Monday, June 20, 2005


DATE: June 20, 2005

Ocean freight rates continue to climb as several lines announce new bunker surcharge increases.

The dollar surged to a fresh nine-month high against the euro on Friday as its recent rally gained extra momentum from a narrower-than-expected US trade deficit. Current exchange rate is 1.22 dollar/euro. The trade gap widened to $56.96 billion in April — the fourth widest on record — but was narrower than the $58.0 billion anticipated by economists. The Federal Reserve’s program of raising interest rates and relatively solid US economic growth compared to Europe and Japan are forcing dealers to unwind the massive bets against the dollar built up over recent years.

After leveling off, there’s new talk overseas of fish price staying firm for the next few months. Current value about $850/mton. Yellowfin continues to track skipjack. Tongol on the other hand is extremely tight – higher quality raw material is virtually unavailable, and the tongol catching season is still several months away. Albacore is steady.

Pineapple packers still expect that this years’ winter crop will save the 2005 year. About 30% of the summer crop, which is now complete, was burnt up by harsh drought. While the summer crop is usually the larger of the two, packers expect the 2005 winter crop, starting in August, will bring more than double the fruit of the summer crop.

Relief may finally be coming. It appears olive oil may be topping out, as traders succeed in slightly bidding down raw material for the first time this year..

Italian tomato production for the 2005 crop is set to plummet by 17%, to 5.2 million metric tons, according to the USDA. Planted area is also expected to decline by 10% to 79,000 hectares. In California, according to the California Agricultural Statistics Service (CASS), processors will contract 8% less than last year. Many farmers expect total output will fall below 10 million tons. Exports of tomato paste from China are expected to increase by 20% this season.

According to the President of the Greek Canners association, this year’s crop is very good and should “banish the memory of Greece’s turbulent 2003 season,” when frost decimated the country’s peach trees. In South Africa, two large factories announced merger plans, as they try together to battle a very strong South African rand which has killed most any chance of export potential to dollar denominated countries. Early estimates for Californian canned peach exports could be around 1.7 million cartons (24x28oz), a 25% fall from the previous year's 2.1 million cartons total sales. Rich Hudgins, President and CEO of the California Canning Peach Association, says that although it was still far to early to be sure, he believed this year's exports will be significantly less than 2004's.

The Basque government in Spain has appealed to the EU for all anchovy fishing to be suspended for the rest of the season, to allow depleted fish stocks time to recover. The government claims there are no fully-grown fish remaining in the Biscay waters, and the current anchovy situation is below recovery levels.

It’s reported that California’s apricot crop will be down about 15% from early season estimates, due to an extremely wet spring and recent cooler weather. The situation is better overseas and several countries are offering.

U.S. imports of raisins totaled 7.35 million lbs during the first quarter of this year according to the latest Bureau of Census figures, representing a massive 278% increase compared with the same period last year.