Afternoon Coffee: France Battles Butter Shortage, Robots to Monitor Shelves at Wal-Mart

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Declining European dairy production and rising global demand for dairy products has led to sporadic shortages of one of France’s most sacred foods: butter. As the New York Times reports, butter prices have soared to nearly $8,000 a ton in September from about $2,800 in April 2016, and many French retailers are refusing to pay the increased market price to suppliers. In France prices between suppliers and big retailers are negotiated once a year, in February, and the butter dispute has jammed the supply chain.

Retail Robots

Wal-Mart shoppers will soon encounter a different kind of employee in the aisles at more than 50 test locations this year. As Reuters reports, Wal-Mart is rolling out shelf-scanning robots that can check stock and identify missing and misplaced items, incorrect prices and mislabeling. The robots pass that data to store employees, who then stock the shelves and fix errors. 

Steel Imports

U.S. steel imports increased 20% in the first nine months of 2017, according to the Northwest Indiana Times. While the U.S. imported 3.05 million tons of steel in September, a decrease of 10.3%, those numbers are still at historically elevated levels and have muddied the picture for a more comprehensive crackdown on foreign steel.

Q3 GDP

And finally, an economic update: the U.S. economy grew at a rate of 3% in the third quarter, allaying concerns that a destructive hurricane season would restrain growth.

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