Resources Research

Culture and systems of knowledge, cultivation and food, population and consumption

Posts Tagged ‘US

A month into 2013, what will drought do to grain this year?

with one comment

The US government in 2013 January declared much of the central and southern US Wheat Belt a natural disaster area due to persistent drought threatening the winter wheat harvest.

The US government in 2013 January declared much of the central and southern US Wheat Belt a natural disaster area due to persistent drought threatening the winter wheat harvest.

Drought has tightened its dry grip on US winter wheat, reducing the condition of crops in Kansas, the top producing state, and neighbouring Oklahoma, said this report by Agrimoney. Estimates of the proportion of the crop in “poor” or “very poor” health at 39%, up from 31% at the end of December. The figures also represented a sharp deterioration from a year before, when 49% of winter wheat was rated good or excellent, and 12% poor or very poor.

The result of the continuing drought has been poor conditions for all fall-planted crops and limited grazing of small grains, Agrimoney quoted officials as having said. Most districts received 50% or less of normal rainfall last month, at a time when they had already been in drought for months.

The US Drought Monitor and the associated long-range forecasts spell trouble for grain stocks, movement and of course prices for 2013. Severe to exceptional drought conditions cover most of the cultivation area for hard, red winter wheat, running from the Texas panhandle to Colorado to South Dakota, the US Drought Monitor shows. Winter wheat crops were in the worst condition since at least 1985 at the end of November, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Bales of corn stalks covered with snow in the state of Nebraska, USA, in late December 2012. Despite some big storms in December, much of the US is still desperate for relief from the country's longest dry spell in decades. Photo: AP / Nati Harnik

Bales of corn stalks covered with snow in the state of Nebraska, USA, in late December 2012. Despite some big storms in December, much of the US is still desperate for relief from the country’s longest dry spell in decades. Photo: AP / Nati Harnik

In Russia, grain exports are expected to slump further, as also reported by Agrimoney. Russia’s farm ministry is to cut to 14m tonnes, from 15.5m tonnes, its forecast for grain exports in 2012-13. Trade at that level would represent half the 28m tonnes shipped in 2011-12 (USDA estimates) and imply only minimal exports for the rest of the season, with the tally already at some 13m tonnes.

In Britain, a third Agrimoney report on the impact of weather on grains has said, crop prices have soared thanks to the poor results from 2012 harvests, which showed the lowest wheat yields in 20 years and smallest potato crop since the 1970s. London wheat futures hit a record high of £227.00 a tonne last month, and remain at elevated levels, of £213.40 a tonne for the spot March contract, while potatoes are selling on the open market at £312.28 a tonne, more than triple their levels a year ago, according to the Potato Council.

Bloomberg has reported that the prices of wheat rose in Chicago as US production prospects “dimmed because of a persistent drought in the Great Plains, the biggest growing region for winter crops”. The Bloomberg report explained that the “central and southern plains [of USA] will have mostly below- normal rainfall in the next 10 days, with no significant relief expected”.

Roughly 57.64 percent of the contiguous United States was in at least ‘moderate’ drought as of 2013 January 22, reported the Huffington Post, which is a marginal improvement from 58.87 percent a week earlier. But the worst level of drought, dubbed ‘exceptional’, expanded slightly to 6.36 percent from 6.31 percent of the country.

Advertisements

Slow and sober – what credit and debt means to the US, and to us

leave a comment »

Free tickets for the US debt train

Update: Here is the China view, from Xinhua:

China side-stepping U.S. financial crisis with innovative strategies – After watching Congress play politics and care not a whit about upholding the honor of United States, can the world assume that America is not about to become a deadbeat to beat all deadbeat nations in history?

Even if the United States Treasury eventually honors its obligations after undergoing the tortuous exercise between House, Senate and the White House, will the rest of the world continue to have faith and confidence in the value of the dollar? China, the country that holds more U.S. federal debt than any other foreign country, is taking action to sidestep potential future U.S. default. Full story

U.S. debt ceiling deal is double-edge sword for China – The roller-coaster debate over raising the US national debt ceiling finally concluded after the two parties made compromises. The Democratic Party-led administration removed the political restraint of debt default before the general election in 2012, and the Republican Party-led House of Representatives secured a promise to cut government spending over the next decade.

