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Climate change: Global food prices may rise 194% by 2050

• Wheat, rice, maize most affected; hunger, malnutrition to worsen

By Sola Ogundipe
COST of food  may rise astronomically by as much as 194 per cent in Nigeria and the rest of the world by 2050 as a result of the effects of climate change. The  developement could also lead to  increased hunger and malnourishment of 25 million more children across the world.

With this projection, a bag of wheat may cost 194 per cent more than it costs currently. While maize is expected to rise by 153 per cent per bag, a  bag of rice is estimated to  cost 121 per cent as much as it costs today.

A new report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), which predicts this development, however notes that the impact of the food price increase on poor people can be averted with a $7 billion additional annual investments in rural development.

The investment, the report notes,is needed in agricultural research, for improved irrigation, and rural roads to increase market access for poor farmers as well as access to safe drinking water and education for girls.

The new study – currently rated as the most comprehensive assessment of the impact of climate change on agriculture to date – also compares the number of malnourished children in 2050 with and without climate change.

Nigeria, the world’s ninth most populous nation has  a very high level of poverty, and is currently rated  fifth on the global hunger index rating. The country’s 300,000- tonne strategic food reserves pales in comparison to the 2.8 million tonnes reserve expectation of the Food and Agricultural Organisation(FAO) which recommends  every country to  have at least 20 kilograms per  person for three months at any point in time.

Gerald Nelson, IFPRI Senior Research Fellow noted in the  study,entitled: “Climate Change: Impact on Agriculture and Costs of Adaptation,” and prepared by IFPRI for inclusion in two separate reports from the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, observed that without new technology and adjustments by farmers, climate change will reduce irrigated wheat yields in 2050 by around 30 per cent in developing countries compared to a no-climate change scenario.

According to the report, irrigated rice yields are expected to fall by 15 per cent with the climate change scenario. It noted that even without climate change, food prices will still rise, but that climate change will make the the problem worse. For instance, without climate change, wheat prices will increase globally over the next 40 years by almost 40 per cent.

With climate change, the prices will increase by up to 194 per cent. Without climate change, rice and maize are  projected to increase 60 per cent. The first of its kind, this study combines climate models that project changes in rainfall and temperature and a crop model to capture biophysical effects with IFPRI’s economic model of world agriculture.The latter projects changes in the production, consumption and trade of major agricultural commodities.

Essentially, the modeling does not include effects of increased variability in weather due to climate change or the loss of agricultural lands due to rising sea levels, or climate change-induced increases in pests and diseases or increased variability in river flow as glaciers melt.

All these factors could increase the damage of climate change to agriculture. Developing countries will be hit hardest by climate change and will face bigger declines in crop yields and production than industrialised countries, the study finds. The negative effects of climate change are especially pronounced in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Compared to the average biophysical effects of climate change on yields in the industrialized world, the developing countries fare worse for almost all crops.

“Agriculture is extremely vulnerable to climate change, because farming is so weather-dependent. Small-scale farmers in developing countries will suffer the most,” noted Mark Rosegrant, director of IFPRI’s Environment and Production Technology Division and report co-author.

“However, our study finds that this scenario of lower yields, higher prices, and increased child malnutrition can be avoided.”In addition to increased funding for rural development, IFPRI recommends more open agricultural trade to ensure that food will reach the poorest populations in times of crises.

“If governments and donors begin now to invest seriously in adaptation for poor farmers, we can avert this bleak future.”

Recently, Director-General of the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, Lagos,  (FIIRO) Dr. Oluwole Olatunji,  warned that the country was on the verge of an impending food crisis. Olatunji  who warned that the Nigerian situation could be worse than that of other nations of the world if not timely and properly addressed, enjoined the Federal Government to establish more food storage facilities in the country to reduce post harvest losses and reduce soaring food prices.


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