Business

Could maggots save global food supplies?

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As the world’s population expands there is a greater demand for poultry, pigs and farmed fish. But the amount of high-protein fishmeal that farmers rely on to feed them is limited.

The BBC’s Emily Thomas went to visit Agriprotein, a South African company which reckons fly larvae or maggots are the answer.

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Smart farming’s ‘eye in the sky’

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With global population set to top 10 billion by 2050, the UN says agricultural output needs to rise by 70%. And Africa will be key as it is home to two-thirds of the world’s uncultivated arable land.

The BBC’s Taurai Maduna has been to South Africa’s Western Cape to see how drones and data analytics are set to change the game.

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Visitor numbers to UK hit record in July

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Tourists watching the changing of the guard outside Buckingham PalaceImage copyrightGetty Images

The number of overseas visitors to the UK topped four million in July for the first time, official figures show.

Travellers to the UK spent £2.75bn on their visits, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, another record.

The figures also show the number of visits abroad by UK residents fell 2% from July last year to 6.9 million, with spending also down 2% to £4.5bn.

The weakening of the pound since the Brexit vote has made prices in the UK cheaper for travellers from abroad.

However, Patricia Yates, from tourist promotion agency VisitBritain, said the pound was a only small part of the story: “We know the weak pound helps, but it is not the motivator for first time visitors – most people overseas do not know what the exchange rate is.”

So far this year, the number of overseas visits to the UK are up 8% on the same period last year, with spending running at £13.3bn.

The ONS says tourism is worth £127bn annually to the UK economy.

Here is a breakdown of where tourists to the UK come from:

  • Europe – 15.1 million, up 4% on last year
  • North America – 2.9 million, up 21% on last year
  • Rest of World, China, Australia, India, the Gulf – 3.6 million, up 18% on last year

Ms Yates said an improvement in airline capacity, particularly between the UK and China and the UK and North America had helped to encourage visitors.

“The US has been sluggish for a while – so some of it is bounce back, but some of it is because of the more competitive nature of transatlantic traffic,” she said.

“We have also been building a buzz with [online travel website] Expedia, trying to encourage interest in places they may not have considered before.”

Tourism Minister John Glen said: “Tourism is a major economic force that creates jobs and drives growth for the whole of the country.

“These record figures show the continued strength of this important sector and the UK’s global position as a must-visit destination.”

Top five visitor attractions in UK and annual visit numbers:

  • British Museum – 6.4 million
  • National Gallery -6.3 million
  • Tate Modern – 5.8 million
  • Natural History Museum – 4.6 million
  • Southbank Centre – 3.9 million
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Eurozone sees ‘burst of activity’ in September

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German industrial robot manufacturer KukaImage copyrightGetty Images

The eurozone economy ended the third quarter of the year on a strong note, a survey has indicated.

The IHS Markit composite purchasing managers’ index (PMI) suggested private businesses grew faster than expected in September.

It said manufacturers had enjoyed their best month since early 2011.

Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said: “The eurozone economy ended the summer with a burst of activity.”

Business activity during September saw one of its strongest gains for the past six years, the survey indicated.

The “flash” PMI reading for September – which is based on about 85% of replies to the survey – rose to 56.7 from August’s reading of 55.7. A reading above 50 indicates growth.

The manufacturing sector saw the biggest rise in employment in more than two decades, IHS Markit said, adding that the signs were that the next quarter would register strong manufacturing growth as well.

The survey also found that the pick-up in business activity had been accompanied by rising price pressures, with input cost and selling price inflation accelerating for the second month in a row.

It pointed out that the rise in business activity and inflationary pressures would fuel expectations the European Central Bank will, as has long been awaited, start to rein in its asset purchase programme.

The ECB is currently buying 60bn euros (£55bn) of bonds a month as part of its quantitative easing programme.

Earlier this month, the ECB raised its eurozone economic growth forecast for this year to 2.2%, the fastest in 10 years and hinted it could start trimming asset purchases next month

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Slough named as the ‘best place’ to work and live

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SloughImage copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Research from Glassdoor suggests Slough offers “an increased quality of life for employees”

Slough has come out on top of a survey of the 25 best towns and cities to live and work in, beating Manchester and Cambridge in the top three.

It is hailed as a “prime spot” for jobs, cost of living and worker satisfaction in research by jobs site Glassdoor.

Head offices for brands including Mars and O2 are based there.

The town is also the setting for sitcom The Office, about a fictional paper company on a drab industrial estate.

Swindon and Stoke-on Trent were fourth and fifth in the study respectively.

