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Fri 10 Dec 2010 03:24 PM

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Middle East wheat faces drought threat, says Martell

Entire region has suffered from drought except for western Turkey and a small area in Iran

Middle East wheat faces drought threat, says Martell
Wheat growing regions in southern Turkey, Syria, Iraq and northern Iran received less than 20 percent of normal rainfall in the 60 days through December 7 (Getty Images)

Middle East wheat production next year is threatened by a drought during the main planting period that is weighing on crop development, forecaster Martell Crop Projections said.

Wheat growing regions in southern Turkey, Syria, Iraq and northern Iran received less than 20 percent of normal rainfall in the 60 days through December 7, according to a report sent out by Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin based Martell today.

Drought in the region would have “major ramifications” for global supplies, already reduced by poor harvests and lack of exports from Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, the forecaster said. Wheat prices have jumped 46 percent in Chicago this year.

In an emailed report, Gail Martell, the head of the forecaster said: “Conditions have turned hot and dry in the Middle East this fall, hampering wheat development.”

It added: “Hardly any rainfall has developed in October and November, the main planting period for wheat.”

The dryness may be linked to the La Nina weather effect, with evidence of a “very poor” wheat harvest in the region in 2008 because of the phenomenon, Martell wrote. The Middle East countries as a whole imported 40 million metric tons of wheat in 2008-2009, twice the five year average, she said.

Martell said: “The worry is that La Nina may be a repeat offender in 2010-2011, causing a damaging drought in Middle East wheat again.”

The entire region has suffered from “intense drought” except for western Turkey and a “small” area in Iran south of the Caspian Sea, Martell said. Some parts of western Turkey received more than twice the normal amounts of rain in the past two months, according to data provided by the forecaster.

Turkey and Iran jointly grow more than 60 percent of the region’s wheat, according to Martell. The climate is “not very conducive” to wheat production, with a typical yield in Turkey of 33 to 35 bushels per acre compared with 43 to 45 bushels in Kansas, the forecaster said.

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