Inside this Food Report


April 1, 2014

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Hello Everyone,

Spring has sprung!   The first day of spring this year arrived on March 20th.    Also referred to as vernal equinox , when the number of daylight hours and darkness are almost the same in all regions of the globe.   Weather in the Northwest is certainly spring like with warmer temperatures and rain.    The Midwest and eastern states are still experiencing cold weather.  In fact this year Canada and the Eastern US states suffered one of the harshest and coldest winters ever, along with a North American polar vortex.    I am certain it will feel very satisfying for everyone in that part of the world to put away his or her boots and winter coats!

Farmers and processers in the U.S are gearing up for the summer harvest time, acreage has been contracted and crops are going into the ground.   Here in Washington and Oregon state about two thirds of the pea crop is now planted and pea harvest is expected to begin in June.  The Midwest/east regions should begin planting peas middle to late April.   Due to cooler weather still in that part of the country plantings may be a bit behind schedule.  According to the Farmer’s Almanac predications it is expected to be a much warmer and drier summer throughout much of the U.S. with June and July the hottest months.   This might affect our pea crops but we will just have to wait and see!

By the time this newsletter reaches some of you, a few of the Noon team will be travelling over to Japan.    Springtime in Japan can be magical if you are lucky enough to be there during the peak of the cherry blossom time.   It all depends on the weather and area but when the beautiful pink flowers of the sakura blanket the country it is truly a beautiful sight to see.   We have heard that the first blossoms in Tokyo began to open on March 25th.

So here’s to springtime and hoping we can catch some magic!

All The Best,

Betty and The Noon International Team.

CropVeggiesUnited States:   Northwest peas are approximately two thirds of the way planted.    Harvest for most suppliers in the Northwest will commence beginning June.   No adverse weather conditions noted as yet.   Pea growing areas in the Midwest are still too frozen to begin to seed which may delay the pea crop in the Midwest by a week or two.  It is expected that seeding in Midwest/East should begin middle to end April.

California still suffering from drought conditions.    Most nut trees are planted in the areas that have suffered from extreme drought.  It is expected that nuts, especially almonds, will be priced high with limited supply available.

Lower volumes of U.S. potatoes have been shipped to Japan over the last year due to the lower value of the Japanese Yen.   Most of the lost sales went to Europe and Canada due to a more favorable exchange rate.   Northwest potato harvest is expected to begin around the second week of July.

Mexico:   Quality and volume for broccoli and cauliflower is on budget for this time of year.  There have been no issues for pests or diseases.    The climate continues to be good with cool temperatures at night and warmer temperatures in the day.
Avocado pricing out of Mexico expected to be high due to recent demand and the affects of the California drought.   Green peppers coming out of Mexico a bit short right now but expected to loosen up soon.

Guatemala:  Broccoli season winding down.   Sugar snaps, snow peas, okra, brussel sprouts and melon now being produced.   Weather conditions are good.   
Seeding for edamame expected to take place in April for a June/July/August harvest.

Ecuador:   A heavy hail hit the main broccoli growing region in mid March.   This is rather a rare occurrence for Ecuador.   The storm was localized and primarily damaged some of Ecuador’s organic broccoli fields.  Demand for Ecuadorian broccoli remains high so any setbacks with weather related issues have a major affect on the market.

Peru:   Mango season is wrapping up and freezing should be completed this month.   Weather has been cooperative resulting in good quality and yields.   For fresh mango near record levels are being exported.   Demand on frozen was strong but contracts should be fulfilled.   Processors are now preparing for the freezing of avocado late April to early May, with prices being discussed now.  There will be a lot of pressure on Peru to supply avocados as the drought in California had major impact on US avocado production.   Global demand for Peruvian avocado has been so strong that many processors are looking to neighboring countries to help supply raw material.   Peru is coming into their second asparagus season in and around the Inca area in South Peru with processing commencing this month.   However it is much smaller in volume than their main season during September through December.

Chile:   Berry harvest finished last month, a few weeks earlier than usual.   It was an exceptionally difficult season for Chilean berry processors.   Early frost and then extreme drought conditions resulted in undersized berries.  Tough weather conditions along with a major port strike left much of the fruit stranded causing major headaches for exporters and stress for buyers.
Corn and bean processing now underway in Chile.

Brazil:  Extreme drought hit brazil earlier this year .   As a result tropical fruits are being harvested in very low volumes.   Sun damage, over maturation and fruit deformities are being reported all resulting in higher pricing.

Argentina:   Corn harvest has begun although a bit behind due to heavy rains.

Taiwan:   Taiwan’s edamame imports into Japan were down this year by 7.3% due to the weakened Japanese yen.   Taiwan’s lost edamame sales to Japan went to China who secured a 8.1% increase in sales into Japan.   Taiwan is expecting to harvest this spring a total of 20,000 tons of finished edamame product.


