Monday, April 30, 2007

Congress drops peanut subsidies

Georgia produces 40% of U.S. crop ASSOCIATED PRESSPublished on: 04/29/07
Washington — Southern peanut farmers lost a major funding battle this past week as lawmakers dropped $74 million in subsidies for the crop from a massive war spending bill.
Peanut producers had sought to piggyback on the war bill as their last chance at continuing government supports that expired last year that helped farmers cover storage and handling costs.
But the peanut money — which many Republicans had ridiculed as an example of Democratic largesse — didn't make the cut as House and Senate negotiators agreed on the latest version of the legislation Monday.
"We ended up being the poster child for everybody that was against whatever was attached to that spending bill," said Don Koehler, executive director of the Georgia Peanut Commission. "It sure is sad that it had to be us because this is something that's real important for the economy of the rural South. It's just real disappointing to me because somewhere along the line you'd like to see us investing here at home in our own people."
The bill totals some $124 billion, of which more than $90 billion would pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The remainder is earmarked for a variety of initiatives, including $13.2 million for avian flu research, $650 million for the State Children's Health Insurance Program and $400 million for low-income heating assistance.
President Bush has vowed to veto the measure over Democratic-backed language requiring that U.S. troops begin leaving Iraq by Oct. 1. But Republicans and Democrats say that with troops in battle, the underlying spending will probably ultimately win approval.
Almost all the peanuts produced in the United States are grown in the South. Georgia is by far the largest producer with more than 40 percent of domestic production, followed by Texas and Alabama, according to the American Peanut Council.
The Georgia Peanut Commission says the crop feeds a
$2 billion industry in the state.
Peanut farmers saw major changes under the last farm bill implemented by Congress in 2002.
The bill eliminated a decades-old quota system that propped up peanut prices by limiting the size of the crop, replacing it with a program that gives more farmers price supports, but at a lower level.
As part of the compromise, the bill also included government assistance to help cover peanut storage and shipping costs. But that subsidy expired in 2006, and the industry had been working for months to extend it for at least another year, until the next farm bill is adopted.
Koehler and other peanut representatives have been visiting Washington this past week to press their case for other supports as Congress began hearings on the next farm bill.
"Our farmers are really struggling," he said. "All of their costs have gone up, and what they're selling their crops for hasn't."

Stewart Parnell

Thursday, April 26, 2007

GUINEA-BISSAU: Government moves to stabilise cashew price
Photo: David Hecht/IRIN
Tens of thousands of tonnes of cashews rotted in warehouses in Guinea-Bissau because foreign merchants refused to buy the more expensive 2006 cropBISSAU, 25 April 2007 (IRIN) - The Guinea-Bissau government has moved to reduce the price of cashew nuts, the country's main cash crop which is integral to many people's livelihoods, in a bid to revitalise the sector following dismal performance linked to a previous price hike that last year sparked a food crisis in the tiny West African state. Guinea-Bissau is one of the world's poorest countries but also among the largest producers of cashews, meaning the nuts form an important part of many people's livelihoods.The industry has been in crisis since the government raised prices for the commodity in 2006 from 250 CFA [50 US cents] Francs to 350 CFA [70 cents]. Foreign merchants, who are mostly the traditional buyers of the unprocessed nuts in the country, turned away from the Guinea-Bissau market because of the higher prices. But barely two weeks after the appointment of a new prime minister following weeks of political uncertainty, the new official price for a kilogram of cashew nut now stands at 200 CFA Francs [US 40 cents]. "There will be no more state interference in the countryside and if there are some problems brought to us we will be ready to correct the errors," Issuf Sanha, Guinea-Bissau’s minister of finance pledged on Tuesday. The National Cashew Commission said last year that out of 110,000 tonnes of production last year only 93,000 tonnes were exported. The commission's head, Henrique Mendes, told IRIN he believes that the government’s recent decision would help boost production and export. But in the long run, he said, further measures needed to be taken. "The future of our production depends on refining the nuts to increase the value," Mendes said. The new official price, the finance minister said, was a census decision reached among the government, cashew producers and exporters. Farmers nonetheless say they are satisfied with the new price. "We, as producers, consider the new price satisfying and this will allow us start farming", said Mama Samba Embalo, head of the National Association of Guinea-Bissau Farmers. ab/ak/cs/nr
Themes: (IRIN) Economy, (IRIN) Food Security
Report can be found online at:

