Inside this Food Report



VOLUME 6
ISSUE 4


April 1, 2015

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Hello Everyone,

Well Spring has sprung in most parts of the U.S.A. and farmers and processors are gearing up for the summer harvest time.   Acreage has been contracted and crops are going into the ground.  Here in Washington and Oregon state about 2/3 of the pea crop is planted and harvest is expected to begin in June.   Blueberries, raspberries and cherries are expected to harvest a bit early this season with good yields and quality as the mild and warmer winter in the Northwest has brought an early bloom to these fruits.  The fresh strawberry season in California has already commenced a bit earlier than usual, and we feel as summer is just around the corner!

We have begun to contract this month for the upcoming harvest and expect negotiations to be tough this season due to the strong dollar.   Noon International will do all we can to bring a competitive price to our buyers.  

As we write this we just returned from a few days visiting processors in the Midwest where we enjoyed an impromptu snowstorm.    As a native New Yorker, but living on the west coast for over 35 years, I must say my snow driving skills were a bit rusty!   Next we are off to Japan where I have been told we may catch the cherry blossoms in peak bloom  - that is always a special treat and one of the things I love most about Japan. 

We wish everyone a happy start to spring and a successful planting, harvesting, and contracting season ahead.

All The Best

Betty and The Noon International Team

CropVeggies

United States: Northwest peas are approximately two thirds of the way planted.   Harvest for most suppliers in the Northwest will commence beginning June.

Northwest potato contracts are now set with growers and planting is taking place.
With the U.S. dollar at its highest level in more than 10 years coupled with lost sales resulting from the recent dock workers slowdown we most likely will see a surplus of potatoes this season.

Winter and spring weather in the Pacific Northwest has been unusually warm which may bring on the berry crop sooner than later.    Blueberry plant development is early due to the warm weather and Duke variety is more than 5% bloom.   Other varieties such as Reka and Partriot are blooming early as well.  There has been no visible winter cold damage so potential berry crops have a good chance for excellent yield potential this coming season.    Cherry trees in Washington and Oregon are also blooming early so we expect to see an earlier start to the cherry season as well.

California strawberries are also expected to be ready for harvest a few weeks early due to warmer than usual winter and spring temperatures.   

California still struggles under drought conditions.   Farmers report they will leave as much as one million acres fallow, which is nearly twice the area that went unplanted last year.    California’s water board has put tighter water restrictions in place and California’s governor has proposed a 1 billion dollar drought relief plan.    In a normal year California’s snow pack would supply 30% of California’s water requirements. Snow pack in California this season is at a historic low.

Drought conditions in the upper Midwest, including most of Minnesota is in a moderate drought condition.   Pea planting has begun.

Mexico:   A cold front and unseasonable heavy rain and hail in middle March resulted in lost broccoli crops in the Michoacan area.   The Guanajuato area was not as hard hit but the unusual weather pattern for this time of year did result in lower yields of both broccoli and cauliflower.   The weather has now turned more favorable and volumes are getting back to normal levels.

Guatemala:  Broccoli season winding down with limited volume available.   This years broccoli harvest in Guatemala is anticipated to end approximately 3 weeks earlier than usual which brings the completion of harvest to the end of this month. Edamame harvest now completed with excellent quality being reported.

Peru:  Mango season is wrapping up and freezing should be completed this month.    Most suppliers had to prorate contracts as yields came in almost 75% lower than usual due to the higher temperatures caused by the El Nino conditions.   Avocado freezing should begin this month and processors are being very cautious and budgeting 50% less volume than usual.

Chile:  Berry harvest now completed in Chile.   This season’s crop was average with good yields and quality.

Brazil:  Months of rain will hurt the country’s grape harvest.  

Argentina:   Peach season in Argentina is now completed with a good crop reported.

China:  

Zhejiang Province:   Broccoli and Cauliflower harvest is now completed with average yields and quality.   Blooming has begun for both Pea pods and sugar snap peas.  
Rape flower prices increased by about 30 – 40% due to low yields this season.  Processing is now completed.   Both edamame and green bean seeding has commenced.

Fujian Province:   Prices on water chestnuts remain stable.   Production will finish this month.   Strawberry season is now beginning.

Shandong Province:   Both asparagus season and spinach season has begun.   Spinach harvest is expected to be good this year and prices seem to be decreasing.   China produces spinach in both spring and fall, however spring is the larger crop with the higher quality product.   Due to the large demand of asparagus from Japan available volumes are low.


