World in brief

Tentative deal for U.S. grain handlers, union

CHICAGO, Ill. (Reuters) — Unionized port workers and a group of Pacific Northwest grain companies reached a tentative contract agreement last week.

The deal is expected to ease a backlog of shipments from the biggest U.S. West Coast grain terminal.

The union and three Pacific Northwest grain handlers — United Grain Corp., Louis Dreyfus and Columbia Grain — reached a tentative contract agreement after two days of meetings, the federal mediator said in a statement.

The groups have been bargaining for more than two years.

Tensions mounted over the past month when state officials stopped inspecting grain at the Port of Vancouver in Washington.

United Grain had commitments to ship nearly 20 million bushels of grain in August, which included 2.8 million bu. rolled over from July as shipments backed up after the state government withdrew police protection for inspectors to cross the union’s picket line.

The backlogs threatened to worsen when record-large corn and soybean harvests start arriving to PNW export terminals in the coming month.

Ukraine grain crop could hit record high

KIEV, Ukraine (Reuters) — Ukraine’s 2014 grain harvest could exceed last year’s record 63 million tonnes, Ukrainian agriculture minister Ihor Shvaika said last week, without forecasting an exact figure.

Analysts had forecast that Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest grain producers and exporters, would harvest 59 to 61 million tonnes of grain this year.

UkrAgroConsult agriculture consultancy this week increased its outlook for this year’s crop to 58.5 million tonnes due to higher production of wheat and barley.

The higher estimate comes despite earlier concerns that Ukraine’s crisis with Russia could curb output and exports.

Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, the three major global wheat exporters via the Black Sea, are expected to see a second consecutive year of large crops.

China buys record soybean in 2013-14

BEIJING, China (Reuters) — Soybean imports by China, the world’s top buyer, will surge 17 percent in the year ending September to a record of more than 70 million tonnes, according to a forecast by an official think-tank.

Appetite for soy has been growing as the world’s second-largest economy expands, with farmers feeding products made from the soybeans to pigs and chickens.

The forecast by the China National Grain and Oils Information Centre is higher than an estimate of 69 million tonnes by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the current year.

“The large increase in imports is being driven by sustainably strong domestic demand. Crushing capacity and volumes have been increasing constantly,” the centre said in a report.

The use of soy imports as collateral in financing deals has also boosted shipments, it said.

Beijing’s stockpiling of domestic soybeans has kept local soy prices high above imported prices, leading more inland crushers to shift to cheap imports.

U.S. beef procedures to stop E. coli outbreaks

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Reuters) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced new procedures for detecting and removing unsafe ground beef from grocery stores and suppliers as part of efforts to prevent potentially deadly illnesses caused by contaminated meat.

The move “will allow the agency to trace contaminated ground beef back to its source more quickly, remove it from commerce, and find the root cause of the incident to prevent it from recurring,” said USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Under its new procedures, FSIS will conduct immediate investigations of businesses whose ground beef tests positive for E. coli O157:H7 during initial testing and at suppliers that provided source materials.

In the past, FSIS began investigations at the grinding facility only after a presumptive positive test result was confirmed, which can take two days.

Tracing E. coli outbreaks back to their source could have taken 30 days, USDA added.

USDA said “dozens more” ground beef recalls could occur once the new protections are fully in place, which is expected to be in mid-December.

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