Inside this Food Report



AUGUST 1, 2011

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Hello Everyone,

Is it August already? The expression “these lazy days of summer” is certainly not meant for people in the agricultural business. As we look back on July and look ahead to August it is certainly anything but lazy! The Northwest pea crop began 10 to 15 days late and corn harvest will begin late as well commencing sometime this week. The cooler than usual temperatures in the Northwest and the extreme heat in the Midwest and East are keeping everyone on their toes and very cautiously watching the harvesting progress.

China has experienced a year of tumultuous weather with drought, then too much rain, then sweltering heat. All throughout the world prices on food are going up and we see no signs of immediate relief any time soon. Please read more about crops around the world in our crop section below.

In this issue we would like to convey to our Japanese friends an enjoyable and memorable Obon holiday.

The Obon Festival is a traditional Buddhist custom which has evolved into a family reunion holiday. People will travel back to their family homes during middle August and it is believed that their ancestors spirits come back to their home towns to be reunited with their family members. Food offerings are placed in their residences and lanterns are lit to guide and welcome the deceased ancestor’s home. One particular beautiful tradition is called “Toro Nagashi” (floating lantern) where families send off their ancestor’s spirits with lanterns, lit by a candle inside, and float the lit lantern down the river to the ocean.  It is a magical sight to see during the dark night!

Obon Holiday Floating Lanterns

We hope as in Japanese culture you find some magical time to spend during “these lazy days of summer”!

Lily, Betty, and the Noon International Team


United States: Harvests for vegetable crops in WA are generally 1 to 2 weeks behind schedule.  Weather warmed slightly in July but cooler than average temperatures still prevail. 

The majority of green pea harvest in Washington and Oregon is completed.  Bunching occurred in early July due to sudden high temperatures, but yields were still better than expected.  Peas are expected to be tight though some processors are reporting budget numbers.

Corn harvest in Eastern WA will begin the first week of August.  More heat units are still needed to increase yields and processors are concerned if temperatures do not significally warm up soon yield outlook will be reduced.

Sliced carrot processing is anticipated to begin in the first part of September.  Diced carrot production is tentatively scheduled to begin the first week of October.  Cool weather has necessitated more time for diced carrots to bulk up but yields and quality should be good. 

Carrot Harvest Late but Yield Expected Average

Green bean planting completed in WA July 13th.  First harvests began July 18th.  Yields are expected average due to weather. 

Potato acreage in WA appears to have been underestimated by the USDA by roughly 5,000 acres.  It is estimated that in excess of 80% of these 5,000 acres are contracted to potato processors.  Crop development is slower than normal but by the end of July some harvests for fryer potatos did begin, however Northwest potato suppliers are behind with the harvest and are in need of potatos to process.

On July 14th 3 inches of rain fell in some northern WA blueberry growing areas.  This has made field work difficult.  Green berry rot has been observed.  First pick of Washington blueberries is expected to begin sometime during the first ten days of August.

Wet Blueberry Season In WA

Raspberry season has been difficult in WA.  Cold weather has slowed raspberry development.  Soft fruit has been observed although the damage is not as bad as anticipated back in June.

Cherry harvest is 50% completed.    It has been a good year for WA cherries. 

Texas experienced its driest June on record since 1934 and hottest since 1953.  The end of July brought much needed rain to southern Texas.

Conditions in the US corn belt improved during the end of July despite early season planting delays. As July progressed weather warmed encouraging crop emergence and development.

Flooding continues on the Missouri River.  Heavy rain on saturated soil and melting snow in the Rocky Mountains contributes to the flooding. 

Canada:  BC blueberry producers are currently hand harvesting Dukes.  Rain in the past few weeks has presented some problems with rot, but nothing more than ordinary in years with lots of rain.  Producers are concerned that if rain continues in August more rot issues could be a problem.  If things go well from a precipitation perspective this should be an average year for Canadian blueberries. 

Raspberry season has been difficult due to rain.  While mold issues have been surprisingly minimal, incredible numbers of Black Vine Weevils have been reported and this pest can be difficult to manage. 

Sprays for Spotted Wing Drosophila have begun in Canadian blueberry fields, a sign that fruit is ripening. 

Drought in southwest Ontario is concerning farmers in the area.  Weeks without rain combined with severe heat have taken a toll on vegetable crops.  Some tomato and potato farmers in the area have plowed under crops destroyed by heat and drought. 

Temperatures and precipitation on the Canadian prairies has been largely normal

Mexico:  While rain has been scarce in Irapuato, surrounding cauliflower producing areas have been receiving adequate precipitation.  Hidalgo in particular received heavy rain.  Some reduction in cauliflower deliveries at the beginning of July were observed but with improved weather the situation quickly returned to normal.  

Good Cauliflower Coming from Mexico

Broccoli supplies are normal for this time of year.

