Commodity Conversations Weekly Press Summary

In company news, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission last week fined Cargill Inc $10 million for providing inaccurate information on swaps, and for failing to supervise the company’s swap dealers. The charges date from 2013. In an emailed statement, Cargill admitted no wrongdoing, but said it was “enhancing its internal controls and employee training programs” inside its swap dealer division.

Meanwhile Cargill has announced it is investing an additional $240 million in India over the next five years. The investment will be in Cargill’s core businesses, including edible oil, cocoa and chocolates, starches and sweeteners and animal nutrition. Last year, Cargill inaugurated its first wet corn milling plant in India; set up with an investment of $100 million.

Bunge Ltd has said it may be able to get the best value for its Brazilian sugarcane milling business through an initial public offering of the unit. The company began looking at selling the mills in 2013. Bunge is already in the process of separating the finances of its sugarcane-milling unit from the rest of the company. The CEO said that this would make it easier for the company to act quickly once it decides to launch an IPO or take other measures.

COFCO International has agreed to sell Nidera Seeds, its crop seeds business that operates in South America, to Syngenta AG. Financial terms were not disclosed. Syngenta, owned by ChemChina, has said it would pursue deals to become the third-biggest player in the seeds industry.

Ferrero, the Italian food manufacturer, attracted media attention last week after a German consumer group noticed that the company has slightly changed its recipe for its Nutella spread. It has increased the content of powdered skimmed milk from 7.5% to 8.7%, and sugar from 55.9% to 56.3%. Furious Nutella fans took to Twitter to criticise the changes, using the hashtag #boycottNutella. In a statement Ferrero confirmed the changes had been made but insisted, “the quality … and all other aspects of Nutella remain the same”.

The danger of changing recipes was also highlighted in a Bloomberg article this week. In the 1980s Coca Cola responded to the “Pepsi Challenge” advertising campaign by introducing a new formula. Loyal customers said they didn’t like the new taste and sales fell. The company reacted and relaunched “Classic Coke.”

Back in the future, the UN’s FAO warned last week that global hunger is on the rise for the first time in a decade. A total of 815 million people went hungry last year, an increase of 38 million on the previous year. The FAO blamed climate change and conflict for the increase.

The organisation’s Director-General said that “About one in three people globally suffer from at least one form of malnutrition: be it hunger, micronutrient deficiencies, or overweight and obesity. Unless we take urgent and effective action, more than half of the world’s population will suffer from at least one type of malnutrition by 2030.”

The journal Nature Geoscience has published a report that argues that the world could feed an additional 825 million people, produce 10 percent more food calories, and grow 19 percent more protein by adjusting what crops are grown where. Changing where crops are grown would also reduce farmers’ use of rainwater by an estimated 14 percent. The study’s authors did however acknowledge that cultural and dietary preferences could pose a challenge in changing where crops are grown.

People’s tastes do however change; we can get used to anything. To illustrate the point Reuters reports that North Koreans now eat the dregs left over from making soybean oil, which usually go to feed the pigs. They press and roll them into paste, stuff them with rice, and top it with chilli sauce. The dish’s name, injogogi, means “man-made meat”. If not a national dish, it has become a street food popular for its taste.

Meanwhile, Russia’s 2017-18 grain harvest is expected to hit a record 133 million tonnes. Of that amount, 44.5 million tonnes are earmarked for export, up from 37.7 million last year and only 1.3 million tonnes in 2001. Russia is set to overtake the United States as the world’s biggest wheat exporter this year – regaining the top spot it last held before World War One. However analysts warn that a lack of port infrastructure could limit further export expansion.

Lastly an opinion piece in the New York Times argues that we should stop talking about food in the negative sense. By fretting about food, we turn occasions for comfort and joy into sources of fear and anxiety. And when we avoid certain foods, we usually compensate by consuming too much of others. The writer adds, “All of this happens under the guise of science. But a closer look at the research behind our food fears shows that many of our most demonized foods are actually fine for us”. He adds, “If there’s one thing you should cut from your diet, it’s fear”.

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