Inside this Food Report

 

VOLUME 1
ISSUE 5


MAY 1, 2010

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Hello Everyone and Happy May Day!

In light of the recent eruption in Iceland of the volcano Eyjafjallajokull we cannot help but remember that 30 years ago this month the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State took place.   At 8:32 AM on May 18, 1980 Mt. St. Helens erupted with such force that the entire north face of the mountain literally exploded and spewed ash 50 miles away.  As hot lava slid down the mountainside at speeds of 70 to 150 miles per hour it took in its wake 57 lives and destroyed everything in its path.  An ash cloud was so large over Pullman, Washington that it left the area in total darkness.  Crop losses that year in Eastern, Washington were estimated at 100 million dollars.  The ash cover and moisture over Eastern Washington farmland created crop disease and as we remember pea yields were down that year and prices were high!  Before email, phones were ringing off the hook with customers worldwide wanting to know if we were okay and whether or not they would receive their cargo…..everyone did receive their cargo and crop season actually went along rather smoothly that year in spite of Mother Nature.  The eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland will have a larger worldwide effect than the St. Helen’s eruption based on losses already reported by the airline and tourism industries.  Please see our special report on this event below in our crops section.

On a more cheerful note, Noon International experienced an eruption of sorts a few weeks ago.  Our eruption took place atop Nob Hill in the beautiful city of San Francisco where a huge explosion of good wishes and celebration took place as we all gathered to celebrate Mrs. Louise Waram’s 93rd birthday.  Noon International has employed Louise Waram for 29 years and she is a shining star to all of us.

Can you believe at 93 she still drives herself to work each day?  Let me tell you she arrives at 8:30 AM on the dot and puts in a full day of work!  She is the eternal optimist, always cheerful, full of compassion, and need I say keeps all of us in line.  Louise is an inspiration to all that have the honor to work with her.  Louise wrote a book many years ago titled “The Wrinkle Chaser, Let Every Crease forever Cease” which outlines face exercises which will, as Louise points out in her book, “make you look lovelier and younger!”  It has certainly worked for Louise. Happy 93'rd birthday Louise, and thank you for your 29 years of dedicated service to Noon International.

Ladies, if you are interested in Louise's book give us a call and we will send you a copy!

Lily and Betty

CropVeggiesUnited States:  In Washington State green pea planting is complete and harvest should begin the first part of June.

Green bean planting in the Willamette will begin late April.  Planting is scheduled to continue until the end of June, with actual harvest beginning mid-July.  At this point all green bean planting and harvest dates are approximate and depend on the weather conditions.        

In the Klamath valley of Oregon a drought is anticipated for this summer’s growing season.  The governor of Oregon requested federal aid and signed an executive order allowing farmers to use supplemental groundwater (in normal years farms are restricted to surface water use). The drought is a direct result of historic low levels of rain and snowpack.  As of March 15th the Klamath valley had seen 1.9’’ of rain.  3.55’’ is normal.  The region produces onions and potatoes.

End of April corn plantings in the Midwest occurred at near record pace.  In Illinois the week before April 18th 1% of total corn acreage had been planted.  By April 18th 34% of corn was in the ground.  Farmers took advantage of the warm dry weather to put as much of their corn crop in the ground as possible. 

Guatemala: Broccoli production in Guatemala is quickly coming to an end as the rainy season during May and June begins.  Suppliers are scrambling to fulfill orders before the end of the season.  Quality broccoli this time of year is usually scarce, but due to lower than normal yields there is less broccoli than usual even for this time of year.

Argentina:  Lemon season in Argentina is beginning with some problems concerning citrus laborers on strike.  Not all lemon companies are affected by labor shortages.  Some problems in Spanish citrus production should allow Argentina to export more lemons to Europe than in previous years.  While the size of the fruit at the beginning of the season is smaller than usual, rains expected in May should help improve fruit size. 

New Zealand:  Delays in the New Zealand apple harvest due to cooler than usual weather have nonetheless provided high quality fruit for export.  Fruit matured slowly but the quality of the fruit is very good with high brix and firmness.  Delays from fruit coming out of Chile due to the February earthquake have allowed New Zealand growers to demand a higher price for their fruit than in previous years.

Australia:  Swarms of locusts have been plaguing eastern Australian farmers throughout April affecting 190,000 square miles of land.  So far the locusts have primarily affected grain crops.  In 2004 locusts also affected crops when swarms ate through an area of land twice the size of England in eastern Australia.  Locust swarms are expected to get worse from September to October when eggs laid by the current swarm hatch during the Australian spring.       

SpainAndalusia, a region which provides 75% of the Spanish potato crop, could see as much as a 50% reduction in yields this year due to rainy conditions and generally bad weather.  Plantings occurred in three stages to take advantage of good weather.  First planting occurred in late December, second planting occurred in mid-late January, and third planting occurred in the second half of March.  Crop conditions across Europe have been complicated by too much rain.   Currently Spain is importing potatoes from France.  Potato prices in Spain are expected to rise when French potato supplies run low.

