Cosas de España/Galiza
HT to Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas for the first 2 items:-
The Olive Press takes a jaundiced look here at ADTPostales the Correos agency at Barajas airport that determines what tax needs to be paid on packages and even – apparently – whether (and when) they can be bothered to send them onwards or not. My advice: Don’t sent packlages to Spain from the UK, at least for a while. Or use a courier service, not the normal mail service.
In Spain, it’s useful to keep the ‘usted’ and ‘tú’ separate. Forty-four years after the death of Franco, you can still be prosecuted for ‘disrespecting’ people in authority here. Personally, I never use the formal usted. But so far, so good.
So, where do you think the wettest place in Spain is? If you think it’s Galicia, Asturias, the Costa Blanca area, or Barcelona province, you’re a good 700 kilometres out. It’s in the north-east of the province of Cádiz, though this article says it’s in the north west . . . Or did before I wrote to the publisher. Maybe not now.
So . . .Why on earth would anyone visit Grazalema during the rainy season? Because it’s fascinating, says the mayor – knowing you’ve been to the wettest town in a given country, especially a hot one, is always a talking point – and also because they get to see the mountain walls bursting from the pressure. “People come from all over Spain to see it.” And because: As one of the ‘White Villages’ network, Grazalema is already an attraction in itself. Not sure I’m convinced.
As someone who’s long been amused by the fact that the night train to Madrid leaves from its starting point in Pontevedra at 9.28pm, and not 9.30, I was fascinated to see that the new Avlo trains leaves from Valencia to Madrid at 9.28am. A mystical number in Spain?
The Way of the World
Putin’s energy shock is broadening into a world food crisis, so brace for rationing. See AEP’s warning below:-
Finally . . .
Predictive text, a two-edged blessing:-
I’m having fun putting posts re the Camino Primitivo in 3 or 4 FB groups dedicated to the Camino de Santiago. One of them rejected my first one, another rejected both and then accepted them, a 3rd approved them twice and a 4th seems today be be reconsidering its rejection. I can’t say I understand why they’re troublesome for administrators, other than the one who said it was because offering free stuff amounted to ‘self promotion’.
I’ve just received this message from the administrator of the Primitivo group which rejected my initial post and who is reconsidering.:- Let’s see . . I am the Administrator of this Group and what I think is of interest to the Pilgrims is published. What they do in other Groups is not in our interest. A tad arrogant, would you say, even if it comes with Warm greetings’?
For new reader(s): If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here. If you’re passing through Pontevedra on the Camino, you’ll find a guide to the city there.
Putin’s energy shock is broadening into a world food crisis, so brace for rationing. A billion of the world’s poorest people will go even hungrier thanks to Putin’s deranged misadventure: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Telegraph
The world was facing a grain supply crunch even before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The United Nations food price index was already higher in real terms than at the height of the global hunger crisis a decade ago, when Tunisian bread protests set off the Arab Spring. The tight global market for grains, vegetable oil, and fertilisers was probably one of the many reasons that Putin chose this moment to strike, calculating – wrongly it may prove – that the West would not dare to squeeze him too hard.
The world faces what amounts to a commodity “black swan” across the gamut of primary resources. Oil, gas, coal, and the “ags” are all spiraling higher together, with metals catching up fast. It is a systemic stagflation shock, an intractable problem for central bankers. It acts like a war reparations tax on the economies of importing nations and is ultimately contractionary.
Natasha Kaneva from JP Morgan said inventories of tradable commodities are critically-low and the world is running out of safety buffers. This is a recipe for “nonlinear price increases”, she said. Unlike the West, China is prepared. It has been stocking up for months and currently holds 84% of the world’s copper reserve, 70% of its corn, and 51% of its wheat. “China has bought enormous quantities of US soy in recent weeks,” said Rabobank. One might ask if Xi Jinping knew something in advance.
