Wild Weather + War = Wheat Worries

Americans have become painfully aware of something in recent years. Events overseas affect our food availability and prices.

The Russia-Ukraine war is limiting the world’s supply of an important commodity: wheat. They are two of the world’s largest wheat producers.

Drought in some areas of the world has resulted in damaged wheat crops. As has excessive amounts of rain in others.

Bloomberg reports global wheat stockpiles are the smallest they’ve been. In nearly a decade.

Maybe that doesn’t mean much to you, but it has a bigger impact that you might think…

America’s Most Common Grain Product

Now, when some folks hear about a wheat shortage, their response is, “Oh, well. I can live without it for a while.”

That may be true. But they forget that many foods they eat contain wheat. And they may not know that wheat is the most common grain product in America.

Those foods include bread (both whole wheat and white), wheat flour, pasta, and pizza. Plus soup, sauces, and salad dressings. As well as dry cereals (not only Wheaties), wheat germ oil, oats, crackers, pancakes, and waffles.

And let’s not forget gravy, batter-fried and breaded food, pastries, and cakes. Not to mention ice cream, rice cakes, and potato chips. Plus turkey patties, hot dogs, processed meats, energy bars, and beer. And pretty much everything you bake.

Demand Up, Supply Down, Prices Rise

Economics can be a very complicated subject. But there is one constant. Whenever the demand is higher than the supply, prices rise.  

James Bolesworth is the managing director at CRM AgriCommodities. They offer insights, forecasts, and advice for agriculture commodities markets. He said, “Demand has increased. Stocks remain tight globally. And new crop issues are escalating.”

A commodity weather group predicts that Russia’s winter wheat will remain too dry. Due to a lack of rain and weeks of high heat.

Dryness has also affected Ukraine’s wheat crop. But the war has had an even worse effect. Russia has attacked agriculture infrastructure. And the Ukraine workforce has decreased due to so many serving as soldiers.

From Excessive Rain to Drought

Western Europe has not experienced drought or war. But its wet spring has hurt crop development.

Rains have slowed spring crop plantings in France, Germany, and the UK. France has far less wheat and barley in top condition than it did last year.

Australia had a hot summer while the U.S. was having a mild winter. The soil “Down Under” dried up when crops were being planted.

Although some areas of the U.S. have received plenty of moisture this spring, others have seen drought.

Is Genome Editing the Answer?

One country is making a controversial move. To protect itself against potential wheat shortages and higher prices. Chinese agriculture experts are making a wheat genome edit. It will help increase the country’s food security.

The edit helps their wheat crop resist a common fungal infection known as powdery mildew. It’s one of the top three diseases impacting wheat yield in China. Those diseases cause the loss of 11 to 30% of crop production per year worldwide.

And that threatens global food security. The genome edit was created over an eight-year period. By researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. And by scientists at the biotechnology company Qi Biodesign.

Kevin Zhao is a co-founder of Qi Biodesign. He said they received quick approval of the edit by the Chinese government. Which “is very interested in pursuing more effective means to breed better crops in the future for food security purposes.”

Legitimate Alteration or Messing With Nature?

Proponents of genome editing claim it is different from creating genetically modified organisms. GMOs involve altering the genetic material of plants by inserting foreign DNA.

Zhao says the genome editing process is harmless. And that it resembles the natural mutation process plants go through. Due to UV radiation from the sun.

He said it involves making changes within an organism’s own genetic material. To achieve desired mutations. Without inserting foreign material.

Those against genome editing say the process is messing with nature. And that it can lead to smaller crop height and yield.

Protect Yourself With Non-Perishable Food

Back to America. Even if more rain comes soon in drought-stricken areas, it might be too late. This concerns some farmers. They’re considering giving up on wheat and planting other crops.

What does this mean for the average American consumer? It means the potential of food shortages. And the likelihood of price increases for food containing wheat that does come to market.

What’s the answer for potential food shortages and higher prices? The best bet is to stock up on non-perishable food at today’s prices.

That way it will be there when grocery store shelves are not fully stocked or even empty. Or when food prices have soared even higher.   


  • Donna Gallee - May 23, 2024

    Now would be the time to start stocking up.
    Maybe some remember that TP wasn’t the only thing missing from the shelves during the pandemic.
    As scratch baker, I went looking for flour. The flour section of the baking aisle was as empty as the TP aisle.
    Last couple of years, I make sure I have everything I need by October.
    If you’re not a scratch baker, SK, ST and WS (not sure if I can put names out here) all have various quick bread and other baking mixes and they have bread mixes.

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