Archive for April 2011
This is a superlative gallery of street food from around the world. Terrific pictures, great atmosphere, you can almost smell the fried, baked and spiced goodies. A must-see gallery provided by Foreign Policy magazine.
In ‘How Food Explains the World’ the main article to which the delightful Street Eats is attached, we’re informed about China’s strategic pork reserve and a future where insects are the new white meat.
Kimchi: When kimchi prices began soaring in late 2010
because of poor weather conditions and a bad cabbage harvest, Koreans predictably freaked out. As prices increased nearly fourfold – it normally costs $4 to $5 for a meal – consumers began referring to the dish as geum-chi, the Korean word for gold, and demanded the government take action.
Pundits lambasted President Lee Myung-bak for suggesting that Koreans try eating cheaper North American cabbage. To head off potential unrest – or even a kimchi revolution – the Seoul city government began a kimchi bailout program, assuming 30 percent of the cost of an emergency supply of cabbage it purchased from rural farmers.
The national government also grudgingly reduced tariffs on imported Chinese cabbage, betting, successfully, that more cabbage would bring prices back down. Fear of Chinese dominance over their national food supply, it turned out, didn’t trump Koreans’ love of spicy vegetables.
Insects: Many environmentalists advocate vegetarianism – or at least eating less meat – as a solution. But the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is asking consumers to consider another option: eating insects. An insect-based diet could provide just as much protein as meat (plus key vitamins and minerals) with far fewer emissions, the FAO says.
Breeding insects such as locusts, crickets, and mealworms emits one-tenth the amount of methane that raising livestock does, scientists say. The idea isn’t as far-out as one might think. More than 1,000 insects are already known to be eaten in about 80 percent of the world’s countries, though the idea remains a source of revulsion in the Western world.
The FAO is putting its money where its mouth is, investing in insect-farming projects in Laos, where locusts and crickets are already popular delicacies. A world conference on insect eating is planned for 2013.
The International Grains Council has released its grain market report for 2011 April. Here are the salient points and outlooks for wheat, rice and maize.
The past month was again volatile in global markets, with a sharp jump in grain values in early April largely centred on renewed bullish trading in maize (corn), partly in response to new US data indicating heavier than anticipated domestic use. However, there was also general nervousness about world weather conditions for upcoming northern hemisphere harvests, while developments in other commodities, energy markets and global economic news played a role too.
Day-to-day volatility in futures exchanges remained very high, with the average “historical volatility” percentage (HV20) for nearby US CME corn in Chicago showing a further increase since March. International wheat prices registered net gains of some $30 per ton, reflecting a generally tight market for milling wheat, especially premium varieties, with concerns about the impact of dry conditions on the next US Hard Red Winter crop and overly wet weather on spring wheat plantings.
There were also uncertainties about the future relaxation of export controls in the Black Sea region. US nearby maize futures climbed to all-time highs in early April, when the latest quarterly stocks data, indicating much higher than anticipated use, eclipsed the slightly bearish US planting forecast, reigniting worries about the likely low level of pipeline stocks. Heavy US export sales activity and continued speculation about purchases by China added further to the bullish market sentiment. [Get the IGC index data file here.]
In contrast, prices of oilseeds showed little net change in the past month, with new-crop soyabeans from South America beginning to enter the market, offsetting concerns about the tighter supply outlook in the US. Global rice prices actually moved lower in the face of improved supplies from recent Asian exporter crops. Despite strong global demand for commodities and raw materials, and rising bunker fuel prices, dry bulk ocean freight rates fell significantly due to a continuing build-up of surplus tonnage.
WHEAT: Less than ideal conditions for some crops lower the projection of world wheat production in 2011-12 by 1m. tons, to 672m., but this is still 22m. more than the year before. Winter wheat in the US has been affected by dry conditions and rains are also needed in the EU and China. Spring wheat sowing is being hindered by wet soils in the US, Canada and Russia. This year’s bigger global harvest is expected to be matched by higher consumption: the world total is placed slightly above last month’s, at 672m. tons. World stocks are projected to remain steady, at 186m. tons. World trade will be lifted by larger milling imports in North Africa and Near East Asia as well as by anticipated strong global demand for competitively-priced wheat for feed. Shipments in 2011-12 are forecast at 126m. tons (122m.).
