Inside this Food Report
Japan sits along the Pacific Ring of Fire where the tectonic plates in the Earth’s crust rub against each other. A process called subduction, the Pacific Plate is being pushed down into the Earth’s interior causing it to move about 3.5 inches a year. However when that movement is not continuous the tectonic plates stick against each other and when the plates finally slip the amount of energy released can be tremendous. This is what happened on March 11, 2011 at 14:46 Japan standard time when a 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit northern Japan with a tsunami shortly thereafter destroying everything in its path.
Since Friday March 11th Noon International has been in touch with close associates and friends in Japan. Everyone is safe, thank goodness, however all are heartbroken and very concerned for all the lost and suffering people in Northern Japan.
It is a terrible tragedy for Japan and the world as we try to come to grips with the fierce intensity of Mother Nature and how truly vulnerable we all are against the elements of the earth.
Noon International believes in the spirit, strength, and resilience of the Japanese people and we know soon Japan will rebuild and overcome this enormous loss.
The most we can do now is to pray for the deceased and the survivors and continue to work to help and support the courageous people of Japan.
Please pray for Japan, click here.
Lily, Betty, and the Noon International Team
United States: As spring planting begins in the United States growers are reporting significant increases in production costs. Across the board prices for pesticides, fertilizer, seed, machinery, and fuel are all on the rise.
In the Pacific Northwest vegetable growers have started planting peas with 1/3 of acreage planted at the end of March. Weather permitting green bean and corn plantings will start to be planted during the middle to end of April. Carrot and lima bean planting will begin after April. Reports indicate that overall lima acreage is down.
Potato growers in the Columbia Basin are planting potatoes at a rapid pace since early March. Soil temperature is beginning to warm, but additional consistent warm weather and sunshine are needed to help potatoes size up for harvest. Low average inventories of potatoes in the United States during 2011 have pushed growers to plant and harvest as quickly as possible. Potato stocks in 13 major producing states are 15pct lower than last year. As of March 1st, 2011 processing in the Pacific Northwest accounted for 40 pct of total production in 2010. There is a question of whether there is sufficient raw supply to maintain processors current high rate of potato processing.
The end of March has been very wet in Salinas county, California. This region is particularly important for domestic cauliflower and broccoli production. Fields were so wet at the end of March the harvest crews could not complete their work.
Almond, plum, and peach budding has begun in California. While the end of March had cooler than average temperature no damage was reported to budding trees. Citrus harvest continues in the San Joaquin valley though cool and wet harvest conditions increased fruit decay and negatively affected harvest. California’s strawberry crop seems unscathed from cool winter conditions, however California strawberry growers expect prices to go up 10-20% this season.
Canada: Potato stocks in eastern and western Canada appear divergent. As of March 1st eastern stocks were reported as 2.34 million cwt more than one year previous, while in the west stocks were 2.79 million cwt less than 2010 inventories, or a 14.8% decline.
Lime sulfur application to British Columbia blueberries continues. Growers report that temperatures have been cool and need to warm up significantly for large scale budding to occur. Early stage buds were observed on Meeker, Bluecrop, and Duke varieties.
Mexico: Peak season in Mexico , late October through April , is going well. Broccoli and Cauliflower supply is gradually recovering from low inventory situation and current supply/production is on budget.
Central Mexico’s strawberry season ended mid March.
Guatemala: Limited supplies of Broccoli available ex Guatemala as the low season continues.
Chile: Cool wet weather in the prune growing region of Chile has significantly reduced yields and resulted in 15% of fruit being split set. Some estimates put the reduction as much as 30% less than last year. This reduction in yields comes at a difficult time as prune supplies were exhausted as of October, 2010.
Kiwi harvest in Chile continues. At the end of March the PSA kiwi disease was discovered in Chile. The extent of the disease is not yet known.
Thailand: The Foreign Agricultural Service of the United States has predicted that 2011 will be a strong year for Thai grain production despite flooding in the 2010/2011 main crop. This year it is expected there will be a reprieve from the La Nina and El Nino weather patterns of previous years. Flooding continues in southern Thailand, a major pineapple producing region. The extent of the effect of flooding on the pineapple crop is not yet clear.
