Inside this Food Report



NOVEMBER 1, 2011

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Hello Everyone,

This month I write to you from Tokyo, Japan. I don't really know what I expected to find here 7 months after the devasting tsunami and earthquake rocked Japan to its core on March 11, 2011, however things seem strangely normal. In Tokyo you can feel the aftermath of the disaster in subtle ways. Saving electricity is front and center with many office buildings posting signs to save electricity and "you will smile later". Such a positive way to deal with a very serious concern for the country of Japan. News articles abound concerning the residents who are still in temporary housing in the Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, many of them farmers who are now confined indoors causing many health related issues.

We were held up in our travels in Tokyo more than a few times by protesters marching with signs stating "no more nukes, close them down now" . It seems Asia has been particularly hard hit this year by mother nature as Thailand experiences a state of crisis due to flood waters that are converging on Bangkok. Please see more on this situation in our crop news below. Our prayers are with the people of Thailand and also Turkey who suffered a devastating earthquake a few days ago.

The Northwest crop season is coming to a close with corn harvest finishing 10 to 15 days later than usual due to the late start of the crop. South America is in peak season of asparagus harvest and Noon employees are currently in Chile assessing the situation. We will continue to keep you updated. Noon International also attended the Natural Products Northwest Food Show held in Seattle, WA in October. We learned a lot about olive oil from Chile to snack chips high in omega 3, anti oxidants and containing no sugar or fat.

As we approach November the holiday season is upon us. It is a time when a lot of us try to do too much and we do not pay enough attention to our health. Maybe we can learn from the students at the University of North Texas who are following a vegan diet. By eating all of the delicious frozen and canned vegetables and fruits that our industry grows, manufactures and sells we can all be a bit more healthy which will certainly help us to keep up with our busy schedules during the upcoming holiday season!

Wishing you all the best.

Lily, Betty, and the Noon International Team


United States: : The Northwest corn harvest is coming to an end. Some processors are completely finished while some may continue harvesting for another 10 days into second week November if weather and crop condition permit. We are hearing some suppliers did not finish on budget on both super sweet and regular corn. Market conditions will remain tight.

The edamame crop in U.S. was average while some processors report yields were lower than expected due to less pods per plant and smaller pods and beans caused by changing weather patterns.

Diced carrot production has commenced and should be average crop.

Northwest potato growers are reporting lower yields this season. Depending on which area and what variety numbers vary , however overall the growing conditions have not been ideal causing disappointing yields for most growers in Washington and Oregon State. Although acreage is up in Idaho yield will not be above 2010 level due to a late start in crop development caused by cool and wet weather.

Berry season is officially completed in the Northwest. Results were average due to the late start of the season.

Europe: Potato growers in the UK have reported bruising and other issues caused by dry weather, while Belgium continues to harvest a large potato crop. Spain's lemon crop is expected to fall by approximately 6.4 pc compared to last season. Poland seems to be dominating the strawberry market in Europe. Due to China's reduced pack, increased prices and domestic demand ,Poland has been able to take this market. Most of Serbia's fruit harvest, including apples, pears and plums are expected to be up this season.

Mexico: Hurricane Jova hit the Pacific coast of Mexico on October 12th causing heavy rain. In the state of Oaxaca the mango trees are now being assessed , however initial reports are that Jova should have no major impact on the mango harvest. Broccoli and cauliflower in central Mexico were not affected and processing is continuing as usual.

Central America: Intense rains in Central America, including Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua has caused flooding and mudslides. To date 80 people have been killed. Both El Salvador and Nicaragua have declared a state of emergency. To date broccoli harvest in Guatemala has not been affected.

Thailand: Thailand's worst floods since 1942 have been triggered by heavy monsoon rains that began in July. On October 20th the central bank said damage to industry amounts to over 100 bn baht. Rice traders have reported 3.5 m tonnes of paddies have been damaged by the floods . Sweet corn and pineapple have also been severely affected. Parts of Bangkok are flooded and it has been reported that it may take 6 more weeks for the flood waters to recede. As of today October 25th the city of Bangkok is in a state of crisis as flood waters are advancing on the city. It was reported today that 10 times more water then the city can handle will advance into the city during the days ahead. The government has declared a 5 day holiday in order for residents to prepare for this event. The airport is closed due to flooding and there have been 17,000 shelters set up so far.

Chile: Asparagus harvest continues in Chile with average yields. Production of asparagus slowed middle October due to cooler weather and rain which slowed the spears emerging rate. Chile's blueberry harvest will begin in November. Usually depending on grower price about 80 pct of Chile's blueberries will go to fresh market.

China: Soy bean season in China is completed. Supply is short due to demand in domestic market. Currently China is harvesting lotus root, sweet potato and komatsuna. Weather in China seems more normal now and it has been reported that broccoli and cauliflower prices ex China will not be as high as last season based on better weather conditions.


