Category: Economics for Business: 8e Ch 12

Reading the first article linked to below, you may be forgiven for thinking that farming has moved into the realms of science fiction. Dairy farming has moved determinedly into the era of technology and now benefits from extensive economies of scale with much higher productivity levels than even a decade ago. Yet 3000 dairy farmers are planning to leave the industry in the next two years and even the largest farms are struggling to make money. The processing sector has become significantly more concentrated and margins are being squeezed ever further by the power of the supermarkets, so has the market become unbalanced with too much power in the hands of supermarkets and processors?

Rising prices, failing farms. The strange story of milk Guardian (24/4/07)
Why British dairy farming is in crisis Guardian (24/5/07)

Questions

1. Describe the market structure of the milk industry.
2. Discuss the extent to which this market structure has changed the level of prices in the market for milk in recent years.
3. Evaluate possible measures that governments could implement to make the market for milk more competitive.

Passenger groups have reacted angrily to the raising of off-peak fares by South West Trains by around 20% on many journeys. The train company has increased unregulated fares significantly where there is little competition, but appears to have limited the increases on journeys where there is competition. Is this an abuse of their monopoly position?

Train firm accused of abusing monopoly Times Online (8/5/07)
Price hike angers train watchdog BBC News Online (8/5/07)


Questions
1. Discuss the extent to which South West Trains has a monopoly on its rail journeys.
2. Using diagrams as appropriate, show the reasons why South West Trains has chosen to increase off-peak prices by as much as 20%.
3. Discuss the likely value of the price elasticity of demand for off-peak rail journeys. To what extent will this have influenced South West Trains’ pricing decision?

Dutch brewers including Heineken and Grolsch have been fined a total of nearly £185m between them for stifling competition and sharing price information with the intention of fixing prices. This cartel was discovered by EU investigators and the fine has been imposed by the EU competition commission.

Dutch brewers fined over cartel BBC News Online (18/4/07)
Beer makers fined in Dutch price probe Business Week (18/4/07)
EU fines Heineken for fixing beer prices Business Week (18/4/07)
Heineken and Grolsch fined for price-fixing Guardian (18/4/07)
Heineken fined 219m euro for fixing beer prices Times Online (18/4/07)

Questions

1. Explain the conditions required for a cartel to develop.
2. Explain the methods used by the brewing firms to fix prices in the beer market.
3. Evaluate two policies that could be used by the EU competition commission to try to prevent cartels reemerging in the future in the brewing industry.