Tuesday, May 31, 2005

REMA FOODS IMPORT MARKET FLASH

REMA FOODS IMPORT MARKET FLASH Tel: 201-947-1000
DATE: May 31, 2005

TRADE/POLITICS
Unfortunately, the upcoming Central American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement is getting caught up in the current anti-trade and protectionist climate caused primarily by our increasing US trade deficit with China.

CURRENCY UPDATE
Congress threatened to impose trade restrictions against China, for that government’s refusal to allow the yuan to float against the dollar. If freed from its narrow trading range, the yuan would certainly appreciate in value (it’s being artificially held down), causing prices of Chinese products to increase. However, even if China cooperated, it’s not expected that they will allow the yuan to appreciate by more that a few percent.

TUNA
After climbing strongly over the past few months, skipjack and yellowfin raw material costs appear to be leveling off, with packers trying to bid the cost down. Tongol on the other hand is very hard to come by, while albacore remains relatively steady.

PINEAPPLE, TROPICAL FRUIT SALAD
Drought is still expected to cut significantly into the Thai summer crop, while all indications point to a normal winter crop.

OLIVE OIL
No relief in sight as olive oil pricing remains at very high levels, especially higher quality Italian oils.

TOMATOES
Higher ocean freight costs have a significant percentage impact on a relatively low cost item like tomatoes. Freight rates on tomatoes from Italy have increased three times already this season, up $700 from early in the season, and additional increases are still expected. For 2005, Italian field pricing has not yet been set as farmers and packers continue to negotiate. The initial planting has passed without incident.

PEACHES
Better times may be ahead this summer for imported peach buyers. After experiencing a disastrous crop failure in 2003, Greek packers went into 2004 with no carryover stock. As such, they could do no better than refill the pipeline even though the 2004’s crop was good. A good crop for 2005 could finally return Greece to a competitive export condition. Furthermore, the dollar has this year strengthened against the euro, and the weak 2003 market gave Chinese packers the incentive needed to beef up their production. 2005 could be the first year where Greece and China export good crops. In the meantime, California issued its 2005 production estimate showing a slight drop of 3% (quantity) compared to last season.

CANNED BEEF
After touring factories a couple of months ago, a USDA inspection found issues at several large plants, and the Brazilian government followed up by suspending the export licenses for all 28 companies licensed to export processed beef. Needless to say, the market is very firm.

ARTICHOKES and PEPPERS/PIMENTOS
Even with a worse crop than last year, Spanish packers are trying to lower costs so as not to lose market share to Southern hemisphere countries such as Chile and Peru.

ASPARAGUS
It appears the Chinese asparagus crop has survived a lengthy cold spell that farmers originally thought would wipe out this year’s harvest. Since late April, the weather in the Shanxi and Shandog growing regions have improved significantly. Still, the harvesting didn’t begin until late May, instead of the usual early April.

Monday, May 02, 2005

REMA FOODS IMPORT MARKET FLASH

REMA FOODS IMPORT MARKET FLASH Tel: 201-947-1000
DATE: May 2, 2005

TRADE/POLITICS
Ocean freight rates continue to climb. This month India reported an increase of $550/container. Far East rates went up about $250, with peak season surcharges adding another $150, for $400 total per container..

Representative Robert Portman, republican of Ohio, was sworn in as the new United States Trade Representative. He promised to get tougher with China.

The U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement is set for implementation on July 1, 2005, but there is still some chance for a delay.

CURRENCY UPDATE
Interestingly, China allowed their currency to float for a couple of hours last week. It’s not known if this was accidental (the Chinese National Bank buys and sells the yuan in the open market to support its value), or a test of possible easing in what has been a fixed trading range. For the short time it floated, the dollar immediately fell against the yuan, and rose against the euro, the expected course should China ease it’s policy.

TUNA
Tuna raw material costs remain firm at $1,000-1,100/mton. Several factories have shut down temporarily for lack of fish. Thai Yellowfin is extremely firm and virtually unavailable. Albacore is steady to firm, at $2,400/mton.

PINEAPPLE, TROPICAL FRUIT SALAD
Latest estimates have the drought cutting Thai pineapple production by 30%. Raw material is already reportedly close to 5 Baht/kilo. Canned good prices will undoubtedly firm, especially for choice and fancy product.

OLIVE OIL
Olive oil pricing continues to skyrocket to record highs with no immediate relief in sight. For the new crop, timely rains are needed now that the trees are in the flowering stage. Good rain would bring a good season and welcome relief for next year, while a lack of rain would bring the opposite. Cross your fingers. For the past 2004/2005 season, final production figures were as follows: Spain 925,000 tons, Italy 250,000, Greece 270,000, Tunis 120,000, Turkey 160,000, Morocco 60,000, Syria 150,000, Portugal 30,000.

TOMATOES and TOMATO PASTE
Output from the world’s major tomato producing countries is expected to fall this year, after an oversupply last year led to huge carry-over stocks.

PEACHES
Greece, the most important overseas producer for the U.S. market, is expecting a strong season for 2005. While 2004 was also a good season, most of the production went towards restocking the shortage caused by the 2003 crop failure. This year’s crop, the second good harvest in a row, should bring renewed exports to the U.S. China is also expecting a good new season. In South Africa, a currency even stronger than the euro, and now a severe drought, have brought estimates for the new deciduous fruit crop down 11% from last year.

ARTICHOKES and PEPPERS/PIMENTOS
Market remains firm in Spain, with prospects better for both artichokes and peppers from Southern hemisphere countries such as Chile and Peru.

MUSHROOMS
Strong worldwide production growth in China and especially India are bringing attractive opportunities for mushroom buyers. European mushroom producers (Holland and Spain) on the other hand are having severe difficulty in this strong Euro/low price environment; they’re selling below cost and shutting factories.

ASPARAGUS
Late season cold weather is expected to have wiped out much of the new asparagus crop in China.

CANNED BEEF
Beef shortages have caused the market to skyrocket dramatically by upwards of 40% in just the past few weeks.

RIPE AND GREEN OLIVESSpanish plants are trying to push up pricing again this month. Some non-Spanish bargains are available, primarily on ripe olives, but no significant quantities are available.