Inside this Food Report
Any debate about the arrival of winter weather is now over! No sooner did we mention La Nina and it’s anticipated effects on the weather pattern in the Northwest in our November issue of the Intelligent Food Report that on Monday November 22nd Seattle awoke to find snow already on the ground and still falling with temperatures causing roads to fill with snow and ice which virtually shut down our city. While a few hearty Noon souls made it into the office that Monday by the following day the roads were just too hazardous to travel over. Now just to explain to our friends around the world (especially to those in places where snow is a part of their normal routine), Seattle is NEVER prepared for snow. Our city has only a few snowplows and only the main arterials are plowed or sanded, leaving most of us stranded at home when snow arrives. To see Seattle drivers in action during the snow storm, click here.
But have no fear, due to technology and the wonderful invention of the computer all Noon employees are able to work from their homes so even when our city shuts down Noon employees will still be at your service! (Unless of course our power goes out!) Check out the below photo of our beautiful city in the snow.
Weather in the U.S, Europe and Asia have all experienced a cooler and wetter summer and fall and the effect has seen a rise in prices of certain vegetables, fruits and grains, as well as the shift in regional focus of many buyers. For example many items that are usually sourced in China are now being sourced elsewhere.
There have also been many challenges in the Southern Hemisphere. As mentioned in the Crops section there are locust plagues in Australia, droughts in Peru, as well as cool wet weather in New Zealand and Chile causing the crops to suffer.
Wow, the months are just flying by and November has been a busy one! Our Danville and Seattle staff has been busy travelling to China, Chile, Guatemala and Mexico to ensure the products we send you are safe and delicious! Two of our Noon members traveled to Chengdu, China to attend a seminar by the Foreign Agricultural Service/United States Department of Agriculture to explore market opportunities and logistic challenges of importing food products into Western China. Noon International also gave a food safety presentation to the seminar attendees. You can read the presentation in our Food Safety section below.
With our November elections and a shift of power in the House of Representative, yesterday's passage of a food safety bill in the Senate, controversy over TSA screening, continued trouble on our U.S. borders, and the most recent attempts of North Korea to flex their muscle, it seems there are many issues to tackle in the months ahead so we hope everybody keeps healthy and strong by continuing to eat their vegetables and fruits!
The Noon International team wishes you a happy holiday season with many blessings.
All the best.
Lily and Betty
United States: Most harvesting in the United States is complete with some small ongoing potato harvest still occurring in Washington and Oregon. Strong late harvest potato yields were observed in Washington in November. The main crops still currently being harvested across the United States are peanuts, sunflowers, and sorghum.
Mexico: Early November nighttime freezes in central Mexico have negatively affected an already tenuous Mexican broccoli situation. Three eight hour periods below freezing have reduced the broccoli harvest by an estimated 15-20%. Low amounts of Mexican broccoli are expected to persist until at least February of 2011 and possibly into the spring. It is estimated that full inventory will not be able to be replaced until June 2011. The highest risk season for freeze is from mid-December until mid-February. Mexican cauliflower has also been affected by the freezes resulting in reduced yields.
Guatemala: Weather in Guatemala during November has been fair with rain lessening when compared against October. Broccoli harvest continues with high quality broccoli being processed in average volumes.
Peru: There is more demand for asparagus from Peru than ever before. Growth in demand is largely due to China having a difficult asparagus year with less than average volumes of asparagus harvested. Making matters difficult for Peruvian asparagus farmers is a low water table which has affected Peruvian farmers’ ability to adequately water their crop.
Chile: Chile has experienced a very cold and wet start to their asparagus growing season putting raw product volume in November 40%-50% behind normal levels. While the wet weather has been a factor, the biggest factor has been prolonged cool weather. In November, asparagus pricing from Chile is being affected by reduced asparagus yields in both China and Peru.
Europe: Onion production in Europe is nearly 10% below normal this year compared to 2009. Central Europe had a wet spring which made onions smaller than average and increased costs associated with storing and drying onions. Even Spain, where large onions are generally grown, observed onions that were smaller than average. European onion acreage has also declined though specific statistics concerning the exact size of acreage cuts is not available.
This year has also been difficult for green peas in Europe. Some estimates put the crop as much as 20% less than previous years but exact numbers are difficult to obtain.
New Zealand: A kiwi plant disease has been observed in the South Island of New Zealand. Called the Pseudomonas syringae pv actinidiae, or PSA. PSA is a disease which primarily affects the vines of the kiwi plant. A very wet winter and spring in New Zealand have created perfect conditions for PSA to live. Containment measures are being taken and the disease is not expected to significantly affect New Zealand kiwi crops.
Australia: Locust plagues in South Australia continue to be a problem and reached their peak at the beginning of November. Into December the presence of locusts is expected to continue. 5 airplanes and 2 helicopters have worked a combined 233 hours striking 248 locust targets since aerial spraying began.
Thailand: Sweet corn production has been hit hard by flooding in November. As of mid November flooding had affected 38 of 76 Thai provinces and was concentrated in the central and north regions of the country. Thai government statistics indicate that 1.6 million acres of farmland were completely destroyed in the floods. To see a video of flooding in the the central Lop Buri province of Thailand, click here.
In the south fears of flooding affecting the pineapple harvest are subsiding. In mid November southern pineapple growers feared that the extreme monsoon flooding would spread to the south, however for now the rains have missed the main pineapple growing regions and pineapple production seems to be progressing normally. Even with a normal crop processors are reporting the price of pineapple may go up in 2011 as demand for juice and canning pineapple has increased over the last year.