MAIZE: High prices are forecast to boost world plantings by 3% in 2011-12. Assuming yield growth returns to trend, global production is projected to increase by almost 5%, to a record 847m. tons. Potentially tight supplies and firm market prices are expected to limit consumption growth to 1.3%. Although meat demand will remain firm in number of developing countries, overall growth in maize use will likely slow, as livestock producers switch to wheat. Due to a projected standstill in demand from US ethanol producers, global industrial use of maize is forecast to slow to only 1.3%. A larger crop in the EU and increased competition from feed grade wheat is projected to result in 1% drop in world trade, to 94m. tons.
RICE: World rice production in 2010-11 is placed at a record 450m. tons. Ample availabilities will underpin rice consumption, set to expand by 2%, to 448m. tons, while the 2010-11 carryover is expected to reach an eight-year peak of 96.5m. tons (94.0m.). After last year’s solid rise, world trade is forecast to decrease by 2%, to 30.3m. tons reflecting a likely steep fall in imports by the Philippines.
Two hard-hitting analyses from Pambazuka help refute the lies pouring out of the corporate-military-oligopolist western mainstream news media about Libya. In ‘Five Principles Of War Propaganda’ the Pambazuka comment has pointed out that calling Libya a ‘failed state’ is like the kettle calling the pot black. Libya has the highest standard of living in Africa and unlike the US or UK, it has a high standard of healthcare, education and social infrastructure. As Noam Chomsky comments, the US is fast becoming a failed state – a danger to its own people – as the 45 million Americans living in poverty will attest to. Even in those countries where the US and its allies have claimed to support the uprisings such as Egypt and Tunisia, it is notable that to date, although the dictators have gone, the regimes remain in charge – so for the US little has changed. In a recent interview, Michel Collon of InvestigAction discusses US strategies in Africa. One of those strategies is the military occupation of Africa through AFRICOM. From this position it is clear that the propaganda of the ‘theatre of Libya’ has huge significance, as it offers access to a country that intersects with Europe [NATO], the Middle East and Africa – and one that has oil.
There is evidence of the use of depleted uranium by the neo-colonial forces attempting to invade Libya, according to this Pambazuka analysis. “Disturbingly, depleted uranium weapons have been used in Libya, both by the USA and subsequently by NATO upon assuming command and control of the NFZ responsibilities. The United States Pentagon’s denial of use of depleted uranium (DU) weapons has been met with scepticism, especially considering USAF A-10 warthog tank-buster aircraft deployed over Libya and given that the United States has a long history of only admitting to deploying DU radioactive material months or years after it has been used.” Based on news video footage, it is more than likely that depleted uranium has been used more widely than originally thought since the USA has launched shells, bombs and cruise missiles containing depleted uranium in the past in Afghanistan and Iraq. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement that the Libyan armed forces had used cluster bombs in Misrata. The Libyan government has denied these charges and challenged HRW to prove them; most interestingly no casualties from cluster bombs have been confirmed in Misrata.
The bodies of sub-Saharan refugees who tried to escape Libya by boat have been found in the sea with gunshot wounds according to an Eritrean priest who tracks migrants as they make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. Father Mussie Zerai, a Catholic cleric based in Rome, told The Independent that his contacts in Tripoli have seen five bodies in a hospital that were recently washed back onto the Libyan coast. Human rights groups have called on the international community to investigate the killings and have blamed Nato for not doing more to try and locate boats that have gone missing in a corner of the Mediterranean that is now bristling with international vessels.
Despite widespread opposition, France’s Parliament has approved a law which seeks to ensure that refugees from the unrest in North Africa stay outside of the republic. Under EU laws, the country of arrival is responsible for dealing with any asylum seekers, but nearly all of the migrants are Tunisians who wish to join the 600,000-strong Tunisian community in France. France has responded by unveiling plans for barely-legal border checks and new sea patrols, which have already turned back more than 1,000 exiles.
Calls for democracy, economic reforms, employment opportunities and greater accountability require us to question the development model pursued in the region by institutions like the World Bank and the underlying assumptions that may have led to the failure of this model, says this article from the Bank Information Centre. In ‘North Africa: Economic Failures, Revolutions And The Role Of The World Bank’ Bicusa has said that the recent uprisings that have affected almost every country in the Middle East and North Africa region are indicative of deep structural issues that are facing societies in these countries.
