Inside this Food Report


October 1, 2014

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Hello Everyone,

My favorite time of year is finally here!   Leaves turning red and yellow, crunching beneath you’re feet.   Crisp cool air, pumpkins, and honey crisp apples.   Yes!  Finally Fall season is upon us!  This also means that the harvest season for most of the United States is winding down and it has been a hectic few months for all of us here at Noon International.    We have been travelling across the US visiting our many suppliers and in fact with everyone’s busy schedules we hardly saw our co workers during the month of September!

We are closing the books on this year’s corn season and for the most part it has been a good one. Here in the Northwest the weather was picture perfect for a beautiful and plentiful corn crop.    The Midwest region had some struggles with heavy spring rains and cooler weather at the tail end of the harvest but all in all no major calamities to report.

It seems everyone is closely watching for the impact that El Nino will have around the world this year.   We did a little research on this topic and found that even though early predications were for a very severe El Nino this season, later indications are for a more moderate El Nino.  You can read more in our article “The El Nino Watch” below.

As we begin October, our Chad Watson and Steve Dole will be attending the Sial Food Exhibition being held in Paris France October 19 through October 23rd.   With food professionals attending from over 200 countries it should prove to be a great event and learning experience and we look forward to seeing many of our buyers and suppliers there.    While Steve and Chad are in Paris, others of us at Noon will be venturing down to Mexico and Guatemala to check on broccoli, cauliflower and soybean conditions.   Please give us a call if you require any of these products as Noon International always has the pulse on where to find the highest quality vegetables and fruits.

Until next time Happy Autumn!

Betty and The Noon International Team


United States:

Oregon and Washington:     Sweet corn harvest is winding down and should be fully completed by second week of October.   Sweet corn yields are reported by most at budgeted levels or slightly better.    The very favorable weather conditions experienced during the peak growing months earlier this summer have resulted in a high quality pack with improved recovery rates and good taste profiles.   Some growers are reporting that due to such favorable weather conditions the necessity to spray pesticides was low this season.
Dice carrot harvest has begun and no adverse conditions to report.   Harvest should be completed by middle November.

Northwest potato crop is underway, however higher temperatures this season will result in lower yields by as much as 20%.  There are reports of low solids and other heat related issues for Colombia Basin potato’s this season which may reduce yields even further.

Oregon and Washington blueberry season is now completed.    Crop size this season was a bit above average due to favorable weather conditions.   Quality of the blueberries was fantastic which resulted in much of the crop going to fresh market.

Sweet Corn production in the Midwest region of the U.S. is fully completed.   Reports of cooler weather during the final stages of the harvest will result in lower yields, smaller kernel size, and possibly some shortages.

Mexico:   Heavy rain in September was sporadic so much of the broccoli and cauliflower harvest improved in both yield and quality.   Much of the raw material now being received is excellent quality.

Guatemala:  Weather has reverted to more normal conditions, with decent amounts of rain received in the month of September providing more normal broccoli yields.   This is very good news after the dry season lasted longer than usual and was actually one of the driest in 30 years!  Guatemala will feel the impact in their annual broccoli yields due to the extreme dry season, but hope that they can minimize the reductions and make up some of the loss by increasing plantings for the next crop cycle.

Ecuador:   Broccoli supply could become even tighter, with Russia emerging as a competing buyer of the major Ecuadorian crop.   With the political stand – off in Europe between Russian and many in the EU, a Russian ban on many EU exports including Spanish, Italian and Polish broccoli , will likely result in more Russian demand in Ecuador.

Chile:   Asparagus harvest has begun and to date weather conditions have been favorable and the outlook is for a good quality crop.  

Peru:  Unlike their neighbors to the South, Peru’s asparagus season is expected to be a struggle in terms of yields.  El Nino has had a strong impact on the asparagus harvest.   The warm and very wet weather will result in smaller spears and it is expected that yields will be down by 65%.   Harvest and processing, which normally begins in October, has been delayed until the first days of November in order to give the asparagus more time to grow.

Europe:   European countries are expecting a large and high quality potato season.   Counties such as Belgium continue to increase their production capacity and the favorable exchange rate to countries such as Japan has Europe poised for strong export growth.


Edamame:    Processing in China has finished.   The weather in Shandong province was favorable for the growth of the edamame resulting in good yields and quality.   Most suppliers are already contracted so inventories are low. 

Zhejiang Province also had a stable harvest and produced an average crop., however too much rain in Fujian Province resulted in a sharp decline of yields and also poor quality.

Domestic demand for edamame has resulted in low inventories.

Asparagus:   Asparagus season is completed and due to higher domestic demand as well as international demand China continues to increase asparagus acreage.

Lotus Root:  Due to cooler weather in Zhejiang province lotus root yields declined.   Prices have increased by 10% - 15% compared to last season.


Smart Chopsticks!

Chinese tech giant Baidu recently introduced a new product that could help consumers avoid unsafe foods. Kuaisou are chopsticks that can detect contamination in oil and water, as well as nutritional content. The chopsticks contain sensors and link to smartphone app to provide an alert when contamination is detected.

