Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Facebook still leads social media, but sees slower growth among young users

This is not your father’s Facebook. It’s your grandfather’s.
Facebook’s strongest growth over the past year came from users over age 65, who have signed on to the site to keep in touch with their friends, children and grandchildren, according to a Pew Center for Internet and American Life survey released Monday.
The survey found that 45 percent of U.S. seniors who use the Internet are on Facebook, up from 35 percent the previous year. The site saw usage grow for all adults over 30, and it is used by 71 percent of Americans, an increase from 67 percent last year.
Use among teens, however, has stagnated at 84 percent. The percentage of those between 18 and 29 who use the site fell two percentage points compared with last year, according to the survey. That’s in keeping with growing concern that Facebook is seeing lower engagement with the younger users who drove its early popularity, something that the company has acknowledged.
Facebook may be a victim of its own success after nearly 10 years as the country’s leading social network, Pew senior researcher Aaron Smith said.
“It’s hard to get more than 85 percent of anyone doing anything,” he said. “A lot of the easy converts in the younger group, or even in the older and middle-aged group, are already on the site. The senior group is the only area that has any substantial area for growth.”
Facebook is seeing an uptick in teen use on Instagram, which it bought for $1 billion in 2012, giving it another avenue for growth. Facebook could not be reached for comment on the study.
Still, Pew’s survey supports a recent study from researchers at University College London that found that some British teens are leaving Facebook because of the influx of older users.
An ethnographic study of 16- to 18-year-olds north of London found that teens are migrating to private-messaging services such as WhatsApp and Snapchat to communicate with their friends. In many cases, the study said, teens stay on Facebook at the behest of their parents, who have made it a tool for keeping track of their children.
“You just can’t be young and free if you know your parents can access your every indiscretion,” wrote Daniel Miller, a professor of Material Culture at UCL who ran the study.
In other words, teens are using Facebook but not for the same reasons they once did. And that fits in with a larger trend in the social media space: Americans are diversifying the social networks they use. More than 40 percent of Americans, Pew found, maintain multiple social network accounts for different purposes.
Facebook, which has more than 1 billion users, seems to be the “default” social network, Smith said, while Pinterest skews more heavily toward women, LinkedIn to more educated or wealthier users, and Twitter to young adults and African Americans.
Users go to specific sites based on what they’re trying to do, Smith said, and engagement for many of the smaller sites are on par with Facebook. Fifty-seven percent of Instagram users, for example, return daily to the site to check for updates, compared with 63 percent of Facebook users. Nearly half of Twitter’s users, 46 percent, also make the site a daily habit.
Pew researchers surveyed 1,800 adults in English and Spanish via landlines and cellphones. The survey interviews were conducted in August and September.
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Increase Cambodia organic rice to US

The Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), an agricultural enterprise, exported 114 tonnes of organic jasmine rice to US in the first quarter of this year, a 30 per cent increase compared with the same period last year.
A representative of CEDAC said that this is a good sign and encouraging for farmers of organic rice.
“We aim to transform farmers into organic rice farm entrepreneurs or commercial organic fragrant rice producers,” CEDAC president Yang Saing Koma said. “We can generate extra funds for social development through the business with our international partners.”
During the first three months, CEDAC exported 59 tonnes of organic jasmine brown rice and 55 tonnes organic jasmine white rice to the US.
As a result, hundreds of organic rice producers in Takeo, Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Speu provinces have benefited, a press release said.
Experts within the sector say Cambodia has the potential to become an important organic rice producing country in the region.
Srey Chanthy, an independent agricultural analyst, told the Post yesterday that compared with most Asian countries, Cambodian farmers use relatively few chemicals on their fields.
On average, Cambodian farmers apply just 23 kilograms of chemical fertiliser per hectare with application rates especially low in the wet season (mid-May to early October), he said.
Nevertheless, he said if Cambodia really wants to develop its organic rice production, it would have to put in place a new institutional framework to ensure quality and grade standards to build trust from international buyers.
“Boosting organic rice exports is easier said than done,” said Srey Chanthy. “We need to be patient and overcome all obstacles because there is so much potential benefit.”
CEDAC has been actively encouraging farmers to adopt organic techniques.
By 2022, CEDAC plans to support up to 100,000 farmers, producing more than 400,000 tonnes a year of organic fragrant paddy to supply the markets.

