Euro­pean an­i­mal hus­bandry and dairy vul­ner­a­ble to cli­mate change

Rural & Marketing - - RURAL EUROPE -

Wa­ter scarcity half a world away caused by cli­mate change could push up prices for meat and di­ary prod­ucts in Europe by dis­rupt­ing sup­plies of soy­bean, which is widely used as feed for live­stock, re­searchers have said.

The Euro­pean Union sources most soy­bean from out­side the 28-na­tion bloc - mainly from Ar­gentina, Brazil and the United States, ac­cord­ing to an EU-funded study by Dutch-based NGO Wa­ter Foot­print Net­work (WFN).

But 57 per­cent of soy­bean im­ports are from re­gions that are highly vul­ner­a­ble to wa­ter scarcity, ex­pos­ing Europe to pos­si­ble shocks in sup­ply, said Er­tug Ercin, the study's co-au­thor. "The high­est risk that the Euro­pean meat and dairy sec­tor will face due to cli­mate change and weather ex­tremes lies out­side its bor­ders," he said in a state­ment.

About two thirds of the global pop­u­la­tion al­ready live in ar­eas ex­pe­ri­enc­ing wa­ter scarcity at least one month a year, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions.

The prob­lem is set to in­ten­sify with global warm­ing, which is ex­pected to af­fect rain pat­terns and cause more fre­quent droughts, the UN Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion (FAO) says.

Wa­ter in soy­bean farm­ing ar­eas could be­come in­suf­fi­cient lead­ing to lower pro­duc­tion and higher prices, which would push up costs of meat and dairy prod­ucts in Europe.

Im­ports of other prod­ucts like rice, sugar cane, cot­ton, al­monds, pis­ta­chios and grapes could be sim­i­larly af­fected, ac­cord­ing to the report. "The EU's econ­omy is de­pen­dent on the avail­abil­ity of wa­ter in other parts of the world for many crops," said Christopher Briggs, WFN ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. "That makes it vul­ner­a­ble to in­creas­ing wa­ter scarcity and drought."

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