Commodity Conversations Weekly Press Summary

Mitsui & Co is spending USD 265 million to buy 30% of the shares in ETG, Africa’s top agricultural trade house, the FT reports, as part of Mitsui’s strategy to diversify away from energy into agricultural markets.

The FT also reports that Wilmar has agreed to buy Cargill’s palm oil business in Kuantan, on Malaysia’s east coast, in a bid to strengthen its sales and distribution network. Cargill said it would continue running its other edible oil plants in Port Klang and Westport.

In what could be set back to Bunge’s plans to grow its food and ingredients businesses, the company has cancelled a plan to acquire a controlling majority in Mexican corn miller Grupo Minsa, Reuters reports. The company explained that this was a result of Minsa’s decision to outsource sales to a third party company while  authorities in Mexico examines the deal. 

Kellogg is responding to changing consumer diets and is launching a range of plant-based cereals in the UK, it’s the first step into the country’s vegan and organic market.

Similarly, Nestle has reportedly initiated discussions to acquire the US organic and vegetarian food manufacturer Hain Celestial Group. In the last few months, the company has bought Sweet Earth, Blue Bottle Coffee and invested in Freshly. In another interesting development, Nestle has launched its own voice-activated speaker in China which will be given for free to those who buy their milk powder in bulk. The speaker will provide information about Nestle products and collect consumer information.  

The world of organic food is in for a revamp as EU countries have agreed to update the rules of organic farming, most of which were 20 years old. The new rules aim to apply the same standards to all EU and non-EU farmers so that consumers across the EU get the same quality. Among the changes, crops cultivated in greenhouses can no longer count as organic. The new rules still have to be approved by the European Parliament.

Greenpeace has filed a complaint against Coca-Cola with the Advertising Code Committee for advertising that ‘Our packaging is 100 percent recyclable’. Greenpeace argued that the point was not so much whether the packaging was recyclable but whether the recycling actually happened, which the organisation said happens too rarely.

Similarly, protesters in the UK are urging people to sign a petition demanding Coca-Cola to lessen its plastic footprint as part of the UK’s national campaign against the 12 million tonnes of plastic waste that is being thrown in oceans annually,. But in an ironic twist, The Guardian reported that for the past five years, the UK’s environment department has used 1,400 disposable coffee cups on a daily basis.

Blockchain technology is revolutionising the world of farm-to-table transparency. US consumers who buy Honeysuckle White turkeys this Thanksgiving will be able to see photos of the farm where the turkey comes from, along with other information by scanning the packaging code. The project – in partnership with Cargill’s in-house blockchain platform – could be used on a wider scale if it proves to be a success. The food traceability market is expected to reach an estimated USD 14 billion by 2019.

The tech world is also changing the relationship between farmers and banks as farmers become better informed. Farmers now change lenders more often. 

Finally, Rabobank has warned that agricultural commodity prices are likely to be more volatile in 2018 because a forecast La Niña phenomenon (known, among other things, to cause dry conditions in the Americas and abnormally wet weather in Asia) could lead to a tightening global supply and demand for many crops.

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