Droughts are scarier than other natural disasters because, unlike earthquakes, tsunamis or tornadoes, they’re measured in months and not minutes. Biblical and doom-filled, they have the basic power to wipe out any civilization by depriving it of the thing we need most: water.
We’re told that most of the farmland in the US is suffering from drought and that the corn crop is most at risk. What are the implications? Deere, the tractor company, has released its third quarter earnings and shed some light on the situation. Here are two data points that stand out.
Things are bad, but not uniformly so.
It’s affecting other parts of the world, too.
The concern in Russia is mainly for the wheat crop. The last time its wheat crop was threatened (2010) the Russian government told producers that they were not allowed to sell any of it as exports. This made the worldwide prices rise even more. There is a new G20 body working to prevent unilateral actions like this from making the situation worse. Food security is such a basic need that it tends to bring out the “every-man-for-himself” response. We’ll have to see how well this attempt at international coordination works.
India is one to watch because it produces 20% of the world’s rice crop. Rice, along with wheat, tends to be the staple crop in poorer countries. If prices rise too quickly then there may be political instability on the order seen in years past.