Image by Nick Carson, es wikipedia
Unpredictable climate tests Australian food exports

The recent catastrophic fires in Australia threatening people’s lives and homes are also taking their toll on the agricultural sector, CNN reports.

 Australia’s reputation in the global food market for clean, quality produce from a relatively unstressed growing environment means it is regarded as one of the world’s most efficient food producers. But as the nation competes for a share of the $1 trillion a year global market for imported food, climatic extremes have tested the resolve of its primary food producers.

With Australia’s volatile weather conditions wreaking havoc on soil, water and fertilizer resources, the problem for farmers is the cost of business as the duration of floods, droughts and other natural disasters increases.

The 2009 “Black Saturday” bushfires in Victoria claimed 173 lives, wiping out whole towns and hundreds of farms. Two years later the Queensland floods took 22 lives and affected 2.5 million people, costing $2.5 billion in insurance payouts. The total financial impact of the floods was estimated at more than $5 billion, according to the Queensland Reconstruction Authority.

This summer the focus is once again on bushfires, with livestock already taking heavy losses and other export-oriented food products at risk.

The $2 billion a year Australian wine industry has taken a turn for the worse, with the optimum mid-January harvest potential cut short by a lingering heat wave. Hunter Valley winemakers will now be forced to decide whether to pick the grapes according to schedule or wait in hope of greater flavours at the risk of losing the crop to heat stress or worse.

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation predicts climate change could have dire consequences for food security in the period 2050-2100. World population growth to an estimated nine billion in 2050 will require global agricultural production to grow 60 per cent  above 2007’s level. By this estimate, farmers in the world’s top food producing countries will have their resourcefulness tested in an ever more volatile climate.