Disastrous drought in the United States and Australia is sharply reducing global grain stockpiles as the world’s population continues to grow. Brace yourself for a steep spike in food prices and even extreme shortages in the near future that will impact millions!
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Each October, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issues its “World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates” report to give an annual snapshot of how the world’s burgeoning demand for food compares with global stockpiles of a variety of crops.
In its Oct. 12, 2006 report, the USDA reported that searing, blistering droughts in the United States and Australia—historically, the world’s primary bread baskets—have caused a dramatic drop in international grain supplies.
As the world population continues to swell, this ominous downward trend indicates that supplies will tighten, sharply raising the cost of feeding millions of people and straining relations between nations.
The plunge in millions of tons of grain grown throughout the world in recent years is staggering! Yet most people remain oblivious to what this foreshadows and how they will be directly impacted.
Often considered an antiquated, irrelevant book, the Holy Bible shows that as it becomes increasingly difficult to offset the world’s relentlessly growing hunger problem, famine ultimately will stalk countries and become a major gnawing geopolitical issue—even in prosperous Western nations accustomed to abundance and no lack of food. Diminishing stockpiles also will fan the flames of inflation as demand outstrips supply, putting upward pressure on prices. Bible prophecy plainly warns that millions of people will die from starvation as world conditions worsen and approach the most devastating period ever recorded in the past 6,000 years!
The latest USDA report shows that global wheat production for 2006-07 will drop 11 million metric tons to 585 million tons, or 5.4% below the previous year. Carryover stocks from previous harvests, meanwhile, will decline to 119.3 million tons—the lowest stocks in 25 years! If this continues, there will not be enough grain to feed millions of hungry people on all continents.
The level of wheat stockpiles relative to consumption has hit the lowest level on record. Deutsche Bank estimates global corn stockpiles have fallen to their lowest level since 1979. Drought also has cut a swath across Europe, China, India, Africa and South America.
The USDA lowered the 2006-07 predicted wheat production for Australia, the world’s third largest grain exporter, down 55% to just 11 million tons from 24.5 million tons the previous year. Only a month earlier, the USDA estimated it would be 19.5 million tons.
Reducing its estimate for the second time in a month, AWB—Australia’s primary wheat exporter—predicted on October 25 the severe drought could reduce the nation’s wheat production by 65% to only nine million tons and force the import of feed grains.
The Grains Council of Australia predicts barley production could drop even more steeply—about 75%, from 10 million to 2.5 million tons!
“Persistent drought and September heat, similar to 2002-03 in most of the major growing regions, have sharply reduced prospects for this year’s crop,” the USDA said of Australia’s outlook. “At this level, Australia’s production would be only 0.9 million tons higher than in 2002-03 when record drought and heat devastated that crop.”
The government of Australia declared on October 23 that half the nation’s farm and ranch land was drought-stricken, as the country proceeded deeper into its worst drought on record—following six years of extremely dry conditions
The Australian newspaper reported on October 18 that Australia’s severe drought may slice $3 billion from export earnings. It could cut economic growth by as much as 1% and the Australian farm sector’s total output by 40% this year. Australia accounts for 14% of the wheat traded worldwide. The nation exports about 70% of its wheat. The shrinkage in exports will mainly affect Japan, Indonesia and South Korea, which will need to compete elsewhere for supplies. The USDA cut 2006-07 wheat crop estimates for China, the European Union and Brazil as well.
In the U.S., drought in the Great Plains will reduce wheat production 14% to 49.32 million tons, or 1.812 billion bushels, down from 57.28 million tons harvested a year ago. The USDA also lowered 2006-07 U.S. wheat carryover stocks to 418 million bushels, down 11 million bushels from the agency’s September projection, because of increased exports. Those exports are projected at 925 million bushels, which is a 25 million-bushel increase, due to tighter world wheat supplies. Drops in the production of corn, other coarse grains and small grains such as oats and barley also have been recorded.
