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Opportunities and difficulties for exporters in the Middle East

Opportunities and difficulties for exporters in the Middle East

For the French fruit producer and exporter Blue Whale, as well as for many others, the Middle East has become an area of great interest with key trading partners. It is, however, a region with many countries in different circumstances offering various conditions for exporters.

“In the Middle East, only a few countries are able to import quantities of quality fruit and pay the right price; countries such as Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, where the situation looks stable, and there is no risk of currency crisis (as linked to US$ ), are among them,” explains Marc Peyres, of Blue Whale.

Marc affirms that, “it is difficult to assess whether economic difficulties significantly affect the fresh fruit business, as for us, the most influential factors are the fruit supply, the currency situation (Euro against US$ ) or when the stock from the Southern Hemisphere will become available.”

Naturally, both the global and the domestic situations affect the Gulf area. “Dubai, for instance, is a big regional hub, and if countries around it suffer crises, it disturbs regional business. On the other hand, if Europe’s currency offers better conditions, less fruit is imported from America and other regional markets (e.g. Iran apples etc.) resulting in a better balance between supply and demand for me,” assures Marc.

In the end, political turbulences are bad for everybody, but mostly for the local population. “Political and economic circumstances, like the weather, are always changing, so businesses need to learn to be flexible and to adapt,” concludes Marc.
For his part, a South African citrus exporter dealing with the Middle East, stated that, “all our customers are nervous about the situation in Iraq, as more than 20% of fruit re-exported out of Dubai goes to Iraq. If the Iraq conflict escalates, this business will be affected.”

Meanwhile, the Syrian conflict has been ongoing for 4 years and it has led to businesses not being able to sell on the scale that they could before. “The Syrian conflict has definitely affected the fruit/vegetable business between Turkey and the Middle East, in particular for lemons,” affirms the exporter. “The current situation in Egypt, however, has not affected its export business too much.”

The bulk of trade in the Middle East is done in Saudi Arabian Riyals (SR) and UAE Dirhams (Dhs) both of which are strong and fixed to the US$ permanently at US$ 1.00 = SR/Dhs 3.674. The Kuwaiti Dinar and the Oman/Qatar/Bahrain currencies are all very strong, as well.

In terms of logistics, transportation problems can occur when trucking, for example, from Turkey to the Middle East, as the trucks have to go through Syria, which is a risk. Likewise, trucking into Iraq entails similar risks and this increases the cost and prices of fruit.

All in all, and as stated by Marc Peyres, the Middle East is a region offering great opportunities for business, but also where companies need to be prepared to be flexible to tackle any problems that are always sure to surface.

Publication date: 7/11/2014
Author: Sander Bruins Slot

Cows are smarter when raised in pairs: Evidence practice of housing calves alone linked to learning difficulties

Cows learn better when housed together, which may help them adjust faster to complex new feeding and milking technologies on the modern farm, a new University of British Columbia study finds.

The research, published today in PLOS ONE, shows dairy calves become better at learning when a “buddy system” is in place. The study also provides the first evidence that the standard practice of individually housing calves is associated with certain learning difficulties.

“Pairing calves seems to change the way these animals are able to process information,” said Dan Weary, corresponding author and a professor in UBC’s Animal Welfare Program. “We recommend that farmers use some form of social housing for their calves during the milk feeding period.”

As farms become increasingly complex, with cattle interacting with robotic milkers, automated feeding systems and other technologies, slow adaptation can be frustrating for cows and farmers alike.

“Trouble adjusting to changes in routine and environment can cause problems for farmers and animals,” Weary says, adding that the switch from an individual pen to a paired one is often as simple as removing a partition.

Farmers often keep calves in individual pens, believing this helps to reduce the spread of disease. But Weary says that the concern is unwarranted if cows are housed in small groups. “The risk of one animal getting sick and affecting the others is real when you’re talking about large groups, but not with smaller groups like two or three,” he says.


The study, conducted at UBC’s Dairy Education and Research Centre in Agassiz, B.C., involved two cognitive tests for two groups of Holstein calves housed in individual pens or in pairs.

In the first test, researchers introduced a novel object (a red plastic bin) into the calf’s pen. When first exposed to the novel object all calves showed interest, as expected. But after multiple encounters with the bin, the individually housed calves continued to respond as if this was their first exposure, while the paired calves began to habituate and ignored the bin.

“The test suggests that individual rearing can make calves more sensitive to novelty, and thus less able to habituate to changes in their environment,” says Prof. Dan Weary. “This could make it more difficult for a farm animal to be trained or to do something as simple as walk down a path and not be overwhelmed by a bright light or a new noise.”

In the second test, the calves were taught to complete a simple task, approaching a black bottle full of milk and avoiding an empty white bottle. After the calves learned to preferentially visit the black bottle, the researchers switched the rules to determine how well the calves were able to adjust to a change in rules.

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The above story is based on materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily