A severe drought in the Midwest threatens to translate to one of the worst winter wheat crops in years, providing one more factor to a brewing perfect storm that could lead to skyrocketing food prices and global shortages. Kansas and other major wheat-producing states are suffering from a drought which has been identified as the worst the region has seen since 2018, and crops were already in jeopardy due to a major wind storm in December.
Nations halt grain exports
A poor harvest in most years might not be felt by the world at large, but this year is already predicted to see major shortages due to the war in Ukraine.
Russia and Ukraine combined make up a massive percentage of global wheat exports. Both countries have halted all of their grain exports in response to the conflict.
Other countries have already followed their lead to protect their own supplies. For countries like Egypt that rely on Black Sea grain to feed their population, the situation is extremely precarious.
Demand for wheat is already very high due to the halt in exports, but global prices will be driven up even further due to rising expenses for farmers.
High fuel prices are already making harvesting crops more expensive, and much of the fertilizer used in the United States comes from Russia, which has now halted those exports as well.
Combined with the drought, these factors will make it difficult for the United States to profit from the global shortage, and may even create a noticeable domestic shortage.
Bad year for wheat worldwide
Fuel prices might inspire riots, but food prices can inspire revolutions. Shortages in wheat have historically led to mass unrest and upheaval on a consistent basis.
The United States is unlikely to see anything like a real famine, but the increase food prices already being felt by most Americans will accelerate.
There could be real chaos and violence in countries that are reliant on imported grains, especially if those imports come from the now closed Black Sea ports.
Like the proposed shift to domestic fuel production, ensuring that America produces the fertilizer and food it needs cannot happen overnight.
With the current wheat crop already planted and suffering from the drought there is only so much that can be done in response to the looming crisis.
As with most of the economic challenges America faces at the moment, this situation is likely to get much worse before it starts to get better.