China’s Wheat Shortage Could Affect World Prices
China has grown enough wheat to feed most of its population for decades, but a drought in the country’s northern wheat belt has left the region in “grim” condition, according to Chinese authorities as reported by The New York Times.
Shandong Province, a major grain producer, will face its worst drought in two centuries without heavy precipitation by the end of February.
Unless copious amounts of rain arrive, especially in the coming warm months, “…we will not be talking about lower agricultural production, but rather zero production, because the seedlings will all be dead,” a Shandong Agricultural University expert told The New York Times.
Lower wheat output in China, the world’s largest wheat producer, would raise food prices for the nation’s 1.3 billion people. Eroded production would also require China to import large quantities of wheat, which could create grain shortages around the world.
China’s top leaders have visited drought-affected regions and announced “all-out efforts” to combat the drought that could cause consumers to pay more for food. The Chinese government has been working more broadly to combat inflation. Alarmed by the potential social and political consequences of high inflation, the government is providing emergency assistance to help northern farmers irrigate their parched land. To spark precipitation, scientists have also launched rockets holding cloud-seeding chemicals.
Bad Growing Conditions Have Global Implications
Changes in China’s agricultural production matter to governments and consumers in other countries. “China’s grain situation is critical to the rest of the world- if they are forced to go out on the market to procure adequate supplies for their population, it could send huge shock waves through the world’s grain markets,” Robert S. Zeigler, the director general of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, told The New York Times.
In fact, prices are at their highest level since 2008, and jumped almost 2 percent in Chicago on February 8 when the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization published an alert about China’s wheat belt drought.
China’s wheat production makes up one-sixth of global output.
At the grassroots level, the cost of food basics such as wheat can have an enormous effect on families already struggling to feed their children. When parents can no longer afford to care properly for their families, nonprofit organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages may be asked to step in to provide meals and homes for vulnerable children.
To learn more, see www.sos-usa.org.
Photo courtesy of SOS Children's Villages
By Kyna Rubin, SOS Children's Villages