Commodity Conversations Weekly Press Summary

Global chocolate makers have asked the European Union to make cocoa importers liable for environmental and human rights abuses in their supply chain. They say that the current voluntary measures aren’t working and that existing certification systems have failed as cocoa production, especially in West Africa, continues to cause deforestation and use child labour. Similarly, in the US, the Cocoa Merchants’ Association of America warned that customs had the right to stop cocoa imports if they suspected forced labour was involved. 

The big chocolate producers say they are in favour of the so-called ‘cocoa cartel’ whereby Ivory Coast and Ghana, which represent two-thirds of global supply, are making buyers pay a USD 400/mt premium, the equivalent of 16% of the current price. Both Hershey and Mars said it was important to help improve the livelihoods of the farmers, even though this will probably translate into higher prices

The world of coffee is also about to be shaken. The Vietnamese group Intimex, which exports a third of Vietnam’s robusta beans, announced a plan to use 30-40% of its green robusta beans to make instant coffee, from 10% currently. The aim is to cash in on fast-growing coffee consumption in Asia and is expected to affect the likes of Nestle and Olam who buy green beans for their domestic coffee plants. 

In the US, another milk giant has filed for bankruptcy. Texas-based Borden Dairy said the milk business was struggling in the face of higher costs and competition from plant-based alternatives. Changing eating habits, notably scrapping the breakfast cereal bowl, have led to US per capita milk consumption dropping by 40% between 1996 and 2018. The trade war with China has made matters worse by causing a 50% drop in US dairy exports to China in 2019. Borden pointed out that almost 2,800 dairy farms had closed in the last year and a half, while USDA data shows 20,000 licensed dairy farms went out of business in the last 10 years. 

Australia’s dairy and livestock industries are also set to go through a crisis with the fires raging through southern Australia, with current estimates suggesting that 12% of the sheep flock and 9% of the cattle herd would be affected. Farmers, who were already suffering from years of drought, are struggling to source feed which has become increasingly expensive. Dairy farmers are urging supermarkets to raise the milk price to help them cope, warning of a milk shortage ahead. Olam said its Australia operations had not been affected, however. 

Cargill saw profits grow 19% in its latest Q2 results, having successfully anticipated a rise in meat protein demand from China as a result of the African Swine Fever. The CEO said that the group’s strategy of divesting from non-core businesses was also paying off. Similarly, Bunge sold its Brazilian mayonnaise and margarine production assets to JBS for USD 155 million as it continues to focus on core businesses. In the US, Bunge sold its 25% stake in an Iowa-based ethanol producer.

ADM bought plant-based ingredients manufacturer Brazil’s Yerbalatina Phytoactives this week to cash in on the growing trends for plant-based and natural alternatives combined with a growing demand for health supplements. The group also opened an animal nutrition technology centre in the US state of Illinois with an aim to test ingredients in pet food and aquaculture and bring them to market as fast as possible. 

Meanwhile, corporate documents showed that Margarita Louis-Dreyfus pledged her stake in the company to get the loan she needed to buy the 16.6% stake from family members earlier last year. Commentators pointed out that this means Credit Suisse could gain ownership of the company should she fail to repay the loan. 

Nestle sold 60% of Herta to Casa Tarradellas as part of a Joint Venture which will see Nestle leaving the meat part to be managed by Casa Tarradellas while Nestle continues to handle the vegetarian side of the business. The company bought back some 225 million shares for USD 21 billion, with another USD 21 billion buyback planned by the end of 2022. 

The head of Dunkin Donut warned sceptics that the plant-based meat craze was here to stay. While Domino’s Pizza is testing the fake meat on its pizzas, Wells Fargo forecasts the market would triple over the next decade. So much so, in fact, that the shares of plant-based burger company Impossible Foods shot up after the group announced it had stopped chasing a deal to supply McDonald’s because of insufficient production capacity. 

Interestingly, however, data analysed by The Washington Post showed that if you calculate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by calorie instead of by weight broccoli actually emits more GHG than meat such as chicken or pork.

This summary was produced by ECRUU

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