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Record Grain Prices Due To US Drought Cause World Food Crisis Concerns

US Drought Monitor – July 18 2012

The drought currently spreading across the United States is one of the worst in over 50 years, and as crops begin to die, concerns begin to escalate around the world that another global food crisis may occur.

The U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of wheat, soy beans, and corn, causing cereal prices to hit record high levels. The high prices are bringing up memories of the 2007-08 food crisis, which caused riots in 30 countries.

At this point, however, experts say the chances of a food shortage is slim.

“The problems this time around start with corn,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, senior grains economist at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome. He added that corn is “an important crop but not a primary food security crop like rice or wheat. There is still hope.” If the corn crops get much worse, his prediction is that wheat will increase next because it will be used to feed animals in place of corn. At that point, the price increase will spill over to rice.

This also means the cost of beef, dairy, pork, and poultry will go up if it’s costing farmers more to keep the animals fed. People may not see immediate effects, but patterns show it’s definitely coming.

Iowa and Illinois produce about one-third of all corn and soybean crops in the U.S., where the moisture is dangerously low and temperatures are consistently at record-high levels. According to Harry Hillaker, Iowa state climatologist, “even if temperatures went down 5 degrees and rainfall increased 50 percent for the rest of this month, it might slow the rate of decline but it’s not going to reverse the decline in crop conditions and the ultimate yield…. There’s not much left of the Corn Belt that’s in good shape.”

This is yet another devastating reality about climate change that we can’t escape, and yet another reason those of us in wealthier countries must reconsider our food and consumption choices.

Image: US Drought Monitor, July 17, 2012

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