The Original Milk

Shoppers in California are soon going to be introduced to a “new” kind of milk, and it might just change the dairy industry. The A2 Milk Company, a New Zealand based company, will begin a possible United States rollout of their milk in California, a move that’s causing quite a stir. The buzz is with good reason: A2 milk has proteins that could make it a safe alternative to drinking raw milk.

The name “A2” comes from a protein that had been bred out of most dairy cows due to a single-cell mutation which occurred in Europe about 10,000 years ago.   Heavy producing cows, like the ones that have become most common in Europe and the United States, produce milk that only contains the A1 protein. But this “new” A2 milk includes the rare protein that was once in all milk, and it could make milk easier to digest.

In the United States, around 23 percent of people are concerned they have a dairy intolerance, but only about 5 percent of the population is diagnosed as lactose intolerant. This gap in perceived intolerance and actual intolerance could be due to discomfort caused by the hard-to-digest A1 protein. By breeding cows that produce the A2 protein in addition to the A1 protein,  that irritation-causing A1 protein becomes easier to break down.

This could mean changes to the declining milk industry. Sales have been down as alternatives such as soymilk sweep the market. But if A2 milk is an alternative that could alleviate discomfort for those sensitive to the A1 protein, those trends could change. There’s been a lot of interest in A2 milk already, and the sales of raw milk suggest there is demand for “better” milk. But raw milk, which is unpasteurized and can carry food-borne illness such as E. Coli, is widely considered unsafe for consumption. A2 milk, which is pasteurized, could be the change those consumers have been waiting for. 

The rollout of A2 milk in California will take place over the course of 3 years, and will cost around $20 million. If it’s a success, the operation will expand allowing U.S. dairy farmers to become certified for production.


A Brand New Vegetable!

15 years in the making, British vegetable seed house, Tozer Seeds, is ready to introduce its creation, Kalettes to the U.S. market.   What you ask are Kalettes?  Kalettes are a non GMO vegetable crossing brussel sprout and kale.   The inspiration behind this idea was to create a kale type of vegetable which tasted great, looked appealing and was easy to prepare and versatile as well.

Forget the dense bulbs of green that once defined the brussel sprout, and say hello to the purple and green crinkled leaves of the kalette. Although still small in size, the kalette’s leaves are open, changing both the appearance and the texture of the sprout. The flavor is a cross between both kale and brussel sprouts, a little nutty and a little sweet. They can be eaten the same way as brussel sprouts, including raw in salads or roasted and sautéed.

Kalettes are also superfoods, packing quite the nutritional punch. At only 45 calories per serving, kalettes serve up significant doses of Vitamins C and K, along with levels of Vitamins A and B6, calcium, and iron. The tiny colorful creations are also non-GMO, made with hybridization rather than genetic modification.

Although still growing in popularity and availability in the U.S., kalettes are already a hit on the U.K. market, where they are called ‘flower sprouts’. Sales so far have been high, with farmers upping production to meet the demand. The success is due in some part to the popularity of kale, a lucky break that Tozer couldn’t have foreseen when they started experimenting 20 years ago. Keep an eye out at your local supermarket and see if these colorful little sprouts make an appearance!




Australia’s Banana Industry In Peril

Banana growers in Queensland, Australia are facing a potentially industry-threatening contamination of Panama Tropical Race 4 (TR4), which could cripple the region’s banana trade. Although just one farm has been found to have the plant disease at this time, quarantines and testing of possible other contaminated farms are ongoing. But research has been halted due to substantial rainfall that could carry TR4 to other areas. In the meantime, authorities are working to put a plan in place that could head off the catastrophic economic consequences of broader contamination.

TR4, also known as Panama Disease, is a fungus that attacks the roots of the banana plant, causing wilting and death. There is currently no known way of combatting the disease, and fungicide has no impact on it. Banana plants, which are bred asexually by cutting from a matured plant much the same way rose cuttings are grown, are highly susceptible to the disease because of their close genetic makeup. Once in the soil, TR4 can linger for up to 30 years.

Australia already faced one fight with TR4, in the Northern Territory in the 1990s. That outbreak decimated the banana industry in the area, and soil from the region remains a threat to the banana industry in the rest of the country. Now a similar fate is threatening the Tully area’s 200 banana farms. Queensland produces about 93% of Australia’s banana crop, leaving the $600 million Australian banana industry hanging in the balance.

But research has had to halt for the time being following torrential rains in the area, and researchers are concerned that the disease could be spreading via run-off as well as soil tracked from farm to farm. There are no clear explanations for how TR4 made it to Queensland, which raises fears of further contamination.

For now, researchers and the government are working to find ways to head-off further spread of the disease and assist farmers being impacted by the full quarantine of the area. Until a solution is found, the future of the banana industry in Australia is unclear.


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