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NZ: Zespri responds to Chinese trade war speculation

New Zealand kiwifruit exporter Zespri says sales are on track to making China its number one market this year, after the government recently downplayed the likelihood of a trade war with the Asian giant.

The issue stems from reports of an application from Pacific Steel under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules calling for an investigation into alleged steel dumping from China in the New Zealand market. Zespri Shanghai 13

The local press has reported China’s Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Trade Policy (Mofcom) warned Zespri and other companies about possible retaliation against New Zealand primary industries including kiwifruit, wool and dairy.

Mofcom has denied the claims, and both New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Trade Minister Todd McClay have urged the public not to get carried away with the hypothetical scenario of a Chinese reaction to a WTO dispute.

“Neither in Beijing nor in Wellington is there any indication from the Chinese authorities that there is an issue that would see them have retaliatory action, so the official line from the Chinese, and we accept that, is there is nothing to see here,” Key was quoted as saying on new site Stuff.co.nz.

“Market economies don’t do that with each other. WTO [World Trade Organisation] rules don’t allow it,” McClay was quoted as saying in newspaper the Otago Daily Times when asked about the possibility of retaliatory action from China.

In a statement, a Zespri spokesperson said the issue was being dealt with at a government-to-government level, and the company had full confidence in both governments on the issue.

“Two weeks ago, Zespri local staff in China received unsubstantiated information from an industry body in China on purported industry consultations related to the import of New Zealand agricultural products,” the spokesperson said.

“We passed on this information by email in line with our regular engagement with New Zealand Embassy officials in China through the normal course of business.

“Outside of this single communication, Zespri has no further information on this matter and reports that Zespri was called in for a meeting in Beijing or was in some way pressured by the Chinese government are false.”

The spokesperson highlighted Zespri’s business in China benefited from a “deep and mature relationship” between the two nations across both government and business.

“We are heartened to hear Minister McClay’s assurances today,” the spokersperson said in an email on Tuesday.

“Our 2016 selling season continues as normal and we’re on track to grow our China business by one-third this season, making it our number-one market with sales to reach around NZ$ 500 million. Zespri has no further comment to make on this matter.”

Photo: www.shutterstock.com

www.freshfruitportal.com

 

FreshFruitPortal.com

Hen housing trade offs: Food safety, workers and consumers

As it turns out, the food stores and restaurant chains promising to sell only cage-free eggs by some date in the future and egg producers have been doing their due diligence when it comes to the housing of laying hens.

Recently released findings of the Laying Hen Housing Research Project by the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply looks at the advantages and disadvantages of three types of hen housing in five areas:

  • chickensonrun_406x250

    Cage-free does not mean the same thing as free range.

    animal health and well-being;

  • food safety and quality;
  • environmental impact;
  • worker health and safety; and
  • food affordability.

The three housing types included in the study were conventional cages that are also called battery cages, enriched colony set ups, and cage-free aviary operations. The research was conducted over two years and involved two flocks living in type of each housing system.

Hens in all the housing systems shed Salmonella at similar rates and the prevalence of Salmonella associated with egg shells was low and did not differ between housing systems, according to the researchers.

The highest environmental microbial levels were found in the aviary system litter area and on the enriched system scratch pad. Aviary floor eggs also had significantly higher levels of microorganisms that other types of eggs sampled.

batterycage_406x250

This is an example of a battery cage egg operation.

Housing systems did not influence the rate of egg quality decline though 12 weeks of extended storage and U.S. egg quality standards and grades were found to be adequate for all three housing systems.

The coalition — led by McDonald’s, Cargill Kitchen Solutions, the American Humane Association, Michigan State University, the University of California-Davis and the Center for Food Integrity — also found housing types did not result in differences in the immune systems of hens or the effectiveness of their Salmonella vaccinations.

Aviary forage areas and scratch pads in enriched colonies had the highest levels of total aerobes and coliform. Aviary floor eggs had the highest total aerobes and coliform levels.

The researchers also found the dry belt manure removal system impeded the detention of Campylobacter spp.

“It’s important to note that management practices likely had the greatest influence on environmental and off shell microbiology,” said the researchers. They said egg quality was not effected by the housing type, but hen dietary nutritional changes did make a difference.

In findings outside the food safety concerns, the study found cage-free aviary eggs would cost consumers 36 percent more than conventional battery cages. Enriched systems would cost 14 percent more than conventional.

The higher costs are driven by higher feed, labor, pullet and capital costs.

Worker health and safety is another major downside for cage free systems. The study found workers were exposed to significantly higher concentrations of airborne particles and endotoxin — toxic components of bacteria — when working in aviary houses than in conventional or enriched houses.

Workers tasked with gathering eggs from floors also faced “ergonomic challenges” in addition to respiratory hazards.

The research focused on indoor only systems because those are the most commonly used in commercial egg production.