Guatemala:  It is peak season in Guatemala for broccoli and currently quality is good and supplies are readily available.  This should continue until November when fruit season begins and broccoli quantity begins to slowly reduce.  

Ecuador:  At the moment weather in Ecuador has been normal and favorable for broccoli production. 

Peru:  In south Peru near Ica, a high yielding asparagus growing region, weather has been favorable for asparagus production though well publicized problems with the water table are noted.  Some accounts relate the water table is not lowering but is remaining stable not allowing expansion of the agro industry.

In central Peru, near Lima, conditions have been cool and wet this growing season delaying asparagus harvest into late August at the earliest. 

Asparagus is currently being harvested in north Peru.  Yields in the north are generally lower than in the south.  The northern asparagus growing areas are desert converted to farmland by irrigation. 

Various Asparagus Conditions Throughout Peru

It has been a decent avocado season in Peru with some processors reporting they are at storage capacity with the product.  Planted acreage is anticipated to increase in Peru in the next year with plants coming to yield producing maturity three years after planting. 

Chile:  Frosts have reduced Chilean kiwi yields from the previous year.

Thailand:  Rainfall across Thailand in July created a water surplus situation good for corn and rice production.  To date  it has been a favorable grain growing season in Thailand.

Thai sweet corn production has been affected by earlier year flooding and inconsistent weather patterns.  Canned sweet corn prices are reported as up. 

Thai processors were worried about sufficient pineapple supply at the start of the summer season.  Now near the end of the season most processors seemed confident there will be sufficient supply to meet demand.   

The United Nations "World Investment Report 2011" indicates that Thai pineapple processing is secure in Thailand for the time being.  Even though cheaper production areas exist, access to technology, natural resources, and financing will continue to make Thailand an attractive region for pineapple production. 

Australia:  At the end of July the proper amount of rain fell in west Australia to help grain and canola crops.  Eastern Australia saw rain which improved soil moisture and southeastern Australia saw warm and sunny weather helping grain crops.

New Zealand:  In the past 8 months 252 orchards have been identified as having the PSA disease.  Spraying copper on kiwi plants has shown promise for slowing down the spread of PSA.  Currently the two largest kiwi growers in New Zealand are working to develop a treatment for the disease.  This year yields were not heavily affected by the presence of the PSA disease but there is some concern for the future.   

New Zealand harvested more grapes in 2011 than companies there had anticipated. 

Europe:  Yield prospects in northern Europe stabilized as rain in June continued through July.  The outlook for vegetative summer crops improved. 

A respectable start to the pear harvest has been reported in southern Europe.  Portugal is expected to have a record breaking season, France is anticipated to have an average season, and Spain is predicted to have a season lower than the five year average.   

Apple inventories in Europe are low.  Early anticipation of a bumper harvest was reduced due to frost in important growing regions. 

Frozen strawberries prices have increased significantly from last year.  Reductions in harvested volumes in Poland due to cold spring and bunching due to hot weather have been reported.  In combination world demand for Polish strawberries has also increased from a year previous.  

Polish Strawberry Prices Up

French carrot production is expected to increase this season. 

Hot humid weather in northern Italy has not slowed down tomato harvest.

China:  It has been a reportedly harsh vegetable growing season throughout China this year.

In Shanghai the weather was so hot at end July  that the government was sending workers home to avoid heat stroke.  Trucks in Shanghai were pouring water on the streets to reduce surface temperature.

Many cities in  Zheijiang , Jiangshu , Hunan, Jiangxi and other southern provinces are suffering from blistering heat.  There are electricity shortages throughout these regions. Reports from various sources say that from North to South the country is sizzling  hot.  There are frequent thunder and lightning rain storms hitting many of these regions causing flash floods and damaging crops.

On July 27th, the Chinese government declared a state emergency in Shandong and Sichuan provinces. Heavy rain storms and flooding since July 24 and July 25th have caused more than 12.5 billion RMB in damage and affected 13,000 hectares of crops in Shandong province alone. Damage details from Sichuan are not forthcoming. 

In Shangdong and  Zheijing provinces, edamame, asparagus, and green beans  are in very limited supply due to reduced yields and prices are much higher than last season. Edamame especially has suffered severe damage due to early season drought and later flooding causing much of the crop unavailable for processing.  Green beans and asparagus are in extreme short supply as well.

Rain and flooding continued in the Yangtze valley, one of the major vegetable growing areas in China.  The wet weather came after a short term dry spell in the spring.   Soil moisture supplies are indicated as nearly completely replenished.  

Buyers of Chinese canned asparagus are troubled there will not be enough raw material this season to cover demand.  Prices have already increased significantly.  Drought played a major role in the current concerns over raw product volumes.  Some estimates put white asparagus harvest as low as 50% of last year. 

Chinese apple juice concentrate exports have slowed.  Inventory is reported as available but early season price panicking encouraged customers to fill their orders early. 




