Inside this Food Report

  • Crop News: Major Drought Threatens Chinese Agriculture

  • Food Safety: Do you Know the Cost of Foodborne Illness in the US? 

  • Eat Healthy: US Frozen Sweet Corn Tested Negative for Pesticides

  • Facts + Figures: Chilean Power Grid: Effects on Cold Storage



APRIL 1, 2010

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Hello Everyone,

Wow, is it spring already?  Well, it is for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere!  Whether it is the cherry blossom blooming in Japan or the crocus poking its way through the snow in the United States there is no denying that spring has sprung!

The transition between winter and summer is a time of rebirth, renewal and regrowth and at no time is this more apparent than as we begin to ready the land for our summer crops.

At Noon International spring season begins what we call the “busy time” as we travel to Asia and begin to prepare for the fast paced months ahead.   We look forward to this time of year as it creates new challenges and unlimited possibilities.

We hope you enjoy the many offerings of spring and we look forward to continuing to bring you all of the latest developments in the harvest here in the United States and around the world.

Lily and Betty

CropVeggiesUnited States:  The January cold snap in central and northern Florida seriously affected the price of tomatoes in the United States.   As much as 70% of the tomato crop in Florida was destroyed.   The scope of the Florida crop damage has prompted some American fast food restaurants to stop putting tomatoes on their sandwiches.   In March 2009 a box of tomatoes sold for $6.45, while in March 2010 tomatoes were selling at $30.00 per box.  Florida tomato prices are expected to drop sometime in April when farmers in Southern Florida begin to harvest their new crop.   

Oregon and Washington state growers have begun planting peas.   As of this report 50-75% of acreage has been planted.  Planting should be completed sometime in mid April.  Harvest is expected to begin first part of June.

Mexico: Broccoli and cauliflower production in the Bajio Valley is completed and raw material is now being sourced from the Northern Highlands.  Good quality Broccoli and Cauliflower is available.  

Guatemala: The season for broccoli is gradually ending and there are limited amounts of good quality raw material available for processing.   Dry weather has reduced yields compared to last year at this same time.

New Zealand:  New Zealand apple harvest has been delayed due to lack of sun, however growers may be in a position to gain from the recent earthquake in Chile.   Many apples were shaken off trees during the earthquake and it has been reported that this will almost certainly have an effect on the volume of fruit that Chile exports.   New Zealand apple harvest takes place January through May so it seems that New Zealand is poised to take up the reduction in apple exports from Chile.

Australia:  Northern New South Wales was affected in Mid March by floodwaters after the southern part of the territory experienced extremely heavy rain.  Crops ranging from cotton to melon to wine grapes were affected by what the Queensland Premier Anna Bligh described as, “…Mother Nature at her most ferocious.”

Europe:  Strawberry harvest in Spain has been delayed one month due to heavy rain and insufficient sun.  It is reported that strawberry yields are down by 1/3  compared to last season.  In general all fruit and vegetable production in Spain is down approximately 40 % due to weather related issues.

DroughtSichuanChina: Southwest China is suffering the worst drought since 1951.   It has been more than 105 consecutive days without rain.   The vast majority of affected farmland is in Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, Sichuan and Chongqing.   Water is limited and many people are without drinking water.  Guangxi, the main sugar cane producing region has seen 67 sugar producers shutting down production as the crops have withered.  Rapeseed production may be cut by 500,000 metric tons this year due to the drought.

Fujian province has experienced fluctuating warm and cold temperatures, which has caused serious damage to the spinach crop.  Cauliflower and broccoli have also been affected with volume and quality low, however farmers in the Fujian area took advantage of the limited broccoli from Northern China and planted additional broccoli for harvest in January /February.  This has resulted in prices going down to more normal levels.

Potatoes suffered lower yields due to the cooler weather and we hear reports of raw material potato prices doubling. 

Peru:    World demand for avocados has allowed Peruvian exports of Fuente and Hass avocado varieties to grow 19 % in the 2010 season reported the Central Reserve Bank of Peru.   Growing international demand along with favorable climate conditions has helped Peru expand their avocado industry.

*Crop status is subject to sudden and unexpected change due to the unpredictable nature of weather and growing conditions.




Do you Know the Cost of Foodborne Illness in the US? 

In 1997 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated that food borne illnesses in the United States cost the public $35 billion each year in medical bills and loss of productivity by looking at the cost of 7 different pathogens.  In early March, 2010 a new study authored by Ohio State University economist Robert L. Scharff and published by Georgetown University’s Produce Safety Project, raised this figure to an astonishing $152 billion each year.  A major difference in the research behind the two estimates was the impact of 7 common food borne illnesses taken into account by the USDA and their direct impact on medical costs and loss of productivity.  Mr. Scharff’s report looked into the separate costs of 27 different pathogens and the lasting costs associated with quality of life disruptions beyond hospitalization and loss of productivity directly caused by food borne illness.  

Of the $152 billion per year public cost, Mr. Scharff estimates that nearly $39 billion is related to food borne illness directly caused by produce.  In the report, cost and illness data is broken down by pathogen and state with California having the highest produce related food borne illness costs at an estimated $4.7 billion per year.  States with large populations such as California and Texas had very high produce related food borne illness costs when comparedstates with smaller populations.