All housing types were studied at the same location, a farm in the Midwest. Funding came from the Center for Food Integrity, which provided about $ 3 million each for MSU and UC-Davis. The conventional housing accommodated about 200,000 hens while the aviary and enriched units each housed 50,000 hens.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Food Safety News

Ecuador suspends preferential trade with US over Snowden affair

Move will see tariffs introduced on agricultural exports
Ecuador suspends preferential trade with US over Snowden affair

Ecuador has made the surprising announcement that it is giving up its preferential trade agreement with the United States, a move which could have serious repercussions for agricultural industry. The shock news comes in the wake of the ongoing Edward Snowden affair.

The former CIA agent, turned whistle-blower, is though to be seeking asylum from Ecuador. The country is gaining something of a reputation for sheltering those involved in the leaking of government secrets and is currently housing Wikileaks’ Julian Assange in its London Embassy.

Ecuador’s Minister of Communications, Fernando Alcarado, announced the decision, saying, the country “unilaterally and irrevocably renounces…trade preferences.” He described the decision as a demonstration of Ecuador’s commitment to its values and a sign that it would not allow foreign powers to influence national sovereignty via the exertion of commercial pressure.

Ecuador, he said, “doesn’t accept…threats from anybody and it doesn’t trade its principles or give them up for commercial interests, no matter how important.”

Ecuador’s left wing president, Raffael Correa, has sought to calm concerns on the domestic front over the move, stating that the suspension of preferential trade, which will see the introduction of tariffs on exports, including broccoli and bananas, would have limited impact.

Other have been quick to disagree, pointing out that the relatively straightforward trade processes with the US have turned certain Ecuadorian enterprises into major international industries. Romiro Crespo, of Quito based Analytical Investments, said, “If commerce is restricted there’s going to be unemployment…this does not penalise the government, it penalises the people.”

Just how effective a gesture this proves to be remains to be seen of course and, currently, the prospect of Snowden, who is trapped in international limbo at Moscow airport, making it to Ecuador and one of its embassies is very small, his passport having been revoked by the US authorities.

Publication date: 6/28/2013
Author: Ben Littler
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


FreshPlaza.com

Produce professionals have eye toward future trade with Cuba

The Dec. 17 announcement of a restoration of full diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba has some produce industry members intrigued with the prospect of future trade with Cuba.

Robert Colescott, president and chief executive officer of Southern Specialties, headquartered in Pompano Beach, FL, said, “As Cuba begins to open for commerce with the U.S. the opportunity will favor the U.S. Exporters supplying Cuba with grains [will] potentially open doors for ports in Louisiana and Houston. I would expect tourism to begin making an impact that will improve the economy and, eventually, create demand for more specialty produce and other traditional fruits and vegetables. It will take several years before we see Cuba become a significant agriculture producer and exporter. Lots of work is necessary on their infrastructure including significant investments in logistics.”

Geno Valdes, vice president of sales and marketing for Southern Specialties, and a second-generation Cuban-American, said, “Fresh produce opportunities will be very exciting if relations with Cuba are truly a reality. Cuban people will want to eat produce they know, such as tomatoes, avocados, mangos and other tropical items.

“Due to its strategic location and rich soil many crops currently grown in Costa Rica and other Central American countries can be grown there,” Valdes continued. “Cuba has experienced farmers, lots of farm land and abundant water. The fact that Cuba has a high literacy rate is also an asset. The port of Miami, currently undergoing a massive drayage and expansion project, is the natural port of entry for Cuban produce. As a company with lots of experience growing and supporting farms in Latin America, Southern Specialties will examine opportunities in Cuba.”

“With both governments now in consideration to open new opportunities for trade, it only makes sense to look at the entire portfolio of products offered,” Craig Uchizono, vice president of Southern Hemisphere for the Giumarra Cos., said.“Everyone will be interested to learn as much as possible for all fresh fruit, vegetable and tropical commodities both countries have to offer.”

Raul Millan, executive vice president and partner of Vision Import Group, headquartered in Los Angeles and a first-generation Cuban-American, said that as a son of Cuban parents, produce trade with Cuba has always been on his mind since beginning his produce career.

“Cuba’s proximity to the U.S. offers an opportunity that cannot be ignored, both in freight savings and transit time,” said Millan. “Cuban farmers have lacked resources for so long that I can only imagine most fruit and vegetable exports will take longer than most want.

“Politics aside, I for one, am looking forward to do business in a country where I will be able to relate so well to the language, culture, food and, of course, the people,” he added.

Jim DiMenna, president of Red Sun Farms a hydroponic vegetable grower and distributor with greenhouses in Canada, Mexico and Dublin, VA, said that true to his and his company’s nature, he looks at all opportunities when it comes to business, adding that as a Canadian, he has always has the freedom to look at Cuba with a keen business eye because the U.S. embargo did not involve Canada.