According to the NOAA Satellite and Information Service, “Drought is one of the costliest and most prevalent natural hazards on the North American continent. In recent years within the U.S. alone, drought has resulted in average annual economic losses of $6-8 billion (US), and the worst droughts of the past 25 years led to losses exceeding $40B (US).”
Estimated drought losses just in Texas this year were $4.1 billion for the first seven months of 2006, or nearly double the previous biggest loss of $2.1 billion set in all of 1998. Economists agree this year equates historically to the long dry spell of the 1950s or even Dust Bowl conditions of the 1930s.
Lester R. Brown, president of the World Watch Institute, warns that world grain stocks have fallen precipitously to only 57 days of consumption, far below what’s considered safe for food security. In other words, that’s the lowest buffer since the 56-day-low in 1972 that triggered a doubling of grain prices. The proportion of the earth’s land surface stricken by serious drought has more than doubled between the 1970s and early 21st century.
“This year’s world grain harvest is projected to fall short of consumption by 61 million tons, marking the sixth time in the last seven years that production has failed to satisfy demand,” Brown said. “Whenever stocks drop below 60 days of consumption, prices begin to rise. It thus came as no surprise when the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected in its June 9 world crop report that this year’s wheat prices will be up by 14% and corn prices up by 22% over last year’s.”
During the 1990s, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) advocated that world grain stocks should be well above 20-25% of annual grain consumption. By FAO calculations, the world reaches a danger point when grain stocks fall below 17-18% of a year’s average consumption. For 2006, stocks of grain are 319 million metric tons, or barely 16% of today’s annual use of 2,043 million metric tons.
“World grain consumption has risen in each of the last 45 years except for three—1974, 1988, and 1995—when tight supplies and sharp price hikes lowered consumption. Growth in world grain demand, traditionally driven by population growth and rising incomes, is also now being driven by the fast growing demand for grain-based fuel ethanol for cars. Roughly 60 percent of the world grain harvest is consumed as food, 36 percent as feed, and 3 percent as fuel. While the use of grain for food and feed grows by roughly 1 percent per year, that used for fuel is growing by over 20 percent per year” (Earth Policy Institute).
“The use of grain to produce fuel ethanol, is concentrated in the United States where a projected 55 million tons, or one fifth of the projected 268-million-ton corn harvest for 2006, will be used for this purpose. This year the climbing use of corn to produce automotive fuel will catch up with the U.S. export of corn, which is also estimated at 55 million tons. For perspective, although 55 million tons is only 16 percent of the U.S. grain harvest, it exceeds the total grain harvest of Canada” (ibid.).
Meanwhile, population growth is expected to increase by 70 million people for each of the next 14 years. So, between 2006 and 2020, the world’s farmers will need to grow enough food to feed another 980 million—or nearly one billion—additional people! This is an incredibly daunting task as water supplies diminish and adverse weather conditions make it more difficult to cultivate crops.
It was not until 1830 that the world populace reached one billion. A century later, it stood at two billion. Only 30 years later, it crossed the three billion threshold in 1960. It reached four billion in 1975. Only 11 years later, five billion people inhabited the earth in 1986. By 1999, the six billion mark was achieved. India and China each exceed one billion people, and together amount to one third of the entire world.
Meanwhile, the world has lost at least 26 billion tons of topsoil because of rapid population growth, urbanization, marginal farming and desert expansion.
Wheat prices have soared 55% in the past year in Chicago trading. Shortly before the release of the USDA’s October report, wheat futures hit a 10-year high of $5.51 a bushel, an 18% price rise in less than a week, which translates into higher prices for bread, pasta, cereals and animal feed.
The Financial Times reported that the rise in the prices of wheat and other grains has led analysts to caution that the world could face a crisis within the next 12 months if there is another disappointing year of global production.
“We are not near a crisis yet, but if we have another bad year of harvests because of droughts and poor weather then we could be looking at a very serious problem,” the newspaper quoted Abdolreza Abbassian, an FAO commodity analyst.
