Inside this Food Report


January 1, 2013

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Happy New Year 2013! We hope this year brings everyone health and happiness. 2012 certainly flew by and it seems the older you get the faster time flies! 

December proved to be a fast paced month with holiday parties in both our California office as well as our Seattle office. The gang in California just loves to Karaoke  (and I must say they are all pretty good!)  and much of the night was spent singing.  Noon’s Amber Keiper of our Barf Team sang an excellent rendition of “Midnight Special” and our Jose Castillo got the entire team going with “We Are The Champions” .  In Seattle we celebrated with a white elephant gift exchange (only with good gifts) and if you are familiar with this type of gift exchange you will know it can be very entertaining which of course it was!   Amidst all the signing and gift exchanging we raffled off prizes and dinned on salmon and prime rib .

We Don't Think Wilmer Likes His
New Merry Christmas Pillow!
We Are The Champions!

January will bring some of us to the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco towards the end of the month so if you are attending please give us a shout as we would love to see you.   There are always so many interesting and innovative products to see at this show so we will be sure to share with you what we observe and learn in our February issue.

Finally one of our Chinese colleagues, Lena sent us a few words about Winter Solstice and its history and how it is celebrated in China.  We thought some of you might enjoy reading this so we included it below.

Once again we wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Betty and The Noon international Team.

CropVeggiesUnited States:   Northwest vegetable and fruit crops are now completed. Yields and quality this year were average with no adverse conditions. North American potato harvest is also completed and the crop is now in storage . Export demand for French fries remains strong, with most export product originating from the Columbia Basin. 

Mexico: Climatic conditions have been good for both broccoli and cauliflower. A maximum temperature of 28 degrees C and a minimum of 5 degrees C has resulted in excellent quality and yields with very little presence of pests.   To this point an excellent season.

Guatemala: Peak season winding down and volume of broccoli has been decreasing.  Fruit season is now underway.

Peru:  Asparagus season is now completed. Due to poor weather conditions yields are down by approximately 30 percent this season and many contracts have been prorated. Mango season should begin in the next week.

Chile: Asparagus season has finished and with higher field prices this season it proved to be a difficult year. There are no remaining inventories.   Berry season is underway and due to poor crop conditions it is expected to be a tight year for berry fruit coming out of Chile.

Argentina: Berry season is finished and inventories of fruit remain tight.

Philippines:  Typhoon Bopha which hit the Philippines on December 4th resulted in a quarter of it’s banana crop being destroyed. The Philippines is the worlds third largest exporter of bananas.   Typhoon Bopha killed 477 people and has cost the banana industry $318 million .

Australia: A wet winter and hot, dry finish to the cherry growing season has reportedly provided one of the best crops in more than a decade. Western New South Wales growers are reporting the best quality cherry crop in more than 15 years with recent hot and dry conditions leading to little or no fruit splitting.

India:  Winter crop planting is advancing a bit behind last season. Warm and sunny conditions have favored planting and emergence of rapeseed and wheat in the northern tier states of India. 

China: Zhejiang Province:  The average temperature in December was 7 degrees C which caused slow growing of vegetables and fruits. Broccoli is facing large challenges as harvest has been delayed due to abnormally low temperatures and prices are increasing.  Cauliflower is experiencing much of the same situation , however not as severe as broccoli. Lotus root quality is poor and processing volume is low. Peak production is now underway for mandarin oranges.   Pea pods and sugar snap peas are growing well.

Fujian Province:  Water chestnut harvest and processing is now underway. Button mushroom harvest and processing is underway and quality is reported as good. Broccoli and cauliflower are being harvested and processed and quality is reported as average.

China Special Report: China’s 2012/13 corn production is estimated at a record 208.0 million tons, up 8 percent from last year’s record crop of 192.8 million tons. Corn area is estimated at 34.95 million hectares,  up 1.4 million from last year. Area increase is likely due to a considerably higher price for corn than for soybean.  China’s corn yields have been trending upward for the past 10 years , increasing by more than 20  percent since 2003/04.   Introduction of hybrid seeds, better management and strong government support to farmers though procurement prices and subsidies have resulted in increased plantings and higher yields.

Winter Solstice: December 21st , called Winter Solstice, is a very important solar term in China.

The Northern hemisphere on this day experiences the shortest daytime and longest nighttime. After the Winter Solstice, days will become longer and longer. As ancient Chinese thought, the yang, or muscular, positive things will become stronger and stronger after this day, so it should be celebrated.

The Winter Solstice became a festival during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) and thrived in the Tang and Song dynasties (618-1279). The Han people regarded Winter Solstice as a "Winter Festival", so officials would organize celebrating activities. On this day, both officials and common people would have a rest. The army was stationed in, frontier fortresses closed and business and traveling stopped. Relatives and friends presented to each other delicious food. In the Tang and Song dynasties, the Winter Solstice was a day to offer scarifies to Heaven and ancestors. Emperors would go to suburbs to worship the Heaven; while common people offered sacrifices to their deceased parents or other relatives. The Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) even had the record that "Winter Solstice is as formal as the Spring Festival," showing the great importance attached to this day.

In some parts of Northern China, people eat dumpling soup on this day; while residents of some other places eat dumplings, saying doing so will keep them from frost in the upcoming winter. In other places, people also eat tangyuan, a kind of stuffed small dumpling ball made of glutinous rice flour. But in parts of South China, like Zhejiang Province, the whole family members go to the graves to worship their ancestors.

