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Climate change threatens agri trade in Pacific Rim — UN

A man raises an anemometer against the strong wind caused by tropical storm Pakhar on the waterfront of Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong last Sunday. A second tropical storm in days swept into southern China, lashing Hong Kong and Macau with heavy rain and strong wind as the region reels from the strongest typhoon in decades. AP

MANILA, Philippines - Climate change threatens agricultural trade in the Pacific Rim economies and global warming is expected to significantly impact future yields in countries located closer to the equator, the United Nations agriculture agency warned.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called on Asia-Pacific economies to take a leading role in adaptation and mitigation.

According to FAO, geographically, the negative impact of climate change on agricultural output could result in lower yields of rice, wheat, corn and soybeans in countries with tropical climates, compared with the impacts experienced by those in higher latitudes.

Fisheries could also be affected by changes to water temperature.

“Many APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) economies have already felt the full force of agricultural losses from natural disasters in recent years, with the vast majority of these being climate related,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, assistant director-general and FAO regional representative for Asia and the Pacific.

“The annual tally runs into the billions and billions of dollars in losses. So, the time to act is now. Policymakers need to prepare for changes in supply, shifting trade patterns and a need for greater investment in agriculture, fisheries, land and water management, that will benefit smallholder farmers and others that produce our food,” Kadiresan added.

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Many vital agricultural regions in Asia are at risk of crossing key climate thresholds that would cause plant and animal productivity to decline, according to a meeting in Vietnam of agriculture ministers of APEC member economies.

Based on the findings of the global research community, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) anticipates that these trends are expected to worsen in the future with the projected impacts of anthropogenic climate change.

Kadiresan said “much can be done to increase the efficiency of agriculture and land-use activities in Asia.”

Because of changing environment, the agriculture sectors account for at least one-fifth of total emissions, mainly from forest to farmland conversions; livestock and paddy production, and application of synthetic fertilizers. 

Estimates show that 70 percent of the technical potential to reduce agriculture emissions occurs in tropical developing countries, which characterizes much of Asia.

“It is imperative that we start thinking now about the hard decisions and actions that the APEC economies, and others, will need to take. Governments will need to consider greater social protection measures. Industry and trade will need to adapt to shifting supply and demand. There is no quick fix but there is every reason to act,” Kadiresan said.

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