Inside this Food Report


November 1, 2012

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Hello Everyone,

It is November already and our hectic harvest season in the Northern Hemisphere is coming to a close.  It feels like yesterday that we were discussing about plantings and spring weather!   Except for pumpkin most harvest is completed.   For the most part corn harvest is finished and all product is in the barn as they say.  It was a most challenging harvest this year due to drought conditions in a large portion of the United States and with yields in the Northwest a bit lower than usual it will certainly be a tight corn market.    Peru and Chile are in their peak asparagus season and from all indications to date it will be another tight and high priced year for asparagus coming out of South America.  Please see more in our crop section below.

Here in the United States Thanksgiving is almost upon us.    This tradition dates back to 1621 when the first European colonist celebrated their survival of their first winter in Plymouth, Massachusetts.   It certainly has evolved since then and today it means eating too much and watching football.   I do hope that everyone can take a minute to feel thankful for the good and bright things in their lives.  There is always something to be grateful for!

November will prove to be an exciting month with the presidential elections in the United States taking place on November 6th and Noon staff back on the road again.   Next month we will be writing from Japan and South America and will keep you posted on all the news.

As we send this newsletter out this month the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is becoming apparent.   Loss of life, entire neighorhoods devastated, billions of dollars in damage and many still without electricity.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to all affected by the wrath of Mother Nature.

All The Best

Betty and The Noon international Team.

P.S.   We hope you all enjoyed your Halloween celebrations.   Noon’s Chad Watson and the newest member of his family (Arlo the baby shark) certainly did!

CropVeggiesUnited States: The Northwest corn harvest is coming to a close with most processors winding down production by first week of November.   Weather has been dry and stable in the Northwest and it is reported that the corn quality is good.  The cooler nights reduced yields midway through the pack so the corn market is expected to remain firm due to lower yields in the Northwest and shortages in the Midwest caused by the summer drought.   Diced carrot production is now underway with no immediate concerns.

Oregon and Washington Potato yields are down due to summer heat and most suppliers are disappointed in the quality and the yields.   Early crop potatoes were sent to other parts of the country and as a result Oregon and Washington potato processors will have fewer potatoes in storage then they did a year ago.

Europe:  Belgium’s potato crop, along with the Netherlands and France suffered a difficult season due to heavy rains that limited crop development.   Followed by a very hot and dry August predictions are that Belgium’s potato crop will fall approximately 20 % compared to last season.  Prices have increased.
Serbia suffered a long drought, which has resulted in fruit production, such as raspberry, plum, and strawberries, to decrease.

Mexico:   Mexico is now entering their peak harvest time for both broccoli and cauliflower.    It has been a slow beginning but gradually excellent quality and volume are now anticipated this month.

Guatemala:   Peak season continues with good high quality broccoli available.   Fruit products will begin soon as well.

Costa Rica: Pineapple and papaya season are now underway with no adverse conditions reported.

Peru:   The main asparagus season is underway in Peru.  It is going to be another tight supply season for asparagus coming out of South America.  Yields are expected to be down 20% – 30% compared to last year due to a warmer than usual winter.   The warm weather caused some of the crop to flower early, which will result in lower yields.    Although the current weather in Peru is good, yields will still be down due to the earlier in the season weather problems.  Asparagus harvest is expected to run through December.

Chile:  Harvest of asparagus is underway.   A warm and dry winter and early spring was reported but Chile seems to be less affected than Peru.   Yields are okay and Chile is now in peak production, however Chile is feeling the pressure of the fresh market along with Peru’s shortages and increased worldwide demand.   This should keep prices high for the time being.

Thailand:   Several Northeast provinces are experiencing the worst drought conditions in decades.  Rice fields and orchards have been damaged and production of jasmine rice is expected to decline by 3%.    Sweet corn prices are rising as Thailand’s rainy season and flooding occurs.  It is certainly not at record levels as last years floods, however it has reduced sweet corn yields resulting in higher prices.

China:  Zhejiang Province – The average temperature in October has been around 20 degrees C, which has been good for the growth of the vegetable and fruit crops, however the reduced rainfall has reduced yields.  Lotus Root pricing has increased by 20% due to labor costs and quality is reported as good.   Due to drought conditions cauliflower and broccoli quality and harvest has suffered this fall season.   Mandarin orange season has begun.   Plantings for pea pods and sugar snap peas began at the end of October.

Shandong Province – Taro and komatsuna is currently at peak harvest.   Burdock planting began in October and to date the crop seems to be doing well.   Processing of autumn crop spinach should being this month/November.

Fujian Province - Okra harvest/processing will come to an end in November.   Plantings have begun for cauliflower and to date the growth is going along well.   Pea pods and sugar snap peas are being planted through this month/November.    

Japan to Restrict Rice Shipments

On August 25th Japan began to test for radioactive materials that may have contaminated many areas of the prefecture in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March of 2011.      It is expected that there are approximately 360,000 metric tons of rice from areas, which were not restricted by the Japanese government for rice planting.   

