World in brief

More U.S. elevators accept Syngenta corn banned by China

CHICAGO, Ill. (Reuters) — The number of American grain elevators, mills and feedlots that will buy a genetically modified corn variety banned by China has more than doubled since July.

It indicates growing acceptance in the United States for a product seen as a potential risk to international trade.

The number of locations accepting corn containing Syngenta’s Agrisure Duracade trait increased to 1,652 from 672 in the past seven months, the seed maker said in a statement.

The announcement is aimed at convincing farmers to buy Duracade corn seed by assuring them they will have places to deliver their harvests.

Two of the world’s biggest commodity traders, Cargill Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Co., refuse to accept Duracade corn because major importers have still not approved it.

Pacific trade pact meeting called for April

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (Reuters) — A meeting aimed at sealing a Pacific trade deal has been called for April, Mexico’s economy minister has said, adding he was optimistic it would be finalized in the first half of 2015.

“I am very optimistic that there will be good news for the TPP in the first half of this year,” Ildefonso Guajardo said about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

A Mexican government official said the meeting would be held at a ministerial level.

The TPP, which comprises a dozen Asia-Pacific economies, would reduce trade barriers and harmonize regulations in a pact covering two-fifths of the world economy and a third of all global trade.

Canada and the United States are members.

U.S. agriculture delegation visits Cuba

HAVANA, Cuba (Reuters) — The most important U.S. agricultural delegation to visit Cuba in more than a decade held three days of meetings in late February.

The delegation hoped to find potential business partners and urge the U.S. Congress to lift the trade embargo against the Caribbean nation.

Two former agriculture secretaries, a number of state agriculture officials and representatives of state farm bureaus were among the 95 people whose visit was organized by the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba.

The organization was formed after the Dec. 17 announcement that the United States and Cuba would restore diplomatic relations.

“The message we hope will get back to Washington is that we are a unifying voice that would like to see Congress act in 2015 and end the embargo,” said Cargill executive Devry Boughner Vorwerk, chair of the coalition.

The coalition says U.S. farmers are hungry for the market, which is estimated to be worth about US$2 billion and situated so close to the U.S.

Group sues over monarch butterfly demise

(Reuters) — An environmental group has sued the U.S. government, accusing regulators of discounting the dangers of a widely used herbicide on the declining monarch butterfly population.

The Natural Resources Defense Council filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency in U.S. District Court in New York.

The suit claims the agency has failed to heed warnings about the dangers to monarchs posed by glyphosate.

Monsanto’s Roundup is the most commonly known glyphosate.

Federal law requires the EPA to ensure that pesticides it approves will not cause “unreasonable adverse effects on the environment, including wildlife,” the lawsuit said.

“However, the agency has never considered glyphosate’s impacts on monarchs.”

The council and other environmental organizations have asked the EPA to review what they say is a large body of scientific evidence demonstrating glyphosate’s devastating effects on monarchs.

Canpotex seeks to raise potash price

(Reuters) — Canpotex Ltd. is seeking an eight percent, or $25 per tonne, price increase in its 2015 potash supply contract with China’s Sinofert Holdings Ltd., said Mosaic chief executive officer Jim Prokopanko.

He said Sinofert wants to pay the same $305 per tonne rate as last year’s contract.

Canpotex is owned by Mosaic, PotashCorp and Agrium Inc.

“China’s holding firm,” Prokopanko said.

“As one shareholder, my advice to Canpotex is, ‘just hold firm.’ I’m in no rush.”

Sinofert’s argument for a price freeze is partly based on a 35 percent year over year reduction in freight rates from Vancouver to Asian markets, which reduces fertilizer producers’ costs, Prokopanko said.

Contracts between major potash producers and Sinofert traditionally set a global price floor and are followed by supply agreements with Indian buyers.

Buyers in the United States, Brazil and Southeast Asia typically pay more on the spot market.

PotashCorp to buy stake in Brazil’s Heringer

(Reuters) — PotashCorp plans to buy a 9.5 percent stake in Brazil’s Fertilizantes Heringer from its controlling shareholders for $55.7 million.

The deal, which is expected to close in the second half of this year, will pave the way for a long-term potash supply agreement, allowing PotashCorp to become Heringer’s principal supplier over time.

Heringer, one of the largest fertilizer companies in Brazil, delivered five million tonnes of fertilizer, including one million tonnes of potash, in 2013, with net revenue of about US$2.5 billion.

China halts soybean smugglers

BEIJING (Reuters) — Customs officers in the Chinese city of Qingdao uncovered soybean smuggling worth US$869.50 million last year.

It was one of the biggest such cases in the country in years, a state-run newspaper reported.

The official Legal Daily said a trading company was suspected of smuggling soybeans after customs officials assessed soy prices for potential risk.

The case came to light after the customs unit in the eastern coastal city seized 730 contracts, some of which were falsified, and gained access to 80,000 emails, the paper said. The unit also arrested four people in the cities of Linyi, Dalian and Shenzhen, it reported.

Korea trade deal bears fruit for Australia

CANBERRA (Reuters) — Australian horticulture exports to South Korea have jumped since the start of a free trade agreement late last year.

It boosts hopes for a similar benefit from a trade deal with China.

No official data has yet been released, but Australian Bureau of Agriculture, Resource Economics and Sciences executive director Karen Schneider said there were early signs of strong demand for products that have had tariffs removed, including cherries, dried grapes and nuts.

Industry figures suggest that cherry sales are set to jump 25 fold, raising expectations that Australia’s total horticulture exports to Korea will beat an official estimate of US$15 million.

“Overnight we went from a tariff of 24 percent to zero, and with the dollar falling we have seen strong demand,” said Simon Boughey, chief executive officer of Cherry Growers Australia.

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