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In Brief… – for May. 12, 2011

Viterra opens Montreal office:Canada’s biggest grain handler, Viterra Inc. has opened a marketing office in Montreal following a deal last month to run the grain terminal owned by Montreal Port Authority. The marketing office will increase Viterra’s ability to buy crops and sell them to buyers in Canada, the United States and Europe, the company said in a release. Risky business:Iraq’s grain board chief survived an assassination attempt when a roadside bomb blasted his motorcade in Baghdad. Hassan Ibrahim, who was appointed in March as the director of the Iraqi Grains Trading Company, was wounded in the attack. Iraq is one of the world’s largest grain importers, most of which goes to supply a national food ration program. The country consumes 4.5 million tonnes of wheat and 1.2 million tonnes of rice a year, most of it imported. The country’s army and police are on high alert following the death of Osama bin Laden.

Biodiversity payback:

Protecting plant and animal species will have a big payoff, according to the European Commission.

In its latest biodiversity report, the commission estimates preserving biodiversity will create from $2 trillion to $6 trillion in business opportunities by 2050. The money would be generated from a wide range of items, from avoiding losses caused by overfishing to the benefits gained from nature’s ability to purify air and water. The commission estimates insect pollination alone has an economic value to the European Union of 15 billion euros per year. Set to rise:World food prices are set to rise again as concerns persist over Chinese and U.S. winter crops and global production lags increasing demand, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

It says rising output of biofuels is also contributing to food shortages, consuming more than 100 million tonnes a year of cereals that would otherwise be used in food production. The FAO’s global food index fell in March after eight months of consecutive gains, but is on the rise because of production drops and oil’s rising cost.

Relax the restrictions:

Japan is asking for an easing of restrictions on Japanese food imports imposed after the earthquake and tsunami that led to a radiation leak from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Germany, Britain and France have imposed extra checks on Japanese food imports such as soy sauce and shellfish to ensure they are free of radioactivity. Many other countries stopped or restricted food imports from Japan after the earthquake.

There should be “appropriate relaxation” of restrictions based on current scientific data, said the country’s foreign minister. No go:The Manitoba Canola Growers’ Association (MCGA) says there is insufficient producer interest to continue exploring a voluntary marketing option through the Canadian Wheat Board for canola. The association surveyed farmers this spring following a resolution at its 2005 general meeting to investigate the possibility. The initiative was publicly shunned by canola growers in Saskatchewan and Alberta and denounced by the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association. – Staff Under threat:China’s largest wheat area has been hit by drought, and local authorities urged farmers to water their crops at the crucial growing stage despite the high costs it could incur.

Officials say 1.1 million hectares of wheat are affected in Henan province, which produces about 26 per cent of China’s total wheat output. Amidst fears of rising food prices, the government urged farmers in the area to use irrigation if available. The province has had only 10.8 mm of rain since April, 50 per cent less than usual. Releasing pressure:The U.S. government blew a two-mile-wide hole in a 56-mile-long Mississippi River flood levee in a bid to save several towns in Illinois and Kentucky from being inundated. The move flooded more than 100,000 acres of farmland in Missouri in order to spare the towns.

The deliberate destruction of the levee ended days of legal wrangling over how to cope with the rising flood waters of the Mississippi and nearby Ohio River. The breach created a “mini tsunami,” and could cause as much as $1 billion in property damage.

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