US corn burnt by the sun, but France still confident
ST. LOUIS – PARIS
Drought has hurt US, the world’s largest exporter of corn, soybeans and wheat.A deepening drought in U.S. farm states has cut further into this fall’s harvest, with farmers now expected to pull from their fields the lowest corn yield in more than a decade.
But U.S. farmers are still expected to produce their eighth-largest harvest ever, and while there’s sure to be a rise in prices at the grocery stores, there’s little risk of a failed harvest that would lead to shortages on the shelves, according to The Associated Press.
The U.S. Agriculture Department predicted the nation’s biggest harvest ever in the spring, when farmers planted 390,000 square kilometers of corn - the most since 1937. But it cut its estimate a month ago and again on Aug. 10, saying it now expects the nation to produce 10.8 billion bushels, the least since 2006. If that estimate holds, the federal government says it will be enough to meet the world’s needs and ensure there are no shortages. The U.S. is the world’s top exporter of corn, soybeans and wheat.
Prices may climb
But experts say food prices will almost certainly climb as corn is a widely used ingredient found in everything from cosmetics to cereal, colas and candy bars. The drought stretching across the U.S. from Ohio west to California is deepest in the middle of the country, and major farm states like Iowa and Illinois are seeing conditions get worse each week. Farmers loan advances in seed technology that have produced hardier, more drought-tolerant corn.
The USDA’s latest estimate predicts corn farmers will average 123.4 bushels per acre, down 24 bushels from last year in what would be the lowest average yield in 17 years. But the yield would still be as good as nearly a decade ago, when the average was about 129 bushels in a year without drought.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack trumpeted the resilience of U.S. farmers and ranchers on Aug. 10, saying he did not expect immediate increases in food prices.
In contrast to numerous other countries hit by drought, French grain production is set to increase this year while output of corn is likely to be stable, the FranceAgriMer agency has said. As of August 9, some 36.5 million tons of wheat had been harvested, up from 34 million tons in 2011, according to a survey conducted by two agricultural institutes, Agence France-Presse reported. Cool and wet weather in the spring helped lead to the increase, although some northern areas were hit by frost.