Afternoon Coffee: Apple Futures in China, Pork Shortage, Bad Brakes Slow Valvoline, Risky Runways

Not the Apple you think!
For Investors, a New Pick of the Crop -- Fresh apple consumption in China, which produces more than half of the global supply of the fruit, has soared 80% from the 2007-2008 crop year to the crop year ending in June 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That compares with growth of just 36% world-wide in the same period. The surge is shaking up a small corner of the commodities world, the market for apple-juice concentrate in the U.S., and has led to the first-ever futures contract for the product. China's rising consumption of apples has pushed up prices, squeezing margins for producers of apple juice in the $3 billion market for the concentrate, a molasses-like substance that is mixed with water before the juice reaches stores. The U.S. imports about two-thirds of its supply from China, or about 464 million gallons in 2010, according to the latest USDA data.

Just in time for Yom Kippur (half our office is fasting/attending services tomorrow).
Bacon, pork shortage 'now unavoidable,' industry group says -- Might want to get your fill of ham this year, because "a world shortage of pork and bacon next year is now unavoidable," according to an industry trade group. Blame the drought conditions that blazed through the corn and soybean crop this year. Less feed led to herds declining across the European Union "at a significant rate," according to the National Pig Assn. in Britain. And the trend "is being mirrored around the world," according to a release (hat tip to the Financial Times).

"At worst, we had to employ additional staff to manually wrap pallets, just to keep up with demand."
Brake machines slow Valvoline supply chain -- Automotive and industrial products supplier Valvoline has vented frustration with ineffective brake machines hindering its supply chain. With Valvoline loading and wrapping 5,000 pallets a month in its Wetherill Park (NSW) production facility, Valvoline's National Logistics Manager Kane Pilkington says its manual brake machines were constantly breaking down. Pilkington says there were only two brake machines at the production facility and when a breakdown occurred one machine was left to carry the load. "At best, it would take a machine a couple of days to be repaired, which drastically slowed down production and impacted our ability to meet our targets," he says.

Risky runways.
Safer Flights, but Risk Lurks on the Runway -- Southwest Airways Flight 844 from Minneapolis had just landed at Chicago's Midway International Airport last December and was about to cross a runway on its way to the terminal when the co-pilot noticed a business jet barreling toward him. He shouted for the captain to stop. The plane, carrying 74 passengers, screeched to a halt just short of the runway as the smaller jet crossed before their eyes.

- Sheena Moore

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