Food Security Impacted by Extreme Weather, Task Force Reports

Aug. 14 - The future supply of food for the world's population is becoming increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, a UK-US research group said in a report. Governments and organizations, large and small, should improve their understanding of the risks and take steps to mitigate it if they are to meet a 60% increase in food demand by 2050, the report said.

"While governments around the world are implementing strategic responses to better manage food production, in particular following food shocks in the past decade, these responses have not (yet) created a resilient food system," said the report entitled The UK-US Taskforce on Extreme Weather and Global Food System Resilience.

The report, prepared for the British think tank Global Food Security, surveyed recent and historic food crises and then postulated a few food crisis scenarios in the coming years.

The forecasted scenarios looked at possible effects that droughts and other weather conditions might have on crop production in various countries, and how national and international markets might respond.

Record of Food Shocks

The task force said that prior experience with food shocks have provided information that can inform planning decisions.

"Over the last century there have been several food production shocks that have seen 10% of individual grains lost in a single year,' the reprort said. "These production shocks often, but not always, lead to policy responses, export or import shocks and price shocks.

Food policy responses after price changes

"A physical shock can often be the trigger for a much larger market shock especially when there are other issues that increase the size of the shock, such as export restrictions, re-stocking (demand increase) of low stocks, biofuel policy/growth and a devalued US dollar. Individual grain prices have more than doubled in a relatively short space of time during some of the past shocks," it said.

As a prelude to its forecast models it noted four crop shortfall periods that resulted from drought:

Year Crop Global Reduction
1988 Corn 12%
1988/89 Soybeans 8.5%
2003 Wheat 6%
2002/2003 Rice 4%

Impacts of Future Food Shortages

The task force said that should two of these crops fail simultaneously in one year the impacts likely would:

  • Fall heaviest on developing countries
  • Cause civil unrest in food importing countries
  • Be muted in developed economies
  • Have longer-term environmental effects if policy responses are not thought through

Recommendations

The report recommended:

  • Understand the risks through better crop modeling
  • Coordinate risk management
  • Remove choke points in international food markets; especially guard against harmful food export controls.
  • Become more resilient with:
    • strategic storage
    • better futures contracts
    • safety nets for households
    • more domestic production of food within a country
  • Adapt agriculture for climate change

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