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Could gut microbes be key to solving food allergies?

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New therapeutics are testing whether protective bacteria can dampen harmful immune responses to food

5.21.2020

As a child, Cathryn Nagler broke out in hives when she ate eggs. She reacted to penicillin. Working in labs after college, she developed a severe allergy to mice that caused wheezing, swelling and trouble breathing — twice landing her in the emergency room.

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Today, Nagler is an immunologist the University of Chicago and is helping to pioneer an emerging research field: studying how bacteria in the gut can be harnessed to help people with food allergies.

It wasn’t personal experience with allergies that inspired her interest. Rather, it was an odd observation she made as a doctoral student in the 1980s. She was studying mice whose immune systems go haywire and attack the collagen protein inside their joints, causing severe arthritis. Scientists could jump-start the disease by administering a shot of collagen under the skin. But, curiously, when Nagler later fed the creatures collagen using a tube that snaked down into their stomachs, it had the opposite effect: The mice got better.

Decades on, this concept, called oral immunotherapy, has come into use as a treatment for food allergies, which affect an estimated 32 million people in the United States, including about two schoolchildren per classroom. Over the last ten years or so, some allergists have begun treating food allergy patients with small, regular doses of the offending food (or products made from it) to calm allergic responses. The approach stands to grow in popularity with the approval in January of a standardized version — a set of daily capsules to treat peanut allergy — by the US Food and Drug Administration.

But oral immunotherapy has downsides. The regimen can be nerve-racking, since it involves daily consumption of food that could kill. It doesn’t work for everyone and does little to fix the underlying disease. Success mostly means gaining the ability to safely eat several peanuts, for example, rather than reacting to a speck of peanut flour.

For some families, this modest gain is life-altering. Still, it is precarious: Patients must consume a bit of the food every day, or a few times a week, for the rest of their lives — or they could lose the protection.

So Nagler and several other researchers are working to find ways to treat food allergies more easily and durably. They’re targeting what they believe is a root cause — imbalances in the community of beneficial bacteria, or microbiome, that lives in our guts — in the hopes of resetting the immune system.

Producing a microbiome-based treatment will be challenging, with many details to hash out, such as which microbes to provide and how best to deliver them. But the approach is gaining momentum. Last year, Nagler’s team and another group in Boston reported an important step forward: They prevented severe allergic responses in allergy-prone mice by supplying gut microbes from healthy, non-allergic human babies. “The data are sound, and they are very encouraging,” says pediatric allergist Jaclyn Bjelac of the Cleveland Clinic.

And in March, scientists reported finding large amounts of antibodies against peanut allergens in the stomach and gut of allergic patients, further supporting the idea that the gastrointestinal tract is a hotspot for food allergy regulation and treatment. Already, companies are testing several strategies.

It has long been a puzzle why one person tolerates a food while another is allergic but, as outlined in an article she coauthored in the Annual Review of Immunology, Nagler is convinced that the microbiome is key.

Birth of a hypothesis

Four years after finishing her graduate work, Nagler started running a lab at Harvard Medical School. She was studying inflammatory bowel disease, not food allergies, back then. But as research in the 1990s showed that inflammatory bowel disease was primarily caused by immune reactions against gut bacteria, she shifted her attention to the microbiome.

Then, in 2000, she came across an intriguing publication. It described a mouse model for peanut allergy that mimics key symptoms experienced by people. The mice scratch relentlessly. Their eyes and mouths get puffy. Some struggle to breathe — a life-threatening allergic response called anaphylaxis.

All of this happens after researchers feed the mice peanut powder. “That caught my eye,” Nagler says. It ran counter to her earlier findings with the arthritic mice, where feeding collagen calmed the immune reaction. Why the difference?

The peanut-allergy mice, another report showed, had a genetic glitch that damages a receptor called TLR4 that sits in the membranes of immune cells and recognizes microbes. It looked as though the peanut-allergy mice lacked the normal cross talk that takes place between gut microbes and immune cells.

“That was my lightbulb moment,” Nagler says. Perhaps the trillions of microbes that live in us suppress immune responses to food by stimulating the TLR4 receptor. And perhaps perturbations in that teeming microbiome alter the suppression and cause a rise in allergies.