MoroccoSignificantly more rain than usual negatively affected citrus grown in Morocco.  The heavy rain will have a long term impact on citrus production in Morocco as the rain was so severe that trees were killed in some orchards.  Morocco received 29 inches of rain from September 2009 to March 2010.  In a Reuters interview the head of the Morocco Citrus Growers and Exporters Association said that estimates at the beginning of the season for total citrus production of 532,000 tons had to be reduced to 460,000 tons.

ChinaWhile rain has fallen on south China coastal areas causing flooding, southwest Chinese provinces still suffer from the worst drought in living memory.  At this point economic losses primarily linked to agriculture are estimated upwards of 2.8 billion USD.  Harvest in southwest China for early spring crops such as corn, wheat, and kidney beans is zero, making the price of vegetables skyrocket.   There is concern that if no rain comes by the end of May people in the affected provinces will face starvation.

Iceland/Northern Europe Special Report: The recent eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland will have limited effects on agriculture in Iceland and Northern Europe.   Major agricultural production in Iceland is primarily livestock.  While this time of year most livestock in Iceland is indoors, ash in the air can cause serious breathing problems and even death to animals that remain out doors.  To date no human casualties have been reported and water sources have been unaffected. 

Iceland EruptThe most immediate casualty of the volcanic ash was the airline industry with widespread flight cancelations throughout Europe.  Losses of up to $200 million dollars per day were reported by the International Air Transport Association.  Fresh produce and flower producers in Africa and the Caribbean felt the brunt of the flight cancelations as their fresh cargo was left to sit and rot.  Kenya’s Daily National newspaper reported that the Kenyan economy lost $3.8 million dollars per day as a result of cancelled flights to Europe.  Food trade within Europe saw little effect as the majority of food is carried by rail, road and sea.  For example, only 1% of Britain’s total trade volume is carried by air.

The Cropcast Agricultural Weather Service, a private agricultural forecasting company, pointed out, “Globally, the potential for a large impact on climate is limited since this volcano is located in the upper latitudes”.  The world’s largest reinsurer, Munich RE, also stated that the concentrations of ash in the ash cloud are too low to seriously affect global agriculture. 

If the Eyjafjallajokull eruption were to continue or if its larger neighbor, Katla, erupted (history shows that soon after the three recorded eruptions of Eyjafjallajokull, Katla erupted soon after), Iceland and Europe could see catastrophic crop losses.  We will have to wait and see what Mother Nature decides.

      

 

 

 

HACCP TURNS 50! 

The modern day Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system has its origins in the United States munitions industry as a way to evaluate and verify the reliability of artillery shells.  By establishing critical control points (CCP’s) artillery manufacturers were able to assess the proper manufacturing of munitions along each step in the process and not solely rely on end product testing to identify problem artillery shells.  NASA adopted the CCP method in its own engineering as a quality assurance strategy.  The first time HACCP was applied to food manufacturing was during the “space race” in 1959 when Pillsbury was contracted by NASA to develop a system for manufacturing safe food which would nourish astronauts in space.

To accomplish this goal Pillsbury developed the first HACCP system for application on food intended for space travel.  NASA’s own engineering standard taken from the munitions industry of identifying CCP’s was developed by Pillsbury for application in food.  Pillsbury’s lead scientist on the NASA project was Dr. Howard Bauman and it was Dr. Bauman who developed strict microbiological limit standards to test the effectiveness of the HACCP system.  HACCP was so successful in the space program that Dr. Bauman pressed Pillsbury to adopt a HACCP system in their food manufacturing facilities which they did in the early 1960’s. 

While the original HACCP program developed by Pillsbury in 1959 and 1960 included three principles:

  1. Conduct a hazard analysis
  2. Determine CCP’s
  3. Establish monitoring procedures

The modern HACCP program is based on the following seven principles:

  1. Conduct a hazard analysis
  2. Determine CCP’s
  3. Establish critical limits for CCP’s
  4. Establish a system to monitor CCP’s
  5. Establish corrective action plan when particular CCP is not under control
  6. Establish procedures to confirm that the HACCP system is functioning effectively
  7. Establish documentation flow concerning procedures and records

These seven principles are the backbone of HACCP though there are some indications that these principles will be changing in the future.  As Food Safety Magazine pointed out in their December 2009/January 2010 article concerning the same topic as this report, “The future may see the addition of more principles, perhaps related to training, validation, prerequisite programs, etc.”
 
The implementation of HACCP in private industry was largely done without the influence of government mandates.  As a testament to the system, HACCP became a standard largely based on the efforts of private companies who saw it as a reliable way to ensure the safety of their products.   Even though the principles of HACCP may change in the future, the reliability of the system will continue to be accepted in the food industry.  Happy Birthday HACCP and may you have 50 more years verifying the safety of the food we eat.      

 

Can Apples Actually Keep the Doctor Away?

