Myth: Why 25 per cent war wheat panic is misleading
Dr Sarah Taber is a crop scientist. Here she explains why there will be no wheat shortage as a direct result of the Russia/Ukraine conflict.
There are many reports in the media stating that global wheat shortages of 25 per cent are to be expected because of the war. This is misleading.
Here’s Dr Taber: “Whilst it’s technically true, it doesn’t mean what people think! Missing wheat from the war is actually less than 1 per cent of global wheat crops. When the headline is “25 per cent of world wheat exports missing,” that naturally leads people to think “oh my god we have to suddenly come up with 25 per cent more wheat in the world out of nowhere.” Nope! Only 0.9 per cent.”
So where does that 25 per cent figure comes from and why is it misleading.
“Black Sea wheat was 25 per cent of EXPORTS: wheat shipped internationally. Most of the world’s wheat is eaten in the country that grew it! For example, India and China alone grow massive domestic crops and eat most of them. So exports are a small fraction of the global wheat crop.”
The estimated wheat export shortfall from the Russian invasion is 7 million tons.
“That sounds like a lot! Unless you look at total global production, which last year was 778 MILLION TONS. The war shortfall is 0.9 per cent of the global wheat crop! Not 25 per cent!
We don’t have to suddenly increase world wheat production by 25 per cent. We have to increase it by… 0.9 per cent. And the world’s farmers already started planting more wheat 4 months ago, when wheat futures rose due to the possibility of the Black Sea conflict.”
Most of the world plants wheat in the autumn months and harvests them in the spring or early summer. So planting to make up for missing Black Sea wheat has already happened four months ago.
India went all-out planting more wheat, and it looks set to continue a 3-year record of rapidly increasing wheat exports. The US planted four million more tons of wheat seed last autumn than normal. Australia, Canada, Argentina, South Africa, even Brazil are all doing the same.
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As Dr Saber says, in reality, the world has at least a dozen countries and thousands of square miles looking to replace a whopping global wheat crop shortfall in a matter of months.
“Again, specific places are facing extreme wheat supply problems. The MENA region (Middle East/North Africa) usually sources from Ukraine. Switching supply chains to India and other sources takes extra time. If they’re further away from India and Ukraine, it takes longer for supplies to get there.
What these places are facing is a shipping shortage – not a lack of enough wheat in the world. Their food supply chain problems are still dangerous. A local, shipping-induced shortage that lasts a week can still kill you.”