Of the 27 bacterial, parasitic, andviral pathogens that Mr. Scharff’s report analyzes in terms of cost, Campylobacter, nontyphoidal Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes were the most expensive in terms of total cost to the public to treat.  On a per individual basis Mr. Scharff estimated that Listeria monocytogenes publicly cost $1.6 million to treat each person diagnosed. For Vibrio vulnificus, a disease associated with under cooked sea food, the public cost was estimated at $3 million for each person diagnosed. 

Developing methods by which food borne illness costs can be measured is essential to the development of sound food safety policy in the United States.  Breaking down public food borne illness cost estimates by state and specific pathogen provides a method for prioritizing how federal dollars can be spent to most effectively address rising instances of recorded food related illnesses.  Pending multi-billion dollar food safety bills in both the House and Senate make Mr. Scharff’s report particularly timely in assessing the efficacy of government attempts to increase the safety of food in America.   




US Frozen Sweet Corn Tested Negative for Pesticides

The Pesticide Data Program (PDP) was started in 1991 by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to compile data on pesticide residues in food in order to report findings to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The EPA uses this data during review of existing pesticide tolerances.  PDP data focuses on pesticide residues in food most commonly consumed by infants and children. 


This report will focus on PDP pesticide residue findings in frozen sweet corn, frozen blueberries, and canned kidney beans from the most recent report titled Pesticide Data Program--Annual Summary, Calendar Year 2008.  The 2009 summary will not be available until the end of 2010.  Samples are collected as close as possible to the time of consumption from terminal markets and distribution centers without regard for country of origin. Samples are prepared before testing according to consumer practices.  For example frozen samples are first heated or thawed.  The PDP not only tests for actual pesticide residue, but also tests for metabolite residues of pesticides on product.     


Frozen Sweet Corn:  33 individual samples collected with 90.9% of samples of domestic origin.  There were 4,160 individual analyses performed on the frozen sweet corn and of these analyses 0% tested positive for residues.    

Frozen Blueberries:  18 individual samples collected with 77.8% of frozen blueberries samples of domestic origin.  There were 2,989 individual analyses performed on the frozen blueberries and of these analyses 2.2% tested positive for residues.  It should be noted that frozen blueberry pesticide residues were within EPA limits.   

Canned Kidney Beans:  186 individual samples collected with 97.8% of samples of domestic origin.  There were 31,281 individual analyses performed on the canned kidney beans and of these analyses 0% tested positive for residues. 

In no instances were any frozen or canned fruit or vegetable products found to contain pesticide residues beyond EPA legal limits.

Concerning processed and fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in the USA, “Overall residues detected in domestic samples reflected the transition towards use of replacement pesticides, whereas imports had residues of pesticides phased out of the US market.”   Pesticides phased out of the US market are still acceptable if residues found on produce are within legal tolerance limits.  To avoid consumption of any pesticides the PDP report noted that, “Consumers can reduce pesticide residues if they are present by washing fruit and vegetables with cool or lukewarm tap water.”

The PDP Annual Summary is a valuable tool by which consumers can track pesticides in the food they eat.  Through annual PDP studies realistic pesticide consumption by United States residents can be evaluated and government agencies such as the EPA can make educated and forward looking policy which reflects scientifically compiled and analyzed data.   


Chilean Power Grid: Effects on Cold Storage

The Chilean power grid is a privately owned system broken into 4 regions, the northern system (Sistema Interconectado del Norte), the central system (Central Interconnected System) and two small southern systems called the Aysen Grid and the Magallanes Grid. From the perspective of the agricultural industry the Central Interconnected System is the most important and sustained the most damage in the February 27th earthquake.  Many agricultural products from Chile, including blueberries, are primarily grown between 29 and 42 degrees south latitude.  The February 27th earthquake occurred at 35.85 degrees south latitude. 

Transelec provides electricity to 93% of the Chilean population.  Transelec website advised as of March 3rd at 4:20 pm, “..All cities have energy discharge points.”  Transelec has been owned by a United States based company called Brookfield since 2006.  Brookfield Infrastructure senior vice president of finance Mark Botha confirmed by phone on March 9th that all power lines operated by Transelec were up and running, although he did mention that there were still small problems at the ends of the lines with distributors and generators.

structurequakeConsidering the minimal long term effect the earthquake had on the major power grid in central Chile, it seems unlikely that frozen fruit supplies were seriously impacted. More importantly, while roads were affected, there were still sufficient roadways to reroute containers to operating ports. As of March 11th shipping companies were reporting that cargo flow was back to normal and all locations were up and running normally.

There are reports of damage to some cold storage facilities holding fruit, but it is too early to assess the cumulative effect of the damage.  One berry grower was able to move frozen product from damaged cold storage to another unaffected facility.  While power was briefly disrupted in the first days of the earthquake modern day cold storage facilities are equipped with emergency generators to keep product cold if power goes out.  If power outages had lasted longer cold storage facilities may have been affected.  As long as the structural integrity of the cold storage facility was maintained after the earthquake, the short duration of power outages experienced in Chile makes it unlikely that frozen fruit inventories were seriously impacted.


"Fruit for Thought...
The old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” might not be far from the truth.  A 2009 study by Cornell associate professor of food science Rui Hai Liu, reported that apple extract regularly fed to lab animals reduced the instance and size of mammary tumors. 

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