The idea meshes with historical trends. As societies modernized, people moved to urban areas, had more babies by cesarean section, took more antibiotics and ate more processed, low-fiber foods — all of which shake up microbiomes. The timing of these lifestyle shifts parallels the observed increase in food and other types of allergies, whose steep rise over a generation points to some environmental cause.

In 2004, Nagler and her coworkers published a report showing that peanuts provoked anaphylaxis only in mice with a mutated TLR4 receptor, not in genetically related strains with a normal TLR4. The difference disappeared when the scientists wiped out populations of gut bacteria with antibiotics. Then, even normal mice became susceptible to food allergies, implying that bacteria are at the heart of the protection.

Nagler’s lab has been working ever since to identify which bacteria are helpful, and to understand how they regulate allergic responses.

Early effects

In their work, Nagler’s team focused on Clostridia and Bacteroides — two major groups of bacteria in the human gut. Working with mice bred in a germ-free environment and thus without any microbiome at all, the team found that Clostridia, but not Bacteroides, prevented food-allergic responses when introduced into the guts of the squeaky-clean mice.

There’s a potential explanation: Mice colonized with Clostridia bacteria had more regulatory T cells, a type of cell that dampens immune responses. The Clostridia mice also produced more of a molecule called IL-22 that strengthens the intestinal lining. A new theory began to emerge: If protective microbes are missing, the gut barrier weakens, allowing food proteins to seep into the bloodstream and potentially trigger allergic responses.

This reasoning jibes well with the curious observation that top food allergens (certain proteins found in milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish) bear little biochemical resemblance to each other. What they do have in common is the ability to remain intact in the digestive tract, which normally breaks food into small pieces that the body absorbs as nutrients. “That seems to be what makes peanut the champion — its ability to resist degradation in the gut,” Nagler says.

Studies have further solidified the link between gut bacteria and food allergies and suggest that the microbiome’s impact comes early in life. Analyzing feces of healthy babies and those with egg or milk allergies, researchers showed that allergic and nonallergic infants had different communities of gut bacteria.

Another study tracked 226 children with milk allergy from infancy to age 8. The scientists found that certain bacteria, including Clostridia, were enriched in stool samples from 3- to 6-month-old infants who eventually outgrew their allergy, compared to those who remained allergic. The scientists didn’t see the same difference between these groups in older babies, suggesting that allergy-protective microbes may only act early in life.

“All of this points to the concept of a window of opportunity in terms of prevention,” says study leader Supinda Bunyavanich, a pediatric allergist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

Causal evidence

From birth, our immune systems get schooled in life-or-death choices. They learn to kill germs, tumors and dying cells. Much else in their surroundings they must learn to leave alone — nerve fibers, bone tissue, proteins from milk and cookies consumed at snack time. Mouse studies published in 2019 by Nagler’s lab and another team argue convincingly that gut microbes cultivate this critical immune decision-making.

In one of the studies, Nagler and coworkers collected gut bacteria from the feces of healthy and milk-allergic babies and put those collections of microbes into the digestive tracts of germ-free mice. They found that gut bacteria from healthy babies protected mice against allergic responses to milk, whereas microbes from allergic infants didn’t.

Using mathematical and computer science techniques to analyze the results, the team identified bacterial strains that were present in healthy but not allergic babies. They also examined gene activity in cells lining the intestines — certain gene patterns are characteristic of a healthy gut barrier — and looked for microbes whose presence correlated with a healthy barrier.

One Clostridia species, Anaerostipes caccae, popped out of both analyses. When the scientists transferred A. caccae alone into germ-free mice, it seemed to mimic the protection imparted by a full, healthy microbiome.

The other team, led by Rima Rachid and Talal Chatila at Boston Children’s Hospital, took a similar approach using hyper-allergic mice, finding that the single species Subdoligranulum variabile and a set of Clostridia species prevented allergic responses. Regulatory T cells were key to the response and were spurred into action by the microbes.

These and other studies clearly show that the microbiome is important for preventing food allergies and inducing tolerance, says Carina Venter, a research dietician at the University of Colorado in Denver who is studying links between maternal diet during pregnancy, microbiomes of infants and risk for eczema and allergies. But, she says, “how that microbiome should look in terms of diversity and in terms of specific strains, we just don’t know.”

