While everyone else was worrying about hurricanes, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization quietly published its own news of a disaster, the body’s November “Food Outlook” report. It seems Russian wheat production has crashed by 30 percent, owing to freakishly severe droughts, the result of an epic heat wave last summer (remember the horrific Russian wildfires a few months ago?).
Fine, 2013 will be a slightly bad year to be a baker, so what? The report explains that part of the problem with a tight market for amber waves of grain is that it also hits cereal production—which matters because cereal is used to feed livestock.
Globally, wheat production fell by about five and a half percent. Drought in several former Soviet States was the main culprit, and was devastating, with more than 20 percent of the crop failing in the Ukraine and a fall of over 50 percent in the steppe state of Kazakhstan. Turkey and Australia also saw production crash. The U.S. was up, a modest 13 percent.
The situation is mostly an economic problem for farmers, commodity traders and government import/expert officials. No one’s going to starve because of this. Rice production, for one thing, was up.
Some South American states also saw drops, but this was less to do with fickle weather than with farmers planting different crops.