Friday, August 28, 2020

Britain: "Dire wheat harvest after 'season of extremes' prompts bread price rise fears"

From a May 2019 post:
One of the Scariest Sentences In the English Language: Crop Progress Report Edition
"In the spring of 1315, unusually heavy rain began in much of Europe."
The story continues:
Throughout the spring and summer, it continued to rain and the temperature remained cool. These conditions caused widespread crop failures. The straw and hay for the animals could not be cured and there was no fodder for the livestock. The price of food began to rise. Food prices in England doubled between spring and midsummer. Salt, the only way to cure and preserve meat, was difficult to obtain because it could not be evaporated in the wet weather; it went from 30 shillings to 40 shillings. 
a quick note on British agriculture:
the vast majority of the wheat grown in the U.K is winter wheat planted in the fall, the same schedule as Kansas in the U.S.

From DevonLive, August 27:

Some millers have already increased the price of flour
Wheat being harvested at the end of July. British arable farmers are expecting to cut the smallest wheat area in 40 years, after a series of less than ideal weather conditions, from an unusually wet autumn to record-breaking dry spring

A “season of extremes” has left arable farmers facing their worst wheat harvest in 40 years, industry leaders have warned, prompting concerns of a price rise for bread and flour.
A series of weather setbacks, starting with heavy rain in the autumn which delayed crop drilling, followed by the wettest February on record, a record-breaking dry and sunny spring and further heavy rain this month has resulted in the UK’s lowest wheat crop area since the 1980s, according to the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), with yields expected to strike a similar multi-decade low.
As a result, some millers have already increased the price of flour by 10% and in the event of a no-deal Brexit, they say wheat imports could be liable for a hefty £79 per tonne tariff, pushing up prices even further....

There won't be a famine and because of all the other input costs (baking, transport, packaging et al) even if wheat prices double the effect on the delivered loaf of bread is not as dire as the headlines might imply.
The other good news is that the risk of ergot poisoning from damp wheat is lower than it is with rye.
Your little ray of sunshine, that's me.

Back to the Wikipedia entry:
...The famine caused millions of deaths over an extended number of years and marked a clear end to the period of growth and prosperity from the 11th to the 13th centuries.

The Great Famine started with bad weather in spring 1315. Crop failures lasted through 1316 until the summer harvest in 1317, and Europe did not fully recover until 1322. The period was marked by extreme levels of crime, disease, mass death, and even cannibalism and infanticide. The crisis had consequences for the Church, state, European society, and for future calamities to follow in the 14th century....
Be on the alert for any neighbours with a hungry look in their eye.