Even as coffee consumption grows in Thailand each year, the country remains a net coffee importer. Several coffee growers have shifted to other lucrative plants such as rubber and oil palm because of their higher market prices.
Varri Sodprasert, president of the Thai Coffee Association, said Thailand’s coffee production has dropped continuously the last five to six years, with production this year estimated at only 41,000 tonnes.
Coffee has been grown in Thailand for over 100 years. The country officially became a coffee exporter in 1976, selling 850 tonnes of robusta coffee. Helped by strong world market prices in the 1980s, exports thrived, culminating in a peak in 1991-92 of almost 60,000 tonnes.
The collapse of the “International Coffee Agreement” in July 1989 and the following slump in world coffee prices hit farmers hard. Facing an oversupply, the Thai government initiated a five-year plan starting in 1992 to encourage coffee farmers to switch crops, reducing the coffee plantation area from almost 500,000 rai.
Coffee plantation is estimated at 300,000 rai this year, with about 260,000 rai for robusta beans and 39,000 rai for arabica, said Peyanoot Naka, senior research officer at the Agriculture Department.
Robusta coffee growers are mostly in the South, where plantation area is expected to drop from 287,000 rai as more farmers shift to rubber and oil palm.
But arabica strains, grown mostly in the North, are expected to increase plantation given relatively high prices.
The ex-farm price of arabica is now at 150 baht per kilogramme, while the related price of robusta is 72 baht per kg.
Domestic consumption is estimated at 70,000 tonnes a year. Thailand imports at least 5,000 tonnes to supply instant coffee makers. Continue reading
Sales of fairly traded products have bucked the trend of decline in the UK retail market to grow by 12% in the last year. The value of Fairtrade products sold through shops reached £1.32bn in 2011, compared to £1.17bn in 2010, according to figures from the Fairtrade Foundation, as it launches its annual marketing fortnight on Monday.
Unlike other premium sectors such as the organic market, which have lost ground as consumers struggle with the combination of rising food and energy prices and stagnant incomes, the Fairtrade market has continued to expand.
The growth largely reflects a move among major supermarkets to sell Fairtrade goods at the same price as conventionally produced equivalents. Alternatively they have switched whole ranges to the Fairtrade sector rather than pass on the premium paid to farmers as a higher cost to consumers. All the Co-operative’s own-brand tea, coffee and sugar are now Fairtrade. The company will announce this week that it is to make all its bananas Fairtrade, in line with Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, who have already converted their whole banana category to Fairtrade.
The Fairtrade cocoa and sugar sectors have seen the most significant growth in the past year, with 34% and 21% increases over 2010 respectively. Morrisons will announce this week that it will join other major retailers, including the Co-op, M&S, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, who have committed to converting all their bagged sugar stocks to Fairtrade sugar from Tate & Lyle. This move will bring Fairtrade’s share of the UK retail bagged sugar market to 42%, and will make sugar the biggest single Fairtrade product.
The UK is the largest market for fairly traded products, helped by support from the trade unions, faith groups and the Fairtrade Towns campaign. The sector as a whole remains very small, however. Continue reading
BY NANCY COOK LAUER | WEST HAWAII TODAY
HILO — An agricultural research center on a hillside overlooking Hilo is getting a little bigger, thanks to a $6.2 million federal grant celebrated Friday at a dedication ceremony.
The U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center is one of about 100 such facilities scattered across the globe. The Hawaii center has researched the papaya ringspot virus, fruit flies, nematodes, purple sweet potatoes and other problems and opportunities unique to the tropics.
The expansion adds 4,500 square feet of technical office and conference space to the 35,000-square-foot, $48 million first phase of the facility. It houses 15 scientists and 65 support staff on 30 acres.
“We’re dedicating a building today, but it is more than bricks and mortar,” said Sylvia Yuen, interim dean of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “The legacy will continue in the research … that will help solve serious agricultural problems.”
