Inside this Food Report


May 1, 2016

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Hello Everyone,

May has arrived! Only weeks away from the pea harvest beginning in Oregon and Washington. We had a week of very hot weather in middle April which accelerated the growth of the pea and berry crops. Weather then cooled back to normal for this season, however as I write we are in for another week of warmer then normal temperatures over the Pacific Northwest. My guess is that the pea crop will begin sooner than later. We are anticipating an average pea harvest but will keep you posted if anything changes. Other crops are going into the ground as we speak such as green beans and corn.

We are back from our April visit to Japan and still suffering with a bit of jet lag. While we were there, Kumamoto Prefecture, in Southern Japan suffered a strong earthquake and only days later Ecuador was rattled by a 7.8 earthquake. Our prayers go out to all those affected by these tragedies.

We did miss the cherry blossom season, however we had the opportunity to head down to Miyajima Island, south of Tokyo, and visit the Itsukushima Shrine which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The shrines history dates back to 1168! Here is my attempt at photography!

Thank you to all of our Japanese clients for your kind hospitality during our stay in Japan and we will look forward to seeing you again during pack season. And to our processors…. we look forward to seeing everyone in the months ahead and here’s to a fantastic crop season this summer!

All The Best,

Betty And The Noon International Team


United States: A week of unseasonably warm weather in mid April over the Pacific Northwest has given a boost to the pea harvest, however weather has cooled back to normal. Pea harvest is expected to commence middle to late May.

Sweet Corn plantings in Oregon and Washington are 25% completed. The overall U.S. corn crop, which includes field corn is 13% completed as of the end of April. This is ahead of the five-year average.
Potatoes for processing in July and August are all planted and to date the conditions look average.

Plantings of green beans have now started.

As stated above a week of unseasonably warm weather has boosted the berry harvest in the West. Good bloom and size in all regions including Oregon and Washington. In Washington, Reka variety is at 80% bloom.
However early indication is that raspberries could be a light crop this season. Warm weather has accelerated growth but weather is now cooler and some areas are concerned there could still be a freeze.

Washington States cherry season is expected to begin early as the warm spring weather has brought on an early bloom.

The California cherry season has already begun 10 days earlier than usual due to warm weather there. California fresh avocados got off to a rocky start due to lack of rain which delayed the harvest and the U.S has been flooded with Mexican product. However, improvement is expected in the fresh California avocado market as the season progresses.

Mexico: Bajio area broccoli and cauliflower harvest will end middle May. The quality and yields of the remainder of the season there look good. The Northern Highlands will begin their harvest of broccoli and cauliflower within the next 10 or so days. The yields and quality look promising.

Guatemala: New season broccoli is expected to begin late June/Early July. To date growing conditions look good. Currently okra and melon are being processed through the middle of this month. The mango crop in Guatemala was late this season and harvest/processing has been extended through the first week of June.

Ecuador: A magnitude 7.8 earthquake rattled Ecuador in the coastal region of Manaki Province. The highlands where most crops are grown escaped damages. Frozen facilities, fields and roads are all okay. The shipping port in Guayaquil had some minor problems but the port is now operating at 100%.

Europe: Wet spring weather slowed corn plantings over western Europe, including France.

Chile: Hot and dry weather is expected to reduce Chile’s corn harvest. The season is now completed. Chile’s apricot harvest turned out low this year due to spring rains while peach and pear crops were reported as good.

India: Recent reports coming out of India say that the overall mango crop appears to be normal.

Thailand: Extreme heat, the worst in 65 years continues in Thailand. With temperatures as high as 111.7 degrees Fahrenheit it is being reported that Thailand’s pineapple crops will surely be affected. Extreme heat and lack of moisture is also known to affect corn yields.
Temperatures are expected to decline when the monsoon season begins sometime this month.

Malaysia: Prices for fresh market vegetables soared as high as 50% due to the current heat wave. Quality of the vegetables and the fruit have also been affected by the severe heat.

China: In most coastal areas including Zhejiang, Fujian and some areas of Shandong Province the fluctuating temperatures in April has had an affect on the bloom of peapod and sugar snap pea. In addition, rain and less sun will affect the yields and quality of green peas and also soy bean crops.

Fujian province: Lower yields are estimated for the soy bean crop due to rain.

Zhejiang province: Harvest of edamame will commence towards end June. Rain and fluctuating temperatures will affect the pea pods and sugar snap peas. It is reported that the volume of over mature, color variants and blemishes are higher than last season. Due to low yields and high demand the market price has increased by approximately 40% compared with last year.

Shandong Province: This season is a bumper season for green asparagus. Yields are expected to be up by 10 – 15% and prices are lower than usual.