New Zealand: The New Zealand kiwi industry has decided not to cut out 200 hectares of vines affected by the PSA kiwi disease. A government official concluded that efforts to contain PSA have been unsuccessful. Growers are focusing on only cutting out vines which exhibit advanced symptoms of the PSA disease. Currently around 45 hectares of vine have been cut out, this amounts to approximately 0.5% of the total crop.
Australia: Currently approximately 14% of Australia’s agricultural exports go to Japan. While it is far too early to predict actual numbers, this percentage is expected to increase significantly as Japan begins rebuilding and replacing lost food inventories following the tsunami in March.
Even though the 2010 season was very wet, Australian mango crops did very well and 2.4 million trays of the fruit were reportedly produced.
South Australia is expecting to have a bumper citrus crop this year. Fruit quality is anticipated to be exceptional.
Italy: Italy is one of the major global producers of kiwi. PSA disease has been discovered in Italian kiwis. An Italian agricultural group has warned of the potentially devastating impact of the disease on the Italian kiwi industry if the government does not step in to help. The agricultural ministry has approved measures to help combat the disease which include new phytosanitary regulations and a research program focusing on prevention techniques.
Russia: Due to potato crop failure in Russia in 2010 the country has been importing record amounts of potatoes. Most of this product has come from the Netherlands. For perspective in January, 2010 Russia reportedly imported 165 million cwt of potatoes from the Netherlands. In January, 2011 this number increased to 1,448 million cwt.
China: New crop garlic in China is expected to come to market in July. Extremely high prices for garlic in the last six months are expected to drop when the new crop is ready for export. Last years garlic crop was reportedly of low quality. This year volumes are expected to be tight but quality is expected to be good.
A spike in exports of Chinese apple juice concentrate during February and March imply that a severe shortage may be in the works. Some sources indicate that at the current rate of export Chinese apple juice concentrate stockpiles will be exhausted by April.
Large parts of northern China are experiencing the worst drought in 60 years. Some areas have gone over 120 days with no significant rainfall. Some reports say as much as 5 million hectares of crops have been destroyed or damaged. Of immediate concern are wheat and rice crops which will need rain in April to successfully germinate for 2011 harvest. The Chinese government plans on investing over $9 billion USD to strengthen the water supply infrastructure in the area.
United States Leafy Greens: Above and Beyond the Law
In addition to new government regulations of the food industry included in the Food Safety Modernization Act, nongovernmental industry associations tasked with encouraging the growing, handling, and marketing of safe food have been cropping up in the last four years throughout the United States. This has been particularly true for the leafy greens industry. Following an E. coli scare in 2006 involving spinach, the industry responded the following year with the formation of the California and Arizona Leafy Green Marketing Agreements (LGMA). Working in tandem with government officials, members of the LGMAs instituted audit-verified voluntary agreements to uphold and practice food safety standards in the leafy green supply chain.
Over 90% of US leafy green production, including spinach, occurs in Arizona and California and most of the efforts of the LGMA’s are concentrated in these two states. Since its implementation in 2007 the California LGMA has grown to encompass 99% of the leafy greens produced in California. One of the ongoing goals of the LGMA’s is to continue researching how pathogens are introduced into the field. Through studying and understanding the interplay of water, wildlife, and other sources of pathogen introduction, the LGMA’s provide continuously updated food safety information at all levels of the leafy green supply chain. The LGMA’s are dynamic documents that are constantly changing and improving as more information about food safety and leafy greens becomes available.
The efforts of the US leafy green industry in the formation of LGMA’s have certainly paid off. In combination with newly available food borne illness outbreak tracking tools such as databases and DNA identification, the LGMA’s in both Arizona and California have allowed information to quickly and efficiently be passed from scientists and food safety experts to the farmers responsible for growing our leafy greens on a daily basis. The efforts of the US leafy green industry to unify, verify, and implement food safety standards on an industry wide scale, have made US grown leafy greens some of the safest in the world.
