Global food crisis looms as grain prices soar
The world is watching and waiting while US farmers struggle with the worst drought in 25 years
By Veronica Brown and Nigel Hunt
LONDON — What looks to be the worst U.S. drought in a quarter of a century has given rise to an old-fashioned commodity rally on world markets, with key grain prices hitting highs which caused food crises in vulnerable parts of the globe last time around.
Seeking to protect their populations from hunger this time, many countries relying heavily on imports have held off for now, touting healthy stock levels and hoping other sources will come through and bring prices down.
But their hopes may be dashed if they all return to market at once.
With so much of the world putting faith in a record U.S. corn crop, it is little wonder that prices have surged around 40 percent in the past three weeks as relentless dry weather melted yield expectations for cereals. Soybeans are at record highs, while wheat is not far behind.
“Production potential looked great and it kind of lulled these end-users into a false sense of security. At that point we were seriously looking at (corn) prices under $5 if weather conditions remained ideal, but now we’ve rallied sharply higher and never looked back,” Jefferies Bache analyst Shawn McCambridge said.
Now, corn futures contracts backed by the 2012 harvest are above $7 a bushel and climbing fast.