Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Brazilian farmers 'have reason to worry'

Fabiana Frayssinet in IPS: Bananas are harvested where apples used to grow; cassava, a traditional crop, is disappearing from the Northeast; and the southeast is losing the fragrance of good coffee. This is the science fiction of a new distribution of crops in Brazil, South America's agricultural powerhouse. The government is starting to get ready for this open-ended story of science fiction. Only one thing is for sure: the bad guys are neither extraterrestrials nor robots, but the most fearsome human invention: climate change.

In the midst of unusual temperature swings and increasingly intense and frequent natural disasters, weather patterns are modifying landscapes and will also start changing harvests. "It's still early to categorically state that there are effects on agriculture," said the Environment Ministry's secretary of climate change, Eduardo Assad.

But it is not a far-off possibility, and Brazil, as the world's third-largest exporter of agricultural products, has good reason to be worried, he told IPS. "There is an increase in extreme weather phenomena, such as high temperatures, which can cause the flower buds on the coffee plants to abort, or low temperatures as well within a very short time period, which cause more severe frost in the south and more intense Indian summers, which are hurting productivity in grain crops and sugar cane," he said.

In 2008, Professor Hilton Silveira Pinto at the University of Campinas, and Assad, with the Brazilian government's agricultural research agency Embrapa, led a study on global warming and the new map of agricultural production in Brazil.

The study already warned back then that the rise in temperatures – along with more frequent drought and flooding, among other consequences – could cause grain harvest losses of up to 7.4 billion reals (4.6 billion dollars at today's exchange rate) by 2020 and up to 8.7 billion dollars by 2070....

A field planted with soy in Brazil, shot by Coloradogoias, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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