USA – A ravaging drought that is quickly spreading across key grain states in the US is casting a long shadow over the country’s 2023 grain production.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a record-large 82% of the country is experiencing abnormal dryness, slightly more than 2012’s high of 81%.

What is even worrying is that drought in key grain states is spreading quickly, putting many grains that are currently in the field at risk.

The crop-heavy Midwest is taking the brunt of the drought, with some 15% of its area currently experiencing severe drought.

The situation is further worsening, growing from just 10% in mid-September to roughly about 43% this week.

Of all the crops, industry sources note that the U.S. winter wheat crop is most at risk since there is less recovery time.

Low Mississippi River derails grain shipment

The extended drought is having far reaching effects even in sectors outside primary agricultural production.

Transport of grains which is normally reliant on the Mississippi River has also been disrupted with historically low levels in the course way, making the river unnavigable.

The depth of ships’ drafts, or the distance between the waterline and the deepest point of the boat, are now limited to 41 feet upriver of the port of Baton Rouge, the nation’s eighth-largest by tonnage, the U.S. Coast Guard said late Friday.

That’s down from 45 feet, a level at which vessels are encountering problems as spreading drought in the Midwest dries up the waterway.

Bloomberg recently reported that port authorities have been forced to limit vessel drafts near a key export hub due to “Serious concerns” over critically low water levels in the Mississippi River.

The decision, although unavoidable, is adding a further headache for shippers already contending with delays and skyrocketing costs, reports Bloomberg.

As of Saturday morning, there were four waterway closures on the river, the Coast Guard said, with a queue of more than 2,700 barges and vessels waiting at points in Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky.

On Friday, the Coast Guard said there were more than 1,800 barges and vessels stuck along the river because of low water levels.

Hope is now pegged on the US Army Corps of Engineers which has been dredging various sections of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers to open up the channels.

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