Inside this Food Report



OCTOBER 1, 2011

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Hello Everyone,

Looking out the window I see clear sky, breeze blowing and just a slight hint of leaves turning yellow and red.  It can only mean one thing…Fall is approaching and harvest in the Northwest is almost coming to an end.  High temperatures last week in Eastern WA and OR caused bunching and some processors had to bypass acreage.  This will definitely tighten our corn market further.  Our corn crop has another 2 to 3 weeks of harvest and processor are now keeping their fingers crossed that jack frost does not come early to the corn fields.

It has been an incredibly busy season for all Noon employees.  It seems this season was the most hectic ever for travel during harvest time.  Given the agricultural situation around the world with so many crops affected by weather in China and Thailand many of our customers were anxious to visit U.S. and South American suppliers to make certain their requirements for quality and volume would be met.  Needless to say it has been a challenging season but Noon always enjoys a challenge!

One of our most recent trips was to the country of Guatemala where we enjoyed sunny weather in the daytime with thunderstorms and rain at night.  It was an exciting time to be in Guatemala this particular weekend as their national elections were being held and there was a lot of activity taking place except for drinking alcohol.  You see, in Guatemala, as in Mexico, during elections no alcoholic beverage is permitted to be served.  This was one aspect of Guatemala which our customer did not enjoy!  Each time I visit to Guatemala I am amazed at their agriculture practices.  If you have never been to Guatemala it is truly a site to see this very mountainess country growing everything on steep hillsides.  As you drive along the winding roads you can see farmers and pickers walking up incredibly steep terrain to harvest their crops.  I can only imagine how much strength and agility it takes to harvest those fields…amazing!  I truly appreciate this fact each time I purchase a bag of frozen broccoli which is labeled “Product of Guatemala.”

This month we have two exciting pieces of news to share with everyone.  Our Mr. Brian Nyquist has been accepted into the Peace Corps and he will be stationed in Paraguay to work with farmers on improving their agricultural practices.  Brian will be keeping in touch with Noon and will be sharing his experiences with us.  Keep a watch for those stories in future issues of our Intelligent Food Report.

Our second piece of news and congratulations goes to Noon’s Mr. Chad Watson who married Ms. Jamie Suit on Saturday October 1st.  We wish both Brian and Chad the very best on their exciting new endeavors!

Lily, Betty, and the Noon International Team


United States:   Based on the USDA , the overall U.S. sweet corn production is down 2 percent from last year and green pea production is down 16 pct from last season.   Green peas are in tight supply with prices high.   Sweet corn harvesting and processing is still underway.  Bunching  occurred in middle September in Washington and Oregon due to high tempertures and some processors had to bypass acreage.   This will certainly strengthen the corn market even more so.   The harvest should continue through middle to late October.    Sweet corn production is winding down in the Midwest.   Frost occurred across much of Minnesota during middle September, which may inhibit further growth and development on some of the remaining acres. 

Green Bean crop is nearly completed for most packers with average quality and yields reported.

Based on North American Potato Market News, potato acreage for processing is up by 9.9 pct this year.  Demand is high and market is firm. 

Berry harvest in the Northwest is winding down.  Processers are finding smaller berries this year due to the cool and wet spring.  Yields are average and quality is reported as better than last season.   Demand and prices are high.

Cranberries are forecasted to have the second largest harvest on record.   Good weather conditions in the state of Massachusetts helped with pollination.   Due to the anticipated bumper crop, prices for cranberries remain depressed.

The cool wet spring delayed the pear harvest in the State of Washington and has reduced the size of the fruit now being harvested.  

Canada:   Wild Blueberry crop experienced a late start due to cool and wet weather.   The crop is expected to be average with prices firm.

Europe:   The Netherlands and Poland are forecasted to harvest bumper onion crops this season.   Poland is expected to produce approx. 30 pct more than last season.

Belgium is struggling with the green bean crop.   The wet and cooler weather is affecting the crop and beans are not maturing.   The current forecast is for a 15 pct reduction in the bean crop.   