Giving Allergens the Axe

At the end of the first week of July the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service(FSIS) issued new instructions to its inspection personnel with the goal of addressing consumer concerns with unlabeled allergens in food.  During the first six months of 2011 there were 27 product recalls in the United States having to do with undeclared allergens in food.  For comparison in the two years before 2011 there were a total of 32 recalls inspired by the presence of undeclared allergens.  As allergen recalls become more common, it is the USDA’s job to address the issue as it has in the new allergen mandate. 

To see the mandate please click here

The new guidelines are particularly focused on what the USDA has coined “The Big 8” of food allergen ingredients.  These ingredients are, wheat, Crustacean shellfish(shrimp, crab, lobster), eggs, fish, peanuts, milk, tree nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts), and soybeans.  Together the USDA reports that these ingredients account for over 90 percent of food allergy reactions in the United States.  The real focus of the new FSIS inspector instructions is to underscore the importance to United States food producers about accurately labeling allergens and keeping up with any changes in ingredient compositions. 

New USDA Allergy Guidelines

In the last four months as a result of the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act in the United States the USDA has developed and revealed a variety of new measures designed to increase the safety of the food we consume in the United States.  In addition to allergen measures, for the first time in United States history,the USDA joined the Ad Council, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  for a program called “Food Safe Families”.  Regulatory measures in combination with government interdepartmental food safety collaboration, are a powerful way for the USDA to initially fulfill the tenants of the Food Safety Modernization Act and its responsibility to ensure the food we eat is safe.    


Go Go For Goji Health!

Not too many berries in the world have as many interesting names as the Goji berry.  Called the Wolfberry, the barbary matrimony vine, Duke of Argyll's tea tree, or the Murali in India, the Goji berry has been recently rediscovered and popularized as an extremely healthy fruit.  Popularized in the last decade as a super fruit, the berries have become more and more popular since the start of the 21st century as their health benefits are better understood.  While health claims have not yet been verified by peer reviewed academic research, preliminary studies with animals imply that eating the berry might have health benefits for cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory diseases, vision diseases, and might even have anti cancer properties!

One Word Spelled with Goji Berries Says it All!

Most world production of Goji berry has traditionally been concentrated in the north central part of China. Recently production has been increasing in other parts of the world as the popularity of the fruit has expanded.  Both Peru and Chile grow Goji and  production in these areas is expected to increase as the fruit becomes increasingly popular. Goji is usually processed  dried or frozen and can be added to any dish or liquid in which berries are an ingredient.  Recently in China, and even in the United States, Goji berries have been incorporated into beer production.  Young Goji berry leaves and shoots are even being marketed as a food item!

Most supermarkets, beyond just health food stores, carry Goji berries and Goji berry products.  There are even diet supplements that claim the Goji berry helps with weight loss.  You might not know it but you’ve been eating produce related to the Goji berry for years. The potato, tomato, chili pepper, and even tobacco are all members of the same family that the Goji berry hails from. Goji is a unique, healthy, and increasingly available food item so why not give it a try!





Peruís Water Troubles

Due to the geography of Peru the vast majority of agriculture takes place on the west side of the country where a more temperate desert and advanced irrigation techniques have made desert farming possible. While the eastern side of Peru is generally mountainous and encompasses only 30% of the population but holds 98% of the water resources, the western side comprises 70% of the population and contains only 2% of the country’s water supply.

As world demand for asparagus and other agricultural crops has increased pressure on the water table and available water supplies in western Peru, the Peruvian government and the Peruvian people are all wondering if agriculture can continue to grow at the current rate without major changes in water infrastructure. 

Two decades ago the strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountains was largely empty of industrial agriculture.  Now this region, the north part of which is considered one of the driest regions in the world, produces the bulk of Peruvian agriculture due to irrigation techniques which transport water from the mountains turning the desert into a region devoted to agriculture. More water is needed not only for the farmers who want to expand production to meet increasing demand, but also to meet the needs of workers which the agricultural industry has attracted.  The current strategy is to channel more water from the nearby Andes Mountains and direct it to where it is needed most.  This plan has met resistance from people who inhabit the areas from which the water will be diverted as they are concerned they will lose their access to water as part of this plan.

Water Diverted from the Andes Mountains

Residents of Peru who believe that the Andes will melt in the next 50 to 100 years are also critics of the proposal of transporting water from the Andes Mountains as they do not feel this is a long term solution.  The plan also begs the question how much water can be diverted and who gets priority for this water; the population centers that need the water to drink, or the farmers who need the water to expand their food production?  These questions so far have been met with little response from potential developers and the government.  What is unquestionable is that for Peruvian agriculture to expand the water troubles will have to be resolved.

Did You Know...?

United States researchers have discovered that inoculating rice with certain types of fungus makes them resistant to drought, salt, and cold!  Within 24 hours of inoculation researchers saw up to 5X the growth compared to plants that weren’t inoculated.  The mechanism which allows fungus to increase environmental stress resistance in rice is not yet known.

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