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.

  • N. Korea fires missiles in anger at South-US military drills
    N. Korea fires missiles in anger at South-US military drills

    North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and vowed "merciless" retaliation Monday as the US and South Korea kicked off joint military drills denounced by Pyongyang as recklessly confrontational. The annual exercises always trigger a surge in military tensions and warlike rhetoric on the divided peninsula, and analysts saw the North's missile tests as a prelude to a concerted campaign of sabre-rattling. "If there is a particularly sharp escalation, we could see the …

  • Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together
    Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together

    FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — After spending 67 years together as devoted husband and wife, there was no question how Floyd and Violet Hartwig would end their lives — together. …

  • 'Jihadi John' relatives under watch in Kuwait
    'Jihadi John' relatives under watch in Kuwait

    Kuwaiti authorities are closely monitoring several relatives of "Jihadi John" who live and work in the Gulf emirate where the Islamic State executioner was born, press reports said on Sunday. A number of relatives of Mohammed Emwazi, named as the militant who has beheaded at least five Western hostages, are working in Kuwait and like him hold British citizenship, Al-Qabas newspaper reported. "Security agencies have taken the necessary measures to monitor them round the clock," the paper said, …

  • Interview: Australia says hunt for missing MH370 jet may be called off soon
    Interview: Australia says hunt for missing MH370 jet may be called off soon

    By Matt Siegel CANBERRA (Reuters) - The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 cannot go on forever, Australia's deputy prime minister said, and discussions are already under way between Australia, China and Malaysia as to whether to call off the hunt within weeks. No trace has been found of the Boeing 777 aircraft, which disappeared a year ago this week carrying 239 passengers and crew, in what has become one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history. The search of a rugged …

  • Hijacked Indonesian vessel found in Davao
    Hijacked Indonesian vessel found in Davao

    An Indonesian cargo vessel that was hijacked a month ago in North Sulawesi, Indonesia has been found stuck in the waters off Mati, Davao Oriental, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported yesterday. PCG spokesperson Armand Balilo said the PCG- Southeastern Mindanao district was informed on Feb. 23 that the M/T Rehoboth was found aground off Barangay Cabuaya. Four personnel from the local PCG district office were sent to verify the report. The vessel was reportedly hijacked by …

  • Troops overrun BIFF bomb-making facility in Mamasapano
    Troops overrun BIFF bomb-making facility in Mamasapano

    Government troops captured Sunday a bomb and weapons factory of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced yesterday. Col. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman, said the captured bomb and weapons factory is located inside an area controlled by radical Muslim cleric Ustadz Mohammad Ali Tambako at Barangay Dasikil in Mamasapano. …

  • Bong wants to see son in hospital
    Bong wants to see son in hospital

    Detained Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. will ask the Sandiganbayan to allow him to visit his son, Cavite Vice Gov. Jolo Revilla, confined at the intensive care unit of the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa for a gunshot wound in the chest. Lawyer Raymond Fortun, spokesman for the Revilla family, said the senator would ask for a 24- to 48-hour furlough. Sen. Revilla’s legal counsel Ramon Esguerra said doctors removed a half liter of blood. Fortun said he was able to talk to Jolo …

  • Military steps up offensive vs BIFF, Abu Sayyaf
    Military steps up offensive vs BIFF, Abu Sayyaf

    Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. has ordered the sustained campaign against the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) following the successive offensives against the armed groups last week. A total of 24 Abu Sayyaf bandits and two soldiers were killed in recent clashes in Sulu last week. The Joint Task Group Sulu has received information that Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron was wounded during one of the encounters but this is …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options