The rest of the economy may fuss about export deficits or celebrate small successes.Farm exports, though, are basking in the big win: the 36th year of surpluses and a 10percent increase in international sales.A U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate puts the ag export dollar value at $60billion in 1996, more than double since 1985.”We are the world’s largest exporter of farm products,” said Bill Mizelle, aneconomist with the University of Georgia Extension Service. “We account for 23percent of all agricultural trade in the world.”Agriculture depends on those export dollars for 23 percent of its gross cash receipts.”For the overall economy, exports account for 11 percent of sales,” Mizellesaid. “So agriculture is twice as dependent on exports as the rest of theeconomy.”The No. 1 buyer is Japan, which spent $10 billion on U.S. farm products last year.Sales broke records in other Asian markets, including Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and China.In fact, China became agriculture’s biggest growth market, Mizelle said. Sales leaped175 percent to $2.4 billion.”We are the most competitive nation in the world in agricultural products,”Mizelle said. “We export things we’re good at (like cotton, peanuts and grains). Andwe bring in coffee, bananas and other items.”Many of our farm imports are either products we don’t grow or they’re grown whenwe’re not in season,” he said. “Trade helps improve the standard of living ofthe overall population. As incomes increase, people can buy even more.”The overall picture is positive. But markets for some crops fluctuate. The EconomicResearch Service figures Florida’s fresh winter vegetable market dropped from 57 percentin 1991-92 to 36 percent a year ago.”>Imports of horticultural products from Mexico are certainly up,” Mizellesaid. “But it’s not directly related to any increased production for exports (onMexico’s part).”When the peso was devalued, the Mexican domestic economy collapsed, so consumerdemand was reduced,” he said. “So our products, which normally would have goneto them, didn’t get sold. And their products, which would have been sold there, wereshipped to us.”We’ve had problems with spring freezes, too,” he said. “So Mexico hastaken advantage of our market, which added insult to injury for Florida.”Georgia agriculture depends on the export market, too. Although they don’t have exactfigures, Extension economists said many Georgia farm products are streaming out of theports of Savannah and Mobile.Extension economist Don Shurley said Georgia’s giant cotton crop goes worldwide. Lastyear Georgia grew 2 million bales, 10 percent of the U.S. crop.”Nationally we exported 9.4 million bales of the ’94 crop,”Shurley said.”That was 48 percent of the crop. This year, USDA’s latest projections are that ourexports will be 7.4 million bales. That’s down 2 million bales from last year. But it’sstill 41 percent of our total crop.”The dip in sales is attributed to a rise in world production, including in China, whichlowered imports of U.S. cotton.”Many people expect export figures for cotton to be higher than the USDA’sestimate,” Shurley said. “China has been a buyer in recent weeks. We’ve gotcommitments for almost 8 million bales, so it’s possible we’ll do better than thatestimate.”George Shumaker, an Extension economist in grains, said wheat exports for the ’95 cropare strong. He predicts they’ll stay strong for the ’96 crop. Soybean exports are strong,too, with estimates slightly up from last year.”What’s surprising is currently soybeans are worth about $1.75 a bushel more thanthey were the previous year,” Shumaker said. “So even at higher prices, we’restill competitive.Corn exports were up “just a little bit from ’94,” Shumaker said.”Again, we’re selling more bushels at much higher prices, which is extremelypositive.”
It was announced late yesterday that global esports brand Fnatic had raised over $7million (£5.64m) in financing.The investment comes from a plethora of investors, with big names such as the Boston Celtics and AS Roma featuring prominently. On the AS Roma front it’s not the first time they’ve been involved with Fnatic. Their recent soft launch into esports came in a joint venture with Fnatic. The three players who were chosen to represent AS Roma also featured the Fnatic crest on their shirts. “There has been strong growth in esports, which has accelerated in recent years, but the major shift has been in the acceptance and inclusion by sports franchises, media companies and high profile individuals who have entered and advanced the industry rapidly,” revealed Sam Matthews, Founder of Fnatic, in a press release. He added: “We’re incredibly excited by the opportunities available within esports, and having world class investors and advisors only enhances our ability to address these opportunities and continue to innovate.”According to the announcement, the funding will be used for an array of purposes. It ranges from the personnel side such as: coaches, analysts and psychologists all the way to facility infrastructure and academy teams, and even products and apparel. It’s the latest burst of activity from Fnatic, after their partnerships with Roma and Chinese agency B.O.O.T. The brand is synonymous with success across many esports, with ten professional teams currently competing across a multitude of titles. Surely the next eye is on the Overwatch League, of which we still await more details.With a job advertisment on their website for an Overwatch Team Manager in Los Angeles – could that be where the Fnatic Overwatch franchise will find themselves based? Only time will tell.Esports Insider says: Great news for Fnatic – one of the biggest esports brands around. It’s great to see them attract such substantial investment as it will likely only mean good things for growth of esports. We’ll be intrigued to see the brand’s next move having had this injection of funding.
