Inside this Food Report
Can it be September already? The summer in the Northwest has always been the busiest time of year for the Noon International Team which seems to make time fly by, however I did manage to sneak in a few days of summer relaxation when I visited some dear and long time friends in Hood River, Oregon. Hood River, Oregon is located on the mighty and breathtaking Columbia River and sits at the foot of Mt. Hood . It is also sister city to Tsuruta, Japan! My friends recently built a house in Hood River Oregon and they chose to build the house in a manner sensitive to the sustainability concerns of our era by using reclaimed wood and uniquely insulated walls designed to keep the building cool in the summer and warm in the winter with minimal artificial cooling and heating needed!
It was impossible not to notice the impact of sustainable thinking everywhere I turned during my mini vacation in Hood River. Driving through the beautiful landscaped hills and valleys I noticed how many organic farms and orchards had seemingly popped up in the last ten years capitalizing on society’s increasing awareness of the importance of sustainable practices in everything from building to agriculture. Apples, pears, wine grapes….all sustainstable. We stopped to buy organic peaches and made a “sustainable” peach cobbler. Just heavenly!
Sustainability in business is not without risk. One humorous anecdote I recently read had to do with Frito Lay introducing their Sun Chips in a new 100 % plant based compostable bag. Very quickly after the new packaging was released consumers were complaining that the bag itself was too loud. That’s right…too loud! Within a few weeks there was a Facebook group called "SORRY BUT I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THIS SUN CHIPS BAG" with over 30,000 members! While many consumers will sacrifice a quiet bag for more sustainable packaging, this particular product probably won’t be sold in movie theatres any time soon!
In our article this month titled “Eating Ethical Edamame!” we are excited to introduce one supplier close to the Mongolian border in China who is serious about incorporating the tenants of sustainability in their organic edamame and other vegetables they produce. We look forward to bringing you more information regarding this supplier’s progress and products very soon.
Have a wonderful September and we hope you have time to enjoy the last few warm days of summer this month and remember to continue to think about how everyone can incorporate sustainable practices into their lives…and their businesses!
Lily and Betty
United States: Blueberry harvest in Northern Washington and Oregon is completed. As previously reported due to poor pollination caused by cool and wet weather in the spring most growers experienced low yields and smaller size fruit. Prices have risen significantly this season due to smaller yields and a very robust fresh market.
Raspberry production in Washington State is finished and post harvest cleanup is underway. Raspberry yields this year have been lower than average.
In Yakima Valley pear harvest has started and apple growers are preparing their fields for apple harvest in a few weeks. Yield and quality look to be average.
In Washington State potato growers planted 10,000 acres less than in 2009. It is reported that a large part of the decreased acreage occurred to early harvest varieties which generally have lower yields than their late season counterparts. Potato yields in Washington State are expected to approach the record set in 2007. Early season yields have been strong with excellent quality and larger than average size.
Sweet corn harvest in Western Washington and Oregon began in early August, approximately 2 weeks later than usual due to the cool and wet spring. Most suppliers are approximately 1/3 through their harvest. Yields are expected to be down approximately 8 pct as the cooler weather in May/June delayed maturity. Some suppliers are noticing smaller cob size and smaller kernel size this season .
Green Bean harvest is completed in Washington State. Quality has been good and yields have been average.
In the Midwest weather has been rainy. While in most parts of the Midwest crops are in fine condition, some harvest schedules have been affected by wet weather. Harvest is expected to be slightly later than usual this season.
Canada: Blueberry growers in Canada have continued to report the same conditions as their United States counterparts. It has been a difficult season. Poor pollination due to a cool and wet spring, heat in the middle of August, and unique pest concerns have resulted in lower than average yields. Raspberry growers have experienced low yields as well. Both blueberry and raspberry prices are well beyond the 2009 price level.
Eastern Canada potato crops are also in a difficult position. Alberta’s processing potato crop has had a bad year due to wet weather throughout the season. Some estimates put Alberta potato deliveries as much as 40% short of contract volumes. In addition what is left to be harvested is at least 10 days behind schedule .
