(Bloomberg) – Extreme weather is hitting crops across the globe, bringing with it the threat of further food inflation at a time when costs are already hovering near the highest in a decade and hunger is on the rise.
Brazil’s worst frost in two decades dealt a deadly blow to young coffee trees at the world’s largest grower. Floods in China’s main pig region flooded farms and increased the threat of animal disease. The scorching heat and drought destroyed crops on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border. And in Europe, torrential rains created the risk of fungal diseases for cereals and tractors stuck in wet fields.
Coffee is the biggest driver of recent times, with prices rising 17% this week and catching $ 2 a pound for the first time since 2014. But the recent frost in Brazil is just the latest example of disasters affecting farmers there this year. Brazil is also experiencing a damaged drought that destroyed the reservoirs needed for irrigation.
The series of disasters underscores what scientists have warned for years: Climate change and weather instability will make it increasingly difficult to produce enough food for the world, with the poorest nations usually feeling the hardest. heavy. In some cases, social and political unrest ensues.
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“Things that are happening in one part of the world end up affecting all of us,” said Agnes Kalibata, a United Nations special envoy for the 2021 Food Systems Summit and Rwanda’s former agriculture minister. “We have underestimated as the world is how often” the weather will start to have serious impacts.
“Some communities are already living through the nightmares of climate change,” Kalibata said.
The Food Price Index from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization rose for 12 consecutive months until May before easing in June to 124.6 points, again 34% more than a year earlier. The index measures the international prices of a food basket.
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No other industry is more at the mercy of the sun, rain and heat than agriculture, where weather changes can take away the fate of an overnight farmer. Alsoshtë also an industry that has become extremely globalized and concentrated, creating an uncertain situation when an extreme weather event in one place will have ripples everywhere.
Brazil, for example, is the world’s largest transporter of sugar and orange juice and a major producer of corn and soy. It accounts for about 40% of the world harvest for Arabica coffee, the mild variety that appears in your Starbucks cup.
“There is no other country in the world that has that kind of impact on world market conditions – what happens in Brazil affects everyone,” said Michael Sheridan, director of resources and shared value at Intelligentsia Coffee, a roaster and retailer with Chicago-based minority. .
What is unique at the moment is that extreme weather seems to be hitting almost every region of the globe.
Burning North America
Dry conditions in Canada, accompanied by record-breaking heat, caused hundreds of fires, with blazes spreading eastward in all five provinces and nearly as far north as the Arctic Ocean in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. The fires have been so treacherous in western British Columbia that thousands of railroad trucks carrying grain for export have been left at work for weeks.
Drought is also dragging crops to the bread basket prairie provinces of Canada and the northern U.S., forcing farmers to take the rare step of coping with low-yield wheat and barley stalks to sell as livestock feed . Prices for the region’s spring wheat, the variety used to make flour for the pan and pizza crust, recently reached their highest in more than eight years. Even fresh shellfish in the Pacific Northwest have fallen victim to extreme heat and its impact on marine life.
The heavy frost that devastated major Arab-brown areas in Brazil is particularly deadly for young trees, which could create greater losses for farmers and damage production for years.
The death of young trees increases the likelihood that the crop two years from now will be compromised, said Judy Ganes, a consultant who has covered commodity markets for more than three decades. Farmers will have to cut damage, destroying yields or replanting their fields.
The floods in China’s central Henan province, a hub for agricultural and food production, appear to be holding back for now, but are being closely monitored for any sign of more serious disruption. While some pig farms and corn crops were damaged by recent rains, most of the produce is located far from the most affected regions.
A bigger concern is the potential spread of animal diseases, including African swine fever, from which China has recovered after a devastating outbreak in 2018 that wiped out almost half of its swine herd. The nation’s agriculture ministry warned on Friday about the growing risks of animal epidemics following the Henan disaster, saying the diseases could be spread by dead animals as well as through contaminated soil and water. Local authorities were asked to take bodies from lakes and rivers, disinfect breeding pens more often and strictly ban the sale and processing of dead animals.
Dramatic images of flooded cities in Germany and Belgium this month are adding to a wetter summer than usual for much of Europe. Rain has given its losses from cereals, leading to harvest delays. This follows a frost spring which damaged crops from sugar beet to fruit trees and destroyed several vineyards in France and elsewhere.
While European wheat production is actually expected to increase this year, part of the harvest could end up going from milling for bread products to farm feed in the country. This threatens shipments to North Africa, which relies on imports of high-quality cereals.
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