Stockpiles, U.S. farmers might pick up wheat slack

Belarusian workers sort grain after a wheat harvest in Yurievo, some 75 km north of Minsk.

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: Earlier this week, wheat prices rose on news of a heat wave and drought wiping out crops in Russia. It's one of the world's biggest breadbaskets, and now Moscow's imposed a ban on wheat exports, sending prices, well even higher. What does that mean for the price of food around the world? From London, Christopher Werth reports.


Christopher Werth: The price of wheat surged another 8 percent after the ban was announced, and that's raising fears that other grain-growing countries, like China and India, might begin hoarding their own supplies. That's what happened in 2008, and that sparked a global food crisis, complete with riots from Egypt to Haiti.

But Martin Deboo of Investec says this year, global stockpiles are about 50 percent higher than they were a couple of years ago. Plus, farmers in the U.S. are growing a lot more wheat than was expected.

Martin Deboo: Traditionally, the U.S. has tended to be the sort of exporter of last resort, and I'm sure will take up some of the slack that's left by Russia. I think this is good news for American wheat farmers . . . they'll be selling a lot of volume, and they'll be selling it at good prices.

And it's not just wheat growers that stand to benefit. Farmers don't like to feed their cows expensive food, so instead of buying wheat, they'll find cheaper alternatives. Witness economics in action: all that demand has driven up the price of soybeans and corn.

In London, I'm Christopher Werth for Marketplace.

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