British Columbia potato harvest has begun. Even though wet weather hampered planting, the crop is reportedly in good condition.
Australia: Queensland is waging a preemptive war on locusts before locust peak season in September arrives. Locust plagues are of extreme concern in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, as well as Queensland. Biosecurity Queensland has targeted locusts throughout the winter and has reportedly controlled 55 swarms covering nearly 13,000 hectares of land. Biosecurity Queensland has been focusing spray efforts in western Queensland and are going to move east to the highland and Darling Down regions.
Europe: Widely reported droughts and wildfires have inspired widespread and heavily publicized concerns about the world wheat supply. The Russian government has banned the export of wheat at least until the end of the year. Some speculation has said that the current Russian wheat crises will affect world food supplies. According to the US Foreign Agricultural Service on Russia, “The heat has contributed to a decrease in potato and vegetable crops…”
France has had a good wheat growing season and is in a position to take up the wheat supply slack created by the drought in Russia. The extent of France’s ability to take up the slack remains to be seen.
Peru: Asparagus supplies from Peru are reported as tight. The shortage in supply is due to cold weather which reduced yields and has driven up price. Weather is expected to warm in September which should bring prices back down, however there is some speculation that prices will not see any decrease until later into the Fall season.
Chile: Chile has exported 20% more blueberries in 2009/2010 then during the 2008/2009 season. Chilean producers initially expected more fruit from this season but a cool start and the February earthquake slowed production down. While the vast majority of the growth was in the fresh sector, the frozen sector grew as well.
Stonefruit production in Chile decreased this season when compared to last. Adverse weather such as warmer than usual temperatures during the winter months affected budding. Colder than usual temperature in the spring with frosts during the flowering stage also compounded problems.
Guatemala: Broccoli season continues in Guatemala with broccoli yields slightly depressed due to more rain than usual in mid-August. Processors are still able to fulfill existing orders but might need slightly more time than usual to harvest and process high quality broccoli. Rain should lessen through September and October.
China: Chinese government statistics show that this year over 266,000 hectares of farmland is being used to grow autumn grain crops nationwide. About two thirds of this autumn output is not guaranteed to produce yields as plant diseases and pests spread by flood waters have posed problems.
Although rain and mudslides still plague Yunnan province in southern China, the state warns that drought in the coming weeks could affect the same area. Reservoirs and dams destroyed by mudslides could add difficulty to the fight against drought. Crops ranging from corn to blueberries could be affected if hot dry weather does stay as the government has warned.
In northern China Gansu province, the same province devastated by a huge landslide earlier this month, apple harvest is reportedly off to a slower start than most years due to a cooler than usual blossoming period.
The Hot Future of the Chinese Cold Chain
The Wall Street Journal reported in mid-August that this year it looks like China will surpass Japan as the second largest economy in the world. With this economic position, international exporters will increasingly look to the developing Chinese economy for new market opportunities. For suppliers of fresh and frozen food products, indeed any product that requires strict temperature and humidity regulation, this could pose a problem. Currently in China the cold chain logistical system is undeveloped if present at all. Huang Jiujiu, department director of the China Federation of Logistics and purchasing, has pointed out that national cold chain standards have only been a topic since 2006, and that since then over 200 standards have been created mainly by the government and involved industry. With the help of the United States government and businesses with interests in China, the cold chain in China is set for rapid development in the next decade.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China recently revealed that 20% of fresh fruit and vegetables, 15% of seafood, and 30% of fresh meat are spoiled upon delivery. This translates to an estimated $147 million dollars in lost product each year in China. While in Japan, the US, and Europe, cold chain logistic procedures cover 95% of fruit and vegetables consumed inside the country, in China some estimates put this number as low as 5%. In response the Chinese government has issued a five year plan which will attempt by 2015 to set up a cold chain logistic system for the country to handle 30% of fresh meat, 20% of fresh fruit and vegetables, and 36% of fresh seafood. For frozen food items the plan aims to increase cold chain coverage to 50% of frozen meat, 30% of frozen fruit and vegetables, and 65% of frozen seafood.
