Hot, dry weather devastated U.S. corn and soybean crops this summer, sending prices soaring. Now, worries are rising that similar weather patterns could shrink the global supply of wheat.
Australia cut its forecast this week for the coming harvest, saying rainfall is needed soon to prevent further declines. Russia's harvest also suffered from heat stress, and the country could stop exporting by November, according to the agriculture ministry. In India, which has emerged as a major exporter, there are concerns a weak monsoon season will undercut conditions for planting next month.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture lowered its estimate of global wheat production, forecasting a 5.2% decline in 2012-13. The USDA also cut its forecast for U.S. corn and soybean production amid the U.S. drought, although by less than many analysts had expected.
The weather troubles, if they continue, risk pushing wheat back to the fore of global concerns about soaring food prices. Wheat is a staple food around the world and a major source of basic nutrition for the poor, and prior price spikes in recent years contributed to political unrest.That is why I'm closely watching planting conditions for the 2013 winter wheat crop. First, a little primer. "Winter" wheat is planted in fall, often in September or early October. Here is a map showing winter wheat and "spring" (planted in late winter or early spring) wheat geography. Canada is a major producer of spring wheat.
|Click to enlarge. The red line separating the two types of wheat is|
In the U.S., wheat farmers are deciding whether to plant in soil left parched by the drought. If they hold off in hope of rain, they risk sowing too late. David Schemm, who grows wheat on 6,000 acres around Sharon Springs, Kan., said ground should be moist within 2 inches of the surface but is now dry down 4 to 6 inches. "We need moisture," said Mr. Schemm, who also is president of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers.
Unfortunately, the recent weather system didn't bring much rain to the Sharon Springs area (far western Kansas south of I-70). This represents the rainfall estimated by radar (calibrated by rain gauges) for the three days ending at 6am CDT. There will be a second estimate later this morning and I'll append it to the end of this post when it becomes available.
Here is where it is raining now.
And, here is the forecast rain for the next five days:
Here is the longer term rainfall for the last 30 days:
UPDATE: 10:15AM. As promised, here is the later rainfall estimate from the latest weather system across the region.