German economy books strong finish to 2017

The final three months of the year saw Germany’s exports contribute more strongly to growth than they had between July and September. (AFP)
Updated 14 February 2018
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German economy books strong finish to 2017

FRANKFURT AM MAIN: Europe’s largest economy Germany expanded 0.6 percent between October and December, official data showed Wednesday, highlighting the country’s economic strength as politicians struggle to form a government.
The figure follows up growth of 0.9 percent in the first quarter of 2017, 0.6 percent in the second, and 0.7 percent in the third — all adjusted for price, seasonal and calendar effects.
Combined, the quarterly results add up to 2.2-percent expansion over the full year, the fastest rate since 2011.
Wednesday’s data confirmed a preliminary estimate of full-year growth Destatis released in January.
The final three months of the year saw exports contribute more strongly to growth than they had between July and September.
Meanwhile, private consumption remained roughly flat quarter-on-quarter, while government spending increased.
Investments in capital goods increased, while construction spending fell back.
“Looking ahead, the same fundamentals which have supported growth in 2016 and 2017 should still be in place” this year, economist Carsten Brzeski of ING Diba bank said, pointing to low interest rates, a strong labor market and a synchronized upturn across the 19-nation eurozone.
“The economy could continue at its current pace for at least one or two more years without showing signs of overheating,” he added.
Germany’s economy ministry in January forecast slightly faster expansion of 2.4 percent this year.
Risks to the stable outlook remain, including protectionist impulses from President Donald Trump’s administration in the United States, increased geopolitical tensions in the eurozone and further afield, and the danger of a domestic political upset.
The center-left Social Democratic Party has struck a deal to renew its left-right “grand coalition” with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives after both suffered an election battering in September.
But members in the bitterly divided labor movement could reject the pact in a postal ballot by early March, leaving Merkel with equally unappealing options of a minority government or new elections.
“Following German politics is currently better than binge viewing TV series like ‘House of Cards’,” Brzeski quipped.


Can a hungry Mali turn rice technology into ‘white gold’?

Updated 20 October 2018
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Can a hungry Mali turn rice technology into ‘white gold’?

  • Malians are cautiously turning to a controversial farming technique to adapt to the effects of climate change
  • Dubbed the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), the new method was pioneered in Madagascar in 1983

BAGUINEDA: When rice farmers started producing yields nine times larger than normal in the Malian desert near the famed town of Timbuktu a decade ago, a passerby could have mistaken the crop for another desert mirage.
Rather, it was the result of an engineering feat that has left experts in this impoverished nation in awe — but one that has yet to spread widely through Mali’s farming community.
“We must redouble efforts to get political leaders on board,” said Djiguiba Kouyaté, a coordinator in Mali for German development agency GIZ.
With hunger a constant menace, Malians are cautiously turning to a controversial farming technique to adapt to the effects of climate change.

 

Dubbed the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), the new method was pioneered in Madagascar in 1983. It involves planting fewer seeds of traditional rice varieties and taking care of them following a strict regime.
Seedlings are transplanted at a very young age and spaced widely. Soil is enriched with organic matter, and must be kept moist, though the system uses less water than traditional rice farming.
Up to 20 million farmers now use SRI in 61 countries, including in nearby Sierra Leone, Senegal and Ivory Coast, said Norman Uphoff, of the SRI International Network and Resources Center at Cornell University in the US.
But, despite its success, the technique has been embraced with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Uphoff said that is because it competes with the improved hybrid and inbred rice varieties that agricultural corporations sell.
For Faliry Boly, who heads a rice-growing association, the prospect of rice becoming a “white gold” for Mali should spur on authorities and farmers to adopt rice intensification.
The method could increase yields while also offering a more environmentally-friendly alternative, including by replacing chemical fertilizers with organic ones, he said.
He also pointed out that rice intensification naturally lends itself to Mali’s largely arid climate.

FACTOID

Up to 20 million farmers now use rice intensification in 61 countries, including in nearby Sierra Leone, Senegal and Ivory Coast.