Cookies on oxfam

We use cookies to ensure that you have the best experience on our website. If you continue browsing, we’ll assume that you are happy to receive all our cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more Accept

Food Costs To Worsen As Extreme Weather Causes Extreme Prices

Posted by Lindsay Clydesdale Campaigns Press Officer, Scotland

5th Sep 2012


Food price spikes are set to continue, causing hardship to millions of people. A new report from Oxfam, 'Extreme Weather, Extreme Prices', shows the impact of climate change on food production is being underestimated. Judith Robertson, Head of Oxfam Scotland, explains the effect droughts and floods are having on prices now - and the long-term cost of not taking action.

WHEN you hear about drought and food crises, you probably think of developing countries.

But this autumn will bring a harvest of bad news for all those who rely on the planet's resources.

Every single one of us will feel the impact.

Food poverty isn't only a problem in Africa or Asia - it's a global crisis.

North America is currently suffering its worst drought in 60 years; the UK has just suffered its wettest summer since 1860.

Such extreme weather events devastate food production, shrinking supplies of crops and meat, and driving up prices. Little wonder your weekly food bill keeps getting higher.

In the UK, food prices in shops have risen almost 40 per cent since 2005.


Prices at record levels

The World Bank says the price of staples like maize and soybeans are at record levels.

Others - like wheat - have also soared, pushing the average cost of staples up 10 per cent in just one month - an unprecedented figure.

Such prices hikes have already exceeded those in 2008 when violence was triggered in places as far apart as Mexico, Egypt and Indonesia.

People rioted because they didn't have enough to eat and couldn't feed their children.

And there's worse to come - it is likely even these high prices could double within 20 years.

After the financial crisis the Government 'stress-tested' the banks - including those based here in Scotland - to ensure they could cope with unexpected shocks.

It's time we did the same for our food system.

We need to know where and how climate change is making us vulnerable.


Consequences of climate change underestimated

Right now, the full impact of climate change on food prices is still being underestimated.

Our planet is heading for average global warming of between 2.5 and 5 degrees Celsius this century - this will have huge consequences for hunger and malnutrition levels for millions of people.

And that's before we factor in the unexpected.

A new Oxfam report 'Extreme Weather, Extreme Prices', published today, shows how droughts and floods could lead to catastrophic price spikes and a global hunger epidemic.

Without action, many of the world's poorest people, who already spend up to 75 per cent of their income on food, will find these rises deadly - they simply cannot absorb price spikes.

In West Africa, prices for some essentials have already jumped by 70 per cent and 18 million people face serious food shortages. But food poverty is a problem in this country too.

In April, average UK food prices were 4.2 per cent higher than a year earlier.

The Trussell Trust, an Oxfam partner which runs the majority of food banks in Britain, fed 6,000 people in Scotland in the past year - people who had nowhere else to turn.

Among them: parents with babies, pensioners, the low-paid, and the recently unemployed.


Traders profit from misery

But while so many people worry about making ends meet, others are speculating on the fears of people who don't know where their next meal is coming from.

Last month Glencore, the world's largest commodity trading company, described the current environment as "a good one" and said it presented an opportunity to make money.

The food market is becoming a playground for investors rather than a market place for farmers.

The current extreme weather in the US, and elsewhere, provides a glimpse of our future food system.

Governments need to act now to slash rising greenhouse gas emissions, reverse decades of under-investment in small-scale agriculture and help poor farmers adapt to climate change.

Without such action, climate change will eventually overwhelm our food system entirely.

Find out more here:

Blog post written by Lindsay Clydesdale

Campaigns Press Officer, Scotland

More by Lindsay Clydesdale