Inside this Food Report
While some of the Noon Team were busy in China, others have just returned from Ecuador and Peru. What a wonderful experience to travel in these beautiful countries. They enjoyed warm sunny weather in Ecuador and with an elevation of 2800 meters they were lucky not to experience headaches! In Peru they dined on ceviche a white fish with onions and marinated in lemon juice. Simply delicious! Ecuador and Peru have so many exotic and healthy fruits and vegetables it is a treasure trove yet to be discovered. Be on the lookout for our reports on these flavorful and “good for you foods” in our upcoming issues.
We could not end this introduction without mention of the horrific tornados, which have been ravaging parts of Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Our prayers and thoughts go out to all the people who live in these regions. As the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan already know you find strength to get through such things when you least expect it.
United States: Delayed harvests and reduced yields are expected for most field crops this year in Washington State. As with field crops across the United States, planting and crop development has been hampered by a persistently cool and wet spring. Bunch ripening could be a problem if warm weather suddenly occurs causing crops to mature all at once.
Northwest pea harvest is about one week late and on average expected to begin sometime between June 10th and June 15th.
According to the Economic Research Service of the USDA, major freezing vegetables are significantly down in acreage from last year. Green peas are down 26%, sugar snap peas are down 10%, and sweet corn is down 11% from one year previous.
North Washington blueberry growers reported rain but warmer temperatures in May. Blueberries are beginning to bloom although due to rapidly changing weather some plants show signs of shock.
Cherry growers in Washington are expecting a large though late cherry harvest this year. Cool weather delayed the onset of harvest by at least 10 days. This year’s harvest is not currently projected to beat the record set in 2009 when the crop exceeded 20 million boxes.
Potato plants in the Columbia Basin began to emerge the first half of May. Washington had only one day above 70 degrees F in April. It seems potato processors hoping to begin harvesting and processing in early July may be out of luck.
Beekeepers in California are predicting a good year. Abundant rainfall and a federal crackdown on honey imported from China have increased buyer interest in domestically produced honey.
Early signs indicate the total California almond crop could break the previous record.
The USDA is anticipating the drought in Texas to have significant effect on wheat abandonment. The USDA has predicted this will be the second highest wheat abandonment year at 68.1% of the crop abandoned. The highest abandonment rate of 74.8% occurred in 2008.
Rain, stormy weather, tornadoes, and flooding have all affected the Midwest this May. Plantings have been affected, though the effect seems to be largely confined to smaller regions within states. Despite largely inclement weather most of the corn in the Midwest has been planted.
In early May at Cairo, Illinois the Mississippi River broke a record for the highest water level in history at 61.72 feet. The last record set in 1937 was at 59.5 feet. Flooding has occurred along the river. While some damage to agriculture has occurred, cool and wet weather this spring prevented many farmers from planting so crop losses appear to be minimal and are largely restricted to newly planted crops. Floodwaters continued to recede through the end of May but will persist until at least mid June.
By the end of the third week of May 63% of the US corn crop was in the ground. The five year average for the third week in May is 75%(USDA).
By the middle of May 52% of the US sugarbeet crop was in the ground. This is 48% behind last year and 35% less than the 5 year average(USDA).
Canada: Cool wet weather persisted across Canada throughout May.
Berry growers in the Fraser Valley continue to express frustration with delayed onset of bloom for blueberries. Raspberry fields look sparse. By the end of May warmer conditions have allowed blooming to occur in blueberries and foliage on raspberries is beginning to thicken. Spraying has been a struggle due to wet weather.
Wet weather has also slowed potato planting in British Columbia. In general frozen potato usage in Canada is at a pace which could deplete Canadian stocks before the new crop is harvested.
Mexico: There has been some rain in southern Mexico, however as yet central Mexico has not seen the usual heavy rain which is predominate during this time of year. Broccoli and cauliflower production in central Mexico continues as normal.
Guatemala: Broccoli production will resume in July in Guatemala.
Efforts to eradicate the Mediterranean fruit fly from Guatemala received more support in the way of a $23 million USD agreement between Guatemala, Belize, the US, and Mexico to continue to increase the use of sterile insect techniques to control the pest.