“Although Canada has always had the opportunity to do business with Cuba, transportation has been a key problem in the past,” DiMenna said. “But if that issue goes away and we can move a ship 90 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, things may change.

“But we also have to do our due diligence,” he added. “Does Cuba have the proper elevation for a highly technical greenhouse facility? Does it have the altitude that will affect crops in any way? We have to assess and analyze all aspects of doing business there. It’s not something we’ll do overnight.”

DiMenna stressed that Red Sun is a progressive company that is cautiously optimistic.

“We continually look for options for developing business,” he added. “But our stringent rules and regulations would apply to doing business with Cuba the same as they do with our business partners in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Everything that we do we do to a stringent stet of standards.

“I am glad, however, that after more than 50 years everyone in North American will be building a relationship with Cuba and its people,” he added.

Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development for Southern Specialties, added, “The thought of having a potential new client and supplier-base located only hours from our facility is quite exciting. But we need to keep in mind we are in very early stages of opening any real relationships with Cuba. The average yearly income for the 11 million Cubans of $ 6,000 does not make for a strong customer base for every product. Large international companies like Coca-Cola will make initial investments. The Cuban government has made tourism, from countries other than the U.S., its biggest profit center. Opening Cuba to American tourism would be huge and we could expect a large influx of money into the Communist government. It will be interesting to watch this relationship unfold. Perhaps, ultimately, Southern Specialties may play a part in Cuba by expanding its core competencies of growing, importing and processing vegetables grown in Latin America, the U.S., Mexico and Canada.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

WSJ story relevance questioned by Organic Trade Association

In its Dec. 9 edition, The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is having difficulty monitoring the more than 25,000 farms and other organizations that sell organic crops and livestock because of the tripling in the size of that sector over the past decade.

WSJ noted that there are currently 81 accredited agents or groups that can certify food as organic under the USDA’s National Organic Program. But the newspaper reported that “of the 37 that had a complete review this year, 23 were cited for failing to correctly enforce certification requirements on farms in audits, according to an internal Agriculture Department report.”

WSJ added that the USDA report found that the 23 firms “didn’t properly conduct onsite inspections or correctly review applications for certifications….”

In a separate Wall Street Journal investigation of USDA inspection records, WSJ found that since 2005 “38 of the 81 certifying agents failed on at least one occasion to uphold basic Agriculture Department standards.”

Laura Batcha, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, headquartered in Washington, DC, didn’t dispute the findings of the audits, but does not believe they are cause for concern.

She told The Produce News that by their very nature, third-party audits are designed to find inconsistencies and correct them. With regard to the NOP audits, Batcha said one major goal is to make sure all certifying agents are performing their duties in a consistent manner and members of the organic community are being judged by the same standards no matter where the certification is taking place.

Batcha has reviewed the information that the WSJ story was based on and said in some cases it was data more than five years old. And in many instances the failures were administrative in nature.

She believes that no time in the history of the National Organic Program has the USDA been in a better position to provide oversight of the certifying agents. The organic industry, she said, has successfully lobbied for increased funding to both certify and audit the certifiers as the industry has grown.

Of more concern, Batcha said, would be a third-party audit that found no areas that need correcting. She said there have been significant changes to the NOP over the years and it is understandable that many certifiers would have deficient areas discovered during an audit.

Batcha said trust in the USDA’s stamp of organic certification is essential and she does not believe that trust has been compromised or misplaced. She indicated that, by and large, the certifying agents are doing a great job and applying the standards uniformly across the country.

She called the WSJ story and the information that it was based on a “snapshot in time” that in some cases reflected information that was five years old, and reiterated that she has no doubt that product being sold across the country with the USDA organic certification meets the standards of the National Organic Program.

The WSJ story did quote the USDA as making the same points as the OTA executive. The story stated that the “USDA said it requires certifiers to comply with numerous requirements, and the problems found by the Journal and the agency’s internal report reflected ‘a very rigorous accreditation process that requires full compliance and correction of identified issues.’ Those that fall out of compliance, like the 23 cited this year, get the opportunity to correct the problem, but are at risk of being removed from the certification program if the problem isn’t fixed.”

WSJ noted that the USDA said its certifiers were in compliance with 97 percent of its regulations.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

WSJ story relevance questioned by Organic Trade Association

In its Dec. 9 edition, The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is having difficulty monitoring the more than 25,000 farms and other organizations that sell organic crops and livestock because of the tripling in the size of that sector over the past decade.

WSJ noted that there are currently 81 accredited agents or groups that can certify food as organic under the USDA’s National Organic Program. But the newspaper reported that “of the 37 that had a complete review this year, 23 were cited for failing to correctly enforce certification requirements on farms in audits, according to an internal Agriculture Department report.”

WSJ added that the USDA report found that the 23 firms “didn’t properly conduct onsite inspections or correctly review applications for certifications….”

