Drought in China adds pressure to world food prices

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:49 AM GMT on February 23, 2011

Share this Blog
6
+

The soil lies cracked and broken in China's Shangdong Province, thirsting for rains that will not come. China's key wheat producing region, lying just south of Beijing, has received just 12 millimeters (1/2 inch) of rain since September, according to the Chinese news service Xinhua. If no rains come during the remainder of February, it could become the worst drought in 200 years. The latest precipitation forecast from the GFS ensemble model predicts the possibility of rains of around 1/2 inch for Shandong Province early next week, but these rains would help only a little. A longer-range 2-week forecast from the operational GFS model shows little or no rain for the region from late next week well into March. Columbia University's International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) projects that spring in Eastern China has an enhanced probability of being dry, with only a 20% - 25% chance that the region will see above average precipitation, and a 40% - 45% chance of below average precipitation. So the great drought will likely continue, and China's ability to feed itself may be greatly challenged this year.


Figure 1. A dried cornfield in a mountainous area of Jinan, capital of east China's Shandong Province, Jan. 18, 2011. Image credit: Xinhua/Zhu Zheng.


Figure 2. Drought conditions in China's Shandong Province this February have reached the "Severe" category. Image credit: Beijing Climate Center.

Impact on global food supplies and food prices
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the drought in north China seems to be putting pressure on wheat prices, which have been rising rapidly in the past few months. This has helped push global food prices to their highest levels since the FAO Food Price Index was created in 1990 (Figure 3.) China is the world's largest producer of wheat, and if they are forced to import large amounts of food due to continued drought, it could severely impact world food prices. However, the FAO's regional representative for Asia and the Pacific said in an interview with Reuters last month that the situation is not as severe as in 2008, when global food riots erupted. "In general, the supply/demand situation of food grains has become very tight at the moment but enough stocks means there is no cause for alarm," Konuma said. "We still maintain sufficient stocks, which is about 25 percent of annual production. As long as there are sufficient stocks, that means the world has enough food still to feed the people." However, he said that if food stocks continued to decline over the next few years, there would be cause for concern.

The record food global food prices have been partially driven by two other huge weather disasters, the Russian summer heat wave and drought of 2010, and the Australian floods of December - January 2011. Both Russia and Australia are major exporters of grain. Russia issued a ban last summer on grain exports because of their drought, which slashed the wheat harvest by 40% and damaged soils to such an extent that 10% of Russian wheat fields could not be planted this year. The Russian heat wave of 2010 is now estimated by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters to be the deadliest in human history, with 55,736 deaths. The Australian floods caused at least $1.7 billion in agricultural damage, reducing their wheat crop significantly. Fortunately, bumper crops were harvested in non-flooded areas of Australia, and the winter crop harvest in country was up 19% over the previous year's crop, and was the biggest since 2003 - 2004. Australia has been struggling with severe drought in recent years that caused more agricultural damage than the floods did.


Figure 3. The global price of food between 1990 - January 2011, as measured by the U.N.'s FAO Food Price Index. The FAO Food Price Index is a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities. It consists of the average of price indices for Cereals, Oils and Fats, Sugar, Dairy, and Meat, weighted by the average export shares of each group. Food prices between 2002 - 2004 are given a benchmark value of "100". Global food prices in January 2011 were the highest since the FAO Index was established in 1990. Image credit: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Drought outlook for Northern Hemisphere summer of 2011
The spike in global food prices this winter raises the concern that a severe drought in a major grain producing region in North America, Europe, or Asia this summer could severely impact grain supplies and food prices. Fortunately, with La Niña conditions over the Eastern Pacific weakening, and possibly abating by summer, the chances for such a drought are lower than they would have been if La Niña were to stay strong into the summer. The latest precipitation forecast from Columbia University's International Research Institute for Climate and Society (Figure 4) shows few areas of drought concern for the coming Northern Hemisphere summer. However, our skill at predicting drought months in advance is limited. For example, IRI's February 2010 forecast of precipitation for the summer of 2010 did not highlight Russia as an area of possible concern for drought, and Russia ended up having one of its worst droughts in history. IRI did highlight the Amazon as a region likely to have below-average summer rains, though, and the Amazon ended up having a 100-year drought last summer.