Something Else To Worry About?

If you prefer your toast a little on the burnt side, the Food and Drug Administration has some bad news. In March, the agency finalized their guidelines for acrylamide, a potential carcinogen that forms in some foods when they are cooked at high temperatures. The FDA originally announced proposed guidelines in 2013, with the current final guidelines showing few changes.

Acrylamide does not form in all foods, but is prevalent in plant-based foods that are cooked at high temperatures. French fries, coffee,(no not my coffee!) breads, and other fried or baked foods have shown high levels, while meat, dairy, and fish have not shown levels that raise any concern. Potato products, including chips, have a particularly high level of the chemical. In a study conducted by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, 40 percent of consumed calories in the average American diet have some level of acrylamide.

First discovered in food in 2002, acrylamide has been shown to cause cancer in animals when eaten in high doses. But in humans, scientists have not found reason to fear your fries. It is caused by sugars and a particular amino acid that’s found naturally in food, suggesting that acrylamide has been in food since humans learned how to cook. Studies have found some possible correlation between ovarian and endometrial cancer and high ingestion of acrylamide, but not enough studies have been conducted to say for sure how the chemical impacts risk. As a result, the National Toxicology Program lists it as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

The FDA guidelines, which are voluntary and have not been codified into regulations, boil down to common sense. Don’t overcook things, pay attention to suggested cook times and the color of your food, and limit the amount of surface area on foods that are being fried or baked. Plus, in a healthy diet, fried and baked foods make up a small proportion of consumed calories. So rather than skip those french fries next time you go to the diner, maybe just skip the extra well done ones!

The Growing Demand For Organic Food

One look around your local supermarket is all it takes to prove that organics, once a niche market, have hit the mainstream. Demand for organically grown produce and products manufactured with them has seen unprecedented growth in the past twenty years, with no signs of slowing down. But while consumers want organics, the industry is struggling to keep up, particularly with nationwide retailers, like Costco, taking a leading role in selling them.

In a recent post on Medium, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack shared that the USDA has seen a significant increase in demand for local and organic foods. Perceived as healthier and often more sustainable, organics have become more accessible in recent years. Calling organics “one of the fasting growing segments of American agriculture,” Vilsack highlighted the way organics are changing retail. In just two years, value of the organic industry has increased by $4 billion, from $35 billion to $39 billion. Since 2002, the number of organic growers in the US has risen by 300 percent, while the percentage of organic food in relation to total food sales has risen from 1 percent in 1997 to 5 percent in 2014.

But the organics industry is heavily regulated, and often farmers have to meet demanding criteria with significant start-up costs to be certified. High demand for healthier foods has caused shortages for retail chains. Similarly, organic growers are under pressure to keep their industry afloat, even as demand continues to grow and massive retailers stake a more significant claim.

To see the changing nature of organics, look no further than the latest analysis on the largest retail stores. Whole Foods is no longer king; big-box store Costco has outranked it, with sales of organics exceeding $4 billion. To help keep up with the demand, the wholesale store is investing in producers as part of a new pilot program. The company provides funds to farmers for the purchase of land and equipment, and in exchange has priority in buying the produce that’s grown. But whether it will be enough to ensure supply meets demand is anybody’s guess.

Can Cuba Help America’s Growing Appetite for Organics?

With relations improving between the United States and Cuba, there is plenty for both countries to look forward to. But for the farming industry in the United States, one question is looming large: What can we learn from the organic market in Cuba?

The small island country might not be the first place you’d imagine organics dominating the produce market, but Cuba had to develop a sustainable growing method due to the decades long embargo that kept their country largely isolated from international trade. The country was not able to get chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and as a result transitioned to organic farming. An estimated 80% of Cuban produce is grown using organic methods.

With demand for organics growing at a steady clip in the United States, companies like Honest Tea and and Stonyfield Farm are sizing up Cuba’s supply potential. As Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said recently, “Cubans have this incredible opportunity … There is no doubt that if they grow it, there would be a market.”

In fact, given the high demand for products grown organically in Cuba, including mangoes and bananas, trade could be very mutually beneficial. It’s estimated that between mangoes, bananas, and coffee, Cuba could tap into a $600 million import market for just those three products in the United States. It could also help the United States import from closer to home, rather than more distant South American countries or Europe.

But it’s not as simple as Cuban farmers signing on the dotted line with US companies. The intricate regulations in place due to the embargo, which is still in place and will have to be lifted by Congress, make importing Cuban produce a struggle. A research trip to Cuba this month will include representatives from top organic companies, as well as Maine’s Rep. Chellie Pingree (D) and celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, with hopes of “getting a foot in the door” according to Pingree.

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