Supply Lines: High-stakes blueberries

Supply Lines
Bloomberg

China is saber rattling in the food world once again over a perceived link between Covid-19 and its imports of frozen goods.

This time, it's Beijing making the noise. The city government told companies to avoid importing frozen food from high-risk nations — without outright naming any. In recent weeks, the Asian country has banned imports from plants in Ecuador, Brazil and Indonesia, disrupting trading channels.

Beijing's commerce bureau says Chinese customs and local governments have repeatedly detected traces of the pathogen in imported cold-chain foods at a time when foreign food companies continued to report new coronavirus infections.

But at the same time, the international community has repeatedly stressed that there's no concrete evidence the virus can be transmitted through food and packaging, and experts remain doubtful that it's a major threat.

It was one of several trade-related food stories this week.

In the U.S., the Trump administration is asking the International Trade Commission to open a probe into whether a surge in blueberry imports in recent years is harming American growers. The step appears aimed at winning over growers in Georgia, Michigan and Florida, all states in which President Donald Trump faces strong competition in his bid for re-election. Any trade restrictions as a result of the probe probably would come after the November presidential election.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has blocked imports of palm oil and palm oil products from Malaysia's FGV Holdings, one of the world's largest producers. The order is based on what American authorities say is information that "reasonably indicates" the use of forced labor. The move is the latest blow to the palm oil industry after the spread of the coronavirus shuttered restaurants, curbing demand for cooking oil.

Millie Munshi in Denver

Charted Territory

Phosphate fertilizer prices in the U.S. corn belt had their best quarter in a decade as buyers cope with a supply shock caused by potential import duties against Morocco and Russia. Prices spiked after U.S. fertilizer firm Mosaic Co. petitioned the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. International Trade Commission in June, saying that fertilizer imports from Morocco and Russia were unfairly subsidized. That prompted an investigation and raised the prospect of countervailing duties.

Today's Must Reads

  • Hunger crisis | The pandemic has exposed just how fragile economic status is worldwide. In many ways, nowhere has that been more apparent than in Latin America, where a resurgence of poverty is bringing a vicious wave of hunger.
  • Brewer relief | Japanese brewers suffering from the dropoff in bar and restaurant traffic are about to get some relief, thanks to long-awaited revisions to the liquor tax system that kicks in this week.
  • Meat market | British beef is on the way to the U.S. for the first time in at least two decades, at a time when food remains a sticking point between the countries in post-Brexit trade talks.
  • Medium rare | The growing popularity of plant-based products doesn't mean the world is ready to start eating less meat, according to the head of one of the top crop traders.
  • Jumping beans | Prices of coffee, this year's worst-performing major agricultural commodity, may get a boost from La Nina as the weather phenomenon threatens Brazil's next crop.
  • Jumbo shrimp | Cell-based seafood producer Shiok Meats of Singapore has received $12.6 million in Series A funding — the latest alternative protein company to raise money as the pandemic pressures food supply chains globally.
  • Hot chocolate | As Ivory Coast prepares to collect a record cocoa crop, the market is bracing for two key unknowns: the risk of political unrest disrupting supplies and the demand hit from Covid-19.
  • Slow cooking | The average time to get an order at 10 of the biggest fast-food chains in the U.S. this year is just shy of six minutes, according to a report from market researcher SeeLevel HX. That's about 30 seconds slower than last year.
  • Shopping spree | Pakistan is on a global shopping spree for agricultural goods, such as wheat and sugar, to control soaring prices and is even willing to pay higher prices to achieve the goal, the farm minister said.

Save the Date

De-globalization or re-globalization? Following the pandemic, will companies move their supply chains out of China? Join us virtually on Oct. 6 at 1 p.m. Hong Kong/Singapore time (GMT+8) to hear insights from Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Executive International, Institutional Farhan Faruqui, U.K. Trade Commissioner for Asia Pacific Natalie Black and FutureMap founder Parag Khanna. 

Register for free here to be a part of this live, interactive conversation, or to access all content on-demand at your convenience.

On the Bloomberg Terminal

  • Snacking at home | Elevated levels of at-home food purchases stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic may boost Conagra's sales for the remainder of fiscal 2021, in our view, Bloomberg Intelligence writes.
  • Inflection point | Agricultural commodities are approaching good resistance in a bear market in transition, as we see it, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.
  • Use the AHOY function to track global commodities trade flows.
  • Click HERE for automated stories about supply chains.
  • See BNEF for BloombergNEF's analysis of clean energy, advanced transport, digital industry, innovative materials, and commodities.
  • Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts.

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