Compiled 07/09/2020

Some Alberta farmers bracing for worst harvest in 18 years: ‘The damage is done’


Topic: Alberta farmers prepare for worst harvest in 18 years

After heavy rains and hail storms, some Alberta farmers are preparing for the worst harvest in 18 years. Fearing financial loss, many of these farmers are looking to cash in on crop insurance to make ends meet. After a difficult 2019 growing season, established farmers fear for new farmers, who “‘can’t weather the storm.’”

Egypt’s wheat storage capacity at 4 million tonnes: official


Topic: Egypt’s wheat storage capacity increased to more than 4 million tonnes

A supply ministry official told Reuters on Sunday, 9 July that Egypt’s wheat storage capacity has risen to more than 4 million tonnes, a significant increase from a capacity of 3.6 million tonnes in 2019. This announcement came days after Egypt purchased 3.5 million tonnes of wheat from local farmers, a figure up by 300,000 tonnes when compared with wheat purchased in 2019. In recent years, Egypt has been attempting to expand its capacity by building more silos. Egypt consumes approximately 20 million tonnes of wheat annually and imports close to 12 million tonnes.

Coronavirus sheds light on Canada’s poor treatment of migrant workers


Topic: Coronavirus reveals Canada’s poor treatment of migrant workers

The Guardian writer Hilary Beaumont recounts the story of Erika Zavala, 35, and Jesús Molina, 36, two seasonal farm workers from Mexico who were fired for allegedly breaking government pandemic guidelines. Zavala and Molina were transferred to Bylands, a plant nursery in Kelowna, British Columbia, which had experienced a COVID-19 outbreak that ended on 11 May. Managers of the farm informed them that as part of the strict policy put in place to prevent further spread of the virus, migrant workers were unable to leave the farm or have visitors. Canadian workers were exempt from this rule. Zavala and Molina invited two migrant rights activists to their employer-provided house but were later asked by their manager to sign a letter “stating that they had broken the rules by leaving the property and interacting with people who did not work there.” Neither were given a second chance and the couple flew back to Mexico. Trudeau has acknowledged that while Canada has handled the pandemic better than most countries, in the case of migrant farm workers Canada’s action has been lacking. Many activist groups have stated that the federal $50 million grant given to employers to house migrant workers during their 14-day quarantine period does not directly benefit workers. These groups are calling for the government to grant permanent residency to workers upon arrival in Canada, which would give them the opportunity to leave abusive employers and find another job. Labour lawyer Susanna Quail said Bylands’ actions were illegal, as “employers don’t have the right to restrict employees’ movements, and firing employees for breaking a rule based on their place of origin violates the provincial human rights code.” Beaumont argues that Zavala and Molina’s case is one of the many examples of the mistreatment of migrant workers in Canada, now brought to light as a result of COVID-19.

The Cause: super-chef Dan Barber’s mission to save small farms


Topic: US chef’s mission to save small farms and support the independent food movement

In the wake of 30 percent of 500 small farms in the US fearing bankruptcy due to reduced demand as a result of COVID-19, chef Dan Barber, proprietor of Blue Hill restaurant in Greenwhich Village and Westchester Country, began his “lockdown-inspired grow-your-own initiative: resourceED.” Barber’s aim was to start a global educational initiative to teach young chefs about the importance of small-batch, rotational growing. This initiative would raise awareness and emphasise the value of small farms and would operate as a way to support the independent food movement during, and possibly after, the pandemic. Barber partnered with Jack Algiere of Stone Barns Farms, who wrote a “recipe for a basic kitchen garden in a language that spoke to food lovers,” Barber said. This “recipe” dictated that a 12 x 15 plot should be divided into six suggested families of vegetables, each rotated around a six-month period and each chosen according to individual location and personal taste. The recipe is primarily grounded in diversity and sustainability.

Brazil’s soybean exports plunge 34% so far in July on tight supply


Topic: Brazil’s soybean exports drop 34 percent on tight supply

In the first three weeks of July, Brazil’s soybean exports dropped 34 percent. According to S&P Global Platts, market sources have signalled that much of this drop can be attributed to farmers holding onto stocks in anticipation of a price rise in the second half of the year as a result of dry US soybean weather, which would push international soybean prices higher. However, the hoarding of soybeans has caused Brazilian ports to experience supply bottlenecks. Data released on July 20, 2020 by Brazil’s foreign trade department reveals that soybean exports fell to 4.18 million megatons over July 1-19. The country has already sold over 92 percent of its soybean crop for the current marketing year (February 2020 to January 2021) due to the weak Brazilian real. The Brazilian real has lost 43% of its values against the US dollar in the last year, making Brazilian soybeans very competitive in international markets. Brazil exported 61 million megatons of soybeans in the first half of 2020, up 38 percent on the year, with 72 percent of these shipments purchased by China.

