Commodity Conversations Weekly Press Summary

This is ECRUU’s last Commodity Conversations media report. 

Thank you to all of you who have supported and read this report over the last 5 years. We have decided to focus all our energy and attention on exciting developments for our core products (sugar & ethanol media monitoring – check it out here). 

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Bad weather conditions around the world are threatening to tighten grain stocks which are already at their lowest in the past five years. Brazil’s corn crop is at risk because of the dry weather, a cold wave destroyed seedlings in Europe and now the US Midwest is expected to suffer from abnormally cold and dry weather over the next few days. Demand has been increasing at the same time and governments are now looking to control food inflation. For one, Brazil announced that the suspension of corn import duties, among other grains, had been extended until the end of the year.

China issued new feed guidelines in response to the rise in grain prices which could have long-term repercussions on global trade flows. The directive recommends that livestock operators reduce the amount of corn and soybeans used and replace them with cheaper alternatives, such as rice, cassava, barley, rapeseed meal, cottonseed meal or peanut meal. Some doubted whether this would actually change consumption patterns as cost will remain the main factor. One analyst also noted that soybeans and corn maintain a significant supply advantage as “the volume of soybeans the US can load in a single day is larger than the yearly global export volume of cottonseed meal”. 

New data revealed that consumers globally cooked and baked more during the pandemic as global grocery sales were up 10% in 2020. The data highlighted some regional differences, such as alcohol sales which grew 20-25% in Western Europe and Latin America but dropped 10% in Asia. In the UK, consumers are also focusing on their health as the sale of berries remains higher than usual. A researcher noted that shoppers were no longer focusing on calorie count but on holistic health and the importance of nutrients.

Nestle saw its strongest quarterly sales growth in a decade in the first quarter thanks to the rise​_ in at-home coffee consumption. Dairy and pet food sales also reported strong growth, while the firm expanded its ecommerce and health science portfolio. In contrast, Danone witnessed a fall in sales in the first quarter. Essential dairy and plant-based foods sales were up but not enough to offset the poor performance of the bottled water and special nutrition segments. 

The EU’s agriculture commissioner expressed his support for a citizens initiative called “End of cage age”  which seeks to ban the use of cages to improve animal welfare. The petition gained 1.4 million signatures and the commissioner said he would now work on drafting legislation. In response, the livestock industry argued that oversimplifying the concept of cages could actually have negative consequences. The idea that “all enclosures are inherently bad for animals” overshadows the complexity of animal welfare and the specificity of certain animals. Instead, animal well-being has more to do with “housing parameters, enrichments, animals’ ability to move freely, the risk of injuries and diseases”, according to the livestock industry. 

Major food firms are also worried that the EU will vote in favour of new restrictions on the marketing of plant-based meat alternatives. Under the proposal, plant-based products will not be allowed to be marketed as dairy alternatives. Nestle would have to rebrand its Almond Latte which is marketed as a “delicious alternative to dairy” and some worry that soy drink makers will even have to change their packaging to avoid comparison to milk cartons. 

Oatly argued that the proposal would place unfair restrictions on plant-based products and hinder the effort to decarbonise food production. Otherwise, the firm officially filed documents for an IPO in the US. The papers revealed that Oatly’s loss widened to USD 60.4 million in 2020. Meanwhile, the sector is due to get more crowded with the launch of Coca-Cola’s Simply Oat drink. And the world’s largest meat supplier, Brazil’s JBS, announced the acquisition of Vivera BV, Europe’s third-largest plant-based food producer. The Dutch firm was acquired for USD 408 million.

After years of debate on the proper ratio of cow to goat milk in halloumi, the EU granted the cheese a protected designation of origins (PDO) status. Perhaps surprisingly, the decision could potentially have geopolitical implications and help with the reunification of Cyprus. The documents also recognised hellim, the Turkish word for the halloumi produced on the Turkish enclave on the island. The local community is now calling for a new production control mechanism that would involve both the Cypriot and Turkish communities. 

This summary was produced by ECRUU

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