The two parties had threatened each other using the interests of global creditors, staging a preview of next year’s general election. Meanwhile, the hidden trouble in the global financial market and economic recovery has temporarily been avoided. Full story

Time to reconsider buying of US assets – While the Chinese government made it clear that it was unhappy about the possibility that the United States could default on its debt, it was also clear that China’s concerns are not a major factor in US politics. The United States has always been an incredibly insular country. The vast majority of the public has very little interest in or concern for what is going elsewhere in the world, except insofar as it directly affects the US. Full story

Earlier – Lots of outrage, vitriol and prognosis about the US credit rating downgrade. Does it affect anything in our real lives? What will it do to prices and household assets? What will it do to food inflation and the cost of living? At what point does credit rating become meaningless for an economy that’s deep in debt anyway (and exporting wars all over the planet)? Here are some signposts.

CEPR has savaged the New York Times for an article which asserted that members of the congressional panel will have to “mute ideological disagreements.” It is not clear that members of Congress have ideological disagreements. Members of Congress get elected because of their ability to appeal to powerful interest groups, said CEPR. “The differences around proposals to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare or to raise taxes on the wealthy most obviously stem from the different interest groups being represented. It is not obvious that the ideology of individual members of Congress matters, since their ability to keep their jobs will depend on the extent to which members of Congress can keep their backers satisfied.”

It also would have been useful to include the views of members of Congress who ridiculed the downgrade, pointing out that S&P had rated hundreds of billions of subprime mortgage backed securities as investment grade. It also had given top investment grade ratings to both Lehman and AIG until the day they collapsed. It also was off by $2 trillion in its calculations of U.S. indebtedness. In other words, there are very good reasons not to take S&P’s ratings seriously and there certainly many people who do not, including it seems investors in financial markets.

Take your money to new places indeed!

In Triple Crisis only a few days ago, C P Chandrashekar discussed the debt of Greece and what it means for Europe and its currency. “What is galling to most is the fact that at the end of all this, the problem remains unresolved. Greek public debt is still in excess of its gross domestic product. Servicing that even on slightly lighter terms seems near impossible in the midst of austerity that spells recession. Another bail-out is inevitable. The danger is that next time around governments across Europe and elsewhere may be overcome with bail-out fatigue and just risk wholesale default. The banks and private creditors would then get their due. But that is small comfort, since the fall-out for the rest may be too much to bear.”

In the Financial Times, Eswar Prasad and Mengjie Ding say that their analysis paints a sobering picture of worsening public debt dynamics and a sharply rising debt burden in advanced economies. These rising debt levels combined with heightened concerns about fiscal solvency now constitute a major threat to global financial stability.

It's all just a movie set, isn't it?

“Recent events in Greece, Ireland, Portugal and other economies on the periphery of the eurozone show the risks of debt buildups that are not tackled. Bond investors can quickly turn against a vulnerable country with high debt levels, leaving the country little breathing room to balance its fiscal books and precipitating a crisis. Overall, the worldwide picture of government debt is not pretty.”

Via Economists View, a veteran’s look at S&P’s competency to do anything at all:

Back when I was an in-house lawyer for an investment bank, I had extensive interactions with all three rating agencies. We needed to get a lot of deals rated, and I was almost always involved in that process in the deals I worked on. To say that S&P analysts aren’t the sharpest tools in the drawer is a massive understatement.

I’ve seen S&P make far more basic mistakes than the one they made in miscalculating the US’s debt-to-GDP ratio. I’ve seen an S&P managing director who didn’t know the order of operations, and when we pointed it out to him, stopped taking our calls. Despite impressive-sounding titles, these guys personify “amateur hour.” (And my opinion of S&P isn’t just based on a few deals; it’s based on countless deals, meetings, and phone calls over 20 years. It’s also the opinion of practically everyone else who deals with the rating agencies on a semi-regular basis.)

Written by makanaka

August 9, 2011 at 18:26