A new report from the United Nations agriculture agencies has warned climate change has become one of the leading risks to food security.
The UN agricultural agencies say droughts, floods and hurricanes are also expected to result in production and price volatility.The warn comes in the annual State of Food Insecurity in the World, published by the FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Program.
The 2007-08 food crisis, when the surge in food costs sparked riots across developing countries, had its roots in a series of droughts around the world, including Argentina and Vietnam.
The Russian wheat export ban in 2010-11, caused by a severe drought, also led to instability in African states amid a surge in bread prices.
Unpredictable weather patterns, which have led to losses in harvests in crops such as wheat, rice and corn, have continued to keep governments on high alert.
“Climate will play an even more prominent role in food security,” said Josef Schmidhuber at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), one of the three agencies behind the annual agricultural report.
The increasing risk from unpredictable weather patterns and the resulting volatility in prices raises the probability of farmers investing less in agricultural production, threatening food output levels, Mr Schmidhuber warned.
Despite heightening concerns that recent price shocks in food commodity prices were leading to food price inflation, the report said price volatility was affecting farmers in developing countries more than consumers.
This was because the value of the primary commodity relative to the overall price of the food product was small in many cases.
The report also said the impact of price swings were also reduced by consumers switching between food items.
On the other hand, “the low capacity of small-scale producers, such as smallholder farmers, to cope with large swings in input and output prices makes them risk-averse, lowers their propensity to adopt and invest in new technologies and ultimately results in lower overall production,” the report said.
While the overall level of undernourished people had fallen three per cent during 2011-13 compared with 2010-12, about one in eight people in the world were likely to have suffered from chronic hunger, according to the report.
Although Africa has the highest prevalence of undernourishment, the three agencies warned that there were regions, such as north Africa and west Asia, which relied on food imports and oil exports.
This made these countries susceptible to price swings on world commodity markets.
North Africa was among the largest grain importing regions in the world.
“These regions export hydrocarbons and import carbohydrates to ensure their food security,” said the report.
It also said that the most precarious food security situations arose when proceeds from oil and gas exports slowed or stalled, food subsidies were affected by growing government deficits, or civil unrest had disrupted domestic food chains.