Listeria Outbreak 2011

With 25 people already dead and 116 sick with likely more to come, the listeria outbreak of 2011 has been the deadliest food-related illness in more than 25 years. Listeria is a food borne illness most often contracted through improperly processed deli meats and unpasteurized milk products. According to the Mayo Clinic listeria is most dangerous to women who are pregnant and people who have impaired immune systems such as the elderly, people with diabetes, and individuals going through chemotherapy and other similar treatments.

The FDA has been able to directly link the recent U.S. outbreak to a Colorado Cantaloupe farm which is under investigation and has been forced to cease its operation. Federal agents took several swabs and samples at both the plant and in the field determining that the outbreak was not caused at field level but rather at the production and packaging facility. Investigation turned up pools of water on walkways and near drains that provide breeding grounds for bacteria. Also discovered was a dump truck used to discard melons to a nearby cattle lot. The truck was parked beside the packaging shed and this could have tracked listeria back to the packaging facility. Additionally the FDA recommended two melon cooling methods in preexisting guidelines that have been set forth neither of which were used. The farm directly packed warm melons in boxes which were then refrigerated; this can cause condensation in the boxes which can become a breeding ground for listeria. The FDA issued a warning letter to the facility stating "widespread listeria growth and poor sanitary practices throughout your facility". The FDA is also quick to point out to the general public, "There's no reason to believe these factors are indicative of practices throughout the industry".

The outbreak has affected the industry as a whole, from California to Florida. Hundreds of people have been laid off and farmers have abandoned their cantaloupe fields due to the plummeting sales. It is important to understand that it is the start of a different season and all the Colorado Cantaloupes are now gone. Cantaloupe growers around the country want you to know "Right now, cantaloupes should be the safest product to eat".

Strange Looking Fruit

Sometimes you see a fruit the look of which can only be described as weird; this certainly applies to the rambutan fruit, best described as a cross between a raspberry and porcupine. A tropical fruit native to Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka, it is also grown in Hawaii, the Caribbean and Thailand. Rambutan is related to fruits such as the lychee and grows only in tropical climates being very sensitive to temperatures below 10 degrees C. The word rambutan itself means "hairy" in Indonesian and if you're wondering why they would name a fruit hairy, just take a look at the photo! It's easy to see the name comes from the spiny hair like protrusions that grow from the fruit. But don't worry you don't have to eat the hairy part, just the smooth white translucent fruit inside.

Thailand is the single largest producer of rambutan and production has increased during the last decade. Rambutan trees bear fruit twice a year in the late fall and late spring and many countries such as Sri Lanka and Malaysia have annual fairs around the blossoming of rambutan trees. How does the fruit taste? Very similar to lychee fruit with a mild, sweet, floral aroma . The honey made by bees which have primarily pollinated rambutan blossoms is particularly prized for its pleasing flavor.

Rambutan fruit contains a wide variety of nutrients from vitamin C and manganese to niacin and even calcium. One study in Malaysia found that Rambutan is a good anti-inflammatory and can help fight infections. Other advantages include using the seed oil in the production of candles and soaps; additionally the leaves can be used as cataplasm to cure headaches. So go ahead, don't be afraid, get yourself a hairy fruit and enjoy the surprisingly tasty treat found inside!


Vegan University in Cattle Country

When one thinks of Texas what comes to mind? Longhorn cattle, open hot plains, and cowboys. About the last thing you'd expect to find is a university that has changed its menu to cater to the vegan dieters on campus. The University of North Texas has become what is apparently the first American University to unveil a completely vegan full service cafeteria called "Mean Greens", catering to a student body that is increasingly concerned with healthy meals.

Studies show that roughly 3.2 percent of U.S. adults (over the age of 18) follow a vegetarian diet. A smaller number 0.5 percent follow a vegan diet in which they consume no animal products at all. Following a vegan diet is a growing trend throughout the U.S. with a large majority of vegans in the age range of 18-34, evenly comprised of both males and females. Studies done by Bon Appetit and Aramark, as well as studies done by universities and other large food companies have indicated that 1 in 4 college students are actively trying to pursue vegan eating options. Even those who are not vegan and are interested in eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains have found that the vegan fare served at "Mean Greens" is extremely tasty as well as healthy, drawing in a previously under tapped consumer base.

This is good news for the processed fruit and vegetable industry because what's more vegan than natural frozen or canned fruits and vegetables? As demand for vegan food continues to increase, so will the demand for the products that we in the frozen and canned vegetable industry sell every day.

The challenge is marketing food as vegan to new outlets for products that we have been marketing without vegan dieters in mind. The experiment with a fully operational vegan cafeteria at the University of North Texas has proven that there is a young and largely undeveloped market for the sale of conventional frozen and canned fruits and vegetables to a vegan consumer base.

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