Russian drought could push up food prices

Shoppers could see the cost of the meat and poultry in their baskets rise as the price of barley has more than doubled over the past six weeks due to continued fears over the drought affecting Russia and Ukraine.

Russia is the world's second largest producer of barley after the EU and the cereal crop is used by many farmers as animal feed. The recent price rise could also have a possible knock-on effect on the cost of beer as a significant proportion of the remainder of barley production goes into the brewing trade on both sides of the Atlantic.

Barley is the latest commodity to see a dramatic price rise in recent weeks.

The worst drought for generations in Russia has already caused a 50 per cent jump in the price of wheat, the world's most-consumed cereal, since June, and last week Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would freeze grain exports. Attention is also being focused on Australia, the world's fourth largest exporter of wheat, where this year's crop may be hit by dry weather in Western Australia, which accounts for 40 per cent of exports. Prices have also been put under pressure by very wet weather in Canada at planting time, which reduced acreage.

But some commodity analysts have blamed speculators for pushing up the price of wheat and barley. Russian wheat, for instance, is mainly exported to West Asia, which has access to stocks from other areas, while strong harvests are expected in Europe and the U.S.

Traders are awaiting a key U.S. Department of Agriculture report on stocks and production which is due out on Thursday and ahead of the report some speculators have cashed in their profits. The current projection is for the 2010/11 global wheat stock to be 187 million tonnes, one-third higher than in 2007/08 when commodity prices were squeezed dramatically higher. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

(This story has been corrected for factual error on August 10, 2010)

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2020 6:42:10 PM |

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