By Charles Wyndham.
Two bits of ‘news’ lately caught my eye. The first was in one of the Sunday papers about some child rearing guru’s book ‘French Children don’t throw food’.
Whatever the merits of French parenting, which frankly can only be better than the soft headed twoddle that seems to be what is considered normal here in Anglo Saxon land; it does, however, beg the question that if the French are brought up properly why can so many find them so difficult and why do they end up with the likes of Monsieur Hollande, Chirac or Strauss Kahn?
I suppose, to be fair, we got our Tony Blair, who surely must be putting his name forward to be the next pope, and Ed Milliband, Ed Balls, let alone the vast majority of Members of Parliament of whatever persuasion, and lets not mention our banking fraternity.
The more I think about it, there is actually a very good point being made.
Here in sunny England, we have been witnessing the character assassination of an ex minister by his ex wife when she revealed that she had taken the rap for some driving offence actually committed by the ex hubby.
The vitriol that has been splattered around has made everyone rush for the pound seats in the front stalls.
But what is odd, to me, is that the ex minister kept on totally denying the charges right up to his trial when on day one he then pleaded guilty.
The evidence to an outsider was so totally overwhelming, how did this guy continue to live in denial and in the process make a bad situation so much worse for himself?
The fact of the matter is that the glaringly obvious can and is so often overlooked or rather bypassed when it is, so to speak, uncomfortable.
It will be interesting to see how the new management of Anglo will handle De Beers.
Reading or trying to read the speeches of the soon to be leaving Cynthia Carroll and what according to many rumours will also be the soon leaving MD of De Beers Monsieur Mellier, what struck me was that I was listening to the same old gramophone record, though thankfully a much shorter version than the ‘family’ bunkum that Nicky Oppenheimer used to faithfully drag out each year.
It is to be hoped that a new set of eyes might see through the De Beers disastrous venture into jewellery, the absurd Forevermark that ensures that the company competes with its own customers and that it has lost focus and competence in its mining and valuing role.
No doubt the new management will be told of all the virtues of keeping to the well and trusted sightholder system, the discretionary marketing system and its discretionary pricing system as having stood the test of time.
I am sure there be will pleas for more visits to cutting centres where the egos can be kowtowed to on a grand scale….so much sexier than simply trying to mine as efficiently as possible and sell for the maximum price of the day for the minimum cost.
Isn’t it extraordinary that it is only now that the senior management of Anglo have visited India on a fact finding trip?
Anglo has been the largest shareholder in De Beers since 2001, and it is in 2012 that there seems to have been the slightest interest shown in what goes on the diamond industry.
The gloomy part is that it would appear that everyone is still in cloud cuckoo land.
Don’t tell me that the management of De Beers accompanying the Anglo big wigs were not extolling the virtues of how they sell the diamonds, or that anyone to whom they spoke to in India would disagree.
The blindingly obvious would have been covered in a great big layer of meringue and warnings that any changes would be catastrophic when the only real catastrophe will be if the vested interests cling to the totally discredited old model.
Treating diamonds for the commodity that they are and selling for the top price will not destroy the business, it is the only way to stop the gathering speed at which the diamond industry is comparatively shrinking.
I think that most would agree that coffee is a commodity, a commodity of surprising complexity given all the different types and sources of beans let alone the different degrees of roasting once on its way to the coffee cup.
Also, I think most would agree that it was a pretty staid business for a long time and then along came the Starbucks of this world and revolutionised the retailing end.
The next major innovation has been the Nespresso concept where snazzy coffee machines have brought the convenience of the Starbucks into the house and in addition a virtue has been made of the very diversity in the product.
My palate is not good enough to distinguish between most of all the plethora of varieties available apart from the extremes. I like some more than others, but I could not really explain why.
Nespresso has created enormous added value to the coffee bean, if only De Beers could do the same by sticking to its knitting and stop trying to stray into the glamour business where it simply does not belong.
This cannot have been bad for coffee producers, though I do not think any of the coffee capsules are manufactured in the producing countries, which have only had to put up with the consequences of increased demand… oh dear!
There is so much more opportunity with diamonds but instead the obvious is being bypassed as vested interests fight over the shrinking cake.
Whatever head bites you might get from some passing Parisian, you can always take solace having a cup of coffee is some quiet corner of that beautiful city.