IPS news has reported that the exodus out of Libya has reduced the flow of remittances to poorer countries in the region. “The exodus of migrants streaming out of Libya due to ongoing unrest has highlighted the heavy dependence of some countries on remittances from their citizens working abroad,” said the IPS report. In several countries this flow has now become choked. ‘With thousands returning home the economic impact of the unrest in Libya is that remittances will be reduced,’ Dr Mizanur Rahman, economist and research fellow at the National University of Singapore told IPS. Recent World Bank statistics indicate that developing countries got more than 325 billion dollars last year from migrant worker remittances, outstripping foreign direct investment and development assistance combined.
This is a light little article, written for the Khaleej Times, on India and its people.
In the early years of Asian globalisation, the cry amongst the investors and business punters was “You can’t do business in Asia without India in your plans”. (They were already putting up factories in China.) Being, as punters usually are, somewhat dim but enthusiastic, these blokes – cunning bankers, makers of third-rate motor cars, purveyors of skin whitening creams, assemblers of consumer trinkets – decided that India was The Next Big Thing and ran thither.
It has been about a decade since all that began. In these 10 years, India has become richer – at least that’s what its government tells Indians, the poor and rich alike – and India is a superpower, at least according to cricketers and Bollywood film producers. It’s also a superpower for manufacturers of disposable nappies, but I don’t want to be impolite.
At some point, quite a few Indians who lived in the USA (and other, stranger, parts) decided that it might be a good idea to go home and see what all the fuss was about. Some of them packed up their Dodge minivans and Hoovers, gave the dog away, stopped at duty free on the way in, and looked around for Opportunity. Silicon Valley meanwhile returned to farming turnips and beetroots or whatever it is that happened there before the IT boys took over. Once at home, in the towns and cities of Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh and the online territory of Bangalore, they looked around. And saw dusty roads, grimy health clinics, piles of garbage, lazy policemen, burst water pipes, and lots of poor people. Not much had changed had it?
But it had. And so had their neighbours and their fathers-in-law and so had India’s chambers of commerce and its per capita income. Sure, there was heat and dust and stray dogs, but there was opportunity too. Looking around, they found that some of the world’s biggest and fastest growing IT companies were right where they had last seen a couple of coconut groves. Looking still closer, they found that state government officials had stopped sitting around drinking tea and pretending to push files and actually got some work done. This was remarkable. Rather as remarkable as imagining India could win a cricket world cup. But that too has happened.
There were flies and mosquitoes, insane political riots and infuriating power cuts. But they found that their cousins and friends and the tea stall owner down the road weren’t used to putting up with it all any more. No, the Indians at home had organised themselves (noisily, chaotically and with great garglings of sweet tea) and Got Things Done. Others put up hospitals, set up education foundations and inspired migrants in slums to start little recycling businesses. Lots of people talked about micro-credit and mobile phone apps, even if they didn’t know what these were all about anyway.
It all started coming together, despite the serial cheats, the bejeweled scamsters, the mustachioed mobsters and the unauctioned cricketers. They built highways, agitated against nuclear power plants, threw old sandals at politicians and invented the Chinese-Jain pizza. Somehow, it held together. A few of the original punters stayed on, having become employees now in Indian-owned and managed companies. People read books written by Indian authors about utterly loony Indian plots a Rushdie would die for. Others turned them into films, or mobile apps, as if there’s a difference.
Sometimes, they thought about the Raj and the chicken tikka revolution. But not often. There was far too much to do.
– Rahul Goswami (is otherwise an agricultural and rural economics researcher – makanaka [at] pobox.com)
An instructive combining of cartography, seaborne trade and wartime economics, this map, circa 1940 (no sadly I don’t have the source yet) explains it all rather well.
The text in the box, lower left corner, says: “Much of Britain’s food must be imported. Some essential foods are rationed, others such as bread are not. In every kitchen there are ways of making these foods go further. Remember that little economies are multiplied by every home in the land. In this way British housewives can lighten the heavy load of our Merchant Navy.”
Reuters has released a set of graphs on the countries producing the most foodgrain. The graphs plot estimates by the US Department of Agriculture. Here are a few:
Global food prices decline, is the assessment of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for 2011 March. The FAO Food Price Index has shown its first decrease in eight months. “The food price index dropped some this month but only time will tell if this is the start of a reversal of the upward trend,” said FAO.
