CNN asks whether governments should fix prices to control food inflation – a policy last used in the 1970s – but concludes that it will only result in shortages.
The New York Post writes that citrus greening disease has decimated Florida’s orange crop, resulting in the lowest production in 75 years. Orange juice prices are up 50 per cent on the 10-year lows seen in February 2020.
Palm oil prices have hit a record high on concerns over supplies. Malaysian producers face an acute labour shortage, while Indonesia may impose limits on palm oil exports to encourage producers to prioritise the domestic market. Indian consumers are likely to switch to cheaper soy and sunflower oils.
After the Canadian and US governments introduced vaccination requirements for truckers crossing their borders, Canadians are paying more for their fruit and vegetable. The cost of transporting fruit from California and Arizona to Canada climbed 25 per cent last week. Only 50 to 60 per cent of US truckers are vaccinated. The US restrictions also apply to border traffic with Mexico.
The new rules are also negatively impacting the cross-border shipments of Canadian pigs to US abattoirs. Exporters have cancelled truck shipments of US soybean meal to Manitoba when producers are relying on the imports to feed their animals after drought hit domestic production. Capacity constraints make it challenging to transfer to rail shipments, and some Canadian feedlot operators expect to run out of animal feed “within days.
Bloomberg writes that the $150 billion that the shipping industry made last year from higher freight rates contributed to food inflation.
It is not just the shipping companies seeing higher profits after years of depressed markets. Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, whose holding company, Akira BV, is the main shareholder in Louis Dreyfus Company, received $457 million in dividends in 2021, increasing her net worth to $3.3 billion.
China imported 28.35 million tonnes of corn in 2021, up 152 per cent from the previous annual record of 11.3 million in 2020. Chinese wheat imports also hit a record at 9.77 million tonnes, up 16.6 per cent from 2020. Wheat imports have mainly increased for animal feed, but the country’s growing demand for bread may continue the upward trend.
California Air Resources Board (CARB) has found that recent truck engines emit more NOx when running on renewable diesel than conventional diesel. Earlier studies on older engines had found that renewable diesel reduced NOx emissions by 10 per cent. The new research could affect how regulators revise the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), which has spurred recent investment in renewable diesel.
Due to policy and feedstock constraints, the US will likely produce less than half the renewable diesel production projected by the US government for 2025. The EIA estimates US renewable diesel production capacity could increase to more than 5 billion gallons per year, but a new study estimates production will reach approximately 2 billion gallons.
There were various anti-meat stories this week. Euronews featured a Bafta-winning short film about a UK farmer who donated his beef cattle herd to an animal sanctuary. Bloomberg Green has a long read on how cattle farming destroys the Amazon rainforest.
The Guardian writes about the US’s manure problem and worries that the growing use of anaerobic digesters to produce biomethane will encourage farmers to increase herds. And in a separate article, the newspaper writes about the European culture wars over meat-eating. The EU expects per capita meat consumption to drop only slightly, from 69.8 kg in 2018 to 67 kg by 2031, too little to impact global warming.
Wired magazine questions whether there is such a thing as ‘low carbon beef’. Under a USDA scheme, producers who can prove they raise their cattle in a way that emits 10 per cent fewer greenhouse gases than an industry baseline can qualify for the certification.
The food technology start-up, Mosa Meat, has developed a way to grow meat in a laboratory without using fetal bovine serum (FBS, blood taken from foetuses in pregnant cows during the slaughter process. Musa believes that it can reduce production costs by 80 per cent and has published details in Nature.
For a second straight year, the French government has ordered poultry farmers in the country’s Southwest to cull their birds in the face of bird flu. A severe outbreak between autumn 2020 and spring 2021 claimed about 3.5 million poultry, mainly ducks.
The EU is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of its Common Agricultural Policy. You will find its history and associated articles here.
NASA is offering $1 million in prize money for innovations around sustainable food production. NASA wants to develop food systems that can feed a team of four astronauts on a long-haul space mission of up to three years. They also hope it will result in food innovation to help feed more people on earth.
And talking of feeding the planet, the plant enset, an Ethiopian staple, could be a new superfood and a lifesaver in the face of climate change. The banana-like crop could feed more than 100 million people in a warming world.
The fourfold increase in fertiliser prices over the past year will hit European farmers badly. For example, fertiliser use in Hungary could drop 30-40 per cent this season, making crops more susceptible to drought. The world’s biggest vertical farm, under construction in Pennsylvania, hopes to get around high fertiliser prices by using fish poop.
Looking forward, the world’s farmers will have to switch to ‘green’ fertilisers produced from renewable fuel if they want to decarbonise food production. It will be challenging, but this article is optimistic that it will happen.
The UK government has allowed the country’s sugar beet farmers to use the chemical pesticide thiamethoxam to deal with yellow virus disease. The EU and UK banned its use in 2018 because of the damage the chemical could cause to bees. meanwhile, New Atlas looks at the remarkable properties of sugar-based plastics.
Italy has applied for UNESCO world heritage status for espresso coffee, claiming it is “much more than a simple drink”. Finally, to let your mind wander to sunny climes, the BBC has a lovely piece on Trieste, the coffee capital of Italy.
© Commodity Conversations ® 2022
Many of the above links require subscriptions. Please support quality journalism.