Economy

Pollinator Week: Economic impact of pollination cannot be underestimated

Annual market value of crop production directly linked to pollination was $235-$577 billion, says report

 
By Meenakshi Sushma
Last Updated: Saturday 27 June 2020
Pollinator Week (June 22-28) seeks to make people increasingly aware of how pollination affects lives and livelihoods across the world. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The role of pollinators in enhancing biodiversity and increasing crop yield is so significant that its economic value is worth billions of dollars, showed a report that discussed the impact of pollination in food production.

The annual market value of crop production directly linked to pollination was $235-$577 billion, according to The Assessment Report on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production published by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in 2017.

This economic role merits a deeper exploration as Pollinator Week (June 22-28) seeks to make people increasingly aware of how this activity affects lives and livelihoods across the world.

In India, rapeseed and mustard depend the most on pollination. The estimated economic value of pollination for oilseeds, fruits, vegetables, fibres and spices was estimated by Economic benefits of animal pollination to Indian agriculture, a 2017 study published by the Indian Journal of Agricultural Sciences.

Economic value of pollination for crops

Crop

Economic value (in Rs crore)

Rapeseed and mustard

19,355.70

Oilseeds

43,993.08

Fruits

17,095.45

Vegetables

19,498.20

Fibres (mainly cotton)

17,290.66

Spices and condiments

10,109.43

Source: Economic benefits of animal pollination to Indian agriculture, 2017

A decline in the number of pollinators, however, has been observed worldwide. The economic impact of the dwindling number of pollinators will vary for different economies. For economies that depend on pollinators, the loss will be more.

Several of the world’s most important cash crops are dependent on pollinators, according to the IPBES report.

“These constitute leading export products in developing countries (for example, coffee and cocoa) and developed countries (almonds), providing income and employment to millions of people,” the report said.

The importance of animal pollination services varied between 5 and 15 per cent of the total regional crop market output, depending on the area, market price and pollinator dependence of the affected crops, the report pointed out.

“The greatest contributions were in east Asia,” the report added.

The declining rate of pollinators can lead to a potential annual net loss of $160-191 billion in economic welfare to crop consumers and producers across the world, the report said.

A further $207-$497 billion loss in non-crop markets (non-crop agriculture, forestry, food processing, etc) could be incurred by producers and consumers, according to the report. The decline, however, may not just affect crop production as pollinators provide indirect services like carbon sequestration as well.

Plants absorb and store carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. The plants that rely on pollinators are critical in maintaining the balance of our atmosphere and mitigating climate change.

Similarly, pollinators play a significant role in raw material production as well, according to the report. Every year, over six billion tonnes of natural biomass are converted to fuel, paper, wood products, cooking and other essential oils, cosmetics and medicines.

A decline in pollination population will affect these services as well.

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