Taranis banks $30m Series C with tech giants Hitachi, Micron among new investors 


Topic: Taranis raises $30 million Series C with Hitachi, Micron among new investors

Taranis, an agricultural imaging and analytics firm, has raised $30 million in a Series C round co-led by Vertex Growth and Orion Fund. Joining the round are new backers Micron Ventures and UMC Capital and first-time investors La Maison, Hitachi Ventures, and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group’s VC unit. Existing investors Vertex Ventures Israel, Finistere, OurCrowd, and Viola also took part, raising Tarani’s total to $60 million. Tarani is one of many firms operating aerial observation tech via agri-drones that have come under scrutiny over recent years. Closure of the round due to COVID-19 meant pauses or pullbacks from investors, but a revived interest in agri-drones is resurfacing in the wake of COVID-19’s “new normal.” AgFunder News reporter Richard Martyn-Hemphill argues that agri-drones may be the perfect solution to social distancing and supply chain traceability and disruption challenges that COVID-19 has brought about. Taranis, whose primary service to farmers centers on pest control, boasts a “precise, leaf-level diagnosis 20 times faster than the manual alternative of a human scout walking a section of field, and with 20 times more data points.” Taranis aims to identify new pests or weed varieties for a growing range of crops, as well as to increase its percentage accuracy on those pests and weed varieties it has already documented. To facilitate these goals, Martyn-Hemphill writes, the Taranis team will have to work on affordability, diagnostic accuracy, and comprehensiveness for its investors. While the company is not necessarily headed to spraying on its own, it is likely headed to integrating its data findings with partners in retail, ag equipment, and crop protection, such as John Deere, Nutrien, Climate CORP, BASF, and Syngenta.

Farmers Business Network expands to Australia with Farmsave acquisition


Topic: US-based Farmers Business Network expands to Australia with local startup Farmsave

After announcing the acquisition of local startup Farmsave, Farmers Business Network (FBN) is expanding to Australia. FBN offers a digital platform to farmers for comparing, pricing, and buying inputs for their businesses, with nearly 12,000 farmers as members of their network. Farmsave, originally based in Perth, Western Australia, offered a similar marketplace and price index for inputs. FBN co-founder Charles Baron told AgFunder News that Australian farmers face similar challenges to US and Canadian farmers in the realm of buying inputs, affected by the amount of consolidation in the industry. Baron confirmed that after acquisition, the Farmsave brand would be discontinued, although the company’s existing employees will remain in place as the new FBN Australia team. Australian farmers can now join FBN, while existing Farmsave members will be migrated to FBN’s platform. FBN aims to grow its Perth team through hires and to work on specialized product and service offerings for the Australian market, while also looking at potential future deals like the Farmsave acquisition.

Russian wheat offered lowest offer at Egypt’s GASC tender


Topic: Russian wheat offered lowest offer at Egypt’s state tender

Solaris presented the lowest offer of $215.10 a tonne for 60,000 tonnes of Russian grain on Tuesday, 28 July, at Egypt’s General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) tender. GASC is seeking an unspecified quantity of wheat for shipment between 1 September to 10 September, using a deferred payment mechanism. In a breakdown of the offers presented in dollars per tonne on a free-on-board basis, Solaris came in with the lowest offer for Russian wheat at $215.10, followed by Posco’s offer for Russian wheat at $215.90, and Hakan and Soufflet with the highest offer for Ukrainian wheat at $219.95 and $222.75. According to traders, the best offers, including cost and freight, were recorded with Solaris offering $228.05 for Russian wheat.

COFCO, Bunge grains plants hit in Argentina after COVID-19 cases detected


Topic: COVID-19 cases detected in Argentina suspend COFCO, Bunge operations

Grain operations of Chinese food giant COFCO and US agribusiness firm Bunge Argentina have both taken hits after COVID-19 cases were detected among workers. After 12 employees tested positive for the virus at its Timbues grains plant, COFCO has temporarily suspended operations. Bunge had one employee at its Puerto General San Martin facility tested positive, with those who had been in contact with the person put into isolation and tested but ultimately coming back negative. Despite the interruption at Puerto General San Martin, Bunge redirected soybean deliveries to other locations in Argentina to prevent delays and to continue serving customers. Preventative measures took place at the Timbues plant, including social distancing, temperature checks upon entrance, and the distribution of hand sanitizer and face masks.