organic rice grows

In a sign that demand for organic rice is increasing, Mekong Oryza Trading yesterday became the first private company in Cambodia to agree to export the product abroad.
Phnom Penh-based rice exporter Mekong Oryza signed the memorandum of understanding with agricultural non-profit CEDAC, which introduced the concept of organic rice farming in 2004, and became the sole exporter about five years later.
Organic rice is produced without modern synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. From beginning to end, the process needs to follow a clear step by step system in order to receive certification.
While demand is on the rise, the market is still puny compared to Cambodia’s staple milled rice product. On the strength of more interest in the US and EU, CEDAC estimates it will export 320 tonnes of organic rice in 2013, compared with 100 tonnes for all of last year. In the first 10 months this year, Cambodia exported nearly 300,000 tonnes of non-organic rice.
As part of the agreement, starting in early 2014, Mekong Oryza Trading will provide funding to farmers and help scout potential markets. Speaking at the signing at the Rural Development Bank in Phnom Penh, Hun Lak, managing director of Mekong Oryza Trading, said that Cambodia should capitalise while it can.
“[Producing] organic rice is our great opportunity,” Lak said.
Yang Saing Koma, president of CEDAC, said there are 5,000 households applying organic rice methods on their farms.

EU clarifies rice comments

While the European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht never told the Ministry of Commerce that Cambodian rice was “30 per cent” mixed with the same product from Vietnam, he did say Cambodia had to better ensure that its harvest was homegrown and not from another country, a spokesman for the commissioner said yesterday.
“Rice exports from Cambodia have been rising very fast in recent years,” said John Clancy, spokesman for the trade commissioner, in an email.
The original comments date to an article last week in industry publication Oryza. In the report, the commissioner also says that Cambodia risks losing its Everything But Arms (EBA) status with the EU.
Cambodia’s rice exports for the first 11 months of the year totalled more than 332,000 tonnes, almost doubling from the 171,000 tonnes during the same period last year, and dwarfing the 2009 total.
Cambodia, unlike Vietnam, benefits from an EBA agreement with the EU, which gives developing nations duty-free and quota-free shipping on products excluding armaments to all European countries.
European Union nations accounted for more than 60 per cent, or 200,000 tonnes, of Cambodia’s total rice exports as of November 2013. Poland, France, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and Germany imported more than 47 per cent of the total figure.
The EU’s ambassador to Cambodia, Jean-Francois Cautain, said the dramatic rise will be closely monitored as the sector and rice-producing EU countries are sensitive to increased imports and potential market disturbances.
“In that respect the origin of the Cambodian rice should be fully ensured. The EU is in contact with the Cambodian authorities on this matter,” he said.
Mey Kalyan, senior adviser to Cambodia’s Supreme National Economic Council, called on the government to investigate the issue of rice origin contamination amid fears that changes to the country’s EBA status could have consequences.
“We need to get to the bottom of the issue, find hard evidence and take corrective measures,” he said. “Removing Cambodia’s EBA status could have disastrous effects on the whole rice sector, future exports to the EU, our pride as an emerging exporter, our trust in doing business, our branding as a world-class rice exporter, and we may not reach the one-million-tonne rice export target of 2015.”
In response to the trade commissioner’s concerns, the Alliance of Rice Producers and Exporters of Cambodia (ARPEC) will form a Code of Conduct in a bid to protect the country’s rice exports.
ARPEC said in a statement released yesterday that all Cambodian rice exporters had taken note of the views and would sign the Code of Conduct with the Ministry of Commerce to self-regulate exports.
ARPEC deputy secretary David Van said the issues raised in the Oryza article were informal and emanated from rumours within “EU circles”.
“As far as the rice exporters are concerned, we maintain that until clear evidence is produced by the EU, we do not condone their claims,” he said.
In response to suggestions that some Cambodian rice could be contaminated during transit to Vietnam-based milling facilities, Van said the external process does not mean the two rice origins are mixed. He added that the low supply of Cambodian milling facilities producing the country’s rapidly increasing harvest forces farmers to send their rice to Vietnam for milling.
“But all rice grown, harvested, milled and exported in Cambodia is 100 per cent our product,” Van said.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

IMF: How to grow Cambodia



Cambodia’s economic take-off has been truly impressive. With peace and stability, and the government’s focus on export-led development, growth has averaged about 8 per cent in the last decade, doubling per capita income and halving the poverty rate. 