Image copyrightDarren Smith/Geograph
Image caption Slough was the setting for Ricky Gervais’s mockumentary about life in a fictional paper company on a drab industrial estate

Nancy Lalor from the Slough Chamber of Commerce said she is not surprised by the study: “We’ve got so many head offices that are based in Slough, so many ‘corporates’, and an amazing trading estate with over 350 businesses on it, so I think it’s really on the up.

“There’s so much new build, so much development going on in the town, every few months the whole look of the town is changing and I think people are inspired by what’s going on.”

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The town’s soulless image was also cemented by poet John Betjeman, who wrote the poem Slough in 1937 with the lines: “Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough! It isn’t fit for humans now”.

However, Glassdoor’s research shows Slough offered a good quality of life for employees, with a median salary of £35,000 per annum, the average house costing £390,000 and 26,000 vacancies being advertised.

Image copyrightMary Evans Picture Library
Image caption Ricky Gervais’ character David Brent in The Office quips that ‘Slough’s a big place’

Dr Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor’s chief economist, said Slough is in a part of the country which offers “pleasant environments” meaning “an increased quality of life for employees”.

He added: “Although people in London are generally satisfied, it has proven not only to be an expensive place to live, but also an ultra-competitive city in which to find a job.”

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The iPhone 8 launch in London was… muted

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Apple fans in years past had been seen in long lines down the street, patiently camping ahead of the store’s opening to be among the first to purchase a new device.

For the iPhone 8, however, there were more staff inside the store than punters queuing, and the Apple team’s enthusiasm for their customers saw them applaud the 13 who quickly piled inside.

At the front of the queue was 24-year-old Salam Bin Mohammed, who said he had been waiting since 10pm the night before to get an iPhone 8 Plus.

He had slept in his brother’s car, he said, and queued because it was the 10th anniversary of the iPhone and he had been using the iPhone for eight years.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 22: First in the queue Salam Bin Mohammed, 24, poses with his new iPhone 8s outside Apple Regent Street during the launch of the iPhone 8 on September 22, 2017 in London, England. Apple have today launched their new mobile phone the iPhone 8 and 8 plus in the UK today ahead of the iPhone X's release in November. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Image:First in the queue Salam Bin Mohammed, 24, poses with his new iPhones

Despite reports of stock limitations affecting the launch, Mr Mohammed was not in fear of failing to acquire a model.

The first person in purchased two of the £799 models – one in gold and one in space grey.

“Whichever is nice I’m going to keep and the other one I’ll give to my mum,” he said.

The flagship device announced by Apple earlier this month was not the iPhone 8 – but the iPhone X (pronounced iPhone 10) which Apple fans may be waiting to purchase in November.

With an edge-to-edge display, the iPhone X will also be the first to feature Apple’s new facial recognition technology which users can use to unlock their phones and create animated emojis.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will introduce wireless battery charging, as well as the new A11 Bionic processor, which Apple says will make it up to 70% faster than the iPhone 7.

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Over-50s group Saga sees growing travel demand

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Saga said it was seeing increasing demand for higher value trips as it published results for the six months to the end of July.

Its customers have also been having to spend more pounds on their holidays as a result of sterling’s weakness following the Brexit vote.

But the currency swing also resulted in higher costs for the travel operator.

Saga’s half-year pre-tax profits fell 6.3% to £103m though stripping out refinancing costs and the impact of losses on financial instruments, profits rose by 5.5%.

The group said it was seeing strong pre-sales for its new Spirit of Discovery cruise ship, due to arrive in June 2019, and that this backed its decision to bring forward the delivery of another vessel, Spirit of Adventure, in August 2020.

Saga has also launched a membership scheme called Saga Possibilities and a new “keep doing” brand identity focusing on its customers’ “desire to lead a rich and full life, full of experience and opportunities”.

Profits from Saga’s travel business rose by 63% to £11.9m while underwriting, part of its insurance operation, saw profits fall.

Chief executive Lance Batchelor said: “Saga is on track to deliver a fourth consecutive year of growth.”

George Salmon, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Many of today’s retirees are asset rich and have comfortable pensions in place, and demographic change means this age bracket is swelling in number.

“While this means Saga has a potentially lucrative grey emerging market in front of it, the challenge is to first get the customer onside, then effectively cross-sell its numerous services.

“With its debts falling and the UK’s favourable demographics providing a tailwind, if Saga can get its marketing pitch here right, it could find itself in cruise control.”

