Declining food prices come at hard time for the battle against climate change, Oxfam experts say


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The price boom on world grain markets has ended. For agricultural producers and small farmers in particular hard times have come again as the past three years witnessed a significant decline in world cereal prices.

According to the World Bank, in May 2015 the average price of US hard red winter wheat, a standard measure of prices, fell to $215.10 per metric ton. This was down by $119.60 or 35.7 per cent since May 2014. A trajectory of steadily declining prices continues today – against the background of large-scale climate risks for agricultural production.

British expert Thomas Lines warned the XVI International Grain Round that significant fluctuations in output and yield due to adverse climate change will in all likelihood reduce the competitiveness of Russian agriculture and undermine the country’s food security.  He was invited by the international independent organisation Oxfam.

According to Rosgidromet, climatic conditions will introduce a volatile dynamic to agricultural production until the middle of the 21st century. By the end of the century the situation will be worse unless the right action is taken.

Thus, with an increase of 1ºC in average annual temperatures, winter wheat yields in the southern part of European Russia will increase by 30-50%. On an increase of 2°C, crop yields in the European south-east will increase 25-30%, while in the north-west spring wheat yields will decline by 15-25% and winter wheat by 25-35%. With an increase of 3-4°C, yields of summer crops will fall sharply throughout almost all the European part of the country.

Under these circumstances, urgent and systematic measures are needed to support agricultural producers, especially small and medium ones, to ensure sustainable development of their farm holdings and even their survival. According to a report produced by scientists at the Russian Research Institute of Agricultural Economics, led by Academician Ivan G. Ushachev, the measures undertaken in Russia so far for adaptation of agriculture to climate change are insufficient.

The report recommends the formation of a national climate adaptation centre for agriculture. It should create a unified system of development and accountability of measures for climate change adaptation, and coordinate effective interaction in this area. There should be a particular focus on the needs of smaller Russian farmers, who contribute up to 50% of agricultural output and are the most vulnerable to climate change.

While it is not news that the climate is changing due to human activity, it is less well-known that the agriculture and food sector is among the leading emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs). According to data provided by Mr Lines, this sector accounts for between 43% and 57% of worldwide atmospheric emissions of methane, carbon and other GHGs.

In this context, decision makers, farmers and food manufacturers and retailers, including the largest, should contribute to mitigating negative climate change by reducing GHG emissions and using climate-optimised production methods.

About Oxfam in the Russian Federation

Oxfam is an international organisation operating in 94 countries around the world. In Russia, Oxfam has been working since 2003 focusing on climate change and food security programmes, looking for lasting solutions to poverty and inequality, promoting Russia as a donor, as well as strengthening civil society organisations' potential within the global processes of G20 and BRICS.


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