Green Pea crop in Europe was estimated to come in somewhat short however it actually came in on budget, with prices remaining stable.

Potato harvest in Belgium is expected to be higher than last season and potatoes in Netherlands are showing excellent size.   All in all the European potato harvest is expected to produce high yields and good quality offering competitive prices for the export market.

Mexico:  Mexico experienced less than 33 pct of the average precipitation during its rainy season July through September.   As a result the broccoli plants are seeing some quality issues such as yellow color and over developed heads.    Some frost was seen during the first week of September, however only very minimal crop losses were reported.   Deliveries of both broccoli and cauliflower are normal for this time of year.

Guatemala:  Broccoli continues to be harvested in Guatemala with good quality, however yields appear to be slightly lower than normal.

Chile:  Asparagus season has slowly started.    Higher temperatures helped to emerge asparagus.  Most processors expect to be running at full capacity by first week October.  Supply is very short due to worldwide demand.

Peru:  Weather in Peru is reported as sunny and favorable for asparagus harvest.  Harvest began one to two weeks late, however harvested volumes are average.

Indications show that yields have been much higher in the more ideal growing region of southern Peru then in the northern growing areas.   Similar to Chile all processors are sold out of asparagus due to heavy worldwide demand.

Harvest is estimated to last through mid to end January.

Argentina:  It has been reported that Argentina’s frozen blueberry exports will increase by 13 pct this season.

Australia:  Due to cold and wet weather the blueberry harvest in Australia began later than usual.   Japan has banned the import of fresh Australian blueberries due to Japan’s concern over Mediterranean fruit fly.  

China: As we have been reporting, the past year in China has been a difficult one.   All crops have suffered at the hands of mother nature.  It is currently Fall season for soybean and the hot and dry weather has caused smaller pods.  Mukimame has become too expensive to produce due to smaller and reduced kernel count per pod.  Most farmers are selling their edamame to fresh market at higher prices.

Asparagus and spinach are both in short supply with high price.

Broccoli and Cauliflower harvest is expected to begin November .

Food prices rose 13.4 pct in August.



Beware of the Bear!

Could it be that as much as one third of all honey consumed in the United States is smuggled into the country?  Sound like something from a true crime miniseries or crime novel?   Well it might not be far from the truth.  According to exhaustive research compiled by Andrew Schneider in an article written for Food Safety News, there is documented proof that very large quantities of honey are being imported into the United States from countries such as China and India. This honey has been banned in all of the 27 European Union nations due to antibiotic, heavy metal contamination and adulteration concerns.  This has led many, such as Food Safety News writer Andrew Schneider, to question whether or not the US is becoming a dumping ground for a product that is forbidden in most other industrialized nations.

In 2001 the United States put heavy tariffs on products coming from China to address illegal methods used by Chinese manufacturers to conceal the origin of their honey as well as quality concerns.  During the same year Chinese beekeepers treated their hives with antibiotics to combat foulbrood disease.  Chinese beekeepers also routinely store their honey in lead soldered drums.  In a study done by the Indian Export Inspection council 362 samples of exported honey were taken and tested, resulting in 23 percent testing positive for lead and at least two antibiotics. This, along with the fact that India is exporting more honey than it can produce even in years with slow production, may indicate that Chinese honey is being transshipped to India and sold from there to countries like the United States to get around prohibitively high tariffs.

There are tests which can trace the pollen in the honey and pinpoint geographic locations where the honey originated but unfortunately these types of tests are very rare and extremely expensive.  In fact there is only one laboratory in the United States located at Texas A&M which can run this type of DNA testing process.  Even so these tests are not foolproof and some Chinese producers working in state of the art honey processing plants are able to filter their honey and remove any pollen fingerprints.

