Wheat crop yields and exports are withering worldwide. A food insecurity expert recently told the UN that there are only 10 weeks of wheat supplies left in the world after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted worldwide supplies. Further compounding the issue, water shortages in parts of the globe and overly wet conditions in others are dampening crop yields at a time when wheat shortages and prices are already heightened.
Ukraine is responsible for around a fifth of the world’s high-grade wheat production, according to The Washington Post. The country’s wheat output is responsible for the bread for much of the Middle East’s population, as well as the grain that feeds livestock in China. The UN World Food Program also relies on Ukraine for half of its grain supply.
But with the war halting exports, nations around the globe are faced with high wheat costs and low supplies. Wheat prices rose 40 percent between February and April 2022, according to Earth.org. Last month, the US Department of Agriculture predicted global wheat production would decline to 774.83 million tons in 2022 to 2023, from 779.29 million tons last season.
In nations such as Iraq, the shortage is compounded by extreme water shortages. The AP reported that government officials in the country have cut irrigation quotas by 50 percent in response to the severe drought that’s plaguing the region. And farmers are feeling the heat. Demand for wheat in the country sits at around 5 million to 6 million tons annually, but without water input, the yield can’t keep up.
In 2021, the country produced just 4.2 million tons of the crop. The majority of growers’ wheat yield is sold to Iraq’s Trade Ministry, and at this time this year, the wheat yield is so low that only 373,000 tons of the crop are available in Trade Ministry storehouses.
The American wheat crop is also struggling. In North Dakota, the country’s top grower of spring wheat, heavy rainfall made it impossible for local farmers to plant as much wheat as they wanted, reported Reuters. In light of the weather conditions, the state is on track to plant spring wheat at a record low amount of land this season—only seeding 49 percent of its intended spring wheat acres.
And the fate of winter wheat, which farmers plant in autumn, is forecasted to be dried up by impending drought. In Kansas, the top growing region of the whiter wheat variety, last year’s dry winter conditions and the predictions of more less-than-adequate precipitation levels this coming season leave crop yield predictions unpromising—with harvest potential down as much as 25 percent.
One sprig of hope for the crop comes from Australia, which despite global wheat growing and exporting issues, is on track to produce a near-record yield of wheat for its third year in a row. The country planted nearly 36 million acres of the crop for the 2021 to 2022 season, an all-time high for the area, reports Reuters. Phin Ziebell, an agribusiness economist at National Australia Bank in Melbourne, told the publication, “Are we looking at a crop of above 30 million tonnes for the third year in a row? I think we have a good shot at it. Farmers have good cash positions and the weather is really working for them.”
But can Australia’s surplus of wheat make up for the global shortage? It’s unlikely.