Trials and questions

The many unknowns leave a quandary for researchers hoping to develop better treatments for food allergies: Is it better to supply a full, healthy microbiome, or to replenish just a few helpful microbes? “I scratch my head every day thinking about this,” Rachid says.

She’s leading a clinical study to test the first possibility. In this small trial, adults with peanut allergies will swallow pills containing a full slate of gut bacteria from healthy donors pre-screened for safety by the nonprofit stool bank OpenBiome. The approach, known as fecal transplantation, is not FDA-approved but is increasingly used to treat severe intestinal disorders with the aim of fixing diseased microbiomes by infusing healthy, balanced ones.

Other trials are also underway. Using the protective strains identified by the Boston team, Pareto Bio of La Jolla, California, is developing a live microbial product to treat food allergies. Another company, Vedanta Biosciences of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is developing a probiotic capsule that contains a mix of Clostridia strains selected for their ability to induce regulatory T cells. Vedanta is testing the capsules as an add-on to oral immunotherapy in adults with peanut allergies.

A third company, Prota Therapeutics of Melbourne, Australia, is commercializing a similar strategy combining peanut oral immunotherapy with a probiotic — in their case, a Lactobacillus strain commonly prescribed for gastrointestinal problems.

Administering whole microbiomes from donors is not without risk: Four patients have been hospitalized, and one died, from serious infections linked to stool transplants. So some researchers think it may be better to use precisely defined species. Though this risks weakening the benefit, “you’re less likely to induce unanticipated problems,” says Wayne Shreffler, who directs the food allergy center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and is leading the Vedanta study.

But there’s one challenge shared by all microbiome-modulating approaches: getting new microbes established when someone already has a microbiome in place, even an unhealthy one. Traditionally, patients receive antibiotics to help new bacteria gain a foothold. But maybe there’s another way. A start-up that Nagler cofounded with University of Chicago biomolecular engineer Jeff Hubbell — ClostraBio — is developing a therapy that combines live bacteria with a key microbial metabolite, butyrate.

The chemical is known to enhance gut barrier function and may also have antimicrobial effects, which could help create a niche for the added microbes. ClostraBio plans to launch its first human trial by 2021, Nagler says.

Over the next few years, researchers will learn more about harnessing the microbiome to fight food allergies. It won’t be easy. Genetics, diet, environmental exposures: All influence allergy risk. “It’s a big puzzle,” says Bunyavanich. The microbiome is only one piece of it — but she, Nagler and others are betting it will turn out to be a big one.

10.1146/knowable-052020-1

Esther Landhuis (@ elandhuis) is a freelance science journalist who was writing a lot about food allergies before a very different threat changed our lives.

This article originally appeared in Knowable Magazine, an independent journalistic endeavor from Annual Reviews. Sign up for the newsletter.

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US nut shipments to China: Will they recover?

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The “phase one” trade deal with China is paying off substantially for commodities like soybeans, corn, wheat and sorghum, but it’s hit or miss for specialty crop farmers, many of whom are still trying to find replacement markets.

U.S. walnut exports to China had been slowly declining as Chinese production rose before the trade war began in 2018, but that process accelerated quickly after China hit the nuts with multiple tariffs that added up to a total of 75% for inshell walnuts and 70% for shelled walnuts.The exclusion would shave some of those tariffs down, but not enough to boost sales, as has been the case for oranges.

China imported 52,722 short tons of walnuts in the 2016-17 marketing year, according to commission data. That was cut roughly in half to 25,667 tons in 2017-18, and then dropped farther to 16,456 tons in 2018-19.“China does have other viable places to import from, so they can buy from Chile or Australia, which both have tariff-free agreements with China,” Graviet said. “At this time buyers are not likely to use the exclusion process unless they have specific customers that only want California products.”

Adding to the problem is the fact that California farmers continue to produce more. The industry is diversifying its exports, but prices are declining. “For the most recent crop year ending Aug. 31, 2019, the industry saw a 7% increase in production, reaching 672,723 short tons from 350,000 bearing acres,” Graviet said. “Despite tariff and non-tariff barriers, the majority of the larger crop was sold, however at significantly reduced prices. Total value of the crop saw a 44% decline to an estimated $879 million — a loss in value of close to $700 million.”

