Climate Change

Transboundary climate risks impact agricultural production in every country: Report

International trade in six major agricultural commodities, including rice and wheat, affected by transboundary climate risks 

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Monday 20 September 2021

Climate change impacts agricultural production all around the globe. It does not respect national borders. A recent report has provided a systematic, quantitative assessment of transboundary climate risks (TCR) to trade in six major agricultural commodities — maize, rice, wheat, soya, sugarcane and coffee.

The report from Stockholm Environment Institute analysed countries exposed to TCRs through agricultural trade and the ones that are important sources of risk.

Transboundary climate risks are climate risks that cross national borders.

The study showed that every country is exposed to transboundary climate risks. Countries in Europe and North America are both highly exposed to TCRs through foreign imports. This is particularly problematic for importers that depend on trade for food security or other economic activity.

Soy and sugarcane pose an indirect risk to food security in all consumer countries by threatening to drive price hikes. Countries in central and Latin America and the Caribbean depend on imports from the United States; countries in Asia and Africa import food from China.

The Small Island Developing States and small globally integrated countries like Singapore and Sweden are also vulnerable. 

 The key findings of the report were: 

  • Trans-boundary climate risks to trade in the international maize market appeared to disproportionately originate from North America, Latin America and Europe, with Brazil, China and the US playing an important role. Many of the riskiest trade links extend from the US to small island states in the Caribbean and Latin American countries, as well as to Israel. 
  • Climate risk in the rice market appeared to be concentrated in Southeast Asia and Latin America. Bilaterally, risky trade relationships originate primarily in Thailand or the US. The US is shown to be a key source of risk for Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, while Thailand exports to a broad array of countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. 
  • The US appeared to be a critical source of transboundary climate risks in wheat trade, with a projected decrease of 64 per cent, far surpassing production decreases in Canada, Russia and China. 
  • Several countries in East Africa can anticipate significant decreases to wheat yields, impacting their relatively smaller production bases. Several African countries are identified as particularly exposed to climate risks in US wheat production, including Nigeria. 
  • Both the US and Brazil appeared to contribute disproportionately to TCRs in the soy market, with the US far surpassing Brazil. Both were beyond Bolivia, the third-largest contributor. The US has many high-risk relationships, primarily in Latin America and Africa; Brazil registers high-risk relationships as well, primarily with Europe. 
  • Both risk exposure and opportunities for growth are concentrated in the Global South, with Brazil, Thailand, India, Cuba and China — all major sugarcane growers — likely to introduce significant risk to the global sugar-cane market in a warming world. 
  • Both Arabica and Robusta coffee are at risk due to climate change, with very few increases to coffee production anticipated in a warming world. 

The international community should provide the necessary political, legal, institutional, financial and logistical support to facilitate adaptation in countries that lack capacity and to build robust structures for international cooperation to jointly address these systemic risks, the report suggested. 

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :
Related Stories

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.