On target? China committed to buying $36 Billion of US farm goods in 2020 as part of the Phase 1 trade deal

Topic: China to buy $36 billion of US farm goods in 2020 as part of Phase 1 trade deal

As part of the Phase 1 trade deal between the US and China, China has committed to buying $36 billion of US farm goods in 2020. China’s purchases of US farm goods tend to be heavily back-loaded in the year to align with the harvest. Currently, the original target of $36,500,000,000 in farm goods has encountered a shortfall, with US agriculture exports sitting at only $30,487,290,000.

China soybean imports from the United States vs Rest of the World

Topic: China soybean imports from the US vs other suppliers

In June, China seasonal soybean imports from non-US suppliers sat at approximately 10 million tonnes, while imports from the US sat below 2 million tonnes. Also by June, China’s total soybean imports seasonally sat at about 12 million tonnes. Between January and May 2020, China quickly received more soybean imports from other suppliers than they did from the US.

China pork & beef imports surge to a record in H1 2020

Topic: China pork and beef imports surge to a record in H1 2020

Beijing has boosted meat imports in 2020 in an attempt to fill a protein supply gap caused by African swine fever. Between January and June 2020, 2,120 million tonnes of pork and 997,000 tonnes of beef were imported, as compared to the 818,702 tonnes of pork and 697,830 tonnes of beef imported between January and June 2019 and the 647,986 tonnes of pork and 456,437 tonnes of beef imported between January and June 2018.

Russian wheat prices down under pressure from new crop, weaker rouble – IKAR


Topic: Russian wheat prices fallen under pressure from new crop, weaker rouble

After three weeks of growth, Russian wheat export prices fell in the last week of July due to the arrival of a new crop and the weakening of the rouble against the dollar, IKAR agriculture consultancy told Reuters. Russian wheat with 12.5 percent protein loading from Black Sea ports was down $3 from the week before, going for $207 a tonne free-on-board for supply in August. Despite a slow start to the new season, Russian grain exports are speeding up, with Egypt’s state grains buyer, GASC, buying 350,000 tonnes of Russian wheat and 120,000 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat in the last week of July. SovEcon, a consultancy in Moscow, anticipated that despite the rainfall in parts of the Urals and Siberia improving the condition of spring wheat sowings in the area, “it was too late for any significant improvement.”

Bin-busting harvest in Canada seen adding to global wheat supply


Topic: Canada anticipates adding to global wheat supply after huge harvest

According to the results of a crop tour of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta  organized by FarmLink, Canadian wheat production is expected to reach 31.9 million metric tonnes, up 16 percent from last year and the biggest harvest in history. The data, compiled over a 12-day period in July by crop scouts, revealed that crops are “in better shape with more yield potential compared to a year earlier.” The harvest would be adding to a global glut of wheat this year. Durum output is forecast as 7 million tonnes, a 41 percent increase from the year earlier, while Canola production is forecast as rising to 20.2 million tonnes, up 8.5 percent from the year earlier.

Agriculture’s role as a wealth generator in society remains vital


Topic: Discussion of agriculture as a wealth generator in society

AgDaily writer Jack DeWitt discusses the concept of land as “the source of wealth.” He starts by recalling Carl Wilken’s fight for parity prices for agricultural goods. Wilken, who studied the ratio of farm income to national income, produced 50 years of data that demonstrated how the national income increased and decreased in sync with farm income in a ratio near 7-1 (this ratio has recently been debunked). DeWitt then moves to recounting how wealth trickles up from the natural resource industries. As a result of this, DeWitt argues that while agriculture’s role as a wealth generator in a modern economy may be diminished as compared to Wilken’s largely agrarian and less complex economy, agriculture is still essential. He writes: “If our cities were destroyed in a disaster, such as an asteroid hit or nuclear war, it would be agriculture that would bring them back.”

Exclusive: Lebanon navigates food challenge with no grain silo and few stocks 


Topic: Lebanon navigates food challenge with no grain silo and few stocks

A UN official and regional grain expert told Reuters that Lebanon’s government does not possess a strategic stockpile of grains, unlike most countries largely dependent on imports, and that the blast on Tuesday, 4 August destroyed the privately held stocks at its only grain silo. Fears of food shortages were exacerbated by the destruction of the silo and of the port, which meant that buyers would need to rely on smaller, private storage facilities for their wheat purchases with no government reserves to fall back on. The additional burden of banks in crisis and one of the world’s largest public debts led Economy Minister Raoul Nehme to state that Lebanon had “very limited” resources to handle the disaster. The blast brought Lebanon’s hand-to-mouth approach to food security to light, with the silo containing only 15,000 tonnes at the time of the explosion, according to Nehme. With the consumption rate of wheat around 35,000 to 40,000 tonnes a month and Lebanon needing an inventory of around three months’ supply at any time for food security purposes, the silo should have contained over 100,000 tonnes. Lebanon’s private millers are now forced to navigate new logistics quickly if the supply chain is to run smoothly. A lack of funding meant that the construction of a second grain silo of approximately 150,000-tonne capacity at Tripoli was halted, the construction of which would have made logistics much simpler in the current circumstances.

