No, this is not at all an endorsement of the apocalyptic scenarios of AOC or that famous young Swedish climate expert, Greta. It is, however, a look at unusual weather disasters in several key growing regions from the USA to Australia, the Philippines and beyond that could dramatically affect food availability and prices in the coming year. That in turn could have major political implications depending on how the rest of the growing season develops.
USA Midwest Waterlogged
According to the latest May 20 report of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the US Department of Agriculture, corn and soybean crops are well behind the planting growth levels normal this time of the planting season. They report that only 49% of all planned corn acreage in the US has been planted compared with 78% at this time a year ago. Of that only 19% has yet emerged from the ground compared to 47% in May 2018. In terms of soybeans, barely 19% of crops have yet been planted compared with 53% a year before. Rice acreage planted is down to 73% compared to 92% a year ago in the six US rice-growing states. Of course, should weather dramatically improve the final harvest numbers could improve. It is simply too early to predict.
The USA is by a wide margin the world largest soybean producer with 34 percent of the world’s soybean production and 42% of world exports prior to the China trade battles. The US is also the world largest corn or maize producer, almost double China, the number two. A serious harvest failure in these two crops could significantly affect world food prices, leaving aside the unfortunate fact that almost all US soybeans and corn are GMO crops. They are mainly used in animal feed.
A major factor in the disruption of the US Midwest growing season is the fact that the past 12 months have seen the greatest precipitation levels since the US Government began keeping statistics in 1895, according to the US NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. Record snowfall followed by abnormally heavy rains are the reason.
Noteworthy is the fact that a strong Pacific El Niño was in play during 2015-16 and a new El Niño has been confirmed this past winter,