World Bulletin / News Desk
Tropical Storm Isaac, poised to hit Cuba on Saturday, will likely bring minimal relief from the worst U.S. drought in more than half a century, with rains expected in a limited area in the U.S. Southeast or possibly further west into Alabama and Mississippi, an agricultural meteorologist said on Friday.
"Computer maps have been all over the place but it looks like the storm will make landfall in Florida Sunday. That would bring the most rain, probably an inch to four inches or more in the southeast," said Andy Karst, meteorologist for World Weather Inc.
Karst said there are some weather guidance systems that peg the storm's path further west into the southern U.S. which could bring rain to the drought-stricken lower Midwest crop region.
"Confidence is low in that forecast; for now it looks like it will make landfall first in the Florida Panhandle," he said.
The southwest portion of the U.S. Midwest, including eastern Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and southern Iowa should receive from 0.50 inch to 1.00 inch or more of rain Saturday through Monday, with lighter showers in the balance of the Midwest, Karst said.
"It will provide minimal drought relief since it will turn warmer and drier again next week," he said.
Commodity Weather Group (CWG) on Friday said Isaac appeared most likely to track a bit further west, with landfall as a hurricane by Tuesday or Wednesday along the Gulf Coast, possibly Alabama or Mississippi.
Confidence was still low on the exact track of the storm, but the heaviest rains appear more likely to focus on Alabama, Mississippi and the Tennessee Valley rather than the Southeast based on Friday's forecast, CWG said.
Only minor delays in early corn harvest are expected, according to CWG.
Torrential rainfall and wind, while adding valuable soil moisture for fall wheat seeding, could harm some of the early- maturing corn and soybean crops that have already been weakened by the worst drought over the summer in half a century.
The annual Pro Farmer tour of Midwest crops found signs of severe crop losses in the top two corn- and soybean-producing states of Iowa and Illinois on Wednesday. Specialists on the tour pegged corn yields at the lowest in Illinois since 1995.
A Reuters poll of 11 analysts on Wednesday estimated the 2012 U.S. corn yield per acre at 121.5 bushels, the lowest in 16 years, and production at 10.5 billion bushels, an eight-year low.
In its first survey asking for estimates of the amount of corn to be harvested compared with plantings, the poll showed the percentage of harvested corn area at the lowest in nine years.
Analysts' expectations for corn production this season fell 3 percent below the U.S. government's forecast earlier in August and 6 percent below a similar poll of analysts' taken by Reuters at the end of July.
Soybean yield was pegged at 36.6 bushels per acre, an 8-year low, and production at 2.713 billion bushels, a 4-year low. Harvested soybean acreage was pegged at a near normal 97.5 percent of plantings.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday said 4 percent of the U.S. corn crop had already been harvested, the fastest start ever. The crop was planted early, then pushed to maturity by relentless heat and drought over the summer.
Ecuador, Egypt, Pakistan, Venezuela, Belize, Cuba, Cyprus, Greece, Jamaica and Ukraine are all on the verge of a default, according to Moody's ratings.
A World Trade Organisation pact to ease worldwide customs rules collapsed late on Thursday over India's demands for concessions on agricultural stockpiling.
India's new nationalist government has insisted that a permanent agreement on its subsidised food stockpiling must be in place at the same time as the trade facilitation deal
Chemicals firm LyondellBasell has emerged as the mystery American buyer of Kurdish crude oil this year, but said it will not be buying any more
Some EU member states remain nervous about the impact on their own fragile economies. The sanctions deal was agreed only after initial proposals were narrowed.
Bankers in Singapore say Russians looking for a new Cyprus have come to the wrong place.
The default could get much messier and take longer to clear up if creditors force an "acceleration" for early payment on their bonds.
The ban came a day after the European Union and United States imposed their first sanctions aimed at hitting broad sectors of the Russian economy
Russia called new U.S. sanctions "destructive and short-sighted"
While the default will obviously hurt the economy, it will not be as severe as in 2001, economists say
The Czechs, who supported the action, have been against sweeping sanctions, worried about trade relations with Russia
The trade program has been criticized for disproportionately benefiting certain industries and a handful of countries, including Nigeria, South Africa and Angola.
The United Kalavrvta tanker, carrying some 1 million barrels of crude worth about $100 million, arrived off the coast of Texas on Saturday but has yet to unload its disputed cargo.
The uncertainty comes at a bad time for the 18 countries in the euro zone, whose economy is already in the doldrums.
"Kalashnikov regrets that consumers are faced with such a problem," said spokeswoman Yekaterina Boni.
Cairo and Khartoum had earlier accepted a proposal by Addis Ababa to hold the talks in Sudan in the third week of August.