Monday, September 26, 2016

The Niche Market

Near Zaonia  (0104 C885655-5     Ag Ri         123) lies the planet INERZE  (0202 B997A84-C 2    Hi In Cp    124). Inerze is everything that Zaonia isn't. Overcrowded, high tech and governed by an extensive bureacracy that rarely accomplishes much. The tainted atmosphere is due to the people. Directly. Inerze has regular outbreaks of new viruses due to the crowded living conditions. Mostly they cause sniffles and headaches to the people who have evolved a truly scary immune system. This also makes them a threat to anyone from offworld. The ills they think nothing of can incapacitate or kill those without the proper antibodies.

You would think a high population world like Inerze (usually spelled in capital letters) would be a ready market for a small agricultural world. But that is not the case. A transport fee of 1 cr. per kilogram ( 1000 cr. per ton) will make many staples more expensive than locally grown products (we're talking algae, yeast and fungi here, an acquired taste but cheap). Also shipping to Inerze was by intermediaries after the first Inerzan Flu Epidemic on Zaonia. The risk caused increases to shipping costs. Also many of the captains wanted to buy the merchandise outright and then sell it at inflated prices. All this reduced the market even before the Inerzen bureaucrats began adding transport licensing fees and taxes.

So shipping plain old taters was not going to see much profit.

From my previous posts you may have guessed the Zaonians were neither quitters nor stupid.They already arranged loans to get their own subsidized merchant ships. Then they had to find a market that for this fleet. The Zaonians began raising hemp.

They weren't trying to get anyone high. They raised the hemp, then turned it into paper to make books. They began exporting paper and books to Inerze. The bureaucrats and a tiny wealthy fraction loved notebooks. It was a super secure place to put notes in (especially if you had a locking cover with a self destruct and a DNA reader). They saw how the Zaonians had profited with their knowledge of handwriting and it became a fad among them.

The Zaonians also sold barrels of hemp slurry that could be converted to paper in Inerze. It also contained enough seeds and plant parts to make a paste you could get high on or bake into a brownie. The laborers working with it and doing clean up learned that. It came as a surprise to the bureaucrats but anything that kept the laborers mellow was a good thing. Pretty soon many locals began buying the slurry and turning out lovely brownies and other foodstuffs with it that the elite found delightful, legalized and taxed.

The Zaonians briefly experimented with wood pulp based paper but raising trees took more water, land and time than hemp and the process was more polluting. Zaonian also never heard of Randolph Hearst. When they heard what the Inerzans were doing with their hemp slurry they did a facepalm over actually meeting people more resourceful than they were (the labor class at least). They then had a good laugh and increased the price of the slurry. The Inerzans paid without batting an eyelash.

The elite had their secure notebooks. Subsidized merchants had a commodity they could hall. Everybody could have brownies fairly cheap. Everyone was as close to happy as spacers, politicians and grunt laborers could be.

Then some character on Inerze set up a filter and got some viable seeds from the slurry and after a little experimenting began growing his own hemp. the increase in it ed to sluggish unproductive workers and more industrial accidents. Inerze's government decided they needed to get a handle on this and slapped an embargo on Zaonian imports. All imports. The Zaonians were left with a small merchant fleet with nothing to ship and loans to pay back and cargo containers full of hemp paper and slurry that Inerze had contracted for but was not buying. An economic crisis was looming and the Zaonians prepared for a war.

Next: Trade War!