Sunday, May 22, 2011
If you’ve been following the news in North America, this spring, you’ll notice that it’s all about water. Too much of it in fact. Several locations in Canada have experienced or are still experiencing severe flooding, and of course the ol’ Mississippi river in the US has been causing more than a little trouble. In Canada at least, seeding is well behind schedule due to wet conditions, and we might well see a repeat of 2010, where the seeded acreage was the lowest in decades.
And the US winter wheat crop is forecast to be down 27 percent, a drop of 11 bushels per acre on average, caused by dry, freezing conditions in February. We’ll see how the spring and summer proceed south of the border, but given the extreme weather we’ve seen so far this spring, it’s hard to know how good a harvest is going to be possible.
And then of course there is China. China is in the grips of a massive drought. A recent news article that I read stated that of China’s 35 million acres of wheat fields, almost 13 million acres were affected by drought. Drinking water for millions of head of livestock and millions of people is also in short supply.
It looks very likely that China may need to buy heavily on the world markets to feed her people, a surprising event for the world’s largest wheat producer and a country that has been self-sufficient in grains for decades. Wheat prices are already high, and if China starts buying big, prices will quickly go even higher.
The question is whether there will be grain to buy. Last year, North American production was down, Russia and the Ukraine stopped exporting to reserve what was left of poor crops for their own people, and another year like last year would be disastrous.
Additionally, reserves are being eroded. In November, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued a report ‘predicting food prices will soar 10 to 20 percent in 2011 and warning the world to be prepared for "harder times ahead" unless production of major food crops increases significantly.
The FAO report indicates that world grain reserves slumped 7.2 percent in 2010, with barley plunging 35 percent, maize (corn) 12 percent, and wheat 10 percent. The decline is due to dismal fall harvests.’
What does it all mean to you? It means that you should keep a close eye on food prices. If you’re thinking about buying grain to store, stop thinking and do it. And quit putting off that garden. You just might need it sooner than you think.