Global Fruit Crisis

IF MONEY was fruit, would we have the same problems with the GFC? Just say we were in the grip of the Global Fruit Crisis instead of the Global Financial Crisis.

How did the GFC get to be so critical? A quick overview:

It all started when US President Bill Clingdon decided to legislate that people who had traditionally not shown an interest in fruit, or did not have the resources to service a regular fruit bill, should have better access to fruit.

US Government Legislation ensured fruit markets had to set aside boxes of fruit specifically for those disadvantaged people – even though they may not be able to pay for it, all the time.

Meanwhile, the Fruity Reserve, chaired by Alan Greenspurt, was delighted with the amount of fruit it was able to get out into the marketplace, by keeping interest rates lower for longer. Things were going well.

Fruity Banks, meanwhile, were busily trying to get all that new fruit, being steadily piled up at the back door, out there to buyers.

To do so, they were finding they had to smarten up the packaging and offer some extra bananas or tangerines to ensure that fruit went out before it went off.

Even though some of the fruit was on the verge of going off before it left the bank, which they called Sub Prime Fruit, a packaging spruce up with luscious fruit pictures on the boxes reassured the market. Buyers that President Clingdon had legislated in favour of got first dibs at these very appealing cut-price fruit boxes – and all was very well indeed.

Things began to move even faster. US fruit markets and traders thought they could modernise the way the fruit industry works by creating some new products and ‘instruments’ known in the trade as Fruity Instrument Tailoring (FIT).

This accelerated the whole process, fruit markets earned big bonuses on the turnover of their fruit and soon all the major fruit financiers were having FITs.

Seeing these events, fruit financiers and investors all around the world began to buy into this burgeoning market as Walnut Street developed new Fruity Annuity Funds (FAFs) and Fruity Activity Reserve Trusts (acronym withheld – Editor) with high rates of growth.

None of this seemed to trouble the IMF (International Melon Fund), or the Fruity Reserve, which bathed in the glory of unprecedented fruit growth,  because everybody seemed happy.

These august institutions felt we had reached a new fruit markets paradigm where everybody who wanted fruit could get it, farmers could grow fruit on demand, everybody who wanted to sell more fruit could and none of this modern fruit ever seemed to go off.

This was a revelation. For hundreds of years, fruit had traded more or less in the same fashion on Walnut Street. You asked for a ripe banana, you got a ripe banana. You asked for a ripe orange, you got a ripe orange. You asked for a raw banana, you also got what you asked for. Forget pineapples.

However, some of the traders got some advice on the possibilities of GM (greed modified) fruit – guaranteed to be bigger, more colourful and even ‘straighter’, in the case of bananas – and realised these would appeal to even more unsophisticated investors.

They started a whole marketing and publicity campaign based around GM fruit that began to fire the public’s imagination. These fruits were not, of course, modified in any particular way other than to go through another stage of personal handling from the markets. In the case of bananas, they were tugged a few times before going in the box, to help straighten them out.

The bewildered public loved the concept of straighter bananas, it seemed, and soon fruit market providers all over the world were tugging themselves. (It would later be alleged by psychologists studying the GFC that the entire problem was driven by male testosterone that led to greedy competitive decisions among the men on Walnut Street, who could see nothing at all out of the ordinary in tugging bananas).

But then somebody in the fruit media pointed out that things were turning rotten. Delays in getting the fruit stockpile to market meant a rise in pre-packaged GM fruit going bad almost immediately it was unwrapped.

Some consumers saw through the pre-packaged banana tugging scam. They became tired of the bent untruths – and the fruit, since it began to smell and taste bad – and they sent their now rotten boxes of sub-prime fruit back to the banks.

This impacted other fruit markets, as people began to fear that other fruit had also been GM-ed which, of course, most had.

Unfortunately, a few of the major fruit trading houses, some of them generations old like Leafman Brothers, had put too many of their resources into these new fruits and FITs, never imagining they would turn bad, leaving an abundance of worthless rotting fruit.

Soon, fruit traders everywhere were hit by bad fruit and a surplus of all the most unpopular fruit.

A couple of the big international trading houses went bust before the government stepped in and started giving them good fruit from the government’s own supply, a vast majority of it actually grown in China.

So, here we are today and the Global Fruit Crisis is far from over.

In Australia, where most of our fruit goes to China before it is put into tins and sent to the US, our Government has wisely guaranteed the fruit supply for our banks, who may or may not sell it on at a fair profit to Australian business, depending on their appetite for risk.

If only the GFC was the Global Fruit Crisis. At least then our currency would be edible and we could make jam instead of being in a jam.

The prime lesson from both GFCs is: if you’ve got a bunch of yellow things that look like bananas, feel like bananas and are bent like bananas, no amount of GM science, re-packaging or delicate manipulation by the markets will set them straight.

It’s all still just bananas.

 - Mike Sullivan, 2012. 


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