Extreme Weather Helps Drive Up Food Prices

extreme weather

As my colleague William Neuman reports, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization announced this week that food prices hit a record high last month. Its Food Price Index was 214.7 for December, the highest level since the organization created the index to measure the price of a standard basket of goods in 1990.

Some environmental groups are attributing this partly to an increase in extreme weather that scientists say is probably linked to global warming.

OxfamAmerica said that a “major contributor” to this price surge has been the disastrous effect of extreme weather events on harvests of certain crops. “The record rise in food prices is a grave reminder that until we act on the underlying causes of hunger and climate change, we will find ourselves perpetually on the knife’s edge of disaster,” said Gawain Kripke, policy director for the organization.

This summer, for example, Russian wheat crops were devastated by a season of unusual drought and wildfire. Pakistan’s crop yields were reduced because of floods. In Laos and Cambodia, food production was compromised by “delayed and erratic rains,” the Food and Agriculture Organization said.

Fortunately, the price of rice — a staple food for billions of poor people in Asia — has remained stable, so the high prices are not generally expected to create a hunger crisis. In contrast, the prices of sugars, fats and oils have risen by more than 50 percent since early 2009.

Factors other than climate influence the food supply, of course, including trade issues and the value of the dollar, the main currency for food aid.

But scientists say that crop failures related to climatic events will be inevitable in the planet’s warmer future. If so, farmers will need help adapting to them.

Source: The New York Times

Eco-agriculture and organic farming are becoming more prominent as consumers realise the health benefits as well as the environmental benefits.  However, most food crops are still grown with the help of pesticides, herbicides and all sorts of other ‘cides’.  Farming is not easy and climate change makes it even more risky and unpredictable.  Farmers these days need to be well-informed and properly qualified to engage in this high risk business so critical to our survival.

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