Food production “shocks” that push up prices and can spark unrest, migration and even terrorism are set to become more common with climate change, experts have warned.
The global food system, already under pressure from rising demand from a growing, increasingly wealthy population, is vulnerable to sudden shocks from extreme weather such as drought or floods, a Government-commissioned report said.
Such extreme weather events are becoming more frequent as global temperatures rise, making “rare” food production shocks more common in the coming decades, the study by a UK and US taskforce of academics, industry and policy experts warned.
Preliminary analysis suggests the risk of a once-in-a-century food production shock, in which harvests of key crops such as wheat, maize, rice and soy bean could fall by around 5% to 7%, could become three times as likely by 2040.
More extreme reductions in production, which would be expected to occur once in 200 years today, could be the norm by the end of the century under the worst case scenarios.
Even small weather-related production shocks, coupled with policies by countries such as imposing export bans in the face of crop reductions or requiring increase use of biofuels, can cause significant price spikes, the report said.