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Activists sue US government over “wrongful” use of organic label

Activists sue US government over “wrongful” use of organic label

A lawsuit has been taken out by food activists and farmers in the US against the country’s government over its decision to allow hydroponic operators use the “organic” label.  The Center for Food Safety and Farmers from Maine to California state that this decision undermines the integrity” of the country’s organic food label that consumers trust and that organic farmers rely upon.

Until now, federal regulations require organic crops to be grown without pesticides or other harmful chemicals and must also foster “soil fertility”. The claimants argue that as hydroponic plants are grown with their roots in water or air and receive nutrients from solutions created by the operators, they therefore do not foster soil fertility. 

A USDA statement supports the use of hydroponic operations.

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In US, growth in organics outstrips growth in other food categories 

In US, growth in organics outstrips growth in other food categories 

 

Sales of organic products in the US reached $52.5 billion in 2018, up 6.3% from the previous year, according to the 2019 Organic Industry Survey by the OTA. Organic food sales increased 5.9% to $47.9 billion, outpacing total food sales growth at 2.3%.

Speaking to Foodbusinessnews, Angela Jagiello, director of education and insights at the OTA, said, “Shoppers consistently relate that they choose organic because they believe the product to be ‘better for me and my family’. In 2019, the Organic Trade Association led one of the largest-ever consumer research projects on behalf of organic. Shoppers told us that they value the fact that more than 700 chemicals are prohibited in organic, the strong standards and enforcement that underpin the USDA organic seal, and that they believe organic agricultural practices can play a role in mitigating climate change.”

Category trends

Fresh produce remains the largest organic category, representing more than 36% of all organic food sales, according to the OTA. In 2018, sales of organic fruits and vegetables increased 5.6% to $17.4 billion, while sales of all fruits and vegetables, including organic and conventional products, rose 1.7%. Organic fruits and vegetables comprise nearly 15% of all produce sold in the United States. Carrots, greens, apples and bananas remain popular picks in the organic section, while organic berries, mangos, papayas, avocados, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are gaining steam.

“Millennials are the fastest-growing demographic of consumers who want what’s best not only for themselves but their families, too,” said Emmanuel Laroche, global marketing leader and vice president of marketing and consumer insights for Symrise. “So, when it comes to foods and beverages, organics are on the top of their grocery lists.”

Where is the organic market headed next? 

“Packaging may be a future frontier,” said Jagiello. “There’s a robust organic industry conversation about sustainable packaging. Industry members are working individually and collectively to press suppliers for more responsible, less plastic, alternatives. This will require education for shoppers, and for retailers, but will ultimately be positive for all. Organic will be the tip of the spear on this issue and will catalyse positive change throughout the food industry.”

 

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Agreement opens opportunities for US fruit in Japan

The US-Japan Trade Agreement (USJTA) came into force on January 1, 2020. Once USJTA is fully implemented, up to 90% of all US food and agricultural products imported into Japan will be duty free or receive preferential tariff access. Japan is a key trading partner for the US. In 2018, the US exported $318 million of fresh fruit to Japan, making Japan the 4th largest overseas market for US fresh fruit. The US was the source of one third of Japan’s fresh fruit imports and the leading supplier of fresh oranges, lemons, grapes and cherries. Japan will apply a seasonal US-specific safeguard for oranges starting at 26,435 tons. The safeguard only applies to products imported between December 1 and March 31. If the safeguard volume is exceeded, tariffs on US orange exports will increase for the remainder of that period. The safeguard tariff is 28% in Years 1-3 and 20% in Years 4-6.  The safeguard will be eliminated in Year 7 (2025).

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EU and US vie for leadership in organics

The world’s largest organic markets, the US and the EU have exhibited dynamic growth over the past couple of years. While the US overtook the EU as the leading global organic food market in 2012, the EU has been showing stronger growth of late. Indeed, over the past 10 years, the organic food market in the EU has nearly doubled. According to the Organic Trade Association, the US recorded sales of US $47.9 billion in 2018, while the EU market was worth an estimated US $45.4 billion, up 18% from the previous year, according to USDA FAS data.

 

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Prices of US produce drop in Japanese retailers 

Prices of US produce drop in Japanese retailers 

 

Following the signing of a new FTA between Japan and the US, Japanese retailers have moved promptly to slash prices of US fresh produce. The new trade deal was signed in October 2019, but only came into effect on 1 January 2020. The major beneficiary of the agreement was the fresh produce sector, with the tariffs eliminated on blueberries, cranberries, sweet corn, broccoli and prunes. Other products which will see a staggered elimination of tariffs include fresh cherries and oranges.

