Record rain ruins 90 percent of harvest

Norway will have to import 260,000 tonnes of grain for the first time since the starvation years after World War Two, the country's agriculture minister has said.

“Large amounts of grain have been destroyed as food fit for humans, so this will be dependent on buying grain in a hard-pressed global market,” Food and Agriculture Minister Lars Pedar Brekk said in a statement.

More rain has fallen on Norwegian farmers this year than in all of last year combined, and crops have rotted in great new pools of rainwater. The rain of 2011 followed an extra-dry 2010, and the country’s fields of wheat looked set to have a bumper year.

Instead, wheat strands have been flattened by heavy rain making them impossible to harvest by modern machinery.

In good years, the country meets all the needs of bakers, and farmers in normal years produce three-quarters of what’s needed.

With just 60 percent of grain retrieved and likely destined to be animal feed, the harvest of potatoes, beans, berries and other crops has also been hit with unknown implications for food prices.

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Norwegian firm warns high gas prices could impact food production

Soaring prices for natural gas, a key feedstock for producing chemical fertilisers, will weigh on food production and security, a major Norwegian manufacturer warned Wednesday.

Rising gas prices could make food more expensive, Norwegian firm Yara has said. Pictured is the fruit isle on supermarket shelves.
Rising gas prices could make food more expensive, Norwegian firm Yara has said. Pictured is the fruit isle on supermarket shelves.Photo by gemma on Unsplash

Norway-based Yara said that a near fifteenfold rise in European natural gas prices had forced it to reduce its production of ammonia, a key fertiliser component.

“European nitrogen production is essential to global food security, and we are therefore concerned about the impact current European natural gas prices will have, especially for the world’s poorest regions,” chief executive Svein Tore Holsether said in a statement.

As prices for fertilisers rise in the wake of those for natural gas, farmers will be tempted and perhaps forced to cut back on their use. As a consequence, production of food crops could drop.

Holsether pledged Yara will do its utmost to supply farmers and support global food production.

However, he said, “the current situation clearly demonstrates the need for more resilient food supply chains” and called on both government and industry to work together to secure the global food supply.

Rising prices helped Yara’s results overall in the third quarter, with headline sales rising by 46 percent to nearly $4.5 billion.

Operating earnings also improved, but adverse currency effects and writing down the value of a phosphate mining project pushed the firm into a net loss of $143 million.

It earned a net profit of $340 million in the third quarter. Yara shares were up 1.5 percent in afternoon trading, while the main OBX  index was up 1.4 percent.