Facilities include laboratories, greenhouses and what’s called the “head house,” where plants are worked on before and after they’re in the greenhouse environment. The head house is equipped with photovoltaic cells generating 40 kilowatt-hours of electricity. Continue reading
Scientists and farming leaders are urgently seeking ways of fighting a disease new to the UK threatening sheep flocks.
Weeks after government vets confirmed the arrival in Britain of the deadly Schmallenberg virus, which causes miscarriages and birth deformities in lambs, 74 farms in southern and eastern England have been found to have the disease and the number is expected to rise sharply as the lambing season peaks.
Restrictions on animal movements, imports and exports are unlikely because officials do not want to further jeopardise rural economies to combat a virus that has also affected cattle and goats across Europe but is not thought to be dangerous to people. Public health bodies are monitoring the health of farmers, farm workers and vets who have been in contact with infected animals.
The National Farmers Union has warned of a “ticking time bomb” over the disease, which has affected up to 20% of lambs on some farms. The virus, which is thought to have been carried by midges over the North Sea or English Channel, is named after a farm in Germany where it was first identified last year. It was initially seen in cattle and quickly spread through the Netherlands and Belgium to northern France. Continue reading
Farmers in drought-stricken areas of the country are facing crucial decisions in the next few days and weeks over what to grow this year – and their plans could mean rising food prices for hard-pressed consumers this summer.
Most of the south-east of England was officially declared to be in drought last week, and large swaths of the Midlands and south of England were confirmed as “at risk”, with hosepipe bans and other restrictions likely to be introduced soon.
Farmers are particularly at risk as the spring growing period approaches. Soil moisture in the key agricultural region of East Anglia has reached a record low, and many farmers have had their licences to take water from rivers and underground sources curbed. Some key crops – such as potatoes, carrots, onions and lettuce – require much more water than alternatives, and farmers must sow the seeds for many of these staples within days or weeks.
Those who fear that the drought will reduce yields or render some crops unviable will be forced to cancel their seed orders now and put plans in place for alternatives. Richard Solari, who farms 1,200 acres in east Shropshire, said: “People have got to make decisions now, immediately, and a lot of farms are making decisions not to grow potatoes, onions and carrots because they are worried that there is not going to be enough water.” Continue reading
DENVER (AP) — A food safety expert told Colorado farmers Thursday that last year’s deadly listeria outbreak traced to Colorado cantaloupe proved that they cannot rely on third-party inspections to guarantee their produce is safe.
MORE: Listeria-linked cantaloupe farm had rated high in audit
STORY: FDA cites dirty equipment in deadly cantaloupe outbreak
Larry Goodridge, associate professor at the Center for Meat Safety and Quality in the Department of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University, told farmers that they bear primary responsibility for food safety.
“Each farm or processing facility has to be able to assess their own risks,” Goodridge told the governor’s annual forum on Colorado agriculture in Denver. “Everybody who produces food has to be responsible for the safety of the food they produce. You cannot rely on third parties. You just can’t.”
The listeria outbreak traced to Jensen Farms in eastern Colorado last year was blamed for the deaths of 32 people. It infected 146 people in 28 states with one of four strains of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jensen Farms was given a “superior” inspection rating by a third-party auditor just before the outbreak. Continue reading
Stink bugs, the smelly scourge of the mid-Atlantic, are hitch-hiking and gliding their way across the country. Officially known as the brown marmorated stink bug, sightings of the pest have been reported in 33 states, an increase of eight states since last fall.
“I would say people now regard them as an out-of-control pest,” says Kim Hoelmer, a research entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Newark, Del.
The National Pest Management Association warns homeowners this week that the bugs’ growing populations are likely to make infestations significantly worse this year. “This season’s stink bug population will be larger than in the past,” says Jim Fredericks, director of technical services for NPMA.
The bugs have been spotted as far west as California, as far north as Minnesota and as far south as Florida. Only the Rockies and Plains states have escaped thus far. The eight states recently joining the stink bug party are Arizona, Iowa, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin, according to the USDA’s Greg Rosenthal.
