s Russia’s invasion chokes off Ukrainian wheat exports, pushing up bread and noodle prices, the global harvest faces an added test: extreme weather.
The threat of droughts, floods, and heatwaves from the U.S., France, and India threatens output, further aggravating shrinking production in Ukraine. Nearly all major producers are under threat. Russia is the only exception. This country is poised for record-breaking crop and is expected to reap the benefits of rising prices.
Because wheat is resilient, it can often be replaced by other crops. The litany of problems that face us is challenging our resilience. According to a Bloomberg survey, analysts expect the world’s output to fall for the first time since four seasons. This is according to Thursday’s U.S. Department of Agriculture Report. That’s likely to keep the price of many food staples high as hunger and cost-of-living crises deepen from Africa to Europe.
Continue reading: After Visiting Both Ends of the Earth, I Realized How Much Trouble We’re In
“If there was ever a year where we needed to see optimum conditions and strong yields around the world, this was going to be it,” said James Bolesworth, managing director at CRM AgriCommodities. “Clearly that situation is not being seen. It adds more risk to this highly volatile situation.”
Here’s how crops are faring across the Northern Hemisphere:
Warm, dry weather is a burgeoning concern in the world’s top wheat exporter, after a favorable start to spring. The wheat belt has half of its crops without any rain, while temperatures have reached summer levels in France. The production outlook is still positive, but it will depend on how the water shortage in the coming weeks.
“If the lack of rain persists until the end of the month, we’ll have to look again at our yield forecasts,” said Aurelien Blary, a crop analyst at Strategie Grains.
Allie Eidam, R, stocks up on wheat due to rising prices. There will be a sale of grain on March 31st 2022 at Sugar City, Idaho.
Natalie Behring/Getty Images
The dryness in the U.S. Central Plains is already causing some growers to abandon hard-red winter wheat that they use by bakers and millers for their bread flour. Harvests in top producer Kansas start next month, and output will fall “well below” the five-year average, said Aaron Harries, vice president of research and operations for Kansas Wheat. According to Harries, crop insurance agents anticipate some fields will yield zero-five bushels an acre compared to the average 35 to 40 bushels.
A supply shortage could cause higher grain prices to rise further, causing inflation in the supply chain and affecting US exports. “Everything west of the Mississippi River needs rain,” Harries said. “If we don’t have those regular showers, the size of the crop will get smaller every day.”
Continue reading: There are five ways to avoid the global food security crisis
In contrast, the rains farther north make it difficult for spring wheat to be planted. This is what makes bagels and pizza. Minnesota farmer Tim Dufault says that the state’s yield potential has been reduced by about five bushels per acre due to delays. Sowing in North Dakota has been “painfully slow,” with only 8% seeded versus nearly two-thirds at this time last year, according to the state’s wheat commission.
Similar problems with weather are occurring across the border. Canada’s cold temperatures have delayed the seeding process. Producers are trying to avoid planting in too-wet or dry fields.
In southern Alberta, which is an area of high production for spring wheat as well as durum that’s used in pasta making, drought is a problem. According to the ministry of agriculture, there’s less moisture than one year ago, and soils are being eroded by dry winds. A series of severe storms has left farmers in Manitoba and further east. Further rain is forecast for this week. This could put a halt to any progress.
“Virtually 99% of the farmers haven’t got to the field yet,” said Bill Campbell, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, noting it may take a week for things to dry once the rain stops. “It’s back to square one.”
A farmer attempts to cool himself at a wheat field during a scorching heatwave that hit the Ludhiana, Punjab (India) on May 1, 2022.
T. Narayan/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Blistering heat scorched wheat fields in the world’s second-biggest grower, damping expectations for exports to alleviate a global shortage. Temperatures rose to record highs in March, surpassing 1901 records. The scorching heat also dried out the crops during critical periods. According to some estimates, yields could plummet 10% to 50% in this season.
From an earlier forecast of 111million tons, the food ministry has reduced its production outlook to 105million tons. Some traders believe that it will produce a smaller crop. The severe heatwaves that are currently raging in Northern India may delay harvest, so people should stay indoors.
China has the largest global wheat production. However, there is concern about China’s winter wheat crop after recent unusually heavy autumn flooding. In order to obtain a better price when selling their wheat for animal feed, farmers have posted videos on social media showing acres of land being removed before it matures.
Continue reading: The Food Crisis Can’t Handle War and Climate Change
The harvest of the fields is scheduled for 20 days. Officials are currently investigating any illegal destruction. After becoming the world’s top importer over the last two seasons, China is determined to reduce its dependency on foreign supplies.
Ukraine’s soil moisture levels are satisfactory, buoying the yield prospects. But the war will curb production, and there’s worries about where to store the crop as backlogged exports leave silos bulging with last year’s grain.
Russia also has experienced favorable weather, and may reap near-record crop yields. That’s bolstered shipment prospects, although freight and insurance costs are high and some merchants are shunning its commodities.
—Francois de Beaupuy provides assistance
Read More From Time