In a separate Wall Street Journal investigation of USDA inspection records, WSJ found that since 2005 “38 of the 81 certifying agents failed on at least one occasion to uphold basic Agriculture Department standards.”

Laura Batcha, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, headquartered in Washington, DC, didn’t dispute the findings of the audits, but does not believe they are cause for concern.

She told The Produce News that by their very nature, third-party audits are designed to find inconsistencies and correct them. With regard to the NOP audits, Batcha said one major goal is to make sure all certifying agents are performing their duties in a consistent manner and members of the organic community are being judged by the same standards no matter where the certification is taking place.

Batcha has reviewed the information that the WSJ story was based on and said in some cases it was data more than five years old. And in many instances the failures were administrative in nature.

She believes that no time in the history of the National Organic Program has the USDA been in a better position to provide oversight of the certifying agents. The organic industry, she said, has successfully lobbied for increased funding to both certify and audit the certifiers as the industry has grown.

Of more concern, Batcha said, would be a third-party audit that found no areas that need correcting. She said there have been significant changes to the NOP over the years and it is understandable that many certifiers would have deficient areas discovered during an audit.

Batcha said trust in the USDA’s stamp of organic certification is essential and she does not believe that trust has been compromised or misplaced. She indicated that, by and large, the certifying agents are doing a great job and applying the standards uniformly across the country.

She called the WSJ story and the information that it was based on a “snapshot in time” that in some cases reflected information that was five years old, and reiterated that she has no doubt that product being sold across the country with the USDA organic certification meets the standards of the National Organic Program.

The WSJ story did quote the USDA as making the same points as the OTA executive. The story stated that the “USDA said it requires certifiers to comply with numerous requirements, and the problems found by the Journal and the agency’s internal report reflected ‘a very rigorous accreditation process that requires full compliance and correction of identified issues.’ Those that fall out of compliance, like the 23 cited this year, get the opportunity to correct the problem, but are at risk of being removed from the certification program if the problem isn’t fixed.”

WSJ noted that the USDA said its certifiers were in compliance with 97 percent of its regulations.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

WSJ story relevance questioned by Organic Trade Association

In its Dec. 9 edition, The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is having difficulty monitoring the more than 25,000 farms and other organizations that sell organic crops and livestock because of the tripling in the size of that sector over the past decade.

WSJ noted that there are currently 81 accredited agents or groups that can certify food as organic under the USDA’s National Organic Program. But the newspaper reported that “of the 37 that had a complete review this year, 23 were cited for failing to correctly enforce certification requirements on farms in audits, according to an internal Agriculture Department report.”

WSJ added that the USDA report found that the 23 firms “didn’t properly conduct onsite inspections or correctly review applications for certifications….”

In a separate Wall Street Journal investigation of USDA inspection records, WSJ found that since 2005 “38 of the 81 certifying agents failed on at least one occasion to uphold basic Agriculture Department standards.”

Laura Batcha, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, headquartered in Washington, DC, didn’t dispute the findings of the audits, but does not believe they are cause for concern.

She told The Produce News that by their very nature, third-party audits are designed to find inconsistencies and correct them. With regard to the NOP audits, Batcha said one major goal is to make sure all certifying agents are performing their duties in a consistent manner and members of the organic community are being judged by the same standards no matter where the certification is taking place.

Batcha has reviewed the information that the WSJ story was based on and said in some cases it was data more than five years old. And in many instances the failures were administrative in nature.

She believes that no time in the history of the National Organic Program has the USDA been in a better position to provide oversight of the certifying agents. The organic industry, she said, has successfully lobbied for increased funding to both certify and audit the certifiers as the industry has grown.

Of more concern, Batcha said, would be a third-party audit that found no areas that need correcting. She said there have been significant changes to the NOP over the years and it is understandable that many certifiers would have deficient areas discovered during an audit.

Batcha said trust in the USDA’s stamp of organic certification is essential and she does not believe that trust has been compromised or misplaced. She indicated that, by and large, the certifying agents are doing a great job and applying the standards uniformly across the country.

She called the WSJ story and the information that it was based on a “snapshot in time” that in some cases reflected information that was five years old, and reiterated that she has no doubt that product being sold across the country with the USDA organic certification meets the standards of the National Organic Program.

The WSJ story did quote the USDA as making the same points as the OTA executive. The story stated that the “USDA said it requires certifiers to comply with numerous requirements, and the problems found by the Journal and the agency’s internal report reflected ‘a very rigorous accreditation process that requires full compliance and correction of identified issues.’ Those that fall out of compliance, like the 23 cited this year, get the opportunity to correct the problem, but are at risk of being removed from the certification program if the problem isn’t fixed.”

WSJ noted that the USDA said its certifiers were in compliance with 97 percent of its regulations.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

WSJ story relevance questioned by Organic Trade Association

In its Dec. 9 edition, The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is having difficulty monitoring the more than 25,000 farms and other organizations that sell organic crops and livestock because of the tripling in the size of that sector over the past decade.

