August 7, 2010

As that fat guy who had the movie about global warming tried to tell us, the changing weather is coming back to hit us. A record-setting heatwave in Russia has sparked massive forest fires that are destroying crops normally bought by the U.S., and their government has announced a ban on grain exports.

But hey, isn't it great that the Republicans have sworn to stop the cap-and-trade bill?

Reporting from Los Angeles and Moscow — The price of America's daily bread and meat could soar this fall, as surging wheat prices in anticipation of a Russian ban on exports stoked fears about tight supplies.

Grain shortages and food price hikes in 2007 and 2008 sparked riots worldwide, but agriculture analysts said the U.S. wheat crop has been strong, and that stockpiles of wheat and other grains worldwide are greater now than they were three years ago.

According to media reports, U.S. farmers have rushed to put out millions of bushels of wheat to bolster worldwide inventories. Wheat prices on Friday dropped by 60 cents on the Chicago Board of Trade, voiding Thursday's price run-up.

Yet analysts warned that consumers might be hit with higher prices at the grocery store in the months ahead because of a convergence of factors. With the memory of the previous food crisis still fresh, some countries and consumers may resort to hoarding, which could push prices upward. Speculators and some food companies might seek to exploit public worries.

"The situation is still in flux," said Phil Flynn, a commodities analyst at PFG Best in Chicago. "It is far too soon to say that this is over."

The price of wheat surged to a two-year high when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced the ban Thursday. Wildfires and serious droughts have ravaged a large swath of central Russia this summer, destroying one-fifth of its crop. Russia is one of the world's largest wheat exporters.

The Ukraine government, also a large global wheat supplier, reportedly canceled a number of its contracts because of similar dry-weather issues.

And as an added climate-change bonus:

MOSCOW: Russia's Emergencies Minister has warned that wildfires raging in the west of the country could release radioactive nuclides from land contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Sergei Shoygu said special laboratories were monitoring a potential release of contaminants in Bryansk region on the border with Ukraine, which was sprayed with caesium-137 and strontium-90 after the explosion of the power plant's fourth reactor in 1986. The alarming statement came as firefighters continued to battle hundreds of fires across central and western Russia amid the hottest temperatures in more than a century.

Wildfires around Moscow have forced the Defence Ministry to order munitions moved from a military depot near the capital, the Ria Novosti news agency reported. Elsewhere there were reports that a secret communications centre of the Russian Army had gone up in flames.

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