Commodity Conversations Weekly Press Summary

Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC) announced that it has renewed a USD 750 million loan which will be linked to how the company performs based on a number of sustainability goals. The interest rate will be based on its carbon emissions, waste disposal and electricity and water consumption. The concept is gaining in popularity, especially in Europe, and Moody’s estimated that a total of USD 36 billion worth of sustainable loans were issued last year. Starbucks and Mercon Coffee Group announced similar loans earlier this month, as they noted that the coffee supply chain was particularly vulnerable to climate change.

In China, LDC has partnered with Guangdong Haid Group to produce high-end aquatic feeds and fermented soybean meal, the first investment by LDC in the aquafeed sector. The Haid group is currently the largest aquafeed producer in the world and will help LDC take advantage of the growing demand for healthy protein, LDC’s chairperson noted. Similarly, sources reported that Nutreco NV, an aqua-feed supplier, was looking to purchase the assets of South Korea’s CJ CheilJedang Corp for USD 1.7 billion. Most of the major players in agricultural commodities are investing in the sector, following the advice given by Cargill’s CEO to “go long [on] fish and short [on] pork”.

In contrast, large export companies will be less interested in investing in Ukraine’s grain industry following the fraud and ensuing bankruptcy of the Agroinvest Group, the head of the Ukrainian Grain Association warned. Bunge Ukraine might lose up to 20% of its market share in the sunflower seeds market, while agribusinesses have lost up to USD 200 million because of the Agroinvest Group case, the association estimated.

Ukraine’s leading food maker, Chumak, was purchased by Delta Wilmar, a joint venture between Wilmar International and Delta Exports. A Wilmar spokesperson said the acquisition will help move further downstream into the high value-added food processing sector. Otherwise, analysts warned that low palm and palm kernel oil prices should affect the performance of plantations companies in the first half of 2019, although Wilmar reported better than expected results thanks to the tropical oils and sugar segments.

In Malaysia, the world’s largest producer of crude palm oil, FGV Holdings, said it was looking at ways to reduce its dependency on palm oil, as high stocks levels and the competition from alternatives oilseeds like soybean and sunflower were expected to continue to push down prices. Nonetheless, the biodiesel mandate in Malaysia was increased which could help draw down inventories, the group noted.

Banana experts are gathering this week in Miami to discuss some of the major issues facing the world’s most popular fruit. One of the main concerns remains the Panama disease which threatens to wipe out the Cavendish variety, the single most popular banana type grown as a monoculture around the world. But people are pointing to another less obvious problem: bananas are too cheap. Surveys estimate that it is the cheapest product on the fresh food aisle, which is a mystery considering how fast they rot and how far they have to travel. One explication, according to Equal Exchange, is that the real price is being paid for by the environment and labour forces. Only cotton has a more damaging impact on the societies where it is grown, the group estimates.

The FDA in the US published a new guidance on expiry dates which will hopefully reduce the amount of food that is unnecessarily wasted. The agency recommends that the food industry uses the term “Best If Used By” to illustrate that labels are placed for quality and not safety purposes. A majority of food products can be consumed safely beyond the date indicated on the packaging and the law only imposes a sell-by date for safety reasons on one product: infant formula. For more information, check out this video which explains that even if products are expired and smell really bad, like milk, they are still completely safe to consume.

The drive by supermarket chains to reduce the amount of plastic used is facing a major obstacle: consumers often choose convenience over sustainability. In the UK, Morrisons launched a program to encourage people to use their own containers for meat purchased at fresh food counters, but some chains like Tesco are now completely removing fresh food counters. The decision comes as consumers increasingly look to purchase products that are already sealed and ready to scan. One solution could be to work towards a middle way, such as shifting to recyclable aluminium trays which provide all the convenience of plastic packaging with a smaller environmental impact.

This summary was produced by ECRUU

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