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Disasters threaten to spark food crisis

Analysts expect the US agriculture department will today forecast a two-year low for wheat – a prediction likely send wheat prices, which have climbed all summer, even higher.

It has raised fears of a wave of climate-linked food price shocks, like the ones that sparked rioting in the developing world two years ago.

Worries started when Russia recently announced a ban on wheat exports, because of a heat wave and droughts have charred crops in the fields. Massive wild fires near Russia’s bread producing region are making farming harder.

The World Bank has urged other countries not to follow Russia’s lead, fearing a supply crunch like the one that doubled 2008 prices and triggered food riots in poor countries across the world.

International farming experts say wheat corn and rice prices have spiked dramatically but global food stocks are still healthy and that falling production in some parts of the world will be counterbalanced by bumper crops elsewhere. "We shouldn't panic, and we shouldn't think that there's going to be another food crisis," Manuel Hernandez from the International Food Policy Research Institute told The New York Times.

Russia, which was on track to becoming the world's largest wheat exporter, has lost more than 20 per cent of its crop to the drought, say analysts.

News of the drought and export ban has sent wheat prices soaring. And in turn, the spiking wheat prices are predicted to drive up prices for corn, soybeans, and oats.

Soaring prices are an urgent problem in Pakistan, where weeks of flooding have destroyed millions of acres of farmland, mostly in the fertile Punjab province. United Nations experts have already warned of a looming food crisis in the country.

In Australia there are fears that locusts could destroy two or three million tonnes and western Australia is suffering a drought, threatening most of the region's crop. Australian analysts have warned that fires in Russia and floods in Canada will make everything from coffee to eggs to beer more costly.

In Eygpt, the Russian export ban has sparked worries for the long-term because the country depends on imported wheat to feed its 80 million people. The Egyptian government has asked Russia to keep to its existing contracts.

The 2008 food crisis saw riots across the developing world, including Haiti, India, Somalia, Indonesia and south America.

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