February 10, 2009 "Market Oracle" -- After
reading about the droughts in two major agricultural countries, China
and Argentina, I decided to research the extent other food producing
nations were also experiencing droughts. This project ended up taking a
lot longer than I thought. 2009 looks to be a humanitarian disaster
around much of the world
the depth of the food Catastrophe that faces the world this year,
consider the graphic below depicting countries by USD value of their
agricultural output, as of 2006.
Now, consider the same graphic with the countries experiencing droughts highlighted.
The countries that make up two thirds of the world's agricultural
output are experiencing drought conditions. Whether you watch a video of the drought in China, Australia, Africa, South America, or the US , the scene will be the same: misery, ruined crop, and dying cattle.
The drought in Northern China, the worst in 50 years, is worsening, and
summer harvest is now threatened. The area of affected crops has
expanded to 161 million mu (was 141 million last week), and 4.37
million people and 2.1 million livestock are facing drinking water
shortage. The scarcity of rain in some parts of the north and central
provinces is the worst in recorded history.
The drought which started in November threatens over half the wheat
crop in eight provinces - Hebei, Shanxi, Anhui, Jiangsu, Henan,
Shandong, Shaanxi and Gansu.
largest crop producing province, Henan, has issued the highest-level
drought warning. Henan has received an average rainfall of 10.5
millimeters since November 2008, almost 80 percent less than in the
same period in the previous years. The Henan drought, which began in
November, is the most severe since 1951.
Province issued a red drought alert, with more than 60 percent of the
crops north of the Huaihe River plagued by a major drought.
Province was put on orange drought alert on Jan. 21, with one million
people and 160,000 heads of livestock are facing water shortage.
province has already lost over one fifth of the wheat crops affected by
drought. Local agricultural departments are diverting water from nearby
rivers in an emergency effort to save the rest.
Hebei Over 100 million cubic meters of water has been channeled in from outside the province to fight Hebei's drought.
Shaanxi 1.34 million acres of crops across the bone-dry Shanxi province are affected by the worsening drought.
last November, Shandong province has experienced 73 percent less rain
than the same period in previous years, with little rainfall forecast
for the future.
Relief efforts are
under way. The Chinese government has allocated 86.7 billion yuan
(about $12.69 billion) to drought-hit areas. Authorities have also
resorted to cloud-seeding, and some areas received a sprinkling of rain
after clouds were hit with 2,392 rockets and 409 cannon shells loaded
with chemicals. However, there is a limit to what can be done in the
face of such widespread water shortage.
As I have previously written, China is facing hyperinflation , and this record drought will make things worse. China produces 18% of the world's grain each year.
Australia has been experiencing an unrelenting drought since 2004, and
41 percent of Australia's agriculture continues to suffer from the
worst drought in 117 years of record-keeping.
The drought has been so severe that rivers stopped flowing, lakes
turned toxic, and farmers abandoned their land in frustration:
A) The Murray River stopped flowing at its terminal point, and its mouth has closed up.
B) Australia's lower lakes are evaporating, and they are now a meter
(3.2 feet) below sea level. If these lakes evaporate any further, the
soil and the mud system below the water is going to be exposed to the
air. The mud will then acidify, releasing sulfuric acid and a whole
range of heavy metals. After this occurs, those lower lake systems will
essentially become a toxic swamp which will never be able to be
recovered. The Australian government's only options to prevent this are
to allow salt water in, creating a dead sea, or to pray for rain.
For some reason, the debate over climate change is essentially over in Australia.
The United States California California is facing its worst drought in recorded history .
The drought is predicted to be the most severe in modern times, worse
than those in 1977 and 1991. Thousands of acres of row crops already
have been fallowed, with more to follow. The snowpack in the Northern
Sierra, home to some of the state's most important reservoirs, proved
to be just 49 percent of average. Water agencies throughout the state
are scrambling to adopt conservation mandates. Texas The Texan drought is reaching historic proportion .
Dry conditions near Austin and San Antonio have been exceeded only once
before—the drought of 1917-18. 88 percent of Texas is experiencing
abnormally dry conditions, and 18 percent of the state is in either
extreme or exceptional drought conditions. The drought areas have been
expanding almost every month. Conditions in Texas are so bad cattle are
keeling over in parched pastures and dying. Lack of rainfall has left
pastures barren, and cattle producers have resorted to feeding animals
hay. Irreversible damage has been done to winter wheat crops in Texas.
Both short and long-term forecasts don't call for much rain at all,
which means the Texas drought is set to get worse.
Augusta Region (Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina)
The Augusta region has been suffering from a worsening two year
drought. Augusta's rainfall deficit is already approaching 2 inches so
far in 2009, with January being the driest since 1989.
Florida Florida has been hard hit by winter drought, damaging crops, and half of state is in some level of a drought.
La Niña likely to make matters worse Enough
water a couple of degrees cooler than normal has accumulated in the
eastern part of the Pacific to create a La Niña, a weather pattern
expected to linger until at least the spring. La Niña generally means
dry weather for Southern states, which is exactly what the US doesn't
need right now.
Here in Northern California there is serious consideration being given to instituting water rationing and it's only February. Not a good sign. In the past droughts have seemed more like a nuisance but at the moment it's a lot more concerning since it is no longer a localized issue and appears to be a worldwide problem.
A "perfect storm" of crises, indeed.
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