Things to Note, May 21st

Argentina’s Newly Recognized Fruit Fly Free Areas Expedite Fresh Fruit Exports to China

In what is expected to be a major boost to Argentina’s niche fruit exports, areas growing cherries and other stone and pome fruits have been recognized as fruit fly free by China, enabling exports to the world’s largest fresh food market. The result was achieved with the help of nuclear techniques – thanks to the support of the IAEA in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

“This represents a major opportunity for all fruit growers and exporters in Argentina who seek to position themselves in the Chinese market, with special interest in the cherries that could be dispatched directly by air, reducing costs and time,” said Carlos Paz, President of the National Plant Protection Organization of Argentina (SENASA). Similar recognition by the U.S. and Chile is already in place. This means that costly and time-consuming postharvest treatments for fresh fruit is no longer required for export.

In the 2019/2020 growing season, Argentina exported 5,600 tons of cherries, representing US$ 27.2 million in revenue. Exports to China accounted for a third of this, according to Anibal Caminiti, Executive Manager of the Integrated Producers of Argentinean Cherries Association (CAPCI). 

Deadly cyclone cuts destructive path in India and Bangladesh

Wide swaths of coastal India and Bangladesh were flooded and millions were without power Thursday as Cyclone Amphan, the most powerful storm to hit the region in more than a decade, killed over 80 people and cut a path of destruction that is still being assessed.

Many parts of the Indian metropolis of Kolkata, home to more than 14 million people, were under water, and its airport was closed briefly by flooding. Roads were littered with uprooted trees and lamp posts; electricity and communication lines were down, and centuries-old buildings were damaged.

Officials in both countries said the full extent of the damage caused by the cyclone was not known because communications to many places were cut. Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated ahead of the storm, a process complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Amphan came ashore Wednesday with heavy rain, a battering storm surge, and sustained winds of 170 kph (105 mph) and gusts up to 190 kph (118 mph). It devastated coastal villages, knocking down mud houses, tearing down utility poles and uprooting trees.

Decisive Reforms Needed for Vietnam to See Full Benefits of EU Trade Agreement

Vietnam needs to fill major legal gaps and address key implementation issues to reap the full benefits of the European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), according to a new World Bank report, expected to be ratified by Vietnam’s National Assembly in its May meeting.

The report, “Deepening International Integration and Implementing the EVFTA”, released today, estimates that by simply enjoying the tariff reduction as agreed, EVFTA could boost Vietnam’s GDP and exports by 2.4% and 12% respectively by 2030, while lifting an additional 100,000-800,000 people out of poverty by 2030. Such benefits are particularly urgent to lock in positive economic gains as they country responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report argues that Vietnam could benefit even more from the next-generation trade deals such as EVFTA and Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) if they stimulate a comprehensive agenda of economic and institutional reforms to facilitate compliance with non-tariff agreements. The report estimates that such reforms would result in a “productivity kick”, increasing GDP by 6.8%, relative to the baseline scenario, by 2030. The report highlights the need for Vietnam to increase capacity to handle certain key issues, including rules of origin, animal and plant sanitary standards, and investor-state dispute settlement.

“If Vietnam can act in a decisive manner to close legal and implementation capacity gaps, it can capitalize a trade deal whose direct benefits are estimated to be largest in the country’s history,” said Ousmane Dione, World Bank Country Director for Vietnam. “With COVID-19 acting as a reset button and EVFTA as an accelerator, now is the perfect time to embrace deeper domestic reforms.”

Indonesia’s Covid-19 cases breach 20,000 mark

Indonesia’s Covid-19 case tally breached the 20,000 mark today, after 973 new cases were reported overnight, the highest single-day tally recorded since the country’s first case was confirmed on March 2.

Indonesian government spokesman on Covid-19, Achmad Yurianto said with the 973 new cases, the infection tally now stands at 20,162 cases.

“Over the past 24 hours from noon yesterday, 36 more fatalities were reported, which brings the death toll to 1,278 fatalities,” he said.

Jakarta province still has the highest number of deaths so far with 481, followed by East Java (241), West Java (124) while the rest were from other regions in the country.

The large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) in Jakarta, which began on March 15, is still in force until June 4.

South Korean soccer club receives record fine for using sex dolls as spectators in stands

A South Korean soccer club was fined a record $82,000 on Wednesday for using sex dolls in the stands in place of real fans because of the coronavirus pandemic keeping spectators out of stadiums.

FC Seoul received the 100 million won fine after using about 20 sex dolls in stadium seats. The club had some of the dolls dressed in team colors and holding up placards supporting the team in their K-League matchup against Gwangju FC.

“The controversy over this ‘real doll’ incident has deeply humiliated and hurt women fans, and damaged the integrity of the league,” the K-League said in a statement, according to The Guardian.

Fans began to post their suspicions about the dolls on social media during the match, as one of the banners showed the names of an adult toy manufacturer and of models who had been inspired by the dolls, according to the Yonhap news agency. Such advertising is banned in the K-League.

The club has since issued an apology over the incident.

The “ghost” of famine

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in China in late 2019, more than five million people have been infected and over 325,000 people have died. To date, international financial institutions, including the WB and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have spent billions of dollars supporting health, economic and social services systems in poor countries.

In particular, the WB has spent US$5.5 billion, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved funds of US$500 million in order to cancel six months of debt payments for 25 of the world’s most impoverished countries so they can tackle the crisis. Finance officials from the Group of 20 major economies also agreed to suspend debt service payments for the world’s poorest countries through the rest of the year.

The above actions have been welcomed and appreciated by world public opinion. However, the international community believes that these efforts are not enough, especially in the context of developing countries needing more than US$2.5 trillion to contain the spread of the coronavirus and keep the economy afloat, according to the IMF and UN estimates.

Recently, more than 300 lawmakers from around the world called on the IMF and the World Bank to eradicate debt for poor countries around the world, while at the same time increasing the distribution of funds to prevent the global economic crisis.

Experts have called on developing countries to increase bilateral aid for poor countries to fight the “ghost” of famine, while ensuring stable economic recovery. Restoring the flow of tourism, which is a major source of income for developing countries, will be an important step toward rejuvenating the economy. Rescheduling debt and increasing aid are expected to help poor countries have more resources to prevent and fight the disease, thereby reducing hunger and reviving their economies.

U.S. media says officials in 3 states manipulate COVID-19 data for reopening

According to a report of daily newspaper The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia was criticized last week for mistakes in its data just ahead of its reopening on April 27, which showed that new cases in counties with the highest infection rates had been in a steady two-week decline when in fact they had stayed flat.

“When public health agencies are not being transparent, not being complete and accurate over the long term, they are fundamentally undermining the trust of the public,” BuzzFeed News quoted George Washington University health policy professor Jeffrey Levi as saying.

Levi said the allegations being raised against state public health agencies altering data and censoring scientists were “unprecedented.”

The United States has so far reported more than 1.55 million infections and over 93,000 deaths, according to the latest tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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