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Climate change threatening food supplies

John Bell

July 22, 2023

The crisis of climate change is not a matter for the future, it is upon us. 

The government of India has banned the export of rice to the rest of the world due to prolonged drought, soaring temperatures, and disruptions in the monsoon weather patterns on which rice cultivation is based.

And when rainfall belatedly arrived, it came in disastrous floods which themselves damaged the already threatened rice crop.

India supplies about 40% of the world’s rice exports, more than the next 4 rice-exporting countries combined.

Food shortages will hit different places differently. Tellingly, India has not banned export of high-priced, premium basmati rice, which is aimed at the richer markets of Europe, North America and the oil-rich Middle Eastern states. Shortages will be felt most acutely in poorer Asian and African nations.

Rising oceans

Vietnam is the 2nd biggest largest rice producer. The vast Mekong delta was source of agriculture  - not just rice - for generations. A different symptom of climate change threatens all that: rising sea levels.

Salt water is drowning large sections of the delta.

Cung Pham had a thriving farm on the delta. Rice was his cash crop, but he diversified with melons, sweet potatoes and peanuts. For years he watched rising sea levels claim his land, salinate the estuary and poison the land. He nd his neighbours tried planting breakwaters of trees and building dikes, but they gave way to storm surges and relentless sea rise.

“I kept moving inland gradually but over the last three years the whole area has been flooded and it is impossible to farm,” Pham said. There are thousands of others like him.




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