SARS impact on world grain sector appears minimal

by Emily Buckley
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KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, U.S. — Although Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome has alarmed worldwide travelers and the international health community, the disease apparently has not significantly affected the world grain industry.

SARS has been cited as one explanation for recent weakness in soy complex futures prices, but industry representatives, analysts and traders told World Grain’s sister publication, Milling & Baking News, at the beginning of May that the overall impact of SARS appeared negligible.

Dawn Forsythe, a spokesperson for U.S. Wheat Associates, said the disease had caused a run on noodles and some grain-based foods in parts of China, where it first appeared six months ago and where most of the 5,000 confirmed cases worldwide remain confined.

But Forsythe said the disease had not disrupted wheat trade between Asian countries and the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, industry analysts said they remained more concerned about whether SARS would push the Far East into another economic crisis similar to the 1997-98 economic downturn that trimmed the region’s grain demand. Grain exporters said that despite their same concern, that had not happened yet.