Inside this Food Report
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Do you know how old America is this year? 234 years old! Independence Day, also commonly know as the “4’th of July”, is not really the day that America won its independence from the British Empire, but the day that is attributed to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Although it is said the majority of the delegates actually signed the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776! On July 2, 1776 the Continental Congress voted to declare its independence from Great Britain and July 4th is the day that Thomas Jefferson’s wording of the Declaration of Independence was approved.
In the early years Independence Day was marked by parades and speeches. It is also said that many towns during 1776 took place in mock funerals depicting the death of King George, which was a symbol of the end of monarchy and tyranny and the rebirth of liberty. The modern day celebrations are a little more festive than in 1776! Today the “4th of July” is commemorated with time spent with family and friends, fireworks, barbecues and picnics and at the core of these celebrations is always food: hot dogs, hamburgers and sweet berries such as blueberries and strawberries. What great colors for the 4th of July! Of course we cannot forget the all time favorite corn on the cob, hot off the grill.... oh, how delicious!
Not only does the “4’th of July” commemorate America’s independence from Great Britain, it also serves as a starting point for our regions “independence” from spring and the transition into summer. As Cliff Mass, a respected Northwest meteorologist and University of Washington professor, pointed out in his blog, during the first few days of July there is roughly a 30% chance of rain. By the last week in July there is only an 8% chance. With the cool and wet weather we have been experiencing in June in the Northwest the sun and warmth will certainly be a welcomed change in July.
We hope your 4th of July celebrations find you in sunshine with your family and friends and let us not forget all the men and women in our armed forces that sacrifice their lives so that we can continue to live in freedom. Happy Birthday America!
Lily and Betty
United States: Sweet and tart cherry crops across much of the US will be lower than usual following a high yielding year in 2009. The USDA forecasts that Washington State will produce 160,000 tons of sweet cherries this year, down 35% from last year. Overall US sweet cherry production is forecasted at 315,400 tons, down 27% from 2009. US tart cherry production will be down 46% from 2009 at 195 million lbs. The USDA reported, “A late frost, cold wet spring, and tree fatigue from last year’s extra heavy crop negatively impacted production, which is about half of last year’s level.
The Pacific Northwest has been experiencing cool and wet weather much of June. This has resulted in a delayed pea harvest with lower than average yields. Corn plantings, which take place March through The first of July, is also delayed due to the cool and wet weather.
Following damage to a variety of crops including tomatoes in Florida during the 2009/2010 winter growing season, the tomato industry is now faced with an abundance of tomatoes this season. Tomato crops in Florida delayed by the freeze early in the season began to produce in May around the same time that California also began producing tomatoes. The Wall Street Journal reported in June, “Florida farmers who fetched more than $30 a few months ago for a 25-pound box of round fresh field-grown tomatoes…are now getting $5 or less.”
Mexico: Mexican producers of broccoli and cauliflower in central Mexico started their official rainy season during June. Production of broccoli and cauliflower continues with the majority of raw product now coming from the Puebla and Hidalgo areas. As of the end of June processors were reporting excessive heat, which has affected the quality of some of the broccoli and cauliflower, however there is still good quality broccoli available.
Guatemala: Broccoli producers in Guatemala are preparing to begin processing broccoli in the middle or end of July. To date the earthquake, volcanic eruption, and tropical storm which battered Guatemala at the end of May has not had far reaching negative effects on broccoli production. Barring additional natural disasters broccoli processors are confident that production will begin during the middle of July.
Peru: Asparagus processors in Peru are reporting a lack of product available for processing. They say this is due to the majority of Peruvian asparagus currently going to the fresh market. By mid-July more asparagus for frozen processing should be available.
Australia: Australian famers in Victoria are preparing for what many say could be the worst locust plague in 50 years. Rain in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia have allowed locusts to lay millions of eggs which are dormant during the winter and should hatch this September. Locusts eat three times their own body weight every day and are a major threat to Australia’s main grain growing area.
New Zealand: Psyllid problems continue to persist for New Zealand potato growers although research and containment efforts continue.
Thailand: The Thai government has encouraged rice growers to postpone main crop rice planting until the end of July due to rains forecasted later than usual. Generally rice planting is completed May and harvesting occurs in October.
Europe: Heavier rain than usual has negatively affected the strawberry crop in Poland. Lack of strawberries could put pressure on fruit processors in Poland during 2010. Prices are reported to have increased 130-200%.
