Commodity Conversations Weekly Press Summary

This week, China pledged to stop all purchases of US farm goods, on top of considering new duties for products imported after August 3. This is in response to the new US tariffs due to come into force in September. Goldman Sachs said the latest escalation made a trade resolution unlikely before the US elections in 2020. The bank had earlier assumed that resolving the trade deal would be in the President’s interest ahead of the elections. 

This will make things harder for US farmers and ranchers who were already struggling to survive. However, the President hinted that the government could offer more aid to farmers, on top of the USD 28 billion already pledged. The comment contradicted an earlier message by the USDA which warned farmers that no further aid was planned.

The bad weather and delayed planting is also making the situation difficult for US livestock producers who are looking to alternative feeds amid surging corn prices, as the country is expected to harvest its smallest corn crop in four years. Alternatives feeds include wheat, outdated pet food, leftover bakery products and imported South American grain. 

Brazil’ agricultural sector is one of the winners in the trade war. China’s Cofco noted that tax and pensions reforms enacted by the new Brazilian government will encourage investments in the country by providing more predictability and stability. 

Unfortunately, efforts by the Brazilian government to attract investors has led to a significant increase in the deforestation rate, according to official data from the National Institute for Space Research. The deforestation rate now risks falling back to the levels seen in the early 2000s, which could impact the sustainability pledges made by large companies. Mondelez, for one, is using satellite data provided by Global Forest Watch Pro, nicknamed the “Google Maps of forests”, to monitor its suppliers in Brazil. 

The worsening environmental performance of Brazil’s farm sector could potentially threaten its ability to trade and jeopardise the new free trade agreement with the EU. The Brazilian agriculture minister argued that the country was able to maintain its high standards despite the accelerated pace of approval for agrochemicals. The country needs to “win the communication war”, she added. 

Another trade agreement at risk is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which is being challenged by Nigeria’s protectionist stance. So far, all African countries but one – Eritrea – signed on. Also in Nigeria, Dangote Flour Mill (DFM) announced that it had received a final bid from Olam wishing to take over the firm for NGN 120 billion (USD 331 million). Now a global commodity group, Olam started in Nigeria as a cashew nut exporter 30 years ago.

A few weeks after launching a new chocolate made entirely from the coca fruit, Nestle announced a new range of Nescafe Gold which is entirely plant-based. Three new latte products will be launched: almond, oat and coconut coffees. Similarly, Marfrig Global Foods and ADM will collaborate to offer a plant-based burger in Brazil later this year. JBS SA also announced a plan to sell a plant-based meat patty, called Seara. 

In the aquafeed sector, the USDA has approved Cargill’s plant-based fish oil alternative for US cultivation. Using canola oilseed, Cargill is able to provide a source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, required in aquafeed, without putting pressure on wild fish stocks. 

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is due to release a new report this week analysing the relationship between land use and climate change. The main takeaway, researchers say, will be to repeat the call to switch to consuming less meat and dairy towards plant-based alternatives. 

Not all plant-based solutions are equal, however, as highlighted by this study of breakfast cereals published by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The paper recommends switching to oat-based cereals instead of corn-based cereals, because corn cultivation leads to nitrate runoff and water pollution, while oats are often grown as a cover crop which regenerates soils. 

Ever heard that the longer the soup cooks, the better it tastes? Well if that was true, this Bangkok restaurant would have the best soup on earth, as three successive generations have been stewing the same broth continuously for the past 45 years!

This summary was produced by ECRUU

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