Friday, April 20, 2007

Imported food rarely inspected
By ANDREW BRIDGES, Associated Press Writer
Mon Apr 16, 3:13 AM ET
Just 1.3 percent of imported fish, vegetables, fruit and other foods are inspected — yet those government inspections regularly reveal food unfit for human consumption.
Frozen catfish from China, beans from Belgium, jalapenos from Peru, blackberries from Guatemala, baked goods from Canada, India and the Philippines — the list of tainted food detained at the border by the Food and Drug Administration stretches on.
Add to that the contaminated Chinese wheat gluten that poisoned cats and dogs nationwide and led to a massive pet food recall, and you've got a real international pickle. Does the United States have the wherewithal to ensure the food it imports is safe?
Food safety experts say no.
With only a minuscule percentage of shipments inspected, they say the nation is vulnerable to harm from abroad, where rules and regulations governing food production are often more lax than they are at home.
"FDA doesn't have enough resources or control over this situation presently," said Mike Doyle (news, bio, voting record), director of the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety, which works with industry to improve safety.
Last month alone, FDA detained nearly 850 shipments of grains, fish, vegetables, nuts, spice, oils and other imported foods for issues ranging from filth to unsafe food coloring to contamination with pesticides to salmonella.
And that's with just 1.3 percent of the imports inspected. As for the other 98.7 percent, it's not inspected, much less detained, and goes to feed the nation's growing appetite for imported foods.
Each year, the average American eats about 260 pounds of imported foods, including processed, ready-to-eat products and single ingredients. Imports account for about 13 percent of the annual diet.
"Never before in history have we had the sort of system that we have now, meaning a globalization of the food supply," said Robert Brackett, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
FDA inspections focus on foods known to be at risk for contamination, including fish, shellfish, fruit and vegetables. Food from countries or producers previously shown to be problematic also are flagged for a closer look.
Consider this list of Chinese products detained by the FDA just in the last month: frozen catfish tainted with illegal veterinary drugs, fresh ginger polluted with pesticides, melon seeds contaminated with a cancer-causing toxin and filthy dried dates.
But even foods expected to be safe can harbor unexpected perils. Take wheat gluten: Grains and grain byproducts like it are rarely eaten raw and generally pose few health risks, since cooking kills bacteria and other pathogens.
Even so, the FDA can't say for sure whether the ingredient used in the pet foods was inspected after it arrived from China. And if the wheat gluten was, officials said, it wouldn't have been tested for melamine. Even though the chemical isn't allowed in food for pets or people, in any quantity, it previously wasn't believed toxic.
How did the melamine wind up in the wheat gluten? Investigators still don't know. Meanwhile, China is struggling to overhaul its food system and improve safety standards, but still faces major hurdles.
Farmers use pesticides and chemical fertilizers to build produce yields and antibiotics are used on seafood and livestock. Heavy metals also can be introduced into the food chain by widespread industrial pollution.
Increasingly, those foods are sold in a now global marketplace.
While the European Union, Canada and Mexico still top the list of food exporters to the U.S., China is coming up fast. Since 1997, the value of Chinese food imports, including commodities like wheat gluten, has more than tripled, to $2.1 billion from $644 million, according to Agriculture Department statistics. It accounts for 3.3 percent of the total food the U.S. buys abroad.
For suspect imported products — and wheat gluten is now one of them — the FDA issues alerts to its inspectors. The FDA flags Chinese food and other imported products it regulates, like cosmetics, for that extra scrutiny more than any other country except Mexico.
To safeguard its export business, China is looking at separating foods by their ultimate destination, domestic or foreign, according to Michiel Keyzer, director of the Center for World Food Studies at Amsterdam's Vrije Universiteit.
U.S. government statistics suggest China still has a way to go.
The FDA has been stopping Chinese food import shipments at the rate of about 200 per month this year. Shippers have the right to appeal the detentions, after which the government can order products returned or destroyed.
How do you know the origin of the food you eat? The 2002 Farm Act called for fish, fruit and vegetable imports to be labeled by country of origin, though implementation for the latter two foods has been delayed.
Meanwhile, the U.S. imports more and more, though the increase in value is partially due to the weaker dollar.
All told, the U.S. is expected to import a record $70 billion in agricultural products for the 12 months ending in September, according to an Agriculture Department forecast. The value of those imports will be about double the nearly $36 billion purchased overseas in 1997.
Contributing to that growth are the fresh fruits and vegetables imported during the offseason, when domestic production dwindles or ends.
About one-quarter of our fruit, both fresh and frozen, is imported. For tree nuts, it's about half. And for fish and shellfish, more than two-thirds come from overseas.
Even as the amount of imported food increased, the percentage of FDA inspections declined — from 1.8 percent in 2003 to 1.3 percent this year to an expected 1.1 percent next year.
"Inspections have a very important role but they're not the solution. They are the verification," FDA commissioner Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach said.
The FDA and the USDA have adopted a "risk-based" inspection philosophy, focusing on specific foods, sources or producers that they believe represent the largest potential risk to the public's health.
"The public at large is not at any increased risk," said Craig Henry, senior vice president and chief operating officer for scientific and regulatory affairs of the Grocery Manufacturers-Food Products Association, an industry group.
Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group, countered that "risk-based" is just shorthand for "reduced resources."
"Whenever they say 'risk-based approach,' it often means they don't have enough staff to actually do the job. They're doing triage. They're trying to hit what's most important to inspect but they're missing a lot," DeWaal said.
Groups lobbying to increase the FDA's budget say its spending on food safety has languished, despite the agency's outsized role in ensuring the safety of the nation's food supply.
A recent Government Accountability Office report noted that most of the $1.7 billion the federal government allocates to food safety goes to the USDA, which is responsible for regulating about 20 percent of the food supply. The FDA, responsible for most of the other 80 percent, gets about 24 percent of the total spent on food safety.
Unlike the FDA, the USDA requires foreign inspection certificates to accompany all products it regulates, which include meat and poultry. Those imports are then reinspected at each port of entry before they are allowed into this country — something that doesn't happen to all FDA-regulated imports.
Under the Bioterrorism Act of 2002, anyone importing food into the United States is required to notify the FDA of the shipment before it arrives by land, air or sea. That allows the FDA to intercept contaminated products before they reach the marketplace, though agency officials acknowledge it doesn't always work that way.
"We have better control than we did a few years ago but it is largely the responsibility of the importer to make sure those products are safe," said Stephen Sundlof, the FDA's top veterinarian.
ChemNutra Inc., the Las Vegas importer of the tainted wheat gluten, said it was "particularly troubled" that its supplier did not disclose it contained melamine.
Doyle, of the University of Georgia, warned the contaminated pet food could be an unsavory taste of what's to come.
"This is not the first and will not be the last but it certainly is a wakeup call for the public to get a better appreciation for where this country is going with imports and imported foods," Doyle said.
Brackett, the FDA official, said the globalization of the food supply means the agency is going to have to be more creative and strategic in ensuring its safety. "I am not quite sure how we're going to do that yet," he said, "except to know that that's the direction that we're going to be heading."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