Zhejiang Province:   Temperatures have been rising and rain has been falling with the coming of Spring .  This has been beneficial for the crops.    Pea Pods and sugar snap peas will begin to bloom this month.    March is the peak harvest time for rape flower.   Due to high domestic demand, shitake mushroom prices are high.
Edamame and green bean seeding will take place this month.

Fujian Province:   Strawberry season has begun and all indications point to a good crop this season.   Sugar snap peas and pea pods are now being produced.

Shandong Province:    High inventory levels of burdock and taro are available from last season.    Currently Spinach will be the main processing focus.
Green Asparagus harvest will commence in May.

China Goes ‘Organic’ After Food Safety Scares

Numerous and repeated incidents of contamination/adulteration of food and health safety issues in China have been making big news the world over. Over the past few years, babies have died after drinking melamine-laced milk, restaurant-goers have taken ill after consuming food fried in “gutter” oil, high levels of pesticides and chemicals have been found in food products, and buyers have been cheated into buying fake products masquerading as the real thing.

While the manufacturers and the Chinese government are putting forth their best efforts to quell the panic among consumers by recalling tainted food products, shutting down impaired production facilities and enacting tougher laws for food safety it has done little to restore faith in China’s food buying population.

Of late, it has been observed that Chinese consumers, like their counterparts in Europe and the United States, are turning towards organic food as a healthier, safer and a less risky option.  Many Chinese consumers do not seem to mind that organic foods cost more than non-organic ones. Organic stores are opening across China to enthusiastic shoppers; even global giants such as Walmart are stocking greater amounts of organic produce, dairy and meats. Farmers are trying to move from pesticide-oriented agriculture to organic farming, as they recognize that the demand for organic food is beginning to grow.

Denmark, considered the world’s organic expert, has forayed into China’s growing organics market. Danish dairy giant Arla has successfully opened about 8000 stores of assorted organic foods in and around Shanghai and is looking to expand further in other areas of China. Pork supplier Friland is also considering entering the Chinese market to supply organic, high quality pork.

With the rise of an increasingly affluent and health-conscious middle class in China, the way the Chinese look at food is fast changing. While in the past food was used to fill the stomach,  the switch is now more awareness about eating right and being eco-friendly.  Additionally, with the numerous scandals and scams involving food safety completely eroding consumer confidence, buyers are not willing to take any risks.

The Chinese are willing to pay more – sometimes, substantially more – to get organic food because it comes with the caveat that it is higher in quality and safe to consume. Though there is no single definition of organic foods – it varies in different countries – it generally means food grown either without any pesticides and fertilizers at all, or without any chemical pesticides (using just natural manure as fertilizer). The number of certified organic producers has shot up in recent years.
Sale of packaged products such as organic honey and organic cereals has jumped 46% this year (after a 40% increase last year). Even organic fruit and vegetable producers have recorded up to 40% increase in business over the past year.

It seems at this point anyway, that organic business owners have high hopes that organically farmed food is here to stay in China.


Discover The Eggplant!

Quick! What’s common between eggplants, tomatoes, and potatoes?  All three are vegetables belonging to the nightshade plant family. Actually, eggplants are not vegetables at all; from a botanist’s point of view, they are fruit (and so are tomatoes)!  Eggplants are nutritious, tasty, and lend themselves to a variety of uses in recipes.

The eggplant derived its name from earlier varieties, which had small white fruit resembling eggs. Now, of course, eggplants come in various shapes, sizes and colors – from the classic purple to lavender, jade green, yellow and orange. Around the world, the eggplant (Solanum melongena) is known as aubergine, brinjal, melongene, guinea squash, and garden egg. Due to its unique texture and bulk, it is a good meat substitute, ideal for vegans and vegetarians. It is slightly bitter in taste but has the ability to soak up flavors, spices, and oils; many eggplant dishes are rich in calories owing to this. However, salting the eggplant before cooking helps to decrease oil absorption while cooking.

The eggplant is thought to have originated in Asia – specifically around India and Burma – around 5th Century BCE, but there is no clarity regarding this.  Around 1500 ACE, the eggplant was brought to Europe. Botanist Thomas Jefferson is credited with bringing it to the USA in early 1900s. Asia is the largest producer of eggplants in the world, with China accounting for 58% and India, 25% of the total eggplants cultivated worldwide.

