Producers need to know about global weather conditions, such as the current drought
With nearly 42% of the United States affected by a severe drought (and several states considered to be in extreme drought), recent news has highlighted the drastic measures that farmers and ranchers are being forced to take. With these brutal conditions affecting cultures in the country, it’s hard to imagine that the weather an ocean away could have anything to do with it.
One of the most important industries is agriculture, almost entirely dependent on the climate. From a lone farmer to global markets, the weather affects everything from planting to growing and harvesting crops, as well as the health and lives of animals. There is also an impact on transport to local markets and shipments worldwide, which is a key factor in setting world prices. All producers participate in the supply chain and are therefore part of the global market and are subject to market pressures and the laws of supply and demand.
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As a result, the weather affects not only a local farmer’s field or livestock, but global markets as well. A heat wave in France, as is happening now, could cause prices to rise for a farmer in Argentina. Good weather during soybean planting in Iowa could mean lower prices for pork products in China. Or a drought in Alberta could mean importing more animal feed from long distances.
In the Black Sea region, the weather has been favorable for crops this year, but because of the war in Ukraine, the production of wheat and barley will be limited in 2022. So far, about 90,000 tons of Ukrainian grain has left the country. Black Sea, a much smaller volume than normal.
It is important that all countries participating in the global food supply chain have adequate world weather information to help them make decisions about when to buy and sell and how to protect themselves against potential price fluctuations. For example, knowing that drought is growing in a major corn-producing area, such as the western Midwest, may give a farmer in Brazil more reason to keep his freshly harvested crop in favor of potentially higher prices. The same situation can cause a feed company in China to buy corn earlier than necessary, when it is cheaper, than to wait for potentially higher prices later when supply is tight.
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It is then up to agricultural meteorologists such as John Baranick and analysts to provide this type of information and context to producers, agribusinesses, commodity traders and end users to help them understand how they fit into the global marketplace. As an agricultural meteorologist, Baranick’s role is not only to help growers plant their crops and understand climate risks, but also to provide a world perspective on how their business is affecting and being affected by the global market. “Forecasts must be local and global, as well as explanatory – the so-called ‘so what’ of a weather forecast,” Baranick explained.
Trying to bring global and local climate together is a difficult task to accomplish. Sometimes a relatively small weather phenomenon, like a derecho (a straight-line windstorm) in the Midwest, can have a big impact on supplies and markets, and sometimes big events, like a hurricane in the Southeast. , may have a relatively small impact. The perspective of the weather event is often more important than the event itself for pricing and impact.
Thinking globally, weather conditions in the Northern and Southern hemispheres become important at different times of the year. According to Baranick, the focus for a commodity like corn may be in the US, Ukraine, Russia and China from March to October, and in Brazil and Argentina from September to June. Overlapping growing seasons for certain crops also complicates the overall market, sending mixed signals. Meteorologists can help users understand the global picture, focusing on key production areas and those facing new or declining climate challenges.
Other ways meteorologists provide information are with extended weather perspectives. Predicting potential weather problems for farmers and markets a season or two in advance, on a global basis, can be critical for a supermarket chain to secure avocado supplies well before drought hits western Mexico or frostbite affects fruit. in Chile.
The weather plays such an important role in the outcome of agriculture and livestock that some companies are trying to eliminate the risk. Vertical and indoor farming strategies are becoming much more common, with heavy investments in technologies that can eliminate many of the harmful climate effects.
However, weather is still important for these facilities to maintain adequate water supplies, indoor temperature limits, and energy supplies, not to mention transport their products to market. The weather really can never get out of the food business, no matter how hard humans try. Therefore, local and global weather forecasts are critical intelligence for producers, passing through the entire agribusiness chain, for those who enjoy food on the table.
* Jim Foerster is a contributor to Forbes USA and one of only 239 CCM (certified consulting meteorologists) in the world. CCMs are experts in applying weather information to a range of practical challenges. He is also chief meteorologist at DTN, the world’s largest business-to-business meteorological organization.