Inside this Food Report

VOLUME 4
ISSUE 12


December 1, 2013

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Hello Everyone,

Wow!  Can it be that Thanksgiving has come and gone and the Christmas and New Year holiday are fast approaching?   Time really does pass so quickly and November was a hectic one for members of Noon International.   Our Jose and Chad travelled “down under “ to Australia to assess the current market conditions and visit our Australia team members.    Looks like they had a fun time by the picture below!

For anyone interested in exporting food products to Australia you may be finding it a bit challenging recently.   Australia is on a major movement to protect their farmers and buy Australian made. The two major food retailers, Coles and Woolworth are focusing all their energies to purchase vegetable products grown and processed in Australia.   The trend to support Australian farmers will also permeate to the fruit category.  It will be interesting to see how this develops as there may not be enough domestic product to supply all Australian retailers and we know that Aussie shoppers are extremely price conscious.   We have written a bit more on this topic in our crop section below under Australia.

We will welcome in December with our annual Noon International Christmas celebration on Saturday evening December 7th.    This year we will all celebrate together in the beautiful city of San Francisco and everyone is looking forward to a great weekend!  

Last but not least congratulations to Noon’s Steve Dole and his wife Renee. They welcomed in their baby boy Stephen Mark Dole III on November 18th! We wish them all the best. Until next time we wish everyone a safe, healthy and joyful holiday season!

All the best,

Betty And the Noon International Team.

CropVeggiesUnited States:   Northwest vegetable and fruit crops are now fully completed.   Overall most vegetable yields were down this year.   Peas, corn, carrots and potatos are all in tight supply and processors are reporting lower yields this season due to adverse weather conditions during the planting and growing season.
On the other hand Northwest berry fruits had a successful season, with good yields on both raspberries and blueberries.   In California officials with the Pear Bureau have reported that due to a long and dry summer they are expecting a bumper crop of pear fruit.   The Midwest region has now completed their harvest of all grain corn and soybeans.

Europe:   The EU potato crop will be down by approximately 3.9% for crop year 2013.   Belgium, France, Germany ,the Netherlands and the UK are the prominent potato growing regions.   It has been reported by North American Potato Market News that Belgium will most likely be able to ramp up exports again this year. NAPMN reported recently global potato flake trade has grown at a 6.7% annual rate during the past ten years and that the European Union has captured all of that growth.

Mexico:   Broccoli and Cauliflower are currently in tight supply.   Four tropical storms made landfall during the month of September causing extensive flooding in the high altitude central plateau of Mexico where most broccoli and cauliflower are grown.     There was considerable damage to the crop and to its yields.   These low yields persisted through October and into beginning of November as it continued to rain .  This has created a serious shortage of broccoli in the marketplace.   With better weather conditions nearing end November we expect conditions to normalize soon and have ample supply coming into the New Year.

Guatemala:  Heavy rain in September, October, and early November has reduced broccoli yields, however quality is good.  Broccoli harvest will continue, however Guatemala’s heaviest production of broccoli is winding down.   Melon season has commenced. 

Ecuador:   Broccoli has also been in tight supply in Ecuador.  Rains have reduced yields and this coupled with reduced plantings has lead to some processors struggling to supply consistently.    The US government has begun its imposition of a 14.5 % duty on frozen broccoli imported from Ecuador.  This could free up broccoli for other international markets.

Peru:    Asparagus season is now underway .  To date the crop yields and quality are good.   Planted area has been reduced over the past two years and this coupled with demand and higher costs has raised prices .

Chile:  Still reeling from the worst frost in 80 years which hit Chile in October, expect to pay a bit more in your supermarket for imported fruit from Chile.  Chile exports an average of 282 million crates of fresh fruit to the U.S each year.   It is being reported that this could be down by 50 – 65 million crates due to the frost.

Philippines:  Typhoon Haiyan which hit the Philippines in November has resulted in crop losses worth approximately US$110 million.   It is estimated that 175,000 acres of rice paddy, corn, and other high value crops such as coconut, banana, cassava, mango and other vegetables have been affected.   Banana plantations in the center of the Philippines have been wiped out and prices are rising.

Vietnam:   Heavy rains in mid November from Tropical Storm Podul severely affected the harvest and quality of the summer – autumn rice crop in the Mekong Delta.    November is peak harvest time for rice and the rice plants have been toppled by heavy rain and wind.  Because of the rain farmers have been unable to dry rice and as a result the grain has germinated leading to lower selling prices.   Coffee farmers will continue to produce robusta beans used for instant coffee even though prices have slumped to their lowest in three years.   The growers will try to increase yields to make up for the slumping prices.

