New regs for Tuesday: Bath salts, bananas, housing

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Tuesday’s edition of the Federal Register contains new regulations that would ban new strands of bath salts, allow Filipino bananas in Hawaii, and a handful of rules for executives in the housing industry.

Here’s what is happening:

Bananas: The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering changes to a rule that would allow Filipino bananas to be sold in Hawaii and other U.S. territories along the Pacific coast. The bananas would have to adhere to certain safety requirements to make sure they don’t bring pests into those areas. 

Bananas could replace potatoes in warming world

Climate change could lead to bananas becoming a critical food source for millions of people, a new report says.

Researchers from the CGIAR agricultural partnership say the fruit might replace potatoes in some developing countries.

Cassava and the little known cowpea plant could play increasingly important roles in agriculture as temperatures rise.

People will have to adapt to new and varied menus as traditional crops struggle say the authors.
Continue reading the main story

Responding to a request from the United Nations’ committee on world food security, a group of experts in the field looked at the projected effects of climate change on 22 of the world’s most important agricultural commodities.

Blooming bananas

They predict that the world’s three biggest crops in terms of calories provided – maize, rice and wheat – will decrease in many developing countries.

They suggest that the potato, which grows best in cooler climates, could also suffer as temperatures increase and weather becomes more volatile.

The authors argue that these changes “could provide an opening for cultivating certain varieties of bananas” at higher altitudes, even in those places that currently grow potatoes.

In Philippines, banana growers feel effect of South China Sea dispute

PANABO, Philippines — Dazzled by the opportunities offered by China’s vast and increasingly prosperous populace, Renante Flores Bangoy, the owner of a small banana plantation here in the southern Philippines, decided three years ago to stop selling to multinational fruit corporations and stake his future on Chinese appetites. Through a local exporter, he started shipping all his fruit to China.

Today, his estate on the tropical island of Mindanao is scattered with heaps of rotting bananas. For seven weeks now — ever since an aging U.S.-supplied Philippine warship squared off with Chinese vessels near a disputed shoal in the South China Sea — Bangoy has not been able to sell a single banana to China.

He is a victim of sudden Chinese restrictions on banana imports from the Philippines that China says have been imposed for health reasons but that Bangoy and other growers view as retaliation for a recent flare-up in contested waters around Scarborough Shoal.

“They just stopped buying,” Bangoy said. “It is a big disaster.”

His plight points to the volatile nationalist passions that lie just beneath the placid surface of Asia’s economic boom. It also underscores how quickly quarrels rooted in the distant past can disrupt the promise of a new era of shared prosperity and peace between rising China and its neighbors.

Scarborough Shoal, a cluster of coral reefs and islets, lies more than 500 miles from the Chinese mainland and 140 miles off the northern coast of the Philippines, well within a 200-nautical-mile “exclusive economic zone” provided for by the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. But China — which claims most of the South China Sea, including portions also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan — insists that the shoal has been part of its territory

UK consumers go bananas for Fairtrade

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.

Growing Dryland Taro Part I

By Glenn I. Teves, County Extension Agent,
UH CTAHR Cooperative Extension Service

Molokai is blessed with many Hawaiian taro varieties, in part due to the vision of the late Martha and Cowboy Otsuka in seeking out and preserving these legacies. Also, under the direction of Alton Arakaki and Faith Tuipulotu in making huli available each year at the annual Molokai Taro Field Day.

With the advent of drip irrigation and water distribution systems, taro can be grown in areas where it could never grow before. In the past, dryland taro was only grown in the uplands in mulch where seasonal rains were sufficient to bring the taro to harvest.
Most varieties will mature between eight and 12 months, and keeping plants actively growing is the key. Taro loves water, and along with fertilizer, will flourish before your eyes. Dryland taro is distinguished from wetland taro in that the latter grows in water ponds or lo`i. Different varieties were selected for these two conditions. Taking a soil sample of your planting area is the first step in growing upland taro. Call our office at 567-6932 for more information on taking a soil sample.

The biggest challenge in growing taro is weeds

Battling a Virus Ravaging East Africa’s Cassava Crops – New York Times

MUKONO, Uganda — Lynet Nalugo dug a cassava tuber out of her field and sliced it open.

Inside its tan skin, the white flesh was riddled with necrotic brown lumps, as obviously diseased as any tuberculosis lung or cancerous breast.

“Even the pigs refuse this,” she said.

The plant was what she called a “2961,” meaning it was Variant No. 2961, the only local strain bred to resist cassava mosaic virus, a disease that caused a major African famine in the 1920s.

But this was not mosaic disease, which only stunts the plants. Her field had been attacked by a new and more damaging virus named brown streak, for the marks it leaves on stems.

That newcomer, brown streak, is now ravaging cassava crops in a great swath around Lake Victoria, threatening millions of East Africans who grow the tuber as their staple food.

Although it has been seen on coastal farms for 70 years, a mutant version emerged in Africa’s interior in 2004, “and there has been explosive, pandemic-style spread since then,” said Claude M. Fauquet, director of cassava research at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis. “The speed is just unprecedented, and the farmers are really desperate.”

Bananas need no hype to be considered good – Hawaii Features – Starbulletin.com

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Nearly everyone has received e-mails proclaiming that a particular food possesses magical qualities. One such e-mail espouses bananas to be a superfood. The e-mail claims that a professor of physiological psychology provided the amazing information about bananas. There are a number of urban legend websites posting this message that don’t point out what is fact and fiction. Here are some of the claims and the facts about them.

Hawaii Tribune-Herald | Many varieties of world’s most important fruit

Bananas are fun to grow, with tips from a pro

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Bananas can grow quite vigorously and productively in many landscapes and gardens on the Big Island. The many varieties of this large, perennial herb yield the world’s most important fruit. The ripening, homegrown bunches hang in garages around the state, ready to nourish our families.

Most banana plants can produce large and high-quality fruit yields if they receive sufficient plant nutrition and well-timed horticultural care. Here we describe simple practices that growers can use to cultivate better bananas and to harvest bunches heavy with delectable fruit.

EU, Latin American Accord Ends Banana-Import Dispute – Bloomberg.com

Bloomberg

EU, Latin American Accord Ends Banana-Import Dispute (Update1)

By Jennifer M. Freedman

Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) — The European Union and Latin American countries including Ecuador and Guatemala reached an agreement over the EU’s banana-import policies, settling the longest-running dispute at the World Trade Organization.

Under the deal secured today, which also has U.S. backing, the EU will cut duties on bananas from Latin America to 114 euros ($166) a metric ton from 176 euros over seven years, the European Commission said in a statement from Brussels. The change means banana prices in the EU will drop 11 percent while Latin American producers will see exports climb, said Giovanni Anania, a professor at the University of Calabria in Italy.

“The clear winner will be the Latin American countries, because they will expand their exports to the EU by roughly 17 percent,” he said in a telephone interview. “Total exports of bananas from Latin America to all markets will increase by 3.2 percent” while producers in African and Caribbean countries will see shipments of the fruit to the EU decline 14 percent.

Companies and consumers in the U.S. will also be affected, Anania said. Exports from companies such as Dole Food Co. and Chiquita Brands International Inc. that grow and ship bananas from Latin America will increase while the supply of the fruit in the U.S. will drop, “driving up prices minimally,” he said.