For U.S. almonds, exports had been growing before the trade war, but China’s tariffs — even after the exclusions began — are significantly holding back trade.Almond shipments to China fell by 25% last year and are down 20% so far this year, said Julie Adams, a vice president for the Almond Board of California. It’s unclear how many Chinese importers are taking advantage of the exclusion process, which would take the tariff level down from 55% to 25%, but it hasn’t pushed trade back up to anywhere near previous highs, she said.

A major problem is that California farmers are competing with producers elsewhere that do not have to contend with any tariffs. “In the case of almonds, Australia has a free-trade agreement with China, so there is (no tariff),” Adams said. Before the trade war, China levied a base 10% tariff on U.S. almonds and they were still able to compete, but now that would be more than double even after an exclusion.

“We understand some importers have been looking at (tariff exclusions), but obviously the numbers don’t bear out that it’s had a significant impact on shipments,” she said.

What is Xylella and which nut trees are affected?

A spreading disease among European olive trees could cost the economy over 20 billion euros, according to a recent study. The disease is caused by the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, believed to be the most deadly plant pathogen in the world, and there is no cure. It showed up in an Italian olive orchard in 2013, but it also infects cherry, almond, and plum trees. Xylella makes it difficult for a tree to move water and nutrients, killing the tree. Sap-sucking insects spread the pathogen, making it very hard to control. It recently showed up in olive trees in Spain and Greece and has spread quickly up and down Italy. Farmers are fighting the disease by burning infected trees, but the researchers say the only effective way of stopping it will be producing a resistant tree.The Xylella fastidiosa bacteria, spread by insects, has been destroying almond trees around Spain, and can also be found in olive trees, apricot trees and grape vines.

The bacteria was first detected in El Castell de Guadalest, near Altea, in July 2017, and has since spread across 134,000 hectares, invading 76 municipalities in Marina Baixa, Marina Alta and El Comtat. The current strategy of the Ministry of Agriculture, in Valencia, is to quarantine and rip up thousands of trees where the bacteria is present, with 30,000 already uprooted.

The containment plan eradicates trees within 100 metres of an infected specimen, even if it is healthy, with many specialists believing this will destroy 20% of all trees in Alicante. Now an association of those affected, the AXFA, has hit back against the plans, insisting it will cause ‘irreparable damage to the environment, landscape and local economy’. “Tourism will be badly damaged and this could further hasten depopulation, which is already a problem in rural areas,” said a spokesman. Farmers in the association, who have not even been able to use the wood as fuel, have demanded that only infected trees be cut down.

Xylella fastidiosa is a xylem-limited, nutritionally fastidious bacterium that causes several plant diseases including Pierce’s disease (PD) in grape and leaf scorch in almond (ALS) and oleander (OLS). OLS strains belong to X. fastidiosa subsp. sandyi, PD strains belong to X. fastidiosa subsp. fastidiosa, and strains from almond designated as ALS strains are of two general types belonging either to X. fastidiosa subsp. multiplex or X. fastidiosa subsp. fastidiosa. The ALS strains assigned to X. fastidiosa subsp. multiplex belong to two different genotypes (ALSI and ALSII) below the subspecies level. The OLS strains do not infect grape or almond. PD strains produce diseases in grape, alfalfa, almond, and some weeds, but they do not infect oleander, oak, peach, or citrus. ALS strains that belong to X. fastidiosa subsp. multiplex do not produce disease on grape. In this study, a relatively simple polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based method was developed to distinguish among PD, OLS, and ALS strains. PCR performed with primers XF1968-L and XF1968-R amplified a 638-bp fragment from OLS strains but not from PD strains or ALS strains that belong to X. fastidiosa subsp. fastidiosa. PCR with primers XF2542-L and XF2542-R amplified a 412-bp fragment from PD strains, but not from OLS strains. PCR with primers ALM1 and ALM2 produced a fragment of 521 bp from strains isolated from almond that belong to X. fastidiosa subsp. multiplex. The combination of the three primer sets allowed the distinction of the two ALS genotypes of X. fastidiosa subsp. multiplex. These results are in agreement with those obtained from analysis of sequences of 16S-23S rDNA intergenic spacer regions sequence analysis and with previous results based on randomly amplified polymorphic DNA analysis.

