Inside this Food Report


April 1, 2013

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It feels like the beginning of year was only a few weeks ago but in reality the first quarter of the year has already flown by, wow!   Green peas are already 50% planted while corn and potato plantings are beginning this month.  Growers and processors in the United States are readying their fields for the coming summer crops.  China is also gearing up for their spring and summer harvest while the Southern Hemisphere’s peak growing season is now winding down.  

Processors still face rising costs as there remains competition for land all throughout the United States.   With crops such as wheat, field corn and hay commanding high prices, and in addition to rising operational costs, it will be another year were we see price increases for many of our vegetable and fruit products. 

Inspired by our recent visits to Central and South America we included in this month’s issue a piece on the naranjilla fruit.  Naranjilla fruit is known for its nutritive properties and is delicious as a fruit smoothie.   Noon team members enjoyed many of these smoothies while travelling throughout Central and South America and it stirred us to learn more about this fantastic fruit.   Please see our article below.

Another interesting bit of information we have included this month is on the herb coriander, more commonly know as cilantro.    We had no idea that a percentage of some of the world’s populations are actually born with an aversion to cilantro!   If you do not like cilantro you might be fascinated to know that you were born with this dislike based on your DNA!

April will bring some of the Noon team to Japan to meet with customers and suppliers and we look forward to seeing you all soon!   We wish everyone a happy start to spring and a successful planting and harvesting season ahead!

All The Best,

Betty and the Noon International Team

CropVeggiesUnited States:   Green pea planting is now underway and approximately 50% of the planting is completed.  First pea harvest is expected in June.    Corn plantings will commence this month.   Growers and processors in the Northwest are not in a hurry to plant early variety potatoes as there remains a high inventory of potatoes in storage due in part to lower export demand. Demand is weak for both cultivated and wild blueberries based on inventory levels.  Especially for cultivated blueberries there is approximately 34% more stock in inventory than last year at this same time. Raspberry market is firm with stocks low. Fresh market strawberries are going strong which is expected to delay freezer berries about 2 weeks.

America's Crop Season Begins

Europe:   Heavy rain in Spain has damaged and delayed the asparagus harvest it has been reported by Food News.  In general cold weather has returned to much of Europe, with rain in the south and snow in the northern growing regions.  Weather conditions have hampered field work , including corn harvesting in the Mediterranean region.   France has slowed its imports of Thailand’s canned corn due to favorable prices and available quantities of its 2012 domestic crop.

Mexico:  A late cold front was experienced by Mexico during early March .  It is estimated that 20% of the broccoli and cauliflower crop under cultivation will be lost.  The losses include entire plants and also damaged plants which will yield lower volumes.   This means that inventories will be low until peak season begins in the Bajio Valley in October at such time when inventories can be built up again.

Please click here to view the entire report from the Mexican Packers Association.

Guatemala:   Broccoli volumes continue to decrease as we fast approach Guatemala’s off season, May/June.  Sugar snap peas and snow peas along with okra, zucchini and melon are currently being produced.   Weather has been fair with some spots of rain and wind.

Costa Rica:  Crops such as pineapple and papaya are average , however recent weather spikes of rain and then heat might affect the crops.

Chile:   Berry season is mostly completed with a few weeks left in some areas of Chile.  Overall the market was tight this season .   December had rain, followed by January with high temperatures, followed by more rain in February .   This caused the fresh market to take the majority of the berries which in turn left limited volumes for the frozen market.

Peru:  Mango season is almost complete, with processing wrapping up by middle April.  Volume and quality have been average.   Avocado processing will begin this month.  Due to high interest in avocadoes recently some suppliers have reported future goals of increasing production by 50%.

Ecuador:   Broccoli harvest is going smoothly in Ecuador with no adverse news to report.

Argentina:  Exports of apples and pears rose sharply compared to last year out of the Patagonia region.  This is despite a harsh hail storm in early March that damaged some crops.   Very limited volumes of organic berries still remain and those remaining are lower quality.   In addition Argentina enjoyed a 10% increase in their peach harvest this season.

Southeast Asia:   Indonesia experienced heavy rains across Java which delayed rice harvesting and caused localized flooding.     In the Philippines there was some excessive rainfall which caused flooding in the east and south, however damage to rice and corn was localized and prospects remain favorable for the first half of the year.

China:   Zhejiang Province experienced a lot of rain in March which has not been good for the growth of the crops.  Broccoli season ended in March and prices are much higher than last crop.    Rape Flower quality has been unstable and quality and quantities have been low.   Harvest is expected to finish early April.  Pea pods and sugar snap peas are average.   Green bean and edamame planting will commence this month.  Shitake mushroom prices are high due to low quality. 
Fujian Province:   Edamame seeding has begun and conditions are good.
Water chestnut prices are very high at this moment.

Shandong ProvinceGarlic and burdock are being processed while spinach and asparagus harvest will commence this month.   

The European Horse Meat Scandal

The ongoing ‘horsemeat scandal’ sweeping across many trusted food brands in Europe has brought to the fore several concerns relating to food safety practices in the meat industry. The issue, which began in early Janaury has now snowballed into a significant crisis, spanning several multinational food brands, retail and food service outlets. News reports on the scandal emerge every day, consuming volumes of newsprint, and highlight the extent of poor management, fraudulent practices and irresponsibility.

The horsemeat scandal began with reports in early January when Irish DNA testing conducted for quality control found the horsemeat contamination in beef products.  In some cases as much as 100% of the content was comprised of horsemeat.   In addition, most of these products were also found to contain other undeclared meats including pork.