WSJ noted that there are currently 81 accredited agents or groups that can certify food as organic under the USDA’s National Organic Program. But the newspaper reported that “of the 37 that had a complete review this year, 23 were cited for failing to correctly enforce certification requirements on farms in audits, according to an internal Agriculture Department report.”

WSJ added that the USDA report found that the 23 firms “didn’t properly conduct onsite inspections or correctly review applications for certifications….”

In a separate Wall Street Journal investigation of USDA inspection records, WSJ found that since 2005 “38 of the 81 certifying agents failed on at least one occasion to uphold basic Agriculture Department standards.”

Laura Batcha, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, headquartered in Washington, DC, didn’t dispute the findings of the audits, but does not believe they are cause for concern.

She told The Produce News that by their very nature, third-party audits are designed to find inconsistencies and correct them. With regard to the NOP audits, Batcha said one major goal is to make sure all certifying agents are performing their duties in a consistent manner and members of the organic community are being judged by the same standards no matter where the certification is taking place.

Batcha has reviewed the information that the WSJ story was based on and said in some cases it was data more than five years old. And in many instances the failures were administrative in nature.

She believes that no time in the history of the National Organic Program has the USDA been in a better position to provide oversight of the certifying agents. The organic industry, she said, has successfully lobbied for increased funding to both certify and audit the certifiers as the industry has grown.

Of more concern, Batcha said, would be a third-party audit that found no areas that need correcting. She said there have been significant changes to the NOP over the years and it is understandable that many certifiers would have deficient areas discovered during an audit.

Batcha said trust in the USDA’s stamp of organic certification is essential and she does not believe that trust has been compromised or misplaced. She indicated that, by and large, the certifying agents are doing a great job and applying the standards uniformly across the country.

She called the WSJ story and the information that it was based on a “snapshot in time” that in some cases reflected information that was five years old, and reiterated that she has no doubt that product being sold across the country with the USDA organic certification meets the standards of the National Organic Program.

The WSJ story did quote the USDA as making the same points as the OTA executive. The story stated that the “USDA said it requires certifiers to comply with numerous requirements, and the problems found by the Journal and the agency’s internal report reflected ‘a very rigorous accreditation process that requires full compliance and correction of identified issues.’ Those that fall out of compliance, like the 23 cited this year, get the opportunity to correct the problem, but are at risk of being removed from the certification program if the problem isn’t fixed.”

WSJ noted that the USDA said its certifiers were in compliance with 97 percent of its regulations.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

WSJ story relevance questioned by Organic Trade Association

In its Dec. 9 edition, The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is having difficulty monitoring the more than 25,000 farms and other organizations that sell organic crops and livestock because of the tripling in the size of that sector over the past decade.

WSJ noted that there are currently 81 accredited agents or groups that can certify food as organic under the USDA’s National Organic Program. But the newspaper reported that “of the 37 that had a complete review this year, 23 were cited for failing to correctly enforce certification requirements on farms in audits, according to an internal Agriculture Department report.”

WSJ added that the USDA report found that the 23 firms “didn’t properly conduct onsite inspections or correctly review applications for certifications….”

In a separate Wall Street Journal investigation of USDA inspection records, WSJ found that since 2005 “38 of the 81 certifying agents failed on at least one occasion to uphold basic Agriculture Department standards.”

Laura Batcha, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, headquartered in Washington, DC, didn’t dispute the findings of the audits, but does not believe they are cause for concern.

She told The Produce News that by their very nature, third-party audits are designed to find inconsistencies and correct them. With regard to the NOP audits, Batcha said one major goal is to make sure all certifying agents are performing their duties in a consistent manner and members of the organic community are being judged by the same standards no matter where the certification is taking place.

Batcha has reviewed the information that the WSJ story was based on and said in some cases it was data more than five years old. And in many instances the failures were administrative in nature.

She believes that no time in the history of the National Organic Program has the USDA been in a better position to provide oversight of the certifying agents. The organic industry, she said, has successfully lobbied for increased funding to both certify and audit the certifiers as the industry has grown.

Of more concern, Batcha said, would be a third-party audit that found no areas that need correcting. She said there have been significant changes to the NOP over the years and it is understandable that many certifiers would have deficient areas discovered during an audit.

Batcha said trust in the USDA’s stamp of organic certification is essential and she does not believe that trust has been compromised or misplaced. She indicated that, by and large, the certifying agents are doing a great job and applying the standards uniformly across the country.

She called the WSJ story and the information that it was based on a “snapshot in time” that in some cases reflected information that was five years old, and reiterated that she has no doubt that product being sold across the country with the USDA organic certification meets the standards of the National Organic Program.