R.L.”Pete“ Turner April 17, 2007



The Walnut Marketing Board announced the March shipments at 28,028 inshell equivalent tons, 4,070 tons more than last year. Inshell shipments were 4.8 million pounds, 2.8 million pounds more than last March. Shelled shipments were 22.0 million pounds, 3.3 million pounds more than last year. Total inshell equivalent year to date shipments were 276,252 tons; 4,705 tons less than last year.

Although the shipments reports show we are 4,705 tons behind last year, this could be mis-leading. The Walnut Marketing Board and the industry forecasted the 2006 crop “shell out rate” of 42.9 percent. However, most in the industry now believe the actual “shell out rate” is closer to 40.0 percent. If this were the case, then the shelled products would have utilized an additional 15,600 inshell tons on year to date shipments. This would position the total inshell equivalent shipments at 292,000 tons, 11,000 tons ahead of last year. However, the final “shell out rate” number will not be known until end of year. In any event, based on my sales forecast, this would give us a carry-over of only 52,000 tons, the lowest in the past twenty years.

It is still too early to project the 2007 crop size but weather has been favorable and the crop is on the up cycle year. However, if we go by past history and crop trends, we could expect the new crop to be around 275,000 tons.


The inshell market is virtually over and the inventories depleted. The last Jumbo Hartley sales were at $1.15 and Large Hartley’s at $1.10.

The Shelled market remains firm and active with recent trading of LHP at $3.15 and CHP at $2.95. Baker material is still a little volatile with most trades taken place on both sides of $2.40. Mediums Pieces and smaller material are between $0.5 and $0.15 higher then the large material.

The industry is still coming up short of small material and must chop larger product in order to meet demand. This will remain a problem as the new walnut varieties and improved walnut shellers produce a much higher percentage of halves and large material. Thus, because of chopping meal loss, this product will continue to market higher than larger material.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments……


Monday, April 16, 2007

Almond Market

Letter from Ned Ryan

Dear Friends:

There is a lot of news to discuss but not a lot of trading in the almond market. Shipments for March were 71 million lbs,-- 10 million under the record. Domestic shipments did set a new record but exports were off 14 million from last year. This came as a surprise to most of us who expected near record level shipments to finish out each month of the year. Prices had been lower in recent trading and continued to decline with this news—a total of .10 to .15/lb over the past month. During that time, European importers had been underselling California suppliers, which created the first liquidity in the European market all season and explains the reduced exports in March. The big question now is how strong demand will be for new sales in the next months and how much more the second hand re-sellers have to sell without coming to California suppliers for new orders. Current prices are in a state of flux, but are last reported in this range:

