Commodity Conversations Weekly Press Summary

The US is looking at resetting its tariff commitments under the WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), or even exiting it altogether, according to sources who spoke with Bloomberg. The administration is reportedly blaming the WTO’s most-favored-nation (MFN) system for its trade deficit with areas like the EU and China but some analysts warn that US businesses could be hurt if they lost access to GPA tenders.  

The USDA launched its “Science Blueprint” this month, a 5-year plan designed, among other things, to mitigate the effects of climate change on agriculture. Some advocacy groups welcomed the news, saying that the simple act of mentioning climate change was a step forward. However, critics have been quick to point out that it will not be easy to undo the efforts to undermine the USDA’s scientific research over the last few years which led to around two-thirds of agency researchers quitting. 

The situation at the USDA seems to reflect what is going with the general public in the country. A survey by Yale University found that only 30% of Americans talked about the environmental impact of what they eat, while the rest said they didn’t know they should eat more plant-based food. Over half, however, said they would be willing to adjust their diets if they got more information on the topic. 

An ongoing lawsuit in Texas might help with that. The National Press Photographers Association sued the Department of Public Safety over a ban on taking photographs of feedlots with drones. Separately, an investigation by the Food & Environment Reporting Network found that residents of Texas’ cattle feedlot belt say they are suffering from “fecal dust storms” when the wind blows on the millions of tons of manure produced by the cattle, sometimes thick enough to create smog-like conditions. The haze, as well as the amonia, could cause health problems such as asthma. However, Texas’ “right to farm” law, which was initially designed to protect farmers from growing cities, protects the feedlots from any legal action from local residents. 

Nestle reported a net profit of CHF 12.6 billion (USD 12.89 billion) in 2019, up 24% on year and beating forecasts. The organic growth was up 3.5%, driven in part by strong demand for their Starbucks and Nescafe products. The group said it was working hard to guarantee a stable supply of food in China where most of its 30 factories have started operating again. It is still too early to assess the impact of the coronavirus, however, as China represents 8% of its global sales.
Looking forward, the CEO warned that organic growth would likely slow in 2020, adding that the group was planning more acquisitions in high-margin and “trendy” segments. The plant-based meat segment represents a “once in a generation opportunity,” he added, saying that plant-based tuna would be released later this year. On the other hand, Nestle may look to dispose of its US frozen food and water businesses which have not been doing well. In Nigeria, the company is due to start domestic production of milk following pressure from the government to reduce imports. 

Unilever said it would stop advertising its food and beverage products to children below 12 years to help reduce child obesity. It will also launch a “Responsibly Made for Kids” logo for products with lower calories and sugar content. Similarly, the UN is calling on regulating ads to children, especially fast food ads on social media. 

A report by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) analysed by The Guardian suggests that the cleaning systems (known as “scrubbers”) installed in ships to meet 2020 IMO pollution regulations, could result in more pollutants being released in the sea instead, contaminating seafood in the process. Some environmentalists have urged the IMO to ban the use of scrubbers until data, which the IMO says is currently insufficient to really assess risk, is clearer. The WWF, meanwhile, found that the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, China and Vietnam were responsible for 60% of the world’s annual ocean pollution, noting that Malaysia was the biggest consumer of single-use plastics. 

In Ukraine, the government gave the green light to Bunge, ADM, Cargill, Louis Dreyfus and Glencore to get together and create TechCo, a company designed to digitise documents related to the sale of agricultural products. There are no concerns about competition as this will only affect post-sales, it said. Something similar is happening in the sugar industry where Dubai-based sugar refiner Al Khaleej Sugar, Universa Block Chain and DMCC Tradeflow signed an agreement to collaborate over the development of a platform designed to boost international sugar trade volumes in Dubai. 

This summary was produced by ECRUU

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