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Cold weather threatens crops, livestock

Further winter storms across North America, with extreme low temperatures forecast, pose a risk to commodities such as wheat, orange juice and cattle, and this has helped push prices higher.

The US National Weather Service has warned that ‘the coldest weather in years will be making its presence known from the Upper Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic region for the beginning of the work week’.

The sub-zero temperatures follow snowfalls that have already been heavy in Canada and north east areas of America and could stretch all the way to Florida, raising concerns that frost may damage orange juice groves. Orange juice futures for March finished 2.75% higher at $1.4360 a pound. The price of orange juice advanced 19% last year after disease damaged crops.

Livestock will require more feed to maintain weight in the cold, while snow makes transporting animals slow and difficult. Supplies could be tightened, therefore, and that has helped to raise the price of live cattle futures, the February contract of which climbed to $1.3697 a pound, after earlier hitting an all-time high.

Wheat ran as high as $6.13 a bushel earlier in the trading session, the highest price in two weeks. The US is the biggest exporter of wheat in the world. The coldest temperatures in 20 years are expected to hit the Midwest this week, which could easily reduce the crop yield, although the bed of snow that has already fallen could actually work to protect dormant crops.

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