Mozambique faces cashew industry disruptions

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Maputo — The Mozambican Association of Cashew Industries (AICAJU) has warned that less than 35,000 tonnes of cashew nuts will be processed in Mozambican factories this year, which is more than 33 per cent less than the 52,000 tonnes processed last year.

In a Monday press release, AICAJU notes that Mozambique has less than ten processing plants operating and some of these will stop processing in the middle of this year, probably in August, for lack of raw materials.

There has been a continuing decline in Mozambican cashew processing in recent years. AICAJU says that 60,000 tonnes of nuts were processed in 2018.

The Mozambican processing plants, says the release, “are operating in a particularly adverse context, in which the national industries face growing, aggressive and protected competition from international players such as India and Vietnam”. So far there has been no effective response by Mozambique “to this new paradigm”.

India last year increased its surtax on imported processed cashew kernels from 45 to 70 per cent. This, says AICAJU, “increased still further the purchasing power and the capacity to influence markets of India’s own industries”.

For, while Indian buyers are discouraged from buying the finished product from Mozambique, India continues to buy Mozambican raw, unprocessed nuts.

“The Asian processors can now buy in Mozambique raw material at inflated and unfair prices, distorting the market with a negative impact on Mozambican industry and, ultimately on the Mozambican state coffers”, the release protested. In other words, Mozambican industries find it difficult to sell cashew kernels to the Indian market, while the Indian industries snap up thousands of tonnes of raw nuts from Mozambican farmers, at prices the Mozambican processing factories cannot compete with.

On top of this has come the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The price of cashew kernels has fallen by more than 15 per cent since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, and by 25 per cent when compared with last year’s prices.

Nonetheless, AICAJU declared its confidence in the measures the Mozambican government is taking and believes that “through discussions between the state, the private industry and the cashew producers, it will be possible to implement measures in good time to defend the sector, which will allow a cashew campaign in 2020 that is fair for all the stakeholders”.

AICAJU also called on the government to provide support for farmers to develop the cashew orchard, “otherwise production will suffer a sharp decline, with a resulting impact on the income of more than 1.4 million households that are dependent on cashew nuts”.

2020 Australian macadamia crop on track

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The 2020 Australian macadamia crop remains on track to reach the forecast 36,500 tonnes in-shell at 3.5% moisture (39,000 tonnes at 10% moisture), announced the industry’s peak body, the Australian Macadamia Society (AMS) today.

Harvest started slightly later this year, but is now well progressed in all growing regions, reports the AMS.

“Harvest conditions have been largely favourable, and kernel recoveries are increasing, which is to be expected at this stage of the season,” says AMS CEO Jolyon Burnett. 

Mr. Burnett said the Australian macadamia industry has adapted to restrictions presented by Covid-19 and in doing so has been able to continue its operations during the pandemic.

“Processing and shipping of the new season crop is underway.”

The latest Australian macadamia industry crop estimate is based on forecast intake provided by the Australian Macadamia Handlers Association (AMHA) to the end of April.

The AMHA represents 97.5% of production in Australia.

Further crop reports will be provided in July and September, and the final figure for the 2020 crop will be announced by the AMS in early December.

For further information contact:
Lynne Ziehlke
Market Development Manager Australian Macadamias
Phone: +61 488 032 248 or 1800 262 426 (Aust) or +61 2 6622 4933

Prunes the perfect companion in meat-plant blends, says California Prune Board

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Blending meat and plant-based ingredients in products like burgers continues to gain traction for food producers, as consumers unwilling to give up meat entirely experiment with foods that combine red meat, poultry or fish with a range of plant-based ingredients like mushrooms, sweet potatoes, or dried fruit. 

A number of companies are blending meat and plant-based products amidst growing popularity for the category. The California Prune Board, which works globally to raise awareness of the sunshine state’s premium prune industry, is keen to highlight prunes as a viable inclusion for manufacturers looking for high quality, plant-based ingredients, which won’t compromise the taste or texture of the meat-plant blend. The nutritional benefits of California Prunes are also a potential lever for consumer buy-in, with just three prunes equivalent to one of the recommended ‘five a day’.

