• Sat
  • Sep 20, 2014
  • Updated: 12:08am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 December, 2012, 3:46am

Chicken feet give Savannah a big foot in the shipping door

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

Who would have thought that chicken feet could bring a US port to life? But that is indeed what they have done for the port of Savannah, Georgia. Prior to 2002, Savannah was a quiet sleepy port. Then two things happened. First, the west coast dock strike resulted in a lot of cargo being redirected through Savannah, much of which it held on to afterwards. Second, Hong Kong businesspeople started showing an interest in buying the chicken feet that hitherto had been thrown away at local processing plants, Bloomberg reports.

Now the port ships out some 360 refrigerated containers a week of chicken feet to Hong Kong and mainland China, helping to make it the US' fastest-growing port. A higher proportion of goods is exported out of Savannah than at other US ports, which makes it more attractive to shipping lines than a port that just receives imports.

Container traffic at Savannah has doubled over the past decade with an eighth of all US exports by weight going through the port, trailing only Los Angeles. China's consumption of US-produced chicken feet has quadrupled in recent years.

 

Breaking news about nothing

While browsing The Australian's online site yesterday afternoon our eyes alighted on an item in its Breaking News panel bang in the middle of its front page. Breaking News implies something of importance that should attract our attention: a big fire, major accident, plane crash or the like. But no, it has to be said this item didn't rise to those giddy heights. The headline read: "Hong Kong stocks end 0.26 per cent lower." Hardly something to set the heart racing but all too typical of the world today, which values the urgency and immediacy of reporting change for the sake of change, rather than because it is something of real interest.

 

Open season on corruption

With five sex scandals in six days - all with links to corruption - it appears to be open season on the mainland for exposés of this nature, at least for the moment. How long it will last is another matter. Cynical observers who have seen these crackdowns before wonder how much of this is for real or merely window-dressing.

It seems hard to believe that generations of officials that have been waiting for their turn at the trough to shore up their pensions are simply going to accept that the game is over.

Matters appear to have taken an interesting turn on Thursday, according to the Economic Observer, when the deputy editor of Caijing, Luo Changping, used his personal weibo, or microblog, account to publicly accuse Liu Tienan, director of the National Energy Administration and deputy director of the NDRC, of corruption and fudging his résumé. The accusation was made while Liu was travelling in Russia, with Wang Qishan, the new anti-corruption tsar. The significance of this is that it seems to be the first non-anonymous accusation on weibo of a minister-level official.

 

Inappropriate banking

Which?, a British consumer group, has found that despite the recent scandals involving the mis-selling of financial products, bank staff are still being encouraged to sell unsuitable products to customers. The group found 65 per cent of bank staff with sales targets said they were being placed under increasing pressure to meet them. Which? surveyed branch and call-centre staff at HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays and Santander. More than 550 bank staff were interviewed, of which 371 where in sales and of those, 298 said they had sales targets to meet. In September, the Financial Services Authority gave the banks 12 to 18 months to rein in the bonus schemes they use to encourage staff to sell insurance, loans and bank accounts.

Bank staff are supposed to be rewarded based on their service to customers. Of course, just because these undesirable practices occur overseas it doesn't mean they're going on here. But you have to wonder.

 

Counting chickens

David Webb on his webb-site.com notes that the Hong Kong stock exchange has decided to exclude gains on valuation of biological assets from trading record and requirements. "In other words, 'money doesn't grow on trees'. Next up: for inventory purposes, poultry breeders will not be allowed to count their chickens until they are hatched." Ho Ho.

 

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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