Uncertainty about food prices as heat affects corn-crop forecast
Published Wednesday, July 11, 2012 12:22PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 11, 2012 11:34PM EDT
Unrelentingly hot and dry weather is wreaking havoc on corn crops around North America, lowering this year’s harvest and casting food prices into uncertainty.
Farmers in both Canada and the United States have reported seeing signs of heat stress in corn yields including empty husks, burnt leaves and missing kernels.
What’s more, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report Wednesday predicting that farmers will only get a fraction of the corn expected from the 96.4 million acres planted last spring -- the most planted since 1937.
Struggling grain and oilseed crops are believed to be an off-shoot of the sweltering, dry temperatures that have blanketed several parts of North America in recent weeks.
Prices of corn itself have risen in response to drought in the U.S. Midwest, with farmers in Illinois and Indiana feeling the brunt of the pain.
Given the ubiquity of corn, an ingredient that shows up in everything from baking mixes to alcohol, there’s anxiety about the potential consequences of a modest harvest.
For instance, it’s anticipated that the cost of meat will also be affected because corn is used to feed cattle. As well, with much of the damage hitting fields in the United States -- a major corn exporter -- consequences are expected to be widespread.
U.S. food prices typically climb about 1 per cent for every 50 per cent increase in average corn prices, USDA economist Richard Volpe told The Associated Press.
Back in Canada, experts are predicting that consumers will feel the pinch.
Jamie Reaume, executive director of the Holland Marsh Growers’ Association, told CTV Toronto on Tuesday that he anticipates climbing food prices if relief doesn’t arrive soon.
Referring to cornfields in the Holland Marsh -- a greenbelt around the Greater Toronto Area – Reaume noted reprieve could come if rain is in the forecast within the next crucial three weeks.
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Colin D’Mello and files from The Associated Press