California Prunes contain sorbitol, a natural humectant, which can help add moisture to a range of dishes. Research[1], conducted for the California Prune Board at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville Food Science Department, Kansas State University and Texas A&M University, and other centres, has also demonstrated how prunes can be a useful ingredient for food producers in meat products.  As a natural phosphate replacer for example, California Prunes can help improve moisture content, extend shelf life and help produce a higher yield. 

Kevin Verbruggen, European Marketing Director for the California Prune Board, says: “Research from the California Prune Board has shown prunes are an ideal functional ingredient to include when experimenting with meat-plant blends because of their succulent properties, their fibrous texture and their fantastic nutritional profile.”

Registered dietitian and nutritionist, Jennette Higgs, believes prunes can play an important role in achieving a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle and are an ideal solution for use by food producers. She says: “Prunes are free of salt, fat and saturated fat, and contain only naturally occurring sugars.  They are high in vitamin K and manganese, which contributes to the maintenance of normal bones, and 100g daily can contribute to normal bowel function. They are also high in fibre and potassium and a source of vitamin B6 and copper.” 

Kevin adds: “California Prunes are renowned for their flavour and texture-enhancing qualities and pair brilliantly with meat. Packed full of fibre and other nutrients, California Prunes can also help food manufacturers appeal to health-conscious consumers.”   

Peter Sidwell, chef, author and founder of the Keswick Cookery School, has created a delicious meat-plant blend recipe, which swaps out a portion of meat in favour of succulent California Prunes and tasty cashews. Discover the recipe here:https://www.californiaprunes.co.uk/recipes/asian-meatballs-with-korean-noodles-and-spring-onions/

Azerbaijan to develop hazelnut sector

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The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), together with the Ministry of Agriculture of Azerbaijan, has designed a project on developing the country’s hazelnut sector, Head of FAO’s Partnership and Liaision Office in Azerbaijan Melek Cakmak told Trend.

“The project has been launched since January 2020 within a partnership program between FAO and Azerbaijan. The project will be implemented during three years. Its main objective is to increase the production of hazelnuts and ensure sustainable development of the industry and thus, lead to an increase in the income of small farmers, ensure food and nutrition security, help to reduce poverty in rural areas by creating jobs and self-employment opportunities in the regions,” she said.

“Hazelnuts are one of the most profitable agricultural products in the country. Azerbaijan is one of the five largest producers of hazelnuts in the world. In recent years, the government has provided significant support and benefits to farmers, and the area planted with hazelnuts is increasing every year. However, yields remain low (1.2 tons per hectare), and unsustainable farming methods are often used during cultivation,” Chakmak noted.

“Another goal of the project is to increase the hazelnut production by introducing modern technologies and enabling small farmers to apply advanced agricultural experience to improve the quality of nuts. The project will also expand the capacity of state institutions on establishing relationships with private sector,” she said.

“All activities are aimed at increasing the potential of entrepreneurs. Following the project, initiatives will be launched to ensure sustainable production, marketing chain will be assessed, and knowledge and skills of farmers in the sustainable cultivation of hazelnuts, processing and safe storage after harvesting will be enhanced,” Chakmak emphasized.

In November 2016, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the government of Azerbaijan signed a partnership program for 2016-2020.
Reported by trend News Agency

India: Odisha Cashew Processors urged government to announce a special package for the cashew industry

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By Express News Service
JEYPORE: The Odisha Cashew Processors Association has urged Union Minister of State for MSME Pratap Sarangi to announce a special package for the cashew industry, hit hard by the lockdown. Around 50 owners of cashew processing units from the State interacted with the Minister during a webinar on Friday. They said the lockdown has come as a severe jolt for the industry, which has been suffering huge losses for the last two years, due to an epidemic. Stressing the need for a special cashew marketing policy, they urged the Minister to revive the food processing units.

They appealed Sarangi to provide them interest free loans, relaxation on electricity, water tariffs and GST. The Minister said the Centre has been emphasising revamp of MSME industries across the country and assured to look into their demands. Around 1,20,000 cashew is produced by as many as 400 processing units in the State. General Secretary of Odisha Cashew Processors Association Monasis Panda said over 5 lakh workers, growers and processors have been hit hard by cash crisis and the lockdown across the country.

