Wild weather could tip global food bowl | Connect Asia

Wild weather could tip global food bowl

Wild weather could tip global food bowl

Posted 9 July 2010, 12:19 AEST

Extreme weather patterns across Asia are raising concerns about a new global food crisis.

Climate scientists say recent floods and droughts have lead to below average crop yields across Asia. And they warn the flow on affect will be a rise in food prices and an increase in hunger among the world's poor.

Presenter: Claudette Werden

Eko Santoso, from Indonesia's Weather Bureau; Todd Smith from Australia's official Climate Service Centre; Corey Watts, Climate Institute

WERDEN: China's health ministry is advising the nation's hospitals to gear up for a rise in the number of people suffering from heat-stroke and other heat related conditions. This week, the mercury hit 40 degrees in Beijing, the city's highest temperature for early July in 50 years.

A month ago it was floods wreaking havoc in southern China, the worst in the area since 1998. The official Xinhua newsagency says the torrential summer rainstorms caused economic losses of an estimated US$12 billion dollars

Thailand, the world's largest exporter of rice has been experiencing its worst drought in nearly two decades. Fifty-three provinces have been declared disaster areas, with more than 24,000 hectares of crops damaged by the dry weather.

EKO SANTOSO, from Indonesia's Weather Bureau says his country has also been affected by the extreme weather patterns.

SANTOSO: The sea level temperature in Indonesia is still high, so this causes higher erratic humidity, La Nina causes floods in Java and the other islands like Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Bali.

WERDEN: Todd Smith, from Australia's official Climate Service Centre, says the main driver of the extreme weather is the transition from the drier El Nino to a wetter La Nina cycle.

SMITH: Areas near Java have had between 2- and 400 millimetres more than what they normally experience over the last three months so it's been quite wet through Indonesia and up into places like Burma and Bangladesh and then we're looking at places like Vietnam and the Philippines where their wet season has essentially hasn't really got going yet, normally their monsoon season starts early June and they're still lacking that good monsoonal rain.

WERDEN: The immediate impact of this changing weather will ,according to the Climate Institute's Corey Watts be a rise in food prices and an increase in hunger among the world's poor.

WATTS: We're seeing quite high price spikes as much as five per cent so far in June alone of rice prices in Thailand and Cambodia and production is being impacted quite severely with flooding in Indonesia. We saw two years ago where there were very sharp price increases in grains, wheat, rice and other staples around the world and partly due to very wild weather, bad drought in Australia, flooding in Bangladesh and that pushed 200 million more people into the hunger zone, we already had 850 million people in the world who didn't get enough to eat.

WATTS: On top of that this kind of weather not only affects crops directly by increasing the risk of pests and diseases, increasing salt intrusion with sea level rise, the risk from high temperatures and so on, but it also affects farmers and farming communities indirectly, it creates a cycle of uncertainty and insecurity which means it's very difficult for people to predict when to crop and when to harvest and of course flooding disrupts road networks which make it very hard to get any crop that you do produce to market so we see a wide range of direct and indirect impacts.

WERDEN: On a positive note, in 1998 a similar transition from El Nino to La Nina left parts of the region similarly drier but with the lowest recorded number of tropical cyclones.

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