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Alex Breitinger column: Drought plagues the Great Plains

7:37 PM, Aug. 23, 2013  |  Comments
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Large areas of the Great Plains are abnormally dry or experiencing outright drought, hurting the corn and soybeans growing in those states.

Although the drought is not as severe as the past two summers, dry conditions are hampering crops that were already underdeveloped due to late planting last spring. Forecasts for dry weather into next week helped to push soybean prices to a two-month high this week, with November beans trading as high as $13.19 per bushel.

As wheat farmers prepare to plant their winter crop this fall, they would like to see more moisture in the ground, but optimism is drying up as forecasts project that the drought will persist.

Coffee drips

Coffee fell to the lowest price in more than four years this week, grinding under $1.13 per pound Thursday. Prices are under pressure as Brazil finishes harvesting a bumper crop and farmers start selling their product onto the global market. Brazil is the world's biggest producer and exporter, making it closely watched by coffee traders.

In 2011, prices perked as high as $3.06 as major producing nations like Colombia and Brazil had small crops at the same time that Chinese and Indian demand was picking up. During the period of high prices, farmers adapted to using more fertilizer and planting new trees, increasing the global supply and causing a two-year, 63 percent sell-off.

Looking ahead, Brazil is expected to have a record-breaking crop in 2014, signaling that caffeine lovers may continue enjoying a cheap fix in the future.

Gold shines

Financial, geopolitical and supply uncertainty all weighed on gold traders' minds this week, sparking a rally in gold that pushed the metal to a two-month high near $1,400 an ounce.

News from the Federal Reserve indicated that the stimulus may continue longer, boosting demand for gold from investors looking for a hedge against future inflation, while ongoing violence in Egypt and increasing attention on the Syrian civil war has prompted some investors to flock toward the perceived safety of gold.

Ongoing labor disputes in South Africa are also contributing to the rally, as that nation provides roughly 8 percent of global gold mining. By midday Friday, gold had climbed $24.30 (1.8 percent) to $1,396.

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