Commodity Conversations Weekly Press Summary

Cargill saw its net earnings drop 10% on year to USD 915 million for the quarter ending in August as good protein demand was not enough to offset the disruptions caused by the trade war and the African Swine Flu. Cargill said it was re-organising its animal nutrition business to focus on animal health and wellness. The company is also working on its ecommerce platform to better liaise with its customers and to simplify transactions. For instance, the platform should help Cargill communicate more effectively on issues including new tariffs due to the trade war. The company has also set up a new Land Use and Forest Protection Advisory Panel to scale up efforts against deforestation. In Brazil, it wants to set up a start-up accelerator to finance ideas to solve the deforestation challenge. 

Nestle said it wouldn’t meet its 2020 deforestation goals. It now targets 90% of its commodities to be “deforestation-free,” up from 77% in 2019. On the other hand, it denied claims by the  Rainforest Action Network that it had sourced palm oil from illegal suppliers in Indonesia. Nestle pointed out that 100% of its palm oil supply chain was closely checked using satellites. The group’s senior vice president said he would welcome increasing government regulation to create more of a level playing field among stakeholders. For example, Nestle just inaugurated a 28,000 photovoltaic solar plant at its Al Maha site in Dubai as part of its target of zero net emissions by 2050. Separately, Nestle has bought a minority stake in Before Brands, a company that makes products with allergens designed to prevent allergies from developing in young children. 

Louis Dreyfus and China’s Luckin Coffee announced a plan to jointly produce and distribute juices in China, on top of their plan to set up a coffee roasting plant. Commentators pointed out that the venture helped Luckin compete with Starbucks in the Chinese market on the one hand, and was part of LDC’s strategy to do more food processing, on the other. 

ADM is going to make yet another by-product from corn. It has tied up with Korean group LG Chem to make a sustainable corn-based acrylic acid used in polymers which can then be used in products such as diapers. A company official said the group was already making some 30 products from corn kernel. At the same time, ADM reportedly set up a company called Vantage Corn Processors under which it will incorporate its ethanol plants by the end of the year. 

Olam has echoed a proposal by a famous economist that industry stakeholders in the coffee market get together to create a global fund to subsidise farmers in times of low coffee prices, as is currently the case. Olam’s head of coffee argued that, because coffee is mostly grown in poor countries, farmers usually don’t benefit from subsidies when prices fall below the cost of production. He suggested the fund could also help growers develop more sustainable practices. Nestle pointed out that, at the current pace of global warming, it might be impossible to grow coffee by 2050. In the US, retailers The Kroger and Albertsons announced they were joining the Sustainable Coffee Challenge to do their bit in helping what Fair Trade USA called a “pricing crisis” in the coffee market. 

There’s been progress in the cocoa sector, meanwhile. For one, Cargill’s cocoa and chocolate business announced it was extending its partnership with the International Finance Corporation for a sustainable supply chain in West Africa, Indonesia and Brazil. Barry Callebaut said it would soon launch its WholeFruit Chocolate, a product that is made entirely from the cacao fruit, including parts that are usually thrown away. This is part of a plan to use only sustainable ingredients by 2025. Similarly, Nestle said it had started using the usually discarded cocoa plant fruit as a sweetener. Interestingly, Nestle also launched KitKat bars that will cost USD 17/bar as part of its premium range of chocolate products. 

Plant-based meat continued to gain traction last week as Impossible Foods received a United Nations Global Climate Action Award in recognition of its contribution to the fight against climate change. The Spoon noted that in September alone, at least six new plant-based burgers had been launched in the US. Similarly, IKEA is trying to make a vegan version of its signature meatballs.

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