Commodity Conversations News Monitor

The UN FAO Food Price Index hit eleven-year highs in January, led by gains in vegetable oils and dairy prices, partially offset by a decline in sugar prices. Meat and cereal prices remained essentially unchanged. The NY Times worries that high food prices could lead to social unrest, while Bloomberg is concerned about the cost of meat, soybeans, coffee, and avocados.

China has removed restrictions on wheat and barley imports. The countries plan to reach a similar deal next year on peas. Leading wheat exporters to China, such as France, Canada, and Australia, may see their share of the China market fall. Russia has expanded in several other wheat markets in recent months, gaining a more significant stake in Saudi Arabia and Algeria.

Egypt may replace a bread subsidy with cash payments for the poor in the face of soaring wheat prices. Nearly two-thirds of the population get five loaves of bread per day for 50 cents a month, little changed since the 1970’s “bread riots”.

National Geographic reports on a new study on how climate change and agronomy improve US corn yields more than genetics. The New York Times invites us to meet the lobbyists who protect the farmers who are killing the planet while Fee reveals the ‘dark truth about America’s agricultural system.’

The CEO of plant-based protein company Impossible Foods made the headlines last week when he estimated in a report that eliminating animal agriculture over the next 15 years would essentially halt the increase of greenhouse gases for the next 30 years. Although the report was published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS Climate, other scientists called it extreme, implausible, and unrealistic.

But is it plausible for plant-based meat to reach price-parity with real meat by 2023? The Good Food Institute (GFI) believes it can.

Even so, all-meat companies remain popular among short-sellers, with some analysts predicting further falls in their stock prices.

Britain’s pig industry says it faces collapse due to a shortage of butchers and a backlog in slaughtering more than 170,000 pigs. The sector also faces declining demand as more consumers move to plant-based diets.

Vox argues that billions of animals are slaughtered each year just to be wasted, citing statistics from the EPA report (published last November) entitled ‘From Farm to Kitchen- the Environmental Impacts of US Food Waste’.

Meatpacking company JBS has agreed to a $52.5 million settlement in a beef price-fixing lawsuit. Colorado-based JBS didn’t admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement,

Environmental groups have petitioned the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to exclude dairy farmers from the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). They argue that paying farmers for methane encourages them to produce more.

Recently, there has been much in the press about feeding seaweed to cattle to reduce their methane emissions, but there has been little research on how seaweed farming might damage marine environments. Seaweed is also difficult and expensive to process and distribute.

In what could be one of the biggest explosions ever to occur in the US, a massive fire broke out at a North Carolina fertilizer plant containing roughly 600 tons of ammonium nitrate.

The Indian government is negotiating with Russia for the long-term supply of fertilizers. India aims to lock in 1 million tonnes a year each of di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) and potash, and about 800,000 tonnes a year of a mix of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium (NPK).

Meanwhile, research continues into using microbes and seaweed as replacements for synthetic fertilizers.

In company news, Nestle will acquire a majority stake in Orgain, a maker of plant-based protein powders and other products. Financial details weren’t disclosed. Nestle has the option to fully acquire Orgain in 2024.

Tugboats have freed one of the world’s biggest container ships, the Mumbai Maersk, which had run aground off the German island of Wangerooge in the North Sea. The ship was on its way from Rotterdam to Bremerhaven.

Container shipping companies had their best quarter ever and expect to report extraordinary profits through 2022. Although port congestion is curtailing volumes, rates have risen so much that carrier profits keep escalating. As a result, shipping firms are paying their workers bonuses up to three years’ salary.

The world’s largest mozzarella maker also expects shipping disruptions to hinder agricultural exporters throughout 2022.

The USDA is helping to fund a new container yard for agricultural exports at California’s Port of Oakland to ease port congestion. The project is set to open in March.

However, a slowdown in China’s steel production is curbing demand for bulk ships to transport iron ore, driving a steady decline in bulk freight rates. The Baltic Exchange’s Dry Index has fallen 75 per cent in the past four months.

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