It is remarkable that though earliest uses of the eggplant were more for decorative purposes, and actually up until the Renaissance the Italians believed that the plant was poisonous.  It’s name in Italian is “melanzana” which derives from the latin “mala insane” meaning apple of madness! However in recent times it has lent itself to numerous recipes in many different cuisines all over the world. Some well-known dishes containing eggplant are eggplant parmigiana (Italian), baba ghanoush (Arab), moussaka (Greek) and karniyarik (Turkish). Also, in Iran, it is either blended with whey to create kashk-e-bademjan or with tomatoes to create mirza ghasemi. A variation of baba ghanoush is called baingan bharta in the Indian subcontinent where grilled/charred eggplant is mashed and mixed with tomatoes, onions and spices (instead of being mixed with lemon, tahini, and garlic for baba ghanoush). Stir-fried, deep-fried, or curried eggplant is popular in Bangladesh. Apart from this, eggplants are extensively used in cuisines of China, Spain, Croatia, Romania and other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. 

Latest research shows that eggplants are rich sources of phytonutrients which include phenolic compounds such as caffeic and chlorogenic acids, as well as certain flavonoids. One flavonoid, nasunin, found in the skin of the eggplant is particularly stirring up interest with food scientists because of its apparent ability to protect lipids (fats) in cell membranes; researchers are studying nasunin to see if it can protect brain cell membranes from damage. Not only this, nasunin is also an iron chelate meaning it can bind to excess iron in the body and remove it. This is important because, while iron is vital for blood’s oxygen-carrying capability, excess iron accumulation can lead to peroxidation of blood cholesterol, cellular damage, and damage in the joints due to free radicals.

Chlorogenic acid, being a free radical scavenger, is said to have anti-cancer, antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-LDL properties. Also, eggplants are high in fiber, and minerals such as copper, manganese, and magnesium, and low in fat. It is believed that including eggplant in diet can help in managing type II diabetes and associated hypertension.

Eggplants are extremely versatile and are used in recipes the world over.   They can be baked, roasted, steamed or fried.   So why not try this very unique and healthy vegetable….er , fruit!

Bringing Home The Bacon A ‘Rising’ Concern For US Consumers

Grocery shoppers across the United States are finding that prices of staples such as milk, eggs, meats, sugar, and produce are going up, sending household budgets into turmoil.

Even though overall inflation rates have been low in the past few years, food prices are on the rise due to various reasons, from adverse weather conditions to growing exports.

In 2013, food prices increased by 1.4% overall and the predicted increase this year is 2.5 – 3.5%.

The drought in California and Texas has taken a toll on cattle owners. Due to water shortage and rising prices of cattle feed, many ranchers resorted to culling cattle, thus causing a dearth of available beef. Due to gaps between supply and demand, prices of beef and veal have shot up almost 4% since January this year. In fact, beef prices have shown the biggest increase in ten years.

Recently, US pig farms have been badly hit due to a viral disease that kills young piglets. While this virus does not affect consumers’ health, it does thin the pig population, thus driving up prices of bacon and pork.

It is not just meat-eaters who feel the pinch; vegetarians may find fruit and vegetables dearer too. While last year fruit prices rose 2% over the previous year, this year is already showing an increase of 3.5%.  The fresh vegetable cost is forecasted to go up 3% this year after a rise of 4.7% last year.  Drought conditions that continue to plague California as well as other worldwide weather conditions will affect the supply of fruits and vegetables.

Breakfast staple orange juice is more expensive because the orange crop has been affected in California due to an unusually cold winter and in Florida due to citrus greening – a disease in which small insects turn citrus fruit green and their juice bitter. Also drought conditions have stunted the growth of citrus fruit trees.

Coffee prices are on the rise due to drought conditions in Brazil, the world’s largest producer of coffee.

In Asian countries there is a growing demand for milk, which has impacted prices of milk and dairy products here in the US. Additionally, arid conditions in Southeast Asia have affected the production of cooking oils such as palm oil.

Trying to save money US consumers are turning away from expensive meats, coffee and fresh juice in an effort to balance their weekly expenses. Many families are feeling the need to trim their grocery budget by cutting down on sugary drinks and snacks and high-end cuts of meat.

Mounting food prices are also putting restaurant operators on high alert, though most restaurant owners say they will try to absorb the cost without passing it on to their customers it remains to be seen how long they can hold on.

In a U.S. economy still fraught with uncertainty, consumers are hoping that the increase in food prices will be temporary.

Did You Know….

Stores in Tokyo and other parts of Japan were packed over the March 29th /30th weekend.   As of April 1, Japan’s sales tax will go from 5% to 8%.  It is the first increase in 17 years!  Many shoppers were purchasing high luxury items such as watches, while others were buying large appliances.   Food shelves were bare as consumers stocked up on food products carrying long expiration dates.

It has been reported that there was a 20 % increase in actual shoppers over the last weekend in March and depending on the store, sales increased by 50% - 90%.   After this huge consumption it is expected that retail sales will slow down for the next month or two and retail outlets are thinking of ways to bring in new and different products to continue to encourage Japan’s consumers to spend.


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