The Journal Gazette
Friday, February 21, 2020 1:06 pm

Column: Wheat plagued by drought, locusts

WALT and ALEX BREITINGER | Breitinger & Sons LLC

Wheat prices exploded on Tuesday, gaining more than 20 cents per bushel as traders grew concerned about global supply threats.

Australia's crop is suffering because of dry conditions, and a plague of locusts is threatening crops across Pakistan, India and China.

This winter saw a locust outbreak in East Africa, ravaging crops in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. The insects are now swarming farther east, and Pakistan is suffering from the worst outbreak in more than 20 years, prompting action from the United Nations.

As the insects spread, they are beginning to threaten China and India, the world's largest wheat producers. As a result of damage already wrought by the infestation, prices for food are soaring in those countries, and will likely force them to import wheat to meet their needs.

Domestically, U.S. farmers are keeping wheat acreage steady, but increased demand from foreign buyers could leave us with the smallest stockpile in five years. As of midday Friday, March Chicago wheat futures traded at $5.56 per bushel.

Gold blasts to 7-year high

Gold rocketed to more than $1,650 per ounce on Friday for the first time since 2013.

The yellow metal becomes popular during times of economic or geopolitical uncertainty, and the market has been feeding on turmoil for weeks. The dominant concern has been an increase in coronavirus cases. This is raising worries the supply chain of goods and parts from China could be severely interrupted, slowing global growth.

In response to the virus and looming economic slowdowns, more countries are stimulating their economies by lowering interest rates or reducing lending standards, pumping in “easy money.” These actions can lead to inflation, which often stimulates gold demand.

Meanwhile, U.S. stock markets are near all-time highs, which has prompted some investors to fear that equities are overvalued, stimulating demand for alternatives such as precious metals. March silver stood at $18.52 per ounce on Friday.

Walt and Alex Breitinger are commodity futures brokers in Valparaiso. They can be reached at (800) 411-3888 or This is not a solicitation of any order to buy or sell any market.

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