Figure 4. Global precipitation forecast for June, July and August of 2011, made in February 2011. Only a few scattered regions of the globe are predicted to have above-average chances of drought (yellow colors.) These areas include the Northwest U.S., Southern Brazil, and Northwest China. Image credit: International Research Institute for Climate and Society

Commentary
The recent unrest in the Middle East, which has been attributed, in part, to high food prices, gives us a warning of the type of global unrest that might result in future years if the climate continues to warm as expected. A hotter climate means more severe droughts will occur. We can expect an increasing number of unprecedented heat waves and droughts like the 2010 Russian drought in coming decades. This will significantly increase the odds of a world food emergency far worse than the 2007 - 2008 global food crisis. When we also consider the world's expanding population and the possibility that peak oil will make fertilizers and agriculture much more expensive, we have the potential for a perfect storm of events aligning in the near future, with droughts made significantly worse by climate change contributing to events that will cause disruption of the global economy, intense political turmoil, and war.

I will be doing another post on Thursday or Friday.

The New York Times' Andy Revkin in his Dot Earth Blog has a more in-depth look at the food and climate change issue that I recommend.

Jeff Masters

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 543 - 493

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18Blog Index

Quoting NRAamy:
hey junky!

:)


Hey!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
What does, A church Pipe organ, a German u-boat, tram tracks, a camera and a cannon ball all owes its engineering DNA to??????
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Jax82:
Gas prices today.



Wow, amazing how well you can see the taxes (and related cultures) in that.

Now can you show us the non-ethanol version?
;-)
It is usually slightly more expensive what with the free money being thrown at corn-ethanol...
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
there is always time for cartoons
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting SAINTHURRIFAN:
Hurricanejunky always respected your post.but your venomous attack back on this indivual is no better than his attack.I wish people could understand that the dems and the reps. are both the problem one is as bad as the other.Seems like this fox I believe that is how it is spelled news attacks is no better than someone attacking msnbc which is just as biased.Simple solution turn the channel on both.I guess this just illustrates my repetitive post that America is extremely divided and united we stand,and we are all Americans not the enemy means nothing anymore.Good day and God Bless.


don't confuse StormJunkie with Hurricanejunkie- they are two different people
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hurricanejunky:


Dude, you need to take your radical right wing psycho babble to the Faux News Misinforpinion Blog and leave the weather blog to those interested in WEATHER! Your posts are ridiculously stupid and woefully misinformed. You sound like yet another victim of Darth Murdoch's Jedi Mind tricks...try a little compassion or empathy for once in your life. The people who are being asked to "balance the budget" are those people who recently already took a paycut and are now being asked to give up another 18% of their pay. How would you fare with 18% less of your paycheck? These people make salaries in the 35k range on average. I think there are other groups of people who can much better afford to give up 18% of their income to help balance the budget. Especially when the governor comes in and gives an unwarranted tax breaks to people who don't need it. Talk about being bowled over by the weight of your own balls. Unbelievable! You'd rather pile on these people who are already some of the hardest hit by the current economic times and take away their collective voices. Shame on you...


1

It's sith brainwashing LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hurricanejunky always respected your post.but your venomous attack back on this indivual is no better than his attack.I wish people could understand that the dems and the reps. are both the problem one is as bad as the other.Seems like this fox I believe that is how it is spelled news attacks is no better than someone attacking msnbc which is just as biased.Simple solution turn the channel on both.I guess this just illustrates my repetitive post that America is extremely divided and united we stand,and we are all Americans not the enemy means nothing anymore.Good day and God Bless.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:


showers with imbeded t shower moving nnw towards space centre
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54450
Complete Update







Weather/Koi Cams are back

User Names : guest, guest1, guest2, guest3
password : guest

You MUST have an active X browser (IE or FF with the IE TAB PLUS add on to view)
ActiveX Controls
Firefox Browser Access
Google Chrome Access
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
hey water doggie!!!

:)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
hey junky!

:)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
so there is time to grab daffy and strap him to the nose for a first class shot off the planet

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54450
thanks pat

Amy- I'd complain, but ya'll got more reason to complain than me
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
ATV2 KEPLER Cargo Carrier now Hard Docked to ISS



HWY 1 is a "GO" for Discovery.





Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128699
Launch is sched for 4:50 PM EDT,,
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128699
Post 510....

so, no complaints from anyone about gas prices unless you live in California....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Southern Calif Weather Update:

cloudy with a chance of afternoon SQUAWK!!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Quoting Skyepony:


Today's is (& I'll add tentatively) the 3rd to last. But the scheduled last for Discovery.

Sure Pat...bring him on:)
 O.K. Thank-you for setting me straight. We'll I hope the third to the last mission goes perfect!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
VERY BUSY HERE

sorry about the caps- I got 8th floor view to the south

when is the launch?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Link

video from cnn 132 launches in 132 seconds
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
We're getting ready in America to have the chaos like in the middle east, wait till all the funding cuts come out, food prices, gas prices, jobs, ect...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
News footage captured (by me) on Tuesday of the Christchurch Quake.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Jax82:
Gas prices today.





we ain't seen nothing yet. the protests have only just begun.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hatch View, Shuttle Discovery

Launch Complex 39A White Room Cam

e V


Bonus Live View of ATV2 docking to ISS



Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128699
517. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting overwash12:
I hope and pray the last space shuttle mission goes off without any problems!