Many experts directly connected to honey say that the FDA is looking the other way and does not want to find adulterated honey because they do not possess the equipment or resources required to prove the honey’s origin.  Perhaps with additional funding from the Food Safety Modernization Act the FDA will be able to crack down on illegal honey imports.  Until then who knows what kind of pollen is filling the belly of the little plastic honey bear in your pantry.



Don't Let Go of Your Bitterness...

Bitter melon, also known as bitter gourd, has seen quite a resurgence in interest among consumers as studies advertising the health benefits have been widely published.  As the name implies the fruit is extremely bitter and has even been called the most bitter fruit in the world.  Grown in tropical climates throughout Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and throughout South America this fruit is very distinct looking between 6 cm and 30 cm long with warty skin and an oblong shape.  It is typically eaten green or just when it begins to yellow.  As the bitter melon ripens it becomes extremely unpalatable and increases in bitterness, but the pith in the middle gets sweeter as the fruit becomes inedible.  So no matter what stage the fruit is in there is a way to consume a part of it!

While it can be eaten raw it is most often consumed cooked and there are a variety of yummy recipes from cultures all over Asia which incorporate bitter melon fruit.  Bitter melon is a significant ingredient in Okinawan cuisine, but is increasingly being used in cooking in mainland Japan. The Chinese usually prepare it in stir fries, soups, tea, and is sometimes even used as the bittering ingredient in beer.  It is often credited with the increased life expectancies of Okinawans beyond the already unusually long life expectancies of the Japanese.  So that brings us to the question:  Why is bitter melon so healthy that some cultures even use it as a medicine?  This has been a major topic of research in recent years and exciting discoveries about the melon’s nutritional powers are continuously being made.

The plant contains many compounds that are extremely healthy and have been associated with improvements in antimalarial, heart protective, diabetic, anticancer, and even shows some promise in test tube studies for improvement in HIV patients. However the fruit has showed the most promise in treating type II diabetes. Studies have shown the effect of lowering blood sugar and the ability to enhance cells uptake of glucose to promote insulin release in diabetes patients.   

The fruit is extremely high in vitamin C and has such a wide variety of phytonutrients that studies continue today to try to isolate exactly what makes bitter melon so nutritious.   But regardless of whether or not all the health benefits of bitter melon are understood the fact remains that it is a verified health food that you should definitely try!


Bitter Melon



Heavy Rain in Thailand Affects Sweet Corn

Thailand experienced heavier than usual seasonal rains which also arrived a month earlier in April. This has caused significant impact on the sweet corn industry in Thailand.  Dams in northern Thailand, where the bulk of Thai sweet corn production is located, are at maximum capacity and are having to release water at times resulting in flooding major sweet corn growing operations downstream.  There are a few growing operations on high ground that have escaped unscathed but some processors have described their corn as destroyed.  The exact extent of the damage is unknown and will be difficult to ascertain until rain stops falling and floodwaters recede.  Rain is expected to continue into October.   

The rain is also causing damages and problems for the Thailand Infrastructure.  Roads, electricity, even plumbing have all been affected by the ongoing rain and flooding, making it extremely difficult to transport corn to processing factories. Thailand cultivates sweet corn year round and many fields are in different stages of development which makes the task of determining how much damage there will be very difficult.

October through December is considered Thailand’s low season.  This year the low season is expected to come more quickly than usual due to the fact flooding has damaged crops that would generally be sold during the low season.  Another unknown is the long term effects that the flooding in Thailand will have on the Thai sweet corn industry.  While some farmers will replant as quickly as possible it is likely that many will switch over to better cool weather crops for which they can command higher prices.  The current situation in Thailand should put more pressure on canners in the United States and around the world to make up for what Thailand has lost to flooding.


Corn Field Flooded in Thailand


Did You Know...

Pumpkins originated in South America and are 90% water and range in size from less than 1 pound to over 1,000 pounds. The largest pumpkin ever grown weighed 1,810 pounds! Considered a fruit, pumpkins contain potassium and vitamin A and were once used to remove freckles and cure snake bites.

Noon International wishes you a very happy Halloween!!!


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