To link to the Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement website click here.
To link to the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement website click here.
Sweet Times for the Sweet Potato
Maybe you’ve noticed them only recently at your local pub or burger joint, or maybe your grandmother was a sweet potato pie making master from North Carolina and you’ve been eating them since you were a child. Either way, chances are in the last few years you’ve probably noticed sweet potatoes popping up in dishes formerly reserved for the standard potato.
Sweet potatoes, which aren’t potatoes at all but are members of the morning glory family Convolvulaceae, are native to Central and South America and Polynesia and have been grown there for thousands of years. In Peru remnants of sweet potato have been dated at over 10,000 years old. The first record of Europeans tasting the sweet potato was during Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas in 1492. The sweet potato plant grows best in warm tropical climates and needs lots of water to grow. Since its discovery by Europeans the sweet potato has spread to nearly every corner of the globe where the climate is right. United States’ consumers use the word yam and sweet potato interchangeably to describe both a pale and dark skinned sweet potato typically grown in the United States. In actuality yams and sweet potatoes are not related botanically and come from two different plant families.To see a plow harvesting sweet potatoes click here.
These days sweet potato products are becoming increasingly popular with consumers. Sweet potato fries both as a retail grocery item and a food service item have seen growth in the last decade. Not only are Americans eating more sweet potatoes, but our neighbors to the north and south are too. Canada imported 17,000 tons of sweet potatoes in 1999 and increased imports to 47,000 tons a decade later from the United States. Sweet potato shipments to Mexico have also increased since 1999, though not to the degree observed in Canada.
Eating sweet potatoes is actually very good from a health standpoint. According to the United States Sweet Potato Council Inc., sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber, are cholesterol and fat free, and they taste sweet and rich as an added bonus! So the next time you order a burger and fries, ask if healthy sweet potato fries are available as a fun and tasty alternative to the standard French fry.
Commerce Continues in Japan
The challenges caused by the recent disaster in northern Japan continue. Much of the media focus has turned to the effect of the disaster in terms of radiation of the domestic food supply in Japan, as well as radiation in the food being exported from the country. While a simple internet search can reveal a dizzying array of opinions on the effect the disaster will have on agriculture both in Japan and internationally, most discussion concludes that the long term effects of the earthquake and tsunami on the Japanese food supply will be mercifully minimal allowing the resilient Japanese people to focus on rebuilding.
Japan’s domestically produced rice appears to be in a good position. Even though the areas destroyed in the northeast are major rice producing areas, high storage inventories and stable world supplies should mitigate any decrease in domestic production this year without any major effect on pricing. The USDA reported that during March 10 – 17 Japan bought 66 percent more field corn from the US than the same time period a year ago. From the perspective of companies exporting food to Japan the biggest short term challenge has been figuring out how to negotiate damaged infrastructure to get food to consumers. Most of Japan’s major ports are located in the south, an area spared the damage that was seen in the northeast. With most major ports still operating, the question is not if demand is there, the question has become how to most effectively satisfy demand with infrastructure not functioning at 100%.
From an agricultural export perspective Japan will certainly experience negative effects as a result of the disaster. Countries such as the US, Russia, Singapore, and Australia have already put temporary import bans on certain items such as milk and spinach grown in areas affected by radiation. The world waits to see when the challenges at the Fukushima reactor will be resolved. We hope in time these bans will be lifted and exports will resume. Even though it is too early to know the full effect triggered by the earthquake and tsunami or how long it will take to resolve all challenges related to this tragedy, it is at least reassuring to know that the food supply in Japan, while temporarily disrupted, will continue to be adequately supplied.
Did you know...?
Based on the sensitive hearing of its customer base, Sun Chips recently rolled out new, quieter, biodegradable packaging. As mentioned in the introduction of the September 2010 installment of the Intelligent Food Report, Sun Chips consumers had been complaining the old biodegradable bags were too loud……well not any more!
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