Duxton’s Agri Bits and Pieces – Vol. 380
Posted on: May 29th, 2018


The quote for this week is taken from an interview with Wang Zhong, chief consultant with China-based Systematic, Strategic & Soft Consulting Company. He was discussing the greater degree of scrutiny that US imports, including agricultural ones such as apples, were subject to at Chinese ports. This in the wake of the ongoing trade tension between China and the US.

“It is a kind of invisible trade war, which will give China more bargaining power in negotiations [with the US]”

Zhong further pointed out that agricultural produce is often targeted by the Chinese government in dealing with bilateral relations as there are scientific standards that must be met and can delay the release of such goods.


“Top Australian beef brands are facing a substitution onslaught from counterfeiters in China, with the latest encryption technology enlisted in the fight to stop fakes.

Commercial trials are underway in Australia to inject edible nanoparticles into cuts and sides of export meat before it leaves Australia, with the meat linked to encrypted blockchain verification systems that need unlocking to prove it is genuine Australian provenance once it ­arrives in China.

It is estimated twice the amount of Australian beef actually exported is sold in China while carrying an Australian brand or Australian-grown label; a racket that costs Australian farmers and meat exporters $2 billion in potential lost sales.

Packaging seals and identifying dye stamps put on export meat by Australian processors ­before shipping have proved ­impossible to police, since most beef is exported to China as bulk cuts or whole carcasses and cut up into smaller retail meat packs.

The problem has become so serious that some high-value Australian meat brands are now refusing to sell their best cuts, which can retail for up to $120kg, in China.

Blackmore Wagyu founder David Blackmore said his business had numerous examples of his famous luxury beef being sold in high-end restaurants in China, which they do not supply, or using meats cuts they do not export.

“We’ve done everything to stop it but it’s almost impossible to keep up; every time we change labels or put additional anti-counterfeit branding on our new packaging it gets copied and replaced with inferior product within a week,” Mr Blackmore said. “We are getting cleverer and more complex but it sometimes seems impossible to stay ahead.”

Cutting-edge nanoparticle technology adopted from the medical industry, using unique brand-identifying films or liquid injections that are safe to eat and impossible to taste or see, may be the secret to solving this major global problem.

PwC Australia head of innovation Trent Lund said the company and its specialist scientists are taking a novel technology ­approach to the serious problem of substituted food exports.

“Australian beef is probably the product that has been counterfeited the most in China; the most by volume and second only to our wine in value,” Mr Lund said, detailing how some of Penfolds’ most expensive wine brands were recently found on sale in China filled with a cheap wine substitute after counterfeiters had drilled tiny holes into the bottle base.

“With Australian beef selling in China for an average $38kg — and up to $120kg for some of the best brands — locally produced Chinese beef costs $4.50kg and the potential profits are just too tempting and beef is so easy to substitute,” Mr Lund said last week at Rockhampton’s triennial Beef Australia expo.

“But we think for food products such as meat, whether it’s frozen, chilled or cryovacced, it is better to use technology to stop the substitutes rather than packaging, especially using edible nanotechnology etched into the meat itself, which not only identifies it as genuine Australian beef but also gives the meat a fingerprint unique to the processor or farm that was its source.”

The PwC technology being trialled by one major Australian meat exporter injects a unique spectrum fingerprint into the entire carcass or portion of beef being shipped overseas frozen.

Mr Lund says the nano-etching not only distinguishes different beef brands — for example, when “read” in China using a special scanner it will identify Blackmores wagyu from a Rangers Valley grain-fed angus — but will persist in all parts of the meat even when cut into smaller portions. It does not affect meat quality, has no taste, is completely safe, and has been approved for use by Food Standards Australia. It is also unaffected by freezing or cooking.

Mr Lund said it is conceivable a high-end restaurant could deliver a cooked expensive Australian steak on a plate to a diner and use the scanner to prove the meat is what the menu says it is.

“It’s all about building and holding trust because Chinese consumers are prepared to pay a lot for Australian-produced food because of its clean, green and safe provenance; it only needs one substitution scandal, when people are harmed after eating a cheap meat substitute that wasn’t Australian at all but was labelled as such, to ruin that reputation in one go,” Mr Lund said.

“You must protect your brand, as well as give greater transparency through the supply chain. These countermeasures give the top beef brands provenance from paddock to plate.””

Source: Neales, Sue. The Australian. 14 May 2018.


“China is launching the world’s largest weather-control machine, with the ability to modify the weather in an area similar to the size of Alaska. China has never shied away from doing things on a massive scale and this is yet another example of the Chinese government working on an unprecedented scale.

China’s state-owned Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation is implementing a plan to send thousands of rain-inducing machines across the Tibetan Plateau to increase rainfall along the region.

The Tibetan Plateau is the source of much of China’s water, running down from the mountainous highlands via the massive Yangtze, Mekong, and Yellow rivers. These rivers, which originate on the Tibetan Plateau, are fed by glacial and snow meltwater and drain down into the fertile Chinese farmlands.

China is installing tens of thousands of chambers across the Tibetan Plateau and mountains. These machines will produce very fine silver iodide particles that are then lifted into the atmosphere with upwelling winds. As these particles are dispersed into the atmosphere they act as the nucleating point of condensed water.

Typically, this is a tiny particle of dust which en masse produces the clouds we see in the sky. Once the clouds become unstable, this leads to artificially induced rainfall. Each rain machine (chamber) is expected to create a 3-mile long strip of billowing clouds.

China plans to monitor the system through weather satellites and supplement with silver iodide particles deployed from planes and shot out of ground artillery. In total, the Chinese government expects the system, which will span 620,000 square miles, to produce up to 10 billion cubic meters of rainfall each year.

If the system works as expected, it would equal roughly 7 percent of China’s annual water consumption, helping China quench the thirst of its 1.4 billion people.”

Source: Nace, Trevor. Forbes. 10 May 2018.


The chart for this week shows the predicted relationship between the GDP per capita and the predicted monthly temperature variability as a percentage change in standard deviation between 1850 and 2100. The increased variability is anticipated because of climate change. The consequence of this variability is more extreme weather conditions that will in turn affect agricultural output. Tropical, Latin American countries like Brazil, Columbia and Venezuela are predicted to be the most affected. Europe and North America is anticipated to be far less affected than the bulk of developing countries.