The WSJ story did quote the USDA as making the same points as the OTA executive. The story stated that the “USDA said it requires certifiers to comply with numerous requirements, and the problems found by the Journal and the agency’s internal report reflected ‘a very rigorous accreditation process that requires full compliance and correction of identified issues.’ Those that fall out of compliance, like the 23 cited this year, get the opportunity to correct the problem, but are at risk of being removed from the certification program if the problem isn’t fixed.”

WSJ noted that the USDA said its certifiers were in compliance with 97 percent of its regulations.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

WSJ story relevance questioned by Organic Trade Association

In its Dec. 9 edition, The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is having difficulty monitoring the more than 25,000 farms and other organizations that sell organic crops and livestock because of the tripling in the size of that sector over the past decade.

WSJ noted that there are currently 81 accredited agents or groups that can certify food as organic under the USDA’s National Organic Program. But the newspaper reported that “of the 37 that had a complete review this year, 23 were cited for failing to correctly enforce certification requirements on farms in audits, according to an internal Agriculture Department report.”

WSJ added that the USDA report found that the 23 firms “didn’t properly conduct onsite inspections or correctly review applications for certifications….”

In a separate Wall Street Journal investigation of USDA inspection records, WSJ found that since 2005 “38 of the 81 certifying agents failed on at least one occasion to uphold basic Agriculture Department standards.”

Laura Batcha, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, headquartered in Washington, DC, didn’t dispute the findings of the audits, but does not believe they are cause for concern.

She told The Produce News that by their very nature, third-party audits are designed to find inconsistencies and correct them. With regard to the NOP audits, Batcha said one major goal is to make sure all certifying agents are performing their duties in a consistent manner and members of the organic community are being judged by the same standards no matter where the certification is taking place.

Batcha has reviewed the information that the WSJ story was based on and said in some cases it was data more than five years old. And in many instances the failures were administrative in nature.

She believes that no time in the history of the National Organic Program has the USDA been in a better position to provide oversight of the certifying agents. The organic industry, she said, has successfully lobbied for increased funding to both certify and audit the certifiers as the industry has grown.

Of more concern, Batcha said, would be a third-party audit that found no areas that need correcting. She said there have been significant changes to the NOP over the years and it is understandable that many certifiers would have deficient areas discovered during an audit.

Batcha said trust in the USDA’s stamp of organic certification is essential and she does not believe that trust has been compromised or misplaced. She indicated that, by and large, the certifying agents are doing a great job and applying the standards uniformly across the country.

She called the WSJ story and the information that it was based on a “snapshot in time” that in some cases reflected information that was five years old, and reiterated that she has no doubt that product being sold across the country with the USDA organic certification meets the standards of the National Organic Program.

The WSJ story did quote the USDA as making the same points as the OTA executive. The story stated that the “USDA said it requires certifiers to comply with numerous requirements, and the problems found by the Journal and the agency’s internal report reflected ‘a very rigorous accreditation process that requires full compliance and correction of identified issues.’ Those that fall out of compliance, like the 23 cited this year, get the opportunity to correct the problem, but are at risk of being removed from the certification program if the problem isn’t fixed.”

WSJ noted that the USDA said its certifiers were in compliance with 97 percent of its regulations.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Former legislator gives update on global trade at FPAA convention

TUBAC, AZ — Jim Kolbe, a national leader supporting global trade, spoke Oct. 30 on that topic during an educational session at the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas 45th annual convention.

From 1985 until 2003, Kolbe was a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Arizona’s 5th congressional district. He introduced unsuccessful legislation for a U.S.-Mexican Free Trade Agreement two years before the North American Free Trade Agreement, which also involved Canada, passed by an easy margin in 1993.kolbeFormer U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) chats with Andy Tobin, president of the Arizona Senate. Kolbe had just given a presentation on global trade at the 45th annual Convention & Golf Tournament of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.

Since his first term, Kolbe has served in many related capacities, always favoring free trade. He is currently the Senior Transatlantic Fellow for the German Marshall Fund and is the co-chairman of the Arizona Transportation & Trade Corridor Alliance.

Kolbe opened his remarks by noting that in an ideal world, all countries would have one standard trade agreement. But, he said, the World Trade Organization involves 160 countries and having all members agree on anything is “almost impossible.”

He added that countries that do have free trade agreements are 16 times more likely to buy and sell with one another. Some of the strength of that statistic is attributable to close geographic proximity, such as what exists with Mexico, the United States and Canada within NAFTA. But he said there are other success stories for non-contiguous trade partners.

Kolbe noted that of the globe’s top 20 or 25 trading counties, Americans have the most negative attitude toward free trade. He said that only 20 percent of Americans believe that global trade creates jobs, while 60 percent believe global trade will cost American jobs and 20 percent are unsure.

“Produce growers know it creates jobs,” he added. But because of public perception, “it is an uphill battle” to promote free trade within the United States.

The two presidents Bush and Bill Clinton all “understood the value of free trade,” he said, explaining this partly relates to George W. Bush and Clinton having both served as governors, which is a position that causes political leaders to especially appreciate the value of trade to building an economy.