The Index averaged 230 points in March 2011, down 2.9 percent from its peak in February, but still 37 percent above March of last year. “The decrease in the overall index this month brings some welcome respite from the steady increases seen over the last eight months,” said David Hallam, Director of FAO’s Trade and Market Division. “But it would be premature to conclude that this is a reversal of the upward trend,” he added.
“We need to see the information on new plantings over the next few weeks to get an idea of future production levels. But low stock levels, the implications for oil prices of events in the Middle East and North Africa and the effects of the destruction in Japan all make for continuing uncertainty and price volatility over the coming months,” said Hallam.
International prices of oils and sugar dropped the most, followed by cereals. By contrast, dairy and meat prices were up, although only marginally in the case of meat. The Cereal Price Index averaged 252 points in March, down 2.6 percent from February, but still 60 percent higher than in March 2010. March was extremely volatile for grains, with international quotations first plunging sharply, driven largely by outside market developments such as the increased economic uncertainties accompanying the turmoil in North Africa and parts of the Near East as well as the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, before regaining most of their losses. Rice prices also fell as a result of abundant supply in exporting countries and sluggish import demand.
A positive outlook but food stocks diminish, said the FAO. World production of cereals fell in 2010, resulting in falling stocks, while total cereal utilization is expected to reach a record level in 2010/11. While most indications point to increased cereal production in 2011, the projected growth may not be sufficient to replenish inventories, in which case prices could remain firm throughout 2011/12 as well.
Index details: The FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) averaged 230 points in March 2011, down 2.9 percent from its peak in February, but still 37 percent above March last year. International prices of oils and sugar contracted the most, followed by cereals. By contrast, dairy and meat prices were up.
The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 252 points, down 2.6 percent from February, but still 60% higher than in March 2010. The past month was extremely volatile for grains, with international quotations first plunging sharply, driven largely by recent events in Japan and North Africa, before regaining most of their losses towards the end of the month, as markets reacted to a continuing tight world supply and demand condition. Rice prices also fell amid large availability in exporting countries and sluggish import demand.
The FAO Oils/Fats Price Index fell 7 percent, to 260, interrupting nine months of consecutive rise. Last month’s slide in prices reflects primarily a recovery in global supply prospects for palm oil. The FAO Sugar Price Index averaged 372 points, down as much as 10 percent from the highs of January and February. The recent decline in international sugar prices was partly prompted by prospects of increased market availability, notably from India.
The FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 234 points, up 1.9 percent from February and 37 percent above its level in March 2010. Firm import demand together with lower than expected production in Southern hemisphere supplying countries, where the milking season is coming to a close, continue to underpin world prices. The FAO Meat Price Index was little changed at 169 points in March. The upward trend in meat prices since 2010 has flattened in the past few months, reflecting trade disruptions in several key markets, particularly North Africa and Japan.
A comparison of final production of the years 1997-98 to 2010-11 (a 14-year period) with the third advance estimates shows that 2010-11 is expected to produce a record 235.88 million tons of foodgrain. This amount is higher than the 233.88 million tons of 2008-09 and the 230.78 million tons of 2007-08.
The year 2010-11 is expected to yield the third highest production of rice in the 14-year period, with 94.11 million tons, the highest production of wheat with 84.27 million tons, and the second highest production of coarse cereals with 40.21 million tons. Total cereals are to be the second highest ever in the 14-year period with production estimated at 218.59 million tons. Total pulses are expected to be 17.29 million tons, the highest in the 14-year period.
The third advance estimates will be seen by the Ministry of Agriculture and by India’s national agricultural research system (headed by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research; ICAR) as proof that the flagship programmes are delivering. These are the National Food Security Mission and the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana.
The third advance estimates for 2010-11 was released on 2011 April 06 by the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation / Directorate of Economics & Statistics / Agricultural Statistics Division.
The FAO has released its Crop Prospects and Food Situation, the first for 2011, in March. The overview is:
FAO’s first forecast for world wheat production in 2011 stands at 676 million tonnes, 3.4% up from 2010. This level of production would still be below the bumper harvests of 2008 and 2009.
- International grain prices remained volatile in the first three weeks of March.
