Cereal Stocks Recover
Food commodity markets are becoming more balanced and less price-volatile than in recent years thanks to improved supplies and a recovery in global inventories of cereals, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Outlook report published in November. “The prices for most basic food commodities have declined over the past few months. This relates to production increases and the expectation that in the current season we will have more abundant supplies, more export availabilities and higher stocks,” said David Hallam, director of FAO’s Trade and Markets Division. The sharp increase in 2013 cereal production mostly stems from a recovery of maize crops in the United States and record wheat harvests in CIS countries. World rice production in 2013 is expected to grow only modestly.
Sizing Up Crop Protection
With growth of 6.2 percent, the U.S. crop protection chemical industry is projected to become an $11-billion market at the distributor cost of goods sold level during 2013, according to the recently published report Leading Distributors in the U.S. Crop Protection Industry: A Strategic Market Analysis by global consulting and research firm Kline & Company. By tracking the leading 17 distributors, the report covers more than 96 percent of total crop protection chemical sales within the United States. Sales reported include both private-label crop protection chemicals and adjuvants, which include surfactants, oils, water conditioners and drift control agents. Factors shaping the value of the 2013 industry include: slight increases in corn, soybean, and wheat acres planted; growing biotechnology through seed and traits; and consolidation.
Remote Controlled Crop Tool
Rothamsted Research in the United Kingdom has obtained a high-performance, camera-equipped radio remote controlled device called an octocopter, thanks to funding from Britain’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. The custom-built equipment will enable high-throughput collection of data from experimental crop plots at each of the Institute’s sites as well as at collaborating organizations’ trials. Collection of data with this method will give unique perspectives on crop growth and plant functioning, and will vastly extend capabilities for screening crops of different genetic background for performance, nutrition, stress, pathogen and disease responses, according to a BBSRC spokesperson. The octocopter is an eight-rotor, battery-powered, unmanned aerial vehicle that’s typically used in the film industry. Four cameras have been added, two of which provide live feeds to monitors on the ground. One camera, which can shoot videos and still pictures, points forward on a fixed mounting and is used to identify where the octocopter is flying and control its direction. The remaining cameras are a high-definition RGB camera, a thermal infrared camera and a hyperspectral camera, all mounted on a stabilized platform that can be tilted remotely via a transmitter. A BBSRC spokesperson stated, “world-leading bioscience needs state-of-art equipment. This new octocopter will offer unprecedented information on crop growth, helping to keep the U.K. at the forefront of agricultural research.”
Preventing Food Loss
In November, about 230 representatives of the international horticulture value chain and industry experts gathered at Bayer CropScience’s Horticulture Symposium in Germany to discuss key challenges facing the horticulture value chain. “Bayer CropScience has an important role to play in reducing food loss at the beginning of the value chain,” said Hartmut van Lengerich, head of Crop Strategy and Portfolio Management for Cereals, Rice and Fungicides at Bayer CropScience. “We have to find ways to reduce food loss during crop production itself and post-harvest stages of the food chain, mostly in developing countries. Besides, more research is needed in the field of food loss associated to the international trade, as many food products are produced, stored, transported, processed and consumed in different parts of the world.”
Focus on Nutrition
“It is clear that the ways in which food is managed today are failing to result in sufficient improvements in nutrition. The most shocking fact is that over 840 million people still suffer from hunger today, despite the fact that the world already produces enough food for all, and wastes one-third of it,” said José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, at a recent technical meeting put on by FAO and the World Health Organization. “But that is only part of the story,” he continued. “Today, over half of the world’s population is affected by some form of malnutrition, be it hunger, micronutrient deficiencies or excessive consumption.
“The total amount of food produced but not consumed would be enough to feed an additional two billion. The truth of the matter is that today, consumers are not receiving the right signals from current policies about how to eat healthily. That is what we need to address,” said Graziano da Silva.
FAO statistics show that while 842 million people are chronically hungry, many more die or suffer the ill effects of inadequate nutrition. Around two billion people are affected by micronutrient deficiencies. Close to seven million children die before their fifth birthday every year, 162 million children under age five are stunted, while at the same time 500 million people are obese.
The Great Label Debate
According to a recent Reuters article on the recent GM labeling battle in Washington state, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents more than 300 food companies, is funding efforts in 25 states to defeat labeling measures. The group is pushing for a “federal solution that will protect consumers by ensuring that the Food and Drug Administration, America’s leading food safety authority, sets national standards for the safety and labeling of products made with GMO ingredients,” GMA CEO Pamela Bailey said in a statement. The article stated that officials at Monsanto, which spent more than $5 million to kill the Washington measure, say labeling supporters are trying to create the false impression that biotech foods are harmful. “We absolutely support the consumer’s right to know,” said Robb Fraley, chief technology officer at Monsanto, in the article. “But we can’t support misleading labels that infer there is something unsafe about biotech products.”