The Odisha Cashew Processors Association (OCPA) was started in the year 1997-98. In the past 18 years, OCPA has done tremendous work for the Cashew Sector in the state Odisha. The state of Odisha is the third largest state for Cashew cultivation, production & processing. As on date, Odisha has 1.68 lakh Hectares under Cashew plantation, which is around 16% of India’s cashew acreage. Odisha produces around 100,000 metric tonnes of Raw Cashew Nuts (RCN) per annum, which is around 13.6% of India’s RCN production. Today, Odisha has around 350 Cashew processing units, which are mostly located in remote places of Odisha and are mostly in Micro, Tiny & Small Scale Industries. The Industry processes around 1.25 lakh metric tonnes RCN per year. To meet the RCN requirements, the industry is Importing it from different African Countries like Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Benin, Ghana, Ginea Bissau, Tanzania and Mozambique.

In all these year. OCPA is working with the state Government in all respect to popularize Govt. policies, incentives, subsidies and other Govt. mandatory rules regulations of the State as well as Centre. OCPA has also created a very good standing of the state ODISHA through attending different state, national & international level Seminars mostly happening every year in Bhubaneshwar, Kerala, Goa & Karnataka. OCPA members attend in good numbers different Seminars to learn more & more. Odisha cashew sector generates more than Rs.900 crores from Raw Cashew production and with value addition it becomes approximately Rs. 1250 Crores every Year. Being agro based & labor intensive, the Odisha cashew industry generates more than 88 lakh mendays or every day livelihood to around 32,000 rural poor women mostly living in remote village areas for the entire year, who are having no work other than the agricultural activities only in paddy season.

Rightly, the Govt. of India & also Odisha State are giving stress to the development of the sector. OCPA had started a cashew processing certificate course to create skilled manpower & employment, in Govt. ITI, Berhampur, Ganjam jointly with Industry Department of Odisha State Govt. on PPP mode. This is the first-of-its-kind programme in the world & created history, where already two batches have passed out successfully.

The state Odisha is situated in the east coast of India with 10 climatic zones, 482 Km of coastal line (Bay of Bengal), rich forest areas, mountains, good number of rivers, underground mines of Iron Ore, Coal, Bauxite etc. Also it has world famous monuments like Konark, Lord Jagannath temple and lake Chilika, the second largest lagoon in the world and is a good tourist destination. Odisha stands third in Cashew cultivation, production and processing in India, claiming 16% of land under cashew cultivation area at 1.68 Lakh hectares and producing 1,00,000 MT of Raw Cashew Nut (13.6% of India’s Raw Cashew Nut production). As on date, there are more than 350 cashew processing industries processing approximately 1,25,000 metric tonnes of Raw Cashew Nuts, thus generating 35,000 employment opportunities every day.

The economy of Odisha cashew sector: Raw Cashew Nut sector generates an annual revenue of Rs 950 crores. Converting raw cashews into kernels by processing earns an additional value of more than Rs 250 crores. Hence, Odisha cashew sector generates approximately Rs 1200 crores every year. The average RCN yield per hectare in Odisha is 680 kg per hectare which is lower than national and international average. Therefore, the appropriate and timely steps such as gap filling of old and senile orchards, planting of new hybrid varieties in waste and fallow lands and new variety of grafted plants need to taken on war footing to boost Odisha’s economy so also to generate future employment along with environmental point of view.

Odisha is the third largest producer, processor of cashew in India. Despite that, the state is unable to export a single kilogram of Cashew Kernels. Hence it becomes the moral responsibility of every stakeholder of the entire cashew value chain, including the concerned State Govt. departments to look into the sector seriously to achieve the goal, for the best interest of the farmers and the economy..

The major advantages in Odisha state are vast waste lands for future cashew plantation, favorable climatic conditions, self sufficient energy management, good connectivity such as rail, road, air and port and availability of rural women force and raw cashew nut.

