miércoles, 24 de diciembre de 2008

The Agribusiness World Today

Ken Shwedel
Investigador de Agronegocios de Rabobank, México
22 - 26 de Diciembre de 2008

The World

Sweeter sweets: Consumers are always looking for a way to eat or drink sweet foods without the calories or the guilt. One solution, of course, is artificial sweeteners. These are not without problems, particularly for due to possible negative health effects. Now consumers are being offered a “solution” to this predicament. While not exactly new, stevia has generated recently a lot of excitement. Stevia, an herb native to Latin America, is some 300 times more sweet than sugar. This means that a minimum amount can be used to replace sugar, resulting in a product that has practically no calories. Moreover, its health benefits have been touted: “zero carbohydrates, and zero chance of a spike in blood sugar levels”. Stevia, however, is not without controversy. In 1999 in the European Commission banned the use of Stevia in food. In the U.S. Stevia was allowed as a “a dietary supplement, although not as a food additive”.

This changed in the U.S. last week when Cargill “received official notification from the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stating that the agency has no objection to the conclusion… that rebaudioside A (rebiana), the identity in Truvia [Cargill’s branded stevia product] rebiana, is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use as a general purpose sweetener.” In anticipation of the FDA approval Coca-Cola has been working with Cargill for using Truvia. And now with the approval, Coke is said to be ready for a limited launch of Sprit Green, a Truvia-based product. For their part, Pepsi Cola, entered into an agreement with PureCircle, a Malaysian company, for the supply of stevia under the PureVia brand. Pepsi is said to be ready to launch SoBe Life Water and Trop 50 with PureVia. So should the sugar industry be worried? We think not. Stevia will compete, especially into the mid-term, with non-sugar low/no calorie sweeteners.


COOL isn’t cool: That is what the Mexican government is saying now that they have filed a complaint with the WTO regarding the country of origin labeling (COOL) law which went into effect in the U.S. at the beginning of October. Canada had filled a similar complaint a couple of weeks earlier. While the Mexican industry is satisfied with the filling, they are surprised that it took the government so long to file. With the filing a 60-day consultation period begins “between Mexican and U.S. authorities. After that, Mexico can ask the WTO to set up an investigative panel.” The whole process, before a final ruling, could actually take years.

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