- The cereal import volume in low-income food deficit countries (LIFDCs) as a group is anticipated to decline in 2010-11 due to increased production. However, their import bill is forecast to rise by 20% following higher international prices.
- In Asia, prospects for the 2011 wheat crop are mostly favourable. In China, the outlook remains uncertain but the easing of the drought situation in the North China Plain is a positive development. In Japan, a powerful earthquake and subsequent tsunami have caused devastation with a potentially significant impact on agriculture and food trade.
- In North Africa, the current situation in Libyan Arab Jamahiriya has resulted in the displacement of large numbers of people and disruption to the flow of goods and services in this heavily cereal import dependent region. WFP has initiated a regional emergency operation to provide food assistance to the affected people.
- In Southern Africa, prospects for the main 2011 maize crop are generally favourable and relatively low prices have helped stabilize food security.
- In Eastern Africa, food insecurity has increased in drought-affected pastoral areas of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia despite bumper harvests in 2010 and generally low and stable food prices.
- In Western Africa, post-election violence continues to cause a large population disruption and disturb trade and livelihoods in Côte d’Ivoire and the neighbouring countries.
Overall favourable outlook for global 2011 wheat production: At this stage of the season, with the bulk of the coarse grains and paddy crops yet to be planted in the coming months, it is still too early for even a preliminary forecast of global cereal output in 2011. For wheat, however, in the northern hemisphere, which accounts for the bulk of the global production, winter crops are already developing or soon to come out of dormancy, while spring planting is underway in some countries and a preliminary picture of global prospects is already available.
FAO’s first forecast for world wheat production in 2011 stands at 676 million tonnes, representing a growth of 3.4% from 2010. Plantings have increased, or are expected to increase, in many countries in response to strong prices, and yield recoveries are expected in areas that were affected by drought in 2010, the Russian Federation in particular. The global output forecast for 2011 would be still below the bumper harvests in 2008 and 2009.
In Asia, prospects for the 2011 wheat crop, to be harvested from April, are mostly favourable in India and Pakistan, where good harvests are forecast. However, the outlook in China is uncertain because of winter drought in the North China Plain despite recent beneficial precipitation.
In the Asia CIS subregion, Kazakhstan is the major producer and the bulk of the crop is yet to be sown this spring. Weather permitting, farmers are expected to maintain the relatively high planting level of the past two years, especially in view of strong prices. Assuming also a recovery in yields after last year’s drought-reduced level, a significant increase in production could be achieved. In North Africa, early prospects for the 2011 wheat crops are generally favourable, except in Tunisia where dry conditions point to a repeat of last year’s drought-reduced crop.
In the southern hemisphere, where the major wheat crops are still to be sown, producers are also expected to increase plantings in response to this year’s favourable price prospects. However, this may not translate to larger crops in Australia or Argentina, where yields are assumed to return to average after bumper levels in 2010.
Estimate of world cereal production in 2010 slightly up on December forecast: The estimate for world cereal production in 2010 has been revised upward slightly since previously reported (Crop Prospects and Food Situation, December 2010) to 2,237 million tonnes (including rice in milled terms), just 1.1% below the bumper output in 2009. The decline in cereal production in 2010 was entirely due to lower output in developed countries while in developing countries production rose significantly by almost 5%. The estimate for world wheat production in 2010 now stands at almost 654 million tonnes, 1 million tonnes above FAO’s December forecast but still some 4% less than in 2009.
The latest revision mostly reflects a better than expected outcome of the harvest in Argentina, which more than offset some downward adjustments to estimates in Asia (most notably Kazakhstan) and Europe (mostly the Russian Federation). For coarse grains, the estimate of output in 2010 is now put at 1 117 million tonnes, 7 million tonnes up from the previous forecast and just marginally less than the 2009 level. The upward revision was largely driven by increased estimates for China, India, Ethiopia and Sudan.
The estimate for global rice production in 2010 remains unchanged since December at 466 million tonnes (in milled terms). Improved prospects for Brazil, China mainland and Thailand largely offset a sizeable downward revision for India. At this level, the aggregate output of the 2010 rice seasons, which will close when the northern hemisphere countries complete the harvest of their secondary crops by May-June, would be 2% up from 2009, mostly on account of large gains in Asia, where Bangladesh, China, India and Indonesia, the leading world producers, are all expected to tally larger crops.