2006 crop: 2007 crop Oct & later
Nonpareil Supreme 23/25 AOL $2.85 per lb. FOB California 2.30
Carmel SSR 23/25 AOL 2.45 2.00
Butte SSR 27/30 AOL 2.35 1.90 – 1.95
Cal Std unsized 5% 2.25 1.80 – 1.85
Nonpareil inshell 70% 1.95
Carmel inshell 60%
Peerless inshell 35%
Blanched Sliced 3.00 2.70

Market comment today would not be complete without referring to the crop estimate made today by our friends at Terra Nova Trading. They move a lot of volume and their comments have a lot of influence. After touring the entire growing region of the state, they have estimated 1.37 billion lbs—a 20% increase over the record 2006 crop and representing an average of 2200 lbs/ac from 620,000 acres.

While I think this is possible, I don’t think we will reach this level of production statewide. The big factor behind this and other bigger than earlier estimates is the growing optimism about the crop size as we look at the nuts developing on the trees in early April. Acreage will be up—maybe up to 630,000 acres in production; there can be 60 to 80,000 3rd leaf acres (classified as non-bearing) that can produce 500 lbs/ac for 30 to 40 mil extra; production potential of the acreage base is greater than 5 years ago as new orchards are capable of more lbs per acre than older acres replaced—all of these factors suggest more like a 2000 lbs/acre average to give us over 1.2 billion but less than 1.3 billion. As our friends at Terra Nova will tell you, crop estimating is a tricky business. Last year they underestimated it by over 100 million. This year they may be overestimating by over 100 million, but their 2 year average will be right on. Place your bets…

To those who worry about the potential for falling prices, I would remind them about so many past crops that have come in at more than 100 million lbs over the crop estimates and still have experienced rising prices from opening levels because of strong demand and record shipments stimulated by early lower prices. Our market can absorb a 1.2 or a 1.3 or a 1.4 billion lbs crop. For one thing, we really need at least a 200 to 300 million lbs carry out for smoother transitions than the 100 to 120 million of recent crops.

Big changes coming in processing and testing of California Almonds this year: First, the USDA finally approved the pasteurization rule that requires all almonds shipped to North American buyers to be pasteurized by the handler or the buyer beginning 1 Sept 2007. This can be accomplished by Blanching, Oil Roasting, PPO Fumigation or Moist Heat (Steam) treatment. There appears to be enough capacity to accomplish this but it will add a cost of .05 to .07/lb to raw almonds that need to be treated. Buyers wishing to have their pasteurization process validated should contact the Almond Board immediately. Handlers need to make plans for custom processing if they don’t have their own process. There are more and more custom options available.

Second, the EU will require 100% testing of incoming almonds for Aflatoxin beginning 1 Sept 2007. Shippers participating in the VASP (Voluntary Aflatoxin Sampling Plan) designed by the Almond Board will be subjected to a 5% sampling rate for incoming containers. Currently fewer than 5% are tested overall, so there is great concern about how the EU will accomplish their plan without creating a huge bottleneck of arriving containers. I recommend that all handlers sign up and use VASP as soon as possible and advise your EU buyers that you are doing so. Contact the Almond Board for details. Both of these procedures will be taken in stride by our innovative processors and in the end will make our industry stronger and able to offer a safer consumer product.

Please send your comments and questions.

Best regards,
Ned T. Ryan
Guess how many drops of oil can you extract from one Banana Chip? Watch.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

US pistachio growers welcome successful conclusion of South Korea-US FTA

US pistachio growers welcomed the April 2, 2007 announcement that the U.S. and South Korea have successfully concluded a free trade agreement (FTA)."We are very pleased by the announcement," said Stewart Resnick, president, Paramount Farms. "While South Korea represents an estimated $38 million in revenue per year for America's pistachio growers, the existing 30 percent tariff on pistachios was a significant hurdle to realizing that market. We understand that once it goes into effect, the free trade agreement provides for immediate duty-free treatment of U.S. pistachios.This presents a tremendous opportunity for America's pistachio growers. Welook forward to working with the U.S. Congress to swiftly approve theagreement." California represents approximately 98 percent of U.S. pistachioproduction. The industry produces an average of 242 million pounds ofpistachios a year, and employs thousands of workers.The industry has grown more than three times in value in the past ten years to over $500 million today. Based on current estimates, the industry expects to grow to over $1 billion in the next ten years. Exports are fundamental to this growth.Source: