Burning question

Wildfires across huge areas of southern Europe mean even more bad news for olive oil and table olive packers. It is impossible to predict the full effect on this winter’s prices for olive oil or table olives, but there will be direct consequences. This is not a complete wipe-put story, since established olive trees with deep root systems can recover from fires, although this will take time. Young olive trees are more susceptible to fire damage.

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The immediate impact will be on packers and blenders of olive oil, particularly in Italy: these skilled folk have a network of suppliers for very specific oils with relatively rare qualities. The suppliers of such rarities are spread over the continent, from Gibraltar and north Africa down to the middle east. The trading network is complex and known to a handful of olive oil blending experts.

In a year when the mainstream crop is already looking patchy and fraught, this will mean higher costs for the retailers. In the UK, the multiples are reluctant to let their double digit margins take a hit and will do their level best to make sure that suppliers carry the burden. The situation is, however, beyond horse trading. Bulk olive oil prices will be non-negotiable, where there is product to be had. Looking at the Mediterranean over the next few weeks, the following impacts can be expected. Industrial tomatoes for peeled plum tomato canning lines can be expected to be short, since crop irrigation is being used for firefighting. Chopped tomatoes, passata and tomato paste can be made from almost any variety of tomato and production is not limited to southern Italy. Table olives are under a shadow, with a high risk of localised damage: a lot of olives will have been burnt off the trees. Durum wheat, essential for pasta manufacture, may have escaped the worst of the heat waves, but export tonnages will probably be restricted.

For the latest information on the European forest fires, click here.

Migros marks major milestone

Swiss retail giant Migros has achieved the first stage of its 2030 carbon neutrality plan. All the multiple’s retail premises have completed their transition to become carbon neutral.

As the country’s largest food business and retailer, Migros operates the lion’s share of the national retail park. It has been a dominant force on the national retail scene for decades.

Between now and 2030, Migros will cut a further 80% of its greenhouse gas emissions from its business activities, including its extensive food manufacturing arm.

Instead of buying carbon credits to offset its remaining environmental overheads, Migros will “inset” its remaining emissions. One example of this arrangement is a project working with 1,000 Thai peasant families to raise the environmental standards of their rice growing. For instance, there are gains to be made by not flooding paddy fields, which area significant source of methane emissions. The result is a contribution towards a potential reduction of  60% in  the crop’s carbon footprint worldwide.

Longer shelf life for fresh produce

Swiss researchers have found a way of using fruit and vegetable peelings to make a coating that extends the shelf life of fresh produce. Staff at the Empa research body have been working with Lidl Switzerland since 2019 to develop what promises to be a game changer.

Bananas have been chosen to test Empa’s cellulose coating.

Testing the coating on bananas, a gain of up to a week was recorded in the product life. There is the added benefit that with a reduction in the use plastic materials, the risk of condensation or rot in transit is also lower. “The big goal is that such bio-coatings will be able to replace a lot of petroleum-based packaging in the future,” explains Gustav Nyström, head of the Empa lab.

Lidl Switzerland has 150 stores that will take part in testing the new coating as it continues its development over the next two years.

Further details from the Empa website.

P… R… no Q!

Switzerland’s biggest retail cooperative, Migros, is eliminating supermarket checkout queues. Customers using the Migros “subitoGo” application can scan their purchases on their smartphone and leave the store without further ado.

The system will be tried out at 80 outlets and rolled out if it proves successful. The software also links into any shopping list that might have been prepared before leaving home; fewer chances of leaving the store without a full complement of shopping.  SubitoGo combines the Italian word for suddenly and Go.