a sharp decrease in cocoa produced, suppliers will have difficult time finding cocoa. Also, the suppliers might have storage of cocoa; however, the suppliers did not expect this sudden decrease in cocoa. So the supplier would not have a lot of cocoa in their storage to satisfy the shortage in the market.

As cocoa are considered inelastic, it is expected that there will not be a sharp decrease in demand. However, if the El Nino weather phenomenon continues to affect the supply of cocoa, it is inevitable that there will be a decrease in demand eventually. Then the suppliers will have to lower the price of cocoa, which will settle the new price or equilibrium point for cocoa.

To evaluate, there will be a slight impact on chocolate industry. If the El Nino phenomenon stops in near future, it will actually have positive impact on chocolate industries. As price increase, chocolate industries will see an increase in their revenue with same amount of demand. However, if the El Nino phenomenon does not stop affecting the supply of cocoa, then chocolate industries would experience a decrease in their revenue. The demand will decrease because the price of cocoa starts to become a large portion of people’s income.

In conclusion, the impact on chocolate industries depends on the duration of this surge in price. If this is just a temporary phenomenon, it will have positive impact on chocolate industries as cocoa are income inelastic. However, if this surge in price does not stop, the chocolate industries will have negative impact on their revenue. Also, the supply of cocoa will decrease, decreasing the availability of chocolate for many consumers.

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Debt Time Bomb, Is It an Impending Death of Pax Americana?

<High Public Debt, is it an impeding death of Pax Americana?>

According to U.S. National Debt Clock, United States has approximately 12 trillion dollars of public debt, and the debt is increasing by one hundred-thousand dollars every second. Once I saw this I thought that it was just another phishing website or conspiracy website which tries to fool people with false information. So I thought this specific number was a fake. However, I have mistaken it for a false information. It actually has a data graph from US government’s official website (1).

As you see in the graph, the debt will increase and increase until it is 100% of US’ GDP. It will be not long till it goes over 100%. Now, many people would be seriously concerned about this problem by now. Many people will wonder, “How has the biggest economy in the world got an exponential amount of public debt?” When I have googled this problem, many people posted that the ‘War Against Terrorism’ has caused this. I remember looking at a graph of US public debt skyrocketing right after the year 2001 when the President Bush declared ‘War Against Terrorism.’ Therefore the prolonged exhausting war of Iraq and Afghanistan has certainly been a part of the cause. As the result of these wars, it has debilitated US economy. This could be noticed from the recent news reporting, US dollar fell to 14-year low against the yen.

For this blog post, we will look into following questions about exponentially high public debt: 1) How has US managed this high public debt over 10 years? 2) What is the relationship between this debt and the news “US dollar fell to 14-year low against the yen“? 3) What will happen if US no longer can sustain this burden?

How has United States managed to even ‘function’ as a state with this sky-scrapping public debt? There are several answers to this question. First of all, many countries are ‘giving’ billions of money to United States to support this exponentially high public debt. You might think, “Are those countries stupid enough to give away money to United States for nothing?” However, these countries are obviously not stupid to give away money to United States for nothing. It is because of the inevitable economic structure.

United States has the key currency, dollar, which is used widely around the world to buy, sell, and to settle economic problems. US Dollar is used as official currency or de facto currency in many countries. United States also has the strongest, biggest market in the world. With key currency and strong economy, United States is well trusted in the world. This trust allows US to cover up their public debt by issuing their own security, usually called government bonds. It is a governmental promise that any individual or nation who buys US treasury securities will be payed back in the future.

Basically, United States can borrow money (issue treasury security) based on its credit/trust and pay the debt by this money. So the public debt accumulates as US issue treasury security to countries and repaying the countries with the borrowed money. This creates a ‘vicious circle of public debt.’ Or other might call it ‘the ultimate economic motor that never stops.’ United States is actually enjoying this cycle as they are spending and letting the other countries do the paying.

The countries are in an inevitable structure where they have to buy US treasury. For example, Japan is one of the major foreign holder of US treasury security. Also Japan has the second most US dollar as a foreign country. The reason why Japan bought lots of US treasury security is that Japan’s major exporting country is United States. Japan gets payed in US dollars as they sell their product in US market. However, US manages to ‘take away’ the money by inflating US Dollar. For example, lets say that Japan earned $100 by selling a product in US. However, United States issues another $100 and causes inflation. The $100 Japan earned is now not as valuable as it was before United States issued $100. So Americans are basically spending and spending, and other countries are paying and paying for United State’s spending.

The following is a simplified graph of this accumulation of public debt.

The Pax Americana of spending and spending could come to an end with various factors threatening US economy.

Firstly, US dollar fell to 14-year low against the yen is considerably a big threat. As Japanese Yen has rose and US dollar fell, Japanese exporters are very frustrated as they cannot export their products. So the Japanese government is trying to sell its dollars stored up in the bank to cause depreciation of Japanese Yen. However, if they do this, sharp depreciation of US dollar will occur causing US dollar to value no more than a piece of paper. So the US government is pressuring Japanese government not to intervene in the foreign exchange market.

Counterfeit “Supernote” and the Real Dollar

Secondly, North Korea has printing facilities for printing counterfeit currency called ‘supernote.’ Supernotes are counterfeit currencies that are very difficult to figure out even with latest-technology equipments. Supernotes could be a threat to US dollar’s position as a key currency because it could depreciate the US dollar. I believe that this is the problem that US should be worried about not the nuclear bombs. If North Korea decides to release billions dollar worth of supernotes into foreign exchange market, US dollar will worth nothing in matter of days which is much destructive than the nuclear bomb that North Korea has. If billions of supernotes influx into the foreign exchange market, US dollar will lose its position as a key currency and other currencies such as European Euro or Japanese Yen will replace that position. As US dollar loses its position as a key currency, the United States government would not be able to issue a treasury security to raise the fund.

If United States cannot long sustain the public debt, United States as a nation could go bankrupted. Obviously, United States will not be able to pay the public debt if they cannot issue a treasury security if the dollar loses its position as a key currency. Also there is a possibility of war as World War I and II occurred because of economic reasons.

In conclusion, United States should better stop borrowing money and using the as an economic stimulus package. They should slowly get rid of the deficit spending and adjust their balance in order to decrease exponentially high public debt.

Little Reflection: I personally thought that this blog post was unorganized. I had some understanding of the situation, however, it was not firm nor clear. I actually understood more about the situation as I wrote the blog post. So, I felt this blog post was little bit unorganized in what I wanted to say.

Resource:

(1)GPO Access: US government’s official printing office. It has official data of US budget 2008.

(2) US Department of Treasury: Pie graph about foreign holders of US treasury security

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Comments (9) »

Reflection on the 3rd Data Response

I thought I did very well on this Data Response, but I got a 5 for IB grade. For the first question, I did fairly well, however, I missed out some of the points that IB wanted. For the second question, it was a disaster. I have mistaken PED graphs for YED graphs, this was the major reason why I did so poorly on this Data Response. Next time, I think I should practice diagrams more before the test.

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