Global grain merchants continue to benefit from high commodity prices and tightening global supplies, as Bunge surprised market participants when it reported a net income of USD 551 million in the fourth quarter of 2020, compared to a loss of USD 51 million in the same period last year. The CEO highlighted the oilseed processing segment and exports out of North America, as he noted that a strong demand and tight supply will also help the firm in 2021. Moreover, the Brazilian sugar and ethanol unit, now operated as a joint venture with BP, expects to see its best year on record this season.
Similarly, Wilmar reported a net profit of USD 1.53 billion in the 2020 financial year, up 18.6% on year, as all segments reported strong growth. The plantation and sugar unit also performed well which helped compensate for the feed and industrial products segment. The recovery of the Chinese economy and the reopening of restaurants and hotels could continue to support demand, the firm said.
The government of Argentina suggested that firms like Bunge and Unilever were artificially hiking food prices by holding back on production. The production ministry launched an investigation to assess if and why the firms failed to produce at maximum capacity to keep prices under control. Some experts estimate that the country’s inflation rate could hit 50% this year and local investors warned that the measures implemented so far – like price caps – were doomed to fail.
Cargill and Maersk launched a new service to simplify the procurement of fuel for the two groups’ combined tanker fleets. The companies hope that collaborating will provide better fuel prices and services amid an increasingly complex bunker market. The initiative will start on April 1 and will eventually open up to other trade houses.
After months of insisting that the coronavirus could not be transmitted through frozen food, the WHO backtracked and conceded that some outbreaks, particularly in China, were possibly due to frozen food packages. A scientist who just returned from China as part of an investigation into the origins of the virus conceded that the outbreak in a wholesale market in Wuhan could have been sparked by frozen wild meat. Nevertheless, the agency highlighted that food transmissions remained exceedingly rare and would only be possible in specific and unusual circumstances.
Animal welfare activists are using the pandemic to push for a complete ban on the trade and consumption of wild meat. However, a new study published in Current Biology argued that such a ban could have the unintended impact of damaging the environment, making food insecurity worse and, ironically, increasing the risk of diseases. Researchers explained that the protein from wildlife would have to be replaced by animal agriculture, which they describe as “the greatest threat to natural habitats and biodiversity, and also the most significant driver of emerging infectious diseases”.
Another new report shines a light on wildlife that is often overlooked: the fish populations in freshwater. The report, called The World’s Forgotten Fishes, warns that our rivers and wetlands are in such poor conditions – because of pollution, dams and sewage – that a third of freshwater fish are threatened by extinction. In the UK, sturgeons and burbots have already completely disappeared, while salmon and eels are endangered.
The good news, meanwhile, is that investments and technology are making aquaculture increasingly environmentally-friendly. When done correctly, an expert at Alphabet argued that “seafood is one of the lowest carbon sources of protein available”. The FAO estimates that 52% of the fish consumed in 2018 was farmed and that it will reach 60% by 2030. The Philippines is even pushing backyard farmers in highly urbanised cities like Quezon City to switch to aquaculture instead of keeping pigs. The drive is aimed at reducing the risk of African Swine Fever and a loss of income.
Aquaculture is enjoying a wave of interest these days but it is an incredibly old practice – just like the idea of using plants to make meat alternatives. This journalist travelled to Taiwan to sample what Buddhist monks have been working on since at least the 10th century: using soy to make mock meats and help transition to vegetarianism. The story also follows a Taiwanese immigrant who struggled to sell plant-based meats in her New York shop in the 1980s until she renamed her restaurant “Lily’s Vegan Pantry”.
Cheese lovers can read some excellent news this week as Wired published an article called: “Cheese Actually Isn’t Bad for You”. Studies seem to indicate that eating cheese has a neutral, or perhaps even positive, impact on weight loss, diabetes and heart disease. This could be due to the fact the cheese isn’t actually that calorific and contains bacterial cultures which improve the gut microbiome. The reason many believe cheese is fattening is probably that it is often added on top of unhealthy meals, like pizza.
This summary was produced by ECRUU
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