Keeping the huge fields of America’s bread basket healthy and productive is proving to be a growing problem for farmers. The Midwest is in the grip of its worst drought for more than 50 years.
It is the hottest summer since 1895. More than half of the region’s counties have been declared disaster areas.
The severe conditions have affected around 80% of the US corn crop and more than 11% of the soyabean crop, raising fears that global food prices will go up.
During the last three months, the price of corn in the country has risen 29%, wheat 41% and soya, 17%.
The US Department of Agriculture has already forecast a rise in domestic food prices of up to four percent next year.
That could feed into the rest of the food chain.
Much of these crops are used to feed animals and as the US is responsible for around a third of the global corn and soyabean supply, and is the world’s biggest wheat exporter, the effects might easily be felt around the planet.
Some experts want to lessen the emphasis on producing ethanol. Corn to make biofuel, by its very definition, ends up feeding cars and not people.
Russian farmers are feeling the pinch too, with drought cutting the grain harvest by half in some regions.
Ulyanovsk exported a million tonnes of grain last year to world customers. This year, growers say they will be lucky to produce enough grain to supply their own region.
The owner of Simbirskaya farm though, Vadim Martynov said: “Now the harvest is underway, we’re putting grain into store and prices are rising. We gather, sort, save and wait for better prices.”
The severe drought in the US, Russia and elsewhere is raising worries at the World Bank about the capacity to feed millions of people, especially in the world’s poorest countries.
The tangible results have been seen on the streets. Recent history has shown that rising food prices can lead to social and political instability.
In many countries from Tunisia to India, the soaring price of staple foods sparked hunger riots, particularly over the last five years.
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