Commodity Conversations Weekly Press Summary

The Brazilian President repealed a decree which prevented sugarcane cultivation in sensitive areas such as the Amazon or Pantanal. Researchers warned that this could harm the chances of exporting cane products like ethanol to the EU or Japan where the environmental footprint is closely monitored. The sugar industry had previously lobbied against the move but recently suggested that deforestation concerns would be handled by new policies, such as the Forest Code and RenovaBio.

Experts estimate that 80% of the forest fires in Brazil are started to make space for cattle ranches, despite the fact that the three largest meatpackers pledged to only buy cattle from deforestation-free areas. As a result, journalists are now reporting cases of “cattle laundering”, where farmers move cows around to remove links to illegally deforested land.

Despite the strong rise in deforestation, Brazil emitted only 0.3% more greenhouse gases in 2018 when compared to 2017 thanks to the growth in clean energy sources such as ethanol and wind power. Nonetheless, some areas are witnessing dense smog and pollution because of the fire. In New Delhi, crop burning is one of the major reasons why the smog problem became so bad planes could not land and schools were closed. Ethanol, and other advanced biofuels produced from crop waste, could be a good solution to address the pollution, although the lack of funding is seen as a major obstacle. 

Conservation International said it would accelerate its program to plant cocoa plantations and other trees to restore some of the burnt Amazon areas. Commodity groups such as Olam and Mondelez pledged to pay a premium for the cocoa collected under the program. The cocoa grown in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, meanwhile, has recently become more expensive as the price for next season will include a Living Income Differential (LID) premium. Switzerland’s Barry Callebaut said it would pass on the premium to its customers, adding that most other players would probably do the same as the two countries account for 70% of the supply. 

Indonesia attempted to stop deforestation by banning new palm oil plantations for three years last September. However, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) said it was impossible to measure the success of the ban because of a lack of transparency. 

A study conducted by Maersk and Lloyds Register identified alcohols like ethanol and methanol as some of the most promising renewable fuels to help the maritime industry reduce their emissions, along with biomethane and ammonia. The COO of Maersk commented that most of the innovation will have to come from growing the production of these fuels to commercial scale. Maersk Tankers recently announced a partnership with Cargill and Mitsui to study ship decarbonisation. 

Nestle announced that 70% of its car fleet in Mexico used hybrid engines to reduce their carbon footprint, and that they were struggling to reach 100% only because of a lack of hybrid trucks and vans. Nestle, along with Pepsi and Coca-Cola, has been moving towards using aluminium cans to address concerns about the mounting plastic pollution. But the Coca-Cola CEO argued that the most environmentally-friendly solution in the long-run was actually to collect and recycle more plastic bottles. The group will not look to a strategic shift away from plastic, he added. 

Investors have been encouraging sustainable firms for years but a new breed of investors is now looking at going a step further by shorting companies with a lack of sustainable credentials, something Bloomberg dubbed “The Green Short”. Morphic Asset Management, for one, is short on Coca-Cola Amatil, an Australian bottler, because it is not doing enough for the environment and to tackle the obesity crisis. 

An in-depth analysis by Politico suggested a reason why the food industry is having a hard time dealing with a rise in obesity and diabetes: the US government has been shrinking the amount of money it invests in nutrition research. As a result, the science on what is healthy food is inconsistent and even contradictory at times. Experts are calling for the creation of a National Institute of Nutrition to help the sector focus on healthier foods. 

Finally this week, we recommend watching this montage of Australian farmers reacting to the recent heavy rain in New South Wales. While 100mm fell over the past weekend, some experts warn that more rain will be needed to fully recover from the drought.

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