Friday, March 28, 2008

Rice Prices Increase 30% on Global Market

Heard on NPR this am: on commodity markets rice prices increased 30% yesterday.

Bulk rice prices at the Food Coop haven't increased since last December but be prepared for an increase.

The Christian Science Monitor has a very interesting article on the horrific effect of grain shortages around the world. Rapidly increasing oil prices which cause increases in price of fertilizers and cost of transportation coupled with severe droughts in Australia and the Ukraine.

According to the CSM, Vietnam, India and Pakistan have banned grain exports in an attempt to protect the supply of these basic foods for their poorest citizens.

-Click here to read this alarming article-

Monday, March 24, 2008

Banana Update

The following is excerpted from a report from one of our major organic banana suppliers, and will provide further information about the banana problem and a more personal look at the lives of the people who grow our food. —Allen Zimmerman

OKé organic fair trade bananas come from small farming cooperatives in Ecuador who own part of OKé USA. Since late January, our farmer partners have experienced devastating flooding caused by heavier than usual seasonal rains. Some farmers have lost all or part of their land due to the flooding. The Zaruma family of 5 brothers, who live entirely off of their production, lost their entire 18.5 acre farm. Some farmers have experienced even more difficult losses including William Vitonera who lost his 14-year-old son in a surging river that changed its course due to the floods. The flooding in Ecuador has been so catastrophic that in early February the President declared a national state of emergency.
Here at OKé, we are trying to help our producer partners in any way we can, including advance payments to the co-op so it can provide emergency credit to its members. The farmer co-ops are also working with additional credit agencies to facilitate replanting of farms. The farmers also want to start lobbying local authorities to improve watershed management and start dredging rivers in order to avoid these problems in the future.
During times like these, it makes me really proud to be a part of an organization with farmer co-owners. Within the conventional banana trade, these disasters often leave farmers without a market, as traditional companies flee to source from different countries.
Our ownership structure is sincerely our most unique quality. This structure is what creates long standing relationship and a culture of commitment whereby we stand by our producer partners even when “inconvenient” difficulties arise that create gaps in our supply chain. We hope that you will do the same and stand by us during this difficult time.
Overview of Damage of Ecuador Flooding
A bird's eye view of loss in Ecuador:
51,300 people affected
3,645 people evacuated
490 experienced property loss
24 provinces affected
4 dead
OKé Farm damage
25 acres of organic farm land
300 acres of conventional farm land
4% decreased production
6-9 month estimate to recover from damages
If you would like to see additional pictures of the Ecuadorian floods,
  • click here

  • Visit
  • our blog
  • to see pictures of the damage our farmers have incurred.

    Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    Controlled Atmosphere Storage

    One of the reasons that it is often not understood that even apples have their seasons, is that some varieties are available year round. We have come to expect them, and it has become rare that we have a gap in supply of our favorite apples. The reason we have the luxury of year-round availability is because of a process called controlled atmosphere storage, or "CA."
    A simplified explanation of the process is that oxygen in the cooler is reduced from the approximately 21% in our atmosphere down to about 1%, and replaced with nitrogen. The carbon dioxide levels are controlled and the humidity is maintained at a very high 95%. Conditions may vary slightly depending on the particular apple being stored.
    As we approach the new year, we may experience some diminishing in quality of the apples that have been stored in regular refrigeration for the 2 or 3 months after their normal harvest time. If we haven't had access to CA apples yet, you may think that your apple was not worth trying anymore. If you don't give up, you will find that the apples are back to their post-harvest quality and will remain pleasing until their supply is exhausted.
    Controlled atmosphere storage has evolved since farmers in England began this practice prior to World War II. This is a routine and approved practice for certified organic apples.
    —Allen Zimmerman, Produce Buyer

    Thursday, March 06, 2008

    Banana News

    We don’t know all of the market forces that are driving banana prices to unprecedented levels, but they certainly include social unrest in Ecuador and flooding in Peru.

    Several weeks ago the conventional price started to climb, until last week when a 40 pound box of conventional bananas actually cost $5.00 more than the organic. Now the organic price is climbing and availability is becoming problematic.

    It is becoming harder to find the bananas that we like, the Fair Trade, and we are forced to buy whatever we can get, including bagged and Dole.

    Our price has been about $.69 per pound for so long. So long to that. The organic banana price will approach $1.00 per pound by March 10th and we don’t know where it is going.
    —Allen Zimmerman