Inside this Food Report
Happy New Year! Wow, another year gone by. Why is it the older you get the faster the years go by?
December was a whirlwind of a month for Noon International. Between working, travelling and celebrating the holidays I believe we all need a good rest. However you know the expression, “there is no rest for the weary”!
The Noon International holiday season went off without a hitch! Betty traveled down to California to join Danville in their holiday festivities at the beautiful and festive Lafayette Park Hotel. Everyone enjoyed a wonderful dinner, with wine, games, prizes, and of course karaoke! The Karaoke competition was extremely tough this year and we had a three-way tie! Then it was time for Lily, Ed, and Jose to join Seattle for another holiday celebration. We dined at the II Terrazzo Carmine Restaurant in Pioneer Square for a delicious holiday meal. Gifts were opened, wine and champagne were poured, and the restaurant prepared a tasty Italian feast. Everyone had a great evening, although the morning after was a little rougher for some than others...
Ski season here in Washington State is in full swing with all resorts open by December 1st. The La Nina winter has been good for one thing and that has been a consistent snowpack in the mountains, which will in turn be good for irrigation purposes come spring and summer planting and harvest season. After all, enough water is an essential part of growing the fruits and vegetables we send to Japan and other parts of the world.
You should have seen the rain in December! It was incredible. A “pineapple express” warm and wet front brought 2.2 inches of rain on December 12th. Many of you have driven past Snoqualmie Falls with Noon representatives on our way to visit production facilities in Eastern Washington. To see what Snoqualmie Falls looks like on a normal day click here.
To see Snoqualmie Falls on December 12th click here.
Wow, that is a lot of water!
Old Man Winter has affected even warm and sunny Florida. Early December freezes wreaked havoc on crops intended for the holiday season such as beans and strawberries. Continuing into January more hard freezes could further threaten an already depressed citrus crop.
The last few months we have seen quite a shift in sourcing for many commodities. Stockpiling and holding of commodities such as garlic and carrots in China, a troubled harvest season in both Europe and China, and lower yields of certain South American crops, have sent many companies scrambling to source products elsewhere.
We hope that everyone had a joyous holiday season and has managed to get through December in good form and is ready to begin the New Year energized! Noon International appreciates all of our customer's and supplier's continued support, and we wish you a healthy and prosperous New Year.
Lily and Betty
United States: Major winter vegetable growing areas in Arizona, California, and Florida have been affected by a variety of inclement weather and pest problems.
In Florida during mid December two separate bouts of freezing weather in ten days have created a tight supply situation and raised the prices of strawberries, celery, bell peppers, green beans, and tomatoes. Citrus production was largely unaffected by the freezes as the majority of citrus production is done in Southern Florida where temperatures are generally warmer. A full accounting of damage to Florida tomatoes will not be available until the end of December or early January.
Prices for cauliflower and broccoli are higher than normal. Early season damage in California and Arizona to cruciferous crops such as cauliflower and broccoli by the bagrada beetle, combined with significant amounts of rain and cool weather in the region have limited supplies of raw broccoli and cauliflower product coming from the area. Sourcing efforts have largely shifted to central and northern Mexican growing areas.
Mexico: Due to unfavorable weather conditions and pest problems in the United States, American importers of broccoli and cauliflower have turned their sourcing efforts to central and northern Mexico. This shift has placed pressure on broccoli and cauliflower farmers in Mexico to sell product at high prices into the fresh United States market. Frozen processors in Mexico are experiencing a shortage of raw material as product that was previously contracted for processing is now sold into the fresh market. Making matters more difficult for processors the weather in central and northern Mexico has been cooler than average affecting yields.
Guatemala: Cool weather in mid December has predominated in Guatemala limiting the amount of broccoli that can be shipped from the area. Farmers have also decreased broccoli acreage in favor of corn plantings which have been fetching high prices recently. From December onward broccoli production is also competing with okra, brussel sprout, zucchini, and melon/fruit production. All in all there are very limited amounts of broccoli now coming out of Guatemala. This situation will not change until end July when Guatemala is back into their peak growing season of broccoli.
Chile: Cool weather in Chile has had a favorable effect on Green Pea harvest. Chilean producers are reporting a good green pea season with above average yields and large amounts of high quality product although pricing appears high.