The major drawbacks in the state are (a) Lack of proper policy of raw cashew distribution to the processing Industries, and (b) Inadequate finance to cashew units by Banks or financial Institutions. In addition to this, lack of awareness and latest technical know how of the technologies, lack of proper grading as per CEPCI, lack of proper packing for exports, lack of commission agents for marketing of cashew kernels and lack of infrastructure facilities and Govt. support for export from the state.

Odisha State has a bright future for both cashew plantations and processing. Together with the government, the cashew industry in Odisha can reap the benefits.

10,000 t cashew processing unit is shipping

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West Africa-focussed agriculture company Dekel Agri-Vision updated the market on the development of its 10,000 tonnes per annum raw cashew nut processing project at Tiebissou in Côte d’Ivoire on Thursday. The AIM-traded firm said the entire shipment from China, consisting of 32 containers of infrastructure equipment for the construction of the project, has now departed.

It said the shipment was expected to arrive at the port of Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire in early July. This shipment of infrastructure equipment from China followed the restart of the manufacture of milling equipment in Italy, which had been suspended for a number of weeks as a result of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Together with groundworks continuing at the site in Tiebissou, with “minimal disruption”, Dekel said it still expected the mill to be commissioned by April 2021. “The shipment of infrastructure equipment from China is another positive step towards the construction of our large-scale cashew processing operation at Tiebissou,” said executive director Lincoln Moore.

“There was undoubtedly going to be delays due to Covid-19, so we are pleased to see activity resuming in good time, not just in China but also in Italy where the mill equipment is being manufactured. “I look forward to providing further updates on the project’s progress as we focus on having the mill operational in the first half of 2021 and in the process, adding a second producing project and a second revenue stream to our portfolio.”

At 1209 BST, shares in Dekel Agri-Vision were up 1.82% at 2.24p.

California Almonds off to the next record crop

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NASS announced 2020 Almond Subjective Forecast at 3.0 Billion pounds. The forecast is based on 1.26 million acres producing an average of 2,380 pounds per acre. The forecast is at 10.2% higher yield than 2019. This puts total production up 17.6%.

This forecast comes about three weeks after USDA-NASS released the 2019 California Almond Acreage Report, which estimated total almond acreage for 2019 up 10% from 2018 at 1.53 million acres. Bearing acres – orchards mature enough to produce a crop – were reported at 1.18 million acres, up 8% from the previous year. USDA-NASS also estimated preliminary bearing acreage for 2020 at 1.26 million acres.

“Almond acreage and production continue to increase as California almond growers further invest in precision agriculture and responsible best practices,” said Almond Board of California (ABC) President and CEO Richard Waycott. “Through the industry’s advancements in water use efficiency to environmentally friendly pest management, zero waste efforts in the orchard and beyond, almond growers are committed to achieving our Almond Orchard 2025 Goals and the realization of the California almond orchard of the future.”

The first of two production reports for the upcoming crop year, the subjective forecast is based on opinions obtained from randomly selected almond growers located throughout the state via a phone survey, this year conducted from April 20 to May 6. USDA-NASS asks individual growers to indicate their total almond yield per acre from last year and expected yield for the current year based on field observations. The sample of growers interviewed is grouped by size of operation, and different individuals are interviewed each year to ensure grower representation throughout the Central Valley. USDA-NASS then combines the yield estimates obtained from each grower and extrapolates the information to arrive at the numbers reported in the subjective forecast.

This July, USDA-NASS will release its second production estimate, the 2020 California Almond Objective Report. While the subjective forecast provides an initial estimate of the 2020-2021 crop, the objective report will provide an estimate based on actual almond counts that uses a more statistically rigorous methodology to determine yield.

In December, ABC’s Board of Directors approved a strategic approach to further improve the accuracy of USDA-NASS’s reporting. From 2020 on, the objective report will include measurements from 1,000 target orchards throughout the state (an increase of 150 samples from 2019) and provide nuts counts on not one but two branches per tree. The objective report will also provide the weight, size and grade of the average almond sample broken down by growing region – no longer growing district – and variety. The 2020 California Almond Objective Report will be released July 7.

  • Crop receipts to date are 2.533 billion pounds
  • Sales for April 2019: 145,937.852 è 21.1 million pounds more than 2020
  • Projected Sales based on data to date around 2.44 billion pounds
  • Carry over based on data to date around 370 million pounds