Inside this Food Report

VOLUME 5
ISSUE 1


January 1, 2014

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Hello Everyone,

Happy New Year! We hope you enjoyed your Christmas and New Year Holiday . Did you celebrate with a glass of champagne? If so you may have helped improve your memory. I read recently that drinking a glass of champagne can help to improve spatial memory and assist in memory storage. Can there be any better news than that to begin your New Year!

This is the time when many of us make our New Year resolutions and so many resolutions have to do with health; eating better , losing weight , and exercising more. Below is an article on the benefits of drinking your breakfast. We hope it is helpful and might give you some ideas to start your year off right and incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet.

December has come and gone and it was a busy time for the Noon Team. Seattle staff headed down to the beautiful city of San Francisco to attend Noon International’s annual Christmas extravaganza with our Danville cohorts. Raffles, karaoke, prizes and games were all part of the weekend. We all noted some new competition on the karaoke front from one of our newer colleagues, Jessie Kim, who joined our accounting division. I think we will all have to practice a little bit more this year!

January will bring some of us once again to San Francisco to attend the Fancy Food Show so please let us know if you will be there as we would love to see you.

Wishing you all the best for the year ahead.

Betty and the Noon International Team

CropVeggiesUnited States: Vegetable and fruit crops are now completed. Yields on most vegetables products, especially peas were down this season due to weather conditions.

It is being reported by North American Potato Market News that the shortfall of the potato crop in the Columbia Basin may require an early start to the 2014/15 frozen processing season. Fry sales to Japan fell by approximately 19% and sales to China fell approximately 25% compared to last season at this same time. The reduced sales are being attributed to the weak value of the Japanese yen as well as unfavorable publicity concerning chicken quality in fast food chain restaurants in both Japan and China.

The Pacific Northwest raspberry crop fared well this year.

The Washington Red Raspberry Commission reported that the crop increased by approximately 4% this season.

Florida’s orange crop is expected to be the lowest since 1990. Orange growers are struggling with a bacterium called “citrus greening” which turns the leaves brown, fails to ripen the fruit and eventually kills the orange trees. It has spread to all 32 of Florida’s citrus growing regions.

Mexico: Broccoli and Cauliflower inventories are still tight, however rains have subsided. Improved weather with warm days and cool nights will begin to help strengthen broccoli and cauliflower yields. We expect inventories to align January/February.

Guatemala: Broccoli raw material is very tight due to low season in Guatemala.
Cooler weather and some rain has also affected broccoli size causing yields to be lower than usual. Expect tight inventory until peak season begins in July.

Central America: A fungus called “roya” is affecting the coffee crop in countries such as Guatemala and Honduras. Crop losses are expected at $500 million and approximate loss of jobs in Guatemala alone is expected at affect 374,000 people.

Peru: Asparagus season is now completed. As previously advised Peru has decreased their asparagus plantations with other more profitable crops such as avocadoes and grapes. However market demand is still high for asparagus and demand still out weighs supply. Mango season will commence this month.

Chile: Asparagus season is completed. Berry season is underway. First reports of a reduced blueberry crop due to Chiles frost in September is not as damaging as first thought. Most of the frost damage occurred in areas where limited amounts of blueberries are grown.

Argentina: Warm dry weather could hurt the soybean and corn crops , however forecasted rain may benefit the late planted corn and soybean. Soybean plantings in Argentina as well as Brazil will top records this season.

China:

Zhejiang Province: Cold temperatures has reduced yields for the current lotus root crop. Large demand domestically for broccoli and cauliflower has resulted in soaring prices. Mandarin yields are down due to cold weather and prices are high.
Pea pods and sugar snap peas are now being planted for the spring harvest.

Fujian Province: Broccoli and Cauliflower harvest now in peak production. Quality is good. Water chestnut quality has struggled so far but expected to improve in January. Prices are higher than last season due to reduced yields.

Shandong Province: Burdock is currently under harvest. Prices are up due to high domestic demand.

China General: Shanghai as well as the Tibetan capital city of Lhasa suffered extreme smog conditions in December . Shanghai’s concentration of harmful PM 2.5 particles was 602.5 micrograms per cubic meter which is considered a hazardous level. The dirty air gripped Shanghai and its neighboring provinces for days and is caused by coal burning, car exhaust, factory waste and weather patterns.
The smog is expected to have some effect on crop conditions in surrounding farmland.



The Pros and Cons of GMO

Genetically modified organisms, better known as GMO, are organisms whose genetic makeup has been altered by the insertion of genes from other organisms. GMO – in particular, GM foods – are everywhere in the news these days because of their impact on commerce as well as on health.

