Global corn prices surge 23 percent from drought; food inflation to accelerate in 2012 and 2013

Tuesday, August 14, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: food prices, drought, corn

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(NaturalNews) You have automobile insurance, homeowners insurance, and perhaps even health and life insurance, among other coverage. Do you also have food insurance, as in, stored supplies of food that can get you through days and weeks of food shortages, should the economy collapse or a terrorist strike?

Okay, if that seems extreme for you, how about just getting enough to get you through a period of food inflation, because you're about to go through one of those periods.

The widespread and still-lingering drought throughout the Midwest - the world's bread basket, if you will - has seen a dramatic surge in crop failures which have resulted in shortages of key commodities like corn (which is not just for eating anymore; we're burning up millions of bushels in our gas tanks). The result is markedly higher prices for a number of grocery items which have already begun to manifest at your local supermarket, and which are likely to go even higher throughout the remainder of 2012 and well into next year.

More for what feeds some of our food

"This is not some gentle monthly wake-up call, it's the same global alarm that's been screaming at us since 2008," Colin Roche of Oxfam told CNN/Money, noting that the continuing drought could eventually lead to food shortages for tens of millions worldwide.

As the world's leading food producer, naturally any fall-off in production is bound to be felt globally. In fact, price increases were already being measured; the United Nations' monthly food Price Index for July saw food prices jump six percent after falling for three consecutive months.

The main drivers of the price increases were grains, driven primarily by steep increases in corn prices (which hit a record high of $8.28 per bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade Aug. 9 after having risen a staggering 60 percent over the previous seven weeks).

"At this point, the damage to the corn crop is done, but it's a matter of assessing and quantifying the damage," Sal Gilbertie, chief investment of Teucrium Trading, which runs the Teucrium Corn ETF, told CNN/Money. "The corn harvest is just now beginning, and with each successive government report, we'll get a closer read on the actual damage."

It won't be pretty.

In July "the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected a shortfall of corn supplies that would reduce the yield for the 2012-2013 season by 20 bushels per acre to 146 bushels per acre," CNN said. "This month, analysts are expecting the USDA to ratchet down the yield by another 20 bushels per acre."

One bright spot?

Corn prices surged 23 percent in July, an increase driven by "the severe deterioration of maize crop prospects in the United States, following drought conditions and excessive heat during critical stages of the crop development," said the UN.

"It's going to have a big impact [on consumers]," Sam Zippin, an analyst at financial information firm Sageworks, said, adding: "Corn is in almost everything."

That includes grain for livestock. So, when feed goes up - and it will - ranchers will have to increase the price of their livestock. Already analysts are predicting the price of beef will rise.

Ranchers may begin to look for a substitute for corn, but Paul McNamara, associate professor at the University of Illinois' College of Agriculture, said that will also lead to higher grain prices.

There may be a bright spot in all of this doom and gloom, however.

McNamara said the drought's crushing impact on this year's corn crop could force U.S. lawmakers to reexamine the burning of food for fuel; he says the fall-off in corn production might make Washington reconsider corn-based ethanol policy, which currently mandates that 10 percent of the nation's automotive fuel supply come from corn.


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