Kolbe said that President Obama, coming from a role of “community organizer and law professor,” who is “beholden to labor unions … doesn’t see trade in the same light.”

Still, the president was warm toward the passage of the Transpacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. In campaigning, Obama indicated he would ask for Trade Promotion Authority (once called “Fast Track” trade authority.) But Kolbe said that the day after Obama’s inauguration, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated that the Senate would never grant Trade Promotion Authority. The topic was dropped by the Obama administration.

With the Transatlantic treaty, “the United States, which is with largest market in the world, would, with the Europeans, dictate standards for the rest of the world. If we don’t do this, China will take the lead. We would rather take the lead.”

Speaking in Tubac a few days before Election Day, Kolbe stressed the importance of these matters. Interestingly, a CNN report on Nov. 5 indicated that these treaties and supportive work may be revisited, with the shift toward Republican leadership.

In the question-and-answer session following Kolbe’s formal remarks, Kolbe was asked how he saw the future of the world.

Kolbe said he is basically an optimist, but he is concerned about the future in both the economic and political realms. Economically, he said, Europe is facing a decline. Japan is looking at another recession and fast growth in India and Brazil has stalled. Kolbe said the Chinese economy is also slowing. He does believe the United States economy is growing, so he is hopeful that power will continue and can raise the economic strength of our trading partners.

Kolbe is also concerned politically. The aggressive terrorist ISIS activity in Syria and Iraq first brought a war-weary American reaction disfavoring U.S. boots on the ground.

But Kolbe believes that Americans are turning their attitude to recognize that the United States is simply bound to its role as protector of the world. He said it may be inevitable that the American military must again step in to try and make things right.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

British industry pitches for resumption of India-EU trade talks

British industry pitches for resumption of India-EU trade talks

India and the European Union (EU) should restart their bilateral trade talks and take steps to conclude the much-awaited free trade agreement, Sir Michael Rake, President of the Confederation of British Industry, has said.

“This will be a symbol of openness and a big signal that India really wants to operate at the global level. We need to build on the work already done,” Rake told BusinessLine in an interview here.

Confederation of British Industry is UK’s premier business lobbying organisation, providing voice for employers at national and international level.

Rake said this could be a “good moment” to re-energise the trade talks with a new Indian Government already in office and a new Commission (European) expected at Brussels from November 1.

India-EU pact
The proposed India-EU bilateral trade and investment agreement (BTIA) is far from concluded, despite several rounds of negotiations that began in the year 2007.

Rake, who is Chairman of BT Group Plc, was visiting New Delhi for a India-UK business gathering, besides opening of a new BT building at commercial business hub at Gurgaon in Haryana.

He said that the global trade was expected to slow down and that made it even more important to re-energise the India-EU trade talks and conclude it at the earliest.

“Whatever be the problems, India needs to recognise that EU has nearly half-a-billion wealthy consumers. There is a large middle class out there (EU)”, he said.

Largest trading partner
The EU-28 is currently India’s largest trading partner, accounting for about 15 per cent of total trade in goods and services.

“British industry is very keen on the India-EU FTA. Bilateral treaties are important especially after the WTO Doha round collapse.

We should get to the level best of treaty we can. It is better to have some treaty than having none.”

India-EU ties
Rake’s remarks are significant as it came at a time when the India-EU bilateral commercial relationship are somewhat strained, due to series of tax disputes involving EU companies and also the recent EU ban on import of mangoes from India.

During his current visit, Rake met India’s law and information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

The British business community is confident that the new Modi-led Government would deliver on its promise of being a business-friendly dispensation, Rake said, adding that already there is some speeding of decision making.

Clarity of taxation policy is important and that is already beginning to emerge, Rake added.

UK’s visa restrictions
British business is also very keen that visa restrictions (at UK’s end) be eased so that more skilled Indians can move to the UK.

“We need more high-level engineers and other skilled people that India produces to move to the UK.

We (in UK) still have the problem of net migration policy, which means shortage of visas for skilled people. Tackling this issue will be healthy for the UK-India relations”

This is nothing to do with EU’s free movement of labour, but only to do with the UK, he clarified.

Source: thehindubusinessline.com

Publication date: 10/15/2014


FreshPlaza.com

British industry pitches for resumption of India-EU trade talks

British industry pitches for resumption of India-EU trade talks

India and the European Union (EU) should restart their bilateral trade talks and take steps to conclude the much-awaited free trade agreement, Sir Michael Rake, President of the Confederation of British Industry, has said.

“This will be a symbol of openness and a big signal that India really wants to operate at the global level. We need to build on the work already done,” Rake told BusinessLine in an interview here.

Confederation of British Industry is UK’s premier business lobbying organisation, providing voice for employers at national and international level.