The idea of GMO began with an aim to solve issues such as shortage of food and destruction of crops due to pests, weeds and disease. With advances in genetic engineering, some of these goals have been met; however, new challenges have also cropped up in the process. The two most widely used GM foods in the US are soybean and corn, which are used in processed foods.



The Pro’s

  • Crops which have been genetically modified for resistance to pests or diseases can survive longer and provide better yields for the farmer.
  • Crops can be engineered to have herbicide resistance, making it easier to control weeds without affecting the crop. Over 90% of soybeans grown in the US for food processing are now genetically engineered to be herbicide tolerant.
  • Disease-resistant GM strains of plants (e.g., potato and banana) could save them from diseases (e.g., blight and wilt disease respectively.)
  • Genetic modifications such as improvement of taste, color and especially nutrient content of fruits and vegetables are considered desirable for promoting health among consumers.
  • Increased yields can help underfed nations
  • Improved nutrient content is beneficial to countries who have difficulty getting nutritious foods.

However, opponents of GMO claim that GM farming harms the environment and the consumers in the long run.

The Con’s

  • Last year, researchers at Washington State University found that GM crops that are resistant to weeds or insects will eventually develop immunity and attack the crop again. Moreover, as these new ‘super-weeds’ are resistant to herbicides, farmers have to use more herbicides or stronger, more potent herbicides. This defeats the purpose of having GM crops, which is to use less pesticides/herbicides. Overuse of these chemicals leads to more serious problems such as pollution of soil and water bodies.
  • The American Academy of Environmental Medicine have reported issues such as immune disorders, liver dysfunction, and changes in pancreas, spleen and kidneys as “possible” side effects of consuming GM foods.
  • There have been cases where, due to cross-pollination, non-GM crops have been contaminated by GM crops. This gives rise to legal and ecological issues as well as those related to consumer information.
  • Some GMO have had antibiotic features added to them which may make antibiotic medicines less effective in humans.

Above are only a few of the pro’s and con’s of GMO foods and the debate will surely rage on.

Nevertheless, GM crops and the technology have been used to save an industry.

In the mid-1990s, Hawaii’s papaya industry was almost ruined by an infection called the ringspot virus. In 1998, a genetically engineered, ringspot virus–resistant variety of papaya, named the Rainbow papaya, was introduced into commercial planting. While other, natural variants of the papaya were being ravaged by the virus, the Rainbow papaya thrived and brought the papaya farmers of Hawaii back from the brink of ruin. However this is not where the story ends. Recently with so much debate in the public arena on GMO crops, many now are against the Hawaiian growers of the GMO papaya and sales are dropping. It is also interesting to point out that the Rainbow papaya was not engineered by the biotech companies; it was engineered and developed by a Hawaiian resident with the support of the public sector.

More recently, Florida and parts of Georgia, South Carolina, California, Texas and Louisiana have seen a devastating bacterial disease called Huanglongbing , more commonly know as “citrus greening” wreak havoc on the orange crop. The infected fruit becomes green and turns bitter and eventually kills the trees. With millions of acres of orange trees at risk, it seems the only option to fight the disease will be a genetically engineered, infection-resistant plant developed by Texas A&M University researcher Dr. Erik Mirkov. While trials are still ongoing, citrus growers are hoping to see a miracle similar to the one that saved Hawaii’s papaya industry.

The GMO controversy is not a simple one and passions run high on both sides of the debate. In the end the success or failure will only come with the public.



Liquid Breakfast – What A Smooth(ie) Idea!

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. After fasting for the entire night, your body needs that wholesome, filling, energy-rich meal that will boost your morning and carry you well into the day. Unfortunately, in the real world, mornings are often the most rushed time of the day. How many of us have the time to prepare a well-balanced, healthy breakfast and actually sit down to eat it? Well, here is the solution – have a liquid breakfast!

Smoothies are quickly becoming a preferred morning meal because not only are they satisfying and delicious, they are portable, easy to make, and nutritious as well. Just throw in your favorite fruit, veggie (yes, veggie!), dairy (or non-dairy), and some ice in your blender and whoosh – it’s breakfast! The options and combinations for smoothies are endless.

Apart from the regular banana-strawberry-vanilla varieties, try using fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries, apples, mangoes, nectarines, apricots. The list can go on and on. As a shortcut, cut up fresh fruit and freeze them in your freezer in little baggies or containers until you are ready to use them. Think different. For instance go for avocado instead of banana once in a while; they are very filling, packed with nutrients, low on sugar, create a creamy texture to your smoothie and are very delicious!