Farmers will be barred from shipping rice whose radioactivity measures over 100 Becquerel’s per kilogram.  Unfortunately only a few weeks ago Bloomberg News reported that rice from the Nishifukuro area tested at 110 Becquerel’s of radioactive cesium per kilogram and the areas rice has been prohibited to ship.

It is not anticipated that the restriction will have any large impact on rice supply, however many farmers are worried even if their rice meets acceptable safe levels that consumers will be weary to purchase.

Reach for the Star…Fruits…

Star fruit, more commonly known as carambola outside the English speaking world, is a unique looking fruit native to Southeast Asia and is grown in tropical and subtropical regions all over the world.   The fruit has five ridges running down it’s side and when cut into cross sections it resembles a star, hence the name star fruit.  The fruit is consumed when light yellow with a little green along the edges and has a very unique flavor that is somewhere between an apple, a pear, and a citrus fruit.  Unlike many tropical fruits such as the mango or the mandarin orange, the entire fruit including the skin is edible and is packed with nutrition!

Star fruit is rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and other antioxidants as well as exhibiting microbial properties against infections such as E.Coli and Staphylococcus aureus.  Star fruit contains iron and is low in calories and sodium, making it ideal for those trying to enjoy a low calorie tasty snack.  People experiencing kidney problems or taking heart medication should exercise some caution when consuming the fruit as it contains a chemical which has been demonstrated to cause interactions with drugs commonly associated with the treatment of kidney or heart conditions. 

Star fruit can be found in frozen form but it is more commonly eaten fresh.   It is also often incorporated into other foods.  Star fruit ice cream is a product that was recently introduced into health food stores across the United States and many high end restaurants mix grill roasted star fruit into their salads and desserts.  While Malaysia is currently the largest producer of star fruit it can also be found in other areas of the world such as the Philippines, Indonesia , Australia and the United States (Florida) just to name a few.  The fruit has no preferred soil type but does require good drainage and plenty of rain.     
The author of this article, a former Noon International employee, is currently living in Paraguay doing agricultural development work and becoming fluent in Spanish.   He has a star fruit tree in his yard which served as the inspiration for this article!

Global Weather and It's Impact On Crop Production

Many regions in the world are expecting a drop in crop production and reduced planting due to climatic changes.   Climatic shifts including dry weather, drought, torrential rain and unusually long winters – all of which have altered planting patterns, have caused premature crop destruction and reduced harvests.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in its first forecast for crop production for 2012 has stated that concerns are rising for international prices of cereals.  The organization has also observed a drop in global wheat production levels for 2012.

The severely cold weather in Europe that continued through March this year has led to tightening up of wheat supplies in the region.  Wheat production is expected to stand at 690 million tons – a 1.4% reduction over the record harvest in 2011.   It is expected that production levels across the region will vary.  While favorable sowing conditions in the Russian Federation promise adequate yield for 2012 , dry weather combined with severely low temperatures and higher winterkill have reduced winter plantings in Ukraine.   Aside from the reduced wheat harvest, it is anticipated that the production of barley will be impacted, following severe winters with limited snow cover in Ukraine.

In Central America, overall crop production will see a reduction due to dry weather.  Dry weather has caused reduced planting of maize in Mexico and a potential drop in crop production during the secondary season harvest.   This will affect the availability of corn – a key staple food in the region.

Further, dry weather has persisted through several regions in South America as well.   Prolonged dry weather has reduced maize production and combined with stronger demand for the crop from Asia; prices have risen.   Farmers in Brazil are also being adversely impacted by low yield caused by dry weather during the main harvest season.   This has prompted many to increase planting to compensate for the low yield during the primary harvest season.   Similarly maize production in Argentina has also dropped due to the extreme dry weather in December and January.

Overall crop production across many parts of South America has seen a reduction due to weather conditions caused by La Nina.  The climatic phenomenon creates changes to the wind circulation patterns, causing extreme weather patterns, such as adversely dry weather in countries lying along the extreme northern and southern parts of the continent.

In Asia, moisture conditions that remained normal until late 2011 have slowly altered.   Early water deficits have been reported across many parts of the region.  It is expected that production of wheat may come down across India and Pakistan due to scanty rainfall.  India has also reported worries over delayed rain during the current monsoon season and the impact it will have on crop production and farmers livelihoods.

In China wheat producing regions such as Loess Plateau, North China Plain, and Shaanxi have recorded below normal precipitation levels, causing growing anxiety on crop production and price increases.   Further, the country’s administration is worried that with essential cereals such as wheat becoming expensive, adequate food consumption will be a major concern among the low income and economically vulnerable populations spread over its rural regions.  

Food security has emerged as an important global issue today.  The ongoing political crises in many parts of the Middle East and parts of Africa have aggravated the global food crisis.   With unreliable weather conditions across key cereal producing regions such as Europe, Central America and Asia the food supply remains  complicated.   Undoubtedly, concerted global action is needed to address the issue effectively and ensure ample food supply worldwide. 


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