Global food production is expected to plummet between 20 and 40 percent in 2009, due to widespread drought and other stresses on agricultural production
Two-thirds of the world's food is produced in countries currently in the grip of droughts. The extent of this crisis can easily be seen by a chart on the Web site of the Center for Research on Globalization:
Much media attention has focused on a severe drought in Northern China, one of the wheat producing capitals of the world. There, the worst drought in 50 years has already resulted in damage to 161 million mu (26.5 million acres) of crops. In Australia, suffering its worst drought in 117 years, 41 percent of crops have been harmed, farmers have begun abandoning land, rivers have run dry and lakes have evaporated to such an extent that they have turned toxic.
In the United States, Texas and the Southeast remains in the throes of a severe drought. California's drought is the worst in recorded history, with thousands of acres already fallow and worse likely to come -- the Northern Sierra snowpack, which provides much of the state's water as it melts, only reached 49 percent of its average thickness this winter.
Less well-publicized but equally devastating droughts have also gripped other agricultural areas of the world. In Latin America, agricultural emergencies have been declared in six countries, including soy-, corn- and cattle-producing giants Argentina and Brazil. The La Nina weather pattern is expected to make the situation worse in both Pacific South America and the southern United States.
Eastern and southern Africa, and western and central Asia are also facing severe droughts. The wheat harvest in eastern South Africa is expected to be the lowest in 30 years. In Central Asia and the Middle East, wheat harvests have dropped an average of 22 percent, reaching as high as 98 percent in northern Iraq.
Farmers have also been hurt by a lack of credit due to the financial crisis, making it harder to buy fertilizer or seed. Even in Europe, which has been relatively untouched by drought, unusual climate conditions and degraded soil have led to a projected 10 to 15 percent drop in crop output.