Nov 3, 2008

CP bullish on 2009 farm prices

Bangkok Post - Thailand 30 Oct 2008

Phusadee Arunmas

Farm commodity prices are expected to remain promising next year as the world's stocks keep pace with consumption, according to the country's largest agro-industrial conglomerate, the Charoen Pokphand Group.

"We still believe prices of farm commodities like rice, rubber, tapioca, palm oil and maize will manage to rebound by about 15-20% late this year or early next year," said Sumeth Laomoraphorn, president of CP Intertrade, the trading arm of CP Group.

"Demand for agricultural products remains strong, as the world's supplies are not much larger than annual consumption. More importantly, increased demand is likely if any importing country faces a natural disaster."

Prices of farm commodities have fallen by 70-80% from record highs since early in the year largely because of profit-taking by global fund managers in the wake of the US financial mortgage crisis and oil price drops.

Montri Congtrakultien, the CEO and president of the Crop Integration Business Group of CP, said the drop of farm prices also stemmed from concerns about a global economic recession, prompting investors to sell equities and reduce their exposure to commodities.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the world's rice stocks for 2008-09 are estimated at 18.74 million tonnes, slightly higher than 18.09 million tonnes in 2007-08, while total production is estimated to rise three million tonnes to 432 million.

World rice demand is estimated at 429 million tonnes for 2008-09 compared with 427 million in 2007-08.

Mr Sumeth attributed the global fall in rice prices to abundant supply from Vietnam, the world's second-largest rice exporter. He said Vietnam was also speeding up selling its surplus grain, as exporters own no large warehouses and they need cash to repay loans that carry interest rates as high as 20%.

Vietnamese traders currently quote 5% white rice export prices at $350 to $360 per tonne, compared with $630 for Thai white rice.

Normally, differences between Thai and Vietnamese rice are only $30-50.

According to the Thai Rice Exporters Association, the benchmark export price of white rice was cut yesterday by 8% to the lowest since March 26.

The price of 100% grade B rice was set at $580 a tonne, compared with $630 last week. The price averaged $336 in October last year. The price of 25% white rice was set at $485, down from $522 a week earlier and compared with $313 last year. The association meets every Wednesday to set prices.

"What the government should do right now is shore up local rice prices and other farm products to help farmers stay afloat," said CP's Mr Sumeth.

Also, to prevent further pressure on prices, the government should delay its plan to ramp up selling its 4.3-million-tonne stockpile of milled rice, he said.

Mr Montri said price intervention initiatives should be temporary.

In the longer term, Mr Sumeth urged the government to accelerate its plans to allocate appropriate cultivation areas for particular crops, promote research and development on local varieties to provide higher yields, and upgrade agricultural technology.

Scientists restrategise on cassava breeding for emerging markets

The Punch - Lagos, Nigeria
By Stories David Amuwa
Published: Friday, 31 Oct 2008

Scientists from across Africa have stressed the need to restrategise the cassava breeding paradigm, shifting it from being production-focused to specifically targeting new and emerging markets, especially for value-added products.

The move aims to further help improve the livelihoods of cassava farmers by tapping into high-value markets.

“Cassava has transformed from a poor man’s subsistence crop to an industrial one,” says Elizabeth Parkes, a breeder with the Ghana-based Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Crop Institute.

“What we need to do now is to find ways to move from just improving production and productivity to identifying and introducing specific traits that markets want,” she said.

Since the early 1970’s, national agricultural research centres of major cassava-producing countries in sub-Saharan Africa have released more than 200 improved varieties, with genetic material from International Institute for Tropical Agriculture representing the major source of germplasm used in their development.

Through the years, utilisation of the crop has grown, with demand for cassava-based products such as flour, ethanol, glucose and starch, among others, on the rise.

New research into cassava must focus on increasing the range of its diversified uses. But to remain relevant, cassava-derived products must at the same time be able to compete with other crop-based raw materials.

For example, breeders should develop cassava varieties that produce flour, which is comparable in quality but costs less than wheat flour.

“We are not only interested in putting food on farmers’ tables, but also money in their pockets,” says Dr. Alfred Dixon, IITA’s cassava breeder, during a workshop on “Cassava Breeding Community of Practice in Africa,” a Generation Challenge Programme-commissioned project being implemented by IITA.

Farmers, on their part, have identified the tuber’s bulkiness and perishability as two important aspects that breeding programmes need to address in the near-term.

Scientists also agree that new cassava breeding programmes should be more proactive in heading-off pest and diseases.

“We need not wait until they (diseases) become prominent before we work on them. Action must be taken at the first sign of an infection,” Dixon stressed.