Australia:   Australia is on a major campaign to support their famers and buy Australia grown and processed fruits and vegetables.   The two top supermarket chains in Australia, Coles and Woolworths , have both signed a deal with the Simplot Group to buy Australian grown and processed frozen vegetables.   Almost 100% of Coles private label vegetable brands claim to be product of Australia or grown in Australia.   The movement is being backed by a strong marketing campaign at all levels, from mass media to the displays at supermarket level.  

South Africa:   South Africa’s fruit growing region suffered damage due to hail and rain during middle November.   Some of the affected fruits are peaches, apples, pears and grapes.   The situation is now being assessed but most likely there will be a 10 % loss in the overall crop.

China:

Zhejiang Province:   Lower broccoli and cauliflower volumes available for processing and prices are going up due to reduced yields.   Pea pods and sugar snap pea planting is completed and to date conditions are good.

Shandong Province:  Taro currently being processed and prices are approximately 20 – 30 pct higher than last season.   Most of the facilities in Shandong have stopped processing broccoli for export due to the high prices being received in the domestic market.

Fujian Province:  Autumn crop edamame being harvested now; quality is good but prices are up.   Pea Pod and sugar snap pea harvest will commence this month and conditions are good.


Washington State Votes Down GMO Labeling.

The Washington Initiative 522 (I-522), the campaign in Washington State to make conspicuous labeling on genetically modified foods mandatory, failed to get enough votes in November’s election. There were 54.8 percent “no” voters as compared to 45.2 percent “yes” voters. If the campaign had been successful, it would have required “all non-exempt foods and agricultural products sold in retail stores to state clearly and conspicuously on the front of the package if they were genetically engineered, or contained genetically engineered ingredients”.

Genetically engineered crops have a gene from another plant inserted into them to give them some ability they did not have before.  Most genetically modified crops such as soybean and corn are usually used in processed foods – breakfast cereals, sodas, and snacks.   GMO is also present in cattle feed.
Supporters of the campaign, which were mostly small-scale producers, food activists, natural food stores, and food co-operatives, raised nearly 8 million dollars from donors in and out of the state of Washington, while the opposition raised a record 22 million dollars.   Most of the funds for the opponents of the I-522 came from Monsanto Co., DuPont Pioneer, Bayer CropScience and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). Top food companies such as Nestle SA, Coca Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and General Mills Inc. donated to the GMA heavily to quash this measure.

Those fighting for bringing in mandatory labeling believe that the consumers have a right to know whether their food is genetically engineered or not. They consider that clear labeling of a product as genetically modified equips the buyer with the information to make a clear informed choice.   However, those opposing the labeling initiative argued that this would drive up food costs with no added benefit for the consumer and argue that GMO foods are safe.

A similar campaign was fought in California last year and was also defeated by a narrower margin of 51.4 percent opposed and 48.6  percent approve.

Backers of the I-522 initiative blame the lower than expected voter turnout and the large amount of funds raised by the “big corporations” for the defeat of the bill.  A few analysts felt that the reach of the campaign was restricted to urban areas such as Seattle, and did not penetrate the rural pockets, which voted heavily against the measure.

As Trudy Bialac, the co-chair for the Yes on 522 campaign, accepted that the initiative had lost, she also declared that they would be back in 2016, fighting the same campaign. She hoped that, being an election year, more voters would turn out to vote and that it would include greater numbers of younger, more progressive voters and this would greatly influence the “yes” vote on mandatory labeling.



The Amazing Artichoke!

Holiday time always makes me think of Artichokes.      The artichoke is used frequently in Italian cooking and every holiday season my grandmother Helen’s special dish was stuffed artichokes.  The Italian version is stuffing the artichoke with breadcrumbs, seasoning, olive oil and black olives.   It was always a special treat on Christmas day.   Of course when enjoying this delicious treat, we never thought about all the health benefits of the artichoke.   My grandmother’s recipe was passed down to my Mother and now I make this dish every Christmas.   Here is a little bit of history about the artichoke and all of its health benefits (in honor of my grandmother!)

The spiny-looking artichoke is actually a flower bud of a thistle-like plant belonging to the sunflower family. The globe artichoke (aka green or French artichoke) is the most commonly consumed variety of this vegetable.  The history of the artichoke goes back to ancient Greece and Italy.  

Circa 400 BCE, Greek philosopher Theophrastus is said to have described the medicinal properties of artichokes.  Artichokes were used not only as a delicacy but also as appetizers and digestive aids in the days of the Roman Empire. Around mid-15th century, artichokes were cultivated in Naples, Italy and then in other parts of Europe.  When Catherine de Medici of Italy married King Henry II of France in the sixteenth century, she introduced artichokes to French cuisine.  In those days, women were not supposed to eat artichokes (at least not openly) because of the supposedly aphrodisiac qualities of artichokes and so it created a bit of a flutter when Catherine ate them openly and in large quantities!  Artichokes were also used to cure jaundice and other liver problems.