Adding protein powders, such as whey protein, to your morning routine is a great way to get that morning protein fix that will set you up for a productive day. Almond milk is a superb substitute for yogurt and instead of sugary fruit juices try using coconut water to dilute your smoothie. If you must sweeten your drink use a natural sweetener such as agave syrup, which has a low glycemic index. Green smoothies – made by adding kale, spinach, wheatgrass or other leafy greens – are power-packed with nutrients. Adding ginger or lemon to them create a delicious drink. In fact many of our team members in Danville drink one of these every morning!

Smoothies provide vitamins, antioxidants, protein, and fiber and they are easy to digest and a simple way to get your daily dose of vitamins from real fruit and vegetables. They satisfy your hunger and keep you energized well into the afternoon. Throw some chia or flax seeds in there and you are off to a healthy and delicious New Year!



The Great Urban Rush: China’s Ambitious Plan.

Soon after he took charge as the new Chinese Prime Minister in March 2013, Li Keqiang put into effect a grand plan to move 250 million rural Chinese into urban areas over the next 12 years in order to create a large consumer base to drive the economy for decades to come.

Traditionally, people have always migrated from rural China to towns and cities in search of jobs and better opportunities. In 2011, the official urban population in China exceeded that of its rural population for the first time. Last year, the urban population was 52.6% of the total population. China’s ultimate plan is to integrate approximately 70% of the country’s population (about 900 million) into city living by 2025.

This massive relocation project, called ‘chengzhenhua’ (transitioning to cities and towns), is estimated to cost about $200 billion over the next decade alone. The driving force behind the movement is the concept that urban populations are better consumers than rural ones, with more disposable income and more material demands. This demand, it is hoped, will fuel the fast economic growth of the country; economic growth based on domestic demand for products instead of relying heavily on exports. Chengzhenhua is a modification of the earlier urbanization efforts (called the Dushihua model), in that it highlights the “zhen” (towns), i.e. rather than sending hordes of rural population into already packed, distant megacities, the idea is to move them to nearby towns or create new cities.

In addition to land grabs from farmers, Chinese government officials stress that people living in adobe homes in central mountainous regions should move to apartment blocks in the new towns because of the frequent landslides and floods that threaten life and property in the mountains. The project is termed ‘voluntary’; at least for a few years, those who choose not to leave their villages will be allowed to do so. However, villagers are promised generous financial support, jobs and a better standard of living, including apartments with modern appliances if they do move.

While this may look promising, there are difficulties. While the economic fortunes of some have improved, for others it has not. The housing projects, though subsidized, are still expensive. People have to make difficult choices to be able to pay for the apartments and the day-to-day utility and living costs. The rural population often lacks the education and skills to secure good jobs. After the government payout expires it may prove difficult to maintain the urban lifestyle for many.

To address these issues, the planning officers are constantly “talking to the people” and fine-tuning their plan. They insist that job-related issues will be worked out with the numerous industrial parks and other infrastructure being planned.

The mountains and other rural areas, after being evacuated, will be reforested in order to keep the environment and water clean and green. China is also working on a huge engineering project to redirect water from its southern provinces to its dry northern regions. This also requires huge tracts of mountains and valleys to be unpopulated.

What might be the consequences of the urban migration on rural agriculture which has been a cornerstone of Chinese economy? As one example a Japanese newspaper reported that farmers in the Chongging area are being moved into housing towers with the farmer’s plots of land then given to corporations or municipalities to manage. The plan is for 2/3 of the total farming community to be moved by February 2014.

The Chongging area produces and exports a variety of fruit and vegetable products mostly into Japan. Japanese companies are already looking for possible alternative supply sources and one of the countries’ that might end up benefiting from China’s new economic policy is Vietnam. The Vietnamese corporations and government are well aware of this and many Vietnamese professionals are flocking into Japan to learn the language, culture and business protocol in order to seize this new opportunity.

There are many factors to ponder. What will the large Chinese corporations do with the plots of land expropriated from the farmers? Will they perhaps industrialize the Chinese agriculture by making it more safe, efficient and economic? How long can the Chinese government subsidize this movement? It is said that the government is depending on tax money generated from all the new workers, who will be migrating into the urban cities and taking on jobs there. Will the one child policy come back to bite China as their population ages and most companies prefer a work force of under 50 years old?

As skeptics weigh in with their criticism of the chengzhenhua plan, the world will need to wait and watch as China’s ambitious plan for boosting its economy unfolds dramatically.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!


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