Life is hard for wheat and livestock farmers in the south, as they face a possible third year of nearly no rain.
July 12, 2008 POOCHERA, AUSTRALIA — Glen Phillips kneels down, scoops up a handful of dirt and squashes it in his fist to test whether the soil in this dry patch of the Australian Outback is ready to take a crop of wheat.
“It should clump together when you squeeze,” says Phillips, whose family has lived off the land on the edge of the Great Australian Bight since 1949. “That’s how you know it’s good to plant, it’s moist enough to hold the roots.”
He opens his hand and the earth sifts dustily between his fingers. Phillips looks up, lifts his hat slightly and squints into an empty blue sky with no sign of rain.
“We’ll plant anyway,” he says. “We don’t have a choice.”
Australia is suffering one of its worst droughts on record, hurting wheat farming just as the world faces a food crisis. Australia is usually the world’s third or fourth-largest exporter of wheat. But exports dropped 46% from 2005 to 2006, then fell 24% last year.
Most of its exports go to the Middle East and Southeast Asia to make bread and cereals, but the fall in supply has led to soaring prices. A ton of Australian wheat costs $367, compared with $258 in early 2007, an increase poorer countries can ill afford.
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– Floods may boost world food prices for years
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– The Best Farmland in the U.S. Is Flooded; Most Americans Are Too Stupid to Panic
– The Price Of Food: 2007 – 2008
– The U.S. Has No Remaining Grain Reserves
– Nine meals from anarchy – how Britain is facing a very real food crisis
– Time to Stockpile Food?
– Food Riots are Coming to the U.S.
– UN alert: One-fourth of world’s wheat at risk from new fungus
– THE FOUR HORSEMEN APPROACH – FAMINE IS IN THE AIR
– Philippines: Food Shortage Looms – Arroyo Adviser
“When they pay high prices, they pass on an increase to their poorest people, who can no longer afford it,” says Kunhamboo Kannan, director of agriculture, environment and natural resources at the Asian Development Bank. “Just look at Egypt.” Riots over rising bread prices and shortages have led to at least 10 deaths there this year.