The Economist Articles — Week of 12 Mar 20162 min read

Every week I read through The Economist to pick out articles that may be useful for teaching in the classroom. I’ll be sharing some of my notes and the discussion prompts I’ve come up with in these weekly posts. For students, they can serve as guide-rails for your reading. For teachers, I hope they will be helpful for your teaching.

1. African agriculture — A green evolution

Increased productivity: “Rwanda’s farmers produced 792,000 tonnes of grain in 2014 — more than three times as much as in 2000.” “as a result of better-managed, better fertilised crops grown from hybrid seeds.” According to the article, what were the factors holding back productivity for African farmers for the past fifty years? Explain how “boosting agricultural productivity is among the best ways of raising living standards across the continent.”

Information problems: “He does not know in advance what price his crops will fetch… The traders have all the information — they pay the farmers what they want.”

Demand and Supply: “switching from red teff to fancier white teff because that is what city folk increasingly want.” “urban hunger for meat and eggs is persuading more farmers to keep cows and chickens.” “a vital input, rain, cannot be controlled… climate change… is likely to render the dry parts of the continent drier still” Discuss the changes in various markets mentioned in the article and how they could affect consumers and producers in those markets.

2. Commodities — Steel chrysanthemums

Demand and Supply: “leap of almost 20% in the price of iron ore on March 7th.” “… the government pledged to maintain GDP growth of at least 6.5% a year for the next five years.” “want their flowers to boom under clean air during the show … curbing output at the city’s steel mills.” “depreciation of the yuan… encouraged traders to import extra ore in case the currency falls further.” “… unwinding of bets that prices would fall further.” Can you find and explain the demand and supply factors stated in the article? According to the article, which of the factors are more important? Do you agree and why?

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