Commodity Conversations Weekly Press Summary

Civil society’s attacks on agriculture have increased significantly in the last few years, something which has come to be known as “agribashing,” according to a report published on the topic by a French institute. Researchers point out that, in the past, those who attacked the agriculture sector used to be a minority, focused on fighting GMOs. However, the focus has moved from agriculture’s negative impact on the environment to its effect on health – something which seems to stir people much more. The problem has been exacerbated by the fact that the agriculture sector, including farmers as well as the trade, has not been very good at talking with consumers whereas NGOs have. “[Consumers] have a false image of a nourishing and ideal nature that works alone, without human intervention,” one analyst said.

Farmers in France have been particularly vocal in their complaints against attacks on the agriculture sector. This is all the more ironic given that the country is considered to be the most sustainable food-wise in the world. This the second year in a row that France tops the index put together by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Cargill has gone some way into addressing the issue with its US-based blockchain turkeys project which was successful enough for the company to more than double it in just a year. However, an article in New Food Economy argued that it had limitations in terms of providing consumers with a transparent access to supply chain information. It argued that the company could decide which information to show and not to show, adding that its role in getting the turkey from the farmer to the consumer was not clear. Similarly, the Animal Welfare Institute is suing the USDA on the basis that its “humane” and “sustainable” food label claims should require third-party audits – which is currently not the case. It wants the agency to strengthen the label approval process.

ADM could be on the verge of revolutionising the dairy industry. The group tied up with San Francisco-based startup Perfect Day to commercially sell milk which is not produced from cows but fermented from microorganisms like yeast. It is then manufactured, using a 3D printer, to create proteins. The product is looking to attract consumers of dairy-free products. A study by Mintel shows that that market has increased by 61% since 2013.

In Canada, Cargill sold its grain and crop input assets in Ontario – including the 50% of shares it owned in South West Ag Partners – to the agri-food cooperative La Coop fédérée. Cargill, which still owns an export terminal in Sarnia among other grain assets in the country, will now act as the marketing entity of La Coop fédérée. In Thailand, meanwhile, Cargill invested USD 70 million to upgrade one of its poultry supply chains as well as its aqua feed production plant in the Phetchaburi province.

In the UK, Tesco and the WWF have joined hands for a four-year project in which they aim to cut by half the effect of food items on the environment while ensuring that prices stay affordable. The WWF will help Tesco get rid of products that cause deforestation and help it sell 100% certified responsible seafood. Also in the UK, a number of businesses including Coca-Cola European Partners, Unilever and Danone, have committed to have “net zero emissions” by 2050. This comes at a time when a report by the World Meteorological Organisation showed that the global emission of the three main greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, have all hit a historic high in 2017 and that they show no signs of decreasing.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) renewed its call for governments to work on ending world hunger. Data suggests that in 2017, an estimated 821 million people went hungry, a regression to levels last seen a decade ago. The organisation pointed out that countries with high levels of hunger were also struggling with rising obesity rates. An estimated 2.1 billion people are considered overweight globally.

On a more positive note, a new study found that people have a healthier diet when they eat with their families. This is a good reason to take the time to sit down at dinner, even with a moody teenager!

This summary was produced by ECRUU

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