INTERNATIONAL - Natural disasters from droughts to floods are costing farmers in poorer countries billions of dollars a year in lost crops and livestock, and it’s getting worse thanks to climate change.
Agricultural losses from weather events in developing nations totaled $96 billion in a decade through 2015, with Asia accounting for half the amount, according to the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization. In addition to climate issues, sectors from forestry to aquaculture face risks from problems such as market volatility, diseases and conflicts, the FAO said in a report.
“This has become the ‘new normal,’ and the impact of climate change will further exacerbate these threats and challenges,” FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said in a statement.
Natural disasters have become more frequent and intense since the 1980s, presenting challenges for about 2.5 billion people who depend on agriculture, the FAO said. Small-scale farmers, fishermen and other communities around the world generate more than half of all agricultural production, according to the Rome-based organization.
Almost a quarter of all financial losses caused by natural disasters in the decade through 2015 were borne by the agricultural sector, the FAO study showed. About 4 percent of potential output is lost to disasters.
An average of 260 natural disasters occurred in developing countries each year from 2005 to 2016, according to the FAO. Economic losses from climate- and weather-related events have been growing, and while the impact for 2017 hasn’t been calculated yet, the most violent hurricane season on record should confirm the trend, it said.
“The rising incidence of weather extremes will have increasingly negative impacts on agriculture," the FAO said. Disasters often have long-lasting consequences on agriculture, including harvest and livestock losses, outbreaks of disease and damaged infrastructure and irrigation systems.