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July 2022, Volume 28, Number 3

Food, Wine

Food. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted trade in food commodities and prompted some governments to ban exports of food and fertilizer to slow food price inflation. Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of wheat and fertilizers, and higher food prices are expected to adversely affect sub-Saharan Africans who spend 40 percent of their incomes on food, including many in Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen.

China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of wheat. The Chinese government is committed to food security, and the smaller winter wheat crop expected in spring 2022 raised fears of further upward pressure on grain prices. India, the world’s second largest wheat producer, banned wheat exports in May 2022 to limit food price increases.

Rice is cheaper in 2022 than in 2021, helping Asians who consume 80 percent of the world’s rice to hold down food costs. There was a record harvest in 2021 of over 520 million tons in the major rice producers of China, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand.

The FAO reported that China produced 709 million tons of fruits (232 million tons) and vegetables (479 million tons) in 2020, 38 percent of the world’s 1.9 billion tons of fruits and vegetables. India produced 119 million tons of vegetables and 88 million tons of fruits and the US 43 million tons of vegetables and 23 million tons of fruits. Turkey produced 52 million tons of fruits and vegetables, Brazil 45 million tons, Mexico and Russia, 36 million tons each, and Spain 32 million.

UK-based Unilever sells over 400 food products, and wants each to be associated with a social or environmental purpose. Founder William Lever built a model company town for soap workers in northwest England; the current CEO wants each Unilever brand to have a social or environmental purpose to accompany its major use, such as Dove soap celebrating diverse body shapes.

Over 40 percent of American adults are obese. Some attribute obesity to innovations that reduced the cost of food and made most work sedentary.

Wine. World wine consumption was 236 million hectoliters in 2021, down from the 260 million hectoliters drunk in 2019. One hectoliter is 26.4 gallons, making global consumption about 6.2 billion gallons or over a gallon per person for the 5.5 billion people who are 18 and older.

The US consumed the most wine, 33 million hectoliters, while EU countries consumed 114 million hectoliters, including 25 million in France, 24 million in Italy, and 20 million in Germany. The UK consumed 13 million hectoliters, and the top five consuming countries accounted for almost half of the world’s wine consumption.

World wine production was 260 million hectoliters or 6.9 billion gallons in 2021, the same as 2020, including 154 million or 54 percent in the EU. Italy, 50 million hectoliters, France, 38 million, and Spain, 35 million, accounted for almost half of 2021 wine production. Germany produced almost eight million hectoliters and Portugal seven million.

Australia produced 14 million hectoliters of wine in 2021; Chile 13 million; Argentina 12 million; and South Africa 11 million.

Some 112 million hectoliters of wine worth E34 billion ($36 billion) was traded over national borders in 2021. Spain was the largest exporter by volume, exporting 23 million hectoliters, and France was the leading exporter by value, exporting E11 billion worth of wine. The 53 percent of wine exports that were bottled accounted for 70 percent of the value of wine exports.

The US imported 455 million gallons of wine worth $7.5 billion in 2021, suggesting an average price of $16 a gallon or $3.30 a bottle. Some of the wine imported to the US is low-cost bulk wine that is blended with US wine. France and Italy were each the source of $2.5 billion worth of wine, but Italian wine was on average much cheaper than French wine. US wine exports were worth $1.5 billion in 2020. Global alcohol sales were $1.2 trillion in 2021.

Napa’s 46,000 bearing acres of wine grapes yielded 120,000 tons worth $740 million in 2021, about $6,200 a ton. Over half of the tonnage was Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by Chardonnay and Merlot.

Sean Thackrey, an autodidactic polymath or self-taught master art dealer and winemaker who made cult wines in Bolinas, California, died in June 2022. Thackrey began to sell high-priced wines that he called editions rather than vintages, buying grapes and mixing varieties to make blended wines; he compared winemaking to being an artist. Thackrey opposed terroir or the idea that fine wine is made in the vineyard and argued that winemakers make wine.

Casella Family Brands, the Yenda, Australia producer of Yellow Tail wines, announced plans in May 2022 to sell its 5,650 hectares of vineyards in South Australia and New South Wales. Australia has 146,000 hectares of vineyards that produced an average 12 tons of grapes per hectare. China’s ban on Australian wine imports has reduced grape and wine prices.

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