According to Japan Times, Retailer Ito-Yokado held a six-day sale during which it cut the price of oranges by 10-20 per cent, while Aeon Retail plans to reduce kiwi prices and Seijo Ishii will discount US nuts.

TAGS: Japan, US, FTA

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Report finds Amazon to be price leader in groceries

A study of online grocery retailers has found that Amazon leads the way in terms of price. Examining over 12,500 products in 16 categories, available online at Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Target.com and Jet.com, and other leading specialist retailers, the Profitero study found that Amazon was the cheapest, followed by supermarket chain Kroger.

According to the report: “Kroger averaged 1.6% more expensive than Amazon on 156 exactly matched products; Jet was 3.5% more expensive on 133 products; Walmart was 6.2% more expensive on 172 products; Instacart was 10.7% more expensive on 137 products; and Target was 11.6% more expensive on 153 products.”

Meanwhile, in a move that will put further pressure on its rivals, Amazon has announced it is to offer free grocery delivery for Prime members, thereby eliminating its monthly fee for Amazon Fresh.

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Morocco’s fresh raspberries gain access to US

Morocco’s fresh raspberries gain access to US

 

A week after progress was made to establishing a Morocco-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA), a protocol has been signed between the two countries allowing the North African country to ship its fresh raspberries to the North American giant.  The US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced in a statement that it will amend regulations governing the fruits and vegetables imports to allow shipments of fresh raspberries from Morocco to the United States. APHIS reassured the public that the fruit will undergo measures upon arrival to prevent the Monilinia fructigena pest as a condition of entry. The product will also be inspected prior to exportation from Morocco.

The statement emphasised: “The raspberries will have to be imported in commercial consignments only and must be field inspected for signs of Monilinia fructigena infection no more than 30 days prior to harvest.”

 

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Recommended daily fruit and vegetable intake costs around $2.50 in US

Recommended daily fruit and vegetable intake costs around $2.50 in US

A USDA food consumption survey found that US citizens are consuming only 0.9 cups of fruit and 1.4 cups of vegetables per day. This is well below the recommendation to include 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables in their daily diets. The main cause of this deficiency is thought to be cost, with low-income households particularly affected.

It was found that 8 out of 62 fresh and processed fruits cost less than 40 cents per cup in 2016, while another 21 fruits cost less than 80 cents per cup. The cheapest fruits per cup were fresh whole watermelon (20 cents) and processed apple juice (26 cents), while the most expensive were found to be fresh blackberries, fresh raspberries, and canned cherries.

Vegetables tended to be more affordable than fruits, with 77% of vegetables and only 47% of fruits costing less than 80 cents per cup. The cheapest fresh and processed vegetables were heads of Romaine lettuce, fresh whole carrots, canned green beans and dried pinto beans, which all cost less than 40 cents per cup in 2016 – in fact, dried pinto beans cost 17 cents per cup. The most expensive vegetable was found to be fresh asparagus, at $2.47 per cup, at $0.17 per cup equivalent.

The study found that 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables could be obtained in 2016 for about $2.10 to $2.60 as part of a 2,000-calorie diet.

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US imposes 17.5% tariff on Mexican tomatoes

US imposes 17.5% tariff on Mexican tomatoes

It’s not just Chinese imports that are subject to US tariff hikes. As of Tuesday 7th May, the US has imposed a 17.5% tariff on Mexican tomato imports. The move comes following unsuccessful negotiations to renew a 2013 agreement that suspended a US anti-dumping investigation. The US Commerce Department said in February that the US would halt the investigation as long as Mexican producers sold their tomatoes above a pre-set price.

“As of tomorrow a tariff of 17.5 percent will be applied on the value of the product,” said Luz Maria de la Mora, Mexico’s undersecretary of foreign trade. “It’s going to affect financial flows but that is going to be directly transferred to US consumers.”  The measures will remain in place until a new suspension agreement is reached and could lead to immediate and significant price rises for US consumers. Mexico exports about US$2 billion of tomatoes to the US each year.

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US to exit tomato trade agreement with Mexico

US to exit tomato trade agreement with Mexico

The US has announced it will withdraw from the tomato suspension agreement with Mexico by May 7, 2019, although this does not mean the end of negotiations. According to the RaboResearch, the withdrawal could still be avoided if both parties can reach a renewed suspension agreement.

Half of the fresh tomatoes currently consumed in the US are imported from Mexico. If there is no new suspension agreement by May 7, the US will impose a temporary anti-dumping duty of 17.5% on imports of Mexican tomatoes. The US International Trade Commission will also decide whether or not the US tomato industry has been harmed by tomato imports from Mexico. If substantial harm is the verdict, a new anti-dumping duty will be imposed. Alternatively, if no harm is determined, all restrictions to imports of fresh tomatoes will be removed.