China has been rocked by regular food scandals in recent years. Unsafe or contaminated food, including glow-in-the-dark pork, has been sold to consumers, posing a very real public health threat. Poor regulation and huge demand lead to manufacturers cutting corners, selling expired product or using questionable practices. Quick growth chickens and expired beef have been sold in Western fast-food chains, while local businesses have been accused of painting food with inedible paint to make it look more enticing. The frequency of these food scares have caused many in China to lose trust in manufacturers.

But Baidu Kuaisou may be able to help overcome fear of contamination, and hold manufacturers accountable when their products fall short. The chopsticks will be able to detect the use of recycled oil, or “gutter oil”, which comes from slaughterhouses, sewages and fryers. Many street vendors use the cheap oil to cook foods. It is estimated that up to 14 million gallons of “gutter oil” was produced last year, and 3.5 million gallons was used in cooking for public consumption. By measuring PH level, peroxide value and temperature, Baidu claims their new chopsticks will help consumers avoid eating food made with the dangerous oil. With Kuaisou, consumers would be able to judge the quality of food immediately and provide incentive for vendors to use clean oil.

As the government fails to address the issue of food safety in China, Kuaisou offers a look at how the private sector can step in to fill the gaps. Baidu, a Chinese search-engine that is similar to Google, has not announced the cost nor the release date for the chopsticks, so it is unclear if the product will be accessible to poor, urban populations that are highly vulnerable to unsafe food. But this high-tech take on chopsticks may help Chinese consumers head-off the next food scandal.


Junk Food Marketing

With the school year under way, retailers are trying to appeal to children on the hunt for lunchbox snacks with produce marketed like junk food. Mid-Atlantic regional supermarket chains Giant Eagle and A&P,  as well as  WalMart, are rolling out campaigns aimed at drawing young eyes to the produce aisle, and with the help of Bolthouse Farms they are banking on the notion that kids nibbling carrots in the lunchroom will become a more common sight.

Bolthouse Farms, led by former Coca Cola CEO Jeff Dunn, has been on the forefront of bringing fun and colorful marketing to fruits and vegetables. The successful “extreme baby carrots” campaign, which presented the small orange veggies as junk food on par with chips, was an out-of-the-box answer to the age old conundrum of how to get kids to want to eat more veggies. Now Bolthouse Farms is looking to expand their kid-friendly offerings, with fruit smoothies, tubes of pureed fruit, and carrots packaged with seasonings like chili lime and ranch. These clever reimagining’s pack all the nutritious value of fruits and veggies in a form kids will find familiar and, hopefully, appealing.

The latest push to get kids interested comes at a crucial time, as studies have found that Americans only get about one serving of fruit and less than two servings of veggies per day. Other public service campaigns, such as First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, have targeted the sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits that threaten public health. Although it’s still unclear if kids will take to carrots flavored like Doritos, finding ways to get kids craving more nutritious treats is a critical component of developing healthier habits.

The El Nino Watch.

With autumn approaching, scientists and farmers alike are concerned about the potential of a severe El Nino this year.  Experts have predicted a 90% chance of El Nino striking this year, and the global agricultural industry is bracing itself.    El Nino refers to a change in trade winds brought about by the Southern Oscillation, which effectively reverses the surface pressure in the Pacific. As the Walker Circulation weakens and the Hadley Circulation strengthens, the change in air pressure slows or reverses the winds that bring warm air to the west, causing the ocean to warm along the coast of South America.  The warmer water in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean will set off a chain reaction of weather events around the world.

The strength of El Nino differs from year to year, and the length of time can range from nine months to multiple years.  The time between El Nino events can be as short as two years, or as long as seven. Over the past few decades the number of El Nino events observed has increased due to climate change, but there has not been a strong El Nino since 1998.

El Nino, a term coined in Peru meaning “Christ Child” due to conditions tending to peak around Christmas, can drastically change the weather patterns of affected areas, including the South Pacific, South America, and North America. This year, scientists had expected a strong El Nino, which could cause massive storms in South America and dry conditions in places like Indonesia. In the United States, many hope El Nino will bring relief to Western states, especially California, affected by a long drought. However, although there were early predictions of a severe El Nino, more recent predictions in August are calling for a more moderate El Nino this year. Recent testing of water temperatures are recording much lower than in the previous severe El Nino back in 1997/98.

In countries such as Peru, Chile and Ecuador, El Nino can have a devastating impact. The wet conditions created by El Nino can lead to flooding, landslides, and other natural disasters that make growing crops extremely difficult.  India, with no irrigation could suffer loss of much needed agriculture as monsoon season is cut short.   Although the dry conditions in California may finally be ended by increased rainfall, Australia could see stifling heat and drought.   Shortages in key crops, such as grains and cocoa, can last for years depending on the strength of the conditions. Prices around the world could be driven up if crop yields fall. Fisherman are also impacted by the change in conditions; during the strong 1997-1998 El Nino, Peru lost 80% of the country’s anchovy harvest after the fish fled the warm waters off the coast of Peru.

Depending on the strength of El Nino this season some countries may be helped and some may be hurt.   The more recent predictions of a moderate El Nino will most likely still bring about changes in weather but with less intensity and hopefully keep the level of damage to the world food supply minimal. 

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