Asparagus season in Chile is wrapping up. Due to consistently cool and wet weather this growing season Chilean asparagus producers will not be able to send out extra shipments beyond what is already contracted. Asparagus volumes available for processing were lower this year than in previous years.
Intense rains in central Chile have produced split sets and dropping fruit for blueberry producers. Blueberry harvest has not yet begun in southern Chile but hail has negatively affected the preharvest blueberry crop. Damage has been reported as variable and loss due to hail is not expected to exceed 10% of total future harvested volume.
A 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck Southern Chile on January 2nd 385 miles south of Santiago in the city of Tirua. At this time it is widely reported that damage to property and infrastructure is minimal.
Argentina: Dry weather in Argentina has taken a severe toll on commodity corn, soy, and other grain plantings. No rain is currently forecasted for the first half of January. Argentina is predicted to be the 2nd largest exporter of corn in 2011 according to United States trade data.
New Zealand: Containment measures taken by the New Zealand government to contain an outbreak of Pseudomonas syringae pv. Actinidiae (PSA) are appearing successful. The orchards in question on the North Island in the Bay of Plenty region, have been quarantined and kiwi farmers are taking monitoring very seriously. So far eight orchards have been identified with PSA. PSA can be spread by water droplets hitting infected vines and spreading to unaffected vines and can also be spread by pruners who do not clean their tools thoroughly enough.
Australia: Intense locust egg laying is still being reported in Australia with locusts concentrated around the Murray River, the southwest of New South Wales, and North Central Victoria. Hatching of eggs laid in early December will occur later in the month and locust problems could persist until into the first months of 2011.
Heavy rain in December across coastal Australia has led to widespread flooding. It is estimated that $500 million of the approximately $3.2 billion of new South Wales winter crops have been wiped out. Wheat and cotton have been particularly affected and the full extent of the damage of the flooding is not yet known.
Thailand: More rain than average continued to fall in December, although less than the November rainfalls. Pineapple and corn canners have been affected and have less raw product to process compared to last year. Pineapple canners reportedly are only operating at 50-80% capacity depending on the amount of raw pineapple they can purchase. The Bank of Thailand put damage from the floods to the agricultural sector at $278 million USD.
China: Due to cold weather Chinese green beans have been severly damaged and the price for this item has gone up significantly.
Mushroom prices have also continued to climb during December but are appearing to stabilize.
Suppliers are reporting a complete lack of stock for edamame and mukimame from China. It has been said the shortage is so severe that main edamame and mukimame brands will not have any product to sell.
Broccoli and cauliflower have also been affected by cold weather and prices for these items have been increasing on a daily basis.
The price of water chestnuts which was anticipated to be stable has also seen increases.
The Chinese government is taking steps to limit rapid increases in food prices. The Chinese National Development and Reform committee has said that companies or people caught speculating will have their profits confiscated and could face fines of up to 1 million yuan. Hoarding of products such as garlic, potatoes, and carrots, combined with a generally low yield season on most agricultural commodities grown in China, has significantly increased the prices of food in the region. By all accounts there are major shortages of agricultural commodities across the board in China.
The USDA has estimated that Chinese apple production will be down 5% from last year at 30 million tons. Most of this reduction in production is due to a cool season which impacted flowering and pollination. The apple juice concentrate industry has been particularly hard hit. Shaanxi is the largest apple producing region in China and some estimates say that this year’s crop will be reduced as much as 20%. Fuji is the leading apple variety grown in China.
Pear harvests in China are also reduced compared to last year due to cold weather which impeded good pollination. Some sources put yield reductions as high as 10% compared to the 2009 season.
Exports of frozen strawberries from China are up over 20% from last year. If exports continue at their current rate a new frozen strawberry export record in China could be set. The current record from 2009 is 94,860 tons.
S. 510 & the Future of US Food Safety
For the past year the United States Legislature has been ardently pursuing the passage of a bill intended to increase the safety of the food consumed in the United States. While at the beginning of the year there were both a House of Representatives and Senate version of a food safety bill, the Senate food safety bill, called S. 510 or the Food Safety Modernization Act, has persevered to be the bill that has been ratified by both houses. What will S. 510 mean for food processors, importers, and exporters both in the United States and around the world.
