Devastating floods in Germany, China, Turkey, and India. Scorching hot weather in the Western U.S. and Canada. Worst frost in two decades across Brazil. These recent weather phenomena are rapidly intensifying and threaten further food inflation already at decade highs.
We documented last week Brazil had some of the worst frost conditions in two decades. Temperatures dropped below zero and delivered a massive blow to farmers across the country's coffee belt. The result has been sky-high coffee prices.
Back-to-back heatwaves continue to scorch the Earth across the Western half of the U.S. The corn belt, which spans the Midwest, lacks rainfall, and hot weather could negatively impact crop development, leading to an underwhelming harvest.
In Europe, China, Turkey, and India, devastating floods have torn apart towns, damaged farmland, and killed hundreds of people. Torrential rains have the risk of sparking fungal diseases for grain crops.
"All of these events are touched by jet streams, strong and narrow bands of westerly winds blowing above the Earth's surface. The currents are generated when cold air from the poles clashes against hot air from the tropics, creating storms and other phenomena such as rain and drought," Bloomberg said.
"Jet streams are the weather—they create it, and they steer it," said Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center. "Sometimes the jet stream takes on a very convoluted pattern. When we see it taking big swings north and big dips southward, we know we're going to see some unusual weather conditions."
Meteorologists worry whenever those swings and dips form omega-shaped curves that look like waves. When that happens, warm air travels further north and cold air penetrates further south. The result is a succession of unusually hot and cold weather systems along the same latitude. Under these conditions, winds often weaken and dangerous weather can remain stuck in the same place for days or weeks at a time—rather than just a few hours or a day—leading to prolonged rains and heatwaves.
"It's just like when waves in the ocean get to a beach, overturn and break," said Tess Parker, a research fellow at the ARC Centre for Excellence for Climate Extremes at Monash University in Melbourne. "That can happen in the atmosphere as well, and if that happens you tend to catch a high- or low-pressure system that will become stationary." - Bloomberg
So if it's a stalled high-pressure system in the Pacific Northwest producing relentless heatwaves or a low-pressure system that resulted in devastating German floods earlier this month - the jet steam's latest swings have produced incredible weather phenomena such as rain or drought or extreme temperatures.
"Things that are happening in one part of the world end up impacting all of us," said Agnes Kalibata, a United Nations special envoy for the 2021 Food Systems Summit and Rwanda's former agriculture minister. "We've underestimated as a world is just how frequently" weather could seriously disrupt the global food system.
Wild weather affects crop yields worldwide this year. Along with a monetary phenomenon by central banks flushing the world with trillions in credit, commodity prices have been pushed to decade extremes.
U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization's food price index is at a decade high and already has tremendous implications on societal trends that have already resulted in uprisings in various emerging market countries.
... and it only took Bloomberg six months to catch up with SocGen's market skeptic Albert Edwards' warning that surging global food insecurity could result in an Arab Spring redux.
Edwards, who, unlike Goldman Sachs, began to worry about food inflation in December. Back then, he outlined similarities in rapid food inflation and how it played a considerable role in sparking unrest and ensuing revolutions in many Arab countries a decade ago.
More recently, Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid reminded us that emerging markets are more vulnerable to food insecurity since their consumers spend a far greater share of their income on food than those in the developed world.
Analysts Michael Every and Michael Magdovitz of Rabobank warned that surging food prices could exacerbate global food insecurity, resulting in social unrest in weaker, emerging market countries.
The latest round of wicked weather worldwide suggests that food insecurity is set to worsen and negatively impact emerging market countries the most, where protests and uprisings are only beginning.
More importantly, food inflation is here to stay..