US 'extreme drought' zones triple in size

The drought in America's breadbasket is intensifying at an unprecedented rate, experts warned, driving concern food prices could soar if crops in the world's key producer are decimated.

The US Drought Monitor reported a nearly threefold increase in areas of extreme drought over the past week in the nine Midwestern states where three quarters of the country's corn and soybean crops are produced.

"That expansion of D3 or extreme conditions intensified quite rapidly and we went from 11.9 percent to 28.9 percent in just one week," Brian Fuchs, a climatologist and Drought Monitor author, told AFP.

"For myself, studying drought, that's rapid. We've seen a lot of things developing with this drought that were unprecedented, especially the speed."

Almost two thirds of the continental United States are now suffering drought conditions, the largest area recorded since the Drought Monitor project started in 1999.

"If you are following the grain prices here in the US, they are reflecting the anticipated shortages with a price increase," Fuchs said.

"In turn, you're going to see those price increases trickle into the other areas that use those grain crops: cattle feed, ethanol production and then food stuffs."

In some rural areas, municipal water suppliers are talking about mandatory restrictions because they have seen such a dramatic drop in the water table that they fear being unable to fulfill deliveries to customers, Fuchs said.

"Things have really developed over the last two months and conditions have worsened just that quick and that is really unprecedented," he added.

"Definitely exports are going to suffer because there is going to be less available and the markets are already reflecting that.

"It's anticipated that this drought is going to persist through the next couple of months at least and conditions are not overly favorable to see any widespread improvement."

President Barack Obama's administration has opened up protected US land to help farmers and ranchers hit by the drought and encouraged crop insurance companies to forgo charging interest for a month.

Officials have said the drought will drive up food prices since 78 percent of US corn and 11 percent of soybean crops have been hit and the United States is the world's biggest producer of those crops.

The current drought has been compared to a 1988 crisis that cut production by 20 percent and cost the economy tens of billions of dollars.

The US Department of Agriculture issued retail price forecasts Wednesday for 2013 and they already showed an impact from the drought, with consumers expected to pay between three and four percent more for their groceries.

"The 2013 numbers reflect higher-than-average inflation which is partly a function of the drought and the higher crop prices," said Ephraim Leibtag of the USDA's Economic Research Service.

"The drought effects are starting now at the farm and agricultural level.

"Those things take two to 12 months to work through the system. So you'll see some effects as early as the fall (autumn) in terms of the grocery stores and restaurants, certainly later in the year and into 2013."

The full impact of the drought on food prices won't be known for months.

"It's too early to tell as we don't know how much of the crop is going to be lost and how much higher corn and soybean prices will go," Leibtag said.

"We are not forecasting major impacts on retail food at this point. If the drought gets worse or corn and soybean prices rise even more, that would start to have a bigger impact."

Even before the last week, farmers were telling AFP they may have to cut their losses -- chopping down fields of half-mature, earless corn to feed the stalks to cattle.

Weather forecasters predicted no respite.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • China ignores global outcry vs reclamation
    China ignores global outcry vs reclamation

    On Wednesday, G-7 foreign ministers issued a Declaration on Maritime Security expressing alarm over “unilateral actions, such as large scale land reclamation, which change the status quo and increase tensions” in the region. In their communiqué, which did not specifically mention China, the ministers expressed belief that reclamation activities were meant to “change the status quo” in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, through which 40 percent of global trade passes. …

  • Project NOAH exec receives recognition
    Project NOAH exec receives recognition

    Project NOAH executive director and University of the Philippines professor Mahar Lagmay recently received recognition from the European Geosciences Union (EGU) for his work in disaster risk reduction and mitigation in the Philippines. …

  • Nightclub ban for US troops
    Nightclub ban for US troops

    The US Pacific Command has banned its troops in the Philippines from bars and nightclubs, a spokesman said yesterday, with the trial under way of a US Marine accused of murdering a transgender Filipino he met in a bar. Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will kick off tomorrow the 10-day annual military exercises, according to Capt. Alex Lim, a spokesman for the US forces, but there will be strict controls on their free time. Lim would not say why the restrictions were imposed but …

  • US-Phl war games to start under China’s shadow
    US-Phl war games to start under China’s shadow

    Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will kick off tomorrow expanded wargames, showcasing a deepening  defense alliance as alarm bells ring over China. The 10-day exercises in the Philippines are an annual affair between the longtime allies, but this time they will involve double the number of soldiers as last year in a sign of their expanding military partnership. The Philippines is seeking more US military and diplomatic support to fend off China’s increasing forcefulness in its bid …

  • Palace defends legal tack in sea row
    Palace defends legal tack in sea row

    There is nothing weak about taking the legal and diplomatic approach to push for the country’s claims in the disputed West Philippine Sea, Malacañang maintained yesterday. On Friday, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares led a rally in front of the Chinese consulate in Makati City to protest China’s massive reclamation activities in the Spratly island group to fortify its presence in the disputed waters. Colmenares also criticized the Philippine government for supposedly not doing enough to defend …

  • Veloso sons urge authorities to save mother from death
    Veloso sons urge authorities to save mother from death

    The sons of Mary Jane Veloso, who is facing execution in Indonesia for drug smuggling, yesterday appealed to government officials to do everything to spare their mother from death. “We love you,” Mark Daniel, 12, said when asked for a message for his mother following a press conference at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. Mark Daniel, an incoming Grade 8 student, reiterated his appeal to those in power to help save his mother from death. His younger brother, …

  • US-Philippines wargames to start under China's shadow
    US-Philippines wargames to start under China's shadow

    Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers on Monday will kick off expanded wargames, showcasing a deepening defence alliance as alarm bells ring over China. The 10-day exercises in the Philippines are an annual affair between the longtime allies, but this time they will involve double the number of soldiers as last year in a sign of their expanding military partnership. The Philippines is seeking more US military and diplomatic support to fend off China's increasing forcefulness in its bid …

  • Bar ban for US troops in Philippines amid murder trial
    Bar ban for US troops in Philippines amid murder trial

    The US Pacific Command has banned its troops in the Philippines from bars and nightclubs, a spokesman said Saturday, with the trial under way of a US Marine accused of murdering a transgender Filipina he met in a bar. Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will on Monday kick off 10-day annual military excercises, according to Captain Alex Lim, a spokesman for the US forces, but there will be strict controls on their free time. Lim would not say why the restrictions were imposed but …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options