Climate Change Is Supercharging Food Prices!

Food prices have always fluctuated due to weather events – droughts, floods, heatwaves. War and disease disrupt supply chains too, like the recent Ukraine war and China’s swine fever outbreak.

But a more worrying trend is emerging. From Brazilian oranges to West African cocoa, crops around the world are struggling. Climate change is shifting weather patterns permanently, reducing yields, squeezing supply, and driving up food prices.

The UN Environment Program warns we’re on track for a temperature rise of 2.9C – almost double the Paris Agreement target. The pace of warming is accelerating, exceeding even scientists’ predictions. Last year was the hottest on record, and this year could be worse. Soaring temperatures in India reached nearly 50C, and Europe braces for another brutal summer.

food prices

Agriculture is especially vulnerable. Rising temperatures and extreme weather events will likely lead to shortages of key crops within the next decade.

Wheat, for instance, suffers drastically when spring temperatures exceed 27.8C. A recent study found major wheat belts in China and the US are already experiencing these scorching temperatures with increasing frequency.

Rice, soybeans, corn, and potatoes – all staples – could see yields plummet. The hotter it gets, the lower the yield for many crops.

The cumulative marginal effect of temperature shocks on food and headline inflation.

Think-tank Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit estimates climate change caused a third of 2023’s UK food price hikes. Globally, a study by the European Central Bank and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research predicts annual food inflation could rise by up to 3.2 percentage points due to rising temperatures.

This translates to an overall annual inflation increase of up to 1.18 percentage points by 2035, according to their analysis of historical data from 121 countries. The developing world will likely face the brunt of this crisis.

Reference- Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, The Economist, TIME Magazine