Commodity Conversations Weekly Press Summary

The pressure is increasing on major trade houses to step up their commitment to end deforestation in Brazil after three small soy traders that supply Norway’s salmon industry committed to zero deforestation in their supply chain this week. Brazil’s oilseeds crushers association Abiove, however, refused to impose a “soy moratorium” on farmers in the Cerrado, arguing that farmers own their land and should have a right to decide what to do with it. Abiove argued that downstream companies that are putting pressure on soybean farmers should instead look to work with them to find a solution. 

The issue continues to hold diplomatic proportions, as France’s President said that importing soybean from Brazil would be akin to condoning the deforestation of the Amazon. But with the EU importing over 8 million mt of Brazilian soy in 2020, up 61% on year and the second biggest market after China, displacing Brazilian soybean won’t be easy. While the latest pledge will help make the EU’s salmon supply chain deforestation-free, an analyst argued that reducing our meat consumption was the only realistic way of fighting deforestation in Brazil. Until then, the EU’s food safety agency just cleared worms, saying they were safe to eat, something that the UN FAO has been saying since 2013. 

Following in the footsteps of Louis Dreyfus, Cargill is looking to sell its 50% stake in sugar trading group Alvean, which would effectively signal Cargill’s exit from the world of sugar trading. This comes as the US Food and Drug Administration is under increasing pressure from consumer groups to have stricter rules for sugar content labelling. The FDA doesn’t allow the “Low Sugar” label to be used in marketing because it has not defined what the threshold is. However, a report by the New York Times shows that F&B companies are using other misleading labels, such as “lightly sweetened.” A number of these companies have faced lawsuits by consumers claiming the labels were deliberately misleading. 

In a move that grabbed headlines, Coca-Cola withdrew its support from the International Life Sciences Institute, an organisation Bloomberg said was known to focus on pro-sugar lobbying and research. Coca-Cola was also among a number of other F&B giants to freeze lobbying money following the attacks on the Capitol. This is part of a wider move from major US companies increasingly wary of their image in the eyes of consumers. The country’s biggest F&B groups already slashed political donations by up to half in the 2020 Presidential campaign compared to the previous one. 

Research carried out in Australia found that the type of food delivery that produced the most packaging waste was burgers, followed by Thai food. It also found that paper bag packaging produced more emissions than plastic as a result of the carbon released. The good news, though, is that Amazon announced it was banning toxic PFAS chemicals which often line cardboard and wrappers as well as limiting non-recyclable packaging for its Amazon Kitchen brands. In the same vein, McDonald’s said it would phase out PFAS in its food packaging by 2025. 

Restaurants continue to resent the high commissions charged by third party delivery companies. As one podcaster put it, while UberEats doubled revenues in 2020, 17% of the US restaurants shut down. Regardless, delivery companies continue to push innovation. Grubhub, for instance, tied up with Fiat Chrysler to make it easier to order food from inside a car. Meanwhile, Walmart is testing a smart locker delivery system that would make it easier for people to order their groceries and get delivered even when they’re out. The delivery app companies also welcomed a new bill passed by the outgoing President making it easier for them to classify their workers as independent contractors instead of employees, saving the companies a lot of costs. There is a strong likelihood that the new President will overturn that rule, however, The Counter said. 

Last but not least, Unilever is testing a new concept: a food factory inside a sea container. The containers would be able to produce things like bouillon, mayo, ketchup and even ice cream while being shipped around the world. 

This summary was produced by ECRUU


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