Extreme weather conditions in 2021 caused increases in the prices of agricultural commodities, which remained high until 2022, as the unusual conditions that damaged crops resulted in continuous shortages.
The price of goods, including Brazilian coffee, Belgian potatoes and Canadian yellow peas – in demand as a protein substitute in plant-based foods – rose sharply last year in response to extreme temperatures and floods.
Scientists have warned that these conditions will become more frequent and intense as climate change accelerates.
Logistics issues and changes in consumption habits due to the pandemic also drove up the price of staples such as sugar and wheat last year.
“Agriculture is one of the sectors most exposed to climate change,” at risk of both individual extreme weather conditions and long-term shifts in climate patterns, a report by Stockholm Environmental Institute. The risks were “many times greater” than the opportunities for the sector, it said.
A succession of extreme weather conditions that took place around the world during the middle of 2021 damaged a series of crops, causing prices to rise.
Severe frosts in Brazil hit the country’s coffee belt in July, causing prices to plummet seven year highlights. Global supply chain disruption and a shortage of container vessels also caused prices to rise later in the year.
The weather in Brazil continued to be erratic, raising concerns about further crop damage.
“When we know that La Nina will strike this year, we can already see how prices react in advance, even before the real phenomenon occurs,” said Mario Zappacosta, a senior economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
It could have an “infectious effect” where the price of substitute crops also rises, he added.
Meanwhile, an unprecedented heat wave and drought hit Canada during mid-2021, sending pea prices down rocket. The price of peas has more than doubled, affecting manufacturers of plant-based meat alternatives that rely on the ingredient.
The price of Belgian potatoes also rose after floods devastated large parts of Europe during the continent’s summer.
In their report, researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute said that climate change “would dramatically affect agricultural production around the world,” and reduce crop yields in certain areas.
Global sugarcane yields could fall by 59 percent in the last three decades to 2100, compared to yields in the period 1980-2010, while Arabica coffee and maize could fall by 45 percent and 27 percent, respectively, they estimated.
“This is a big gap in our planning for [climate] adaptation, ”said Magnus Benzie, one of the report’s authors. Lower yields and higher prices could cause food insecurity in less resilient, import-dependent countries, and also drive up costs for consumers around the world, he said.
How countries have responded to extreme events and deficits – whether they have accumulated or imposed trade restrictions, for example – could exacerbate crises, he added.
Simultaneous crises, such as successive or simultaneous droughts, are also likely to exacerbate deficits, and are expected to become more common as the world warms, Benzie said.
Additional reporting by Emiko Terazono.
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