Rosenthal says a report of a stink bug in a state does not necessarily mean that the pest is established or that agricultural damage has been reported in that state.
Stink bugs are named for the pungent smell they emit when frightened, disturbed or squashed. Continue reading
LINCANG, Yunnan – “I can’t expect any profit this year and I don’t know what to do next year,” said Li Xiuzhong, a 65-year-old sugarcane farmer in Lincang, Southwest China’s Yunnan province.
“We have 180 hectares of sugarcane last year and actually the beginning of the growing season was good due to sufficient rainfall,” he said. “But after June, things got worse so quickly and now there is no harvest in 30 hectares.”
His expectations have also dropped from five tons of crops for each hectare to three tons.
“These are already the best drought-resistant seeds and I have ploughed another 40 hectares for next year, hoping to earn more money,” he said. “But now, I have lost confidence in growing them under current weather conditions.”
He said he had grown sugarcane for more than 20 years and this year is the worst in terms of weather.
He is living on income from previous years.
Lincang used to be covered with thick forests and has rich water resources, but since the 2010 drought, its water conservation facilities have been under threat and agricultural production has been challenged.
Lincang’s sugar and tea industries are two pillars of its economy. Sixty percent of sugarcane crops were affected by the weather in 2010 and there was a conspicuous reduction of total production.
Ganhua Company is a major sugar factory in Yunxian county, and is experiencing a hard time with this year’s harvest.
According to Wei Xuehua, general director of the company, the scarcity of water has handed the company, as well as sugarcane farmers and delivery drivers, a total loss of 19 million yuan ($3 million) so far.
In addition, rats have also severely affected the production of sugarcane in the region as water can only be found in the plants. Continue reading
I’m sure I’ll get an earful from certain readers for this, but I can’t for the life of me see how any health-conscious person can think drinking raw — that is, unpasteurized — milk is a good idea.
That opinion’s bolstered by a CDC report issued Tuesday. A survey of dairy-related disease outbreaks from 1993 to 2006 found that 60 percent of reported illnesses related to dairy consumption involved unpasteurized milk. The numbers themselves aren’t huge — 1,571 cases of illness and 202 hospitalizations — but there were two deaths.
Illnesses related to consumption of pasteurized dairy products almost all involved contamination caused by mishandling after pasteurization. That’s something we consumers have little control over.
But we do have control over what kind of milk we put in our — and our children’s — mouths. The study found that 60 percent of the illnesses related to raw milk occurred among people younger than 20. The authors note that public-health agencies have a duty to protect those who are too young to make their own food choices.
The study also found that 75 percent of the outbreaks related to raw milk consumption took place in the 21 states where it was legal to sell raw milk products at the time; the study notes that seven states changed their laws during the study period. Continue reading
AUSTRALIAN researchers have discovered that vast, pancake-shaped bodies of cool water, about 40 kilometres in diameter, are spinning out of Bass Strait into the Tasman Sea, and then turning east to head for the Indian Ocean.
The phenomenon happens at a stately pace, with perhaps one giant disc of water each year making it as far as the southern coast of Western Australia, after a journey of several years.
”At first we thought maybe there was a malfunction in the instruments,” said Mark Baird, an oceanographer and senior research fellow at the University of Technology, Sydney.
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”But there was no malfunction, we had just run into a ‘wall’ or water that was relatively sharp, and undiluted by the water around it. We were able to establish that it was a disc shape, a few hundred metres high and about 40 kilometres across.”
Dr Baird and fellow researcher Ken Ridgway from the CSIRO, were analysing data from a deep-diving ocean glider, a torpedo-like machine that dives a kilometre under the sea and then rises back to the surface, measuring water temperature and salinity.
Dozens of the gliders are deployed in the oceans of Australia’s coast and further afield, building up a detailed picture of ocean currents. Continue reading