Cambodia is now poised to enter the next phase of its development and with aspirations to soon join the ranks of emerging markets, the focus now, understandably, is on the continuity of that take-off.



That prompts some deeper questions: What is the recipe for igniting and sustaining take-offs in developing countries? What can Cambodia learn from the previous generation of countries on how to navigate the next phase? 



With over one-third of Cambodians below 15 years and the vast need for job creation, these questions and their answers have profound real life implications for so many.  



Researchers at the IMF have analyzed precisely these questions in the April 2013 World Economic Outlook, which has been published worldwide and presented to policy makers in Phnom Penh a few days ago. 



The research project has sifted through the experience of more than 60 low-income or developing countries over the last 60 years. To add to that, it has featured Cambodia as one of the impressive growth stories since the 1990s.



Before we highlight the main findings, let’s touch a bit on the global growth context.  



In recent economic history, there have been two waves of growth take-offs among low-income countries over the past 60 years. The first wave started around the 1960s and 1970s; the second around the 1990s. 



Cambodia has solidly been a part of the second wave. 



Here is some good news: growth take-offs are now more likely and longer-lasting. 



What explains the higher probability of take-offs? It is mostly due to better structural and macroeconomic conditions, findings the policy makers in Cambodia can fully relate to. 



Unfortunately, the promise of the first wave fell short as many take-offs fizzled out, when the global economy turned sour in the late 1970s and 1980s. 



In fact, one-third of take-offs prior to the 1990s ended with a currency, debt, or financial crisis, and some countries even saw reversals in per capita income levels within 15 to 20 years after take-off. That’s why understanding the shared features of successful take-offs is so critical. 



Although many roads lead to growth take-offs, they usually involve strong investment and export growth, underscoring the importance of policies to improve the investment and business climate and foster trade integration in developing countries. 



Furthermore, recent take-offs have been supported by stronger FDI, higher education levels, lower regulatory burden for businesses, lower income inequality and more stable political conditions. Fortunately, many of these are outcomes of policy choices, not accidents.  



What are the lessons for Cambodia? 



Cambodia’s open trade and investment regimes, and proximity to some of the most dynamic economies in the world, have served it well and provided immense opportunities to continue to attract foreign direct investment and deepen trade links in regional and global markets. 



This will further improve productivity and support activity. But to get there, it has to address many policy challenges. 



First, removing infrastructure bottlenecks, most urgently with respect to power supply and roads, and improving the business climate will remain critical for continuing to attract private investment and further diversify its economy. 



Second, in light of the rapid growth of Cambodia’s banking system and the introduction of new financial instruments and markets, such as the stock exchange in 2012, it is important to keep in mind that financial deepening must continue without compromising financial stability, one critical lesson from the first wave of take-offs. 



That will require managing financial deepening by enabling market participants to better manage risks, and continuously upgrading prudential supervision and regulation. This is especially important in a system like Cambodia’s that is also marked by a high degree of dollarisation and capital account openness. 



Third, mobilising fiscal revenue will help build fiscal buffers and generate the resources necessary to cushion the economy against adverse shocks and meet the country’s development needs. 



The latter concerns in particular human capital development through improved health and education, a goal the government has also embraced.  



It is worth noting that the IMF’s regular policy dialogue with Cambodia has over the years led to a convergence of views on these lessons and has also guided the IMF’s technical assistance in Cambodia, from financial supervision to economic statistics to fiscal management.



An old Khmer proverb advises us to “negotiate a river by following its bends”. Cambodia is fast approaching the proverbial bend of the river of development – transitioning from a developing to an emerging market economy. 



One efficient way to navigate the bend would be to internalise the lessons from the sustained growers and design policies accordingly. 



The IMF is happy to be a part of that journey and to think together with Cambodia’s policy makers on how best to get ready for the next phase.

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