UPA (Utanian Press Agency)
Release: Month 99, 301 AP.

Food rots on docks for lack of export markets

A current affairs programme on TV1 last night explained the extent of the food export crisis in Utania, with millions of tonnes rotting in major port cities.

Literally millions of tonnes of agricultural produce is in storage because Utania over-produced after the collapse of the Guwimithian Empire two years ago. It is not only hurting the country, it is fast bankrupting the Belson Corporation, according to its executives, who also claim it is the Government's fault.

Utania is producing too much food, says Belson executive Gorge Kobranik, and the excess is sitting in grain silos and warehouses rotting away because of the "failure of the Utanian government to secure new export markets." Mr Kobranik says that his company has "in excess" of twelve million tonnes of wheat sitting in silos across the country.

Utania was the bread basket of the Guwimithian Empire, producing enough wheat for a hundred million people of the empire. Now, those markets have dried up. Guwimith is being largely supplied by Whitlam, Begral and South Bay are not importing anymore due to civil unrest. Without export markets, yet forced to buy the produce from farmers due to long-term, low-cost contracts, the Belson corporation, not the farmers, is losing money: it is still buying, not selling, and having to pay for storage.

Belson is trying to recoup some money by dumping the produce on the domestic market, and food prices in Utania for the major export items have dropped dramatically. Bread, for example, has dropped by 30% in price due to the massive excess in grain. Similarly, cigarettes have dropped 50% in price, and chicken is also being sold at less than 40% it's normal price, as the Utanian market is small, and exports enormous.

"It is a national tragedy", claims Mr Kobranik, who accuses the President of doing little to save the agricultural giant from bankruptcy. He admits that Mr Reagan, the Government's trade minister, has entered into detailed negotiations with Bowdani, the Lendosan confederation and Guwimith, but says it may be "too little too late".

The President is unsympathetic. "It is about the first time that Belson will have lost money on anything. I am sure their massive cash reserves will help them recover."

President Okarvits said that Belson Corporation's grain excess is being bought by the government, albeit at cost, with a view to cheap exports or "donations". Dignania is known to be one such "donation" recipient. The President has an executive order before Parliament for the purchase of four million tonnes of grain for Û120 million (about a twentieth the "going" export rate) for donation to Dignania, and other nations. He is also negotiating with the government of Rovens for a discounted Û80 million sale of another million tonnes of grain.

Wheat is worth approx. C200 per tonne on the export market.

The problem is not just wheat, but fruits and vegetables that have been lost to the tropical heat of the country's unrefridgerated ports. And estimated four million tonnes of such has been lost in storage. The President mandated three weeks ago that the rotting vegetables should be returned to the farmers to be reploughed into the ground. He agreed a deal with Belson to cover the transportation costs. Yet, that doesn't cover the cost of the massive smell being endured in port cities such as Agraam, Luka and Utan Krysaror. Fortunately, Belson has since stopped taking the excess it cannot sell from farmers. Farmers have then complained that the produce rotting in their fields is a waste.

It is also a crisis for the Utanian government, paying Belson in this way, as many Utani nationalist MPs are outraged that the company that keeps their people in abject poverty is being subsidised by the government. In contrast, opposition MPs claim the President is working slowly on the export market because of the fixed exchange rate.

"If the President sells all that we can produce overseas, he will have massive inflation at home because we are on a fixed exchange rate with the Christianan Crown", claims opposition leader, and Presidential hopeful, Thomas Kemp. The solution, he says, is simple: float the currency, something the President has vowed not to do.

It seems the problem of agricultural exports is a problem shared by all. However, it will be solely the President's problem in January if he cannot improve the situation.

©UPA, 301 AP.

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