Today's is (& I'll add tentatively) the 3rd to last. But the scheduled last for Discovery.

Sure Pat...bring him on:)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Dat a lotta bad mojo all in one place skyepony.

Kah-"Daffy" just made another statement.

He now Blames Uprising on "Osama Bin Laden".


Can we fit him on top one of the SRB's ?

We got 6 plus hours til launch still.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128699
I hope and pray the last space shuttle mission goes off without any problems!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
514. Skyepony (Mod)
Wind has created big waves in the Mediterranean Sea, stranding some of the Americans & Canadians trying to escape Libya (which sounds totally out of hand this morning). 4500 Chinese made it out by sea but the other ferry is too small for the waves.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
NASA - KSC Video Feeds


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128699
510. Jax82
Gas prices today.



Member Since: Posts: Comments:
508. Skyepony (Mod)
MADAGASCAR: Picking up the pieces after Cyclone Bingiza

The report said it was "too early to estimate impacts on agriculture" in the northeast region of Mandritsara, as well as the southeast districts of Vangaindrano, Farafangana, Vohipeno, Ikongo, Midongy sud, Befotaka and Manakara.

Initial findings by aid agencies found that an estimated 40 percent of food crops and up to 10 percent of cash crops are damaged in Manambolosy (in the northeastern district of Mananara Nord). In Antanambaobe (in the same district) 70 percent of crops are damaged, the report said.

OCHA’s Gelas said the main issue in the aftermath of the cyclone was food security, especially in the south where an assessment team was scheduled to visit in the next few days to determine, among other things, whether there was a possibility of replanting specific rice seeds to enable a harvest in April.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AussieStorm:
Just released photo of seconds after Tuesday's quake.


I saw a wider version of that image on Tuesday:

Click for larger image:

Appropriate tropical weather-related image.


An ominous sight indeed...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13565
505. Skyepony (Mod)
Looks like we are really feeling the freeze in MX & SFL effects now. Fresh produce getting scarcer.. (great thing my garden is kickin:)

Freezing temperatures in Florida combined with the worst freeze in Mexico in more than 50 years has led to a shortage in produce like tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers, as well as avocado, eggplant and green beans.

"It's definitely a scramble for product now," says Paul Kneeland, director of produce for Kings Supermarkets. "Basically the wholesale cost doubled in the last three or four weeks. The opportunity to go to different regions isn't helping because Florida had their issues and Mexico has now had their issues. California is not ready."
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Just released photo of seconds after Tuesday's quake.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting BahaHurican:
Hey, Aussie.

I think they were originally expecting around 300 dead, and now it seems they will definitely have that many.

I see they've got 98+ missing just from the language school in that CTV building. Apparently a lot of the pple there survived the quake itself, but it now seems they've succumbed to asphyxiation. A lot of the students were international ones with records lodged in the building that was destroyed, so even notifying family members is difficult.... such a sad story.


Hey,
Originally it was 65 dead and 300+ missing, now its 98 dead with 226 missing. there is about 30-40 Japanese language students in the CTV building. The Japanese search and rescue crew that arrived today is working on that building as they want to take there fellow country people home, dead or alive. As the hours pass it is looking less and less likely that anyone else will be found alive. September 4th quake was 7.1 and 12km's deep. Feb 22nd quake was 6.3 and 5km's down. people in Christchurch have commented it felt much stronger than the September 7.1 quake
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
LoL
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128699
Quoting Patrap:
Prank Koch, or Classic Koch ?
Thanks for this... I was wondering about the pronunciation of this name.... and thinking about the male chicken version...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AussieStorm:

Click for more
Hey, Aussie.

I think they were originally expecting around 300 dead, and now it seems they will definitely have that many.

I see they've got 98+ missing just from the language school in that CTV building. Apparently a lot of the pple there survived the quake itself, but it now seems they've succumbed to asphyxiation. A lot of the students were international ones with records lodged in the building that was destroyed, so even notifying family members is difficult.... such a sad story.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128699
twc was pushing yesterday that today could be a bad day in the mid west we will be keeping a keen eye on the tropics this c.verde season
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting valimets:
It's really great to post my comments on such a blog. I would like to appreciate the great work done by the web master and would like to tell everyone that they should post their interesting comments and should make this blog interesting. Once again I would like to say keep it up to blog owner!!!! :)
so hows the pumping working out for ya tried yet
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54450
Walker reminds me of Eddie,,a tad slow,but always thinking
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128699

Viewing: 543 - 493

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.