To pave the way for US food companies interested in cashing in on the consumer power of the largely untapped inland Chinese populations, the US government is also assisting the Chinese government with developing a reliable cold chain. In addition to helping access inland populations, a reliable cold chain in China would also make food imported to the US from China safer. At the end of July, Eric Trachtenberg, the director of the agricultural trade office at the US embassy in Beijing, met with Huang Jiujiu to discuss a mutually beneficial cold chain development plan encouraging US businesses to sell cold chain logistics equipment to Chinese businesses. If cold chain logistic development is successful pharmaceutical companies could also see benefits by being able to reliably send temperature sensitive products to inland China. For US agricultural and pharmaceutical businesses, while the Chinese economy is getting hot, the way the products reach the consumer is cooling way down.
Eating Ethical Edamame!
Eating healthy and smart can mean more than just choosing the most nutritious and delicious foods available, it can also mean choosing foods that are grown in a responsible fashion. Sustainability has become the most recent buzzword associated with agricultural responsibility, and both organic and conventional producers around the world have been implementing Good Agricultural Practice(GAP) plans which strive to incorporate the ideals of sustainability to maintain cost effective production that brings high quality produce to tables around the world. One edamame supplier near the Mongolian border in China has incorporated the tenants of sustainability in their organic edamame production, as well as in other vegetables they produce.
This particular farm uses a mutually beneficial relationship with a local livestock supplier to help meet heating, lighting, and even fertilizing needs in a sustainable manner. During the cold winter months in Northern China livestock must be kept warm and facilities must be lighted. To do this in a sustainable fashion this innovative company trades feed corn and vegetable production waste with the livestock company. They then harness the methane contained in the animal waste to produce the heat and light for greenhouses during the frigid winter. In the summer, when the weather is warm, the vegetable company uses fermented composted animal waste from the livestock farm mixed with organic vegetable and plant matter to fertilize their entirely organically grown products. By the way, their organic products are also free of potentially harmful pesticides and pesticide metabolites. While this company does produce a variety of vegetables their main item is high quality organic edamame.
Organic edamame has a huge number of well documented health benefits and nutritional properties. Edamame, organic or conventional, is incredibly high in protein at around 11 grams of protein per half cup. Edamame is also one of the few vegetable sources that has all nine of the essential amino acids that the body cannot make! In addition, edamame is full of fiber and heart healthy isoflavones and is good for bones because it contains high amounts of calcium. All these nutritive qualities combined with the sustainable way in which the beans are grown, make this Chinese edamame particularly attractive to health and sustainable farming conscious consumers in the United States and around the world. Undoubtedly in the future more international suppliers will adopt sustainable practices to bring added value and lower costs to their food production operations.
Current Trends of Cargo Theft in Mexico
The cargo theft situation in Mexico during the second quarter of 2010 had some similarities to cargo thefts in the United States, but the modus operandi of cargo criminals in Mexico was very different. According to the Freight Watch International Second Quarter 2010: Mexico Cargo Theft Report, “Cargo theft frequency in Mexico continues to be extraordinarily high, especially when compared to other countries in North America.” The federal district around Mexico City experienced the most instances of cargo theft at around 58 occurrences of theft in the second quarter of 2010. Guanajuato and Coahuila had the lowest instances of cargo theft of states reporting theft activity with 11 and 10 instances respectively during the second quarter.
The Freight Watch second quarter report also pointed out five trends that have been developing in Mexican cargo theft in the second quarter of 2010. These trends are:
These tactics make cargo theft in Mexico extremely dangerous and of particular concern. To combat cargo theft shippers can employ a variety of techniques, all of which are also available to shippers in the United States. Tracking devices, real time monitoring, and even armed escorts for high value shipments can go a long way in preventing theft and responding immediately to theft when it occurs.
Did you Know...?
On August 18th 2010 the Mexican Secretariat of the Economy published a release changing retaliatory import tariffs on 26 of the 99 US agricultural and industrial products originally taxed in March. The list includes 54 agricultural products worth an estimated $1.7 billion. The updated list still totals 99 products.
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