 In the early 19th century, French settlers in Louisiana brought artichokes with them, thus introducing them to America.  Today, California accounts for almost the entire artichoke crop grown in USA, with Castroville, CA being  know as the “artichoke capital of the world”  .  Artichokes are also grown in Italy, Spain and France.

Artichokes are not only delicious; they have many health benefits as well. While their digestion-improving qualities have been known since ancient days, modern research has shown that they do help in treating chronic gastrointestinal problems. They do this with the help of a component called cynarin, which breaks down cholesterol into bile, thus increasing bile flow and regulating production of cholesterol.  Also rich in fiber; a serving of artichoke hearts can provide about a quarter of the day’s requirement of fiber for adults!

A USDA study has stated that artichokes have “more antioxidants than any other vegetable”.  Many of them – quercetin, anthocyanins, gallic acid, silymarin, rutin, luteolin,  and cynarin provide a variety of health benefits ranging from improved cardiovascular health, cancer protection to liver regeneration and more.

While quercetin and rutin both have heart-healthy and cancer-fighting properties, rutin has anti-allergenic and anti-inflammatory qualities as well.

Cynarin and silymarin may aid in the regeneration of liver tissue. Anthocyanins – the compounds that give carrots their orange color – are connected to urinary tract health, healthy aging, memory function and prevention of certain types of cancer.

Artichokes are packed with minerals and vitamins, including vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium , potassium and folic acid.  A diet rich in artichokes has been show to lower LDL (the bad Cholesterol) levels and to raise HDL (the good cholerterol) levels as well as help regulate blood sugar and hypertension.

The versatile artichoke can be steamed, boiled, fried or baked and there are hundreds of ways to incorporate artichokes in your menu.   So why not try an artichoke this holiday season….. my grandmother would be proud!




FDA’s New Trans Fat Proposal

The United States Food and Drug Administration announced new possible regulations in November regarding usage of partially hydrogenated oils, taking the first step towards a near-total ban on trans fats. It has determined that partially hydrogenated oils are additives that cannot be “generally recognized as safe”.  The FDA estimates that this proposal could be instrumental in preventing almost 20,000 heart attacks and about 7000 related deaths annually.

Partially hydrogenated oils are formed by adding hydrogen gas to oils in order to make them more shelf-stable and to enhance flavor. This hydrogenation process creates trans fats. Trans fats are what give crackers and biscuits their buttery taste and flaky consistency; they impart creaminess to the coffee creamer.  Trans fats are usually found in frozen pizzas , pies, shortening, margarine, frosting and microwave popcorn just to name a few.  They are also used in restaurants for baking, roasting and deep-frying.

When trans fats were initially introduced in America back in the early decades of the 20th century, they became popular as the low-cost and healthier alternative to butter. Specifically, margarine was easier to use as it had a “spreadable” texture even if taken straight out from the refrigerator. However, in the 1990s, new research started appearing, showing that trans fats were not healthy and that they raised the risk of heart attacks.

Today we know that consumption of trans fats leads to an increase in LDL cholesterol (aka the “bad cholesterol”) levels and a decrease in the HDL cholesterol (the “good cholesterol”) levels. In other words, it leads to clogging of arteries, which may lead to higher risks of cardiac failure and death.

Over the past few years, many cities, states and businesses have consciously tried to eliminate or reduce the use of trans fats. In 2003, the FDA mandated that presence of trans fats be prominently labeled and displayed on food packages. New York City, in 2006, banned most artificial trans fats from being served in its restaurants. In 2008, California became the first state in the United States to ban trans fats in all restaurants. Restaurants and fast food establishments such as McDonald’s have stopped using trans fats in their food for several years now.

All these efforts have not been in vain. Over the years, the consumption of trans fats in Americans has declined. In 2006, the average American consumed 4.6 grams of trans fats per day, in 2012 this has been reduced to 1 gram per day.

By bringing in the new proposal of banning trans fats the United States FDA aims at further reducing the usage of trans fats. In practice, what the rule will mean is that food manufacturers cannot add partially hydrogenated oils to their foods without FDA approval. To use partially hydrogenated oils they would have to formally request approval from the FDA, which they may not get and manufacturers will then have two years to reformulate their product.   While many restaurants and food companies have already started phasing out trans fats from their menus and products, it will be a while before all trans fats disappear from the supermarket shelf, however if the new ruling goes forward it will most certainly hasten the disappearance of trans fat from the American diet. 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

 


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