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Japan’s yen rises after N Korea warning

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A man watches news about North Korean missile launch on Japanese TVImage copyrightGetty Images

The yen edged up 0.3% against the dollar on Friday after North Korea suggested it might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean.

It is not unusual for Japan’s currency to climb during a crisis, as investors seek a safe haven until risks ease.

But this crisis is slightly different, because the additional risks could be to Japan itself.

Analysts, however, say things would have to be catastrophic for investors to flee the currency.

The yen is an extremely resilient currency, and it has risen during previous times of crisis in Japan.

It climbed 0.8% against the dollar when North Korea fired a missile over Japan in late August, and also gained during a second launch two weeks later.

After the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster at Fukushima, there was such a surge that the government and the G7 countries had to intervene.

So what would it take to send investors running from the yen?

“It’d have to be a really, really extreme event. Even if there is a war, I’d expect the yen to strengthen,” said Takuji Okubo from Japan Macro Advisors.

This latest crisis is nowhere near that level.

In fact, Mr Okubo said one reason the yen is strengthening right now is that Japanese investors actually think the risk of armed conflict is very low.

Instead, they are worried about the possible impact of a trade blockade or a drop in consumer sentiment hitting sales of homes or cars.

Image copyrightGetty Images

If the main risks are economic, then investors might not see much difference between this crisis and any other risk.

“If the risk is financial and economic, you would want to increase your cash reserve and generally curtail your risk exposure,” he said.

Other options

Other analysts think investors simply lack other good options if their main goal is to to keep their money somewhere safe until conditions improve.

That includes the other traditional safe haven, the US dollar, in part because the Federal Reserve’s current monetary policies might not be carried out if Janet Yellen is not reappointed as chair next year.

“Directionless, rudderless and leaderless America is looking unattractive” said David Kuo from the Motley Fool.

“Investors are therefore bereft of places to park their money. Switzerland is not big enough. Nor is Singapore. The eurozone is in a mess. So that just leaves Japan,” he said.

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How the Barbie doll became a million dollar idea

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Barbie. For six decades she’s dominated the global market for dolls. Over a billion such dolls have been sold and the average US pre-teen has no fewer than 10 of them. But Barbie’s figure has come under fire for years, with critics arguing it set an unrealistic body image for girls.

Video producer: Jeremy Howell

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Facebook to hand over Russia ads to Congress

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Mark Zuckerberg said he had told his team to provide details of the ads, which are believed to have originated from fake accounts linked to Russia.

Facebook is “actively working” with US investigators, added Mr Zuckerberg.

His decision to release the ads comes after growing pressure from Congress for the social network to comply.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has also been pushing for Facebook executives to give evidence since the company revealed the existence of the ads two weeks ago.

The social network said $100,000 had been spent on the 3,000 ads in the run-up to the 2016 election.

Many of the adverts promoted 470 fake accounts and pages, spreading divisive social and political messages, Facebook revealed.

Topics included immigration, race and gay rights, although they did not express support for a particular candidate.

“I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy. That’s not what we stand for,” Mr Zuckerberg said in a Facebook broadcast on Thursday.

“It is a new challenge for internet communities to have to deal with nation states attempting to subvert elections,” he added.

“But, we are committed to rising to the occasion.”

Congressional investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller are looking at the claims of interference – something Moscow denies having orchestrated.

The Kremlin says it has never placed adverts on Facebook to influence the US presidential election.

US President Donald Trump has also criticised the claims.

“The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook,” he wrote on Twitter.

“What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?”

The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2017

As well as handing over the adverts, Facebook has also agreed other changes to help improve transparency.

The site will now make it possible for anyone to see any political ad that runs on the site – no matter who it is aimed at.

Academics and campaigners have long been calling for the change.

Mr Zuckerberg also said it would make political advertisers disclose who is paying for the ads – a current requirement for TV ads but not social media.

“Not only will you have to disclose which page paid for an ad, but we will also make it so you can visit an advertiser’s page and see the ads they’re currently running to any audience on Facebook,” said the Facebook CEO.

Expanding partnerships with electoral commissions around the world, and systems to deter political bullying are also part of its nine-point action plan to stop potential election meddling.

But Facebook’s boss warned the site would not be able to catch all undesirable content before it is published.

“I’m not going to sit here and tell you we’re going to catch all bad content in our system.

“We don’t check what people say before they say it, and frankly, I don’t think our society shouldn’t want us to,” Mr Zuckerberg said.

“If you break our community standards or the law, then you’re going to face consequences afterwards.

“We won’t catch everyone immediately, but we can make it harder to try to interfere.”

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