Robynne Anderson's Emerging Thoughts on Ag

Trading is the Spice of Life

IMG_3321The Spice Islands. Malabar. These names evoke historical ties to distant lands, exotic tastes, and thrilling adventures. The spice trade was the foundation of globalism and multiculturalism before we talked about such things.

These traders have always been ethnically diverse, creative and co-operative to ensure the spices are shared around the world. So it was a great thrill for me to join them at the International Spice Conference in Kerala, India. Kerala is one of the biggest spice producing regions, and I will note the food is every bit as wonderful as one might imagine from a land where turmeric, cumin and curry leaves are common.

But the spice trade doesn’t just aim to challenge your taste buds and make you healthier with curcumin, it turns out the world’s most global trade also wants to open your mind. Under the theme “disrupt or be disrupted,” they looked at everything from new delivery technologies to the ways to provide better incomes to small farmers. It was suggested farmer incomes should go up at the same percentage as the value of product, and who couldn’t agree? Just think about smallholders picking chilis by hand. They contemplated ways to address consumer trends that seek “local” food but want exotic tastes. It’s especially challenging when you consider a clove tree won’t just grow anywhere.

These competing forces are even more complex when you layer on a tone of trade protectionism and disruption. International cuisine is part of any millennial’s day. They would consider hummus, or a curry, just as much a part of life as a hamburger. However, to meet those tastes, spices will need to move around the globe just as much as they ever have – probably more. To do that, they need trading systems that work.

At the core of that is Codex Alimentarius, a global system to set food safety standards. At its heart, Codex should provide global science that makes it possible to trade among 188 countries with assurances of known, agreed food safety levels for consumers. Without this, trade devolves into a chaos of 188 nations with no known or consistent standards. Suddenly a cardamom farmer in India is supposed to be able to meet countless combinations of standards.

This is particularly challenging for small crops like spices. What resources do exist in Codex get focused on big crops like rice and corn. That is why we need better budgets for Codex – particularly so the vital technical committees can work more efficiently.

Certainly my food wouldn’t be the same without ginger or oregano or pepper. So mobilizing new, regularized funding of Codex, supporting a catch up plan for the backlog of science reviews and getting serious about using electronic systems to share data reviews are just a few steps to make the system better.

All of it underpins the access for some of the world’s smallest and most exotic farmers to markets. Plus, for me as a consumer, while that local apple will be a great purchase, its even better with a little cinnamon on it.

International Spice Conference

Spices have driven exploration, trade, and globalism for millennia.  So it is a great honour to go Kerala India to speak at the International Spice Conference. I’ll be addressing a pressing issue for global movement of food:  the need for Codex reform.

Facilitated by Geemon Korah, my fellow panelists are Ramesh Bhat, a food safety expert, and Milan Shah, a leading spice trader and member of Gafta.  Together we hope to explain some of the realities of getting timely and proper MRLs in place and to talk about the Codex Reform coalition which has been formed to urge the changes that are needed in Codex functioning.  In particular, significant back logs and lack of groupings for smaller crops, as well as ongoing resource issues have slowed the system and impeded trade.  Without a globally harmonised system, the beautiful spices that make our meals a joy and provide valuable health benefits, will find movement of products difficult.

Learn more here.

Feast on Pulses January 18

The upcoming holidays may make you think about New Year’s indulgences and so what a great way to start the New Year off right to feast on Pulses too in 2017. Chickpeas, beans, lentils, and peas are great food. My favorite recipe is the Punjabi Dal Makhani.

They are so good for people and for the planet that they have their own special day, Global Pulse Day, to be celebrated all around the world on January 18th! That’s because pulses have a low use of water and a small carbon footprint.

Pulses are core to the food baskets of people in most places around the world. And of course, we keep finding out that traditional foods are good foods. Some are even dubbing pulses a “super food”. They are low in fat, contain important minerals and vitamins, aregreat for your health and help in weight management.

So whether your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight or lower your carbon footprint, you should be eating more pulses every week, and certainly on January 18th, 2017 for Global Pulse Day, to continue to celebrate pulses and build on the momentum of the United Nations International Year of Pulses.

Last year, Pulse Feast was celebrated at 141 events in 36 countries reaching 21 million people! From all around the world, people were mobilised to make this event a day to remember.

So this year, I encourage people around the world to eat their favorite beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas that day and share the many benefits of consuming pulses for people and the planet. You can organise a family meal with pulses on the menu or share your favourite pulse dishes at a corporate party. You can invite friends for dinner or promote the benefits of eating pulses at school. If you love pulses, it’s the right time to tell the world! If you are looking for recipes, there are hundreds of them available on pulses.org.

Anybody can participate in any corner of the globe and can share their Global Pulse Day with the rest of the world either by posting information about your event on social media and using the hashtag #GlobalPulseDay #LovePulses or registering the event on the Global Pulse Day webpage.

All the events will be highlighted on pulses.org website with a 48 hours’ coverage on January 18th to cover all the world’s time zones. There is no limitation on number of people (from 2 to 20,000) to be attending your event.

  • Join our Thunderclap so your social media will automatically support the campaign on January 18
  • Use the Twitter hashtags #GlobalPulseDay #LovePulses to be sure to be recorded as part of our TINT feed (a social media aggregator)
  • Capture images of your event: any visual material that can be shared in social media will be of great use. Take pictures!
  • Talk about your event: you can write a blog post before and after the event talking about why you are involved in celebrating pulses in 2017.

Please visit the Global Pulse Day webpage to learn more. You too can be a part of this exciting celebration when you join the Global Pulse Day movement on January 18th 2017!

Feast away!

WHO Election

The race for the Secretary General of the UN is still looking complex, and now the new race to be head of the World Health Organisation has opened up. Please see a blog on the candidates by my friend Felix Dodds, a keen commentator on the UN: http://blog.felixdodds.net/2016/09/its-been-busy-week-in-new-york-with.html 

#IamAg

ff_iamag-infographicWhat could be more exciting than recruiting young people to agriculture?  Farming First is launching a great campaign called #IamAg campaign, to encourage more young people to take up agricultural careers.  Between now and 21st October, farmingfirst.org will be sharing the stories of ag professionals from across the globe, across the whole value chain.

Our first blog post is from 29 year old Judy Nyawira, Production Manager at Shamba Shape Up – share the story of how she became involved in the hit TV show!  I am thrilled to be adding my voice in the weeks ahead.  Here’s how you can get involved too…

  1. Sign up to our Thunderclap that will send a timed tweet out, declaring what great opportunities exist in agriculture, especially for youth
  2. Share or embed our infographic “Working in Agriculture” that showcases the many careers young people can pursue
  3. Tweet out our individual career illustrations – we may have illustrated your career! (attached)
  4. Add a badge to your Twitter or Facebook profile to declare “I am Ag”
  5. Share blogs, videos, case studies, advice and insights using #IamAg – and you could be turned into an illustration or feature in our wrap up video at the end of the campaign!
  6. Retweet our content – there will be plenty to choose from!