Is there a potential for conflict of interest in the newly signed deal between the Ghana Football Association and GN Bank?Ghana’s Division One League (DOL) kicks off this weekend under a new sponsorship with a GHS2.1 million ($605,000) sponsorship deal from GN Bank.The duration of the deal is three years and it comes as a relief for the 48 clubs. But there have been murmurings of discomfort – one of those 48 clubs is Elmina Sharks, which is known to be affiliated to businessman Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom. Joy Sports cannot independently confirm that Sharks operate under Groupe Nduom, which is owned by the former presidential aspirant.As part of the agreement with the DOLB, there is a further GHS 4,500,000 investment that has gone into TV Production equipment to produce live coverage, rebroadcast of at least six matches weekly, highlights and preview shows, Division One League news and so on.GN Bank, is also owned by Groupe Nduom which is why the question of conflict of interest has arisen. To explore the issue, we first need to understand how conflict of interest really works. When does conflict of interest arise?In simple terms, a conflict of interest situation arises when one party’s responsibility to a second-party limits its ability to discharge its responsibility to a third-party.In this case, Division One fans fear that GN Bank’s relationship with both the DOL and Elmina Sharks will present a problem. But a closer look shows that may likely not be the case. “The fact that a citizen donates a vehicle to a police station doesn’t mean when he goes contrary to the law he will not be arrested it has no bearing,” said chairman of the Division One League Board (DOLB) Owoahene Acheampong in an interview with Joy Sports.Owoahene’s example may be a tad simplistic, but it rings true.Can GN Bank influence decision-making for Sharks?It is important to note that’s for a conflict of interest to occur here, GN Bank must be in a position to influence decision-making in the league. But are they? Actually, no. “GN Bank is just a sponsor so per their agreement with the Division One League Board, their obligations include paying a certain amount at a stipulated period to enjoy certain benefits. The contract does not allow them to make decisions,” a sports lawyer tells Joy Sports.That is to say, all decisions that have to do with the league will be handled by the Ghana Football Association, through the DOLB. Therefore, fans need not fear that GN Bank’s connection to Elmina Sharks – assuming they even exist – will inhibit the process of fairness.Owoahene was at pains to stress this point, saying: “GN Bank and Elmina Sharks have an association with Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom but that does not establish conflict of interest. I don’t think it will have a bearing on issues that will be discussed and the board will be fair to all 48 clubs.”Precedent?Worried fans have pointed to the existing situation in the Ghana Premier League where GFA Kwesi Nyantakyi is the owner of Wa All Stars, which takes part in the said league. That situation has been explored before, but the GFA boss always maintained that he has no hand in the day to day operations of the team.To spread the discussion further, football watchers in Ghana have long complained about the ease with which officials can corrupt the system because of the laxity of the rules governing the game. For example, in Nyantakyi’s case, the statutes of the FA actually require him to be affiliated to a club before being in the position he occupies.”This kind of system engenders corruption so as it is we simply have to be each other’s keeper to make sure no funny business occurs,” says Moses Asamani, a sports administrator in an interview with Joy Sports.Other examples include Moses “Mospacka” Armah, who owns Medeama Sporting Club and Emmanuel Kyeremeh, owner of Berekum Chelsea. Both were in top FA positions while their teams were in the Premier League. More fearsAnother area where Division One watchers have feared a potential conflict has been in the incoming television coverage that accompanies this deal. The company to do the TV production and distribution, First Digital, is also associated with Groupe Nduom. But again, analysts say there is no need to fear.”There will only be a problem if First Digital were in charge of fixtures and allocation of the broadcast. But that isn’t so,” the sports lawyer explains.Per the terms of the deal, the DOLB will draw fixtures independently and will consult with the 48 teams on feasilibilty of shooting games.Therefore, all First Digitial TV will do is follow the orders of decisions made by the DOLB. In the part, potential sources of interest have included coercion of refs to officiate games in favour of powerful interests as well as fixing of match schedules to their benefit.ConclusionAssuming, without admitting, that GN Bank is in a position of confict of interest at any point in time when decisions involving Elmina Sharks are involved, the bank (or the TV station for that matter) will be obliged to do two things. First, disclose this interest to all parties involved. Secondly, they have to recuse themselves from any such decision-making process to ensure fairness.In short, there’s no need to fear.This year’s DOL will have three Zones made up of 16 clubs each with the three winners of each zone qualifying automatically into the Ghana Premier League.–