Thailand: Earlier than usual rains came to Thailand in April allowing farmers to begin transplanting rice in early May. Rice fieldwork has continued under generally dry skies in the first half of May giving way to thunderstorms and heavier rain towards the end of May. Moisture levels for soy, corn, and vegetables are good.
Australia: Potatoes in South Australia were reported significantly negatively affected by wet weather and flooding. Specific numbers unavailable.
Locust numbers continue to dwindle significantly as locust season closes in Australia. This year has been one of the worst locust plagues in Australian history.
The Queensland University of Technology is applying to grow more genetically modified bananas in the north for research purposes. The University says it is trying to develop a more nutritious banana.
Mango leaf hopper has been observed in the Northern Territory after not being seen for a few years. The pest targets the plant in its budding phase for feeding.
West Australia received much needed rain at the end of May.
New Zealand: The New Zealand kiwi fruit industry seems minimally affected by PSA disease this year. Returns to growers are more than last year. Research and containment efforts continue and the disease is expected to affect next year’s crop more significantly than this year’s crop.
New Zealand vegetable growers have been feeling pressure to plant more peas, carrots, and beans next year as fewer acres were planted this season due to weak price and low demand
Europe: Generally dry conditions continue to persist all over Western Europe during May. Drought conditions are hitting rapeseed and wheat producing regions particularly hard. There are reports that dry conditions are negatively affecting fertilizer uptake. Reports from Western Europe place this year’s precipitation levels at 20% to 50% of normal. Poland received much needed rain in the third week of May. Southern Europe also received rainfall.
Many European countries on the Mediterranean reported harvest of processing tomatoes will be delayed due to significant rain in April. Spain will probably see the most drastic delays and is not expected to begin until late July.
Frost was noted in grape, cherry, stone fruit, and pear producing regions of central and south Germany during May.
Italy and France have seen increasing instances of PSA diseases in their kiwis as the spring ends and summer approaches. The problem is expected to mount as the season continues.
Japan: Tropical Cyclone Aere approached southern Japan late in the third week of May and produced rainfall with reports of over 20 cm of rain in some regions.
China: 20 mm to 45 mm of rain fell in northeastern China at end May. This has been particularly good for soybean and corn producers who required much needed moisture for good germination. The showers also brought cooler weather giving crops a respite from the stress of high heat. However the predominantly dry weather will have effect on the green bean and edamame crop.
Northwestern China experienced warm dry weather at the end of May perfect for wheat but stressful for vegetable crops if irrigation is not available. Weather is predicted to cool into June.
In the Yangtze valley 20mm to 35mm of rain fell maintaining favorable soil moisture for rice and other crops. In Southern China over 10 cm of rain fell reducing drought problems in the region.
The price of Chinese strawberries is expected to rise this season. It is rumored that while most harvest is normal one province suffered catastrophic losses. The price of Chinese strawberries will be set once the Polish strawberry harvest completes in June and the price of new crop IQF strawberries is set. Poland supplies the EU with a significant amount of strawberries.
There have been media reports of “exploding” watermelons in China. According to the government news agency China Central Television, the problem is due to overuse of a state approved chemical called forchlorfenuron. There are some reports that even watermelons not treated with the chemical were also exploding.
Media May improve Food Safety in China
One of the most powerful insurers of food safety in the United States is the media. More than government crackdowns, additional regulations, and civil penalties, American companies worry about the resulting consequences on their reputation and business if food safety issues occur with their product. Today, it is only a matter of minutes before news agencies have the story, publish it, and it finds its way to the internet via social networking sites. The trend toward food safety information transparency has recently been observed in China. Since the 2008 melamine scare, Chinese news agencies have been able to report on Chinese food safety concerns and outbreaks with unprecedented freedom. While the government of China admits there are many improvements that need to be made, steps toward the government working in tandem with Chinese media agencies to acquire accurate information for the public can only be a step forward in improving the food safety of domestically produced and consumed products.