Doctor and AppleThere is a mounting body of evidence that suggests a diet high in fruits and vegetables can decrease the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.  Did you know that apples are extremely healthy and can provide health benefits for a variety of other chronic health disorders?  Apples contain a high concentration of a healthy class of plant phytonutrients called flavonoids and phenolics.  Apple peels in particular contain the highest concentration of phytonutrients and antioxidants at two to six times greater than those found in apple flesh.  These phytonutrients are thought to play an important role in the health benefits that numerous studies have attributed to apples.

Rui Hai Liu, the Cornell scientist who in 2009 reported that apple extract regularly fed to lab animals reduced the size and instance of mammary tumors, also published an overview from 2004 which outlined all the health benefits of apples.  Professor Liu summarized the findings of apple studies around the world and noted that people who ate apples regularly saw decreased risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, asthma, pulmonary diseases, diabetes, and even weight gain. Professor Liu points out that, “…apples were most consistently associated with reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, asthma, and type II diabetes when compared to other fruits and vegetables and other sources of flavonoids.”

Different varieties of apple demonstrated different amounts of total phenolic and flavonoid content.  Fuji variety apples contained the highest phenolic and flavonoid content of any apples tested, with Red Delicious variety coming in second.  Also interesting to note was the effect of processing on the nutrient content of apples and apple products.  When juicing apples it was found that only 10 % of the antioxidant activity remained, however, freezing apples had minimal effect on phytochemical content and no effect on the antioxidant activity of any variety of apple that was frozen.  Frozen apple peels also retained all of their antioxidant activity.  After 200 days in cold storage apple peels retained antioxidant activity and phenolics very close to the time of harvest. 

Professors Liu’s research makes it clear that apples are an extremely important part of a health conscious diet.  Apples protect, and perhaps even prevent, many diseases associated with a western diet such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes and can be transported and consumed frozen with almost no negative effect on their beneficial health properties.  Past studies have demonstrated and future studies will undoubtedly confirm, if you want to eat a healthy and tasty fruit you really cannot do better than biting into a juicy apple or eating delicious frozen apple slices.                     

 

Will Ocean Freight Rates Keep Increasing?

When Maersk, the largest container ship operator in the world, posts 2009 losses for the first time since 1904, and the container shipping industry as a whole loses $20 billion, something has to change to make the shipping industry profitable again.  In the last few months container shippers around the world have raised rates and imposed surcharges to make up for higher operating costs and less shipping activity worldwide.  The United States agricultural export industry has been hit particularly hard with many producers having ample product but not enough containers to carry it to overseas markets.  For frozen food exporters equipment has been particularly difficult to obtain and ocean freight costs have continued to rise.

A major shipping company representative explained that the lack of refrigerated/frozen equipment and increases in ocean freight are due to a combination of factors.  One factor is that the United States has been exporting more amounts of refrigerated and frozen cargo than it is importing.  This results in refrigerated/frozen containers sitting empty in overseas markets waiting for cargo so they can make the journey back to the United States.  In the past shipping companies would regularly send empty refrigerated/frozen containers back to the United States, but many companies have stopped this practice.  The extra costs involved with maintaining, inspecting, and keeping a spare parts inventory for empty refrigerated/frozen containers prohibit shipping them without product.  

The rising price of fuel is another factor that has impacted higher ocean freight rates.   Fuel costs have increased dramatically in recent years and vessel companies have been imposing bunker fuel surcharges to offset the rising cost of fuel.  We have been advised that the rising cost of fuel is expected to continue and that this cost will be passed to customers.  
Compounding the issues mentioned above is the fact that most vessel companies had expanded their fleets between 2004 and 2008.  Vessel companies have a surplus of large ships that are not currently in use, but are still relatively expensive to maintain while anchored.   

Container Ship

 

Frustrating for exporters is the trend of shipping companies taking a combination approach of reducing the amount of vessels servicing the United States West Coast(USWC) and/or reducing the amount of containers a vessel can carry.  Some companies have decreased the amount of vessels servicing the USWC to Asia, but have started using larger ships to make up for less frequent service.  Other companies have increased the amount of service to certain major ports such as Los Angeles, but have reduced the size of the vessels servicing these ports to reduce operating costs.  Attempts to increase shipping industry efficiency have also forced vessel companies to “slow steam” their vessels, lengthening the time that cargo is on the water.  This means slower delivery of product to customers, but savings on fuel costs. 

 

 

 

It seems that higher ocean freight costs and limited container availability will continue for the foreseeable future unless vessel companies can better control their operating costs and the balance of trade stabilizes.

Did you know...?

Peas are high in fiber, contain vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid, and zinc.  A substantial portion of these important nutrients are lost if you eat fresh peas.  Frozen peas are frozen just hours after harvest and retain all of their healthy attributes.  Frozen peas also taste great because the freezing process preserves peas’ sugar content and flavor.  So don't forget to eat some delicious and healthy frozen peas!

 


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