China: Heavy rain has affected Southern China for the last part of June creating flood and landslide conditions. Guizhou, Hunan, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, and Fujian have all been affected.
Generally weather in China this year has not been conducive to growing good high yielding crops. It is now green bean and soybean harvest in central coast China and yields are expected to be down by 30 – 40 pct on green beans and soybeans. All China crops have been affected by adverse weather conditions and prices are much higher than usual.
The Ministry of Agriculture in China asked for a rapid harvest of the nation’s wheat crops. Extreme cold last winter coupled with rainy conditions this spring and summer have pushed back harvest dates later than normal forcing producers to harvest quickly or risk losing their crop. China’s four major grain growing regions, Henan, Shandong, Anhui, and Hebei, are expected to produce near average yields.
Mung bean prices in China plummeted nearly 50 percent in the beginning of June. This dramatic drop in pricing is said to be both due to State regulation and market adjustments.
Is Europe Changing Itís Attitude on GMO?
The consumption and trade of Genetically Modified (GM) food has been a hot food safety topic across the world in recent years with public influence shaped by many conflicting facts coming from a wide variety of sources. Non government organizations, government agencies, universities, companies with interest in promoting genetically modified food, activists, and bloggers, have all weighed in on the subject of GM food. In Europe in particular, public opinion has been particularly opposed to the import of GM crops from foreign sources and the use of GM crops in food intended for human consumption. Is this attitude in Europe changing, and what are the most recent European Union policies regarding GM crops?
Simply put, GM crops are more accepted by the public in the United States than in Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world. A study first published in 1999 and subsequently supported by further research concluded that Americans are decidedly less bothered by GM food production than are Europeans. This attitude can be seen in European import policy which forbids the importation of all but a select handful of GM crops which are not intended for human consumption. Currently in Europe there is a push to try and lessen the stringent regulations surrounding GM crops. Marianne Fischer Boel, a member of the European Commission Responsible for Agriculture and Rural Development, said in a speech in Brussel’s in October 2009, “Month after month, GMO’s receive a clean bill of health from the EFSA(European Food Safety Authority), but then get stuck because Member States cannot reach any qualified majority, in favor or against, when it comes to the vote on a proposal for authorization.”
There are signs that the European attitude toward GM crops is changing. In early March, 2010, the European Commission approved the cultivation of the Amflora variety genetically modified potato. The potato is not intended for consumption, but will be used for its starch producing characteristics to create adhesive. It is a sign that slowly the European Union is opening up to the possibility of less stringent regulations surrounding the trade of genetically modified food products. This is an exciting prospect for US producers of GM agricultural products because, as David Eddy pointed out in the June 2010 issue of American Vegetable Grower, “More than half of the world’s GM crop acreage is right here in the U.S., and most of us [Americans] have been eating products made with GM crops for years.” Possible future changes in European import policy could give a wide variety of US produced GM crops a new market.
While there is no conclusive data, there is very little scientific evidence supporting GM food as harmful to human health. Additionally many proponents of GM technology argue that in many cases GM food is also more sustainable to grow requiring less pesticides and less water. An interesting fusion of genetic science and sustainable agricultural practice was reported in the March 2010 issue of Forbes Asia. In 2009 a genetically modified flood resistant rice was introduced for cultivation use in Bangladesh with the hope of using less pesticides and fertilizers while at the same time producing higher yields. Perhaps this marriage of science and sustainability is the future of GM crops. But for further development and research into the safety of genetically modified sustainable crops to occur, nations with strict policies towards the trade of GM crops must continue to consider opening up markets in which such crops can be sold and research can be funded.
Strawberries are a Nutrient Powerhouse!
Humans have been eating strawberries for a long time. The first garden variety strawberry cultivars were not bred until the mid 1740’s in England, but for many centuries before that wild strawberries were harvested across Europe with very little effort made to cultivate them. While the origin of the name is not entirely clear, many believe that the name strawberry is derived from the old European harvesting practice of stringing the berries onto straw. Recently berries in general are being seen in publications and advertisements touting them as potent nutrient sources which can help prevent chronic diseases. Strawberries certainly fit this description and are packed with a variety of healthy nutrients.