Gary Sharkey, Head of Wheat Procurement at the National Association of British and Irish Millers, said, “If we have another dry spring or summer in the U.S., then we could be facing all sorts of issues.”
The Financial Times continues: “Food companies, already under pressure from high energy prices…are feeling the impact of higher wheat and grain prices and are passing some of the cost on to customers. Food commodities overall are higher than they were a year ago, with increases in the price of rice, wheat, barley, oats, corn, cocoa and coffee offsetting declines in butter and milk, according to Bernstein Research.”
“Market volatility for wheat futures traditionally peaks in October as information about the spring harvest in the southern hemisphere and the first indications of likely production from hard winter wheat in North America are digested…All of this has led to rising prices. Soft red winter wheat futures on the Chicago Board of Trade have risen more than 19 per cent since the start of the month and 55 per cent this year. The prices of other grains, including corn, have also risen. Deutsche Bank estimates global corn stockpiles have fallen to their lowest level since 1979.”
For decades the amber waves of grain in the United States, Canada and Australia have provided wheat, barley and other crops needed to sustain populations. Massive volumes of grain exports from these countries have kept large portions of the world from succumbing to mass starvation. Bible prophecy shockingly shows that their agricultural production will take a dramatic turn for the worse in the years ahead.
All is not well down on the farm, and the farmer’s plight bodes ill for countries depending upon them for daily sustenance. Dramatic shifts in the balance of international economic power loom. The Bible shows that prior to the Return of Jesus Christ to establish the kingdom of God here on earth massive food shortages will be rampant throughout the world.
The book of Revelation describes four symbolic horses in its sixth chapter. One of the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” is a rider on a black horse symbolizing global famine. “When He [Jesus Christ] opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come and see.’ So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine’” (Rev. 6:5-6 – NKJV throughout).
A denarius was about a day’s wage for a worker in Palestine 2,000 years ago. Carefully measuring and paying that much money for only a small amount of grain shows food in extremely short supply and prices spiraling as a result. Jesus Christ warned that famines would be among the signs of His Second Coming and the end of the age (Matt. 24:3, 7; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11).
Famines can be caused by wars or natural disasters, both of which Christ also said would be precursors to His Second Coming.
Food shortages have existed in Africa, Asia and Latin America for decades—but Bible prophecy shows that even the U.S., the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa will experience a major crisis in feeding their own people. This seems unthinkable today, but prophetic trends point in that direction.
As world population continues to burgeon and grain supplies shrink globally, the prospect of major grain producers falling dramatically behind in production is a frighteningly grim fact of life.
It is no coincidence that the U.S., Australia and Canada have experienced disastrous setbacks in crop production. There is a cause-and-effect reason for the downturn in their harvests. As U.S. President Abraham Lincoln stated in 1863, “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven.”
And yet Americans, Canadians, Australians and other Israelite-descended peoples do not acknowledge their blessings originate with Almighty God. As a result of their egregious sin of ingratitude, along with other national sins, those blessings are being stripped away.
The God of the Bible is punishing these nations. As they continue to reject His commandments, they will increasingly suffer the consequences of disobedience (Deut. 8:5-6). When we obey those commandments, we are blessed. When we reject them, we are cursed.
Notice what God says in His inspired Word: “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing…When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you” (vs. 7-10).
There can be no denying that the modern nations descended from ancient Israel have inherited the world’s prime agricultural land. But after decades of taking it for granted, they have credited themselves with their prosperity and wealth, not the God in heaven who has given it to them. The underlying strength of a nation’s economy is primarily in its farm production.
“Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full…then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth…Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the Lord your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish” (vs. 11-12, 17-19).
The U.S. and other nations have been reeling from a relentless barrage of national setbacks hammering their economic, military and political power, shattering their prestige in the eyes of other nations. Conditions are going to become much worse unless they repent of breaking God’s Ten Commandments and wholeheartedly return to the One who gives them the power to obtain wealth. Severe agricultural problems will be at the forefront.
