Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day 12 - Thursday, October 6

We started the day traveling through rush hour traffic to Hamburg, there we we're visiting an office of Alfred C. Toepfer International a commodities trading and logistics company.  The company was started 1919 in Hamburg, with the first branch in New York in 1929.  Today they are world wide with 36 offices and 2,100 employees; 900 in the worldwide office, 300 in Hamburg and 1,200 at silos and elevators.
They trade all forms of commodities from corn and wheat to feed peas and tapioca.  Their newest trading category is the energy sector where they are involved in the trading of CO2 certificates as well as the trading and transport of wood pellets, canola (rapseed), coal and electricity.  They are the largest trader of wood pellets in Canada and the EU. 
The company is owned 80% by ADM and 20% by InVivo a French cooperative.  They see that policy and political power are driving markets more and more. Especially with markets in the Ukraine and Russia, who will accept imports one year and block them the next.
As a company that relies on statics to set prices and make decisions on investments, they closely follow the USDA reports and were concerned to hear that USDA may be cutting budgets by reducing staff in statistical areas as well as the census bureau.
After that we did a tour of the Hamburg harbor that is Germany's "gateway to the world."  It is the second busiest port in Europe and the eleventh busiest in the world.  It was impressive to see the enromous ships loading and unloading cargo thoughout the port.
We then traveled to the farm of Mr. Werner Schwarz, President of the Schleswig-Holstein farmers organization since 2008.  He raised 500 sows on 450 hectacres of land on a farm that traced back to 1100s.  He is raising raising replacement females for the PIC company and also finishes the males and cull animals.  On the cropland they grow mainly wheat, barley and canola, with some oats.  Half of the wheat is for the pigs and half is sold on the market.  All of the barley is used for the pigs.  Because of the moisture, grain must be dried as there is too much during harvest.  He has formed a partnership with another farmer where they crop over 1000 hectacres total.  They formed the partnership to consolidate machinery and costs as well as do some of the custom farming.  For his pig operation, soybean meal is imported from Brazil.
Mr. Schwarz took us for a short walking tour of the historic village of Lubeck.  Lubeck hs many historic churches and buildings as well as a rich history.  The village was attacked by both the Germans and English in WWII; Hitler had a personal dislike for the city as they would not let him campain there in 1936?  During the war, an American General, who had traveled to Lubeck and seen its historic buildings, stepped in and insisted that Lubeck be spared.  Many buildings are made of a special dark green brick, only found in the area. We visted the Holstein gate which was connected to a wall that surrounded the city.  The city was traditionally a trading post for salt traders to store and sell salt.  Because the city was surrounded by water from the rivers and has a large barrier wall it was very defensible against attack.
After the tour we were invited to Mr. Schwarz's home for a traditional German meal of roasted pork, small cabbage (brussel sprouts), potatoes and green beans.  We visited for a while about politics, farming and shared stories from the U.S.  We also drank a little schnappes.  We felt very fortunate to have been invited into their home and appreciate the memories we will take home with us.

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