In May the China Daily newspaper, a state run news agency, published an article titled, “Food Safety A Work In Progress”. The article outlined many of the challenges facing food safety regulators in China today. Among the many challenges pointed out in the article during an interview with Zhang Yong, director of the executive office of the food safety commission under the State Council, was the fact that there are, “…400,000 food manufacturers, more than 2.1 million restaurants, and over 200 million people involved in the farming and fishing industries in China.”, numbers which grow everyday. Non government newspapers, such as Caixin media, have been reporting on food safety concerns and outbreaks without much interference from government agencies signaling an acknowledgment of the media’s powerful role in strengthening the food safety chain.
As the Chinese government continues to allow both state and private news media companies to report with little interference on topics having to do with food safety, consumer confidence in Chinese food products both domestically and abroad will continue to grow. While China certainly acknowledges the challenges stemming from a rapidly growing and fragmented food economy, as Chinese media is increasingly allowed to report on food safety issues without censorship, companies producing food will be incentivized to maintain sound food safety guidelines or risk their reputation and their business.
Feed Your Head and Up Your Sodoku Game!
We’ve all heard of foods which can help you lose weight, provide cancer fighting antioxidants, and even help muscles repair after lots of exercise, but what should we eat if we want to think better, faster, and longer? There’s such a wide variety of brain healthy foods that one could make a whole brain healthy meal out of foods specifically thought to help brain function. Certain meats, vegetables, fruits, and nuts, can all be part of a diet specifically tailored to help your brain perform well and prevent age related brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s. So what can you eat to get your thoughts rolling strong and smooth?
Wild salmon, blueberries, walnuts, and broccoli are all foods recommended by nutritionists to increase cognitive function and perhaps even delay the onset of brain diseases. Wild salmon in particular is extremely high in omega 3 fatty acids and iodine which are both essential building blocks for the brain. Walnuts too are packed with omega 3’s and studies at Tuft University have shown increased brain activity when aging rats were fed a diet rich in walnuts! The cognitive function of aging rats was also shown to improve when fed diets rich in blueberries. In fact studies with humans have indicated that diets rich in blueberries not only improve brain performance but can also reduce the oxidative stress caused by age related brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
If you’re hungry to add a brain powering vegetable to your diet look no further than broccoli for some help with your Soduku or crossword game. Broccoli is rich in Vitamin K, a vitamin also associated with contributing to helping your brain serve you well! While the foods listed in this article are specifically desirable for encouraging good brain function most nutritionists agree that a balanced diet combined with some vitamin supplementation is the best long term way to keep your brain working at peak performance. Incorporating “brain” foods into a well balanced diet is just one more step you can take to make certain you remember all your family members’ names for the rest of your life!
Fuel and Food Prices Rising
There is no escaping the effects of the rising cost of fuel in the United States especially for manufacturers and transporters of food items. As fuel prices have approached record highs ( in rural Alaska May fuel prices approached $8 per gallon and fuel in Chicago rose above $5 per gallon) every step involved in food production will see significant increases in costs compared to last year resulting in higher prices to the consumer.
In short fuel prices are definitely expected to continue to rise. As demand for oil across the globe continues with disproportionate growth in supply, fuel prices will inevitably increase as buyers compete to secure raw material. Every step in the food chain from growing and delivering seed, to planting, harvesting, and processing of food, to the distribution of the food, requires oil. In addition to the steadily increasing price of oil low yielding grain crops in the major producing regions such as Europe, China, and the Southern United States, have mismatched supply and demand raising prices as items have to be transported greater distances using more fuel and costing more.
In 2011 consumers will continue to see increases in food prices. The Economic Research Service(ERS) of the USDA predicts that during 2011 food prices will increase in the United States 3.5%-4.5%. In a Bloomberg article from the end of May, Chad E. Hart, an economist at Iowa State University, predicted that food prices will increase more than anticipated by the USDA. While this is a significant increase in average food prices it does not compare to 2008 when average food prices in the United States increased 5.5%. Most of the increase in food prices can be directly traced back to the steadily increasing price of fuel. As long as the price of fuel continues to skyrocket, the price of food will also continue to rise.
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