The most dramatic changes implemented by S. 510 will be increased recall and regulatory power of the Food and Drug Administration and the development and implementation of a national food traceback system. From the perspective of food importers increasing the power of the FDA will involve stricter import standards, certification of high risk foods, the power to deny entry to any foods which lack certifications or are from foreign facilities which have refused US inspectors, and the ability to order food recalls. While many of the implementation details of the bill are still up in the air, the four points below will almost certainly make it into any bill signed into law:
The bill gives the responsibility of developing a national food traceback system to the Department of Health and Human Services, saying that in the near future after the passage of the bill, the department would be required to report and recommend techniques for better surveillance, traceability, and outbreak response for foods consumed in the United States. Food manufacturers around the world should plan increased regulation for all large scale food operations growing, processing, and importing food into the United States.
Lycopene and Tomatoes
As consumers everywhere in the world are becoming increasingly health conscious, nutritional science has turned to discovering just what compounds carry health benefits and what these health benefits exactly are. This has often led to controversy as more and more studies are done on the same compounds with differing results. One such controversial compound that was identified long ago, but has only begun to be studied in earnest in the last decade, is lycopene. Lycopene is a bright red pigmented carotene with very powerful antioxidant qualities and the vast majority of lycopene is ingested through fresh and processed tomato consumption. Claims about the health benefits of lycopene range from protection against prostate cancer, breast cancer, and pancreatic cancer, to preventing and even reversing heart disease.
There has been a wide variety of studies as well as interpretations of these studies regarding lycopene on prostate cancer. A 2009 review done by Queen’s University scientists in Belfast Ireland concerning prostate cancer concluded that, “Many questions remain unanswered, including which patient group may be most likely to benefit from lycopene supplementation, and what are the most appropriate dose, duration, and methods of supplementation.” Concerning lycopene and breast and pancreatic cancer, the United States National Institute of Health writes that there is thus far insufficient evidence to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of lycopene to combat either type of cancer. The same conclusion was drawn for the effect of lycopene on heart disease.
These conclusions should not be taken to mean that one should avoid tomatoes or other lycopene packed red fruits. To the contrary, the nutritive properties of tomatoes are well established as are the antioxidant properties of lycopene, carotene, anthocyanin, all of which are contained in fresh and processed tomatoes. It is only the direct effect of lycopene on specific diseases that is still uncertain. As the Queen’s University study also pointed out, “It is already evident from animal studies that a tomato product diet has a much greater effect [on health] than isolated lycopene.” The nutritive properties of tomatoes are not in question. Rather it is the specific effects of lycopene on specific diseases which merits further research. While current research on disease and lycopene has been promising, to really set in stone how lycopene affects diseases such as cancer, large scale double blind randomized control studies will be needed on an international level.
The RNAwesome Future of Pesticides
Pesticides have a bad reputation among consumers in the modern food market, yet without them it would be impossible to feed the masses in a cost effective manner. Lately scientists have turned to genetics to develop and test a potentially revolutionary pesticide technology known as RNA inhibitors, or RNAi’s. Inspired by widely publicized risks to human health, resistance development in pests, and the indiscriminate kill factor of modern pesticides, RNAi’s potentially offer pest specific control without the risks that currently used pesticides pose.
RNAi’s work by controlling which genes are allowed to replicate and which are not. This does not result in an immediate kill factor, but results in the genetic degradation of entire populations of insects along with their ability to reproduce. Currently the most challenging aspects of developing RNAi pesticides is identifying the genetic pathways of specific pests and finding an effective way of delivering the substance to the pests. Most laboratory analysis in the first five years of the 21st century has focused on delivering the RNAi’s through injections which is not an effective technique in agriculture. In the last five years research has shifted to developing methods by which the pesticides can be introduced through ingestion. There even exists the possibility that crops could be engineered with RNAi’s that target particularly problematic insects.
Many obstacles still exist before the commercial production of RNAi pesticides become a reality. The most exciting possibility of the future of RNAi pesticides is that they can target specific pests and leave populations of beneficial insects intact. By specifically targeting a pest population rather than a general insect population, pesticides could be developed which adhere to the increasingly popular tenants of integrated pest management. Commercial production and use of RNAi pesticides are probably a decade away, but research continues to confirm the exciting possibilities of RNAi pesticides for future use.
Did you know...?
On December 13th President Obama signed the “Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010” into law. The law is a 10 year $4.5 billion program intended to cut down on the amount of unhealthy high calorie foods served in school lunches in the United States. The law will introduce more whole grains and legumes.
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