From Black Sea to US Midwest, extreme weather threatens crop output

Hot, dry weather forecast for Russia, Ukraine in coming months
calendar icon 25 June 2024
clock icon 4 minute read

Forecast dryness in the Black Sea region's breadbasket is likely to stunt sunflower and corn yields, while heavy rain in the US after near-record temperatures threatens to take a toll on crops, squeezing world supplies and pushing prices higher, reported Reuters.

"The weather forecast for the Black Sea region is a big red flag," said Chris Hyde, a meteorologist at US-based Maxar, with dryness and below-normal rains expected for July and August likely to crimp the region's key corn and sunflower crops.

Record temperatures in major global growing regions have delayed planting and hurt developing crops as the impact of climate change intensifies, with vast swathes of farmland in Russia, China, India and parts of the United States experiencing extremely hot conditions and below-normal rainfall.

Global wheat prices Wv1 jumped to a 10-month high in May after adverse weather trimmed yields for the maturing crop in Russia, the biggest exporter.

Hot weather in southern Russia will hit crops because of a lack of soil moisture, with lower precipitation and heat also expected in Urals, Western Siberia and Transbaikalia, Russia's Hydrometeorological Centre said in a forecast.

Southern and eastern Ukraine have also seen hot and dry weather, with precipitation between May 1 and June 10 only 20-50% of normal, according to the state weather forecaster, with drought hindering development of winter and spring crops in parts of the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions.

"The month of May in Ukraine turned out to be one of the driest for the last 30 years," state forecasters said. "In northern regions, in particular in Zhytomyr, hail resulted in damage of spring crops such as corn, soybeans and sunflower."

In the US, a top food exporter, intense heat has gripped parts of the east coast, causing the government to reduce the percentage of corn and soy rated good and excellent on Monday. Excessive rains in the key Midwest growing region and forecasts for more wet weather have raised fears of floods.

"In the Midwest, the focus is shifting from heat to too much rain, which could result in flooding on corn and soybean producing areas, especially in the Upper Midwest," Hyde said.

Iowa governor Kim Reynolds said on social media platform X that widespread flooding in northwest Iowa, the top US corn producing state, had pushed river levels above 1993 records.

BNSF railway, owned by Berkshire Hathaway, said in a statement a bridge collapsed over the Big Sioux River on Sunday and it is rerouting trains through Creston, Iowa. Union Pacific said it closed rail lines between Mason City, Iowa, and St. Paul, Minnesota, and between Sioux City, Iowa, and St. Paul.

Rob Jacobs, chief executive officer of Cooperative Farmers Elevator, said severe flooding impacted several of the cooperative’s locations, with roads washed out and feed mill facilities swamped. Tunnels used to load grain bins flooded and warehouses used to store seeds andfarm chemicals filled with up to 18 inches of water, Jacobs said.

Most analysts said it was too early to estimate potential crop damage from flooding.

China, India weather seen improving

In Asia, ample rains are expected to alleviate severe dryness in parts of China, a top soybean buyer, while rains during India's monsoon, running a fifth below normal, are likely to recover, boosting agriculture in the world's biggest rice exporter and top edible oil importer.

"China's corn and soybean producing north and east has been dry and a worry," said Hyde. "But the weather is expected to be normal to slightly above normal precipitation in the July-September period, which will be beneficial for crops."

China's meteorological centre told Reuters that parts of the north, northeast and western provinces will see higher precipitation in July to September, which will encourage crop growth.

"But the precipitation will be intense in some areas, there will need to be vigilance about rapid shifts in droughts and floods," it said, adding that the higher humidity may also raise the risk of crop diseases and pests.

In India, the monsoon is advancing after stalling for more than a week, a weather department official said.

"It has now gained much-needed momentum for its advance into the northern plains. In the next few weeks, we expect several spells of heavy rainfall that will erase the rainfall deficit. July is shaping up to be promising."

The weather in Australia is expected to be normal, with some areas getting higher than average rains, boosting the wheat crop outlook, while mainly normal weather is also forecast in coming months in Argentina and Brazil.

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