Extreme weather conditions are hitting crops around the world, posing the threat of further food inflation at a time when food prices are already at their highest in a decade and the number of hungry people is on the rise.
The worst freezing temperatures in Brazil in two decades have dealt a fatal blow to young coffee trees in the world's largest coffee producer. Flooding in a key pig region in China has flooded farms and increased the threat of animal disease. Scorching heat and drought have destroyed crops on both sides of the US-Canada border. And in Europe, torrential rains have created a risk of fungal diseases in crops and caused tractors to stop in soggy fields.
Coffee has seen the most recent gains, with prices soaring 17% this week to surpass $ 2 a pound for the first time since 2014. But the recent freeze in Brazil is just the latest example of the woes befell farmers this year. Brazil is also experiencing a dire drought that has depleted reservoirs needed for irrigation.
A string of disasters underscores what scientists have been warning about for years: Climate change and the associated volatility of the weather will make it harder to produce enough food for the world, with the poorest countries generally feeling the worst. hit. In some cases, this is followed by social and political unrest.
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“What happens in one part of the world ultimately affects all of us,” says Agnes Kalibata, UN Special Envoy to the 2021 Food Systems Summit and former Rwandan Agriculture Minister. "We underestimated how the world, how often" the weather will start to have a serious impact.
“Some communities are already living in nightmares of climate change,” Kalibata said.
The food price index from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations grew for 12 consecutive months until May, and in June fell to 124.6 points, which is 34% higher than a year earlier. The index measures the international prices of a grocery basket.
No other industry is more dependent on sun, rain and heat than agriculture, where changes in the weather can turn a farmer's fortune overnight. In addition, the industry has become extremely globalized and concentrated, creating a dangerous situation where an extreme weather event in one place is bound to cause unrest everywhere.
For example, Brazil is the world's largest supplier of sugar and orange juice, as well as a major producer of corn and soybeans. It accounts for about 40% of the world's Arabica coffee, the same variety sold in your Starbucks cup.
"No other country in the world has such an impact on the global marketplace - what happens in Brazil affects everyone," said Michael Sheridan, director of purchasing and general values for the Chicago-based roasting and retail company Intelligentsia Coffee.