Commodity Conversations Weekly Press Summary

Wilmar International and Associated British Foods (ABF) announced the creation of a joint-venture in China that will produce yeast and other bakery ingredients. The partnership will build a new unit attached to a Wilmar food processing factory and take over operations from AB Mauri, an ABF subsidiary.

In order to reduce costs after a disappointing first quarter, ADM has merged two of its five businesses – the grain trading and oilseeds segments – into one operation. The group is struggling amid the bad weather in the US Midwest and trade tensions with China. This marks the second restructuring in 14 months and analysts noted that it would help streamline operations.

ADM was reportedly one of the trading groups who sold Brazilian corn to the US in recent weeks, as sources said that between 5 and 10 Brazilian corn vessels were purchased by Smithfield Food in the US, a subsidiary of China’s WH Group. Importing can save on the cost of transportation from the Corn Belt, where the bad weather is expected to delay planting and lower total corn output this year. Overall, traders estimate that the US could be due to receive 1 million mt of corn from South America. This would help Brazilian farmers, who expect to harvest a record 100 million mt of corn. Global corn supplies are also being threatened by the fall armyworm in China, usually the world’s second largest corn producer, as the pest has now affected 15 regions and should keep spreading, according to the USDA.

In Switzerland, the NGO Public Eye is asking the government to implement stricter rules on human rights violations for agricultural trading companies that operate out of the country. It estimates that 50% of global grain, 40% of global sugar and 30% of global coffee and cocoa are traded from Switzerland.

In a major but little-noticed move, the USDA officially authorised the transport of hemp and THC across US states last week. The agency said that “Congress has removed hemp from schedule I and removed it entirely from the CSA (Controlled Substances Act)”. Analysts noted that Unilever was in a good position to trial the sale of cannabidiol (CBD) products, which was legalised with hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill, thanks to its large number of brands. The group has already announced possible CBD variants for two brands: Schmidt’s Naturals, which makes natural deodorants, and Ben & Jerry’s.

The competition is increasing in the plant-based meat sector as Nestle is due to launch its Sweet Earth Awesome Burger in the US before the end of the year. While other brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are already available in many outlets, Nestle highlighted that its vegan burger is actually healthier, with more fibre and protein than its competitors. This marks the third plant-based burger offered by Nestle, along with the Garden Gourmet brand in the EU and the Incredible Burger it sells through McDonald’s in Germany.

The traditional meat market could also see some major changes, as Brazil’s chicken producer BRF SA is looking to acquire Marfrig Global Foods SA, which would create the world’s fourth-largest meat company. Protein export demand is expected to surge this year as China is due to lose 10% of its pig population to the African Swine Fever, although experts cautioned that the two groups might struggle to combine and streamline operations.

The Ecological Transition ministry in France instructed 15 fast-food chains, including McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King and Starbucks, to sort the waste at 70% of their restaurants before the end of 2019, in order to comply with a 2016 law. France is also planning to expand the ban on the destruction of food items to non-food items, like clothes sold by luxury stores or online retailers. The measures are seen as a consequence of the success of the green party during the European elections.

Lastly this week, a Californian judge agreed to overrule the decision that would have forced coffee makers to include a cancer warning label. The drawn-out legal case revolved around the trace amounts of acrylamide, a carcinogenic, found in coffee.

This summary was produced by ECRUU

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