Wheat is a particularly important source of nutrition globally. It provides 20 % of calories and protein for 3.4 billion people. However, climate change is impacting the production and supply demand of this key food commodity. Supported in part by the EU-funded RECEIPT project, a new study reveals that climate change is expected to considerably change wheat’s yield and price in the future. This is projected to occur even if we meet the Paris Agreement targets and stay below 2 °C of warming. The findings were published in the journal ‘One Earth’.
Global food security at risk
Wheat yield could rise more in high-latitude countries than in low-latitude ones. This will lead to uneven prices, exacerbating further inequalities between wheat farming in developed countries and in developing countries. The researchers developed a climate-wheat-economic ensemble modelling approach to study the effects of climate mean conditions and extreme events on wheat yields, price and the global supply chain. Using this enhanced model system, they assessed the impact of 2 °C global warming on the global wheat supply and demand chain. “We know from previous research that extreme events do not necessarily respond in the same way as the mean conditions, and because these extreme events are the most impactful on societies, this is an important step forward,” explains co-author Dr Karin van der Wiel, a climate scientist at project partner Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, in a news release posted on ‘EurekAlert!’ The model predicts that yield will increase in higher latitude areas such as the majority of northern Europe. In lower latitude regions such as countries in Africa, wheat yields will drop by over 15 %. For consumers, the average global wheat price will go up by 1.8 %. Mean prices will increase in several European countries. “Trade liberalization policy under 2° warming could stabilize or even increase farmers’ income in wheat-exporting countries but would reduce income for farmers in wheat importing countries,” states lead author Tianyi Zhang, an agro-meteorologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. “This may create new economic inequality between farmers in wheat -exporting and -importing countries.”
Taking action all together
Zhang hopes the forecasts about wheat prices and instability will encourage decision-makers to take the lead around the world. “Helping improve the grain food self-supplies in developing countries is crucial for global food security,” he concludes. “This is worthy of discussion between countries in future international agricultural collaboration policy.” RECEIPT (REmote Climate Effects and their Impact on European sustainability, Policy and Trade) seeks to provide quantitative information on the European risks from remote climatic events. To do so, it is mapping links between European socioeconomic activities and remote climatic hazards. The project ends in August 2023. For more information, please see: RECEIPT project website
RECEIPT, food, climate change, wheat, extreme event, warming, farmer