Climate change risks driving up wheat prices in food-insecure regions and exacerbating economic inequality

Wheat is an essential source of nourishment for people around the world, providing 20% energy and protein at 3, 4 billion people in the world. Even if we meet climate mitigation targets and stay below 2°C warming, climate change is expected to significantly alter wheat yield and price in the years to come. Researchers publishing in the journal A single Earth on 19 August predict that wheat yield is likely to increase at high latitudes and decrease at low latitudes, meaning that wheat prices cereals are likely to change unevenly and increase in much of the Global South, reinforcing existing inequalities.

“Most studies mainly focus on the impact of climate change modeling on wheat yields,” says lead author Tianyi Zhang, an agro-meteorologist at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. “It is indeed crucial, but crop yields do not provide a holistic view of food security. In the real world, many countries, especially developing countries, rely heavily on agribusiness.”

The team developed a novel approach to modeling climate-wheat-economy package. This enhanced model system allows researchers to explicitly examine the impacts of average weather conditions and extreme events on wheat yields, prices, and the global supply and demand chain. “We know from previous research that extreme events do not necessarily react in the same way as average conditions, and because these extreme events have the most impact on societies, this is a crucial step forward.” , says co-author Karin van der Wiel. climatologist at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.

The model predicts that yield will increase in high latitude regions – countries like the United States, Russia and much of northern Europe. In countries like Egypt, India and Venezuela, however, wheat yields are likely to fall – in some areas by more than 15%. “With this change in yields, the traditional trade position of the wheat market could deepen, which could bring low-latitude wheat-importing regions, such as South Asia and North Africa. than wheat-exporting countries,” says Zhang. but wheat prices on the world market could become more volatile and exacerbate existing inequalities. “Trade liberalization policy under 2° warming might stabilize or even increase farmers’ incomes in wheat-exporting countries, but would reduce farmers’ incomes in wheat-importing countries,” Zhang said. “This could create new economic inequalities between farmers in wheat-exporting and wheat-importing countries.”

Zhang and his team hope their forecasts for wheat prices and volatility will spur to global action. “Helping to improve grain food self-sufficiency in developing countries is important for global food security,” Zhang said. “It deserves to be discussed between countries in the upcoming international agricultural collaboration policy.”

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