The Guardian reports that climate change could lead to substantial increases in the prices of key staples such as maize and rice. This is based on new ground breaking evidence from a report titled ‘’Food Security, Farming and Climate Change to 2050’’ by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). In the last decade the wide ranging effects of climate change have been discussed. However, IFPRI’s report is one of a growing breed linking climate change to food security.
Over the last two years, the world has witnessed turbulent events relating to food production: the food crisis in 2008, food riots, wildfires in Russia hampering grain stocks and devastating floods in Pakistan affecting rice output. These incidents signal what we are likely to expect in the future and IFPRI’s analysis focuses on the period between 2010 and 2050. World population is estimated to be 9 billion by 2050. Climate change is likely to add further pressure on food production as agriculture is dependent on local temperature and precipitation conditions. Slight changes to these variables means farmers will need to adapt production practices.
In economic terms, the suggestion of supply shocks means that demand is likely to exceed production, which can push prices upwards. The authors of the report have quite innovatively calculated the impact on food prices in three different scenarios (baseline, optimistic and pessimistic). Let us look at the pessimistic/worst case scenario; maize and rice prices are predicted to rise by 106.3% and 78.1% respectively. Whereas, in the optimistic scenario, maize is estimated to increase by 87.3%, whilst rice by 31.2%. Despite, the ‘’good’’ or ’’ bad’’ scenario, both situations imply the regressive impacts on food security, nutrition and human well being, particularly on the poorest who spend a higher proportion of their incomes on food. There are also political consequences to be felt through public unrest. Furthermore, countries may respond via greater protectionism and reduced trade flows.
With this in mind, policy makers need to take measures to reduce the implications of climate change. The report cites a number of measures to prevent the scenarios predicted: enhancing land productivity, improving irrigation efficiency (to conserve water) and more sustainable based policies (eg. aiming for carbon negative agriculture by 2050). What remains is an uncertain future and the affects of climate change, especially on prices and food security are indeed worrying. Concrete policy action needs to be made a priority, otherwise the challenges in the next period 2050-2100 will be even more daunting.