Huge Wheat Losses in Eurasian Grainbelt, from Hot, Dry Summer
August 30, 2012 • 10:06AM

There are huge wheat losses in the Eurasian grainbelt, spanning Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, due to the drought and searing heat this Summer. This area ranks in the top three source-regions for world wheat exports, so its crop problems automatically constitute a global disaster. Overall, world wheat output in 2011 was estimated to be 695 million tons, but this year, the global harvest may come in at far less, at 663 million metric tons, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which notoriously overstates the situation.

The Black Sea grainbelt harvests are still underway, but the dimensions of losses are clear. On Aug. 31, the Russian Agricultural Ministry will meet on the situation.

The total Russian grain crop (all types) is now forecast to be only 75 million tons, down 27% from 94 million tons grown last year. This year's Russian wheat harvest — the largest of its grains — may fall even below that of 2010, when 41.5 million tons were produced, necessitating a ban on exports. Last year's Russian wheat harvest was 56.2 million tons.

In Kazakhstan, the wheat harvest for 2012 may come in at 11 million tons, when in contrast, last year it came in at 22.7 million tons—a record year. In the 2010 drought year, Kazakh wheat fell to 9.7 million tons.

In Ukraine, the wheat harvest may not reach 15 million tons, down from 22 million last year, and even below 16.8 million in 2010. All Ukraine crops were drought-stressed this season, with yield losses, including, besides wheat and barley, corn, soybeans, and sunflowers.

Wildfires are a danger in Altai Territory and elsewhere, under the dry-tinder conditions. Anthrax outbreaks have occurred. In Ukraine, health officials are intervening to contain an outbreak.

In Altai, in south Siberia, anthrax infections have been geographically localized in two villages, but 13 people have required hospitalization, over suspected exposure to anthrax, with three of those cases confirmed anthrax poisoning so far. One died. The village of Druzhba, population 740, is quarantined, and all inhabitants being examined. Vaccination has started. The dryness is a contributing factor to anthrax, whose spores can remain dormant in soil for years, and then infect grazing animals, when they close crop during drought. If farmers don't have the husbandry knowledge or resources to properly dispose of dead infected animals, the disease spreads.