When it became apparent back in August that drought would ruin Russia’s wheat harvest this year, at the same time as floods ruined wheat in Pakistan, the US Agriculture Department calmly announced that there was no global crisis.
Its authoritative monthly report said that the world’s “stocks-to-use ratio” (the amount of wheat available compared with the amount consumed) was 26 percent — safely above the 20 percent which led to riots and sent food prices in 2007/08.
But in Chicago on Monday prices for corn surged to highs not seen since that time. The price for corn to be delivered in December rose by the maximum daily amount allowed by the Chicago Board of Trade, 8.5%. Corn meanwhile has risen 15 percent in two days’ sessions in Chicago, soybeans have jumped 11 percent, and wheat has risen 10 percent.
This was after the US Agriculture Department announced on October 8 that it expects the U.S. corn harvest (the world’s biggest) to fall 3.4 percent from last year, after flooding in June and dry weather in August cut yields.
Economist Dennis Gartman, who writes a newsletter for traders and investors, called this latest USDA release “one of the more astoundingly [optimistic] crop reports we’ve seen in many, many years.”
As climate change continues we can expect that more extreme weather events will hit more of our food production. We cannot predict what will happen, where or when. But we can be sure that uncertain weather will become more likely to damage crops at some time during its growing season. Rising world population will then increase demand for the remaining food. And rising oil prices will add further to the costs of its production and transportation.
The Transition solution is that we should grow more of our own food locally, increasing freshness, and making ourselves more resilient to potential disasters in other places.
This can include things such as more allotments, community-based food growing schemes, and simply supporting local farmers and growers.