Wheat Fields Wilt in Drought as Parched Earth Spreads From China to Kansas
By Luzi Ann Javier, Madelene Pearson
and Whitney McFerron
The worst droughts in decades are wilting wheat fields from China to the U.S. to the U.K., overwhelming Russia’s return to grain markets and driving prices to the highest levels since 2008.
Parts of China, the biggest grower, had the least rain in a century, some European regions are the driest in 50 years and almost half the winter-wheat crop in the U.S., the largest exporter, is rated poor or worse. Inventory is dropping 8.8 percent, the most in five years, Rabobank International says. Prices will advance 20 percent to as high as $9.25 a bushel by Dec. 31, a Bloomberg survey of 14 analysts and traders shows.
Wheat as much as doubled in the past year as crops failed, spurring Ukraine and Russia to curb shipments and increasing the U.S. share of global sales by the most since 2004. Russia ending its export ban on July 1 and Ukraine lifting quotas may not be enough as crops wither elsewhere, fuelling gains in food prices which the United Nations says are already near a record.
“In 32 years, I’ve never seen so many problems in so many places,” said Dan Basse, the president of AgResource Co., a farm researcher in Chicago. “We’re concerned about the world story now,” said Basse, who has been studying agricultural markets since 1979 and expects prices as high as $10 this year.