Safeguarding Against Bacteria

Bacteria are found nearly everywhere – it is found in the air, water, ground, and people and in food. Bacteria are microorganisms and the good ones can be used to make common foods such as cheese and yoghurt.  They can even be used in medicines. There are however bad bacteria that are harmful to us, spoiling our food and causing illness.

Since bacteria are naturally present in our environment, it seems only logical that they could be present in the foods that we buy or eat.  For instance, poultry and eggs naturally contain salmonella. All cooked foods are susceptible to bacteria for the simple reason that they can come into contact with raw meat juices.

Bacteria can also come into contact with food from the people and objects used to prepare it. Cleanliness is of utmost importance when preparing food, especially when handling raw meat or poultry. Individuals should cover their hair with a net or scarf and make sure any cuts or sores on their hands are completely covered up. Cutting boards, utensils, worktops and plates should all be sanitized as well.  An effective tactic for preventing bacteria from getting into food is to use separate cutting boards – one for raw uncooked produce and one for foods that needn’t be cooked.

Cooking in a microwave is a good option for helping to kill unwanted bacteria but it is by no means a guarantee. Microwaves only penetrate an inch or two into the food source meaning that any cold spots or areas that were not heated properly could certainly still harbor microbes.

A study conducted by researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention examined an outbreak of salmonella after a picnic where numerous individuals reheated roast pork. Of all the people studied, the 10 who became sick all used a microwave to reheat the food whereas the others who remained healthy used a conventional oven or skillet.  This study in itself highlights that microwaves provide little guarantee of effectively killing bacteria, especially with high-risk foods such as left over meats.  

Essentially, the best way to kill bacteria that could be present whilst cooking food is to cook it thoroughly. If you’re cooking meats, then it is best to use an oven set at the correct temperature and for sufficient time to allow it to cook inside and out. Vegetables and other foods that have come into contact with raw meat juices can also be risky, so you must make sure these are cooked properly too.  You should also never forget that proper storage beforehand whether in a refrigerator or airtight bag is essential.

Catching the Coconut Water Wave!

Coconut water is nature’s sports drink. It’s refreshing, hydrating and packed with nutrients that our bodies require for optimum function. Though it has been consumed in countries like Brazil and India for thousands of years, in the United States and Europe it seems we’re only just catching on.

Coconut water is essentially the liquid found inside young, green coconuts. The juice that is extracted is packed with simple sugars, electrolytes and minerals that are commonly found in many sports drinks today. This nutrient-rich drink is so hydrating that many athletes prefer it to the sports drinks!

Coconut water has a vast array of health benefits and in some countries it is even used to treat various medical conditions. These include conditions stemming from dehydration.  It is also used to regulate blood sugar levels and blood pressure because of the high potassium content found within it. Just 1 serving of coconut water has more potassium than four whole bananas! And just one glass of coconut water after a workout will replenish your energy level, leaving you feeling hydrated and ready to get on with the day.

Containing glucose, it is an excellent source of energy before a workout. It is also very high in Vitamins B and C that are essential in repairing damaged tissue and cells as well as preventing illness.

Coconut water also contains a chemical known as lauric acid, which when ingested is converted into monolaurin in our bodies. Monolaurin has profound antiviral and antibacterial properties and aids us in fighting against intestinal worms, parasites and other gastrointestinal tract infections. All in all, this drink is a master of detoxification!

Many coconut water drinkers have also claimed that it has improved the condition of their skin and helped with digestion. Indeed, it has been proven that coconut water boosts energy levels and can increase your metabolism and in this way it could be a great addition to a weight loss regimen.

The health benefits of coconut water are extensive and seemingly endless.  It then comes as no surprise that annual sales in the United States alone this past year are set to exceed $350 million and predicted to double to a whopping $700 million in 2013!

China's Blueberry Boom!

As China’s economy continues to grow much of its population is becoming more affluent and have begun consuming many types of food which in the past were not available in China or economically out of reach for much of the population. One of these foods is a simple fruit, the blueberry. The Chinese taste for blueberries has grown dramatically over the past few years due to its delicious taste but more importantly it fits in with the health conscious mentality of China and its people.  We have written many articles in the past about the incredible health benefits of this wonderful little berry and it seems that China is catching on. Seen now in wine, jams, candy and fresh , blueberries are gradually becoming one of China’s preferred fruits.

Today there are approximately 91 species of blueberry that can be found in China. Although the Chinese industry is still in its infant stages, blueberry production is certainly increasing.  Some reports we have read state the land set for blueberry farming is expected to increase from 8,645 acres to 25,000 acres in the next 3 years and that by 2015 production levels will rise to more than 60 million pounds. However China is still marred with numerous obstacles.  Many blueberry fields have been situated in poor sites, unsuitable for growing, and transportation, storage and refrigeration is still a struggle.  Some U.S. farmers have moved to China for the sole purpose of helping to develop blueberry and other fruit farming. A good example of this has been seen in the blueberry farming based in and around the Xihue village over four plots of land. Although it took almost 3 years for the first blueberries to be successfully harvested, with improvements in farming techniques and knowledge coming from the west, the future looks promising.

Recently China opened its doors to fresh blueberry imports from Chile. Chile is South America’s largest blueberry exporter and the new relationship between Chile and China means that Chinese consumers can expect to have blueberries available for consumption almost year round.  Fruit consumption in general has increased in China due to the westernization of diets and the recent agreement between Chile and China could not have come at a better time. With more and more of China’s population becoming familiar with blueberries it seems that China may consume most of its domestic production which in turn will create an important market for United States and Canadian frozen blueberries as well as Chile’s fresh blueberries.

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