Drought-hit Iraq suspends farming of key crops
BAGHDAD (AFP): An unusually bad drought has forced Iraq to suspend the cultivation of rice, corn and other cereals that demand large amounts of water, the agriculture ministry said Monday. "The agricultural plan for the summer" was modified "because the quantities of water needed for these cereals are not available", spokesman Hamid al-Nayef said. "The ministry does not take this decision light heartedly," he said, adding that cereal crops would no longer be grown without authorisation from the ministry of water resources. Rice is a staple of the Iraqi diet. Nicknamed the "land of the two rivers" due to the presence of the Tigris and Euphrates, Iraq has for years seen its water resources decrease. Beyond this year's dramatic lack of rain, experts say a central reason for Iraq's creeping drought is the regional sharing of its water resources. Neighbouring Turkey and Iran in recent years have both rerouted cross-border water sources they share with Iraq. The start in late June of Turkey's controversial Ilisu dam on the Tigris river is expected to bring a new blow to agriculture and livelihoods across the country.
The dam has provoked anger and concern across Iraq's agricultural community and from Iraqi authorities, already facing social unrest over chronic electricity shortages across the country.
Worldwide smartphone shipments to grow 1.4pc in 2018: Report
ISLAMABAD (APP): Global shipments of smartphones are expected to reach a little over 1.49 billion units this year, up from 1.47 billion in 2017 -- a growth of 1.4 per cent, a report showed. The smartphone shipment numbers are likely to rise at a faster clip from 2019 onwards once the real-world 5G network is introduced, according to an industry consulting firm Strategy Analytics (SA), Yonhap news agency reported. The poor showing is a repeat of numbers for 2016 and 2017 when annual growth was tallied at 1.8 per cent and 1.2 per cent, respectively. This is in stark contrast to double digit growth posted in the years after 2007, when Apple first launched its iPhone. The global research and consulting firm said the drop in shipments and sales is mainly due to overall improvements in the capabilities of the latest handsets and a longer replacement cycle for recent phones.
Russia, Saudi Arabia seek raised Opec output of 1.5 million bpd
MOSCOW (AFP): Russia and Saudi Arabia will ask OPEC to hike production by 1.5 million barrels a day in the third quarter of 2018, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said. OPEC and Russia decided together in 2016 to cut their supply in order to push prices up following a crash induced by a global crude production glut. An oil production shortfall in Iran and Venezuela has changed the scenario for the two countries and members of the oil cartel. Novak said Moscow and Riyadh "propose increasing production in the third quarter by 1.5 (million bpd)," according to RIA Novosti. "We are only proposing this for the third quarter. In Sep we will review the situation in the market and decide the future course." Russian President Putin and Novak met Saudi Saudi Crown Prince before the opening World Cup match in Moscow. Since 2017, an OPEC agreement on production cuts has allowed oil prices to rise but there are fears that renewed American sanctions on Iran and a fall in output in Venezuela could disrupt supply.
United Kingdom debit cards overtake cash for first time: Study
LONDON (AFP): Cash is no longer king in Britain -- and has been usurped by debit cards, thanks to rapid changes in technology and consumer behaviour, new research showed Monday. Debit card payments overtook cash last year for the first time, as more and more Britons embraced contactless transactions, online shopping and payment by smartphone, trade association UK Finance revealed in a study. "Evolving consumer habits, increasing access to card payments and new technology are providing consumers with more choice," UK Finance concluded. Consumers made a total of 13.2 billion debit card transactions in 2017, beating the 13.1 billion payments that were made in cash, UK Finance said. Almost two thirds of Britons now use contactless, according to the organisation which represents 300 top firms in finance, banking and payment-related services. The total number of contactless transactions meanwhile doubled in one year to reach 5.6 billion on both credit and debit cards, as more businesses accepted the method that does not require a PIN number.
At the same time, the overall number of cash payments slid 15 percent in 2017.
And some 3.4 million Britons almost never use cash any more, instead relying on cards and other payment methods.
However, many people still rely heavily on cash.
Around 2.2 million people mainly used cash for their day-to-day shopping in 2017.
"The choice of payment options available in the UK is allowing people to choose to pay the way that best suits them," said UK Finance chief executive Stephen Jones.
"But we're far from becoming a cash-free society and despite the UK transforming to an economy where cash is less important than it once was, it will remain a payment method that continues to be valued and preferred by many."
Cash was still expected to retain its place as the second most frequently used method over the next decade, UK Finance added.