October 2017
Ag Insight

Ag Insight

Salmonella Infections Emphasize Volume of Papaya Imports


News media accounts of people getting salmonella infections after eating papaya have served to highlight the growing volume of imports of the fruit.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have determined the likely source of contamination is a farm in Mexico.

U.S. papaya imports from Mexico more than doubled from 154 million pounds in 2000 to 452 million pounds in 2016. This dramatic rise is likely due to the diverse American diet driven by an increase in the immigrant population, especially from Latin America and Asia where papaya is more plentiful.

Mexican production accounted for 67 percent of total imports in 2007, but that volume rose to 82 percent in 2016.

Currently, imports account for about 97 percent of domestic availability of papaya in the United States, meaning Mexican production accounts for approximately 80 percent of all domestically available papaya.

The salmonella contaminations are not likely to have a significant impact on the supply of U.S. imports because the incident appears to be isolated to one farm, but consumer demand has been shown to respond to food safety outbreaks.


USDA Unveils Ethics App

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has unveiled a new mobile application for Apple and Android devices to provide executive branch employees answers to questions about government ethics issues. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Ethics App is the first of its kind in the federal government.

"As public servants, our greater understanding of these important rules will help serve USDA’s mission and our new motto to ‘Do right and feed everyone’ so that we enhance the American public’s confidence in the integrity and important work of the Department of Agriculture," Perdue said.

The Ethics App brings to users’ fingertips short, easy-to-read summaries of federal ethics rules and Hatch Act limitations on political activity. It includes a comprehensive video library so officials can quickly become familiar with these important rules at any time, whether in the office, off-site or on official travel. It also contains a resources section so USDA employees can readily contact a USDA ethics adviser.

The groundbreaking application was designed to make compliance with the federal ethics rules a one-stop shop for USDA employees, but the app is available to anyone with Android or Apple devices.


Protein Consumption Lacking Among the World’s Poor


Despite improvements in average diets, lower income households around the world continue to fall short of nutritional targets.

A closer look at consumption of protein, fat, and fruits and vegetables for the three most food-insecure regions – Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia (minus the Commonwealth of Independent States countries) – reveals insufficient food access for the lowest income groups in all regions.

However, the disparity between low-income versus high-income intake levels within each region is particularly pronounced in the case of proteins. The average daily consumption in all three regions is close to the recommended level of 10 percent of total diets, with SSA’s consumption falling slightly below the threshold. While the highest income decile has a protein share 20 percent above the target, the lowest income consumers are 20-30 percent below, with the lowest level in LAC, followed by SSA.

The numbers illustrate that food security is not only linked to a country’s average income levels, but also to how this income is distributed within the country. While average incomes in LAC are higher than in SSA and Asia, income distribution is more unequal, leaving the lowest income households more vulnerable to food insecurity.


South Korea Lifts Ban on U.S. Poultry

The government of South Korea has lifted its ban on imports of U.S. poultry and poultry products, including fresh eggs.

Korea had imposed the ban in response to a recent detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

In August, the United States notified the World Organization for Animal Health that it is now free of HPAI. This notification removed any justification for U.S. trading partners to restrict imports of U.S. poultry due to HPAI concerns.

Currently, Korea imposes a ban on all U.S. poultry in response to any HPAI detection, but USDA continues to work with Korean officials toward limiting any future import restrictions to the affected area, consistent with OIE guidelines.

"Korea’s lifting of its most recent ban is an important move for our poultry and egg industries, but it is still just the first step," said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

In 2014, the last full year without any HPAI-related trade restrictions in place, South Korea purchased $122 million in U.S. poultry products, including eggs, making it the United States’ 10th-largest market.

Korea also has announced a temporary measure allowing U.S. eggs and egg products to enter the country duty free in the face of a shortage of domestic supplies. Earlier this year, USDA worked with Korea’s agriculture ministry to reopen the market for U.S. eggs and egg products, but imports were again restricted after the HPAI detection in Tennessee.


Restaurant Services Account for Nearly Three-fourths of Eating-out Dollar


Rising prices for farm commodities generally have a larger impact on grocery store price tags than on restaurant menus.

The reason? Different cost structures, as shown by data from USDA’s Economic Research Service.

ERS apportions total annual expenditures by U.S. consumers on domestically produced food and beverages to 12 industry groups based on the value added by each industry. In 2015, farm production and agribusiness industries accounted for 13.8 cents of the food-at-home dollar (foods and beverages purchased from grocery stores and other retailers) and 3.2 cents of the food-away-from-home dollar (foods and beverages from fine dining establishments, fast casual chains and coffee shops).

As a result, grocery store prices are more closely connected to farm prices than restaurant prices. The largest share of the away-from-home food dollar – 72.3 cents in 2015 – was spent on the services provided by restaurants, including costs for employee wages and benefits.


Upland-cotton Exports, Mill Use Expected to Rise

From 2006 to 2015, upland-cotton exports decreased by 34 percent, production by 42 percent and mill use by 31 percent. Key factors driving these shifts included increased competition from foreign suppliers, prolonged droughts that lowered production, lower import demand from China and competition from synthetic fibers (such as polyester).

While many factors limited cotton-market opportunities through 2015, USDA baseline projections through 2026 nonetheless indicate that exports of U.S. upland cotton and mill use are expected to increase relative to the 2006-15 time period.

Between 2016 and 2026, U.S. upland-cotton exports and mill use are projected to rise by 3 and 7 percent, respectively, while production is expected to drop by less than 1 percent. Stocks also are projected to decrease over this period.

The major factors expected to drive this change are increased global demand from rising incomes and populations, and the cotton crop’s reputation of superior quality relative to its competitors.


Berries Lead Growth in Frozen Fruit Consumption


Americans’ love affair with frozen smoothies continues to grow and along with it consumption of its quintessential ingredient, frozen fruit.

Between the early 1980s and 2015, the annual supply of frozen fruit available for consumption, led by a doubling in demand for frozen berries, grew by 61 percent to 4.8 pounds per person, or about 5 percent of 2015’s total U.S. fruit availability.

While strawberries remain consumers’ favorite frozen fruit, accounting for 40 percent of availability in 2015, blueberries and raspberries increased their share from 8 percent in 1980-85 to 20 percent in 2010-15.

Peaches led the growth in availability of nonberry frozen fruits, followed by cherries. Frozen apples, used mainly in commercial and foodservice baking, lost market share, dropping from 17 to 8 percent of frozen fruit availability from 1980 to 2015.

Consumer demand for healthy, convenient foods and manufacturers’ use of improved freezing technologies to improve product quality, along with colorful packaging and smoothie-ready fruit combinations and add-ins, underlie the growth in frozen-fruit consumption.