According to the California Strawberry Commission strawberries contain large amounts of fiber, potassium, antioxidants, folate, and a variety of phenolic compounds associated with anti cancer properties. In particular the phenolic traits of strawberries have been the focus of contemporary studies into the nutritive value of the fruit. The specific phenol that is the focus of much research is anthocyanin. Anthocyanins are associated with plants containing red, purple, or blue pigments. Anthocyanins could potentially protect against cancer and neurological diseases associated with aging, and diabetes.
Frozen strawberries can retain many of the nutrients they have while fresh. Especially important in maintaining the nutritive qualities of strawberries is the temperature at which they are processed and stored. Strawberries processed and stored at temperatures below -18C maintain around 90% of their vitamin C content when compared to fresh strawberries. Also important to nutrient content is the variety and cultivation conditions of the strawberries. A study from the Department of Biochemistry and Food Chemistry at the University of Turku in Finland found that different varieties and different growing conditions had statistically significant effects on vitamin C levels in strawberries. Warmer and drier growing seasons also produced more nutritious fruit than wet cool seasons.
It is now strawberry season in the Pacific Northwest and as the weather warms and summer deepens more fruit will be harvested. So enjoy delicious strawberries frozen or fresh and remember you are eating a nutritious fruit that tastes great and is incredibly healthy.
The Mexican Trucking Dispute; Will It End?
It was with high hopes that American businesses observed Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s May 19th, 2010 visit to the United States. His visit marked over a year in which 89 American products have been subjected to a 10%-45% retaliatory tax worth an estimated $2.5 billion on products ranging from fittings for Venetian blinds to frozen potatoes. The March 16, 2009 implementation of the additional duties was in response to Congress ending a Trucking Pilot Program from September 6, 2007, which allowed up to 100 trucking firms from Mexico to transport cargo across the Mexican border into the United States. With immigration laws and border violence consuming talks between Mexico and the US, very little progress was made concerning retaliatory tariffs during the May meeting between the US and Mexico.
In February 2009 Congress voted to end funding for the inspections associated with the Trucking Pilot Program, in effect ending the program itself. Congress made this decision under intense pressure from the Teamsters union which was concerned about the competition the Trucking Pilot Program would force on US truckers. The Teamsters union voiced concerns about Mexican truckers not meeting US trucking safety regulations. Yet a March 2009 report from the Congressional Research Service said that, “The data indicates that Mexican trucks and drivers have a comparable safety record to U.S. truckers.” Nevertheless US refusal to allow Mexican trucks on US roads persists even after Mr. Calderon’s visit, and Mexico continues with their retaliatory tariffs on billions of dollars of US product.
How has the agricultural industry in the US been affected? In Washington State alone potato processors have seen reduced frozen potato sales that in combination with reduced domestic consumption of frozen potato product, has made for what ConAgra officials have described as a “…soft market for frozen potato products…”. In a March 25, 2010 Washington State Potato Commission news release concerning a recent frozen potato processing plant closure in Washington State, Director of Trade Matt Harris said, “The resulting 20 percent tariff on US French fries exported to Mexico has cost Washington State over 32 million pounds of export business with Mexico at a value of over $15 million.” In response to the economic cost of the retaliatory tariffs on state industry, Washington State Senator Patty Murray sent President Barack Obama a letter on June 1st urging resolution of the dispute and pointing out that, “…the Mexican tariff on potatoes has caused U.S. frozen potato shipments to decline by 50 percent while shipments of frozen potatoes from Canada to Mexico have increased by 60 percent.”
We hope progress will soon be made by the Mexican and US governments to try and remedy this situation. It is troubling that current media attention is more focused on Arizona’s recent and controversial immigration law than on an issue which has been ongoing for a year and has had serious negative affects on American jobs connected to exports to Mexico. In a time when President Obama has set a goal of doubling US exports in the next five years it seems directly contradictory to maintain policies that encourage $2.5 billion in extra tariffs with the US’s third largest export country. For the President to even begin to realize the goals of his export initiative the situation with Mexico will have to change. For this to occur, public and industry pressure on the government must be maintained. With the recent controversy over Arizona’s new immigration law, violence in Mexico and on our U.S borders and an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico all demanding public attention, it seems that the U.S government will be forced to place the Mexican trucking issue on the back burner for the time being.
Did you Know...
America spent more than $4.7 million on American flags in 2007 and that $4.3 million worth of those flags were made in China?
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