The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 31 March 2016

Image: John Laurie

Packing a punch

Sun-seeking backpackers heading down under have a vital relationship with Australian farmers. Often touring on a tight budget, these flip-flop-sporting legions are happy to get their hands dirty during seasonal harvests in order to make some cash before heading off to tourist destinations. Yet a proposed national “backpacker tax” has angered farmers, with the move looking to significantly increase tax taken from first-year foreign-worker earnings and reduce the willingness of travellers to engage in labourious fruit picking. The tax aims to improve rural-employment rates but farmers say the tough roving lifestyle attached to the work is not one that many Aussies are keen to get involved in. The government appears to be listening and has decided to revisit the proposal. With much made over the agriculture industry’s importance to the Australian economy and its export potential to Asia anything that may spoil its pickings should be considered with caution.

Image: Elsie Hui

Lavish lunch

Now that food produce is routinely prefaced by the words “artisanal” or “heirloom”, it was only a matter of time before the humble pot noodle joined in the premium movement. Nissin, the Japanese food giant that brought the world the instant Cup Noodles in 1971, is moving into the luxury market. Well, almost. The company’s new Cup Noodles Rich, which will launch in Japan on 11 April, will cost ¥230 (€2) per unit, about ¥50 (€0.40) more than its standard counterpart – even though the quantity is slightly smaller. There are two flavours: a thick Chinese oyster soup with a gelatin imitation of shark’s fin and a Japanese dashi (bonito-flavoured) soup with the taste of sea turtle. Market research has encouraged Nissin to move into more expensive territory: nascent signs of economic recovery are pushing consumers who are tired of austerity towards spending on high-end goods.

Image: David Engelhardt

Poor Puerto Rico

Times are tough for the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico and a ruling at the start of the week is unlikely to allay the suffering. Battling a 10-year economic crisis, not helped by a rather ambiguous commonwealth status that prevents it from being able to restructure its debt in a US court, the country had turned to taxes to try and get it out of its economic bind. A levy increase on companies that are buying from off the island and that have revenue of more than $2.75bn (€2.4bn) would have bolstered coffers. The problem? The only company with that sort of money is Walmart and it promptly sued. A court ruling now says the tax hike is unlawful, meaning faltering Puerto Rico is forced to go back to square one.

Image: Prayitno

Hawaiian high-flyer

The sun, it seems, is shining upon Hawaiian Airlines in the first quarter and the predictions are bright for the rest of the year too. The airline’s announcement that it is to restructure its business in Japan – a response to the high number of Japanese visitors who want to visit the Hawaiian islands – coupled with the promise of a new daytime slot at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport should go some way in maximising its profits in Asia. Meanwhile in Australia, Jetstar’s withdrawal from the Brisbane-Honolulu route later this year will restore Hawaiian Airlines’ prime position down under. Couple all of that with one of the best on-time records of any US airline, as well as low cancellation rates and very few baggage-handling issues, and investors are rightly buoyant about the 2016 prospects of Hawaii’s oldest carrier.

From Monocle 24

Lederhaas cosmetics

Organic skincare is all the rage these days but there’s something that makes Wolfgang Lederhaas and his award-winning company stand out. Alexei Korolyov pays the cosmetics entrepreneur a visit to discover how literature and philosophy influence his products and design.

From Monocle Films

Fashion city: Vancouver

Local fashion shops and brands are on the rise in Vancouver, offering creative alternatives to fleece and rubber boots. Monocle Films meets the retailers pushing style in the city.

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