Breeding programmes must continue producing varieties that are better resistant to important diseases like the mosaic virus and cassava brown streak.

Prof. Malachy Akoroda of the Department of Agronomy, University of Ibadan, said cassava had gained prominence because of its unique qualities for poverty reduction.

Citing the cassava drought resistance qualities for example, Akoroda said the crop had the ability to mitigate the impact of climate change in Africa.

He stressed that cassava presented numerous opportunities and what was needed was for African governments to identify and tap those opportunities.

Hunger hotspots of the future revealed

New Scientist (subscription) - UK 29 October 2008
From New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.

Rice, maize, sorghum and cassava show little change. By combining these assessments with projections for population and economic growth, the team then ...

Where in sub-Saharan Africa will climate change hit hardest? When it comes to food supply, prospects for much of the centre and east of the region are looking grim. Reduced crop yields along with a rising population mean that Tanzania, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are likely to face serious shortages by 2030, according to a comprehensive new study.

A team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Dübendorf led by Junguo Liu assessed the impact of climate change by 2030 on the production of six major food crops in sub-Saharan Africa: cassava, maize, wheat, sorghum, rice and millet. Higher temperatures will make wheat wilt, with yields falling by up to 18 per cent. By contrast, millet benefits, with yields up by as much as 27 per cent (Global and Planetary Change, DOI: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2008.09.007). Rice, maize, sorghum and cassava show little change.

By combining these assessments with projections for population and economic growth, the team then predicted how people in different countries would be affected. Tanzania, Mozambique and the DRC fared worst for food security. "They have the lowest economic growth, the fastest population growth or the lowest increase in calories from their crops," Liu says.

The report predicts that economic growth in Nigeria, Sudan and Angola will increase their purchasing power enough to allow them to buy their way out of hunger.

From issue 2680 of New Scientist magazine, 29 October 2008, page 7

Baked stew ushers in new season - Erie,PA,USA

Tapioca is processed cassava root, which is a tropical plant that serves as a staple food in its native South America, Africa and Asia. ...

Loaves and Dishes

Published: October 29. 2008 12:01AM

One of the best things about fall is the excuse to change the menu after six months of light, grilled summer dinners. I've had my fill of lemony fish, barbecue chicken and fruit salad.

I've knelt at the altar of simple skinny food long enough.

A leaf falls off of a tree and I head straight for the pot roast.

This recipe for Baked Beef Stew got me right where I wanted to go.

Five things I learned:

1. The most interesting thing I learned is that you can make beef stew in the oven. It takes about the same amount of time, so, my Dad asked, "What's the draw of that?" Well, I can't really explain it except that I just thought it was neat. It seems like less hassle. There are no hot or cold spots, no burning or scorching. Everything cooks to the same temperature. No splatters.

You take the foil/lid off the baking pan and it looks perfectly gorgeous. No dirty, cooked-on grime on the side of a pot. No soaking necessary.

I just love it.

2. The secret to this dish wasn't just in the cooking method, but also in the rich, thick sauce.

It contained a few unexpected ingredients, such as diced tomatoes, tapioca, a bread slice and sugar, in addition to the requisite root vegetables, broth and such.

The tomatoes gave it depth, the sugar tamed the acid, the tapioca I'll get to in a minute, and, to be honest, I don't really know what the bread was for.

I figured it gave the dish body, like in a strata. But I don't think it's a deal breaker either way.

3. Tapioca is processed cassava root, which is a tropical plant that serves as a staple food in its native South America, Africa and Asia.

Its roots are very starchy. It can be cooked and eaten like a potato, or dried into meal, granules, flakes or flour. Pearled tapioca is the main ingredient in tapioca pudding.

4. I found tapioca flakes in the baking aisle at the grocery store. You can also use a flour or cornstarch slurries (whisked with a small amount of liquid).

The advantage of tapioca, according to "The Science of Good Food," is that it thickens at a lower temperature than other starches, making it good for items that will be baked and not boiled, like pie and Baked Beef Stew.

Interestingly, the cassava-thickened recipes freeze better than foods made with other thickeners, because they don't break down.

5. Tapioca has no real taste of its own. In fact, "Science" says it's even more neutral than wheat flour and cornstarch.

That's pretty neutral.

JENNIE GEISLER writes about her adventures as a home cook every Wednesday. You can reach her at 870-1885. Send e-mail to

Modern Pantry is a bit behind the times

UNITED KINGDOM Metro - London,

The Modern Pantry
Marina O'Loughlin - Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Here are some of the ingredients in the current Providores menu: hijiki, umeboshi, cassava chips; and here are some from The Modern Pantry: hijiki, ...

