As you well know, the key to preventing any disease is early detection. This couldn’t be more true with plant disease than it is with human disease. Mycotoxins is a toxic chemical product produced by fungi that contaminate about 25% of food crops worldwide. Mycotoxins can appear in the food chain as a result of fungal infection of crops, either by being eaten directly by humans or by being used as livestock feed. Some of the health effects found in animals and humans that ingest mycotoxins include death, identifiable diseases or health problems, weakened immune systems without specificity to a toxin, and as allergens or irritants. Of course, Aflatoxins — a toxin that can affect corn and something we talk about routinely — is a type of mycotoxin. Without a doubt, mycotoxins are a serious issue. Obviously, if we could find a way to detect contamination quickly and reliably it would be something essential for boosting food safety. Officials out of the European Union are funding a project which is developing a system that can sniff out mycotoxin in wheat almost immediately. The project is called MYCOHUNT and they are developing a rapid biosensor for deoxynivalenol (DON) in wheat. DON is a mycotoxin most commonly formed in wheat, barley, oats, rye, and maize. Traditional detection methods usually performed off-site rely on sampling of the wheat grain and require human intervention, which leaves greater room for error. From what I am told, the MYCOHUNT system automatically samples the dust of the wheat grain on-site during harvesting or transfer. The device collects the dust samples and a highly sensitive biosensor will compare the specimen with specially developed antibodies to see if there’s contamination. All this can be done with 20 to 30 minutes. Reports on this system say the testing in the lab and in the field has gone well. Additional tests are now necessary before the finishing touches and can be introduced to to the system to make market-ready. AS of right now, they expect this detection system to be available on the market within two years. If you want to know more about this, you can check out a video that goes more in depth on the subject HERE. (Source: Horizon2020)
Royal Dutch Shell is the latest in a string of oil companies that are scaling back their oil operations in China. Insiders say Shell is looking to sell its domestic China lubricants brand and its operations, and is pulling out of a multi-billion dollar with PetroChina to export liquified natural gas in Australia. Hess has announced they have scrapped a shale-exploration deal with PetroChina, BP has withdrawn from three exploratory operations in the South China Sea and Anadarko and Noble have all sold operations in China. The problem for these China projects is they are high cost, low return. Chinese oil companies are heavily reliant on foreign companies for their expertise and technology. Without their partnerships, China isn’t likely to increase their domestic production and imports of both oil and natural gas are expected to increase. The country already imports about 60% of its oil. (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Soybean traders, similar to corn traders, are waiting to see the latest USDA data adjustments. The top question in the bean market is also about planted U.S. acres, and more importantly, how much higher will the USDA raise their current 83.7 million acre estimate? Keep in mind most of the trade is thinking we will eventually see a much larger number of U.S. soybean acres being planted than the USDA is currently forecasting. In fact many insiders are thinking the USDA might currently be underestimating U.S. soybean acres by 2 to 3 million. Obviously weather will ultimately dictate, but these are the early guesstimates. In other words we could have what could be a record U.S. crop harvested in 2014, followed by a record South American crop harvested in early 2015, and a fresh new record crop being planted again in the U.S.. This is obviously what is keeping a lid on price and making it hard for the fundamentalist to get excited about the bullish side of the argument. I remain patient in regard to pricing more new-crop production, but just like everyone else I am nervous about the possibility of additional downside risk. Keeping hedges in place still seems to be a necessity.
Bloomberg put together the two charts below based on the IMF’s monthly gold reserve data, current as of the end of February. Note they do not include China as their is no solid data available. Combined the top four country’s in the chart below – including the US, with the largest gold reserves – hold more than 50% of all global gold reserves. However, those far are not the ones that have been buying the most. The bottom chart shows that by far, Russia has been stockpiling the most since 2009. In fact, emerging and developing economies are the ones buying up the most, with Russia, India and Turkey accounting for more than 60% of the net change in global gold holdings over the last six years. You can see that the top four holders have barely added any to their stockpiles over the same period. (Source: Bloomberg)
After the close on Friday, the USDA released their latest quarterly hog and pig data. As suspected the hog herd has bounced back quickly from the losses associated with the PED virus. Below are a few of the highlights:
- Total Hog Inventory - U.S. inventory of all hogs and pigs on March 1, 2015 was 65.9 million head. This was up 7 percent from March 1, 2014.
- Breeding Inventory - at 5.98 million head, was up 2 percent from last year, and up 1 percent from the previous quarter.
- Market Hog Inventory - at 60.0 million head, was up 8 percent from last year, but down slightly from last quarter.
- December 2014-February 2015 pig crop - at 28.8 million head, was up 9 percent from 2014. Sows farrowing during this period totaled 2.83 million head, up 2 percent from 2014.