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Fri Apr 4, 2014, 12:56 PM

 

Wheat Crops See Worst Damage in 5 Years on Drought-Freeze

By Jeff Wilson Apr 4, 2014 3:07 AM ET

It’s been a double-whammy winter for wheat farmers in the U.S., the world’s largest exporter.

With drought already sapping soil moisture across the Great Plains, the biggest growing region, a polar vortex in early 2014 draped fields in a deep freeze, killing more plants than normal. Since crops began going dormant in November, conditions deteriorated by the most in five years, according to grain brokers Jefferies Bache LLC and CHS Hedging Inc.

“My main concern is the lack of subsoil moisture,” said Ron Suppes, 62, who farms about 10,000 acres near Dighton, Kansas. “We have received less than a third of the normal rain since we planted. Without more than a half inch of rain in the next two weeks, the crop will decline very quickly.”

The prospect of crop damage is escalating supply concerns that sent Chicago wheat futures to their biggest rally to start a year in three decades. Prices jumped to a 10-month high March 20 after Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region in Ukraine boosted the risk of disruptions to grain shipments from the Black Sea. U.S. exports for delivery before the harvest in June are up 19 percent from last year, and domestic inventories on March 1 were down 15 percent from a year earlier.

Extreme weather is raising costs for consumers, sending world food prices to a 10-month high in March as crop damage from dry conditions across the globe lifted everything from meat to dairy to grain, United Nations data show. The U.S. retail price for all-purpose white flour reached a record 55.5 cents a pound in February, up 5.9 percent from a year earlier, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show.

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http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-03/wheat-crops-see-worst-damage-in-5-years-on-drought-freeze.html

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