UPA (Utanian Press Agency)
Release: April 25th, 301 AP.

Factsheet: Utania's apple industry

The Utanian apple industry is one of the largest fruit industries in Utania, and represents 14% of the fruit output of the country. It is also symptomatic of the wider problem of agriculture in Utania.

Over 25 billion apples were grown in Utania in 299, and each Utanian consumed between four and five each week for each person, including apple juices and desserts. They cost about Û2.30 /kg in a fruitshop in Utania, but are worth C730/tonne on the export market. About 2.1 million tonnes of apples were grown in Utania, half of which were exported, mostly to the other parts of the Guwimithian Empire, which would have earned the country C750 million.

It is an industry that employs over eighty thousand people on 90,000 ha (220,000 acres) in the south-eastern coast of the country, with Utani workers earning as much as Û3,000 (C1,000) annually. The Û36 billion Belson Corporation buys the apples in ten year contracts from the Utani communities that grow the apples. The contracts are signed by community Chiefs who have little understanding of the law, especially not their right to go to other buyers. For the purposes of the contract, the Chief is declared the sole proprietor of the land and the orchards, in direct contravention of Utani law which states that the community is the owner. This was ignored by Guwimithian lawyers. Belson reported to shareholders that it earned over 2,180 million in sales from apples alone, paid growers Û180 million, and earned profits in excess of Û450 million.

The Utanian President has mooted the idea of a government-owned Agricultural Board to complete with Belson which all but dominates several sectors of the agricultural industry, making massive profits, but paying Utani growers very poor contract rates.

Several Peoples Party MPs from the south of the country were formerly cooperative or unionist coordinators, who fought for the rights of the growers. They say the best way forward is to pass a law enforcing cooperatives, which would make the Belson contracts with Chiefs worth nothing. While the President is in favour of the law, he is reticent to let Belson contract managers negotiate new contracts before the communities understand the new law and their rights. Nor does he want to bankrupt Belson - the government owns about Û10 billion in shares in the company.

For its part, Belson protests that the bulk of costs are in cartage, marketing, safe passage to export markets. They claim the government is being unfair singling them out when all agricultural companies pay the same rates. The Opposition is quick to side with Belson, with the Liberal Nationalists saying they are "an integral component in the future of Utania's export success". Exports worth Û80 billion to a poor country such as this require careful consideration, further muddying the waters of this complex issue.

So, the next time you're complaining about the price of a Z0.45 apple, remember as you chew into the enriching 40 calories, that if that apple cost you only Z0.05 more, you could double the wages of Utani communities who earn each year less than you do in a fortnight.

©UPA, 301 AP.

©Mike Ham, 2001. All rights reserved. No reproduction without, at least, tacit approval. ;-)