As we approach the end of this age, God will more directly chastise unrepentant peoples and nations. God warns, “And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. I will break the pride of your power; I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. And your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield its produce, nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit” (Lev. 26:18-20).
Nothing will destroy a nation or empire more effectively than disastrous crop failures, which will force people to spend more of their income to feed themselves at escalating costs. In Deuteronomy 28, God shows that if we do not obey His voice and carefully observe His commandments and statutes, then curses will overtake our lands, not the least of which are agricultural catastrophes. “Cursed shall you be in the country. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be…the produce of your land, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks,” God again warns (Deut. 28:16-18).
“And your heavens which are over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you shall be iron. The Lord will change the rain of your land to powder and dust; from the heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed” (vs. 23-24).
“Your ox shall be slaughtered before your eyes, but you shall not eat of it; your donkey shall be violently taken away from before you, and shall not be restored to you; your sheep shall be given to your enemies, and you shall have no one to rescue them” (vs. 31).
The Bible and history show that the nations of the U.S. and British Commonwealth are modern-day descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh—two of the 12 tribes of ancient Israel. (For more on this key to Bible prophecy, read our book America and Britain in Prophecy.) Just as God has heaped tremendous abundance on those nations in the past two centuries, He is removing those same blessings with alarming speed as national sins mount to heaven.
The prophet Ezekiel’s message to these modern nations of Israel is sobering and frightening unless our people change course. As a symbolic sign of divine punishment on the house of Israel, God told Ezekiel to shave his head and beard, and weigh and divide his hair (Ezek. 5:1). “You shall burn with fire one-third in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are finished; then you shall take one-third and strike around it with the sword, and one-third you shall scatter in the wind: I will draw out a sword after them” (vs. 2).
As God punishes these nations, arrogant disregard for His laws will bring terrible woes. The birthright peoples will experience tragic consequences as they begin to reap what they have sown. The descendant nations of Israel lead the world in creating a culture that glorifies violence, illicit sex and sick humor in entertainment, murders innocent unborn babies by the millions, and mocks traditional Judeo-Christian values. Other countries will be astounded at how rapidly the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are brought down.
“Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Because you have multiplied disobedience more than the nations that are all around you and have not walked in My statutes nor kept My judgments, nor even done according to the judgments of the nations that are all around you,’ therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Indeed I, even I, am against you and will execute judgments in your midst in the sight of the nations. And I will do among you what I have never done, and the like of which I will never do again, because of all your abominations’” (vs. 7-9).
God warns, “One-third of you shall die of the pestilence, and be consumed with famine in your midst; and one-third shall fall by the sword all around you; and I will scatter another third to all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them. Thus shall My anger be spent, and I will cause My fury to rest upon them, and I will be avenged; and they shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it in My zeal, when I have spent My fury upon them” (vs. 12-13).
“When I send against them the terrible arrows of famine which shall be for destruction, and which I will send to destroy you, I will increase the famine upon you and cut off your supply of bread” (vs.16).
For a third of a nation’s population to be wiped out by famine and pestilence—which ride side by side as two of the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”—there must be massive crop failures brought about by natural disasters such as drought and flooding. Keep watching for continued dramatic declines in farm production.
Americans, Britons, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans can avert widespread national disasters by returning to their God in heartfelt repentance and changing their ways. If they refuse, calamities will intensify and ultimately lead to national captivity and slavery.
Notice what King Solomon implored: “When heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, when they pray toward this place and confess Your name and turn from their sin because You afflict them, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel, that You may teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance. When there is famine in the land, pestilence or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers…whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows his own burden and his own grief, and spreads out his hands to this temple: then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know” (II Chron. 6:26-30).
God promises, “When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (II Chron. 7:13-14).
The choice is ours!