World food price index rises in July, extending rebound


Topic: UN Food and Agriculture Organization report rising world food prices rise in July

In an extension of a rebound from the previous month following falls triggered by the pandemic, world food prices rose in July. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index, which measures monthly changes for cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat, and sugar, averaged 94.2 points in comparison to a slightly revised June figure of 93.1 points. The vegetable oil price index climbed 7.6 percent in July, reaching a five-month high, while the dairy price index rose by 3.5 percent to climb above the pre-pandemic level. Sugar prices rose by 1.4 percent, whereas the meat index dropped by 1.8 percent and was 9.2 percent below the level recorded in the previous year as a result of global demand disrupting availability. The cereal index remained almost unchanged despite gains for maize and sorghum as a result of Chinese purchases from US suppliers.

‘Everything is gone’: Flooding in China ruins farmers, risks rising food prices


Topic: Heavy flooding in China ruins farmers, risks rising food prices

Since June, heavy flooding has devastated much of southern China’s crops and farmland. The scale of the flooding both destroyed crops ready for harvest and made it impossible to salvage anything from this year. The Ministry of Emergency Management of China estimates the direct economic cost of the flooding at $21 billion in destroyed property and farmland, with 55 million people affected by the disaster. After only just starting to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, Beijing has had to secure food supplies by importing produce from other countries and by releasing enormous amounts from strategic reserves. Chinese officials have warned that flooding may creep further north, jeopardizing China’s wheat and corn harvests. As the Chinese government has not released specifics about the current state of production, analysts can only speculate as to how much of China’s food supply may be at risk.

Low rainfall in US Midwest drives corn prices higher


Topic: Corn prices driven higher after low rainfall in US Midwest

A lack of rainfall and deteriorating crop conditions in the US Midwest have raised corn prices, with benchmark corn prices up almost 4 percent at $3.39¼ a bushel during the week of 24 Aug – 26 Aug. With sections of the Midwest only receiving 15 to 40 percent of normal rainfall, the corn crop will have to rely on existing soil moisture, which will in turn affect yields. Meteorological agencies in the US and Australia have proposed the likelihood of a La Niña later this year. Typically, a La Niña is caused by the cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean, bringing droughts to the Midwest and California. These events can have significant and far-reaching consequences, such as during the 2012 La Niña, when the US experienced its worst drought in 50 years and grain and soybean prices surged.

Grandad’s legacy? A harvest of happiness: For shepherd JAMES REBANKS, farming isn’t just a way of life, it’s in his blood, passed down through his family for 600 years – as he recalls in our final extract from his gloriously evocative new book


Topic: Extract from shepherd James Rebanks new book recounts family history of farming

Shepherd and author James Rebanks recounts the 600-year farming legacy of his family and how his grandfather inspired him to continue that legacy in this excerpt from his book.

Canadian wheat crop looks biggest in seven years, canola harvest smaller


Topic: Canadian wheat crop harvest biggest in seven years

Statistics Canada announced that Canadian farmers are set to harvest the biggest wheat crop in seven years at 35.7 million tonnes, with slightly less canola. This bigger wheat production was driven by a 90 percent jump in durum output. However, traders are sceptical of the high wheat estimates, with some having stated that Statistics Canada’s modelling, which used satellite technology that incorporated data up until July 31, ended too early to record a heatwave that lowered yields. On the other hand, canola production was set to reach 19.4 million tonnes in the 2020-21 marketing year, which is smaller than last year’s 19.5 million and below the average trade guess of 20 million tonnes.

China’s looming corn shortage fans food security unease


Topic: Food security unease driven by China’s looming corn shortage

Rising corn prices are increasing food security fears in China as the country heads for its first real corn shortfall in years in the upcoming 2020/21 season, potentially facing a deficit of up to 30 million tonnes, which is around 10 percent of its total crop. While this would be to the advantage of major exporters such as the US and Ukraine, it would also threaten to push up global prices. China expects a bumper 2020/21 corn crop at around 266.5 million tonnes but this is still not enough to meet demand.