Record food commodity prices are an ordeal by fire for some 45 poorer countries that rely heavily on food imports: the Maghreb, the non-oil Middle East, swaths of Africa, Bangladesh, or Afghanistan. The World Food Programme warned of “catastrophic” scarcity for several hundred million people last November. The picture is worse today. “Everything is going up vertically. The whole production chain for food is under pressure from every side,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, the ex-head of agro-markets at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. “I have never seen anything like it in 30 years and I fear that prices are going to go much higher in the 2022-2023 season. The situation is just awful and at some point people are going to realise what may be coming. We’re all going to have to tighten our belts, and the mood could get very nasty even in OECD countries like Britain,” he said.
Energy and farm commodities are interlinked. Natural gas is a feedstock for fertiliser production in Europe, and lest we forget, Russia and Belarus together account for a third of the world’s exports of potash. Rocketing oil prices are driving a switch to biodiesel in South East Asia, further tightening the global market for vegetable oils. Roughly 33% of world exports of barley come from Russia and Ukraine combined, 29% of wheat, 19% of maize, as well as 80%of sunflower oil. Much of this is usually shipped through the Black Sea ports of Odesa, or Kherson – scene of hand-to-hand street battles until it fell on Wednesday – or Mykolaiv, where a Russian missile hit a Bangladeshi-flagged bulk carrier this week and killed one of the crew. “Loading is at a standstill. It is not just the ports: you can’t get a ship in there. Nobody wants to get stranded,” said Mr Abbassian. Lloyd’s List reports that the northern Black Sea and the Azov have been declared “warlike operations areas’, implying double pay for crews, if you can get them. Insurance rates are prohibitive and banks are refusing letters of credit, even though grains, fertilisers, and energy products are exempt from sanctions. Shippers are scrambling to find out what it means for a counterparty to be “connected with Russia”.
Everybody is wary of the US Treasury’s sanctions police, known as OFAC. The US law firm Crowell and Moring said clients fear that they may be caught in the net inadvertently, given that targeted oligarchs control much of Russia’s agro-industrial nexus in one way or another. Every transaction has to be screened to the finest detail. “Russian and Ukrainian wheat are not being offered. Critical corn flows to the world are being stymied. If Ukraine farmers do not plant substantial quantities of corn next month, the supply crunch will be very severe,” said Rabobank.
Smaller farmers in Russia have been shut out of the domestic credit market just before planting season. Emergency tightening by the central bank has lifted average loan cost to 27% this week.
Chicago wheat futures have hit an all-time high of $1,131. The squeeze is worse for the rest of the world because the broad dollar index is up 30% since the last peak in 2008.
For good measure, Rabobank says we must contend with intense La Niña weather patterns and drought in Brazil and Argentina. “Grain shortfalls are likely to be so pronounced as to require demand destruction, or rationing,” it said.
The commodity index of the International Monetary Fund – purer than misleading market indexes – shows that primary commodities are today more expensive as a whole in real terms than in 2008 even in dollars. It is much higher for Europe or Africa. This is fast resembling the raw material shock of the early 1970s. Brent crude hit an all-time high in euros and sterling yesterday morning. But unlike the last oil shock, this shock is spread across every sector of energy. European natural gas contracts for April hit a new high of €198 MWh. Thermal coal has risen 75pc this month.
The roots of this crunch are complex but Putin’s manipulation of pipeline flows explains a big part of the gas crisis since September. We are now learning the second lesson: what it means to eject the world’s only full-spectrum commodity superpower from the international financial and trading system. We have not even begun to feel the blowback for the Western aerospace and semiconductor industry should Russia retaliate by exploiting its lockhold over the global supply chain for titanium, palladium, and neon. That is not to say that the West should back away. We are in a war. We must win it.
Normally, commodity booms short-circuit by causing recessions, with the help of central banks, apt to overreact and tighten just as the economy is slowing anyway. This episode may be different. I do not see how the West can continue buying any oil, gas, or coal, from Russia as the Kremlin unleashes artillery on Ukraine’s civilians, in Mariupol, Kharkiv, and Kyiv today, and everywhere soon judging by how Putin swatted away Emmanuel Macron’s plea for restraint.
As for the “ags”, all the makings of an enduring food crisis are before our eyes. A billion of the world’s poorest people will go even hungrier thanks to Putin’s deranged misadventure, and some will starve. Our next moral mission is to help them.