U.S. bacon prices rise after virus kills baby pigs

MILWAUKEE >> A virus never before seen in the U.S. has killed millions of baby pigs in less than a year, and with little known about how it spreads or how to stop it, it’s threatening pork production and pushing up prices by 10 percent or more.

Estimates vary, but one economist believes case data indicate more than 6 million piglets in 27 states have died since porcine epidemic diarrhea showed up in the U.S. last May. A more conservative estimate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows the nation’s pig herd has shrunk at least 3 percent to about 63 million pigs since the disease appeared.

Scientists think the virus, which does not infect humans or other animals, came from China, but they don’t know how it got into the country. The federal government is looking into how such viruses might spread, while the pork industry, wary of future outbreaks, has committed $1.7 million to research the disease.

The U.S. is both a top producer and exporter of pork, but production could decline about 7 percent this year compared to last — the biggest drop in more than 30 years, according to a recent report from Rabobank, which focuses on the food, beverage and agribusiness industries.

Already, prices have shot up: A pound of bacon averaged $5.46 in February, 13 percent more than a year ago, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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

Tea’s refreshing change

Chinese beverage takes on renewed meaning and styles to draw in younger generation

Rather than while away their time in coffee shops like most of their peers, Li Jiayi and her friends are happy to spend 1,000 yuan ($158, 122 euros) between them over a pot of tea.

Of course, it is not just a cup or two of tea they get. This regular “ceremony” involves a tea-themed dinner accompanied by tea-related performance art and followed by a tea-oil massage.

“It’s not like the old-fashioned teahouse where old folks get a pot of tea and chat all day long. We get all-round service here – shopping for tea, drinking, dining, massages, enjoying art performances. It’s a perfect place for friends gathering, and for business banquets,” says Li, a 27-year-old company manager in Beijing.

The ancient tea drinking culture, though still popular among the older generation, is making a comeback as it takes on various forms to attract a greater and younger range of customers.

“Tea can be a daily drink or an art form or a relaxing leisure pursuit,” says Liu Lei, an industry expert and executive of Xiangguo Teahouse. “At a time when bottled drinks are constantly facing safety issues, tea can be considered a healthy replacement.”

Originating in China, tea is deeply rooted in the country’s culture and people’s lives. It is considered as one of the seven necessities, along with wood, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce and vinegar.

Legend has it that tea was discovered by an emperor, Shennong, about 5,000 years ago, when several tea leaves fell into the water he was boiling under a tree. The refreshing and slightly bitter flavor gradually became popular among the upper classes. By the time of the Tang (AD 618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties, it had become the drink for all

Very little sweet news for sugar producers|Nation|chinadaily.com.cn

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.

Alexander & Baldwin to split into two separate companies

Alexander & Baldwin Inc. said today its board of directors has approved a plan to split the company into two separate companies, one focusing on real estate and agriculture and the other on shipping.

The two companies would be independent and publicly traded, the company said in a news release.

Under the plan, A&B shareholders will own one share of both A&B and Matson stock for each share of company stock owned. The separation is expected to be completed in the second half of 2012.

The announcement was made after the market closed. A&B’s shares rose $1.50 to $39.56 in after hours trading.

“Over the past decade, Alexander & Baldwin’s board of directors and management have periodically conducted strategic reviews, including an evaluation of the merits of separating into two companies,” said Walter Dods, A&B’s chairman. “After thorough evaluation, we have concluded that the increased size, capabilities and financial strength of both our land and transportation businesses now enable these operations to independently execute their strategies to maximize shareholder value.”

Honolulu-based A&B has grown substantially over the past decade. Its commercial real estate portfolio has increased by almost 50 percent to its present size of 7.9 million square feet, comprising 44 properties in Hawaii and eight mainland states. The portfolio of commercial properties generates a significant and stable source of cash flow for the company, and is an important source of capital for A&B’s real estate investment and development activity.

China issues alert as Yangtze River braces for more rain

China issued a “level three” alert as the medium-to-lower reaches of the Yangtze River braced for more heavy rain, the China Meteorological Administration said on its website today.

Heavy downpours, including storms and torrential rain in some areas, will affect parts of Jiangsu, Hunan, Zhejiang, Anhui and Hubei provinces as early as tomorrow, the forecaster said. Landslides, floods and mudslides may occur as the soil becomes loose after a recent drought, it said.

Flooding has killed 94 people along the medium-to-lower reaches of the Yangtze River this month, with another 78 people missing, according to a China National Radio report yesterday. The region had previously suffered from a drought.

Mackay Sugar formally lodges takeover offer for Tully Sugar

MACKAY Sugar has formally lodged its $41 a share bid for Tully Sugar, even though US-based agribusiness giant Bunge and China’s state-owned Cofco have already revised their bids higher to $43 a share valuing Tully at $132.9 million.

Mackay’s bid is backed by French-based commodity trader Louis Dreyfus, which has agreed to provide debt funding of up to $102 million to help fund the offer.

Mackay is Australia’s second largest sugar milling company, operating three mills, a refinery, and producing molasses and electricity on the Queensland central coast south of Tully.

At stake is the ownership of one of the last independent grower-owned sugar mills in Australia and other assets including residential properties in the Far North Queensland town.

The Tully mill, whose operation is highly regarded in the industry, has a crushing capacity of 2.5 million tonnes of cane a year and produced 315,000 tonnes of raw sugar in 2002, before production started falling as a result of a series of poor crop seasons.

“By accepting Mackay Sugar’s offer, you are ensuring Tully Sugar’s business remains in Australian hands, managed by a professional grower-controlled company” that has a proven track record of working with growers to deliver higher prices and a more secure and diversified business while investing in the industry,

Yangtze shipping halted

Drought on China’s Yangtze river has led to historically low levels that have forced authorities to halt shipping on the nation’s longest waterway.It was barely three meters near Wuhan, the Chang Jiang Waterway Bureau said yesterday.

A day earlier, the bureau closed a 228-kilometer stretch above Wuhan to sea-going vessels, fearing ships would become stuck on the bottom.

Further up the river, the massive Three Gorges Dam, the world’s biggest hydroelectric project, has discharged more water to alleviate the drought conditions down river.

It was not immediately clear if the measures would be effective as the drought in areas around the middle reaches has levels at the lowest point in five decades, the China Daily said.

At least two ships have just been stranded, with that part of the river cut to an average width of about 150 meters.

According to Wang Jingquan of the Yangtze River Water Resources Committee, slowing the Yangtze with the controversial Three Gorges Dam has aggravated the drought by diverting flow to the lower reaches.

The 6,300-kilometer Yangtze is indispensable to the economies of many cities along its route.

Yangtze shipping halted – The Standard

Top 10 Leisure Services Stocks of the Week: MLP, PRXI, LONG, STNR, FUN, RDI, TZOO, BWL.A, ISCA, LTM – China Analyst

Below are the top 10 best-performing Leisure Services stocks for the past week. One Chinese company (LONG) is on the list.

Maui Land & Pineapple Co. (NYSE:MLP) is the 1st best-performing stock last week in this segment of the market. It was up 19.14% for the past week. Its price percentage change is -10.27% year-to-date.

10 Leisure Services Stocks of the Week: MLP, PRXI, LONG, STNR, FUN,
RDI, TZOO, BWL.A, ISCA, LTM (Jan 01, 2011) – China Analyst