Remember fusion? Remember those clashing tastes and menus that needed an encyclopaedia to decipher? Apart from long-standing (and excellent) The Providores in Marylebone, we saw the last of that most pilloried of culinary styles in the 1990s: too many Kevs from catering college flinging blachan into their bain-maries signalled its death knell. Or so we thought.
Anna Hansen – one of London's most highly regarded women chefs – was one of the originators of The Providores and cooked at another seminal fusion perpetrator, The Sugar Club. She clearly believes in hanging on to a formula that has worked for her.

Here are some of the ingredients in the current Providores menu: hijiki, umeboshi, cassava chips; and here are some from The Modern Pantry: hijiki, umeboshi, cassava chips. Plus krupuk, feijoa, yuzu and kalamansi limes for good measure.

To be fair, the fusion clamour has been toned down here: several dishes feature an entire list of ingredients we recognise.

As an aside: don't you just love that name? It's so zeitgeisty, like all those emporia – Re:Found, Labour And Wait, Pedlars – that feed off our nostalgia for black-leaded grates and doorsteps scrubbed with big bristly brushes, selling us balls of twine for ten times what we'd pay in B&Q.

Somewhere called The Modern Pantry should really be purveying – yes, that's the word – bowls of organic rare-breed stew with fluffy dumplings and steamed fruit puds lustrous with golden syrup, not spinach, shiitake and plantain green curry.

Anyway, it is a perfectly lovely-looking place: two Georgian buildings in St John's Square bookended by The Zetter and the Priory. I've driven past it several times, each time wishing I were going there instead of wherever I was heading.

There's a ground-floor café that I like enormously, a chic melange of heritage colours, copper lampshades, vintage-style coat-hooks and blindingly white contemporary furniture. It's bustling when we walk in, full of the area's statement-bespectacled media middle-youth.

But the upstairs restaurant proper is almost monastically featureless, with two connecting rooms providing blank canvases for some cold Farrow & Ball-ish colours and splashy artworks.

Marcel Wanders's heavenly Skygarden lights – plain exterior, ghostly bas relief interior – add a rare decorative touch. We're entirely alone and a little chilly, making us wish we were downstairs where, irritatingly, the 'all day menu' appears to be identical.

What are we doing up here in frosty isolation? A luscious bottle of Hasel Grüner Veltliner from winemaker Birgit Eichinger – yay for the sisterhood – from a sharp, concise wine list warms us up nicely and other punters start appearing, more grown-up and sedate than the groovers downstairs, but hey.

The sugar-cured prawn omelette has, since the place's opening, become something of a signature dish, a kind of Vietnamese-Malaysian-Thai collision featuring smoked chilli sambal, liquoricey holy basil and tamarind. It works brilliantly, the cured prawns dense and sweet, the frilly edges seductively crisp, the interior baveuse, herbs and spices adding tongue-tingling zing. Apart from this, I can't find anything to get wildly excited about.

Another starter reads ham hock, mango, spiced peanut, green chilli and watercress salad with plum wine dressing. It's fine, just fine, but no more than the sum of its parts, a little like something you'd serve yourself in one of Islington's similarly furnished nouveau canteens. And, for £7, it's a fairly weeny portion.

We have to order something called a gunjya – well you do, don't you? – which turns out to be a mini pasty or samosa, filled with duck and potato and served with a coriander and mint relish, altogether like something the Raj up the road might deliver for you to mindlessly chomp in front of The X Factor.

Main courses: a nicely autumnal dish of roast guinea fowl with ceps, chanterelles, sweetcorn and polenta is good but a bit beige. 'Crispy' roast pork belly isn't; but the flavour is deep and porky – decent ingredients are used throughout – and its green pepper relish perks it up no end. But I really loathe our pudding, a jarring confection of Earl Grey chocolate tart, roast fig, plum marshmallow and caramel syrup. It's like a surrealist nightmare version of a Tunnock's Tea Cake.

It has taken Ms Hansen four years to bring this ambitious project to fruition. I think that, in the meantime, food fashions have moved away from the challenge of the exotic and unfamiliar into the warm embrace of the comfort zone. Especially right now.

The Modern Pantry's money men are D&D, the Conran Group management buy-out chaps who have also backed the excellent Launceston Place. They seem to know what they're doing. Hansen herself has denied that what she's doing here is fusion, claiming it's merely modern cooking for her Modern Pantry. Strange, then, that it all seems so last century.

Cassava - Google News