小麦价格上涨引发粮食危机恐慌

英国《金融时报》 哈维尔·布拉斯 伦敦报道

It is not a repetition of the 2007-08 food crisis yet, but the current wheat rally – the fastest in almost 40 years – could soon transform into a full-blown price spiral, spilling over on to other crops such as corn and pushing up retail prices worldwide.

虽然还不至再度引发2007年至2008年那样的粮食危机,但当前小麦价格的上涨——几乎是以40年来最快速度——很可能蔓延到玉米等其他作物,推动全球零售价格上涨,从而演变为价格的全面盘旋上升。

The 2007-08 crisis, the first in three decades, saw the cost of agricultural commodities surge to record highs and riots in countries from Haiti to Bangladesh. It pushed wheat prices to an all-time high of more than $13 a bushel in the US. Yesterday, wheat in Chicago traded at nearly $8 a bushel, after rallying by 80 per cent since mid-June.

2007年至2008年的危机是三十年来的首次,期间大宗农产品成本飙涨至历史最高,从海地到孟加拉国等多个国家发生了骚乱。那场危机推动小麦价格在美国涨至有史以来的最高价——每蒲式耳逾13美元。 昨天,芝加哥小麦交易价格接近每蒲式耳8美元,自6月中旬以来已经上涨了80%。

Yet the world is currently in a better starting position. Farmers have stockpiled large amounts of grain in their barns after two years of bumper crops. In 2007-08, grain stocks had been depleted after a string of bad crops in countries from Canada to Australia.

然而这次,全球处境要好过上次。在两个大丰收年之后,农场主们的仓库里囤积了大量谷物。而在2007年至2008年,由于从加拿大到澳大利亚的一批国家广泛欠收,谷物存货几乎耗尽。

For example, US farmers, which traditionally are the world’s exporters of last resort on the grain market, are now sitting on almost 30m tonnes of wheat, up from just 8m in 2007-08. Inventories of rice, corn and other commodities are also at healthy levels.

例如,美国农场主现在座拥3000万吨左右小麦,2007年至2008年时只有800万吨。传统上,美国农场主是全球谷物市场上最后可依靠的出口商。现在,大米、玉米和其它大宗农产品的存货也位于健康水平。

“Wheat stocks are higher than they were during the wheat price spikes in 2008,” says Cargill, the world’s largest agricultural commodities trader, in an attempt to calm the rally. “The US wheat crop has been strong.”

“小麦库存目前高于2008年小麦价格飙涨期间的水平,” 世界最大的大宗农产品交易商嘉吉(Cargill)表示,力图缓和价格上涨趋势。“美国小麦收成很好。”

Two other factors mediate against a crisis: oil prices are lower than in 2007-08 – when the benchmark West Texas Intermediate soared to almost $150 a barrel – so demand for biofuels will be lower. Ethanol and other biofuels consume large amounts of agricultural commodities such as corn and rapeseed. Also, lower energy prices mean cheaper fertilizer costs, so farmers could more easily expand their production.

另外两个因素,也在缓和着眼下这场危机:目前石油价格低于2007年至2008年时的水平——当时基准的西德州中质油曾飙升至近每桶150美元——所以对生物燃料的需求更低。乙醇和其它生物燃料需要消耗大量大宗农产品,如玉米和油菜籽。同样,更低廉的能源价格意味着更便宜的肥料成本,所以农场主可以更轻松地扩大产量。

The global economic crisis, ironically, plays against a food crisis as it reduces global demand for food commodities, particularly feeding grains used to fatten livestock.

具讽刺意味的是,全球经济危机反而抑制了粮食危机的发生,因为对大宗农产品的需求因之减少了,尤其是用于养肥牲畜的饲料谷物。

Jacques Diouf, director-general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, says the sum of all those factors should prevent a crisis. He noted that global grain stocks were at about 528m tonnes, up from a 30-year low in 2007-08 of 427 tonnes.

联合国粮农机构总干事雅克·迪乌夫(Jacques Diouf)表示,所有这些因素加起来,应该能阻止危机的发生。他指出,全球谷物库存已经从2007年至2008年时的30年低位——427吨,上升到了现在5.28亿吨左右。

But he also warned in an interview that panic buying and export bans could fuel prices, trigger speculation and lead the world into a crisis similar to that of 2007-08. “I don’t think we are heading to a new food crisis, but certainly there is a risk,” Mr Diouf added.

但他在接受一次采访时表示,恐慌性购买和出口禁令可能给价格上涨火上浇油,引发投机行为,并导致世界走向类似2007年至2008年那样的危机。“我不认为我们正走向一场新的粮食危机,但无疑是有风险的,”迪乌夫表示。

Policymakers say that whether a wheat shortage transforms itself into a food crisis would depend very much of two factors: weather and the reactions of governments.

决策者们表示,小麦短缺是否会转变成一场粮食危机,将在很大程度上取决于两个因素:天气,和各国政府的反应。

The weather will be critical in the next six months as global supplies will be dependent from Australia and Argentina, which will harvest their wheat crops in December.

未来6个月里,天气将至关重要,因为全球供应将取决于澳大利亚和阿根廷——它们将在12月收成小麦。

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