China: Garlic prices in China have fallen since prices peaked in the middle of October. Buyers were hesitant to purchase garlic in October and their delay forced prices down in November. The vast majority of the garlic produced in China is exported.
Green Peas in China have been difficult to find. Chinese suppliers are looking abroad to satisfy demand. Prices are higher than in previous years.
It is becoming clear that there will be a significant shortage of apple juice concentrate in 2011. The lack of apples available for processing is so severe that even the fresh apple market has seen limited product available at sky high prices. It seems there will not be enough apple juice concentrate available to meet US or European demand. Chinese processors have resorted to buying raw product from South Africa.
Mushroom harvest in China is about a month behind its normal growing season. Cool weather has slowed down mushroom growth. Suppliers are predicting that harvest will begin in mid December. Initial pricing is much higher than in previous years.
One of the few agricultural products coming out of China with similar pricing as last year is water chestnuts. This year’s harvest has been unaffected by the cool weather prevalent in China.
Spreading Food Safety Awareness in China
On November 11th, 2010 Noon International representatives Jose Castillo and Chad Watson attended the Western Products into Western China seminar in the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province, hosted by the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Both went not only to learn more about the logistical challenges and opportunities of introducing American food and beverages into Western China, but also to give a presentation on the development of world food safety strategies and practices that will deliver safe and healthy food products to end consumers.
To read the entire Chengdu, China presentation please click here.
To see the Chengdu, China presenation slides please click here.
Get Healthy, Eat Honey
Who doesn’t have a little bit of a sweet tooth? Every now and then a little chocolate or candy can really be satisfying. Yet in the last 100 years with the rise of processed food in the Western diet, people are consuming more refined sugars than ever before. With more exposure to refined sugars there has been an explosion in diet related diseases such as obesity and diabetes. The scientist who discovered insulin, Dr. Frederick Banting, pointed out in 1929 that, “In the United States the incidence of diabetes has increased proportionately with the per capita consumption of cane-sugar. One cannot help but conclude that in the heating and recrystallization of the natural sugar-cane something is altered which leaves the refined product a dangerous foodstuff.” For those times when only something sweet will do, considering honey as an alternative sweetener to sugar, can help control excessive refined sugar intake and the health problems that come with it.
Honey has a slightly lower caloric value than sugar when the same amounts are compared. For instance a pound of honey has approximately 1600 calories while a pound of sugar has 1800 calories. In fact only figs exceed honey as the most calorie dense natural food. The two caloric values of honey and sugar might be similar, but other qualities of sugar and honey are very different. Sugar is subjected to a process of heating and filtering to remove all “impurities”, and removing “impurities” also removes any nutritive properties from the sugar resulting in empty calories. Honey on the other hand is occasionally subjected to minimal processing so the product won’t spoil. Honey is full of healthier unrefined sugars, minerals, and complex B vitamins, and has been shown to have less of an effect on blood sugar than refined sugar when not used in excess.
In addition to being healthier to eat than sugar, honey has also been demonstrated in many studies to aid in the healing of skin wounds and infections. In 2000 the Journal of Wound Care pointed out that, “…honey appears to be becoming popular for the management of infected wounds.” The trend of honey products used in the treatment of wounds has continued to become accepted in the medical community and several honey products have been approved for medical use in wound care. Many other effects of honey on different facets of human health are still being studied. There is promise that in addition to a wound care aid and a sugar substitute for diabetics, honey can be used to promote restorative sleep, improve memory and decrease anxiety, be used as an effective cough suppressant, and enhance the immune system. With so many documented and potential benefits it is no wonder so many people are adopting honey as their sweetening aid and perhaps will use honey for their medicinal needs as well!
China's Labor Future
It has been widely reported in the first half of 2010, that coastal Chinese factories of all kinds are experiencing an unprecedented shortage of workers. Largely concentrated on the coast, the labor shortage is a complex matter with no single cause and effect and could have a major impact on the Chinese frozen food industry. A combination of highly publicized questionable work conditions in coastal factories, and government money invested in the interior of the country, have both contributed to the lack of workers available in the coastal area of China.
In late May of this year we mentioned on the Noon International blog, that a series of worker suicides at the Foxconn electronics factory in the city of Shenzen underscored the difficult work conditions in some Chinese factories. In response many cities have individually raised the mandatory minimum wage to attract workers. From 1995 to 2006 the average minimum wage of migrant workers in cities went from 500 yuan/month to 1700 yuan/month. It could be hard for producers of goods with small profit margins, particularly food processors, to absorb increased costs without passing some of the increase to customers. Also making matters difficult for coastal manufacturers is the government stimulus monies which funded construction projects in the interior of the country and has provided jobs for many migrant workers who would normally move back to work in coastal cities after the Spring Festival.
Compounding all the above factors is that the rural migrant labor supply is quickly aging and population growth has slowed enough in China that eventually there will be a shortage of young age appropriate workers. Yet right now the shortage is probably not at its peak. As University of Washington professor Kam Wing Chan points out in her paper published this year on the topic of Chinese labor, “…if China were to experience the super-high growth rates…of the first five years of the 21st century,…then it would still take another decade or more to exhaust the entire rural [labor] surplus.” For the time being it appears there is enough labor in China to satisfy world demand, however we expect that this will change in the future.
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