19 June 2023
Academics in Harper Adams University’s Rural Resilience Research Group (3RG) are working to provide analysis of food security issues around the world.
The group is the successor of the Rural Security Research Group (RSRG) that has been operating at Harper Adams for around a decade, with a focus on rural, agricultural and farm crime.
As academics’ research has developed, it became clear the real strength of the team is that it looks beyond the criminal act to consider the impact on the whole farm system and importantly the second and third order effects that emanate from a shock such as mental health and food security.
This widened focus has also seen the team lend its weight to a series of open-source briefings for officials and ministers in Whitehall - the latest of which we reproduce here.
The latest USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate (WASDE) has surprisingly increased the global wheat production by 10.4MMT to 800.19MMT1.
This is based on larger production in Ukraine, Russia, India and the EU.
The current WASDE illustrates the dynamic nature of the current global weather system - and the perils of a report spanning four weeks.
In the first week of June reports from Ukraine indicated that poor weather could diminish winter grain yield by 20 per cent, while French wheat was seen to be impacted by dryness and Russia hit by temperatures of 38C plus in wheat growing areas.
These issues are highly likely to impact the new crop, however, given the large Russian stockpile, overall supply figures will be still good. However, it must be noted that access to Russian wheat and other grains is limited and there is no transparency as to their quality or phytosanitary status.
The market is showing signs of upwards movement for all grains, with the futures market in particular starting to rise. The key driver is still the weather, with dryness extending in North America and Europe, storms in Asia, dryness in MENA impacting Egyptian harvests, and poor weather in Australia impacting winter crop establishment.
However, the blowing of the Kakhovka dam and damage to the Russian ammonia pipeline in Ukraine are likely to have increased significance, as not only does the blowing impact Ukrainian production, but the combination of both actions bring into question the continuation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
The supply side has taken a further hit with the arrival of high intensity and lengthy rain storms in China, impacting some 20MMT of wheat. The Chinese government appealed to farmers to harvest ahead of further damage. The markets at present are not factoring in these losses.
For China this is a devastating blow, and given the extent of the storms it means that they are likely to continue importing wheat, and other grains, at high volumes. The rain is likely to have caused the what to lodge - or fall over - making harvest physically difficult. Lodge wheat is also susceptible to vermin damage as well as moulds.
The wheat which is still standing and harvestable is likely to have reduced protein levels, as rain will have ‘washed’ protein out. As a result, it is likely they will divert this wheat to animal feed and seek higher protein wheat for human consumption. This may therefore reduce corn and maize imports.
The destruction of the Kakhovka dam in Ukraine and the ammonia pipeline breach have dominated new reports.
The resultant floods from the dam have two immediate effects, thats is firstly to destroy crops and damage soil systems in the flood waters, and secondly to impact the irrigation system of fields in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovs'k and Mykolaiv regions.
This is a large scale ecological disaster.
As a result of flooding, there is a risk of a reduction in cultivated areas, as well as a decrease in average yields, which could be long-lasting for the affected regions. According to one local analyst, preliminary crop losses could exceed 150-500 KMT, while about 50-55 KHA ha will suffer from flooding and will not be suitable for further sowing.
According to the Ukrainian AgMIn Ukraine could also lose 14 per cent of its wheat export potential due to the irrigation issues in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovs'k regions. In addition, grain handling facilities, silos and grain cars have been impacted by the flood waters.
The damage to this infrastructure will likely impact the ability and flexibility in regard to this season’s harvest logistics. The area is one of the key centres for winter planted wheat. The region is also a centre for horticulture producing a range of vegetables, salad crops and fruit for domestic and export markets.
Aside from the impact on cereals and the export potential for Ukraine, the loss of horticultural land and irrigation for horticultural crops will likely have impacts for Ukraine’s food security and nutrition now and going forward.
Furthermore, as the water recedes, the chernozem soil will retain high levels of moisture due to its characteristics, making it unworkable for some seasons.
There is also the potential for soil pollution and contamination from sewage, human and animal decomposition, ordnance, vehicles etc as well as the issue of mine migration - all of which will affect the ability to crop in the future.