Thursday, June 19, 2008

Floods in China & US destroy staple crops

A world food crisis maybe developing as thousands of acres of staple crops are destroyed by heavy rain. In the midwest of the US, corn and soybean crops have been decimated by torrential rain and flooding that has swept across several states. The US supplies around 52% of the worlds maize, not only as a staple in the human diet, but also for animal feed and more recently as a source of bio-fuel. In China, heavy rain and flooding is also damaging food crops with rice being the worst affected. Earlier in the year heavy snow destroyed tonnes of food crops and recent flooding, affecting many provinces, has compounded the problem. Up to 23,000 square km of crops have been ruined in the key sugar cane and rice growing regions, causing economic losses of 27.7 billion yuan ($4 billion), and have pushed up local food prices.

The price of corn has soared in recent weeks and analysts believe the price may rise further as next years crops may also be affected [BBC]. "There's a lot of wheat fields down here just about ready to be harvested, and they're going to lose all that," Hancock County Sheriff John Jefferson said. "The corn crop, the bean crop that's up, is all going to be lost. And the real work's going to come after the flood recedes. It'll take years to get this ground back into shape to farm it" he added [CNN / Bloomberg].

The UN has already has put forward plans to increase world food supplies [BBC]. Recent reports suggest prices for other staples such as wheat and oil seed may rise significantly over the next few years and the cost of meat will also increase as animal feed becomes more expensive [BBC / CNN money]. Flooding has also hit India with the monsoon season hitting the continent earlier than usual [IHT]. But in contrast to the devastation caused elsewhere, the heavy rain is believed to help boost the harvest of crops such as soy and oilseed [Reuters].

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