Rake said this could be a “good moment” to re-energise the trade talks with a new Indian Government already in office and a new Commission (European) expected at Brussels from November 1.

India-EU pact
The proposed India-EU bilateral trade and investment agreement (BTIA) is far from concluded, despite several rounds of negotiations that began in the year 2007.

Rake, who is Chairman of BT Group Plc, was visiting New Delhi for a India-UK business gathering, besides opening of a new BT building at commercial business hub at Gurgaon in Haryana.

He said that the global trade was expected to slow down and that made it even more important to re-energise the India-EU trade talks and conclude it at the earliest.

“Whatever be the problems, India needs to recognise that EU has nearly half-a-billion wealthy consumers. There is a large middle class out there (EU)”, he said.

Largest trading partner
The EU-28 is currently India’s largest trading partner, accounting for about 15 per cent of total trade in goods and services.

“British industry is very keen on the India-EU FTA. Bilateral treaties are important especially after the WTO Doha round collapse.

We should get to the level best of treaty we can. It is better to have some treaty than having none.”

India-EU ties
Rake’s remarks are significant as it came at a time when the India-EU bilateral commercial relationship are somewhat strained, due to series of tax disputes involving EU companies and also the recent EU ban on import of mangoes from India.

During his current visit, Rake met India’s law and information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

The British business community is confident that the new Modi-led Government would deliver on its promise of being a business-friendly dispensation, Rake said, adding that already there is some speeding of decision making.

Clarity of taxation policy is important and that is already beginning to emerge, Rake added.

UK’s visa restrictions
British business is also very keen that visa restrictions (at UK’s end) be eased so that more skilled Indians can move to the UK.

“We need more high-level engineers and other skilled people that India produces to move to the UK.

We (in UK) still have the problem of net migration policy, which means shortage of visas for skilled people. Tackling this issue will be healthy for the UK-India relations”

This is nothing to do with EU’s free movement of labour, but only to do with the UK, he clarified.

Source: thehindubusinessline.com

Publication date: 10/15/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Trade Association Wants FDA to Change and Reissue FSMA Transport Rule

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) wants the Food and Drug Administration to make significant changes to its proposed rule for sanitary food transportation under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

In addition, the association is asking that FDA reissue language for parts of the rule like it plans to do with the produce safety, preventive controls for human food, preventive controls for animal food, and Foreign Supplier Verification Program rules.

“Given the very significant nature of these regulations, we believe that a second opportunity for stakeholder comment is essential to ensure that the requirements in the final rule are practical, achievable and foster the safe transport and distribution of human and animal food,” read the NGFA comments submitted to FDA on July 30. “Further, we believe FDA has the ability and authority to re-propose the regulations and still comply with the court-ordered deadline to publish a final rule by March 31, 2016.”

FDA has informed Food Safety News that it does not currently have plans to re-release parts of the rule.

NGFA believes in the responsibility of rail carriers and truck transporters to provide clean conveyances and transportation equipment suitable for the type of human and animal food shipped, but it considers some of the proposed FSMA requirements to be excessive and could add unnecessary burdens and costs “without a commensurate improvement in product safety.”

Some of the changes the association requests include:

  • Identifying only the immediate previous haul in bulk trucks or rail cars, rather than the three previous ones.
  • Eliminating the requirement that electronic records be kept in order to comply with rules that “stipulate extensive computer validation.”
  • Doing away with the proposal to exempt shippers, carriers and receivers that have less than $ 500,000 in total annual sales.
  • Deleting the requirement for hand-washing facilities unless human contact with the food could cause it to become adulterated or unfit for human or animal consumption.
  • Clearer definitions for several terms. For example, they say “shipper” should only apply to the party that loads a shipment instead of brokers or third-party logistics operators.

NGFA also recommends that FDA develop guidance on good transportation practices, as well as user-friendly educational materials, pertaining to the safe transport of such products by farms.

In addition, the association wants additional exemptions to be provided for transfers of food between facilities owned by the same parent or corporate entity and for trucks and rail lines that transport the same type of food continually, such as shuttle trains and privately owned railcars that haul grains and oilseeds on a dedicated circuitous route.

The comments express support for various aspects of the proposed rule, including FDA’s tentative conclusion to exempt the transport of live food-producing animals from the regulation and the agency’s intent to provide flexibility to shippers, carriers and receivers concerning appropriate sanitary transportation practices (including not prescribing specific sanitation practices).

NGFA also supports the decision, given constrained U.S. transportation capacity and severe rail service disruptions, not to restrict access for human and animal food to certain classes or types of rail or truck conveyances or transportation equipment.

Food Safety News

89th CDMA Trade Expo

January 27th – 29th, 2015 • Tampa, FL

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The Chain Drug Marketing Association presents its 89th Trade Expo in Atlanta.

Location Details

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Tampa Convention Center

333 S Franklin St.
Tampa, Florida 33602
United States

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