Horsemeat is typically much sweeter and tender than beef, and is also low in its fat content. Unlike pork, there are no religious strictures on the consumption of horsemeat, and its consumption generally does not pose any health risks. While horsemeat has traditionally been consumed in parts of Central Asia, horsemeat has long been considered taboo food – especially in the United Kingdome, Ireland and most of the European Union as well as the United States where horses are increasingly viewed as pets. 

While consumers are relieved that there are no obvious health risks associated with horsemeat consumption, concerns are being raised over the following –

  1. The possibility that the meat may be contaminated with E.coli as was discovered in previous instances.
  2. Since horses are usually euthanized - the harmful effects of the chemical agents found in the euthanasia injections, and their residues being left in the meat.
  3. The potential presence of veterinary drug Phenylbutazone, and its entry into the human food chain.
  4. The fact that industry certified food products and their food labels can not be trusted.

In the wake of the horsemeat scandal, the European food industry today is presently in the midst of dealing with several issues. Critics and consumers alike are angry about the relaxation of regulations within the meat industry, and the wide spread neglect across several popular food brands in the European Union.  The long supply chain spanning several players are being viewed as corrupt and fraudulent, besides impacting traceability in food products. Consumers are also pushing for locally produced products, and demanding produce of local origin on supermarket shelves.

Until the horsemeat scandal unraveled itself, meat manufacturers were preoccupied with building efficiencies and staying competitive with price measures. It is easy to see the economics of this deception when we learn that current prices for beef are $5.36 per pound and horsemeat is selling at $1.21 per pound. The current crisis in Europe has however brought to the forefront a vital aspect, one that all food manufacturers ought to deliver to their customers– responsibility, honesty and accountability. 

The Healthy Naranjilla Fruit

The Naranjilla fruit is native to Ecuador, Peru and southern Colombia, and is widely recognized across parts of Central and South America for its fantastic taste and high nutritive content. Locally known as the Lulo fruit, the Naranjilla is round in shape with a hairy/spiny exterior.  The fruit is moderately sized between 4 to 8cms in diameter and typically weighs less than 100 grams. The red or yellow trichomes that cover the fruit usually emerge as the fruit ripens.

Naranjilla is known for its significant nutritive properties and contains high vitamin A, B and C content besides calcium, magnesium, iron, beta-carotene and phosphorus.  The high vitamin C content in the fruit makes it rich in antioxidants, which help fight free radicals and diminish the aging process. In addition the calcium and phosphorous are vital nutrients and help build hair, nail and bone strength.  And if all these benefits were not enough, the fruit is virtually fat free, contains very low calories, and has diuretic properties – making it a perfect choice for weight watchers.

 High iron content in Naranjilla helps keep stress at bay, and individuals who consume the fruit regularly can benefit from its sleep inducing properties.  Further, the green pulp within the Naranjilla fruit contains acids that help reduce cholesterol levels, and is known to inhibit stroke, cardiovascular disease and cancer. 

 Naranjilla fruit has a very refreshing taste and is often used in cocktails and dairy products. Its tangy, sour-sweet taste gives it a lemony pineapple flavor, making it a popular choice for fresh juice and blended drinks.  Besides enjoying it as a tasty juice or blended drink, many prefer to consume the fruit in other forms such as ice creams, jelly products, chocolate pralines and even alcoholic beverages.

The Naranjilla is power packed with great taste, nutrients and versatility, making it easy to enjoy the fruit in a wide array of delicious offerings!

Do You Like Cilantro?

Cilantro, also known as fresh coriander, is popular for its wide use across many cuisines around the world. The anti-oxidant rich herb has long been used in Mexican, North African and Asian cuisines – for the tangy aroma and sharp, citrusy flavor it imparts to dishes. The strong aroma associated with Cilantro is typically attributed to a group of chemical compounds known as aldehydes present in the herb. Asian kitchens in particular have a strong affinity for Cilantro and respect its sharp flavor and the immense health benefits it offers.

While Cilantro is popularly enjoyed in many parts of the world, it has been reported that a small population may actually be repulsed by its smell and taste. Some individuals may even suffer considerable discomfort as they experience a soapy, unpleasant taste every time they consume a tiny sprig of the herb.

Research studies indicate that broadly 14-21% of individuals of East Asian, African and Caucasian origin have a strong dislike for Cilantro with a much lower 3-7% of South Asian, Hispanic and Middle Eastern population experiencing a similar dislike for it. The taste as defined by this population is akin to a ‘dirty dish soap-water taste’ and can be considerably repulsive, earning it the name - cilantrophobia. 

Scientists are now beginning to understand why some people experience this discomfort and it turns out that the clue lies within the group of aldehydes in the herb and how our genes respond to these compounds.  They have pinned the dislike to a genetic trait called ‘rs72921001’. When the DNAs of those who dislike and enjoy Cilantro were compared, it was found that people with the less common genetic trait ‘rs72921001’ had significantly lower odds of perceiving a soapy taste and disliking the herb. The genetic variant, which causes the aversion, is located near eight genes that serve as biological sensors detecting chemicals in the air and food.  One of these eight genes near the genetic variant, termed OR6A2 is sensitive to unsaturated aldehydes such as those found in cilantro.

Interestingly, these individuals with ‘taste’ sensitivity to the unsaturated aldehydes have absolutely no response to the tangy aromatic chemical in Cilantro (which most others find pleasant).  This might suggest that these individuals may be quite oblivious to the presence of Cilantro in the food,  (since they don’t smell it), but begin to feel unpleasant only as they begin to taste the herb. 

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