Russia’s climate change hits U.S. consumers

October 24, 2012 • Climate Change & Mitigation, Farming Practices, Water, United States, News

Russia’s climate change hits U.S. consumers


Another food crisis is upon us: the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization expects the worldwide grain harvest to fall 52 million tons short of target this year.

As part of that trend, Russia will harvest 70 million to 75 million tons of grain this year, down from 94 million, according to the country’s Agriculture Ministry. Projections by the U.S.

Department of Agriculture and the International Grains Council, which also keep tabs on Russia, one of the world’s biggest grain exporters, are in the same ballpark.

The United States, an even larger supplier not only of wheat but also corn, has this year been suffering from its worst drought since 1988. The USDA expects a 12 percent drop in the U.S. corn crop to about 13 billion bushels.

Just a few years ago, grain was so abundant that farmers did not know what to do with it. Most grain growers not only from Russian but also American breadbasket regions have seen drought destroy their crops. Left without the two key global suppliers of grain, the markets responded with price hikes that almost matched record highs set in 2008.

Climate change has been forcing everybody to work in unusual weather conditions.  Several times in the last few years, farmers’ fields in European Russia did not see the first snowfall until close to Christmas, even though it usually comes in the first half of November.

It was only in 2009, that farmers in Russia’s Altai Territory, Siberia’s breadbasket, threatened to burn their fields because of low prices. Before that, German farmers used grain as fuel to heat their homes because it was cheaper than oil.

Back then, a ton of Class 3 wheat sold for about $125, which did not even cover production costs. Prices are now double that. Class 4 wheat (inferior in quality to Class 3) sold for more than $270 in early September, just short of the 2008 record.

In the U.S., prices for No. 1 Hard Red Winter wheat soared from $270 per bushel in May to $340 in early September.

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